In the period of the Vedas the religion of the Hindus was founded on the simple worship of Nature. But the Pantheism of this age was gradually superseded by the worship of the one Brahm, from which, according to this belief, the soul emanated, and to which it seeks to return. Brahm is an impersonality, the sum of all nature, the germ of all that is. Existence has no purpose, the world is wholly evil, and all good persons should desire to be taken out of it and to return to Brahm. This end is to be attained only by transmigration of the soul through all previous stages of life, migrating into the body of a higher or lower being according to the sins or merits of its former existence, either to finish or begin anew its purification. This religion of the Hindus led to the growth of a philosophy the precursor of that of Greece, whose aims were loftier and whose methods more ingenious.
From Brahm, the impersonal soul of the universe, emanated the personal and active Brahma, who with Siva and Vishnu constitute the Trimurti or god under three forms.
Siva is the second of the Hindu deities, and represents the primitive animating and destroying forces of nature. His symbols relate to these powers, and are worshiped more especially by the Sivaites—a numerous sect of this religion. The worshipers of Vishnu, called the Preserver, the first-born of Brahma, constitute the most extensive sect of India, and their ideas relating to this form of the Divinity are represented by tradition and poetry, and are particularly developed in the great monuments of Sanskrit literature. The myths connected with Vishnu refer especially to his incarnations or corporeal apparitions both in men and animals, which he submits to in order to conquer the spirit of evil.
These incarnations are called Avatars, or descendings, and form an important part of Hindu epic poetry. Of the ten Avatars which are attributed to Vishnu, nine have already taken place; the last is yet to come, when the god shall descend again from heaven, to destroy the present world, and to restore peace and parity. The three forms of the Deity, emanating mutually from each other, are expressed by the three symbols, A U M, three letters in Sanskrit having but one sound, forming the mystical name Om, which never escapes the lips of the Hindus, but is meditated on in silence. The predominant worship of one or the other of these forms constitutes the peculiarities of the numerous sects of this religion.
There are other inferior divinities, symbols of the forces of nature, guardians of the world, demi-gods, demons, and heroes, whose worship, however, is considered as a mode of reaching that divine rest, immersion and absorption in Brahm. To this end are directed the sacrifices, the prayers, the ablutions, the pilgrimages, and the penances, which occupy so large a place in the Hindu worship.
3. CHARACTERISTICS OF THE LITERATURE AND ITS DIVISIONS.—A greater part of the Sanskrit literature, which counts its works by thousands, still remains in manuscript. It was nearly all composed in metre, even works of law, morality, and science. Every department of knowledge and every branch of inquiry is represented, with the single exception of history, and this forms the most striking general characteristic of the literature, and one which robs it of a great share of worth and interest. Its place is in the intellectual rather than in the political history of the world.
The literary monuments of the Sanskrit language correspond to the great eras in the history of India. The first period reaches back to that remote age, when those tribes of the Aryan race speaking Sanskrit emigrated to the northwestern portion of the Indian Peninsula, and established themselves there, an agricultural and pastoral people. That was the age in which were composed the prayers, hymns, and precepts afterwards collected in the form of the Vedas, the sacred books of the country. In the second period, the people, incited by the desire of conquest, penetrated into the fertile valleys lying between the Indus and the Ganges; and the struggle with the aboriginal inhabitants, which followed their invasion, gave birth to epic poetry, in which the wars of the different races were celebrated and the extension of Hindu civilization related. The third period embraces the successive ages of the formation and development of a learned and artistic literature. It contains collections of the ancient traditions, expositions of the Vedas, works on grammar, lexicography, and science; and its conclusion forms the golden age of Sanskrit literature, when, the country being ruled by liberal princes, poetry, and especially the drama, reached its highest degree of perfection.
