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Of the London Missionary Society



In illustrating the social condition of women in Travancore, it may be convenient to present a somewhat general outline, speaking sometimes of one caste, or class, or status, sometimes of another, as there are so many classes, with corresponding diversities of manners, customs, habits, food, titles, marriage laws, religion, property, and rank in society.

As to Dress, each caste has its own distinctive style of dress and ornaments, forbidden by law and custom to others, the infringement of which prohibition has sometimes led to riots, lawsuits, and special legislation; and greatly varying in shape, pattern, and mode of wearing. Brahman, Mussulman, and Christian women wear jackets of different styles. The Roman Catholic fisherwomen, instead of jackets, tie a long cloth across the bosom.

Women, as well as men, generally wear around the waist and tucked in at the ends, a single calico cloth, two or three yards in length : a smaller one is sometimes put on the shoulders. Sudra women commonly wear a large waist-cloth, and a thin muslin “upper-cloth” over the shoulders and chest; while most of the poor habitually go uncovered from the waist upwards, the upper-cloth being formerly, and, perhaps, by the letter of the law, still forbidden to them.

Poor people get only one set of cloths in the year, those of moderate means two sets, and the wealthy three or four in the year. Women are generally supplied with new cloths by their husbands at the Onam Festival, about September, and at Bharani, in March. Hence the proverbial reference to “the haste of the weaver on the approach of Onam,” through the great demand for new cloth. If the customary presents be not given on those days, sometimes the women of the Sudra, barber, washerman, carpenter, and other concubinage castes, will forsake their men and go with others.

The pattern, make, and material of the ornaments of gold or silver, brass, wood, shell, or glass, worn on the head, ears, nose, waist, legs or toes also greatly vary; and only incessant training from infancy would enable one to understand the manners, mode of speech, and of acting in the most minute particulars, and on all occasions, great or small, appropriate to, and required of each caste. Even the most uncivilised and barbarous have their own code of etiquette to which they punctiliously and unswervingly adhere.

The principal jewels and ornaments worn by respectable females are the takka a large cylinder of wood or gold, worn in the pierced and enlarged lobe of the ear; the mani and minnu strung on a thick thread for the neck; rings of silver and gold worn on the toes; chains round the waist; nose rings amongst the Tamil women; necklaces, and bracelets. Ilavar women wear golden ornaments on the ears and neck, as many as they can manage to procure. On special occasions they also wear bangles on the wrists.

Employments. — Besides domestic duties in the house, and marketing, the poorer women must work for a living, as actively often, as the men. Many are engaged in the lighter departments of field work, gathering leaves and cutting twigs for manure, carrying these to the fields, transplanting, weeding, reaping and threshing rice. Cooly women who live by their daily labour, commence work at seven in the morning, rest for an hour at noon, and leave off work at five in the evening; in the case of rice-field workers only at sunset.

They carry home the provisions which they have earned; and, after the long labour of cooking, sometimes get supper only at eight or nine o’clock at night. Some are employed, especially Ottar women, for carrying mud in digging tanks, sand, mortar, and bricks in building, and earth and gravel for roadmaking.

Some carry produce to the markets for sale, as sugar, and salt, fish, and vegetables, and firewood. Many are obliged to aid their male relatives in their respective labours, the hill tribes in their cultivation, others in pottery, distilling and selling arrack, washing clothes, &c. The females of the oil-mongers are obliged to rise betimes for cooking and housework, as they have much to do in the daytime, drying the kernels of the cocoanut, laurel-nut, and other oil seeds, helping in the pressing and grinding of these, and disposing of the oil manufactured.

The wives of goldsmiths, also, are often engaged throughout the day in spinning cotton thread, the Shanar females in boiling jaggery, and the Ilavars in distilling. A Malayalam proverb says, “When hammering the heated iron, the blacksmith and his wife are one.” To eke out a humble maintenance, others also spin thread, make ropes of fibre, and do other light work. The Kuluvar women catch jackals and snakes, and other reptiles to eat. Pariah women plait mats of reeds, and make neat palm-leaf umbrellas : a few work in the fields.

Daily Life. — Women are the earliest risers of the family, being usually up by daybreak, sometimes earlier. High-caste women first sweep their houses and courtyards, both inner and outer, then go to the well or river to fetch the water required for the day.

