Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

the Padma. From these, and various other data, we infer, that Bengal may have been a comparatively civilized country for, perhaps, 2,500 years. Whether the Aboriginal tribes ever occupied the plains of Bengal, we know not; perhaps the researches, which Mr. Hodgson is making respecting the Aborigines, may throw light on this point: but these facts are well ascertained;-that, Tamluk, in the third century, was famous for its Budhist Colleges, in which Fa Hian, a Chinese Priest, spent two years; that one of the towers of Asoka stood there; that, as late as the 12th century, the Pal Kings of Gaur were Budhists; that Adisur brought Brahmans from Kanauj to Bengal in the 10th century, as Budhism had infected the Hindu priesthood in the latter country; and that the Jains, whose systein is a scion of Budhism, were formerly very numerous in Bengal. They were probably a lingering remnant of the Budhists.

We offer the following suggestion as a point for inquiry. Considering that the Pali language is as invariable an accompaniment of the Budhist rulers and priests, as Latin is of the Romish, or Sanskrit of the Brahminical, hierarchy; and that the Pali bears as close an affinity to Sanskrit, as the Bengali does,

is it not probable, that the ancient language, spoken on the plains of Bengal, was a mixture of the Páli and Prákrit, which might then have served, like the Prakrit, or Apabransa, generally, as a kind of transition-dialect between the ancient Sanskrit and the modern Bengali, or Gauriya Bháshá? The Páli was pre-eminently the language of the people. It was the organ of the itinerant preaching system of the Budhist priests:* it was once the vernacular of Magadha, or Bahar; and it bears the same relation to the Sanskrit, as the Dutch does to the German, or the Italian to the Latin.

In support of the assertion, that Pali, or Prakrit, has been the language of the people, while Sanskrit was used by the Brahminical class, we have the authority of Dr. Muller, in his "Relation of the Bengali to the Arian and Aboriginal languages of India." He remarks, "The author of the most famous Prakrit Grammar, Katyayana, was the same, who wrote additional notes on the great work on Sanskrit Grammar by Panini, his contemporary, or immediate predecessor; and we find in one branch of Sanskrit literature, which was more than any other destined for the higher, as well as the lower, classes, viz. in the dramatic compositions, a constant mixture of Sanskrit and Prakrit dialects, which unfold there an un

Budhist Missionaries employed in China, Nipal, and the Eastern Archipelago, the machinery of the vernaculars and itinerant preaching for diffusing their doctrines.

expected wealth of melodious poetry. Strange as such a combination of similar dialects may seem, we find a similar fact in Italy, where each of the masked persons in the Commedie dell'arte was originally intended as a kind of characteristic representation of some particular Italian district or town." Dr. Muller, however, thinks, that, "while other modern dialects of India are of Prakrit origin, the Bengali is almost a direct off-shoot from the Sanskrit, superseding the simple and concise forms of ancient declensions and conjugations by modern paraphrastic formations."*

What the language of Bengal was, 1200 years ago, when Gaur, its capital, was in the zenith of its glory, with its two millions of inhabitants, and its princely buildings, we know not. Some suppose it to have been the Sanskrit, not in its present highly artificial form, but in a simpler one; others consider that there was an aboriginal language, traces of which remain still in such words, as ultá, eman, ekhan, chál, chhari, dhámá, pet, bhari, sojá, holá. In the admirable preface to his Bengali Dictionary, Ram Komul Sen gives a list of 128 original Bengali words, derived from no other language," which must have been peculiar to the aborigines," and are still in general use among the lower classes; he also appends sixty-five words, spoken among the Koles, and which may be heard at present in the Thakurpúkur and other districts to the South of Calcutta.

Previous to the introduction of Bengali typography into this country in 1778, there were about forty works composed in the Bengali language. Among these the chief were the Chaitanya Charita Amrita, a work popular among the Vaishnavas, written in 1557, by Krishna Das Kabiraj, a follower of Chaitanyaf; the Mansa Mangal by Khemananda; the Dharma Gana published by order of Layu Shen, a Raja near Burdwan; the Mahabharat, Ramayan, Subankara, and Guru Dakhina; the Chandi,

The Bengali characters according to Colebrooke, "is nothing else but Devanagari deformed, for the sake of expeditious writing." See a valuable paper of the late James Prinsep on this subject, in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal.

