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Le Bhagavat Purana, ou, Histoire Poetique du Krishna ;
traduit et publié par M. Eugene Burnouf, Membre de l' Institut, Professeur de Sanskrit au College Royal de France. (The Bhagavat Purana, or, Poetical History of Krishna ; translated and published by Eugene Burnouf, Member of the Institute, Professor of Sanskrit in the Royal College of France). Paris. 1840.
PROFESSOR WILSON has furnished us with a translation of the Vishnu Purana, which we have noticed before in this Review. It is now our pleasant task to recommend another valuable addition to the list of translations from the Sanskrit. Professor Wilson remarks that the Bhagavat Purana is of great celebrity in India, and exercises a more direct and powerful influence upon the opinions and feelings of the people, than perhaps any other of the Puranas. The Sanskrit typography, and beauty of the printing of this work executed in Paris, are superior to that of any Sanskrit publications, we have seen issued from the English or Continental Press.
This Purana, along with Gorresio's translation of the Ramayan, pours a flood of light on what may be called the middle age history of Hinduism—the period when hero-worship flourished, and when the doctrines of the Vedas gave but a faint glimmer of light. The translator has a preface of 163 pages, which bears evident marks of the indefatigable research of the author of " Bouddhisme Indien," “ Essai sur le Pali," &c. He points out that our duty is not so much to speculate on, as to translate, the Sanskrit texts. Among these the eighteen Puranas present objects of peculiar interest. Allusions to Puranic legends made in the Vedas, and Archäological researches shew the antiquity of the Puranas, which existed as legends in the times of the Ramayan and Mahabharat, were chaunted by bards, and were designed for the study of women and Sudras, as the Vedas were for the. twice-born; they have indeed been called the fifth Veda. These Puranas, or ancient traditions, have undergone various modifications. They were at first chronicles and genealogical tables; but subsequently they were used to advocate sectarian tenets, being written under the guise of legends, and designed for those classes who were not allowed to study the Vedas.
Vopadeva, who flourished about the thirteenth century, lived at the court of Ramchandra of Daulatabad, and was the author of a celebrated Sanskrit Grammar, is considered to have been the compiler of the Bhagavat Purana, which ranks in the estimation of the natives along with the Vishnu Purana. These are the only two, out of the eighteen, which are ordinarily read by the Pandits. The Bhagavat is held in special honour by the followers of Chaitanya, and has been translated into the Tamul, Telugu, and Canarese; though not of such ancient date as some other Puranas, its publication is of importance.
Persons have either attributed an extravagant remoteness of antiquity to Hindu mythology, or have gone to the other extreme in assigning its origin to the Bactrian Greeks. But researches into the Pali- the Italian of Sanskrit,” and into the language of the Vedas, which corresponds almost entirely with that found on the most ancient monuments of the followers of Zoroaster, have thrown much light on this question. Similarly, with respect to the Puranas, investigation has evinced that, though the form and style of the Bhagavat is modern, the germ is ancient, and dates from the period of the Mahabharat, while the author quotes many passages from the Vedas, “in giving a new form to old materials.” Bhagavat, who gives his name to this book, is Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu: and in the Bhagavat Purana are incorporated the ideas of the Vedas, the legends of the Mahabharat, and the philosophy of the Sankhya system, antagonistic to a revelation.
The eighteen Puranas contain the enormous amount of 1,600,000 lines : yet the greater part of them have been translated into the vernaculars of India, while copious analyses of different portions have been given by Vans Kennedy in his Researches into Ancient and Hindu Mythology, and by Professor Wilson. These extracts throw light on a warm controversy, which was carried on respecting the antiquity of the Puranas between Professor Wilson and Vans Kennedy--the former, in his Preface to the Vishnu Purana, having attributed a modern origin to the Puranas ; however the majority of orientalists secm to be opposed to Wilson's views, on the ground that while the Vedas have been the sources of religious information for the learned classes, the Puranas from a very early period seem to have been regarded as the Bible of the common people, the record of their religious history, and the storehouse of their traditions. A class of bards formerly existed at the courts of Native Princes, whose sole business was to commit to memory the Puranas, or legendary chronicles of the Hindus, and to recite them to chiefs, when tired with the chace, or on festive occasions. A similar practice was adopted with respect to the Gaelic Poems in the castles of the Highland chiefs.
Among the works calculated to give an insight into the modes of thought and habits of the Hindus in modern times, there are few of more value than the Puranas. While the Vedas are of great use in throwing light on the state of society at the era of the Mahabharat and Ramayan, we must still look to the Puranas to give us a clue to the various curious customs, which at present exist in this country, and regarding the origin of which we in vain seek for information from the Pandits, who are (at least in Calcutta) as bad guides in legendary lore, as they are in grammatical studies. Were a Sir Walter Scott now to arise in Bengal, he would, we fear, derive but very scanty information from the Bhattachargyas and Bandapadhyas of the day. In fact the little interest taken by any class of Hindus in the operations of that noble institution, the Asiatic Society, shows that the spirit of persevering oriental research has for the present taken its flight from the shores of the Ganges to the banks of the Rhine and the Seine.
In this dearth then of local information, we rejoice at the publication of Monsieur Burnouf's elaborate translation of the Bhagavat Purana. Professor Wilson had previously aided in the same cause by his edition of the Vishnu Purana, and his MSS. analysis of other Puranas, which now line the shelves of the Asiatic Society's library, instead of being published for general information. The Asiatic So. ciety receive 6,000 Rupees per annum from the Court of Directors for publishing oriental texts and translations. We have one valuable result in the Bibliothica Indica : but only eighty pages a month are thus published. Could we not have an edition of some of the Puranas under the patronage of the same Society? We feel assured that there are able natives in Calcutta, who would gladly engage in such an undertaking, were encouragement held out to them.