In Travancore no one enjoys the convenience afforded in English towns by the water being conveyed through pipes to every house, so that the turning of a tap suffices for the domestic supply of water. Even pumps are very rarely in use, the wells being too deep, as may be judged from the length of the coir rope which the woman in the engraving carries in her hand. To draw up the water for filling her large earthen pot, she takes with her a light bucket, ingeniously formed from the fan-like leaf of the Palmyra palm. This fragile vessel does not last long, but is easily renewed in the south, where the palmyra grows in great abundance.

The earthen pot in which the water is brought home is almost globular in form, with a small mouth, and holds a considerable quantity. It must be set down with some care to avoid breaking it. Brass waterpots are used by those who can afford them. The work of drawing water and carrying it home is often toilsome, as a good quantity is required in a large household for use in cooking rice and other food, and for drinking and washing purposes.

In former times, caste regulations required lowcaste females to carry the waterpot only on the head, not on the hip or side, as in the illustration. Wells belonging to Brahmans and other high castes are not open to those of inferior caste.

Excellent water is procured from wells, tanks, and rivers. Wells are often dug in the courtyard of the house to save time and trouble in going to a distance for water.

Before the drawing of the water in the early morning is finished, other members of the family have risen, whereupon the various apartments and verandahs are swept clean, then cleansed with a thick mixture of cow-dung and water (an emblem of purity, and universal disinfectant from ceremonial pollution), the raised verandahs being smeared over, and the courtyards sprinkled with it. Some flowers are also placed on the ground in front of the door, in honour of the Sun.

When this is finished they wash their faces, hands and feet, clean the teeth, and put the “marks” on the forehead and chest, with the sacred ashes of cow-dung, or with powdered sandal-wood or turmeric. They then worship the rising sun, looking towards it, facing to the east; and the other gods, facing to the other quarters of the heavens; or repeat their prayers to the domestic idols, and cause their children who are over five years of age to do the same : the Christians gather round the family altar, and worship the true and living God.

While putting on the ashes, they are to meditate on their guru’s, or spiritual teacher’s, name. A sloka, or verse, is in common use, to this effect — “He is blessed, who, in the morning, as soon as he rises from his bed, and has washed his feet and face, rubs the sacred ashes, meditating on his guru’s feet, and lives here with prayer in the name of the guru.” This used to be more strictly observed by all classes than at present.

After this, the domestic work of the day is begun, feeding and milking the cows, churning the milk previously boiled to make butter, cleaning their brass vessels, serving out a meal of cold rice with soured milk to the children, and sending them off to their respective duties, as ploughing, tending the cattle, or school. The men and boys generally take this light meal about seven o’clock, afterwards going to their work till nearly mid-day, when they get fresh cooked rice and curry. At Trevandrum, some women go to the pagodas, and buy for breakfast part of the rice which had been consecrated to the god.

If, however, the family means admit of providing a hot meal in the morning, the women busy themselves in cooking this, while the men go out for a while to bathe or to see friends, to arrange the work of the day, or to look over their crops and gardens. For a regular meal, whether morning, noon, or evening, they boil rice, prepare roots, vegetables, fish, peas, greens, and fruits; grind cocoanuts, pepper, and spices for curry, and add butter or oil.

Some of the highest castes refrain from eating fish or flesh, but make up for this partly by the use of milk, butter, cakes, and fruits. The Brahman women especially are accomplished cooks; Ilavars, Syrians, and others are noted for making various kinds of cakes and sweetmeats.

Food is served out first to the men in brazen cups — these cups being filled with curry and rice by means of ladles or spoons made of cocoanut shells fixed on handles of bambu. Among the higher classes of the people plantain leaves are preferred to brazen cups, or even leaves of the banyan or other trees, pinned together with the stem of a grass.

The females of the family generally wait upon the men until they have finished their meals. They use no tables or chairs or spoons, but sit on mats spread on the ground, with very little clothing, and eat with the hand, mixing the rice and the curry together. Afterwards the females take their food. Daily, after cooking operations are over, the women sit down near the cook room to clean and polish the brass vessels in which the food is served, rubbing them with common wood-ashes or burnt husks of rice, or sometimes with finely powdered brick-dust*

If cold rice has been used in the morning, the women soon begin to prepare the dinner for noon. If a warm breakfast has been made, it may be over about ten or eleven o’clock, and in a little while the arduous and almost daily work of “rice beating” or pounding and cleaning must be begun.

