The History of British India, Vol. I, by James Mill

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: The History of British India, Vol. I, by James Mill

Postby admin » Mon Nov 23, 2020 9:56 am

CHAP. III.

The Form of Government.

After the division of the people into ranks and occupations, the great circumstance by which their condition, character, and operations are determined, is the political establishment; the system of actions by which the social order is preserved. Among the Hindus, according to the Asiatic model, the government was monarchical, and, with the usual exception of religion and its ministers, absolute. No idea of any system of rule, different from the will of a single person, appears to have entered the minds of them, or their legislators. “If the world had no king,” says the Hindu law,269 “it would quake on all sides through fear; the ruler of this universe, therefore, created a king, for the maintenance of this system.” Of the high and uncontrolable authority of the monarch a judgment may be formed, from the lofty terms in which the sacred books describe his dignity and attributes. “A king,” says the law of Menu,270 “is formed of particles from the chief guardian deities, and consequently surpasses all mortals in glory. Like the sun, he burns eyes and hearts; nor can any human creature on earth even gaze on him. He, fire and air; He, the god of criminal justice; He, the genius of wealth; He, the regent of waters; He, the lord of the firmament. A king, even though a child, must not be treated lightly, from an idea that he is a mere mortal: No; he is a powerful divinity, who appears in human shape. In his anger, death. He who shows hatred of the king, through delusion of mind, will certainly perish; for speedily will the king apply his heart to that man's destruction.” The pride of imperial greatness could not devise, hardly could it even desire, more extraordinary distinctions, or the sanction of a more unlimited authority.

The plan, according to which the power of the sovereign was exercised in the government of the country, resembled that which has almost universally prevailed in the monarchies of Asia, and was a contrivance extremely simple and rude. In the more skilful governments of Europe, officers are appointed for the discharge of particular duties in the different provinces of the empire; some for the decision of causes, some for the control of violence, some for collecting the contingents of the subjects, for the expense of the state; while the powers of all center immediately in the head of the government, and all together act as connected and subordinate wheels in one complicated and artful machine. Among the less instructed and less civilized inhabitants of Asia, no other plan has ever occurred to the monarch, for the administration of his dominions, than simply to divide his own authority and power into pieces or fragments, as numerous as the provinces into which it was deemed convenient to distribute the empire. To each of the provinces a vicegerent was dispatched, who carried with him the undivided authority and jurisdiction of his master. Whatever powers the sovereign exercised over the whole kingdom, the vicegerent exercised in the province allotted to him; and the same plan which the sovereign adopted for the government of the whole, was exactly followed by the vicegerent in the government of a part.271 If the province committed to his sway was too extensive for his personal inspection and control, he subdivided it into parts, and assigned a governor to each, whom he intrusted with the same absolute powers in his district, as he himself possessed in the administration of the greater department. Even this inferior deputy often divided his authority, in the same manner, among the governors, whom he appointed, of the townships or villages under his control. Every one of those rulers, whether the sphere of his command was narrow or extensive, was absolute within it, and possessed the whole power of the sovereign, to levy taxes, to raise and command troops, and to decide upon the lives and property of the subjects. The gradations of command among the Hindus were thus regulated: The lowest of all was the lord of one town and its district; The next was the lord of ten towns; The third was the lord of twenty towns; The fourth was the lord of 100 towns; And the highest vicegerent was lord of 1000 towns. Every lord was amenable to the one immediately above him, and exercised unlimited authority over those below.272 The following law appears to provide for their personal expenses: “Such food, drink, wood, and other articles, as by law should be given each day to the king, by the inhabitants of the township, let the lord of one town receive; let the lord of ten towns enjoy the produce of two plough-lands; the lord of twenty, that of five plough-lands; the lord of 100, that of a village or small town; the lord of 1000, that of a large town.”273 The expense of the government of each vicegerent was defrayed out of the taxes which he levied, and the surplus was transmitted to the superior lord, to whom he was immediately responsible. From him it was again conveyed to the governor above him, till it reached, at last, the royal treasury.

If this plan of government was unskilful and rude, so was the contrivance employed for checking the abuses to which it was liable. “The affairs of these townships,” says the law, “either jointly or separately transacted, let another minister of the king inspect, who should be well affected, and by no means remiss. In every larger town or city, let him appoint one superintendant of all affairs, elevated in rank, formidable in power, distinguished as a planet among stars: Let that governor, from time to time, survey all the rest in person, and, by the means of his emissaries, let him perfectly know their conduct in their several districts.”274 Of the practical state of the government abundant proof is afforded. In the passage which immediately follows, “Since the servants of the king,” it is said, “whom he has appointed guardians of districts, are generally knaves, who seize what belongs to other men, from such knaves let him defend his people; of such evil-minded servants, as wring wealth from subjects attending them on business, let the King confiscate all the possessions, and banish them from his realm.”275

At the head of this government stands the king, on whom the great lords of the empire immediately depend. He is directed by the law to choose a Council, consisting “of seven or eight ministers, men whose ancestors were servants of kings, who are versed in the holy books, who are personally brave; who are skilled in the use of weapons, and whose lineage is noble.”276 With them he is commanded perpetually to consult on the affairs of his government; but a singular mode of deliberation is prescribed to him; not to assemble his Council, and, laying before them, as in the cabinets of European princes, the subject on which the suggestions of their wisdom are required, to receive the benefit arising from the mutual communication of their knowledge and views; a plan, apparently more artful and cunning, more nearly allied to the suspicious temper and narrow views, of a rude period, is recommended; to consult them apart, and hear the opinion of each separately; after which, having consulted them in common, when each man is swayed by the opinion he had formerly given in private, and has a motive of interest and vanity to resist the light which might be thrown upon the subject by others, the king himself is to decide.277 A Brahmen ought always to be his prime minister. “To one learned Brahmen, distinguished among the rest, let the king impart his momentous counsel.”278

To provide for the defence of the country was one great branch of the duties of the sovereign, and to preside over the military force was his great prerogative and distinction. As, in the original division of the people, a fourth part of them were appropriated to the profession of arms, and destined from that alone to obtain their subsistence, the great difficulty of government must have consisted, not in obtaining troops, but in finding for them maintenance and employment. When so great a proportion of the population were set apart for the business of war, with nothing to do, from year to year, and from generation to generation, but to improve its principles, and acquire the utmost dexterity in its exercises, it appears extraordinary that the nation was not of a formidable and warlike character. Yet has India given way to every invader; “and the rudeness,” says Mr. Orme,279 “of the military art in Indostan can scarce be imagined but by those who have seen it.” The precepts in the ancient and sacred books of the Hindus, which lay the foundation of their military system, are few in number, simple, and rude. For the security of the royal residence, the king is directed to take up his abode280 “in a capital, having, by way of fortress, a desert rather more than twenty miles round it, or a fortress of earth, a fortress of water or of trees, a fortress of armed men, or a fortress of mountains.” Their great unskilfulness in the science of attack and defence led them to place great dependence on fortification, as appears by a variety of their precepts. “One bowman,” says Menu,281 “placed on a wall is a match in war for 100 enemies, and 100 for 10,000; therefore is a fort recommended.” Yet their knowledge of fortification was elementary, and mostly consisted in surrounding the place with a mud wall and a ditch, or availing themselves of the natural advantages which insulated rocks, which water, or impervious thickets, could afford. The duty and advantage of maintaining at all times a powerful army are enforced in the most cogent terms. “By a king,” says Menu, “whose forces are always ready for action, the whole world may be kept in awe; let him then, by a force always ready, make all creatures living his own.”282 In recommending a perpetual standing army, the preceptive part of the military doctrine of the Hindus seems in a great measure to have been summed up; for the marshalling, the discipline, the conduct of an army, in any of its branches, no instruction is conveyed. General exhortations to firmness and valour are all the additional advice of which the utility appears to have been recognized. The Hindu prince is, by divine authority, informed, that those rulers of the earth, who, “desirous of defeating each other, exert their utmost strength in battle, without ever averting their faces, ascend after death directly to heaven.”283 “Never to recede from combat,” says Menu, “to protect the people, and to honour the priests, is the highest duty of kings, and ensures their felicity.”284 Of a great part of the duty which devolved upon the king, as head of the armed force, he appears to have been relieved by a deputy.285 In times of peace, the military people seem to have been distributed over the country, under the command of the governors of provinces and of districts, for local defence, for the preservation of local tranquillity, and for the convenience of subsistence. When a general war demanded the whole force of the nation, the king commanded the governors of provinces to assemble the soldiers under their command, and repair to his standard.286 From this circumstance it has been rashly concluded, that feudal conditions of military service, in fact a feudal government, nearly resembling that which existed in Europe, had place in Hindustan.

After the care of protecting the nation from foreign aggression or from internal tumult, the next duty of the king was the distribution of justice. In the first stage of society, the leader in war is also the judge in peace; and the regal and judicial functions are united in the same person. Various circumstances tend to produce this arrangement. In the first place, there are hardly any laws: and he alone is entitled to judge, who is entitled to legislate, since he must make a law for every occasion. In the next place, a rude people, unused to obedience, would hardly respect inferior authority. In the third place, the business of judicature is so badly performed as to interrupt but little the business or pleasures of the king; and a decision is rather an exercise of arbitrary will and power, than the result of an accurate investigation. In the fourth place, the people are so much accustomed to terminate their own disputes, by their own cunning, or force, that the number of applications for judicature is comparatively small. As society advances, a set of circumstances, opposite to these, are gradually introduced: laws are made which the judge has nothing to do but apply: the people learn the advantage of submitting to inferior authority: a more accurate administration of justice is demanded, and cannot be performed without a great application both of attention and of time: the people learn that it is for the good of the community, that they should not terminate, and that they should not be allowed to terminate, either by force or fraud, their own disputes: the administration of justice is then too laborious to be either agreeable to the king, or consistent with the other services which he is expected to render: and the exercise of judicature becomes a separate employment, the exclusive function of a particular order of men.

The administration of justice by the king in person, and in the provinces of course by his deputies, as in the subordinate districts by theirs, stands in the sacred books as a leading principle of the jurisprudence of the Hindus; and the revolution of ages has introduced a change in favour rather of the prince who abandons the duty, than of the people, for whom hardly any other instrument of judicature is provided.

In the infancy of improvement, the business of the judge is much more to award punishment, than to settle disputes. The Hindu law, accordingly, represents the king, as “created for the guardianship of all, a divinity in human form, to inflict punishment according to the Shaster.”287 In conformity with those rude ideas, the most extravagant praises are bestowed upon this engine of royalty. “For the use of the king, Bramah formed, in the beginning of time, the genius of punishment with a body of pure light, his own son, the Protector of all created things. Punishment governs all mankind; punishment alone preserves them; punishment wakes while their guards are asleep; the wise consider punishment as the perfection of justice. If the king were not, without indolence, to punish the guilty, the stronger would roast the weaker, like fish, on a spit. The whole race of man is kept in order by punishment; for a guiltless man is hard to be found.”288

For the more perfect discharge of this important duty the king is directed to associate with himself Brahmens, and counsellors capable of giving him advice.289 Any Brahmen, or even a person of the two middle classes, may interpret the law to him; but a Sudra in no case whatever.290 On those occasions on which it was impossible for the king to give judgment in person, he was empowered to appoint a Brahmen, who, with three assessors, might try causes in his stead.291

So much with regard to the constitution of the tribunals. The solemnities of jurisdiction were thus ordered to proceed: “Let the king, or his judge, having seated himself on the bench, his body properly clothed, and his mind attentively fixed, begin with doing reverence to the deities who govern the world, and then let him enter on the trial of causes.”292 The form of process was simple, and good; as it always is among a rude people. The parties were heard, generally in person; though lawyers by profession, unless in the case of certain high crimes, might appear in lieu of the principals. The application of the plaintiff might be either oral or written; but the answer was required to be in the same form; oral, if the application was oral; and in writing, if it was otherwise.293 The judge examines the witnesses; inspects, if any, the writings; and without any intricate or expensive forms proceeds directly to a decision. Punishment immediately follows conviction.294

One of the highest of our authorities affords a picture of the practical state of judicature in India, which, there is every reason to believe, may, with immaterial variations, be applied to Hindu society from the period at which it first attained its existing form. “No man is refused access to the Durbar, or seat of judgment; which is exposed to a large area, capable of containing the multitude.295 The plaintiff discovers himself by crying aloud, Justice! Justice! until attention is given to his importunate clamours. He is then ordered to be silent, and to advance before his judge; to whom, after having prostrated himself, and made his offering of a piece of money, he tells his story in the plainest manner, with great humility of voice and gesture, and without any of those oratorial embellishments which compose an art in freer nations.—The wealth, the consequence, the interest, or the address of the party, become now the only considerations. He visits his judge in private, and gives the jar of oil: his adversary bestows the hog which breaks it. The friends who can influence intercede; and, excepting where the case is so manifestly proved as to brand the failure of redress with glaring infamy (a restraint which human nature is born to reverence) the value of the bribe ascertains the justice of the cause.—This is so avowed a practice, that if a stranger should inquire how much it would cost him to recover a just debt from a creditor who evaded payment, he would every where receive the same answer; the government will keep onefourth, and give you the rest.—Still the forms of justice subsist; witnesses are heard, but brow-beaten and removed: proofs of writing produced, but deemed forgeries and rejected, until the way is cleared for a decision, which becomes totally or partially favourable, in proportion to the methods which have been used to render it such; but still with some attention to the consequences of a judgment, which would be of too flagrant iniquity not to produce universal detestation and resentment.—Providence has, at particular seasons, blessed the miseries of these people with the presence of a righteous judge. The vast reverence and reputation which such have acquired are but too melancholy a proof of the infrequency of such a character. The history of their judgments and decisions is transmitted down to posterity, and is quoted with a visible complacency on every occasion. Stories of this nature supply the place of proverbs in the conversations of all the people of Indostan, and are applied by them with great propriety.”296

Such are the principal branches of the duty of the sovereign, and in these various institutions may be contemplated an image of the Hindu government. It is worthy of a short analysis. The powers of government consist of three great branches, the legislative, the judicial, and the administrative; and we have to inquire, in what hands these several powers are deposited, and by what circumstances their exercise is controlled. As the Hindu believes, that a complete and perfect system of instruction, which admits of no addition or change, was conveyed to him from the beginning by the Divine Being, for the regulation of his public as well as his private affairs, he acknowledges no laws but those which are contained in the sacred books. From this it is evident, that the only scope which remains for legislation is confined within the limits of the interpretations which may be given to the holy text. The Brahmens enjoy the undisputed prerogative of interpreting the divine oracles; for though it is allowed to the two classes next in degree to give advice to the king in the administration of justice, they must in no case presume to depart from the sense of the law which it has pleased the Brahmens to impose. The power of legislation, therefore, exclusively belongs to the priesthood. The exclusive right of interpreting the laws necessarily confers upon them, in the same unlimited manner, the judicial powers of government. The king, though ostensibly supreme judge, is commanded always to employ Brahmens as counsellors and assistants in the administration of justice; and whatever construction they put upon the law, to that his sentence must conform. Whenever the king in person discharges not the office of judge, it is a Brahmen, if possible, who must occupy his place. The king, therefore, is so far from possessing the judicial power, that he is rather he executive officer by whom the decisions of the Brahmens are carried into effect.

They who possess the power of making and interpreting the laws by which another person is bound to act, are by necessary consequence the masters of his actions. Possessing the legislative and judicative powers, the Brahmens were, also, masters of the executive power, to any extent, whatsoever, to which they wished to enjoy it. With influence over it they were not contented. They secured to themselves a direct, and no contemptible share of its immediate functions. On all occasions, the king was bound to employ Brahmens, as his counsellors and ministers; and, of course, to be governed by their judgment. “Let the king, having risen early,” says the law, “respectfully attend to Brahmens learned in the three Vedas, and by their decision let him abide.”297 It thus appears that, according to the original laws of the Hindus, the king was little more than an instrument in the hands of the Brahmens. He performed the laborious part of government, and sustained the responsibility, while they chiefly possessed the power.298

The uncontrolable sway of superstition, in rude and ignorant times, confers upon its ministers such extraordinary privileges, that the king and the priest are generally the same person; and it appears somewhat remarkable that the Brahmens, who usurped among their countrymen so much distinction and authority, did not invest themselves with the splendour of royalty. It very often happens that some accidental circumstances, of which little account was taken at the time, and which after a lapse of ages it is impossible to trace, gave occasion to certain peculiarities which we remark in the affairs and characters of nations. It is by no means unnatural to suppose, that to a people, over whom the love of repose exerts the greatest sway, and in whose character aversion to danger forms a principal ingredient, the toils and perils of the sword appeared to surpass the advantages with which it was attended; and that the Brahmens transferred to the hands of others, what was thus a source of too much labour, as well as danger, to be retained in their own.

So many, however, and important were the powers which this class reserved to themselves, that the kingly dignity would appear to have been reduced to that of a dependant and secondary office. But with this inference the fact does not correspond. The monuments of the Hindus, imperfect as they are, convince us, that their monarchs enjoyed no small share both of authority, and of that kind of splendour which corresponded with their own state of society. They had two engines entrusted to them, the power of which their history serves remarkably to display; They were masters of the army; And they were masters of the public revenue. These two circumstances, it appears, were sufficient to counterbalance the legislative, and the judicative, and even a great part of the executive power, reinforced by all the authority of an overbearing superstition, lodged in the hands of the Brahmens. These threw around the sovereign an external lustre, with which the eyes of uncultivated men are easily dazzled. In dangerous and disorderly times, when every thing which the nation values depends upon the sword, the military commander exercises unlimited authority by universal consent; and so frequently is this the situation of a rude and uncivilized people, surrounded on all sides by rapacious and turbulent neighbours, that it becomes, in a great measure, the habitual order of things. The Hindu king, by commanding both the force, and the revenue of the state, had in his hands the distribution of gifts and favours; the potent instrument, in short, of patronage; and the jealousy and rivalship of the different sets of competitors would of their own accord give him a great influence over the Brahmens themselves. The distribution of gifts and favours is an engine of so much power, that the man who enjoys it to a certain extent is absolute, with whatever checks he may appear to be surrounded.299
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Re: The History of British India, Vol. I, by James Mill

Postby admin » Mon Nov 23, 2020 10:01 am

Part 1 of 2

CHAP. IV.

The Laws.

Next to the form of government, in determining the political condition of the people, is the body of law, or the mode in which the rights of individuals are expressed and secured. For elucidating this important point, in the history of the Hindus, materials are abundant. The detail, however, or even the analysis, of the Hindu code, would far exceed the bounds, to which, in a work like the present, this topic must be confined. An accurate conception of the character and spirit of the Hindu laws, and of their place in the scale of excellence or defect, is all I can attempt to convey.

Amid the imperfections adhering to the state of law among a rude and ignorant people, one is, that they preserve not their maxims of justice, and their rules of judicial procedure, distinct from other subjects. In the law books of the Hindus, the details of jurisprudence and judicature occupy comparatively a very moderate space.300 The doctrines and ceremonies of religion; the rules and practice of education; the institutions, duties, and customs of domestic life; the maxims of private morality, and even of domestic economy; the rules of government, of war, and of negotiation; all form essential parts of the Hindu codes of law, and are treated in the same style, and laid down with the same authority, as the rules for the distribution of justice. The tendency of this rude conjunction of dissimilar subjects is, amid other inconveniences, to confound the important distinction between those obligations which it is the duty of the magistrate to enforce, and those which ought to be left to the suggestions of self-interest, and the sanctions of morality; it is to extend coercion, and the authority of the magistrate, over the greater part of human life, and to leave men no liberty even in their private and ordinary transactions; while it lessens greatly the force of the legal sanction in those cases in which its greatest efficiency is required.

Another topic, which it will be convenient to detach and premise, is, the division and arrangement which the Hindus have given to the matter of law. In marking a stage of civilization, this is a very characteristic circumstance. As the human mind, in a rude state, has not the power to make a good distribution of a complicated subject, so it is little aware of its importance; little aware that this is the groundwork of all accurate thought. In the Institutes of Menu, the most celebrated perhaps of all the original compends of Hindu law, the titles, as they are there denominated, or divisions, of law, are eighteen, laid down in the following order:—1. Debt, on loans for consumption; 2. Deposits and loans for use; 3. Sale without ownership; 4. Concerns among partners; 5. Subtraction of what has been given; 6. Nonpayment of wages or hire; 7. Nonperformance of agreements; 8. Rescission of sale and purchase; 9. Disputes between master and servant; 10. Contests on boundaries; 11 and 12. Assault, and slander; 13. Larceny; 14. Robbery and other violence; 15. Adultery; 16. Altercation between man and wife and their several duties; 17. The law of inheritance; 18. Gaming with dice and with living creatures.1 It is not easy to conceive a more rude and defective attempt at the classification of laws, than what is here presented. The most essential and obvious distinctions are neglected and confounded. Though no arrangement would appear more natural, and more likely to strike even an uncultivated mind, than the division of laws into civil and penal, we find them mixed and blended together in the code of the Hindus. The first nine of the heads or titles, as above, refer to civil law; the eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth, to criminal law; the sixteenth and seventeenth return to civil, and the eighteenth to criminal; while the tenth relates partly to the one and partly to the other.

Another ground of division, well calculated, as being exceedingly obvious, to strike an uncultivated mind, is the distinction of persons, and things. This was the ground-work of the arrangement bestowed upon the Roman laws. It is that of the arrangement which continues to prevail in the English; rude as it is, at once the effect, and the cause, of confusion.301 It will be seen, however, that even this imperfect attempt at a rational division was far above the Hindus.

In the order in which the titles follow one another, no principle of arrangement can be traced. The first eight of the heads may be regarded as allotted to the subject of contracts; but a more rude and imperfect division of contracts cannot easily be conceived. Not to dwell upon the circumstance of beginning with loans, one of the most remote and refined contracts, instead of the more obvious and simple, we may observe that the subject of purchase and sale is divided into two parts; but, instead of being treated in conjunction with one another, one occupies the third place in the list of titles, the other the eighth; and a number of heterogeneous subjects intervene. “Concerns among Partners” is a title which occupies the middle place between that of “Sale without Ownership,” and “Subtraction of what has been given;” with neither of which it has any relation. “Nonpayment of wages or hire” stands immediately before “Nonperformance of Agreements,” though the latter is a general title in which the former is included. The latter indeed is remarkable; for it is so general that it includes the whole subject of contracts, though it is here placed as only one, and the last, save one, among nine different titles or divisions of that subject. Several of the titles are nothing but particular articles, belonging to some of the other divisions; and are with great impropriety made to stand as separate and primary heads. The contracts, for example, between master and servant, are part of the great subject Location, or letting and taking to hire, including services as well as things; yet are these contracts here treated of under two distinct titles; the one, “Nonpayment of wages or hire,” the other, “Disputes between master and servant,” and even these are separated from one another by two intervening subjects. “Concerns among partners,” is an article, little, surely, entitled to stand as a separate head among the primary divisions of law, since the rights of individuals in a joint property fall under the same distinctions and rules which determine their rights in other property.302 Where one branch of one great topic, as transfer of ownership, is taken up, and concluded, it would appear a very necessary arrangement to pass on to another: when transfer by contract, for example, is finished, to begin with transfer by descent. Such obvious rules appear to have had no influence in the framing of the Hindu systems of law: when the subject of contracts is ended, the principal branches of criminal law are introduced; and, after these and some other topics are finished, then follows the great subject of inheritance.303

In order to convey, in as narrow a compass as possible, an idea of the maxims and spirit of Hindu jurisprudence, it will be convenient not to follow the mangled division of the Hindus themselves. Omitting the laws, which regulate the political order, which determine who are to govern, who are to obey, and define the terms of command and obedience; laws are conveniently distributed under the three usual heads; I. Civil laws, though Civil is a very objectionable term; II. Penal laws; and III. The laws of judicature, or those which fix the mode in which the judicial services are rendered. Under each of these heads, such particulars have been carefully selected from the multitude of Hindu laws, as appeared the best calculated to convey an idea of the leading qualities of the Hindu code, and of the stage of civilization at which it may appear to have been formed.

I. Under the first of these heads, Property is the great subject of law. To this we may confine our illustrations.

It is needless to remark, that the sources of acquisition, by occupancy, by labour, by contract, by donation, by descent; which are recognized in almost all states of society, are recognized in Hindustan. It is in the accuracy with which the intended effects of these incidents are defined, and in the efficiency of the means taken to secure the benefits they convey, that the excellence of one system above another is more particularly observed.

Though property, in the first stage of its existence, was probably measured by occupancy, and the one ceased with the other,304 the privilege was early conferred of alienating for a valuable consideration, or of transferring by purchase and sale. As this is a very simple compact, it appears to admit of little variety in the various stages of human improvement. In an age, however, in which the means of detecting fraudulent acquisitions, and of proving the good faith of contracts and bargains, are imperfectly known, purchases and sales, made in public, are alone considered valid. The laws of our Saxon ancestors prohibited the sale of every thing above the value of twenty-pence, except in open market;305 and it is with a pleasing kind of surprise we find, that similar circumstances have suggested a similar expedient to the people of Hindustan. “He,” says the law of Menu, “who has received a chattel by purchase in open market, before a number of men, justly acquires the absolute property, by having paid the price of it.” The right, however, conveyed by a bonâ fide purchase, is not, among the Hindus, carried to that extent, which is found requisite in a commercial and highly civilized society. If the goods were not the property of the person by whom they were sold, the right of the purchaser becomes absolute only if he can produce the vendor. “If,” says the law of Menu,307 “the vendor be not producible, and the vendee prove the public sale, the latter must be dismissed by the king without punishment; and the former owner, who lost the chattel, may take it back, on paying the vendee half its value.” This is quite sufficient to throw so much uncertainty into the great class of transactions by purchase and sale, as would prove, in a civilized state of society, a ruinous obstruction of business. A manufacturer purchases a quantity of the raw material, and works it up; he would lose, in a mischievous proportion, if the owner of that material could demand the identical substance, on tendering the half of its price. In many cases, the identical substance is exported; in many it is consumed; and cannot possibly be restored.308 Among children, and among rude people, little accustomed to take their decisions upon full and mature consideration, nothing is more common than to repent of their bargains, and wish to revoke them: Among the Hindus this has been found an affair of sufficient importance to constitute an entire head in the classification of their laws. A variety of cases are enumerated, in which, if dissatisfied with his bargain, a man may insist upon having it annulled; and in general any sale and purchase of things, not perishable, may be rescinded within ten days, at the will of either of the parties:309 another law, altogether incompatible with an age in which the divisions and refinements of industry have multiplied the number of exchanges. The regulation, which fixes the price of things, instead of leaving it to the natural and beneficent laws of competition, conveys not a high idea of the knowledge of the Hindus. “Let the king,” says the ordinance of Menu, “establish rules for the sale and purchase of all marketable things. Once in every five nights, or at the close of every half month, let him make a regulation for market prices.”310 It is a circumstance full of meaning, that, under this head of bargain and sale, is arranged the obligation of the marriage contract.311

There are many occasions, on which it is useful to the owner of property, to place it in the keeping of another person, without transfer of the ownership. It may be placed, for safe-custody merely; for the sake of an operation, as with the dyer, for the benefit of his art; with the carrier, either by sea or land, for the sake of transportation; or it may be placed, as in the case of a valuable animal, for the sake of maintenance. These, and a variety of other transactions of a similar sort, are included in English law under the title of bailments. In a well-regulated society, where the house of one man is nearly as secure from violence as that of another, mere deposits, unless in the case of warehousing, the object of which is convenience or economy, rather than security, form a class of transactions of little comparative magnitude. In a rude society, in which there is little or no security, and in which the means of concealing valuables is one of the great studies of life, deposits become an object of the greatest importance. In the Hindu code, other cases of bailment occupy a narrow space: the article of deposits swells, alone, to a great size, and forms a subject of considerable intricacy and detail.312 The modes of proof constitute the chief peculiarities in the provisions, and will be considered, when we speak of the third branch of jurisprudence. One rule, however, expressive of great simplicity, not to say rudeness, belongs exclusively to this article: “On failure of witnesses, to prove a deposit, let the judge actually deposit gold or precious things with the defendant, by the artful contrivance of spies. Should he restore that deposit, he is to be held innocent; if he deny it, he is to be apprehended and compelled to pay the value of both.”313

Hiring; that is, transferring to another, for a valuable consideration, and to a definite extent, the use of any thing valuable; is a right which holds a sort of middle place between sale and bailment: and may extend to personal services as well as to commodities.314 As this contract falls very naturally under the laws of purchase and sale,315 it occupies a narrow space in the volumes of Hindu law, and as far as commodities are concerned, offers nothing particular for observation.316 In the hire of personal services, three principal classes are distinguished; first, the students of the Veda, who discharge every menial office to their masters, and receive instruction in return: secondly, handicrafts, who receive either stipulated wages, or, if no agreement has been made, one tenth of the profits on their labour; thirdly, agricultural servants, who are always paid in kind; for tending cows, one tenth of the milk; for the culture of corn, one tenth of the crop.317

The peculiar species of transfer which is known by the name of loan is an object of great importance in the jurisprudence of all nations. Among the Hindus it stands as the first article in the classification of legal subjects, and in the Digest of Mr. Colebrooke occupies entirely one of the four books into which the compilers of that work have divided the laws of contract. From the peculiarities in the ideas and in the circumstances of the Hindus, it forms among them a subject of more than usual complexity. In an improved state of society, where the efficiency of laws, the diffusion of wealth, and the accommodations of business, have created a mutual confidence, loans are generally contracted on the security of law, without the actual custody or deposit of the property on which they may be secured. It is only in that extremely confined and degraded species of lending, abandoned to pawnbrokers, that pledges form a regular and component part. In the more early and imperfect states of the social union, circumstances are very different. Law is both feeble and inaccurate, poverty reigns, violence prevails; and the man who is able to discharge his debts to-day may be stript of all his possessions to-morrow. In these circumstances, the security of law upon the person or property of the debtor is seldom sufficient; and the deposit of some equivalent property, as a pledge, is the obvious, and, in point of fact, the common resource. The doctrine of pledges forms one of the most considerable branches of this part of the Hindu code. The laws relating to them are laid down with great minuteness and solemnity; a variety of cases are distinguished; and the receipt of pledges appears to have formed a component part of a comparatively numerous and important class of transactions.318 The responsibility of a second person, who becomes surety for the borrower, is another foundation on which Hindu loans are contracted, and the different species of it are not inaccurately distinguished.319 Interest, or a consideration for property lent, appears to have been known at a very early stage of civilization.320 As it is only interest on debts of money which is familiar to the members of a highly-civilized society, European visitors appear to have been forcibly struck with the Hindu law, which imposes an interest to be paid in kind on loans in goods, as grain, fruit, wool or hair, beasts of burden and the like.321 Mr. Halhed says, “The different rate of interest to be paid for different articles is perhaps an institute peculiar to Hindustan; but it reflects a strong light upon the simplicity of ancient manners, before money was universally current as the medium of barter for all commodities, and is at the same time a weighty proof of the great antiquity of these laws, which seem calculated for the crude conceptions of an almost illiterate people upon their first civilization.”322 When Mr. Halhed, however, informs us that this law “reflects a strong light upon the simplicity of ancient manners,” it is necessary to add that whatever light it reflects upon ancient, it reflects the same upon present manners, as this is not a law anciently in force, but long ago repealed; it is a law now in operation, and as suitable as ever to the purely Hindu state of society. Mr. Halhed too is mistaken when he supposes that this is an institution peculiar to the Hindus. It was familiarly known to the Jews in the time of Moses, and was probably a common practice in the nations around Judea, as well as in Egypt, from which the Jews had recently departed.323

To vary the rates of interest upon the different castes is a peculiarity more naturally arising from the unfair and odious distinctions among men, created by the Hindus. The rule established in the Institutes of Menu is, to take, when there is a pledge, one and a quarter per cent. per month; when there is no pledge, two per cent. per month; that is, from a Brahmen: but from a man of the military caste, three per cent.; four per cent. from one of the mercantile caste; and from a man of the servile caste no less than five per cent. per month.324 This exorbitant rate of interest affords a satisfactory criterion to judge of the opinions, which are not unfrequently advanced, of the great riches which, at some imaginary period, formerly distinguished Hindustan. The excessive accumulation, however, of interest was forbidden. Upon a loan in money, interest, beyond the amount of the principal, was not a debt;325 upon loans in goods, for some reason which it is not easy to divine, it was permitted to five times the amount of the principal. Compound interest too was prohibited. These were rules which would give effectual motives to the Hindu creditor to exact the regular payment of his interest, with rigid severity.326 In the laws relating to loans, however, the most remarkable particular is the mode of enforcing payment. The creditor is commanded, first, to speak to the friends and relations of the debtor; next, to go in person and importune him, staying some time in his house, but without eating or drinking. If these methods fail, he may then carry the debtor home with him, and having seated him, as the law expresses it, before men of character and reputation, may there detain him. Should he still hold out, the creditor is next directed, to endeavour by feigned pretences to get possession of some of his goods; or, if any pledge was deposited with him, to carry it before the magistrate, who will cause it to be sold to make payment. If neither of these expedients can be used, he shall seize and confine the debtor's wife, children, cattle, buffaloes, horses, &c.; also his pots, clothes, mats, and furniture, and, seating himself at his door, there receive his money. Should even this proceeding fail, he is commanded to seize and bind the debtor's person, and procure by forcible means a discharge of the debt.327 What is meant by forcible means is sufficiently explained in the following extra-ordinary definition. “When, having tied the debtor, the creditor carries him to his own house, and by beating or other means compels him to pay, this is called violent compulsion. By beating,” adds the law, “or by coercion, a creditor may enforce payment from his debtor.”328 When the debtor is of a caste not superior to the creditor, the latter may seize and compel him to labour for the discharge of the debt. If a man owes debts to several creditors, he is commanded to discharge first one debt and then another, in the order in which they were contracted; a regulation by which one or two of his creditors may receive in full their demands, while the rest, whether few or numerous, are entirely defrauded. The equitable arrangement of an equal dividend, which we find established among nations of very limited progress in the knowledge of law, obvious and useful as it is, had not suggested itself to the rude legislators of Hindustan. When a creditor procures payment of a debt by application to the magistrate, he pays him for his interposition a twentieth part of the sum recovered.329 By a very extraordinary regulation a punishment seems to be inflicted on the defendant in all actions for debt wherein he is cast. “A debt being admitted by the defendant, he must pay five in the hundred as a fine to the king; but if it be denied and proved, twice as much.”330 The sacred character of the Brahmen, whose life it is the most dreadful of crimes either directly or indirectly to shorten, suggested to him a process for the recovery of debts, the most singular and extravagant that ever was found among men. He proceeds to the door of the person whom he means to coerce, or wherever else he can most conveniently intercept him, with poison or a poignard in his hand. If the person should attempt to pass, or make his escape, the Brahmen is prepared instantly to destroy himself. The prisoner is therefore bound in the strongest chains; for the blood of the self-murdered Brahmen would be charged upon his head, and no punishment could expiate his crime. The Brahmen setting himself down, (the action is called sitting in dherna) fasts; and the victim of his arrest, for whom it would be impious to eat, while a member of the sacred class is fasting at his door, must follow his example. It is now, however, not a mere contest between the resolution or strength of the parties; for if the obstinacy of the prisoner should exhaust the Brahmen, and occasion his death, he is answerable for that most atrocious of crimes—the murder of a priest; he becomes execrable to his countrymen; the horrors of remorse never fail to pursue him; he is shut out from the benefits of society, and life itself is a calamity. As the Brahmen who avails himself of this expedient is bound for his honour to persevere, he seldom fails to succeed, because the danger of pushing the experiment too far is, to his antagonist, tremendous. Nor is it in his own concerns alone that the Brahmen may turn to account the sacredness of his person: he may hire himself to enforce in the same manner the claims of any other man; and not claims of debt merely; he may employ this barbarous expedient in any suit. What is still more extraordinary, even after legal process, even when the magistrate has pronounced a decision against him, and in favour of the person upon whom his claim is made, he may still sit in dherna, and by this dreadful mode of appeal make good his demand.331

We have now reviewed the great peculiarities of the Hindu law, in regard to those transfers of property which partake of the nature of exchange, and in which some sort of an equivalent is given and received; it remains for us to consider those, in which the property passes from one owner to another without any return.

