« 上一頁繼續 »
to the manes of his ancestors, a Brahmin must be near, and give his sanction and aid; nor must the offering be given to any but the priests, on pain of torture in the world to come. By these, and other contributions, a thousand Soudras, though miserably poor themselves, will support one Brahmin in affluence. Certain of the Shastras, or religious books, which contain prayers, mythological histories, and the adventures and exploits of incarnate deities, are set apart for the use of inferior castes, and are assiduously read by them. The wisest of the Brahmins affirm, that there are now no Sondras of the caste that sprung from the feet of Brahma; but that all inferior Hindoos are only degenerate Brahmins. Whole families, and even villages, lose caste, from time to time, by some crime or inadvertency; and the majority of the priestly order, marry women of inferior rank, by whom their children become inferior to themselves; and from these causes, the process of degeneration goes on continually over all India, and has gone on for thousands of years; so that every meanest Hindoo is remotely of Brahminical extraction. The rise of any family, or individual, to a rank above its origin, is the rarest of events in India, and happens only by favor of the priests; a condition which checks all social ambition, and turns the attention of all classes upon sensual enjoyment, or the acquisition of wealth, as a means of luxury. The highest class of Soudras claim to be physicians. Medicine, among the Egyptians, was practiced by a division of the sacred caste; and many of that caste, in India, profess to effect cures, but chiefly y incantations and magical rites. But the healing art is certainly less reputable in India than it was in Egypt. Hindoo physicians make use of powerful medicines, such as arsenic and opium, and with frequent success; but their practice is traditional, only, and they have no science, but mingle superstition with obServation. Many of this, and of other educated castes of Soudras, cultivate poetry and logic. They have a great number of fictitious and speculative books, comsed in modern dialects, and the more earned of them, forbidden access to the sacred writings, incline, on the one side, to pagan grossness, or, on the other, to godless scepticism. Medicines are prepared by alchemistical processes, but the Brahmins make no
advance in chemistry. They know the periods of fevers, and for this knowledge, Hippocrates may have been indebted to them, or to their teachers, the Egyptians. A whole volume of the Vedas is devoted to a kind of physiological mysticism, which enumerates every part and function of the body, connecting each with the elements of the world, and the powers of those gods which are only personified elements. The second caste of Soudras are merchants, shop-keepers, farmers, and the like; but in Bengal, there are fewer of these than of Brahmins. A third caste deal in drugs and spices; they learn reading and writing, and to keep accounts. A fourth order work in brass, and other metals. The fifth class make shell bracelets and armlets, which are worn in profusion by the women of Hindostan, though forbidden by the Vedas. These classes read mythological poems, and other fictitious works, in which the literature of India abounds. Such are the Mahabarata and the Kamayana; epics of indifferent execution, but imaginative in the extreme, abounding in mysteries, and composed in an exquisitely melodious and expressive language. The poem called Bhogavah, is a collection of mystical narratives, interspersed with theoloical and philosophical dialogues, and efaced with the grossest obscenities— a common fault of Hindoo literature. It is used as a first book for boys, and by exciting impure fancies, prepares the way for universal impurity of manners. Women of good reputation are not taught either to read or write, and the character of Indian literature would forbid it. The sixth class are husbandmen; not the owners of the soil, but miserable tenants, racked by Zemindars, or by the priest. These landlords oppress and impoverish their tenants, wresting from them, under pretext of gifts and taxes, everything but the necessaries of life. Because of such oppressions, endured by indolence and cowardice, the agricultural population are uniformly poor, except in districts cultivated by Brahmins who direct their own farms. Nor are they the less thristless and extravagant, spending all surplus in sensual pleasure. They make wedding feasts, to which friends, priests, and gatakas are invited, to eat up quantities of sweetmeats and spices. The people are consequently subject to famines, and perish in years of scarcity, by myriads. All classes live , on vegetables. To a dish of rice, a little milk and butter, with spices and sweetmeats, make a luxurious addition. The houses of the poor consist of four mud walls, sun dried, and thatched with straw. These are built irregularly in close villages, surrounded by a broad common. In the dry season they are often burned, either purposely or accidentally, and then renewed at the cost of a little labor. The rich live in houses of brick, which have flat roofs, and are built, (after the Egyptian fashion) with a body and two advancing wings, about three sides of a small court, or area. The fourth side of each court, upon the street, is shut in by a high wall, having a doorway in the middle. These houses are from two to three stories in height, and have a balcony of baked earthen ware about the roof. The inhabitants sit at evening upon the house top, and even sleep there, in a little chamber set apart. A few mats to sleep and squat upon, earthen and brazen dishes, a smokin apparatus, and a shelf for books, are al the furniture of a poor native of the bet. ter class. The rich indulge in every luxury, as well of their own country as of Persia and Europe.