The chronology of these periods varies according to the systems of different orientalists. It is, however, admitted that the Vedas are the first literary productions of India, and that their origin cannot be later than the fifteenth century B.C. The period of the Vedas embraces the other sacred books, or commentaries founded upon them, though written several centuries afterwards. The second period, to which belong the two great epic poems, the “Ramayana” and the “Mahabharata,” according to the best authorities ends with the sixth or seventh century B.C. The third period embraces all the poetical and scientific works written from that time to the third or fourth century B.C., when the language, having been progressively refined, became fixed in the writings of Kalidasa, Jayadeva, and other poets. A fourth period, including the tenth century A.D., may be added, distinguished by its erudition, grammatical, rhetorical, and scientific disquisitions, which, however, is not considered as belonging to the classical age. From the Hindu languages, originating in the Sanskrit, new literatures have sprung; but they are essentially founded on the ancient literature, which far surpasses them in extent and importance, and is the great model of them all. Indeed, its influence has not been limited to India; all the poetical and scientific works of Asia, China, and Japan included, have borrowed largely from it, and in Southern Russia the scanty literature of the Kalmucks is derived entirely from Hindu sources. The Sanskrit literature, known to Europe only recently, through the researches of the English and German orientalists, has now become the auxiliary and foundation of all philological studies.
4. THE VEDAS AND OTHER SACRED BOOKS.—The Vedas (knowledge or science) are the Bible of the Hindus, the most ancient book of the Aryan family, and contain the revelation of Brahm which was preserved by tradition and collected by Vyasa, a name which means compiler. The word Veda, however, should be taken, as a collective name for the sacred literature of the Vedic age which forms the background of the whole Indian world. Many works belonging to that age are lost, though a large number still exists.
The most important of the Vedas are three in number. First, The “Rig- Veda,” which is the great literary memorial of the settlement of the Aryans in the Punjaub, and of their religious hymns and songs. Second, The “Yajur-Veda.” Third, The “Sama-Veda.”
Each Veda divided into two parts: the first contains prayers and invocations, most of which are of a rhythmical character; the second records the precepts relative to those prayers and to the ceremonies of the sacrifices, and describes the religious myths and symbols.
There are many commentaries on the Vedas of an ancient date, which are considered as sacred books, and relate to medicine, music, astronomy, astrology, grammar, philosophy, jurisprudence, and, indeed, to the whole circle of Hindu science.
They represent a period of unknown antiquity, when the Aryans were divided into tribes of which the chieftain was the father and priest, and when women held a high position. Some of the most beautiful hymns of this age were composed by ladies and queens. The morals of Avyan, a woman of an early age, are still taught in the Hindu schools as the golden rule of life.
India to-day acknowledges no higher authority in matters of religion, ceremonial, customs, and law than the Vedas, and the spirit of Vedantism, which is breathed by every Hindu from his earliest youth, pervades the prayers of the idolater, the speculations of the philosopher, and the proverbs of the beggar.
The “Puranas” (ancient writings) hold an eminent rank in the religion and literature of the Hindus. Though of a more recent date than the Vedas, they possess the credit of an ancient and divine origin, and exercise an extensive and practical influence upon the people. They comprise vast collections of ancient traditions relating to theology, cosmology, and to the genealogy of gods and heroes. There are eighteen acknowledged Puranas, which altogether contain 400,000 stanzas. The “Upapuranas,” also eighteen in number, are commentaries on the Puranas. Finally, to the sacred books, and next to the Vedas both in antiquity and authority, belong the “Manavadharmasastra,” or the ordinances of Manu, spoken of hereafter.
5. SANSKRIT POETRY.—This poetry, springing from the lively and powerful imagination of the Hindus, is inspired by their religious doctrines, and embodied in the most harmonious language. Exalted by their peculiar belief in pantheism and metempsychosis, they consider the universe and themselves as directly emanating from Brahm, and they strive to lose their own individuality, in its infinite essence. Yet, as impure beings, they feel their incapacity to obtain the highest moral perfection, except through a continual atonement, to which all nature is condemned. Hence Hindu poetry expresses a profound melancholy, which pervades the character as well as the literature of that people. This poetry breathes a spirit of perpetual sacrifice of the individual self, as the ideal of human life. The bards of India, inspired by this predominant feeling, have given to poetry nearly every form it has assumed in the Western world, and in each and all they have excelled.
