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CHAP. I. - James Mill, The History of British India, vol. 1 
The History of British India in 6 vols. (3rd edition) (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1826). Vol. 1.
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Chronology and Ancient History of the Hindus.
Rude nations seem to derive a peculiar gratification book ii.Chap. 1. from pretensions to a remote antiquity.1 As a boastful and turgid vanity distinguishes remarkably the oriental nations they have in most instances carried their claims extravagantly high. We are informed in a fragment of Chaldaic history, that there were written accounts, preserved at Babylon with book ii.Chap. 1. the greatest care, comprehending a term of fifteen myriads of years.1 The pretended duration of the Chinese monarchy is still more extraordinary. A single king of Egypt was believed to have reigned three myriads of years.2
The present age of the world according to the system of the Hindus, is distinguished into four grand periods, denominated yugs. The first is the Satya yug, comprehending 1,728-000 years; the second the Treta yug, comprehending, 1,296,000 years; the third the Dwapar yug, including 864,000 years; and the fourth the Cali yug, which will extend to 432,000 years. Of these periods the first three are expired, and, in the year 1817, of the Christian era, 4911 years of the last. From the commencement, therefore, of the Satya yug, to the year 1817, is comprehended a space of 3,892,911 years, the antiquity to which this people lay claim.3
The contempt with which judicious historians now book ii.Chap. 1. treat the historical fables of early society, must be indulged with caution when we explore the ancient condition of Hindustan; because the legendary tales of the Hindus have hitherto, among European inquirers, been regarded with particular respect; and because, without a knowledge of them, much of what has been written in Europe concerning the people of India cannot be understood.1 It is necessary, there book ii.Chap. 1. fore, to relate, that at the commencement of the Satya yug, or 3,892,911 years ago, lived Satyavrata, otherwise denominated Vaivaswata, and also the seventh Menu. He had escaped with his family from an universal deluge, which had destroyed the rest of the human species.1 Of his descendants were two royal branches: the one denominated the children of the sun; the other the children of the moon. The first reigned at Ayodhya or Owde; the second at Pratisht’hana or Vitora. These families or dynasties subsisted till the thousandth year of the present or Cali yug, at which time they both became extinct; and a list of the names of the successive princes is book ii.Chap. 1. presented in the Sanscrit books.1
Satyavrata, the primitive sire, prolonged his existence and his reign through the whole period of the Satya yug, or 1,728,000 years.2 From this patriarchal monarch are enumerated, in the solar line of his descendants, fifty-five princes, who inherited the sovereignty till the time of Rama. Now it is agreed among all the Brahmens that Rama filled the throne of Ayodhya at the end of the Treta yug. The reigns, therefore, of these 55 princes, extending from the beginning to the end of that epoch, filled 1,296,000 years, which, at a medium, is more than 23,000 years to each reign. During the next, or Dwapar yug, of 864,000 years, twenty-nine princes are enumerated, who must, at an average, have reigned each 29,793 years. From the beginning of the present, or Cali yug, to the time when the race of solar princes became extinct, are reckoned 1000 years, and thirty princes. There is a wonderful change, therefore, in the last age, in which only thirty-three years, at a medium, are assigned to a reign.3
book ii.Chap. 1. Beside the two lines of solar and lunar kings, a different race, who reigned in Magadha, or Bahar, commence with the fourth age. Of these, twenty in regular descent from their ancestor Jarasandha extended to the conclusion of the first thousand years of the present yug, and were cotemporary with the last thirty princes of the solar and lunar race.1 At the memorable epoch of the extinction of those branches, the house of Jarasandha also failed; for the reigning prince was slain by his prime minister, who placed his son Pradyota on the throne. Fifteen of the descendants of this usurper enjoyed the sovereignty, and reigned from the date of his accession 498 years, to the time of Nanda, the last prince of the house of Pradyota. He, after a reign of 100 years, was murdered by a Brahmen, who raised to the throne a man of the Maurya race, named Chandragupta. This prince is reckoned, by our Oriental antiquarians, the same with Sandracottos or Sandracuptos, the cotemporary of Alexander the Great. Only nine princes of his line succeeded him, and held the sceptre for 137 years. On the death of the last, his commander in chief ascended the throne, and, together with nine descendants, to whom he transmitted the sovereignty, reigned 112 years. After that period the reigning prince was killed, and succeeded by his minister Vasudeva. Of his family only four princes are enumerated; but they are said to have reigned 345 years. The throne was next usurped by a race of Sudras, the first of whom slew book ii.Chap. 1. his master, and seized the government. Twenty-one of this race, of whom Chandrabija was the last, reigned during a space of 456 years.1 The conclusion of the reign of this prince corresponds therefore with the year 2648 of the Cali yug, and with the year 446 before the birth of Christ.2 And with him, according to Sir William Jones, closes the authentic system of Hindu chronology.3
It is a most suspicious circumstance, in the pretended records of a nation, when we find positive statements for a regular and immense series of years, in the remote abyss of time, but are entirely deserted book ii.Chap. 1. by them when we descend to the ages more nearly approaching our own. Where annals are real, they become circumstantial in proportion as they are recent; where fable stands in the place of fact, the times over which the memory has any influence are rejected, and the imagination riots in those in which it is unrestrained. While we receive accounts, the most precise and confident, regarding the times of remote antiquity, not a name of a prince in after ages is presented in Hindu records. A great prince, named Vicramaditya, is said to have extended widely his conquests and dominion, and to have reigned at Magadha 396 years after Chandrabija. From that time even fiction is silent.1 We hear no more of the Hindus and their transactions, till the era of Mahomedan conquest; when the Persians alone become our instructors.