The most extensive class of this species of transactions are those occasioned by the death of the owner. Men had considerably strengthened the chain by which they were connected with property, before they ceased to consider death as the cause of a perfect separation, and as leaving their possessions free to the earliest occupier. A right of succession in the children suggests itself, however, at a very early period in the progress of civilization. It is recommended by so many motives, it so happily accords with some of the strongest impulses of human nature, and is so easily engrafted upon the previous order of things, that it could not fail to be an early institution. The children, being naturally the nearest to their parent at the moment of his death, were generally able to avail themselves of the right of occupancy, and to exclude other successors by prior possession. It was the usual arrangement in early stages of society, that the different members of a family should live together; and possess the property in common.332 The father was rather the head of a number of partners, than the sole proprietor. When he died, it was not so much a transfer of property, as a continued possession; and the copartnership was only deprived of one of its members. The laws of inheritance among the Hindus are almost entirely founded upon this patriarchal arrangement.333 When the father dies, if the sons shall choose to live together, the eldest, says the law, shall take the station of the head of the family, and the property is held jointly in his name.334 “For brothers a common abode is ordained so long as both their parents live. On failure of both their parents, partition among brothers is ordained.”335 Even during the life-time of the father, a separation of the family might take place, when a division of the property, according to the strict notion of a joint interest, was made, in the proportion of two shares to the father, and one share equally to each of the sons.336 When the division, however, of the common estate is delayed till the death of the father, the elder brother, as the new head of the family, is distinguished in the partition. He first receives one twentieth of the inheritance, after which it is divided equally among all the brothers.337 With a few immaterial exceptions, the principle of equal division guided succession among the Hindus. “Let the sons, after the death of the parents, equally share the assets. If all sons be equal in good qualities, they must share alike; but he who is distinguished by science and good conduct shall take a greater share than the rest.”338 The last of these clauses affords an example of that vagueness and ambiguity, the source of endless dispute, which distinguishes the laws of all ignorant people, and which forms a most remarkable feature in those of Hindustan. What is the criterion to ascertain that superiority in science and virtue, which determines the share of brothers in the division of the paternal estate? Or who is to be the judge? Equally unskilful, and pregnant with evil, is the vague and indeterminate law which declares “that all those brothers who are addicted to any vice shall lose their title to the inheritance.”339 As the interpretation of the phrase, “addicted to any vice,” may receive any latitude, according to the inclinations and views of the expounder, a gate is here thrown open to unlimited injustice. Inconsistency, and even direct contradiction, is a characteristic of the Hindu laws, which it does not appear to have been thought even requisite to avoid; as it is expressly enacted, that when two laws command opposite things, both are to be held valid.340 This attribute is fully exemplified in the laws of inheritance. It is declared that, “on the failure of natural heirs, the lawful heirs are such Brahmens as have read the three Vedas, as are pure in body and mind, as have subdued their passions; and they must constantly offer the cake; thus the rites of obsequies cannot fail.”341 Yet it is added, in the very next clause or sentence, “The property of a Brahmen shall never be taken as an escheat by the king; this is a fixed law; but the wealth of the other classes, on failure of all heirs, the king may take.”342 Not unfrequently in rude nations, as if one misfortune ought to be aggravated by another, those who labour under certain maladies, or bodily defects, are excluded from inheritance. This principle is fully adopted by the Hindus, and carried to an unusual, and monstrous extent. All those persons who are lame, all those persons who are blind, all those who are deaf, all those who are dumb, impotent, or affected with an incurable disease, as leprosy, marasmus, gonorrhœa, dysentery, are denied a share in the partition of their father's effects, and are only entitled to a maintenance from the family.343 When a man has sons by wives of different castes, they inherit in the proportion of the mother's rank, and the son by a concubine is entitled only to one half of the share of him who is born of a wife.344 The laws which define proximity of kin, and fix the order of collateral succession, are numerous, minute, and in nothing remarkable.345 It is particularly to be noted that daughters are debarred from a share in the inheritance of their fathers.346 The woman, indeed, among the Hindus, is so restricted in the means of acquiring property, that she is almost excluded from its rights.347 The exceptions consist, in certain presents; what was given in the bridal procession; what was given in token of love; what was received from a brother, a mother, or a father: and this property is inherited by her daughters in equal portions with her sons. If she die without issue, her property falls to her husband or to her parents, and is subject to nearly the same rules of collateral succession as are established in regard to the property of males.348

The idea of a joint interest in the property of the family, while it early established the right of succession in the children, served to exclude the right of devising by will. As the property belonged to the parent in common only with his offspring, it could not be regarded as just, that he should have the power of giving it away from them after his death. It is only in stages of society, considerably advanced, that the rights of property are so far enlarged as to include the power of nominating, at the discretion of the owner, the person who is to enjoy it after his death. It was first introduced among the Athenians by a law of Solon, and among the Romans, probably, by the twelve tables.349 The Hindus have, through all ages, remained in a state of society too near the simplicity and rudeness of the most ancient times, to have stretched their ideas of property so far. The power of disposing of a man's possessions, by testament, is altogether unknown to their laws.350

The same notion of a joint-title, in all the members of a family, to the property of the whole, had originally an effect even upon the power of donation. Individuals were not at liberty to alienate by gift any part of the common stock. This, however, is a right which is recommended by motives more powerful and frequent than that of disposal after death, and was therefore much sooner introduced. The first instances were probably sanctioned by religious pretexts. By the laws of the Visigoths it was permitted to make donations to the church; and by those of the Burgundians a free man was allowed, after dividing his means with his sons, to make an ecclesiastical donation out of his own portion.351 Among the Hindus the conferring of gifts upon the Brahmens, which is taught as one of the most important of religious duties, must have early familiarized the mind to gratuitous alienations; yet, notwithstanding this important circumstance, a man's power of transferring his property by gift appears subject still to extraordinary restrictions. Except in certain minor cases, the consent of his heirs is required. It is only over that part of his property which is more than sufficient to feed and clothe all his dependants, that he has an unlimited power of disposal.352

II. The second class of laws, those which relate to offences and their punishment, form a subject less complicated, and of less subtle and difficult disquisition, than those which relate to the distribution of rights; it is, however, a portion of law, which, from the violent interference of human passions, is not less slow in gaining improvement.

An offence is an act by which a right is violated. The object of punishment is to prevent such acts. It is employed, under the empire of reason, only as a last resource. If offences could be prevented without punishment, punishment ought never to exist. It follows, as a necessary consequence, that as little of it as possible ought to exist.

It is equally manifest, that it would be vain to establish rights, if the necessary means were not to be used for securing them. It is therefore good to make use of punishment, as far as necessary for the securing of rights; with this precaution only, that the suffering or evil, produced by the punishment, is less, upon the whole, than that which would arise from the violation of the right.

By these maxims, as criterions, we shall endeavour to ascertain the attributes of the criminal code of the Hindus.

The misery and disorder which overspread human life, wherever self-defence rests wholly upon the individual, are the cause to which government owes its origin. To escape from those evils, men transfer to the magistrate powers sufficient for the defence of all; and agree to expect from him alone that protection, which they obtained so imperfectly from their own exertions. In the rude and violent times when this revolution takes place, it is not from a just and cool discernment of the limits of defence, prevention, and reparation, that penalties are exacted. It is from the impulse of a keen resentment, that the sufferer pursues, and from a strong sympathy with that resentment, that the magistrate commonly judges and condemns. It is not so much security that is coveted, as revenge. A great injury committed can only be expiated by a great injury received. Two principles therefore universally characterize the penal code of a barbarous people; severity; and retaliation. The early laws of the Greeks and the Romans were cruel; the laws of the twelve tables, says Mr. Gibbon, like the statutes of Draco, were written in characters of blood.353 By the laws of Moses, blasphemy, idolatry, profaning the sabbath, homicide, adultery, incest, rapes, crimes against nature, witchcraft, smiting or cursing father or mother, were punished with death, and with burning and stoning, the most cruel kinds of death.354 Of the sanguinary character imprinted on the laws of the Egyptians, the following instance may be adduced: They thrust little pieces of reeds, about a finger's length, into all parts of the bodies of parricides; and then, surrounding them with thorns, set them on fire.355 The barbarous punishments which prevail among the Chinese are too familiarly known to require illustration. Perhaps of all the rude nations of whom we have any account, our own Saxon and German ancestors were the most distinguished for the mildness of their punishments; a singularity, however, to be accounted for, by the use of a very barbarous expedient, a compensation in money for almost every species of crime. Yet in various instances, particularly that of theft, their laws were not only severe, but inhuman.356

Notwithstanding the mildness which has generally been attributed to the Hindu character, hardly any nation is distinguished for more sanguinary laws. “The cruel mutilations,” says Sir William Jones,357 “practised by the native powers, are shocking to humanity.”
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Re: The History of British India, Vol. I, by James Mill

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Retaliation is another peculiarity which remarkably distinguishes the laws of that barbarous period, when the punishment of crimes is chiefly measured by the resentment of the sufferer.358 Whatever the injury which the innocent man has sustained, a similar injury, by way of punishment, is imposed upon the guilty. Whatever the member, or part of his body, with which the offender committed the crime, upon that part is the chastisement inflicted. The Hebrew law of an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, is a familiar example of what occurred among other nations. The forfeit of limb for limb, and member for member, was, among the Romans, exacted by the law of the twelve tables, unless where the offender could expiate his crime by a fine of 300 pounds of copper. The earliest legislators of Greece were so rude as to leave the punishment of crimes, undefined, to the discretion of the judge; but Zaleucus, legislator of the Locrians, who first prescribed rules on this subject, enforced so literally the maxim of an eye for an eye, that it was deemed an important reform on his laws, when it was decreed that he who struck out the eye of a person with one eye should lose both his own.359 The Egyptians extended the principle of punishing criminals in that part of the body which was chiefly instrumental in the guilt, to an extraordinary number of instances. He who discovered the secrets of the state had his tongue cut out; he who violated a free woman was made an eunuch; of those who counterfeited coin and seals either public or private, of those who made use of false weights and measures, and of public notaries who forged or mutilated deeds, the two hands were cut off; and calumniators were subjected to the same punishment which would have been due to those whom they falsely accused.360 To how extraordinary a degree the spirit of retaliation moulds the penal legislation of the Hindus, a few specimens will evince. The law concerning assault and battery, in the Institutes of Menu, thus commences: “With whatever member a low-born man shall assault or hurt a superior, even that member of his must be slit or cut, more or less in proportion to the injury: this is an ordinance of Menu.”361 “If a man strikes a Bramin with his hand, the magistrate shall cut off that man's hand; if he strikes him with his foot, the magistrate shall cut off the foot; in the same manner, with whatever limb he strikes a Bramin, that limb shall be cut off; but if a Sooder strikes either of the three casts, Bramin, Chehteree, or Bice, with his hand or foot, the magistrate shall cut off such hand or foot.”362 “If a man has put out both the eyes of any person, the magistrate shall deprive that man of both his eyes, and condemn him to perpetual imprisonment, and fine him.”363 The punishment of murder is founded entirely upon the same principle. “If a man,” says the Gentoo code, “deprives another of life, the magistrate shall deprive that person of life.”364 “A once-born man, who insults the twice-born with gross invectives, ought to have his tongue slit. If he mention their names and classes with contumely, as if he say, ‘Oh thou refuse of Brahmens,’ an iron style, ten fingers long, shall be thrust red-hot into his mouth. Should he through pride give instruction to priests concerning their duty, let the king order some hot oil to be dropped into his mouth and his ear.”365 “If a blow, attended with much pain, be given either to human creatures or cattle, the king shall inflict on the striker a punishment as heavy as the presumed suffering.”366 “With whatever limb a thief commits the offence, by any means in this world, as if he break a wall with his hand or his foot, even that limb shall the king amputate, for the prevention of a similar crime.”367 “A mechanic or servile man, having an adulterous connexion with a woman of a twice-born class, if she was unguarded, shall lose the part offending, and his whole substance.”368 “The breaker of a dam to secure a pool, let the king punish by a long immersion under water.”369 The portion of suffering, sufficient to constitute a motive for abstaining from the crime, is all the punishment which reason authorizes; but we see nations far advanced in civilization so tardy in recognizing this principle, that the excess of suffering, produced by the law of retaliation, would not, it is probable, suggest to nations, at a very early stage of civilization, the utility of repealing it. Yet no maxim more naturally recommends itself to the human mind, even before it is strong, than that all who commit the same crime should meet with equal punishment; and it requires a very slight degree of reflection to see, that when the hand or the foot is cut off from one man, the punishment may be a very moderate one; when the same limb is cut off from another man, to whose subsistence it is essential, the penalty may far exceed a sentence of death.

In another class of punishments, where the principle of equality may be still more easily applied, the grossness of the violation excites considerable surprise. As among our Saxon ancestors, so among the Hindus, fines bear a very large proportion to other punishments. When reparation to the party injured should be made by the author of the wrong, the pecuniary ability of the party on whom the obligation falls can no more be regarded, than where he owes a debt. But in so far as it is the object of the law to create a motive against the occurrence of a like offence; or even to take vengeance, to inflict pain purely because pain has been occasioned; in so far it is one of the plainest dictates of reason, that where the offence is equal, the suffering or hardship imposed should be equal. Though a pecuniary mulct imposes all degrees of hardship, according to the pecuniary abilities of the man who pays, the Hindu law makes no distinction between the rich and the poor.370 It makes, indeed, a serious distinction between the man of one class, and another: and they of the lowest are, with a very few exceptions, always the most severely fined. But if the class is the same, the same forfeit is exacted for the same offence; though one man should be too opulent to feel from it any sensible inconvenience; another should suffer all the pains and horrors of want.

From the classification of the people, and the privileges of the castes, we are prepared to expect, among the Hindus, inequalities created by distinctions of rank. They relate either to the crimes committed against persons of the different ranks, or the crimes committed by them. Inequalities of the first sort, it is found difficult to avoid even in high stages of civilization. At present, in the best governed countries of Europe, an injury done to a nobleman is treated as a crime of a deeper die, than a similar injury to a person of the lowest rank.371 If the laws should make no distinction in principle, the power of the nobleman to bring the offender to trial, and to command the partiality of the judge, would long make a very essential difference in practice. When the Hindu law, therefore, makes a gradation in the criminality of the same action, according as it is committed against the Brahmen, the Cshatriya, the Vaisya, and the Sudra, it is only the excess in the difference of punishment, which is calculated to excite our surprise. With regard to offences committed by individuals of the different ranks, it is rare, even among the rudest people, to find the principle of unequal punishments, expressly avowed; and comparative impunity granted by law to the crimes of the great. Perjury, fraud, defamation, forgery, incest, murder, are not among us reckoned crimes more venial in the lord than in his servant. Among the Hindus, whatever be the crime committed, if it is by a Brahmen, the punishment is in general comparatively slight; if by a man of the military class, it is more severe; if by a man of the mercantile and agricultural class, it is still increased; if by a Sudra, it is violent and cruel. For defamation of a Brahmen, a man of the same class must be fined 12 panas; a man of the military class, 100; a merchant, 150 or 200; but a mechanic or servile man is whipped.372 The general principle on which the penalties for this crime seem to be regulated is, that whatever fine is exacted from a man of the same class by whom you have been accused, one only half as large should be imposed upon the man of a superior class, but one double in magnitude, should the cast of the slanderer be inferior to your own. For all the more serious accusations against any of the superior orders the punishment of the Sudra is far more dreadful.373 That the scale of punishment for crimes of assault is graduated by the same rule, the following instance, out of many, will evince. “If a man of superior cast and of superior abilities to another should strike him with a weapon, the magistrate shall fine him 500 puns of cowries. If a man of an equal cast and of equal abilities with another should strike him with a weapon, the magistrate shall fine him 1000 puns of cowries. If a man of an inferior cast and of inferior abilities to another should strike him with a weapon, the magistrate shall fine him 3000 puns of cowries.”374 For perjury, it is only in favor of the Brahmen, that any distinction seems to be admitted. “Let a just prince,” says the ordinance of Menu, “banish men of the three lower classes, if they give false evidence, having first levied the fine; but a Brahmen let him only banish.”375 The punishment of adultery, which on the Brahmens is light, descends with intolerable weight on the lowest classes. In regard to the inferior cases of theft, for which a fine only is the punishment, we meet with a curious exception, the degree of punishment ascending with the class. “The fine of a Sudra for theft, shall be eight fold; that of a Vaisya, sixteen fold; that of a Cshatriya, two and thirty fold; that of a Brahmen, four and sixty fold, or a hundred fold complete, or even twice four and sixty fold.”376 No corporal punishment, much less death, can be inflicted on the Brahmen for any crime. “Menu, son of the Self-existent, has named ten places of punishment, which are appropriated to the three lower classes; the part of generation, the belly, the tongue, the two hands; and fifthly, the two feet, the eye, the nose, both ears, the property; and in a capital case, the whole body; but a Brahmen must depart from the realm unhurt in any one of them.”377

Punishment should be proportioned, not to the greatness of the crime, that is, the quantity of suffering it produces, but solely to the difficulty of creating an adequate motive to abstain from it: if a fine of one shilling created a sufficient motive to abstain from the crime of murder, the fine of a shilling would be all the punishment which ought to exist. It must be owned, however, that the principle of punishing crimes, according to their magnitude, very naturally suggests itself; and bears a strong appearance of according with the principles of reason. Even to this early and imperfect principle, the Hindus have never ascended. While perjury, one of the most mischievous of crimes, and one against which an adequate motive is very difficult to create, is punished only with fine, and in its most aggravated cases, with banishment, the crime of obtaining goods on false pretences is punished with mutilation, and even with death. “If a person steals a man of an inferior cast, the magistrate shall fine him 1000 puns of cowries: If he steals an elephant or a horse excellent in all respects, the magistrate shall cut off his hand, and foot, and buttock, and deprive him of life.”378 The following places of the body are enumerated; the ear, the nose, the hand, the foot, the lip, the eye, the tongue, and some others; upon any one of which a stroke, such as to separate or cut them off from the body, is punished equally;379 yet surely there is no comparison between the injury of depriving a man of his ear, for example, and of his tongue, or his hand. An amour with a woman of the Brahmenical caste is more dreadfully punished than parricide. Various cases of theft and robbery are accounted worthy of more shocking penalties than murder. Even Sir William Jones is constrained to say that the punishments of the Hindus “are partial and fanciful, for some crimes dreadfully cruel, for others reprehensibly slight.”380

The principal acts erected into punishable offences by the Hindu law are, false witness, defamation, assault, theft, outrage, adultery. The species and degrees of perjury are thus distinguished: “If a witness speak falsely through covetousness, he shall be fined 1000 panas; if through distraction of mind, 250; if through terror, 1000; if through friendship, the same; if through lust, 2,500; if through wrath, 1,500; if through ignorance, 200 complete; if through inattention, 100 only.”381 The laws against reproachful expressions are numerous, and the penalties remarkably severe; a pretty satisfactory proof that the Hindus have always been abusive; as we find they continue to the present day.382 By the term Assault, are indicated the smaller instances of personal offence and injury; on which the laws of the Hindus descend to the most minute distinctions and details. In this they present a remarkable agreement with the laws of our Gothic ancestors. Lord Kaimes, observing upon the ancient European mode of satisfying for injuries by money, remarks that “the laws of the Burgundians, of the Salians, of the Almanni, of the Bavarians, of the Ripuarii, of the Saxons, of the Angli and Thuringi, of the Frisians, of the Langobards, and of the Anglo-saxons, are full of these compositions, extending from the most trifling injury to the most atrocious crimes. In perusing the tables of these compositions, which enter into a minute detail of the most trivial offences, a question naturally occurs, why all this scrupulous nicety of adjusting sums to delinquencies? Such a thing is not heard of in later times. But the following answer will give satisfaction:—That resentment, allowed scope among Barbarians, was apt to take flame by the slightest spark; therefore to provide for its gratification, it became necessary to enact compositions for every trifling wrong, such as at present would be the subject of mirth rather than of serious punishment: for example, where the clothes of a woman, bathing in a river, are taken away to expose her nakedness, and where dirty water is thrown upon a woman in the way of contumely.”383 The following orders of crime, in the Hindu code, present a similar, and a very remarkable picture; 1. Throwing upon the body of another, dust, or sand, or clay, or cow-dung, or any thing else of the same kind, or striking with the hand or foot; 2. Throwing upon the body tears, or phlegm, or the paring of one's nails, or the gum of the eyes, or the wax of the ears, or the refuse of victuals, or spittle; 3. Throwing upon another from the navel downwards to his foot, spue, or urine, or ordure, or semen; 4. Throwing upon another, from the navel upwards to beneath the neck, any of the substances mentioned in the last article; 5. Throwing upon another any of the same substances from the neck upwards; 6. Assaulting with a stone, or with a piece of iron or wood; 7. Hauling by the foot, or by the hair, or by the hand, or by the clothes; 8. Seizing and binding another in a cloth, and setting one's foot upon him; 9. Raising up an offensive weapon to assault; 10. Striking with a weapon. In all these cases a further distinction is made, as the offence is committed by a superior, an inferior, or an equal, and committed against a man or a woman. The gradations too of wounds are curiously specified; 1. When no blood is shed; 2. When a little blood is shed; 3. When much blood is shed; 4. When a very great quantity; 5. When a bone is broke as well as blood is shed; 6. When a member or organ is struck off or separated.384 Under the title theft, the Hindus include the various species of frauds. In all nations which have made but the first step in civilization; when the means of protecting property are very imperfectly known, and covetousness is a furious passion; the depredations of thieves are always punished with extreme severity. In the Gothic nations of Europe, when the murder even of the King inferred but a pecuniary composition, theft was punished by mutilation and death.385 In the same manner among the Hindus, while murder is punished by the mere loss of life, some of the most atrocious instances of the cruelty of the Hindu laws were drawn as above from the punishments awarded to theft.386 The minor cases of theft are punished by fines, and by various degrees of mutilation; but the higher species, by impaling, by burning alive, and by crucifixion. By Outrage; which is sometimes denominated violence, sometimes robbery; are designated, all attacks, accompanied with violence, upon either property or person, including even murder. While the inferior species are punished by fine and by mutilation, the higher are punished by death; and some of the more heinous kinds of spoliation are avenged with all the sanguinary fury which, among the Hindus, has dictated the higher penalties of theft.387 Adultery is a very complicated subject. In the Hindu language it includes every unlawful species of sexual indulgence, from the least, to the most injurious, or offensive. If the laws are any proof of the manners of a people, this article affords indication of one of the most depraved states of the sexual appetite. Almost all the abuses, and all the crimes which it is possible to conceive, are there depicted with curious exactness; and penalties are devised and assigned for every minute diversity and refinement, as for acts the most frequent and familiar. There are even titles of sections in the code which cannot be transcribed with decency, and which depict crimes unknown to European laws.388 In accordance with the general spirit of Eastern nations, among whom an extraordinary value is set on the chastity of the women, its more aggravated violations are punished by the most shocking death which human cruelty has probably devised, that of burning on a heated plate of iron. The ramifications of criminality are also pursued to the most minute and trivial acts, and such as, even in the most jealous nations of Europe, would be held perfectly innocent: “He, who talks with the wife of another man at a place of pilgrimage, in a forest or a grove, or at the confluence of rivers, incurs the guilt of an adulterous inclination: to send her flowers or perfumes, to sport and jest with her, to touch her apparel and ornaments, to sit with her on the same couch, are all held adulterous acts on his part.”389 Of all crimes, indeed, adultery appears, in the eyes of Hindu lawgivers, to be the greatest; and worthy of the most severe and terrible chastisement. The offences committed with the women of the higher classes by men of the lower are the acts which are looked upon as of greatest atrocity, and which rise in criminality, as the classes recede from one another, till they arrive at last at the adultery of a man of the servile with a woman of the priestly caste; a point beyond which, it is supposed, that human guilt and depravity cannot proceed.390

III. Conformity to the laws of the two preceding orders; denominated, for want of better terms, the Civil and the Penal; is the End: The laws of Judicature are to be regarded in the light of Means to that End. The subject, in its full extent, includes an account of 1. the instruments made use of for producing the fulfilment of the laws of the two former kinds, and 2. the modes of using them.

The instruments made use of among the Hindus, have been already described, in giving an account of the functions of the king; who, with his Brahmen assessors, is the principal instrument. The mode of using the instruments of judicature, or the steps according to which judicature is performed, were there also briefly described. Of the matters which remain, the laws or rules respecting evidence form the only part which it is still useful to describe.

Prior to the general use of writing, the chief species of evidence, applicable to judicial cases, is the speech of witnesses. It is this species which makes the principal figure in the laws of Hindustan to the present age. It is even more than doubtful whether written evidence is at all referred to by the author of the ordinances of Menu, though from himself we learn that writing had been applied to laws.391 “On the denial,” says the law, “of a debt which the defendant has in court been required to pay, the plaintiff must call a witness who was present at the place of the loan, or produce other evidence;”392 the gloss of Culluca adds, “a note and the like:”393 but for the use of evidence by writing not a single rule is afterwards adduced, though numerous rules are prescribed for the use of that which is delivered orally; not even a word of allusion to this novel species of evidence appears; and where the various circumstances are enumerated on which the attention of the judge ought to be fixed, while the evidence of speaking witnesses occupies a conspicuous place, the evidence of writings is entirely omitted.394 In the compilations, however, of recent times, as in that made by order of Mr. Hastings and translated by Halhed, the use of written evidence appears; but even there it is treated with a negligence and slightness due to a matter of subordinate importance.

Among the rules for evidence at the lips of witnesses, some are reasonable and good; others are not only the reverse, but indicate a state of ignorance and barbarism. The evidence of three witnesses is required for the decision of any question: “When a man has been brought into court by a suitor for property, the cause shall be decided by the Brahmen who represents the king, having heard three witnesses at least.”395 Yet it is declared in another place that “one man, untainted with covetousness, may (in some cases, says the gloss of Culluca) be the sole witness.”396 This apparent contradiction may perhaps be explained by a passage in the Code of Gentoo Laws, where the decision of a cause by the testimony of a single witness is made to depend upon the consent of the litigants.397 Even from this rule the following cases are excepted: “Supposing,” says the law, “a person to lend another money secretly, or secretly to entrust his money to the care of another, in such affairs one single person is a sufficient witness.”398 The different degrees of trustworthiness in different witnesses leads to mischievous rules. “Married housekeepers, men with male issue, inhabitants of the same district, either of the military, the commercial, or the servile class, are competent, when called by the party, to give their evidence.”399 The most fanciful distinction surely that ever was made by an uncultivated mind, is that between the father of male and the father of female offspring, as a source of evidence. The persons held incompetent to bear witness are a very numerous class. “Those must not be admitted who have a pecuniary interest; nor familiar friends; nor menial servants; nor enemies; nor men formerly perjured; nor persons grievously diseased; nor those, who have committed heinous offences. The king cannot be made a witness, nor cooks and the like mean artificers; nor public dancers and singers; nor a priest of deep learning in Scripture; nor a student of the Vedas; nor an anchoret secluded from all worldly connexions; nor one wholly dependant; nor one of bad fame; nor one who follows a cruel occupation; nor one who acts openly against the law; nor a decrepit old man; nor a child; nor a wretch of the lowest mixed class; nor one who has lost the organs of sense; nor one extremely grieved; nor one intoxicated; nor a madman; nor one tormented with hunger or thirst; nor one oppressed by fatigue; nor one excited by lust; nor one inflamed by wrath; nor one who has been convicted of theft.”400 Among the persons excluded from the rank of witnesses are the female sex entirely; unless in the case of evidence for others of the same sex. Servants, too, mechanics, and those of the lowest class, are allowed to give evidence for individuals of the same description.401 Brahmens and the king are exempted from the obligation of giving evidence, by way of privilege, though the Brahmens are admitted when they please.402
This enumeration of persons, whose testimony was altogether unfit to be believed, affords a proof of the great difficulty of obtaining true testimony in the age in which it was made; and holds up a dreadful picture of the state of morality to which it could be supposed to be adapted. It indicates, also, by the strange diversity of the cases which it includes, a singular want of discrimination, in the minds by which it was framed. And further; rules for the exclusion of testimony, from any person, not deprived of the ordinary exercise of the human faculties, could, however the vicious effects of custom may preserve them, be introduced, only in an age of great ignorance and barbarity, when the human mind judges in the gross, is incapable of nice discriminations, cannot assign the different value which ought to be attached to the testimony of different men, and estimates the weight of a body of evidence by the number, not the trustworthiness, of the people who deliver it.