Cities in Northern India, are built near the great rivers, and resemble a close line of villages, gathered for miles along their banks. They are composed, in great part, of the huts of artisans and traders, confusedly mingled with the palaces of wealthyrayas and the splendor of mosques and temples. At the annual inundation of the Ganges, the streets of its cities, ho wider than foot-paths, and choked wit every species of filth, are overflowed, and defiled by carcasses of men and animals that have perished in the flood, or were cast dead into the stream. By the multitude of carcasses, the cities become pestilential in the season of rains; but in the dry months, fires sweep over them, and render their sites again habitable.
The cities of the Ganges are only vast encampments for the purposes of traffic, and superstition, and grow rapidly, or are deserted with the fluctuations of trade, the change of a seat of government, or the popularity, or decline of a famous temple, or place of baptism. A ciose and thorny vegetation soon converts a deserted city into a habitation of tigers and serpents. Every species of grain and vegetable is cultivated in India. The agriculture
f incipally, and the lower castes entirey
of the Hindoos, and, indeed, of all Asiatic nations, though excellent in practice, is founded on mere tradition. The seventh class of Soudras are barbers; an employment of much consequence in a country where custom requires that several parts of the body shall be submitted to the razor. The better classes shave the head, leaving only a tuft behind; unlike their teachers, the Egyptians, who shaved the whole head, and wore a peruke; but an Hindoo would think himself defiled by only touching the hair of a dead person. The caste of barbers are shrewd and intelligent, and have a smattering of literature and languages. They meddle in surgery, like the barbers of Europe, three centuries ago. The barber's wife performs offices of neatness for the women, while her husband shaves the men. Hindoo women stain their teeth red, and the edges of the eyelids black, and have figures in red painted on the sides of their feet. The eighth class are confectioners. They make a variety of preparations with rice and sugar, of which the Hindoos consume a vast quantity, to the injury of health and fortune. In a market of an hundred shops, twelve or fifteen are confectioners. This caste have some education, and read tales and poems. The ninth class are potters and plasterers, and make clay idols. They use the potter's wheel. Cooking utensils in India, are of coarse earthenware. This caste dig wells, and line them with baked earthenware cylinders. The Hindoos know nothing of pumps, or water-wheels, or of any complicated machinery. The tenth class are weavers. Their loom is the same in principle, with the ancient Egyptian, and the European hand loom. Women of all castes spin thread from a distaff. The under dress of a Hindoo is cloth folded about the loins, and depending to the heels; over this a cloak is thrown, by which the neck and arms are covered or left bare, at pleasure. The rich wear pointed slippers, ornamented with gold and silver thread. The poorer classes have only a slip of cloth to hide their nakedness. Hindoo women wear a single white robe, depending low from the loins, and brought from behind over the head, like a cloak hood. To this a profusion of ornament is added. They fix rings in the ears and nose, and robbers frequently enter houses with the purpose of twitching off these ornaments, which they do without any remorse. Hindoo women of rich families marry while they are mere children, and are then treated with great tenderness, and live almost unrestrained in their desires. Some householders have a room called kroodagara, the room of sulks. If a woman is discontented, she shuts herself in kroodagara, until the master hearing of it, comes to ask her wish ; this is usually some trivial matter, either a trinket or a bit of luxury from the market. The dress worn by widows is pure white; that of married women has a colored border. Amon gother castes of Hindoo Soudras are the goldsmiths, noted for their most remarkable dexterity in theft and coining, (a proficiency which no wise diminishes, but, in the opinion of a Hindoo, rather increases their respectability;) and the Chaudalas, whose duty it is to take away and burn the corpses of men and animals. These latter are the most degraded of all, because of their contact with the dead; and are required by the law to live a vagrant life; about the suburbs of cities. The code of Menu commands the Chaudala to use broken vessels in the preparation of food as a token of his low condition. To touch a Chaudala is defilement to one of better caste. Last and lowest, the Hindoos place their European masters, and all who are not of their own race and religion, associating them in rank with those gangs of miserable outcasts who haunt the roads, and by reason of defilement dare not approach the traveler of whom they ask an alms, but make signs to him that he may leave it in the way and pass on. Thus, by the barbarous institution of caste, nine-tenths of the people of Hindostan are fixed in hopeless degradation, and in a poverty which leaves them on the verge of famine. The classes abhor each other: if a Soudra enters the kitchen of the poorest Brahmin, every earthen vessel is defiled, and must be broken and thrown away; nor can a Brahmin re
ceive a cup of water from his own child,