Sanskrit poetry is both metrical and rhythmical, equally free from the confused strains of unmoulded genius and from the servile pedantry of conventional rules. The verse of eight syllables is the source of all other metres, and the sloka or double distich is the stanza most frequently used. Though this poetry presents too often extravagance of ideas, incumbrance of episodes, and monstrosity of images, as a general rule it is endowed with simplicity of style, pure coloring, sublime ideas, rare figures, and chaste epithets. Its exuberance must be attributed to the strange mythology of the Hindus, to the immensity of the fables which constitute the groundwork of their poems, and to the gigantic strength of their poetical imaginations. A striking peculiarity of Sanskrit poetry is its extensive use in treating of those subjects apparently the most difficult to reduce to a metrical form—not only the Vedas and Manu's code are composed in verse, but the sciences are expressed in this form. Even in the few works which may be called prose, the style is so modulated and bears so great a resemblance to the language of poetry as scarcely to be distinguished from it. The history of Sanskrit poetry is, in reality, the history of Sanskrit literature.
The subjects of the epic poems of the Hindus are derived chiefly from their religious tenets, and relate to the incarnations of the gods, who, in their human forms, become the heroes of this poetry. The idea of an Almighty power warring against the spirit of evil destroys the possibility of struggle, and impairs the character of epic poetry; but the Hindu poets, by submitting their gods both to fate and to the condition of men, diminish their power and give them the character of epic heroes.
The Hindu mythology, however, is the great obstacle which must ever prevent this poetry from becoming popular in the Western world. The great personifications of the Deity have not been softened down, as in the mythology of the Greeks, to the perfection of human symmetry, but are here exhibited in their original gigantic forms. Majesty is often expressed by enormous stature; power, by multitudinous hands; providence, by countless eyes; and omnipresence, by innumerable bodies.
In addition to this, Hindu epic poetry departs so far from what may be called the vernacular idiom of thought and feeling, and refers to a people whose political and religious institutions, as well as moral habits, are so much at variance with our own, that no labor or skill could render its associations familiar.
The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are the most important and sublime creations of Hindu literature, and the most colossal epic poems to be found in the literature of the world. They surpass in magnitude the Iliad and Odyssey, the Jerusalem Delivered and the Lusiad, as the pyramids of Egypt tower above the temples of Greece.
The Ramayana (Rama and yana, expedition) describes the exploits of Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu, and the son of Dasaratha, king of Oude. Ravana, the prince of demons, bad stolen from the gods the privilege of being invulnerable, and had thus acquired an equality with them. He could not be overcome except by a man, and the gods implored Vishnu to become incarnate in order that Ravana might be conquered. The origin and the development of this Avatar, the departing of Rama for the battlefield, the divine signs of his mission, his love and marriage with Sita, the daughter of the king Janaka, the persecution of his step-mother, by which the hero is sent into exile, his penance in the desert, the abduction of his bride by Ravana, the gigantic battles that ensue, the rescue of Sita, and the triumph of Rama constitute the principal plot of this wonderful poem, full of incidents and episodes of the most singular and beautiful character. Among these may be mentioned the descent of the goddess Ganga, which relates to the mythological origin of the river Ganges, and the story of Yajnadatta, a young penitent, who through mistake was killed by Dasaratha; the former splendid for its rich imagery, the latter incomparable for its elegiac character, and for its expression of the passionate sorrow of parental affection.
The Ramayana was written by Valmiki, a poet belonging to an unknown period. It consists of seven cantos, and contains twenty-five thousand verses. The original, with its translation into Italian, was published in Paris by the government of Sardinia about the middle of this century.
