William Carey: Chapter 5: All About India

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 10
“I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images." (Isa. 42:88I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. (Isaiah 42:8).)SA 42:8{
INDIA is a land of idols, and if I tell you just a little about two or three of the idols millions of the people of India fear and worship, you will, I think, be better able to understand how trying and difficult Mr. Carey found the first years of his missionary life in India. Indeed, had he not had very real and simple faith in God, and felt sure that he had been sent with a message of glad tidings, he might have said, "What can one or two men do among these hundreds of thousands of poor, dark heathens?" and taken passage in the first ship sailing for England.
India is such a very large country that you will quite expect to hear that thousands of heathen in India do not all worship the same idol. As no one could live long enough to worship all the idol gods of India, each person chooses the one he likes best or is most afraid of; for the heathen never love, though they fear their gods, and believe that if they do not keep them in a good temper by prayers and offerings, they will be angry and bring sickness or trouble upon them or their families.
In every heathen home in India a small image of their favorite god is worshipped. Every morning a priest comes, offers prayers to it, and takes away, as his present, all the offerings of rice, fruit, money, and other things that have been made to the idol.
One of the great feast-days in India is called the festival of Sauri. On that day every Hindu workman prays, and makes offerings, or, as it is called, "does pujah" to his tools. Almost countless numbers of Hindu women are worshippers of Siva. The images of this idol are often very small, sometimes not more than three inches in height, just a plain, black stone. When a Hindu woman wishes to do pujah to her god, she sits down before the image, and sprinkles it with water from the Ganges, if she can get any; if not, water from some other sacred river is used. She then offers the image sweets, flowers, nuts and rice; with every gift she says a little prayer, but if she makes even a single mistake, or forgets to move her head or her hand at the right time, or in the right way, all is of no use, and she must begin over again.
A Hindu market is called a bazaar; in every bazaar there are shops where idols of any shape or size can be bought. Almost anything, a piece of wood or a lump of stone, can be made into an idol by putting a little red paint upon it, but it is not thought to be of much use till a priest has blessed it, or, as he says, "put the god inside of it.”
An English gentleman once watched a Hindu buying an idol; in the back of the image there was a very small door, which, when opened, showed a tiny cupboard. The man bought the idol, and took it to the priest; the gentleman followed, as he wished to see what would happen. The priest took the image in his hand, opened the door, said a Hindu prayer, then closing the door, gave it back to the man, saying, as he did so, "It is all right now, I saw the god go inside.”
The Hindus think that their gods and goddesses are often more wicked than themselves, and Kali, the wife of Siva, is (they say) so cruel and fond of fighting, that not only men and women, but all the other gods and goddesses are afraid of her. Kali is thought to be a great friend of thieves and robbers, who before going out to steal or do other wicked things always pray to Kali and ask her to help them.
I could go on for quite a long time telling you of other strange and foolish things that numbers of the poor people who have never heard the glad tidings of a Savior's love believe, but as I know you are wanting to hear more about William Carey and his work in India, we will go back to the subject of our story.
Calcutta is the stronghold of the worshippers of the goddess Kali. Every year a great feast is held in her honor; thousands of goats and other animals are killed as offerings to the goddess, in the hope that she will be pleased and not send any trouble to those who make her presents.
It was in that large and thickly-peopled city that the first five months of Mr. Carey's life in India were spent. Perhaps during those months he hardly seemed to be doing much real missionary work, but by working hard at language study he was getting ready for it; he was also learning to know and love the people among whom so many years of his life were to be spent. As a great many different languages are spoken in India, he made up his mind to learn as many as he possibly could. Every fresh language he acquired would, he felt sure, open doors never before opened to the messengers of the gospel. On the voyage out he had worked hard at the study of Bengali, and very soon after his landing was able to read, write and speak the language with some degree of ease; but he knew if the sweet story of salvation was to be listened to by the educated men of India, the scholars and teachers, he must learn Sanscrit, a much older and more difficult language than Bengali; and though his head ached very often, and the great heat of the Indian summer made him feel sick and faint as he bent over the page, still in faith and prayer he worked patiently on.