if that child be of inferior rank, without loss of caste in this life, and of heaven in the next. But nature revolts against such laws, and in private they are perpetually violated; causing an unlimited deceit and hypocrisy to prevail among all classes to a degree unimagined in other nations. All trades and occupa
tions deceive their employers to the utmost, and every man is driven to be the secret enemy of society and of his neighbor. A smooth and cringing politeness to superiors, rivalling, courtly polish, in the educated Hindoos, compensates for the extremest insolence to inferiors and dependants. Their genius for deceit appears even at the instant of death, and enables them to endure torture without a groan. Hindoo malefactors ask mercy on the plea that theft and robbery is the privilege of their caste; their fathers were thieves before them, and their religion allows it. The law of Egypt recognized a caste of thieves, but punished every discovered theft; and the same happens in India. No advantage to the perfection of a trade, seems to have been gained, by limiting its use to a caste; for the Hindoo carpenters and blacksmiths, though bungling workmen at first, become expert and diligent, under the guidance of European masters of their craft; a proof that excellence in the meanest occupation can be sustained only by keeping it in close alliance with character and intelligence. A person who forfeits rank by any overt or accidental act, such as eating food cooked by some one of a different religion, becomes an outcast; a misfortune which sometimes befalls whole villages at once: and the lost rank can be regained only by bribing the Priests. The outcast becomes an exile from his father's house, and his own mother even, must not speak with him, unless at night, and by stealth. In 1801, three Brahmins, having at night and secretly, performed a sacrifice for another Brahmin who had lost caste, were discovered by the head priests, and in despair drowned themselves in the Ganges. Some years ago, Rama, a Brahmin of Trivanee, having by mistake married his son to a girl of i. Peeralee caste, was abandoned by his friends and died of grief." Sometimes, all the principal persons of a village assemble to decide upon the conduct of an individual; if his caste is declared forfeit, (a result which he may prevent by profuse bribery.) no one of his friends will eat with him; but when a whole village, or neighborhood, suffers at once, they do not feel it as much, and are contented to step a degree downward in the scale. Next in rankare the caste of merchants named Voishyas; who, although forbidden to read the holy books, and accounted Soudras, by #. priests, assume the poita, or cord of sanctity, and regard themselves as regenerate, or “twice born.” The poita is a twisted cord, worn over the left and under the right arm, like a sword belt reversed; it is put upon the young Brahmin, and upon the Voishya and Chastria, at the time of his initiation, when he is figuratively born into his order; and hence, all classes who assume the poita, are styled in the holy books twice born, or regenerate classes.
* Ward on the Hindoos, vol. iv., p. 129.
Boys are regularly initiated between the ages of nine and fifteen; the ceremony is tedious and frivolous, although sanctioned by the prayers of priests, and a number of mystical observances; by which, the child is devoted to all the elements, to the gods, and to his order. Initiation begins and concludes with festivities, during which, the friends and relations, and a crowd of Brahmins are entertained with sweatmeats and music. The poita, assumed at initiation, is the external badge of caste.
CHAstrias, or Ketris, descendents of the ancient military order, claim to be regenerate, and have their ceremony of initiation. Though they must not read the most sacred of the Vedas, they may repeat a certain prayer called gayatri, supposed to be essential to second birth, and which none but the initiated, twice born, are permitted to hear. This prayer they name their spiritual mother; and he who administers the sacrament of initiation, and repeats the gagatri, is their spiritual father. Ketris, and merchants, have many grades in their own castes, which they observe with great strictness. Some of these are permitted to associate and eat together; but always under restrictions. The Chastrias are a vigorous race, superior to any caste of Soudras, and, in intellect, inferior only to the Brahmins; but those of the pure blood are few in number. Anciently, all Rajas and soldiers were of this order. They maintain their rank, and those who are not employed in military and civil offices, occupy the central parts of Hindostan.
The historians of Alexander speak of certain free tribes, which opposed that conqueror in his retreat through Moultan. They describe them as a powerful and courageous people, living in walled towers, as a free military democracy. They were probably a remnant of the ancient Chastrias.
The BRAHMINs, if not the contrivers, Thave been the firm supporters of this system of caste, so o in appearance, to themselves, and so ruinous, in truth, to all. -
So sacred is the priestly order, vast numbers of Soudras purposely drink the water in which the feet of B ins have been washed. Other Soudras frequent assemblies, and collect and eat the dust of their shoes, esteeming it to be a sovereign sanctifier and heal-all. A Soudra will fall upon his knees before a Brahmin, clasping his hands, and exclaiming “You are my God.”