After the contempt with which the extravagant claims to antiquity of the Chaldeans and Egyptians had always been treated in Europe, the love of the marvellous is curiously illustrated by the respect which has been paid to the chronology of the Hindus.2 We received indeed the accounts of the Hindu chronology, not from the incredulous historians of Greece and Rome, but from men who had seen the people; whose imagination had been powerfully affected by the spectacle of a new system of manners, arts, institutions, and ideas; who naturally expected to augment the opinion of their own consequence, by the greatness of the wonders which they had been favoured to behold; and whose astonishment, admiration, book ii.Chap. 1. and enthusiasm, for a time, successfully propagated themselves. The Hindu statements, if they have not perhaps in any instance gained a literal belief, have almost universally been regarded as very different from the fictions of an unimproved and credulous people, and entitled to a very serious and profound investigation. Yet they are not only carried to the wildest pitch of extravagance, but are utterly inconsistent both with themselves and with other established opinions of the Brahmens.
Of this a single specimen will suffice. The character which the Brahmens assign to the several yugs is a remarkable part of their system. The Satya yug is distinguished by the epithet of golden; the Treta yug by that of silver; The Dwapar yug by that of copper; and the Cali yug is denominated earthen.1 In these several ages the virtue, the life, and the stature of man, exhibited a remarkable diversity. In the Satya yug, the whole race were virtuous and pure; the life of man was 100,000 years, and his stature 21 cubits. In the Treta yug, one third of mankind were corrupt; and human life was reduced to 10,000 years. One half of the human race were depraved in the Dwapar yug, and 1000 years bounded the period of life. In the Cali yug, all men are corrupt, and human life is restricted to 100 years.2 But though in the Satya yug men lived only 100,000 years, Satyavrata, according to book ii.Chap. 1. the chronological fiction, reigned 1,728,000 years; in the Treta yug, human life extended only to 10,000 years, yet fifty-five princes reigned, each at a medium, more than 23,000 years; in the Dwapar yug, though the life of man was reduced to 1000 years, the duration of the reigns was even extended, for twenty-nine princes held each the sceptre in this period for 29,793 years.1
The wildness and inconsistency of the Hindu statements evidently place them beyond the sober limits of truth and history; yet it has been imagined, if their literal acceptation must of necessity be renounced, that they at least contain a poetical or figurative delineation of real events, which ought to be studied for the truths which it may disclose. The labour and ingenuity which have been bestowed upon this inquiry, unfortunately have not been attended with an adequate reward. No suppositions, however gratuitous, have sufficed to establish a consistent theory. Every explanation has failed. The Hindu legends still present a maze of unnatural fictions, in which a series of real events can by no artifice be traced.2
The internal evidence which these legends display, book ii.Chap. 1. afforded indeed, from the beginning, the strongest reason to anticipate this result. The offspring of a wild and ungoverned imagination, they mark the state of a rude and credulous people, whom the marvellous delights; who cannot estimate the use of a record of past events; and whose imagination the real occurrences of life are too familiar to engage.1book ii.Chap. 1. To the monstrous period of years which the legends of the Hindus involve, they ascribe events the most extravagant and unnatural: events not even connected in chronological series; a number of independent and incredible fictions. This people, indeed, are perfectly destitute of historical records.1 Their ancient literature affords not a single production to which the historical character belongs. The works in which the miraculous transactions of former times are described, are poems. Most of them are books of a religious character, in which the exploits of the gods, and their commands to mortals, are repeated or revealed. In all, the actions of men and those of deities are mixed together, in a set of legends, more absurd and extravagant, more transcending the bounds of nature and of reason, less grateful to the imagination and taste of a cultivated and rational people, than those which the fabulous history of any other nation presents to us. The Brahmens are the most audacious, and perhaps the most unskilful fabricators, with whom the annals of fable have yet made us acquainted.2
The people of Hindustan and the ancient nations book ii.Chap. 1. of Europe came in contact at a single point. The expedition of Alexander the Great began, and in some sort ended, their connexion. Even of this event, so recent and remarkable, the Hindus have no record: they have not a tradition that can with any certainty be traced to it. Some particulars in their mythological stories have by certain European inquirers been supposed to refer to the transactions of Alexander, but almost any part as well as another of these unnatural legends may, with equal propriety, receive the same distinction.1 The information which we book ii.Chap. 1. have received of the Greek invasion from the Greeks themselves, is extremely scanty and defective. The best of their writings on the subject have been lost, but we have no reason to suppose that their knowledge of the Hindus was valuable. That of the modern Europeans continued very imperfect, after they had enjoyed a much longer and closer intercourse with them, than the Greeks. In fact, it was not till they had studied the Indian languages, that they acquired the means of full and accurate information. But the Greeks, who despised every foreign language, made no exception in favour of the sacred dialect of the Hindus, and we may rest satisfied that the writings of Megasthenes and others contained few particulars by which our knowledge of the Brahmenical history could be improved.1
