Open main menu

Provincial Geographies of India/Volume 1/Chapter 10

< Provincial Geographies of India‎ | Volume 1

CHAPTER X

THE PEOPLE (continued): RELIGIONS

Religions in N.W.F. Province.— In the N.W.F. Province an overwhelming majority of the population professes Islam. In 1911 there were 2,039,994 Musalmans as compared with 119,942 Hindus, 30,345 Sikhs, and 6585 Christians.

Religions in Kashmir.— In Kashmir the preponderance of Muhammadans is not so overwhelming. The figures are:

Muhammadans .. .. 2,398,320
Hindus .. .. .. 690,390
Buddhists .. .. .. 36,512
Sikhs .. .. .. 31.553

The Hindus belong mostly to the Jammu province, where nearly half of the population professes that faith. The people of Kashmir, Baltistan, Astor and Gilgit, Chilas and Hunza Nagar, are Musalmans. The Ladakhis are Buddhists.

Religions in Panjab.— The distribution by religions of the population of the Panjab and its native States in 1911 was:

Muhammadans .. .. .. 12,275,477 or 51 p.c.
Hindus .. .. .. .. 8,773,621 or 36 p.c.
Sikhs .. .. .. .. 2,883,729 or 12 p.c.
Others, chiefly Christian (199,751) 254,923 or 1 p.c. The strength of the Muhammadans is in the districts west of the Bias and the Sutlej below its junction with the Bias. 83 p.c. of the subjects of the Nawab of Bahawalpur are also Muhammadans. In all this western region there are few Hindus apart from the shopkeepers and traders. On the other hand the hill country in the

Fig. 36. Map showing distribution of religions.

north-east is purely Hindu, except on the borders of Tibet, where the scanty population professes Buddhism. While Hinduism is the predominant faith in the south-east, quite a fourth of the people there are Musalmans. Sikhs nowhere form a majority. The districts in the eastern part of the Central Plains where they constitute more than one-fifth of the population are indicated the map. In six districts, Lahore, Montgomery, in Gujranwala, Lyallpur, Hoshyarpur, and Ambala the proportion is between 10 and 20 p.c.

Fig. 37. Raghunath Temple, Jammu.

Growth and Decline in numbers.— There was a slight rise in the number of Muhammadans between 1901 and 1911. Their losses in the central districts, where the plague scourge has been heaviest, were counterbalanced by gains in the western tract, where its effect has been slight. On the other hand the decrease under Hindus amounts to nearly 15 p.c. The birth-rate is lower and the death-rate higher among Hindus than among Musalmans, and their losses by plague in the central and some of the south-eastern districts have been very heavy. A change of sentiment on the part of the Sikh community has led to many persons recording themselves as Sikhs who were formerly content to be regarded as Hindus. It must be remembered that one out of four of the recorded

Fig. 38. Golden Temple, Amritsar.

Hindus belongs to impure castes, who even in the Panjab pollute food and water by their touch and are excluded from the larger temples. Since 1901 a considerable number of Chuhras or Sweepers have been converted to Islam and Christianity.

Sikhs.— Notwithstanding heavy losses by plague Sikhs have increased by 37 p.c. A great access of zeal has led to many more Sikhs becoming Kesdhdris. Sajhdhdris or Munas, who form over one-fifth of the whole Sikh community, were in 1901 classed as Hindus. They are followers of Baba Nanak, cut their hair, and often smoke. When a man has taken the " pahul," which is the sign of his becoming a Kesdhdri or follower of Guru Govind, he must give up the hukka and leave his hair unshorn. The future of Sikhism is with the Kesdhdris.

Fig. 39. Mosque in Lahore City.

Muhammadans.— In the eastern districts the conversions to Islam were political, and Hindu and Muhammadan Rajputs live peaceably together in the same village. The Musalmans have their mosque for the worship of Allah, but were, and are still, not quite sure that it is prudent wholly to neglect the godlings. The conversion of the western Pan jab was the result largely of missionary effort. Piri muridi is a great institution there. Every man should be the "murid" or pupil of some holy man or pir, who combines the functions in the Roman Catholic Church of spiritual director in this world and the saint in heaven. The pir may be the custodian of some little saint's tomb in a village, or of some great shrine like that of Baba Farid at Pakpattan, or Bahawal Hakk at Multan, or Taunsa Sharif in Dera Ghazi Khan, or Golra in Rawalpindi. His own holiness may be more official than personal. About 1400 a.d. the Kashmiris were offered by their Sultan Sikandar the choice between conversion and exile, and chose the easier alternative. Like the western Panjabis they are above all things saint-worshippers. The ejaculations used to stimulate effort show this. The embankment builder in the south-western Pan jab invokes the holy breath of Bahawal Hakk, and the Kashmiri boatman's cry " Ya Pir, dast gir," " Oh Saint, lend me a hand," is an appeal to their national saint.

Effect of Education.— The Musalmans of the western Pan jab have a great dislike to Sikhs, dating from the period of the political predominance of the latter. So far the result of education has been to accentuate religious differences and animosities. Both Sikhs and Musalmans are gradually dropping ideas and observances retained in their daily life after they ceased to call themselves Hindus. On the other hand, within the Hindu fold laxity is now the rule rather than the exception, and the neglect of the old ritual and restrictions is by no means confined to the small but influential reforming minority which calls itself Arya Samaj.

Christians.— The number of Christians increased three-fold between 1901 and 1911. The Presbyterian missionaries have been especially successful in attracting large numbers of outcastes into the Christian Church.

Hinduism in the Panjab.— Hinduism has always been, and to-day is more than ever, a very elastic term. The Census Superintendent, himself a high caste Hindu, wrote: "The definition which would cover the Hindu of the modern times is that he should be born of parents not belonging to some recognised religion other than Hinduism, marry within the same limits, believe in God, respect the cow, and cremate the dead." There is room in its ample folds for the Arya Samajist, who rejects

Fig. 40. God and Goddess, Chamba.

idol worship and is divesting himself of caste prejudices and marriage restrictions, and the most Orthodox Sanatan dharmist, who carries out the whole elaborate daily ritual of the Brahmanical religion, and submits to all its complicated rules; for the ordinary Hindu trader, who is equally orthodox by profession, but whose ordinary religious exercises are confined to bathing in the morning; for the villager of the eastern districts, who often has the name of Parameshvar or the Supreme Lord on his lips, but who really worships the godlings, Guga Pir, Sarwar or Sultan Pir, Sitla (the small-pox goddess), and others, whose little shrines we see round the village

Fig. 41. A Kulu godling and his attendants.

site; and for the childish idolaters of Kulu, who carry their local deities about to visit each other at fairs, and would see nothing absurd in locking them all up in a dungeon if rain held off too long.