Page images
PDF
EPUB

:

216

KASHMIR IN THE OLDEN TIME.

Another king, Matrigupta, deposited a new drama, presented to him, in a vase of gold to indicate his sense of its value. The educated classes won their way to the highest offices of the state; and we have an account of one man, who was chosen king in consequence of his profound learning. The Kashmirians are still distinguished for their manufactures of shawls and paper; but we question whether they ever attained the mechanical skill of the people of Dacca.

The recognition of the system of caste and the penalties affixed to the loss of it, in the Raja-tarangini, does not favour the views so ably maintained by Colonel Sykes, in his “ Notes on the Ante-Mahommedan state of India," in which he advocates the opinion, that caste did not exist as a religious distinction in ancient India. Even in Hinduism, we have traces of primitive practices, in the general mixture of all classes, allowed at the festival of the Huli and in the temple of Jagannath.

The rite of Sati, " a lotus bed resplendent with flames," was practised at an early period; and we find also that the Brahminical custom, formerly so rife at Benares, of sitting Dhurná, was also in fashion. Sanyiasis were held in high favour, and, in the time of one of the kings, named Arya, it is stated " The articles of fashionable dress were ashes of burnt cow-dung, rosaries, and matted locks of hair."

The Raja-tarangini confirms the testimony, borne by the Hindu dramas, as well as by the ancient Hindu writings, to the fact, that in former days women enjoyed a considerable extent of liberty, went abroad, and exercised great influence even in a political way : thus, Damodara, one of the early kings of Kashmir, fought on account of a Syambara, or lady allowed to choose her husband. This was a very ancient custom. The suitors were drawn up in a line, and the lady threw a garland of flowers round the neck of the object of her choice.

Incidental light is thrown by the Raja-tarangini on Foreign countries : thus Benares became the Buddhistical retreat of Matrigupta, when he abdicated the throne of Kashmir: Mathura was besieged by the first king of Kashmir: Bengali pilgrims visited the temples of Kashmir: Ceylon is said to have been invaded by two kings of Kashmir, one of whom planted the banners of Kashmir on Adam's Peak : Lalitáditya, the Napoleon of Kashmir, penetrated in his career of conquest to the Tartars of the North, and the Draviras* of the South-the sources of the Ganges and the Bay of Bengal witnessed the triumph of his arms, while the king of imperial Kanauj rendered bim homage : Gaya paid 'revenue to Kashmir : Gonerda led a Kashmirian

* The people that speak Tamul.

army to the aid of Jarasandh, the King of Magadh (Bahar) : Paravarasena subdued the Governor of Dacca; while Baladitya erected pillars of victory on the shores of the Bay of Bengal; and the daughter of the King of Pragyatish (Asam) was married to a King of Kashmir. Casual references of this sort, derived from various works, will enable the future historians of India to draw much safer inferences, than are at present deduced from a few books, with reference to the connexion, political, literary and social, between the different parts of India. Professor Lassen of Bonn has made a commencement in this respect in his Indische Alterthum, in which, by his indefatigable research in exploring all sources of information, Puranio or Epic, he has shed a flood of light on various obscure parts of the Mahabharat. This great work will remain a noble monument of his critical research.

The Ophite, or snake-worship, system practised by the Nagas, who were Highlanders, existed at an early period in Kashmir. It may have been the first form of religion that prevailed there, as our author states that the first line of Kashmir kings were unworthy of record, on account of their disregarding the religion of the Vedas, which perhaps refers to their being adherents to the Naga worship. In the days of Abul Fazl, the primo minister of Akbar, there were 700 places for snake-worship in the valley. But this superstition was not confined to the valley. The Puranas and Harivansa give many details respecting the prevalence of Ophiolatry in India. The same motive, that led the Hindus to adore objects of influence, whether for utility or destruction, would also induce them to revere the snake-"the emblem of eternity,” and “symbol of life," whose poisonous power is so fatally felt in India. Traces of this primitive form of idolatry in India are still to be seen in remote districts of India, while the snake is a very common figure in Hindu temples. The image of Krishna trampling on the snake was probably designed to symbolize the overthrow of the aboriginal religion, which was destroyed by the same Brahminical power, as Parasuram used in defeating the Kshetryas. We have seen an eartben vessel, having three heads of the cobra on it, which is an object of worship in the Jessore district. The references to snake-worship are frequent in the Puranas and Mahabharat, and give clear evidence that this form of aboriginal idolatry became incorporated into the Hindu pantheon, which, like the Roman, recruited its numbers from the gods of all people, whether Buddhists, or snake-worshippers. Late years have witnessed in Bengal the adoration of Ula-úta, the goddess of cholera ; Sitala, the deity of the small-pox ; and Dakshin Ray (King of the South), the patron

