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BOOK II.—OF THE HINDUS. - James Mill, The History of British India, vol. 2 
The History of British India in 6 vols. (3rd edition) (London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, 1826). Vol. 2.
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BOOK II.—OF THE HINDUS.
We come now to the arts, necessary or ornamental, BOOK II. Chap. 8 known to the Hindus. As the pleasures, to which the arts are subservient, form one of the grounds of preference between the rude and civilized condition of man, the improvement of the arts may be taken as one of the surest indications of the progress of society.
Of the Hindus, it may, first of all, be observed, that they little courted the pleasures derived from the arts, whatever skill they had attained in them. The houses, even of the great, were mean, and almost destitute of furniture;1 their food was simple and common; and their dress had no distinction BOOK II. Chap. 8.(which concerns the present purpose) beyond certain degrees of fineness in the texture.
If we desire to ascertain the arts which man would first practise, in his progress upwards from the lowest barbarism, we must inquire what are the most urgent of his wants. Unless the spontaneous productions of the soil supplied him with food, the means of ensnaring, or killing the animals fit for his use, by clubs or stones, and afterwards by his bow and arrows, would first engage his attention. How to shelter himself from the inclemency of the weather would be his second consideration; and where cavities of the earth or hollow trees supplied not his wants, the rude construction of a hut would be one of his earliest operations. A covering for his person would probably be the next of the accommodations which his feelings prompt him to provide. At first he contents himself with the skin of an animal; but it is surprising at how early a period he becomes acquainted with the means of fabricating cloth.1 Weaving, therefore, and architecture, are among the first of the complicated arts which are practised among barbarians; and experience proves that they may be carried, at a very early period of society, to a high state of perfection. It has been remarked, too, that one of the earliest propensities which springs up in the breast of a savage is a love of ornaments, of glittering trinkets, of bits of shining metals, or coloured stones, with which to decorate his person. The art, accordingly, of fetching out the brilliancy of the precious stones and metals, and fashioning them into ornamentsBOOK II.Chap. 8. for the person; the art, in fine, of jewellery, appears at an early period in the progress of a rude people.
These three, architecture, weaving, and jewellery, are the only arts for which the Hindus have been celebrated; and even these, with the exception of weaving, remained in a low state of improvement.
In a few places in Hindustan are found the remains of ancient buildings, which have attracted the attention of Europeans; and have, where there existed a predisposition to wonder and admire, been regarded as proofs of a high civilization. “The entry,” says Dr. Robertson, “to the Pagoda of Chillambrum, is by a stately gate under a pyramid 122 feet in height, built with large stones above forty feet long, and more than five feet square, and all covered with plates of copper, adorned with an immense variety of figures neatly executed. The whole structure extends 1332 feet in one direction, and 936 in another. Some of the ornamental parts are finished with an elegance entitled to the admiration of the most ingenious artists.”1 The only article of precise information which we obtain from this passage is the great size of the building. As for the vague terms of general eulogy, bestowed upon the ornaments, they are almost entirely without significance—the loose and exaggerated expressions, at second hand, of the surprise of the early travellers at meeting with an object, which they were not prepared to expect. Another structure still more remarkable than that of Chillambrum, the Pagoda of Seringham, situated in an island of the river Cavery, is thus described by Mr. Orme. “It is composed of seven square inclosures, BOOK II. Chap. 8.one within the other, the walls of which are twenty-five feet high, and four thick. These inclosures are 350 feet distant from one another, and each has four large gates with a high tower; which are placed, one in the middle of each side of the inclosure, and opposite to the four cardinal points. The outward wall is near four miles in circumference, and its gateway to the south is ornamented with pillars, several of which are single stones thirty-three feet long, and nearly five in diameter; and those which form the roof are still larger; in the inmost inclosures are the chapels.”1. In this nothing is described as worthy of regard except the magnitude of the dimensions.
The cave of Elephanta, not far from Bombay, is another work which, from its magnitude, has given birth to the supposition of high civilization among the Hindus. It is a cavity in the side of a mountain, about half way between its base and summit, of the space of nearly 120 feet square. Pieces of the rock, as is usual in mining, have been left at certain distances supporting the superincumbent matter; and the sight of the whole upon the entrance, is grand and striking. It had been applied at an early period to religious purposes, when the pillars were probably fashioned into the sort of regular form they now present, and the figures, with which great part of the inside is covered, were sculptured on the stone.2
Antecedently to the dawn of taste, it is by magnitudeBOOK II. Chap. 8. alone that, in building, nations can exhibit BOOK II. Chap. 8.magnificence, and it is almost uniformly in honour of the gods, that this species of grandeur is first attempted. Experience alone could have made us comprehend, at how low a stage in the progress of the arts, surprising structures can be erected. The Mexicans were even ignorant of iron. They were unacquainted with the use of scaffolds and cranes. They had no beasts of burden. They were without sledges and carts. They were under the necessity of breaking their stones with flints, and polished them by rubbing one against another. Yet they accomplished works, which, in magnitude and symmetry, vie with any thing of which Hindustan has to boast. “The great temple,” says Clavigero, “occupied the centre of the city. Within the enclosure of the wall, which encompassed it in a square form, the conqueror Cortez affirms that a town of 500 houses might have stood. The wall, built of stone and lime, was very thick, eight feet high, crowned with battlements, in the form of niches, and ornamented with many stone figures in the shape of serpents. It had four gates to the four cardinal points. Over each of the four gates was an arsenal, filled with a vast quantity of offensive and defensive weapons, where the troops went, when it was necessary, to be supplied with arms. The space within the walls was curiously paved with such smooth and polished stones that the horses of the Spaniards could not move upon them without slipping and tumbling down. In the middle was raised an immense solid building of greater length than breadth, covered with square equal pieces of pavement. The building consisted of five bodies, nearly equal in height, but different in length and breadth; the highest being narrowest. The firstBOOK II. Chap. 8. body, or basis of the building, was more than fifty perches long from east to west, and about forty-three in breadth from north to south. The second body was about a perch less in length and breadth than the first; and the rest in proportion. The stairs, which were upon the south side, were made of large well-formed stones, and consisted of 114 steps, each a foot high. Upon the fifth body (the top) was a plain, which we shall call the upper area, which was about forty-three perches long, and thirty-four broad, and was as well paved as the great area below. At the eastern extremity of this plain were raised two towers to the height of fifty-six feet. These were properly the sanctuaries, where, upon an altar of stone five feet high, were placed the tutelary idols.”1 The Tlascalans, as a rampart against the Mexican troops, erected a wall, “six miles in length, between two mountains; eight feet in height, besides the breast-work; and eighteen feet in thickness.”2
Garcilasso de la Vega informs us, that “the Incas, who were kings of Peru, erected many wonderful and stately edifices; their castles, temples, and royal palaces,” says he, “their gardens, store-houses, and other fabrics, were buildings of great magnificence, as is apparent by the ruins of them. The work of greatest ostentation, and which evidences most the power and majesty of the Incas, was the fortress of Cozco, whose greatness is incredible to any who have not seen it, and such as have viewed it with great attention cannot but admire it, and believe that such a work was raised by enchantment, or the help of spirits, being that which surpasses the art BOOK II. Chap. 8.and power of man. For the stones are so many and so great which are laid in the three first rounds, being rather rocks than stones, as passes all understanding, how, and in what manner, they were hewn from the quarry, or brought from thence, for they had no instruments of iron or steel, wherewith to cut or fashion them: nor less wonderful is it to think, how they could be carried to the building; for they had neither carts nor oxen to draw them with; and if they had, the weight was so vast as no cart could bear, or oxen draw; then to think that they drew them with great ropes, over hills and dales, and difficult ways, by the mere force of men’s arms, is alike incredible; for many of them were brought ten, twelve, and fifteen leagues off.—But to proceed further in our imagination of this matter, and consider how it was possible for the people to fit and join such vast machines of stones together, and cement them so close, that the point of a knife can scarce pass between them, is a thing above all admiration, and some of them are so artificially joined, that the crevices are scarce discernible between them: Then to consider that to square and fit these stones one to the other, they were to be raised and lifted up and removed often, until they were brought to their just size and proportion; but how this was done by men who had no use of the rule and square, nor knew how to make cranes or pulleys, and cramps, and other engines, to raise and lower them as they had occasion, is beyond imagination.”1
Whatever allowance any preconceptions of theBOOK II. Chap. 8. reader may lead him to make for exaggeration, which we may believe to be considerable, in the above descriptions, enough undoubtedly appears to prove, that no high attainments, in civilization and the arts, are implied in the accomplishment of very arduous and surprising works in architecture; and it will be allowed that such comparisons between the attainments of different nations, are the only means of forming a precise judgment of the indications of civilization which they present. The Gothic cathedrals reared in modern Europe, which remain among the most stupendous monuments of architecture in that quarter of the globe, were constructed, many of them at least, at comparatively a very low stage of civilization and science. To allude to Nineveh and Babylon, is to bring to the recollection of the historical reader, the celebrated works of architecture, in temples, walls, palaces, bridges, which distinguished those ancient cities. Yet it is demonstrated, that no high degree of improvement was attained by the people that erected them. The pyramids of Egypt, vast as their dimensions, and surprising their durability, afford intrinsic evidence of the rudeness of the period at which they were reared.1 According to BOOK II. Chap. 8.Strabo, the sepulchre of Belus, at Babylon, was a pyramid of one stadium in height. It appears to have been built of different bodies, or stages, one rising above another, exactly in the manner of the great temple at Mexico. A tower, says Herodotus, a stadium both in length and breadth, is reared at the base; and upon this is erected another tower, and again another upon that, to the number of eight towers in all.1
Sonnerat informs us, “that the architecture of the Hindus is very rude; and their structures in honour of their deities are venerable only from their magnitude.”2 “Mail-cotay,” says Dr. Buchanan, “is one of the most celebrated places of Hindu worship, both as having been honoured with the actual presence of an avatara, or incarnation of Vishnu, who founded one of the temples; and also as being one of the principal seats of the Sri Vaishnavam Brahmans, andBOOK II. Chap. 8. having possessed very large revenues. The large temple is a square building of great dimensions, and entirely surrounded by a colonade; but it is a mean piece of architecture, at least outwardly. The columns are very rude, and only about six feet high. Above the entablature, in place of a balustrade, is a clumsy mass of brick and plaster, much higher than the columns, and excavated with numerous niches, in which are huddled together many thousand images, composed of the same materials, and most rudely formed. The temple itself is alleged to be of wonderful antiquity, and to have been not only built by a god, but to be dedicated to Krishna on the very spot where that avatara performed some of his great works.”1 Of the celebrated pagodas at Congeveram, the same author remarks, that “they are great stone buildings, very clumsily executed, both in their joinings and carvings, and totally devoid of elegance or grandeur, although they are wonderfully crowded with what are meant as ornaments.”2
BOOK II. Chap. 8. Wonderful monuments of the architecture of rude nations are almost every where to be found. Mr. Bryant, speaking of the first rude inhabitants of Sicily, the Cyclopes, who were also called Lestrygons and Lamii, says, “They erected many temples, and likewise high towers upon the sea-coast; and founded many cities. The ruins of some of them are still extant; and have been taken notice of by Fazellus, who speaks of them as exhibiting a most magnificent appearance. They consist of stones which are of great size. Fazellus, speaking of the bay, near Segesta, and of an hill which overlooked the bay, mentions wonderful ruins upon its summit, and gives an ample description of their extent and appearance.”1 The old traveller, Knox, after describing the passion of the Ceylonese, for constructing temples and monuments, of enormous magnitude, in honour of their gods, drily adds; “As if they had been born solely to hew rocks and great stones, and lay them up in heaps:”2 the unsophisticated decision of a sound understanding, on operations which the affectation of taste, and antiquarian credulity, have magnified into proofs of the highest civilization.
Of one very necessary and important part ofBOOK II. Chap. 8. architecture, the Hindus were entirely ignorant. They knew not the construction of arches, till they first learned it from their Moslem conquerors. In the description of the superb temple at Seringham, we have already seen1 that no better expedient was known than great flat stones for the roof. “On the south branch of the river” Cavery, at Seringapatam, says Dr. Buchanan, “a bridge has been erected, which serves also as an aqueduct, to convey from the upper part of the river a large canal of water into the town and island. The rudeness of this bridge will show the small progress that the arts have made in Mysore. Square pillars of granite are cut from the rock, of a sufficient height to rise above the water at the highest floods. These are placed upright in rows, as long as the intended width of the bridge, and distant about ten feet from each other. They are secured at the bottom by being let into the solid rock, and their tops being cut to a level, a long stone is laid upon each row. Above these longitudinal stones, others are placed contiguous to each other, and stretching from row to row, in the direction of the length of the bridge.”2 The celebrated bridge over the Euphrates, at Babylon, was constructed on similar principles, and the president Goguet remarks, “that the Babylonians were not the only people who were ignorant of the art of turning an arch. This secret,” he adds, “as far as I can find, was unknown BOOK II. Chap. 8.to all the people of remote antiquity.”1 Though the ancient inhabitants, however, of Persia, were ignorant of this useful and ingenious art, the modern Persians are admirably skilled in it: the roofs of the houses are almost all vaulted; and the builders are peculiarly dexterous in constructing them.2
Of the exquisite degree of perfection to which the Hindus have carried the productions of the loom, it would be idle to offer any description; as there are few objects with which the inhabitants of Europe are better acquainted. Whatever may have been the attainments, in this art, of other nations of antiquity, the Egyptians, for example, whose fine linen was so eminently prized, the manufacture of no modernBOOK II. Chap. 8. nation can, in delicacy and fineness, vie with the textures of Hindustan. It is observed at the same time, by intelligent travellers, that this is the only art which the original inhabitants of that country have carried to any considerable degree of perfection.1
To the skill of the Hindus, in this art, several causes contributed. It is one of the first to which the necessities of man conduct him;2 it is one of those which experience proves to arrive early at high perfection; and it is an art to which the circumstances of the Hindu were in a singular manner adapted. His climate and soil conspired to furnish him with the most exquisite material for his art, the finest cotton which the earth produces. It is a sedentary occupation, and thus in harmony with his predominant inclination. It requires patience, of which he has an inexhaustible fund; it requires little bodily exertion, of which he is always exceedingly sparing; and the finer the production, the more slender the force which he is called upon to apply. But this is not all. The weak and delicate frame of the Hindu is accompanied with an acuteness of external sense, particularly of touch, which is altogether unrivalled, and the flexibility of his fingers is equally remarkable. The hand of the Hindu, therefore, constitutes an organ, adapted to the BOOK II. Chap. 8.finer operations of the loom in a degree, which is almost, or altogether, peculiar to himself.1
Yet the Hindus possessed not this single art in so great a degree of perfection, compared with rude nations, as, even on that ground, to lay a foundation for very high pretensions. “In Mexico,” says Clavigero, “manufactures of various kinds of cloth were common every where; it was one of those arts which almost every person learned. Of cotton they made large webs, and as delicate and fine as those of Holland, which were with much reason highly esteemed in Europe. A few years after the conquest, a sacerdotal habit of the Mexicans was brought to Rome, which, as Boturini affirms, was uncommonly admired on account of its fineness. They wove these cloths with different figures and colours, representing different animals and flowers.”2 When the Goths first broke into the Roman empire they possessed fringed carpets and linen garments of so fine a quality as greatly surprised the Greeks and Romans, and have been thought worthy of minute description by Eunapius andBOOK II. Chap. 8. Zosimus.1 “Pliny, speaking of a carpet for covering such beds as the ancients made use of at table, says, that this piece of furniture, which was produced from the looms of Babylon, amounted to eighty-one thousand sestertia.”2 This proves the fineness to which that BOOK II. Chap. 8.species of manufacture was then wrought, and the excellence which the Babylonians, who yet could not construct an arch, had attained in the art. The Asiatic nations seem to have excelled, from the earliest ages, in the manufactures of the loom. It is by Pliny recorded, as the opinion of his age and nation, that of the art of weaving cotton Semiramis is to be revered as the inventress. The city Arachne, celebrated by the Greeks and Romans, as the place where weaving was first invented, and where it was carried to the highest perfection, is represented by Mr. Bryant as the same with Erech or Barsippa, and situated on the Euphrates, in the territory of Babylon.1 One of the accomplishments of the goddess of wisdom herself, (so early was the date) was her unrivalled excellence in the art of weaving; and Arachne, according to the poets, was a virgin, who, daring to vie with Minerva in her favourite art, was changed into a spider forBOOK II. Chap. 8. her presumption.1
That ingenuity is in its infancy among the Hindus, is shewn by the rudeness still observable in the instruments of this their favourite art. The Hindu loom with all its appurtenances, is coarse and ill-fashioned, to a degree hardly less surprising than the fineness of the commodity which it is the instrument of producing. It consists of little else than a few sticks or pieces of wood, nearly in the state in which nature produced them, connected together by the rudest contrivances. There is not so much as an expedient for rolling up the warp. It is stretched out at the full length of the web; which makes the house of the weaver insufficient to contain him. He is therefore obliged to work continually in the open air; and every return of inclement weather interrupts him.2
Among the arts of the Hindus, that of printing and dyeing their cloths has been celebrated; and the beauty and brilliancy, as well as durability, of the colours they produce, is worthy of particular praise. This has never been supposed to be one of the circumstances on which any certain inference with regard to civilization could be founded. It has been generally allowed that a great, if not the greatest part of the excellence which appears in the colours of the Hindu BOOK II. Chap. 8. cloths, is owing to the superior quality of the colouring matters, with which their happy climate and soil supply them.1 Add to this that dyeing is an early art. “It must have made,” says Goguet, “a very rapid progress in the earliest times in some countries. Moses speaks of stuffs dyed sky-blue, purple, and double-scarlet; he also speaks of the skins of sheep dyed orange and violet.”2 The purple, so highly admired by the ancients, they represented as the invention of Hercules, thus tracing back its origin even to the fabulous times. In durability it appears not that any thing could surpass the colours of the ancients. “We never,” says Goguet, “find them complain that the colour of their stuffs was subject to alter or change. Plutarch tells us, in the life of Alexander, that the conqueror found among the treasures of the kings of Persia, a prodigious quantity of purple stuffs, which, for one hundred and eighty years which they had been kept, preserved all their lustre, and all their primitive freshness. We find in Herodotus, that certain people, on the borders of the Caspian Sea, imprinted on their stuffs designs, either of animals or flowers, whose colour never changed, and lasted as long even as the wool of which their cloaths were made.”3
We shall next consider the progress of the HindusBOOK II. Chap. 8. in agriculture, which, though the most important of all the useful arts, is not the first invented, nor the first which arrives at perfection. It is allowed on all hands that the agriculture of Hindustan is rude; but the progress of agriculture depends so much upon the laws relating to landed property, that the state of this art may continue very low, in a country where other arts are carried to a high degree of perfection.
A Hindu field, in the highest state of cultivation, is described to be only so far changed by the plough, as to afford a scanty supply of mould for covering the seed; while the useless and hurtful vegetation is so far from being eradicated, that, where burning precedes not, which for a short time smooths the surface, the grasses and shrubs, which have bid defiance to the plough, cover a large proportion of the surface.
BOOK II. Chap. 8.Nothing can exceed the rudeness and inefficiency of the Hindu implements of agriculture. The plough consists of a few pieces of wood, put together with less adaptation to the end in view, than has been elsewhere found among some of the rudest nations. It has no contrivance for turning over the mould; and the share, having neither width nor depth, is incapable of stirring the soil. The operation of ploughing is described by the expressive term scratching. Several ploughs follow one another, all to deepen the same furrow; a second ploughing of the same sort is performed across the first; and very often a third, and a fourth, in different directions, before so much as an appearance of mould is obtained for the seed.1
The instrument employed as a harrow is described as literally a branch of a tree; in some places as a log of wood, performing the office partly of a roller, partly of a harrow; and in others as a thing resembling a ladder of about eighteen feet in length, drawn by four bullocks, and guided by two men, who stand upon the instrument to increase its weight.2 The hackery, which answers the purpose of cart or waggon, is a vehicle with two wheels, which are not three feet in diameter, and are not unfrequently solid pieces of wood, with only a hole in the middle for the axle tree. The body of the machine is composed of two bamboos, meeting together at an angle between the necks of the two bullocks, by which the vehicle is drawn, and united by a few crossing bars of the same useful material. It is supported at the angle by a bar which passes over the necks of the two animals; and cruelly galls them. To lessen the friction betweenBOOK II. Chap. 8. the wheel and axis, and save either his wretched cattle, or his own ears, the simple expedient of greasing his wheels, never suggested itself to the mind of a ryot of Hindustan.1 Even this wretched vehicle can seldom be employed for the purposes of husbandry, from the almost total want of roads. It is in back loads that the carriage of almost all the commodities of the country is performed; and in many places the manure is conveyed to the fields in baskets on the backs of the women.2
Every thing which savours of ingenuity; even the most natural results of common observation and good sense, are foreign to the agriculture of the Hindus. The advantages arising from the observation of the fittest season for sowing are almost entirely neglected. No attention was ever paid in Hindustan to the varieties of the grains; so as to select the best seed, or that fittest for particular situations. For restoring BOOK II. Chap. 8.fruitfulness to a field that is exhausted, no other expedient is known, than suspending its cultivation; when the weeds, with which it is always plentifully stored, usurp undivided dominion. Any such refinement as a fallow, or a rotation of crops, is far beyond the reach of a Hindu. The most irrational practice that ever found existence in the agriculture of any nation, is general in India, that of sowing various species of seeds, mustard, flax, barley, wheat, millet, maize, and many others, which ripen at different intervals, all indiscriminately on the same spot. As soon as the earliest of the crops is mature, the reapers are sent into the field, who pick out the stalks of the plant which is ripe, and tread down the rest with their feet. This operation is repeated as each part of the product arrives at maturity, till the whole is separated from the ground.
Though, during the dry season, there is an almost total failure of vegetables for the support of cattle; of which every year many are lost by famine, and the remainder reduced to the most deplorable state of emaciation and weakness; none but the most imperfect means were ever imagined by the Hindu of saving part of the produce of the prolific season, to supply the wants of the barren one. Hay is a commodity which it would not always be convenient to make; but various kinds of pulse and millet might be produced at all seasons, and would afford the most important relief to the cattle when the pasture grounds are bare. The horses themselves are often preserved alive by the grooms picking up the roots of the grass with a knife from the ditches and tanks.1
The only circumstance to captivate the fancy ofBOOK II. Chap. 8. those Europeans, who were on the look-out for subjects of praise, was the contrivance for irrigation. Reservoirs or excavations, known in India by the name of tanks, were so contrived as to collect a large body of water in the rainy season, whence it was drawn off in the season of drought for the refreshment of the fields. These tanks appear to have been at all times a principal concern of the government; and when it is considered that almost the whole revenue of the sovereign depended in each year upon the produce of the soil, and that the decay of the tanks ensured the decay of revenue, it is no wonder that of such care and wisdom as the government any where displayed, a large portion should appear to BOOK II. Chap. 8.have been bestowed upon the tanks. In certain places much care and labour have been employed. But those authors were strangely mistaken who looked upon this as a proof of refined agriculture and great civilization. It is only in a small number of instances, where the whole power of an extensive government, and that almost always Mahomedan, had been applied to the works of irrigation, that they are found on a considerable scale, or in any but the rudest state. In a country in which, without artificial watering, the crops would always be lost, the ingenuity of sinking a hole in the ground, to reserve a supply of water, need not be considered as great.1
To separate the grain from the straw, the ancientBOOK II. Chap. 8. method of treading with oxen has, in Hindustan, given way to no improvement; and for the most part the corn is still ground in handmills by the women.1
Of the arts which at an early stage of society acquire the greatest excellence, one, as we have already observed, is that of preparing brilliant trinkets for the ornament of the person. The Hindus cut the precious stones, polish them to a high degree of brilliancy, BOOK II. Chap. 8.and set them neatly in gold and silver. It remains to be ascertained how much of civilization this faculty implies. So early as the time of Moses, the art of forming jewels had attained great perfection among the Jews. In the ephod of Aaron, and in the breast-plate of judgment, were precious stones set in gold, with the names of the twelve tribes engraved on them. The account of these jewels in the book of Exodus, suggests ideas of considerable magnificence.1 Clavigero informs us, that the ancient Mexicans “set gems in gold and silver, and made most curious jewellery of great value. In short,” says that author, “these sorts of works were so admirably finished, that even the Spanish soldiers all stung as they were with the same wretched thirst for gold, valued the workmanship above the materials.”2
When Europeans have compared the extreme imperfectionBOOK II. Chap. 8., the scantiness and rudeness of the tools by which the Hindu artist performs his task, with the neatness and in some cases the celerity of the execution, they have frequently drawn an inference, the very reverse of that which the circumstances implied. This sort of faculty is no mark of high civilization. A dexterity in the use of its own imperfect tools is a common attribute of a rude society.
Acosta, speaking of some remarkable instances of this species of talent in the natives of Mexico and Peru, says, “Hereby we may judge, if they have any understanding, or be brutish; for my part, I think they pass us in those things whereunto they apply themselves.”1 Mr. Forster himself, whose admiration was excited by the dexterity of the Hindus, affords an instance in the rude person of a Russian peasant, which might have suggested to him an appropriate conclusion. “At the distance,” says he, “of a few miles from Choperskoy, the driver of the carriage alarmed me by a report of the hinder axle being shattered; an accident which gave me an opportunity BOOK II. Chap. 8.of observing the dexterity of a Russian carpenter in the use of the axe. Without the help of any other tool, except a narrow chisel, to cut a space in the centre of it for receiving an iron bar which supports the axle, and to pierce holes for the linch pins, he reduced in two hours a piece of gross timber to the requisite form, and his charge was one shilling.”1
But while dexterity in the use of imperfect tools is not a proof of civilization; a great want of ingenuity and completeness in instruments and machinery is a strong indication of the reverse; nor would itBOOK II. Chap. 8. be easy to point out any single circumstance, which may be taken as a better index of the degree in which the benefits of civilization are any where enjoyed than the state of the tools and machinery of the artists. All European visitors have been vehemently struck with the rudeness of the tools, and machinery used by the people of Hindustan.1 Sonnerat, one of those travellers who have surveyed the state of the arts in that country, with the greatest attention and the most enlightened eyes, informs us, that with his hands, and two or three tools, the Hindu artisan has to perform that kind of task about which with us a hundred tools would be employed.2 “When the rudeness of the tools,” says Mr. Forster, “with the simplicity of the process, is examined, the degree of delicacy which the artizans have acquired in their several professions must challenge a high admiration.”3 Fryer, speaking of the mode in which coral is cut, says, “The tools of the workmen were more to be wondered at than his art; his hands and feet BOOK II. Chap. 8.being all the vice, and the other tools unshapen bits of iron.”1
In the mode in which the Hindu artisans, of almost all descriptions, performed their work, is observed a circumstance, generally found among a rude people, and no where else. The carpenter, the blacksmith, the brazier, even the goldsmith and jeweller, not to speak of others, produce not their manufacture, as in a refined state of the arts, in houses and workshops of their own, where the accommodations requisite for them can best be combined: they repair for each job, with their little budget of tools, to the house of the man who employs them, and there perform the service for which they are called.2
With regard to the fine arts, a short sketch will suffice. Hardly by any panegyrist is it pretended that the sculpture, the painting, the music of theBOOK II. Chap. 8. Hindus are in a state beyond that in which they appear in early stages of society. The merely mechanical part, that for which the principal requisites are time and patience, the natural produce of rude ages when labour is of little value, is often executed with great neatness; and surprises by the idea of the difficulty overcome. In the province of genius and taste, nothing but indications of rudeness appear. The productions are not merely void of attraction: they are unnatural, offensive, and not unfrequently disgusting. “The Hindus of this day,” says Mr. Foster, “have a slender knowledge of the rules of proportion, and none of perspective. They are just imitators, and correct workmen, but they possess merely the glimmerings of genius.”1 “The style and taste of the Indians,” says Paulini, “are indeed extremely wretched; but they possess a wonderful aptitude for imitating the arts and inventions of the Europeans, as soon as the method has been pointed out to them.”2 Major Rennel himself informs us, that the imitative or fine arts were not carried to the height even of the Egyptians, much less of the Greeks and Romans, by the Hindus; that like the Chinese they made great progress in some of the useful arts, but scarcely any in those of taste.3
“In India,” says Sonnerat, “as well as among all the people of the East, the arts have made little or no progress. All the statues we see in their temples are badly designed and worse executed.”4 We have the testimony of Mr. Hodges, which to this point at least is a high testimony, that the sculpture in the BOOK II. Chap. 8.pagodas of Hindustan is all very rude.1 In the description of a temple of Siva, at Hullybedu in Mysore, Dr. Buchanan says, “Its walls contain a very ample delineation of Hindu mythology; which, in the representation of human or animal forms, is as destitute of elegance as usual; but some of the foliages possess great neatness. It much exceeds any Hindu building that I have seen elsewhere.”2
Whatever exaggeration we may suppose in the accounts which the historians of Mexico and Peru have given us of the works of sculpture in the new world, the description of them will not permit us to conclude that they were many degrees inferior to the productions of Hindustan. Clavigero says, “The Mexicans were more successful in sculpture than in painting. They learned to express in their statues all the attitudes and postures of which the human body is capable; they observed the proportions exactly; and could, when necessary, execute the most delicate and minute strokes with the chisel. The works which they executed by casting of metals were in still more esteem. The miracles they produced of this kind would not be credible, if, besides the testimony of those who saw them, curiosities in numbers of this nature, had not been sent from Mexico toBOOK II. Chap. 8. Europe.”1
The progress was similar, as we might presume, in the sister art of painting. The Hindus copy with great exactness, even from nature. By consequence they draw portraits, both of individuals and of groups, with a minute likeness; but peculiarly devoid of grace and expression. Their inability to exhibit the simplest creations of the fancy, is strongly expressed by Dr. Tennant, who says, “The laborious exactness with which they imitate every feather of a bird, or the smallest fibre on the leaf of a plant, renders them valuable assistants in drawing specimens of natural history; but farther than this they cannot advance one step. If your bird is to be placed on a rock, or upon the branch of a tree, the draughtsman is at a stand; the object is not before him; and his imagination can supply nothing.”2 In one remarkable circumstance their painting resembles that of all BOOK II. Chap. 8.other nations who have made but a small progress in the arts. They are entirely without a knowledge of perspective, and by consequence of all those finer and nobler parts of the art of painting, which have perspective for their requisite basis.1
It is anomalous and somewhat surprising that theBOOK II. Chap. 8. music of the Hindus should be so devoid of all excellence. As music is, in its origin, the imitation of the tones of passion; and is most naturally employed for the expression of passion, in rude ages, when the power of expressing it by articulate language is the most imperfect; simple melodies, and these often highly expressive and affecting, are natural to uncultivated tribes. It was in the earliest stage of civilization, that Orpheus is fabled to have possessed the power of working miracles by his lyre. Yet all Europeans, even those who are the most disposed to eulogize the attainments of the Hindus, unite in describing the music of that people, as unpleasing, and void both of expression and art. Dr. Tennant, who founds his testimony both on his own, and other people’s observation, says: “If we are to judge merely from the number of instruments, and the frequency with which they apply them, the Hindoos might be regarded as considerable proficients in music, yet has the testimony of all strangers deemed it equally imperfect as the other arts. Their warlike instruments are rude, noisy, and inartificial: and in BOOK II. Chap. 8.temples, those employed for the purposes of religion are managed apparently on the same principle; for, in their idea, the most pleasant and harmonious is that which make the loudest noise.”1 After a description of the extreme rudeness of the instruments of music of the people of Sumbhulpoor, Mr. Motte says, “the Rajah’s band always put me in mind of a number of children coming from a country fair.”2
As the talent of the Hindus for accurate imitation,BOOK II. Chap. 8. both in the manual and in some of the refined arts, has excited much attention; and been sometimes regarded, as no mean proof of ingenuity and mental culture, it is necessary to remark, that there are few things by which the rude state of society is more uniformly characterized. It is in reality the natural precursor of the age of invention; and disappears, or at least ceases to make a conspicuous figure, when the nobler faculty of creation comes into play. Garcilasso de la Vega, who quotes Blas Valera, in his support, tells us that the Peruvian Indians, “if they do but see a thing, will imitate it so exactly, without being taught, that they become better artists and mechanics than the Spaniards themselves.”1
BOOK II. Chap. 8.Sir William Jones, in pompous terms, remarks: “The Hindus are said to have boasted of three inventions, all of which indeed are admirable; the method of instructing by apologues; the decimal scale; and the game of chess, on which they have some curious treatises.”1 As the game of chess is a species of art, the account of it seems to belong to this place; and as it has been rated high among the proofs of the supposed civilization of the Hindus, we must see what it really imports. Though there is no evidence that the Hindus invented the game, except their own pretensions, which as evidence are of very little value, it is by no means improbable. The invention of ingenious games is a feat most commonly displayed by nations in their rude condition. It is prior to the birth of industry, that men have the strongest need for games, to relieve them from the pain of idleness: at that period they are most addicted to gaming; bestow upon it the greatest portion of time; and most intensely fix upon it all their faculties. It is, in fact, the natural occupation and resource of a rude mind, whenever destitute of the motives to industry. The valuable and intelligentBOOK II. Chap. 8. historian of Chili observes of a tribe, but a few removes from the savage state; “If what the celebrated Leibnitz asserts is true, that men have never discovered greater talents than in the invention of the different kinds of games, the Araucanians may justly claim the merit of not being in this respect inferior to other nations. Their games are very numerous, and for the most part very ingenious; they are divided into the sedentary and gymnastic. It is a curious fact, and worthy of notice, that among the first is the game of chess, which they call comican, and which has been known to them from time immemorial. The game of quechu, which they esteem highly, has a great affinity to that of backgammon, but instead of dice they make use of triangular pieces of bone marked with points, which they throw with a little hoop or circle, supported by two pegs.”1
BOOK II. Chap. 8.Though the Hindus knew the art of making a species of rude glass, which was manufactured into trinkets and ornaments for the women, they had never possessed sufficient ingenuity to apply it to the many useful purposes to which it is so admirably adapted. In few climates is glass in windows more conducive to comfort than that of Hindustan; yet the Hindus had never learnt to afford this accommodation to themselves. Of its adaptation to optical purposes they were so ignorant, that they were astonished and confounded at the effects of a common spy-glass. They are unable to construct furnaces sufficiently powerful to melt either European glass, or cast iron.1
In almost every manufacture, and certainly as aBOOK II. Chap. 8. manufacturing people in general, the Hindus are inferior to the Chinese. Yet Sir William Jones says of that latter people; “Their mechanical arts have nothing in them characteristic of a particular family; nothing which any set of men, in a country so highly favoured by nature, might not have discovered and improved.”1 The partialities, which it was so much his nature to feel, prevented him from perceiving how much less entitled to any kind of admiration were the arts of another people, whom he had adopted it as a business to eulogize.
BOOK II. Chap. 9.AS the knowledge of what conduces to the augmentation of human enjoyment and the diminution of human misery, is the foundation of all improvement in the condition of human life; and as literature, if not synonymous with that knowledge, is its best friend and its inseparable companion, the literature of any people is one of the sources from which the surest inferences may be drawn with respect to their civilization.
The first literature is poetry. Poetry is the language of the passions, and men feel, before they speculate. The earliest poetry is the expression of the feelings, by which the minds of rude men are the most powerfully actuated. Before the invention of writing, men are directed also to the use of versification by the aid which it affords to the memory. As every thing of which the recollection is valuable must be handed down by tradition, whatever tends to make the tradition accurate is of corresponding importance. No contrivance to this end is comparable to verse; which preserves the ideas, by preserving the very words. In verse not only the few historical facts are preserved, to which the curiosity of a rude age attaches itself, but in verse are promulgated the maxims of religion, and the ordinances of law. Even after the noble art of writing is known, the habit of consigning to verse every idea, destined for permanency, continues, till certainBOOK II. Chap. 8. new steps are effected in the intellectual career.1
At this first stage the literature of the Hindus has always remained. The habit of expressing every thing in verse; a habit which urgent necessity imposes upon a people unacquainted with the use of permanent signs, and which the power of custom upholds, till after a certain progress in improvement, even among those to whom permanent signs are known; we trace among the Hindus to the present day. All their compositions, with wonderfully few exceptions, are in verse. For history they have only certain narrative poems, which depart from all resemblance to truth and nature; and have evidently no farther connexion with fact than the use of certain names and a few remote allusions. Their laws, like those of rude nations in general, are in verse. Their sacred books, and even their books of science, are in verse; and what is more wonderful still, their very dictionaries.2
BOOK II. Chap. 9.There is scarcely any point connected with the state of Hindu society, on which the spirit of exaggeration and enthusiasm has more signally displayed itself than the poetry of the Hindus. Among those whose disposition was more to admire than explore, scarcely any poetry has been regarded as presenting higher claims to admiration. Among the Hindus there are two great poems, the Ramayan, and the Mahabarat, which are long narratives, or rather miscellanies, in verse, and which their admirers have been puzzled whether to denominate histories, or epic poems. By the Hindus themselves, they are moreover regarded as books of religion; nay farther, as books of law; and in the Digest which the Brahmens, under the authority of the British government, have recently compiled, the text of these poems is inserted as text of the law, in the same manner as the text of any other legal authority and standard. They may even be regarded as books of philosophy; and accordingly the part of the Mahabarat, with the translation of which Mr. Wilkins has favoured us, he actually presents to his reader as one of the most instructive specimens of the philosophical speculations of the country.
It is incompatible with the present purpose to speak of these poems in more than general terms. They describe a series of actions in which a number of men and gods are jointly engaged. These fictions are not only more extravagant, and unnatural, less correspondent with the physical and moral laws of the universe, but are less ingenious, more monstrous,BOOK II. Chap. 9. and have less of any thing that can engage the affection, awaken sympathy, or excite admiration, reverence, or terror, than the poems of any other, even the rudest people with whom our knowledge of the globe has yet brought us acquainted.1 They are excessively prolix and insipid. They are often, through long passages, trifling and childish to a degree, which those acquainted with only European poetry can hardly conceive. Of the style in which they are composed it is far from too much to say, that all the vices which characterise the style of rude nations, and particularly those of Asia, they exhibit in perfection. Inflation; metaphors perpetual, and these the most violent and strained, often the most unnatural and ridiculous; obscurity; tautology; repetition; verbosity; confusion; incoherence; distinguish the Mahabarat and Ramayan. That amid the numberless BOOK II. Chap. 9.effusions, which a wild imagination throws forth, in its loose and thoughtless career, there should now and then be something which approaches the confines of reason and taste, is so far from surprising, that it would be truly surprising if there were not. A happy description, or here and there the vivid conception of a striking circumstance, are not sufficient; the exact observation of nature, and the symmetry of a whole, are necessary, to designate the poetry of a cultivated people.
Of the poems in dialogue, or in the dramatic form, Sacontala has been selected as the most favourable specimen. The author, Calidas, though he left only two dramatic pieces, Sir William Jones denominates the Shakspeare of India, and tell us that he stands next in reputation to their great historic poets, Valmic and Vyasa.
Sacontala was the daughter of a pious king, named Causica, and of a goddess of the lower heaven; brought up by a devout hermit, as his daughter, in a consecrated grove. The sovereign of the district, on a hunting excursion, arrives by accident in the forest. He observes Sacontala, and her two companions, the daughters of the hermit, in the grove, with watering pots in their hands, watering their plants. Instantly he is captivated. He enters into conversation with the damsels, and the heart of Sacontala is secretly inflamed. The king dismisses his attendants, and resolves to remain in the forest. In a little time the quality of the lover is ascertained, while the secret agitation in the bosom of Sacontala throws her into a languor which resembles disease. The king overhears a conversation between her and her companions, in which, being closely interrogated, she confesses her love. The king immediately discovers himself, and declares his passion. The two friends contrive to leave them together, and they consummateBOOK II. Chap. 9. “that kind of marriage which two lovers contract from the desire of amorous embraces.” So precipitate a conclusion, irreconcileable as it is with the notions of a refined people, is one of the numerous marriages legal among the Hindus. Presently, however, the king is summoned to his court. He promises to send for his wife in three days, and leaves a ring. In the mean time a Brahmen, of a proud and choleric temper, comes to the residence of the hermit, when his two daughters are at a little distance, and Sacontala has been overtaken with sleep. Finding no one to receive him with the expected honours, he utters an imprecation: “He on whom thou art meditating, on whom alone thy heart is now fixed, while thou neglectest a pure gem of devotion who demands hospitality, shall forget thee when thou seest him next, as a man restored to sobriety forgets the words which he uttered in a state of intoxication.” This malediction, which falls upon Sacontala, is overheard by her companions, and fills them with horror. They hasten to appease the angry Brahmen; who tells them, his words cannot be recalled, but that the spell would be dissolved when the lord of Sacontala should look upon his ring. Her two friends agree to conceal the calamity from Sacontala, who now languishes at the neglect of her husband, and finds herself pregnant. The hermit Canna, who at the time of the visit of the king was absent from home, returns, and is, by a voice from heaven, made acquainted with the events which have intervened. Encouraged by good omens, he soothes Sacontala, and resolves to send her to her lord. Her friends instruct her, should he not immediately recognise her, to show him the ring. Arrived at the palace, she is disowned by the king; thinks of the ring, but BOOK II. Chap. 9.discovers it is lost. The king treats her, and the messengers who brought her, as impostors; and orders them into custody; but while they are conveying her away, a body of light, descending in a female shape, receives her into its bosom, and disappears; upon which the king regards the whole as a piece of sorcery, and dismisses it from his thoughts. After a time, however, the ring is found, and conveyed to the king; when his wife, and all the connected circumstances, immediately rush upon his mind. He is then plunged into affliction; ignorant where Sacontala may be found. In this despondency, he is summoned by Indra, the god of the firmament, to aid him against a race of giants, whom Indra is unable to subdue. Having ascended to the celestial regions, and acquitted himself gloriously in the divine service, he is conveyed, in his descent to the earth, to the mountain Hemacuta, “where Casyapa, father of the immortals, and Aditi his consort, reside in blessed retirement.” To this sacred spot had Sacontala, by her mother’s influence, been conveyed; and there she had brought forth her son, a wonderful infant, whom his father found at play with a lion’s whelp, and making the powerful animal feel the superiority of his strength. The king now recognizes his wife and his son, of whom the most remarkable things are portended; and perfect happiness succeeds.
There is surely nothing in the invention of this story, which is above the powers of the imagination, in an uncultivated age. With the scenery and the manners which the Hindu poet has perpetually present to his observation, and the mythology which perpetually reigns in his thoughts, the incidents are among the most obvious, and the most easy to be imagined, which it was possible for him to choose. Two persons of celestial beauty and accomplishmentsBOOK II. Chap. 9. meet together in a solitary place, and fall mutually in love: To the invention of this scene but little ingenuity can be supposed to be requisite. To create an interest in this love, it was necessary it should be crossed. Surely no contrivance for such a purpose was ever less entitled to admiration than the curse of a Brahmen. A ring with power to dissolve the charm, and that ring at the moment of necessity lost, are contrivances to bring about a great event, which not only display the rudeness of an ignorant age, but have been literally, or almost literally, repeated, innumerable times, in the fables of other uncultivated nations. To overcome the difficulties, which the interest of the plot rendered it necessary to raise, by carrying a man to heaven to conquer giants for a god, for whom the god was not a match, is an expedient which requires neither art nor invention; and which could never be endured, where judgment and taste have received any considerable cultivation.
The poem, indeed, has some beautiful passages. The courtship, between Sacontala and Dushmantu, is delicate and interesting; and the workings of the passion in two amiable minds are naturally and vividly pourtrayed. The friendship which exists between the three youthful maidens is tender and delightful; and the scene which takes place when Sacontala is about to leave the peaceful hermitage where she had happily spent her youth; her expressions of tenderness to her friends, her affectionate parting with the domestic animals she had tended, and even with the flowers and trees in which she had delighted, breathe more than pastoral sweetness. These, however, are precisely the ideas and affections, wherever the scene is a peaceful one, which may naturally arise BOOK II. Chap. 9.in the simplest state of society; as the fables of the golden age and of Arcadia abundantly testify: and in whatever constitutes the beauty of these scenes they are rivalled by the Song of Solomon, which is avowedly the production of a simple and unpolished age.1 Beyond these few passages, there is nothing in Sacontala, which either accords with the understanding, or can gratify the fancy, of an instructed people.
