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Once it smiled a silent dell
Give a trickle and a tinkle and a
THE CITY IN T H E S E A.
Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
No rays from the holy Heaven come down
§ shadowy long-forgotten bowers
Resignedly beneath the sky
But lo, a stir is in the air!
CA STES AND O C CUPATION S OF IND I A.
BEFor E the conquest of India by the Moslems, that part of Asia which lies south of the Himmaleh, or Snowy Chain, was occupied by the aboriginal Hindoos, the descendants of that ancient people, who are celebrated by the Greek historians as the wisest of mankind. The followers of Alexander, who passed with him out of Bactriana across the Indus, to the borders of the kingdom of Delhi, were astonished at the courage, and intelligence of these remote nations; and in a panic of fear, suddenly turned back from conquest, and descending the Indus, returned to Syria, by the borders of the ocean. The expedition of Alexander happened in the fourth century before Christ; and although India, since that period, has been overrun, and repeatedly disturbed and dismembered by conquest, and many of its millions converted to Islam, the mass of its population retain the customs and worship of their fathers, and are pictured by the moderns, as they were described by the followers of Alexander. All that is peculiar to them as a nation seems to have had its origin in their institution of Castes, by which they are separated into four principal, and a eat number of subordinate classes. he Castes are forbidden to intermarry, or associate in private, and hold together as a nation, by necessity only, because of the division of employments. The caste of Soudras cultivate the soil, and erform every thing menial or laborious. hat of Voiskyas, are merchants, traders and usurers. The Chastrias were soldiers, landholders and governors from their origin; when civil employments, the priesthood, and all occupations of learning and intelligence, were given to the Brahmins, and are held by that order, even to this day. There is proof that the castes of India were instituted before the tenth-century, B. C.; and reasonable conjecture makes their original at least three centuries older; for castes are made the basis of the ancient Hindoo code, a law which was in force throughout India before the origin of the sect of Buddhists, (1014,
B. C.); but is they were established at that riod as the law of the land, they must ong have been instituted at the epoch of Buddha. But the division of society into classes, according to their occupations began in Egypt, at least thirty centuries before Christ; for the chronicle of that country declares, that its first king, Menes, was of the military order; but that before his time, (B. C. 2750,) Egypt was governed by the gods." Caste, therefore, had existed in Egypt for at least a thousand years before the conquest of India by Sesostris. The Egyptian soldiery were already, by their nation's law, prohibited intermarriage with the daughters of their priests, when they landed on the shores of India; and being the conquerors, they must have been the possessors of the soil:—It is a safe and probable conjecture, that they were the founders of the military caste in India. One third of the cultivated land in Egypt was set apart for the gods, and divided among the orders of priests; and the same would happen in India, to that colony of priests which, according to Egyptian custom, must have accompanied the army of Sesostris; and these Egyptians were, as probably, the ancestors of the modern §. for there is no other conjecture that explains the similarity of Indian and Egyptian institutions. But the expeditions of Egyptian monarchs, and those particularly of Sesostris, were undertaken in part for the opening of new channels of commerce; and for the establishment of temples, to be used as places of deposit for property left in desert and dangerous regions. An order of merchants would thence arise. of Egyptian or Phoenician blood, authorized to trade as king's servants; and by virtue of their importance to the nation, and the dangers they underwent, second, only in rank, to those of the military order who protected and shared their wealth. The fourth caste would be composed of the conquered aborigines of India, reduced to the condition of political slaves, without right of property, the common servants of the priests and rulers; and such, at this moment, is in some degree the condition of the Soudras of Hindostan. That the ancient Hindoos and Egyptians were imperfectly civilized, is evident from the absence among them of a fifth caste, devoted to civil offices, and to the advancement of legal and liberal knowledge. Their science and superstitions were always intimately blended, and every effort of speculative intelligence made accessory to despotism and priestcraft. Another proof of their barbarism is in the degradation of their merchants below their soldiers, as in the feudal nations of Europe. All profitable employments are at this time seized upon by the Brahmins, who have become capitalists and landholders, to the ruin of the ancient mercantile order; and now, over all Hindostan, a civil, as well as social separation has taken place between the sacerdotal and military classes; the soldiery inhabiting the sterile and mountainous parts of the interior, and living in the pay of robber chiefs and Moslems; so that a few only, are left in the more populous and fertile parts, and of these, a . only of the pure blood; but the Brahmins prosess to have maintained their ancient purity of caste. The Hindoos are a dark-complexioned and rather feeble race, with features nearly of the European type. Those of military rank are often well formed, active and courageous; and under good discipline, become excellent soldiers. The rahmins resemble Europeans, but for their dark skins; and are said to be the shrewdest and most imaginative people in existence. Since their privileges of commerce and usury have been appropriated by Brahmins, the mercantile order cease to be ranked above the better classes of Soudras. These latter compose the body of the people, and their numbers, compared with those of Brahmins, are as a thousand to one. They occupy the vallies and plains of the great rivers, an abject crowd, living in the extreme of poverty and oppression; stripped of their surplus earnings by priests and soldiers, and so spiritless and indolent, their voluntary labor is only sufficient to supply Hindostan with the necessaries of life. The separation of employments, in India
* I. e., Hierarchies, or dynasties of the priests, of different gods.