The introduction of rules for the exclusion of evidence marks the age of false refinement, which is that of semibarbarism, intermediate between the age of true wisdom, and that of primeval ignorance. When the first judges, or arbiters, the heads of families, had to clear up any dispute, they called before them every individual of the little community or family, who appeared to know any thing of the matter, and questioned them all; allowing to the statements, extracted from each, the influence, much or little, or none at all, to which they seemed entitled; and this is the course, which true wisdom would recommend. In an age, however, of false refinement, which aims at excessive accuracy, but, failing in comprehensiveness, applies its rules to part only of a subject when they should include the whole, the makers of laws, perceiving that certain classes of witnesses were apt to give false testimony, and considering that false testimony misleads, resolved immediately that the testimony of such witnesses ought never to be received. Now, if the testimony of the best sort of witness had been a thing which the judges always had at command, in sufficient quantity, this might have been a rational procedure. But as this was very far from being the case; as it very often happens that the testimony of the best sort of witnesses cannot be had, or that they contradict one another; that not only some light, but full and satisfactory light, may often be obtained from the worst sort of witnesses; to determine that certain classes of persons, and among them the persons whose knowledge of the facts is naturally the most complete, shall not be used as witnesses, is merely to determine that judicature shall be performed, so far, without evidence; that the judge shall decide without knowledge; and the question of right and wrong, instead of being determined upon all the evidence that can be had, shall be determined upon a part of it only, sometimes a most insignificant part, sometimes hardly any at all.403

One of the strongest characteristics of a rude age, or of a corrupt government, is, to make laws which cannot, or ought not, to be executed; and then to give dispensations for them. “In all cases of violence, of theft and adultery, of defamation and assault,” says the Hindu law, “the judge must not examine too strictly the competence of witnesses.”

A presumption, of the very weakest kind, is admitted as a full proof, in the following passages: “If a man brings a suit against another, saying, I have lent you several articles, and the person answers, I never received one of the articles you mention; in that case, if the plaintiff proves any one of all the articles claimed, to be in the defendant's possession, the magistrate shall cause the whole so claimed to be restored.”404 In cases of infinitely greater importance the same deceitful rule is applied. “If a man hath accused another of the murder of a man, or of a robbery, or of adultery, and should say, You have in several places been guilty of these crimes, and the defendant denies the accusation; in such a case, if the accuser can prove upon the other the commission of any one of these crimes, it shall be a proof of the whole complaint.”

Of all the perverse proceedings of a superstitious mind, which the history of rude nations presents to us, few will be found more at variance with reason, than the establishment of the following law: “The witness, who has given evidence, and to whom within seven days after, a misfortune happens from disease, fire, or the death of a kinsman, shall be condemned to pay the debt and a fine.”405

Though there is no ground on which the infirmities of the human mind are more glaring, and more tenacious of existence, than that of law, it is probable that the annals of legislative absurdity can present nothing which will match a law for the direct encouragement of perjury. “Whenever,” says the ordinance of Menu, “the death of a man, who had been a grievous offender, either of the servile, the commercial, the military, or the sacerdotal class, would be occasioned by true evidence, from the known rigour of the king, even though the fault arose from inadvertence or error, falsehood may be spoken: it is even preferable to truth.”406 What a state of justice it is, in which the king may condemn a man to death, for inadvertence or error, and no better remedy is found than the perjury of witnesses? “Whenever a true evidence would deprive a man of his life, in that case, if a false testimony would be the preservation of his life, it is allowable to give such false testimony. If a marriage for any person may be obtained by false witness, such falsehood may be told. If a man by the impulse of lust tells lies to a woman, or if his own life would otherwise be lost, or all the goods of his house spoiled, or if it is for the benefit of a Brahmen, in such affairs falsehood is allowable.”407

The laws respecting written evidence are few, and applied to a very limited number of cases. One distinction is recognized. “A writing,” says the law, “is of two sorts; first, that which a man writes with his own hand; second, that which he procures to be written by another: of these two sorts, that which is written by a man's own hand, even without witnesses, is approved; and that written by another, if void of witnesses, is not approved.”408 The remaining rules apply, almost entirely, to the modes of supplying, by means of the oral, what is at any time defective in the quantity or quality of the matter drawn from the scriptural source.409

Notwithstanding the diversities of appearance which, in different ages and countries, human nature puts on, the attentive observer may trace in it an astonishing uniformity with respect to the leading particulars which characterize the different stages of society; and often a surprising coincidence in particular thoughts and observances. The trials by ordeal, in the dark ages of modern Europe; when the decision of the most important questions was abandoned to chance or to fraud; when carrying in the hand a piece of red hot iron, or plunging the arm in boiling water, was deemed a test of innocence; and a painful or fraudulent experiment, supplanting a righteous award, might consign to punishment the most innocent, or save from it the most criminal of men; have been deemed a shocking singularity in the institutions of our barbarous ancestors. This species of evidence holds a high rank in the institutes of the Hindus. There are nine different modes of the trial by ordeal; 1. by the balance; 2. by fire; 3. by water; 4. by poison; 5. by water in which an idol has been washed; 6. by rice; 7. by boiling oil; 8. by red hot iron; 9. by images. The first of these, by the balance, is thus performed. The party accused is placed in the scale, and carefully weighed; after which, he is taken down, the pundits write the substance of the accusation on a piece of paper, and bind it on his forehead. At the end of six minutes he is weighed again, when, if lighter than before, he is pronounced innocent; if heavier, guilty. In the second ordeal, an excavation in the ground, nine hands long, two spans broad, and one span deep, is filled with a fire of pippal wood, into which the party must walk barefooted; proving his guilt, if he is burned; his innocence, if he escapes unhurt. The third species is rather more complicated: the person accused is made to stand in water up to his navel, with a Brahmen by his side; a soldier then shoots three arrows from a bow of cane, and a man is dispatched to bring back that which was shot the farthest; as soon as he has taken it up, another man is directed to run from the brink of the water, and at the same instant the party under trial must plunge into it, grasping the foot or the staff of the Brahmen who stands by him: if he remains under the water till the two men with the arrows return, he is innocent; if he comes up, he is guilty. The fourth kind, by poison, is performed two ways: either the party swallows a certain quantity of a poisonous root, and is deemed innocent if no injury ensues; or a particular species of hooded snake is thrown into a deep earthen pot, and along with it a ring, a seal, or a coin. If the man, putting down his naked hand, cannot take this out unbitten by the serpent, he is accounted guilty. The accused, in the fifth species, is made to drink three draughts of the water in which the images of the sun and other deities have been washed; and if within fourteen days he has any indisposition, his crime is considered as proved. When several persons are suspected of theft, they chew, each, a quantity of dried rice, and throw it upon some leaves or bark of a tree; they from whose mouth it comes dry, or stained with blood, are deemed guilty: This is the sixth species of ordeal. In the seventh, a man thrusts his hand into hot oil; and in the eighth he carries an iron ball, or the head of a lance, red hot in his hand; receiving his sentence of innocence or guilt according as he does or does not come off with safety. The ninth species is literally a casting of lots; two images of the gods, one of silver, and one of iron, are thrown into a large earthen jar; or two pictures of a deity, one on white, and the other on black cloth, are rolled up in cow-dung, and thrown into a jar: if the man. on putting in his hand, draws out the silver image, or the white picture, he is deemed innocent; if the contrary, guilty. The religious ceremonies with which these trials are performed it would be tedious and unprofitable to relate.410

The qualities desirable in a Body of Law may all be summed up under two comprehensive titles; I. Completeness; II. Exactness.

Completeness has a reference to the matter: Exactness to the form.

I. A body of laws may be said to be Complete, when it includes every thing which it ought to include; that is, when all those rights, the existence of which is calculated to improve the state of society, are created; and all those acts, the hurtfulness of which to the society is so great as to outweigh the cost, in all its senses, necessary for preventing them, are constituted offences.

II. A body of laws may be said to be Exact; 1. when it constitutes nothing a right, and nothing an offence, except those things precisely which are necessary to render it Complete; 2. when it contains no extraneous matter whatsoever; 3. when the aggregate of the powers and privileges which ought to be constituted rights, the aggregate of the acts which ought to be constituted offences, are divided and sub-divided into those very parcels or classes, which beyond all others best adapt themselves to the means of securing the one, and preventing the other; 4. when it defines those classes, that is, rights and offences, with the greatest possible clearness and certainty; 5. when it represses crimes with the smallest possible expense of punishment; and 6. when it prescribes the best possible form of a judicatory, and lays down the best possible rules for the judicial functions.

To show in what degree the Hindu law approaches, or recedes from, the standard of Completeness, would require a more extensive survey of the field of law, than consists with the plan of the present work.

That it departs widely from Exactness, in every one of the particulars wherein exactness consists, enough has already been seen to make abundantly apparent. 1. It creates a great many rights which ought to have no existence; and acts, which ought not to be erected into offences, it does so erect in great numbers. 2. It abounds in extraneous matter. 3. The division and arrangement of the matters of law are highly imperfect. 4. The definitions are so far from excluding darkness and doubt that they leave almost every thing indefinite and uncertain. 5. Punishments are not repressed, but abound; while there is the most enormous excess in the quantity of punishment. 6. The form of the judicatory is bad, as are a certain proportion of the rules for the mode of performing the judicial services.

In respect to definitions, the Hindu law is in a state which requires a few words of elucidation. Prior to the art of writing, laws can have little accuracy of definition; because when words are not written, they are seldom exactly remembered; and a definition whose words are constantly varying is not, for the purposes of law, a definition at all. Notwithstanding the necessity of writing to produce fixed and accurate definitions in law, the nations of modern Europe have allowed a great proportion of their laws to continue in the unwritten; that is, the traditionary state; the state in which they lay before the art of writing was known. Of these nations, none have kept in that barbarous condition so great a proportion of their law as the English. From the opinion of the Hindus that the Divine Being dictated all their laws, they acknowledge nothing as law but what is found in some one or other of their sacred books. In one sense, therefore, all their laws are written. But as the passages which can be collected from these books leave many parts of the field of law untouched, in these parts the defect must be supplied either by custom, or the momentary will of the judge. Again, as the passages which are collected from these books, even where they touch upon parts of the field of law, do so in expressions to the highest degree vague and indeterminate, they commonly admit of any one of several meanings, and very frequently are contradicted and opposed by one another. When the words in which laws are couched are to a certain degree imperfect, it makes but little difference whether they are written or not: Adhering to the same words is without advantage, when these words secure no sameness in the things which they are made to signify. Further, in modern Europe, the uncertainty adhering to all unwritten laws, that is, laws the words of which have no certainty, is to some degree, though still a very imperfect one, circumscribed and limited, by the writing down of decisions. When, on any particular part of the field, a number of judges have all, with public approbation, decided in one way; and when these decisions are recorded and made known, the judge who comes after them has strong motives, both of fear and of hope, not to depart from their example. The degree of certainty, arising from the regard for uniformity, which may thus be produced, is, from its very nature, infinitely inferior to that which is the necessary result of good definitions rendered unalterable by writing. But such as it is, the Hindus are entirely deprived of it. Among them the strength of the human mind has never been sufficient to recommend effectually the preservation, by writing, of the memory of judicial decisions. It has never been sufficient to create such a public regard for uniformity, as to constitute a material motive to a judge. And as kings, and their great deputies, exercised the principal functions of judicature, they were too powerful to be restrained by a regard to what others had done before them. What judicature would pronounce was, therefore, almost always uncertain; almost always arbitrary.

In a Judicatory, the qualities desirable are; 1. intelligence; 2. good design: and that is the best judicatory in which the best securities are taken for them. In the judicatories of the Hindus, composed of the king and his Brahmens, or the Brahmens alone, there is no security for either the one or the other; and accordingly neither the one nor the other almost ever appears.

The qualities desirable in the forms of judicial procedure, are, 1. efficiency; 2. freedom from delay; 3. freedom from trouble and expense. In these several respects the system of the Hindus displayed a degree of excellence not only far beyond itself in the other branches of law, but far beyond what is exemplified in more enlightened countries. 1. The efficiency of the Hindu system of judicial procedure is chiefly impaired by those rules of evidence the badness of which has already been pointed out: 2. For preventing delay, it enjoys every requisite, in its method of immediate, direct, and simple investigation: 3. In the same method is included all that is requisite for obtaining the judicial services with the smallest portion of trouble and expense.410a
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Re: The History of British India, Vol. I, by James Mill

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CHAP. V.

The Taxes.

The form of the government is one, the nature of the laws for the administration of justice is the other, of the two circumstances by which the condition of the people in all countries is chiefly determined. Of these two primary causes no result to a greater degree ensures the happiness or misery of the people, than the mode of providing for the pecuniary wants of the government, and the extent to which the agents of government, of whatever kind, are enabled to divide among themselves and their creatures, the annual produce of the land and labour of the community.

The matters of detail, which by their number and uncertainty have so exceedingly perplexed the servants of the Company, in the financial operations of the Indian government, cannot here be described. The general outline, and the more important effects, of that system of taxation which is described in the ancient books, are all that falls within the design of an account of the ancient state of the people. 1. “Of grain,” says the ordinance of Menu, “an eighth part, a sixth, or a twelfth may be taken by the king;” to be determined, adds the gloss of the commentator Culluca, “by the difference of the soil, and the labour necessary to cultivate it.”411 2. “He may also take a sixth part of the clear annual increase of trees, flesh-meat, honey, clarified butter, perfumes, medical substances, liquids, flowers, roots and fruit, of gathered leaves, potherbs, grass, utensils made with leather or cane, earthern pots, and all things made of stone.”412 3. “Of cattle, of gems, of gold and silver, added each year to the capital stock, a fiftieth part may be taken by the king.”413 4. “Having ascertained the rules of purchase and sale,” says the law, “the length of the way, the expenses of food and of condiments, the charges of securing the goods carried, and the neat profits of trade, let the king oblige traders to pay taxes on their saleable commodities; after full consideration, let a king so levy those taxes continually in his dominions, that both he and the merchant may receive a just compensation for their several acts.”414 5. “Let the king order a mere trifle to be paid, in the name of the annual tax, by the meaner inhabitants of his realm who subsist by petty traffic: 6. By low handicraftsmen, artificers, and servile men, who support themselves by labour, the king may cause work to be done for a day in each month.”415 It is added; 7. “A military king, who takes even a fourth part of the crops of his realm at a time of urgent necessity, as of war or invasion, and protects his people to the utmost of his power, commits no sin. 8. The tax on the mercantile class, which in times of prosperity must be only a twelfth part of their crops, and a fiftieth of their personal profits, may be an eighth of their crops in a time of distress, or a sixth, which is the medium, or even a fourth in great public adversity; but a twentieth of their gains on money and other moveables is the highest tax: serving men, artisans, and mechanics, must assist by their labour, but at no time pay taxes.”416

In these several articles is found an enumeration of all the objects of taxation; and a general expression of the modes and degrees of impost. We perceive taxes on the produce of land, taxes on the produce of labour, a tax on accumulation, a tax on sales, and poll taxes. In article 1., is exhibited a tax on the produce of land; In article 2., a tax both on the produce of land, and on the produce of labour; In article 3., is a tax on accumulation, at least in certain commodities; In article 4., is a tax on purchases and sales; In article 5., is one sort of poll tax; In article 6., is another.

There are two primary qualities desirable in a system of taxation; and in them every thing is included.

The First is, to take from the people the smallest quantity possible of their annual produce.

The Second is, to take from them that which is taken with the smallest possible hurt or uneasiness.

I. Of taking from the people more than enough of the matter of wealth, the causes are two; 1st. When the government consumes beyond the smallest amount sufficient to obtain the services which it yields; 2d. When the collection of the taxes themselves costs more than the lowest sum at which, without sacrificing greater advantages, it is capable of being performed.

II. Of the hurt and uneasiness, beyond the loss of what is taken away, which a system of taxation is liable to produce, the causes seem to be; 1. Uncertainty; 2. Inequality; 3. Impediment to production; 4. Injury to the good qualities, bodily or mental, of the people.


Of the first head and its subdivisions, no illustration is necessary; and a few words will suffice for the second.

1. Uncertainty may arise from two sources; 1. Uncertainty in the meaning of the words, by which the tax is defined; 2. Uncertainty in the circumstances upon which the amount of the tax is made to depend; as if it were made to depend upon the weather, or the state of a man's health. Uncertainty in the meaning of the words opens a door to oppression and fraud, on the part of the collector. He will exact the largest sum consistent with the words, if he is not bribed; the lowest, if he is. Uncertainty, from whatever source, is a cause of uneasiness. The mind is continually haunted with the idea of the worst, and with all the fears which attend it; fears, often very great and tormenting. As often as a source of chicanery is opened about the amount which the contributor should pay, a source of extortion is opened, and a source of oppression, necessary to effect the extortion.

2. Of the unequal partition of taxes, the necessary consequence is, a greater quantity of suffering, than the same amount of taxes would produce, if more equally imposed; because the pain of the man who pays too much is out of all proportion greater than the pleasure of the man who pays too little. To make the burthen of taxes equal, it should be made to press with equal severity upon every individual. This is not effected by a mere numerical proportion. The man who is taxed to the amount of one tenth, and still more the man who is taxed to the amount of one fifth or one half, of an income of 100l. per annum, is taxed far more severely, than the man who is taxed to an equal proportion of an income of 1000l. and to a prodigious degree more severely than the man who is taxed to an equal proportion of 10,000l. per annum.

3. On the mischievousness of all taxes which impede production, it is needless to enlarge. It is only necessary to make them known, or rather acknowledged. 1. Of this sort, are all taxes which take away any part of that property which has been already employed, as capital; because there is always more or less of difficulty in replacing it from the fund destined for immediate consumption. 2. Of this sort also are all taxes which create any encouragement whatsoever, or any discouragement whatsoever, to any particular employment of capital in respect to other employments; for as capital is always carried by a strong impulse to that employment which is the most productive, every thing which turns it out of the course which it would take of its own accord, turns so much of it out of a more, into a less productive channel.

4. That all taxes ought to be shunned which tend to lessen the amount of useful qualities in the people, will not be contradicted. Taxes upon medicines have a tendency to diminish health and strength. Taxes upon innocent amusements, as the sports of the field, have a tendency to drive the people to others that are hurtful. Taxes upon articles of consumption not hurtful, which have a tendency to supplant others that are, as tea and sugar to supplant intoxicating liquors, prompt to the consumption of the hurtful. Taxes upon law proceedings are a premium upon the practice of every species of iniquity. Lotteries are a direct encouragement to a habit of mind, with which no useful tendency can easily coexist. And all taxes, of which the quantity due is not clear and certain, train the people, by continual practice, to a state of hardened perfection in mendacity, fraud, and perjury.

1. In the above list of the sacred ordinances concerning taxes, the first relates entirely to the tax on the produce of the soil. It offends against the rule of certainty to a high degree. The amount varies as one to one half; and the variation is made to depend upon circumstances the uncertainty of which opens a boundless field to all the wretched arts of chicanery and fraud on the part of the people, and all the evils of oppression on the part of the collectors. As the determination of the circumstances on which the amount of the assessment depends belongs of course, in such a state of society as that of the Hindus, to the agents of the treasury, a free career is afforded to all the baneful operations of favour and disfavour, of bribery and corruption. Whenever an option is granted between a less exaction and a greater, the violent propensity of all imperfect governments to excess in expense is sure in time to establish the greater. It would appear accordingly that a sixth part of the produce became the uniform tax in Hindustan; and that the indulgence in favour of the barren soils was extinguished. This is the state in which it was found by the Mohammedan conquerors.417 And in Sacontala,418 the king is described, at a much earlier period, as “that man whose revenue arises from a sixth part of his people's income.” The source of variation and uncertainty from these causes was prodigiously enlarged by the power reserved to the king, of taking even a fourth of the crops, in times of distress. As he was himself the judge of these times of necessity, we may believe that they were of pretty frequent occurrence.

2. In the second of these fiscal ordinances, a variety of products are enumerated, which, in a rude age, are either the spontaneous produce of the soil, as flowers, roots, grass; or obtained from the spontaneous produce, by some very simple process; as perfumes and medical substances, by expression; flesh-meat and honey, by killing the animals which produce them; and these, as costing little in point of labour, are all taxed at the highest rate imposed upon grain. By one of those capricious arrangements which abound in the institutions of a rude people, utensils made of leather, cane, earth, and stone, in the production of which labour is the principal agent, are placed under the same exaction as the spontaneous productions of the soil. The consequence must have been to render these commodities proportionably dear.

In the execution of this ordinance, there must have been excessive uncertainty, and excessive expense. What is meant by “the annual increase?” The “annual produce of trees” is an absurd expression: Trees grow not by the year. What shall be said of such expressions, as “the annual produce,” of “clarified butter,” “of flesh-meat,” “of flowers?” These are not commodities, which continue accumulating, till the amount of the annual produce is seen entire at the end of the year: but commodities daily brought into existence and daily consumed. To collect the tax upon such commodities, a daily visit in every family would hardly suffice. In the execution of this ordinance, the temptation to the incessant practice of all the arts of fraud, on the part of the people, and the powers of oppression bestowed upon the collectors, were well calculated to fill society with immorality and suffering.

In the third of the above ordinances are enumerated the principal classes of moveables known to the Hindus. It seems to be the addition made in any year to the previous stock, and not the previous stock itself, of which one fiftieth is taken in the way of tax. In a society, full of knowledge and industry, this would have been a tax upon capital, and therefore mischievous: in Hindustan, where gold, silver, and gems, were most commonly hoarded, and not devoted to production, it would not have been easy to find a less objectionable tax. Unless in a state of society rapidly progressive, or a state in which there is excessive fluctuation of fortunes, that is, excessive misery, it would be a very unproductive tax.

4. In the words of the fourth ordinance is described a tax on all purchases and sales. The circumstances on which the amount is made to depend are so uncertain, as to constitute a great seminary of fraud on the one hand, and a great office of oppression on the other. The tax is also hurtful to production, by impeding circulation; that is, the passage of property from a situation in which it is less, to one in which it is more useful. The mode in which, at least in modern times, it was chiefly raised, that of transit duties, multiplied to excess, obstructed all that encouragement to industry which is afforded by the interchange of commodities, not only between different countries, but one province and another of the same country. As often as property which has been, and is to be, employed as capital, is bought and sold, it is a tax upon capital.

5. A poll tax, when paid in money, or any other common measure of value, is chiefly objectionable on account of its inequality; as the same sum is a very different burthen to different persons.

6. A poll tax paid in labour is somewhat less objectionable in point of equality, though the same portion of his time may be a much greater burthen upon one man than it is upon another. It is chiefly objectionable on account of the loss of time, and of property, which it occasions to those who have it to pay. In a well-ordered society, accordingly, where every man's time and labour are disposed of to the best advantage, it has no place.


Some of these ordinances are modified, or the words rendered a little more precise, in the Gentoo Code translated by Mr. Halhed. The following are examples. If a man purchase goods in his own country, and sell them again there, one tenth of his profit goes to the magistrate. If the purchase took place in a foreign kingdom, and the sale in his own, one twentieth only is the share of the magistrate.419 If a man, having purchased flowers, or roots, as ginger, radishes, and the like, or honey, or grass, or firewood, from another kingdom, sells them in his own, the magistrate is entitled to one sixth of his profits.420 What was the reason of severe exaction in such cases does not appear. Rude times give not reasons. In the days of Menu these taxes appear to have been much more moderate; a fiftieth of mercantile profits being the ordinary, and a twentieth the extraordinary tax.

In this system of taxation, other sources are of small importance; the revenue of the sovereign arises almost wholly from the artificial produce of the land. To understand in what manner the people of Hindustan were affected by taxation, the circumstances of this impost are all that require to be very minutely explored.

The tenure of land in Hindustan has been the source of violent controversies among the servants of the Company; and between them and other Europeans. They first sprung up amid the disputes between Mr. Hastings and Mr. Francis, respecting the best mode of taxing Bengal. And they have been carried on with great warmth, and sometimes with great acrimony, ever since. Of these controversies the account will be due, at the periods when they occur. At present it will suffice to bring to light the circumstances which appear to ascertain the ancient state of the country, in respect to the distribution of property in the land.

In a state of society resembling our own, in which property is secure, and involves very extensive rights or privileges, the affections which it excites are so strong, and give such a force to the associations, by which the idea of it is compacted and formed, that in minds of little range, whose habits are blind and obstinate, the particulars combined together under the idea of property appear to be connected by nature, and not, without extreme injustice, to be made to exist apart.

At different times, however, very different rights and advantages are included under the idea of property. At very early periods of society it included very few: originally, nothing more perhaps than use during occupancy, the commodity being liable to be taken by another, the moment it was relinquished by the hand which held it: but one privilege is added to another as society advances: and it is not till a considerable progress has been made in civilization, that the right of property involves all the powers which are ultimately bestowed upon it.

It is hardly necessary to add, that the different combinations of benefits which are included under the idea of property, at different periods of society, are all equally arbitrary; that they are not the offspring of nature, but the creatures of will; determined, and chosen by the society, as that arrangement with regard to useful objects, which is, or is pretended to be, the best for all.

It is worthy of remark, that property in moveables was established; and that it conveyed most of the powers which are at any time assigned to it; while, as yet, property in land had no existence. So long as men continue to derive their subsistence from hunting; so long, indeed, as they continue to derive it from their flocks and herds, the land is enjoyed in common. Even when they begin to derive it partly from the ground, though the man who has cultivated a field is regarded as possessing in it a property till he has reaped his crop, he has no better title to it than another for the succeeding year.421

In prosecuting the advantages which are found to spring from the newly-invented method of deriving the means of subsistence from the ground, experience in time discovers, that much obstruction is created by restricting the right of ownership to a single year; and that food would be provided in greater abundance, if, by a greater permanence, men were encouraged to a more careful cultivation. To make, however, that belong to one man, which formerly belonged to all, is a change, to which men do not easily reconcile their minds. In a thing of so much importance as the land, the change is a great revolution. To overcome the popular resistance, that expedient which appears to have been the most generally successful, is, to vest the sovereign, as the representative of the society, with that property in the land which belongs to the society; and the sovereign parcels it out to individuals, with all those powers of ownership, which are regarded as most favourable to the extraction from the land of those benefits which it is calculated to yield. When a sovereign takes possession of a country by conquest, he naturally appropriates to himself all the benefits, which the ideas of his soldiers permit.

In many of the rude parts of Africa, the property of the land is understood to reside in the sovereign; it is in the shape of a donation from him, that individuals are allowed to cultivate; and when the son, as is generally the case, succeeds to the father, it is only by a prolongation of the royal bounty, which, in some places at least, is not obtained without a formal solicitation.422 It is known, that in Egypt the king was the sole proprietor of the land; and one-fifth of the produce appears to have been yielded to him as revenue or rent.423 Throughout the Ottoman dominions, the Sultan claims to himself the sole property in land.424 The same has undoubtedly been the situation of Persia, both in ancient and modern times.425 “It is established,” says the late intelligent Governor of Java, “from every source of inquiry, that the sovereign in Java is the lord of the soil.”426 And when the fact is established in regard to Java, it is established with regard to all that part of the eastern islands, which in point of manners and civilization resembled Java. It is not disputed that in China the whole property of the soil is vested in the Emperor.427 By the laws of the Welsh, in the ninth century, all the land of the kingdom was declared to belong to the king;428 and we may safely, says Mr. Turner, believe, that the same law prevailed while the Britons occupied the whole island.429

To those who contemplate the prevalence of this institution, among nations contiguous to the Hindus, and resembling them in the state of civilization, it cannot appear surprising, that among them, too, the sovereign was the lord of the soil. The fact is, indeed, very forcibly implied, in many of the ancient laws and institutions. “Of old hoards,” says one of the ordinances of Menu, “and precious minerals in the earth, the king is entitled to half by reason of his general protection, and because he is the supreme lord of the soil.”430 The king, as proprietor, and as fully entitled to an equitable return for the land which he has let, is empowered to punish the cultivator for bad cultivation. “If land be injured, by the fault of the farmer himself, as if he fails to sow it in due time, he shall be fined ten times as much as the king's share of the crop, that might otherwise have been raised; but only five times as much, if it was the fault of his servants without his knowledge.”431 Among other ancient memorials of Hindu institutions and manners, are certain inscriptions engraved on durable materials. Some of them are records of grants of land, commonly to favourite Brahmens; and they afford strong indication of the proprietary rights of the sovereign. The sovereign gives away villages and lands, not empty, but already occupied by cultivators, and paying rent.432 It appears from an ordinance of Yagyawalcya, one of the most sacred of the law sages, that the kings alienated the lands within their dominions, in the same manner, and by the same title, as they alienated any portion of their revenues.433 On this point, it is of material importance to remark, that up to the time, when the interests of the Company's servants led them to raise a controversy about the rights of the Zemindars, every European visitor, without one exception that I have found, agrees in the opinion, that the sovereign was the owner of the soil.434

Wherever the Hindus have remained under the influence of their ancient customs and laws, the facts correspond with the inference which would be drawn from these laws. Under the direction of the Governor-General of Bengal, a journey was undertaken, in the year 1766, by Mr. Motte, to the diamond mines in the province of Orissa. In a narrative of his journey, he gives an account of the distribution of the land at Sumbhulpoor, which till that time had remained under the native government. Each village being rated to the government at a certain quantity of rice, which is paid in kind, the land is thus divided among the inhabitants: To every man, as soon as he arrives at the proper age, is granted such a quantity of arable land as is estimated to produce 242 1/8 measures of rice, of which he must pay 60 3/8 measures, or about one-fourth to the rajah or king. Mr. Motte adds; “The reserved rent of three or four villages, being one-fourth the produce of the land, is applied to the use of the rajah's household. The reserved rent of the rest is given to his relations or principal servants, who by these means have all the inhabitants dependent on them.”435 Dr. Buchanan gives a particular account of the manner in which the crop, in those parts of India which are most purely Hindu, is divided between the inhabitants and the government. In Bengal it is not allowed to be cut down till the rent or tax is first paid: but in those countries to which his journey principally relates, it is the custom, after the grain has been thrashed out in the field, to collect it into heaps, and then to divide it. A heap generally consists of about 110 Winchester bushels, of which he presents the following distribution as a specimen of the partition which is usually made. For the gods, that is, for the priests at their temples, are deducted five seers, containing about one-third of a Winchester gallon each; for charity, or for the mendicant Brahmens, an equal quantity; for the astrologer and the Brahmen of the village, one seer each; for the barber, the potmaker, the washerman, and the Vasaradava, who is both carpenter and blacksmith, two seers each; for the measurer, four seers; for the Aduca, a kind of beadle, seven seers; for the village chief, eight seers, out of which he has to furnish the village sacrifices; and for the accomptant, ten seers. All these perquisites are the same, whatever be the size of the heap beyond a measure of about twenty-five Winchester bushels. When these allowances are withdrawn the heap is measured; and for every candaca which it contains, a measure equal to 5 1/20 Winchester bushels, there is again deducted half a seer to the village watchmen, two and a half seers to the accomptant, as much to the chief of the village; and the bottom of the heap, about an inch thick, mixed with the cow-dung which in order to purify it had been spread on the ground, is given to the Nirgunty, or conductor of water. These several deductions, on a heap of twenty candacas, or 110 Winchester bushels, amount to about 5 1/4 per cent. on the gross produce. Of the remainder, 10 per cent. is paid to the collectors of the revenue, as their wages or hire; and the heap is last of all divided into halves between the king and the cultivator.436

From these facts only one conclusion can be drawn, that the property of the soil resided in the sovereign; for if it did not reside in him, it will be impossible to show to whom it belonged. The cultivators were left a bare compensation, often not so much as a bare compensation, for the labour and cost of cultivation: they got the benefit of their labour: all the benefit of the land went to the king.437

Upon the state of facts, in those places where the present practices of the Hindus have not been forced into a disconformity with their ancient institutions, the fullest light has been thrown, by those servants of the Company, who made the inquiries requisite for the introduction of a regular system of finance, into the extensive regions in the south of India added to the British dominions during the administrations of the Marquisses Cornwallis and Wellesley. Place, Munro, Thackeray, Hodgson, were happily men of talents; sufficiently enlightened to see the things which were before them with their naked eyes; and not through the mist of English anticipations. From the reports of these meritorious gentlemen, presented to their superiors, the Committee of the House of Commons, which inquired into East India affairs in 1810, have drawn the following as a general picture: “A village, geographically considered, is a tract of country, comprising some hundreds, or thousands, of acres of arable and waste land. Politically viewed, it resembles a corporation, or township. Its proper establishment of officers and servants consists of the following descriptions: The Potail, or head inhabitant, who has the general superintendance of the affairs of the village, settles the disputes of the inhabitants, attends to the police, and performs the duty of collecting the revenues within his village: The Curnum, who keeps the accounts of cultivation, and registers every thing connected with it: The Tallier and Totie; the duty of the former appearing to consist in a wider and more enlarged sphere of action, in gaining information of crimes and offences, and in escorting and protecting persons travelling from one village to another; the province of the latter appearing to be more immediately confined to the village, consisting, among other duties, in guarding the crops, and assisting in measuring them: The Boundaryman, who preserves the limits of the village or gives evidence respecting them in cases of dispute: The Superintendant of water courses and tanks, who distributes the water for the purposes of agriculture: The Brahmen, who performs the village worship: The Schoolmaster, who is seen teaching the children in the villages to read and write in the sand: The Calendar Brahmen, or astrologer, who proclaims the lucky, or unpropitious periods for sowing and thrashing: The Smith, and Carpenter, who manufacture the implements of agriculture, and build the dwelling of the ryot: The Potman or potter: The Washerman: The Barber: The Cow-keeper, who looks after the cattle: The Doctor: The Dancing Girl, who attends at rejoicings; The Musician, and the Poet.