The cheapest food in Travancore, except home-grown roots and fruits, is rice. Of this adults require about a pound and a half daily, and it costs something like a penny to a penny farthing per pound. Rice is not nearly so nourishing as wheat or oatmeal, and should be supplemented, as it usually is among vegetable feeders, with pease, milk, or butter. Numerous varieties are grown, and nice distinctions made of flavour and individual taste.

Rice can be purchased husked and ready for cooking, but most poor families are obliged to economise by purchasing it in the husk (when it is called paddy), and beating it clean with a heavy wooden pestle in a wooden or stone mortar.

Cultivators, of course, must beat it for themselves, as there are no large mills to send it to. Soaked for a night, and partially boiled, the grain becomes soft, and is then dried in the sun, and beaten or threshed in the mortar till the outer husk or chaff comes off. Another beating removes the bran or dark outer skin of the rice; and a third makes it clean and white, as we see it in England.

This work is very heavy and exhausting to delicate women; it consumes much time every day, and requires severe bodily exertion. It is, therefore, more usual for two women to work together; in rich families coolies, or servants, are employed for it. All this is done in more civilized countries, and in Burmah, in large mills; and some, small, cheap machines for domestic use are a great desideratum in Travancore, and would largely tend to better the position of women.

A flat fan is used for winnowing the grain from the husk or bran, which is given as food to fowls or cattle. The beaten rice comes to half in bulk, but two-thirds in weight, of the unhusked grain; and it again swells out to three times the original bulk in boiling. When properly boiled, the rice should be dry, each grain unbroken. It is sometimes parched in a pot on the fire till the grain swells nicely and bursts, called pori; or half boiled, bruised flat, and eaten, called aval; or ground into flour and baked into flat, heavy cakes. This grain will not, like wheat, make leavened bread, but good pancakes are made by adding toddy as yeast; these are often flavoured with sugar and butter.

Rice, the staple food of the people, is not commonly ground into flour, but boiled whole and eaten with curry — that is, highly spiced meat, fruit, or vegetables; other grains, as millet, &c., are ground into flour, and boiled into a kind of porridge or pudding. Millstones being of granite, in so hot a climate the work of grinding is very heavy. The grain is poured into a hole in the centre of the upper stone, and the flour falls out on all sides from between the two stones into a cloth spread underneath. The work is lighter when two women work together; those in our picture might be mother and daughter.

Their dress is the Christian jacket, and the upper-cloth usually worn by native women. The armlet is of silver; and many ornaments are worn even by poor people. As there are no native banks, it is convenient to lay by savings in the form of jewellery, on which ready money can at any time be raised. The elder of these women wears a number of small gold rings encircling the ring of flesh into which the lobe of the ear has been drawn. The younger has, in addition, a flat gold pendant pinned to the upper part of the ear.

To return to the daily domestic duties — rice-beating is sometimes suspended at one or two o’clock for a few minutes to eat luncheon, and will be over by two or three in the afternoon. Then preparation of the evening meal — the most important of the day — shortly commences, similar to that of the forenoon, with the addition say of plantain fruits and payasam, or sweet pudding of rice, sugar, and milk.

The boiling of rice, going to the bazaar for fish, vegetables, and curry stuffs, grinding the last with a roller on a flat granite stone, and mixing and boiling the curry, may keep some busy until seven or eight, or even nine o’clock. The rich sometimes sup as late as ten or eleven at night, in which case, of course, they do not rise so early in the morning.

Amongst Christians, family worship is usually conducted the first thing in the morning, and before supper, at seven or eight o’clock at night.

The Indian women are not only the first to rise, but the last to retire to rest, taking supper after the men have done, and then washing and laying aside the vessels in due order. A woman may not unduly feel the pressure of house work when she lives with her husband’s parents, for the mother-in-law and sister-in-law will help her, but when newly married and living separately with her husband, all this work is sometimes very trying.

The social circumstances and daily life of the poor low-caste or slave women, who are obliged to labour for their daily support, and sometimes have nothing to eat on any day on which they remain idle, present a direct contrast to the comfort of these just described, as might be expected from the condition of extreme and enforced degradation in which they have been so long kept, and the contempt and abhorrence with which they are universally regarded. Yet they are human as well as their superiors. They work hard, suffer much from sickness and often from want of food, and generally, like all slaves, also form evil habits of thieving, sensuality, drunkenness, and vice, which increase or produce disease and suffering.