From the scattered hints contained in the writings of the Greeks, the conclusion has been drawn, that the Hindus, at the time of Alexander's invasion, were in a state of manners, society, and knowledge, exactly the same with that in which they were discovered by the nations of modern Europe; nor is there any reason for differing widely from this opinion. It is certain that the few features of which we have any description from the Greeks, bear no inaccurate resemblance to those which are found to distinguish this people at the present day. From this resemblance, from the state of improvement in which the Indians remain, and from the stationary condition in which their institutions first, and then their manners and character, have a tendency to fix book ii.Chap. 1. them, it is no unreasonable supposition, that they have presented a very uniform appearance during the long interval from the visit of the Greeks to that of the English. Their annals, however, from that era till the period of the Mahomedan conquests, are a blank.
With regard to the ancient history of India, we are still not without resources. The meritorious researches of the modern Europeans, who have explored the institutions, the laws, the manners, the arts, occupations and maxims of this ancient people, have enabled philosophy to draw the picture of society, which they have presented, through a long revolution of years. We cannot describe the lives of their kings, or the circumstances and results of a train of battles. But we can show how they lived together as members of the community, and of families; how they were arranged in society; what arts they practised, what tenets they believed, what manners they displayed; under what species of government they existed; and what character, as human beings, they possessed. This is by far the most useful and important part of history; and if it be true, as an acute and eloquent historian has remarked, “that the sudden, violent, and unprepared revolutions incident to barbarians, are so much guided by caprice, and terminate so often in cruelty, that they disgust us by the uniformity of their appearance, and it is rather fortunate for letters that they are buried in silence and oblivion,”1 we have perhaps but little to regret in the total absence of Hindu records.2
book ii.Chap. 1. Whatever theory we adopt with regard to the origin of mankind, and the first peopling of the world, it is natural to suppose, that countries were at first inhabited by a very small number of people. When a very small number of men inhabit a boundless country, and have intercourse only among themselves, they are by necessary consequence barbarians. If one family, or a small number of families, are under the necessity of providing for themselves all the commodities which they consume, they can have but few accommodations, and these imperfect and rude. In those circumstances the exigencies of life are too incessant, and too pressing, to allow time or inclination for the prosecution of knowledge. The very ideas of law and government, which suppose a large society, have no existence: men are unavoidably ignorant and unrefined; and, if much pressed with difficulties, they become savage and brutal.1
If we suppose that India began to be inhabited at book ii.Chap. 1. a very early stage in the peopling of the world, its book ii.Chap. 1. first inhabitants must have been few, ignorant, and rude. Uncivilized and ignorant men, transported in small numbers, into an uninhabited country of boundless extent, must wander for many ages before any great improvement can take place. Till they have multiplied so far as to be assembled in numbers large enough to permit the benefits of social intercourse, and of some division of labour, their circumstances seem not susceptible of amelioration. We find, accordingly, that all those ancient nations, whose history can be most depended upon, trace themselves up to a period of rudeness. The families who first wandered into Greece, Italy, and the eastern regions of Europe, were confessedly ignorant and barbarous. The influence of dispersion was no doubt most baneful, where the natural disadvantages were the greatest. In a country overgrown with forest, which denies pasture to cattle, and precludes husbandry, by surpassing the power of single families to clear the land for their support, the wretched inhabitants are reduced to all the hardships of the hunter's life, and become savages. The difficulties with which those families had to struggle who first came into book ii.Chap. 1. Europe, seem to have thrown them into a situation but few degrees removed from the lowest stage of society. The advantages of India in soil and climate are so great, that those by whom it was originally peopled might sustain no farther depression than what seems inherent to a state of dispersion. They wandered probably for ages in the immense plains and valleys of that productive region, living on fruits, and the produce of their flocks and herds, and not associated beyond the limits of a particular family. Until the country became considerably peopled, it is not even likely that they would be formed into small tribes. As soon as a young man became, in his turn, the head of a family, and the master of cattle, he would find a more plentiful subsistence beyond the range of his father's flocks. It could only happen, after all the most valuable ground was occupied, that disputes would arise, and that the policy of defence would render it an object for the different branches of a family to remain united together, and to acknowledge a common head.