“Under this simple form of municipal government, the inhabitants of the country have lived, from time immemorial. The boundaries of the villages have been seldom altered: and though the villages themselves have been sometimes injured, and even desolated, by war, famine, and disease, the same name, the same limits, the same interests, and even the same families, have continued for ages. The inhabitants give themselves no trouble about the breaking up and division of kingdoms; while the village remains entire, they care not to what power it is transferred, or to what sovereign it devolves; its internal economy remains unchanged; the Potail is still the head inhabitant, and still acts as the petty judge and magistrate, and collector or renter of the village.”438

These villages appear to have been not only a sort of small republic, but to have enjoyed to a great degree the community of goods. Mr. Place, the collector in the jaghire district at Madras, informs us, that “Every village considers itself a distinct society; and its general concerns the sole object of the inhabitants at large: a practice,” he adds, “which surely redounds as much to the public good as to theirs; each having, in some way or other, the assistance of the rest; the labours of all yield the rent; they enjoy the profit, proportionate to their original interest, and the loss falls light. It consists exactly with the principles upon which the advantages are derived from the division of labour; one man goes to market, whilst the rest attend to the cultivation and the harvest; each has his particular occupation assigned to him, and insensibly labours for all. Another practice very frequently prevails, of each proprietor changing his lands every year. It is found in some of the richest villages; and intended, I imagine, to obviate that inequality to which a fixed distribution would be liable.”439

The state of taxation is described by the same committee, in the following terms: “By the custom of the Hindu government, the cultivators were entitled to one half of the paddy produce (that is, grain in the husk) depending on the periodical rains. Of the crops from the dry grain lands, watered by artificial means, the share of the cultivator was about two thirds. Before the harvest commenced, the quantity of the crop was ascertained, in the presence of the inhabitants and village servants, by the survey of persons, unconnected with the village, who, from habit, were particularly skilful and expert, in judging of the amount of the produce, and who, in the adjustment of this business, were materially aided by a reference to the produce of former years, as recorded by the accountants of the villages. The quantity which belonged to the government being thus ascertained, it was received in kind, or in money.” Of garden produce, of which the culture was more difficult, a smaller portion was taken; because, if field culture was taxed as much as it could bear, it seems to have been supposed that garden culture, at an equal rate of taxation, could not have been carried on.

“Such,” continue the committee, “were the rights of the ryots, according to the ancient usage of the country. In consequence, however, of the changes introduced by the Mahomedan conquest, and the many abuses which later times had established, the share really enjoyed by the ryots was often reduced to a sixth, and but seldom exceeded a fifth. The assessments had no bounds but those which limited the supposed ability of the husbandman. The effects of this unjust system were considerably augmented by the custom, which had become common with the Zemindars, of sub-renting their lands to farmers, whom they armed with unrestricted powers of collection, and who were thus enabled to disregard, whenever it suited their purpose, the engagements they entered into with the ryots; besides practising every species of oppression, which an unfeeling motive of self-interest could suggest. If they agreed with the cultivators at the commencement of the year, for a rent in money, and the season proved an abundant one, they then insisted on receiving their dues in kind. When they did take their rents in specie, they hardly ever failed to collect a part of them before the harvest time had arrived and the crops were cut; which reduced the ryots to the necessity of borrowing from money lenders, at a heavy interest of 3, 4, and 5 per cent. per month, the sums requisite to make good the anticipated payments that were demanded of them. If, from calamity or other cause, the ryots were the least remiss in the discharge of their rents, the officers of the renters were instantly quartered upon them; and these officers they were obliged to maintain, until they might be recalled on the demand being satisfied. It was also a frequent practice with the renters to remove the inhabitants from fertile lands, in order to bestow them on their friends and favourites; and to oblige the ryots to assist them, where they happened to be farmers, in the tilling of their lands; and to furnish them gratuitously with labourers, bullocks, carts, and straw.”440

The two terms, Ryot and Zemindar, introduced into this passage, are of frequent recurrence in the history of India, and require to be explained. By ryots, are always denoted the husbandmen; the immediate cultivators of the ground. The Persian term Zemindar, introduced by the Mahomedan conquerors, was in Bengal, and certain other parts of India, the name of a certain sort of middleman, between the cultivator who raised the crop, and the king who received the greater part of the net produce. Into the controversy respecting the nature of the interest which the Zemindar possessed in the land with respect to which he performed his function of middle-man, I shall not at present enter. Another occasion will present itself for the examination of that subject. It is here sufficient to say, that in districts, sometimes of greater, sometimes of less extent, a person, under the title of Zemindar, received the share of the produce, which was exacted from the ryot; either by himself, or the persons to whom he farmed the receipts; and paid it over to the sovereign, reserving a prescribed portion to himself. The Zemindar was thus, whatever else he might be, the collector of the revenue, for the district to which he belonged. As the receipt of revenue, in a rude state of government, is a business most dear to the governors, the Zemindar, in order the better to secure this favourite end, was vested with a great share of the powers of government. He was allowed the use of a military force; the police of the district was placed in his hands; and he was vested with the civil branch of judicature. When his district was large, he was a sort of a petty prince. In various places of India, however, the collection of the revenue had never become fixed and hereditary, in the hands of an individual, and the business was transacted between the immediate cultivators, and a man who possessed none but the characteristics of an immediate officer of government.

The committee say, that a rate of taxation much more severe than that which existed under the Hindu governments was introduced by the Mohamedan rulers, and amid the abuses of modern times. For this opinion they have no authority whatsoever. It is, therefore, a mere prejudice. The rate which they mention goes far beyond the scale of the ancient ordinances: And what reason is there to believe that the ancient Hindu governments did not, as the Mohamedan, levy assessments to the utmost limits of the supposed ability of the ryots? In those parts of India which Europeans have found still remaining under Hindu governments, the state of the people is worse, if there is any difference, than where they have been subject to the Mohamedan sway.

The rate established in the ancient ordinances has been regarded as evidence of mild taxation, that is, of good government. It only proves that agriculture was in its earliest, and most unproductive state; and though it paid little, could not afford to pay any more.441 We may assume it as a principle, in which there is no room for mistake, that a government constituted and circumstanced as that of the Hindus had only one limit to its exactions, the nonexistence of any thing further to take. Another thing is certain, that under any state of cultivation, but the very worst, if the whole except a sixth of the produce of a soil, so rich as that of Hindustan, had been left with the cultivator, he must have had the means of acquiring wealth, and of attaining rank and consequence; but these it is well ascertained that the ryots in India never enjoyed.442

Notwithstanding these proofs that the ownership in the land was reserved to the king, this conclusion has been disputed, in favour, 1st, of the Zemindars, and 2dly, of the Ryots. The question with regard to the Zemindars may be reserved till that period of the history, when it was agitated for the sake of practical proceedings on the part of the government. The question with regard to the Ryots belongs peculiarly to this part of the work.

The circumstances, which appear to have misled the intelligent Europeans who have misinterpreted this part of the Hindu institutions, are two; first, the tenure of the ryot or husbandman; and secondly, the humane and honourable anxiety, lest the interests and the happiness of the most numerous class of the population should be sacrificed, if the sovereign were acknowledged as owner of the soil.

But, if this acknowledgment were ever so complete, it is inconsistent neither with the tenure which is claimed in favour of the ryots, nor with the means of their prosperity and happiness. And it it were, the acknowledgment of its previous existence would be no bar to a preferable arrangement; since the sovereign can have a right to nothing which is injurious to his people.

In a situation in which the revenue of the sovereign was increased in proportion to the number of cultivators, and in which a great proportion of the land continued void of cultivators, there would be a competition, not of cultivators for the land, but of the land for cultivators. If a ryot cultivated a piece of ground, and punctually paid his assessment, the sovereign would be far from any wish to remove him, because it would be difficult to supply his place. If the ryot sold the ground to another ryot, or left it to a successor, that is, put another in his place who would fulfil the wishes of the sovereign, he, whose source of fear was the want of a cultivator, had still cause for satisfaction; and seldom, if ever, interfered.

By custom, the possession of the ryot became, in this manner, a permanent possession; whence he was not removed except when he failed to pay his assessment or rent; a possession which he could sell during his life; or leave by inheritance when he died. As far as rights can be established by prescription, these rights were established in India in favour of the ryots. And no violation of property is more flagrant than that by which the tenure of the ryot is annulled.

But, according even to European ideas, a right to cultivate the land under these, and still greater advantages, is not understood to transfer the ownership of the land. The great estates in Ireland, for example, let under leases perpetually renewable, are vendible and inheritable by the leaseholders, without affecting the ownership of their lords; subject, moreover, to a very important restriction, from which the sovereigns in India were free;443 the lords of such estates cannot raise their rents at pleasure; the sovereigns in India enjoyed this privilege, and abused it to excess. The sovereigns in India had not only the ownership, but all the benefit of the land; the ryots had merely the privilege of employing their labour always upon the same soil, and of transferring that privilege to some other person; the sovereign claimed a right to as much of the produce as he pleased, and seldom left to the ryots more than a very scanty reward for their labour.

That ownership in the land justified this extent of exaction, or implies a valid title to any power at variance with the interests of the ryots, is an erroneous inference. Without violating its obligations to the people, a government cannot spend any sum, beyond what is strictly necessary for the performance of the services, which it is destined to render: and it is justified in taking even this sum exclusively from the cultivators of the land, only if that is the mode in which all the qualities desirable in a financial system are the most completely realized.

Those who contend for the privileges of the ryots would no doubt observe, that in this mode of interpretation, we reduce the ownership of the sovereign to an empty name; and that to the admission of it, thus understood, they see nothing to object. The controversy is then at a close. The ownership of the sovereign in the soil, wherever it exists, is, by the principles which constitute the very foundation of government, reduced to the limits above described. And it is no less certain, that all which is valuable in the soil, after the deduction of what is due to the sovereign, belongs of incontestable right to the Indian husbandman.444

The Hindu mode of raising the revenue of the state, wholly, or almost wholly, by taking as much as necessary of the rent of the land, while it is the obvious expedient which first presents itself to the rudest minds, has no inconsiderable recommendation from science itself. Previous to allotment, the productive powers of the soil are the joint property of the community; and hence are a fund peculiarly adapted to the joint or common purposes and demands. If the whole of what is strictly rent were taken away, the application of labour and capital to the land would resemble the application of labour and capital to wood or iron; and the same principles, in both cases, would determine their reward.

But as the expense required for the services of government exceeds not a very small portion of the rent of the land, unless where the quantity is very minute, the greatest possible benefit is derived from the productive powers of the soil, when it is the property of individuals. The benefits of the soil have, accordingly, over the greater part of the globe, been employed, first, to supply in whole, or for the greater part, the necessities of government, next to enrich the individual occupant. The most remarkable exception to this rule is in modern Europe. After the conquests of the Gothic nations, the land was thrown in great portions into the hands of the leading men; and they had power to make the taxes fall where they chose; they took care accordingly that they should fall any where rather than upon the land; that is, upon any body rather than themselves. Further, as their influence over the sovereign made him glad to share with them what he derived from the taxes, they not only threw the burden off their own shoulders, but taxed, as they have continued to do, and sometimes in a progressive ratio, to the present hour, the rest of the community for their benefit.

The objections to the Hindu system of providing for the expenses of government, arise rather from the mode, than the essence.

By aiming at the receipt of a prescribed portion of the crop of each year; and with a very imperfect distinction of the lands of different powers, the Hindus incurred most of the evils which a bad method of raising a tax is liable to produce. They rendered the amount of the tax always uncertain, and its pressure very unequal; they rendered necessary a perfect host of tax-gatherers; and opened a boundless inlet to partiality and oppression on the one hand; to fraud and mendacity on the other. A tax, consisting of any portion of the gross produce of the soil, raises the price of that produce; because the tax raised from the poorest of the cultivated land must be returned, along with the expense of cultivation, in the exchangeable value of its produce. In this manner a tax is levied upon the consumers of corn, which surpasses the sum paid to the government, and enriches the owners of the best land at the expense of the community.445

An expensive mode of raising the taxes is a natural effect of a rude state of society. We are informed by Sully, that the receipt into the French exchequer, in the year 1598, was only thirteen millions of French money; while the sum, dragged out of the pockets of the people, was 150 millions. “The thing appeared incredible,” says the statesman: “but by the due degree of labour, I made the truth of it certain.”446 The proportion was doubtless greater in Hindustan.

Receiving the taxes in kind was a practice which ensured a prodigious expense, and a waste, by which nobody gained. Scarcely any other mode seems to have been known to the Hindus in the time of their ancient institutions; and to a great degree it continued down to the latest period of their history.447 How rude and inconvenient soever this practice must be regarded; we find several nations, who make a considerable figure in the history of the world, who have not in this respect advanced beyond the Hindus. It may not surprise any one, that taxes were raised in kind in the ancient empire of Mexico.448 The greater part, though not the whole, were raised in the same manner, in Persia, even in the time of Darius Hystaspes;449 and the mixture, at least, whatever the proportion, continues to the present day.450 The whole revenue of China, with the exception of some trifling articles, is paid in kind.451
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Re: The History of British India, Vol. I, by James Mill

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Part 1 of 3

CHAP. VI.

Religion.

It is difficult to determine whether the constitution of the government and the provisions of law, or Religion, have, among the Hindus, the greatest influence upon the lives of individuals, and the operations of society. Beside the causes which usually give superstition a powerful sway in ignorant and credulous ages, the order of priests obtained a greater authority in India than in any other region of the globe; and this again they employed with astonishing success in multiplying and corroborating the ideas on which their power and consequence depended. Every thing in Hindustan was transacted by the Deity. The laws were promulgated, the people were classified, the government was established, by the Divine Being. The astonishing exploits of the Divinity were endless in that sacred land. For every stage of life from the cradle to the grave; for every hour of the day; for every function of nature; for every social transaction, God prescribed a number of religious observances. And meditation upon his incomprehensible attributes, as it was by far the most difficult of all human operations, so was it that glorious occupation which alone prepared the intense votary for the participation of the Divine nature.

Of so extensive and complicated a subject, as the religion of the Hindus, a very general view can alone be taken here. All that is interesting to the politician and the philosopher, may, however, it is presumed, be confined within a moderate space. The task is rendered difficult by the unparalleled vagueness which marks the language of the Brahmens respecting the nature of the gods, the vast multiplicity of their fictions, and the endless discrepancy of their ideas. Hence it is, that no coherent system of belief seems capable of being extracted from their wild eulogies and legends; and if he who attempts to study their religion is disposed, like themselves, to build his faith on his imagination, he meets with little obstruction from the stubborn precision of Hindu expressions and tenets.

Nothing is more curious than to trace the ideas concerning Divine power which the natural faculties of our race suggest to them at the various stages of their career. In the very rude and imperfect state in which society originated, the human mind can hardly so far enlarge its views as to draw conclusions respecting the universe. Those operations and events of nature, which more immediately concern mankind, and on which their happiness and misery depend, no doubt engage their eager curiosity. The causes of light and darkness, of drought and rain, of the thunder, of the hurricane, of the earthquake, suggest many an anxious inquiry; but to put all the objects of nature, and all the changes which they undergo, into one group of ideas, and to ask whence did the whole proceed, seems to be an operation too complicated, and too far removed from the ordinary track of his ideas, to be one of the first that takes place in the mind of a barbarian.

With regard to that other class of questions, which more easily occur to him, his nature very readily suggests an answer. Prior to experience and instruction, there is a propensity in the imagination to endow with life whatever we behold in motion; or, in general, whatever appears to be the cause of any event. A child beats the inanimate object, by which it has been hurt, and caresses that by which it has been gratified. The sun, which is the cause of day, the savage regards as a beneficent deity. A spirit resides in the storm; the woods and the waters are peopled with divinities; there is a god of plenty, and a god of want; a god of war, and a god of peace; a god of health, and a god of sickness. That this may be considered as a correct outline of the first religion which is suggested to the human mind, the laws of human nature, and the ideas which are found to prevail among rude tribes, appear sufficiently to evince.

But men are not long in making another step in their religious progress. Having made for themselves a theory with respect to the cause of the events which affect them, the origin too of the things which they perceive attracts their curiosity; and from asking the cause, first of one great object, and then of another, they come at last to put the general question, what is the cause and origin of the whole? There are very few, therefore, even among the most barbarous nations, who have not made an attempt to account for the origin of the universe, and in whose religious ideas some species of cosmogony is not involved. But, in answering the question respecting the origin of the universe, it is impossible that men should not be guided by their previous ideas. It follows, that among the divinities, whom they already adored, He, whom they regarded as the most powerful, should be selected as the Maker of the world. Were they placed in circumstances of tolerable tranquillity, this potent God would probably be the sun; were they a people almost constantly plunged in the horrors of war, the god of arms would naturally be their chief divinity. Hence we see that in many nations of Asia, who at an early period seem to have been placed in favourable circumstances, the sun was supreme among the gods, and the great principle of the universe; among the turbulent and warlike tribes who inhabited the north of Europe, Odin, the god of war, was the supreme deity, and author of all things.

The Hindus had made considerable progress beyond the first and lowest stage of human society. It seems common, however, to retain for a long time the ideas which are then implanted; and, rather than eradicate the old to make of them a heterogeneous compound with the new. The Greeks and the Romans did not reject their Jupiter, and Mars, their gods of the mountains, trees, and rivers, when they rose to more comprehensive views of the universe; they only endeavoured to accommodate to these primary conceptions their new apprehensions and conclusions. In like manner, the Hindus have still their Indra, or the god of the firmament, Varuna, or the god of the waters, Rembha, the goddess of love; in the whole, a long and splendid catalogue of thirty-three crore.452

We have translations from the Hindu books of several passages containing accounts of the creation.453 They differ from one another very widely in the minor forms and circumstances; but strongly resemble in the general character, and in the principal ideas. That contained in the sacred volume which bears the name of Menu may be taken as a standard, being more full and circumstantial than any of those which are given us from the Vedas; derived from a work of equal authority with the Vedas themselves, and exhibiting, as drawn up at a later period, the improvement, if any, which the ideas of the people had acquired. It is all vagueness and darkness, incoherence, inconsistency, and confusion. It is one of the most extravagant of all specimens of discourse without ideas. The fearless propensity of a rude mind to guess where it does not know, never exhibited itself in more fantastic and senseless forms.454

Beside accounts of what creation was, we have accounts of the mode in which the Hindu divinity performed the creation. If a man possessing refined and exalted notions of the Divine Nature were to describe the great work of creation, he would have the clearest conviction of his own incompetence; and, as Moses, he would attempt no more than by a few strokes to convey an idea of the magnitude of the task, and of the power and wisdom of him who performed it. If far removed from this degree of knowledge and reflection, he will enter without hesitation upon a minute and detailed description both of the plan, and of its execution. If, however, the society in which he lives has attained any considerable improvement, the process which he conceives will indicate some portion of human wisdom; will, at least, be such as an instructed member of that society, had he infinite power imparted to him, would devise for himself. On the other hand, if a description of the creation presents no idea but what is fantastic, wild, and irrational; if it includes not even a portion of that design and contrivance which appear in the ordinary works of man; if it carries the common analogies of production, in animal and vegetable life, to the production of the universe, we cannot be mistaken in ascribing it to a people, whose ideas of the Divine Being were grovelling.

“The self-existing power,” says Menu, “having willed to produce various beings, first with a thought created the waters.” This is not a despicable conception: but what succeeds? “He placed in these waters a productive seed.” This is one of those analogies to the growth of a plant or an animal which are generally the foundation of the cosmogony of a rude people. What next? The seed becomes an egg; which is a very extraordinary product; a wonderful course, too, for the self-existing power to follow in the formation of the universe. The other steps are not less amazing. In this egg the divine being deposited himself, and there he lay, in a state of inactivity, a whole year of the Creator, that is, according to the Hindus, 1,555,200,000,000 solar years of mortals.455 At the end of this astonishing period he caused by his thought the egg to divide itself, and was himself born in the form of Brahma, the great forefather of all spirits;456 thus, “from That-Which-is, the first cause, was produced the divine male, famed in all worlds, under the appellation of Brahma.”457 This is celebrated in Hindu books as the great transformation of the Divine Being, from neuter to masculine, for the purpose of creating worlds; and under this masculine form of Brahma it was that he effected the rest of creation. The Hindus believe that he was engaged in it for no less than 17,064,000 years.458 Of the two divisions of the egg from which he had just been freed, he framed the heaven above, the earth beneath, and in the midst the subtle ether, the eight regions, and the permanent receptacle of waters. The creation of mind is next described; but this will be more conveniently considered when we come to appreciate the notions of the Hindus in relation to thought. The creation however of man, or at least of the Hindus, is worthy of our particular regard. “That the human race might be multiplied, He caused the Brahmen to proceed from his mouth, the Cshatriya from his arm, the Vaisya from his thigh, and the Sudra from his foot.” The analogy of ordinary descent is again the foundation of this fantastic imagination; and the Hindu could picture to himself the production of a human being, even by the Deity, only in the way of a species of birth. This analogy leads to a still more extravagant conceit for the creation of other races of men, and living creatures. As if “The Mighty Power” could not produce them by his male virtue alone, “He divided his own substance, and became half male, half female. By this female the male half produced Viraj, a demigod and saint; Viraj, by the virtue of austere devotion, produced Menu, another demigod and saint.” Menu again, “desirous,” he says, “of giving birth to a race of men,” produced ten lords of created beings; and these lords produced at his command “seven other Menus, and deities, and the mansions of deities, and great sages, and also benevolent genii, and fierce giants, blood-thirsty savages, heavenly quiristers, nymphs and demons, huge serpents and snakes of smaller size, birds of mighty wing, and separate companions of Pitris or progenitors of mankind; lightnings and thunderbolts, clouds and coloured bows of Indra, falling meteors, earthrending vapours, comets, and luminaries of various degrees; horse-faced sylvans, apes, fish, and a variety of birds, tame cattle, deer, men, and ravenous beasts with two rows of teeth; small and large reptiles, moths, lice, fleas, and common flies, with every biting gnat, and immoveable substances of distinct sorts. Thus was this whole assemblage of moveable and stationary bodies framed by those high-minded beings.”459

But in the Hindu books we find applied to the Divinity a great variety of expressions, so elevated, that they cannot be surpassed even by those of the men who entertain the most sublime ideas of the Divine Nature. In the passage immediately quoted from Menu, he is described as the sole self-existing power, the soul of all beings, he whom the mind alone can perceive, who exists from eternity, and whom no being can comprehend. In a passage from the Brahmanda Purana, translated by Mr. Wilford, he is denominated; “The great God, the great Omnipotent, Omniscient one, the greatest in the World, the great Lord who goes through all worlds, incapable of decay.”460 In a prayer, translated by Mr. Colebrooke, from one of the Vedas, he is called, “the pure Brahme, whom none can apprehend as an object of perception, above, around, or in the midst; the God who pervades all regions, the first-born; he, prior to whom nothing was born; who became all beings, himself the Lord of creatures; he, who made the fluid sky and solid earth, who fixed the solar orb and celestial abode, whom heaven and earth mentally contemplate; the mysterious Being, in whom the universe perpetually exists, resting on that sole support; in whom this world is absorbed, from whom it issues.”461 Without multiplying instances, it may shortly be stated that human language does not supply more lofty epithets of praise than are occasionally addressed to their deities by the Hindus.

To form a true estimate of the religion of this people, it is necessary by reflection to ascertain, what those expressions in the mouth of a Brahmen really mean. We shall incur the risk of completely deceiving ourselves, if, with the experience how naturally vague and general expressions, especially in such abstract and mental subjects, convey the most different ideas, to people in different stages of society, we take the lofty expressions of devotion in Hindu books, as full and satisfactory evidence of lofty conceptions of the Divine Nature. It is well ascertained that nations, who have the lowest and meanest ideas of the Divine Being, may yet apply to him the most sounding epithets by which perfection can be expressed.

In tracing the progress of natural religion, through the different stages of intellectual acquirement, a very important fact is discovered; that language, on this subject, has a much greater tendency to improve, than ideas. It is well known how vile and degrading were the notions of the Divine Nature presented in the fictions of the Greek poets; insomuch that Plato deemed them unfit to be read;462 yet the Brahmens themselves do not surpass the Greek poets in elevated expressions concerning the Deity. Orpheus, early and rude as is the period to which his poetry relates, thus describes the celestial King; “Jupiter, the sovereign; Jupiter, the original parent of all things; and Wisdom, the first procreator; and all-delighting Love: For in the mighty frame of Jupiter all are contained: One power, one godhead: He is the great Regent of all.”463 Cæsar informs us that the Druids among the ancient Gauls delivered many doctrines concerning the nature of the universe, and the powers of the immortal gods;464 and it is remarkable that the Greeks and the Romans were forcibly struck with the similarity between the ideas of the Druids, and those of the Brahmens of India, the Magi of Persia, the Chaldeans of Assyria, and the priests of Egypt.465 The creed of the ancient Germans, as we are informed by Tacitus, was, “that God is the Ruler of all: other things are to him subject and obedient.”466 In the ancient Scandinavian mythology, the Supreme God was described, as, “The author of every thing that existeth; the eternal, the ancient, the living and awful Being, the searcher into concealed things; the Being that never changeth.”467 On the statue of the Egyptian goddess Isis was this inscription; “I am every thing past, every thing present, and every thing to come.”468 The Deity was described by Zoroaster as “The First, the Incorruptible, the Eternal, without generation, without dissolution, without a parallel, the charioteer of all which is good, inaccessible to bribes, the best of the good, the wisest of the wise.”469 The Getes asserted their deity Zamolxis to be the true God, that besides him there was none other, and that to him they went after death, being endowed with spirits immortal.470 Even the rude tribes of America, wandering naked in the woods, “appear,” says Robertson, “to acknowledge a Divine Power to be the maker of the world, and the disposer of all events. They denominate him the Great Spirit.”471 Thus it appears how commonly the loftiest expressions are used concerning the gods, by people whose conceptions of them are, confessedly, mean.472

This important fact, however remarkable, is founded on principles of very powerful operation in the nature of man. The timid barbarian, who is agitated by fears respecting the unknown events of nature, feels the most incessant and eager desire to propitiate the Being on whom he believes them to depend. His mind works, with laborious solicitude, to discover the best means of recommending himself. He naturally takes counsel from his own sentiments and feelings; and as nothing to his rude breast is more delightful than adulation, he is led by a species of instinct to expect the favour of his god from praise and flattery. In an uncultivated mind, how strong this sentiment is, a very superficial knowledge of human nature may convince us. Mr. Foster, in his Travels over land from India, was overtaken by a storm in the Caspian Sea; and remarks that during the danger “every man was imploring the Divine interposition in his own manner and language.” “But my attention,” says he, “was chiefly attracted by a Persian. His ejaculations were loud and fervent; and the whole force of his prayers was levelled at Ali; on whom he bestowed every title that could denote sanctity or military prowess. He called on him, by the name of the Friend of God; the Lord of the Faithful; the Brandisher of the invincible sword; to look down on his servant, and shield him from the impending evil. Thinking also to obtain the more grace with the father, he would occasionally launch out into the praises of his two sons.”473

When the belief is once admitted that the Deity is pleased with panegyric, it is evident to what length the agitated and ignorant votary will speedily be carried. Whatever may be the phrases with which he begins; in a short time, the ardour of his fears incites him to invent new and stronger; as likely to prove more agreeable and prevalent. Even these, by a short use, become familiar to his mind. When they begin to be stale and feeble, he is again prompted to a new invention, and to more violent exaggerations.

Exhausting quickly the powers of his language, he has other expedients in store. The god, on whom his eulogies have been lavished, is that one, among the invisible powers, on whom his interests seem more immediately to depend: This deity is at first panegyrised on account of those operations alone which belong to his own department: The sun is originally applauded only as the Regent of day: the bountiful giver of light, and of all its attendant blessings! But when panegyric on this subject is exhausted, the unwearied adorer opens a new fountain of adulation: The operations of some divinity, whose department most nearly resembles that of the favourite deity, affords some circumstance which, it is imagined, might do honour to that patron god: It is accordingly, as a very artful expedient, immediately detracted from the one, and ascribed to the other: No sooner is the novelty of this new attribute decayed, than the prerogative of some other divinity is invaded, and the great object of worship is invested with a new power or function of nature: This, it is evident, is a fertile discovery: The votary has many articles to add to his list of powers and functions, before he exhausts the provinces of the whole of the gods. He proceeds incessantly, however; adding to the works and dominions of the great divinity one province after another, till at last he bestows upon him the power and functions of all the gods. He is now the supreme deity, and all the rest are subordinate. He is the king of the celestial powers; or, what is still more sublime, their author or father; He from whom their very being and powers are derived. They still, however, retain their ancient departments: and he who was god of the winds remains the god of the winds: he who was god of the waters remains god of the waters. But they are no longer independant deities; they have now a superior, and are regarded in the light of his ministers or agents.

The ingenuity of fear and desire sometimes invents a higher strain of flattery still. The power, which is delegated to so many extraordinary beings, is regarded as a deduction from that which might otherwise be wielded by the supreme. And happy is the man, who first imagines he can inform the Divinity, that no such division and diminution of his power exist: That those supposed agents or ministers are not in reality beings endowed with the powers of the Almighty; that they are those powers themselves; the different modes in which he manifests himself. After this, he is the one God He is all in all: From him every thing begins, in him every thing terminates: He unites all possible attributes: Like time, he has no beginning and shall have no end: All power belongs to him, all wisdom, and all virtue. Such is the progress of the language, not of knowledge and cultivated reason, but of the rude and selfish passions of a barbarian; and all these high and sounding epithets are invented by men whose ideas of the divine nature are mean, ridiculous, gross, and disgusting.

Some of the most enlightened of the Europeans who have made inquiries concerning the ideas and institutions of the Hindus, have been induced, from the lofty epithets occasionally applied to the gods, to believe and to assert that this people had a refined and elevated religion. Nothing is more certain than that such language is far from being proof of such a religion. Yet ingenious men, from whom we have largely derived instruction, appear to have thought that no other proof was requisite; and, as on this evidence they adopted the opinion themselves, thought that others ought to receive it on the same foundation.474

Since the language employed by any people is a very fallacious test of the ideas which they entertain concerning the Divine Nature, it is necessary to investigate the circumstances, in their religious practice or belief, which enable us in any degree to define their vague expressions. Those circumstances are few; but their evidence determinate. They are the operations ascribed to the Divinity, the services reputed agreeable to him, and the laws which he is understood to have ordained. If these correspond with the ideas of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, we may believe with certainty that the sublime language is the expression of corresponding conceptions; on the other hand, where those operations, services, and laws, are in the highest degree unworthy of a perfect nature, we may be fully assured, that the sublime language is altogether without a meaning, the effect of flattery, and the meanest of passions; and that it is directly suggested, not by the most lofty, but by the most grovelling and base, ideas of the Divine Nature.

Of the host of Hindu Divinities, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva are the most exalted. Other nations have most frequently carried on the applause of one favourite deity, till they bestowed upon him alone all power in heaven and earth: The Hindus have distributed the creation and government of the universe among those three, denominating Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Siva the destroyer.

Of the highest scene of operation in which the Divine Being can be contemplated by mortals, the creation of the universe, the conception, formed by the Hindus, is so far from corresponding with high and noble ideas of the creating power, that it is consistent only with the meanest. This itself is a criterion of a religious system from which there is no appeal.

Of the peculiar functions of Vishnu and Siva no determinate conception appears to have been formed. They are two beings of mighty power, by whom great actions are performed; but there is no distinct separation of their provinces. Whenever indeed we seek to ascertain the definite and precise ideas of the Hindus in religion, the subject eludes our grasp. All is loose, vague, wavering, obscure, and inconsistent. Their expressions point at one time to one meaning, and another time to another meaning;475 and their wild fictions, to use the language of Mr. Hume, seem rather the playsome whimsies of monkeys in human shape, than the serious asseverations of a being who dignifies himself with the name of rational.476 Vishnu is not unfrequently employed in the acts which properly belong only to a destructive power; and Siva is so far from answering to the title bestowed upon him, that he is a divinity hardly less beneficent than Vishnu himself.

In the conception which the Hindus have formed of the government of the world, the visible agency of the Deity is peculiarly required. “I have passed,” says the preserving God, “many births. Although I am not in my nature subject to birth or decay, and am the lord of all created beings, yet having command over my own nature, I am made evident by my own power; and as often as there is a decline of virtue, and an insurrection of vice and injustice in the world, I make myself evident; and thus I appear from age to age, for the preservation of the just, the destruction of the wicked, and the establishment of virtue.”477 “Aty Sechen himself,” says another sacred book, “all knowing as he is, could not number the metamorphoses and different forms under which Vishnu has appeared for the salvation of the universe.”478 Such are the Hindu ideas of the manner in which the power of the Divine Being is exerted in the government of the universe.