Sir William Jones, who, on the subject of a supposed ancient state of high civilization, riches, and happiness among the Hindus, takes every thing for granted, not only without proof, but in opposition to almost every thing, saving the assumptions of the Brahmens, which could lead him to a different conclusion, says, “The dramatic species of entertainment must have been carried to great perfection, when Vicramaditya, who reigned in the first century before Christ, gave encouragement to poets, philologers, and mathematicians, at a time when the Britons were as unlettered and unpolished as the army of Hanumat.”2 Sir William forgets that, more than a century before Christ, the Britons had their Druids; between whom and the Brahmens, in character, doctrines, and acquirements, a remarkable similarity has been traced.3
The mere existence, however, of dramatic entertainmentsBOOK II. Chap. 9. has been held forth, in the case of the Hindus, as proof of a high state of civilization; and Sir William Jones, whose imagination on the accomplishments of the orientals delighted to gild, thinks the representation of Sacontala must have been something pre-eminently glorious; as the scenery must have been striking; and “as there is good reason,” he says, “to believe, that the court at Avanti was equal in brilliancy, in the reign of Vicramaditya, to that of any monarch in any age or country.”1 To how great a degree this latter supposition is erroneous, we shall presently see. In the mean time, it is proper to remark, that nations may be acquainted with dramatic entertainments, who have made but little progress in knowledge and civilization. In extent of dominion, power, and every thing on which the splendour of a court depends, it will not, probably, be alleged, that any Hindu sovereign ever surpassed the present emperors of China. The Chinese, too, are excessively fond of dramatic performances; and they excel in poetry as well as the Hindus; yet our British ambassador and his retinue found their dramatic representations very rude and dull entertainments.2
BOOK II. Chap. 9.As poetry is the first cultivated of all the branches of literature, there is at least one remarkable instance, that of Homer, to prove, that in a rude state of society it may acquire extraordinary perfection. At a point of civilization lower than that which we ascribe to the Hindus, poetry has been produced more excellent than theirs. From the effects produced by the poetic declamations of the Druids, it is certain that they must have possessed the faculty of working powerfully on the imaginations and sympathies of their audience. The Celtic poetry, ascribed to Ossian, and other bards, which, whatever age, more recent or more remote, controversy may assign for its date, is, beyond a doubt, the production of a people whose ideas were extremely scanty, and their manners rude, surpasses in every point of excellence, the sterile extravagance of the Hindus. In so rude a state of society as that which existed in Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, at the time of our Anglo-Saxon monarchies, the number of poets, and the power of their compositions, were exceedinglyBOOK II. Chap. 9. great.1
Even in that figurative and inflated style, which has been supposed a mark of oriental composition, and is, in reality, a mark only of a low stage of society, uniformly discovered in the language of a rude people, the poetry of the northern bards exhibits a resemblance BOOK II. Chap. 9.to that of the Hindus, the Fersians, Arabians, and other eastern nations. “The style of these ancient poems,” says Mallet, “is very enigmatical and figurative, very remote from common language; and for that reason, grand, but tumid; sublime, but obscure. If every thing should be expresssed by imagery, figures, hyperboles, and allegories, the Scandinavians may rank in the highest class of poets.”1 For these peculiarities, too, this author philosophically accounts. “The soaring flights of fancy, may possibly more peculiarly belong to a rude and uncultivated, than to a civilized people. The great objects of nature strike more forcibly on their imaginations. Their passions are not impaired by the constraint of laws and education.BOOK II. Chap. 9. The paucity of their ideas, and the barrenness of their language, oblige them to borrow from all nature images in which to clothe their conceptions.”1 The poetry of the Persians resembles that of the Arabians; both resemble that of the Hindus; both have been celebrated in still higher strains, and are entitled to more of our admiration. The Persians have their great historic poem, the Shah Namu, corresponding to the Mahabarat or Ramayan of the Hindus. It embraces a period of 3,700 years, and consists of 60,000 rhymed couplets. On this poem the most lofty epithets of praise have been bestowed; and a part of it, embracing a period of 300 years, Sir William Jones selects as itself a whole; a poem truly epic, of which the merit hardly yields to that of the Iliad itself.2 We shall speak of it in the language of an oriental scholar, who has made the literature of Persia more peculiarly his study than Sir William Jones. The Shah Namu, says Mr. Scott Waring, “has probably been praised as much for its length as its intrinsic merit. When we allow it is unequalled in the East, BOOK II. Chap. 9.we must pause before we pronounce it to be equal, or to approach very nearly, to the divinest poem of the West. The stories in the Shah Namu,” he says, “are intricate and perplexed, and as they have a relation to each other, they can only be understood by a knowledge of the whole. Episodes are interwoven in episodes; peace and war succeed each other; and centuries pass away without making any alteration in the conduct of the poem—the same prince continues to resist the Persian arms; the same hero leads them to glory—and the subterfuge of supposing two Afrasiabs or two Roostums, betrays, at least, the intricacy and confusion of the whole fable. The character of Nestor answered the most important ends, his eloquence and experience had a wonderful effect in soothing the contentions of a divided council; but the age of Zal or of Roostum answers no purpose, for they only share longevity in common with their fellow creatures.” In many instances, he adds, “the poet is tedious and uninteresting. He is often too minute; and by making his description particular makes it ridiculous. An example of this may be given in his description of the son of Ukwan Deo; which instead of expressing his immense size by some bold figure, gives us his exact measure: He was one hundred yards high and twenty broad.”1 With respect to the style of this as well as of other Persian poets, the same author informs us, that “the style of the most admired Persian authors is verbose and turgid; the mind is filled with words and epithets, and you probably meet with several quibbles and monstrous images before you arrive at one fact.”2 And in another passage he says, “The Persian poets, in all theirBOOK II. Chap. 9. similes or comparisons, fall infinitely below medioority.”1
As soon as reason begins to have considerable influence in the direction of human affairs, no use of letters is deemed more important than that of preserving an accurate record of those events and actions by which the interests of the nation have been promoted or impaired. But the human mind must have a certain degree of culture, before the value of such a BOOK II. Chap. 9.memorial is perceived. The actions of his nation, or of his countrymen, which the rude and untutored barbarian is excited to remember, are those which he wonders at and admires; and they are remembered solely for the pleasure of those emotions. Exaggeration, therefore, is more fitted to his desires than exactness; and poetry than history. Swelled by fiction, and set off with the embellishments of fancy, the scene lays hold of his imagination, and kindles his passions. All rude nations, even those to whom the use of letters has long been familiar, neglect history, and are gratified with the productions of the mythologists and poets.
It is allowed on all hands that no historical composition existed in the literature of the Hindus; they had not reached that point of intellectual maturity, at which the value of a record of the past for the guidance of the future begins to be understood. “The Hindus,” says that zealous and industrious Sanscrit scholar, Mr. Wilford, “have no ancient civil history.” Remarking a coincidence in this characteristic circumstance between them and another ancient people, he adds, “Nor had the Egyptians any work purely historical.”1 Major Rennel says, that, founded on Hindu materials, there is no known history of Hindustan, nor any record of the historical events of that country prior to the Mahomedan conquests;2 and since that period, it is not to Hindu, but Mahomedan pens that we are indebted for all our knowledge of the Mahomedan conquests, and of the events which preceded the passage to India, by the Cape of Good Hope.3 An inclination at first appeared among the warm admirers of Sanscrit to regard the poemsBOOK II. Chap. 9. Mahabharat and Ramayan, as a sort of historical records. A more intimate acquaintance with those BOOK II. Chap. 9.grotesque productions has demonstrated the impossibility of reconciling them with the order of human affairs, and, as the only expedient to soften the deformities in which they abound, suggested a theory that they are allegorical.1
The ancient Persians, who used the Pehlivi language, appear in this respect to have resembled the Hindus. “I never,” says Sir John Malcolm, “have been able to hear of the existence of any work in the ancient Pehlivi that could be deemed historical.”2
The modern Persians, in this, as in many otherBOOK II. Chap. 9. respects, are found to have made some progress beyond the ancient Persians, and beyond the Hindus. The first step towards the attainment of perfect history is the production of prose compositions, expressly destined to exhibit a record of real transactions, but in which imagination prevails over exactness, and a series of transactions appears in which the lines of reality can but faintly be traced. With histories of this description the Persians abound; but “the Persians,” says Mr. Scott Waring, “do not make a study of history; consequently their histories abound with idle tales, and extravagant fables.”2 Another celebrated Persian scholar says; “The Persians, like other people, have assumed the privilege of romancing on the early periods of society. The first dynasty is, in consequence, embarrassed by fabling. Their most ancient princes are chiefly celebrated for their victories over the demons or genii called dives; and some have reigns assigned to them of eight hundred or a thousand years.”2 On the comparison of the Grecian and native histories of Persia, he says, “There seems to be nearly as much resemblance between the annals of England and Japan, as between the European and Asiatic relations of the same empire.” The names and numbers of the kings, as exhibited by the historians of the two countries, have no analogy. No mention in the Persian annals is made of the Great Cyrus, nor of any King of Persia, the events of whose reign can, by any construction, be tortured into a similitude with his. No trace is to be found of Crœsus, of Cambyses, or of his expedition against the Ethiopians; none of Smerdis Magus, or of BOOK II. Chap. 9.Darius Hystaspes: “not a vestige of the famous battles of Marathon, Thermopylæ, Salamis, Platæa, or Mycale, nor of the mighty expedition of Xerxes.”1
On the geography and chronology, as parts of theBOOK II. Chap. 9. literature of the Hindus, I shall express myself in the language of Mr. Wilford. “The Hindus,” says that celebrated Hindu scholar, “have no regular work on the subject of geography, or none at least that ever came to my knowledge.—I was under a necessity of extracting my materials from their historical poems, or, as they may be called more properly, their legendary tales.” In another place he says, “The Hindu systems of geography, chronology, and history, are all equally monstrous and absurd. The circumference of the earth is said to be 500,000,000 yojanas, or 2,456,000,000 British miles: the mountains are asserted to be 100 yojanas, or 491 British miles high. Hence the mountains to the south of Benares are said, in the Puranas, to have kept the holy city in total darkness, till Matra-deva growing angry at their insolence, they humbled themselves to the ground, and their highest peak now is not more than 500 feet high. In Europe, similar notions once prevailed; for we are told that the Cimmerians were kept in continual darkness by the interposition of immensely high mountains. In the Calica Purana, it is said that the mountains have sunk considerably, so that the highest is not above one yojana, or five miles high.—When the Puranics speak of the kings BOOK II. Chap. 9.of ancient times, they are equally extravagant. According to them, King Yudhishthir reigned 27,000 years; King Nanda is said to have possessed in his treasury above 1,584,000,000 pounds sterling in gold coin alone; the value of the silver and copper coin, and jewels, exceeded all calculation: and his army consisted of 100,000,000 men. These accounts, geographical, chronological, and historical, as absurd and inconsistent with reason, must be rejected. This monstrous system seems to derive its origin from the ancient period of 12,000 natural years, which was admitted by the Persians, the Etruscans, and, I believe, also by the Celtic tribes; for we read of a learned nation in Spain, which boasted of having written histories of above six thousand years.”1
It is an error to suppose, that for the origin of unprofitable speculations respecting the nature and properties of thought, great progress in civilization is required. The fears and hopes, the conceptions and speculations, respecting the Divine Nature, and respecting a future state of existence, lead to inquiries concerning the invisible operations of the mind. If we consult but history, we shall be led to conclude, that certain curious, and subtle, but idle questions, respecting the mental operations, are a mark, not of a cultivated, but a rude state of society. It was during an age of darkness and barbarity, that metaphysical speculations engaged so passionately the minds of the European doctors; and called forth examples of the greatest acuteness and subtlety. It was prior to the dawn of true philosophy, that the sophists, whose doctrine was a collection of ingenious quibbles on abstract questions, enjoyed their celebrity in Greece. Pythagoras flourished at a very early age; and yet there is a high degree of subtleBOOK II. Chap. 9. ingenuity in the doctrines he is said to have taught. Amid the rudeness of the Celtic inhabitants of Gaul and Britain, the Druids carried, we know not how far, the refinements of metaphysical speculation. Strabo, as quoted by Dr. Henry,1 says. “The Druids add the study of moral philosophy to that of physiology.2 Ammianus Marcellinus informs us, that the inhabitants of Gaul, having been by degrees a little polished, the study of some branches of useful learning was introduced among them by the bards, the Eubates, and the Druids. The Eubates made researches into the order of things, and endeavoured to lay open the most hidden secrets of nature. The Druids were men of a still more sublime and penetrating spirit, and acquired the highest renown by their speculations, which were at once subtle and lofty.”3 The progress which the Arabians made in a semblance of abstract science has been highly celebrated. The following observations, borrowed from one of the most intelligent of the Europeans by whom they have been studied, will enable us to appreciate their metaphysical science. Of the Arabians, he says, even at the brightest period of their history, the Europeans, have been prone to form too favourable, indeed extravagant ideas.4 Their best writers are the translators or copiers of the Greeks. The only study peculiar to them, a study which they continue to BOOK II. Chap. 9.cultivate, is that of their own language. But by the study of language, among the Arabians, we must not understand that philosophical spirit of research, which in words investigates the history of ideas, in order to perfect the art by which they are communicated. The study is cultivated solely on account of its connexion with religion. As the word of God conveys the meaning of God, no conceivable nicety of investigation is ever too much to elicit that meaning in its divine purity. For this reason, it is of the highest moment to ascertain not only the exact signification of the words, but likewise the accents, inflections, signs, and pauses; in a word, all the most minute niceties of prosody and pronunciation; and it is impossible to conceive to what a degree of complication they have invented and refined on this subject, without having heard their declamations in the mosques. The grammar alone takes several years to acquire. Next is taught the nahou, which may be defined the science of terminations. These, which are foreign to the vulgar Arabic, are superadded to words, and vary according to the numbers, cases, genders, and person. After this, the student, now walking among the learned, is introduced to the study of eloquence. For this, years are required; because the doctors, mysterious like the Brahmens, impart their treasures only by degrees. At length arrives the time for the study of the law and the Fakah; or science peculiarly so called; by which they mean theology. If it be considered that the object of these studies is always the Koran; that it is necessary to be acquainted with all its mystical and allegorical meanings, to read all its commentaries and paraphrases, of which there are 200 volumes on the first verse; and to dispute on thousands of ridiculous cases of conscience; it cannot but be allowed that one may pass one’s whole life inBOOK II. Chap. 9. learning much and knowing nothing.1 It is vain, as the same author still further remarks, to tell us of colleges, places of education, and books: These words, in the regions of which we are treating, convey not the same ideas as with us.2 The Turks, though signal, even among rude nations, for their ignorance, are not without speculations of a similar nature, which by superficial observers have been taken for philosophy. “Certain it is,” says Sir James Porter, “that there are among the Turks many philosophical minds. They have the whole systems of the Aristotelian and Epicurean philosophy translated into their own language.”3 “The metaphysical questions,” says Gibbon, “on the attributes of God, and the liberty of man, have been agitated in the schools of Mahomedans, as well as in those of the Christians.”4 And Mr. Elphinstone informs us, that if the rude Afghaun is ever stimulated to any degree BOOK II. Chap. 9.of literary activity, it is when pursuing the subtleties of metaphysical speculation.1
These facts coincide with a curious law of human nature, which some eminent philosophers have already remarked. The highest abstractions are not the last result of mental culture, and intellectual strength; it is discovered, that some of our most general and comprehensive notions are formed at that very early period, when the mind, with little discriminating power, is apt to lump together things which have but few points of resemblance; and that we break down these genera into species more and more minute in proportion as our knowledge becomes more extensive, more particular, and precise. The propensity to abstract speculations is then the natural result of the state of the human mind in a rude and ignorant age.2
The Vedanti doctrine, which has caught the fancyBOOK II. Chap. 9. of some of the admirers of Sanscrit, appears to be delivered viva voce, and solely in that mode. As no passage implying it has been quoted from any Sanscrit work, it might, if it were any refinement, be suspected of being wholly modern. The following is the account of it by Sir William Jones. “The fundamental tenet of the Vedanti school consisted, not in denying the existence of matter, that is, of solidity impenetrability, and extended figure, (to deny which would be lunacy) but in correcting the popular notion of it, and in contending that it has no essence independent of mental perception, that existence and perceptibility are convertible terms, that external appearances and sensations are illusory, and would vanish into nothing, if the divine energy, which alone sustains them, were suspended but for a moment; an opinion which Epicharmus and Plato seem to have adopted, and which has been maintained in the present century with great elegance, but with little public applause; partly because it has been misunderstood and partly because it has been misapplied by the false reasoning of some unpopular writers, who are said to have disbelieved in the moral attributes of God, whose omnipresence, wisdom, and goodness, are the basis of the Indian philosophy. I have not sufficient evidence on the subject to profess a belief in the doctrine of the Vedanta, which human reason alone could, perhaps, neither fully demonstrate, nor fully disprove; but it is manifest, that nothing can be further removed from impiety than a system wholly built on the purest devotion.”1
BOOK II. Chap. 9.“In some of these observations,” Mr. Dugald Stewart very justly observes, “there is a good deal of indistinctness, and even of contradiction.” He also remarks, that Sir William Jones totally misunderstands the doctrine of Berkeley and Hume.1 We may suspect that he not less widely mistakes the doctrine of the Brahmens, and fastens a theory of his own creation upon the vague and unmeaning jargon which they delivered to him. If in all minds the propensity be strong, and in weak minds irresistible, to see only through the medium of a theory; we need not wonder if theory manufactures the ideas of the other senses, of hearing, for example, after the same manner. “If the simplest narrative of the most illiterate observer involves more or less of hypothesis; and a village apothecary or a hackneyed nurse, is seldom able to describe the plainest case, without employing a phraseology of which every word is a theory,”2 we may conclude with certainty that the same intrusion is very difficult to avoid, in making up our own conception of what we hear, and still more in clothing it with our own language. Of the ideas which we profess to report, and which we believe that we merely report, it often happens that many are our own ideas, and never entered the mind of the man to whom we ascribe them.
We have a more distinct account of the same doctrine from Sir James Macintosh, whose mind is more philosophical, and on oriental subjects less prepossessed and less credulous, than that of Sir William Jones. Presenting, in a letter to Mr. Dugald Stewart, an account of a conversation with a young Brahmen, “He told me,” says he, “that besides the myriadsBOOK II. Chap. 9. of gods whom their creed admits, there was one whom they know by the name of Brim, or the great one, without form or limits, whom no created intellect could make any approach towards conceiving; that, in reality, there were no trees, no houses, no land, no sea, but all without was Maia, or illusion, the act of Brim; that whatever we saw or felt was only a dream; or, as he expressed it in his imperfect English, thinking in one’s sleep; and that the reunion of the soul to Brim, from whom it originally sprung, was the awakening from the long sleep of finite existence.”1
It will require few words, in application of the evidence adduced in the chapter on religion, to make it sufficiently appear, that this is a natural part of that language of adulation towards the deity, in which the Hindu theology mainly consists. One of the deities, who is chosen as the chief object of adoration, is first made to excel all the other deities; next to absorb all their powers; next to absorb even themselves; and lastly absorb all things.2 The fancy of “Maia,” is only a part of “the absorption of all things in God.” There is nothing but God. All our supposed perception of things besides God is, therefore, only illusion; illusion created by God. Why, then, does God create such an illusion? This is a very necessary question. If it were put; and why it has not been put, we may a little admire; the Brahmens might very consistently reply, that as for a use, a design, a purpose, in the actions of their God, they never thought of ascribing to them any such quality. He pleases himself by his actions, and that is enough; no matter how fantastic the taste. BOOK II. Chap. 9.It is with great pleasure I quote the following co incidence with my own opinion, expressed in a subsequent passage of the same letter. “I intend to investigate a little the history of these opinions; for I am not altogether without apprehension, that we may all the while be mistaking the hyperbolical effusions of mystical piety, for the technical language of a philosophical system. Nothing is more usual, than for fervent devotion to dwell so long, and so warmly, on the meanness and worthlessness of created things, and on the all-sufficiency of the Supreme Being, that it slides insensibly from comparative to absolute language, and, in the eagerness of its zeal to magnify the Deity, seems to annihilate every thing else. To distinguish between the very different import of the same words in the mouth of a mystic and sceptic, requires more philosophical discrimination than most of our Sanscrit investigators have hitherto shown.”1
Sir James might have passed beyond a suspicion; if from nothing else, from the very words of the conversation he reports. Human life is there not compared to a sleep; it is literally affirmed to be a sleep; and men are not acting, or thinking, but only dreaming. Of what philosophical system does this form a part? We awake, only when we are re-united to the Divine Being; that is, when we actually become a part of the Divine Being, not having a separate existence. Then, of course, we cease to dream; and then, it may be supposed, that Maia ceases. Then will there be any thing to be known? any thing real? Or is it the same thing, whether we are awake or asleep? But my reader might well complain I was only trifling with him, if I pursued this jargon any further. What grieves me is, that between the two passages which I have immediately quoted, Sir JamesBOOK II. Chap. 9. (we must remember that it is in the negligence of private correspondence) has inserted the following words. “All this you have heard and read before as Hindu speculation. What struck me was, that speculations so refined and abstruse should, in a long course of ages, have fallen through so great a space as that which separates the genius of their original inventor from the mind of this weak and unlettered man. The names of these inventors have perished; but their ingenious and beautiful theories, blended with the most monstrous superstitions, have descended to men very little exalted above the most ignorant populace, and are adopted by them as a sort of articles of faith, without a suspicion of their philosophical origin, and without the possibility of comprehending any part of the premises from which they were deduced.” Yet Sir James himself has described the origin from which they were deduced; namely, “the hyperbolical effusions of mystical piety;” and surely the Brahmens of the present day may understand these effusions as well as their still more ignorant predecessors.1
BOOK II. Chap. 9.With respect to morals or duty, it appears not that any theory has ever been constructed by the Hindus. In what regards the preceptive part, their ethics exactly resemble those of all other rude and uninstructed nations; an excellent precept, and a foolish or absurd one, are placed alternately, or mixed in nearly equal proportions, in all their books which treat upon the subject. For specimens of their ethical precepts, it is sufficient to refer to what we have already produced under the head of religion. If all the good precepts were selected from the rest, and exhibited pure by themselves, they would present a tolerably perfect code of the common duties of morality. As we have authors who have attached importance to this, without adverting to the fact that a soundness in detached maxims of morality is common to all men down to the lowest stage of society, it is necessary to give a specimen of the ethical rules of nations confessedly barbarous. We might, perhaps, be satisfied with a reference to the proverbs of Solomon, and other preceptive parts ofBOOK II. Chap. 9. the Jewish writings, which are not equalled by the corresponding parts of the books of the Hindus. We shall, however, produce another instance, which is less exposed to any objection. The Havamaal or sublime discourse of Odin, is a Scandinavian composition of great antiquity. It is a string of moral aphorisms, comprised in 120 stanzas; with which, as a whole, there is nothing in Hindu literature in any degree worthy to be compared. The following is a specimen:
“To the guest who enters your dwelling with frozen knees, give the warmth of your fire: he who hath travelled over the mountains hath need of food and well-dried garments:
A man can carry with him no better provision for his journey than the strength of the understanding. In a foreign country this will be of more use to him than treasures; and will introduce him to the table of strangers:
There is nothing more useless to the sons of the age than to drink too much ale; the more the drunkard swallows the less is his wisdom, till he loses his reason. The bird of oblivion sings before those who inebriate themselves, and steals away their souls:
I have never yet found a man so generous and munificent, as that to receive at his house was not to receive; nor any so free and liberal of his gifts as to reject a present when it was returned to him:
They invite me up and down to feasts, if I have only need of a slight breakfast; my faithful friend is he who will give me one loaf when he has but two:
Where is there to be found a virtuous man without BOOK II. Chap. 9.some failing; or one so wicked as to have no good quality?”1
Among the parts of Hindu learning chosen by its admirers as the peculiar objects of their applause, are the niceties, the numerous and intricate subtleties, of the Hindu grammar. We are informed by an emiment Sanscrit scholar, that the grammatical precepts of one single treatise are no fewer than 3996. The reader will observe, that this number is composed of the digit 3 and its multiples, to which peculiar virtues are ascribed by the Hindus. It is not improbable that the rules may have been made to correspond with the number rather than the number with the rules. Nevertheless, we learn from Mr. Colebrooke, that “those rules are framed with the utmost conciseness, the consequence of very ingenious methods. But it is added that the studied brevity of the Paniniya Sutras renders them in the highest degree obscure; that even with the knowledge of the key to their interpretation, the student finds them ambiguous; that the application of them even when understood, discovers many seeming contradictions; and that, with every exertion of practised memory, the utmost difficulty is experienced in combining rules dispersed in apparent confusion through different portions of Paninis and lectures. The number of commentaries on the books of grammar is exceedingly great, and many of them very voluminous.”2
As these endless conceits answer any purpose rather than that of rendering language a more commodious and accurate instrument of communication, they afford a remarkable specimen of the spirit of a rude and ignorantBOOK II. Chap. 9. age: which is as much delighted with the juggleries of the mind, as it is with those of the body, and is distinguished by the absurdity of its passion for both.1 It could not happen otherwise than that the Hindus should, beyond other nations, abound in those frivolous refinements which are suited to the taste of an uncivilized people. A whole race of men were set apart and exempted from the ordinary cares and labours of life, whom the pain of vacuity forced upon some application of mind, and who were under the necessity of maintaining their influence among the people, by the credit of superior learning, and, if not by real knowledge, which is slowly and with much difficulty attained, by artful contrivances for deceiving the people with the semblance of it. This view of the situation of the Brahmens serves to explain many things which modify and colour Hindu society. In grammatical niceties, however, the Hindus but discover their usual resemblance to other nations in the infancy of knowlege and improvement. We have already seen that the Arabians on this subject carry their complex refinements to a height scarcely inferior to that of the Brahmens themselves.2 Even the Turks, who are not in general a refining race, multiply conceits on this subject.3 During the dark ages the fabrication of grammatical distinctions and subtleties furnished a favorite exercise to the European schoolmen.4
BOOK II. Chap. 9.Not only the grammar; the language itself has been celebrated as the mark of a refined and elegant people. “It is more copious,” we are told, “than the Latin. It has several words to express the same thing. The sun has more than thirty names, the moon more than twenty. A house has twenty; a stone six or seven; a tree ten; a leaf five; an ape ten; a crow nine.”1
That which is a defect and a deformity of language is thus celebrated as a perfection.2 The highest merit of language would consist in having oneBOOK II. Chap. 9. name for every thing which required a name, and no more than one. Redundancy is a defect in language, not less than deficiency. Philosophy, and even common good sense, determine, that every thing which can simplify language, without impairing it in point of precision and completeness, is a first rate advantage. An ignorant and fantastical age deems it a glory to render it in the highest degree perplexing and difficult.
The other perfections which are ascribed to the BOOK II. Chap. 9.Sanscrit are its softness, or agreebleness in point of sound, and its adaptation to poetry. Of its completeness or precision, those who were the fullest of admiration for it, were too little acquainted with it to be able to venture an opinion. Yet completeness and precision would have been undeniable proofs of the mental perfection of the people by whom it was used; while a great multitude of useless words and grammatical rules were the very reverse. Nothing is more probable than that a language which has too many words of one description, has too few of another, and unites in equal degree the vices of superfluity and defect. The adaptation of a language to poetry and the ear, affords no evidence of civilization. Languages, on which equal eulogies are bestowed to any which can be lavished on Sanscrit, are the languages confessedly of ignorant and uncivilized men. Nothing can surpass the admiration which is often expressed of the language of the modern Persians. Molina, the intelligent and philosophical historian of Chili, informs us, that of the language of the Chilians the grammar is as perfect as that of the Greek or Latin; that of no language does the formation and structure display greater ingenuity and felicity.1 The language of the Malays is described as remarkably sweet, and well adapted to poetry.2 Clavigero knows not where to set a limit to his admiration of the Mexican tongue.3
“Many extravagant things have been advanced concerningBOOK II. Chap. 9. the great antiquity and superior excellency of the Anglo-saxon language. According to some writers, it was the most ancient and most excellent in the world, spoken by the first parents of mankind in Paradise; and from it they pretend to derive the names, Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, and all the antediluvian patriarchs.”1
The same sacred volume which affords the most authentic materials for ascertaining the Hindu modes BOOK II. Chap. 9.of accounting for the phenomena of mind, lends equal assistance in leading us to a knowledge of their modes of accounting for the phenomena of matter. At the close of the night of Brahma, “intellect called into action by his will to create worlds, performed again the work of creation; and thence first emerges the subtle ether, to which philosophers ascribe the quality of conveying sound:”1 Ignorant that air is the great agent in the conveyance of sound, the Hindus had recourse to a fiction; the imagination of a something, of whose existence they had no proof. Equally futile is their account of air. “From ether, effecting a transmutation in form, springs the pure and potent air, a vehicle of all scents; and air is held endued with the quality of touch.”2 The word touch is here ambiguous; it may mean either that air is tangible, or that it has the faculty, the sense of touch. The latter, I suspect, is the meaning of the original; for I can hardly credit that so great a master of language as Sir William Jones, would have explained a passage which only meant that air is tangible, by so exceptionable a term as that it is endued with the quality of touch. I can with less difficulty suppose, from other instances, that he endeavoured to cloak a most absurd idea under an equivocal translation.
With respect to light and heat, we are told in the immediately succeeding passage; “Then from air, operating a change, rises light or fire, making objects visible, spreading bright rays; and it is declared to have the quality of figure.”3 It sufficiently appears from these several passages; that the accounts with which they satisfy themselves, are merely such random guesses as would occur to the most vulgar and untutored minds. From intellect arose ether: from ether, air; from air, fire and light. It appears from thisBOOK II. Chap. 9. passage that they consider light and heat as absolutely the same; yet the moon afforded them an instance of light without heat; and they had instances innumerable of heat without the presence of light. What is the meaning, when it is declared that fire, alias light, has the quality of figure, it is impossible to say. That fire, or, which is the same thing, light, is itself figured, is an affirmation wherein little meaning can be found. That fire, that is, light, is the cause of figure in all figured bodies, is an affirmation which, notwithstanding the absurdity, is in exact harmony with the mode of guessing at the operations of nature, admired as philosophy among the Hindus.
The account of water and earth is a link of the same chain. “From light, a change being effected, comes water with the quality of taste; and from water is deposited earth with the quality of smell.”1 As from ether came air, so from air light, from light water, and from water earth. It is useless to ask what connexion appears between water and light, or earth and water. Connexion, reason, probability, had nothing to do with the case. A theory of successive production struck the fancy of the writer, and all inquiry was out of the question. Here occurs the same difficulty as in the case of air; air was endowed with the quality of touch; water and earth are said to have the qualities of smell and taste. In this we perceive a most fantastic conceit: To water is ascribed the quality of taste; to earth, the quality of smell; to fire, the quality of figure, (I suspect it should be translated sight); to air, the quality of touch; and to ether, the quality (as Sir William Jones translates it) of conveying sound; I suspect it should be translated, the quality of hearing.
BOOK II. Chap. 9.We have thus seen the speculations respecting the origin and qualities of the principal parts of inanimate nature. The same divine volume affords us a specimen of their ideas concerning the origin of at least one great department of animated nature. “From hot moisture are born biting gnats, lice, fleas, and common flies; these, and whatever is of the same class, are produced by heat.”1 If this be an idea natural enough to the mind of an uncultivated observer it is at least not a peculiar proof of learning and civilization.
Of the arbitrary style of deciding without inquiry, the natural and ordinary style of all rude minds, a curious specimen is afforded by the Hindu dogma, that vegetables, as well as animals, “have internal consciousness, and are sensible of pleasure and pain.”2
Mr. Wilford, the industrious explorer of the literature of this ancient people, informs us; “The Hindus were superficial botanists, and gave the same appellation to plants of different classes.”3 To arrange or classify, on this or on any other subject, seems an attempt which has in all ages exceeded the mental culture of the Hindus.
Of all the circumstances, however, connected with the state of Hindu society, nothing has called forth higher expressions of eulogy and admiration than the astronomy of the Brahmens. Mons. Bailly, the celebrated author of the History of Astronomy, may be regarded as beginning the concert of praises, upon this branch of the science of the Hindus. The grounds of his conclusions were certain astronomical tables; from which he inferred, not only advanced progress in the science, but a date so ancient as to be entirely inconsistent with the chronology of the Hebrew Scriptures.BOOK II. Chap. 9. The man who invented a theory of an ancient and highly civilized people, now extinct, formerly existing in the wilds of Tartary, and who maintained it with uncommon zeal, and all the efforts of his ingenuity, is not to be trusted as a guide in the regions of conjecture. Another cause of great distrust attaches to Mons. Bailly. Voltaire, and other excellent writers in France, abhorring the evils which they saw attached to catholicism, laboured to subvert the authority of the books on which it was founded. Under this impulse they embraced, with extreme credulity, and actual enthusiasm, the tales respecting the great antiquity of the Chinese and Hindus, as disproving entirely the Mosaic accounts of the duration of the present race of men. When a case occurred, in which it appeared that this favourite conclusion could be established on the strength of astronomical observations and mathematical reasoning, the grand object seemed to be accomplished. The argument was laboured with the utmost diligence by Mons. Bailly, was received with unbounded applause, and for a time regarded as a demonstration in form of the falsehood of Christianity.
The most eminent of all the mathematical converts, gained by Mons. Bailly, was Mr. Playfair, the professor of mathematics in the University of Edinburgh. A bias was probably created in his mind by the high reputation of Mons. Bailly for his attainments in that science in which Mr. Playfair himself was so great a master; and any feeling of that nature could not fail to be greatly strengthened, by the loud applause, in which his countrymen, both those who were still in India, and those who had returned from it, at that time concurred, of the wonderful learning, wonderful civilization, and wonderful institutions of the Hindus; BOOK II. Chap. 9.applause which imposed implicit belief on minds such as that of his illustrious colleague, the author of the Historical Disquisition concerning the knowledge which the ancients had of India. In a paper published in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Mr. Playfair stated, with skill and dexterity, the matter of evidence on which the proposition is founded;1 and in an article lately published in the Edinburgh Review,2 the arguments are controverted by which Mr. Bentley had endeavoured to overthrow his opinion: but a suspension of belief, till further information shall yield more satisfactory proof, is all that in this latter document is contended for.
Such a demand, however, is infinitely too much, and at variance with all the principles of reasoning. When an opinion is obviously contradicted by a grand train of circumstances, and is not entirely supported by the special proof on which it pretends to rest, it is unproved; and whatever is unproved, and out of the known order of nature, is altogether unworthy of belief; deserves simple rejection.
Whoever, in the present improved state of our knowledge, shall take the trouble to contemplate the proofs which we possess of the state of knowledge and civilization among the Hindus, can form no other conclusion, but that every thing (unless astronomy be an exception) bears clear, concurring, and undeniable testimony to the ignorance of the Hindus, and the low state of civilization in which they remain. That such a people are masters of the science of astronomy to a degree which none but nations highly cultivated have elsewhere ever attained, is certainly not to be credited on any chain of proof that is notBOOK II. Chap. 9. entire.1
Of the fitness of the proof to maintain any such conclusions as have been founded upon it, an idea may be formed from this; that Mr. Bentley, who has paid great attention to the books of Hindu astronomy, says they are all of modern date, and their pretensions to antiquity founded only on forgery.2 As his moderate knowledge of mathematics, however, and even the inelegancies of his style, have been sarcastically employed to throw discredit upon his conclusions, it is of importance to add that the two mathematicians whose reputation for profundity seems to exceed that of all their cotemporaries, Laplace, and an eminent ornament of our country, not only reject the inference of the great antiquity and perfection of the Hindu astronomy, but, from the evidence offered, draw a conclusion directly the reverse; viz. that this science is in the very same state of infancy among the Hindus with all the other branches of knowledge. The Surya Sidhanta is the great repository of the astronomical knowledge of the Hindus. It is on the authority of our own countryman I am enabled to declare, that this book is itself the most satisfactory of all proofs of the low state of the science among the Hindus, and the rudeness of the people from whom it proceeds; that its fantastic absurdity is truly Hindu; that all we can learn from it is a few facts, the result BOOK II. Chap. 9.of observations which required no skill; that its vague allegories and fanciful reflections prove nothing, or every thing; that a resolute admirer may build upon them all the astronomical science of modern times; but a man who should divest his mind of the recollection of European discoveries, and ask what a people unacquainted with the science could learn from the Surya Sidhanta, would find it next to nothing.1
BOOK II. Chap. 9.The Hindu astronomy is possessed of very considerable accuracy in regard to the mean motions. In other respects it has no pretensions to correctness or refinement. Astronomy may acquire great accuracy in regard to the mean motions, without the help of any nice or delicate observations; and while the science can hardly be said to exist. If there is every reason to believe, and none whatsoever to disbelieve, that the mean motions of the Hindu astronomy have been gradually corrected in the same manner in which the calendars of ancient nations have been improved, the legitimate conclusion cannot be mistaken.
As far as a conclusion can be drawn respecting the state of astronomy among the Hindus, from the state of their instruments of observation (and an analogy might be expected between those closely connected circumstances), the inference entirely corresponds with what the other circumstances in the condition of the Hindus have a tendency to establish. The observatory at Benares, the great seat of Hindu astronomy and learning, was found to be rude in structure, and the instruments with which it was provided of the coarsest contrivance and construction.
Even Mr. Playfair himself observes that “regular observations began to be made in Chaldea with the era of Nabonassar; the earliest which have merited the attention of succeeding ages.” The observation which he next presents is truly philosophical and BOOK II. Chap. 9.important. “The curiosity of the Greeks,” says he, “was, soon after, directed to the same object; and that ingenious people was the first that endeavoured to explain or connect, by theory, the various phenomena of the heavens.”1 This was an important step; all that preceded was mere observation and empiricism, not even the commencement of science.2 He adds; “The astronomy of India gives no theory, nor even any description of the celestial phenomena, but satisfies itself with the calculation of certain changes in the heavens, particularly of the eclipses of the sun and moon, and with the rules and tables by which these calculations must be performed. The Brahmen, seating himself on the ground, and arranging his shells before him, repeats the enigmatical verses that are to guide his calculation, and from his little tablets and palm leaves, takes out the numbers that are to be employed in it. He obtains his result with wonderful certainty and expedition; but having little knowledge of the principles on which his rules are founded, and no anxiety to be better informed, he is perfectly satisfied, if, as it usually happens, the commencement and duration of the eclipse answer, within a few minutes to his prediction. Beyond this his astronomical inquiries never extend; and his observations, when he makes any, go no farther thanBOOK II. Chap. 9. to determine the meridian line, or the length of the day at the place where he observes.”1
Scarcely can there be drawn a stronger picture than this of the rude and infant state of astronomy. The Brahmen, making his calculation by shells, is an exact resemblance of the rude American performing the same operation by knots on a string; and both of them exhibit a practice which then only prevails; either when the more ingenious and commodious method of ciphering, or accounting by written signs, is unknown; or when the human mind is too rude and too weak to break through the force of an inveterate custom.2
But the rude state of the science of astronomy among the Brahmens of the present day, is supposed to have been preceded by a period in which it was cultivated to a high degree of perfection. It is vain to ask at what date this period had its existence; and where the signs of such ancient knowledge are to be found. To these questions no answer can be returned. Sir William Jones himself admits “it is improbable that the Indian astronomers, in very early times, had made more accurate observations than those of Alexandria, Bagdad, or Maraghah; and still more improbable that they should have relapsed without apparent cause into error.”3 Mr. Davis, BOOK II. Chap. 9.one of the oriental inquirers to whom we are most indebted for our knowledge of Hindu astronomy, says, “I had been inclined to think with many others, that the Brahmens possess no more knowledge in astronomy, than they have derived from their ancestors in tables ready calculated to their hands, and that few traces of the principles of the science could be found among them; but by consulting some Sanscrit books I was induced to alter my opinion. I believe the Hindu science of astronomy will be found as well known now as it ever was among them.”1 In other words, the ignorance of the present age is the same with the ignorance of all former ages.2
BOOK II. Chap. 9.While we are thus unable, from all we have learned of the Hindu astronomy, to infer either its high antiquity, or great excellence, it is a matter of doubt whether even that portion of the science which they possess, they may not to a great degree have derived from other nations more advanced in civilization than themselves. The Hindu astronomy possesses certain features of singularity which tend to prove, and have by various inquirers been held sufficient to prove, its perfect originality. But it may very well be supposed, that in a science which so naturally fixes the attention of even a rude people, the Hindus themselves proceeded to a certain extent; and even if they did borrow the most valuable portion of all that they know, that it was constrained to harmonize with the methods they had already invented, and the discoveries they had previously made. The fact, moreover, is, that if the Hindu astronomy exhibits marks of distinction from other systems, it exhibits, on the supposition of its originality, still more surprising instances of agreement with other systems. “The days of the week” (I use the language of Mr. Playfair) “are dedicated by the Brahmens, as by us, to the seven planets, and, what is truly singular, they are arranged precisely in the same order. The ecliptic is divided, as with us, into twelve signs of thirty degrees each. This division is purely ideal, and is intended merely for the purpose of calculation. The names and emblems by which these signs are expressed, are nearly the same as with us; and as there is nothing in the nature of things to have determined this coincidence, it must, like the arrangement of the days of the week, be the result of some BOOK II. Chap. 9.ancient and unknown communication.”1 From this striking circumstance, Montucla, the celebrated historian of mathematics, inferred, that the Hindu zodiac was borrowed from the Greeks; and from the vicinity of the Greek empire of Bactria, as well as from the communications which took place between the Hindus, the Persians, and Arabians, the facility with which the knowledge of the Grecian astronomy might pass into India is clear. Sir William Jones controverts the position that the Hindu ecliptic was borrowed from the Greeks; he contends that it was derived from the Chaldeans.2 But this is the same in the end.3
BOOK II. Chap. 9.At one time a disposition appeared to set the knowledge of the Hindus in pure mathematics very high.
BOOK II. Chap. 9.A very convenient, and even an ingenious mode of constructing the table of approximate signs, is in use among the Hindu astronomers. “But ignorant totally,” says Professor Leslie, “of the principles of the operation, those humble calculators are content to follow blindly a slavish routine. The Brahmens must, therefore, have derived such information from people further advanced than themselves in science, and of a bolder and more inventive genius. Whatever may be the pretensions of that passive race, their knowledge of trigonometrical computation has no solid claim to any high antiquity. It was probably, before the revival of letters in Europe, carried to the East by the tide of victory. The natives of Hindustan might receive instruction from the Persian astronomers, who were themselves taught by the Greeks of Constantinople, and stimulated to those scientific pursuits by the skill and liberality of their Arabian conquerors.”1
Arithmetic is a branch of mathematics; and amongBOOK II. Chap. 9. other inventions, of which the honour has been claimed for the Hindus, is that of numerical characters. Whether the signs used by the Hindus are so peculiar as to render it probable that they invented them, or whether it is still more probable that they borrowed them, are questions which, for the purpose of ascertaining their progress in civilization, are not worth resolving. “The invention of numerical characters,” says Goguet, “must have been very ancient. BOOK II. Chap. 9.For though flints, pebbles, and grains of corn, &c. might be sufficient for making arithmetical calculations, they were by no means proper for preserving the result of them. It was, however, necessary on many occasions to preserve the result of arithmetical operations, and consequently it was necessary, very early, to invent signs for that purpose.”1 Under these motives, a people, who had communication with another people already acquainted with numerical signs, would borrow them: a people who had no such communication, would be under the necessity of inventing them. But alphabetical signs, far more difficult, were invented at a rude period of society; no certain proof of civilization is therefore gained by the invention of arithmetical characters. The characters of which Europeans themselves make use, and which they have borrowed from the Arabians, are really hieroglyphics; and “from the monuments of the Mexicans,” says Goguet, “which are still remaining, it appears that hieroglyphics were used by that people, both for letters and numerical characters.”2 That diligent and judicious inquirer says, in general, “The origin of cyphers or numerical characters was confounded with that of hieroglyphic writing. To this day, the Arabian cyphers are real hieroglyphics, and do not represent words, but things. For which reason, though the nations which use them speak different languages, yet these characters excite the ideas of the same numbers in the minds of all.”3
Algebraic signs, which were brought into Europe from Arabia, may, it is said, have originated in India. There is an assertion of the Arabian writers, that an Arabian mathematician in 959 travelled to India, inBOOK II. Chap. 9. quest of information. He might, however, travel without finding. On this foundation, it is plain that no sound inference can be established. If, indeed, it were proved that the algebraic notation came from India, an invention, which the Arabians could make, implies not much of civilization wherever it was made. The shape, indeed, in which it was imported from Arabia sets the question at rest. It cannot be described more clearly and shortly than in the words of Mr. Playfair. The characters, as imported from Arabia, “are mere abbreviations of words. Thus the first appearance of algebra is merely that of a system of short-hand writing, or an abbreviation of common language, applied to the solution of arithmetical problems. It was a contrivance merely to save trouble.”1
The books of the Hindus abound with the praise of learning; and the love and admiration of learning is a mark of civilization and refinement. By the panegyrics, however, in the books of the Hindus, the existence is proved of little to which admiration is due. On the pretensions of the Brahmens to BOOK II. Chap. 9.learning, the title to which they reserved exclusively to themselves, a great part of their unbounded influence depended. It was their interest, therefore, to excite an admiration of it, that is, of themselves, by every artifice. When we contemplate, however, the acquirements and performances on which the most lofty of these panegyrics were lavished, we can be at no loss for a judgment on their learning, or the motive from which the praises of it arose. To be able to read the Vedas, was merit of the most exalted nature; to have actually read them, elevated the student to a rank almost superior to that of mortals. “A priest,” says the sacred text of Menu, “who has gone through the whole Veda, is equal to a sovereign of the whole world.1 What is valuable in learning could be little understood, where consequencesBOOK II. Chap. 9. of so much importance were attached to a feat of this description.