Only Brahmins are permitted to read the Vedas, the sacred sources of all law and of all belief. When the dignity of the order is at stake, a Soudra cannot obtain justice against a Brahmin. No religious ceremony is of any avail, unless a priest be present and receives a perquisite. A feast, a sacrifice to the manes, a marriage, an investiture, a birth, a name-giving; the consecration of temples, hearths, tools, nets, gardens, and fisheries; any piece of ...i or ill fortune; all suggest a gift to the priest. Brahmins are feasted by the rich as an act of merit, and to shorten the purgatorial pains of their ancestors. In one instance of the present century, one hundred thousand Brahmins were invited and feasted by a Hindoo governor, at a sacrifice of the manes to his ancestors; and assemblies of thousands on such occasions are not unusual. The temples have each a sacred territory appropriated to them, which supports a number of priests. Brahmins fill all the civil offices, and preside in the courts and councils of the native Rajas. They are also the advisers and functionaries of Moslem and European magistrates. They are theologians, writers, teachers, merchants and usurers, and fill every situation that requires intelligence or learning. They are the rich men of Hindostan, and hold all the landed estates that are not in the hands of foreigners, or of the military order. The importance and power of their caste may be judged by the number and profit of their occupations, but their power is diminished of its ancient splendor, and they are not now what they were before their subjugation by the Moslem, when the military and priestly orders were a mutual support to each other. Nor is their dignity descended to them foom the days of Vicramaditya, when the literature of India was producing its perfect fruit; when the Vedas were read and understood, and penance and pious mysticism withdrew multitudes of votaries from the tumult of life into forests and sacred groves, where they indulged in intellectual reveries, or alternated the hymns of Vishnu, with the incantations of Siva. Every epoch in the life of a Brahmin is marked by ceremonies and festivals, and his memory is followed for several generations by prayers and offerings for the deliverance of his soul. The principal festivals are those at birth, naming, a second naming, investiture and marriage; besides feasts and offerings in his favor, to a number of gods; but all require the presence of a priest. The ceremony of investiture occupies several days, and is a curious tissue of mysticism and absurdity; but all to the one purpose of investing the idea of second birth with an adequate solemnity. On the fourth or fifth day revious, the body of the young candidate is annointed with tumeric, (a yellow stain,) yellow being the color of the middle region, and of life. He is then feasted from house to house by all his friends. The day before investiture, all the female friends in the neighborhood are feasted at his father's house. They are there perfumed, anointed and painted, and dismissed with a present of oil. Then follows an evening feast of Brahmins, at which their foreheads are stained red, and wreaths of flowers put upon their necks close the day. The guests are entertained with music, sweatmeats, tobacco and betel, and with abundance of food that has been offered to the household gods. At two in the morning, the women go with lights in their hands from the house of one Brahmin to another, giving oil, and receiving water in their pitchers; and returning feast together, #. the last time, with the young Brahmin ; for an invested Brahmin must not take food with a woman. The ceremony of investiture is conducted under an awning adorned with sacred branches, under which a large company are seated and entertained. The candidate is then anointed and shaved, leaving a tuft, only, upon the back of the head. (In Egypt, the tuft was left at the side of the head, and hung in a curl.) Four distinct sacrifices are made by the father, who also touches the forehead of his son with a variety of things, intending some
mystical allusion. Every step of the ceremony is sanctified by prayers repeated from the Vedas; and by that prayer of prayers, named Gayatri, which the priest whispers in the ear of the candidate, while heinvests him with the poita.
His head is then veiled, and holding a .
staff and a branch of the vilwa tree, with a satchel on his arm, he proceeds a mendicant, fulfilling the requisitions of the ancient law. Coming first to his mother, he begs and receives from her, and then from each of his relations, a piece of money. Then, as though about to leave them, in the condition of a mendicant }." he presses toward the gate, but is eld back by his father, who promises for him, that he shall become a secular Brahmin and return to the business of the world. Other ceremonies follow. For twelve days the neophyte must sleep upon a bed of cusa grass, (which is singularly sacred,) under a blanket of deerskin—eating but once a day, and bathing many times in the river, with prayers and idol worship. During all this time, no Soudra must hear his prayers or see his face, or be seen by him; but if one of inferior caste, with whom his father has a relation of friendship, chances to meet him, he must fall at the feet of the young Brahmin, and receiving a small alms must promise to be his fiend for ever. Next in importance, is the ceremony of marriage. It resembles that of investiture, but is more magnificent, and attended with an hundred odd observances." Marriages being negotiated and arranged by the Gatakas, a multitude of this profession are always invited to weddings, where they are feasted and receive presents. Girls become wives in their ninth and eleventh year; boys, husbands at twelve or fifteen. A Brahmin may take as many wives as he pleases, but
he usually takes but one home to be his
housekeeper. With every wife of an inferior rank, a Brahmin of the better class receives rich dowry. The Kooleenas, who are the highest caste of Brahmins, must marry at least one wife of their own class, that they may have children equal in rank to themselves. But Brahmins of lower order ambitiously offer their daughters to the Kooleenas, with a rich present, for the honor of their alliance. The ceremony takes place at the bride's home, and her
* Upon a certain occasion, the women make puddles of mud behind the house, and,
squatting in these, bespatter each other.