Sivut kuvina

Immediately after the person is dead, and in many cases before this event, preparations are made for burning the body. Sometimes the wood is brought and placed by the side of the sick person while he is living. About 300 lbs. of wood are sufficient to consume ä body. A hole is dug in the earth by one of the relations of the deceased ; over which the wood is placed. The body is then laid on, and the heir at law having lighted some straw, walks round the pile three times, with face averted, and touches the mouth of the deceased with the fire ; after which those present set fire to the pile ; and the body is consumed. In some parts of Hindoostan the body is buried in the earth, and the funeral service is said to he very solemn and affecting. The officiating bramhup on these occasions addresses the respective elements in the following manner :

O Earth! to thee we commend our brother ; of thee he was formed ; by thee he was sustained ; and unto thee he now returns !

O FIRE! thou hadst a claim in our bro!her; during his life he subsisted by thy influence in nature ; to thee we commit his body ; thou emblem of purity, may his spirit be purified on entering a new state of existence!

O AIR! while the breath of life continued, our brother respired by thee; bis last breath is now departed; to thee we yield him!

O WATER ! thou didst contribute to the life of our brother: thou wert one of his sustaining elements. His remains are now dispersed ; receive thy share of him, who has now taken an everlasting flight.

Condition of Hindoo Females.--The lives of the Hindoo females are always spent in a state of degradation, if not in hardship, and misery. The institution of infant marriages, is to them the source of many and great evils. The contract is made without the consent or knowledge of the parties. Affection of course has nothing to do in the cause, and fiequently the parties not liking each other never live together. Another more serious objection to this custoin arises from the number of females left in a widowed state even while children, and who, being forbidden by the laws to marry again, generally become outcasts in society.

To this unfeeling custoin is to be added another, still more barbarous, and which falls upon the whole body of females, that of denying them even the least portion of education ; the most direful calamities are denounced against the woman who shall dare to aspire to the dangerous pre-eminence of being

able to read and write. Not a single female seminary exists among the Hindoos ; and possibly not twenty females, blest with the common rudiments of even Hindoo learning, are to be found among as many millions. How greatly must a nation suffer from this barbarous system, which dooms one half of the immortal beings it contains to a state of brutal ignorance !

This deficiency in the education and information of females not only prevents their becoming agreeable companions to their husbands, but renders them incapable of forming the minds of their children, and of giving them that instruction which lays the foundation of future excellence; by which tender offices, European mothers become greater benefactors in the age in which they live, than all the learned men with which a country can be blessed.

The exclusion of females from every public and social circle, is another lamentable blemish in the civil institutions of the Hindoos ; for who will deny, that to the company of the fair sex, we are to attribute very much of the politeness and urbanity which is found in the manners of modern times amongst European nations !

The permission of polygamy, and the ease with which a man may put away his wife,* must be highly unfavourable to the interests of virtue, and contribute greatly to the universal corruption of the people. It is only necessary for a inan to call his wife by the name of mother, and all connubial intercourse is at an end : this is the only bill of divorcement required.

Manners.—The natives are full of extravagant flattery, and the most fulsome panegyric. It is really curious to see the contrast betwixt the bluntness of an enlightened European or American, and the smooth, easy, and even dignified polisho these naked Hindoos. On proper occasions, their conduct is truly graceful; and perhaps they may not improperly be ranked amongst the politest nations on earth ; yot, it is equalJy true, that, where a Hindoo feels that he is superior to a foreigner, in wealth or power, he is too often the most insolent fellow on earth.

Connected with this defect in the Hindoo character, is their proneness to deception and falsehood. Perhaps this is the vice of all effeminate nations, while blunt honesty, and stern

* “ A barren wife may be superseded by another in the eighth year; she whose children are all dead, in the tenth; she who brings forth only daughters, in the eleventb; she who speaks unkiodly, without delay.”-Munoo.

integrity, are most common in climates where men are more
robust. It is likewise certain, that people in a state of men-
tal bondage are more deceitful; and that falsehood is most
detested by men in a state of manly independence. An Eng--
lish sailor, however vicious in other respects, scorns to takn-
refuge in a falsehood : but the Hindoos, imitating the gorich
and encouraged by the shastre, which admits of prevari
tion in cases of necessity, are notoriously addicted to falani-
hood, whenever their fears, their cupidity, or their
present the temptation. The author has heard Hindoos of
all ranks declare, that it was impossible to transact business

with a strict adherence to truth, and that falsehood, on such ei occasions, would not be noticed in a future state. At other

times, they profess to have the greatest abborrence of ly.

ing, and quote the words of their shastrus which prohibit
* this vice, with every appearance of conscientious indigna-
- tion.
mit They are very litigious and quarrelsome, and, in defence

of a cause in a court of justice, will swear falsely in the most
shocking manner, so that a judge never knows when he

may safely believe Hindoo witnesses. It is said, that some 1 of the courts of justice are infested by a set of men termed

four anas' men ; who, for so paltry a sum, are willing to make s oath to any fact, however false.