The execution of this edition of the Bhagavat Purana is a magnificent memorial of the progress of the typographical art in France, and of the attention that is paid on the banks of the Seine to orientalism. The translation was commenced under the auspices of Louis Philippe, who, whatever political errors he committed, cannot certainly be denied the praise of having contributed very much, both by his purse and Government measures, to the development, not only of the industrial resources of France, but also of her artistic talents. England, though possessing such an Empire in the East, cannot boast of so finished a specimen of Sanskrit typography issuing from her Presses, as is presented by the work we have now noticed.
Satyárnab. Sea of Truth. Calcutta. Lepage and Co. D'Ro
zario and Co.
This is a monthly publication, in Bengali, of 10 pages, price six pice, and printed by Native Christians. We give the subjects of the articles in the first three numbers. Editorial Introduction-Notes on the Prayer Bool-Life of Lord Bacon--The Lex Loci— " Thou God seeest me”-On Cholera-News of the Month-Life of LilávatiNotes on the Prayer Book- Account of an insincere Enquirer-& Shadow-Memoir of Dr. Buchanan-Ancient History-Life of Kali Dás
-On Fever---Account of Snakes---Memoir of Dr. Buchanan-Faith in Christ. The work is on the plan of the Penny and Saturday Magazines; and, we think, by its combining literary with religious articles, it will be acceptable to a wider class of readers. The circulation is said to have reached 500; and, we hope it may be higher, for such publications are of great value at the present time, when the Hindu mind is so much influenced by the staple of its Vernacular literature.
Sambåd Sudhansu, or Messenger of Nectar. Calcutta.
D'Rozario and Co.
This is a weekly newspaper in Bengali, printed at the cheap rate of four pice a number, at the Encyclopædia Press, Cornwallis Square. It is conducted by Native Christians; and we are glad to see that, while it upholds European ideas, it has no sympathy with that unfortunate class of monkey imitators, yclept Young Bengal; nor does it repudiate the ancient literature of the country, as if the Hindus, like the Kaffirs of Africa, had been in a state of barbarism. The Editor gives a translation from the Mahabharat, respecting the deluge, and we hope he will furnish a regular series of papers on similar subjects. This newspaper embraces the news of the week, comments on events, correspondence, &c.
Satya Pradip, or Lamp of Truth. Serampur; Townsend,
Calcutta ; D'Rozario.
This is a paper in Bengali, issued every Saturday from the Serampur Press, and giving eight quarto pages for six rupees a year. Seram. pur has the high honour of having produced the first Vernacular newspaper in India, —the Darpan, which continued for twenty-two years, pouring a stream of useful information into the minds of the Native Community. The Satya Pradip comes from the same Press; and we are glad the Editor has issued it in Bengali only, as people are not willing to pay a double price for the same matter in alternate columns of English and Bengali. There is not a single periodical published on the latter plan now in Calcutta. The day for such a system is passed. A Musalman, a few years ago, started a paper in five different languages in parallel columns, but it only reached the second number.
Both the matter and typography are highly creditable to the Editors, who have taken the plan of the Friend of India for their model, comprising editorials on the events of the time, a digest of the week's news, correspondence from natives on the reforms required for the coun. try, descriptions, &c. &c. The circulation has reached about 250, the greater part of the subscribers being natives; and Government has very liberally subscribed for thirty copies for the use of their Vernacular schools. We hope that there is no design of laying an anna-stamp on native newspapers, as the effect would be, that, so far from increasing the Post Office revenue, it would prove a complete extinguisher on the native newspapers, which, at the present time, circulate much general information among the Native Community, are contributing to form a good model of popular style in the Bengali language, and are gradually familiarizing the Hindus with the Sadu Báshá, or classical Bengali.
SANDERS, CONES AND CO., TYPS., No. 14, LOLL BAZAR.
NOTE BY THE EDITOR.
In returning our grateful acknowledgements for the valuable communications with which we continue to be favoured from all parts of India, it may be necessary to state, that we allow, as we have always done, considerable latitude of opinion to our contributors; and that this Review is open to every temperate, judicious, and well-considered statement, having for its object to expose and reform errors and abuses, to further the religious and intellectual progress of the people, to ameliorate the working of the Company's rule, to illustrate the history and condition, and to promote the stability and well-being, of our Indian Empire. We have a higher aim in view than mere Editorial consistency; and, though certain articles which have appeared, or may yet appear, in these pages, may consider minor (and yet important) questions from different, or even opposite points of view, we are persuaded that the truth will thus be more successfully elicited, than by the ablest one-sided advocacy.
To the leading principles, on which the Revier has hitherto been conducted, we shall steadfastly adhere; endeavouring to make it more and more an impartial literary journal, and the honest and earnest advocate of every useful and practicable reform, affecting the polity and the moral and physical condition of the people of Hindustan
Note on Art. 8, No. XXVI.-In our Notice of the Calcutta High School (No. XXVI. p. 458), we find that we have done unintentional injustice to Mr. Graves, who succeeded Mr. Macqueen in the Rectorship. It might seem, from our statement, that the school fell into disrepute in consequence of the removal of Mr. Macqueen; whereas the fact is, that the number of scholars continued to increase, and, during the greater portion of the eleven years during which Mr. Graves held the Rectorship, was considerably larger than it had over been under Mr. Macqueen's very successful management.