When this arrangement takes place, we have arrived at a new stage in the progress of civil society. The condition of mankind, when divided into tribes, exhibits considerable variety, from that patriarchal association which is exemplified in the history of Abraham, to such combinations as are found among the Tartars, or that distribution into clans, which, at no distant period, distinguished the people of Europe. The rapidity with which nations advance through these several states of society chiefly depends on the circumstances which promote population. Where a small number of people range over extensive districts, a very numerous association is neither natural nor convenient. Some visible boundary, as a mountain book ii.Chap. 1. or a river, marks out the limits of a common interest; and jealousy or enmity is the sentiment with which every tribe is regarded by every other. When any people has multiplied so far as to compose a body, too large and unwieldy to be managed by the simple expedients which connected the tribe, the first rude form of a monarchy or political system is devised. Though we have no materials from the Hindus, which yield us the smallest assistance in discovering the time which elapsed in their progress to this point of maturity, we may so far accede to their claims of antiquity, as to allow that they passed through this first stage in the way to civilization very quickly; and perhaps they acquired the first rude form of a national polity at fully as early a period as any portion of the race.1 It was probably at no great distance from the time of this important change that those institutions were devised, which have been distinguished by a durability so extraordinary; and which present a spectacle so instructive to those, who would understand the human mind, and the laws which, amid all the different forms of civil society, invariably preside over its progress.
[1.]Mr. Gibbon remarks, (Hist. Decl. and Fall of the Roman Empire, i. p. 350,) that the wild Irishman, as well as the wild Tartar, can point out the individual son of Japhet from whose loins his ancestors were lineally descended.—According to Dr. Keating (History of Ireland, 13), the giant Partholanus, who was the son of Seara, the son of Esra, the son of Sru, the son of Framant, the son of Fathacian, the son of Magog, the son of Japhet, the son of Noah, landed on the coast of Munster, the 14th day of May, in the year of the world 1978.—The legends of England are not less instructive. A fourth or sixth son of Japhet named Samothes, having first colonized Gaul, passed over into this island, which was thence named Samothia, about 200 years after the flood; but the Samothians being some ages afterwards subdued by Albion, a giant son of Neptune, he called the island after his own name, and ruled it forty-four years. See the story, with some judicious reflections, in Milton's History of England (Prose Works of Milton, iv. 3. Ed. 1806). “The Athenians boasted that they were as ancient as the sun. The Arcadians pretended they were older than the moon. The Lacedemonians called themselves the sons of the earth, &c. such in general was the madness of the ancients on this subject! They loved to lose themselves in an abyss of ages which seemed to approach eternity.” Goguet, Origin of Laws, v. i. b. l. ch. 1, art. 5. See the authorities there quoted.
[1.]Eusebii Chronicon, p. 5. Syncelli Chronograph. p. 28. Bryant's Ancient Mythology, iv. 127. 8vo. edit.
[2.]Syncelli Chronicon, p. 51. Herodotus informs us, (lib. ii. c. 2,) that the Egyptians considered themselves as the most ancient of mankind, till an experiment made by Psammetichus convinced them that the Phrygians alone preceded them. But the inhabitants of the further Peninsula of India make the boldest incursions into the regions of past times. The Burmans, we are informed by Dr. Buchanan, (As. Res. vi. 181,) believe that the lives of the first inhabitants of their country lasted one assenchii, a period of time of which they thus communicate an idea: “If for three years it should rain incessantly over the whole surface of this earth, which is 1,203,400 juzana in diameter, the number of drops of rain falling in such a space and time, although far exceeding human conception, would only equal the number of years contained in one assenchii.”