The Mahabharata (the great Bharata) has nearly the same antiquity as the Ramayana. It describes the greatest Avatar of Vishnu, the incarnation of the god in Krishna, and it presents a vast picture of the Hindu religion. It relates to the legendary history of the Bharata dynasty, especially to the wars between the Pandus and Kurus, two branches of a princely family of ancient India. Five sons of Pandu, having been unjustly exiled by their uncle, return, after many wonderful adventures, with a powerful army to oppose the Kurus, and being aided by Krishna, the incarnated Vishnu, defeat their enemies and become lords of all the country. The poem describes the birth of Krishna, his escape from the dangers which surrounded his cradle, his miracles, his pastoral life, his rescue of sixteen thousand young girls who had become prisoners of a giant, his heroic deeds in the war of the Pandus, and finally his ascent to heaven, where he still leads the round dances of the spheres. This work is not more remarkable for the grandeur of its conceptions than for the information it affords respecting the social and religious systems of the ancient Hindus, which are here revealed with majestic and sublime eloquence. Five of its most esteemed episodes are called the Five Precious Stones. First among these may be mentioned the “Bhagavad-Gita,” or the Divine Song, containing the revelation of Krishna, in the form of a dialogue between the god and his pupil Arjuna. Schlegel calls this episode the most beautiful, and perhaps the most truly philosophical, poem that the whole range of literature has produced.
The Mahabharata is divided into eighteen cantos, and it contains two hundred thousand verses. It is attributed to Vyasa, the compiler of the Vedas, but it appears that it was the result of a period of literature rather than the work of a single poet. Its different incidents and episodes were probably separate poems, which from the earliest age were sung by the people, and later, by degrees, collected in one complete work. Of the Mahabharata we possess only a few episodes translated into English, such as the Bhagavad-Gita, by Wilkins.
At a later period other epic poems were written, either as abridgments of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, or founded on episodes contained in them. These, however, belong to a lower order of composition, and cannot be compared with the great works of Valmiki and Vyasa.
In the development of lyric poetry the Hindu bards, particularly those of the third period, have been eminently successful; their power is great in the sublime and the pathetic, and manifests itself more particularly in awakening the tender sympathies of our nature. Here we find many poems full of grace and delicacy, and splendid for their charming descriptions of nature. Such are the “Meghaduta” and the “Ritusanhara” of Kalidasa, the “Madhava and Radha” of Jayadeva, and especially the “Gita-Govinda” of the same poet, or the adventures of Krishna as a shepherd, a poem in which the soft languors of love are depicted in enchanting colors, and which is adorned with all the magnificence of language and sentiment.
Hindu poetry has a particular tendency to the didactic style and to embody religious and historical knowledge; every subject is treated in the form of verse, such as inscriptions, deeds, and dictionaries. Splendid examples of didactic poetry may be found in the episodes of the epic poems, and more particularly in the collections of fables and apologues in which the Sanskrit literature abounds. Among these the Hitopadesa is the most celebrated, in which Vishnu-saima instructs the sons of a king committed to his care. Perhaps there is no book, except the Bible, which has been translated into so many languages as these fables. They have spread in two branches over nearly the whole civilized world. The one, under the original name of the Hitopadesa, remains almost confined to India, while the other, under the title of “Calila and Dimna,” has become famous over all western Asia and in all the countries of Europe, and has served as the model of the fables of all languages. To this department belong also the “Adventures of the Ten Princes,” by Dandin, which, in an artistic point of view, is far superior to any other didactic writings of Hindu literature.
The drama is the most interesting branch of Hindu literature. No other ancient people, except the Greeks, has brought forth anything so admirable in this department. It had its most flourishing period probably in the third or fourth century B.C. Its origin is attributed to Brahm, and its subjects are selected from the mythology. Whether the drama represents the legends of the gods, or the simple circumstances of ordinary life; whether it describes allegorical or historical subjects, it bears always the same character of its origin and of its tendency. Simplicity of plot, unity of episodes, and purity of language, unite in the formation of the Hindu dramas. Prose and verse, the serious and the comic, pantomime and music are intermingled in their representations. Only the principal characters, the gods, the Brahmins, and the kings, speak Sanskrit; women and the less important characters speak Prakrit, more or less refined according to their rank. Whatever may offend propriety, whatever may produce an unwholesome excitement, is excluded; for the hilarity of the audience, there is an occasional introduction on the stage of a parasite or a buffoon. The representation is usually opened by an apologue and always concluded with a prayer.
