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hypotheses have been advanced in opposition to each other. By some it has been urged, that India derived her religion and her gods from Egypt; by others that Egypt obtained hers from India ; and by a third party that Persia was the immediate parent of both. The latter conjecture will, perhaps, appear to be as well-founded as any, as we have reason to believe that the earliest departure from the worship of a supreme and invisible god, took place in Chaldea, where the solar orb* was first deified and worshipped; and from whence the adoration of this gorgeous symbol of the Majesty of Heaven extended into Persia. In time the other celestial bodies became also symbols of divine attributes, till they, either from the restless disposition of man, or the crafty machinations of priests, were succeeded by personified representations more intelligible to the general mass of human nature in the rude and earlier ages of society. If, then, Persia became (as there are grounds to believe she did) the country into which the stream of Chaldean idolatry next ran, we may readily imagine that it may have there divided, and flowed in separate channels, to inundate, at the same period, the one the shores of Egypt and the western world, and the other the plains of ancient India, with the numerous countries still farther to the east.
But, from whatever source the existing theology of the Hindus may have sprung, we need only here observe, that at the present day, it
* The religion of the Andamaners in the Bay of Bengal (perhaps one of the wildest and most uncivilized of any of the yet known tribes of mankind) is, according to Colonel Syms, the homage of nature to the incomprehensible Ruler of the Universe, expressed in adoration to the sun as the primary and most obvious source of good; to the moon as the secondary power; and to the genii of the woods, the waters, and the mountains, as inferior agents. In the spirit of the storm they confess the influence of the malignant Being, whose wrath they deprecate by wild choruses, which they chaunt during tempests on the beach, or on some rock that overhangs the ocean.
is in practice the most decided and extravagant polytheism ; that the objects of their worship are almost exhaustless; and that those objects are as varied in their attributes as they have been multiplied in their numbers. In short, as Major Moor has, with his usual judgment, observed, “ Mythology is with them all-pervading. Their history, science, literature, arts, customs, conversation, and every thing else, are replete with mythological allusion.” A respectable knowledge of their pantheon is consequently an almost indispensable preparatory acquirement to the study and comprehension of nearly every thing which relates to them. In the following pages, it has been my endeavour to condense my subjects as much as, consistent with a clear explanation of them, I with propriety could : and from the limited extent of the first part of the work, which comprises the hydra-headed mythology of this extraordinary people, I hope it may be considered that I have not failed in the attempt.
The second part of this work will not, I also venture to hope, be found either uninteresting or unuseful; as it brings within a circumscribed and convenient compass the widely scattered relations of the numerous mountain and island tribes of the two peninsulas and the adjacent islands of India ; tribes little known, even to those otherwise possessing a competent knowledge of the history, and manners, and customs of the Hindus in general.
The plates in this book have been taken, with a very few exceptions, from sculptures, casts, models, carvings, drawings, &c. in my own possession, and have been lithographed (except six of them) by Clerk, of Dean Street, Soho.
A brief notice in this place of the chronology of the Hindus may not be found unnecessary, in elucidating some of the observations
which may be met with in the course of the work. It will be seen, that the extravagant ideas of this people are not confined to their mythology, but pervade, in a no less degree, their chronological and astronomical calculations. Their extraordinary system comprises a calpa or grand period of 4,320,000,000 years, which they form as follows. Four lesser yugs, viz.
which make one divine age or maha (great) yug; 71 maha yugs make 306,720,000 years, to which is added a sandhi (or the time when day and night border on each other, morning and evening twilight), equal to a satya yug, 1,728,000, make a manwantara of 368,448,000 years; fourteen manwantaras make 4,318,272,000 years; to which must be also added a sandhi to begin the calpa, 1,728,000 years, make the calpa or grand period of 4,320,000,000 of years ; of which amazing period it may be satisfactory to some prophetical individuals to know, that about half only has yet expired, the world being now in the kali yug of the twenty-eighth divine age of the seventh manwantara.
Extraordinary as this jargon may appear, it is shewn, by Mr. S. Davis in his Essay in the Asiatic Researches, to be no fanciful fiction, but to have been founded upon an actual astronomical calculation, formed upon an hypothesis which it will be unnecessary here to enter into. I shall, therefore, only farther observe, that the Hindus calculate from the commencement of the present Kali yug, which took place in the 906th year of the world. Their date, to correspond with the year of our Lord 1832, or that of the world 5839, will be about 4933 of the Kali yug.
The Hindus have various other eras: those most commonly current are, according to an article taken from the Calcutta Government Gazette, the Saka and the Sambat. “The former is computed from the supposed birth of Salivahana, King of Pratishthana, in Southern India. The event is said to have occurred in the year of the Kali age 3179, which makes it seventy-eight years after the birth of Christ. The year 1832 will consequently be 1754.
The Sambat year numbers the luna solar years in the same manner as the Saka does the solar years. It is computed from the reign of Vikramaditya, King of Oujein, which began fifty-seven years before Christ. The present year, Sambat, will be about 1888-9.
The Jainas reckon from the disappearance of their last legislator, Verdhamana Swami, according to some authorities 663, and to others 636 years before the Christian era. The religious era of the Burmans commences 544 years prior to that period : they have, however, a vulgar era also, which commences A.D. 638.
The Hejira, or Mahomedan era, is counted from the flight of Mahomed from Mecca, and is usually considered to begin on Friday, the 16th July, A.D. 622: some make it commence on the preceding day.
The Hindus have various other eras, which commence in different months of the year. Most of these are local, and a description of them will not prove of any interest to the reader.
Much inconvenience has been experienced by English readers, from the numerous ways in which the proper names of the Hindus have been spelt and pronounced, as Vishnu, Veeshnu, Veeshnoo, Vaishnu, Vishen, Beeshnoo, Bishen, &c.; Siva, Seiva, Siv, Seiv, Sieb; Garuda, Garura, Gururu, Goorooroo, &c. &c. Of these modes I have judged it better to adopt that which has appeared to me to be the most simple, and which, with the following brief observations, may enable the reader to identify the proper names in this work with those which he may find elsewhere differently spelt, but signifying the same persons or things.
A is commonly pronounced au, and u as oo, as if Hindustan were written (as it sometimes is), Hindoostaun, or (as respects u), Hindu, Hindoo. I is sometimes pronounced like ee, as rishis, reeshees, but would not be so in Hindu. A and u are equally used by different writers; Agni, Ugni; Asuras, Usuras, Usooras. In like manner c and k are also used, as in Crishna, Creeshna, Krishna; Camdenu, Kamdenu; Cashi, Kashi, &c. &c. By the Hindus b is pronounced v: the city of Benares is thus by them called Venares.
A generally understood and accepted orthography might, in spite of many local difficulties, be, no doubt, effected by the several learned oriental societies of Great Britain and our Indian presidencies. At present no such standard appears to be acknowledged ; consequently the intelligent contributors to works, equally learned and valuable, are too frequently opposed to each other in their selections of the modes in which their compositions are written. Compiled, as a large portion of this book has been, from so many diversified sources of information, I fear that, notwithstanding all the watchfulness and diligence which I have been enabled to exer