Of these visible appearances or incarnations of the divinity, ten, known in the Hindu mythology under the name of avatars, are peculiarly distinguished. The first, which is denominated the avatar of the fish, is thus described.479 At the close of the last calpa, there was a general destruction, occasioned by the sleep of Brahma; his creatures in different worlds being drowned in a vast ocean. The strong demon Hagyagriva came near him and stole the Vedas, which had flowed from his lips. When the preserver of the universe discovered this deed, he took the shape of a minute fish, called sap’hari. A holy king named Satyavrata then reigned. One day, as he was making a libation in the river Critamala, the little fish said to him, How canst thou leave me in this river water, when I am too weak to resist the monsters of the stream who fill me with dread? Satyavrata placed it under his protection in a small vase full of water; but in a single night its bulk was so increased, that it could not be contained in the jar, and thus again addressed the prince: I am not pleased with living in this little vase; make me a large mansion where I may dwell in comfort. The king successively placed it in a cistern, in a pool, and in a lake, for each of which it speedily grew too large, and supplicated for a more spacious place of abode; after which he threw it into the sea, when the fish again addressed him: Here the horned sharks and other monsters of great strength will devour me; thou shouldest not, O valiant man, leave me in this ocean. Thus repeatedly deluded by the fish, who had addressed him with gentle words, the king said, Who art thou that beguilest me in that assumed shape. Never before have I seen or heard of so prodigious an inhabitant of the waters, who like thee has filled up, in a single day, a lake 100 leagues in circumference. Surely thou art the great God whose dwelling was on the waves. Salutation and praise to thee, O first male, the lord of creation, of preservation, of destruction! Thou art the highest object, O supreme ruler, of us thy adorers, who piously seek thee. All thy delusive descents in this world give existence to various beings; yet I am anxious to know for what cause that shape has been assumed by thee. The lord of the universe, loving the pious man, and intending to preserve him from the sea of destruction, caused by the depravity of the age, thus told him how he was to act: In seven days from the present time, O thou tamer of enemies, the three worlds will be plunged in an ocean of death; but in the midst of the destroying waves, a large vessel, sent by me for thy use, shall stand before thee. Then shalt thou take all medicinal herbs, all the variety of seeds; and, accompanied by seven saints, encircled by pairs of all brute animals, thou shalt enter the spacious ark, and continue in it secure from the flood on one immense ocean, without light except the radiance of thy companions. When the ship shall be agitated by an impetuous wind, thou shalt fasten it with a large sea serpent on my horn; for I will be near thee, drawing the vessel with thee and thy attendants. Thus instructed, the pious king waited humbly for the appointed time. The sea, overwhelming its shores, deluged the whole earth; and it was soon perceived to be augmented by showers from immense clouds. He, still meditating on the divine command, and conforming to the divine directions, entered the ship; when the god appeared again distinctly on the vast ocean in the form of a fish, blazing like gold, extending a million of leagues, with one stupendous horn, on which the king, as he had before been commanded, tied the ship with a cable made of a vast serpent. Afterwards the god, rising, together with Brahma, from the destructive deluge, which was abated, slew the demon Hagyagriva.

Such are the operations in the government of the universe which the religious ideas of the Hindus lead them to ascribe to the divine Being. The second appearance or avatar of the Preserver is of the same character, and suggested by similar views. Hirinacheren, a malignant and destructive giant, who delighted in afflicting the earth, at last rolled it up into a shapeless mass, and plunged down with it into the abyss. On this occasion there issued from the side of Brahma, a being shaped like a boar, white and exceedingly small, which in the space of one hour grew to the size of an elephant of the largest magnitude, and remained in the air. This being, Brahma discovered to be Vishnu, who had assumed a body and become visible. Suddenly it uttered a sound like the loudest thunder, and the echo reverberated, and shook all the corners of the universe. Shaking the full-flowing mane which hung down his neck on both sides, and erecting the humid hairs of his body, he proudly displayed his two most exceedingly white tusks: then rolling round his wine-coloured eyes, and erecting his tail, he descended from the region of the air, and plunged head foremost into the water. The whole body of water was convulsed by the motion, and began to rise in waves, while the guardian spirit of the sea, being terrified, began to tremble for his domain, and cry out for quarter and mercy. At length, the power of the omnipotent having divided the water, and arriving at the bottom, he saw the earth lying, a mighty and barren stratum; then he took up the ponderous globe (freed from the water) and raised it high on his tusk: one would say it was a beautiful lotos blossoming on the tip of his tusk. In a moment, with one leap, coming to the surface, by the all-directing power of the Omnipotent Creator, he spread it, like a carpet, on the face of the water, and then vanished from the sight of Brahma.480
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Re: The History of British India, Vol. I, by James Mill

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Of the third avatar we have so particular and remarkable a description, that it merits uncommon regard.481 The soors, a species of angels, and all the glorious host of heaven, sat on the summit of Mount Meru, a fictitious mountain, highly celebrated in the books of the Hindus, meditating the discovery of the Amreeta, that is, being translated, the water of immortality: when Narayan482 said unto Brahma, Let the ocean, as a pot of milk, be churned by the united labour of the soors and asoors; and when the mighty waters have been stirred up, the Amreeta shall be found. A great mountain, named Mandar, was the instrument with which the operation was to be performed; but the dews483 being unable to remove it, they had recourse to Vishnu and Brahma. By their direction, the king of the serpents lifted up that sovereign of mountains, with all its forests and inhabitants; and the soors and asoors having obtained permission of the king of the tortoises, it was placed for support on his back, in the midst of the ocean. Then the soors and asoors, using the serpent Vasookee for the rope, the asoors pulling by the head, and the soors by the tail, began to churn the ocean;484 while there issued from the mouth of the serpent, a continued stream of fire, and smoke, and wind; and the roaring of the ocean, violently agitated with the whirling of the mountain, was like the bellowing of a mighty cloud. Meanwhile a violent conflagration was raised on the mountain, by the concussion of its trees and other substances, and quenched by a shower which the lord of the firmament poured down; whence an heterogeneous stream of the concocted juices of various trees and plants, ran down into the briny flood. It was from this milk-like stream, produced from those juices, and a mixture of melted gold, that the soors obtained their immortality. The waters of the ocean being now assimilated with those juices, were converted into milk, and a species of butter was produced, when the churning powers became fatigued; but Narayan endued them with fresh strength, and they proceeded with great ardour to stir that butter of the ocean. First, arose from it the moon; next, Sree, the goddess of fortune; then the goddess of wine, and the white horse, Oochisrava; afterwards the jewel kowstoobh; the tree of plenty; and the cow that granted every heart's desire. Then the dew Dhanwantaree, in human shape, came forth, holding in his hand a white vessel filled with the immortal juice, amreeta; which, when the asoors beheld, they raised their tumultuous voices, and each of them clamorously exclaimed, This of right is mine! But as they continued to churn the ocean more than enough, a deadly poison issued from its bed, confounding the three regions of the world with its mortal stench, until Siva, at the word of Brahma, swallowed the fatal drug to save mankind. In the mean while a violent jealousy and hatred, on account of the amreeta, and the goddess Sree, sprung up in the bosoms of the asoors. But Narayan, assuming the form of a beautiful female, stood before them, whose minds becoming fascinated by her presence, and deprived of reason, they seized the amreeta and gave it unto her. But a dreadful battle arose between the soors and asoors, in which Narayan, quitting the female figure, assisted the soors. The elements and powers of nature were thrown into confusion by the conflict; but with the mighty aid of Narayan, and his weapon chacra, which of itself, unguided even by a hand, performed miraculous exploits, the soors obtained the victory, and the mountain Mandar was carried back to its former station. The soors guarded the amreeta with great care; and the god of the firmament, with all his immortal hands, gave the water of life unto Narayan, to keep it for their use. This was the third manifestation of the Almighty, in the preservation and government of the world.

The fourth I shall describe with greater brevity. Hirinacheren, the gigantic ruler, who rolled up the earth, and plunged with it to the bottom of the abyss, left a younger brother Hirinakassup, who succeeded him in his kingdom, and refused to do homage to Vishnu, but persecuted his own son, who was an ardent votary of that god. I, said he, am lord of all this visible world. The son replied, that Vishnu had no fixed abode, but was present every where. Is he, said his father, in that pillar? Then let him come forth; and rising from his seat, he struck the pillar with his foot; upon which Vishnu, bursting from it, with a body like a man, but a head like a lion, tore Hirinakassup in pieces, and placed his son upon the throne.485

In the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh avatars, the Preserving Power appeared in human shapes for the destruction of impious and ferocious kings, performing many heroic and many miraculous deeds. But, after the examples which have already been given, a particular description of these extravagant legends would poorly compensate the toil of a perusal. The eighth, however, is one of the most celebrated of all the incarnations of Vishnu. He was born the son of Vasudeva and Devaci, of the royal family of Cansa, and obtained the name of Crishna. But as it had been predicted to Cansa, that one born of those parents would occasion his destruction, whence he had decreed the death of all their children, Crishna was secretly withdrawn, and brought up in the family of a shepherd or herdsman. Many and wonderful were the transactions of his childhood, in which the wanton pranks of the mischievous, but amiable boy, are not less distinguished, than the miraculous exploits of the god. When he grew up to youth, the indulgence of licentious love was his great occupation and enjoyment. It is a small part of the picture which I can, or which I need, to expose to view. The scenes with the young shepherdesses are painted by the Hindus in all the glowing colours of oriental poetry. A passage from a hymn, or divine song, translated by Sir William Jones, is in the following words: “With a garland of wild flowers, descending even to the yellow mantle that girds his azure limbs, distinguished by smiling cheeks, and by earrings that sparkle as he plays, Heri486 exults in the assemblage of amorous damsels. One of them presses him with her swelling breast, while she warbles with exquisite melody. Another, affected by a glance from his eye, stands meditating on the lotos of his face. A third, on pretence of whispering a secret in his ear, approaches his temples and kisses them with ardour. One seizes his mantle, and draws him towards her, pointing to the bower on the banks of Yamuna, where elegant vanjulahs interweave their branches. He applauds another who dances in the sportive circle, whilst her bracelets ring, as she beats time with her palms. Now he caresses one, and kisses another, smiling on a third with complacency; and now he chases her whose beauty has most allured him. Thus the wanton Heri frolics, in the season of sweets, among the maids of Vraja, who rush to his embraces, as if he were pleasure itself assuming a human form; and one of them, under a pretext of hymning his divine perfections, whispers in his ear: Thy lips, my beloved, are nectar.”487 I shall select but another instance, which is from the translation before us of the Bhagavat. “Crishna, finding himself on the banks of the Yamuna,488 began to play on his pastoral flute. All the shepherdesses, filled with desire, ran in crowds to hear his enchanting sounds. Crishna, beholding them burning with desire, informed them, that it was contrary to the order established in the world, to quit their houses to seek the embraces of a lover. He added that their families might thus, if their husbands were jealous, be thrown into disorder, and disgrace come upon themselves. He advised them accordingly to return. The women replied, that their passion, it was true, were it for an ordinary man, would be criminal; but desiring to unite themselves with the absolute master of all things, they could not believe that such an impulse was any other than meritorious. In regard to their husbands, they could have no rights which tended to the exclusion of God. Crishna, who saw the innocence of their hearts, graciously gave them entire satisfaction; and by a miracle continually renewed, in all that multitude of women, each was convinced that she alone enjoyed the Deity, and that he never quitted her an instant for the embraces of another.”489 “Crishna,” says Sir William Jones, “continues to this hour the darling god of the Indian women. The sect of Hindus,” he adds, “who adore him with enthusiastic and almost exclusive devotion, have broached a doctrine which they maintain with eagerness, and which seems general in these provinces;490 that he was distinct from all the avatars, who had only a portion of his divinity; while Crishna was the person of Vishnu himself in a human form.”491 “At a more advanced age,” continues Sir William, “he put to death his cruel enemy, Cansa; and having taken under his protection the king Yudhisht’hir and the other Pandus, who had been grievously oppressed by the Curus, and their tyrannical chief, he kindled the war described in the great epic poem, entitled the Mahabharat, at the prosperous conclusion of which he returned to his heavenly seat in Vaicont’ha, having left the instructions comprised in the Gita with his disconsolate friend Arjoon.”492 He was afterwards slain, being wounded by an arrow in the foot.493

The ninth incarnation of Vishnu, and the last, yet vouchsafed, of the Divine appearances, was in the person of Buddha. The object of this avatar is described in the following verse of a Hindu poet: “Thou blamest, Oh wonderful, the whole Veda, when thou seest, O kind-hearted, the slaughter of cattle prescribed for sacrifice, O Cesava,494 assuming the body of Buddha. Be victorious, O Heri,495 lord of the universe!”496 But though Buddha is by the Hindus, regarded as a manifestation of the Divine Being, the sect of Buddhists are regarded as heretical, and are persecuted by the Brahmens. It is conjectured that, at one time, a great number of them had been compelled to fly from the country, and spread their tenets in various directions.497 The religion of Buddha is now found to prevail over the greater part of the East; in Ceylon, in the farther peninsula, in Thibet, in China, and even as far as Japan.498 “The tenth avatar,” says Sir William Jones, “we are told is yet to come, and is expected to appear mounted (like the crowned conqueror in the Apocalypse) on a white horse, with a cimeter blazing like a comet, to mow down all incorrigible and impenitent offenders who shall then be on earth.”499

It will require the addition of but a few passages more of this wild mythology, to convey a satisfactory idea of the actions and qualities which the Hindus ascribe to their supreme deities. “It is related,” says Mr. Wilford,500 “in the Scanda,501 that when the whole earth was covered with water, and Vishnu lay extended asleep in the bosom of Devi,502 a lotos arose from his navel. Brahma sprang from that flower, and looking round without seeing any creature on the boundless expanse, imagined himself to be the first-born, and entitled to rank above all future beings. Resolving, however, by investigation, more fully to satisfy himself, he glided down the stalk of the lotos, and finding Vishnu asleep, asked loudly who he was. I am the first-born, answered Vishnu, waking: and as Brahma contradicted him, they had an obstinate battle, till Mahadeva, or Siva, pressed between them in great wrath, saying, It is I who am truly the first-born: but I will resign my pretensions to either of you who shall be able to reach and behold the summit of my head, or the soles of my feet. Brahma instantly ascended; but having fatigued himself to no purpose in the regions of immensity, yet loth to abandon his claim, he returned to Mahadeva, and declared that he had attained the crown of his head, calling, as his witness, the first born cow. For this union of pride and falsehood, the angry god ordained, that no sacred rites should be performed to Brahma. When Vishnu returned, he acknowledged that he had not been able to see the feet of Mahadeva, confessed him to be the first-born among the gods, and entitled to rank above them all.”

After a passage such as this, who would expect to find the following? “The patriarch Atterien retired into a forest, and there performed rigorous devotion, having for his nourishment nothing but the wind, and being exposed to all the injuries of the atmosphere. One day he addressed his vows to the Eternal in these words: O thou who hast created, and who preservest the universe; O thou by whom it is destroyed; give me the knowledge of thyself, and grant me the vision of thee! Then a fire issuing from the crown of the votary's head, made all the gods tremble, and they had recourse to Vishnu, to Siva, and to Brahma. Those three divinities, completely armed and mounted, accompanied by Lacshmi, Guenga, and Seraswati, their wives, presented themselves before the saint. Prostrating himself, Atterien worshipped them, and uttered the following words: O you three Lords, know that I recognise only one God: inform me which of you is the true divinity, that I may address to him alone my vows and adorations! To this supplication the three Gods replied; Learn, O devotee, that there is no real distinction between us: what to you appears such is only by semblance: the Single Being appears under three forms; by the acts of creation, of preservation, and destruction: but he is One.”503 Yet this “Single” Being, this One God, is thus again represented, a few pages after, in the same Purana: “Even Brahma, finding himself alone with his daughter, who was full of charms and knowledge, conceived for her a criminal passion.”504 Thus are we taught by the Hindus themselves to interpret the lofty phrases which the spirit of exaggeration and flattery so frequently puts into their mouths.

Of the First-born, Mahadeva, or the One, Eternal God, under one of his forms, we have the following sacred story. He was playing one day at dice with Parvati,505 when they quarrelled, and parted in wrath to different regions. They severally performed rigid acts of devotion, but the fires which they kindled blazed so vehemently as to threaten a general conflagration. The devas,506 in great alarm, hastened to Brahma, who led them to Mahadeva, and supplicated him to recall his consort; but the wrathful deity only answered, that she must come by her own free choice. They accordingly dispatched Ganga, the river goddess, who prevailed on Parvati to return to him, on condition that his love for her should be restored. The celestial mediators then employed Camadeva,507 who wounded Siva with one of his flowery arrows; but the angry divinity reduced him to ashes with a flame from his eye. Parvati soon after presented herself before him in the form of a Cirati, or daughter of a mountaineer, and seeing him enamoured of her, resumed her own shape.508 Of the various passages of a similar nature presented to us in the history of this God, I shall content myself with another, extracted by Mr. Wilford from the Scanda Purana. “There had subsisted,” says he,509 “for a long time, some animosity between Brahma and Mahadeva in their mortal shapes; and the latter, on account of his bad conduct, which is fully described in the Puranas, had it appears given much uneasiness to Swayambhuva, and Satarupa. For he was libidinous, going about stark-naked, with a large club in his hand. Be this as it may, Mahadeva, who was the eldest, saw his claim as such totally disregarded, and Brahma set up in his room. This intrusion the latter wanted to support; but made use of such lies as provoked Mahadeva to such a point, that he cut off one of his heads in his divine form.” Such are the ideas which the Hindus entertain of the actions and character of their supreme deities; on whom, notwithstanding, they lavish all the most lofty epithets of divinity which human language can supply.

This theology affords a remarkable instance of that progress in exaggeration and flattery which I have described as the genius of rude religion. As the Hindus, instead of selecting one god, to whom they assigned all power in heaven and in earth, distributed the creation and administration of the universe among three divinities, they divided themselves into sects; and some attached themselves more particularly to one deity, some to another.510

Presently the usual consequence appeared. Whichever of the three gods any votary selected for his peculiar patron, he expected to perform to him one of the most agreeable of all possible services, by representing him as superior to the other two. This we find to have been the practice, invariably, and enthusiastically. In a passage from the Scanda Purana, one of the sacred books in honour of Siva, we have seen by what legends his votaries endeavour to elevate him above Brahma, and Vishnu; while he cuts off the head of the one for contesting with him the supremacy, and has it expressly yielded up to him by the other. It is not, however, sufficient that the favourite god should be only superior to the rest; whatever honour is derived from their actions, that too must be claimed for him; and he is asserted to be himself the author of all their achievements.

A still higher strain of flattery succeeds. Not only must he absorb their actions, it is accounted still nobler if he can be asserted to absorb even themselves; if Siva, for example, can be affirmed, not only to be Siva, and to be at once creator, preserver, and destroyer, but can be declared to be Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva themselves. Beyond even this, a step remains. In the same manner as he absorbs the gods, he is finally made to absorb every thing. He is asserted to be the universe itself. He is then all in all. We shall find this process pursued with the Hindu divinities, one after another. In another sacred book,511 dedicated to Siva, that god is made to declare, “I have always been, and I always am, and I always will be. There is no second of whom I can say that I am he, and that he is I. I am the within of all the withins. I am in all surfaces. Whatever is I am; and whatever is not I am. I am Brahma; and I am also Brahme; and I am the causing cause. Whatever is in the east I am; and whatever is in the west I am; and whatever is in the south I am; and whatever is in the north I am. Whatever is below I am; and whatever is above I am. I am man, and not man, and woman. I am the truth; I am the ox; and I am all other animated beings. I am more ancient than all. I am the king of kings. And I am in all the great qualities. I am the perfect being. Whatever has been, Rudra512 is; and whatever is he is; and whatever shall be he is. Rudra is life, and is death; and is the past, present, and future; and is all worlds.”513 But if the votaries of Siva, with exaggerating devotion, thus infinitely exalt him above all; the same, or, if possible, still greater honours, do the adorers of Vishnu lavish upon that divinity. “Let it not be thought,” says the Bhagavat, “that Vishnu is only one of the three divinities, or triple powers. Know that he is the principle of all. It is he who created the universe by his productive power; it is he who supports all by his preserving power; it is he, in fine, who destroys all by his destructive power. He creates under the form of Brahma, and destroys under that of Siva. The productive power is more excellent than the destructive, and the preserving more excellent than the productive. To the name of Vishnu, therefore, is attached the pre-eminence, since the title of preserver or saviour is peculiarly attributed to him.”514 In the Bhagvat-Geeta, Crishna is thus addressed; “O mighty being! who, greater than Brahma, art the prime creator! eternal god of gods! the world's mansion! thou art the incorruptible being distinct from all things transient! Thou art before all gods, and the supreme supporter of the universe! Thou knowest all things! By thee, O infinite form! the universe was spread abroad. Thou art Vayoo the god of winds, Agnee the god of fire, Varoon the god of oceans, Sasanka the moon, Prajapatee the god of nations! Reverence be unto thee before and behind, reverence be unto thee on all sides, O thou who art all in all! Infinite is thy power and thy glory! Thou includest all things, wherefore thou art all things.”515 In a Sanscrit inscription taken from a stone at Buddha Gaya, Buddha is thus addressed; “Reverence be unto thee, O god, in the form of the god of mercy; the lord of all things, the guardian of the universe. Thou art Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesa.516 Thou art lord of the universe! Thou art, under the proper form of all things, moveable and immoveable, the possessor of the whole!”517

Among the numerous expressions of panegyric and adoration which the Hindus apply to their divinities, none seem to have made a deeper impression upon some of the most intelligent of our English inquirers, than the epithet One. This has so far prevailed as to impress them with a belief that the Hindus had a refined conception of the unity of the Divine Nature. Yet it seems very clear that the use of such an epithet is but a natural link in that chain of unmeaning panegyric which distinguishes the religion of ignorant men. When one divinity has been made to engross the powers of all the rest, it is the necessary termination of this piece of flattery, to denominate him The One. Oriental scholars ought moreover to have reflected that one is an epithet of very common, and vague application in the languages of Asia; and is by no means a foundation whereon to infer among the Hindus any conception analogous to that which we denote by the term unity of God. The translation of the Institutes of Menu affords us a very satisfactory example; “Then only is a man perfect when he consists of three persons united, his wife, himself, and his son; and thus have learned Brahmens announced this—the husband is even One with his wife.”518 Yet surely no unity of being was supposed in this triune person, a man, his wife, and his son. Ad, we are informed by Macrobius, was among the Assyrians a word which signified one, and was a name conferred by them upon their chief divinity.519 The Babylonians applied it to their principal goddess.520 The god Rimmon, as we learn from the Bible, had the same epithet.521 Mr. Bryant says it was a sacred title among all the Eastern nations, and originally conferred upon the sun.522 Even the Greek poets, who have never been suspected of refined notions of the unity of God, employ it to profusion. It is applied to Jupiter, to Pluto, to the sun, to Dionysius.523 All the gods are affirmed to be one.524 “One power,” says the Orphic poetry, “one divinity, Jupiter is the great ruler of all.”525 Plutarch informs us that Apollo was frequently denominated the monad, or the Only One;526 and from the emperor Julian we learn, that the people of Edessa had a god whom they called Monimus, a word of the same interpretation.527 Few nations shall we find without a knowledge of the unity of the Divine Nature, if we take such expressions of it as abound in the Hindu writings for satisfactory evidence. By this token Mr. Park found it among the savages of Africa.528

In pursuance of the same persuasion, ingenious authors have laid hold of the term Brahme, or Brahm, the neuter of Brahma, the masculine name of the creator.529 This they have represented as the peculiar appellation of the one god; Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, being only names of the particular modes of divine action. But this supposition (for it is nothing more) involves the most enormous inconsistency; as if the Hindus possessed refined notions of the unity of God, and could yet conceive his modes of action to be truly set forth in the characters of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva; as if the same people could at once be so enlightened as to form a sublime conception of the Divine nature, and yet so stupid as to make a distinction between the character of God and his modes of action. The parts of the Hindu writings, however, which are already before us, completely refute this gratuitous notion, and prove that Brahme is a mere unmeaning epithet of praise, applied to various gods; and no more indicative of refined notions of the unity, or any perfection of the Divine Nature, than other parts of their panegyrical devotions. We have already beheld Siva decorated with this title.530 Vishnu is denominated the supreme Brahme in the Bhagvat-Geeta.531 Nay, we find this Brahme, the great, the eternal One, the supreme soul, employed in rather a subordinate capacity. “The Great Brahm,” says Chrishna, “is my womb. In it I place my fœtus; and from it is the production of all nature. The great Brahm is the womb of all those various forms which are conceived in every natural womb, and I am the father who soweth the seed.”532 In one of the morning prayers of the Brahmens, cited from the Vedas by Mr. Colebrooke, water is denominated Brahme.533 “The sun,” says Yajnyawalcya, “is Brahme; this is a certain truth revealed in the sacred Upanishats, and in various sac’has of the Vedas. So the Bhawishya Purana, speaking of the sun: Because there is none greater than he, nor has been nor will be, therefore he is celebrated as the supreme soul in all the Vedas.”534 Air, too, receives the appellation of Brahme. Thus, says a passage in the Veda; “That which moves in the atmosphere is air, Brahme.535 Thus again; “Salutation unto thee, O air! Even thou art Brahme, present to our apprehension. Thee I will call, ‘present Brahme:’ thee I will name, ‘the right one:’ thee I will pronounce, ‘the true one.’ May that Brahme, the universal being entitled air, preserve me.”536 Food too is denominated Brahme; so is breath, and intellect, and felicity.537 Nay, it is affirmed, as part of the Hindu belief, that man himself may become Brahme; thus in the Bhagvat-Geeta Crishna declares: “A man being endowed with a purified understanding, having humbled his spirit by resolution, and abandoned the objects of the organs; who hath freed himself from passion and dislike, who worshippeth with discrimination, eateth with moderation, and is humble of speech, of body, and of mind; who preferreth the devotion of meditation, and who constantly placeth his confidence in dispassion; who is freed from ostentation, tyrannic strength, vain glory, lust, anger, and avarice; and who is exempt from selfishness, and in all things temperate, is formed for being Brahm.”538

Such are the proofs on which the opinion has been adopted that sublime principles run through the religion of the Brahmens.539 I know no supposition which can be employed to reconcile the inconsistencies, and to remove the absurdities, which we have found this opinion to involve, unless it be assumed that the legends of the Hindus are all allegorical; and though, in their literal interpretation, they may be altogether unworthy of a perfect being, that yet a recondite and enigmatical meaning may be extorted from them, which will tally with the sublime hypothesis it is wished to entertain. Undoubtedly, if we assume to ourselves the licence of giving to the Hindu mythology a meaning to suit our own views, we may form out of it not only a sublime theology, but a sublime philosophy, or any thing we please. It might, however, have been imagined that the futility, the absurdity, of these arbitrary interpretations had been too well exposed to allow them to mislead such men as some of the advocates for the allegorical sense of the Hindu scriptures. The latter Platonists, and other refiners upon the mythology of Greece and Rome, drew from it a pure system of theology, by the very same process which is adopted and recommended in regard to the fables of the Hindus. “Without a tedious detail,” says Mr. Gibbon, “the modern reader could not form a just idea of the strange allusions, the forced etymologies, the solemn trifling, and the impenetrable obscurity of these sages, who professed to reveal the system of the universe. As the traditions of Pagan mythology were variously related, the sacred interpreters were at liberty to select the most convenient circumstances; and as they translated an arbitrary cipher, they could extract from any fable any sense which was adapted to their favourite system of religion and philosophy. The lascivious form of a naked Venus was tortured into the discovery of some moral precept, or some physical truth; and the castration of Atys explained the revolution of the sun between the tropics, or the separation of the human soul from vice and error.”540 But if a condemnation thus severe can be justly pronounced upon those who allegorize the Greek and Roman mythology, what judgment should be formed of those by whom the same mode of interpretation is applied to the fables of the Hindus?541 The Egyptian religion is allowed on all hands to have possessed the same fundamental principles with the Hindu, and to have resembled it remarkably in its outward features: yet, of all the systems of superstition which were found within the Roman empire, Mr. Gibbon pronounces this to be “the most contemptible and abject.”542 There are satisfactory reasons for supposing that improvement in the language of the Brahmens, and refinement in the interpretations which they put upon their ancient writings, not to speak of what may have been done by their favourite practice of interpolation, have been suggested by the more rational and simple doctrines of Mahomet.543 The natural effect of acquaintance with a better creed is well described by Mr. Bryant. “It is to be observed,” he says, “that when Christianity had introduced a more rational system, as well as a more refined worship, among mankind; the Pagans were struck with the sublimity of its doctrines, and tried in their turns to refine. But their misfortune was, that they were obliged to abide by the theology which had been transmitted to them; and to make the history of the Gentile Gods the basis of their procedure. This brought them into immense difficulties and equal absurdities: while they laboured to solve what was inexplicable; and to remedy what was past cure. Hence we meet with many dull and elaborate sophisms even in the great Plutarch: but many more in after times, among the writers of whom I am speaking. Proclus is continually ringing the changes upon the terms νοος, νοερος, and νοητος; and explains what is really a proper name, as if it signified sense and intellect. In consequence of this, he tries to subtilize and refine all the base jargon about Saturn and Zeus: and would persuade us that the most idle and obscene legends related to the divine mind, to the eternal wisdom, and supremacy of the Deity. Thus he borrows many exalted notions from Christianity: and blends them with the basest alloy, with the dregs of Pagan mythology.”544 Such are the opinions of the greatest men respecting those attempts to allegorize a rude superstition, which some of the most celebrated of our Indian guides so vehemently recommend.545

Of the pure and elevated ideas of the Divine Nature, which are ascribed to the Hindus, or to any other people, an accurate judgment may be formed, by ascertaining the source from which they are derived. It will be allowed that just and rational views of God can be obtained from two sources alone: from revelation; or, where that is wanting, from sound reflection upon the frame and government of the universe. Wherever men are sufficiently improved to take a comprehensive survey of this magnificent system, to observe the order which prevails, the adaptation of means to ends, and the incredible train of effects which flow from the simplest causes; they may then form exalted notions of the intelligence to which all those wonders are ascribed. If all the unrevealed knowledge which we possess respecting God, the immediate object of none of our senses, be derived from his works, they whose ideas of the works are in the highest degree absurd, mean, and degrading, cannot, whatever may be the language which they employ, have elevated ideas of the author of those works. It is impossible for the stream to ascend higher than the fountain. The only question therefore is, what are the ideas which the Hindus have reached concerning the wisdom and beauty of the universe. To this the answer is clear and incontrovertible. No people, how rude and ignorant soever, who have been so far advanced as to leave us memorials of their thoughts in writing, have ever drawn a more gross and disgusting picture of the universe than what is presented in the writings of the Hindus.546 In the conception of it no coherence, wisdom, or beauty, ever appears: all is disorder, caprice, passion, contest, portents, prodigies, violence, and deformity.547 It is perfectly evident that the Hindus never contemplated the universe as a connected and perfect system, governed by general laws, and directed to benevolent ends; and it follows, as a necessary consequence, that their religion is no other than that primary worship, which is addressed to the designing and invisible beings who preside over the powers of nature, according to their own arbitrary will, and act only for some private and selfish gratification. The elevated language, which this species of worship finally assumes, is only the refinement, which flattery, founded upon a base apprehension of the divine character, ingrafts upon a mean superstition.548