BOOK II. Chap. 9.The Hindus have institutions of education; and the Brahmens teach the arts of reading and writing, by tracing the characters with a rod in the sand.1 How extensively this elementary knowledge is diffused, we have received little or no information. This is a satisfactory proof of the want of intelligence and of interest, with which our countrymen in India have looked upon the native population. The magistrates, however, who returned answers to the interrogatories of government in the year 1801, respecting the morals of the people, describe the state of education in general terms, as deplorable in the extreme. Mr. J. Stracey, magistrate of Momensing, says, “The lower sort are extremely ignorant.” Mr. Paterson, magistrate of Dacca Jelalpore, recommends “a total change in the system of education amongst those who have any education at all:” adding, that “the great mass of the lower ranks have literally none.” The judges of the court of appeal and circuit of Moorshedabad say: “The moral character of a nation can be improved byBOOK II. Chap. 9. education only. All instruction is unattainable to the labouring poor, whose own necessities require the assistance of their children as soon as their tender limbs are capable of the smallest labour. With the middle class of tradesmen, artificers, and shopkeepers, education ends at ten years of age, and never reaches further than reading, writing (a scarcely legible hand on the plantain leaf), and the simplest rules of arithmetic.”1 But if the Hindu institutions of education were of a much more perfect kind than they appear to have ever been, they would afford a very inadequate foundation for the inference of a high state of civilization. The truth is, that institutions for education, more elaborate than those of the Hindus, are found in the infancy of civilization. Among the Turks and the Persians there are schools and colleges, rising one above another for the different stages of instruction.2 And scarcely in any nation does the business BOOK II. Chap. 9.of education appear to have been a higher concern of the government than among the Americans of Mexico and Peru.1
As evidence of the fond credulity with which the state of society among the Hindus was for a time regarded, I ought to mention the statement of Sir W. Jones, who gravely, and with an air of belief, informs us, that he had heard of a philosopher “whose works were said to contain a system of the universe, founded on the principle of attraction and the central position of the sun.”1 This reminds the instructed reader of theBOOK II. Chap. 9. disposition which has been manifested by some of the admirers of the Greek and Roman literature, and of these by one at least who had not a weak and credulous mind, to trace the discoveries of modern philosophy to the pages of the classics. Dr. Middleton, in his celebrated life of Cicero, says, that “several of the fundamental principles of the modern philosophy, which pass for the original discoveries of these later times, are the revival rather of ancient notions, maintained by some of the first philosophers, of whom we have any notice in history; as the motion of the earth, the antipodes, a vacuum; and an universal gravitation or attractive quality of matter, which holds the world in its present form and order.”2 It is a well known artifice of the Brahmens, with whose pretensions and interests it would be altogether inconsistent to allow there was any knowledge with which they were not acquainted, or which was not contained in some of their books, to attach to the loose and unmeaning phraseology of some of their own writings, whatever ideas they find to be in esteem; or even to interpolate for that favourite purpose.3 It was thus BOOK II. Chap. 9.extremely natural that Sir William Jones, whose pundits had become acquainted with the ideas of European philosophers respecting the system of the universe, should hear from them that those ideas were contained in their own books: The wonder was that without any proof he should believe them.1
APPENDIX. N° I.
Remarks on the Arguments for the Antiquity of the Hindu Astronomy.
BOOK II. Appendix.THE knowledge of the Europeans concerning the astronomy of India is chiefly derived from different sets of astronomical tables brought to Europe at different times. All these tables are obviously connected with one another: for they are all adapted to one meridian; the mean motions are the same in them all; and their principal epochs are all deduced by calculation from one original epoch. The most ancient of the Indian epochs is fixed in the year 3102 before the Christian æra, at the commencement of the Caliyug. On account of the mutual connection which, it is allowed, subsists between the three remaining epochs, it is only necessary to discuss that one which seems to be the most important: it is comparatively of modern date, and goes back no further than to the year of Christ 1491.
M. Bailly, in his Astronomie Indienne, has endeavoured to prove that the more ancient of the two epochs is fixed by actual observations: a proposition, which, if it were clearly made out, would confer the highest antiquity on the astronomy of India. In a paper in the Edinburgh Transactions, Mr. Playfair, who has adopted the opinion of M. Bailly, has given a clear and forcible summary of all the arguments that have been adduced in favour of the side he supports. M. Laplace, who is the only other author that has noticed the subject of the Indian astronomy since the publication of M. Bailly’s work, does not accede to the opinion of his brother academician.BOOK II. Appendix. In a very short passage in the “Systeme du Monde,” Laplace states it as his own opinion, that the ancient epoch of the Brahmens was adopted with the view of making all the celestial motions begin at the same point of the zodiac: and he very briefly hints the reasons on which his opinion is founded. In drawing up the following remarks the observations of Laplace have been kept in view.
1. If we set out from the epoch of 1491, and compute the places of the sun, moon, and the planets, for the ancient epoch in 3102 A. C. it is found that all the celestial bodies are then in mean conjunction with the sun in the origin of the moveable zodiac. Here then is an astronomical fact, which the Indian tables necessarily suppose to have taken place, and which, it must be allowed, appears to be very fit to bring the authenticity of the ancient epoch to the proof. For, although the tables of the modern astronomy, highly improved as they are, do not enable us to go back more than 2000 years with extreme accuracy, yet they are sufficiently exact to afford the means of judging whether the general conjunction, supposed in the Indian tables, was actually copied from the heavens or not. Now M. Bailly has computed the places of the planets at the time of the ancient epoch of the Indians, or for the commencement of the Cali-yug, from the tables of M. Lalande: and, although all the planets, except Venus, were then nearly in conjunction with the sun, yet they were by no means so near to one another as to render it probable that this epoch was fixed by observation. M. Bailly argues that the conjunction could not be determined by direct observation; because the planets are invisible when immersed in the sun’s light: and he shows that fifteen days after the epoch all the BOOK II. Appendix.planets, except Venus, were contained within seventeen degrees of the zodiac. But this is not satisfactory. Mr. Playfair admits that the Indian tables cannot be entirely vindicated in this respect. Laplace lays all the stress on this argument to which it seems fairly entitled.
The fiction of a general conjunction in the beginning of the moveable zodiac is the more remarkable, because it agrees precisely with the account which M. Bailly gives of the formation of the Indian astronomical systems.
The validity of the observations made by the critic in the Edinburgh Review, as far as they regard the accuracy of the mean motions, and other astronomical elements which do not depend on the epochs, cannot be disputed. There is but one way of determining the mean motions with accuracy; namely, by comparing together real observations of the places of the planets made at a sufficient interval of time. No fictitious, or assumed, epochs can be of the least use for this purpose. Indeed Mr. Bently does not maintain that the Brahmens make any such use of their assumed epochs. The artificial systems of the Indian astronomy necessarily suppose the mean motions, and other elements, to be already determined and known. Mr. Bently seems in some measure to have misconceived the nature of the arguments by which the Europeans endeavour to establish the antiquity of the Hindu astronomy. He seems to have imagined that nothing more was necessary for confuting all their reasoning on this subject, than to make them acquainted with the formation of the artificial systems of the Brahmens.
But considering Mr. Bently as a person acquainted with the astronomy of the East, and as having access to the books in which it is contained, his testimony cannot but be allowed to be of great forceBOOK II. Appendix. in the present argument. He tells us that the Brahmens, when they would form an astronomical system, go back to a remote epoch, and assume as the basis of their system, that all the heavenly bodies are in a line of mean conjunction with the sun in the beginning of Aries: Now the Indian tables actually suppose such a conjunction at the commencement of the Cali-yug; and in this they are at variance with the most exact of the modern astronomical tables. Is it not then in the highest degree probable that the era of the Cali-yug is an assumed, or fictitious epoch in the astronomy of the Hindus?
If the ancient epoch, in 3102 A. C. be fictitious, the force of many of the arguments for the antiquity of the Indian astronomy will be greatly diminished. For that reasoning must needs be a good deal vague and unsatisfactory which rests entirely on the quantity of an astronomical element of an uncertain date affected, as must be the case, by the errors of observation, of the limits of which we have no means of judging.
2. The equation of the sun’s centre, according to the Indian tables, is 2° 10½′; whereas the same quantity, according to modern observations, is only 1° 55½′. It is one consequence of the mutual disturbances of the planets that the excentricity of the solar orbit, on which the equation just mentioned depends, was greater in former ages than it is at the present time. From the quantity which the Hindus assign to this astronomical element, M. Bailly has drawn an argument in favour of the antiquity of the Indian tables, which, it must be confessed, is of great weight, when the difference of the Indian and European determinations is considered as arising from the gradual alteration of the planetary orbits. But Laplace has remarked that the equation, which in the Hindu BOOK II. Appendix.tables amounts to 2° 10½′, is really composed of two parts; namely, the equation of the sun’s centre, and the annual equation of the moon; both of which depend alike on the excentricity of the sun’s orbit, and complete their periods in the same interval of time. The Indians have naturally enough blended these two irregularities together; because, the great object of their astronomy being the calculation of eclipses, the relative places of the sun and moon are effected by the sum of both. The annual equation of the moon is nearly 11′: And, when added to the equation of the sun’s centre, the amount (2° 6½′,) does not differ much from the quantity set down in the Indian tables. The force of M. Bailly’s argument is therefore completely taken off.
But the remark of Laplace not only invalidates the argument for the antiquity, but it furnishes a powerful one on the opposite side. It is indeed in the situation of a perfidious ally, who not only deserts his friends, but marshals his whole force in the ranks of their opponents. The amount of the two irregularities which are blended together by the Indians is 2° 6½′ at the present time: but if we go back to the commencement of the Cali-yug, there must be added about 13½′, on account of the greater magnitude of the sun’s excentricity in that age above what it is in the present century; and thus we ought to have found 2° 20′, in place of 2° 10½′, in the Hindu tables, if their supposed antiquity be granted. It must be admitted that, in this instance at least, the Indian tables, when they are referred to the ancient epoch, are fairly at variance with the state of the heavens.
3. The quantities which the Indian tables assign to two other astronomical elements, viz. the mean motions of Jupiter and Saturn, have been found to agree almost exactly, not with what is observed at the present time, but with what the theory of gravityBOOK II. Appendix. shows would have been observed at the beginning of the Cali-yug. This curious coincidence between the Hindu tables and the most abstruse theory of modern Europe, was discovered by Laplace after the publication of the Astronomie Indienne: and it was communicated to M. Bailly in a letter inserted in the Journal des Sçavans. The argument which this circumstance furnishes in favour of the antiquity is not forgotten by Mr. Playfair; and it is also mentioned by the critic in the Edinburgh Review.
But the discovery of Laplace, although it cannot be disputed, is absolutely of no avail in establishing the antiquity of the Indian astronomy: for no inference can be drawn from it respecting the ancient epoch in 3102 A. C. which is not equally conclusive with regard to the modern epoch in 1491 of our era.
The theory of astronomy is indebted to Laplace for many interesting discoveries. Of these, two equations, affecting the mean motions of Jupiter and Saturn, are not the least important. These irregularities are periodical, and they both complete their courses in 917¾ years: And while one of them augments the motion of one of the planets, the other diminishes the motion of the other planet. It is a consequence of this discovery of Laplace, that, after an interval of time equal to 917¾ years; or equal to twice, or thrice, or any exact number of times that period; the mean motions of Jupiter and Saturn will return, to be precisely of the same quantity that they were at the beginning of the interval of time. Now, if from the epoch 1491, we reckon back a number of years, equal to five times the period of Laplace, we shall arrive at the year 3095 A. C., which is so near the ancient epoch of the Indians, as to entitle us to BOOK II. Appendix.infer, that an observer who lived in 1491, would agree in his determinations of the mean motions of Jupiter and Saturn, with an astronomer who had lived forty-six centuries before, at the beginning of the Cali-yug.
No reliance, then, can be placed on this argument, as a proof of the antiquity of the Hindu tables. On the contrary, if we admit, what it must be allowed is extremely probable, that the ancient epoch is a fictitious one, pointed out by superstition, or fixed upon for convenience in calculation, this argument will concur with the last in giving, to the astronomy of India, a modern date, rather than the high antiquity contended for.
4. M. Bailly has shown that the place of the aphelion of Jupiter’s orbit, determined by the Indian tables for the beginning of the Cali-yug, agrees with the modern tables of Lalande, when corrected by the theoretical equations of La Grange. The same thing is true of the quantity which the Hindus assign to the equation of Saturn’s centre. It requires but little scepticism to raise up doubts of the validity of arguments founded on such coincidences. In the first place, we are ignorant of the limits of the errors, that the Indian determinations may be susceptible of. In the second place, the dates of the observations on which the astronomical elements of the Indians depend are unknown and merely conjectural; yet these are necessary data for calculating the corrections that must be applied to the modern tables, to fit them for representing the ancient state of the heavens: In the third place, the theoretical formulas, themselves, by which the corrections are computed, cannot be supposed to enable us to go back with much accuracy, to so remote an epoch as the Cali-yug; a circumstance which is not owing to any imperfection of the theory, but to the want of our knowing with precision theBOOK II. Appendix. relative proportions of the masses of the planets that compose our system. When we reflect on these things, even the very exact coincidence of the Indian elements, with the calculated quantities (which is nearer than there is reasonable ground to expect) is apt to create a suspicion that the whole is owing to a happy combination of balancing errors.
But waving these objections, fairness of reasoning requires that we should lay no more stress on such coincidences, as those just mentioned, in favour of one side of the question, than we are willing to allow to discrepancies in similar circumstances, in support of the other side. M. Bailly allows that not any more of the elements of the planetary motions, contained in the Indian tables, agree so well with the determinations derived from the theory of gravity: and the quantities which are assigned to the equations of the centre, for Jupiter and Mars, are quite irreconcileable with the supposition of so remote an antiquity as the beginning of the Cali-yug. Such a contrariety of results justly invalidates the whole argument.
5. Another argument urged by the favourers of the antiquity of the Indian astronomy, is derived from the obliquity of the ecliptic, which the Indians state at 24°.
Both observation and theory concur in showing that the obliquity of the ecliptic has been diminishing slowly for many ages preceding the present. At the beginning of the Cali-yug, this astronomical element, according to theory, was 23° 51′, which is still short of what the Indians make it. Twelve centuries before the Cali-yug, the actual obliquity of the ecliptic, as derived from theory, would coincide with the Indian quantity within 2′: And, by going back BOOK II. Appendix.still further, the error may, no doubt, be entirely annihilated. Nothing, it must be confessed, can be more vague and unsatisfactory than this sort of reasoning.
Let us grant that the Hindus determined the obliquity of the ecliptic, 4300 years before our era, which supposes that they made an error of 2′ only: How are we to account for the strange circumstance, that a quantity, which they were at one time able to determine with so much accuracy, should remain unaltered for a period of nearly 6000 years; during which time, the error of the first determination has accumulated to half a degree? Are we to suppose that, immediately after this imaginary epoch, the art of astronomical observation disappeared, and was entirely lost? This, we know, could not be the case, because many other astronomical elements necessarily suppose observations of a comparatively modern date: as, for instance, the equation of the sun’s centre.
We shall account for the quantity which the Indians assign to the obliquity much more simply and naturally, if we trust to the authority of Mr. Bently. According to him, the Hindu astronomers (unless in cases where extraordinary accuracy is required) make it a rule, in observing, to take the nearest round numbers, rejecting fractional quantities: so that we have only to suppose that the observer who fixed the obliquity of the ecliptic at 24°, actually found it to be more than 23½°.
6. The length of the tropical year, as deduced from the Hindu tables, is 365d 5h 50′ 35″ which is 1′ 46″ longer than the determination of La Caille. This is certainly not a little accurate, and necessarily supposes some degree of antiquity, and the comparison of observations made at a great interval of time. We shall be the better able to form a judgment of the length of time which such a degree of accuracy may require, if we consider the errors of some of ourBOOK II. Appendix. older tables, published before the art of making astronomical instruments was brought to its present perfect state. In the Alphonsine Tables, published about 1252, the length of the tropical year, is
These quantities are determined by observations distant from one another about 1500 or 1600 years: and the differences between them and the year of La Caille, is about the fourth part of the error of the Indians.
If we suppose that the length of the year found in the Hindu tables was actually determined by observation at the beginning of the Cali-yug, the error, which has been stated at 1′ 46″, may be reduced to 1′ 5″. The reason of this is that the year has been decreasing in duration, for all the intervening time, and the quantity, computed by theory, which must be added to the length of the year as observed in the present age, to have its length forty-nine centuries ago, is 40½″. Arguments of this kind carry but little force with them. For the time when the observations from which the length of the Indian year was deduced is totally unknown: and it seems highly probable, that the beginning of the Cali-yug is not an epoch settled by observation. Besides, the error of observation (which cannot be reduced under 1′ 5″) must be allowed to be, in this instance, nearly double of the correction applied: and there is nothing to prove that it may not amount to much more.
It is to be remarked that the Indian tables contain the siderial motion of the sun, and not his motion in respect of the moveable equinox as our tables do. If BOOK II. Appendix.we draw our comparison from the length of the siderial, instead of the tropical year, the result will not be so favourable to the accuracy of the Hindu astronomy. The siderial revolution of the sun, according to the Indians, is 365d6h 12′ 30″; according to modern observation it is 365d 6h 9′ 11″; and the error is 3′ 19″ nearly double the former error. The difference of those errors arises from the quantity which they assign to the precession of the equinoxes, which is 54″ instead of 50½″.
7. Of all the arguments in support of the antiquity of the Hindu astronomy, the strongest and most direct is that which is derived from an ancient zodiac brought from India by M. le Gentil. This argument therefore deserves to be particularly considered.
It must be observed, that the force of an argument such as this, which turns on the magnitude of an astronomical quantity that accumulates slowly, and is perceptible only after a long lapse of time, will entirely depend on the authenticity of the observations, or facts, from which the argument is drawn, and on the precision and accuracy with which they are recorded. Any thing uncertain, or arbitrary, or hypothetical, respecting these fundamental points, will greatly weaken the strength of the argument. We are told by Mr. Playfair, that the star Aldebaran has the longitude of 3° 20′ in the zodiac of M. le Gentil: and it is on the authenticity and precision of this fact, that the validity of his reasoning hinges. Now, if we turn to the passage of the Astronomie Indienne, which is cited by Mr. Playfair, it will appear that this position of Aldebaran is rather a conjecture, or hypothesis, of M. Bailly, than an authentic observation recorded with precision.
The Indian zodiac moves westward, at the same rate as the fixed stars, and it is divided into twenty-seven constellations, each of 13° 20′. The vernalBOOK II. Appendix. equinox was 54° to the east of the beginning of the zodiac at the commencement of the Cali-yug; and it was therefore in the fifth constellation, being 40′ more advanced than the fourth. The Indians mark the fourth constellation, which they call Rhonini, by five stars, of which the most easterly, or the most advanced in the zodiac, is the very brilliant star Aldebaran. These things being premised, M. Bailly thus proceeds: “Il est naturel que cette belle etoile ait marque la fin ou le commencement d’une constellation. Je suppose qu’elle marque en effet la fin de Rhonini, la quatrieme des constellations Indiennes, et le commencement de la cinquième; il resulte de cette supposition que l’etoile Aldebaran etoit placée dans le zodiaque Indien à 1s23° 20′ de l’origin du zodiaque.” It appears then that the whole of the argument, which is stated so strongly by Mr. Playfair, and by the critic in the Edinburgh Review, rests on the conjecture of M. Bailly; that Aldebaran was exactly placed at the end of the fourth, and the beginning of the fifth constellation in the Indian zodiac. For this, no sort of proof is offered, except the conspicuousness of the star, which is certainly one of the most brilliant in the heavens. Are we to suppose, for the sake of this argument, that the position of the Indian zodiac was entirely regulated by the star Aldebaran? For it must be admitted that when the beginning of one constellation is fixed, all the rest are thereby determined. Or, are we to suppose, what is still more improbable, that the beginning of the fifth constellation fell, by a lucky chance, exactly in the place of this conspicuous star?
But the Indians themselves afford us the means of correcting the supposition of M. Bailly. Mr. Bently tells us that Bromhu Gupta makes the longitude of BOOK II. Appendix.the star, Spica Virginis, in the moveable zodiac of the Hindus, 6s3°: According to De la Caille, the longitude of the same star in 1750, was
which subtracted from 6s 3°, leaves 1s 18° 56′ 29″ for the longitude of Aldebaran in the Indian zodiac, instead of 1s 23° 20′ which it is according to the hypothesis of M. Bailly. The error amounts to 4° 23′ 31″: a quantity which is nowise inconsistent with the configuration of the constellation Rhonini, while it is sufficient to show that the Indians may have fixed the origin of their zodiac at the beginning of the Caliyug by calculating back from a modern epoch.
And indeed the Brahmens point out a modern epoch, a noted one in their astronomy, which is connected with the era of the Cali-yug by their precession, in the same manner that the modern epoch 1491 is connected with it by the mean motions. Mr. Bently tells us that, according to Varaha, the year 3601 of the Cali-yug (A. D. 499) began precisely at the vernal equinox: which implies that the origin of the Indian zodiac did then coincide with the equinoxial point. Now if we deduct 1s 24°, the Indian precession for 3600 years, from 12s, we shall have 10s 6° for the origin of the zodiac, reckoned eastward from the vernal equinox according to the practice of our astronomy: precisely as it comes out by the Indian tables.
The epoch 3601 of the Cali-yug is involved in all the Indian tables, insomuch that M. Bailly was led to discover it by calculation: And in fact, there is no authority for fixing the origin of the Indian zodiac in 10s6° at the era of the Cali-yug, except by reckoningBOOK II. Appendix. back from this epoch, according to the Hindu rule for the precession.
It appears then that the argument drawn from the zodiac of M. le Gentil, when closely considered, not only affords no evidence for the antiquity of the Indian astronomy, but rather favours the opinion that the beginning of the Cali-yug, is a fictitious epoch fixed by calculation. For it has been shown that the place of the origin of the Indian zodiac, at the era of the Cali-yug, is connected by the precession contained in the Hindu tables with the epoch 3601 of that age: and indeed all the epochs of the Brahmens, ancient as well as modern, are connected with the same fundamental epoch, in what regards the precession. The pretended position of the star Aldebaran is merely a conjecture of M. Bailly: and it is at variance with the place which Bromha Gupta, and other Indian astronomers, assign to the star “Spica Virginis.”
8. In the preceding observations, all the arguments that have been adduced in favour of the antiquity of the Indian astronomy, as far as the question is purely astronomical, have been considered, excepting those drawn from the places of the sun and moon, at the beginning of the Cali-yug, (at midnight between the 17th and 18th of February, of the year 3102 A. C.) With regard to the first of these, there is a difficulty which weighed so much with Mr. Playfair, as to induce him to set aside the argument entirely, and to lay no stress upon it. It is remarkable that the critic in the Edinburgh Review has brought forward this argument, without noticing the difficulty which, in Mr. Playfair’s opinion, rendered it inconclusive. After what has been urged to invalidate the opinion of M. Bailly, that the ancient epoch of the Indian tables was settled by observation, we shall be spared BOOK II. Appendix.the task of examining the remaining argument drawn from the place of the moon: allowing to this argument all the force which the most sanguine supporters of the antiquity can demand, it can have but little weight in opposition to the many strong and concurring indications of a contrary nature.1
10. If the author of the “Astronomie Indienne” has succeeded in establishing any of his positions, it is in proving that the astronomy of the Brahmens is original, or at least that it has not been borrowed from any of the astronomical systems that we are acquainted with. This was a preliminary point which his favourite system required him to examine: for if the astronomy of the Brahmens had turned out to have an obvious affinity to the astronomical systems of Arabia or Greece, it would have been in vain to bring proofs of its antiquity. But how does this prove the antiquity of the Indian astronomy? It only proves that the inhabitants of the eastern world, separated from the rest of mankind, have made the same progress to a certain extent, which, in the western world, has been carried to a far greater pitch of perfection.
APPENDIX. N° II.
Colebrooke on Sanscrit Algebra.
Since the pages relating to the science of theBOOK II. Appendix. Hindus were sent to the press, has appeared a work entitled, “Algebra, with Arithmetic and Mensuration, from the Sanscrit of Brahmegupta and Bhascara; translated by Henry Thomas Colebrooke, Esq.” No person who takes an interest in the history of the human mind, can fail to recognize that Mr. Colebrooke has added largely to the former obligations he had conferred upon us, not only by laying open to European readers the most approved production on Algebra, in the Sanscrit language, but by the research and ability with which, in a preliminary dissertation, he has brought together the materials for forming an opinion, both respecting the origin of that science among the Hindus, and their merit in the prosecution of it.
On mathematics I must speak superficially, because my knowledge does not permit me to speak profoundly. Enough, I think, however, appears on the face of this subject, to enable me to resolve the only question, in the solution of which I am interested.
Mr. Colebrooke thinks it possible, nay probable, that the Hindus derived their first knowledge of algebra from the Greeks; that they were made acquainted with the writings of Diophantus, before they had of their own accord made any attempts in the science; and that it is in the accessions which Algebra received in their hands, that their title, if any, to our respect, must, in this particular, look BOOK II. Appendix.for its foundation.1 That the Hindus cultivated astronomy, and the branches of the art of calculation subservient to astronomy, solely for the purposes of astrology, is not disputed by any body, and least of all by Mr. Colebrooke. That candid and careful inquirer has brought to light a very important fact, that even on the subject of astrology, on which they might have been supposed original, the Hindus have been borrowers, and borrowers from the Greeks.2 “Joining, “ he says, “this indication, to that of the divisionBOOK II. Appendix. of the zodiac into twelve signs, represented by the same figures of animals, and named by words of the same import, with the zodiacal signs of the Greeks; and taking into consideration the analogy, though not identity, of the Ptolemaic system, and the Indian one of excentric deferents and epicycles, no doubt can be entertained that the Hindus received hints from the astronomical schools of the Greeks.”1
To draw, then, from the tracts which Mr. Colebrooke has translated, an inference to any high state of civilization among the Hindus, the three following propositions must, first, be established;
If all these propositions are not fully and entirely made out; if any weakness appears in the evidence of any one of them, the inference falls to the ground. BOOK II. Appendix.Upon inquiry, it seems to come out, that for not one of them is the evidence sufficient, or trustworthy.
1. That the Hindus received from the Greeks all that the latter knew, is admitted by Mr. Colebrooke. It is also admitted by Mr. Colebrooke, that “Diophantus was acquainted with the direct resolution of affected quadratic equations, and of indeterminate problems of the first degree; that he displays infinite sagacity and ingenuity in particular solutions; and that a certain routine is discernible in them.”1 It is unfortunately from Diophantus alone, that we derive any knowledge of the attainments of the Greeks in this branch of mathematics. It is no less unfortunate, that out of thirteen books which he wrote upon this subject, only six, or possibly seven, have been preserved. How does Mr. Colebrooke know, that these other books of Diophantus did not ascend to more difficult points of the science?2 He says, you have no right to infer that. True; but neither has he any right to infer the contrary. There is, however, another possibility and a still more important one, which Mr. Colebrooke has altogether overlooked. Supposing that nothing more of Algebra was known to the Greeks, at the time of Diophantus, than is found inBOOK II. Appendix. seven out of thirteen books of one author, which is a pretty handsome allowance; is it certain or is it probable, that when the Greeks had made so considerable a progress, they remained stationary? and, though the most ingenious and inventive people in the world, peculiarly at that time turned to mathematical and abstruse investigations, they made no addition, through several generations, to what was taught them by Diophantus? This argument appears to be conclusive.
2. Mr. Colebrooke has a very elaborate, complex, and in some parts obscure train of argument to prove the antiquity of certain points of algebraic knowledge among the Hindus. That it is not conclusive may be made to appear very certainly; it is only to be regretted that so many words are required.
The point is, to prove the antiquity of certain treatises which Mr. Colebrooke possesses; part under the name of Bhascara, one mathematician; part under that of Brahmegupta, another. He begins with Bhascara.
There are two treatises of astronomy, which bear the name of Bhascara, and which themselves affirm, that they were written at a particular time, corresponding to the middle of the twelfth century of the Christian era: Therefore the Treatise on Algebra, possessed by Mr. Colebrooke, was produced about the middle of the twelfth century. For this degree of antiquity, this is the whole of the evidence. Let us see what it is worth.
In the first place, the dates refer only to the astronomical treatises; not to the algebraic. The algebraic is indeed prefixed to the astronomic; but it is alleged by one of the commentators, and believed by Mr. Colebrooke, that it “may have been added subsequently.” BOOK II. Appendix.And then at what date subsequently, or by what hand, are questions to which we shall presently see that there is no answer.
In the next place, an important observation applies to the affirmations, with respect to their own age, found in the treatises on astronomy. From the known, the extravagant disposition of the Hindus to falsify with regard to dates, and make almost every thing with respect to their own transactions and attainments more ancient than it is, such asseverations, found in books, or transcripts of books, are no proof of what is affirmed; and only deserve a moment’s regard when fully corroborated by other circumstances. Not one circumstance is adduced to corroborate them by Mr. Colebrooke.
We come down, all at once, from the date of the work, to the date of the commentaries upon it. For none of them does Mr. Colebrooke claim a degree of antiquity beyond 200 or 300 years. Supposing this date to be correct, what reason has Mr. Colebrooke to infer that the work on which they comment, was, at the time of that commentary, 400 years old? None, whatsoever. In nine instances out of ten, the commentator would be sure to speak of it as old, whether it was so or not. But further, what reason have we to believe that the date which he ascribes to these commentaries is the real one? Again the answer is, None: none that will bear examination. The date of the oldest is assumed upon the strength of an astronomical example, describing a particular state of the heavens: But this may be perfectly accidental; and, besides, the Hindus have the power of calculating backwards. Of the next two, the date is assumed upon the strength of their own assertion: This we have shown is of no value. Of the next two the date is assumed upon the assertion of other books. This, if possible, is of less value.BOOK II. Appendix. There are three others to which no date is assigned: And there are two commentaries upon the astronomical treatises, the date of which too rests upon their own assertion.
Neither to the treatise, therefore, in the hands of Mr. Colebrooke, nor to the Commentaries upon it, has any thing appeared, in what we have yet mentioned, which enables us to assign, with any degree of certainty, any one date in preference to any other. We may, if we please, assume that all of them in a body are less than a century old.
Beside the Sanscrit commentaries, there is a Persian translation, of each of the two treatises of Bhascara. In general, what is testified by Persian is far more trustworthy, than what rests upon Sanscrit authority; because there was more publicity in the Persian writings; whereas the Sanscrit, being wholly secret, and confined to a small number of Brahmens, accustomed and prone to forgery, there is security for nothing which they had any interest, real or imaginary, to change. If there was any evidence, therefore, to fix the dates of the Persian translations, we could not reasonably dispute a degree of antiquity corresponding to them. I suspect that there is no evidence to fix the dates of these translations. Mr. Colebrooke says, the one was made by order of the emperor Acber, the other in the reign of Shah Jehan. But he subjoins no reason for this affirmation. The cause probably is, that he had none; and that he took the conjecture from some date written somewhere in the book, nobody knows at what time, nobody knows by whom.
Such is the whole of the evidence which is adduced by Mr. Colebrooke to prove the antiquity of Bhascara. “The age of his predecessors,” he adds, “cannot BOOK II. Appendix.be determined with equal precision:” that is to say, the evidence which can be adduced for the antiquity of the other treatise, that of Brahmegupta, is still less conclusive and less satisfactory. As we have seen that the better evidence proves nothing, I shall spare the reader a criticism to show, what he will easily infer, that the worse evidence proves as little; evidence, which, as it is tedious and intricate, it would require a criticism of some length to unfold.
3. We come to the third of the propositions; that if the Hindus had discovered as much of algebra, as they know beyond what appears in the fragment of Diophantus, they must have been placed in a high state of civilization. That this proposition cannot be maintained, I expect to find universally acknowledged. I transcribe the passage from Mr. Colebrooke, in which he sums up the claims and pretensions of the Hindus. “They possessed well the arithmetic of surd roots; they were aware of the infinite quotient resulting from the division of finite quantity by cipher; they knew the general resolution of equations of the second degree, and had touched upon those of higher denomination, resolving them in the simplest cases, and in those in which the solution happens to be practicable by the method which serves for quadratics; they had attained a general solution of indeterminate problems of the first degree; they had arrived at a method for deriving a multitude of solutions of answers to problems of the second degree from a single answer found tentatively.”1
In all this it appears, that the only point in which there can be a pretence for their having gone beyond what we have in the fragment of Diophantus, is the general solution of indeterminate problems of the first degree. But, to quote Dr. Hutton once more, “DiophantusBOOK II. Appendix. was the first writer on indeterminate problems. His book is wholly on this subject; whence it has happened that such kind of questions have been called by the name of Diophantine problems.” Now, take the point at which the solution of indeterminate problems appears in the fragment of Diophantus, and the point at which it appears in the Sanscrit treatise, of whatever age, in the hands of Mr. Colebrooke; the interval between the two points is so very small, and the step is so easily made, that most assuredly far more difficult steps in the progress of mathematical science have been made in ages of which the civilization has been as low as that of the Hindus. Thales lived at a period when Greece was still uncultivated, and but just emerging from barbarism; yet he excelled the Egyptians in mathematical knowledge, and astonished them by computing the height of the pyramids from the shadow. Pythagoras lived in the same age; and was a great inventor both in arithmetic and geometry: In astronomy he made great discoveries, and maintained, we are told, the true system of the universe; that the sun is in the centre, and makes all the planets revolve about him. Regiomontanus was born in 1456, when the human mind was still to a great degree immersed in the darkness of the middle ages: Yet of him, Mr. Playfair says, “Trigonometry, which had never been known to the Greeks as a separate science, and which took that form in Arabia, advanced, in the hands of Regiomontanus, to a great degree of perfection; and approached very near to the condition which it has attained at the present day: He also introduced the use of decimal fractions into arithmetic, and thereby gave to that scale its full extent, and to numerical computation the utmost degree BOOK II. Appendix.of simplicity and enlargement, which it seems capable of attaining.”1 Cardan was born in 1501, when assuredly much had not yet been gained of what deserves the name of civilization. “Before his time,” says the same accomplished mathematician, “little advance had been made in the solution of any equations higher than the second degree. In 1545 was published the rule which still bears the name of Cardan; and which, at this day, marks a point in the progress of algebraic investigation, which all the efforts of succeeding analysts have hardly been able to go beyond.”2 Even Vieta, with all his discoveries, appeared at an early and ill-instructed age.
In looking at the pursuits of any nation, with a view to draw from them indications of the state of civilization, no mark is so important, as the nature of the End to which they are directed.
Exactly in proportion as Utility is the object of every pursuit, may we regard a nation as civilized. Exactly in proportion as its ingenuity is wasted on contemptible or mischievous objects, though it may be, in itself, an ingenuity of no ordinary kind, the nation may safely be denominated barbarous.
According to this rule, the astronomical and mathematical sciences afford conclusive evidence against the Hindus. They have been cultivated exclusively for the purposes of astrology; one of the most irrational of all imaginable pursuits; one of those which most infallibly denote a nation barbarous; and one of those which it is the most sure to renounce, in proportion as knowledge and civilization are attained.
TO ascertain the true state of the Hindus in theBOOK II. Chap. 10. scale of civilization, is not only an object of curiosity in the history of human nature; but to the people of Great Britain, charged as they are with the government of that great portion of the human species, it is an object of the highest practical importance. No scheme of government can happily conduce to the ends of government, unless it is adapted to the state of the people for whose use it is intended. In those diversities in the state of civilization, which approach the extremes, this truth is universally acknowledged. Should any one propose, for a band of roving Tartars, the regulations adapted to the happiness of a regular and polished society, he would meet with neglect or derision. The inconveniences are only more concealed and more or less diminished, when the error relates to states of society which more nearly resemble one another. If the mistake in regard to Hindu society, committed by the British nation, and the British government, be very great; if they have conceived the Hindus to be a people of high civilization, while they have in reality made but a few of the earliest steps in the progress to civilization, it is impossible that in many of the measures pursued for the government of that people, the mark aimed at should not have been wrong.
The preceding induction of particulars, embracing BOOK II. Chap. 10.the religion, the laws, the government, the manners, the arts, the sciences, and literature, of the Hindus, affords, it is presumed, the materials from which a correct judgment may, at last, be formed of their progress toward the high attainments of civilized life. That induction, and the comparisons to which it led, have occupied us long, but not longer, it is hoped, than the importance of the subject demanded, and the obstinacy of the mistakes which it was the object of it to remove.
The reports of a high state of civilization in the East were common even among the civilized nations of ancient Europe. But the acquaintance of the Greeks and Romans with any of the nations of Asia, except the Persians alone, was so imperfect, and among the circumstances which they state so many are incredible and ridiculous, that in the information we receive from them on this subject, no confidence can be reposed.
Of the modern Europeans, the individuals who first obtained a tolerable acquaintance with any of the nations of the East, were the popish missionaries, chiefly the Jesuits, who selected China for the scene of their apostolical labours. Visiting a people who already composed a vast society, and exhibited many, though fallacious, marks of riches, while Europe as yet was every where poor; and feeling, as it was natural for them to feel, that the more they could excite among their countrymen an admiration of the people whom they described, the greater would be the portion of that flattering sentiment, which would redound upon themselves, these missionaries were eager to conceive, and still more eager to propagate, the most hyperbolical ideas of the arts, the sciences, and institutions of the Chinese. As it is almost always more pleasing, and certainly far more easy, to believe, than to scrutinize; and as the human mind in Europe, at BOOK II. Chap. 10.the time when these accounts were first presented, was much less powerful, and penetrating, than it is at present, they were received with almost implicit credulity. The influence of this first impression lasted so long, that even to Voltaire, a keen-eyed and sceptical judge, the Chinese, of almost all nations, are the objects of the loudest and most unqualified praise.1 The state of belief in Europe has, through the scrutiny of facts, been of late approximating to sobriety on the attainments of the Chinese, and a short period longer will probably reduce it to the scale of reason and fact.2
It was under circumstances highly similar, that the earliest of the modern travellers drew up and presented their accounts of Hindustan. The empire of the Moguls was in its meridian splendour. It extended over the principal part of India; and the court, the army, and the establishments of Akber or Aurungzebe, exhibited that gorgeous exterior, that air of grandeur and power, which were well calculated to impose upon the imagination of an unphilosophical observer.3
BOOK II. Chap. 10.It was unfortunate that a mind so pure, so warm in the pursuit of truth, and so devoted to oriental learning, as that of Sir William Jones, should have adopted the hypothesis of a high state of civilization in the principal countries of Asia. This he supported with all the advantages of an imposing manner, and a brilliant reputation; and gained for it so great a credit, that for a time it would have been very difficult to obtain a hearing against it.
Beside the illusions with which the fancy magnifies the importance of a favourite pursuit, Sir William was actuated by the virtuous design of exalting the Hindus in the eyes of their European masters; and thence ameliorating the temper of the government; while his mind had scope for error in the vague and indeterminate notions which it still retained of the signs of social improvement. The term civilization was by him, as by most men, attached to no fixed and definite assemblage of ideas. With the exception of some of the lowest states of society in which human beings have been found, it was applied to nations in all the stages of social advancement.1
It is not easy to describe the characteristics of the different stages of social progress. It is not from one feature, or from two, that a just conclusion can be drawn. In these it sometimes happens that nations resemble BOOK II. Chap. 10.which are placed at stages considerably remote. It is from a joint view of all the great circumstances taken together, that their progress can be ascertained; and it is from an accurate comparison, grounded on these general views, that a scale of civilization can be formed, on which the relative position of nations may be accurately marked.
Notwithstanding all that modern philosophy had performed for the elucidation of history, very little had been attempted in this great department, at the time when the notions of Sir William Jones were formed;1 and so crude were his ideas on the subject, that the rhapsodies of Rousseau on the virtue and happiness of the savage life surpass not the panegyrics BOOK II. Chap. 10.of Sir William on the wild, comfortless, predatory, and ferocious state of the wandering Arabs. “Except,” says he, “when their tribes are engaged in war, they spend their days in watching their flocks and camels, or in repeating their native songs, which they pour out almost extempore, professing a contempt for the stately pillars and solemn buildings of the cities, compared with the natural charms of the country, and the coolness of their tents: thus they pass their lives in the highest pleasure of which they have any conception, in the contemplation of the most delightful objects, and in the enjoyment of perpetual spring.”1 “If courtesy,” he observes, “and urbanity, a love of poetry and eloquence, and the practice of exalted virtues, be a just measure of perfect society, we have certain proof that the people of Arabia, both on plains and in cities, in republican and monarchical states, were eminently civilized for many ages before their conquest of Persia.”2 We need not wonder if the man, who wrote and delivered this, found the Hindus arrived at the highest civilization. Yet the very same author, in the very same discourse, and speaking of the same people, declared, “I find no trace among them till their emigration of any philosophy but ethics;”3 and even of this he says, “The distinguishing virtues which they boasted of inculcating, were a contempt of riches and even of death; but in the age of the seven poets, their liberality had deviated into mad profusion, their courage into ferocity, and their patience into an obstinate spirit of encountering fruitless dangers.”9 He adds; “The only arts in which they pretended to excellence (I except horsemanship and military accomplishments) wereBOOK II. Chap. 10.poetry and rhetoric.”1 It can hardly be affirmed that these facts are less than wonderful as regarding a people “eminently civilized;” a people exhibiting “a just measure of perfect society.”2
BOOK II. Chap. 10.Among the causes which excited to the tone of eulogy adopted with regard to the Hindus, one undoubtedly was, the affectation of candour. Of rude and uncultivated nations, and also of rude and uncultivated individuals, it is a characteristic, to admire only the system of manners, of ideas, and of institutions to which they have been accustomed, despising others. The most cultivated nations of Europe had but recently discovered the weakness of this propensity: Novelty rendered exemption from it a source of distinction: To prove his superiority to the prejudices of home, by admiring and applauding the manners and institutions of Asia, became, therefore, in the breast of the traveller, a motive of no inconsiderable BOOK II. Chap. 10.power.1
The nations of Europe became acquainted nearly about the same period, with the people of America, and the people of Hindustan. Having contemplated in the one, a people without fixed habitations, without political institutions, and with hardly any other arts than those indispensably necessary for the preservation of existence, they hastily concluded, upon the sight of another people, inhabiting great cities, cultivating the soil, connected together by an artificial system of subordination, exhibiting monuments of great antiquity, cultivating a species of literature, exercising arts and obeying a monarch whose sway was extensive, and his court magnificent, that they had suddenly passed from the one extreme of civilization to the other. The Hindus were compared with the savages of America; the circumstances in which they differed from that barbarous people, were the circumstances in which they corresponded with the most cultivated nations; other circumstances were overlooked; and it seems to have been little suspected that conclusions too favourable could possibly be drawn.2
The progress of knowledge, and the force of observation, demonstrated the necessity of regarding the actual state of the Hindus as little removed from that of half-civilised nations. The saving hypothesis, however, was immediately adopted, that the situation in which the Hindus are now beheld is a state of degradation; that formerly they were in a state of high civilization; from which they had fallen through the miseries of foreign conquest, and subjugation.
This was a theory invented to preserve as much as actual observation would allow to be preserved, of a pre-established and favourite creed. It was not an inference from what was already known. It was a gratuitous assumption. It preceded inquiry, and no inquiry was welcome, but that which yielded matter for its support.1
To this purpose were adapted the pretensions of the Brahmens, who spoke of an antecedent period, BOOK II. Chap. 10.when the sovereigns of Hindustan were masters of great power and great magnificence. It was of importance to weigh these pretensions; because the rude writers of rude nations have almost always spoken of antecedent times as deserving all the praise with which their powers of rhetoric or song could exalt them. If the descriptions of antiquity presented by the Brahmens bore the consistent marks of truth and reality, a degree of intrinsic evidence would be attached to them. If these descriptions flew wide of all resemblance to human affairs, and were nothing but wild unnatural fictions, they would be so far from proving an antecedent state of knowledge and civilization, that they would prove the reverse. And, had the Hindus remained fixed from the earliest ages in the semibarbarous state, it is most certain that the Brahmens would have given to us just such accounts of antiquity as those we have actually received at their hands.
As the Hindus have enlightened us by no record of antecedent events, and we thus have no immediate proof of their state of civilization, in the times that are past, the only sure ground of inference is the laws and institutions which they framed, the manners they adopted, and the arts and sciences to which they attended. If these great circumstances were at variance with the existing state of society, but adapted to one more advanced, the inference would certainly be a probable one, that to a period when society was in that improved condition, they really owed their birth. But in regard to the Hindus, their laws and institutions are adapted to the very state of society which those who visit them now behold. They are laws and institutions which, so far from importing any more perfect state of society, seem entirely inconsistent BOOK II. Chap. 10.with it; such as could neither begin, nor exist, under any other than one of the rudest and weakest states of the human mind. As the manners, the arts and sciences of the ancient Hindus are entirely correspondent with the state of their laws and institutions, every thing we know of the ancient state of Hindustan conspires to prove that it was rude.
