THE BIRTHPLACE OF CHOLERA.
New Zealand Tablet, Volume XII, Issue 27, 24 October 1884, Page 21
THE BIRTHPLACE OF CHOLERA.
The on!y countries upon the globe to which cholera has. not been carried are the islands of the South Pacific, Australasia, the Cape ot Good Hope, the islands of tbe North Atlantic, and the western coast of America. These localities are all separated from India by a wide expanse of ocean, and have no commercial intercourse with that country.
Cholera has Dot become permanent outside of India, although it is seldom absent from some of the provinces of Hindustan. From its birthplace in the delta of the Ganges, the disease has effected a permanent lodgment in the province of B.:nga], Madras and Bo T) bay, while in the provinces that lie to the west and northwest, such as Rappootana and Punjab, it occurs only as an epidemic, developing after great religions gatherings. Hurdwar, in the Punjab, at the foot of the Himalaya Mountains, is the Rreat nursery of cholera. It never originates there, but has annually been developed there during: the great Hindoo festivals. Of these festivals Hnrdwar is enrsed with two. an<t they draw together a great concourse of people from every portion of the Indian empire. At some of these festivals as many as 3,000,000 devotees have assembled, but of late years the numbers have fallen off. Hurtfwar having lost its sacred prestige from the fact that rome of the holy waters of the Ganges have been pro'aaely diver ed into a canal constructed by English authorities.
There immense numbers of human beings gather upon a bare, sandy plwn on the banks of the Ganges, massed like herds of swine, without means of sanitary protection. The earth and air. as well ad the water, are polluted, and the odor from the camps U perceptible for many miles. Day and night the devotees pour through the great thoroughfares of the country to and from the festival in parties of from 10 lo 500, following so closely as to make an almost coatinnous procession. Ninety-five ont of every 100 are on foot, bnt occasionally some great nibob sweeps past with an enormous retinue, or a rajah witU his caravan of elephants, camels, hors men, and swordsman passes in all the grandeur and confusion of Indian royalty. They ride over the poor wretches who line the roads, trample them down, and burl imprecations upon them for blocking the way. Some march hundreds and some thousands of miles to engage in the festivals and to bathe in the sacred river. Many die on the way, and all arrive lame and gaunt from hunger and fatigue, with feet bound up in rags and their scanty clothing covered with blood and dust. They ru-h into the livei as soon as they arrive, and drink the water as fa-rt an the; can scoop it up in their hands. 'Ihey are fed from tbe Temple kitchen, where as many as 90,000 cooks are at work, and the food is distributed among them in a rude way. W hen fresh it is not unwholesome, hut too much of it produces indigestion and g-eat sufferings. The half-starved nilgrinn ia'. it like gluttons, rush into the water azain to bathe and drink, the restdt is derangement of the digestive organ*. Wh»n they have eifcefc iheir fill, whatever food is left is preserved. Under the hot sun t s ou bceonv s poisonous to thn pilgrims who eat it. lv these hotbeds oE disease, under conditions that would hraeA a plajrue anywhere, thei-e p-lgrims live. The heat is almost unen-iurabe. The living, the tsiok, and the dying are huddled together, wi'li only just as much ppace as thejean cover lying down. As fast y* th y die they are buried in the sand.
Hut on the return jonrney the misery of tbe pilgrims reaches its height. They are s-ick stud lame, but stagger along until the weak fall by the r. alside to die. Their bodies lie thickly along the jonni'-y uncover :d. tfonn drar their weary limbs until they reach a village, where they drop and lie in mass w, blocking up the streets, until they get strong enough to move forward, or die of starvation ami iliseahC.
it is impossible to calculate the number that perish. The Bishop of Calcutta estimates it at about one in fire, and those who do not die on th- journey carry the germs of disease bone with them, .se-uierinsr pestilence alon^ their path. Thus tbe cholera is started on us p riodiu-il maivh around the world. No great Asiatic pestilence lias ever scon rgt-d 'the Bust aDd allowed the cities of Arabia to escap>. Tim jdlgiims to Mecca and the commercial caravans to Damascus carry death in their train under any quar mtine that can be devised, but the attempts to establish quarantine aie weak, ineffectual and spasmodic.
Thn Holy City of Mecca is another great distributing point for choleia in fac% it is a sort of clearing honae for all sorts of infectious diseases. In 1865, it is said 20,000 pilgrims died there of cholt-ra in six days, and tbe-city for centuries ha 1 been the focus of plague*, which have b»en brought fro-n all directions, and thence uistiihir.ed by returning pilgrims over three continents. For many centuries there has beeh an incessant stream of pilgrims to and flora Mecca. To be present at the Kourb.in Baram is the great ai.n and end of Mohammedan life, and to reach there hundreds of ihoucauib abandon homes and property, and undertake perilous and exhausting journeys. From the North Atlantic and •>irditerranean shores of Africa, "from Timbivtoo an- 1 Western Africa, f rmn SibKiia, from the D lnubo and the Sea i Azof, from the Western provinces of CLiua, from the cities of Europe, and from the most jerune Mohammet'an settlements, constant processions of pilgrims are assiug to and from Mecsa for this pilgrimage, at least one? in a lifetime, is binding on all true Mohammedan**, and he who dies withoit Laving made it might as W9ll bavu been a Jew, Christian, or a dog. The return of one pilgrimage is never accomplished from any of the larger settlements before another is on the move. They arrive in great caravans, and the misery and hardships they endure are equal to those suffered by the Hindu devotee*. Some ceme by sea to Jedda upon the native vessels, which are saturated witb infectious poisons. .Each passenger receives only sufficient space to squat upon. The intense heat of the day, the miasmas of the night, privations of all sorts, the want of Bleep and food and exercise induce a physical condition but little short of death. Many die on h-^rd the vessels, but
the moßt have strength enough left to drag themselves to the Holy City. Those who go by land and on foot •uffar even worse. Having arrived at Mecca withouc rest or food, the pilgrims enter at onca upon their religious duties. The first is to visit the Kaaba, the Holy Temple, and the tomb of Ishmael, upon which rests the stone let down from heaven. Upon the arrival at the Kaaba all drink and perform their ablutions in the well of Zem Z jm.
The water is tepid, salty, and milkish ia colour. It might have been pure ouce, but it has not baen so in centuries. No pilgrim ever quits Alecca without carrying a jar of this water away with him, an I it is impossible to over-estimate the potency of the Zem 2 an spnug ia spreading cholera and other diseases.
In Mecca all the essentials foe an epidemic are constantly gathered, as well as the m^ans fur distributing the germs of disease oroadcast. The pilgrimages in India and Arabia have received the attentiou of sanitarians for several years, but no means has yet baon found, so strong is the religious sense, to prevent the dissemination of disease by them.
The present epidemic in France can be traced from Rimlw.ir to Mecca, from Mecca to Egypt, and thence along the AX diterraaeau to Toulon and Marseilles. Exchange.