bengal population human
THE PEOPLE. - Within the provinces under the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal dwell a great congeries of peoples, of widely diverse origin, speaking different languages, and representing far separated eras of civilisation. They amounted in 1872 (including Assam, which then formed part of Bengal), to 66,856,859 souls, or over a million and a quarter more than the whole inhabitants of England and Wales, Sweden, Norway, Denmark (with Jutland), Greece, and all the Ionian Islands, with the total white population, Indians and Chinese, of the United States. The problem of government in Bengal, however, is not one of numbers. It is intensified and infinitely complicated by the fact, that while this vast population is ruled by a single head, it consists of elements so dissimilar as to render it impracticable to place them under any one system of administration. They exhibit every stage of human progress, and every type of human enlightenment and superstition from the sceptical educated classes, represented by the Hindu gentleman who distinguishes himself at a London Inn of Court and harangues the British public in the Brighton Pavilion, or from a metropolitan platform, to the hill chieftain, who lately sacrificed an idiot on the top of a mountain to obtain a favourable decision in a Privy Council appeal. A large section of the people belongs to the august Aryan race, from which we ourselves descend, having a classical language more kindred to our own than those of the Welsh or Scottish Highlanders. We address the Deity and His earthly representatives, our father and mother, by words derived from roots common to the Christian and the Hindu. Nor does the religious instinct assume a wider variety of manifestations, or exhibit a more striking series of metamorphoses, among the European than among the Indian branches of the race. Theodore Parker and Comte are better known to the rising generation of Hindus in Benvl than any Sanskrit theologian. On the same bench of a Calcutta college sit ,youths trained up in the strictest theism, others indoctrinated in the mysteries of the Hindu trinity and pantheon, with representatives of every link in the chain of superstition - from the harmless offering of flowers before the family god to the cruel rites of Kali, whose altars in the most civilised districts of Bengal, as lately as the famine of 1866, were stained with human blood. Indeed, the very word Hindu is one of absolutely indeterminate meaning. The census officers employ it as a convenient generic to include 42-i millions of the population of Bengal, comprising elements of transparentlfy distinct ethnical origin, and separated from each other by their language, customs; and religious rites. But Hinduism, understood even in this wide sense, represents only one of many creeds and races found within Bengal. The other great historical cultus, which, during the last twelve centuries, did for the Semitic peoples what Christianity accomplished among the European Aryans, has won to itself one-third of the whole population of Bengal. The Muhammadans exceed 20k- millions of souls ; and the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal is, so far as numbers go, as great a Musalman power as the Sultan of Turkey himself. Amid the stupendous catastrophes of the seasons, the river inundations, famines, tidal waves, and cyclones of the lower provinces of Bengal, the religious instinct works with a vitality unknown in European countries, where the forces of nature have long yielded to the control of man. Until the British Government stepped in with its police, and canals, and railroads, between the people and what they were accustomed to consider the dealings of Providence, scarcely a year passed without some terrible manifestation of the power and the wrath of God. Marhatta, invasions from Central India, piratical devastations on the sea-board, banditti who marched about the interior in bodies of 50,000 men, floods which drowned the harvests of whole districts, and droughts in which a third of the population starved to death, kept alive a sense of human powerlessness in the presence of an Omnipotent fate with an intensity which the homilies of a stipendiary clergy fail to awaken. Under the Muhammadans a pestilence turned the capital into a silent wilderness, never again to be re-peopled. Under our own rule, it is estimated that 10 millions perished within the Lower Provinces alone in the famine of 1769-70 ; and the first surveyor-general of Bengal entered on his maps a tract of many hundreds of square miles as bare of villages, and " depopulated by the Maghs."