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general (Mr. Hastings) were in vain exerted to the same purpose.” Having then translated the Gentoo laws from a Persian translation, he thinks himself justified in believing, "that the world does not now contain anuals of more indisputable antiquity than those delivered down by the ancient Brahmins; and that we cannot possibly find grounds to suppose that the Hindoos received the smallest article of their religion or jurisprudence from Moses; though it is not utterly impossible that the doctrines of Hindostan might have been early transplanted into Egypt, and thus have become familiar to Moses."*
4. These sentiments for the first time ushered on the nation under the appearance of respectable sanction, were eagerly embraced. The sceptical philophers, particularly in France, hoped that they were true: and the learned in general were curious to explore this sacred mine of ancient literature. “Omne ignotum pro magnifico." Strangers to the language, they looked into the mystical records of the Brahmins as into the mouth of a dark cavern of unknown extent, probably inaccessible, perhaps fathomless.Some adventurers from the Asiatic society entered this cavern, and brought back a report very unfavorable to the wishes of the credulous infidel. But the college of Fort-William holds a torch which illuminates its darkest recesses. And the result is, that the former gloom, which was supposed to obscure the evidence of our religion, being now removedz enlightened itself, it reflects a strong light on the Mosaic and evangelic scriptures, and Shanscrit record may thus be considered as a new attestation to the truth of christianity, granted by the divine dispensation, to these latter ages.t
5. The whole library of Shanscrit learning is accessible to members of the college of Fort-William. The old keepers of this library, the Pundits, who
Preface to Gentoo Code.
See Appendix Bc
would give no access to the translator of the Gentoo code, or to the then governor of India, now vie with each other in giving every information in their power. Indeed there is little left for them to conceal. Two different grammars of the Shanscrit language are now compiling in the college, one by the Shanscrit professor, and the other by the Shanscrit teacher; without any communication as to each others system, so absolute is their confidence in a knowledge of the language. The Shanscrit teacher proposed to the council of the college to pablish the whole of the original Shasters in their own character, with an English translation. The chief objection to this, was, that we should then publish many volumes, which few would have the patience to read. Such parts of them however as are of a moral tendency, or which illustrate important facts in eastern history or science, were recommended for publica. tion.
6. It does not appear that any one work in Shanse crit literature has yet been discovered; which vie in antiquity with the poem of Homer, on the plain ground of historical evidence, and collateral proof. It is probable that there may be some work of an older date, but we have no evidence of it. If ever such evidence should be obtained the world will soon hear of it. As to the alledged proof of antiquity from astronimical calculation, it is yet less satisfactory than that from the Egyptian zodiac, or Bry. done's lava.
What use shall we make of the illustration of these facts, but to urge, that, since the dark traditions of India have confirmed the truth of divine revelation, the benefits of that revelation may be communicated to India.
The sanguinary superstitions of the natives, an impedio
ment to their civilization.
1. Another impediment to the civilization of the natives is the continuance of their sanguinary superstitions; by which we mean those practices which inflict immediate death, or tend to produce death. All bloody superstition indurates the heart and affections, and renders the understanding inaccessible to moral instruction. No ingenious arts can ever humanize the soul addicted to a sanguinary superstition.
We shall not pollute the page with a description of the horrid rites of the religion of Brahma. Suffice it to say that no inhuman practices'in New Zealand, or in any other newly discovered land of savages, are more offensive to natural feeling, than some of those which are committed by the Hindoo people.
It surely has never been asserted that these enor, mties cannot be suppressed. One or two instances may be mentioned, which will shew that the Hindoo superstitions are not impregnable.
2. It had been the custom from time immemorial, to immolate at the island of Saugor, and at other places reputed holy on the banks of the Ganges, human victims, by drowning or destruction by sharks. Another horrid practice accompanied it, which was the sacrifice of the first born child of a woman, who had been long barren.*
The pundits and chief Brahmins of the college of Fort-William were called upon to declare, by what sanction in their shasters, these unnatural cruelties were committed. They alleged no sanction but cuslom, and what they termed "the barbarous ignorance
. At the Hindoo festival in 1801, twenty three persons sacrificed tbmschres; oi'were sacrificed by others, at the istand of Saugor.
of the low casts.” On the first intimation of the practice to the governor general, marquis Wellesley, it was abolished.* Not a murmur followed; nor has any attempt of the kind since been heard of.
3. A similar investigation will soon take place respecting the custom of women burning themselves alive on the death of their husbands.t The Pundits have already been called on to produce the sanction of their shasters. The passages exhibited are vague and general in their meaning; and differently interpreted by the same casts. Some sacred verses commend the practice, but none command it; and the Pundits refer once more to custom. They have however intimated, that if government will pass a regulation, amercing by fine every Brahmin who attends a burning, or every Zemindar who permits him to attend it, the practice cannot possibly long continue; for that the ceremony, unsanctified by the presence of the priests, will lose its dignity and consequence in the eyes of the people.
The civilized world may expect soon to hear of the abolition of this opprobrium of a Christian administration, the female sacrifice; which has subsisted, to our certain knowledge, since the time of Alexander the Great.
4. An event has just occurred, which seems, with others, to mark the present time, as favorable to our endeavors to qualify the rigor of the Hindoo superstition.
In the course of the Mahratta war, the great temple of Juggernaut in Orissa, has fallen into our hands. This temple is to the Hindoos what Mecca is to the Mahomedans. It is resorted to by pil. grims from every quarter of India. It is the chief seat of Brahininical power, and a strong-hold of their
See Regulations Appendix c. + From a late investigation it appears that the number of women who saerife tbemselves within thirty miles round Calcutta every ycar is, on an average, open wards of two hundred See Appendix D.
$ Sec Appendix A.
superstition. At the annual festival of the Rutt Jattra, seven hundred thousand persons (as has been computed by the Pundits in college) assemble at this place. The volantary deaths in a single year, caused by voluntary devotement,* by imprisonment for non-payment of the demands of the Brahmins, or by scarcity of provisions for such a multitude, is incredible. The precincts of the place are covered with bones. Four cross square (about sixty-four square miles) are accounted sacred to Juggernaut. Within the walls the priests exercised a dominion without control. From them there was no appeal to civil law or natural justice, for protection of life or property.
But these enormities will not be permitted under the British government. At the same time that we use no coercion to prevent
superstitions of the natives, we permit a constant appeal to the civil power against injustice, oppression, and inhumanity; and it must have a beneficial influence on the whole Hindoo system, if we chastise the en: ormity of their superstition at the fountain headt.
The numerous holydays of the natives an empediment
to their civilization.
1. ANOTHER obstacle to the improvement of the natives is the great number of their holydays. These holidays embody their superstition. On such days, its spirit is revived, and its inhuman practices are made familiar : and thus it acquires strength and perpetuity. The malignity of any superstition may
* By falling under the wheels of the rutt or car.
* The rigor of the Mahometan faith coerced the Hindoo superstition; and was, so far, friendly to humanity. The Hindoos were prohibited from burning their women without official permission. Our
toleration is celebrated by some, as being boundless. It is just to tolerate speoulative religions; but it is doublful whether there ought to be any toleration of practical vice, or of the shedding of human blood.