If it be deemed necessary to inquire into the principle of the Hindu superstition; or which of the powers of nature, personified into gods, they exalted in the progress of hyperbolical adoration to the supremacy over the rest, and the lordship of all things; the question is resolved by copious evidence; and on this point inquirers generally coincide. Sir William Jones has written a discourse to prove that the gods of Greece, Italy, and India are the same. But it is sufficiently proved that the Greek and Roman deities ultimately resolve themselves into the sun, whose powers and provinces had been gradually enlarged, till they included those of all nature. It follows that the sun too is the principle of the Hindu religion. “We must not be surprised,” says Sir William Jones, “at finding on a close examination, that the characters of all the Pagan deities, male and female, melt into each other, and at last into one or two; for it seems a well-founded opinion, that the whole crowd of gods and goddesses, in ancient Rome and modern Varanes, mean only the powers of nature, and principally those of the sun, expressed in a variety of ways, and by a multitude of fanciful names.”549 He says too, that “the three Powers Creative, Preservative, and Destructive, which the Hindus express by the triliteral word Aum, were grossly ascribed by the first idolators to the heat, light, and flame of their mistaken divinity the sun.”550 Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, were therefore, the heat, light, and flame of the sun; and it follows as a very clear deduction, that Brahme, whose powers were shadowed forth in the characters of those three gods, was the sun himself. This conclusion, too, is established by many express texts of the Hindu scriptures, as well as by the most venerated part of the Hindu ritual. “The syllable Om (Aum) intends,” says a passage from the Veda translated by Mr. Colebrooke, “every deity: It belongs to Paramesht’hi, him who dwells in the supreme abode: it appertains to Brahme, the vast one; to Deva, god; to Adhyatma, the superintending soul. Other deities belonging to those several regions, are portions of the three gods; for they are variously named and described, on account of their different operations: but in fact there is only one deity, THE GREAT SOUL. He is called the Sun; for he is the soul of all beings. Other deities are portions of him.”551 I have already quoted a very remarkable passage from Yajnyawalcya, one of the highest of all authorities, in which the sun is directly asserted to be Brahme, and to be the supreme soul, as is declared in all the Vedas.552 Another passage translated from a Veda by Mr. Colebrooke says; “Fire is That Original Cause, the Sun is that; such too is that pure Brahme. Even he is the god who pervades all regions; he, prior to whom nothing was born; and who became all beings, himself the lord of creatures.”553 A passage in the Veda, translated by Sir William Jones, says, “That Sun, than which nothing is higher, to which nothing is equal, enlightens the sky, the earth, the lower worlds, the higher worlds, other worlds, enlightens the breast, enlightens all besides the breast.”554 In the Bhawishya, Purana, Crishna himself says; “The sun is the god of perception, the eye of the universe, the cause of day; there is none greater than he among the immortal powers. From him this universe proceeded, and in him it will reach annihilation; he is time measured by instants.” I shall add but one instance more. There is a passage in the Vedas, which is regarded by the Hindus with unspeakable veneration. It has a distinctive appellation. It is called the Gayatri; and is used upon the mightiest occasions of religion. It is denominated the holiest text in the Vedas. This extraordinary, this most sacred, most wonderful text, is thus translated by Sir William Jones; “Let us adore the supremacy of that divine Sun, the godhead, who illuminates all, who re-creates all, from whom all proceed, to whom all must return, whom we invoke to direct our understandings aright in our progress towards his holy seat.”555 Another version of it, and somewhat different in its phraseology, is given by Mr. Colebrooke, in his account of the first of the Vedas: “I subjoin,” says he, “a translation of the prayer which contains it, as also of the preceding one, (both of which are addressed to the sun) for the sake of exhibiting the Indian priests’ confession of faith with its context:—’This new and excellent praise of thee, O splendid, playful Sun! is offered by us to thee. Be gratified by this my speech: approach this craving mind as a fond man seeks a woman. May that sun who contemplates and looks into all worlds be our protector!—Let us Meditate on The Adorable Light of The Divine Ruler; MAY IT GUIDE OUR INTELLECTS!556 Desirous of food, we solicit the gift of the splendid Sun, who should be studiously worshipped. Venerable men, guided by the understanding, salute the divine Sun with oblations and praise.”557 Constrained by these and similar passages, Mr. Colebrooke says; “The ancient Hindu religion, as founded on the Indian scriptures, recognizes but one God, yet not sufficiently discriminating the creature from the Creator.”558 This is an important admission, from one of the most illustrious advocates of the sublimity of the Hindu religion. Had he reflected for one moment, he would have seen that between not sufficiently, and not-at-all, in this case, there can be no distinction.559
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Re: The History of British India, Vol. I, by James Mill

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Part 3 of 3

In the natural progress of religion, it very frequently happens, that the spirit of adulation and hyperbole exalts admired or powerful individuals to the rank of gods. The name of the sun, or of some other divinity, is bestowed as a title, or as an epithet of inflated praise, upon a great prince, or conqueror.560 Immediately the exploits of the hero are blended with the functions of the god; and, in process of time, when the origin of the combination is forgotten, they form a compound mass of inextricable and inconsistent mythology. Mr. Colebrooke is of opinion, that in the Vedas the elements and the planets alone are deified; that the worship of heroes was introduced among the Hindus at a later period; and makes a remarkable figure in the Puranas.561

Among the false refinements to which the spirit of a rude religion gives birth, it is worthy of particular remark, that abstract terms are personified, and made to assume the character of gods: such as, Health and Sickness; War and Peace; Plenty, Famine, Pestilence. When the most general abstractions too begin to be formed, as of space, of time, of fate, of nature, they are apt to fill the mind with a kind of awe and wonder; and appear to stretch beyond all things. They are either, therefore, apprehended as new gods, and celebrated as antecedent, and superior, to all the old; or if any of the old have taken a firm possession of the mind, they are exalted to the new dignity, and receive the name of the abstract idea which most forcibly engages the attention. Thus, among the Greeks and the Romans, Fate usurped a power over all the gods. The Parsee books represent Ormusd and Ahriman, the Good Principle and the Evil Principle, sometimes as independent beings; sometimes as owing their existence to something above them; in a manner extremely resembling the language of the Sanscrit books respecting Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. At times, however, the Persians express themselves more precisely. “In the law of Zoroaster,” says one of their sacred books, “it is positively declared that God [Ormusd] was created by Time along with all other beings; and the creator is Time; and Time has no limits; it has nothing above it; it has no root; it has always been, and always will be. No one who has understanding will ever say, Whence did Time come? In that grandeur wherein Time was, there was no being who could call it creator, because it had not yet created. Afterwards it created fire and water, and from their combination proceeded Ormusd. Time was the creator, and preserved its authority over the creatures which it had produced.∗ ∗ ∗ I said in the beginning that Ormusd and Ahriman came both from Time.”562 The Brahmens, on the other hand, rather appear to have advanced the dignity of the acknowledged divinities so far as to make it embrace the extent of the abstract ideas; and to have regarded them as the abstract ideas themselves. Thus Mr. Wilkins supposes, that Brahme represents nature; Brahma, matter; Vishnu, space; Siva, time. But this is a refinement which is very sparingly, if at all, introduced in any writings of the Brahmens, which have yet been laid open to European eyes. Direct contradictions of it, though plentifully diffused, are no proof that it is not at all a Hindu doctrine. Thus Chrishna, in the Geeta, says, “I am never failing Time, the Preserver, whose face is turned on all sides;”563 a point of view in which it well agrees with the peculiar attributes of Vishnu. But in the very same discourse, Chrishna says again, “I am Time, the destroyer of mankind,”564 in which case it agrees only with the character of Siva. But it is still more remarkable that Brahma is said to have “given being to time, and the divisions of time;”565 and that space is said to have been produced from the ear of the first victim immolated by the gods.566 Nay, there are passages in which the Hindus acknowledge a destiny or fate which over-rules the Supreme Beings themselves. “The future condition of great beings is destined with certainty, both the nakedness of Mahadeva, and the bed of Vishnu, on a vast serpent. What is not to be, that will not be; and if an event be predoomed, it cannot happen otherwise.”567

When the exaggerations of flattery are in this manner engrafted upon the original deification of the elements and powers of nature; and when the worship of heroes and of abstract ideas is incorporated with the whole; then is produced that heterogeneous and monstrous compound which has formed the religious creed of so great a portion of the human race; but composes a more stupendous mass in Hindustan than any other country; because in Hindustan a greater and more powerful section of the people, than in any other country, have, during a long series of ages, been solely occupied in adding to its volume, and augmenting its influence.568

So little do men regard incoherence of thought; so little are they accustomed to trace the relations of one set of opinions to another, and to form on any subject a consistent and harmonious combination of ideas, that while many persons of eminence loudly contend for the correctness and sublimity of the speculative, there is an universal agreement respecting the meanness, the absurdity, the folly, of the endless ceremonies, in which the practical part of the Hindu religion consists. For the illustration of this part of the subject, I shall content myself with a reference to the documents in the appendix.569 Volumes would hardly suffice to depict at large a ritual which is more tedious, minute, and burthensome; and engrosses a greater portion of human life, than any which has been found to fetter and oppress any other portion of the human race.

No circumstance connected with a religious system more decidedly pronounces on its character, than the ideas which it inculcates respecting merit and demerit, purity and impurity, innocence and guilt. If those qualities which render a man amiable, respectable, and useful; if wisdom, beneficence, self-command, are celebrated as the chief recommendation to the favour of the Almighty; if the production of happiness is steadily and consistently represented as the most acceptable worship of the Creator; no other proof is requisite, that they who framed, and they who understand this religion, have arrived at high and refined notions of an All-perfect being. But where, with no more attention to morality, than the exigencies and laws of human nature force upon the attention of the rudest tribes, the sacred duties are made to consist in frivolous observances, there, we may be assured, the religious ideas of the people are barbarous. The train of thought which tends to this conclusion is extremely similar to that which gives birth to other deformities in the religious system of ignorant minds. From the imbecilities which usually accompany exalted station, it is found, even when society is considerably improved, that assiduous attendance upon the person of the great man or prince, and unwearied contrivances for the expression of devotion and respect, are the path which leads the most surely to his attention and favour.570 To the rude mind, no other rule suggests itself for paying court to the Divine, than that for paying court to the Human Majesty; and as among a barbarous people, the forms of address, of respect, and compliment, are generally multiplied into a great variety of grotesque and frivolous ceremonies, so it happens with regard to their religious service. An endless succession of observances, in compliment to the god, is supposed to afford him the most exquisite delight; while the common discharge of the beneficent duties of life is regarded as an object of comparative indifference. It is unnecessary to cite instances in support of a representation, of which the whole history of the religion of most nations is a continual proof.

Even those inquirers who have been least aware of the grossness of the Hindu religion, have seen that wretched ceremonies constituted almost the whole of its practical part. The precepts, which are lavished upon its ceremonies, bury, in their exorbitant mass, the pittance bestowed upon all other duties taken together. On all occasions ceremonies meet the attention as the pre-eminent duties of the Hindu. The holiest man is always he, by whom the ceremonies of his religion are most strictly performed. Never among any other people did the ceremonial part of religion prevail over the moral to a greater, probably to an equal extent. Of the many rules of conduct prescribed to the householder, almost the whole concern religious observances.571 Beside the general strain of the holy text, many positive declarations ascribe infinite superiority to rites and ceremonies, above morality. “Devotion,” says Menu, “is equal to the performance of all duties; it is divine knowledge in a Brahmen; it is defence of the people in a Cshatriya; devotion is the business of trade and agriculture in a Vaisya; devotion is dutiful service in a Sudra. By reading each day as much as possible of the Veda, by performing the five great sacraments, and by forgiving all injuries, even sins of the highest degree shall soon be effaced.”572 In the following list of conditions, a small space is allotted to useful virtue. “By injuring nothing animated, by subduing all sensual appetites, by devout rites ordained in the Veda, and by rigorous mortifications, men obtain, even in this life, the state of beatitude.”573 “It is through sacrifices,” says the Calica Purana, “that princes obtain bliss, heaven, and victory over their enemies.”574

In conceiving the honours with which the divine powers should be treated, it is supposed that there are certain qualities with which it is holy or unholy to approach them. As there are certain pollutions with which it would be held disrespectful to approach an earthly superior, the same sentiment, as usual, is transferred to the heavens; and the notion of a religious impurity is engendered. This is a circumstance of considerable importance. By the nature of the particulars, to which the belief of religious purity and impurity is attached, a criterion is afforded of the mental qualities which the Divine Being is supposed to possess. The causes of impurity among the Brahmens are exceedingly numerous; that they are proportionally strange, a few instances will evince. “When a child has teethed,” says the law of Menu, “and when, after teething, his head has been shorn, and when he has been girt with his thread, and when, being full grown, he dies, all his kindred are impure: on the birth of a child, the law is the same.”575 Among a variety of other instances it is declared, that he who has touched a Chandala, a woman in her courses, an outcast, a new-born child, a corpse, or one who has touched a corpse, is impure. A Brahmen who has touched a human bone is impure.576 The rules of purification, which form a remarkable part of this subject, are not less exorbitant in their number, or extravagant in their forms. On the death of a kinsman, the modes of purification are various, according to various cases: one, which we may select as an example, is prescribed in the following words: “Let them eat vegetable food without factitious (that is, only with native) salt; let them bathe for three days at intervals; let them taste no flesh-meat; and let them sleep apart on the ground.”577 “Should a Brahmen touch a human bone moist with oil, he is purified by bathing; if it be not oily, by stroking a cow, or by looking at the sun, having sprinkled his mouth with water.”578 All those functions of the body, by which its offensive discharges are effected, or its vital powers communicated, Chap. 6. afford occasion for the ceremonies of purification.579 “Oily exudations,” says the law of Menu, “seminal fluids, blood, dandruff, urine, feces, earwax, nail-parings, phlegm, tears, concretions on the eyes, and sweat, are the twelve impurities of the human frame, and for cleansing these earth and water must be used.”580 “He who carries in any manner an inanimate burthen, and is touched by any thing impure, is cleansed by making an ablution, without laying his burden down.”581 “He who has been bitten by a dog, a shakal, or an ass, by any carnivorous animal frequenting a town, by a man, a horse, a camel, or a boar, may be purified by stopping his breath during one repetition of the gayatri.”582 After the rules for the purification of living bodies, follow precepts for the purification of things inanimate. For each of a great many species, a separate mode is prescribed. Land, for example, is cleansed, by sweeping, by smearing with cow-dung, by sprinkling with cow's urine, by scraping, or by letting a Chap. 6.cow pass a day and a night on it.583 “The purification ordained for all sorts of liquids, is by stirring them with cusa grass; for cloths folded, by sprinkling them with hallowed water; for wooden utensils, by planing them. The purification by sprinkling is ordained for grain and cloths in large quantities; but to purify them in small parcels, such as a man may easily carry, they must be washed.”584 These instances, selected merely as a small specimen of a great whole, will suffice to show what moral ideas are conveyed and inculcated in the notions of purity and impurity comprised in the religion of the Hindus.

As the purifications, so likewise the penances, prescribed by the various systems of religion, afford a remarkable indication of the qualities really ascribed to the object of worship. All penance consists in suffering. In the same degree in which the object of worship is supposed to be delighted with penance, in the same degree he is delighted with human suffering; and so far as he delights in suffering, for its own sake, so far he is a malignant being; whatever epithets, in the spirit of flattery, his votaries may confer upon him. It is natural to a rude and ignorant mind to regard the object of its worship as malignant. Things appear great or little by comparison. Amid the incessant efforts which are made to ascend another step in adulation, after all the epithets of greatness and honour are lavished upon the god, to make his greatness and honour still higher, by contrast, every epithet of meanness and contempt is heaped by the worshipper upon himself and his kind. The same is the case with his happiness; which will appear the greater, the higher it is raised above that of other beings; of course, the deeper the misery of other beings. Hence it is, that the prayers and praises, addressed to the deity by rude nations, abound with the most hyperbolical expressions of human misery as well as human depravity; that, in the religion of rude minds, pleasure in general bears a strong mark of reprobation, and the voluntary creation of pain is the strongest of all recommendations to him on whom the issues of life depend. In the language of the Greeks and Romans, the gods were envious of human happiness;585 just as the proud and haughty mind of the earthly despot, the archetype and model according to which, in certain stages of knowledge, the idea of the heavenly is regularly formed, likes not that the happiness of other people should approach to that of himself, and reaps a pleasure from their pain, both as enhancing the idea of his own happiness, and lessening the sense of his misery.586 “A sin, involuntarily committed,” says the sacred text of Menu, “is removed by repeating certain texts of the scripture, but a sin committed intentionally, by harsh penances of different sorts.”587 The following account of the reason for performing penances, has the effect of exposing to religious antipathy all those persons who are affected with a bodily infirmity. “Some evil-minded persons,” says the same sacred volume, “for sins committed in this life, and some for bad actions in a preceding state, suffer a morbid change in their bodies: a stealer of gold from a Brahmen has whitlows on his nails; a drinker of spirits, black teeth; the slayer of a Brahmen, a marasmus; the violator of his preceptor's bed, a deformity in the generative organs; a malignant informer, fetid ulcers in his nostrils; a false detractor, stinking breath; a stealer of grain, the defect of some limb; a mixer of bad wares with good, some redundant member; a stealer of dressed grain, dyspepsia; a stealer of holy words, or an unauthorised reader of the scriptures, dumbness; a stealer of clothes, leprosy; a horse-stealer, lameness; the stealer of a lamp, total blindness; the mischievous extinguisher of it, blindness in one eye; a delighter in hurting sentient creatures, perpetual illness; an adulterer, windy swelling in his limbs: Thus, according to the diversity of actions, are born men despised by the good, stupid, dumb, blind, deaf, and deformed: Penance, therefore, must invariably be performed for the sake of expiation, since they who have not expiated their sins, will again spring to birth with disgraceful marks.”588 “Any twice-born man, who has drunk spirit of rice through perverse delusion of mind, may drink more spirit in flame, and atone for his offence by severely burning his body; or he may drink boiling hot, until he die, the urine of a cow, or pure water, or milk, or clarified butter, or juice expressed from cow-dung.”589 A curious reason is assigned for the heinous guilt assigned to the drinking of intoxicating liquors by a Brahmen; Because, “stupified by drunkenness, he might fall on something very impure, or might even, when intoxicated, pronounce a secret phrase of the Veda, or might do some other act which ought not to be done.”590 If a Brahmen kill by design a cat, or an ichneumon, the bird chasha, or a frog, a dog, a lizard, an owl, or a crow, he must perform the ordinary penance required for the death of a Sudra;”591 as if the crime of killing a man were the same with that of killing a frog. “Should one of the twice-born eat the food of those persons with whom he ought never to eat, or food left by a woman, or a Sudra, or any prohibited flesh, he must drink barley gruel only for seven days and nights.”592 “Having taken goods of little value from the house of another man, he must procure absolution by performing the penance santapana, or by eating for a whole day the dung and urine of cows mixed with curds, milk, clarified butter, and water boiled with cusa grass, and then fasting entirely for a day and a night.”593 The penances for venereal sin, and the description of its various species, are unfit to be transcribed.594 Something might be said for penances, if they were attached solely to moral offences, and proportioned in painfulness to the motives to offend; because the efficacy of the punishment which is reserved to a subsequent life is commonly annihilated by remoteness. How much of this useful character belongs to the penances of the Hindus, a few passages will disclose. “He, who has officiated at a sacrifice for outcasts, or burned the corpse of a stranger, or performed rites to destroy the innocent,” (a strange association of crimes) “may expiate his guilt by three prajapatya penances.”595 “A total fast for twelve days and nights, by a penitent with his organs controlled, and his mind attentive, is the penance named paraca, which expiates all degrees of guilt.”596 He who for a whole month eats no more than thrice eighty mouthfuls of wild grains, as he happens by any means to meet with them, keeping his organs in subjection, shall attain the same abode with the regent of the moon.”597 “Sixteen suppressions of the breath, while the holiest of texts is repeated with the three mighty words, and the triliteral syllable, continued each day for a month, absolve even the slayer of a Brahman from his hidden faults.”598 “A priest who should retain in his memory the whole Rigveda would be absolved from guilt, even if he had slain the inhabitants of the three worlds, and had eaten food from the foulest hands.”599 To such a degree are fantastic ceremonies exalted above moral duties; and so easily may the greatest crimes be compensated, by the merit of ritual, and unmeaning services.600

But the excess to which religion depraves the moral sentiments of the Hindus is most remarkably exemplified in the supreme, the ineffable merit which they ascribe to the saint who makes penance his trade.

Repairing to a forest, with no other utensils or effects, than those necessary in making oblations to consecrated fire: and leaving all property, and all worldly duties behind him, he is there directed to live on pure food, on certain herbs, roots, and fruit, which he may collect in the forest, to wear a black antelope's hide, or a vesture of bark, and to suffer the hairs of his head, his beard, and his nails to grow continually. He is commanded to entertain those who may visit his hermitage with such food as he himself may use, to perform the five great sacraments, to be constantly engaged in reading the Veda; patient of all extremities, universally benevolent, with a mind intent on the Supreme Being; a perpetual giver, but no receiver of gifts; with tender affection for all animated bodies. “Let him not eat the produce of ploughed land, though abandoned by any man, nor fruits and roots produced in a town, even though hunger oppress him.———Either let him break hard fruits with a stone, or let his teeth serve as a pestle.—Let him slide backwards and forwards on the ground; or let him stand a whole day on tiptoe; or let him continue in motion rising and sitting alternately; but at sunrise, at noon, and at sunset, let him go to the waters, and bathe. In the hot season let him sit exposed to five fires, four blazing around him with the sun above; in the rains let him stand uncovered, without even a mantle, where the clouds pour the heaviest showers; in the cold season, let him wear humid vesture; and enduring harsher and harsher mortifications, let him dry up his bodily frame. Let him live without external fire, without a mansion, wholly silent, feeding on roots and fruit, sleeping on the bare earth, dwelling at the roots of trees. From devout Brahmens let him receive alms to support life, or from other housekeepers of twice-born classes, who dwell in the forest. Or, if he has any incurable disease, let him advance in a straight path, towards the invincible north eastern point, feeding on water and air, till his mortal frame totally decay, and his soul become united with the Supreme.”601

In conformity with these principles are formed those professors of mortification and piety, who are known under the modern name of Fakeers, and presented to Europeans a spectacle which so greatly surprised them. Of all the phenomena of human nature, none appears at first view more extraordinary than the self-inflicted torment of the holy saints of Hindustan. Some of them keep their hands closed till they are pierced through by the growth of the nails. Others hold them above their heads, till the power of the arms is extinguished. They make vows to remain in the standing posture for years. Three men were seen by Fryer, whose vow extended to sixteen years. One of them had completed his dreadful penance; of the rest, one had passed five years in torment, the other three. Their legs were prodigiously swelled, and deeply ulcerated; and became at last too weak to support their bodies, when they leaned on a pillow suspended from a tree. Others, turning their heads to gaze at the heaven over their shoulder, remain fixed in that posture, till the head can no longer be restored to its natural position, and no aliment, except in the liquid state, can pass down their throats.

The ceremony, commanded by Menu, “of sitting, in the hot season between five fires,” cannot be conceived without horror. A yogee, or penitent, actually seen by Fryer, had resolved to undergo this penance for forty days, at a public festival, where an immense concourse of spectators were assembled. Early on the morning, after having seated himself on a quadrangular stage he fell prostrate, and continued fervent in his devotions, till the sun began to have considerable power. He then rose, and stood on one leg, gazing stedfastly at thesun, while fires, each large enough, says the traveller, to roast an ox, were kindled at the four corners of the stage, the penitent counting his beads, and occasionally, with his pot of incense, throwing combustible materials into the fire to increase the flames. He next bowed himself down in the centre of the four fires, keeping his eyes still fixed upon the sun. Afterwards, placing himself upright on his head, with his feet elevated in the air, he stood for the extraordinary space of three hours, in that inverted position; he then seated himself with his legs across, and thus remained sustaining the raging heat of the sun and of the fires till the end of the day. Other penitents bury themselves up to the neck in the ground, or even wholly below it, leaving only a little hole through which they may breathe. They tear themselves with whips; they repose on beds of iron spikes;602 they chain themselves for life to the foot of a tree: the wild imagination of the race appears in short to have been racked to devise a sufficient variety of fantastic modes of tormenting themselves. The extent to which they carry the penance of fasting is almost incredible. They fix their eyes on the blazzing sun till the power of vision is extinguished.603 The following description, in the drama entitled Sacontala, how much soever partaking of the hyperbolical character of oriental poetry, conveys a most remarkable image of the length of time, the patience, and steadiness, with which the devotees of the forests must have remained immoveable in their solitary positions. “You see,” says one of the personages of the drama, “in that grove a pious Yogee, motionless as a pollard, holding his thick, bushy hair, and fixing his eyes on the solar orb.—Mark; his body is covered with a white ants’ edifice, made of raised clay; the skin of a snake supplies the place of his sacerdotal thread, and part of it girds his loins; a number of knotty plants encircle and wound his neck; ‘and surrounding birds’ nests almost conceal his shoulders.”604 The same venerable character is thus farther described in the Bhagvat-Geeta; “The Yogee constantly exerciseth the spirit in private. He is recluse, of a subdued mind and spirit; free from hope, and free from perception. He planteth his own seat firmly on a spot that is undefiled, neither too high, nor too low, and sitteth upon the sacred grass which is called coos, covered with a skin and a cloth. There he, whose business is the restraint of his passions, should sit, with his mind fixed on one object alone, in the exercise of his devotion for the purification of his soul, keeping his head, his neck, and his body, steady, without motion, his eyes fixed on the point of his nose, looking at no other place around. The man who keepeth the outward accidents from entering his mind, and his eyes fixed in contemplation between his brows; who maketh the breath to pass through both his nostrils alike in expiration and inspiration, who is of subdued faculties, mind, and understanding; the Yogee, who thus constantly exerciseth his soul, obtaineth happiness incorporeal and supreme.”605 This pure state of meditation, which obtains the name of devotion, is even more exalted than that of penance. “The Yogee,” says Crishna, “is more exalted than Tapaswees, those votaries who afflict themselves in performing penance, respected above the learned in science, and” (which is worthy of peculiar regard,) “superior to those who are attached to moral works.”606 “Be thou at all times,” says this supreme god to Arjoon in another place, “employed in devotion. The fruit of this surpasseth all the rewards of virtue pointed out in the Vedas, in worshippings, in mortifications, and even in the gifts of charity.”607

It is abundantly ascertained that the Hindus at one time, and that a time comparatively recent,608 were marked with the barbarity of human sacrifices.609 It even appears that the remainder of that devotional service is now in existence. When it is proposed to resist, as exorbitant, the demands of government, the Brahmens erect, what they denominate a koor, which is a circular pile of wood, with a cow, or an old woman on the top of it. If urged to extremity they set fire to the pile, and consume the victim, a sacrifice by which they are understood to involve their oppressor in the deepest guilt.610 The British Government has interfered to prevent the sacrifice of children by throwing them to the sharks in the Ganges.611

Though the progress of improvement has brought into comparative disuse the mode of seeking divine favour by the sacrifice of a fellow creature, horrid rites, which have too near an affinity with it, are still the objects of the highest veneration. It is one of the grandest achievements of piety, for individuals to sacrifice themselves in honour of the gods. There are solemn festivals, in which the images of certain deities are carried in procession in vast ponderous machines denominated raths, or chariots, drawn by a multitude of devotees and priests; when it is customary for numbers of the congregated people to throw themselves under the wheels, and even fathers and mothers with their children in their arms. The chariot passes on, as if no impediment existed, and crushing them to death, is supposed to convey them immediately to heaven.612 The practice of sacrificing themselves in the flames is a noted ceremony of the Hindus. It is sometimes executed with circumstances of studied atrocity; the victim striking himself in front with his sabre, so as to lay open his bowels to the spectators, tearing out part of his liver, cutting it off with his sabre, giving it to a relation or bystander, conversing all the time with indifference apparently complete, then with unchanged countenance leaping into the flames, and expiring without a movement.613 In some parts of India a Brahmen devotes himself to death, by eating till he expires with the surfeit.614 On great solemnities, the votaries strike off their own heads, as a sacrifice to the Ganges,615 and many drown themselves in the hallowed streams.616 Of the modes adopted by the Hindus of sacrificing themselves to the divine powers, none however has more excited the attention of the Europeans, than the burning of the wives on the funeral piles of their husbands. To this cruel sacrifice the highest virtues are ascribed. “The wife who commits herself to the flames with her husband's corpse, shall equal Arundhati, and reside in Swarga; accompanying her husband, she shall reside so long in Swarga, as are the thirty-five millions of hairs on the human body.617 As the snake-catcher forcibly drags the serpent from his earth, so, bearing her husband from hell, with him, she shall enjoy the delights of heaven, while fourteen Indras reign. If her husband had killed a Brahmana, broken the ties of gratitude, or murdered his friend, she expiates the crime.”618 Though a widow has the alternative of leading a life of chastity, of piety, and mortification, denied to the pleasures of dress, never sleeping on a bed, never exceeding one meal a day, nor eating any other than simple food, it is held her duty to burn herself along with her husband; and “the Hindu legislators,” says Mr. Colebrooke, “have shown themselves disposed to encourage” this barbarous sacrifice.619

Such are the acts, by which, according to the Hindu religion, the favour of the Almighty Power is chiefly to be gained; such are the ideas respecting purity and merit, which it is calculated to inspire. Yet if any one concludes that the Hindus were unacquainted with the ordinary precepts of morality, he will be greatly deceived. “By Brahmens,” says the law of Menu, “placed in the four orders, a tenfold system of duties must ever be sedulously practised; Content; returning good for evil; resistance to sensual appetites; abstinence from illicit gain; purification; coercion of the organs; knowledge of scripture; knowledge of the supreme spirit; veracity; and freedom from wrath.”620 In this enumeration of duties, though a large proportion is allowed to acts purely ceremonial and useless; yet some of the noblest virtues are included. “Action,” says the same sacred code, “is either mental, verbal, or corporeal. Devising means to appropriate the wealth of other men, resolving on any forbidden deed, and conceiving notions of atheism or materialism, are the three bad acts of the mind: scurrilous language, falsehood, indiscriminate backbiting, and useless tattle, are the four bad acts of the tongue: Taking effects not given, hurting sentient creatures without the sanction of law, and criminal intercourse with the wife of another, are three bad acts of the body; and all the ten have their opposites, which are good in an equal degree.”621 Though there is something extremely whimsical in the consequence ascribed to the following acts of injustice, yet they are with great propriety forbidden: “He who appropriates to his own use, the carriage, the bed, the seat, the well, the garden, or the house of another man, who has not delivered them to him, assumes a fourth part of the guilt of their owner.”622 The following observations are in a pure and elevated strain of morality: “Even here below an unjust man attains no felicity; nor he whose wealth proceeds from giving false evidence; nor he, who constantly takes delight in mischief. Though oppressed by penury, in consequence of his righteous dealings, let him never give his mind to unrighteousness; for he may observe the speedy overthrow of iniquitous and sinful men. Iniquity, committed in this world, produces not fruit immediately, but, like the earth, in due season; and, advancing by little and little, it eradicates the man who committed it. Yes; iniquity, once committed, fails not of producing fruit to him who wrought it. He grows rich for a while through unrighteousness; then he beholds good things; then it is that he vanquishes his foes; but he perishes at length from his whole root upwards. Let a man continually take pleasure in truth, in justice, in laudable practices, and in purity; let him chastise those, whom he may chastise, in a legal mode; let him keep in subjection his speech, his arm, and his appetite: wealth and pleasures, repugnant to law, let him shun; and even lawful acts, which may cause future pain, or be offensive to mankind.”623

Sir William Jones, whom it is useful to quote, because his authority may have influence with those whose opinions I am constrained to controvert, observes, that “the principles of morality are few, luminous, and ready to present themselves on every occasion.”624 Descanting on the rudeness, and ignorance, of the Scythian nations; “of any philosophy,” he says, “except natural ethics, which the rudest society requires, and experience teaches, we find no more vestiges in Asiatic Scythia, than in ancient Arabia.”625 He was not surprised to find natural ethics, where not a vestige of philosophy was found; because “natural ethics,” are what “the rudest society requires, and experience teaches.” If we search a little further, we shall discover that nations differ less from one another in the knowledge of morality, and of its obligations, (the rules of morality have been taught in all nations in a manner remarkably similar), than in the degrees of steadiness, with which they assign the preference to moral, above other acts. Among rude nations it has almost always been found, that religion has served to degrade morality, by advancing to the place of greatest honour, those external performances, or those mental exercises, which more immediately regarded the deity; and with which, of course, he was supposed to be more peculiarly delighted. On no occasion, indeed, has religion obliterated the impressions of morality, of which the rules are the fundamental laws of human society: morality has every where met with the highest applause; and no where has it been celebrated in more pompous strains, than in places where the most contemptible, or the most abominable rites, have most effectually been allowed to usurp its honours.626 It is not so much, therefore, by the mere words in which morality is mentioned, that we are to judge of the mental perfections of different nations, as by the place which it clearly holds in the established scale of meritorious acts. In a moment of hyperbolical praise, it may even receive a verbal preference to ceremonies; as in one passage of the Institutes of Menu: “A wise man should constantly discharge all the moral duties, though he perform not constantly the ceremonies of religion; since he falls low, if, while he performs ceremonial acts only, he discharge not his moral duties.”627 Yet in the entire system of rules concerning duty, the stress which is laid upon moral acts, may, as we see in the case of the Hindus, bear no comparison to the importance which is attached to useless or pernicious ceremonies. Such a maxim as that which has just been quoted, can be regarded as but of little value, when it is surrounded by numerous maxims of the following tendency; “Not a mortal exists more sinful than he, who, without an oblation to the manes or gods, desires to enlarge his own flesh with the flesh of another creature.”628 “From the three Vedas, the lord of creatures, incomprehensibly exalted, successively milked out the three measures of that ineffable text beginning with the word tad and entitled, savitri, or gayatri; whoever shall repeat, day by day, for three years, without negligence, that sacred text, shall hereafter approach the divine essence, move as freely as air, and assume an ethereal form.”629 “Studying and comprehending the Veda, practising pious austerities, acquiring divine knowledge, command over the organs of sense and action, avoiding all injury to sentient creatures, and showing reverence to a natural and spiritual father, are the chief branches of duty which ensure final happiness.”630 “Even three suppressions of breath made according to the divine rule, accompanied with the triverbal phrase, and the triliteral syllable, may be considered as the highest devotion of a Brahmen; for as the dross and impurities of metallic ores are consumed by fire, thus are the sinful acts of the human organs consumed by suppressions of the breath.”631 If we examine that highest degree of merit to which the imagination of the Hindu can ascend, that of the Sanyassi, or professor of austere devotion, we shall find it to consist in an absolute renunciation of all moral duties, and moral affections. “Exemption from attachments, and affection for children, wife, and home;”632 nay, “the abandonment of all earthly attachments,”633 form a necessary part of that perfection after which he aspires.