It is another important fact, that, if the Hindus had ever been placed in this pretended state of civilization, we know of no such period of calamity, as was sufficient to reduce them to a state of ignorance and barbarity. The conquest of Hindustan, effected by the Mahomedan nations, was to no extraordinary degree sanguinary or destructive. It substituted sovereigns of one race to sovereigns of another, and mixed with the old inhabitants a small proportion of new; but it altered not the texture of society; it altered not the language of the country; the original inhabitants remained the occupants of the soil; they continued to be governed by their own laws and institutions; nay, the whole detail of administration, with the exception of the army, and a few of the more prominent situations, remained invariably in the hands of the native magistrates and officers.2 The few occasions of the persecution, to which, under the reigns of one or two bigoted sovereigns, they were subjected on the score of religion, were too short and too partial to produce any considerable effects.16
When we look for the particulars of those pretended BOOK II. Chap. 10.reigns of mighty kings, the universal lords of India, under whom science flourished, and civilization rose to the greatest height, we meet with nothing but fable, more wild, and inconsistent, and hyperbolical, than is any where else to be found. From this no rational conclusion can be drawn, except that it is the production of a rude and irrational age. Bharat, or Bharata, is said to have been the first universal sovereign of India, which from him derived its name; India being, in the language of the natives, Bharata Versh. In this, however, as usual, the Hindu accounts contradict themselves, since Bharat is represented BOOK II. Chap. 10.as preceding Rama, the son of Cush, who, according to Sir William Jones, might have established the first regular government in India.1 Judhishter is another of these universal sovereigns; but of him even the origin is allegorical; he is the son of Dherma, or the god of justice, and he reigned 27,000 years. The name, with which, chiefly, the idea of the universal sovereignship of India, and the glory of art and science, is combined, is that of Vicramaditya. Of him, let us hear what is represented; and then we shall be enabled to judge. “The two periods,” says Captain Wilford, “of Vicrama’ditya and Saliva’ha’na are intimately connected; and the accounts we have of these two extraordinary personages are much confused, teeming with contradictions and absurdities to a surprising degree. In general the Hindus know but of one Vicrama’ditya; but the learned acknowledge four; and when, at my request, they produced written authorities, I was greatly surprised to find no less than eight or nine. —Vicrama’ditya made a desperate tapasya, in order to obtain power and a long life from Ca’li’devi, and as she seemingly continued deaf to his entreaties, he was going to cut off his own head, when she appeared, and granted him undisturbed sway over all the world for one thousand years, after which a divine child, born of a virgin, and the son of the great Tacshaca, carpenter or artist, would deprive him both of his kingdom and of his life. This would happen in the year of the Cali yug, 3101, answering to the first of the Christian era. The history of these nine worthies, but more particularly when considered as a single individual, is a most crude and undigested mass of heterogeneous legends, taken from the apocryphal gospel of the infancy of Christ, the tales of the Rabbis and Talmudists concerning Solomon, with some particulars BOOK II. Chap. 10.about Muhammed; and the whole is jumbled together with some of the principal features of the history of the Persian kings of the Sassanian dynasty. Thus Vicrama is made contemporary with Solomon; and like him, he is said to have found the great mantra, spell or talisman; through which he ruled over the elements, and spirits of all denominations, who obeyed him like slaves. Like Solomon he had a most wonderful throne, supported and adorned with lions, who are endued with reason and speech. We read in the Vetala-pancha-vinsati, that it was through the assistance of the great Vetala, or devil, that two Vicrama’dityas obtained the empire of the world, a long life, with unlimited sway. They performed the pújá in his honour, offered sacrifices, and in short dedicated or gave themselves up to him.”1 On this foundation of historical matter is built the magnificent fabric of a great and universal monarchy, the reign of the arts and sciences, all that embellishes human life, and augments the human powers. Such being the premises, and such the conclusion, are they not admirably adapted to one another? The legend speaks, and that loudly, and distinctly, what it is; the creation of a rude and uncultivated fancy, exerting itself to rouse the wonder of a rude and uncultivated age, by a recital of actions, powers, and events, swelled beyond the measure of human nature; profiting by all the hints which the legends or history of other nations supplied to furnish out its story, and by appropriating the wonderful deeds of all the world to gratify the barbarous vanity of the people to whom the story was addressed. If the historian gave to his hero a reign of a thousand years; it was quite in the same temper, and conducive BOOK II. Chap. 10.to the same end, to give him the sovereignty of all India; and not only of all India, but, as we see was the fact, the sovereignty of the whole world. This is precisely the course which a wild and ignorant mind, regarding only the wonder which it has it in view to excite, naturally, in such cases, and almost universally, pursues. Such legends, if they existed in myriads, are no more a proof of a monarchy common to all India, which they do not assert, than of the universal monarchy of the whole world, or of the thousands or the myriads of years to one reign, which they expressly assert.1
The very lists which are found in the books of the Hindus, filled up with the names of successive monarchs, Mr. Wilford assures us, are the creation of the fancies of the writers, and are formed without any reference to facts. In enumerating the authorities, from which he drew his materials, in the essay on Vicramaditya and Salivahana, he says, “The fourth list has been translated into all the dialects of India, and new-modelled at least twenty different ways, according to the whims and pre-conceived ideas of every individual, who chose to meddle with it. It is, however, the basis and ground work of modern history among the Hindus; as in the Khulásetul Tuwarie, BOOK II. Chap. 10.and the Tadkeratussulatin. The latter treatise is a most perfect specimen of the manner of writing history in India; for, excepting the above list, almost every thing else is the production of the fertile genius of the compiler. In all these lists the compilers and revisers seem to have had no other object in view, but to adjust a certain number of remarkable epochs. This being once effected, the intermediate spaces are filled up with names of kings not to be found any where else, and most probably fanciful. Otherwise they leave out the names of those kings of whom nothing is recorded, and attribute the years of their reign in some among them better known, and of greater fame. They often do not scruple to transpose some of those kings, and even whole dynasties; either in consequence of some pre-conceived opinion, or owing to their mistaking a famous king for another of the same name. It was not uncommon with ancient writers, to pass from a remote ancestor to a remote descendant; or from a remote predecessor to a remote successor, by leaving out the intermediate generations or successions, and sometimes ascribing the years of their reigns to a remote successor or predecessor. In this manner the lists of the ancient kings of Persia, both by oriental writers, and others in the west, have been compiled: and some instances of this nature might be produced from Scripture. I was acquainted lately, at Benares, with a chronicler of that sort; and in the several conversations I had with him, he candidly acknowledged, that he filled up the intermediate spaces between the reigns of famous kings, with names at a venture; that he shortened or lengthened their reigns at pleasure; and that it was understood, that his predecessors had taken the same liberties. Through their emendations BOOK II. Chap. 10.and corrections, you see plainly a total want of historical knowledge and criticism; and sometimes some disingenuity is but too obvious. This is, however, the case with the sections on futurity in the Bhagavat, Vaya, Vishu, and Brahmanda Puranas; which with the above lists constitute the whole stock of historical knowledge among the Hindus; and the whole might be comprised in a few quarto pages of print.”1
Such is the mode, in which the authors of the Puranas supply themselves with a convenient quantity of ordinary kings: Mr. Wilford affords most satisfactory information with regard to the manner in which they further supply themselves with extraordinary ones. “The propensity,” says he, “of the Hindus, to appropriate every thing to themselves, is well known. We have noticed before their claims to Bahram-Gῦr and his descendants; and in the same manner they insist that Acbar was a Hindu in a former generation. The proximity of the time, in which this famous emperor lived, has forced them, however, to account for this in the following manner. There was a holy Brahmen, who wished very much to become emperor of India; and the only practicable way for him was to die first, and be born again. For this purpose be made a desperate Tapasya, wishing to remember then every thing he knew in his present generation. This could not be fully granted; but he was indulged with writing upon a brass plate a few things which he wished more particularly to remember; then he was directed to bury the plate, and promised that he would remember the place in the next generation. Mucunda, for such was his name, went to Allahabad, buried the plate, and then burned himself. Nine months after he was born in theBOOK II. Chap. 10.character of Acbar, who, as soon as he ascended the throne, went to Allahabad, and easily found the spot where the brass plate was buried. Thus the Hindus claim Muhammed and Acbar as their own; exactly like the Persians of old, who insisted that Alexander was the son of one of their kings; so that after all they were forced to submit to their countrymen only.”1
The account of the claim to Bahram-Gῦr, mentioned in the beginning of the preceding passage, is extremely important on the present occasion; as it shows us that Vicramaditya, whom the legend makes sovereign of the world, and the believers in the great Hindu monarchy take for emperor of Hindustan, was in reality a King of Persia, borrowed by the Brahmens, from their propensity to appropriate every thing remarkable which they heard of in the world. “One of these Vicramas,” says Mr. Wilford, speaking of the different persons in whom this Vicramaditya appears, “was really a Sassanian Prince: and the famous Shabour or Sapor, of that dynasty, who took the emperor Valens prisoner.”2 The story is as follows: “In Gurjjara-mandalam are the Sabharamati and Mahi rivers; between them is a forest, in which resided Tamralipta-rĭshi, whose daughter married King Tamrasena. They had six male children and one daughter called Mandava-rec’ha. The King had two young lads, called Devas’arma and Havis’arma, whose duty chiefly was to wash, every day, the clothes of their master, in the waters of the nearest river. One day, as Devas’arma went, by himself, for that purpose, he heard a voice, saying, BOOK II. Chap. 10.Tell King Tamrasena to give me his daughter; should he refuse me he will repent it. The lad on his return mentioned the whole to his master; who would not believe it, and the next day sent Havis’arma to the river, who heard the same voice also, with the threats in case of a refusal. The King was astonished; and going himself heard the voice also. On his return he assembled his council; and after consulting together, it was agreed, that the King should go again, and ask him who he was. The supposed spirit being questioned, answered, I am a Gand’harva, or heavenly choirister; who, having incurred Indra’s displeasure, was doomed to assume the shape of an ass. I was born in that shape, in the house of a cumbhacara, or potter, in your capital city; and I am daily roving about in quest of food. The King said that he was very willing to give him his daughter; but that he conceived that such an union was altogether impossible while he remained in that shape. The Gand’harva said, Trouble not yourself about that; comply with my request, and it shall be well with you. If, says the King, you are so powerful, turn the walls of my city, and those of the houses, into brass; and let it be done before sun-rise to-morrow. The Gand’harva agreed to it, and the whole was completed by the appointed time; and the King of course gave him his daughter. This Gand’harva’s name was Jayanta, the son of Brahma. When cursed by Indra, he humbled himself; and Indra relenting, allowed him to resume his human shape in the night time; telling him that the curse should not be done away, till somebody had burned his ass-like frame. The mother of the damsel spied them once in the night; and, to her great joy, found that the Gand’harva dallied with her daughter in a human shape. Rejoiced at this discovery, she looked for his ass-like form, and burned it. Early in the morning,BOOK II. Chap. 10.the Gand’harva looked for this body of his, and found that it had been destroyed. He returned immediately to his wife, informing her of what had happened, and that his curse being at an end, he was obliged to return to heaven, and leave her. He informed her also that she was with child by him, and that the name of the child was to be Vicramaditya.”1 After the statement of some other particulars, Mr. Wilford says; “This is obviously the history of Yesdegird, son of Bahram-Gῦr, or Bahram the ass, King of Persia: the grand features are the same, and the times coincide perfectly. The amours of Bahram-Gῦr, with an Indian princess, are famous all over Persia, as well as in India.”2 Such are the accounts of Vicramaditya, from which we are called upon for our belief of an universal monarchy, and a period of civilization and knowledge.3
BOOK II. Chap. 10.Our experience of human nature, and the phenomena which are exhibited under the manners, attainments, and institutions of the Hindus, are the onlyBOOK II. Chap. 10.materials from which a rational inference can be drawn. It is by no means impossible for a people, who have passed but a small number of stages in the career of civilization, to be united, extensively, under one government, and to remain steady for a great length of time in that situation. The empire of China is one conspicuous proof; the ancient kingdom of Persia, which for several ages stood exempt from revolution, is another. The Ottoman empire may be considered as a similar instance. And the Russians, a BOOK II. Chap. 10.barbarous people, have long formed a very extensive monarchy. It would, therefore, be far from evidence of any higher civilization, among the Hindus, than what they now manifest, had the existence of a great monarchy been proved. Among uncivilized nations, however, it is most common to find a perpetual succession of revolutions, and communities in general small; though sometimes a prince or individual with uncommon talents arises; and, acquiring power, extends his authority over several of those communities; or even, as in the case of Charlemagne, over a great number; while, after his death, the large empire which he had erected gradually dissolves, till the whole, or the greater part, is re-divided into small communities as before. Every thing which the Europeans have seen in Hindustan conspires to prove that such subdivision of communities, and occasional and temporary extensions of power in particular hands, have composed the history of that country. The Mahratta empire affords a striking example of those changes which seem natural to the circumstances in which the people are placed. Within the period of the modern intercourse of the Europeans with Hindustan, an aspiring individual was enabled to extend his authority, partly by persuasion, partly by force, first over one district, and then over another, till at last he united under his command an extensive empire, composed chiefly of the separate and disjointed communities, who occupied the mountainous districts in the western and central parts of Hindustan.1 Soon was this empire broken into several different governments, the owners of which hardly acknowledged even a nominalBOOK II. Chap. 10.homage to the throne of Sevagee; and had they been left to themselves, free from the irresistible operation of the British power, the empire of the Mahrattas, in all probability, would have been resolved, ere this time, into its primitive elements. Even the empire of the Moguls, itself; though erected on firmer foundations than it is reasonable to suppose that any Hindu monarchy ever enjoyed; though supported by a foreign force; and acted upon by peculiar motives for maintaining undivided power, had no sooner attained its greatest extension by the conquests of Aurungzebe, than it began immediately to fall to pieces; and a single century beheld it in fragments.
The monuments of the ancient state of Hindustan conspire in giving indication of a troubled scene. Every ancient writing, which bears any reference to the matter of history, the historical poems, the Puranas, hold up to view a state of society, the reverse of tranquil; perpetual broils, dethronements, injustice, wars, conquests, and bloodshed. Among the most important of all the documents of antiquity found in Hindustan, are the inscriptions, declaratory of grants of land, made by the ancient princes of the country. These princes are so far from appearing to have presided over a peaceful land, that they are all represented, as victorious warriors; and as having been surrounded by enemies, over whom they have triumphed, and whom they have severely chastised.1 Almost all the princes mentioned in these inscriptions, BOOK II. Chap. 10.princes in all the parts of India, and not pretended to have been more than the sovereigns of some particular district, are described as the conquerors and sovereigns of the whole world.1
Of the unsparing and destructive cruelty which accompanied the perpetual wars and conquests of the Hindus, among other proofs, the following may be considered as strong. In the inscription found at Tanna, part of the panegyric bestowed upon the donor Prince, is in these words; “Having raised up his slain foe on his sharp sword, he so afflicted the women in the hostile palaces, that their forelocks fell disordered, their garlands of bright flowers dropped from their necks on the vases of their breasts, and the black lustre of their eyes disappeared; a warrior, the plant of whose fame grows up over the temple of Brahma’s egg [the universe] from the-repeated-watering-of-it-with-the-drops-that-fell-from-the-eyes-of-the-wives-of-his-slaughtered-foe.”2 It would be in the highest degree absurd to reject this, were it even a solitary instance, as evidence of a general fact; because the exterminating ferocity is described as matter of the highest praise; and panegyric, to be what it is, must be conformable to the ideas of the people to whom it is addressed.30
The picture which Major Rennel, looking only to a limited period, drew of the state of Hindustan, may be taken, agreeably to every thing which we know BOOK II. Chap. 10.of Hindustan, as the picture of it, to the remotest period of its history. Rebellions, massacres, and barbarous conquests, make up the history of this fair country, (which to an ordinary observer seems destined to be the paradise of the world,)—the immediate effect of the mad ambition of conquering more than can be governed by one man.”1 “Revolutions,” (says Sonnerat, directing his attention to the coast of Malabar, which had been little affected by foreign conquest) “have been more rapid in this than in any other part of the globe. A daring robber, possessed BOOK II. Chap. 10.of policy and courage, in a short time gives laws to the whole coast, but in his turn becomes tributary to a bolder villain, who marching in the same path, subjects him to that lot he had inflicted on others.”1
Notwithstanding, in other respects, the extreme scantiness and uncertainty of the materials for any inferences except the most general, in regard to the ancient state of Hindustan, there is a great body of evidence to prove the habitual division of the country into a number of moderate, and most frequently, petty sovereignties and states.2 In the dramatic poem Sacontala, the daughter of the hermit asks the royal stranger, who had visited their consecrated grove; “What imperial family is embellished by our noble guest? What is his native country? Surely it must be afflicted by his absence from it?” The question undoubtedly implied that there were more royal families than one to which he might belong; and these at no remarkable distance; since the stranger was known to have come into the forest in the course of a hunting excursion. In the Hetopadesa mentionBOOK II. Chap. 10. is made of a variety of princes. Thus in the compass of a few pages, we are told; “In the country of Calinga is a prince, named Rucmangada, who, advancing with preparations to subdue the adjacent regions, has fixed his station near the river Chandrabhaga.”2 Again, “In the country of Canyacuja is a prince named Virasena.”2 And further, “There is near the Bhagirathi a city, named Pataliputra, in which lived a prince named Sundersana.”3 In the inscription, formerly quoted, found at Monghir, and bearing date 23 years B. C. there is sufficient proof of the division of Hindustan into numerous kingdoms. Gopaal, the prince or the father of the prince by whom the grant is made, is panegyrized as the conqueror of many princes; and his son is, “He, who marching through many countries, making conquests, arrived with his elephants, in the forests of the mountains Beendhyo, where seeing again their longlost families, they mixed their mutual tears; and who going to subdue other princes, his young horses meeting their females at Komboge, they mutually neighed for joy:—who conquered the earth from the source of the Ganges as far as the well-known bridge which was constructed by the enemy of Dosaesyo, from the river of Luckeecool as far as the ocean of the habitation of Booroon.”4 If this prince overran the peninsula, and conquered a multitude of princes, the peninsula must have been possessed by a multitude of princes before. And we may form an idea of the exaggeration used in the account of his victories, when we are told that his father Gopaal was king of the world, and possessed of two brides, the earth and her wealth.5 The conquests by those princes, even when they took place, were but inroads, never to any considerable extent, effecting a durable possession. This BOOK II. Chap. 10. prince himself we are told, “when he had completed his conquests, released all the rebellious princes he had made captive; and each returning to his own country laden with presents, reflected upon this generous deed, and longed to see him again.”1 The laws frequently afford evidence to the same purpose. The penalty, so frequently imposed, of banishment from one kingdom to another, proves the vicinity of different kingdoms.2 The following is another instance in point: “If a lender of money says to a person, A debt due to me is outstanding in your hands, and that person denies the debt, if at that time the bond is not in the lender’s hands, but should be in some other kingdom, then, until he brings the bond from such other kingdom, the suit shall not be determined.”3 In the code of Menu is a series of rules for behaviourBOOK II. Chap. 10. to neighbouring princes; sufficiently proving, that Hindustan was in that state of subdivison which rendered these rules pertinent and useful.1 These articles, to which there is nothing whatsoever opposed, but the absurd fables of the Brahmens, constitute a degree of evidence to which we may with sufficient confidence attach our belief.2
BOOK II. Chap. 10.We have already seen, in reviewing the Hindu form of government, that despotism, in one of its simplest and least artificial shapes, was established in Hindustan, and confirmed by laws of Divine authority. We have seen likewise, that by the division of the people into castes, and the prejudices which the detestable views of the Brahmens raised to separate them, a degrading and pernicious system of subordination was established among the Hindus, and that the vices of such a system were there carried to a more destructive height than among any other people.1 And we have seen that by a system of priestcraft, built upon the most enormous and tormenting superstition that ever harassed and degraded any portion of mankind, their minds were enchained moreBOOK II. Chap. 10. intolerably than their bodies; in short that, despotism and priestcraft taken together, the Hindus, in mind and body, were the most enslaved portion of the human race. Sir William Jones, in his preface to the translation of the Institutes of Menu, says, that this code exhibits “a system of despotism and priestcraft, both indeed limited by law, but artfully conspiring to give mutual support, though with mutual checks.” The despotism and priestcraft of the system were, it seems, too glaring to be mistaken or denied; but, in order to palliate the deformity, Sir William is betrayed into nonsense. A despotism, he says, limited by law; as if a despotism limited by law were not a contradiction in terms; what is limited by law, so far as so limited, being not a despotism. A priestcraft, he also says, limited by law: A law of which the priests themselves were the sole makers, and the sole interpreters! A despotism, and a priestcraft, he says, with mutual checks. Yes, truly; it was the interest of the priestcraft to check the despotism, in all encroachments on the priestcraft; and it was the interest of the despotism to check the priestcraft, in all encroachments on the despotism: But who checked the despotism and the priestcraft in oppressing the people? Alas! no one. It was the interest of the despotism and the priestcraft to join together in upholding their common tyranny over the people; and it must be allowed that so commanding a motive had all the influence upon their conduct which it might be expected to have. Apply this remark of the splendid orientalist to the Turks: There is a despotism and a priestcraft, limited, (if we may so abuse the term,) and still more strictly limited, by law; for the Moslem laws are more precise and accurate than those of the Hindus: There, too, the BOOK II. Chap. 10. despotism and priestcraft check one another: But has all this prevented the Turkish despotism and priestcraft from being the scourge of human nature; the source of barbarity and desolation?
That the Hindu despotism was not practically mild, we have a number of satisfactory proofs. We have seen the cruelty and ferocity of the penal laws; itself a circumstance of the highest importance. “A thunderbolt,” says the author of the Hetopadesa, “and the power of kings are both dreadful! But the former expendeth its fury at once, whilst the latter is constantly falling upon our heads.”1 Some of the observations are so comprehensive, and pointed, as to afford the strongest evidence. “In this world,” says the same celebrated book, “which is subject to the power of one above, a man of good principles is hard to be found, in a country, for the most part, governed by the use of the rod.”2 “Princes in general, alas! turn away their faces from a man endowed with good qualities.”3 “The conduct of princes, like a fine harlot, is of many colours: True and false, harsh and gentle; cruel and merciful; niggardly and generous; extravagant of expense, and solicitous of the influx of abundant wealth and treasure.”4 “An elephant killeth even by touching, a servant even by smelling, a king even by ruling.”5 All the general maxims of the Hindus import theBOOK II. Chap. 10.extreme degradation of the great body of the people. “The assistance, O king, which is rendered to those of low degree, is like endeavouring to please bears. A low person should never be placed in the station of the great. One of low degree having obtained a worthy station seeketh to destroy his master.”1 “The Hindus,” says Dr. Buchanan, “in their state of independence, exacted deference from those under them with a cruelty and arrogance rarely practised but among themselves. A Nair was expected instantly to cut down a Tiar or Mucua, who presumed to defile him by touching his person; and a similar fate awaited a slave, who did not turn out of the road as a Nair passed.”2 In Sacontala, Dushmantu is represented as a king who possessed every virtue, and made happiness flourish as in the golden age. Yet we have a specimen of the justice and legality which prevailed during this happy reign, in the passage relating to the innocent fisherman. He was found, by certain of the king’s officers, offering to sale a ring with the king’s name upon it. They instantly seize him, and drag him away to justice: all the while beating and bruising him; and loading him with opprobrious epithets. The victim of this brutal treatment offers only the most humble entreaties, making statement of the facts, and protestation of his innocence. Upon the sight of the ring, the king acknowledges that he is innocent; and orders him a sum of money, equal in value to the ring. Of this reward he is obliged to resign a half to the very men BOOK II. Chap. 10.who had abused him, “to escape,” it is said, “the effects of their displeasure.”1
The laws for guarding the authority of the magistrate exhibit a character of extreme severity, and indicate an habitual state of the most rigid domination. “If a man speaks reproachfully of any upright magistrate, the magistrate shall cut out his tongue, or, having confiscated all his effects, shall banish him the kingdom.”2 By this law even the privilege of complaint was taken from the wretched Hindu. The victim of oppression was bound, under ferocious penalties, to suffer in silence.
The following is a law by which every act of despotism is legalized. “If a magistrate, for his own good, hath passed any resolutions, whoever refuses to submit to such resolutions, the magistrate shall cut out that person’s tongue.”3 If every resolution which the magistrate chooses to pass for his own good, is by the very circumstance of his passing it, obligatory under violent penalties, the state of the government is not doubtful.
“If a man makes complaint before the magistrate against the magistrate’s counsellor, without any real fault in him, or performs any business or service for the magistrate’s accuser, the magistrate shall put him to death.”4 Under the operation of this law, the magistrate had little to fear from accusation. There could be no remedy for any grievance; because the existence of any grievance could hardly ever be told. If the magistrate was willing to hear of his own misconduct, or that of his servants, in that case heBOOK II. Chap. 10.might hear of it; where he was unwilling, in that case it was death.1
Though all peaceable applications for the redress of grievances were thus precluded, any violence offered to the person of the magistrate, was punished in a manner which none but the most savage people ever endured. “If a magistrate has committed a crime, and any person, upon discovery of that crime, should beat and ill-use the magistrate, in that case, whatever be the crime of murdering one hundred Brahmins, such crime shall be accounted to that person: and the magistrate shall thrust an iron spit through him, and roast him at the fire.”2
The notices afforded us of particular sovereigns are exceedingly few. But, such as they are, most of them declare the misgovernment and cruelty of the individuals to whom they relate. “According to Plutarch, in his life of Alexander, Chandra-Gupta (I use the words of Mr. Wilford) had been in that prince’s camp, and had been heard to say afterwards, that Alexander would have found no difficulty in the conquest of Prachi, or the country of the Prasians, had he attempted it, as the King was despised and hated too, on account of his cruelty.”3
BOOK II. Chap. 10.As the Hindu manners and character are invariable, according to their admirers; these admirers cannot consistently reject their present, as proof of their ancient, behaviour; and all men will allow that it affords strong ground of inference. “It is a remark,” says one of the best informed observers of Hindustan, “warranted by constant experience, that wherever the government is administered by Gentoos, the people are subject to more and severer oppressions than when ruled by the Moors. I have imputed this to intelligent Gentoos, who have confessed the justice of the accusation, and have not scrupled to give their opinions concerning it.” The opinions of these Gentoos are as favourable to themselves as, suiting the occasion, they could possibly make them. “A Gentoo,” say they, “is not only born with a spirit of more subtile invention, but by his temperance and education becomes more capable of attention to affairs, than a Moor; who no sooner obtains power than he is lost in voluptuousness; he becomes vain and lordly, and cannot dispense with satiating the impulses of his sensual appetites; whereas a Gentoo Prince retains in his Durbar the same spirit which would actuate him if keeping a shop.” Mr. Orme adds, “Avarice is his predominant passion; and all the wiles, address, cunning, and perseverance, of which he is so exquisite a master, are exerted to the utmost in fulfilling the dictates of this vice; and his religion, instead of inspiring, frees him from the remorse of his crimes; for whilst he is harassing and plundering the people by the most cruel oppressions, he is making peace with the gods by denyingBOOK II. Chap. 10. nothing to their priests.” Mr. Orme exhibits an impressive example. “The present King of Travancore (an Hindu prince whose dominions had never been subject to a foreign government) has conquered or carried war into all the countries which lay round his dominions, and lives in the continual exercise of his arms. To atone for the blood which he has spilt, the Brachmans persuaded him that it was necessary he should be born anew: this ceremony consisted in putting the prince into the body of a golden cow of immense value, where, after he had laid the time prescribed, he came out regenerated and freed from all the crimes of his former life. The cow was afterwards cut up and divided amongst the Seers who had invented this extraordinary method for the remission of his sins.”1 No testimony can be stronger BOOK II. Chap. 10. to the natural tendency of the Hindu religion, and to the effects which their institutions are calculated to produce.1
Among other expedients for saving the favouriteBOOK II. Chap. 10. system, it has been maintained that the petty states and princes in Hindustan were but subordinate parts of one great monarchy, whose sceptre they acknowledged, and mandates they obeyed. There is no definable limit to gratuitous suppositions. If we are to be satisfied with opinions not only void of proof, but opposed by every thing of the nature of proof, attainable upon the subject, we may conjure up one opinion after another; and nothing, except physical impossibility or a defect of ingenuity, can set bounds to our affirmations. In the loose mode of thinking, or rather of talking without thinking, which has prevailed concerning Indian affairs, the existence of BOOK II. Chap. 10. feudal institutions in modern Europe has constituted a sufficient basis for the belief of feudal institutions in India; though it would have been just as rational to conclude that, because the Saxon language forms the basis of most of the languages of Europe, therefore the Saxon language forms the basis of the language in India.
There are two modes in which the subordination of a number of petty princes to a great one may take place. The inferior states may exist merely as conquered, enslaved countries, paying tribute to a foreign government, obeying its mandates, and crouching under its lash. A second mode would be, where the inferior states were connected together by confederacy, and acknowledged a common head for the sake of unity, but possessed the right of deliberating in common upon common concerns. It may with confidence be pronounced, that in neither mode is the supposed effect compatible with the state of civilization in Hindustan.
To retain any considerable number of countries in subjection, preserving their own government, and their own sovereigns, would be really arduous, even where the science of government were the best understood. To suppose it possible in a country where the science of government is in the state indicated by the laws and institutions of the Hindus, would be in the highest degree extravagant. Even the Romans themselves, with all the skill which they possessed, retained their provinces in subjection, only by sending thither their own governors and their own armies, and superseding entirely the ancient authorities of the country. The moderation of conquering, without seizing, is a phenomenon so rarely exemplified in the most civilized times, that to suppose it universal in India, is to make a supposition in contradiction to the known laws of human affairs, and even to particularBOOK II. Chap. 10.experience. Wherever an Indian sovereign is able to take possession, he hastens to take it. Wherever he can make a plundering incursion, though unable to retain, he ravages and destroys. Now it sometimes happens, that a neighbouring prince, too weak to prevent or chastise these injuries, endeavours to purchase exemption from them by a composition. This, in the language of the Mahrattas, who, in modern times, have been almost the only people in India in a situation to exact it, is called Chout, of which the standard is a fourth part of the revenues of the district liable to be over-run. It has in several instances, and these abundantly recent ones, been payed, for certain districts, by the British government itself, without the most distant idea of any lordship paramount in the Mahrattas. It is abundantly evident that this species of subordination, if subordination it can be called, never could have extended far; never could reach beyond the countries immediately contiguous to that from which the chance of mischief arose.
A confederation of princes, similar to that which was exemplified in Germany, and which no combination of circumstances has elsewhere produced, is a supposition, still more opposed to experience. Of all the results of civilization, that of forming a combination of different states, and directing their powers to one common object, seems to be one of the least consistent with the mental habits and attainments of the Hindus.1 It is the want of this power of combination BOOK II. Chap. 10. which has rendered India so easy a conquest to all invaders; and enables us to retain, so easily, that dominion over it which we have acquired. Where is there any vestige in India of that deliberative assembly of princes, which in Germany was known by the name of the Diet? Where is there any memorial of that curious constitution by which the union of the German princes was preserved; or of those elections by which they chose among themselves him who should be at their head? That nominal homage, which the Mahratta chiefs paid to the throne of Sevagee, was a temporary circumstance, entirely of a different nature. These chiefs were not subordinate princes, but revolted subjects, in a dismembered empire. There was among them no confederacy. When at war with Scindia, the British were at peace with the Peshwa and Holkar; when they were at war with Holkar, they were at peace with the rest. They acknowledged a subordination to the primary seat of government, only because their subjects had been accustomed to look to it; and because they were not yet secure of their obedience.1
They, who affirm the high state of civilization among the Hindus previous to their subjugation to foreigners, proceed so directly in opposition to evidence,BOOK II. Chap. 10. that wherever the Hindus have been always exempt from the dominion of foreigners, there they are uniformly found in a state of civilization inferior to those who have long been the subjects of a Mahomedan throne.1
It is in no quarter pretended, that the Hindu superstition was ever less gross than it now appears. It is remarkable, that in any quarter it should not be recollected, that superstition necessarily gives way, as civilization advances. Powerful, at an early age, among the Greeks and Romans, it finally ceased to have almost any influence;2 and Goguet had long ago declared, with philosophical truth, that “we wanted no evidence to prove the ignorance and rudeness of the Greeks in the heroic times; their credulity and their respect for oracles are proofs, more than sufficient. This species of superstition has no force or dominion, but in proportion to the gross ignorance BOOK II. Chap. 10. of the people: witness the savages, who do not undertake any thing till they have previously consulted their divines and their oracles.”1
So many regulations are found in the Hindu codes of law respecting seasons of calamity; seasons when it is supposed that a great portion of the people are without the means of subsistence, that those dreadful visitations must be very frequent. From which soever of these two great causes, famine, or the ravages of war, the frequency of those calamities arose, it equally bars the supposition of good government and high civilization.2
If we apply the reflection, which has been much admired, that if a man were to travel over the whole world, he might take the state of the roads, that is, the means of internal communication in general, as a measure of the civilization; a very low estimate will be formed of the progress of the Hindus. “In India,” says Rennel, “the roads are little better than paths, and the rivers without bridges.”3 “In Malabar,” says Dr. Buchanan, speaking of the wretched state of the roads, “even cattle are little used for the transportation of goods, which are generally carried by porters.”4 The Emperor, Shah Jehan, constructed certain roads in Bengal, which were celebrated as prodigies; but the remains of them, Dr. Tennant remarks, sufficiently manifest that they can neverBOOK II. Chap. 10. have been good, and the admiration they excited proves nothing except the wretched condition of every thing, under the name of road, which had been known in India before.1 Another fact, of much importance, is, that a Mahomedan sovereign was the first who established Choultries; that is, Caravanseras, or houses of reception for travellers upon the road, of which, till that period, they had no experience. “This fact,” says Mr. Forster, “also recorded in Dow’s history, is well known amongst the natives.”2
Among the pretensions received without examination, that of enormous riches found in India by the first Mahomedan conquerors, requires particular attention. If those accounts had not far exceeded all reasonable bounds, it would have been a matter of difficulty, to prove the falsehood of them, except to those who were capable of estimating one circumstance, in any state of society, by its analogy with the rest. As the amount, however, stated by those authors, whose testimony has been adopted; by Ferishta, for example, followed by Dow; far exceeds the bounds not of probability only, but of credibility; and affords decisive evidence of that Eastern exaggeration which in matters of history disdains to be guided by fact, the question is left free of any considerable difficulty.3 These accounts refute themselves. We have, therefore, no testimony on the subject; for all that is presented to us in the shape of testimony betrays itself to be merely fiction. We are left to our knowledge of circumstances, and to the inferences which they support. Now if the preceding induction, embracing the circumstances of Hindu society, is to be BOOK II. Chap. 10. relied on, it will not be disputed, that a state of poverty and wretchedness, as far as the great body of the people are concerned, must have prevailed in India, not more in the times in which it has been witnessed by Europeans, than the times which preceded. A gilded throne, or the display of gold, silver, and precious stones, about the seat of a court, does not invalidate this inference. Only there where gold and silver are scarce, can the profuse display of them about the monarch’s person either gratify the monarch’s vanity, or dazzle by its rarity the eyes of the multitude. Perhaps there are few indications more decisive of a poor country, and a barbarous age, than the violent desire of exhibiting the precious metals and precious stones, as the characteristic marks and decorations of the chief magistrate.1
The science of political economy places this conclusion on the ground of demonstration. For the people to have been rich in gold and silver, these commodities must have circulated among them in the shape of money. But of gold and silver in the shape of money, no nation has more, than what is in proportion to its exchangeable commodities. Now that ever the people of Hindustan were profusely supplied with commodities, every thing in their manners, habits, government, and history, concur to disprove. There is, besides, a well-established fact, which ascertains the impossibility of their having abounded in gold and silver. Their commodities were not exchanged by the medium of the precious metals. The traffic of India, as in the rudest parts of the earth, was chiefly a traffic of barter; and its taxes, as already seen, were paid in kind. It was not till the time of Akber that gold or silver was coined for circulation,BOOK II. Chap. 10. in the greatest part of India; antecedently to that period small pieces of copper were the only coin.1 Up to the present hour, when the real signs of riches and civilization are but just beginning to be understood, nothing has been more common with rash and superficial travellers, than to set down lofty accounts of the riches of almost every new country to which they repaired.2
BOOK II. Chap. 10.As rude nations, still more than civilized, are incessantly harassed by the dangers, or following the gains of war; one of the first applications of knowledge is, to improve the military art. The Hindus have, at no period, been so far advanced in knowledge, as even to be aware of the advantage of discipline, of those regular and simultaneous movements, upon which, in skilled warfare, almost every thing depends. “In the Hindu armies,” says Francklin, “no idea of discipline ever existed.”1 “The rudeness of the military art in Indostan,” says Mr. Orme, “can scarce be imagined but by those who have seen it. The infantry consists of a multitude of people assembled together without regard to rank and file.”2
Even medicine and surgery, to the cultivation ofBOOK II. Chap. 10. which so obvious and powerful an interest invites, had scarcely, beyond the degree of the most uncultivated tribes, attracted the rude understanding of the Hindus. Though the leisure of the Brahmens has multiplied books, on astrology, on the exploits of the gods, and other worthless subjects, to such a multitude, “that human life,” says Sir W. Jones, “would not be sufficient to make oneself acquainted with any considerable part of Hindu literature,”1 he yet confesses, there is “no evidence that in any language of Asia, there exists one original treatise on medicine, considered as a science.”2 Surgery, says an author, who believes in the high civilization of the Hindus, is unknown among that people. In the case of gunshot, or sabre wounds, all they did was to wash the wound, and tie it up with fresh leaves; the patient, during the period of convalescence, eating nothing but the water gruel of rice.3
BOOK II. Chap. 10.In comparing them with other people, it cannot, in a single word, be declared, with which of the nations, more familiar to Europeans, the Hindus, in point of civilization, may be regarded as on a level; because, in comparison with those whom they most nearly approach, while inferior to them in some, they are superior, in other respects. Should we say that the civilization of the people of Hindustan, and that of the people of Europe, during the feudal ages, are not far from equal, we shall find upon a close inspection, that the Europeans were superior, in the first place, notwithstanding the vices of the papacy, in religion; and, notwithstanding the defects of the schoolmen, in philosophy. They were greatly superior, notwithstanding the defects of the feudal system, in the institutions of government and in laws. Even their poetry, if the observance of nature, if the power of moving the affections, or indeed ingenuity of invention, be regarded as the marks of excellence, is beyond all comparison preferable to the poetry of the Hindus. That, in war, the Hindus have always been greatly inferior to the warlike nations of Europe, during theBOOK II. Chap. 10.middle ages, it seems hardly necessary to assert.1 In some of the more delicate manufactures, however, particularly in spinning, weaving, and dyeing, the Hindus, as they rival all nations, so they no doubt surpass all that was attained by the rude Europeans. In the fabrication, too, of trinkets; in the art of polishing and setting the precious stones; it is possible, and even probable, that our impatient and rough ancestors did not attain the same nicety which is displayed by the patient Hindus. In the arts of painting and sculpture, we have no reason to think that the Europeans were excelled by the Hindus. In architecture, the people who raised the imposing structures which yet excite veneration in many of the ancient cathedrals, were not left behind by the builders of the Indian pagodas.2 The agriculture of the BOOK II. Chap. 10.Europeans, imperfect as it was, surpassed exceedingly that of the Hindus; for with the climate and soil of most of the countries of Europe, agriculture, so imperfect as that of India, could not have maintained the population. In point of manners and character, the manliness and courage of our ancestors, compared with the slavish and dastardly spirit of the Hindus, place them in an elevated rank. But they were inferior to that effeminate people in gentleness, and the winning arts of address. Our ancestors, however, though rough, were sincere; but, under the glosing exterior of the Hindu, lies a general disposition to deceit and perfidy. In fine, it cannot be doubted that, upon the whole, the gothic nations, as soon as they became a settled people, exhibit the marks of a superior character and civilization to those of the Hindus.1
No one can take an accurate survey of the differentBOOK II. Chap. 10.nations of Asia, and of their different ages, without remarking the near approaches they make to the same stage of civilization. This gives a peculiar interest and importance to the inquiry respecting the Hindus. There can be no doubt that they are in a state of civilization very nearly the same with that of the Chinese, the Persians, and the Arabians; who, together, compose the great branches of the Asiatic population; and of which the subordinate nations, the Japanese, Cochin-chinese, Siamese, Burmans, and even Malays and Tibetians, are a number of corresponding and resembling offsets.
With regard to former ages, it is true, that the religion, and several circumstances in the outward forms of society, have been altered in Persia, since the days of Darius; but the arts, the sciences, the literature, the manners, the government, concur to prove, in a remarkable manner, the near approach of the two periods to the same points of civilization. The ancient Persians, too, there is reason to believe, were placed in BOOK II. Chap. 10.nearly the same state of society with the people whom they succeeded; the Chaldeans, Assyrians, and Babylonians. In contemplating, therefore, the state of Hindustan, curiosity is very extensively gratified. As the manners, institutions, and attainments of the Hindus, have been stationary for many ages; in beholding the Hindus of the present day, we are beholding the Hindus of many ages past; and are carried back, as it were, into the deepest recesses of antiquity. Of some of the oldest nations, about which our curiosity is the most alive, and information the most defective, we acquire a practical, and what may be almost denominated a personal knowledge, by our acquaintance with a living people, who have continued on the same soil from the very times of those ancient nations, partake largely of the same manners, and are placed at nearly the same stage in the progress of society. By conversing with the Hindus of the present day, we, in some measure, converse with the Chaldeans and Babylonians of the time of Cyrus; with the Persians and Egyptians of the time of Alexander.
A judicious observer of Asiatic manners declares that “The leading customs of the various nations of Asia are similar, or but weakly diversified. When they sit, the legs are crossed or bent under them; they perform topical ablutions before and after meals, at which no knife or spoon is used, unless the diet be wholly liquid; they invariably adopt the like modes of performing natural evacuations.”1
The account which Gibbon presents us, from Herodian, and Ammianus Marcellinus, of the art of war among the Persians, in the time of the Roman emperors, is an exact description of the art, as practised by the Persians and Hindus, and by most of the other nations of Asia, at the present day. “The science of war, that constituted the more rational force of GreeceBOOK II. Chap. 10. and Rome, as it now does of Europe, never made any considerable progress in the East. Those disciplined evolutions which harmonize and animate a confused multitude, were unknown to the Persians. They were equally unskilled in the arts of constructing, besieging, or defending regular fortifications. They trusted more to their numbers than to their courage; more to their courage than to their discipline. The infantry was a half-armed, spiritless crowd of peasants, levied in haste by the allurements of plunder, and as easily dispersed by a victory as by a defeat. The monarch and his nobles, transported into the camp the pride and luxury of the seraglio. Their military operations were impeded by a useless train of women, eunuchs, horses and camels; and in the midst of a successful campaign, the Persian host was often separated or destroyed by an unexpected famine.”1
In the system of Zoroaster, and in that of the Brahmens, we find the same lofty expressions concerning the invisible powers of nature; the same absurdity in the notions respecting the creation; the same infinite and absurd ritual; the same justness in many ideas respecting the common affairs of life and morality; the same gross misunderstanding in others; but a striking resemblance between the two systems, both in their absurdities and perfections. The same turn of imagination seems to have belonged to the authors of both; and the same aspect of nature to have continually presented itself; the deformities however of the Hindu system being always the greatest.