The treachery of this people to each other is so great, o that it is not uncommon for persons to live together, for the

greatest length of time, without the least confidence in each 1 other; and, where the greatest union apparently exists, it is

dissolved by the slightest collision. A European never has the heart of a Hindoo, who neither knows the influence of gratitude, nor feels the dignity of a disinterested attachment.

The Hindoos are excessively addicted to covetousness, especially in the great towns, where they have been corrupted by commerce : almost the whole of their incidental conversation turns upon roopees and kourees.

Gaming is another vice to which the Hindoos, encouraged by their sacred writings, are extremely addicted, and in the practice of which their holiest monarch, Yoodhistjhiru, twice lost his kingdom.

They are fond of ostentation, and, for the sake of the applause of their neighbours, however parsimonious at other times, will be content to incur the heaviest expenses. Their feasts, marriages, and other shows, are all regulated by this principle. A great name' is the first object of their desire, and reproach the greatest object of their dread. Such a

. person has married his daughter to such a kooleenu, or, he is a family uncontaminated by mixture with shoodrus, or by eating prohibited food; or, he has expended so many thousand roopees on the funeral rites for his father ; or be is sary liberal, especially to brambuns ; or, be is very eloquent, thevery learned-are common forms of commendation among

i people, and to obtain which they consider no sacrifices noj great. tb Literature.-The Hindoos attribute their ancient writings to the gods; and, for the origin of the vedus, or sacred writings, they go still bigher, and declare them to have been from everlasting. Though it would be unjust to withhold the palm of distinguished merit from many of their learned men, especially when we consider the early period in which they lived, yet, when compared with the writers of modern times, we are ready to pity the weakness of unassisted reason, even in individuals in whom it shone with the highest splendour.

Hindoostan has produced a vast number of writers, particularly on the subjects of religion and philosophy; and it is a most curious fact that on both these subjects, the opinions of the Hindoo, and those of the Greek pbilosophers, agree exactly in many of the material points. The subjects which en gaged the chief attention of the Hindoo philosophers, were the divine nature, the evidences of truth, the origin of things, the nature of the different forms of matter, and the methods of obtaining reunion to the soul of the world, and it will not escape the recollection of the classical reader, that these were the very subjects as constantly discussed in the Grecian schools. We cannot here enter fully into this subject, but must content ourselves with stating some of the doctrines of the Hindoo philosophers, and occasionally comparing their notions with those of the Grecians.

Kopilu, the sage, and grandson to Munoo, teacher of some of the sacred writings, taught that nature was the origin, or root of the universe, because every thing proceeded from it, or was to be traced to it, and that beyond it nothing was discoverable. Nature he said was indescribable, because none of the senses could comprehend it, and yet, that it was one, upder several forms; as time, space, &c. are one, though they have many divisions ; that there was in nature a property which is called Greatness, from which arose pride, or con. sciousness of separate existence, or appropriation ; from the latter quality, spring water, fire, air, and space, or primary atoms; and he described these elements combined, as forming

a pattern, or archetype, from which the visible universe was formed.

Pythagoras said that “intelligible members are those which

subsisted in the divine mind before all things, from which evv ery thing has received its form, and which always remain im

mutably the same. It is the model or archetype, after which to the world, in all its parts, is framed.”

Kopilu made no distinction between the soul and the ani. mal spirit, but declared, that when the soul became united to hin matter, it was ablorbed in animal cares and pleasures. et Plato taught, that the soul of man was derived from God, is through the intervention of the soul of the world ; that the Fetis soul of the world had some admixture with matter, and that

consequently the soul of man must participate in the admis. ture. This material portion of the soul of man, Plato con

sidered as the root or seed of moral evil. pins Pulunjulee taught, that the divine spirit and the soul of man en were distinct, that the former was free from passion, but not in the latter ; that God was possessed of form, or was to be seen it by the Yogee, or those who desire absorption into the divine rete essence ; that he is placable, glorious, the creator, preserver, ime and the regenerator of all things ; that the universe first

arose from his will, or command, and that he infused into the pline system a power of perpetual progression. He says that there

are five kinds of men, viz. those who are governed by their passions, the wrathful, the benevolent, the pious, and those who are free from worldly attachments ; and that emancipation, or deliverance from passion, is to be obtained by yogu, that is, by perfect abstraction of mind. Pythagoras had the same idea. He says, “ in the pursuit of wisdom, the utmost care must be taken to raise the mind above the dominion of the passions, that it may be inured to converse with itself, and to contemplate things spiritual and divine. Contemplative wisdom cannot be completely attained, without a total abstraction from the ordinary affairs of life. Vedu. V yasu, one of the inost learned among the Hindoos, taught, that the best idea we can form of God is, that he is light, or glory. At the same time he maintained, that God was a spirit, without passion, separated from matter; that he is pure wisdom and happiness ; one without a second, everlasting, incomprehensible, unchangeable ; and that after describing all modes of exist. ence, he is that which is none of these. He also believed, that to obtain deliverance from matter, or return to God, the devotee must read the vedus ; must suđer no desire of advantage to mix with his devotions ; renounce every thing

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