It is by no means unnatural for the religion of a rude people to unite opposite qualities, to preach the most harsh austerities, and at the same time to encourage the loosest morality. It may be matter of controversy to what degree the indecent objects employed in the Hindu worship imply depravity of manners; but a religion which subjects to the eyes of its votaries the grossest images of sensual pleasure, and renders even the emblems of generation objects of worship; which ascribes to the supreme God an immense train of obscene acts; which has them engraved on the sacred cars, pourtrayed in the temples, and presented to the people as objects of adoration, which pays worship to the Yoni, and the Lingam, cannot be regarded as favourable to chastity.634 Nor can it be supposed, when to all these circumstances is added the institution of a number of girls, attached to the temples, whose business is dancing and prostitution, that this is a virtue encouraged by the religion of the Hindus.

Another contrast to the tortures and death which the religion of the Hindus exhorts them to inflict upon themselves, is the sacredness which it imprints upon the life of animals. Not only are the Hindus prohibited the use of animal food, except at certain peculiar sacrifices; even the offerings to the gods consist almost entirely of inanimate objects; and to deprive any sensitive creature of life, is a heinous transgression of religious duty. Many of the inferior creatures, both animate and inanimate, are the objects of religious veneration; such, in particular, are the cow, the lotos, and cusa grass. Nor, in this enumeration, must the dung and urine of the cow be forgotten; things so holy as to be of peculiar efficacy in the ceremonies of purification. To whatever origin we may ascribe this strange application of the religious principle, it has at least been very widely diffused. It is known that many negro tribes worship animals and reptiles; and that they carry the solicitude for their preservation to a still more extravagant pitch than even the Hindus; punishing with death those who hurt them even casually.635 The sacred character in Egypt of the ox, and of many other animals, is too familiarly known to require any proof. The cow was oracular, and sacred among the Amonians.636 Not only cows, but horses, eagles, lions, bears, were divine animals among the Syrians.637 The Egyptian priests respected as sacred the life of all animals, and animal food seems to have been interdicted not less in Egypt than in Hindustan.638 At an early period, the Greeks, and even the Romans, punished with death, the killing of an ox.639 The worship of this species of quadrupeds appears indeed to have been common to all the idolatrous nations from Japan to Scandinavia.640 That, in India, it was a worship directed to no moral end, is evident upon the slightest inspection. To renounce the benefits which the inferior animals are fitted by nature to render to man, is not humanity, any more than swinging before an idol, by an iron hook, forced through the muscles of the back, is the virtue of self-command. And that this superstition took not its rise from a sensibility to the feelings of animated creatures, is evident from the barbarous character of several of the nations where it prevails; from the proverbial cruelty suffered by the labouring animals of Hindustan; and from the apathy with which human beings are left to expire by hunger and disease, while reptiles are zealously tended and fed.641

Religion consists of two great doctrines; that concerning the nature and service of God; and that concerning the nature and destination of the human soul. In the complicated superstition of the Hindus, the first presented many questions which it needed a considerable accumulation of evidence to solve. Of the latter, a just idea may be speedily conveyed.

It is well known that the metempsychosis, or the transmigration of the soul into various orders of being, reviving in one form, when it ceases to exist in another, is the tenet of the Hindus. This is a theory well calculated to present itself to the mind of the rude inquirer, when first excited to stretch his views beyond the present term of sensation and action. The vegetable life, which expires in the plant, in autumn, revives in the seed in spring. The sluggish worm, which undergoes a species of death, and buries itself in a tomb of its own formation, springs again to life, a gay and active creature, as different in appearance, as in appetites and powers. Every thing on earth is changed, nothing annihilated; and the soul of the man who expires to day, revives in something else, to which life is at that instant imparted.

Some very obvious, and very impressive appearances must have suggested the notion of the metempsychosis, since it is one of the most ancient, and one of the most general of all religious opinions. “No doctrine,” says Dupuis, “was ever more universally diffused; none claims an origin so ancient. It reigned in the East, and in the West, among rude nations, and polished nations; and it ascends to antiquity so high, that Burnet ingeniously declares, one would believe it to be descended from heaven; so much it appears without father, without mother, and without descent.”642 The Brahmens grafted upon it, in their usual way, a number of fantastic refinements, and gave to their ideas on this subject, a more systematic form than is usual with those eccentric theologians. They describe the mind as characterized by three qualities, goodness, passion, darkness. According as any soul is distinguished by one or another of those qualities in its present life, is the species of being into which it migrates in the life to come. Souls endued with goodness attain the condition of deities; those filled with passion receive that of men; those immersed in darkness are condemned to that of beasts. Each of these conditions, again, is divided into three degrees, a lower, a middle, and a higher. Of the souls distinguished by darkness, the lowest are thrust into mineral and vegetable substances, into worms, reptiles, fishes, snakes, tortoises, cattle, shakals; the middle pass into elephants, horses, Sudras, Mlec’has, (a word of very opprobrious import, denoting men of all other races not Hindu,) lions, tigers, and boars; the highest animate the forms of dancers, singers, birds, deceitful men, giants, and blood-thirsty savages. Of the souls who receive their future condition from the quality of passion, the lowest pass into cudgel players, boxers, wrestlers, actors, those who teach the use of weapons, and those who are addicted to gaming and drinking; the middle enter the bodies of kings, men of the fighting class, domestic priests of kings, and men skilled in the war of controversy; the highest become gand-harvas, (a species of supposed aërial spirits, whose business is music,) genii, attending superior gods, together with various companies of apsarases, or nymphs. Of the souls who are characterized by the quality of goodness, the lowest migrate into hermits, religious mendicants, other Brahmens, such orders of demigods as are wafted in airy cars, genii of the signs and lunar mansions, and Daityas, another of their many orders of superior spirits; the middle attain the condition of sacrificers, of holy sages, deities of the lower heaven, genii of the Vedas, regents of stars, divinities of years, Pitris, and Sadhyas, two other species of exalted intelligences; the highest ascend to the condition of Brahma with four faces, of creators of worlds, of the genius of virtue, and the divinities presiding over the two principles of nature.643 Besides this general description of the future allotment of different souls, a variety of particular dooms are specified, of which a few may be taken as an example. “Sinners in the first degree,” says the ordinance of Menu, “having passed through terrible regions of torture, for a great number of years, are condemned to the following births at the close of that period. The slayer of a Brahmen must enter the body of a dog, a boar, an ass, a camel, a bull, a goat, a sheep, a stag, a bird, a Chandala, or a Puccasa. He, who steals the gold of a priest, shall pass a thousand times into the bodies of spiders, of snakes, and camelions, of crocodiles, and other aquatic monsters, or of mischievous blood-sucking demons. He who violates the bed of his natural or spiritual father, migrates a hundred times into the forms of grasses, of shrubs, with crowded stems, or of creeping and twining plants, carnivorous animals, beasts with sharp teeth, or cruel brutes.”644 After a variety of other cases, a general rule is declared, for those of the four castes who neglect the duties of their order: “Should a Brahmen omit his peculiar duty, he shall be changed into a demon, with a mouth like a firebrand, who devours what has been vomited; a Cshatriya, into a demon who feeds on ordure and carrion; a Vaisya, into an evil being who eats purulent carcases; and a Sudra, who neglects his occupations, into a foul embodied spirit, who feeds on lice.”645 The reward of the most exalted piety, of the most profound meditation, of that exquisite abstemiousness which dries up the mortal frame, is peculiar: Such a perfect soul becomes absorbed in the Divine essence, and is for ever exempt from transmigration.646

We might very easily, from the known laws of human nature, conclude, notwithstanding the language held by the Hindus on the connection between future happiness and the virtue of the present life, that rewards and punishments, very distant and very obscure, would be wholly impotent against temptations to crime; though, at the instigation of the priests, they might engage the people in a ceaseless train of wretched ceremonies. The fact corresponds most exactly with the anticipation. An admirable witness has said, “The doctrine of a state of future rewards and punishments, as some persons may plead, has always been supposed to have a strong influence on public morals: the Hindoos not only have this doctrine in their writings, but are taught to consider every disease and misfortune of life as an undoubted symptom of moral disease, and the terrific appearance of its close-pursuing punishment. Can this fail to produce a dread of vice, and a desire to merit the favour of the Deity? I will still farther,” he adds, “assist the objector; and inform him, that the Hindoo writings declare, that till every immoral taint is removed, every sin atoned for, and the mind has obtained perfect abstraction from material objects, it is impossible to be re-united to the great spirit; and that, to obtain this perfection, the sinner must linger in many hells, and transmigrate through almost every form of matter.” Our informant then declares; “Great as these terrors are, there is nothing more palpable than that, with most of the Hindoos, they do not weigh the weight of a feather, compared with the loss of a roopee. The reason is obvious: every Hindoo considers all his actions as the effect of his destiny; he laments, perhaps, his miserable fate, but he resigns himself to it without a struggle, like the malefactor in a condemned cell.” This experienced observer adds, which is still more comprehensive, that the doctrine of future rewards and punishments has, in no situation, and among no people, a power to make men virtuous.647
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Re: The History of British India, Vol. I, by James Mill

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CHAP. VII.

Manners.

By the manners of a nation are understood the peculiar modes in which the ordinary business of human life is carried on. The business itself is every where essentially the same. In all nations men eat and drink; they meet, converse, transact, and sport together. But the manner in which these and other things are performed is as different as the nations are numerous into which the race is divided.

So much of the entire business of life, among the Hindus, consists in religious services, that the delineation of their religion is a delineation of the principal branch of their manners.

The singular distinctions, attached to the different classes, present another remarkable feature in the manners of this people. The lower orders, in other countries, are often lamentably debased; in Hindustan they are degraded below the brutes. With the single exception of the Vaisya caste, to whom is appropriated the business of agriculture and of barter, the whole of the productive classes, according to the standards of law and religion, are vile and odious, unworthy to eat, to drink, or to sit with a member of the classes above them.

There are four remarkable periods into which, with respect to the three honourable classes, human life is divided. Of these periods; or orders, as they are denominated by the Hindus; the first is that of the student; the second, that of the householder; the third, that of the man who performs penance or other religious acts, residing continually in a forest; the fourth, that of the Sannyasi, or the ascetic absorbed in divine contemplation.648

The period of the student commences at the era of investiture.649 Prior to this age, the situation of children is remarkable; even those of a Brahmen are not held superior in rank to a Sudra.650 The condition of the student much more closely resembles that of an European apprentice than that of a pupil in literature. He dwells in the house of his preceptor, and tends him with the most respectful assiduity. He is commanded to exert himself in all acts useful to his teacher;651 and of course performs the part of an assistant in all the offices of religion.652 “As he who digs deep with a spade comes to a spring of water, so the student, who humbly serves his teacher, attains the knowledge which lies deep in his teacher's mind.” Upon the student of the priestly order a peculiar burden, or distinction, is imposed: to acquire daily his food by begging.653

The gift of sacred instruction is not bestowed indiscriminately; but the text, which regulates the choice of pupils, is so vague as to leave the selection nearly at the discretion of the master. “Ten persons,” it is declared, “may legally be instructed in the Veda; the son of a spiritual teacher; a boy who is assiduous; one who can impart other knowledge; one who is just; one who is pure; one who is friendly; one who is powerful; one who can bestow wealth; one who is honest; and one who is related by blood. Where virtue and wealth are not found, or diligent attention proportioned, in that soil divine instruction must not be sown; it would perish like fine seed in barren land.”654

The instruction which is bestowed may soon be described. “The venerable preceptor, having girt his pupil with the thread, must first instruct him in purification, in good customs, in the management of the consecrated fire, and in the holy rites of morning, noon, and evening.”655 The grand object of attention and solicitude is the reading of the Veda.656 Some classes of the Brahmens have united with their religious doctrines certain speculations concerning the intellectual and material worlds; and these speculations have been dignified with the name of philosophy; but the holy rites, and the Veda, form the great, and on most occasions the exclusive object of that higher instruction which is bestowed on the pupil of the Brahmen.

On this important occasion, as on other occasions, the attention of the Hindu is much more engaged by frivolous observances, than by objects of utility. While the directions laid down respecting the instruction of the pupil are exceedingly few and insignificant, the forms, according to which he must pay his duty to the master, are numerous, minute, and emphatically enjoined.657

The duration of the period of study is very indefinite. “The discipline of a student in the three Vedas may be continued for thirty-six years, in the house of his preceptor; or for half that time, or for a quarter of it, or until he perfectly comprehend them: A student, whose rules have not been violated, may assume the order of a married man, after he has read in succession a sac’ha, or branch from each of the three Vedas, or from two or from any one of them.”658 It is even permitted to pass the whole period of life in the state of a pupil; and to this merit so exalted is ascribed, that the very highest rewards of religion are bestowed upon it. “If a student anxiously desire to pass his whole life in the house of a sacerdotal teacher, he must serve him with assiduous care, till he be released from his mortal frame. That Brahmen who has dutifully attended his preceptor till the dissolution of his body, passes directly to the eternal mansion of God.”659 Should the teacher die, the student must attend upon his widow, his son, or one of his paternal kinsmen, with the same respect as to the deceased preceptor. Should none of these be living he occupies the seat of the preceptor himself.660

To the state of the student succeeds that of the married man, or the housekeeper. It is at this epoch that the Hindu begins to sustain a part as the member of society.

Marriage is a religious duty; and a duty of the highest order. Except for some grand plan of devotion, as that of remaining a student, or of becoming a fakeer, no man neglects at an early age to fulfil this sacred obligation. As the sacrament of obsequies to the manes of ancestors can be performed only by a male descendant, and as any failure in these obsequies deeply affects the spirits of the dead, to die without a son is regarded as one of the greatest of all calamities.661

The ceremonies of marriage, entirely religious, have been already described. Marriages are distinguished into eight kinds; of which one half are honourable, and differ from one another only in some minute circumstances; in the fifth the bridegroom bestows gifts upon the bride, her father, and paternal kinsman; the last three are rather species of unlawful connexion, than forms of nuptial contract; one being voluntary and by mutual consent; the other forcible, when a woman is seized, “while she weeps, and calls for assistance, after her kinsmen and friends have been slain in battle;” the last, “when the damsel is sleeping, or flushed with strong liquor, or disordered in her intellect.”662 With the grand rule to prevent the intermixture of the castes, the reader is already acquainted. “For the first marriage of the twice-born classes,” says the law of Menu, “a woman of the same class is recommended; but for such as are impelled by inclination to marry again, women in the direct order of the classes are to be preferred: a Sudra woman only must be the wife of a Sudra; she and a Vaisya of a Vaisya; they two and a Cshatriya, of a Cshatriya; those two and a Brahmani, of a Brahmen.”663 The Hindu law-givers, who commonly mistake minuteness for precision, and are apt to be most particular where it is least required, make rules for the choice of a wife. “In connecting a man's self with a wife, let him,” says Menu, “studiously avoid the ten following families, be they ever so great, or ever so rich in kine, goats, sheep, gold, and grain: The family which has omitted prescribed acts of religion; that which has produced no male children; that in which the Veda has not been read; that which has thick hair on the body; and those which have been subject to hemorrhoids, to phthisis, to dyspepsia, to epilepsy, to leprosy, and to elephantiasis. Let him not marry a girl with reddish hair, nor with any deformed limb; nor one troubled with habitual sickness; nor one either with no hair, or too much; nor one immoderately talkative; nor one with inflamed eyes; nor one with the name of a constellation, of a tree, or of a river, of a barbarous nation, or of a mountain, of a winged creature, a snake, or a slave; nor with any name raising an image of terror. Let him choose for his wife a girl, whose form has no defect; who has an agreeable name; who walks gracefully like a phenicopteros, or like a young elephant; whose hair and teeth are moderate respectively in quantity and in size; whose body has exquisite softness.”664

The condition of the women is one of the most remarkable circumstances in the manners of nations. Among rude people, the women are generally degraded; among civilized people they are exalted.665 In the barbarian, the passion of sex is a brutal impulse, which infuses no tenderness; and his undisciplined nature leads him to abuse his power over every creature that is weaker than himself. The history of uncultivated nations uniformly represents the women as in a state of abject slavery, from which they slowly emerge, as civilization advances. Among some of the negro tribes on the coast of Africa, the wife is never permitted to receive any thing from the hands of her husband, or even to appear in his presence, except on her knees.666 In the empire of Congo, where the people are sufficiently advanced to be united in a large community; and in most of the nations which inhabit the southern regions of Africa, the women are reckoned unworthy to eat with the men.667 In such a state of society property is an advantage which it may naturally be supposed that the degraded sex are by no means permitted to enjoy. Not only among the African and other savage tribes, and the Tartars of the present day, but among the ancient inhabitants of Chaldea and Arabia, and all the nations of Europe in their ancient uncivilized state, the women were excluded from the inheritance of the family.668 Being condemned to severe and perpetual labour, they are themselves regarded as useful property. Hence a father parts not with his daughter but for a valuable consideration; hence the general custom, among barbarous nations, as in Pegu, in Siberia, among the Tartars, among the negroes on the coast of Guinea, among the Arabs, and even among the Chinese, of purchasing the bride by a dower.669 It is only in that improved state of property and security, when the necessities of life have ceased to create perpetual solicitude, and when a large share of attention may be given to its pleasures; that the women, from their influence on those pleasures, begin to be an object of regard. As society refines upon its enjoyments, and advances into that state of civilization, in which various corporeal qualities become equal or superior in value to corporeal strength, and in which the qualities of the mind are ranked above the qualities of the body, the condition of the weaker sex is gradually improved, till they associate on equal terms with the men, and occupy the place of voluntary and useful coadjutors.

A state of dependance more strict and humiliating than that which is ordained for the weaker sex among the Hindus cannot easily be conceived. “Day and night,” says Menu, “must women be held by their protectors in a state of dependance.”670 Who are meant by their protectors is immediately explained: “Their fathers protect them in childhood; their husbands protect them in youth, their sons protect them in age: a woman,” it is added, “is never fit for independence. Let husbands consider this as the supreme law, ordained for all classes; and let them, how weak soever, diligently keep their wives under lawful restrictions.”671 “By a girl, or by a young woman, or by a woman advanced in years, nothing,” says the same code, “must be done, even in her own dwelling-place, according to her mere pleasure. In childhood must a female be dependant on her father; in youth, on her husband; her lord being dead, on her sons: a woman must never seek independence.”672 The deference which is exacted towards her husband is without limits. “Though inobservant of approved usages, or enamoured of another woman, or devoid of good qualities, yet a husband must constantly be revered as a god by a virtuous wife. No sacrifice is allowed to women apart from their husbands, no religious rite, no fasting: as far only as a wife honours her lord, so far she is exalted in heaven.”673 “She who neglects her lord, though addicted to gaming, fond of spirituous liquors, or diseased, must be deserted for three months, and deprived of her ornaments and household furniture.”674 To every species of ill-usage, she is bound to submit; “neither by sale nor desertion,” says the ordinance of Menu, “can a wife be released from her husband: thus we fully acknowledge the law enacted of old by the lord of creatures.”675 This is a remarkable law; for it indicates the power of the husband to sell his wife for a slave, and by conse quence proves, that her condition, while in his house, was not regarded as very different from slavery. A law is even made to direct the mode in which she is beaten; “A wife, a son, a servant, a pupil, and a younger whole brother, may be corrected, when they commit faults, with a rope, or the small shoot of a cane; but on the back part only of their bodies, and not on a noble part by any means.”676

Nothing can exceed the habitual contempt which the Hindus entertain for their women. “Hardly are they ever mentioned in their laws, or other books, but as wretches of the most base and vicious inclinations, on whose nature no virtuous or useful qualities can be engrafted. “Their husbands,” says the sacred code, “should be diligently careful in guarding them; though they well know the disposition with which the lord of creation formed them; Menu allotted to such women a love of their bed, of their seat, and of ornament, impure appetites, wrath, weak flexibility, desire of mischief, and bad conduct.”677 “Be there no place, be there no time, be there no one to tempt them,” says the Hetopadesa, “then, O Narada, doth women's chastity appear. Women at all times have been inconstant, even among the celestials, we are told. In infancy the father should guard her, in youth her husband should guard her, and in old age her children should guard her; for at no time is a woman proper to be trusted with liberty.”678 The same author declares again; “Unto woman no man is to be found disagreeable, no man agreeable. They may be compared to a heifer on the plain, that still longeth for fresh grass. Infidelity, violence, deceit, envy, extreme avariciousness, a total want of good qualities, with impurity, are the innate faults of womankind.”679

They are held, accordingly, in extreme degradation. They are not accounted worthy to partake of religious rites but in conjunction with their husbands.680 They are entirely excluded from the sacred books; “Women have no business with the texts of the Veda; thus is the law fully settled: having, therefore, no evidence of law, and no knowledge of expiatory texts, sinful women must be as foul as falsehood itself. To this effect many texts, which may show their true disposition, are chanted in the Vedas.”681 “A minor,” says the law, “one single person, a woman, a man of bad principles, &c. may not be witnesses.”682 We have already seen, as in the most barbarous nations, that the women among the Hindus are excluded from sharing in the paternal property.683 They are, by system, deprived of education.684 That remarkable proof of barbarity, the wife held unworthy to eat with her husband, is prevalent in Hindustan.684

An almost unlimited power of rejection or divorce appears to be reserved to the husband. In the code of Gentoo laws, among various other ordinances to the same purpose, it is declared that, “a woman who dissipates or spoils her own property, or who procures abortion, or who has an intention to murder her husband, and is always quarrelling with every body, and who eats before her husband eats, such women shall be turned out of the house.”686 On grounds like these, a man can never be without a pretence for dismissing his wife. But on the other hand we have seen that no species of barbarous treatment, not even desertion and sale, ever absolves the woman from her obligations to her lord.687

That polygamy was an established custom of the Hindus, we learn from various documents, and among others from the following story, which at the same time conveys no evidence of their domestic gentleness:—“In the city of Devee-kotta, there was a Brahman, whose name was Deva-Sarma. One lucky evening he found a curious dish, which he took with him into a potter's warehouse full of earthen-ware, and throwing himself upon a bed which happened to be there, it being night, he began to express his thoughts upon the occasion in this manner:—If I dispose of this dish, I shall get ten kapardakas (cowries) for it; and with that sum I may purchase many pots and pans, the sale of which will increase my capital so much that I shall be able to lay in a large stock of cloth and the like; which having disposed of at a great advance, I shall have accumulated a fortune of a lack of money. With this I will marry four wives; and of these I will amuse myself with her who may prove the handsomest. This will create jealousy;so when the rival wives shall be quarrelling, then will I, overwhelmed with anger, hurl my stick at them thus! Saying which he flung his walking-stick out of his hand with such force, that he not only broke his curious dish, but destroyed many of the pots and pans in the shop.”688

The Hindus were, notwithstanding, so far advanced in civilization, except in the mountainous and most barbarous tracts of the country, as to have improved in some degree upon the manners of savage tribes. They have some general precepts, recommending indulgence and humanity in favour of the weaker sex. “Married women,” says the law of Menu, “must be honoured and adorned by their fathers and brethren, by their husbands, and by the brethren of their husbands, if they seek abundant prosperity. Where female relations are made miserable, the family of him, who makes them so, very soon wholly perishes.”689 When particulars indeed are explained, the indulgences recommended are not very extensive. It is added, “Let those women, therefore, be continually supplied with ornaments, apparel, and food, at festivals, and at jubilees, by men desirous of wealth.”690 When it is commanded by law, as an extraordinary extension of liberality, to give them ornaments, and even apparel and food, at festivals and jubilees; this is rather a proof of habitual degradation than of general respect and tenderness. The idea, however, of purchasing a wife, as a slave, from her relations, had become odious; and though it is stated as one of the eight species of nuptial contract, it is classed among the dishonourable species, and forbidden.691 As the necessity of such a law indicates a state of society but one remove from that in which the unhappy bride is purchased and sold; so the customary, and original purchasing gift, the bull and the cow, still remained; but it had acquired a religious character, and was at last commanded to pass by another name. “Some say,” observes the law of Menu, “that the bull and cow given in the nuptial ceremony of the Rishis, are a bribe to the father; but this is untrue: a bribe indeed, whether large or small, is an actual sale of the daughter.”692 There are texts, however, which directly recognize the transaction as a purchase: “He who takes to wife,” it is said, “a damsel of full age, shall not give a nuptial present to her father; since the father lost his dominion over her, by detaining her at a time when she might have been a parent.”693 The obligation of the marriage contract is stated in the Institutes of Menu, under the head of purchase and sale; and it is expressly said, “If, after one damsel has been shown, another be offered to the bridegroom, who had purchased leave to marry her from her next kinsman, he may become the husband of both for the same price: this law Menu ordained.”694 The same undoubtedly is the purport of the following sacred text: “The recitation of holy texts, and the sacrifice ordained by the lord of creatures, are used in marriages for the sake of procuring good fortune to brides; but the first gift by the husband is the primary cause of marital dominion.”695 It is to be observed, besides, that the women have no choice in their own destiny; but are absolutely at the disposal of their fathers, till three years after the nuptial age. If, until that period, the father have neglected what is reckoned one of his most sacred duties, to place his daughter in a situation to become a parent, he forfeits, through his sin, the dominion over her, and she may choose a husband for herself.696

It has been doubted whether immuring the women was an original part of Hindu manners, or adopted in consequence of the intercourse and dominion of the Mahomedans. But they have been found in a state of seclusion and confinement beyond the range of Mahomedan influence.697 The practice is fully recognized in the ancient writings. We are told in the Bhagavat, that, on the day of the yug of Judishter, “the women who, buried in harams, were seldom permitted to see the sun, came out, on that day, to view rajah Judishter.”698 The monarch who forms the hero in the drama entitled Sacontala had many wives, and they are represented as residing in the secret apartments of the palace.699 The whole spirit of the Hindu maxims indicates confinement: there are numerous precepts which respect the guarding of women: and the punishment for vitiating those who are not guarded is always less than the punishment in the case of those that are.700 Among these proofs of confinement are also appearances of freedom. The law of seclusion is made only for the few. Among the jealous Ottomans themselves, the great body of the community must leave their women at large, because an indigent man can neither dispense with the useful services of his wife, nor afford the cost of retaining her in confinement. In the earlier and ruder states of society, when men are in general poor, few can afford the expense of confinement; but among the Hindus, as in general among the nations of Asia, since their emerging from the rudest barbarism, it seems to have been the practice for every man, who possessed sufficient means, to keep his women guarded, in a state of seclusion.

On the coast of Malabar, where the manners differ considerably from those of the rest of the Hindus, and where the people have not reached a state of society altogether so perfect as that in some other parts of Hindustan, it would appear that the institution of marriage has never been regularly introduced. The peculiar mode in which the intercourse of the sexes is here carried on has not yet been satisfactorily explained to us, and from the differences which appear in the accounts of different authors it probably exhibits considerable variety; but in its general character it is pretty evidently a relict of the period in which there is no law for the association of the sexes; when their intercourse is casual; when the father of the offspring is by consequence uncertain; and when the children of necessity belong to the mother. The nearest male relations of the female, her father being in this case unknown, are her brothers; who, never having children whom they can recognize as their own, naturally contract an affection for those of their sister whom they support and with whom they live; by consequence regard them as in some measure their own; and vest them with the property which they leave at their death. In the family of a Nair there is no wife; all the brothers and sisters live under the same roof; their mother the only known parent, during her life, and after her death the eldest sister, manage the domestic affairs; the sisters cohabit with the men of their choice, subject only to the sacred restriction of a class not inferior to their own; the children are by the brothers regarded as their own, and inherit the property of the family.701 This is the exact description of a people among whom the institution of marriage is unknown, and the order into which things will run of their own accord, wherever the intercourse of the sexes is casual. The Nairs, however, are said to have added a kind of refinement to this established custom. They contract a marriage with a particular woman. But this is entirely nominal. The woman never leaves her mother's house; her intercourse with other men is not restricted; her children belong to her brothers; and the arrangement of society is the same as if no such marriage existed. If it really takes place, and the absurdity of the thing may support a suspicion of some mistake in our informants, it must be the effect of imitation, and of the reproaches which this people have sustained from other nations. These circumstances move them to contrive a semblance of a marriage, though not in the least degree to alter the established system of manners, to which it adheres as a useless excrescence. The Nairs are only one of the castes; and there appears to be some diversity in the mode of intercourse between the sexes in the several castes. The fashion among the Nairs is the standard to which they all approach. Our information, however, of these diversities, even if they merited a fuller elucidation, is too imperfect for minute description.702


It is not surprising, that grossness, in ideas and language, respecting the intercourse of the sexes, is a uniform concomitant of the degraded state of the women. Superficial contemplators have, in general, contented themselves with remarking, that it was a diversity of manners; or was the effect of a diversity of climate; and that what in one place was gross bore a different interpretation in another. Inquiry discovers, that grossness in this respect is a regular ingredient in the manners of a rude age; and that society, as it refines, deposits this, among its other impurities. The ancient inhabitants of our own country were as indelicate as those of the hottest regions of Asia.703 All European witnesses have been struck with the indelicacy of the Hindus. The gross emblems and practices of their religion are already known.704 To the indecent passages in the books of law, and the practices which they describe, exceedingly numerous, and exceedingly gross, we can here only allude.705 Both the writings and conversation of the Hindus abound with passages which are shocking to European ears. Even in the popular and moral work, entitled Hetopadesa, there are parts which Mr. Wilkins could not translate; and he thus expresses himself on this characteristic of society among the Hindus: “The translator has carefully refined a great many indelicate expressions, which a Hindu lady, from grosser habits, might hear without a blush; and even omitted whole passages when that could not be effected but by a total change of the author's meaning.”706 Another Oriental scholar, as well as eye-witness of the manners he describes, affords us a passage which at once pourtrays this part of the Hindu character, and traces one of those remarkable resemblances, which run through the principal nations of Asia. “The Persian woman,” says Mr. Scott Waring, “like the Indian, are totally devoid of delicacy; their language is often gross and disgusting, nor do they feel more hesitation in expressing themselves before men, than they would before their female associates. Their terms of abuse or reproach are indelicate to the utmost degree. I will not disgust the reader by noticing any of them; but I may safely aver that it is not possible for language to express, or the imagination to conceive, more indecent or grosser images.”707

Much attention has been attracted to the gentleness of manners, in this people. They possess a feminine softness both in their persons and in their address. As the inhabitants of Europe were rough and impetuous, in their rude and early state, and grew mild only as they grew civilized, the gentleness of Hindu manners has usually impressed their European visitors, with a high conception of their progress in civilization. It is, perhaps, a ground of presumption; but fallacious if taken as a proof. One of the circumstances which distinguish the state ofcommencing civilization is, that it is compatible with great violence, as well as great gentleness of manners. Nothing is more common than examples of both. Mildness of address is not always separated even from the rudest condition of human life, as the Otaheitans, and some other of the South-Sea islanders, abundantly testify.708 “The savages of North America are affectionate in their carriage, and in their conversations pay a mutual attention and regard, says Charlevoix, more tender and more engaging, than what we profess in the ceremonial of polished societies.”709

The causes which seem to account for these effects are partly physical, and partly moral. Where the commodities of life, by a happy union of climate and soil, are abundant, gentleness of manners, as appears by the traditions respecting the golden or pastoral age, is by no means unnatural to men in the earliest period of improvement: The savage, involved in a continual struggle with want, who sees himself and his children every day exposed to perish with hunger, is, by a sort of necessity, rapacious, harsh, unfeeling, and cruel. The species of polity under which the national character is formed is perhaps to a still greater degree the cause of the diversity which we now contemplate. Where the mind is free, and may vent its passions with little fear, the nation, while ignorant and rude, is also fierce and impetuous: Where slavery prevails, and any departure from the most perfect obsequiousness is followed with the most direful consequences, an insinuating and fawning behaviour is the interest, and thence becomes the habit, of the people.

