Изображения страниц

“ Each Veda consists of two parts, denominated the Mantras and the Brahmanas, or prayers and precepts. The complete collection of the hymns, prayers, and invocations, belonging to one Veda, is entitled its Sanhita. Every other portion of Indian scripture is included under the general head of Divinity (Brahmana).

“ There are four sorts of prayers (Mantra), and eight kinds of precepts (Brahmana). The Itahasa designates such passages in the second part of the Vedas entitled Brahmana, as relate a story; the Parana‘ intends those which relate to the creation and similar topics. Sciences are meant of religious worship; verses are memorial lines; aphorisms are short sentences in a concise style; expositions interpret such sentences and elucidate the meaning of the prayers. Upanishad means divine science, or the knowledge of God, and is equally applicable to theology itself, and to a book in which this science is taught.

“ The Rishi, or saint of a Mantra, is he by whom it is spoken, or the inspired, or supposed inspired writer; the Dcvata is the deity to whom it is addressed. These Devatas, or deities, would, upon a cursory view, appear to be numerous; but it is observed that they are resolvable into three Devatas, and ultimately into one God. “ The deities are only three, whose places are the earth, the intermediate region, and heaven, viz. fire, air, and the sun; and (Prajapati) the lord of creatures is the deity of them collectively. The syllable O’m intends every deity : it belongs to (Paramesthi) him who dwells in the supreme abode; it appertains to (Brahm) the vast one; to (Deva) God; to (Ad’hyatma) the superintending soul. Other deities belonging to these several regions are portions of the (three) gods; for they are variously named and described, according to their different operations; but, in fact, there is only one deity, the great soul (Mahamdtma). He is called the sun, for he is the soul of all beings.”

This article, with the preceding one, will shew that the Hindu scriptures recognised but one God, though they now admit the worship of him through intermediate objects, which are considered as his attributes, or mani

‘ There are two descriptions of Puranas. See that article in the third part of this volume.

festations of his power. That many interpolations and alterations have been made by the Brahmans in the original Vedas, which have detracted much from their sacredness and purity, there can be little question; and it may be imagined that those interpolations have introduced, among other things, the many intermediate objects of worship which are now reverenced by the Hindus.


The Brahmans are the first and most distinguished race of the Hindus, mythologically described to have sprung from the head of Brahma; as the Kettrz'es, Vaisyas, and Sudras did from his arms, thighs, and feet. They had, in consequence, the charge of the Vedas assigned to them; and from them only (except as Mr. Ward afiirms, among the Yogus, mostly weavers, the Chundalus, and the basket-makers, who have priests of their own castes) can the sacerdotal oflice be at any time filled; and their influence in that character is almost unbounded. In the sacred writings they are styled divine; and the killing, or entertaining an idea of killing, one of them is so great a crime, that Menu says, “ no greater can be known on earth.” A few brief sentences from the institutes of that lawgiver will, however, best shew the veneration in which the Brahmans are held.

“ Since the Brahman sprang from the most excellent part, since he was the first born, and since he possesses the Veda, he is by right the chief of this whole creation.

“ Of created things, the most excellent are those which are animated; of the animated, those which subsist by intelligence; of the intelligent, mankind ; and of men, the sacerdotal class.

“ Brahmans should be preeminent in learning, virtue, and justice.

“ When a Brahman springs to light, he is born above the world, the chief of all creatures, assigned to guard the treasury of duties, religious and civil.

“ Whatever exists in the universe is in effect, though not in form, the wealth of a Brahman, since the Brahman is entitled to it by primogeniture and eminence of birth.

“ The Brahman eats but his own food, wears but his own apparel, and bestows but his own in alms; through the benevolence of the Brahman, indeed, all mortals enjoy life.”

A variety of punishments (some of which are shewn in plate 28), are apportioned to those who assault, or in any way injure a Brahman: it is accordingly further said:

“ Let not a king, though in the greatest distress for money, provoke a Brahman by taking his property.

“ What prince could gain wealth by oppressing those who, if angry, could frame other worlds and regents of worlds; could give being to new gods and mortals?

“ A Brahman, whether learned or ignorant, is a powerful divinity,” 8zc. &c.

“ Though Brahmans employ themselves in all sorts of mean occupations, they must invariably be honoured; for they are transcendently divine.

“ A king must not slay a Brahman though convicted of all possible crimes; but may banish him, with his body unhurt, and his property secure.

“ If a twice-born " man assault a Brahman, he is to be whirled about in hell for a century.”