[3.]Sir William Jones's Discourse on the Chronology of the Hindus, (As. Res. ii. 111, 8vo. Ed.) also that on the Gods of Greece, Italy, and India, (Ibid. i. 221)—See too Mr. Bentley's Remarks on the principal Eras and Dates of the ancient Hindus, (Ibid. v. 315); and the Discourse of Captain F. Wilford on the Chronology of the Hindus, in the same volume, p. 24.—Consult also Mr. Marsden's Discourse on the Chronology of the Hindus, (Phil. Trans. lxxx. 568.) These authors, having all drawn from the same sources, display an appearance of uniformity and certainty in this part of the Hindu system. It is amusing to contemplate the wavering results of their predecessors. Mr. Halhed, in the preface to his Translation of the Code of Gentoo Laws, thus states the number of years, and thus spells the names of the epochs; 1. The Suttee Jogue, 3,200,000 years; 2. The Tirtah Jogue, 2,400,000 years; 3. the Dwapaar Jogue, 1,600,000; 4. the Collee Jogue, 400,000.—Colonel Dow marks the Suttee Jogue at 14,000,000; the Tirtah Jogue at 1,080,000; the Dwapaar Jogue, 72,000; and the Collee Jogue, 36,000 years. (History of Hindostan, i. 2.)—M. Bernier, whose knowledge of India was so extensive and accurate, gives, on the information of the Brahmens of Benares, the Satya yug at 2,500,000 years, the Treta at 1,200,000, the Dwapar at 864,000, and assigns no period to the Cali yug. (Voyages, ii. 160.)—Messrs. Roger and le Gentil, who received their accounts from the Brahmens of the coast of Coromandel, coincide with Sir William Jones, except that they specify no duration for the Cali yug. (Porte Ouverte, p. 179; Mem. de l'Academ. des Sciences pour 1772, tom. ii. part 1. p. 17.)—The account of Anquetil Duperron agrees in every particular with that of Sir W. Jones; Recherches Historiques et Geographiques sur l’Inde, Lettre sur les Antiquités de l’Inde.—The four ages of the Mexicans bear a remarkable resemblance to those of the Hindus, and of so many other nations. “All the nations of Anahuac (says Clavigero, History of Mexico, B. vi. sect. 24,) distinguished four ages of time by as many suns. The first, named Atonatiuh, that is, the sun (or the age) of water, commenced with the creation of the world, and continued until the time at which all mankind perished in a general deluge along with the first sun. The second, Tlaitonatiub, the age of earth, lasted from the deluge until the ruin of the giants, &c. The third, Ehécatonatiuh, the age of air, lasted from the destruction of the giants, till the great whirlwinds, &c. The fourth, Tletonatiuh, commenced at the last-mentioned catastrophe, and is to last till the earth be destroyed by fire.”
[1.]The reader will by and bye be prepared to determine for himself how far the tales of the Brahmens deserve exemption from the sentence which four great historians have, in the following passages, pronounced on the fanciful traditions of early nations. “The curiosity,” says Mr. Hume, “entertained by all civilized nations, of inquiring into the exploits and adventures of their ancestors, commonly excites a regret that the history of remote ages should always be so much involved in obscurity, uncertainty, and contradiction.∗ ∗ ∗ The fables which are commonly employed to supply the place of true history ought entirely to be disregarded; or, if any exception be admitted to this general rule, it can only be in favour of the ancient Grecian fictions, which are so celebrated and so agreeable, that they will ever be the objects of the attention of mankind.” (Hume's History of England, i. ch. 1.)—“Nations,” says Robertson, “as well as men, arrive at maturity by degrees, and the events which happened during their infancy or early youth cannot be recollected, and deserve not to be remembered.∗ ∗ ∗ Every thing beyond that short period, to which well-attested annals reach, is obscure; an immense space is left for invention to occupy; each nation, with a vanity inseparable from human nature, bath filled that void with events calculated to display its own antiquity and lustre. And history, which ought to record truth, and teach wisdom, often sets out with retailing fictions and absurdities.” (Robertson's History of Scotland, i. b. 1.)—Mr. Gibbon, speaking of a people (the Arabians) who in traditions and antiquity bear some resemblance to the Hindus, says, “I am ignorant, and I am careless, of the blind mythology of the Barbarians.” (History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. ix. 244, 8vo. edit.) Of a people still more remarkably resembling the Hindus, he says, “We may observe, that after an ancient period of fables, and a long interval of darkness, the modern histories of Persia begin to assume an air of truth with the dynasty of the Sassanides.” (lb. i. 341.)—“Quæ ante conditam condendamve urbem, poeticis magis decora fabulis quam incorruptis rerum gestarum monumentis traduntur ea nec affirmare nec refellere in animo est.” Livii. Prefat.