Ram Komul Sen, in the preface to his Dictionary, p. 14, states, "The composition of bibliographical and historical works in Bengali commenced on the appearance of Chaitanya in Nadiya, about 307 years ago; his disciples wrote various books on the doctrines of the Vaishnava sect. In 1557, Krishna Das wrote the Chaitanya Charita Amrita his brethren also produced several works on mythology and theology; their dramatic works are moreover excellent." One-fifth of the population of Bengal have embraced the doctrines of Chaitanya: and one cause of the rapid spread of this sect was probably owing to the activity with which they availed themselves of Bengali literature to disseminate their tenets. We have no account of any Bengali work previous to the period of Chaitanya: and yet it is singular that in Telugu, certainly not superior to the Bengali in richness and expressiveness, we have books, still extant, which were composed previous to the Moslem invasion.

by Kabikankan, and the Annada Mangal, by Bharat Chandra, both written under the patronage of the Mæcenas of Hindu literature, the illustrious Raja Krishna Ray of Naba-dwip.

Though the Musalmans in other countries came with the Koran in one hand and the sword in the other, yet in Bengal they generally granted toleration: but, like the English, when they conquered Ireland, they acted with a depressing weight on every effort to create a national literature; and hence, though there are many MSS. extant, yet a search, in order to obtain any clue to ascertain the early formation of the language, or to procure any historical information respecting Bengal in the Ante-Muhammadan period, ends in complete disappointment. Either the Hindus were afraid to write, or the Muhammadans destroyed their documents.

It may not perhaps prove uninteresting to some of our readers to peruse the following curious extract, relative to the early settlement of the Muhammadans in Bengal at Pandua, a place 15 miles from Hugly on the road to Burdwan, given by the correspondent of an old periodical, now very scarce, the Calcutta Asiatic Observer for 1824.

"Traditional Account of the Minaret at Pandúa.

The Minaret at Pandúa is certainly one of the most ancient monuments of Muhammadan bigotry in Bengal. I was given to understand by the people of Pandúa, that, about 600 years since, Shah-Sufi-uddin Khan Shahid, undertook the invasion of Bengal, pursuant to the representation made by a certain Mussulman, who had a little before been invited over by the Hindu rajahs to reside there, for the purpose of interpreting to them the messages, or mandates, of the emperor of Hindusthan, respecting the politics of the times. This man being childless, he made a vow, "that should God grant him a son, he would make a splendid sacrifice to his honour." His prayer was granted; and he proceeded to celebrate the happy event, in the first instance by slaughtering a cow by way of sacrifice, in fulfilment of his vow. This circumstance gave great offence to the Hindus, and exasperated them to such a degree, that, by the orders of their rajahs, they not only punished him in the severest manner imaginable, but they also brought forth the son of his vow, and offered him up a sacrifice to appease their deities. A short time after this cruel affair had transpired, the Mussulman escaped to Delhi, and petitioned the emperor to revenge him, by punishing the murderers of his son. The emperor, shocked at the circumstance, immediately issued a proclamation throughout his dominions, offering a magnificent reward to any person that would undertake to head an army, and proceed to Bengal to revenge the outrage.

"Prince Shah-Sufí-uddín Khan volunteered his services; and, having assembled an army of the most devout Mussulmans, marched towards Bengal, carrying fire and desolation wherever he came. Having subdued all the rajahs of the intermediate places, he came to Pandúa, a strong fortified place, the residence of a powerful rajah, called Pundraja, and besieged it. This rajah was aided by the rajah of Munad, who was a powerful ally. But what, above all things, according to tradition, tended to the success of

the besieged in repelling the attacks of the invaders for a long time, was a wonderful pool at Munad, called Jhínch-khúnd. It is said, that this pool had the virtue of restoring the dead to life again, and of healing the wounds of those, who were engaged in the war with the Mussulmans. The latter made repeated assaults on the besieged, but were invariably repulsed with great slaughter. Shah-Sufi, (being a little surprized to find, that after so many battles had been fought, and thousands of the enemy carried out of the field dead or wounded, their numbers still suffered no diminution,) offered a handsome reward to any person who would trace out the cause of such a circumstance in favour of the besieged. A certain person undertook to procure him the requisite information, and, approaching the neighbourhood of some of the enemy's stations in disguise, found out the secret relative to the miraculous efficacy of the Jhínch-khúnd. Next, taking upon himself the disguise of a Hindu Jogí, he arrived at Munad, where was the celebrated pool, and begged permission to bathe in it. Having obtained his request, and while in the act of performing his ablutions, he threw a piece of cow's flesh into the pool undiscovered, which at once destroyed the virtues of Jhínch-khúnd for ever. Having achieved this enterprize, he returned, not a little elated at the success he had met with, and informed the general of the circumstance. The news soon spread through the army, and elated them to such a degree, that they took up their arms immediately, and rushed upon their enemies. The conflict was dreadful. That the healing virtues of the pool had been destroyed was a disastrous event to the Hindus, who in vain cast into it their dead and dying; for as they were cast in one after another, so they remained. Struck with atonishment and shame at this circumstance, and appalled with fear, they were no longer able to withstand the impetuosity of the Mussulman troops, and were routed with a dreadful slaughter. Thus the Mussulmans got possession of Pandúa, and its adjacent towns. They next erected a fortress at Pandúa, and built a Minaret to perpetuate the signal victory they had obtained over the infidels. Many Hindus were compelled to be circumcised, and to embrace the Muhammadan religion.

