Page images

temples for the worship of the gods; and with sumptuous mansions, gardens, and fountains, for the pleasure and the accommodation of the inhabitants. Useful and elegant artisans, skilled in raising stupendous buildings, in fabricating gold, silver, and the most delicate cotton cloths, and in the curious workmanship of precious stones and metals, all found encouragement in the exercise of their professions.” Salutary ordinances directed the Hindoos in the punishment of crimes and the security of property; and when some glaring indulgencies in favour of the sacred tribe are excepted, we must yield an unreserved approbation to the justice and wisdom of their laws. The traveller was enabled to journey through this extensive empire, with an ease and safety, unknown in other countries. The public roads were shaded with trees; and frequent habitations, accommodated with a pond or well, were founded for the conveniency of the passenger; and should he have been pillaged in any part of the country, the distrićt in which the damage had been sustained, was obliged to make restitution—When this empire, its polished people, and the progress which science had made amongst them, are attentively confi

dered; when, at the same period, a retrospective view is thrown on

[ocr errors][merged small]


the states of the European world, then immersed in, or emerging from, ignorance and barbarity, we must behold Hindostan with wonder and respect ; and we may assert without forfeiting the claims of truth and moderation, that however far the European world now out-strips the nations of the East, the followers of Brimha in the early periods of life, were possessed of a fund amply stored with valuable materials of philosophy and useful knowledge, The humane mind will naturally feel a sense of sorrow and pity for a people, who have fallen from so conspicuous a height of glory and fortune, and who probably have contributed to polish and exalt

the nations, who now hold them in subjećtion. To form an accurate judgment of the genius of the Hindoos, or to describe the limit to which they extended art and science, it were requisite, could the necessary materials be procured, to exhibit the condition of their empire, before it had felt the severe and victorious arms of the Mahometans.—A partial and degrading relation would be made of the Hindoos, were a description of their laws, government, and manner, taken from the appearance they make at this day in the eye of the world. Hindostan was overthrown by a fierce race of men, who in their rapid course of conquest, exerted the most furious efforts in levelling every monument of worship and taste. They massacred the priests and plundered the temples, with a keenness and ferocity, in which their first chiefs might have gloried. A people thus crushed, groaning under the load of oppression, and dismayed at the fight of incessant G 2 cruelties, cruelties, must soon have lost the spirit of science, and the exertion of genius: especially as the fine arts were so blended with their system of religion, that the persecution of the one, must have shed a baneful influence on the existence of the other. To decide on, or affix, the character of the Hindoo, from the point of view in which he is now beheld, would, in a large degree, be similar to the attempt of conveying an exact idea of ancient Greece, from the materials now presented by that wretched country. The disquisition of the man of philanthrophy, liberated from the fetters of prejudice, will be far different : —he will enjoy congenial pleasure, in dispelling the shade of obscurity, which hath long enveloped the history of the Hindoo:—he will endeavour to carry it back to that aera of grandeur, which his country enjoyed in her day of prosperity, and there hold him out to the information of mankind; the generality of whom, whether from motives of contempt, or habits of indolence, have yet acquired but a trivial and incorrect knowledge of this ancient people. It will then be seen, that the genius of the Hindoos was happily led on ; and that their bent of disposition was aptly regulated and attempered by the rules established for the performance of their several professions. A precision which repelled the encroachments of error or design, prescribed to them their respective duties in the state, and in society, and wholly precluded any other sect from infringing on the privileges of another. The Bramin was invested with the uncontrolled guardianship of religion; he became the perpetual medium, through which the in

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

the education of youth. The importance of these offices must have given to the Bramin great sway in a community where a knowledge of religious worship, from its complex variety, becomes a task of arduous labour; and where, at the same time, a performance of the rites of his religion, is deemed an obligation indispensably incumbent on the Hindoo, in his acquisition of future happiness. These employments were judged of sufficient magnitude to occupy the whole attention of the Bramin, and he was strictly interdićted from all temporal affairs. The authority of exercising the functions of royalty, seems to have devolved without reserve on the Chittery or Rajah, and his possessions were held hereditary in the line of legitimate male primogeniture. The youngest branch of this race weie employed in the army, and entrusted with the charge of the forts and strong holds of the country. The occupation of a merchant, with the transactions of traffic, was committed to the Bhyse, or Banian, and it was declared unlawful for the other tribes to engage in commerce. The husbandman, the artisan, the private soldier, and the labourer, compose the Looder, or the fourth cast of Hindoo; and each of these respective professions was exclusively pursued. Thus, distinétly arranged, and on the severest penalties prohibited from extraneous mixture, or the admission of proselytes, the Hindoo go


vernment acquired an uniformity and vigour, the natural result of its principles.* We Re an analogy ascertained between the mythology of the Hindoos and Egyptians, perceptible traces of which are occasionally presented, it might then become a matter of doubt which people, for the greatest space of time have been the most polished and enlightened. From the examples which have been brought forward for the explanation of some of the most conspicuous parts of the mythology of the Hindoos, and to demonstrate the probable antiquity of that nation, it may seem, that I favour the belief of Egypt's having received a portion of her stock of science and religion from India. With a deference to popular opinion, and dis. claiming all fabrication of system, I must avow an inclination to this opinion. One fact amongst some others, afforded me a fair proof of the high antiquity of the Hindoos, as a civilized nation, and marks a strong disapprobation of a foreign intercourse. THEY are forbidden to cross the river Attoc, the name of which, in certain dialeóts of their language, signifies prohibition ;

and should they pass this boundary, they are held unclean, and in

* Many of the fences that marked the limits of the respective tribes, are now broken down. The Bramins of the Decan and Punjal, have taken up the sword, and are seen crowding the ranks of an army , the Chittery occasionally takes himself to traffic, and the Sooder has become the inheritor of principalities. Mararow, the gallant Mahrattah officer and chief of Ghooty, was of the fourth cast of Hindoos.


« PreviousContinue »