The Persians, in the time of Cambyses, had judges, select sages, who were appointed for life; and whose BOOK II. Chap. 10. business it was, according to pre-established laws, to terminate all disputes, and punish crimes. This, like similar circumstances, in the state of the Hindus, presents part of the forms of a legal government. These judges, however, when consulted by the king if he might perform an act, on which for fear of popular odium he hesitated to venture, gave a solemn opinion, that for the king of the Persians it was law, to do whatsoever he pleased.1 “This constitutional maxim,” says Gibbon archly, “was not neglected as an useless and barren theory.”2
“Like Brimha, the Fo of the Chinese has various times become incarnate among men and beasts. Hence he is represented in his temples as riding upon dragons, rhinoceroses, elephants, mules and asses; dogs, rats, cats, crocodiles, and other amiable creatures, whose figures he fancied and assumed. There are in some of these pagodas, a thousand of these monstrous statues, all most horribly ugly, and ill represented, and unlike any thing in heaven or earth, or the waters under the earth.”3
Under the reign of credulity, it is instructive toBOOK II. Chap. 10. mark the inconsiderateness of a reflecting writer. After many praises of the Chinese husbandry, such as those which we have often heard of the agriculture of the Hindus, Lord Macartney adds, “The plough is the simplest in the world, has but one handle, is drawn by a single buffalo, and managed by a single person without any assistance.”1 And Mr. Barrow says, “Two thirds of the small quantity of land under tillage is cultivated with the spade or the hoe, without the aid of draught cattle.”2
Even of the principal route from Pekin to Canton, Lord Macartney remarks; “For horse and foot the road is excellent, but admits of no wheel carriages.”3 Mr. Barrow more explicitly declares, that except near the capital, and in some few places where the junction of the grand canal with navigable rivers is interrupted by mountainous ground, there is scarcely a road in the whole country that can be ranked beyond a foot path.4 Even the grand canal itself was opened by the Tartar conqueror Gingis Khan, in the thirteenth century: and that solely with a view to convey the taxes, paid in kind, from the southern part of the empire to the capital, a great part of them having been always lost by the unskilfulness of Chinese navigation, when conveyed by sea.”5
Like the Hindus, before the improvements introduced among them by the Moguls, the Chinese have no coin, above a small one of copper; and the taxes of that immense empire are paid in kind.6
Lord Macartney remarks, that the Chinese have no natural philosophy; no medical or chirurgical skill; that a fractured leg is usually attended by death.1
In the sciences and arts of the Hindus and Chinese there is manifested a near approximation to the same point of advancement. In respect to government and laws, the Chinese have to a considerable degree the advantage. As they are a busy people, however; and have no idle class, whose influence depends upon the wonder they can excite by pretended learning, they have multiplied, far less than the Hindus, those false refinements, which a barbarous mind mistakes for science.2 Both have made greater progress in the refinement of the useful arts, than in the advancement of science. But in these too the Chinese appear to have the superiority; for though it may be doubted whether the Chinese manufacture of silk rivals in delicacy the cotton manufacture of the Hindus, the latter people have nothing to set in competition with the porcelain of the Chinese; and in the common works in wood and iron, the Chinese are conspicuously preferable. In the contrivance and use of machinery both are equally simple and rude.3
In the state of the fine arts, there is a striking resemblance between the two nations. “The architectureBOOK II. Chap. 10. of the Chinese,” says Mr. Barrow, “is void of taste, grandeur, beauty, solidity, or convenience; their houses are merely tents, and there is nothing magnificent in the palace of the emperor.”1 Both nations were good at imitation.2 Both were extremely defective in invention. In painting and sculpture they were ignorant of perspective, of attitude, and proportion.
Even in manners, and in the leading parts of the moral character, the lines of resemblance are strong. Both nations are to nearly an equal degree tainted with the vices of insincerity; dissembling, treacherous, mendacious, to an excess which surpasses even the usual measure of uncultivated society. Both are disposed to excessive exaggeration with regard to every thing relating to themselves. Both are cowardly and unfeeling. Both are in the highest degree conceited of themselves, and full of affected contempt for others. Both are, in the physical sense, disgustingly unclean in their persons and houses.99
BOOK II. Chap. 10.With respect to the inhabitants of another quarter of Asia, Turner, in his account of the embassy to Tibet, informs us, that the deportment of the Rajah of Bootan was exceedingly urbane, and his sentiments breathed that sort of humanity which seems to flow from the belief of the metempsychosis. “My food, said he, consists of the simplest articles; grain, roots of the earth, and fruits. I never eat of any thing which has had breath, for so I should be the indirect cause of putting an end to the existence of animal life, which by our religion is strictly forbidden.”1
Though frequent ablutions are performed for religious purposes, the same author informs us that the people in their persons are extremely unclean.2
“Bootan presents to the view nothing but the most mishapen irregularities; mountains covered with eternal verdure, and rich with abundant forests of large and lofty trees. Almost every favourable aspect of them, coated with the smallest quantity of soil, is cleared and adapted to cultivation, by being shelved into horizontal beds; not a slope or narrow slip of land between the ridges lies unimproved. There isBOOK II. Chap. 10.scarcely a mountain whose base is not washed by some rapid torrent, and many of the loftiest bear populous villages, amidst orchards and other plantations on their summits and on their sides. It combines in its extent the most extravagant tracts of rude nature and laborious art.”1
Yet they have no discipline in their armies. In their mode of warfare, stratagem is more practised than open assault.2
The appearance of the capital Teshoo Loomboo was in a high degree magnificent, and together with the palace afforded proofs of a progress in the arts which vied with that of Hindustan and China.3
The inhabitants of the great Peninsula, to the eastward of the Ganges, discover, as far as known, the uniform marks of a similar state of society and manners. The Cochin-Chinese, for example, who are merely a separate community of the Chinese race, appear by no means in civilization behind the Chinese and Hindus. A traveller from whom we have obtained a sensible though short account of some of the more striking phenomena of the country, both physical and moral, informs us, that it is “one of the most fruitful in the world. In many parts,” he says, “the land produces three crops of grain in the year. All the fruits of India are found here in the greatest perfection, with many of those of China. No country in the East produces richer or a greater variety of articles proper for carrying on an advantageous commerce, cinnamon, pepper, cardemoms, BOOK II. Chap. 10.silk, cotton, sugar, Agula wood, Japan wood, ivory, &c.”1
The following paragraph describes an important article of accommodation, to which no parallel can be found in all China and Hindustan. “In this valley we passed through three or four pretty villages pleasantly situated, in which, as well as on other parts of the road, were public houses, where tea, fruits, and other refreshments are sold to travellers. At noon we alighted at one of them, and partook of a dinner, which consisted of fowls cut into small pieces, dressed up with a little greens and salt, some fish, &c.”2
The appearance of the king’s court was not only splendid but decorous; and even the little of the country which the travellers saw discovered to them large cities, with streets, laid out on a regular plan, paved with flat stones, and having well-built brickBOOK II. Chap. 10.houses on each side.1
The people on the western side of that peninsula, whether known by the name of Birmans, Peguans, Assamese, or Siamese, partake strongly of the Hindu character, and exhibit only a variation of the religion, laws, institutions, and manners which prevail on the other side of the Ganges. The great difference consists in their having adopted the heresy, or retained the primitive faith of Buddha; and rejected the distinction of castes. But nothing appears among them which would lead to an inference of any inferiority in their progress towards the attainments of civilized life.
The Birmans, we are told by Symes, call their code generally Derma Sath or Sastra; it is one among the many commentaries on Menu. “The Birman system of jurisprudence,” he adds, “is replete with sound morality, and in my opinion is distinguished above every other Hindoo commentary for perspicuity and good sense. It provides specifically for almost every species of crime that can be committed, and adds a copious chapter of precedents and decisions to guide the inexperienced in cases where there is doubt BOOK II. Chap. 10.and difficulty. Trial by ordeal and imprecation are the only absurd passages in the book.”1
“There is no country of the East,” says the same author, “in which the royal establishment is arranged with more minute attention than in the Birman court; it is splendid without being wasteful, and numerous without confusion.”2
Their literature appears to be as extensive and curious, as that of the Hindus. They have numerous, and copious libraries; the books, says Colonel Symes, are “upon divers subjects; more on divinity than on any other; but history, music, medicine, painting and romance, had their separate treatises.”3
Of the kingdom of Assam we possess not many accounts; but what we have yield evidence to the same effect. In the Alemgeernameh of Mohammed Cazim, is a description of Assam, which has been translated by Henry Vansittart, Esqr. and presented to us in several publications. We are there told that the country, at least in many places, is “well inhabited, and in an excellent state of tillage; that it presents, on everyside, charming prospects of ploughed fields, harvests, gardens, and groves.”4
“As the country is overflowed in the rainy season, a high and broad causeway has been raised, for the convenience of travellers from Salagereh to Ghergong, which is the only uncultivated ground to be seen:BOOK II. Chap. 10.each side of this road is planted with shady bamboos, the tops of which meet and are entwined.”112 And this is more than seems to have been attained in Hindustan, before the improvements introduced by the Mohammedan conquerors.
“The silks are excellent, and resemble those of China. They are successful in embroidering with flowers, and in weaving velvet, and tautband, which is a species of silk of which they make tents and kenauts.”2
The bigotted and intolerant Mussulman, however, who finds no excellence where he finds not his faith; discovers no qualities but evil in the minds of the Assamese. “They do not adopt,” he says, “any mode of worship practised either by heathens or Mahomedans; nor do they concur in any of the known sects, which prevail amongst mankind. They are a base and unprincipled nation, and have no fixed religion; they follow no rule but that of their own inclinations, and make the approbation of their own vicious minds the test of the propriety of their actions.”3 Such are the distorted views presented to an ignorant mind, through the medium of a dark and malignant religion, respecting a people cultivating the ground to great perfection, and forming a dense population. Among other particulars of the vileness which he beheld in them, is the following: “The base inhabitants, from a congenial impulse, are fond of seeing and keeping asses, and buy and sell them at a high price.”4 Yet he speaks in lofty terms of the royal magnificence of the court. “The Rajahs of this country have always raised the crest of pride and vain BOOK II. Chap. 10.glory, and displayed an ostentatious appearance of grandeur, and a numerous train of attendants and servants.” And he expresses himself with mingled horror and admiration of the prowess and superiority of the Assamese in war. “They have not bowed the head of submission and obedience, nor have they paid tribute or submission to the most powerful monarch; but they have curbed the ambition, and checked the conquests, of the most victorious princes of Hindustan.” Several armies from Bengal, which had been sent to conquer them, having been cut off, of some of which scarce even tidings had ever been received, “the natives of Hindustan consider them wizards and magicians, and pronounce the name of that country in all their incantations and countercharms: they say, that every person who sets his foot there is under the influence of witchcraft, and cannot find the road to return.”1
The admiration which the Greeks, no very accurate observers of foreign manners, expressed of the Egyptians, and which other nations have so implicitly borrowed at their hands, not a little resembles the admiration among Europeans which has so long prevailed with regard to the Hindus. The penetrating force of modern intelligence has pierced the cloud: and while it has displayed to us the state of Egyptian civilization in its true colours, exhibits a people who, standing on a level with so many celebrated nations of antiquity, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Arabians, correspond, in all the distinctive marks of a particular state of society, with the people of Hindustan. The evidence has been weighed by a cool and dispassionate judge, in the following manner: “I see nothing,” says the President Goguet, “in the EgyptiansBOOK II. Chap. 10.that can serve to distinguish them in a manner very advantageous; I even think myself authorized to refuse them the greatest part of the eulogies that have been always so liberally bestowed upon them. The Egyptians did invent some arts and some sciences, but they never had the ingenuity to bring any of their discoveries to perfection. I have exposed their want of taste, and I venture to say, of talent, in architecture, in sculpture, and in painting. Their manner of practising physic was absurd and ridiculous. The knowlege they had of geometry and astronomy was but very imperfect. Their discoveries are far enough from entering into any comparison with those which the Greeks made afterwards in those two sciences. In fine, the Egyptians have had neither genius, ardour, nor talent, for commerce, or for the marine and military art.
“As to civil laws, and political constitutions, the Egyptians had indeed some very good ones; but otherwise there reigned in their government a multitude of abuses and essential defects, authorized by the laws and by their fundamental principles of government.
As to the manners and customs of this people, we have seen to what a height indecency and debauchery were carried in their religious feasts and public ceremonies. The public cult which a nation fixes to honour the Deity, bears the stamp of that nation’s character. Neither was the morality of the Egyptians extremely pure; we may even affirm, that it offended against the first rules of rectitude and probity. We see that the Egyptians bore the highest blame of covetousness, of ill faith, of cunning, and of roguery.
It appears to me to result from all these facts BOOK II. Chap. 10.that the Egyptians were a people industrious enough, but, as to the rest, without taste, without genius, without discernment; a people who had only ideas of grandeur ill understood; and whose progress in all the different parts of human knowledge never rose beyond a flat mediocrity; knavish into the bargain, and crafty, soft, lazy, cowardly, and submissive; and who, having performed some exploits to boast of in distant times, were ever after subjected by whoever would undertake to subdue them; a people again vain and foolish enough to despise other nations without knowing them: Superstitious to excess, singularly addicted to judicial astrology, extravagantly besotted with an absurd and monstrous theology. Does not this representation sufficiently authorize us to say that all that science, that wisdom, and that philosophy, so boasted of in the Egyptian priests, was but imposture and juggling, capable of imposing only on people so little enlightened, or so strongly prejudiced, as were anciently the Greeks in favour of the Egyptians.”1
The sagacity of Adam Smith induced him, at anBOOK II. Chap. 10.early period of his life, to deny the supposed proof of any high attainments among those ancient nations, and to declare, though with hesitancy, his inclination to the opposite opinion.
“It was in Greece, and in the Grecian colonies, that the first philosophers of whose doctrine we have any distinct account, appeared. Law and order seem indeed to have been established in the great monarchies of Asia and Egypt, long before they had any footing in Greece: Yet after all that has been said concerning the learning of the Chaldeans and Egyptians, whether there ever was in those nations any thing which deserved the name of science, or whether that despotism which is more destructive of leisure and security than anarchy itself, and which prevailed over all the East, prevented the growth of philosophy, is a question which, for want of monuments, cannot be determined with any degree of precision.”1 To leave the subject even in this state of doubt was but a compromise with popular opinion, and with his own imperfect views. The circumstances handed down to us, compared with the circumstances of other nations, afforded materials for a very satisfactory determination. BOOK II. Chap. 10.The opinion by which he supports his disbelief of the ancient civilization of Asia is at once philanthrophic and profound; That “despotism is more destructive of leisure and security, and more adverse to the progress of the human mind, than anarchy itself.”
“The buildings are all base of mud, one story high, except in Surat, where there are some of stone. The Emperor’s own houses are of stone, handsome and uniform. The great men build not, for want of inheritance; but, as far as I have yet seen, live in tents, or houses worse than our cottages.” Sir T. Roe’s Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Churchill, i. 803.
It is curious to observe how Plato traces this progress. He is endeavouring to account for the origin of society. Ιθι ὸη (η ν ὁεγω) τψ λογψ εξ αρΧης ποιωμεν πολιν’ ποιησει δ’αντην, ὡς εοικεν, ἡ ἡμετερα Χρεια. Πιως [Editor: illegible character]ἶ λλλα μ[Editor: illegible character]ν πρωιη γε κμ μεγιςη τωι χρειων, ὴ της τροφης πα ρασκευη, ὶευτερα ὶη οικησεως, τριτη εσθητος και των τοι[Editor: illegible character]των. Εςι ταντα. ζερε ὶη(ην ὶ’ εγω) πως ή πολις αρκε σει επι τοσαυ την παρασκευην; αλλοτι, γεωργος μεν ἑις ὁ ἶε οικο ῖεομος αλλος δε τις ὺφαντης. Plat. de Repub, lib. ii. p. 599.
Robertson’s Histor. Disquis. concerning India, p. 225.
[1.]Orme’s Hist, of Milit. Transac. of Indostan, i. 178.
[2.]The cave of Elephanta is not the only subterranean temple of the Hindus, exhibiting on a large scale the effects of human labour. In the isle of Salsette, in the same vicinity, is a pagoda of a similar kind, and but little inferior to it in any remarkable circumstance. The pagodas of Ellore, about eighteen miles from Aurungabad, are not of the size of those of Elephanta and Salsette, but they surprise by their number, and by the idea of the labour which they cost. See a minute description of them by Anquetil Duperron, Zendavesta, Disc. Prelim. p. ccxxxiii. The seven pagodas, as they are called at Mavalepuram, near Sadras, on the Coromandel coast, is another work of the same description; and several others might be mentioned. Dr. Tennant, who has risen higher above travellers’ prejudices in regard to the Hindus, than most of his countrymen, says, “Their caves in Elephanta and Salsette are standing monuments of the original gloomy state of their superstition, and the imperfection of their arts, particularly that of architecture.” Indian Recreations, i. 6. The extraordinary cavern, the temple of Pusa, near Chas-chou-fou, in China, which was visited by lord Macartney, and full of living priests, vies in wonderful circumstances with the cave of Elephanta. See Barrow’s Life of Lord Macartney, Journal, ii. 374. “However these gigantic statues, and others of similar form, in the caves of Elora and Salsette may astonish a common observer, the man of taste looks in vain for proportion of form, and expression of countenance.” Forbes’ Oriental Memoirs, i. 423. “I must not omit the striking resemblance between these excavations (Elephanta, &c.) and the sculptured grottos in Egypt,” &c. “I have often been struck with the idea that there may be some affinity between the written mountains in Arabia, and the excavated mountains in Hindustan.” Ibid. i. 448, 449. It is difficult to say how much of the wonderful in these excavations may be the mere work of nature: “Left Sullo, and travelled through a country beautiful beyond imagination, with all possible diversities of rock; sometimes towering up like ruined castles, spires, pyramids, &c. We passed one place so like a ruined Gothic abbey, that we halted a little, before we could satisfy ourselves that the niches, windows, ruined staircaise, &c. were all natural rock. A faithful description of this place would certainly be deemed a fiction.” Mungo Park’s last Mission to Africa, p. 75. “Between the city of Canton, and first pagoda, on the bank of the river, is a series,” says Mr. Barrow, “of stone quarries, which appear not to have been worked for many years. The regular and formal manner in which the stones have been cut away; exhibiting lengthened streets of houses with quadrangular chambers, in the sides of which are square holes at equal distances, as if intended for the reception of beams; the smoothness and perfect perpendicularity of the sides, and the number of detached pillars that are scattered over the plain, would justify a similar mistake to that of Mr. Addison’s doctor of one of the German universities, whom he found at Chateau d’Un in France, carefully measuring the free-stone quarries at that place, which he conceived to be the venerable remains of vast subterranean palaces of great antiquity.” Barrow’s Travels in China, p. 599. The conclusions of many of our countrymen in Hindustan will bear comparison with that of the German doctor in France. It is not a bad idea of Forster, the German commentator upon the travels of P. Paulini, that the forming caverns into temples must naturally have been the practice when men as yet had their principal abodes in caverns. Voyage aux Indes Orien. par le P. Paulini, iii. 115. Volney says, “Those labyrinths, temples, and pyramids, by their huge and heavy structure, attest much less the genius of a nation, opulent and friendly to the arts, than the servitude of a people, who were slaves to the caprice of their monarch.” Travels in Egypt, &c. i. 282.
Clavigero, Hist. of Mexico, book vi sect. 10.
Ibid. book vii. sect. 26.
Royal Commentaries of Peru, by the Inca Garcilasso de la Vega, book vii. ch. xxviii. Acosta likewise says, (see his Natural and Moral History of the Indies, book vi. ch. xiv.) that of these stones he measured one, at Tiagunaco, which was thirty-eight feet long, eighteen broad, and six in thickness; and that the stones in that building were not so large as those in the fortress at Cuzco. He adds, “And that which is most strange, these stones, being not cut, nor squared to join, but contrariwise, very unequal one with another in form and greatness, yet did they join them together without cement, after an incredible manner.” Acosta tells us, however, (Ibid.) that they were entirely unacquainted with the construction of arches. Humboldt, who could have no national partialities on the subject, is almost as lofty in his praises of the remains of the ancient architecture of the Mexicans and Peruvians. “An Mexique et au Perou,” says he, Tableaux de la Nature, i. 168, “on trouve partout dans les plaines elevées des moutagnes, des traces d’une grande civilization. Nous avons vu, à une hauteur de seize à dix-huit cent toises des ruines de palais et de bains.” The ruins which he saw of a palace of immense size, are mentioned at p. 158.
“Let us now speak,” says the President Goguet, Origin of Laws, part iii. book ii. ch. i. “of the bridge of Babylon, which the ancients have placed in the number of the most marvellous works of the East. It was near 100 fathoms in length, and almost four in breadth, &c..... While we do justice to the skill of the Babylonians, in conducting these works, we cannot help remarking the bad taste, which, at all times, reigned in the works of the eastern nations. The bridge of Babylon furnishes a striking instance of it. This edifice was absolutely without grace, or any air of majesty..... Finally, this bridge was not arched” The first chiefs in Iceland built no inconsiderable houses. Ingulph’s palace was 135 feet in length. Mallet. Introd. Hist. Denmark, vol. i. ch. xiii.
Herodot. Clio, 181. Major Rennel, who was obliged to trust to Mr. Beloe’s translation, was puzzled with the expression, “a tower of the solid depth and height of one stadium;” justly pronounces it incredible, and says, “Surely Herodotus wrote breadth and length, and not breadth and height,” (Geog. of Herodot. p. 359, 360,) which is precisely the fact, the words of Herodotus being και το μηχος και το ενρος The word ςερεος, too, here translated solid, as if the tower was a mere mass of brick-work, without any internal vacuity, by no means implies a fact so very improbable. Στερος means strong, firmly built, &c. This resemblance has been noticed by Humboldt (Essai Polit. sur la Nonv. Espagne,) p. 170, also that between the pyramids of Egypt, and the vast pyramids of which the remains are to be found in Mexico, p. 187. The palace of Montezuma bore a striking resemblance to that of the Emperor of China, p. 190.
Voyage de Sonuerat, liv. iii. ch. viii.
Buchanan’s Journey through Mysore, &c. ii. 70.
Id. Ib. i. 13. Sir James Mackintosh ingeniously remarks, that among the innumerable figures of men and monsters of all sorts exhibited at Elora, you perceive about one in ten thousand that has some faint rudiments of grace, those lucky hits, the offspring of chance, rather than design, which offord copies to a rude people, and enable them to make gradual improvements. “Rude nations,” (says Dr. Ferguson, Hist. of the Roman Republic, i. 18, ed. 8vo.) “sometimes execute works of great magnificence, for the purposes of superstition or war; but seldom works of mere convenience or cleanliness.” Yet the common sewers of Rome, the most magnificent that ever were constructed, are assigned to the age of the elder Tarquin. Polybius tells us, that the city of Ecbatana, in Media, which contained one of the palaces of the Persian kings, far excelled all other cities in the world, πγκτῳ και τ[Editor: illegible character] της θατασκενης πολυτελειΆ μεγα τι παρα τας αλλας δοκενηνοΧεναθ πολεις. With regard to the palace itself, he was afraid, he said, to describe its magnitude and magnificence, lest he should not be believed. It was seven stadia in circumference; and though all the wood employed in it was cedar or cypress, every part of it, pillars, cornices, beams, every thing was covered with plates of silver or gold, so that no where was a bit of wood visible; and it was roofed with silver tiles. Polyb. Hist. lib. x. 24.
Bryant’s Ancient Mythology, book v. p. 211. From p. 187 to 213, an ample and instructive collection will be found of instances to prove the passion of rude nations for erecting great buildings; and the degree of perfection in art which their works display. Priam’s palace, according to Homer, was a magnificent building. That remarkable structure, the labyrinth of Crete, was produced in a very early age. Mr. Ward assures us, “that of the Hindu temples none appear to be distinguished for the elegance of their architecture: they are not the work of a people sunk in barbarism; neither will they bear any comparison with the temples of the Greeks and Romans.” He adds, “We learn from the Ain Akb✓ree, however, that the entire revenues of Orissa, for twelve years, were expended in erecting a temple to the sun.” Introd. p. ix.
Knox’s Hist. of Ceylon, London, 1681.
See above, p. 3, 4. “Their knowledge of mechanical powers,” says Mr. Orme, “is so very confined, that we are left to admire, without being able to account for, the manner in which they have erected their capital pagodas. It does not appear that they had ever made a bridge of arches over any of their rivers, before the Mahomedans came amongst them.” Hist. of Mil. Trans. of Indostan, i. 7.
Buchanan’s Journey through Mysore, &c. i. 61.
Goguet, Origin of Laws, part iii. book ii. ch. i. He says, “it even appears to me demonstrated, that the Egyptians had not much more knowledge of architecture, of sculpture, and of the fine arts in general, than the Peruvians and Mexicans. For example, neither the one nor the other knew the secret of building vaults. What remains of foundery or sculpture, is equally clumsy and incorrect. I think this observation absolutely essential.” Origin of Laws, part iii. dissert. iii. Clavigero, however, asserts that the Mexicans did know the art of constructing arches and vaults, as appears, he says, from their baths, from the remains of the royal palaces of Tezcuco, and other buildings, and also from several paintings. Hist. Mex. book vii. sect. 53.
Chardin, Voy. en Perse, iii. 116. ed. 4to. Amsterd. 1735. On est frappé [à Ispahan] de l’elegante architecture des ponts; l’Europe n’offre rien qui leur soit comparable pour la commodité des gens de pied, pour la facilité de leur passage, pour les faire jouir sans trouble, le jour, de la vue de la riviere et de ses environs, et, le soir, de la fraicheur de l’air, Olivier, Voyage, &c. v. 180. La sculpture est nulle en Perse. . . . . . . . Mais l’architecture, plus simple, plus elegante, mieux ordonnée que chez les Turcs, est tout-a-fait adaptée au climat. Les plafonds et les domes sont d’une recherche, d’un fini, d’un precieux, d’une richesse qui etonne. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Les Persans ont poussé fort loin l’art de faire les voῦtes. . . . . Les toits de leurs maisons sont voῦtés, leur planchers le sont aussi. Ib. v. 298, 299. The skill in architecture of the Turks, a very rude people, is well known. “Perhaps I am in the wrong, but some Turkish mosques in Constantinople please me better than St. Sophia. — That of Validé Sultan is the largest of all, built entirely of marble; the most prodigious, and I think the most beautiful structure I ever saw. Between friends, St. Paul’s Church would make a pitiful figure near it.” Letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montague, Works, ii. 249, 250.
“No art in Hindustan is carried to the same degree of perfection as in Europe, except some articles in which the cheapness of labour gives them an advantage, as in the case of the fine muslins at Dacca.” Tennant’s Indian Recreations, i. 104. The people are in a state of gross rudeness, Buchanan informs us, “in every part of Bengal, where arts have not been introduced by foreigners; the only one that has been carried to tolerable perfection is that of weaving.” Journey through Mysore, &c. ii. 285.
Mr. Park tells us that the art of spinning, weaving, and dyein cotton, are familiar to the Africans. Travels, p. 17.
“A people,” says Mr. Orme, “born under a sun too sultry to admit the exercises and fatigues necessary to form a robust nation, will naturally, from the weakness of their bodies, (especially if they have few wants) endeavour to obtain their scanty livelihood by the easiest labours. It is from hence, perhaps, that the manufactures of cloth are so multiplied in Indostan. Spinning and weaving are the slightest tasks which a man can be set to, and the numbers that do nothing else in this country are exceeding.” He adds; “The hand of an Indian cookwench shall be more delicate than that of an European beauty; the skin and features of a porter shall be softer than those of a professed petit-maitre. The women wind off the raw silk from the pod of the worm. A single pod of raw silk is divided into twenty different degrees of fineness; and so exquisite is the feeling of these women, that whilst the thread is running through their fingers so swiftly, that their eye can be of no assistance, they will break it off exactly as the assortments change, at once from the first to the twentieth, from the nineteenth to the second. The women likewise spin the thread designed for the cloths, and then deliver it up to the men, who have fingers to model it as exquisitely as these have prepared it.” Orme, on the Gov. and People of Indostan, p. 409 to 413.
Clavigero, Hist. of Mexico, book vii. sect. 57.
See Gibbon (Hist. of the Decl. and Fall of the Rom. Emp. iv. 364), who says, “Yet it must be presumed, that they (the carpets and garments) were the manufactures of the provinces; which the barbarians had acquired as the spoils of war; or as the gifts or merchandise of peace.” But had they been the manufactures of the provinces, the Romans must have known them familiarly for what they were; and could never have been so much surprised with their own manufactures, transferred by plunder, gift, or sale to the barbarians, (of none of which operations, had they existed, could they have been altogether ignorant) as to make their historians think it necessary to place a minute description of them in their works.
Goguet, Origin of Laws, part iii. book vi. ch. i. art. 2. That diligent and judicious writer says, “Of all the arts of which we have to speak in this second part, there are none which appear to have been more or better cultivated than those which concern clothing. We see taste and magnificence shine equally in the description Moses gives of the habits of the high priest and the vails of the tabernacle. The tissue of all these works was of linen, goat’s hair, wool, and byssus. The richest colours, gold, embroidery, and precious stones, united to embellish it.” Ib. part ii. book ii. ch. ii. The following lofty description of the tissues of Babylon, by Dr. Gillies, (see the description of Babylon, in his History of the World) is not surpassed by the most strained panegyrics upon the weaving of the Hindus. “During the latter part of Nebuchadnezzer’s reign, and the twenty-six years that intervened between his death and the conquest of his capital by Cyrus, Babylon appears not only to have been the seat of an imperial court, and station for a vast garrison, but the staple of the greatest commerce that perhaps was ever carried on by one city. Its precious manufactures under its hereditary sacerdotal government remounted, as we have seen, to immemorial antiquity. The Babylonians continued thenceforward to be clothed with the produce of their own industry. Their bodies were covered with fine linen, descending to their feet: their mitras or turbans were also of linen, plaited with much art; they wore woollen tunicks, above which a short white cloak repelled the rays of the sun. Their houses were solid, lofty, and separated, from a regard to health and safety, at due distances from each other: within them the floors glowed with double and triple carpets of the brightest colours; and the walls were adorned with those beautiful tissues called Sindones, whose fine, yet firm texture was employed as the fittest cloathing for eastern kings. The looms of Babylon, and of the neighbouring Borsippa, a town owing its prosperity to manufactures wholly, supplied to all countries round, the finest veils or hangings, and every article of dress or farniture composed of cotton, of linen, or of wool.”
Bryant’s Ancient Mythology, iii. 425. It was from this city the spider (Arachne) for its curious web, was said to have derived its name. The poet Nonnus thus celebrates its manufactures:
Ovid. We learn from Plato, that, when any fine production of the loom among the Greeks was represented as of the most exquisite fineness and beauty, it was compared to those of the Persians; την ζωνυ τ[Editor: illegible character] χι θονισχ[Editor: illegible character] ειναι μεν ἁαια [Editor: illegible character]ιΠερσιχαι Των πολντελων. Hippias Min. 255.
Orme, on the Government and People of Indostan, p. 409, &c. Tennant’s Indian Recrentions, p. 301. “The apparatus of the weaver is very simple; two rollers placed in four pieces of wood fixed in the earth; two sticks which traverse the warp, and are supported at each of the extremities, one by two strings tied to the tree under which the loom is placed, and the other by two other strings tied to the workman’s feet, which gives him a facility of removing the threads of the warp to throw the woof.” Sonnerat, Voyag. liv. iii. ch. viii.
“Perhaps their painted cloths are more indebted to the brilliancy of the colours, and the goodness of the water, than any skill of the artist, for that admiration with which they have been viewed.” Tennant’s Indian Recreations, i. 299. Chardin, who tells us how admirable the Persians are in the art of dyeing, adds that their excellence in this respect is principally owing to the exquisiteness of their colouring matters. Voyages en Perse, iii. 116.
Goguet, Origin of Laws, part ii. book ii. ch. ii. art. 1.
Ibid. “The linen manufactured by the Colchians was in high repute Some of it was curiously painted with figures of animals and flowers; and afterwards dyed like the linen of the Indians. And Herodotus tells us, that the whole was so deeply tinctured, that no washing could efface the colours. They accordingly exported it to various marts, as it was every where greatly sought after.” Bryant’s Anc. Mythol. v. 109. Herodotus, however, represents the people of whom he speaks, as in a state of great barbarity; μιξιν τε τ[Editor: illegible character]των των ανθρωπων ειναν εμφαανεα, καταπερ τοισι προβατοισι. Clio. cciii. The Chinese dye scarlet more exquisitely than any other nation. Lord Macartney says it arises “from their indefatigable care and pains, in washing, purifying, and grinding their colouring matters.” See Lord Macartney’s Journal, Barrow’s Life of Lord Macartney, ii. 516. The same expenditure of time and patience, commodities generally abounding in a rude state of society, are the true causes of both the fine dyeing and the fine weaving of the Hindus. Both Hindus and Chinese are indebted for all elegance of pattern to their European visitors.—Pour se qui est des arts mechaniques, celui ou les Persans excellent le plus, et ou ils nous surpassent peut-ètre, cest la teinture. Ils donnent à leurs étoffes des coulours plus vives, plus solides qu’on ne fait en Europe. Ils impriment cellos de coton et celles de soie avec une netteté et une tenacité surprenantes, soit qu’ils emploient des couleurs, soit qu’ils procédent avec des fuilles d’or et d’argent. Olivier, Voyage, &c. v. 303. Mr. Park informs us, that the negroes of Africa have carried the art of dyeing to great perfection. Travels in Africa, p. 281: see also his last Mission, p. 10. The arts in which the Hindus have any pretensions to skill are the very arts in which so rude a people as the Turks most excel. “Presque tous les arts sont dans l’enfance, ou sont ignorés chez eux, si nous en exceptons la teinture, la fabrication de diverses étoffes, celle des lames de sabre ct de couteau. Voyages dans l’Empire Ottoman, &c. par G. A. Olivier, i. 26.
“You frequently see a field, after one ploughing, appear as green as before; only a few scratches are perceptible, here and there, more resembling the digging of a mole, than the work of a plough.” Tennant’s Ind. Recr. ii. 78.
Ibid. 124, 275.
Tennant’s Ind. Recr. ii. 75. “You cannot, by any argument, prevail upon the listless owner to save his ears, his cattle, or his cart, by lubricating it with oil. Neither his industry, his invention, nor his purse, would admit of this, even though you could remove what is generally insurmountable—his veneration for ancient usage. If his forefathers drove a screeching hackery, posterity will not dare to violate the sanctity of custom by departing from their example. This is one instance of a thousand in which the inveterate prejudices of the Asiatics stand in the way of their improvement, and bid defiance equally to the exertions of the active, and the hopes of the benevolent.” Ibid. 76. This characteristic mark of a rude people, a blind opposition to innovation, is displayed by persons among ourselves, as if it was the highest mark of wisdom and virtue.—The waggon wheels are one piece of solid timber like a millstone. Tavernier, in Harris, i. 815.
Into Oude are imported a variety of articles of commerce from the northern mountains, gold, copper, lead, musk, cow-tails, honey, pomegranate seeds, grapes, dried ginger, pepper, red-wood, tincar, civet, zedoary, wax, woollen cloths, wooden ware, and various species of hawks, amber, rock-salt, assafœtida, glass toys. What is carried back is earthen ware. All this commerce is carried upon the backs of men, or horses and goats. Ayeen Akberry, ii. 33. Buchanan’s Journey, i. 205, 434. Capt. Hardwicke, Asiat. Res. vi. 330.
For this sketch of Hindu agriculture, the chief authorities are, a short treatise, entitled “Remarks on the Agriculture, &c. of Bengal;” Tennant’s Indian Recreations, particularly the second volume; and Dr. Buchanan’s Journey through Mysore, Canara, and Malabar. After describing the wretched state of agriculture in the neighbourhood of Seringapatam, Dr. Buchanan says; “I am afraid, however, that the reader, in perusing the foregoing accounts, will have formed an opinion of the native agriculture still more favourable than it deserves. I have been obliged to use the English words ploughings, weedings, and hoeings, to express operations somewhat similar, that are performed by the natives; and the frequent repetition of these, mentioned in the accounts taken from the cultivators, might induce the reader to imagine that the ground was well wrought, and kept remarkably clean. Quite the reverse, however, is the truth. Owing to the extreme imperfection of their implements, and want of strength in their cattle, a field, after six or eight ploughings, has numerous small bushes remaining as upright in it as before the labour, while the plough has not penetrated above three inches deep, and has turned over no part of the soil. ∗ ∗ ∗ The plough has neither coulter nor mould-board, to divide and to turn over the soil; and the handle gives the ploughman very little power to command its direction. The other instruments are equally imperfect, and are more rudely formed than it was possible for my draughtsman to represent.” Buchanan’s Journey through Mysore, &c. i. 126. In another place he says, “In every field there is more grass than corn. Notwithstanding the many ploughings, the fields are full of grass roots.” Ibid. p. 345. See also p. 15. Agriculture was almost universal among the American tribes. “Throughout all America, we scarcely meet with any nation of hunters, which does not practise some species of cultivation.” Robertson’s America, ii. 117. The agriculture of the Peruvians was apparently superior to that of the Hindus. Ibid. iii. 341.
Frezier (see his Voyage to the South Sea, p, 213, London edition, 1718) says, “The ancient Indians were extraordinary industrious in conveying the water of the rivers to their dwellings: there are still to be seen in many places aqueducts of earth and of dry stones, carried on and turned off very ingeniously along the sides of hills, with an infinite number of windings, which shows that those people, as unpolished as they were, very well understood the art of levelling.” There is something indicative of no little art in the floating gardens and fields which were on the lake of Mexico. (See the Description in Clavigero, Hist. Mex. book vii. sect. 27.) The cultivation of their fields, considering it was done by human, without the aid of animal labour, was remarkable, and their produce surprising. (Ibid. sect. 28.) The following passage from Garcilasso de la Vega deserves to be quoted as a monument of the labours of the Peruvians in agriculture: “They drained all wet moors and fens, for in that art they were excellent, as is apparent by their works which remain unto this day: And also they were very ingenious in making aqueducts for carrying water into dry and scorched lands.” (He explains how careful they were to water both their corn lands and pasture.) ∗ ∗ ∗ “After they had made a provision of water, the next thing was to dress, and cultivate and clear their fields of bushes and trees; and that they might with most advantage receive the water, they made them in a quadrangular form; those lands which were good on the side of hills, they levelled by certain alleys or walks which they made. To make these alleys they raised three walls of friezed stone, one before, and one of each side, somewhat inclining inwards, so that they may more securely bear and keep up the weight of the earth, which is pressed and rammed down by them, until it be raised to the height of the wall. Then next to this walk they made another, something shorter and less, kept up in the same manner with its wall; until at length they came to take in the whole hill, levelling it by degrees in fashion of a ladder, one alley above the other. Where the ground was stony, they gathered up the stones, and covered the barren soil with fresh earth to make their levels, that so no part of the ground might be lost. The first quadrangles were the largest, and as spacious as the situation of the place could bear, some being of that length and brendth as were capable to receive a hundred, some two hundred, or three hundred bushels of seed. Those of the second row were made narrower and shorter. ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ In some parts they brought the channels of water from fifteen or twenty leagues distance, though it were only to improve a slip of a few acres of land, which was esteemed good corn ground.” Royal Commentaries of Peru, part i. book v. ch. i. The Mercurio Peruano describes extensive works for irrigation among the Peruvians, of which the vestiges are still to be seen. Mercur. Peruana, viii. 38. Acosta tells us, (Nat. and Mor. Hist. book iii. ch. xviii.) “The Indians do draw from these floods, that run from the mountains to the valleys and plains, many and great brooks to water their lands, which they usually do with such industry, as there are no better in Murcia, nor at Millan itself, the which is also the greatest and only wealth of the plains of Peru, and of many other parts of the Indies.”
Sonnerat, Voyag. liv. iii. ch. viii; Tennant’s Ind. Recr. i. 302. The country of the Seiks, a people confessedly barbarous, a well-informed author, Francklin, in his Memoirs of George Thomas, p. 65, 66, informs us, is highly cultivated, and their arts and manufactures are on a level with those of any other part of India. Les Tartares du Daghestan ont une coutume qu’ils observent soigneusement; sçavoir, que personne ne peut se marier chez eux, avant que d’avoir, planté en uu endroit marqué cent arbres fruitiers; ensorte qu’on trouve partout dans les montaignes du Daghestan de grandes forets d’arbres fruitiers. (Hist. Geneal. de Turtars, p. 313.) Zoroaster made the duties of agriculture part of his religion. “To sow grain with purity, is to fulfil the whole extent of the law of the Mazdeiesnans.” (Anquetil Zendav. ii. 610.) The Heruli, and Lombards, in their native wilds, cultivated flax, “which supposes,” says Gibbon, “property, agriculture, manufactures, and commerce.” (Gibbon, vii. 276.)
Exod. ch. xxviii. “I look upon engraving on fine stones,” says Goguet, (Origin of Laws, part ii. book ii. ch. ii. art. 3) “as the most remarkable evidence of the rapid progress of the arts in some countries. This work supposes a number of discoveries, much knowledge, and much experience.” He adds in a note, “It must be agreed, that the ancient Peruvians, whose monarchy had not subsisted above three hundred and fifty years, understood perfectly well the working of precious stones. (Hist. Gen. des Voyages, xiii. 578.)” Ibid.
Claverigo, Hist. of Mexico, book vii. sect. 51. Even the most rude of the American tribes seem not to have been without some knowledge of the art of working the precious stones. M. de la Condamine, speaking of the green stones, found in some places bordering on the Amazons River in South America, says (Voyage dans l’Interieur de l’Amerique Meridionale, p. 138), “La verité est qu’elles ne different, ni en couleur, in en dureté, du Jade Oriental; elles resistent a la lime, et on n’imagine pas par quel artifice les anciens Americains ont pu les tailler, et leur donner diverses figures d’ammaux, sans fer ni acier."—In the same place, he mentions another phenomenon of the art of the ancient Americans. “Ce sont,” says he, “des Emeraudes arroudies, polies, et percées de deux trous coniques, diametralement opposés sur un axe common, telles qu’on en trouve encore aujourd’hui au Perou sur les bords de la Riviere de St. Jago, dans la province d’Esmeraldas, a quarante lieues de Quito, avec divers autres monumens de l’industrie de ses anciens habitans.” The Persians of the present day are eminent lapidaries. Chardin, Voy. en Perse, iii. 115.—Olivier says, “Ils taillent assez bien les pierres precieuses, et les montent avec assez de gout. Olivier, Voy. &c. v. 304, &c. “At this place I had an opportunity of seeing their mode of smelting gold. Isaaco had purchased some gold in coming through Konkodoo, and here he had made it into a large ring. The smith made a crucible of common red clay, and dried it in the sun. Into this he put the gold, without any flux or mixture whatever. He then put charcoal under it and over it; and blowing the fire with the common bellows of the country, soon produced such a heat as to bring the gold into a state of fusion. He then made a small furrow in the ground, into which he poured the melted gold. When it was cold he took it up, and, heating it again soon hammered it into a square bar. Then heating it again he twisted it by means of two pair of pincers into a sort of screw, and, lengthening out the ends, turned them up, so as to perform a massy and precious ring.” Mungo Park’s Last Mission to Africa, p. 78.
Acosta, Nat. and Mor. Hist. of the Indies, book vi. chap. viii.
Forster’s Travels, ii. 282.—Les habitans de Kamschatka, d’une stupidité sans egale à certains égards, sont à d’autres d’une industrie merveilleuse. S’agit-il de se faire des vêtemens? leur addresse en ce genre, dit leur Historien, surpasse celle des Européens. Helvetius, de l’Homme, i. 304.—"In general, the ingenuity of all their (the Otaheitans’) works, considering the tools they possess, is marvellous. Their cloth, clubs, fishing implements, canoes, houses, all display great skill; their mourning dresses, their war head-dress and breast-plates, show remarkable taste; their adjustment of the different parts, the exact symmetry, the nicety of the joining, are admirable: and it is astonishing how they can, with such ease and quickness, drill holes in a pearl-shell with a shark’s tooth, and so fine as not to admit the point of a common pin.” Missionary Voyage, p. 330. Observe the same remarkable coincidence in patience, rudeness of tools, and neatness of execution, in the following description by Robertson of the state of the arts in Mexico. “The functions of the mason, the weaver, the goldsmith, the painter, and of several other crafts, were carried on by different persons. Each was regularly instructed in his calling. To it alone his industry was confined; and, by assiduous application to one object, together with the persevering patience peculiar to Americans, their artisans attained to a degree of neatness and perfection in work, far beyond what could have been expected from the rude tools which they employed. Their various productions were brought into commerce; and by the exchange of them in the stated markets held in the cities, not only were their mutual wants supplied, in such orderly intercourse as characterizes an improved state of society, but their industry was daily rendered persevering and inventive.” Robertson’s Hist. of America, iii. 286. Voltaire has a passage on this subject which shows philosophical discernment. “Il-y-a dans l’homme un instinct de mechanique que nous voyons produire tous les jours de très grands effets, dans des hommes fort grossiers. On voit des machines inventées par les habitans des montagnes du Tirol et des Vosges, qui etonnent les savans.” Voltaire, Essai sur les Mœurs et l’Esprit des Nations, Introd. p. 32.
Crauford’s Sketches, p. 328, 1st ed.
Sonnerat, Voy. liv. iii. chap. viii. “The Indian carpenter knows no other tools than the plane, the chisel, the wimple, a hammer, and a kind of hatchet. The earth serves him for a bench, and his foot for a holdfast. He is a month in performing what our workman will do in three days. Even after instruction he will not adopt our method of sawing. Placing his wood between two beams fixed in the ground, and sitting on a bench, a man employs three days, with one saw, to make a plank, which would cost our people an hour’s work.” Ibid. Among the Birmans the state of the more necessary and useful arts seems to be fully as much advanced as among the Hindus: in not a few cases more so. (See Mr. Syme’s Embassy to Ava.) The waggons more neat and commodious than the clumsy gauries or carts of India.