Kalidasa, the Hindu Shakespeare, has been called by his countrymen the Bridegroom of Poetry. His language is harmonious and elevated, and in his compositions he unites grace and tenderness with grandeur and sublimity. Many of his dramas contain episodes selected from the epic poems, and are founded on the principles of Brahmanism. The “Messenger Cloud” of this author, a monologue rather than a drama, is unsurpassed in beauty of sentiment by any European poet. “Sakuntala,” or the Fatal Ring, is considered one of the best dramas of Kalidasa. It has been translated into English by Sir W. Jones.
Bhavabhuti, a Brahmin by birth, was called by his contemporaries the Sweet Speaking. He was the author of many dramas of distinguished merit, which rank next to those of Kalidasa.
6. HISTORY AND SCIENCE.—History, considered as the development of mankind in relation to its ideal, is unknown to Sanskrit literature. Indeed, the only historical work thus far discovered is the “History of Cashmere,” a series of poetical compositions, written by different authors at different periods, the last of which brings down the annals to the sixteenth century A.D., when Cashmere became a province of the Mogul empire.
In the scientific department, the works on Sanskrit grammar and lexicography are models of logical and analytical research. There are also valuable works on jurisprudence, on rhetoric, poetry, music, and other arts. The Hindu system of decimal notation made its way through the Arabs to modern nations, our usual figures being, in their origin, letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. Their medical and surgical knowledge is deserving of study.
7. PHILOSOPHY.—The object of Hindu philosophy consists in obtaining emancipation from metempsychosis, through the absorption of the soul into Brahm, or the universal being. According to the different principles which philosophers adopt in attaining this supreme object, their doctrines are divided into the four following systems: 1st, Sensualism; 2d, Idealism; 3d, Mysticism; 4th, Eclecticism.
Sensualism is represented in the school of Kapila, according to whose doctrine the purification of the soul must be effected through knowledge, the only source of which lies in sensual perception. In this system, nature, eternal and universal, is considered as the first cause, which produces intelligence and all the other principles of knowledge and existence. This philosophy of nature leads some of its followers to seek their purification in the sensual pleasures of this life, and in the loss of their own individuality in nature itself, in which they strive to be absorbed. Materialism, fatalism, and atheism are the natural consequences of the system of Kapila.
Idealism is the foundation of three philosophical schools: the Dialectic, the Atomic, and the Vedanta. The Dialectic school considers the principles of knowledge as entirely distinct from nature; it admits the existence of universal ideas in the human mind; it establishes the syllogistic form as the complete method of reasoning, and finally, it holds as fundamental the duality of intelligence and nature. In this theory, the soul is considered as distinct from Brahm and also from the body. Man can approach Brahm, can unite himself to the universal soul, but can never lose his own individuality.
The Atomic doctrine explains the origin of the world through the combination of eternal, simple atoms. It belongs to Idealism, for the predominance which it gives to ideas over sensation, and for the individuality and consciousness which it recognizes in man.
The Vedanta is the true ideal pantheistic philosophy of India. It considers Brahm in two different states: first, as a pure, simple, abstract, and inert essence; secondly, as an active individuality. Nature in this system is only a special quality or quantity of Brahm, having no actual reality, and he who turns away from ail that is unreal and changeable and contemplates Brahm unceasingly, becomes one with it, and attains liberation.
Mysticism comprehends all doctrines which deny authority to reason, and admit no other principles of knowledge or rule of life than supernatural or direct revelation. To this system belong the doctrines of Patanjali, which teach that man must emancipate himself from metempsychosis through contemplation and ecstasy to be attained by the calm of the senses, by corporeal penance, suspension of breath, and immobility of position. The followers of this school pass their lives in solitude, absorbed in this mystic contemplation. The forests, the deserts, and the environs of the temples are filled with these mystics, who, thus separated from external life, believe themselves the subjects of supernatural illumination and power. The Bhagavad-Gita, already spoken of, is the best exposition of this doctrine.