[1.]The coincidence in the tradition respecting Satyavrata and the history of Noah are very remarkable, and will be further noticed hereafter.
[1.]Sir Win. Jones, As. Res. ii. 119, 120, 127.
[2.]Sir Wm. Jones, Ib. 126. He was the son of Surya, (or Sol), the son of Casyapa (or Uranus), the son of Marichi (or Light), the son of Brahma, “which is clearly,” says Sir Wm. Jones, “an allegorical pedigree.” The Hindu pedigrees and fables, however, being very variable, he is, in the opening of the fourth book of the Gita, called, not the son of the Sun, but the Sun himself. Sir Wm. Jones, Ib. 117. In a celestial pedigree the Hindus agree with other rude nations. There is a curious passage in Plato respecting the genealogy of the Persian kings. They were descended, he says, from Achæmenes, sprung from Perseus the son of Zeus (Jupiter.) Plat. Alcib. i.
[3.]Compare the list of princes in the several yugs, exhibited in the Discourse of Sir Wm. Jones, As. Res. iii. 128 to 136, with the assigned duration of the yugs. The lineage of the lunar branch, who reigned in Pratisht’hana, or Vitora, during exactly the same period, is in all respects similar, excepting that the number of princes, in the first two ages, is in this line fewer by fifteen than in the line of solar princes. From this it has been supposed, that a chasm must exist in the genealogy of those princes; but surely without sufficient reason; since, if we can admit that eighty-five princes in the solar line could outlive the whole third and fourth ages, amounting to 2,160,000 years, we may, without much scruple, allow that seveaty princes in the lunar could extend through the same period.
[1.]The reigns of those princes, therefore, must have been fifty years at an average.
[1.]As. Res. ii. 137 to 142.
[2.]According to the Brahmens, 4911 years of the Cali yug were elapsed in the beginning of April, A. D. 1817, from which deducting 2648, the year of the Cali yug in which the reign of Chandrabija terminated, you have 2263, the number of years which have intervened since that period, and which carry it back to 446 years before Christ.
[3.]As. Res. ii. 142, 3.—We have been likewise presented with a genealogical table of the great Hindu dynasties by Captain Wilford, (As. Res. v. 241,) which he says is faithfully extracted from the Vishnu Purana, the Bhagavat, and other Puranas, and which, on the authority of numerous Mss. which he had collated, and of some learned Pundits of Benares whom he had consulted, he exhibits as the only genuine chronological record of Indian history which had yet come to his knowledge. But this differs in numerous particulars from that of the learned Pundit Radhacant, exhibited by Sir William Jones, and which Sir William says, “that Radhacant had diligently collected from several Puranas.” Thus it appears that there is not even a steady and invariable tradition or fiction on this subject: At the same time that the table of Captain Wilford removes none of the great difficulties which appear in that of Sir Wm. Jones. The most remarkable difference is exhibited in the line of the solar princes, whose genealogy Captain Wilford has taken from the Ramayan, as being, he thinks, consistent with the ancestry of Arjuna and Crishna, while that given by Sir William Jones and Radhacant, he says, is not.—The reader may also compare the Rajuturungu, a history of the Hindus compiled by Mrityoonjuyu, the head Sanscrit Pundit in the College of Fort William; translated and published in the first volume of “An Account of the Writings, Religion, and Manners of the Hindus,” by Mr. Ward, printed at Serampore, in four volumes 4to. 1811.
[1.]Sir Wm. Jones, As. Res. ii. 142.
[2.]Mr. Halhed seems, in his pref. to Code of Gent. Laws, to be very nearly reconciled to the Hindu chronology: at any rate he thinks the believers in the Jewish accounts of patriarchal longevity have no reason to complain, p. xxxvii. He has since, however, made a confession at second hand, of an alteration in his belief as to the antiquity of the Hindus. See Maurice's Hist. of Hindostan, i. 88.