Forster’s Travels, i. 25. “Their artificers,” says Stavorinus, “work with so little apparatus, and so few instruments, that an European would be astonished at their neatness and expedition. Stavorinus, Voy. p. 412. See to the same purpose, Tennant, Indian Recreations, i. 301, 302, 303.
Fryer’s Travels, let. iii. chap. iii. They cut diamonds, he says, with a mill turned by men, the string reaching, in manner of our cutler’s wheels, to lesser that are in a flat press, where under steel wheels diamonds are fastened, and with its own bort are worn into what cut the artist pleases. Ibid.
The blacksmith goes from place to place carrying his tools with him. Beside his forge and his little furnace, a stone serves for an anvil, and his whole apparatus consists of a pair of pincers, a hammer, a mallet, and a file. They have not attained the art of polishing gold and silver, or of working gold in different colours. The goldsmith goes about with his tools, like the blacksmith. Sonnerat, Voy. hv. iii. chap. viii. The workmen in gold and silver are frequently only little boys, who sit every day in the bazaar or market waiting till they are called, when they go to your house, with their implements in a little basket, consisting of a very small anvil, a hammer, a pair of bellows, a few files, and a pair of pincers; a chaffing dish, or pan of embers, is then given to him with a model of what is to be made, and the material. He then sets about his work in the open air, and performs it with dispatch and ingenuity. Other tradesmen go to your home in the same manner, the shoemaker and tailor. Stavorinus, Voy. p. 412. It is remarkable how exactly this description of the state of the arts among the Hindus tallies with that among the Persians. Chardin informs us that every where in Persia, the artisans of all descriptions go to work in the houses of those who employ them—that they perform their work with the poorest apparatus, and, comparing the tools with the work, to a surprising degree of perfection. Chardin, Voy. en Perse, iii. 98.
Forster’s Travels, i. 80.
Bartolomeo’s Travels, book i. chap. vii.
Rennel’s Memoir, p. xxii.
Sonnerat, Voy. liv. iii. ch. viii.
Hodges’ Travels in India. Mr. Hodges says, “I am concerned I cannot pay so high a compliment to the art of sculpture among the Hindoos as is usually paid by many ingenious authors who write on the religion of Bramah. Considering these works, as I do, with the eyes of an artist, they are only to be paralleled with the rude essays of the ingenious Indians, I have met with in Otaheite, and on other islands in the South Seas:” p. 26. He adds in the next page, that in point of carving, that is, the mere mechanical part, the ornaments in the Hindu temples are often beautiful. In another passage, too, p. 151, he speaks again of the same mechanical nicety, the peculiar sharpness of the cut in Hindu carvings. See to the same purpose, Tennant’s Indian Recr. i. 299.
Buchanan, Journey through Mysore, &c. iii. 391.
Clavigero, Hist. Mex. book vii. sect. 50. He adds, “The works of gold and silver sent in presents from the conqueror Cortez to Charles V. filled the goldsmiths of Europe with astonishment, who, as several authors of that period attest, declared that they were altogether inimitable. The Mexican founders made, both of gold and silver, the most perfect images of natural bodies. They made a fish in this manner, which had its scales, alternately, the one of silver and the other of gold, a parrot with a moveable head, tongue, and wings, and an ape with a moveable head and feet, having a spindle in its hand in the attitude of spinning.” Ibid. Garcilasso tells us, “that the Peruvians framed many figures of men and women, of birds of the air, and fishes of the sea; likewise of fierce animals, such as tigers, lions and bears, foxes, dogs, cats; in short, all creatures whatsoever known amongst them, they cast and moulded into true and natural figures of the same shape and form of those creatures which they represented. They counterfeited the plants and wall-flowers so well, that being on the walls they seemed to be natural; the creatures which were shaped on the walls, such as lizards, butterflies, snakes, and serpents, some crawling up and some down, were so artificially done, that they seemed natural, and wanted nothing but motion.” (Book vi. Chap. i.)
Tennant’s Ind. Rec. i. 299.
Dr. Tennant, at the place cited above, supports his own authority, by quoting the following passage of Sonnerat: “La peinture chez les Indiens est, et sera toujours, dans l’enfance; ils trouvent admirable un tableau chargé de rouge et de bleu, et dont les personages sont vêtus d’or. Ils n’entendent point le clair obscur, n’arrondissent jamais les objets, et ne savent pas les mettre en perspective; en un mot, leurs meilleures peintures ne sont que de mauvaises enlumineures.” (Voyages aux Indes, i. 99.) The Indian pictures, says Mandelsloe, are more remarkable for their diversity of colours, than any exactness of proportion. Harris’ Collect. of Voy. i. How exactly does this correspond with the description which Chardin gives us of the state of the same art among the Persians? En Perse les arts, tant liberaux que mechaniques, sont en general prêsque tous rudes et bruts, en comparaison de la perfection ou l’Europe les a portés...... Ils entendent for mal le dessein, ne sachant rien faire au naturel; et ils n’ont aucune connoissance de la perspective....... Pour ce que de la platte-peinture, il est vrai que es visages qu’ils representent sont assez ressemblans; ils les tirent d’ordinaire de profil, parce que ce sont ceux qu’ils font le plus aisément; ils les font aussi de trois quarts: mais pour les visages en plain ou de front, ils y reussissent fort mal, n’entendant pas à y donner les ombres. Ils ne sauroient former une attitude et une posture............. Leur pinceau est fin et delicat, et leur peinture vive et eclatante. Il faut attribuer à l’air du pays la beauté des couleurs. Voy, en Perse, iii. 284. La peinture est encore au berceau: les Persans n’ont fait aucun progrès dans cet art...... En general, leur manière de faire ressemble un peu à celle des Chinois: leur dessin est tres incorrect; ils ne connaissent pas la perspective: ils ne savent pas employer les ombres...... Cependant on voit sortir de leurs mains des ouvrages assez jolis; ils peignent assez bien les fleurs et les oiseaux de fantaisie; ils reussissent dans les arabesques; ils emploient tres bien l’or; ils font de tres beaux vernix..........Les couleurs que les Persans emploient, et qu’ils font eux-mêmes, ont tout l’éclat, toute la solidité, qu’on peut desirer. Ce sont eux qui nous ont fait connaître l’outremir. (Olivier, Voyage, v. 301.) It is remarkable to find the state of the fine arts in China so exactly the same. “Quoique les Chinois ayent une passion extraordinaire pour tous les ouvrages de peinture, et que leurs temples en soient ornez, on ne peut rien voire neanmoins de plus borné et de moins regulier. Ils ne scavent point menager les ombres d’un tableau, ni meler ou adoucir les couleurs........Ils ne sont pas plus heureux dans a sculpture, et ils n’y observent ni ordre, ni proportions. (Le Gentil. Voyage, ii. 111.) The painting of the Mexicans seems to have had the same perfections and imperfections with that of these eastern nations. The colours, Robertson (iii. 278) informs us, were remarkably bright, but laid on without any art, and without any regard to light and shade, or the rules of perspective. Clavigero, though the skill of the Mexicans in painting is not one of the points for which he most highly admires them, says, “We have seen, among the ancient paintings, many portraits of the kings of Mexico, in which, besides the singular beauty of the colours, the proportions were most accurately observed.” (Hist. Mex. book vii. sect. 49.) “Les Mexicains,” says Humboldt, “ont conservé un goῦt particulier pour la peinture et pour l’art de sculpter en pierre et en bois. On est étonné de voir ce qu’ils executent avec un mauvais couteau, et sur les bois les plus durs...... Ils montrent beaucoup d’aptitude pour l’exercise des arts d’imitation; ils en deploient une plus grande encore pour les arts purement mecaniques. Cette aptitude deviendra un jour tres precieuse, &c.” Humboldt, Essai Politique sur le Royaume de la Nouvelle Espagne, p. 9.
Indian Rec. i. 300.—Ces peuples n’ont aucune idee des accords. Leur chant commence par un bourdonnement sourd et fort has, apres lequel ils eclatent. Anquetil Duperron, Voyage aux Indes Orientales, Zendavesta, i. xxvi. Even Sonnerat himself informs us, that their music is bad, and their songs destitute of harmony. Voyages aux Indes, liv. iii. chap. viii.
Motte’s Journey to Orissa, (Asiat. An. Regist. i. Miscellaneous Tracts, p. 77.) “Their ideas of music, if we may judge from their practice, are barbarous.” Orme’s Hist. Milit. Trans. i. 3. The following passage from Garcilasso de la Vega is an important document in the history of music. It exhibits more nakedly the fact respecting its origin, than, perhaps, any other written monument; and it proves at the same time the power of expression which the art had attained. “In music,” says he, “the Peruvians arrived to a certain harmony in which the Indians of Colla did more particularly excel, having been the inventors of a certain pipe made of canes glued together, every one of which having a different note of higher and lower, in the manner of organs, made a pleasing music by the dissonancy of sounds, the treble tenor, and basse, exactly corresponding, and answering to each other; with these pipes they often played in concert.... They had also other pipes, which were flutes with four or five stops, like the pipes of shepherds; with these they played not in concert, but singly, and tuned them to sonnets, which they composed in metre, the subject of which was love, and the passions which arise from the favours or displeasures of a mistress..... Every song was set to its proper tune; for two songs of different subjects could not correspond with the same air, by reason that the music which the gallant made on his flute was designed to express the satisfaction or discontent of his mind, which were not so intelligible, perhaps by the words, as by the melancholy or cheerfulness of the tune which he played. A certain Spaniard, one night late, encountered an Indian woman in the streets of Cozco, and would have brought her back to his lodgings; but she cried out, ‘For God’s sake, sir, let me go, for that pipe which you hear in yonder tower calls me with great passion, and I cannot refuse the summons; for love constrains me to go, that I may be his wife, and he my husband.’ The songs which they composed of their wars, and grand achievements, were never set to the airs of their flute, being too grave and serious be intermixed with the pleasures and softness of love; for these were only sung at their principal festivals when they commemorated their victories and triumphs.” Royal Comment. book ii. ch. xiv. “The accounts of twenty-two centuries ago represent the Indians as a people who stood very high in point of civilization: but to judge from their ancient monuments, they had not carried the imitative arts to any thing like the degree of perfection attained by the Greeks and Romans; or even by the Egyptians. Both the Hindoos and the Chinese appear to have carried the arts just to the point requisite for useful purposes; but never to have approached the summit of perfection, as it respects taste or boldness of design.” Rennel’s Memoir, Introd. p. xxii. Our latest informants are the most intelligent. Mr. Ward (Introd. p. lxii.) assures us, “whatever may have been the case in other countries, idolatry in this has certainly not contributed to carry the arts of painting or sculpture to any perfection. The Abbé Dubois (p. 463) observes, “that the ornamental arts, such as painting, instrumental music, and the like, are extremely low in estimation. Hardly any but the low tribe of the Mushiers exercise the first of these; and music is nearly confined to the barbers and Pariahs; instrumental music wholly so. The small encouragement these two arts receive is, no doubt, owing to the little progress they have made. In painting, nothing can be seen but mere daubing, set off with bright colours and extravagant glare. And though all Hindus are great lovers of music, introducing it into all their civil and religious ceremonies, yet I can vouch that it is still in its infancy.”
Royal Comment. part ii. book ii. chap. xxx. Frezier (Voyage to the South Sea, p. 263) says of the same people, “They have a genius for arts, and are good at imitating what they see, but very poor at invention.”
See the Discourse, Asiatic Researches, i. 429. “Invented apologues!” as well might he tell us they invented language. And the “decimal scale!“ as if they were the only nation that had ten fingers! or, as if most nations had not been led, by the simple and very natural process of counting by the fingers, to denominate and distinguish numbers by comparison with that sum! The Scandinavians, Mallet informs us, counted up the unities to twelve, and denominated higher numbers by comparison with twelve, which, he justly remarks, is preferable to ten, as being more divisible into fractions. Mallet, Introd. Hist. Denmark, vol. i. chap. xiii. The Swedes and Icelanders, as well as Scotch, retain a memorial of this in their great hundred. From Mr. Park we learn that some of the negro tribes in Africa counted only five, the number of fingers on one of the hands, and then doubled; thus, instead of six, they said five and one; seven, five and two, &c. Park’s Travels in Africa, p. 17.
Molina, Civil Hist. of Chili, book ii. chap. x. The Persians claim the invention of this game; and as their game is radically different from that of the Hindus, it is probable they are both inventions. See Chardin, Voy. en Perse, iii. 62. Gibbon, vii. 276, marks a fact in the narrative of Paul Diaconus, expressive of the manners of the Heruli: Dum ad tabulam luderet, while he played at draughts, says Gibbon; but he might as well have said chess; for the word as much expresses the one as the other: And we know that, among the Scandinavians, a game very closely resembling chess was known. The ancient chronicles of the Scandinavians frequently present us with young warrions endeavouring to acquire the good opinion of their mistresses by boasting of their accomplishments, such as their skill at chess, their dexterity in swimming and skating, their talents in poetry, and their knowing all the stars by their names. Mallet, Introd. Hist. Denmark, chap. xiii. Mr. Barrow informs us that the chess of the Chinese is totally different from that both of the Hindus and Persians. Travels in China, p. 158. It has been therefore probably, in each of those cases, a separate invention. The idea that chess was invented by the Hindus was, we believe, first started by Hyde (de Relig. Vet. Pers. ii. 1.), and thereafter it has been taken for granted. The curious reader may see an interesting description of a game at chess by four Brahmens, in Moor’s Hist. of Capt. Little’s Detachment, p. 139. That there are books in India containing the doctrine of chess proves nothing. There are books in Ice-landic, on the art of poetry, but the Icelanders were not the inventors of poetry.
“Buchanan’s Journey through Mysore, &c. iii. 370. Dr. Tennant says; “Before the arrival of the Europeans, there was not a house in all India furnished with glass windows; even at present, when glass is so common here, I believe none of the natives have availed themselves of so obvious a remedy. Glass is considered by the Europeans as an indispensable requisite in the construction of every Bungalow at the upper stations: they have even introduced the use of it into the camp. Several officers carry, on their march, a frame of glass, which they fix in the windward door of their tents, during the hot winds, should the service call them into the field at that season.” Indian Recreations, i. 325. See, too, Voyage aux Indes, par le P. Paulini, ii. 403, 404. The Jews first discovered the art of making glass. Taciti Hist. lib. v. cap. vii.; Plin. lib. v. cap. xix; also lib. xxxvi. cap. xxvi.; Strabo, lib. xvi.; Josephus, Wars of the Jews, ii. 19. The Hindus seem to be considerably behind the perfection which the Japanese have attained in the useful arts. “As to all sorts of handicrafts,” says Kæmpfer, “either curious or useful, they are so far from having occasion for masters, that they rather exceed all other nations in ingenuity and neatness of workmanship, particularly in brass, gold, silver, copper. What skill they have in working and tempering of iron, is evident by the goodness and neatness of their arms. No nation in the East is so dextrous and ingenious, in making, carving, graving, gilding of servaas, which is a particular kind of a precious, blackish metal, made artificially of a mixture of copper with a little gold. They weave silken stuff so fine, so neat and equal, that they are inimitable even to the Chinese.” Kæmpfer, Hist. of Japan, Appendix, p. 62.
Works of Sir W. Jones, Discourse on the Chinese.
“It was long before mankind knew the art of writing; but they very early invented several methods to supply, in a good measure, that want. The method most commonly used was, to compose their histories in verse, and sing them. Legislators made use of this expedient to consign and hand down to posterity their regulations. The first laws of all nations were composed in verse, and sung. Apollo, according to a very ancient tradition, was one of the first legislators. The same tradition says, that he published his laws to the sound of his lyre, that is to say, that he had set them to music. We have certain proof that the first laws of Greece were a kind of songs. The laws of the ancient inhubitants of Spain were verses which they sung. Tuiston was regarded by the Germans as their first lawgiver. They said he put his laws into verses and songs. This ancient custom was long kept up by several nations.” Goguet’s Origin of Laws, i. 28. See the various authorities there quoted. The laws of the Druids were in verse. Henry, Hist. of Great Britain, i. 315.
“Le Dictionnaire Amarasinha est ecrit en vers Sanscrit, comme tous les anciens livres, et n’est pas divisé par chapitres comme les notres, mais par classes de noms....ainsi....classe Svarggavargga, c’est à dire classe des noms qui appartiennent au ciel; Manouchavargga, de ceux qui appartiennent à l’homme,” &c. Voyage aux Indes Orientales, par le P. Paulini, ii. 228. “Presque tous les livres Indiens sont ecrits en vers. L’astronomie, la medicine, l’histoire, tout se chante.” Ibid. p. 369. The same was the case with the ancient Germans; “Celebrant carminibus antiquis, quod unum apud illos memoriæ et annalium genus est, Tuistonem,” &c. Tacit. de Mor. Germ. cap. x.
Even Mr. Maurice, whose appetite for Hindu miracles is not easily overcome, could not digest the beauties of their historic muse. After an exhibition of some of these specimens in his history, he says, “I know not whether some of my readers may not be so insensible to the charms of the Indian historic muse as to rejoice that the Ramayan (only passages of it were then in an English dress) has not been translated; for certainly inflated accounts of the combats of giants, hurling rocks, and darting serpents at one another, and of monsters whose blood, spouting forth in torrents, is formed into considerable rivers, are not very consistent with the sober and dignified page of history.” Maurice, Hist. of Hindustan, ii. 100. “To the above list of absurdities we may add monsters with ten heads and a hundred hands, which continue to fight after all their heads are cut off, and mow down whole battalions.” Ibid. p. 248. “The minute accounts of incantations and combats of giants, that fill the Indian legends, however they may astonish the oriental literati, have no charm for the polished scholar of western climes, and are justly consigned to puerile reading.” Ibid. p. 251. Yet Sir William Jones could say, “The first poet of the Hindus was the great Valmic; and his Ramayan is an epic poem on the story of Rama (or rather of the three Ramas,) which in unity of action, magnificence of imagery, and elegance of style, far surpasses the learned and elaborate work of Nonnus.” See Asiat. Res. i. 258. We strongly suspect that Sir William Jones never read the poem; or more of it than scraps.
Of the Song of Solomon Voltaire, notwithstanding all his prejudices against the Jews, confesses “Après tout, ce cantique est un morceau precieux de l’antiquité. C’est le seul livre d’amour qui nous soit resté des Hebreux. Il y est souvent parlé de jouissance. C’est une eglogue Juive. Le style est comme celui de tous les ouvrages d’eloquence des Hebreux, sans haison, sans suite, plein de repetitions, confus, ridiculement metaphorique; mais il y a des endroits qui respirent la naïveté et l’amour. Voltaire, Diction. Philos. Mot Solomon. The criticism would in most respects exactly suit Sacontala.
Preface to Sir William Jones’s Translation of Sacontala.
The conformities in their religious system have already been remarked. All their doctrines, their narratives, and even the laws of which they were the promulgators, were delivered in verse. “They had made considerable progress,” says Dr. Henry, “in several branches of learning. We shall be confirmed in this,” he adds, “by observing the respectful terms in which the best Greek and Roman writers speak of their learning. Diogenes Laertius places them in the same rank, in point of ‘earning and philosophy, with the Chaldeans of Assyria, the Magi of Persia, and the gymnosophists and Brachmans of India. Both Cæsar and Mela observe, that they had formed very large systems of astronomy and natural philosophy; and that these systems, together with their observations on other parts of learning, were so voluminous, that their scholars spent no less than twenty years in making themselves masters of them, and in getting by heart that infinite multitude of verses in which they were contained.” Henry’s Hist. of Great Britain, ii. 5, and i. 153.
Preface to Sacontala.
“Wretched dramas,” Lord Macartney calls them. Barrow’s Life of Lord Macartney, ii. 286.
“The poets of the north” (to use the words of Dr. Henry) “were particularly famous in this period, and greatly caressed by our Angle-Saxon kings. ‘It would be endless,’ (says an excellent antiquary) ‘to name all the poets of the north who flourished in the courts of the kings of England, or to relate the distinguished honours and magnificent presents that were heaped upon them.’ The same writer hath preserved the names of no fewer than eight of those Danish, Norwegian, and Icelandic poets, who flourished in the Court of Canute the Great.—The poems of those ancient bards of the north are said to have produced the most amazing effects on those who heard them, and to have roused or soothed the most impetuous passions of the human mind. Revenga, it is well known, rages with the greatest violence in the hearts of warlike, fierce barbarians, and is of all their passions the most furious and ungovernable; and yet it is said to have been subdued by the enchauting power of poetry. Egil-Skallagrim, a famous poet of those times, had quarrelled with Eric Blodox, King of Norway; and in the course of that quarrel had killed the King’s son and several of his friends; which raised the rage of Eric against him to the greatest height. Egil was taken prisoner, and sent to the King, who was then in Northumberland. No sooner was he brought into the presence of the enraged Monarch, who had in his own mind doomed him to the most cruel tortures, than he began to sing a poem which he had composed in praise of his royal virtues, and conveyed his flattery in such sweet and soothing strains, that they procured him not only the forgiveness of all his crimes, but even the favour of his prince. The power of poetry is thus described in one of their most ancient odes: ‘I know a song by which I soften and enchant the arms of my enemies, and render their weapons of none effect. I know a song which I need only to sing when men have loaded me with bonds; for the moment I sing it my chains fall in pieces, and I walk forth at liberty. I know a song useful to all mankind; for as soon as hatred inflames the sons of men, the moment I sing it, they are appeased. I know a song of such virtue, that, were I caught in a storm, I can hush the winds, and render the air perfectly calm.’—Those ancient bards, who had acquired so great an ascendaut over the minds of their ferocious countrymen, must certainly have been possessed of an uncommon portion of that poetic fire, which is the gift of nature, and cannot be acquired by art.”—Henry’s Hist. of Great Britain, book ii. chap. v.
Mallet, Introd. Hist. Denmark, i. 13. The following is a very soft but correct delineation of the rude features of Hindu poetry. “The poetical expression of the Hindus perhaps offends by too great loftiness and emphasis. One may understand their books and conversation in prose; but it is impossible to comprehend those in verse, until diligent study has rendered them familiar. Quaint phrases, perpetual allegories, the poetical terminations of the words, contracted expressions and the like, render the poetical style obscure and difficult to be understood, excepting to those who are inured to it. One of the principal defects of the Hindu poets is that their descriptions are commonly too long and minute. For example, if they are describing a beautiful woman, they are never contented with drawing her likeness with a single stroke.........Such a mode of expression would not be strong enough for the gross comprehension of a Hindu. The poet must particularize the beauty of her eyes, her forehead, her nose, her cheeks, and must expatiate on the colour of her skin, and the manner in which she adorns every part of her body. He will describe the turn and proportion of her arms, legs, thighs, shoulders, chest, and in a word of all parts visible or invisible; with an accurate recital of the shape and form which best indicate their beauty and symmetry. He will never desist from his colouring till he has represented in detail every feature and part in the most laboured and tedious style, but at the same time with the closest resemblance. The epithets, in their poetical style, are frequent, and almost always figurative.—The brevity and conciseness of many modes of expression in the Hindu idioms does not hinder their style, upon the whole, from being extremely diffuse.—To give an exact idea of the different species of Hindu poesy would not be much relished by the greater number of readers, so different in their manner from ours. All their little pieces that I have seen are in general very flat.” Description, &c. of the People of India, by the Abbé Dubois, p. 267.
Mallet, ut supra. In the very subjects of their poems, as well as the style of them, the Scandinavian bards bore a great resemblance to the Hindu. Of the poetry of the Scalds, Mallet says, Ibid. ii. 183, “The same taste and mode of composition prevails every where: we have constantly allegories and combats; giants contending with the gods; Loke perpetually deceiving them; Thor interposing in their defence, &c.” The Scandinavians had not only striking poems, but treatises on the art of poetry. Id. Introduction to the Edda, p. xix. Clavigero says of the Mexicans, “The language of their poetry was brilliant, pure, and agreeable, figurative, and embellished with frequent comparisons to the most pleasing objects in nature, such as flowers, trees, rivers, &c.” Hist. of Mex. book vii. sect. 42.
The words of Sir William Jones are: Nobilissimum interea, et longissimum (voluminis enim permagni, prope dimidiam partem constituit) est sine ulla dubitatione vere epicum, et profecto nullum est ab Europeis scriptum poema, quod ad Homeri dignitatem, et quasi cœlestem ardorem propius accedat.” Works, ii. 502.
Tour to Sheeraz, by Ed. Scott Waring, pp. 158, 159, 160, 198.
Ibid. p. 150. The author adds, “I shall give one instance from an immense number, of the forced images of Persian historians; it would be disgusting to the reader to produce others:"—a style of which more than one instance would disgust must be a bad style indeed.—"Nous savons assez,” says Voltaire, “que le bon gout n’a jamais été connu dans l’Orient.—Otez aux Arabes, aux Persans, aux Juifs, le soleil et la lune, les montagnes et les vallées, les dragons et les basilics, il ne leur reste presque plus de poesie.” Voltaire, Essai sur les Mœurs et l’Esprit de Nations, tom. i. ch. v.
Tour to Sheeraz, ut supra, p. 235. To the imagination of the eastern poets, and above all, of the Hindus, may be aptly applied, in many of its particulars, the description of the Demoness, Imagination, in the enchanted castle of Hermaphrodix:
La Pucelle d’Orleans, Chant 17 me.
Wilford, on Egypt and the Nile, Asiat. Res. iii. 296.
Rennel’s Memoir, Introd. p. xl.
“That no Hindu nation, but the Cashmirians, have left us regular histories,” says Sir W. Jones, “in their ancient language, we must ever lament.” Asiat. Res. iv. xvii. What he meant by excepting the Cashmirians, we know not. No history of them has ever been seen. “Although we have had recourse,” says Dr. Tennant, “to the Sanscrit records at Benares for several years, no history of the country has been found, which is the composition of a native.” Ind. Rec. i. 10. “Their poets,” says Mr. W. Chambers, “seem to have been their only historians as well as divines; and whatever they relate is wrapped up in this burlesque garb, set off, by way of ornament, with circumstances highly incredible and absurd, and all this without any date, and in no order or method, than such as the poet’s fancy suggested and found most convenient. Asiat. Res. i. 157. Such is the character of the Puranas, from which Mr. Wilford has exerted himself with such a waste of labour and credulity to extract some scattered fragments of history; or rather something, it is difficult to say what, on which some few historical inferences might be founded. “The department of ancient history in the East is so deformed by fable and anachronism, that it may be considered an absolute blank in Indian literature.” Wilks’s Mysore, Pref. p. xv. Mr. Dow’s prejudices went far: “We must not,” says he, (Preface to his Hist. of Hindostan) “with Ferishta, consider the Hindoos as destitute of genuine domestic annals, or that those voluminous records they possess are mere legends framed by the Bramins.” Yet it has been found that all which Ferishta said was true, and all that Col. Dow believed was false.—"Seriously speaking, the turn and bent of the imagination of the people of India are such, that they can in no wise be excited but by what is monstrous. Ordinary occurrences make no impression upon them at all. Their attention cannot be gained without the introduction of giants and pygmies. The Brahmans, therefore, having studied this propensity, availed themselves of it to invent a religious worship, which they artfully interwove with their own private interests.—This passion of the Hindus for the extraordinary and the wonderful must have been remarked by every one who has ever so little studied their character. It continually leads to the observation I have so frequently repeated, that as often as it was necessary to move their gross imagination, some circumstance, altogether extravagant, but coloured with the hue of truth, was required to be added to the simplicity of narrative or fact. To give them any idea of the marvellous, something must be invented that will overturn, or at least alter the whole order of nature. The miracles of the Christian religion, however extraordinary they must appear to a common understanding, are by no means so to the Hindus. Upon them they have no effect. The exploits of Joshua and his army, and the prodigies they effected by the interposition of God, in the conquest of the land of Canaan, seem to them unworthy of notice, when compared with the achievements of their own Rama, and the miracles which attended his progress when he subjected Ceylon to his yoke. The mighty strength of Samson dwindles into nothing, when opposed to the overwhelming energy of Bali, of Ravana, and the giants. The resurrection of Lazarus itself is, in their eyes, an ordinary event, of which they see frequent examples, in the Vishnu ceremonies of the Paheahdam.—I particularize these examples, because they have been actually opposed to me more than once by Brahmans, in my disputations with them on religion.” Abbé Dubois, p. 421.
Such is the opinion of some of the best Sanscrit scholars; for example, of Mr Wilkins. The same idea is encouraged by Sir William Jones, Asiat. Res. ii. 135. The good sense of Major Rennel rejected at an early period the notion of their historical truth. “The Mahabarat....supposed to contain a large portion of interesting historical matter: but if the father of Grecian poetry made so total a change in the story of Helen, in order to give a full scope to his imagination; what security have we that another poet may not mislead us in matters of fact.” Memoir, p. xlii. A mind of greater compass and force had previously said, “It were absurd to quote the fable of the Iliad or the Odyssey, the legends of Hercules, Theseus, or Œdipus, as authorities in matter of fact relating to the history of mankind; but they may, with great justice, be cited to ascertain what were the conceptions and sentiments of the age in which they were composed, or to characterize the genius of that people, with whose imaginations they were blended, and by whom they were fondly rehearsed and admired.” Ferguson, Essay on the Hist. of Civil Society, part ii. sect. 1.
Hist. of Persia, i. 273. Yet the Jewish scriptures tell us, that the deeds of the kings of Persia were written in chronicles of that kingdom; and Ctesias, who was at the court of Artaxerxes Mnemon, says he had access to volumes contained in the royal archives. The Persians had no historians before the æra of Mohammed; Kinneir’s Geog. Mem. of the Persian Empire, p. 49.—In Persia, there is now, as there has long been, a royal historiographer, whose business it is to record the glories of the reigning prince. Ibid.
Tour to Sheeraz, p. 152.
Richardson’s Dissertations, p. 47.
Richardson’s Dissertations, p. 47 to 60. He gives us the following as the account, by the Persian historians, of the conquest of Alexander. Bahman, the King, had married his own daughter. When he died, leaving her pregnant, he appointed her his successor, if she had no son; and regent, if she had one. The lady wished to reign; and being delivered of a son, concealed his birth. He was exposed, but found, and brought up by a dyer. When grown to manhood he joined the Queen’s army, which was marching against the Greeks, and performed prodigies of valour. The Queen sent for him; he was recognized, and the Queen resigned. He became King Darab. He marched against Philip of Macedou, and forced him to take refuge in a forest. Peace was granted, on Philip’s giving his daughter to Darab, and paying annually a thousand eggs of gold. Philip’s daughter ceased to please, and Darab sent ber back after she was pregnant. The child she brought forth was the famous Alexander. The son of Darab, who succeeded him, proved so bad a king, that the nobles of Persia advised Alexander to assert his right to the throne. Alexander refused the annual tribute. Darab, the younger, marched against him, and was conquered. After the battle he was assassinated in his tent by his attendants. But Alexander protested his ignorance of the crime, and Darab named him his successor, requesting him to govern Persia by Persian nobles, which he did. Ibid. In another passage (Ibid. p. 326) he acknowledges that no account is found in the Persian historians of the expedition of Cyrus the younger. The story of Alexander, as told by Sir John Malcolm, in his late history of Persia, is similar, though not the same. Mr. Gibbon says well, “The art and genius of history have ever been unknown to the Asiatics. ......And perhaps the Arabs might not find in a single historian, so clear and comprehensive a narrative of their own exploits as will be deduced in the ensuing sheets.” Gibbon, chap. li. Chardin, speaking of the ignorance of the Persians, in regard to geography and history, says, “On ne croiroit jamais que cette ignorance fut aussi outrée qu’elle l’est, et je ne l’auroit pu croire moimême, si je ne m’en etois convaincu par un long usage. .....Pour ce qui est de l’historie du pays, les livres qui en traitent ne sont clairs et sῦrs, et ne se suivent, que depuis la naissance de la religion Mahometane; de maniere qu’on ne se peut fier à rien de ce qui est rapporteé de siecles precedens, surtout en matière de chronologie, ou ces gens committent les plus grossieres erreurs, confondant les siecles, et mettant tout pêle-mèle sans se soucier du tems.—Toutes ces histoires, jusqu’au tems de Muhammed, sont des pieces ou fabuleuses ou Romanesques, remplies de mille contes ou il n’y a rien de vraisemblable.” Voyage en Perse, iii. 256. And Gibbon says, (Hist. of Decl. and Fail, ch. x. p. 442.) “So little has been preserved of Eastern history before Mahomet, that the modern Persians are totally ignorant of the victory of Sapor, an event so glorious to their nation."—"When the Romans had supplanted the Greeks, and extended their dominion over all Europe, they also engaged in endless wars with the Persian kings of the Ashkanian and Sassanian dynasties, for these Asiatic provinces. The events of these early periods are not well described in our histories, as we have no authentic records prior to the time of Mohammed: But the Greeks, who have histories which extend back 2000 years, have minutely described all the circumstances of these wars.” Travels of Mirza Abu Taleb Khan, translated by Charles Stewart, Esq. M. A. S. Professor of Oriental Languages, in the Hon. East India Company’s College, Herts. iii. 23.
See Wilford on Egypt and the Nile, Asiat. Res. iii. 295; and on the Chronology of the Hindus, Ibid. v. 241.
Hist. of Great Britain, ii. 4.
Strabo, lib. iv. p. 197.
Ammian. Marcell. lib. xv. cap. ix.
The high civilization, refined literature, beautiful language, profound philosophy, polished manners, and amiable morals of the Arabians, are celebrated in the highest strains, by M. de Boulainvilliers, Vie de Mahomet, p. 38; Ed. of Amsterdam, 1781. Pythagoras, after having studied the sciences of the Egyptians, travelled into Arabia to learn the philosophy of the Arabians. Porphyr. de Vit. Pythag.
Volney’s Travels in Egypt and Syria, ii. 434. “In two recent voyages into Egypt,” says Gibbon, (Hist. of Dec. and Fall, &c. ix. 448.) “we are amused by Savary, and instructed by Volney. I wish the latter could travel over the globe.” “The last and most judicious,” he calls him, “of our Syrian travellers.” Ibid. p. 224.
Volney, ut supra, p. 443.
Observations on the Religion, Laws, Government, and Manners of the Turks, p. 39. Most, if not all, the Arabian versions of the Greek authors, were done by the Christian subjects of the caliphs. See Gibbon, ch. iii. The same is probably the origin of the Turkish versions. What use, if any, they make of them, does not appear. Mr. Scott Waring says, “The science of the Persians is, I believe, extremely confined. They have translations of Euchd, Ptolemy, the works of Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, and some other of the Grecian philosophers, which few of them read, and fewer understand.” Tour to Sheeraz, p. 254.
Hist. of Decline and Fall, &c. ch. i. Mr. Forster mentions a Mussulman fellow-traveller, a disputant, who, says he, “unhappily for himself and his neighbours, had conned over some of those books of ingenious devices and quaint syllogisms, which are held in high note among the modern Mahometans, and have fixed among them a false distorted taste.” Travels in India, p. 106.
“There is generally a want of ardour in pursuit of knowledge among the Asiatics, which is partaken by the Afghauns; excepting, however, in the sciences of dialectics and metaphysics, in which they take much interest, and have made no contemptible progress.” Elphinstone’s Account of Caubul, p. 189.
The clearest account I have seen of this important fact, which Mr. Dugald Stewart (Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind, ii. 231,) appears not to have known that any body had noticed but M. Turgot, is in the following passage of Condillac. “Mais il faut observer, qu’une fois qu’un enfant commence à generaliser, il rend une idée aussi etendue qu’elle peut l’être, c’est-à-dire qu’il se hâte de donner le même nom à tous les objets qui se resemblant grossièrement, et il les comprend tous dans une seule classe. Les resemblances sont les premieres choses qui le frappent, parce qu’il ne sait pas encore assez analyser pour distinguer les objets par les qualités qui leur sont propres. Il n’imaginera donc des classes moins générales, que lorsqu’il aura appris à observer par ou les choses different. Le mot homme, par example, est d’abord pour lui une denomination commune, sous laquelle il comprend indistinctment tous les hommes. Mais lorsque dans la suite il aura occasion de connoitre les differentes conditions, il fera aussitôt les classes subordonnées et moins generales de militaires, de magistrats, de bourgeois, d’artisans, de laboureurs, &c.; tel est donc l’ordre de la generation des idées. On passe tout à coup de l’individu au genre, peur descendre ensuite aux differentes especes qu’on multiplie d’autant plus qu’on acquiert plus de discerniment; c’est-a-dire, qu’on apprend mieux à faire l’analyse des choses.” Cours d’Etude, i. 49, 50. Ed. à Parme, 1776. Vide note A. at the end of the volume.
Works of Sir Wm. Jones, i. 165. It may be remarked, that Sir William Jones, after all these praises, allows that the Vedanti doctrines are wild and erroneous. Asiat. Res. iv. 164, 165.
Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind, vol. ii. note B.
The words in which this important observation is expressed, are borrowed from a happy application of it by Mr. Stewart, in the same volume, p. 443.
The passage is transcribed by Mr. Stewart, in the note quoted above.
Vide supra, vol. i. p. 315.
Stewart’s Elem. ut supra.
Another circumstance is always to be remembered. If the Brahmens are once informed of the European doctrine, they will take abundant care to make their own conform to it. “With respect to the real tenets of the Hindus, on subjects of theology, they are to be taken from their ancient books, rather than from the oral declarations of the most learned Brahmens of modern times, who have discovered that the opinions of Christians, concerning the nature of God, are far more rational than those currently entertained among them, and that the gross idolatry of the Hindus is contemned by the more intelligent natives of the western world. Bernier seems to have found occasion for the same remark in his time; for, after relating a conference between him and some learned pandits, in which the latter endeavoured to refine away the grossness of their image worship; ‘Voila (says he) sans ajouter ni diminuer la solution qu’ils me donnerent; mais, à vous dire le vrai, cela me sembloit un peu trôp bien concerté a la Chretienne, aux prix de ce que j’en avois appris de plusieurs autres pandits.’” (Grant’s Observations on the State of Society among the Asiatic Subjects of Great Britain, p. 73. Papers on India, ordered to be printed by the House of Commons, 15th June, 1813.) This supposed refinement, such as it is, Mr. Elphinstone found among the rude and uncivilized Afghauns. “Another sect in Caubul is that of the Soofees, who ought, perhaps, to be considered as a class of philosophers, rather than of religionists. As far as I can understand their mysterious doctrine, their leading tenet seems to be, that the whole of the animated and inanimate creation is an illusion; and that nothing exists except the Supreme Being, which presents itself under an infinity of shapes to the soul of man, itself a portion of the Divine essence. The contemplation of this doctrine raises the Soofees to the utmost pitch of enthusiasm. They admire God in every thing; and, by frequent meditation on his attributes, and by tracing him through all his forms, they imagine that they attain to an ineffable love for the Deity, and even to an entire union with his substance.” (An Account of the Kingdom of Caubul, by the Hon. Mountstuart Elphinstone, p. 207.) See, for an account of a similar sect in Persia, Malcolm’s Hist. of Persia, ii. 385.—How different is all this from the curious result of the refined and ingenious reasonings of Berkeley! And how shallow the heads that confound them!
See Mallet, Introd. Hist. Denmark, vol. ii. For additional illustrations we may refer to the maxims of Confucius and Zoroaster.
Colebrooke on the Sanscrit and Pracrit Languages, Asiat. Res. vol. vii.
Mr. Colebrooke still farther remarks, that the Hindus delight in scholastic disputation; and that their controversial commentaries on grammar exhibit copious specimens of it. Ibid.
Vide supra, p. 67–69.
Tout ce que le mauvais goῦt peut inventer pour fatiguer l’esprit, fait leur delices, et ravit leur admiration. Memoires du Baron de Tott sur les Turcs et les Tartares, i. 8.
The following remarkable passage in the celebrated letter of our countryman, and (but for one exception) admirable countryman, Sir Thomas More, to Martin Dorpius, affords at once a proof of the fact, and a judgment on the practice: “At nunc absurda quædam portenta, ad certam bonarum artium nata perniciem, et luculenter ab antiquis distincta, commiscuerunt; et veterum purissimas traditiones suis adjectis sordibus infecerunt omnia. Nam in Grammatica (ut omittam Alexandrum, atque id genus ahos; qui quamquam imperite, tamen grammaticam utcunque docuerant) Albertus quidam, grammaticam se traditurum professus, logicam nobis quandam, aut metaphysicam, immo neutram, sed mera somnia, mera deliria grammaticæ loco substituit: et tamen hæ nugacissimæ nugæ in publicas academias non tantum receptæ sunt, sed etiam plerisque tam impense placuerunt, ut is propemodum solus aliquid in grammatica valere censeatur, quisquis fuerit Albertistæ nomen assequutus. Tantum auctoritatis habet, ad pervertenda bonorum quoque ingeniorum judicia, semel ab ineptis tradita, magistris, dein tempore corroborata persuasio. Quo fit ut minus mirer, ad eundem modum in dialecticæ locum nugas plus quam sophisticas irrepsisse quæ cultoribus suis argutiarum nomine tam vehementer, arrident.” Caramuel says of the subtle doctor, Scotus, Vix ahibi subtilius scripsit quam cum de grammaticis modis significandi. Mr. Horne Tooke, however, on this remarks, that his De modis significandi should be entitled, An Exemplar of the subtle art of saving appearances, and of discoursing deeply andlearnedly on a subject with which we are perfectly unacquainted. Quid enim subtilus vel magis tenue quam quod nihil est? (Diversions of Purley, Introd. p. 12.)
Le Pere Paulini (Bartolomeo) Voyage aux Indes, ii. 201.
Mr. Gibbon quaintly says, “In Arabia as well as in Greece, the perfection of language outstripped the refinement of manners; and her speech could diversify the fourscore names of honey, the two hundred of a serpent, the five hundred of a lion, the thousand of a sword, at a time when this copious dictionary was entrusted to the memory of an illiterate people.” Hist. of Dec. and Fall, &c. ix. 240. The German professor Forster, who writes notes on the Voyage du Pere Paulini, says not ineptly on the passage quoted in the text, (Paulini, Voy. aux Indes, iii. 399.) “Ce n’est pas de cette manière la qu’on doit juger de la richesse d’une langue. On a coutume de dire que la langue Arabe est riche, parceque elle a je ne sais quel nombre de synonimes pour exprimer le mot epée. Un de ces synonimes, par example, signifie le meurtrier des hommes. Ce n’est la, dans la realité, qu’une expression metaphorique et figurée, telle qu’on en pent former dans toutes les langues tant soit pen cultivees. On pouvait de même trouver plus de trente noms pour exprimer le soleil dans les poetes Grecs; mais il n’est venu dans l’esprit de personne, de faire valoir cela pour prouver la richesse de la langue Grecque.” Our own sagacions, and in many respects highly philosophical Wilkins judges better when he names “significancy, perspicuity, brevity, and consequently facility,” among the perfections of a language; and says that the multitude of rules in the Latin “argues the imperfection of that language, that it should stand in need of such and so many rules as have no foundation in the philosophy of speech...............If these rules be not necessary to language, and according to nature, but that words may signify sufficiently, and in some respects better without them, then there is greater judgment showed in laying them aside, or framing a language without them.” Essay towards a Real Character, &c. p. 448. Another writer, who speaks with as much boldness, as he thinks with force on the subject of language says, “Persons too dull or too idle to understand the subject cannot, or will not, perceive how great an evil many words is; and boast of their copiæ verhorum, as if a person diseased with gout or dropsy boasted of his great joints, or big belly.” And again, “It cannot be too often repeated that superfluous variety end copiu, are faults, not excellencies. Simplicity may be considered poverty by perverted understandings, but it is always of great utility; and to true judges it always possesses beauty and dignity.” Philosophic etymology, or Rational Grammar, by James Gilchrist, p. 110, 170. If the Sanscrit is to be admired for its amplicated grammar, the Ethiopic should be admired for its 202 letters; Wilkins’ Essay towards a Real Character, p. 14.
Gl’indigeni Chilesi formano una sola nazione divisa in varie tribu, et tutti hanno la medesima fisconomia, e la medesima lingua chiamata da loro Chiledugu, che vuol dire lingua Chilese. Questa lingua è dolce, armoniosa, expressiva, regolare, e copiosissima di termini atti ad enunciare non solo le cose fische generali, o particulari, ma anche le cose morali, e astratte. Saggio Sulla Storia Naturale del Chili Del Signor Abate Giovanni Ignazio Molina, lib. iv. p. 334.
Marsden’s Hist. of Sumatra, p. 197, ed. 3d.