The Eclectic school comprises all theories which deny the authority of the Vedas, and admit rational principles borrowed both from sensualism and idealism. Among these doctrines Buddhism is the principal.
8. BUDDHISM.—Buddhism is so called from Buddha, a name meaning deified teacher, which was given to Sakyamuni, or Saint Sakya, a reformer of Brahmanism, who introduced into the Hindu religion a more simple creed, and a milder and more humane code of morality. The date of the origin of this reform is uncertain. It is probably not earlier than the sixth century B.C. Buddhism, essentially a proselyting religion, spread over Central Asia and through the island of Ceylon. Its followers in India being persecuted and expelled from the country, penetrated into Thibet, and pushing forward into the wilderness of the Kalmucks and Mongols, entered China and Japan, where they introduced their warship under the name of the religion of Fo. Buddhism is more extensively diffused than any other form of religion in the world. Though it has never extended beyond the limits of Asia, its followers number over four hundred millions.
As a philosophical school, Buddhism partakes both of sensualism and idealism; it admits sensual perception as the source of knowledge, but it grants to nature only an apparent existence. On this universal illusion, Buddhism founded a gigantic system of cosmogony, establishing an infinity of degrees in the scale of existences from that of pure being without form or quality to the lowest emanations. According to Buddha, the object of philosophy, as well as of religion, is the deliverance of the soul from metempsychosis, and therefore from all pain and illusion. He teaches that to break the endless rotation of transmigration the soul must be prevented from being born again, by purifying it even from the desire of existence. He denied the authority of the Vedas, and abolished or ignored the division of the people into castes, admitting whoever desired it to the priesthood. Notwithstanding the doctrine of metempsychosis, and the belief that life is only an endless round of birth and death, sin and suffering, the most sacred Buddhistic books teach a pure and elevated morality, and that the highest happiness is only to be reached through self-abnegation, universal benevolence, humility, patience, courage, self-knowledge, and contemplation. Much has been added to the original doctrines of Buddha in the way of mythology, sacrifices, penances, mysticism, and hierarchy.
Buddhism possesses a literature of its own; its language and style are simple and intelligible to the common people, to whom it is particularly addressed. For this reason the priests of this religion prefer to write in the dialects used by the people, and indeed some of their principal works are written in Prakrit or in Pali. Among these are many legends, and chronicles, and books on theology and jurisprudence. The literary men of Buddhism are generally the priests, who receive different names in different countries. A complete collection of the sacred books of Buddhism forms a theological body of one hundred and eight volumes.
9. MORAL PHILOSOPHY.—The moral philosophy of India is contained in the Sacred Book of Manavadharmasastra, or Code of Manu. This embraces a poetical account of Brahma and other gods, of the origin of the world and man, and of the duties arising from the relation of man towards Brahma and towards his fellow-men. Whether regarded for its great antiquity and classic beauty, or for its importance as being considered of divine revelation by the Hindu people, this Code must ever claim the attention of those who devote themselves to the study of the Sanskrit literature. Though inferior to the Vedas in antiquity, it is held to be equally sacred; and being more closely connected with the business of life, it has done so much towards moulding the opinions of the Hindus that it would be impossible to comprehend the literature or local usages of India without being master of its contents.
It is believed by the Hindus that Brahma taught his laws to Manu in one hundred thousand verses, and that they were afterwards abridged for the use of mankind to four thousand. It is most probable that the work attributed to Manu is a collection made from various sources and at different periods.
Among the duties prescribed by the laws of Manu man is enjoined to exert a full dominion over his senses, to study sacred science, to keep his heart pure, without which sacrifices are useless, to speak only when necessity requires, and to despise worldly honors. His principal duties toward his neighbor are to honor old age, to respect parents, the mother more than a thousand fathers, and the Brahmins more than father or mother, to injure no one, even in wish. Woman is taught that she cannot aspire to freedom, a girl is to depend on her father, a wife on her husband, and a widow on her son. The law forbids her to marry a second time.