66

The conquerors having established themselves in the country, built a large mosque at Pandúa within the walls of the fort, which they had previously erected. This mosque has sixty domes, supported upon two rows of dark grey coloured stones, carved in a very curious style. The outer walls are ornamented with a kind of Mosaic architecture. The bricks, of which they are built, are neatly and curiously moulded into a variety of checquered-work flowers and leaves. The domes, however, are not lofty. They increase the sound of the voice greatly; as a person speaking at one end of the wall enables those who stand on the opposite side, a distance of upwards of a hundred feet, to hear every word distinctly, though spoken with a voice but moderately elevated.

"The Minaret is the most worthy of notice. It is upwards of 80 cubits in height by actual measurement. To arrive at its summit, a person is obliged to ascend by means of a narrow, dark, spiral flight of stairs. In the days of the prosperity of this place, the Muazzin, or inviter to prayers, used to ascend to the highest standing place of this Minaret, and proclaim the uzan, or invitation to prayers.

66

During a former visit, which I paid to this place, I was told of a circumstance of a most lamentable nature, which had taken place a short time before my arrival. The particulars were related by a resident of the place. It is usual for multitudes of Mussulmans to come to this place on a pilgrimage to the shrine of the martyr Shah-Sufí, from the remotest parts of Bengal. At such times (January and April,) extensive fairs are held

S

for the accommodation of the pilgrims. It is an invariable practice of the visitors to ascend to the highest stage of the Minaret, for the purpose of seeing an iron bar, which runs evidently through the middle of the spiral steps, from top to bottom. This, the pilgrims say, was the walking staff of the martyr. Hundreds ascend at the same time, and throng each other in a miserable manner. On one of these occasions, while multitudes were pressing through this spiral staircase, a person stumbled midway up the steps, and fell upon those, who attempted to push on; and these again, being propelled upwards by others following hard at their heels, could not avoid trampling on the person who had fallen, and, as is supposed, killed him on the spot. This created great confusion and uproar, but the cause could not be ascertained, either at the foot of the steps, or at the top. Both those below, and those above, heard the noise, but knew not the reason of it. Struck with alarm, those, who were uppermost, essayed to descend as fast as possible; and those, who were at the foot of the steps, or a little above, being shoved upwards by a multitude following from below, a most distressing struggle ensued in the middle of the stairs, in which upwards of seventy persons were crushed to death.

66

Shah-Sufi, the conqueror of Pandúa, was celebrated for the sanctity of his life. It is said, that on a certain day, he went to sleep, after having ordered one of his slaves to wake him precisely at an hour specified, perhaps the hour of prayer. The slave fell asleep likewise, but awoke after the appointed hour had elapsed. Filled with dread at the neglect of which he had been guilty, and his lord being yet in bed, he drew his sword, plunged it into his heart, and killed him; but immediately killed himself likewise. Thus Shah-Sufi became a martyr: since which he has been held in great veneration; and his shrine, which is always kept in repair, is annually visited by multitudes of pilgrims, as related above. In and about Pandúa, there are also the shrines of the heroes, that fell in the battles against the infidels, and who are also held in a degree of respect, next to adoration, by the Mussulmans. They are all martyrs; so that when a person visits Pandua, he treads holy ground. The sanctity of the place is made the means of great pecuniary emolument to thousands of fukirs, and to the mútuwullís, or successors of the representatives of Shah-Sufi, in whose hands the lands attached to the religious institution are retained, as well as the amounts of sacrifices collected at the fairs; which they dispose of to such purposes, as best suit their views and inclinations."

Religious reformers in all ages, whether we refer to Luther in Germany, Wicliffe in England, St. Patrick in Ireland, Marot in France, or Sankar-Acharjya in India, have always availed themselves of the Vernaculars, as the media for influencing the masses; and, in so doing, have refined the "vulgar tongue," and rendered it a more powerful vehicle for inculcating new ideas. We observe a similar process in Bengal, which may be divided into four stages; that of Chaitanya about A. D. 1500, when the first Bengali works were composed; that of Raja Krishna Ray of Nadiya, about A. D. 1750;* that of

This Raja aspired to be a second Vikramaditya, and to make Nadiya another Ujain. He gave an immense stimulus to Native Literature. Under his patronage, Kabikankan wrote the Chandi, a highly popular work in praise of Durga; and Bharatchandra com. posed the Annada Mangal. Learned men from all parts of the country were collected at Nadiya, and supported by rich endowments granted by the Raja, who made Nadiya as

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »