American missionary activity in India started with a single mission in Bombay in 1813 and expanded rapidly. By 1910 there were forty American missionary societies, 1800 American missionaries, and about three million American dollars being spent every year on missionary work in India (5).
The India (12) which greeted the missionaries was not a cohesive country. It had a vast number of races, languages, and religions. The caste system further divided the population: Brahmans (priests), Kshattriyas (soldiers), Vaisyas (merchants), Sudras (laborers, agriculturists – the majority of the people) and the Pariahs (outcasts - who were not allowed to live within the village/city limits).
All were forcibly held together by the might of the British crown (10).
Hinduism was the chief religion of India with over 200,000,000 members, followed by Mohammedans – 62,000,000 members, Buddhists – 9,000,000 members. There were proportionately small numbers of Such, Jam, Christian, Parsee and Animist (11).
The classes most receptive to the Christian missionaries were those outside the Hindu system, or those whom Hinduism regarded as inferior.
The terrain and climate was equally incongruous, with the arctic cold of the Himalayas, arid deserts, tropical jungles, and the temperate zones of broad alluvial deltas, fertile valleys, plains and navigable rivers (10).
Commerce and Industry: manufacturing was entirely by hand and included: textiles (muslins and silks), and metals (gold, silver and brass,) but the country’s main resource was agriculture. Two-thirds of the total population was employed in occupations connected with the land (11).
This country-wide dependence on a single industry, which in turn was vulnerable to seasons and monsoons, was one of the main causes of the frequent famines that ravaged India. Click here to learn more.