The Code of Manu is divided into twelve books or chapters, in which are treated separately the subjects of creation, education, marriage, domestic economy, the art of living, penal and civil laws, of punishments and atonements, of transmigration, and of the final blessed state. These ordinances or institutes contain much to be admired and much to be condemned. They form a system of despotism and priestcraft, both limited by law, but artfully conspiring to give mutual support, though with mutual checks. A spirit of sublime elevation and amiable benevolence pervades the whole work, sufficient to prove the author to have adored not the visible sun, but the incomparably greater light, according to the Vedas, which illuminates all, delights all, from which all proceed, to which all must return, and which alone can irradiate our souls.
10. MODERN LITERATURES OF INDIA.—The literature of the modern tongues of the Hindus consists chiefly of imitations and translations from the Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, and from European languages. There is, however, an original epic poem, written in Hindui by Tshand, under the title of the “Adventures of Prithivi Raja,” which is second only to the great Sanskrit poems. This work, which relates to the twelfth century A.D., describes the struggle of the Hindus against their Mohammedan conquerors. The poem of “Ramayana,” by Tulsi-Das, and that of the “Ocean of Love,” are extremely popular in India. The modern dialects contain many religious and national songs of exquisite beauty and delicacy. Among the poets of India, who have written in these dialects, Sauday, Mir-Mohammed Taqui, Wali, and Azad are the principal.
The Hindi, which dates from the eleventh century A.D., is one of the languages of Aryan stock still spoken in Northern India. One of its principal dialects is the Hindustani, which is employed in the literature of the northern country. Its two divisions are the Hindi and Urdu, which represent the popular side of the national culture, and are almost exclusively used at the present day; the first chiefly by writers not belonging to the Brahminical order, while those of the Urdu dialect follow Persian models. The writings in each, though numerous, and not without pretension, have little interest for the European reader.
11. EDUCATION IN INDIA.—For the education of the Brahmins and of the higher classes, there was founded, in 1792, a Sanskrit College at Benares, the Hindu capital. The course of instruction embraces Persian, English, and Hindu law, and general literature. In 1854 universities were established at Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay. Of late public instruction has become a department of the government, and schools and colleges for higher instruction have been established in various parts of the country, and books and newspapers in English and in the vernacular are everywhere increasing. As far back as 1824 the American and English missionaries were the pioneers of female education. The recent report of the Indian Commission of Education deals particularly with this question, and attributes the wide difference between the extent of male and female acquirements to no inferiority in the mental capacities of women; on the contrary, they find their intellectual activity very keen, and often outlasting the mental energies of men. According to the traditions of pre-historic times, women occupied a high place in the early civilization of India, and their capacity to govern is shown by the fact, that at the present day one of the best administered States has been ruled by native ladies during two generations, and that the most ably managed of the great landed properties are entirely in the hands of women. The chief causes which retard their education are to be found in the social customs of the country, the seclusion in which women live, the appropriation of the educational fund to the schools for boys, and the need of trained teachers.
Notwithstanding all these disadvantages, the first Asiatic writer in the languages of the West who has made a literary fame in Europe is a young Hindu girl, Tora Dutt (1856-1877), whose writings in prose and verse in English, as well as in French, have called forth admiration and astonishment from the critics, and a sincere lament for her early death.
12. THE BRAMO-SOMAJ.—In 1830, under this name (Worshiping Assembly), Rammohun Roy founded a religious society in India, of which, after him, Keshub Chunder Sen (died 1884) was the most eminent member. Their aim is to establish a new religion for India and the world, founded on a belief in one God, which shall be freed from all the errors and corruptions of the past. They propose many important reforms, such as the abolition of caste, the remodeling of marriage customs, the emancipation and education of women, the abolition of infanticide and the worship of ancestors, and a general moral regeneration. Their chief aid to spiritual growth may be summed up in four words, self-culture, meditation, personal purity, and universal beneficence. Their influence has been already felt in the legislative affairs of India.