“It is so copious, polished, and expressive, that it has been esteemed by many superior to the Latin, and even to the Greek. It abounds,” says he, “more than the Tuscan, in diminutives and augmentatives; and more than the English, or any other language we know, in verbal and abstract terms: for there is hardly a verb from which there are not many verbals formed, and scarcely a substantive or adjective from which there are not some abstracts formed. It is not less copious in verbs than in nouns; as from every single verb others are derived of different significations. Chihua “is to do,” Chichihua “to do with diligence or often,” Chihuilia “to do to another,” Chihualtia “to cause to be done,” Chihuatiuh “to go to do,” Chiuaco “to come to do,” Chiuhtiuh “to be doing,” &c. Having mentioned the extraordinary variety with which the Mexicans express different degrees of respect, by adding adverbs and other particles to the names employed, Clavigero adds, “This variety, which gives so much civilization to the language, does not, however, make it difficult to be spoken; because it is subjected to rules which are fixed and easy; nor do we know any language that is more regular and methodical. The Mexicans, like the Greeks and other nations, have the advantage of making compounds of two, three, or four simple words; but they do it with more economy than the Greeks did; for the Greeks made use of the entire words in composition, whereas the Mexicans cut off syllables, or at least some letters from them. Tlazotti signifies valued, or beloved; Mahuitzic, honoured or revered; Tespixqui, priest; Tatli, father. To unite these five words in one, they take eight consonants and four vowels, and say, for instance, Notlazomahuitzteopixcatalzin, that is, my very worthy father, or revered priest, prefixing the No which corresponds to the pronoun my, and adding tzin, which is a particle expressive of reverence. There are some compounds of so many terms as to have fifteen or sixteen syllables.......In short all those who have learned this language, and can judge of its copiousness, regularity, and beautiful modes of speech, are of opinion, that such a language cannot have been spoken by a barbarous people.” Clavigero, Hist. of Mexico, book vii. sect. 41.
Henry’s Hist. of Great Britain, iv. 365.—"I know not a language spoken in Europe that hath words of more sweetness and greatness than theirs:” Penn’s Letter on the American Indians, in Clarkson’s Life of Penn, i. 385.
Laws of Menu, ch. i. 75.
Laws of Menu, ch. i. 78.
Laws of Menu, ch. i. 45.
Ibid. 49. See also Ib. xi. 143 to 146.
Wilford on Egypt and the Nile, Asiat. Res. iii. 310.
Transactions of the Royal Society of Edin. vol. ii.
Of which he has over all Europe been recognized as the author: Vide infra, p. 93, note 3.
Mr. Playfair has himself given us a criterion for determining on his notions of the Hindu astronomy, which is perfectly sufficient. He says, in the conclusion of his discourse (Edin. Trans. ii. 192), “These conclusions are without doubt extraordinary; and have no other claim to our belief, except that their being false were much more wonderful than their being true.” On this principle, the question is decided; for the wonder is little that they should be false, but mighty indeed were they true.
Asiat. Res. vi. 577.
Dr. Smith, with his usual sagacity, says, “There are various causes which render astronomy the very first of the sciences which is cultivated by a rude people; though from the distance of the objects, and the consequent mysteriousness of their nature and motions, this would seem not to be the case. Of all the phenomena of nature, the celestial appearances are, by their greatness and beauty, the most strikingly addressed to the curiosity of mankind. But it is not only their greatness and beauty by which they become the first objects of a speculative curiosity. The species of objects in the heavens are few in number; the sun, the moon, the planets, and the fixed stars. All the changes too which are ever observed in these bodies, evidently arise from some difference in the velocity and direction of their several motions. All this formed a very simple object of consideration. The objects, however, which the inferior parts of nature presented to view, the earth and the bodies which immediately surround it, though they were much more familiar to the mind, were more apt to embarrass and purplex it, by the variety of their species and by the intricacy and seeming irregularity of the laws or orders of their succession. The variety of meteors in the air, of clouds, rainbows, thunder, lightning, winds, rain, hail, snow, is vast, and the order of their succession seems to be most irregular and inconstant. The species of fossils, minerals, plants, animals, which are found in the waters and near the surface of the earth, are still more intricately diversified; and if we regard the different manners of their production, their mutual influence in altering, destroying, supporting one another, the orders of their succession seem to admit of an almost infinite variety. If the imagination, therefore, when it considered the appearances in the heavens, was often perplexed and driven out of its natural career, it would be much more exposed to the same embarrassment, when it directed its attention to the objects which the earth presented to it, and when it endeavoured to trace their progress and successive revolutions.” Essays by Dr. Adam Smith, p. 97, 98. Of the Persians, Mr. Scott Waring says, “Their perverse predilection for judicial astrology excites them to the study of astronomy, merely that they may foretell the conjunction of the planets; and when they are able to do this with any degree of accuracy, they are accounted men of considerable science. They have two descriptions of Ephemeris; the first containing the conjunction and opposition of the luminaries; and the second the eclipses, the longitude and latitude of the stars,” &c. Tour to Sheeraz, p. 254. The pages of the historian being little adapted to mathematical and astronomical discussion, I have inserted, by way of Appendix, an examination of the arguments for the antiquity and excellence of the Hindu astronomy; with which the friendship of the great mathematician to whom I have alluded has enabled me to elucidate the subject. See Append. No. 1. at the end of the chapter.
Playfair, on the Astronomy of the Brahmens, Trans. Roy. Soc. Edin. ii. 135.
Dr. Smith says, “Nature, according to common observation, appears a chaos of jarring and discordant appearances, into which philosophy endeavours to introduce order by representing the invisible chains which bind together all these disjointed objects. It thus soothes the imagination, and renders the theatre of nature a more coherent, and therefore a more magnificent spectacle, than otherwise it would appear to be. Mankind in the first ages of society have little curiosity to find out those hidden chains of events which bind together the seemingly disjointed appearances of nature. A savage has no inclination to amuse himself with searching out what seems to serve no other purpose than to render the theatre of nature a more connected spectacle to his imagination.” Essays, Hist. of Astron. p. 20, 21, 23.
Playfair, on the Astron of the Brahm. Trans. R. S. E. ii. 138, 139.
Goguet having mentioned the quipos of the Peruvians, says, “It is the same with the negroes on the coast of Juida. They know nothing of the art of writing, and yet they can calculate the largest sums with great facility by means of cords and knots, which have their own signification.” Hist. Gen. de Voyage, iv. 283, 373, and 393.” Origin of Laws, i. 224. We are informed by Herodotus, that the Egyptians, like the Brahmens, counted by shells; and at one time at least, the Greeks; but in an inverse order, the Greeks passing from left to right, the Egyptians from right to left. Herodot lib. ii. cap. 36.
Asiat. Res. ii. 115. The following is valuable from the pen of M. Delambre. M. La Place, qui avoit quelque intéret a soutenir la grande ancienneté de l’astronomie Indienne, et qui avoit d’abord parle des mouvemens moyens et des époques des Hindous de la maniere la plus avantaguese, a fini pourtant par croire et imprimer que leurs tables ne remontent pas au dela du 13me siècle. Mr. Playfair, en repondant à l’objection de M. de la Place, ne la detruit pas. Peu importe que Bailly ait affirmé plus ou moins directement et positivement la conjonction generale des plauètes, qui a determiné l’epoque; Ce qu’il falloit eclaircir est un fait. Les tables indiquent-elles en effet cette conjonction, l’epoque alors est fictive, et l’astronomie Indienne est beaucoup plus moderne. Les tables n’indiquent-elles pas cette conjonction, alors l’objection de M. de la Place tombe d’elle-mème. C’est ce que ne dit pas Mr. Playfair, et c’est ce que je n’ai pas le tems de vérifier. Mais quand même l’objection seroit sans force, il resteroit bien d’autres difficultés. Ce ne sont pas quelques rencoutres heureuses parmi une foule de calculs erronés ou incoherens, qui suffiroient pour prouver l’antiquité de l’Astronomie Indienne. La forme mysterieuse de leurs tables et de leurs méthodes suffiroit pour donner des soupçons sur leur veracité. C’est une question qui probablement ne sera jamais decidée, et qui ne pourroit l’etre que par de nouvelles decouvertes dans les ecrits des Hindoos.” Letter from M. Delambre, dated Paris July 21, 1814, published, Appendix, note D. of “Researches concerning the Laws, &c. of India, by Q. Craufurd, Esq.”
Asiat. Res. ii. 226–228.
Of that ignorance take the following specimens:—"The Bhagavat,” (says Mr. Davis, Asiat. Res. iii. 225) “when treating of the system of the universe, places the moon above the sun, and the planets above the fixed stars."—” The prince of serpents continually sustains the weight of this earth.” Sacontala, beginning of act v.—"Some of them” [the Brahmens of the present day] “are capable,” says Mr. Orme, Hist. of Indost. i. 3, “of calculating an eclipse, which seems to be the utmost stretch of their mathematical knowledge.”
Playfair, on the Astronomy of the Brahmens, Trans. R. S. E. ii. 140, 141. See to the same purpose, Colebrooke on the Indian and Arabian Divisions of the Zodiac, Asiat. Res. ix. 323, 376.
Asiast. Res. ii. 289.
The division of the zodiac among the Birmans as well as the Brahmens, resembles ours, the original Chaldean. “My friend Sangermano,” (says Dr. Buchanan, Asiat. Res. vi. 204,) “gave Captain Symes a silver bason on which the twelve signs were embossed. He conceived, and I think justly, that this zodiac had been communicated to the Burmans from Chaldea by the intervention of the Brahmens. And I find that in this conjecture he is supported by Sir W. Jones, (As. Res. ii. 306). Both, however, I am afraid, will excite the indignation of the Brahmens, who, as the learned judge in another place alleges, have always been too proud to borrow science from any nation ignorant of the Vedas. Of their being so proud as not to acknowledge their obligations I make no doubt; but that they have borrowed from the Chaldeans who were ignorant of the Vedas, Sir W. Jones himself has proved. Why then should he have opposed the sarcastic smiles of perplexed Pandits to the reasoning of M. Montucla, (As. Res. ii. 303, 289,) when that learned man alledged that the Brahmens have derived astronomical knowledge from the Greeks and Arabs. The expression of the Brahmens quoted by him as a proof, namely, ‘that no base creature can be lower than a Yavan or Greek,’ only exposes their miserable ignorance and disgusting illiberality."—On this pride, too great to learn (a sure sign of barbarity), it is also to be remarked, that a matrimonial connexion (among the Hindus the most sacred of all connexions) took place between Seleucus and Sandracottos. “On this difficulty,” says Mr. Wilford, “I consulted the pundits of Benares, and they all gave me the same answer; namely, that in the time of Chandragupta, the Yavanas were much respected, and were even considered as a sort of Hindus.” Asiat. Res. v. 286. What was to hinder the Brahmens from learning astronomy from the Greeks at that period? Mr. Wilford indeed says that a great intercourse formerly subsisted between the Hindus and the nations of the West. Ibid. iii. 297, 298. Sir William seems to have known but little of the intercourse which subsisted between the Hindus and the people of the West. Suetonius (in vit. Octav.) informs us, that the Indians sent ambassadors to Augustus. An embassy met him when in Syria, from king Porus, as he is called, with letters written in the Greek character, containing, as usual, an hyperbolical description of the grandeur of the monarch. Strabo, lib. xv. p. 663. A Brahmen was among those ambassadors, who followed Augustus to Athens, and there burnt himself to death. Strabo, Ibid. and Dio. Cass. lib. liii. p. 527. Another splendid embassy was sent from the same quarter to Constantine. Cedreni Annal. p. 242, Ed. Basil. 1566; Maurice, Hist. iii. 125. “I have long harboured a suspicion,” says Gibbon, “that all the Scythian, and some, perhaps much, of the Indian science, was derived from the Greeks of Bactriana.” Gibbon, vii. 294. A confirmation of this idea, by no means trifling, was found in China, by Lord Macartney and his suite, who discovered the mathematical instruments deposited in the cities of Pekin, and Nankeen, not constructed for the latitude of those places, but for the 37th parallel, the position of Balk or Bactria: Barrow’s China, p. 289. The certainty of the fact of a Christian church being planted in India at a time not distant from that of the apostles, is a proof that the Hindus had the means of learning from the Greeks.—We learn the following very important fact from Dr. Buchanan. The greater part of Bengal manuscripts, owing to the badness of the paper, require to be copied at least once in ten years, as they will, in that climate, preserve no longer; and every copyist, it is to be suspected, adds to old books whatever discoveries he makes, relinquishing his immediate reputation for learning, in order to promote the grand and profitable employment of his sect, the delusion of the multitude. As. Res. vi. 174, note. Anquetil Duperron, who had at an early period asserted the communication of Grecian science to the Hindus, (See Recherches Historiques et Philosophiques sur l’Inde) supported this conclusion at the end of his long life. “N’est il pas avoué,” says he in his notes to the French translation of Paulini’s Travels, iii. 442; “que, de tout terms, sans conquête, avec conquête, par terre comme par mer, l’Asie, l’Inde, et l’Europe, ont eu des relations plus ou moins actives; que les savans, les sages de ces contrées se sont visités, ont pu se faire part de leurs decouvertes; et qu’il n’est pas hors de vraisemblance que quelques uns auront fait usage dans leurs livres, même sans en avertir, des nouvelles lumières qu’ils avaient reçues de l’etranger? De nos jours, le Rajah d’Amber, dans ses ouvrages astronomiques, parle des tables de la Hire. Le Rajah Djessingue, aura profité des leçons du P. Boudier, qu’il avait appolé auprès de lui. Si l’astronome Brahme, avec lequel M. le Gentil a travaillé à Pondicherri, ecrit sur l’astronomie, sans abandonner le fond de ses principes, du systême Indien, il adoptera des pratiques qu’il aura remarquées dans son disciple, calculera, quoique Indou, à la Française, et donnera comme de lui, du pays, des resultats réellement tirés de ses rapports avec l’astronomie Française. Nier ces probabilités, c’est ne pas connâitre les hommes."—"Il y a differentes epoques dans les sciences Indiennes, dans la mythologie, les opinions religieuses de cette contrée. Les Indiens ont reçu ou imprunté diverses connaissances des Arabes, des Perses, en tel temps; des Grecs dans tel autre.” Ib. p. 451.
Elements of Geometry, &c. By John Leslie, Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh, note xxxiv. All that can be said in favour of the mathematical science of the Hindus is very skilfully summed up in the following passage, by a mathematician of first-rate eminence, William Wallace, Esq. the Professor of Mathematics in the University of Edinburgh. “The researches of the learned have brought to light astronomical tables in India, which must have been constructed by the principles of geometry; but the period at which they have been formed has by no means been completely ascertained. Some are of opinion, that they have been framed from observations made at a very remote period, not less than 3,000 years before the Christian era; and if this opinion be well founded, the science of geometry must have been cultivated in India to a considerable extent, long before the period assigned to its origin in the West; so that many of the elementary propositions may have been brought from India to Greece. The Hindus have a treatise called the Surya Sidhanta, which professes to be a revelation from heaven, communicated to Meya, a man of great sanctity, about four millions of years ago; but setting aside this fabulous origin, it has been supposed to be of great antiquity, and to have been written at least two thousand years before the Christian era. Interwoven with many absurdities, this book contains a rational system of trigonometry, which differs entirely from that first known in Greece or Arabia. In fact, it is founded on a geometrical theorem, which was not known to the geometricians of Europe, before the time of Vieta, about two hundred years ago. And it employs the sines of arcs, a thing unknown to the Greeks, who used the chords of the double arcs. The invention of sines has been attributed to the Arabs, but it is possible that they may have received this improvement in trigonometry, as well as the numeral characters, from India.” Edinburgh Encyclopedia, Article Geometry, p. 191. The only fact here asserted which bears upon the question of the civilization of the Hindus, is that of their using the sines of arcs instead of the chords of the double arcs. Suppose that they invented this method. It proves nothing beyond what all men believe; that the Hindus made a few of the first steps in civilization at an early period; and that they engaged in those abstract speculations, metaphysical and mathematical, to which a semi-barbarous people are strongly inclined. The Arabians were never more than semi-barbarous. The Greeks were no better, at the early age when they were acquainted with the elementary propositions of geometry. If the Greeks or Arabians invented, in the semi-barbarous state, the mode of computation by the chords; what was to hinder the Hindus from inventing, while semi-barbarous, the mode of computing by the sines of arcs? This is upon the supposition that the mode of computing by sines, and the elementary propositions on which it depends, really are original among the Hindus. But this seems not to rest upon very satisfactory proof, when it is barely inferred from the use of chords by the Greeks; and the possibility alone is asserted of the Arabians having derived the knowledge from the Hindus.
Origin of Laws, i. 221.
Ibid. i. 224.
Ibid. Mr. Gilchrist renders it highly probable, that not only the digits, but the letters of the alphabet are hieroglyphics. Philosophic Etymology, p. 23.
Second Dissertation, Supplement to the Encyclopædia Britannica, p. 12. It is a comcidence well worth remarking, that Diophantus, a Greek mathematician of Alexandria, about 150 years after Christ, employed a like expedient. “The questions he resolves,” says Mr. Playfair, “are of considerable difficulty. The expression is that of common language abbreviated, and assisted by a few symbols.” (Ib. p. 13.) In a Ms. of Diophantus, which Bombelli says he saw in the Vatican library, the Indian authors, he says, are often quoted. Nothing of this appears in the work of Diophantus, which was published about three years after the time when Bombelh wrote. Nor has any other work of Diophantus been produced. It is, besides, to be remembered, that the Greeks used the word Indian with great latitude. They applied it not merely to the people beyond the Indus; they applied it also to a people on the Euxine Sea; to a people in Ethiopia; in a general way, to all the people of the East. It is by no means clear that Diophantus would not apply it to the Arabians themselves. (See Appendix, No. II. at the end of the chapter.)
Laws of Menu, ch. ix. 245. “Since the era of Halhed and Sir William Jones,” says Mr. Scott Waring, “the existence of the precious manuscripts of Sanscrit learning has, like the chorus to a popular song, been echoed from author to author, who, though entirely ignorant of Sanscrit, have stamped with credibility a seemingly vague supposition; for what production have we yet seen to justify those extravagant praises.” Tour to Sheeraz, by Ed. Scott Waring, p. 5. Mr. Wilford, better acquainted with the Puranas than any other European, speaks of them with little respect. He talks of “the ignorant compilers of the Puranas, who have arranged this heterogeneous mass without method and still less judgment.” As. Res. vi. 471. M. Bernier, than whom no European had better opportunities of observing the actual and present attainments of the Brahmens, who observed with a penetrating and judicious spirit, and wrote before the birth of theory on the subject, says, “A pres le Purane quelque uns se jettent dans la philosophie ou certainement ils reussissent bien peu;—je l’ai deja dit, ils sont d’une humeur lente et paresseuse, et ne sont point animez dans l’esperance de parvenir a quelque chose par leur etude.” Suite des Memoires sur l’Empire du Grand Mogol, i. 184. “Leurs plus fameux Pendets,” says he, “me semblent tres ignorans.” (Ibid. p. 185.) Mentioning their accounts of the origin of the world, he says, “Il y en a aussi qui veulent que la lumiere et les tenebres soient les premiers principes, et disent la-dessus mille choses a vue de pays sans ordre ni suite, et apportent de longues raisons qui ne sentent nullement la philosophie, mais souvent la façon ordinaire de parler du peuple.” (Ibid. p. 187.) Though the Hindus abstain religiously from anatomy, they pretend to know most confidently anatomical facts. “Ils ne laissent pas d’assurer qu’il y a cinq mille veines dans l’homme, ny plus ny moins, comme s’ils les avoient bien contées.” (Ibid. p. 190.) After a review of their whole knowledge, which would be reckoned no incorrect outline, by the best informed of the present day, he adds, “Toutes ces grandes impertinences que je viens de vous racontor m’ont souvent fait dire en moi-meme que si ce sont la les fameuses sciences de ces anciens Bragmanes des Indes, il faut qu’il y ait eu bien du monde trompé dans les grandes idées qu’on en a conçues.” (Ibid. p. 193.)—"For some time a very unjust and unhappy impression appeared to have been made on the public mind, by the encomiums passed on the Hindoo writings. In the first place, they were thus elevated in their antiquity beyond the Christian Scriptures, the writings of Moses having been called the productions of yesterday, compared with those of the bramhŭns. The contents of these books, also, were treated with the greatest reverence; the primitive religion of the Hindoos, it was said, revealed the most sublime doctrines, and inculcated a pure morality. We were taught to make the greatest distinction between the ancient and modern religion of the Hindoos; for the apologists of Hindooism did not approve of its being judged of by present appearances. Some persons endeavoured to persuade us, that the Hindoos were not idolaters, because they maintained the unity of God; though they worshipped the work of their own hands as God, and though the number of their gods was 330,000,000. It is very probable, that the unity of God has been a sentiment amongst the philosophers of every age; and that they wished it to be understood, that they worshipped the One God, whether they bowed before the image of Moloch, Jupiter, or Kalēē; yet mankind have generally concluded that he who worships an image is an idolater; and I suppose they will continue to think so, unless in this age of reason common sense should be turned out of doors.—Now, however, the world has had some opportunity of deciding upon the claims of the Hindoo writings, both as it respects their antiquity and the value of their contents. Mr. Colebrooke’s essay on the védŭs, and his other important translations; the Bhŭgŭvŭt Gēēta, by Mr. Wilkins; the translation of the Ramayŭnŭ, several volumes of which have been printed; some valuable papers in the Asiatic Researches; with other translations by different Sŭngskritŭ scholars; have thrown a great body of light on this subject;—and this light is daily increasing.—Many an object appears beautiful when seen at a distance, and through a mist; but when the fog has dispersed, and the person has approached it, he smiles at the deception. Such is the exact case with these books, and this system of idolatry. Because the public, for want of being more familiar with the subject, could not ascertain the point of time when the Hindoo Shastrŭs were written, they therefore at once believed the assertions of the bramhŭns and their friends, that their antiquity was unfathomable.” (Ward on the Hindoos, Introd. p. xcix.) “There is scarcely any thing in Hindooism when truly known, in which a learned man can delight, or of which a benevolent man can approve; and I am fully persuaded, that there will soon be but one opinion on the subject, and that this opinion will be, that the Hindoo system is less ancient than the Egyptian, and that it is the most puerile, impure, and bloody of any system of idolatry that was ever established on earth.” (Ib. citi.)
Anquetil Duperron, who lodged a night at the house of a school-master, at a Mahratta village, a little north of Poona, gives a ludicrous picture of the teaching scene. “Les ecohers, sur deux files, accroupis sur leur talons, traçoient avec le doigt les lettres, ou les mots, sur une planche noire couverte de sable blanc; d’autres repetoient les noms des lettres en forme de mots. Car les Indiens, au lieu de dire comme nous, a, b, c, prononcent ainsi—awam, banam, kanam. Le maitre ne me parut occupe pendant une demi heure que la classe dura encore, qu’a frapper avec un long rotin le dos nud de ces pauvres enfans: en Asie c’est la partie qui paye; la passion malheureusement trop commune dans ces contrées, veille à la sureté de celle que nos maitres sacrifient a leur vengeance. J’aurois été bien aise de m’entretenir avec Monsieur le Pedagogue Marate, ou de moins d’avoir un alphabet de sa main; mais sa morgue ne lui permit pas de repondre a mes politesses.” (Zendavesta, Disc. Prelim. p. ccxxx.)
Papers on India Affairs, No. iii. ordered to be printed by the House of Commons, 30th April 1813.
There were in these times [the times of Aliverdi, nabob of Bengal] at Azimabad,” says the author of the Seer Mutakhareen, “numbers of persons who loved sciences and learning, and employed themselves in teaching and in being taught; and I remember to have seen in that city and its environs alone, nine or ten professors of repute, and three or four hundred students and disciples; from whence may be conjectured the number of those that must have been in the great towns, and in the retired districts.” Seer Mutakhareen, i. 705, 4to. Calcutta, 1789. N. B. This with regard to the Mussulmans of Bengal. The translator says, in a note, “The reader must rate properly all these students, and all these expressions: their only object was the Coran and its commentaries; that is the Mahometan religion, and the Mahometan law.” Ibid. A hint very different from those we are wont to receive from our guides in Hindu literature.—"In vain do some persons talk to us of colleges, of places of education, and books: these words in Turkey convey not the same ideas as with us.” Volney’s Travels in Syria and Egypt, ii. 443.—Chardin, who formed as high an opinion of the Persians as Sir William Jones of the Hindus, tells us, (Voyage en Perse, iii. 130,) “Le genie des Persans est porté aux sciences, plus qu’ à toute autre profession; et l’on peut dire que les Persans y reussissent si bien que ce sont, après les Chretiens Européens, les plus sçavans peuples du monde...... Ils envoyent les enfans aux colleges, et les elevent aux lettres autant que leurs moyens le peuvent permettre.” And at pages 137, 138, he adds, that schools are distributed in great numbers in Persia, and colleges very numerous.
“Inca Roca was reputed the first who established schools in Cozco, where the Amautas were the masters, and taught such sciences as were fit to improve the minds of Incas, who were princes, and of the chief nobility, not that they did instruct them by way of letters, for as yet they had not attained to that knowledge, but only in a practical manner, and by daily discourses: their other lectures were of religion, and of those reasons and wisdom on which their laws were established, and of the number and true exposition of them; for by these means they attained to the art of government and military discipline; they distinguished the times and seasons of the year, and by reading in their knots they learned history and the actions of past ages; they improved themselves also in the elegance and ornament of speaking, and took rules and measures for the management of their domestic affairs. These Amautas, who were philosophers, and in high esteem amongst them, taught something also of poetry, music, philosophy, and astrology,” &c. Garcilasso de la Vega, Royal Commentaries, book iv. ch. xix. This same Inca exhibited one stroke at least which will be reckoned high wisdom by some amongst us: “He enacted that the children of the common people should not be educated in the liberal arts and sciences, for that were to make them proud, conceited, and ungovernable; but that the nobility were those only to whom such literature did appertain, to render them more honourable, and capable of offices in the commonwealth.” Ibid. “There is nothing,” (says Acosta, book vi. ch. 27) “that gives me more cause to admire, nor that I find more worthy of commendation and memory, than the order and care the Mexicans had to nourish their youth.” He tells us they had schools in their temples, and masters to instruct the young “in all commendable exercises, to be of good behaviour,” &c.
Asiat. Res. i. 430, and iv. 169.
Middleton’s Life of Cicero, sect. 12. Considerable currency was obtained by a very learned work of a clergyman of the Church of England, Mr. Dutens, who undertook to prove that all the discoveries which the moderns have made in the arts and sciences, may be found distinctly broached in the writings of the ancients.
Anquetil Duperron gives us a remarkable instance of the disposition of the Brahmens to accommodate, by falsification, even their sacred records, to the ideas of Europeans. “Si je n’avois pas sçu que le commencement de l’Amerkosh contenoit la description du lingam, peut-etre m’eut il été impossible de decouvrir que mes Brahmes, qui ne vouloient pas devoiler le fond de leurs mysteres, paraphrasoient et pallioient plutot qu’ils ne traduisoient.” Zendav. Disc. Prelim. i. ccclxix. Dr. Buchunan found the propensity general, to deceive him in their accounts both of their religion and history. See Journey through Mysore, &c. ii. 76, 79, 80. “The Brahmens,” he says, “when asked for dates, or authority, say that they must consult their books, which may be readily done; but when I send my interpreter, who is also a Brahmen, to copy the dates, they pretend that their books are lost.” Ibid. i. 335. All information, he says, from the Brahmens, usually differs most essentially as derived from different individuals. Ibid. ii. 306. See an account of the imposition practised by his pundits upon Captain Wilford, by Lord Teignmouth, in the Introduction to his Life of Sir William Jones; also an account by Mr. Wilford himself, Essay on the Sacred Isles in the West, Asiat. Res. viii. 253.—In a letter to a friend Sir W. Jones said, “I can no longer bear to be at the mercy of our pundits, who deal out the Hindu law as they please, and make it at reasonable rates, where they cannot find it ready made.” Life of Sir W. Jones, by Lord Teignmouth, 4to. Ed. p. 307.—Colonel Wilkes accuses the Hindu author of the Digest of Hindu Law, translated by Mr. Colebrooke, of substituting a false principle of law for a true one, out of “a courtesy and consideration, for opinions established by authority, which is peculiar to the natives of India.” Histor. Sketches, p. 116.
He might have got proofs, equal to those with which they presented him, of Plato’s having been acquainted with the circulation of the blood; viz. because when speaking of that fluid he uses the word περιμγεσθαι, which signifies to be carried round.—It is worthy of remark, that the philosopher, of whom Sir William heard, and whose works contained such important discoveries, was called Yavan Acharya, that is Gentile or Greek. By the argument of Sir William, we might believe that the Greeks anticipated Newton. When Copernicus, dissatisfied with the received account of the heavenly motions, addressed himself to discover a new arrangement, we are told that “he examined all the obscure traditions delivered down to us, concerning every other hypothesis which the ancients had invented. He found in Plutarch, that some old Pythagoreans had represented the earth as revolving in the centre of the universe, like a wheel round its own axis; and that others of the same sect, had removed it from the centre, and represented it as revolving in the ecliptic, like a star round the central fire. By this central fire he supposed they meant the sun,” &c. Dr. Ad. Smith, Essay on Hist Astron. p. 51. We might prove that Parmenides had a just conception of the figure of the globe. Plato informs us that, according to that inquirer, Το ολον ιτι
Laplace has remarked, that the mean motions of the lunar orbit are quicker in the Indian tables, than in those of Ptolemy: which indicates that the former tables were constructed posterior to those of the Greek astronomer. This argument is at least as strong as any of those by which the antiquity is supported.
“If it be insisted, that a hint or suggestion, the seed of their knowledge, may have reached the Hindu mathematicians immediately from the Greeks of Alexandria, or mediately through those of Bactria, it must at the same time be confessed that a slender germ grew and fructified rapidly, and soon attained an approved state of maturity in Indian soil. More will not be here contended for: Since it is not impossible, that the hint of the one analysis may have been actually received by the mathematicans of the other nation: nor unlikely; considering the arguments which may be brought for a probable communication on the subject of astrology.” (Dissertation, p. xxii.) This is an important admission which Mr. Colebrooke was too well informed to overlook, and too honest to conceal. His partialities, however, lead him to a very useless effort of extenuation. Why call the knowledge which the Hindus derived of the Diophantine methods, a hint? What should confine it to a hint? Why make use of the word hint? when it is perfectly clear that if they had the means of receiving a hint, they had the means of receiving the whole. The communication was full and complete between the Hindus and the Greeks, both of Bactria and of Egypt; and the Hindus had the means of receiving from the Greeks all those parts of their knowledge, which the state of civilization among the Hindus enabled them to imbibe. Of the exaggerating language of Mr. Colebrooke, on the other side, about the growing and fructifying of the germ, and its attaining a state of approved maturity in Indian soil, we shall speak by and bye.
He had stated long ago, “That astronomy was originally cultivated among the Hindus, solely for the purposes of astrology: That one branch, if not the whole of their astrological science, was borrowed from the Arabians: And that their astronomical knowledge must, by consequence, have been derived from the same quarter.” (Asiat. Res. ix. 376.) And on the present occasion he says; “The position that astrology is partly of foreign growth in India; that is, that the Hindus have borrowed, and largely too, from the astrology of a more western region, is grounded, as the similar inference concerning a different branch of divination, on the resemblance of certain terms employed in both. The mode of divination, called Tájaca, implies by its very name its Arabian origin: Astrological prediction, by configuration of planets, in like manner, indicates even by its Indian name a Grecian source. It is denominated Hórá, the second of three branches which compose a complete course of astronomy and astrology: and the word occurs in this sense in the writings of early Hindu astrologers. ....The same term hórá occurs again in the writings of the Hindu astrologers, with an acceptation—that of hour—which more exactly conforms to the Grecian etymon. The resemblance of a single term would not suffice to ground an inference of common origin, since it might be purely accidental. But other words are also remarked in Hindu astrology.” &c. (Algebra, &c. from the Sanscrit, Dissert. Notes and Illust. p. lxxx.)
Ibid. p. xxiv.
Algebra, &c. from the Sanscrit, Dissert. Notes and Illust. pp. x. and xvi.
Dr. Hutton says, that Diophantus “knew the composition of the cube of a binomial. ....In some parts of book vi. it appears that he was acquainted with the composition of the fourth power of the binomial root, as he sets down all the terms of it; and from his great skill in such matters, it seems probable that he was acquainted with the composition of other higher powers, and with other parts of Algebra, besides what are here treated of ....Upon the whole, this work is treated in a very able and masterly manner, manifesting the utmost address and knowledge in the solutions, and forcing a persuasion that the author was deeply skilled in the science of Algebra, to some of the most abstruse parts of which these questions or exercises relate. However, as he contrives his assumptions and notations, so as to reduce all his conditions to a simple equation, or at least a simple quadratic, it does not appear what his knowledge was, in the resolution of compound or affected quadratics.” Mathematical Dictionary, Art. Diophantus.
“Algebra;” &c. ut supra, Dissert. p. xiv.
Suppl Encycl. Brit. Dissert Second, p. 4.
Ib. p. 14
“Any thing proposed to us which causes surprise and admiration, gives such a satisfaction to the mind, that it indulges itself in those agreeable emotions, and will never be persuaded that its pleasure is entirely without foundation.” (Hume, Treatise of Human Nature, i. 53.
To this good effect, if to no other, the embassy of Lord Macartney, and the writings to which it has given occasion, have largely contributed. See Barrow’s two works, Travels in China, and Life of Lord Macartney, and above all, that important document, a volume of the Laws of China, translated by Sir George Staunton. No one has more approximated to a correct judgment of the Chinese, than De Guignes. See Voyage.
Many of the observations of Mr. Barrow upon the panegyrical accounts of the Chinese by the popish missionaries are very applicable to the flattering accounts which travellers have been so found of giving us of the Hindus. “In the same breath that they extol the wonderful strength of filial piety, they speak of the common practices of exposing infants; the strict morality and ceremonious conduct of the people are followed by a list of the most gross debaucheries; the virtues and the philosophy of the learned are explained by their ignorance and their vices: if in one page they speak of the excessive fertility of the country, and the amazing extension of agriculture, in the next thousands are seen perishing with want; and whilst they extol with admiration the progress they have made in the arts and sciences, they plainly inform us that without the aid of foreigners they can neither cast a cannon nor calculate an eclipse.” Barrow’s Travels in China, p. 31.
One of the chief circumstances from which Sir William Jones drew conclusions respecting the high civilization of the Hindus, was the supposition that they never went abroad, a supposition which is now well known to have been erroneous. See Asiat. Res. vi. 531, and i. 271.
The writings of Mr. Miller of Glasgow, of which but a small part was then published, and into which it is probable Sir William had never looked, contained the earliest elucidations of the subject. The suggestions offered in his successive productions, though highly important, were but detached considerations applied to particular facts, and not a comprehensive induction, leading to general conclusions. Unfortunately the subject, great as is its importance, has not been resumed. The writings of Mr. Miller remain almost the only source from which even the slightest information on the subject can be drawn One of the ends which has at least been in view during the scrutiny conducted in these pages, has been to contribute something to the progress of so important an investigation. It is hoped that the materials which are here collected will be regarded as going far to elucidate the state of society in all the leading nations of Asia. Not only the Hindus, the Persians, the Arabians, the Turks, and Chinese of the present day, but the Hindus, Arabians, and Persians of ancient days, the Chaldeans, the Jews, and even the ancient Egyptians, may all be regarded as involved in the inquiry; and to these, with the sole exception of the wandering Tartars and the Hyperborean hordes, may be added the second-rate nations; the inhabitants of the eastern peninsula, and of the plains and mountains of Tibet. It is surprising, upon a close inspection, how extensively all these various nations, notwithstanding the dissimilarity in some of the more obvious appearances, resemble one another, in laws and institutions of government, in modes of thinking, in superstition and prejudices, in arts and literature, even in the external forms of manner and behaviour, and as well in ancient, as in modern times.
Essay on the Poetry of Eastern Nations. Voltaire exclaimed, on reading Rousseau’s panegyrics. “Jamais n’avais-je tant d’envie de marcher à quatre pattes.”
Sir W. Jones, Asiat. Res. ii. 3.
Ibid. p. 9.
Sir W. Jones, Asiat. Res. ii. p. 14.—"On this occasion, as well as on many others, the sober historian is forcibly wakened from a pleasing vision; and is compelled with some reluctance, to confess that the pastoral manners, which have been adorned with the fairest attributes of peace and innocence, are much better adapted to the fierce and cruel habits of a military life.” Gibbon, Decline and Fall, ch. xxvi. p. 342.
In the same discourse Sir William further remarks; “That we have none of their compositions in prose before the Koran, may be ascribed, perhaps, to the little skill which they seem to have had in writing, to their predilection in favour of poetical measure, and the facility with which verses are committed to memory; but all their stories prove that they were eloquent in a high degree, and possessed wonderful powers of speaking without preparation, in flowing and forcible periods.” (Asiat, Res. ii. p. 14.) “Who,” says Dr. Ferguson, “would from mere conjecture suppose, that the naked savage would be a coxcomb and a gamester; that he would be proud and vain, without the distinctions of title and fortune; and that his principal care would be to adorn his person, and to find an amusement? Even if it could be supposed that he would thus share in our vices, and in the midst of his forest vie with the follies which are practised in the town; yet no one would be so bold as to affirm that he would likewise in any instance excel us in talents and virtue; that he would have a penetration, a force of imagination and elocution, an ardour of mind, an affection and courage, which the arts, the discipline, and the policy of few nations would be able to improve. Yet these particulars are a part in the description which is delivered by those who have had opportunities of seeing mankind in their rudest condition: and beyond the reach of such testimony, we can neither safely take, nor pretend to give information on the subject.” Ferguson’s Essay on the History of Civil Society, part ii. sect. 1.
None of them has confessed the existence of this motive with more frankness than Le Gentil, Voy. ii. 98. “Avant que j’eusse perdu mon clocher de vue, les François etoient mes heros.....Quant à moi, je suis gueri de mes prejugés, et je m’applaudis en secret de m’etre detrompé.—Col. Dow boasts of being actuated by the same sentiments and scruples not to call Goths, or worse than Goths, all those who are not so: “In love with our own times and country,” says he, “we are apt to consider distant ages and nations, as objects unworthy of the page of the historian......Some men of genius have entertained sentiments upon that subject, too narrow and confined for the Goths of a much darker age. Had the translator of the following history thought so meanly of the affairs of the East,” &c. Dow’s Hindostan, Preface.
The account which Robertson gives of the causes which led to exaggerated conceptions in the mind of the Spaniards, respecting the civilization of the Mexicans, applies in almost every particular to those of the English and French respecting the Hindus. “The Spaniards,” says he, “when they first touched on the Mexican coast, were so much struck with the appearance of attainments in policy and in the arts of life, far superior to those of the rude tribes with which they were hitherto acquainted, that they fancied they had at length discovered a civilized people in the New World. This comparison between the people of Mexico and their uncultivated neighbours, they appear to have kept constantly in view, and observing with admiration many things which marked the pre-eminence of the former, they employed, in describing their imperfect policy and infant arts, such terms as are applicable to the institutions of men far beyond them in improvement. Both these circumstances concur in detracting from the credit due to the descriptions of Mexican manners by the early Spanish writer. By drawing a parallel between them and those of people so much less civilized, they raised their own ideas too high. By their mode of describing them, they conveyed ideas to others no less exalted above truth. Later writers have adopted the style of the original historians, and improved upon it.” Hist. of America, iii. 320.
“Le voyageur racontant ses avantures, cherche dans l’admiration de ceux qui l’ecoutent, un dedommagement aux dangers qu’il a courus; il enfle la narration: Le sçavant, qui s’est donné beaucoup de peine pour apprendre des langues etrangeres et lointnines, s’extnsie sur la beauté des ouvrages qu’il est parvenu à entendre.” Anquetil Duperron, Note, No. ii. Supplement aux Recherches, &c. sur l’Inde.
“The administration of justice has been almost universally, by the Mogul conquerors of Indostan, devolved upon the Hindus, the office of Duan being generally conferred upon one of that people.” Orme on the Government and People of Indostan,” p. 443. “Although the Mogul Tartars under Tamerlane and his successors have at last rendered themselves lords of almost the whole of it (India); yet the original inhabitants have lost very little of their original character by the establishment of these strangers amongst them.” Orme, Hist. of Milit. Transact in Indostan, i. 2.
It seems to have been a rash and foolish assimilation of the conquest of Hindustan by the Moguls to the overwhelming of the Roman empire by the northern nations, that alone could have suggested so gratuitous a supposition as that of the degradation of the Hindus from an improved to a barbarous state of society by the calamities of conquest. The two cases are totally dissimilar. By the successive inundations of the barbarians, the ancient inhabitants of the Roman provinces were well nigh swept from the face of the earth. Every where they were stript of the possession of the land, and commonly reduced to the state of bondsmen and slaves. The ancient institutions entirely gave way, and were replaced by a set of institutions altogether new. The language of the conquerors in most places entirely supplanted; in all it so much altered, the language of the people subdued or exterminated, as to impose upon it a different structure. Another circumstance is never to be forgotten. To such a degree of barbarity were the inhabitants of the Roman provinces degraded, by the long continued effects of a detestable government, that the invaders had really not much to accomplish to reduce them to the same level with themselves. This was abundantly seen in the state of the Greeks of the eastern empire; who, upon their very first subjugation to the Turks, exhibited a condition not greatly different from that in which they grovel at the present day. The conquest to which, with greatest propriety, that of the Hindus by one tribe of Tartars might be compared, would be the conquest of the Chinese by a similar tribe of Tartars. There is no reason to think that the one was a conquest of a more destructive nature than the other. If the Moguls did not adopt the religion and institutions of the Hindus, it was because the religion and institutions of the Hindus admitted of no participation, and because the Moguls had already embraced a more enlightened faith. See Francis’s Minute, p. 30: also the treatise of Mr. Grant, on the Character of the Hindus, printed by order of the House of Commons in 1813.
Asiat. Res. i. 258.
Essay on Vicramaditya and Salivahana, by Capt. Wilford, Asiat. Res. ix. 117 to 120.
If we examine the chronological table of the Hindu kings, presented us by Sir William Jones, we shall find Vicramaditya placed at an era posterior to the Mussulman conquests.
Now Seleucus, who was contemporary with Chandragupta (Asiat. Res. iv. xxvi.), began to reign about 300 years before Christ. By this chronology, therefore, Vicramaditya began to reign about 1146 years after Christ.
Essay on Vicramaditya, and Salivahana, by Captain Wilford, Asiat. Res. ix. 132, 133.
Essay on Vicramaditya, and Salivahana, by Capt. Wilford, Asiat, Res. ix. 158, 159.
Ibid. p. 149.
Essay on Vicramaditya, and Salivahana, by Captain Wilford, Asiat. Res. ix. 147, 148, 149.
Ibid. p. 149.
Mr. Wilford presents us also with the history which the Brahmens have manufactured for placing Mahomed among the great men of Hindustan. It is of much importance, to elucidate the accounts, which are given by the Hindus, not only of the actions, but of the very persons and existence, of their pretended heroes. I should otherwise have been well pleased to omit a story, tainted with that indelicacy, which, even when they are inventing, and have the circumstances at their own selection, marks the writings of an uncultivated people. “The Hindus say, that the son of a certain King of India, being disgusted with the world, turned pilgrim, and went to Mocsheswarast’hana (or Mecca). In his way thither, and in Arabia, he stopped at the house of a Brahmen, who received him kindly, and ordered his daughter to wait on him as usual. Whilst asleep, the cloth with which his loins were covered was accidentally defiled. When he awoke, he took it off, and concealed it in a corner of the house, in some hole, and out of the sight of the damsel, as he thought. Being from home, to perform his ablutions, in consequence of this nocturnal defilement, the damsel came at the usual hour; and her courses suddenly making their appearance, she was much distressed, and looking every where for some cloth, she spied the bundle—in short she conceived. He departed for Mecca: and some months after, the parents of the damsel and herself were thrown into the greatest confusion, as may be imagined. The holy man was considered as the author of their disgrace; though the damsel exculpated him: Yet she could not account for her present situation. She was, like Hagar, turned out of the house into the wilderness with her son: where they were miraculously preserved, both being innocent. Some years after the holy man returned, unconscious of his having been the cause of so much uneasiness to the family of the hospitable Brahmen. After much abuse, the matter was explained; but the son of the damsel could not be admitted to share with his relatives, or even to remain in their communion. He was, however, honourably dismissed with his mother, after they had given him a suitable education, and rich presents; and they advised him to shift for himself, and to set up a new religion, as he could not be considered as a member of the old one, on account of his strange birth, or rather conception. When advanced in years, he wished to see his paternal relations and India; and to persuade them to conform to his new doctrine; but he died in his way thither, at Medina, near Candáhár. This Medina is Ghazni, called emphatically the second Medina, from the great number of holy men entombed there: and it is obvious that the Hindus have confounded Muhammed with Sultan-Mahmood, whose sumptuous Mausoleum is close to that city. Thus we see, that the account they give of Muhammed is a mere rhapsody, retaining some of the principal features of the history of Ishmael, Hagar, Muhammed himself, and Sultan-Mahmood.—This Samvat, or era, of Maha’bhat (Muhammed), was early introduced into India, and the Hindus were obliged to use it, as they do now in all their civil transactions; and thus Muhammed became at least a Sambatica or Santica. According to the rules laid down by the learned in India, Muhammed is certainly a Saca and Saceswara, and is entitled to the epithet of Vicrama. He is a Saca, or mighty chief; and, like other Sacas, he killed his millions; he is Saceswara, or the ruler of a sacred period, still in use in India. For these reasons, the Pandits, who assisted Abul-Fazil, did not scruple to bestow the title of Vicramaditya upon him; and even to consider him as the real worthy of that name; and in order to make the era, or at least the time of Vicramaditya’s appearance coincide with the era of Mohammed, they have most shamefully distorted the chronology of the appendix to the Agni-purana. Mr. Wilford, Asiat. Res. ix. 159, 160, 161. See a still more extraordinary attempt to foist the story of Jesus Christ, borrowed from the spurious gospels, into the Puranas; and to make Christ at one time Chrishna, at another time Salivahana, at another time Buddha. Essay on the Origin and Decline of Christianity in India, by Captain Wilford, Asiat. Res. x.