These institutes, as well as other sacred writings of the Hindus, furnish abundant proofs of the profound veneration in which the Brahmans, especially those of the sacerdotal order, are held; but the few which I have quoted will be sufiicient to give an ample idea of them. I need, therefore, only add, that Brahmans, their wives and daughters (till they are eight years of age), are objects of worship. “ The guru (or spiritual guide),” says Mr. Ward, “is literally a god. Whenever he approaches, the disciple prostrates himself in the dust before him, and never sits in his presence without leave. He drinks the water with which he has washed the feet of his guru, and relies entirely on his blessing for final happiness.”

* A twice-born man must be of the Brahman, Ketirie, or Vuisya classes. He becomes twiceborn on receiving the sacred thread, poita or zennar. (See Poila or Zennar.) The Sudrns have no second birth, and do not wear the thread.

Every Brahman may perform the ceremonies of his religion, and may become an officiating priest, if he is acquainted with the different formulas of worship. The four principal orders of priests are the Acharyas, who teach and read the Veda; the Sudushyus, who regulate the ceremonies of worship; the Brumhas, who sit near the fire at a burnt offering, and supply it with wood ; and the Hota, who throws the clarified butter on the fire in the burnt offering. In sacrifices of animals the Hota is also the sacrificial priest.

There are various orders of Brahmans, the chief of which are the Kulenas, the Vangshajas, and the Shrotzg'as, the Rarhees, and the Vordikas, &c. &c. The divisions and subdivisions of the different castes are also numerous. The Sudras are said to have nearly fifty. Purity of caste is held of the highest consequence among the Hindus. Loss of caste may be caused by various means. It can be regained only by atonement and fasting on the part of the offender, together, as will be presently instanced, with a liberal expenditure in presents and feasting towards the Brahman priests : fifty and even one hundred thousand rupees have been known to have been expended on such occasions.

The Kulena or Culena Brahmans are a superior order, to whom the seat of honour is, on all occasions, yielded. A Kulena may marry his son to a daughter of a Brahman of a lower class, but can only marry his daughters to those of his own order. It was formerly (and still is to a less extent) considered a distinguished honour to unite a daughter to a Kulena, who on such occasions receives large presents from the father of the bride. Many Kulenas have, in consequence, a number of wives; sometimes marrying into thirty, fifty, and even a hundred families, in various parts of Hindustan. With each of these wives the Kulena receives a portion ; and also, as he leaves them after marriage with their parents, a handsome present when he may, occasionally, condescend to visit them. Sometimes he never sees them after the marriage ceremony, and sometimes visits them once in three or four years; but does not always, in doing so, cohabit with them, as he dreads having a female offspring, whom he can only marry to a Kulcna; which, as these Brahmans receive, as before observed, large portions from those of inferior orders, is commonly a matter of some difficulty. The evils arising from these circumstances, and the neglect of the married females, are manifold. Profligacy, adultery, and a consequent destruction of unborn children, are of common occurrence among the Kulenas.

“ The Brahman,” says the Abbe Dubois, who, probably, knew the Hindus better than any European, “ lives but for himself. Bred in the belief that the whole world is his debtor, and that he himself is called upon for no return, he conducts himself in every circumstance of his life with the most absolute selfishness. The feelings of commiseration and pity, as far as respects the sufferings of others, never enter into his heart. He will see an unhappy being perish on the road, or even at his own gate, if belonging to another caste, and will not stir to help him to a drop of water, though it were to save his life. There is no country on earth in which the sanction of an oath is less respected, and particularly amongst the Brahmans. That high caste is not ashamed to encourage falsehood, and even perjury, under certain circumstances, and to justify them openly; as vices, no doubt, when used for ordinary purposes, but as virtuous in the highest degree, when employed for the advantage of the caste.”

Of the Kurradee Brahmans the following is related in the Transactions of the Bombay Literary Society, from the pen of Sir John Malcolm : “ As connected with the Dusrahs, by the festival being the period at which they were celebrated, I cannot refrain from mentioning the horrid human sacrifices (now, I hope, no longer in existence) formerly offered by the Kurradee Brahmans to the sactis at the close of this feast. I had often heard this sect accused of having made human sacrifices, and I asked my Brahman friend if it was true. ‘ There is,’ said he, ‘ not the slightest doubt of it; and still more horrible, sometimes the victim is nearly connected with the person by whom he is sacrificed to the infernal and sanguinary gods. These sacrifices,’ continued he, ‘ were often made at Poonah, till put an end to by Balajee Badjerow.’ He promised to note down for me all the particulars he knew; and I was soon presented with an account, of which the following is a literal translation :—~

“ ‘ The tribe of Brahmans called Kurradee had formerly a horrid custom

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »