Page images
PDF
EPUB

BEFor E the creation of man, Sree Mun Narrain formed the world out of a perplexed aggiegation of matter, which had been covered with

entertained by them of the formation of the world, and the creation of animated bodies. These philosophical priests, who professed the tenets of Menes, their first law-giver, (whom they had deified, and intitled Osiris, or the Sun), said that fire, or rather a refined spirit, which they distinguished from the elemental fire, was diffused through all nature, and composed the essence of that being, who first gave form and order to matter. They believed that five elements, the mind, fire, air, earth, and water, constituted the entire world: they called the mind Jupiter, which signifies the source of life, and they considered him the father of all intelligent beings. The fire they termed Vulcan, who, they alledged, contributed chiefly to the production and perfection of all things, Earth, being as it were the bosom in which all things. receive the principles of life, was known by the designation of Mother. The water was called Ocean, to which they gave the name of the Nursing Mother. The air was denominated Minerva, and believed to be the daughter of Jupiter, sprung from his brain, and always a virgin, as this element is incorruptible, and rises to Heaven.—The Egyptian philosophers supposed, that all the original matter of the universe had been immerged in a chaos, and was gradually separated from it by fermentation; that the air was, in continual agitation; that the fire, liberated from the grosser matter, had ascended, and formed the sun and stars, the highest objects of the universe; that spirit, or the mind, the most subtile part of fire, was dispersed through all parts, to animate life, and impart voluntary motion. They added, that the earth and water, which after the separation of the air were yet embodied, became a globe, which constantly revolving on its axis, by a motion excited by the fire the separation of the two bodies was effected; and that the rays of the sun, making new fermentations on the surface of the earth, yet soft and slimy, produced numerous excrescences, which, nourished and strengthened by the gross vapours of the night, the action of the moon,_and afterwards, by the heat of the day, the waters, and inhabited by a demon, the supposed author of evil, whom the Godhead drove into an abyss under the earth*.

The Hindoos, as Mr. Halhed, in his translation of the Code of Hindoo Laws, has fully set forth, are arranged in four grand casts, or tribes -j"; that of the Bramin, the Glittery, the Bhyse, and the Sooder. Each of these casts is subdivided into numerous sects, the particular

appeared at length, in the forms of different animals. Those in whom the fire predominated, mounted into air, and became birds: those which participated more of earth, as men, quadrupeds, and reptiles, remained on the surface, while the more aqueous substances descended to the waters, their proper place of abode. It was necessary to give reasons, why nature had stopped in her primary operations, and did not form many more animal creatures, as the manner of formation had been so simple and easy. Systematic philosophy, even in its infancy, did not want resource; and that of the Egyptians has met the objection, by urging, that nature had originally inspired every species of animals with the instinct of propagation; having sagely foreseen, that when the sun and the winds had entirely dried the earth, it would be incapable of producing perfect .animals. See Mr. Labbathier's History of Ancient Nations, translated by Mr. Stockdale.

* The writers of the Hindoo mythology, have given various and diffuse descriptions of the origin of the world, and of the human and animal race, but unite in blending them with a series of extravagant and disgusting fables.

t There is in India an aboriginal race of people, who are not classed in any of the sects, and confined to the most menial offices. They are not permitted to enter any temple of the Hindoos, and they observe no restriction. On some parts of the coast of C'oromandel, tbey are called Dheres and Pariahs; and, in Bengal, Harees.

usages of which are preserved with care and attentive distinctions. There are sectaries, also of the same tribe, who do not admit of the intercourse of marriage with each other, or of eating at the same board. It should seem, that the genuine race of the Chittery has for a great length of time been extinct, and that its place is now occupied by a spurious tribe. The Hindoos composing these, casts and classes, are ultimately branched in two divisions; the one denominated Vystmow Bukht; the other, Sheva Bukht. The followers of the former deity are usually distinguished by a longitudinal mark on the forehead, whilst those of the latter draw a parallel line on that part. Wystnow is worshipped under the representation of a human figure, having a circle of heads, and four hands ; emblems of an all-seeing and all-provident Being. The figure of a fabulous bird, on which he is supposed to ride, and denoting the velocity of his motion, is occasionally placed in front of this image. Sheva, or Eishwer, and, as he is often denominated by the Hindoos, the Mhah - Deve, is usually represented by a compound figure, describing the male and female parts of generation, and designed as the symbol of procreation and fecundity : these faculties, or qualities, being classed amongst the choicest blessings of the Hindoos, and the deprivation of them deemed a severe reproach and misfortune. Facing this designation of Mhah Deve, is sometimes seen, in a suppliant posture, the statue of a cow, or bull; an animal said to have derived his sacred qualities, from having been chosen by this god, as the favourite medium of his conveyance. But the more enlightened pundits say, that this creature hath been preserved from slaughter, by its great utility to man; it being his ablest assistant in the labours of the field, and the chief provider of his immediate sustenance". It doubtless argues a sound policy in the Hindoos, to stamp the ox with this sacred mark; for were its flesh eaten, as Hindostan is thinly supplied with horses, the various branches of agriculture would suffer an essential injury. - * - - , AN oth ER figure represents Sheva, with four hands, holding different emblems of his power; and five heads, four of which are directed to the cardinal points, and the fifth is placed with the face upwards, in the supposed act of contemplating the godhead. This deity, who occupies numerous forms, is figured also with three eyes, one of which is placed in the forehead. In gratitude for the service which Brimha has performed on earth, it would reasonably be

* Milk and butter compose a great part of the aliment of an Hindap. -

supposed, that the thanksgiving of his people would in some degree be proportioned to his works. But the Hindoos have not dedicated one temple to his honour ; nor have they established a single festival, in remembrance of his deeds. It would redound but little to my credit, did I insert in this place the reasons alleged in their religious tracts, for the neglect of Brimha. It is a tale framed to amuse the credulous Hindoo, and procure a meal to an artful priest. The ostensible want of attention to the memory of Brimha, may on a more abstracted ground be ascribed to an opinion, that the powers of procreation having been primarily set in action, and operating by a law impulsive and undeviating, whose immediate benefits exist, and are conspicuously displayed in its effects, noritual necessity called for the commemoration of its first cause, or the propitiation of its future influence. THE Hindoos believe implicitly in predestination, and in the transmigration of the soul. The first, though it may operate in cramping the genius and obstructing its progressive powers, has a happy tendency in assuaging their misfortunes, and administering a comfort in all the wants of life. They say, it is the hand of God, which for some inscrutable purpose, directs and impels the actions of his creatures. The doctrine of Metempsychosis restrains them from the

« PreviousContinue »