Е Е

218

KASHMIR IN THE OLDEN TIME.

against floods and tigers; but these have not been established sufficiently long to claim a niche in the same temple withi Krishna and other heroes exalted into deities.

Previous to the coming of the Brahminical race into Bengal, the people who now occupy the Hills of Rajmahal, Birbhum, &c. &c., probably lived in the plains, and were subsequently driven by the tide of foreign conquest to their Highland fastnesses. In Kashmir, in a similar way, the aboriginal races were the Nagas, Gandharas, and Dheradas, who were all Ophites, or serpent worshippers. But in the course of time foreign invaders from the table lands of Ariana introduced the Buddhist and Brahminical systems, by their possession of superior physical power and intellectual energy. The lunar race of kings were. Buddhists, and the Brahmans had the Kshetryas, or military class, as their allies. They supplanted the religion of the Nagas, or mountaineers, just as wherever the Moslem banner waved, or the Koran was chaunted, the crude superstitions, which overlaid Christianity in the middle ages, gave way to the traditions of the Mecca legislator. Though the Nagas seem to have been a very powerful race, and at one time to have exercised great political sway, yet they could not withstand the sapping effect of Buddhistical influence, which resorted both to the arsenals of argument and of physical force, in order to propagate the dogmas of Sakhya Muni. The Ophite, or snakeworship, system seems at last to have to a great degree been amalgamated with Hinduism ; in fact it spread very widely, as the general use of the symbol of the dragon in the Chinese rites shows. The proselyting zeal of the Buddhists was founded on the principle" that they do not desire wisdom for themselves alone, but for the preservation of the world.”

Subsequently, in Kashmir, a fierce struggle took place between the Sivites and the Buddhists. These two religions then existed contemporaneously, as they do in the island of Bali in the present day, and in some cases the one melted into the other. But, though many dogmas were held by the Sivites and Buddhists in common, and, notwithstanding the ingenious arguments drawn from the monuments in Bali and Java by Dr. Tytler, in order to show that the two systems had a common origin, we cannot conceive how the bloody rites of Siva could have any affinity to the peaceful tenets of Buddha. Yet Buddhism itself was in practice occasionally warlike ; for when it had fixed its roots at an early period in Kashmir, the first thirty-five kings, being Buddhists, were very active in propagating their creed, and had no scruples in appealing to the sword to carry out their religious plans. One of them, Meghavahana, at the head of a conquering army, proached on tho duty of extending mercy to every thing that

has life! He pensioned from the revenues of the State all the hunters and butchers in his dominions, as his regulations deprived them of the means of gaining a livelihood. We thus see in the case of the Indian Buddhists, as well as of the Muhammadans, how religion removes that physical inertia and apathy, so characteristic of Asiatics generally

At the period (A.D. 399) when Fa Hian, a Chinese Buddhist priest, visited Tamluk, Buddhism was in the ascendant, not only in Kashmir, but also in Tartary, Khotan, Scinde and Agra. Asoka left monuments of his Buddhistical zeal, in the valley of Kashmir, and on the borders of the Rupnarayan at Tamluk, in those magnificent towers, which long stood to attest the liberal hand with which he supported his religious views. But in the 10th century, Khamagupta, King of Kashmir, the Aurungzebe of his day, destroyed the Buddhist images and burnt the monasteries. No doubt a change must have taken place in public opinion to justify him in resorting to such measures, like that which occurred, when Henry VIII. found popular and aristocratic sympathy in favour of his measures for sequestering the property of the monasteries.

