Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

the future of their race alike depended. The Hindoo writings, themselves, confessed that “the universe was in obscurity, like a stream unseen.” Herein, nevertheless, flowed forth the gathering waters of civilization; and though the Brahmins would have opened channels to their own lands and to their own fountains alone, many a rivulet would trickle, unperceived, to freshen the earth and its inhabitants, at least through India. The progress from the earlier and more barbarous period to an improved and settled system was so rapid, that both its origin and its course are undistinguishable. . India was a very distant country, as Strabo wrote,” even from his own land; and we cannot now clearly discover any relations between it and other countries until the time of the Persian empire." The people, certainly very numerous, were probably of several different races, which had joined one another at various periods, in a common career of migration and conquest. At the time when their peculiar institutions seem to have been completely established, the country was divided into many small states, each nominally governed by its own prince,” though all were, in fact, united in subjection to the priests of their common religion. Vague traditions speak of long wars and great empires, as if the civilization, afterwards formed, had struggled through force so violent and evil so real, that we may rejoice to know no more about them than we do, Further accounts of desperate strife among the higher classes of the people, as they were finally divided, bear witness that the power of the priests was not confirmed until they had destroyed" the strength of the race they were determined to rule. There is really very little to add to this simple sketch of ancient Indian

4 “L'état d'enveloppement de toutes les parties de la nature humaine, tel est le caractère de l'Orient.” This is one of Cousin's sweeping conclusions; but a true one. Hist. Phil., Leç.II. It is singular how human nature was so well wrapped up in India, that it has been kept in much the same state for thousands of years. The English Oriental scholars study ancient and modern India together, because the two are so nearly identical.

5 'Amaráro €orri. And, as the old geographer adds, Kai oi troX\ol rôv juérepov karóirrevaav airfiv, “And not many of our people have ever seen it.” XV. 1. § 2.

6 Herodotus, whose account is the earliest of any stranger's, is sup

WOL. I. 3

posed to have derived his informa-
tion from an expedition of Darius
Hystaspes, about A. C. 509. Later
reports resulted from the invasion of
the great Alexander, which was, .
however, “a matter of very trifling
interest” to the people of India.
Prof. Wilson’s note to Mill's Hist.
of India, Vol. I. p. 169.
Herodotus, whose name will often
appear in these pages, was born A. C.
484, and died about 76–80 years af.
terwards. He wrote the History of
the Persian War; but introduced a
variety of the most instructive and
entertaining episodes concerning the
other nations with whom his coun-
trymen had any intercourse, or of
whom they had any knowledge.

history; neither dates nor

names being of any avail,

7 Herodotus, Hist., III. 94.

8 It is not here necessary to enter upon the troubled inquiry concerning the Communities, the municipal institutions of India. Whatever their origin may have been, the superintendents, as they were styled, of every large town or city, as well as the lords and officers of more extensive districts, were all appointed by the king, undoubtedly with the advice and consent of his Brahmin counsellors. (See p. 25.) Menu, Ordinances, translated by Sir William Jones, and published with his

Works, Ch. VII. 114 et seq., 121.
See Elphinstone's India, Book II.
ch. 2; Schlosser's Univ. Hist. of
Antiquity, Ch. II. § 2; Heeren's
Researches, etc., upon India, Sect.
II. ; and Mill's Hist., Book II. ch. 3.

9 The early heroes of India, canonized, as it were, in the poetry and mythology of the Brahmins, are all represented as having defended the priests against the warriors in the early wars. See the Vishnu Purana, translated by Prof. Wilson, Book IV.