Very early in the morning these women go with a pot or a leaf bucket to their masters, asking for food and instructions respecting the day’s work. They are kept toiling in manuring, planting, or reaping through the day in the agricultural season, mostly with the blazing sun beating on the bare head, and the feet in mire or water, and return in the evening, fatigued and hungry, to their wretched huts to boil their rice and eat it with salt and pepper. The Pariahs eat the carcases of cows and other animals which have died of old age or disease, even when almost putrid. These are cut up for distribution by the females principally, and after partaking of this disgusting food, their odour is insufferable.

During the months of scarcity the Vedar women go to the jungle, and dig up various kinds of wild yams and tubers with pointed sticks of wood which they always carry, and boil and eat these roots. The Pulayars, likewise, hunt for crabs, tiny fish, and snails, in the irrigation channels, eggs of red ants, the winged white ants, or anything else to fill the stomach and satisfy the cravings of hunger.

At night they sleep on the floor, or on a plaited cocoanut leaf or old mat. Dress, food, and dwellings, are alike uncleanly. They rarely bathe or wash their bodies. Purchasing a cloth at harvest-time, it is worn till it falls to pieces. Their ornaments are bits of brass, glass beads, or shells. They are without the social amenities of life, not allowed to enter the markets or use the public roads without impediment, and were formerly bought and sold like cattle. They run into debt for strong drink, clearing off the debt with the grain earned during harvest. Their devil worship and ghost worship also spring from fear and abject superstition.

Is it not surprising that the sufferings of these unfortunate and despised people do not move the hearts of their wealthy and educated countrymen, and that no Hindu practical philanthropist arises to labour for their regeneration and enlightenment?

Females of the higher castes are very cleanly in their habits, bathing daily in water, and rubbing the body with cocoanut or sesamum oil twice a month, usually on Fridays. Seclusion of women is not so close or common as in other parts of India, except amongst the Namburis and other castes next to Brahmans.

The Ranees do not appear in public, but a happy innovation on this custom has more than once been made. An enlightened Brahman lady, from other parts of India, would be pleased to be able to go out here without covering the head with a veil, and would enjoy the greater freedom allowed. Still there is amongst respectable families much retirement and seclusion, which some are beginning to feel, complaining that they are “like parrots shut up in a cage.”

The low estimation, and even contempt, in which women, as such, are too often regarded, appears in the laws by which a man’s partner in life may be sent off at a moment’s notice. The former salutation in Travancore was for a female to uncover the chest before a respectable man. Their grievance sometimes bursts out in such an exclamation as, “Better to be a clod than to have been born a woman !”

A Hindu prayer is that the wife may have seven wise sons and two handsome daughters. Men are dejected when they hear of the birth of a daughter, according to the proverb, “Why do you sit as if a girl had been born at home ?” Another proverb amusingly represents a grumbling father as foolishly complaining, “Through the incapacity of the midwife, the infant is a female !”

A counterfeit modesty is taught them, while true delicacy of speech and conduct are often absent. Should a man come to make inquiries at a house when the master is not at home, the woman does not reply to him direct, but addresses the door. In some castes a woman must not speak to male relatives, even cousins, who are in India called “brothers.” The denial of education to females springs to a great extent from the fear that they would misuse such advantages and become unfitted for obedience and humble labour.

The first question is not, “Can she read ? can she do needlework ? can she keep accounts ?” Such things are secondary. But, “Can she cook rice ? can she work well.?”

Being without education, moral training, or real knowledge of the world, many women spend much time in gossiping with their friends on the most frivolous and profitless topics — dress and ornaments, which are their chief delight; their husbands and neighbours, and the scandal of the village; stories of devils, tigers, and so forth.

The wicked custom of child-marriage arises from distrust of female virtue, and sometimes naturally causes repugnance to live with the husband at all. The child-bride is all unconscious of the real meaning and obligations of the relation, although her girlish fancies have been continually directed to it. The veriest baby, when she cries in her cradle, is consoled by her grandmother with promises of marrying her to a good husband; but if the old lady is cross, the little darling is threatened to be married to a wicked husband.

