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their paths, the names of Sir William Jones, Sir J. Malcolm, Sir S. Raffles, Dr. Wilkins, Colonel Wilks, Messrs. Marsden, Elphinstone, Colebrooke, and many others of the most distinguished writers and oriental scholars of the age, will prove: but it may, perhaps, be justly averred, that the taste of society has hitherto travelled but slowly in their course. India, however, and her magnificent architectural remains, her cavern temples, her sculptures, and the productions of her poets and her philosophers, will, before many years shall have passed away, be better and more generally known. It will then be seen, that while Italy and Greece have been traversed in search of their antiquities, and the deserts of Africa explored to discover the relics of Egyptian art, the possessions of our own country have contained wonders not less astonishing than those of Egypt; sculptures which have been inferior only to those of Greece and Rome; and that the sages and poets of India have inculcated moral precepts, and displayed poetic beauties, which no country in the world, of either ancient or modern date, need be ashamed to acknowledge.
Among the later writers on India, there have been some who, shocked at the obscenities and profanations of too considerable a portion of the modern Hindus, have scarcely allowed to this people the possession, in any degree or at any period, of either morality, literature, or science; while others again have thrown around them a mystic veil, and have imagined excellencies in them to which they have not possessed, nor can possess, a title. The truth, as is commonly the case, will, perhaps, be found in the medium. If the Hindus have numerous vices, they have also many virtues. If their ancient sculptures possess not the majesty and expression of the Grecian art, they can boast of an almost unrivalled richness and beautiful minuteness of floral ornaments, which claim and excite our warmest admiration. If the works of their poets, some of which are exceedingly beautiful, be disfigured by monsters, it cannot be denied that Homer and Virgil are subject to similar imputations. "If the laws of Menu, Sir W. Jones observes, abound with blemishes which cannot be justified or palliated, a spirit of sublime devotion, of benevolence to mankind, and of amiable tenderness to all sentient creatures, nevertheless, pervades, adds that eminent scholar (who can never be read without respect, and seldom without conviction) the whole work. The style of it, he continues, has a certain austere majesty, that sounds like the language of legislation and extorts a respectful awe. The sentiments of independence on all beings but God, and the harsh admonitions even to kings are truly noble; and the many panegyrics on the Gayatri, the mother, as it is called of the Veda, prove the author to have adored (not the visible material sun, but) that divine and incomparably greater light (to use the words of the most venerable text in the Indian scriptures) which illumines all, delights all, from which all proceed, to which all must return, and which can alone irradiate (not our visual organs merely, but our souls and) our intellects." Their ancient language, the Sanscrit, is described as being more perfect than the Greek,—more copious than the Latin,—and more exquisitely refined than either. It has been urged against them, by some most respectable authors, that their deities are nothing but monstrous personifications of vice; but can it be shewn where the gods of idolaters have been otherwise? If we turn our attention to the Heathen pantheon, we shall find that the gods of Greece, Italy, and India, were not more analogous in their attributes, than in their abominations. If the Hindus have their Linga worship, the Greeks had their Phalli, and the Egyptians their Priapus. If the Hindus have their Kali, the Greeks had their Diana Taurica, and other nations their deities to whom sanguinary sacrifices were acceptable. The Romans deified not only the virtues but the vices. Thus we see that altars were raised by them to Truth, Justice, Piety, Peace, Calumny, Fraud, Impudence, and Discord. The metamorphoses of Jupiter were for the gratification of vicious desires: the avatars of the Indian Vishnu were generally for the preservation of the world; the relief of suffering humanity; and to recall mankind back to piety and virtue. In this respect our judgment must be in favour of the Hindus. Of the Hindu system of music, the excellent writer whom I have before mentioned has expressed his belief that it has been formed on better principles than our own; and that the remains of their architecture* might furnish the architects of Europe with new ideas of beauty and sublimity.
* Magnificent architectural remains abound in every part of India. Some of those splendid works were erected from devotion, penitence, or as propitiations of the deities; others, from ostentation, parental, conjugal or filial affection, or to the vanity, incident to orientals especially, of thus perpetuating their names. The following, taken from the Transactions of the Bombay Literary Society, relate two extraordinary anecdotes of the origin of Mussulman buildings in the now ruined city of Bejapoor:—
"The Mai tree Kujoos is a small but very elegant gateway and mosque about the centre of the city, built by a Hallalchore. That an individual so debased should have the ability to raise such a work, is accounted for in the following manner: Ibrahim Shah was said to have been afflicted with a dreadful malady, and having in vain had recourse to medicine and human means, at last endeavoured to avail himself of planetary influence. A crafty astrologer, on being consulted, resolved to profit from the king's credulity. Expounding the book of fate to him, he pretended that his recovery depended on his presenting a large and specific sum of money to the first person he saw on a particular morning, of course intending that person should be himself. Unfortunatelj» however, for the astrologer, the king happened to rise much earlier than usual that morning, and the first person he saw was the sweeper (Hallalchore) in the palace-yard; to him, therefore, the king gave the money; and the poor creature, overloaded with unexpected wealth, knew not better how to dispose of it than in building the Maitree Kujoos. From the angles of the building hang massy stone chains, which must have been cut out of solid blocks, as there are no joinings in the links.
b '< The
To those who may derive pleasure from dwelling on the deeds of chivalry of the western world, there need only be related the heroic achievements of the royal races, the Suryavans and Chandravans of ancient India, with the exploits of their high caste military tribes. f In short, with the Hindus, as with other once renowned states, we shall find, at different periods of their history, the virtues, the wisdom, and the glories of Augustan ages, and the vicissitudes, and miseries, and crimes, which mark the decadence and subjugation of powerful and mighty empires.
In respect of the origin and antiquity of the Hindu mythology, numerous conjectures have been hazarded, in which widely contrasted
"The Taj Bowree is not far from the Maitree Kujoos, but nearer to the Mecca gate. The Bowree is a superb tank, or well, nearly one hundred yards square, and fifty feet deep, and is surrounded by a colonnade and gallery. The entrance to the Botrree is through a grand arch, on either side of which is a wing for the accommodation of travellers; the descent to the water is by a considerable flight of steps.
"It was built by Mulik Scindal, a voluntary eunuch, in Sooltan Mahomed's reign. The tradition of its origin is as follows :—The king having a taste for beautiful females, and Mulik being his intimate friend, the king resolved to despatch him to Sungul-deep for a Padmee. Muflik, knowing what a dangerous and delicate task was enjoined him, but resolved to make every sacrifice rather than lose the king's favour, begged a month to make the necessary preparations. In the mean time he deprived himself of his virility, sealed the attributes of it in a casket, which he lodged in the king's treasury, and then set out on his journey. In due time he returned with the lady; but suspicions having been infused into the king's mind by Mulik's enemies that he had anticipated the king with his fair charge, Mahomet Shah, in the usual style of eastern despots, ordered his head to be instantly struck off.
"'O king!' exclaimed Mulik, 'order restitution of my deposit in your treasury ere the fatal blow is struck.' The casket was accordingly brought, opened, and to the king's astonished eyes appeared the proofs of Mulik's imbecility, and his consequent innocence! Horror-struck at his injustice, he commanded Mulik to ask, and his wish should be granted, even to the sacrifice of his kingdom. Mulik observed, as he could not have posterity, he was merely desirous of raising some work which, by its utility, might do that which was denied him in a natural way, namely, hand down his name to future generations. The king supplied the money, and the Taj Bowree perpetuates Mulik's wish."
f To the reader who would wish to become acquainted with the chivalry of the Hindus, the author would recommend the admirable work of Colonel Tod on the Rajpoot tribes
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.