when they stand uncertain and alone. But the materials for describing the laws and the institutions of India are so abundant, that the only difficulty in the present chapter will be to use them sparingly. A legend concerning the creation of mankind informed the people of India how the god Brahma received from the Supreme Being the power to create the universe and its inhabitants, and how from his head he formed the Brahmins, from his arms the Chatriyas, from his thighs the Vaisyas, and from his feet the Sudras." A longer story was, that the Brahmin was made to study, in utter solitude, the Vedas, or books of divine wisdom, already composed for his instruction. But as he found himself in need of defence against the violence of the wild beasts with which the world was overrun, the Chatriya was created to defend the Brahmin’s retirement. Both, now, were in want of food, and the Vaisya was added to the company, that the earth might be made to yield the fruits which the others had no time to seek for themselves. Another laborer, still, being required to serve the three in more menial occupations, the Sudra was then formed out of Brahma's foot, in order that he might be fit to bear the toil and the degradation of servitude." No mere theory” would be half so intelligible as this tradition to explain the separation between the different castes, the absolute superiority of the highest and the absolute inferiority of the lowest. Each was rather a different race than a different order of men from the others. The doctrine upon which policy, as well as philosophy and religion, rested was the utter inequality of mankind. The Brahmin was a superior being, raised above the humanity to which his nature might appear to bind him.” No language seemed capable of describing the ineffable dignity of the place appointed to him in the world. He was not only “the chief of all creatures,” but “an object of veneration even to deities,” and was himself “a powerful divinity,” by whose aid “worlds and gods perpetually subsist.” It is easy, therefore, to conceive the majesty and the dominion which the Brahmins claimed amongst their fellow-beings. They depended, as they declared, on themselves alone,” and the bounds of the universe, as they added, were alone the limits of their dominion.” They alone could study the Vedas,” the sacred books, whose knowledge was supposed to make its possessors omnipotent on earth and acceptable to the supreme beings from whom it was derived. But instead of communicating the light and the strength they thus exclusively received, it was rather their pride altogether to deny to others the assistance which a race of ignorant and helpless mortals would incessantly require. They had neither to instruct, nor to sacrifice, nor to pray, except in their own behalf and for the sake of their own “ultimate happiness”;” and the phantoms which haunted the mountain and the plain, the river and the glade, were evoked rather than appeased by the priesthood, to whom alone their emptiness was known. The distinction between the learned and the unlearned was here at once apparent. On one side, the priests commanded without believing; on the other, the people believed, not because they were ever taught, but because they were commanded; knowledge having become the power, not only of subduing nature, but of degrading, or, at all events, of overpowering, the great mass of mankind.” The secret of the Brahmins' despotism, which many of its subjects must have often regarded with amazement as well as abhorrence, lay in the confidence they professed to receive from the divinities which imparted only doubt and dread to other men.

10 Menu, I. 31. The names of count in the Vishnu Purana, Book

the castes are very variously writ-
ten.
11 Creuzer, Religions de l’An-
tiquité, trad. Franç., I. p. 227.
Each of these primeval men was
furnished with a wife.

Cf. the ac

I. ch. 6.
12 The common theory traces the
castes to the different religious cere-
monies and duties which originated
amongst families. See Schlegel's
Phil. Hist., Lect. IV.

13 “Born above the world '' is the expression in Menu, I. 99. There is abeautiful poem, The Brahmin's Lament, translated by Mr. Milman, in which the wife of the Brahmin urges her husband not to mourn as though he were “ of lowly caste.” Such a glimpse into things goes a great way to explain the position which the Brahmins held and the notions entertained concerning them.

14 Menu, I. 99.

15 Ibid., XI. 85.

16 Ibid., IX. 319. Cf. § 317. 17 Ibid., IX. 316. 18 The words in Menu (XI.32) are these : — “His [the Brahmin's] own power, which depends on himself alone.” 19 “Whatever exists in the universe is all, in effect, though not in form, the wealth of the Brahmin ; since the Brahmin is entitled to it all by his primogeniture and eminence of birth.” Menu, I. 100. 20 These holy books were not to be studied by any without the aid of a preceptor. Menu, II. 116. The ol Menu, I. 98. Doctors, as they may be called, were * “Leur but n'étaitpas d'éclairer, of the highest class amongst the mais de dominer” Condorcet, Prog. Brahmins. de l'Esp. Hum., p. 65.

« НазадПродовжити »