One day the grandmother of a little girl eight years old, who was learning at school, made the distressful complaint, ‘I have coaxed and scolded her alternately, and have even promised to marry her soon, but to no purpose. She does nought else but read her books and play.”

The lot of the childless wife is deplorable. She meets not with the kind sympathy which would be reasonable, but her barrenness is blamed as a sin. Hence their continual resort to the temples and rites to seek the gift of offspring.

We can here only allude to the intolerable miseries of Hindu widows, of whom the late census shows that there are no fewer than 63,000 under ten years of age, and fifteen and a half millions between ten and twenty, all prohibited from marrying a second time. They are deprived of their ornaments — in which they so much delight — and of the use of coloured garments, and of their long hair, reproached as misfortunate, and cruelly debarred as accursed of the gods from assisting in domestic religious ceremonials. The too frequent results of this cruel treatment are immorality, suicide, and infanticide.

For newly-married persons to meet a widow anywhere, portends approaching calamity, therefore this is carefully guarded against and avoided. They are frequently required to fast: ekadasi is a day of close fast for all widows.

Yet, of course, women have great influence in social and domestic life. ‘Unlike their sisters in North India, the restraints imposed on them are few. They are not restricted to their own apartments, and the mother of each household occupies a dignified and honourable position. In the families of the Nayars she governs the whole house, often a large one consisting of from twenty to thirty persons, provides for the wants of each, settles all disputes, and rules even her grown-up sons, who never in public sit down in her presence, but stand humbly behind her chair.

Her duties are not light, for, besides buying, storing up and giving out food for so many mouths, she regulates the lives of the children, decides what schools they shall attend, how they shall dress, and what medicines they shall take when they are ill, their own mothers having no choice in anything that concerns them.”

Though Travancore boasts of peculiar castes amongst whom widowhood is never possible (because the relation of wife does not, in truth, exist), and women hold a high place and are admitted to the benefits of education, it appears from the census that, after all, only a trifle over one per cent, of the Malayalam Sudra females can read and write, and but a little larger proportion of Brahman women; only 93 females of the hundreds of thousands of Ilavars, and not one amongst the heathen Pariahs, Pulayars, and other low castes.

In the whole State only 3,452 females (from twelve years of age and upwards) are returned as able to read and write of all the Hindu castes; and only 86 Muhammadan females. Ninety eight out of a hundred females, therefore, even of the higher castes, are entirely uneducated. A Brahman gentleman was once asked, “What do you think a woman ought to know.?”

“She must know two things,” was his reply; “first, she must know the way to the bazaar to buy necessaries for the house; and secondly, she must know the way from the bazaar home again !”

A Munshi, also, when requested to instruct a class in our boarding-school in Tamil poetry and literature, stoutly objected at first, saying that if girls were instructed in such things, they would not make obedient wives, and, instancing the case of his own wife, who, he affirmed, could only count up to eight.

Women can, therefore, often scarcely speak correctly in their own language, indeed I believe they have some peculiar words or style of their own. I have heard a Brahman publicly state that he never yet heard a woman accurately pronounce the names of some of the well-known towns in Travancore. A Malayalam proverb says, “A travelled woman is like a garden trespassed by cattle.”

Ignorant of moral duty and unawakened in conscience, most of the women do not know what sin is, as committed by themselves, not in a previous birth; and are surprised to be told that they have ever sinned against God. “I have never committed any sin,” said one, “yet God took away my son.”

The spiritual darkness and gross superstition of Hindu females are appalling. To them no light from heaven shines upon the mysteries of life, no solid ground of comfort is available under its sorrows and bereavements. In sickness, they murmur against God and his dealings with them, or attribute all their sufferings to the agency of malignant spirits or inexorable fate. An aged woman on the bed of lingering sickness was asked did she hope to be happy after death.

“Happiness!” she exclaimed, “I am suffering in this way through my sins, for which God is making a play of me. Had I been free from sin I might have been permitted quietly to die. What I long for is death. What happiness do I require after death ? Even my own children have become tired of me, and look upon me with aversion.”

Others say, “As we are suffering so much in this world, we are sure to obtain happiness in the next.”