and Egypt, have made these countries a prey to every conqueror; for the mass of the inhabitants, preyed upon by the priests, and looking for protection to a military caste, were left defenceless, whenever that caste were made indolent by the indulgence of a long peace. And these nations are a proof that the division of occupations, carried to a system, may utterly ruin and debase the noblest nation. Each of the four castes is sub-divided into a multitude of others, numbering near a hundred in all. And these lesser castes have each an employment given them, and hold precedence of their inferiors in social rank with as great jealousy as those of high rank. Tinkers will not intermarry with cobblers; nor these with menial laborers; nor these with such as bury the dead. And in the sub-castes of Brahmins there are the same distinctions, and the same jealousies, to an excess of observance, that passes belief. An Hindoo must not sit upon the same mat, or take food, or smoke with one of inferior rank, though it be his own son; for, if he has chosen to marry a wife inferior to himself, the children of that marriage cannot claim the rank of their father. The knowledge of rank and pedigree is a profession of itself, in India; and, like the feudal heraldry, has its own literature and precedents. Persons named Gatakas, who may be of various rank, and, are very numerous, make a study of this knowledge, for the sake of negotiating marriages. They penetrate the private affairs of families, and know every taint of blood, or injury of caste; and by these means becoming dangerous, as a kind of secret agents, for the protection or ruin of reputations; and these reputations depend in no sort upon actual worth, but on the strictness of prayers, bathings, abstinences, sacrifices, ăvoidances of takin food or clothes from unclean hands; an upon the careofthe citizentouse only those occupations which are proper to his rank. With a thousand of such bars, the life of a Hindoo becomes a long deceit, his religion an endless slight penance. A lie is expiated by washing; violence by prayer; to commit murder is death to reputation, in a Brahmin ; but the pure conscience may suggest another to it, and feel no blame. Forgery is reckoned among venial faults, and to be concerned for the multitude is a blameable, if not a criminal weakness. The Brahmin, says their ancient lawgiver, issued from the mouth of Brahma, (the Creator,) and partakes of his divinity; he is an object of worship, and at death, if pure, is reabsorbed into the divine essence. The Chastrias came from the hands of Brahma, and have his power; they are the defenders of society. The merchants came from his thighs; and it is their duty to provide for the sustenance of men. Soudras are the offspring of Brahma's feet; they are laborers, and their duty is humbly to serve the upper castes, without reluctance and without expectation of reward in this life; their recompense, if pure, will be the new birth of their souls into the body of a soldier or Brahmin.” Such is at this day the doctrine, and, as far as nature will permit, the practice of Brahminical India. But under their Moslem and European masters the stricter laws of caste cannot be enforced, and the punishment of their non-obeisance, has become a mere social outlawry; but this, even, is sufficiently terrible. The Vedas, (their sacred books,) and the Institutes of Menu, teem with curses upon all who violate a tittle of the law of caste, or omit any observance of worship and penance. They name and describe a series of hells, deep below deep, ending in unquenchable fire; but these punishments are not eternal, and a gradation is is appointed. He, for example, who gives consecrated food to a Soudra, though the sufferer be his own child, and perishing of hunger, will enter the body of a muckworm, after death; but by a series of transmigration will again pass into a human form. There was anciently an exact division of occupations among the castes of Soudras; but by the example of their Moslem and English masters, the Hindoos of Bengal are learning to neglect them; notwithstanding the authority of their sacred books. Soudras are the body of the people in purely Hindoo districts. They are herdsmens, farm laborers, artisans and shopkeepers; but not actual slaves. Under the ancient law they were incapable of roperty in land, but their ancient re}. sovereigns appropriated certain districts, in charity, to their use. The sacred books command them to enslave themselves to pious Brahmins as an act of penance, for sins committed, not in this
• Laws of Menu, translated by Sir William Jones.
life, but in a previous existence; and every misfortune or sickness that may afflict them, must be expiated by a prayer or a penance, as if it were the sign of . incurred by the soul in another ody. This ancient superstition has so far lost its force, that Soudras will no longer serve without wages. But even now, their hope is, by penance and selftorture to enter finally the body of a Brahmin. The prayer and aspiration of a pious Brahmin, on the other hand, is, to escape the body and be again united with the Soul of the World. On certain occasions, the Soudra worships the Brahmin, raising the joined hands in token of adoration; but the Brahmin extends his hand a little space, by only bending the elbow, and the sins of the Soudra pass into it, and are consumed, as in a fire of expiation. The better castes of Soudras have some education, and are strict religionists, repeating frequent prayers for transgression, and bathing twice or thrice, in a pool or sacred river, to wash sin away. To this they add the worship of a little image of clay, before which the devotee makes prayers, with kneeling, bowing and various motions and grimaces, to symbolize a mystical relation between the parts of his body and the gods and elements. Household godst are set up in a room of every dwelling; and a pious Hindoo will eat no food that has not first been set before the idol. The most sacred of the household gods is named Shalgrama, and is a hollow stone of ferruginous clay, containing a loose nucleus that can be shaken, like the kernel of a filbert. The Shalgrama is sacred to Vishnu, (the preserving deity,) and is made the subject of a strange legend. Stones of this figure are brought from the foot of a spur of Himmaleh, where, it is said, Vishnu hid himself while at war with the gods of the mountain, and made these stones for hiding places; but the wonder is, that although millions of hollow stones were made in the body of the mountain, Vishnu was alike present in all. All the castes have books of prayer and ceremony proper to themselves, and it is esteemed a grievous sin for one of low caste to use a prayer or ceremony proper to a Brahmin. A Soudra cannot sacrifice, of himself; but, if he slays a victim, or throws rice upon the sacred fire, in monthly offering