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Hindostan. They combine in some measure the practice and doctrine of the two rival systems of Brama and Boodh. In accordance with the former, they have four castes, while their ceremonies, as well as their order of priesthood, are very similar; and they agree also with the Boodhists in various tenets, particularly in worshipping only deified heroes. They have very splendid temples, with images of more gigantic size than are now made by other Hindoos. One of these, called Gomut Iswara, is eighteen times the height of a man; while a tradition is preserved of another five hundred times as large, consisting of pure gold, but which is now sunk in the bottom of the sea. It has been supposed that the Jains were originally pure Boodhists; but when the Bramins attained the superiority, fear or interest induced them to admit into their system various modifications from that of the triumphant sect. The Seiks have already been mentioned as having attempted to form an alliance between the two creeds of the Mohammedan and the Hindoo. These sectaries are equally remarkable for their political as their religious principles; and the furious persecutions to which they were once exposed have stamped upon them a peculiarly fierce and vindictive character. As a nation they are now masters of a great part of the territory bordering on the Indus, and form the only state in that part of Asia which is completely independent of the English, with whom they have never measured their strength. An interesting fact is presented by the colonies of early Christians and Jews formed in the interior of Cochin and Travancore at the southern extremity of the coast of Malabar. The Christians are called Syriac from their using that language, and are supposed to have been disciples of St. Thomas. In 180fi Dr. Claudius Buchanan paid them a visit, and was much edified by the amiable and primitive simplicity of their manners. They had places of worship whose structure much resembled that of some old English churches, where, by the unwonted sound of bells, the visiter was strongly reminded of his native country. A bishop in white vestments courteously received Dr. Buchanan, and introduced him to three presbyters, Jesu, Zecharias, and Urias. The people were poor; but the general diffusion of intelligence, and the liberty allowed to the female sex,
with the propriety of their demeanour, suggested the idea of a Protestant country. They had, however, only a few copies of the Bible, and those in manuscript. Mr. Wrede says their number is computed to amount to 150,000; but Mr. Baber, in his late evidence before parliament, estimates them at only 100,000, and adds that they are the best subjects their princes have. The Jews are divided into two colonies, the white and the black, whose establishment appears to have taken place at different eras. The former report themselves to have arrived soon after the destruction of Jerusalem; while the latter, from their complexion and appearance, are supposed to have settled at a much earlier period. They had ancient Hebrew manuscripts written on goat's skin, one of which Dr. Buchanan with some difficulty obtained permission to carry away. It was deposited in the university of Cambridge, where it was shown to the present writer by the late Dr. Clarke, who stated that on collation there appeared little difference between it and our authorized text.
CHAPTER VII. Hindoo Manners and Literature. National Character—Government—Village System—Castes—Bramins —Cshatryas—Vaisyas—Sudras—Mixed—Loss of Caste—Pariahs— Various Estimates of Hindoo Character—General Result—Decoity— Domestic Life—Females of India—Modes of spending Money—Literature—The Vedas—The Puranas— Mahanarat and Ramayana—Amorous Poems—Metaphysical Works—Fable or Apologue—Modern Writings—Study of English Literature—Detached Hindoo Tribes— Rajpootana—Her Nobles—Bards—Princesses—Infanticide—The Jharejahs—Nayrs of Calicut—Bheels—Tudas—Mahommedan Population —Parsees—Jits or Jauts.
There are certain features in national character which not only discriminate one people from another in distant parts of the globe, but also the same people from their immediate neighbours, that may be generally traced by an attentive observer, though many circumstances render the delineation of them extremely difficult and uncertain. The distinguishing peculiarities are blended with others that are common to mankind in general. The task, besides, requires that nice observation which is possessed by very few writers, and which, in all cases, is easily biassed by passion and prejudice. Hence the character of the Hindoo has been drawn in very opposite colours, according to the suggestion of those party impressions which in this case are perhaps stronger than in regard to any other people. Before attempting to balance and estimate such conflicting testimonies, it may be advantageous to bring into view some leading distinctions which influence the national character. The outlines of their religious system have already been traced; and we have now to consider their political arrangements, and the peculiar castes and classes into which society is divided. The Hindoos appear to have been always ruled by despotic governments, and for many ages their subjection to a foreign race, wholly differing in religion, manners, aspect, and language, has been peculiarly humiliating. Even the GOVERNMENT CASTES. 239
native princes, who have retained or recovered a certain degree of power, exercise a prerogative uncontrolled by any established rights or privileges. The only check has been one of a very irregular kind, arising from the turbulent sway of the inferior chiefs, whose influence over their immediate vassals is frequently exerted to support their own authority, which is not less absolute. Still, amid this corrupting despotism, traces are found of a system purely republican, existing in the villages which, overall India, have an interior constitution entirely distinct from the general rule to which the country at large is subjected. A village, or rather township, is formed by a community occupying a certain extent of land, the boundaries of which are carefully fixed, though often disputed. Sometimes it is cultivated by the united labour of the inhabitants; but more usually each ploughs his separate field, leaving always a large portion of common. Assignments of land are also made to various functionaries, who are charged with important public services. The principal personage is the potail, or head-man, who acts as judge and magistrate, and treats respecting the village affairs with other communities, or with the national rulers. Other duties are intrusted to the registrar, the watchman, the distributer of water, the astrologer, smith, carpenter, potter, barber, washerman, and silversmith. Whatever change the supreme authority in the kingdom may undergo, into whatever hands it may pass by inheritance, usurpation, or force of arms, whether its rulers be native or foreign, the peculiar constitution of each township remains unaltered; no revolutions affect it, no conquest changes it. Even when an overwhelming invasion or desolating inroad has compelled its members to leave their native seats, and to spend long years in exile, upon the first dawn of tranquillity they hasten back, and resume without resistance or dispute their ancient inheritance. These numerous republics, maintained in the vicinity of a powerful despotism, have doubtless contributed largely to the prosperity which India has enjoyed. Yet they are too much scattered to exercise any permanent check on the absolute power of the princes and chieftains who dispute among themselves the mastery of that extensive region.
Thenext grand feature, and one now peculiarto India, consists in the division of the people into castes; an institution