Those who die in childbed are supposed to be killed by demons, hence the offerings to evil spirits, and the sorcery continually resorted to on such occasions. In the South, branches of the margosa tree are used to prevent the entrance of the demons into houses where a birth has taken place. Tender mothers live in ceaseless terror of unknown spiritual agencies, to whom they attribute the infantile ailments or convulsions of their children. Their own dear ones are supposed under certain circumstances to become demons.

An aged mother who had recently lost her son, a promising official, inquired, bitterly weeping, “Where will a man go who has died of small-pox? It is the opinion of our people that one who has died of this disease will remain unhappy and vagrant upon the earth as a marutha demon. Can he go to heaven?”

Their whole life is made burdensome by superstitions, and vain terrors regarding lucky and unlucky times and actions and objects : these intrude even in the most common-place avocations. It is dangerous and foreboding to come out of doors when giving alms to beggars — to sweep the inner yard and remove the dust when it is dusk — to comb the hair at night — to sweep the house during the prevalence of small-pox, or to sweep the stable with the same broom as the house. To wear again a new cloth, part of which has got burnt, will prove fatal to her husband.

To put on a new cloth on Saturday, or at night, is very inauspicious. If a woman happen to get ill after having been seen by others in full dress and ornamented with her jewels, she ascribes it to the blight of the evil eye of some one. A leprous Ilavar woman declared that the cause of her disease was when young her accidentally polluting a Brahman goddess. Thenceforward she suffered from disease, “and I cannot afford, she added, valuable offerings to the goddess to propitiate her.”

Not knowing where true consolation and refuge from their woes can be found, they can only try anything and everything that may be suggested to them — visiting temples, presenting gifts, prayers and vows, rubbing sacred ashes from the temple, repeating or hearing the Pradosha Mahatmyam and Namaskara Japam which they deem highly beneficial, and so forth. Women are the chief inventors and upholders of all this superstition and folly, and they are also the principal sufferers from it.

Four women were met on their way to a temple to bathe and worship. On being accosted, they remarked that they were going for four several purposes. The first said, “I go in the hope of obtaining the blessing of a child”; another “In order to get rid of an ailment”; the third said, “When my child was sick, I vowed to offer worship there on his recovery.” And the fourth said, “As I am now advanced in years, I am going there in order that my soul may be saved.” A fairly typical picture this, of the common cases and petitions of the votaries at the sacred shrines.

Their best efforts, vows, pilgrimages, and gifts are often found to be in vain in respect of the temporal blessings for which alone idols are worshipped; and sore disappointment is experienced in the worship of gods that cannot hear or understand. “Just as I was arranging to pay a visit to the great temple at Vaikkam,” said a Sudra woman, “my child took ill. I therefore thought it useless to travel so far. I perceive that the Vaikkam goddess is unable to save; if she were all-powerful, my child would not have fallen sick at such a time.”

“I expended,” said another, “much money in offerings to noted demons on behalf of my daughter, and also made vows to Saint Xavier at Kottar; but none of them could deliver my daughter from death.” A very wealthy Ilavar woman, whose only son, a fine youth, was attacked with small-pox, vowed that if he should recover from this she would put him in a scale, take an equal weight of gold, and fashion this into the form of a man to offer to the goddess Ammen. But he died on the ninth day. Their sorrows, truly, “are multiplied who hasten after another god.”

A few more of their superstitious notions may be mentioned.

A girl born in the asterism Magam, and a boy born in that of Puradam, are preferable for marriage.

Children born in April are unfortunate. Hence the custom of calling away females newly married from the house of the husbands in July to their parents’ houses. The falling of certain shadows, as of a woman who has given birth to a still-born child, or lost her infant, the shadow of toads, &c., causes general emaciation of the body, if not immediate death.

“A mother who has a young baby will on no account take the baby of another in her arms, believing that, should she do so, her own child will pine away. If an elder child in a family has died, it will be said, whenever the younger one is ailing, ‘Ah, the dead child is troubling it !’ If an expectant mother walks across any grave, it is believed that her child, when born, will be a great sufferer. A mother whose baby has died, must not even touch the child of another until she has had another living child. A Christian teacher, who had lost her twin babies, refrained on one occasion from touching another’s child, even to save it from a severe fall, because, although she herself knows better, she knew that the ignorant mother of that child would prefer its falling to its being touched by her. The cruelty that there is in this last restriction will be felt by all who know the yearning that a bereaved mother often has for all little children.”