When Kalhana wrote, the worship of Siva was predominant. This system prevailed in the South of India at the commencement of the Christian era, and was in the ascendant every where except in Telingana, where the people were Vishnuvites. Sivism seems to have had various points of accordance with Buddhism; and, when the Sivites embraced Buddhism, they were allowed to retain their titles and family distinctions. But when Abul Fazl visited Kashmir in 1582, the Vishnuvites had gained the ascendancy. There are now, according to Hamilton, in Kashmir, sixty-four places dedicated to Vishnu, and forty-five to Siva. In fact the whole of Kashmir is considered by the Hindus to be holy ground, and the struggle between the Sivites and Vishnuvites now occupies the same place in history, as that formerly between Brahmans and Buddhists.

The Buddhist, as well as the Brahminical, religion seems to have been propagated in Kashmir through the patronage of the State, and, above all, by what has been adopted in modern times so successfully by the Moravians-religious colonies.* Connected with these, were Mats, or edifices, which, combining the joint uses of a church and seminary, gave weight and local power to the priesthood. It was in fact the principle of resident pas

# The importance of religious colonies is bronght of late more prominently before the public. We have the projected seltlement of Canterbury in New Zealand for tho members of the Anglo-Episcopal Church, and of Otago in the same island for the inembers of the Free Church of Scotland. It is felt that merc codes of laws, or rules on paper, are not enough to forni character; liic links of neiglıbourhooil, icquain taucc, and association of ideas, must bc of a favourabic kind also,

tors and a parochial system, which gave these religions a fixity in the country, just as Musalman colonization raised up an indigenous Muhammadan agency in India. The monastic system of

urope in the middle ages, by which agricultural and social improvement was diffused as from an oasis through the wilds of a lone district, was adopted to a great degree in Kashmir, and in fact in all countries, where Buddhist principles had any ascendancy. "The Buddhist priests in their Viharas employ all their time in instructing the youth, in reading, writing, religion, history, and the principles of law.” Their monasteries were nuclei for social advancement, where the ignorant received instruction, the poor relief, and the sick the best medical treatment known. Buddhism also, like Methodism in England, owed much of its influence to the system of itinerancy. The mendicant friars of the middle ages acted on a similar plan : but neither Methodists nor Friars could exceed the energy and self-denial of Buddhist missionaries. In fact their proselyting zeal equals any recorded in modern time-of St. Francis Xavier, or that of the Jesuits in India and South America. The Raja-tarangini, in its emphatic Sanscrit style, characterises them,

बोदानां प्रब्रजोर्जिततेजसा The Buddhists, whose power is increased by an itinerant life.

We have now taken a summary view of the chief political and religious points connected with Kashmir in former days, without going into minute details. We trust that more attention will be paid to the former history of this and other countries in the North Western Provinces : for, in order to adopt measures suitable to the character and habits of a people, we must know their former pursuits, and those associations, the growth of centuries, which retain such a firm hold over the mind. Abstract theories wrought out by men, who never knew India, are often as ridiculous as that of the Liverpool merchant, who, forty years ago, despatched a cargo of skates to Calcutta. The more the ancient literature of the Hindus is studied, the better judges will we be, from a knowledge of the national character, how to apply remedial measures to existing evils. We therefore think that, even on the ground of utility, the publication of such works as the Raja-tarangini is most valuable. While we condemn the religious and social system of the Hindus, let us at the same time admire whatever has a redeeming quality in their ancient literature. The ties of sympathy will thus be drawn closer; and we shall remove one of the barriers, which our haughty and exclusive manners, as foreigners, place between us and the teeming millions of the East, on whom we wish to con fer both moral and religious good.

« PreviousContinue »