[1.]See Sir Wm. Jones, Discourse on the Gods of Greece, Italy, and India, As. Res. i. 236. The similarity between the Hindu description of the four yugs, and that of the four ages of the world by the Greeks, cannot escape attention. We shall have occasion to notice many other very striking marks of affinity between their several systems.
[2.]I have followed Mr. Halhed in the number of years (see Preface to Code of Gentoo Laws), though a derivative authority, because his statement is the highest, and by consequence the least unfavourable to the consistency of the Hindu chronology. In the Institutes of Menu, (ch. i. 83,) human life for the Satya yug is stated at 400 years, for the Treta yug at 300, the Dwapar 200, and the Cali yug at 100 years.
[1.]There is a very remarkable coincidence between the number of years specified in this Hindu division of time, and a period marked in a very curious fragment of the Chaldean History. The Cali yug, it appears from the text, amounts to 432,000 years, and the aggregate of the four yugs, which the Hindus call a Maha yug, or great yug, amounts to a period expressed by the same figures, increased by the addition of a cipher, or 4,320,000. Now Berosus informs us, that the first king of Chaldea was Alorus, who reigned ten sari, that a sarus is 3,600 years; that the first ten kings, whose reigns seem to have been accounted a great era, reigned 120 sari, which compose exactly 432,000 years, the Hindu period. See Eusebii Chronic. p. 5, where this fragment of Berosus is preserved; Syncelli Chronograph. p. 28. See also Bryant's Analysis of Ancient Mythology, iii. 95 to 126, for a most learned and ingenious commentary on this interesting fragment.
[2.]A learned author pronounces them inferior even to the legends of the Greeks, as evidence of primeval events. “Oriental learning is now employed in unravelling the mythology of India, and recommending it as containing the seed of primeval history; but hitherto we have seen nothing that should induce us to relinquish the authorities we have been used to respect, or make us prefer the fables of the Hindus or Guebres, to the fables of the Greeks.” Vincent, Periplus of the Erithrean Sea, Part i. 9. It may be added, that if the Greeks, the most accomplished people of antiquity, have left us so imperfect an account of the primitive state of their own country, little is to be expected from nations confessedly and remarkably inferior to them.
[1.]That propensity which so universally distinguishes rude nations, and forms so remarkable a characteristic of uncivilized society—of filling the ages that are past with fabulous events and personages, and of swelling every thing beyond the limits of nature, may be easily accounted for. Every passion and sentiment of a rude people is apt to display itself in wild and extravagant effects. National vanity follows the example of the other passions, and indulges itself, unrestrained by knowledge, in such fictions as the genius of each people inspires. Datur hœc venia antiquitati, ut nuscendo humana divinis, primordia urbium augustiora faciat. (Liv. Pref.) Of an accurate record of antecedent events, yielding lessons for the future by the experience of the past, uncultivated minds are not sufficiently capable of reflection to know the value. The real occurrences of life, familiar and insipid, appear too mean and insignificant to deserve to be remembered. They excite no surprise, and gratify no vanity. Every thing, however, which is extraordinary and marvellous, inspires the deepest curiosity and interest. While men are yet too ignorant to have ascertained with any accuracy the boundaries of nature, every thing of this sort meets with a ready belief; it conveys uncommon pleasure; the faculty of inventing is thus encouraged; and fables are plentifully multiplied. It may be regarded as in some degree remarkable, that, distinguished as all rude nations are for this propensity, the people of the East have far surpassed the other races of men in the extravagance of their legends. The Babylonians, the Arabians, the Syrians, the Egyptians, have long been subject to the contempt of Europeans, for their proneness to invent and believe miraculous stories. Lucian deems it a sarcasm, the bitterness of which would be universally felt, when he says of an author, infamous for the incredible stories which he had inserted in his history, that he had attained this perfection in lying, though he had never associated with a Syrian. (Quom. Cons. Hist.) The scanty fragments which have reached us of the histories of those other nations, have left us but little acquainted with the particular fables of which they compose their early history. But our more intimate acquaintance with the people of southern Asia has afforded us an ample assortment of their legendary stories.
[1.]“There is no known history of Hindoostan (that rests on the foundation of Hindu materials or records) extant, before the period of the Mahomedan conquests.” Rennel's Memoir, Introduction, xl. The Hindus have no ancient civil history, nor had the Egyptians any work purely historical. Wilford on Egypt and the Nile, As. Res. iii. 296.
