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fact they were How it happened, by the mere operation of natural causes, that Greece and Rome should have left Egypt and India so far behind, is yet to be accounted for; though the purpose of it in the designs of the Divine Providence, is very evident.
But now the wisdom of the east hath passed away with the wisdom of Egypt; and we might with equal justice attribute civilization to the present race of Egyptians, as to the present race of the Hindioos.'
Historians have been at great pains to collect vestiges of the ancient civilization of the Hindoos; and with some success; for these vestiges are as manifest as those of the early civilization of Egypt or of Chaldea. Doctor Robertson says, that he prosecuted his laborious investigation with the view and hope, “that, if his account of the early civilization of India should be received as just and well established, it might have some influence upon the behaviour of the Europeans towards that people.”* This was a humane motive of our celebrated historian, But as it is difficult for us to respect men merely for the civilization of their forefathers, a more useful deduction appears to be this; that since the Hindoos are proved on good evidence, to have been a civilized people in former days, we should endeavour to make them a civilized people again. Dr. Robertson seems to think that the Hindoos are even now "far advanced beyond the inhabitants of the two other quarters of the globe in improvement.” Such a sentiment indeed is apt to force itself on the mind, from a mere investigation of books. But to a spectator in India, the improvement alluded to will appear to be very partial; and the quality of it is little understood in Europe.
It is true that the nativesexcel in the manual arts of their cast; and some of them, particularly those who are brought up amongst Europeans, acquire a
Dissertation on India, page 335
few ideas of civility and general knowledge. But the bulk of the common people, from Cape Comorin to Thibet, are not an improved people. Go into a village, within five miles of Calcutta, and you will find an ignorance of letters and of the world, an intellectual debility, a wretchedness of living, and a barbarism of appearance, which, by every account, (making allowance for our regular government and plentiful country) are not surpassed among the natives in the anterior of Africa or back settlements of America. On the principle of some late philosophers, that those men are most civilized, who approach nearest to the simplicity of nature, it might be expected perhaps that the Hindoos are a civilized people. But even this principle fails them. For an artificial and cruel superstition debases their minds, and holds them in a state of degradation, which to an European is scarcely credible.
There is one argument against the possibility of their being in a civilized state, which to the accurate investigators of the human mind in Europe, will appear conclusive. The cast of the multitude, that is, the Sooders, are held in abhorrence and contempt by the Brahmins. It is a crime to instruct them. It is a crime for that unhappy race even to hear the words of instructions. The Sooder is considered by the Brahmins as an inferior species of being, even in a physical sense; intellectual incapacity is therefore expected and patiently endured, and the wretched Sooder is supposed, at the next transmigration of souls, to animate the body of a monkey or a jackall.
The philosopher of Geneva himself would not have contended for the civilization of the Sooders.
The Brahmins in Bengal accuse individuals of their own order of a very singular violation of social propriety; and the disclosure of the fact will, proba
bly, place the character of the venerable Brahmin in a new lights,
The Koolits, who are accounted the purest and the most sacred cast of the Brahmins, claim it as a privilege of their order, to marry an hundred wives. And they sometimes accomplish that number; it being accounted honour by other Brahmins to unite their daughters to a Koolin Brahmin. The wives live cominonly in their father's houses; and the K90lin Brahinin visits them all round, generally once a year; on which occasion, he receives a present from the father. The progeny is so unmerous in some instances, that a statement of the number (recorded in the registers of the cast) would scarcely obtain credit.
As in the case of human sacrifices at Saugor, and of the number of women who are annually burned near Calcutta, there was a disposition among many to discredit the fact; it may be proper to adduce a few names and places to establish the excessive polygamy of the Koolin Brahmins.
The Ghautucks, or registrars of the Koolin cast, state, that Rajeb Bonnergee, now of Calcutta, has forty wives; and that Rajchunder Bonnergee; also of Calcutta, has forty-two wives, and intends to marry more; that Ramraja Bonnergee of Bicrampore, aged thirty years, and Pooran Bonnergee, Rajkissore Chuttergee, and Roopram Mookergee, have each upwards of forty wives, and intend to marry more; that Birjoo Mookerges of Bicrampore, who died about five years ago, had ninety wives; that Pertah Bonnergee of Panchraw, near Burdwan, had seventy wives; that Ramhonny Mookergee of Jessore, who died about twelve years ago, had one hundred wives; and that Rogonaut Mookergee of Bale Gerrea, near Santipore, who died about four years ago, had upwards of one hundred wives.
The effects of this excessive polygamy are very pernicious to society; for it is a copious source of fe.
male prostitution. Some of these privileged chatacters make it a practice to marry, merely for the dowry of a wise; and she seldom sees her husband during his life, and dare not marry another after his death, she hus strong temptations to an irregular conduct. This monopoly of women by the Koolin Brahmins is justly complained of by Brahmins of the other orders; and they have expressed a hope that it will be abolished by authority. They afirm that this like many other reigning practices) is a direct violation of the law of the Shasters which does not allow more than four wives to a Brahmin.
I Testimonies to the general character of the Hindoos,
As a doubt has been sometimes expressed regarding the real character of the Hindoos, and it has been supposed that their degeneracy only commenced in the last century, we shall adduce the testimo. ny of three competent judges, who lived at different periods of time, and occupied different situations in life. The first is a king of Hindostan, who was well acquinted with the higher classes of the Hindoo; the second a city magistrate, who was conversant with the lower classes: and the third an author, well versed in their mythology, and intimately acquainted with their learned men. The concurring testimony of these witnesses will be received with more respect on this account, that the first evidence is that of a Mahomedan, the second of a modern philosopher, and the third of a Christian; and of these we shall add the testimony of a Brahmin himself.
1. In the Tuzuc Timuri, "containing maxims of Tamerlane the Great; derived from his own experience, for the future government of his conquests," ihere is the following mandate to his sons and statesmen:
“Know, my dear children, and elevated statesmen that the inhabitants of Hindostan and Bengal are
equally debilitated in their corporeal, and inert in their mental faculties. They are inexorable in temper, and at the same time so penurious and sordid in mind, that nothing can be obtained from them but by personal violence. It appears unquestionable to me that this people are under the displeasure of the Almighty, otherwise a prophet would have been appointed for them, to turn them away from the worship of idols, and fire and cows, and to direct them to the adoration of the true God. Regardless of honour and indecent in their dress, they sacrifice their lives for trifles (they give their souls for a farthing) and are indefatigable in unworthy pursuits; whilst improvident and imprudent, their ideas are confined and views circumscribed. Like those de-. mons who, with a view to deceive, can assume the. most specious appearances, so the native of Hindostan cultivates imposture, fraud and deception, and considers them to be meritorious accomplishments. Should any pesson entrust to him the care of his property, that person will soon become only the nominal possessor of it.
"The tendency of this my mandate to your statesmen, is, to preclude a confidence in their actions, or an adoption of their advice.* But should their assistence be necessary, employ them as the mechanical, and support them as the living instruments of Labor." Asiatic Miscellany, vol. iii. p. 179.
2. The second testimony to the general character of the Hindoos shall be that of Mr. Holwell, who was a city magistrate of Calcutta about the middle of last century. Mr. Holwell calls himself a philosopher; and, as such, he is an admirer of the Hindoo mythology, and alleges that a Brahmin would be a perfect model of piety and purity, if he would only attend to. the precepts of the Shasters.
Marquis Cornwallis was nepier known, during his administration in India, to admit a native to his confidence. Under the administration of marquis Wiel iesley theres a total exclusion of native counsel.