The word Hindustan is in this work generally used to signify, comprehensively, the land of the Hindus, from Cape Comorin to the farthest boundary of the country which they inhabited. It is necessary to mention, that in the oriental books, it has often a more limited signification, being appropriated to that part of the land of the Hindus, which is north of the river Nerbudda
See the inscription found at Monghir, and translated in the Asiat. Res. i. 123. That found at Buddal, Ibid. p. 130.—That found at Tanna, Ibid. p. 357.—Those from the Vindhya mountains, Ibid. ii. 168, 169.—That on the staff of Feeroz Shah, Ibid. p. 382.—That respecting a grant of land in Carnatic, Ibid. iii. 40–47.—That found in the district of Gorakhpur, Ibid. ix. 410.—That found at Chitradurg, Ibid. p. 418, 419, 420.—That found at Curugode, Ibid. p. 436, 437, 438.—Those found at Nedigal and Goujda, Ib. p. 447.
See the inscriptions translated in the Asiat. Researches, i. 360, 123, 125; iii. 48, 52; ix. 406, 418. The inscription, cut on a stone, upon the hill of Belligola, in front of the great Jain image, bears a similar testimony. “In the year of the Saca 1290 (A. D. 1367).....be success and glory to the honourable monarch, the sovereign and destroyer of envious princes, lord of foreign king, whose name is Buccaraya.” (Asiat. Res. ix. 270.)
Asiat. Res. i. 360.
The inscription on the Lāt (staff) of Feerōz Shah, celebrates the monarch, in whose honour it has been erected, “for having achieved conquest in the course of travelling to holy places—as resentful to haughty kings, and indulgent to those whose necks are humbled—making Ariaverta [the land of virtue or of respectable men] once more what its name signifies, by causing the barbarians to be exterminated. —Visala Deva, son of the fortunate Vella Deva, king of Sacambari, the situation of which the translator does not know, most eminent of the tribe which sprang from the arms of Brahma—boasts of having rendered tributary the region of the earth between Himavat (the Imaus of ancient geographers) and Vindhya (the range of hills which passes through the provinces of Bahar, Benares) and exhorts his descendants to subdue the remainder."—No proof, all this, of the peaceful state of Hindostan. The inscription continues—"May thy abode, O Vigraha, sovereign of the earth, be fixed, as in reason it ought, in the bosoms, akin to the mansions of dalliance, of the women with beautiful eyebrows, who were married to thy enemies."—The abuse of an enemy’s wives is no great proof of a generous or civilized conqueror. The inscription then deifies this same Rajah. “Art thou not Vishnu himself? Art thou not he who slept in the arms of Lacshm, whom thou didst seize from the ocean, having churned it?"—Are epithets of extravagant praise to the deity surprising, when they are thus heaped upon a mortal? (As. Res. ii. 382.) The account of the Sacas affords important proof of the glory that was attached by the Hindus to the shedding of blood. The Cali yug is divided into six Sacas, so called from six glorious monarchs. Of these, three have made their appearance; three are yet to come. To become a Saca, each of these monarchs must have first killed 550,000,000 of a certain mighty tribe of heretics, called Sacas. The first of these blood-thirsty sovereigns was Judishter, whose period was 3044 years; the second Vicramaditya, whose saca lasted only 135 years; the third, Salivahana, whose period is to last 18,000 years; the fourth Nandada, 10,000 years; the fifth Nargarjuna, 400,000 years; for the sixth, will re-appear the Antediluvian Bah, whose period will be 821 years, at which period a general renovation of the world will take place. Wilford, Asiat. Res. ix. 82.
Rennel’s Memoir, p. 1.
Sonnerat, Voy. liv. iii. ch. ii. Their very laws and religion encourage a spirit of restlessness, and warfare; “Fully performing all duties required by law, let a king seek to possess regions yet unpossessed.” (Laws of Menu, ch. ix. 251.) This gives implicit encouragement to a spirit of conquest. The gloss of Culluca, the commentator, inserts the words with justice, a saving clause; but even then, the practical effect of the law is but too visible.
In the Bhagavat, (See Maurice, Hist. of Hindustan, ii. 395,) Creshna says, he does not vaunt, “though he carried away Rokemence from so numerous an assemblage of monarchs.” When Creshna fought with the seven bulls of Koosele, great numbers of rajahs and rajpoots were collected to see the conflict. Ib. p. 402. Bhoom Assoor had collected the daughters of 16,000 rajahs. Ib. p. 405. Rajah Doorjoodhen, sovereign of Hastanapoor, had a daughter who was courted by rajahs and rajpoots from every quarter. Ib. 413. Twenty thousand and eight hundred rajahs of eminence were held in confinement by Jarasandha, and released upon his destruction by Creeshna and Rama. Ib. p. 433. When Creeshna carried away Rokemenee, Jarasandha said, “This is surely most astonishing, that, in the presence of so many crowned heads as are here assembled, this cowherd should make so bold an effort.” Ib. p. 394.
Hetopadesa, in Sir William Jones’s Works, vi. 43.
Ib. p. 44.
Ibid. p. 51.
Asiat. Res. i. 123.
Asiat. Res. i. 123. The third stanza of this inscription, omitted by Mr. Wilkins, but translated by Sir W. Jones, affords additional proof that these conquests were but an irruption: “By whom, having conquered the earth as far as the ocean, it was left as being unprofitably seized.” Ibid. p. 142. In the inscription on the pillar near Buddal, found by Mr. Wilkins, is described a race of princes who originally, it is said, ruled over “but one quarter, and had no authority in other regions;” but one of the line, “being a virtuous prince, became supreme over every country without reserve, and the three worlds were held in subjection by his hereditary rank.” The dominions of his son and successor extended from Reva Jauak, to the father of Gowree, and to the two oceans, &c. and all this country, the prince Sree Dev Pal rendered tributary. Ibid. p. 134. Yet Sir W. Jones says, that this race of princes were all along only prime ministers to the House of Devu Pal: p. 142. Nothing can be more contradictory to the text; but it is necessary for Sir William’s theory that the kings of Gaur, of whom Devupal was one, should be the lords paramount of India. Sir William, when he had a theory, seems to have had eyes to see nothing but what made in its favour. An additional proof of the small kingdoms of Hindustan is found in the inscription (As. Res. i. 133, stanza xiii.) “The king of Gowr” (Bengal) “for a long time enjoyed the country of the eradicated race of Oothal” (Orixia,) “of the Hoons” (Huns,) “of humbled pride, of the kings of Draveer” (a country to the south of the Carnatic,) “and Goojar” (Goozerat,) “whose glory was reduced, and the universal sea-girt throne.” Another grant of land (Ib. p. 357) affords evidence to the same purpose: a number of kings are actually named in the royal grant. As. Res. iii. 48.
See Gentoo Code, passim.
Halhed’s Gentoo Code, ch. iii. sect. 6. p. 106, 107.
Laws of Menu, ch. vii. p. 154, 155. Even Robertson, though a firm believer in the universal monarchy, is forced to allow that it had not yet existed in the time of Alexander. “In the age of Alexander, though there was not established in it any powerful empire, resembling that which in modern times stretched its dominion from the Indus almost to Cape Comorin, it was even then formed into monarchies of considerable extent.” Robertson’s Disq. concerning ancient India, p. 21. But the times of Alexander, and times long antecedent, are the times fixed upon by the Brahmens, for this perpetually asserted, but never ascertained empire. To what modern times does Robertson allude? for he himself gives it as true information, that in the tenth century, there were four kingdoms in the north part alone of India. “The first was composed of the provinces situated on the Indus, and the rivers which fall into it; the capital of which was Moultan. The capital of the second kingdom was Canoge, which, from the ruins of it remaining, appears to have been a very large city. The third kingdom was Cachemire. Massoudi, as far as I know, is the first author who mentions this paradise of India, of which he gives but a short description. The fourth is the kingdom of Guzerate, which he represents as the greatest and most powerful; and he concurs with the two Arabian travellers, in giving the sovereign of it the appellation of Balhara.” Ibid. Note xxxvii. p. 332.
The inconsistencies of the believers in the great empire of Hindustan are miserable. Mr. Maurice tells us that Bali, “if that name imply not rather a dynasty of princes than an individual monarch,” [a shrewd suspicion] “was the puissant sovereign of a mighty empire, extending over the vast continent of India; that under Rama, the next in succession, there is every appearance of its having remained unbroken; that Judishter is generally acknowledged to have been the sovereign of all India.” Maurice, Hist. ii. 511. Yet both Mr. Maurice and Sir W. Jones believe Rama to be the Raamah of Scripture, the son of Cush, Genesis, ch. x. ver. 7, in whose days it was impossible that any considerable part of India could be peopled. See Sir W. Jones, Asiat. Res. ii. 401, and Mr. Maurice, Hist. iii. 104. Bali, the Baal, and Bel, of other eastern nations, who is also said to have been the first king of Assyria, was not a name of any particular person, but a title assumed by many, and those of different nations. It is in fact a title of the sun. (See Bryant’s Myth.) Judishter, too, it is remarkable, was the cotemporary of Rama, both being heroes in the war of the Mahabarat. For the performance of the Raisoo yug, it was not necessary, as they pretend, to conquer all princes, since at Judishter’s yug, the father of Cansa, whom Creeshna, after the death of Cansa, seated on the throne of Mathura, was not conquered by Judishter. Nay it is remarkable that this yug was celebrated while Judishter was yet a dependent upon Doorjoodhen, before the war of the Pandoos. Even after the war of the Mahabharat, when they assure us, for certain, that Judishter was king of all India, Ogur Sein, the grandfather of Creeshna, was reigning at Mathura; Creeshna and the Yadavas were all flourishing. See the Mahabharat, translated by Halhed; Maurice, History of India, ii. 463.
“In so far as the Hindu superstition tends to estrange mankind by creating artificial sources of mutual aversion and disgust; so far certainly does it counteract the real interests of society. Let it not be urged that the practical effects of the artificial separation of the Asiatics are not greatly felt in society; or that a Brahmin or Rajah will as readily supply the wants of the poorer classes as he would those of his own. The fact is otherwise; the Brahmin considers his order as in some measure a different race of beings; and imagines that the lower ranks are incapable of the same sensibility to suffering: he regards them as a race whose feelings are deadened by the meanness of their intellect, and therefore not entitled to the same share of compassion. That this is the idea of the princes and civil magistrates throughout India, their own conduct sufficiently evinces; hence the severity of their government, the rigour of their punishments, and their universal indifference to the comfort, and even the lives of their subjects.” Tennant’s Indian Recreations, i. 121.
Wilkins’ Hetopadesa, p. 161.
Ibid. p. 82.
Ibid. p. 160.
Ibid. p. 166.
Ibid. p. 176. The following maxim, among many others in the book, is a proof of the idle and useless life of the rajahs, who devolved all business upon their ministers, and wallowed in sensuality and sloth. “The sovereign being a vessel for the distribution of happiness, and not for the execution of affairs, the minister, who shall bring ruin upon the business of the state is a criminal.” (Ibid. p. 142.) The last article of the following character of a good minister is an abundant proof of the rapacious nature of the government; “A king should engage for his minister one who is a native of his own country; pure in all his ways and cleanly in his dress; not one who is an outcast, addicted to idle pleasures, or too fond of women; but one of good repute, who is well versed in the rules of disputation, is of a firm mind, and expert in raising a revenue.” Ibid. p. 179. See also the Inscription respecting a Royal Grant, Asiat. Res. iii. 48.
Wilkins’ Hetopadesa, p. 242.
Buchanan’s Journey through Mysore, &c. ii 410.
Another remarkable circumstance. The fisherman informs the officers he gives them his present to purchase wine; on which they cry, “Oh! now thou art our beloved friend.—Good wine is the first object of our affection.—Let us go together to the vintners.” Sacontala, act v.
Halhed’s Gentoo Code, ch. xv. sect. 2.
Ibid. xxi. 10.
The self-abasement of the Hindus, before their kings, is decisive proof of a merciless government. “The sovereign, although but a child, is not to be despised, but to be respected as a man; or as a mighty divinity who presideth in human form.” Wilkins’ Hetopadesa, p. 117. “They performed prostration to their princes, falling down with eight members, as they expressed their abject and grovelling mode of approach.” Ibid. note 137. “Plus un gouvernement est despotique, plus les ames y sont avilies et degradées; plus l’on s’y vante d’aimer son tyran. Les esclaves benissent à Maroc leur sort et leur Prince, lorsqu’il daigne lui-mème leur couper le cou.” Helvetius de l’Homme, i. 318.
Halhed’s Gentoo Code, ch. xvi. sect. 1.
Wilford, on the Chronology of the Hindus, Asiat. Res. v. 284. There is a passage in Quintus Curtius which would lead us to conclude that India was not thickly inhabited in the times of Alexander. Speaking of Alexander’s march into the interior of India, after the overthrow of Darms, he says; “Ad magnam deinde, ut in eu regione, urbem pervenit.” (Curt. lib. ix. cap. 1.) Not a syllable escapes from this author indicative of a populous country. He styles the inhabitants, “Barbari—operum militarium rudes.” Ibid. cap. viii. The names of the separate nations which Alexander found in India are numerous.
Orme, on the Government and People of Hindustan, p. 434, 435, 436. “Quelques missionaires, tels que le P. de Magistris, le Danois F. Schwartz, le P. Jean de Brito, dans une relation manuscrite que j’ai entre les mains, accusent les rois payens d’exercer des oppressions intolerables envets leurs sujets. M. Anquetil du Perron tâche de justifier les souverains. ∗ ∗ ∗ Je pourrais demontrer avec une historique evidence que M. Anquetil ne connait pas l’Inde. ∗ ∗ ∗ Il est certain qu’il se commettait de grands abus dans l’exercise de l’autorité royale, et je pense que ce fut là la principale cause de la chῦte des rois de Maduré, de Maïssour, de Tanjaur, et de Marava. Quoique ces rois fussent tous payens, de la premiere noblesse, et indigénes, sans cesse ils se faisaient la guerre reciproquement, et presque tous vexaient le peuple.” Voyage aux Indes Orientales par le P. Paulin, de S. Bartelemy, i. 87. M. Anquetil Duperron, in a note, (Ibid. iii. 365,) falls into a curious coincidence with, and confirmation of, the above passage of Paulin, at the same time that he is controverting it:—"Le missionaire n’a pas lu l’histoire de l’Inde, n’est pas meme aut fait de ce qui se passe tous les jours. Quoique le caractere propre de l’Indien soit la douceur, l’humanité, on voit encore dans cette contrée, comme ailleurs, des querelles entre les princes naturels Indiens, des querelles dans les familles; les chefs Marattes sont presque toujours divisés, et en guerres. Le Tanjaur, le Maduré, le Maissour, le Samorin, Narsingue, le Canara, offraient la mème spectacle lorsque la puissance des Rajahs étoit dans sa vigueur; il en est de mème de ceux de Bengale, du reste de l’Indoustan.” Bernier, who had no theory on Indian affairs, but who displays more personal knowledge of the country than almost any other European, thus describes the Rajahs. Ce sortes de rois barbares n’ont aucune veritable generosité, et ne sont guere retenus par la foi qu’ils ont promise, ne regardant qu’à leurs interets presents, sans songer meme aux malheurs qui leur peuvent arriver de leur perfidie, et de leur brutalité. Revol. des Etats Mogol. p. 174. “The ryots have every reason to dread the prevalence of the Mahratta power; of that power, which yields them up to the tyranny and oppression of their chiefs; which affords no protection to its subjects; which is perpetually at war with its neighbours; and which has, in effect, laid waste the greatest part of Hindostan.” Sir H. Strachey, Report as Judge of Circuit, Fifth Report of the Committee on India Affairs, 1810, p. 568, sect. 17. La politique de leurs princes doit tenir de leur gouvernement.—d’une main on les voit signer une traité, et de l’autre ils jurent la perte de celui avec lequel ils font alliance. Anquetil Duperron, Zendavesta, cxvii. “The annals of Persia,” says Mr. Scott Waring, “contain little more than a uniform tale of wretchedness and misery, of murder and treachery; and the mind, wearied and disgusted with this uniformity of vice, is hurried away to a contemplation of similar causes and events.” Tour to Sheeraz, p. 267.
There can be no rational doubt that what by European eyes has been seen to be the detail of government, in the hands of the Hindus, though under Mogul principals, was a fair picture of what had been the detail of government under Hindu principals; administration in the hands of Mogul magistrates being, according to all testimony, less oppressive than administration in the hands of Hindus. The same intelligent and unexceptionable witness, Mr. Orme, goes on to say: “Imitation has conveyed the unhappy system of oppression which prevails in the government of Indostan throughout all ranks of the people, from the highest even to the lowest subject of the empire. Every head of a village calls his habitation the Durbar, and plunders of their meal and roots the wretches of his precinct; from him the Zemindar extorts the small pittance of silver, which his penurious tyranny has scraped together: the Phousdar seizes upon the greatest share of the Zemindar’s collections, and then secures the favour of his Nabob by voluntary contributions, which leave him not possessed of the half of his rapines and exactions: the Nabob fixes his rapacious eye on every portion of wealth which appears in his province, and never tails to carry off part of it: by large deductions from these acquisitions, he purchases security from his superiors, or maintains it against them at the expense of a war.—Subject to such oppressions, property in Indostan is seldom seen to descend to the third generation.” Orme, on the Government and People of Indostan, p. 450, 451. The following is another stroke in the formation of the same picture. “The Havildar plunders the village, and is himself fleeced by the Zemindar; the Zemindar by the Phousdar; the Phousdar by the Nabob or his Duan. The Duan is the Nabob’s head slave: and the Nabob compounds on the best terms he can make, with his Subah, or the throne.—Wherever this gradation is interrupted, bloodshed ensues.” Ibid. p. 402. “In every city, and in every considerable town, is appointed a guard, directed by proper officers, whose duty it is to coerce and punish all such crimes and misdemeanours as affect the policy of that district, and are at the same time of too infamous or of too insignificant a nature to be admitted before the more solemn tribunal of the Durbar. These ministers of justice are called the Catwall; and a building bearing the same name is allotted for their constant resort. At this place are perpetually heard the clamours of the populace: some demanding redress for the injury of a blow or a bad name; others for a fraud in the commerce of farthings: one wants assistance to take, another has taken a thief; some offering themselves as bondsmen; others called upon for witnesses. The cries of wretches under the scourge, and the groans of expiring criminals, complete a scene of perfect misery and confusion. After these employments of the day, parties are sent from the Catwall to patrole and watch through the town by night. In such governments, where the superiors are lost to all sense of humanity, the most execrable of villanies are perpetrated by this institution, designed to prevent them. The Catwall enters into treaty with a band of rubbers, who receive from hence the intelligence necessary to direct their exploits, and in return pay to it a stipulated portion of their acquisitions: besides the concessions necessary to secure impunity when detected, one part of the band is appointed to break into houses, another assaults the traveller upon the road, a third the merchant upon the rivers. I have seen these regulated villains commit murders in the face of day, with such desperate audacity as nothing but the confidence of protection could inspire.” Ibid. p. 452, 453.
They have always allowed themselves to be conquered in detail, just as the tribes of Gauls and Germans, by the Romans. Gaul, however, cost Julius Cæsar himself five years to subdue; and it several times carried fire and sword to the gates of Rome. The Gauls must have known much more of the art of war than the Hindus. See the fine generalship of Vercingetorix described by the conqueror himself in the 7th book of his commentaries; and analysed by Guischardt, Memoires Militaires sur les Grecs et les Romains, ch. xvi.—"The most remarkable of these new states were the Polygars of Chittledroog, Raidroog, Harponelly, Tarrikera, with many others of inferior note, whose united efforts might have opposed a respectable barrier to Mohammedan encroachment, if united efforts could be expected from restless savages, perpetually occupied by intestine quarrels.” (Wilks’ Hist. Sketches, p. 63.) Wilks say, (p. 23) that the Hindu character exhibits but few shades of distinction, wheresoever found. It follows, that no where is it far removed from the savage state.
To some persons it may be of use to hear, that the sober good sense of Major Rennel makes him reject the theory of union. “History gives us the most positive assurances, that India was divided into a number of kingdoms or states, from the time of Herodotus, down to that of Acbar.” (Rennel’s Mem. Introd. p. xxxii.)
Witness, Nepaul, and the strong districts along the Malabar coast, where the reign of the Hindu princes had been not at all or very little disturbed. For an account of Nepaul, see the history of Col. Kirkpatrick’s embassy; and of the Malabar coast, among other works, Voyage de P. Paulin; Sonnerat; and Anquetil Duperron; above all, the Journey of Dr. Buchanan, through Mysore, Canara, and Malabar.—"Mr. Wilford states, in the ninth volume of the Asiatic Researches, that the kings of Behar or Megadha were for many ages the sovereigns or lords-paramount of India. If such was the case, their descendants must have degenerated exceedingly; for at the period of the Mohammedan invasion, the Raja, instead of heading his army, in defence of his country and religion, shamefully absconded, leaving his capital, then a celebrated seat of Hindu learning (whence its name of Behar) so destitute, that it was taken by a detachment of 200 men, who put a number of the unopposing Brahmens to the sword, and plundered all the inhabitants.” (Hist. of Bengal, by Charles Stewart, Esq. p. 40.) Mr. Stewart speaks with judgment. Every thing in the state of India, as it was originally found by the Mahommedans, bears testimony against the fiction of a great monarchy, great prosperity, and great civilization.
“Quæ anus,” says Cicero, “tam excors inveniri potest, quæ illa quæ quondam credebantur apud inferos portenta extimescat?” (De Nat. Deor. lib. ii. cap. 2.)
Goguet, Origin of Laws, part ii. book i. ch. iv. art. 8.
In all parts of India, where things have not been altered by the influence of the Mahomedan government, the Hindus are found collected in villages, not in detached habitations; “a custom,” says Millar, (English Gov. i. 70,) “introduced by necessity in times of extreme barbarity and disorder.”
Rennel’s Memoir, p. 6.
Buchanan’s Journey through Mysore, &c. ii. 434. “It is a fact, that there is not a road in the country made by Hindoos, except a few which lead to holy places.” A View of the History, Literature, and Religion of the Hindoos, &c. By the Rev. W. Ward, one of the Baptist Missionaries at Serampore, Introd. p. lviii.
Tennant’s Indian Recreations, ii. 13, 14, 323.
Forster’s Travels, i. 74.—Tennant’s Indian Recreations, ii. 69.
See some observations on Dow, by Mr. Edward Scott Waring, Tour to Sheeraz, p. 15.
Speaking of the Mohamedan governments in the Deccan, Colonel Wilks says: “These princes had arrived at that stage of civilization in which gorgeous and awkward splendour covered the most gross political darkness.” (Historical Sketches, p. 65.)
See the Analysis of Tooril Mull’s System of Finance, in British India Analysed, i. 191. These copper pieces were called pulsiah or feloos, sixteen of which were reckoned equal to a Tunkah of base silver; a sort of coin, or rather medal, sometimes struck, at the pleasure of the king, not for use, but to make presents to foreign ambassadors, and others. “Trade must, therefore,” says the author, “have been carried on chiefly by barter; the rents for the most part paid in kind."—In the Deccan, a gold and silver coin was known earlier; which the same author thinks must have been introduced by the intercourse of the Persians and Arabians, to whom the use of coin had been known nearly a thousand years before. (Ibid. p. 194.) See an instructive dissertation on this point in “Researches on India,” by Q. Craufurd, Esq. i. 36–80. Yet this author, p. 80–84, is a firm believer in the great riches of India.
Agatharchides gives the most magnificent description of the riches of the Sabians. “Their expense of living rivals the magnificence of princes. Their houses are decorated with pillars glistening with gold and silver. Their doors are crowned with vases and beset with jewels; the interior of their houses corresponds with the beauty of their outward appearance, and all the riches of other countries are here exhibited in a variety of profusion. (See the account extracted and translated, in Vincent’s Periplus, part i. p. 33. See also Strabo, lib. xvi. p. 778.) In the barbarous state of the ancient Russian court at Moscow, there was the highest degree of magnificence and splendour. The Earl of Carlisle, giving an account of his embassy, says, that he could see nothing but gold and precious stones, in the robes of the Czar, and his courtiers.—The treasure of Sardanapalus was a thousand myriads of talents of gold, at the lowest estimation, 44, 174,999,760l. (Herodot. lib. ii. cap. 150; Athenæi Deipnosop. lib. xii.; Gibbon sur la Monarchie des Medes, Miscel. Works, 8vo. Ed. iii. 68.)—"What is said to be given by David (1 Chron. xxii. 14, 15, 16, and xxix. 3, 4, 5,) and contributed by his princes, xxix. 6, 7, 8,) toward the building of the temple at Jerusalem, if valued by the Mosaic talents, exceeded the value of 800,000,000l. of our money.” (Prideaux, Connexion of the History of the Old and New Testament, i. 5. Edit. 5th.) The Arcadian who was sent ambassador to the court of the king of Persia, in the days of Agesilaus, saw through the glare of eastern magnificence. 耉 δε Αντοχος απηγγειλε προς τθς μυριθς, ο’τι βασιλευς αρτοκοπ[Editor: illegible character]ς, και οψοποι[Editor: illegible character]ς, και οινοχο[Editor: illegible character]ς, και θυρωρ[Editor: illegible character]ς παμπλ[Editor: illegible character]θεις, εχι ανδρας δε, άι μαχοινΤ’ αν Ελληρι, απανν ςθτων [Editor: illegible character]κ αν εφη δυνασαι ιδειν. προς δε τ[Editor: illegible character]τοις, και το των χρηματων πληθος αλαζονειαν όι γε δοκειν ειναι επφη· επει και τθν ύμν[Editor: illegible character]μενην αν χρυσ[Editor: illegible character]ν πλατανον [Editor: illegible character]χ κανην εφη ειναι τετδιγι γκρεχειν. Xenophontis Græcorum, &c. lib. vii. sect. 1, near the end.)
Francklin’s Life of George Thomas, p. 103.
Orme, on the Government and People of Indostan, p. 420. The exquisite ignorance and stupidity of the Mysoreans in the art of war, while yet a purely Hindu people, is strongly remarked by Orme, i. 207. In the following description appears the simplicity of the fortification of Hindu towns; “A place that hath eight cose in length and breadth, and on the skirts of which, on all the four sides, is a ditch, and above the ditch, on all the four sides, a wall or parapet, and on all the four sides of it are bamboos, and on the east or north side thereof, a hollow or covered way, such place is called Nigher, or a city; in the same manner, if it hath four cose in length and breadth, it is called Gherbut, or a small city.” Gentoo Code, ch. xiv. See also Motte’s Journey to Orissa, As. An. Reg. i. 51, 67.—"The fortifications of places of the first order formerly consisted, and in many places still consist, in one or two thick walls, flanked with round or triangular towers. A wide and deep ditch is on the outside; but as the Hindus are unskilful in the construction of bridges, they always leave a causeway from the gate of the town over the ditch.” The Abbé Dubois, p. 543.—See a curious testimony to the imperfection of the military art among the Mahrattas, (Broughton’s Letters from a Mahratta Camp, p. 107, 108); and another, still more remarkable, to the wretched pusillanimity of the rajpoots, those boasted descendants of the supposed magnanimous Cshatriyas, a pusillanimity, which, according to Mr. Broughton, forfeits their title even to pity, while “possessing so many advantages, they voluntarily bend their necks to one of the most galling yokes in the world.” Ibid. p. 133.
Asiat. Res. i. 354.
Ibid. iv. 159.
Craufurd’s Sketches. Sir William Jones says, “We may readily believe those who assure us, that some tribes of wandering Tartars had real skill in applying herbs and minerals to the purpose of medicine;” the utmost pretended extent of the medical science of the Hindus. As. Res. ii. 40. See Tennant’s Indian Recreations, for some important details, i. 357; Buchanan’s Journey through Mysore, &c. i. 336.—"Medicine,” says the last intelligent observer, “in this country has indeed fallen into the hands of charlatans equally impudent and ignorant.” Ibid. “There are not indeed wanting several persons who prescribe in physic, play upon a variety of musical instruments, and are concerned in some actions and performances which seem at least to suppose some skill in nature or mathematics. Yet all this is learned merely by practice, long habit, and custom; assisted for the most part with great strength of memory, and quickness of invention.” (Shaw’s Travels, speaking of the people of Barbary, p. 263.) The good sense of Colonel Wilks has made that instructive writer use the following terms: “The golden age of India, like that of other regions, belongs exclusively to the poet. In the sober investigation of facts, this imaginary era recedes still farther and farther at every stage of the inquiry; and all that we find is still the empty praise of the ages which have passed.....If the comparative happiness of mankind in different ages be measured by its only true and rational standard, namely, the degree of peace and security which they shall be found collectively and individually to possess, we shall certainly discover, in every successive step towards remote antiquity, a larger share of wretchedness to have been the portion of the human race.....The force of these observations, general in their nature, is perhaps more strongly marked in the history of India than of any other region of the earth. At periods long antecedent to the Mohammedan invasion, wars, revolutions, and conquests, seem to have followed each other, in a succession more strangely complex, rapid, and destructive, as the events more deeply recede into the gloom of antiquity. The rude valour, which had achieved a conquest, was seldom combined with the sagacity requisite for interior rule; and the fabric of the conquered state, shaken by the rupture of its ancient bonds, and the substitution of instruments, clumsy, unapt, and misapplied, either fell to sudden ruin, or gradually dissolved.” Historical Sketches of the South of India, by Lieut. Col. Mark Wilks, p. 1, 2.
The barbarians from Germany and Scythia quickly learned the discipline of the Roman armies, and turned their own arts against the legions. See Gibbon, vii. 377. The Hindus have never been able, without European officers, to avail themselves of European discipline.
The monastery of Bangor, demolished by Adelfrid, the first king of Northumberland, was so extensive, that there was a mile’s distance from one gate of it to another, and it contained two thousand one hundred monks, who are said to have been there maintained by their own labour. (Hume’s England, i. 41.) “Les Etrusques, predecesseurs des Romains, et les premiers peuples de l’Italie sur lesquels l’histoire jette quelque lueur.....paroissent avoir devancé les Grecs dans la carriere des sciences et des arts, bien qu’ils n’aient pas pu, comme leurs successeurs, la parcourir toute entiere. Les poetes ont placé au milieu d’enx l’age d’or sous le regne de Saturne, et leurs fictions n’ont voilé qu’à demi la verité.—Comme nous ne savons pas même le nom des ecrivains Etrusques ou Tyrrheniens, et que ces peuples ne nous sont connus que par quelques fragmens d’historiens Grecs et Latins, ils resteront toujours enveloppés d’une grande obscurité. Cependant nous avons une indication de leur puissance, dans les murailles colossales de Volterra; de leur gout, dans les vases qui nous sont restés d’eux; de leur savoir, dans le culte de Jupiter Elicius, auqucl ils attribuerent l’art qu’ils connurent et que nous avons retrouvés, d’eviter et de diriger la foudre.” Simonde de Sismondi, Hist. des Rep. Ital. Introd. p. iii. These Tuscans cannot have been advanced beyond the stage of semi-barbarism; and yet here are proofs of a progress in the arts, with which the Hindus have nothing to compare.—The Afghauns use a water-mill for grinding their corn. “It is also used in the north of India, under the Sireenugger hills; but, in general, no water-mills are known in India, where all grain is ground with the hand.” Elphinstone’s Caubul, p. 307.
The Hindus are often found to be orderly and good servants at Calcutta, Madras, &c. This is but a fallacious proof of civilization. Hear Lord Macartney in his account of Russia. “All the inhabitants of Siberia, Casan, and the eastern provinces of Russia, to the sea of Kamschatka, who are not Christians, are confounded under the general name of Tartars. Many of these come to the capital in order to procure employment, either as workmen or domestics, and are exceedingly sober, acute, dextrous, and faithful.” Barrow’s Life of Lord Macartney, ii. 26. “Calmack servants are greatly esteemed all over Russia, for their intelligence and fidelity.” Mr. Heber’s Journal, in Clarke’s Travels in Russia, p. 241. “I recollect,” adds Dr. Clarke, “seeing some of them in that capacity among English families in Petersburg. The most remarkable instance ever known of an expatriated Calmuck, was that of an artist employed by the Earl of Elgin, whom I saw, (a second Auacharsis, from the plains of Scythia) executing most beautiful designs among the rums of Athens. Some Russian family had previously sent him to finish his studies in Rome, where he acquired the highest perfection in design. He had the peculiar features, and many of the manners, of the nomade Calmucks.” Ibid. The negroes, when properly treated, make faithful, affectionate, and good servants.—But it is more than doubtful whether the Hindus do in reality make those good servants we have heard them called. Dr. Gilchrist says (Preface to his Hindostanee Dictionary, printed at Calcutta, 1787, p. 27)—and Lord Teignmouth repeats, (Considerations, &c. on communicating to the Natives of India the Knowledge of Christianity p. 82) “that he cannot hesitate about beheving the fact—that among a thousand servants of all descriptions whom he had trusted and employed, he had the luck to meet with one only whom he knew to be upright in his conduct.” By the author of that interesting little book, entitled, Sketches of India, or Observations descriptive of the Scenery, &c. in Bengal, written in India in the years 1811, 1812, 1813, 1814, p. 13, we are told that when you are travelling in India, “An object of attention which must excite peculiar attention in every honourable mind, is the thefts and depredations which are apt to he committed at every bazar or market, and indeed whenever opportunity offers, both by your own servants and the boatmen, Astonishing as this may seem, it is an undoubted fact that these people pillage every step they take; and, to escape the just indignation of the sufferers, shelter themselves under the name of their innocent master, to whom these poor wretches are often afraid to refer.”
Forster’s Travels, ii. 135.
Gibbon, i. 342.
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Gibbon, Hist. Decl. and Fall, &c. vii. 304. Some ancient sculpture in the vicinity of Shahpoor in honour of Sapo the First, “represents a king, seated in state, amid a group of figures standing before him, one of whom offers two heads to the monarch’s notice. If we wanted other evidence, this alone would mark the state of civilization to which a nation had advanced, that could suffer its glory to be perpetuated by a representation of so barbarous a character.” Sir John Malcolm, Hist. of Persia, i. 254. No historical writings in ancient Persia: none in Hindustan.
Lord Macartney’s Journal, Barrow’s Life of Lord Macartney, ii. 279. In reading this passage, one seems to be reading an account of Hindu religion, temples, and sculpture.
Lord Macartney’s Journal, Barrow’s Life of Lord Macartney, ii. 357.
Barrow’s China, p. 585. A large portion of the country, wet, swampy ground, the rich alluvion of rivers, which might be easily gained; if the Chinese had but the skill. Ibid. p. 70, 83, 208, 533.
Barrow’s Life of Lord Macartney, ii. 357.
Barrow’s China, p. 513.
Ibid. p. 43.
Ibid. p. 561, 499.
Barrow’s Life of Lord Macartney, ii. 363.
Lord Macartney remarks that the Chinese had a very limited knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, “although from some of the printed accounts of China one might be led to imagine that they were well versed in them.” “Their affectation of the science of astronomy or astrology (for they have but one word in their language to express both,) induced them at a very remote period to establish a mathematical college or tribunal, the duty of which is to furnish to the nation an annual calendar, somewhat like our Poor Robin’s Almanack, with lists of all the lucky and unlucky days of the year, predictions of the weather, directions for sowing and reaping, &c. This branch entirely belongs to the Chinese doctors, who are chosen for the purpose from among the most celebrated philomaths of the nation.” Ibid. p. 481; See too Barrow’s China, 284, 291, 292, 295, 323.
Barrow’s China, p. 311, 512.
Barrow’s China, p. 101–330.
Ibid. p. 306, 323.
Similar traces are found in the following character of the Persians, drawn by a recent observer, Mr. Scott Waring, Tour to Sheeraz. “Mean and obsequious to their superiors and to their equals, if they have a prospect of advantage; but invariably arrogant and brutal in their behaviour towards their inferiors; always boasting of some action they never performed, and delighted with flattery, though they are aware of the imposition. I have repeatedly heard them compliment a person in his hearing, or in the presence of some one who would convey this adulation to his ears; and the instant that he has departed, their praises have turned into abuse:” p. 101. “Not the least reliance is to be placed on their words or most solemn protestations."....."They conceive it their duty to please; and to effect this, they forget all sentiments of honour and good faith."....."The Persians have but a faint notion of gratitude, for they cannot conceive that any one should be guilty of an act of generosity, without some simster motive:” p. 103. “Philosophers have held it for a maxim, that the most notorious liar utters a hundred truths for every falsehood. This is not the case in Persia; they are unacquainted with the beauty of truth, and only think of it when it is likely to advance their interests."...."The generality of Persians are sunk in the lowest state of profligacy and infamy; and they seldom hesitate alluding to crimes which are abhorred and detested in every civilized country in the universe.” The following is an important observation. (Voyage dans l’Empire Othoman, l’Egypt, et la Perse, par G. A. Olivier, v. 120.) “En Europe, il y a un espace immense entre les habitans des grandes villes et ceux des campagnes, entre l’homme bien élevé et celui qui ne l’est pas. Eu Perse, nous n’avons pas trouvé que cet espace fut bien grand: la classe pauvre des villes diffère tres-peu, pour l’esprit, les connaissances et les mœurs, de l’habitant des campagnes, et il n’y a pas non plus un grande difference, dans les villes, entre les riches et les pauvres. C’est presque partout la même conduite, la même allure, la même maniere de s’exprimer; ce sont les mêmes idées, et j’oserais presque dire la même instruction. Ici l’habitant des campagnes, celui-la même qui se trouve toute l’année sous la tente, et qui conduit ses troupeaux d’un pâturage à un autre, nous a paru plus delié, plus rusé, plus poli, plus instrut, que le cultivateur Européen un peu eloigné des grandes villes.”
Turner’s Embassy to Tibet, book i. ch. iv.
Turner’s Embassy to Tibet, book ii. ch. ii. The agriculture is promoted by artificial irrigation, the water being conveyed to the fields through hollow cylinders, formed of the trunks of trees. Ibid. book i. ch. vi.
Ibid. book ii. ch. ii.
Narrative of a Voyage to Cochin-China in 1778 by Mr. Chapman, in the Asiatic Annual Register for 1801, Miscellaneous Tracts, p. 85.
Ibid. p. 72. Of China, Mr. Barrow says, “There are no inus in any part of this vast empire; or, to speak more correctly (for there are resting-places,) no inhabited and furnished houses where, in consideration of paying a sum of money, a traveller may purchase the refreshments of comfortable rest, and of allaying the calls of hunger. The state of society admits of no such accommodation. What they call inns are mean hovels consisting of bare walls, where, perhaps, a traveller may procure his cup of tea, for a piece of copper money, and permission to pass the night; but this is the extent of the comforts which such places hold out.” Barrow’s China, p. 241. Such is the description of the Indian choultries; empty buildings into which the travellers may retire, but into which he must carry with him every accommodation, of which he stands in need. “The Kans, or Caravanseras,” says Volney, speaking of another Asiatic country, Syria, “afford only cells for the accommodation of travellers, with bare walls, dust, and sometimes scorpions. The keeper gives the lodger a key and a mat, and he must find every thing else himself.” Travels in Egypt, &c. ii. 420. “In the inland towns and villages of Barbary, there is, for the most part, a house set apart for the reception of strangers, with a proper officer (the Maharak, I think they call him) to attend it. Here persons are lodged and entertained, for one night, in the best manner the place will afford at the expence of the community.” Shaw’s Travels, Pref. p. ii.
Chapman’s Voyage, ubi supra, p. 73, 76. Sir George Staunton says, Embassy of Lord Macartney, i. 389: “The Cochin-Chinese seemed sufficiently dexterous and attentive, though with scarcely any principles of science, to make, on any substances which promised to be of use or comfort to them in private life, such trials and experiments, as were likely to produce beneficial results. In the culture of their lands, and in the few manufactures exercised amongst them, they were not behind nations where the sciences flourish.” “Though these people possessed not scientifically the art of reducing the metallic ore into the metal, they had attained the practice, for example, of making very good iron, as well as of manufacturing it afterwards, into match-locks, spears, and other weapons. Their earthenware was very neat. Their dexterity appeared in every operation they undertook:” p. 387.
Symes’ Embassy to Ava, ii. 326.—The following, too, are abundantly similar to corresponding features in the character of the Hindus. The Birmans, in some points of their disposition, display the ferocity of barbarians, and in others all the humanity and tenderness of polished life. They inflict the most savage vengeance on their enemies. As invaders, desolation marks their track; for they spare neither sex nor age. But at home they assume a different character. Ibid.
Ibid. iii. 96.
See Description of the Kingdom of Assam, &c. Asiat. An. Register for 1800, Miscellaneous Tracts, p. 43.
See Description of the Kingdom of Assam, &c. Asiat. An. Register for 1800, Miscellaneous Tracts, p. 43.
Ibid. p. 45.
See Description of the Kingdom of Assam, &c. Asiat. An. Register for 1800, Miscellaneous Tracts, p. 47, 48.
Goguet, Origin of Laws, part iii. book vi. ch. ii. He adds, “I should be greatly tempted to compare this nation with the Chinese. I think a good deal of resemblance and conformity is to be perceived between one people and the other.” Ibid. Had the Hindus been then as fully described as they are now, he would have found a much more remarkable similarity between them and the Egyptians.—Exaggeration was long in quitting its hold of Egypt. At the time of the Arabian conquest, in the seventh century, “We may read,” (says Gibbon, ix. 446) “in the gravest authors, that Egypt was crowded with 20,000 cities or villages: that exclusive of the Greeks and Arabs, the Copts alone were found on the assessment, six millions of tributary subjects, or twenty millions of either sex, and of every age: that three hundred millions of gold or silver were annually paid to the treasury of the Caliph.” He adds in a note, “And this gross lump is swallowed without scruple by d’Herbelot, Arbuthnot, and De Guignes. They might allege the not less extravagant liberality of Appian, in favour of the Ptolemies; an annual income of 185, or near 300 millions of pounds sterling; according as we reckon by the Egyptian or the Alexandrian talent.” If this be wonderful, what is to be said of the lumps swallowed by the admirers of the Hindus? Voltaire remarks, “Que les Egyptiens tant vantés pour leurs lois, leurs connaissances, et leurs pyramides, n’avaient presque jamais été qu’un peuple esclave, superstitieux et ignorant, dont tout le merite avait consisté à elever des rangs inutiles de pierres les unes sur les autres par l’ordre de leurs tyrans; qu’en bátissant leurs palais superbes ils n’avaient jamais su seulement former une voῦte; qu’ils ignoraient la coupe de pierres; que toute leur architecture consistait à poser de longues pierres plates sur des piliers sans proportion; que l’ancienne Egypte n’a jamais eu une statue tolerable que de la main des Grecs; que ni les Grecs ni les Romains n’ont jamais daigné traduire un seul livre des Egyptiens; que les elemens de geometrie composés dans Alexandrie le furent par un Grec, etc. etc.....on n’aperçoit dans les lois de l’Egypte que celles d’un peuple très borné.” Voltaire, Supplement à l’Essai sur les Mœurs, &c. Remarque Premier
Essay on the History of Astronomy, p. 27.
He might have got proofs, equal to those with which they presented him, of Plato’s having been acquainted with the circulation of the blood; viz. because when speaking of that fluid he uses the word περιμγεσθαι, which signifies to be carried round.—It is worthy of remark, that the philosopher, of whom Sir William heard, and whose works contained such important discoveries, was called Yavan Acharya, that is Gentile or Greek. By the argument of Sir William, we might believe that the Greeks anticipated Newton. When Copernicus, dissatisfied with the received account of the heavenly motions, addressed himself to discover a new arrangement, we are told that “he examined all the obscure traditions delivered down to us, concerning every other hypothesis which the ancients had invented. He found in Plutarch, that some old Pythagoreans had represented the earth as revolving in the centre of the universe, like a wheel round its own axis; and that others of the same sect, had removed it from the centre, and represented it as revolving in the ecliptic, like a star round the central fire. By this central fire he supposed they meant the sun,” &c. Dr. Ad. Smith, Essay on Hist Astron. p. 51. We might prove that Parmenides had a just conception of the figure of the globe. Plato informs us that, according to that inquirer, Το ολον ιτι