[2.]If the authority of a Sanscrit scholar be wanted to confirm this harsh decision, we may adduce that of Captain Wilford, who, in his Discourse on Egypt and the Nile, As. Res. iii. 29, thus expresses himself: “The mythology of the Hindus is often inconsistent and contradictory, and the same tale is related many different ways. Their physiology, astronomy, and history, are involved in allegories and enigmas, which cannot but seem extravagant and ridiculous; nor could any thing render them supportable, but a belief that most of them have a recondite meaning; though many of them had, perhaps, no firmer basis than the heated imagination of deluded fanatics, or of hypocrites interested in the worship of some particular deity. Should a key to their eighteen Puranas exist, it is more than probable that the wards of it would be too intricate, or too stiff with the rust of time, for any useful purpose.”
[1.]Dr. Robertson (Disquis. concerning Anc. India, note viii. p. 301.) says, “that some traditional knowledge of Alexander's invasion of India is still preserved in the northern provinces of the Peninsula, is manifest from several circumstances.” But these circumstances, when he states them, are merely such as this, that a race of Rajahs claim to be descended from Porus, or rather from a prince of a name distantly resembling Porus, which European inquirers conjecture may be the same. The other circumstance is, that a tribe or two, on the borders of ancient Bactria, are said to represent themselves as the descendants of some Greeks left there by Alexander. The modern Hindus, who make it a point to be ignorant of nothing, pretend, when told of the expedition of Alexander, to be well acquainted with it, and say, “That he fought a great battle with the Emperor of Hindoostan near Delhi, and, though victorious, retired to Persia across the northern mountains: so that the remarkable circumstance of his sailing down the Indus, in which he employed many months, is sunk altogether.” Major Rennel, Memoir, p. xl.
[1.]It affords a confirmation of this, that the Greeks have left us no accounts, in any degree satisfactory, of the manners and institutions of the ancient Persians, with whom they had so extended an intercourse; or of the manners and institutions of the Egyptians, whom they admired, and to whom their philosophers resorted for wisdom.
[1.]Hume's Hist. of England, i. 2.
[2.]Toute homme du bon entendement, sans voir une histoire, peut presque imaginer de quelle humeur fut un peuple, lorsqu’il lit ses anciens statuts et ordonnances; et d'un meme jugement peut tirer en conjecture quelles furent ses loix voyant sa maniere de vivre. Etienne Pasquier, Recherches de la France, liv. iv. ch. 1. The sage President de Goguet, on a subject remarkably similar, thus expresses himself:—“The dates and duration of the reigns of the ancient kings of Egypt are subject to a thousand difficulties, which I shall not attempt to resolve. In effect, it is of little importance to know the number of their dynasties, and the names of their sovereigns. It is far more essential to understand the laws, arts, sciences, and customs of a nation, which all antiquity has regarded as a model of wisdom and virtue. These are the objects I propose to examine, with all the care and exactness I ara capable of.” Origin of Laws, Part I. Book I. ch. i. art. 4.
[1.]There is a remarkable passage in Plato, at the beginning of the third book De Legibus, in which he describes the effects which would be produced on a small number of men, left alone in the world, or some uncultivated part of it. He is describing the situation of a small number of persons left alive by a flood, which had destroyed the rest of mankind.— Ἱι τοτε περιφυγντες την φϑοαν σχεδον ορειοι τινες αν ειεν νομεις, εν κορυφαις που σμικρα ζωπυρα του των ανθρωπων γενους δια σεσωμενα.—Και δη τους τοιουτους γε αναγκη που των αλλων απειρευς ειναι τεχνων, και των εν τοις αςεσι προς αλληλους μηχανων.—Ουκουν οργανα τε παντα απντα απολλυσϑαι, και ει τι τεχνης ην εχομενον σπουδαιας ἑυρημενον, η πολιτικης, η και σοφιας τινος ἑτεοας, παντα ερρειν ταυτα εν τψ τοτε χροθψφησομεν. (Plat. p. 804.) The Hindus appear to have had similar opinions, though without the reasons.
[1.]The cautious inquirer will not probably be inclined to carry this era very far back. “The newness of the world,” says the judicious Goguet, (vol. iii. dissert. 3,) “is proved by the imperfection of many of the arts in the ancient world, and of all the sciences which depend upon length of time and experience.” By the newness of the world, he means the newness of human society. In examining the remains of organized bodies which have been extricated from the bowels of the earth, vegetables are found at the greatest depth; immediately above them small shell-fish, and some of the most imperfect specimens of the animal creation; nearer the surface quadrupeds, and the more perfectly organized animals: lastly man, of whom no remains have ever been found at any considerable depth. The inference is, that compared with the other organized beings on this globe, man is a recent creation. See Parkinson's Organic Remains.