With the same causes are connected other leading features in the character of the Hindus. They are remarkably prone to flattery; the most prevailing mode of address from the weak to the strong, while men are still ignorant and unreflecting.710 The Hindus are full of dissimulation and falsehood, the universal concomitants of oppression.711 The vices of falsehood, indeed, they carry to a height almost unexampled among the other races of men. Judicial mendacity is more than common; it is almost universal. “Perjury,” said Sir William Jones, to the Grand Jury at Calcutta, “seems to be committed by the meanest, and encouraged by some of the better sort among the Hindus and Mussulmans, with as little remorse, as if it were a proof of ingenuity, or even a merit.”712—” I have many reasons to believe, and none to doubt, that affidavits of every imaginable fact may as easily be procured in the streets and markets of Calcutta, especially from the natives, as any other article of traffic.”713 Speaking of the forms of an oath, among the Hindus, he says, “But such is the corrupt state even of their erroneous religion, that if the most binding form on the consciences of men could be known and established, there would be few consciences to be bound by it.”714

I have not enumerated the religion of the Hindus as one among the causes of that gentleness, which has been remarked in their deportment. This religion has produced a practice, which has strongly engaged the curiosity of Europeans; a superstitious care of the life of the inferior animals. A Hindu lives in perpetual terror of killing even an insect; and hardly any crime can equal that of being unintentionally the cause of death to any animal of the more sacred species. This feeble circumstance, however, is counteracted by so many gloomy and malignant principles, that their religion, instead of humanizing the character, must have had no inconsiderable effect in fostering that disposition to revenge, that insensibility to the sufferings of others, and often that active cruelty, which lurks under the smiling exterior of the Hindu. “Although the killing of an animal of the ox kind,” says Buchanan, “is by all Hindus considered as a kind of murder, I know no creature whose sufferings equal those of the labouring cattle of Hindustan.”715 No other race of men are perhaps so little friendly, and beneficent to one another as the Hindus. “Dysenteries,” says Dr. Tenant, speaking of the salt manufacturers, “are at one season, peculiarly fatal. The unhappy victims of this disorder are avoided as infectious by their companions, and suffered to pine without receiving either that aid or consolation, which compassion usually pays to the wretched.”716 “The Bengalese,” says another traveller, “will seldom assist each other, unless they happen to be friends or relations, and then the service that they render only consists in carrying the sufferer to the water of the Ganges, to let him die there, or be carried away by the stream.”717 Le Couteur remarks, that “men accustomed from their infancy to abstain from every kind of cruelty towards brutes, ought naturally to be humane and benevolent towards their own species; and this would infallibly be the case, if the same religion had not hardened the hearts of the superior casts; for they hold those that are born their inferiors, as beings below even the most worthless animals: they take away the life of a man with less scruple than we kill a fowl. To strike a cow would be sacrilege; but a Bramin may put a man to death when he lists.”718

It commonly happens that in a rude period of society, the virtue of hospitality, generously and cordially displayed, helps to cast into the shade the odious passions which adhere to man in his uncultivated state. The unhappy circumstances, religious and political, of the Hindu, have tended to eradicate even this, the virtue of a rude age, from his breast. After noticing in various parts of his journey, the striking instances which he witnessed of the want of hospitality, Dr. Buchanan says in one passage, “I mention these difficulties, which are very frequently met with by travellers in all parts of India where Europeans have not long resided, to show the inhospitable nature of its inhabitants.” For one of his sepoys, who was seized with an acute disease, and left in agony by the side of the road, he could not, except by force, in a large village obtain a cot, though he was assured there was one in every house.

The ancient literature of the Hindus affords many proofs that no inconsiderable degree of ferocity has at all times been mingled with the other ingredients of their character. The Yadavas, a sacred race, the kindred of Crishna, in a drunken fray, took arms and butchered one another, to the utter extinction of the race.719 One of the most remarkable stories in the celebrated book, called Hetopadesu, is that of a man who cut off his wife's nose, because she would not speak to him.720 As the performance of that great religious ceremony, called a Jug, is sufficient to extort from the divinity whatever boon the true performer demands, the following law makes provision against the most cool, intense, and persevering malignity of which human nature appears to be susceptible. “If a man performs a jug to procure the death of any innocent person, the magistrate shall fine him 200 puns of cowries.”721 If the gentleness, too, of the punishment, about ten shillings,722 be a sign, the indignation, which so atrocious a purpose excites, is far from remarkable. That murder by the most odious means, by poison, is looked upon in the same venial light, the following law bears equal testimony; “If a man, to procure the death of any innocent person, by any contrivance, causes him to drink a potion, or otherwise meditates his death, the magistrate shall fine him 200 puns of cowries.”723 The cool reflection which attends the villainy of the Hindu, has often surprised the European. Mr. Holwell informs us, that, when he sat as a judge at Calcutta he had often heard the most atrocious murders avowed and defended by the criminals, on the ground of its being now the Cali age, when men are destined to be wicked.724

Notwithstanding the degree to which the furious passions enter into the character of the Hindu, all witnesses agree in representing him as a timid being. With more apparent capacity of supporting pain than any other race of men; and, on many occasions, a superiority to the fear of death, which cannot be surpassed, this people run from danger with more trepidation and eagerness than has been almost ever witnessed in any other part of the globe.725

It is the mixture of this fearfulness, with their antisocial passions, which has given existence to that litigiousness of character which almost all witnesses have ascribed to this ancient race. As often as courage fails them in seeking a more daring gratification to their hatred or revenge, their malignity finds a vent in the channel of litigation. “That pusillanimity and sensibility of spirit,” says Mr, Orme, “which renders the Gentoos incapable of supporting the contentions of danger, disposes them as much to prosecute litigious contests. No people are of more inveterate and steady resentments in civil disputes. The only instance in which they seem to have a contempt for money, is their profusion of it in procuring the redress and revenge of injuries at the bar of justice. Although they can, with great resignation, see themselves plundered to the utmost by their superiors, they become mad with impatience, when they think themselves defrauded of any part of their property by their equals. Nothing can be more adapted to the feminine spirit of a Gentoo, than the animosities of a lawsuit.”726

A modification of the same passions gives rise to another, and seemingly a strong ingredient in the Hindu character, a propensity to the war of contentious tongues. The following picture, if not finely, is at least clearly drawn. “The timidity of the Hindu may, in general, prevent his fighting, boxing, or shedding of blood; but it by no means restrains him from scolding and upbraiding his neighbours. In this respect they are the most litigious and quarrel-some of all men. Have two persons a misunderstanding? Let them meet in the street and they will upbraid each other for an hour together, with every foul epithet of abuse which their imagination can suggest, or their language supply. A few natives engaged in one of these bickerings display a furious gesticulation; a volubility of words and coarseness of expression which leave the eloquence of Billingsgate far behind.”727

The physical temperament of the Hindus, though an effect of some of the circumstances which have operated to the formation of their minds, has reflected a strong influence on their character. Their make is slender and delicate. Their shapes are in general fine. The female form, in particular, frequently attains in India its most exquisite proportions; and “their skins,” says Mr. Orme, speaking of the Hindu women, “are of a polish and softness beyond that of all their rivals on the globe.” The muscular strength, however, of the Hindus, is small; even less, according to the same accurate observer, than the appearance of their bodies, though expressive of weakness, would lead the spectator to infer. Their stature is in general considerably below the European standard; though such inferiority is more remarkable in the south, and diminishes as you advance toward the north.728

The extreme simplicity and lightness of the aliments used by the Hindu, and the smallness of his consumption, must, undoubtedly, have been among the causes of the lightness and feebleness observable in his frame. His food consists almost wholly of rice; and his drink is nothing but water: while his demands are satisfied with a pittance which appears extreme to the people of almost every other part of the world. The prohibition, by the Hindu religion, of the flesh of animals for food, has been sufficiently remarked. It is not such as to have produced by any means a total abstinence, but the quantity consumed is, no doubt, small. The great luxury of the Hindu is butter, prepared in a manner peculiar to himself, and called by him, ghee.729

But though the body of the Hindu is feeble, it is agile, in an extraordinary degree. Not only in those surprising contortions and feats, which constitute the art of the tumbler, do they excel almost all the nations in the world; but even in running and marching they equal, if not surpass, people of the most robust constitutions. “Their messengers will go fifty miles a day, for twenty or thirty days without intermission.” Their infantry, if totally unincumbered with burthens, which they could by no means support, will march faster, and with less weariness, than European.730

The delicacy of their texture is accompanied with great acuteness and sensibility in all the organs of sense. This not only gives them great advantages in some of the finest of the manual arts, as weaving, for example; the pliant fingers and exquisite touch of the Hindu being so peculiarly adapted to the handling of the finest threads: but it communicates a remarkable susceptibility to the mental organs. The Hindu is a sort of a sensitive plant. His imagination and passions are easily inflamed; and he has a sharpness and quickness of intellect which seems strongly connected with the sensibility of his outward frame.

Another remarkable circumstance in the character of the Hindus; in part, too, no doubt, the effect of corporeal weakness, though an effect in some sort opposite to that excitability which we have immediately remarked, is the inertness of disposition, with which all men have been so forcibly struck in observing the conduct of this peculiar race. The love of repose reigns in India with more powerful sway, than in any other region probably of the globe. “It is more happy to be seated than to walk; it is more happy to sleep than to be awake; but the happiest of all is death.” Such is one of the favourite sayings, most frequently in the mouths of this listless tribe, and most descriptive of their habitual propensities. Phlegmatic indolence pervades the nation. Few pains, to the mind of a Hindu, are equal to that of bodily exertion; the pleasure must be intense which he prefers to that of its total cessation.731

This listless apathy and corporeal weakness of the natives of Hindustan, have been ascribed to the climate under which they live. But other nations, subject to the influence of as warm a sun, are neither indolent nor weak; the Malays for example, the Arabians, the Chinese.732 The savage is listless and indolent under every clime. In general, this disposition must arise from the absence of the motives to work; because the pain of moderate labour is so very gentle, that even feeble pleasures suffice to overcome it; and the pleasures which spring from the fruits of labour are so many and great, that the prospect of them, where allowed to operate, can seldom fail to produce the exertions which they require. There is a state of barbarity and rudeness which implies, perhaps, a weakness of mind too great to be capable of perceiving, with a clearness sufficient to operate upon the will, the benefits of labour. This, however, is a state beyond which the Hindus have long since passed; and there is but one cause, to which, among the Hindus, the absence of the motives for labour can be ascribed; their subjection to a wretched government, under which the fruits of labour were never secure.733

The languid and slothful habits of the Hindu appear to have prescribed even his amusements and diversions. They are almost all of the sedentary and inactive kind. The game of paucheess, which bears a resemblance to chess and draughts, and is played by two natives, reclining on their sides, with a small chequered carpet placed between them, is the favourite amusement of this indolent race. Wonderful is the patience and interest with which, we are told, they watch and plan the evolutions of this languid game.734 The mind in vacuity droops and pines; even where the body is the most gratified by repose: and in the rude state of society, when interesting objects seldom occur, the passion for play is a general resource. The Hindus, accordingly, appear to have been at all times deeply infected with the vices of gaming. In that celebrated poem, the Mahabarat, Judishter, though celebrated as a model of kingly wisdom, and his four brothers, all eminent men, are represented as losing their fortunes, and their very kingdoms, at dice. The laws, as usual, are ambiguous and contradictory. All gaming is pronounced unlawful; yet, according to the Gentoo Code, parties may game before an agent of the magistrate, to whom in that case a half of the winnings belongs.735

A fondness for those surprising feats of bodily agility and dexterity which form the arts of the tumbler and the juggler, is a feature in the character of the Hindu. It is a passive enjoyment which corresponds with the passiveness of his temper; and it seems in general to be adapted to the taste of all men in a similar state of society. Our Saxon ancestors were much addicted to this species of amusement; and their tumblers and jugglers had arrived at great proficiency.736 The passion of the Chinese for those diversions is known to be excessive, and the powers of their performers, almost incredible.737 This was one of the favourite entertainments of the ancient Mexicans; and their surprising dexterity and skill seem hardly to have yielded to that of the Hindus and Chinese. Clavigero concludes a minute and interesting account of the astonishing feats of the Mexican performers, by remarking, that, “the first Spaniards, who were witnesses of these and other exhibitions of the Mexicans, were so much astonished at their agility, that they suspected some supernatural power assisted them, forgetting to make a due allowance for the progress of the human genius when assisted by application and labour.”738

A taste for buffoonery is very generally a part of the character of a rude people; as appears by the buffoons, who, under the name of fools, were entertained by our Gothic ancestors in the courts of princes and the palaces of the great. Among the Hindus, this source of amusement was an object of so much importance, as to become the subject of legislative enactment. “The magistrate,” says the Gentoo Code, “shall retain in his service a great number of buffoons or parasites, jesters, and dancers, and athletics.”739

Story-telling, which entirely harmonizes with the Hindu tone of mind, is said to be a favourite diversion.740 The recitations of the bards, with which the people of Europe were formerly so much delighted, afforded an entertainment of the same description. The stories of the Hindus consist of the wildest fictions; and as almost all their written narratives are in verse, their spoken stories, it is probable, like the effusions of the bards, contained occasionally more or less of the measure and elevation of verse.741 Music and dancing form a part of their entertainments; the latter, however, they enjoy as spectators chiefly, not performers.

Notwithstanding the indolence and inactivity of the Hindus, hunting, which is in general so favourite a sport of man in his uncivilized state, is capable of calling forth their most strenuous exertions. The different classes seem not only to forget their habitual languor and timidity, but their still more inveterate prejudices of caste, and join together in pursuing the tenants of the woods and mountains with an ardour, enterprise and patience, which no other people can surpass.742

It is curious that avarice, which seems but little consistent with sloth, or that insecurity with regard to property which so bad a government as theirs implies forms a more remarkable ingredient in the national character of the Hindus, than in that of any other people. It is a passion congenial to a weak and timid mind, unwarmed by the social affections. They are almost universally penurious;743 and where placed in situations in which their insatiable desire of gain can meet with its gratification, it is not easy to surpass their keenness and assiduity in the arts of accumulation.744 “Slavery,” says Mr. Orme, “has sharpened the natural fineness of all the spirits of Asia. From the difficulty of obtaining, and the greater difficulty of preserving, the Gentoos are indefatigable in business, and masters of the most exquisite dissimulation in all affairs of interest. They are the acutest buyers and sellers in the world, and preserve through all their bargains a degree of calmness, which baffles all the arts that can be opposed against it.”745 The avaricious disposition of the Hindus is deeply stamped in their maxims of prudence and morality. Thus, they say: “From poverty a man cometh to shame. Alas! the want of riches is the foundation of every misfortune.—It is better to dwell in a forest haunted by tigers and lions, than to live amongst relations after the loss of wealth.”746

The mode of transacting bargains among the Hindus is sufficiently peculiar to deserve description. By a refinement of the cunning and deceitful temper of a rude people, the business is performed secretly, by tangible signs. The buyer and seller seat themselves opposite to one another, and covering their hands with a cloth, perform all the most subtile artifices of chaffering, without uttering a word, by means of certain touches and signals of the fingers, which they mutually understand.747

The simplicity of the houses, dress, and furniture of the Hindus correspond with that of their diet. “The Indian houses,” says Sonnerat, “display nothing of oriental magnificence.”748 Those of the poor, even in towns, are built of mud, sometimes of brick, and thatched. “Brahmens and religious people plaster the pavement, and sometimes the walls, with cow-dung; and although this act proceeds from a spirit of religion, yet it is of use in keeping out insects.”749 The furniture, which is almost nothing in the houses of the poor, is in the highest degree scanty and simple even in those of the rich. Mats or carpets for the floor, on which they are accustomed both to sit and to lie, with a few earthen and other vessels for the preparation of their victuals and for their religious ceremonies, form the inventory in general of their household goods.750

From the frequency and care with which the Hindus perform religious ablutions, the Europeans, prone from partial appearances to draw flattering conclusions, painted them, at first, as in the colours of so many other virtues, so likewise in those of cleanliness. Few nations are surpassed by the Hindus, in the total want of physical purity, in their streets, houses, and persons. Mr. Foster, whose long residence in India, and knowledge of the country, render him an excellent witness, says of the narrow streets of Benares; “In addition to the pernicious effect which must proceed from a confined atmosphere, there is, in the hot season, an intolerable stench arising from the many pieces of stagnated water dispersed in different quarters of the town. The filth also which is indiscriminately thrown into the streets, and there left exposed, (for the Hindus possess but a small portion of general cleanliness) add to the compound of ill smells so offensive to the European inhabitants of this city.”751 Dr. Buchanan informs us, that “the earthen pots in which the Hindus boil their milk, are in general so nasty, that after this operation no part of the produce of the dairy is tolerable to Europeans, and whatever they use their own servants must prepare.”752 “The Hindoo,” says Mr. Scott Waring, “who bathes constantly in the Ganges, and whose heart equals in purity the whiteness of his vest, will allow this same white robe to drop nearly off with filth before he thinks of changing it. Histories, composed in the closet, of the manners of extensive nations may possess every beauty; for as facts do not restrain the imagination, nor impose rules on poetic license, the fancy of the historian enjoys an uninterrupted range in the regions of fiction.”753

To a superficial view, it appears surprising that overstrained sentiments in regard to the ceremonial of behaviour are a mark of the uncivilized state of the human mind. The period when men have but just emerged from barbarism, and have made the first feeble steps in improvement, is the period at which formalities in the intercourse of social life are the most remarkably multiplied, at which the importance attached to them is the greatest, and at which the nice observance of them is the most rigidly exacted. In modern Europe, as manners have refined, and knowledge improved, we have thrown off the punctilious ceremonies which constituted the fine breeding of our ancestors; and adopted more and more of simplicity in the forms of intercourse. Among the inhabitants of Hindustan, the formalities of behaviour are multiplied to excess; and the most important bonds of society are hardly objects of greater reverence.754 Some of their rules breathe that spirit of benevolence, and of respect for the weak, which begins to show itself partially at an early period of society, and still wants much of its proper strength at a late one. The distinctions of giving way on the road are thus marked in the Gentoo code; a man with sight, to a man blind; a man with hearing to a man deaf; a man to a woman; a man empty-handed to a man with a burthen; an inferior person to a superior; a man in health to a sick person; and all persons to a Brahmen.755 Not a few of their rules bear curious testimony to the unpolished state of society in which they were prescribed. “If a man,” says one of their laws,” having accepted another's invitation, doth not eat at his house, then he shall be obliged to make good all the expense that was incurred in consequence of the invitation.”756 When a Hindu gives an entertainment, he seats himself in the place of greatest distinction; and all the most delicate and costly of the viands are placed before him. The company sit according to their quality, the inferior sort at the greatest distance from the master, each eating of those dishes only which are placed before him, and they continually decreasing in fineness, as they approach the place of the lowest of the guests.757

The attachment which the Hindus, in common with all ignorant nations, bear to astrology, is a part of their manners exerting a strong influence upon the train of their actions. “The Hindus of the present age,” says a partial observer, “do not undertake any affair of consequence without consulting their astrologers, who are always Brahmens.”758 The belief of witchcraft and sorcery continues universally prevalent; and is every day the cause of the greatest enormities. It not unfrequently happens that Brahmens, tried for murder before the English judges, assign as their motive to the crime, that the murdered individual had enchanted them. No fewer than five unhappy persons in one district were tried and executed for witchcraft, so late as the year 1792. The villagers themselves assume the right of sitting in judgment on this imaginary offence; and their sole instruments of proof are the most wretched of all incantations. Branches of the Saul tree, for example, one for each of the suspected individuals, inscribed with her name, are planted in water. If any of them withers within a certain time, the devoted female, whose name it bears, suffers death as a witch.759
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Re: The History of British India, Vol. I, by James Mill

Postby admin » Mon Nov 23, 2020 10:27 am

NOTES

NOTE A. p. 286.


“5. This universe existed only in the first divine idea yet unexpanded, as if involved in darkness, imperceptible, undefinable, undiscoverable by reason, and undiscovered by revelation, as if it were wholly immersed in sleep;

“6. Then the sole self-existing power, himself undiscerned, but making this world discernible, with five elements and other principles of nature, appeared with undiminished glory, expanding his idea, or dispelling the gloom.

“7. He, whom the mind alone can perceive, whose essence eludes the external organs, who has no visible parts, who exists from eternity, even he, the soul of all beings, whom no being can comprehend, shone forth in person.

“8. He, having willed to produce various beings from his own divine substance, first with a thought created the waters, and placed in them a productive seed:

“9. The seed became an egg bright as gold, blazing like the luminary with a thousand beams: and in that egg he was born himself, in the form of Brahma, the great forefather of all spirits.

“10. The waters are called nara, because they were the production of Nara, or the Spirit of God; and, since they were his first ayana, or place of motion, he thence is named Narayana, or moving on the waters.

“11. From That Which is, the first cause, not the object of sense, existing every where in substance, not existing to our perception, without beginning or end, was produced the divine male, famed in all worlds under the appellation of Brahma.

“12. In that egg the great power sat inactive a whole year of the Creator, at the close of which, by his thought alone, he caused the egg to divide itself.

“13. And from its two divisions he framed the heaven above and the earth beneath: in the midst he placed the subtil ether, the eight regions, and the permanent receptacle of waters.

“14. From the supreme soul he drew forth mind, existing substantially though unperceived by sense, immaterial; and before mind, or the reasoning power, he produced consciousness, the internal monitor, the ruler:

“15. And, before them both, he produced the great principle of the soul, or first expansion of the divine idea; and all vital forms endued with the three qualities of goodness, passion, and darkness; and the five perceptions of sense, and the five organs of sensation.

“16. Thus, having at once pervaded, with emanations from the Supreme Spirit, the minutest portions of six principles immensely operative, consciousness and the five perceptions, he framed all creatures;

“17. And since the minutest particles of visible nature have a dependence on those six emanations from God, the wise have accordingly given the name of sarira or depending on six, that is, the ten organs on consciousness, and the five elements on as many perceptions, to his image or appearance in visible nature.

“18. Thence proceed the great elements endued with peculiar powers, and mind with operations infinitely subtil, the unperishable cause of all apparent forms.

“19. This universe, therefore, is compacted from the minute portions of those seven divine and active principles, the great soul, or first emanation, consciousness, and five perceptions; a mutable universe from immutable ideas.

“20. Among them each succeeding element acquires the quality of the preceding; and, in as many degrees as each of them is advanced, with so many properties is it said to be endued.

“21. He too first assigned to all creatures distinct names, distinct acts, and distinct occupations; as they had been revealed in the pre-existing Veda.

“22. He, the supreme ruler, created an assemblage of inferior deities, with divine attributes and pure souls; and a number of genii exquisitely delicate; and he prescribed the sacrifice ordained from the beginning.

“23. From fire, from air, and from the sun he milked out, as it were, the three primordial Vedas, named Rich, Yajush, and Saman, for the due performance of the sacrifice.

“24. He gave being to time and the divisions of time, to the stars also, and to the planets, to rivers, oceans, and mountains, to level plains, and uneven valleys.

“25. To devotion, speech, complacency, desire, and wrath, and to the creation, which shall presently be mentioned; for he willed the existence of all those created things.

“26. For the sake of distinguishing actions, he made a total difference between right and wrong, and enured these sentient creatures to pleasure and pain, cold and heat, and other opposite pairs.

“27. With very minute transformable portions, called natras, of the five elements, all this perceptible world was composed in fit order;

“28. And in whatever occupation the supreme lord first employed any vital soul, to that occupation the same soul attaches itself spontaneously, when it receives a new body again and again:

“29. Whatever quality, noxious or innocent, harsh or mild, unjust or just, false or true, he conferred on any being at its creation, the same quality enters it of course on its future births;

“30. As the six seasons of the year attain respectively their peculiar marks in due time, and of their own accord, even so the several acts of each embodied spirit attend it naturally.

“31. That the human race might be multiplied, he caused the Brahmen, the Cshatriya, the Vaisya, and the Sudra (so named from the scripture, protection, wealth, and labour) to proceed from his mouth, his arm, his thigh, and his foot.

“32. Having divided his own substance, the mighty Power became half male, half female, or nature active and passive; and from that female he produced Viraj:

“33. Know me, O most excellent of Brahmens, to be that person, whom the male power VIRAJ, having performed austere devotion, produced by himself; me, the secondary framer of all this visible world.

“34. It was I, who, desirous of giving birth to a race of men, performed very difficult religious duties, and first produced ten lords of created being, eminent in holiness,

“35. Marichi, Atri, Angeras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Cratu, Prachetas, or Dacsha, Vasishtha, Bhrigu, and Narada:

“36. They, abundant in glory, produced seven other Menus, together with deities, and in the mansions of deities, and Maharshis, or great Sages, unlimited in power.

“37. Benevolent genii, and fierce giants, blood-thirsty savages, heavenly quiristers, nymphs and demons, huge serpents, and snakes of smaller size, birds of mighty wing, and separate companies of Pitris, or progenitors of mankind;

“38. Lightnings and thunder-bolts, clouds and coloured bows of Indra, falling meteors, earth-rending vapours, comets, and luminaries of various degrees;

“39. Horse-faced sylvans, apes, fish, and a variety of birds, tame cattle, deer, men, and ravenous beasts with two rows of teeth;

“40. Small and large reptiles, moths, lice, fleas, and common flies, with every biting gnat, and immovable substances of distinct sorts.” (Instit. of Menu, ch. 1.)

Such is the account of the creation which is contained in one of the principal standards of Hindu faith; such is one of the chief documents from which we can draw precise ideas respecting the religious principles of the Hindus. The darkness, the vagueness, and the confusion, which reign in it, need not be remarked; for by these the Hindu mythology is throughout distinguished. The first of the propositions, as it now stands, can be adequately designated only by the familiar appellative, nonsense; the ideas are heterogeneous, and incompatible. “This universe” it is said, “existed only in the first divine idea.” When any thing is said to exist in idea, the meaning is, that it is conceived by the mind, or, in common language, that it is an idea in the mind. This universe then, according to the above passage, was conceived by the divine mind before it was actually produced, or, in other words, it was an idea in the divine mind. This idea existed in the divine mind “yet unexpanded.” But what are we to understand by an idea in the divine mind “unexpanded?” In regard to human thought an idea may be said to be unexpanded, when something is conceived very generally and obscurely; and it may be said to be expanded when the thing is conceived minutely, distinctly, and in all its parts. Are we then to understand by the idea of the universe being unexpanded in the divine mind, that the universe was conceived by it only generally, obscurely, indistinctly, and that it was not till creation was actually performed, that the divine idea was clear, full, and precise? How infinitely removed is this from the sublime conception which we entertain of the Divine Being; to whose thoughts all his works past, present, and to come, and every thing in the universe from eternity to eternity, are present always, essentially, perfectly, in all their parts, properties, and relations! This divine idea is still farther described: it existed “as if involved in darkness.” When an idea is involved in darkness, it is an idea not perfectly understood; an apprehension only compatible with the most imperfect notions of the divine nature. It existed “imperceptible.” If this means by the senses, all ideas are imperceptible; if it means by the mind, it is impossible, for the very essence of an idea consists in its being perceived by the mind. It existed “undefinable, undiscoverable by reason, undiscovered by revelation, as if it were wholly immersed in sleep.” What sort of an idea could that be in the divine mind which the divine mind could not define, that mind by which it was formed? If the meaning be, that it could not be defined by any other mind; neither can the idea, not yet expressed, which exists in the mind of the most foolish of men. “Not discoverable by reason;” does this mean that the divine reason did not discover the divine idea; or does it mean that human reason could not discover it? An idea in the mind of another being is not discoverable to man by reason, but by enunciation. The last expression is the most extraordinary; “as if immersed in sleep:” “an idea immersed in sleep!” An idea too in the divine mind immersed in sleep! What notion can be formed of this?

But it must be explained that this incoherence and absurdity is not the work of Menu, or of the author, whoever he was, of the treatise which goes by his name. It is a common plan in India, for a commentator who is explaining a book, to insert between the words of the text such expressions as to him appear necessary to render the sense of the author clear and distinct. This has been done by a commentator of the name of Culluca, in regard to the ordinances of Menu; and his gloss or commentary, interworded with the text, Sir William Jones has translated along with his author. As he has, very judiciously, however, printed the interwoven expressions of the commentator in italics, it is easy for the reader to separate them, and to behold the sense of the original unadulterated. According to this expedient, the words of Menu appear thus: “This existed only in darkness, imperceptible, undefinable, undiscoverable, undiscovered, as if it were wholly immersed in sleep.” It seems remarkably the genius of the ancient Sanscrit writings to be elliptical, and the adjective pronouns specially are very frequently used without a substantive. “This,” in the passage which we are now examining, is in that situation. The mind of the reader is left to supply the word which the sense of the context demands. This—every thing; this—whole; this—universe; such is the manner in which the mind easily here suggests the requisite idea; and when this is done, the incoherence and absurdity which the supplement of Culluca engendered, is entirely dispelled. The passage presents clearly and unambiguously, a description, a very vague and unmeaning description, it must be owned, of that chaos of which the Greeks and Romans drew so striking and awful a picture, and of which the belief appears to have been so widely and generally diffused. The notion which Culluca endeavoured to engraft, is remarkable. It is no other than the celebrated Platonic principle of the preexistence of all things in the divine mind, which Culluca, it is evident, neither understood nor could apply, and with which he made such havoc on the genuine sense of his author. It is probable that he borrowed the idea from some foreign source, that it pleased him as preferable to the more rude conception of a chaos, and that he resolved, according to the invariable rule of the Brahmens, to give his own order the credit of it, by incorporating it with the doctrines of the sacred authors.

There is a remarkable coincidence, and there is a remarkable discrepancy, between this passage in the Institutes of Menu, and the following at the beginning of the book of Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” The coincidence appears in the chaotic description here applied to the earth: the discrepancy consists in this, that the Jewish legislator informs us of the previous creation of the shapeless mass, the Hindu legislator describes it as antecedent to all creation.

This chaos, this universe, then, in its dark, imperceptible, undefinable state, existed according to Menu, antecedent to creation. This too was the idea of the Greeks and Romans, who thence believed in the eternity of matter.
It is doubtful, from the extreme vagueness of the Hindu language, whether they had carried their thoughts so far as to conceive the question respecting the origin of matter; but as its eternity is implied in several of their doctrines, so it appears to be recognized in some of their expressions. It appears, indeed, that they were unable to make any clear distinction between matter and spirit, but rather considered the latter to be some extraordinary refinement of the former. Thus even the Divine Being, though they called him soul, and spirit, they certainly regarded as material. In the passage already quoted, it is said, “that he willed to produce various beings from his own divine substance.” Now what can be meant by substance, if not material substance? Besides, from material substance alone can material beings be produced. But the first thing which we are told was produced from the divine substance, was water. It is worth remarking, at the same time, that in other places water appears to be spoken of as uncreated, and as the material out of which all other things were produced. A passage describing the creation, translated from the Yajur Veda by Mr. Colebrooke, commences thus: “Waters alone there were; this world originally was water. In it the lord of creation moved, having become air.” [Asiat. Res. viii. 452.]
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Re: The History of British India, Vol. I, by James Mill

Postby admin » Mon Nov 23, 2020 10:27 am

NOTE B. p. 289.

Another and a very remarkable account of the creation of living creatures is found in the Vedas, and translated by Mr. Colebrooke. “This variety of forms was, before the production of body, soul, bearing a human shape. Next, looking round, that primeval Being saw nothing but himself; and he first said, I am I. Therefore his name was I: and thence even now, when called, a man first answers, it is I, and then declares any other name which appertains to him.—Since he, being anterior to all this which seeks supremacy, did consume by fire all sinful obstacles to his own supremacy, therefore does the man, who knows this truth, overcome him, who seeks to be before him.—He felt dread; and, therefore, man fears, when alone. But he reflected 'since nothing exists besides myself, why should I fear?’ Thus his terror departed from him; for what should he dread, since fear must be of another?—He felt not delight; and, therefore, man delights not when alone. He wished the existence of another; and instantly he became such as is man and woman in mutual embrace. He caused this his own self to fall in twain; and thus became a husband and a wife. Therefore was this body, so separated, as it were an imperfect moiety of himself: for so Yajnyawalcya has pronounced it. This blank, therefore, is completed by woman. He approached her; and thence were human beings produced.—She reflected, doubtingly; How can he, having produced me from himself, incestuously approach me? I will now assume a disguise. She became a cow; and the other became a bull and approached her; and the issue were kine. She was changed into a mare, and he into a stallion; one was turned into a female ass, and the other into a male one: thus did he again approach her, and the one-hoofed kind was the offspring. She became a female goat, and he a male one; she was an ewe, and he a ram: thus he approached her, and goats and sheep were the progeny. In this manner, did he create every existing pair whatsoever, even to the ants and minutest insect.” See a curious Discourse of Mr. Colebrooke on the Vedas, or Sacred Writings of the Hindus, Asiat. Research. viii. 440, 441.
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