If an infant is observed to distort its limbs, as if in pain, it is supposed to be under the pressure of some one who has stooped over it, to relieve which the mother places it with a nut-cracker on a winnowing fan, and shakes it three or four times.

Hindus never compliment one another on their beautiful and healthy appearance, for they think it bad manners to do so, and that this is the surest way to spoil everything you compliment them on. For instance, mothers never like any one to say, “What a fine child yours is,” for they think people must be envious of them, and that saying such things will bring bad luck — the very opposite of the Christian sentiment, “I am quite well, thank God.”

From the commencement of Mission work, both by the London Mission and the Church Mission, female education has been engaged in, and its benefits illustrated by examples of Christian females who have been trained in the Boarding and Village Schools.

“The results that we are reaping to-day,” says Mr. A. Spicer, one of the recent deputation to India, “and the rapid rate at which this work is growing in India, are in large measure owing to the work which our missionaries’ wives have devoted to this department for years past.” Now the strong prejudice against female education is slowly giving way, and the Hindus themselves have a few schools for caste girls. The royal family are also leading the way, and some desire for education of females is springing up.

“You sometimes see people in the road walking about and hesitating which way to go,” said one female to a Christian teacher, “that is just how I feel, and I want you to show me the way.”

“You are a happy woman,” said a Sudra to our Bible woman, “for you have received a good education. Your children also are blessed, as they can read, write, and sing so nicely. Will you kindly take my daughters under your care, as I should like to see them as well trained as yourself.”

A Vellalar woman, thirty-six years of age, presented a quantity of lamp oil to our church in token of gratitude for having been taught to read. An encouraging number of adult females — Sudras, Brahmans, Muhammadans, and others, are learning to read at Nagercoil, Trevandrum, Cottayam, and elsewhere, under the superintendence of the missionary ladies and a very interesting work is going on amongst adult females, besides the girls learning in the Mission Schools — about 1,370 in the Church Mission, and 2,375 in the London Mission, of whom some are heathen children.

In the towns around Nagercoil, about 300 women are now receiving Zenana teaching, and three or four caste girls’ schools are in operation. Very recently, at a school examination, a Bible woman who would have been classed as low-caste according to the Hindu system, brought with her about forty caste girls, whom she teaches in their houses, all respectable and well dressed, but diligently learning, and willing to sit down amongst Christian and low-caste children. Such a thing had never been seen there before.

“Several women who had learned with us,” writes Mrs. Duthie, “have removed to neighbouring villages. These have excited others, and messages have been sent asking us to provide a Biblewoman to teach them. No doubt many of the women in the Zenanas are anxious only to learn to read, and may not have any great desire for the knowledge of the truth. Bible teaching, however, is the most prominent feature of the work, and not a few listen with attention and apparent interest to the lessons we try to teach them. In some cases we see even more than this, and are led to hope that the good seed has begun to take root, and is bearing some fruit.

"Heathen customs have been partially abandoned, and the general appearance and conduct of these women have much improved since we began our work amongst them. Amidst much that is depressing, it has been cheering to gather round us little groups of women and children able to read the Word of God, and to hear them repeat texts that they have learned, telling of a Saviour’s love and power to save. Christian lyrics are sung by many of them, hymns are committed to memory, in various ways the truth is finding an entrance into these homes, and we pray that it may also reach many hearts.”

Amongst Protestant Christians in South Travancore, fully one in six of the adult women can read and write (though a considerable proportion of them are direct converts from heathenism), and this can be proved from our lists of names, and might be expected from the great interest taken by the missionaries and their wives in this work. They are also taught to wear a decent native dress, to sing, to sew, and embroider, and work fine pillow-lace. Heathen women notice with admiration the marked difference in manners and speech of girls thus educated. Visitors passing through Nagercoil are greatly struck with their intelligence and accuracy in answering. So in Cottayam, the venerable Mrs. Baker, Senior, has for over sixty years been spared and privileged to educate generation after generation of girls in her valuable schools, and other ladies have laboured for various periods. The 46 female teachers in the London Mission are, of course, the pick of our Christian females (available to give time to such duties), and are diligent and devoted workers amongst their country-women. Many of the private members of the Church are faithful, loving, and earnest Christians, shining as lights in their own homes, visiting the sick, and conversing with the heathen women, to whom they make known the way of salvation.

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