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Kalhana, one of the writers of the Raja-tarangini, Orpheus of the valley," was the son of the Prime Minister of Kashmir, and lived in the twelfth century. He was a contemporary and fellow-countryman of Soma Deva, the author of the Vrihat Katha, a work containing a most interesting series of tales in Sanskrit, which throw much light on the manners and religion of the Hindus, and in fact furnished materials for the Arabian Nights. They have been printed, with a translation in German, by Brockhaus of Paris. Harsha Deva, the author of the Naishadh Charitra, was also a fellow-countryman of his.
Kalhana was an enthusiastic admirer of poetry, and composed, in verse, " The daughter of Memory,” his history, which was compiled from the works of seventeen historians, who preceded him, as well as from the archives of the temples. Like his fellow-countrymen, he was well versed in metaphysics, which he describes as being "a mine containing many precious stones, wbich, when free from incrustations, can be wrought into jewels for the enrichment of the world." The Buddhist system, in its history and doctrines, was also familiar to him. In the faithfulness of his descriptions, he certainly does not stand inferior to any modern historian, and would often obtain the preference in point of impartiality. Kalbana was no mere hero-worshipper, though living in a slavish day, when the doctrine of “the right divine of Kings to govern wrong was held all over the world; yet he boldly states his opinions on these subjects. In all ages, Poets and Kings enrich their possessions by plundering. The former steal verse, the latter the goods of another.-A king destroys him, who has served to elevate him to his dignity, as a wood-cutter hews down the trunk of the tree, which has enabled him to command a view of the forest.—Who will not become a prey to kings, when their cupidity is excited, as ants become the spoil of the smooth tongue of the porcupine ?-The lion kills even while crouching, the adder in embracing, the Vetala in laughing, the king while praising."
Kalbana, though immeasurably inferior to Kalidas, the Indian Shakespeare, in beauty of expression,yet, like orientals in general, uses“ variety of similes." We give a few specimens. A king, not controlled by his ministers, is compared to a " diamond, that is not cut by other minerals, but itself cuts precious stones." Aryaraja, who, like Charles V., abdicated the throne, and refused to become king again, “raised his eyes to heaven, and was content with the empire of his soul; he never resumed the reins of power, as a snake does not take the slough, which it has once cast away." “ Rajah Siddha could not contract any defilement,
though surrounded with sensual pleasures, as the image of the moon is not soiled by tbe filth, from which it is reflected.” “The King Parvarasena did not associate with his neighbours, as the lotus, delighting in the favour of the sun, shuns any immersion in the water.” “Fortune unites herself to King Chandrapida, leaving defects with other kings, as a river deposits its muddy particles on its mountain route, and mixes its purified waters with the ocean.”
We will not compare Kalhana, for obvious reasons, with the modern historians of Europe ; but he certainly may rank with such writers as Ferdusi, and Abul Fazil; and, considering the disadvantages he laboured under, the age in which he lived, and bis little intercourse with foreigners, he may be entitled to say like Ovid
Exegi monumentum ære perennius. His history of Kashmir will ever remain as a proof of the capabilities of Hindus (when they choose to exert them) for his. toric writing
Circumstances connected with this work of Kalhana's, point out the importance of orientalists at present using every effort, in order to secure the preservation of MSS. Although this MS. was formerly so common, that every Hindu family of rank possessed a copy, and though it was translated into Persian by order of the Emperor Akbar, who encouraged in various ways translations from the Sanskrit into Persian, yet forty years ago there were only three authentic copies extant; and one of these was procured by Moorcroft from a Pandit, as a mark of gratitude for his having cured him of what was considered an incurable disease. It is most singular that no enquiries, to our knowledge, have ever been made respecting the MSS. deposited with Pandits in Nadiya, though for six centuries it has been the chosen resort of the learned from all parts of Bengal, and no doubt various hidden treasures may be brought to light in this as in other places. Let the Asiatic Society of Bengal take up the subject of the collection of MSS., with a kindred zeal to that of Colonel Mackenzie in Southern India, or of Colonel Tod in the North, and we feel assured, that ere long documents, as valuable as the Raja-tarangini, will be forthcoming, as well in Kashmir, as in Bengal. No aid in this, we fear, is to be expected from the Government of Bengal, who at present seem to prefer that their most valuable papers should rot in their archives, rather than allow them to be used for the advancement of science and literature. But in marked contrast to this, the Government of the North Western Provinces have shewn a very different spirit, and have encouraged, by every means in their power, statistical and oriental research.
That the history of Kashmir runs back to so early a period as fifteen centuries B. C. (Herodotus makes mention of Kashmir), may seem incredible to some; but this date is not so very improbable, when we consider that the streams of religion and civilization, like the waters of the Ganges, have proceeded from North to South. The settlement of Agastya in the South, the foundation of the Pandyan and Chola kingdoms, Ram's expedition to Ceylon, (like the French expedition to Algiers, a chastisement of savage tribes)—all took place at least ten centuries before Christ; and, though in the history of the Back Wood Settlements of North America, we have extraordinary instances of the rapidity with which colonization progresses, yet in ancient days, matters moved on a far more moderate scale. Now, taking the data derived from the Raghu Vansa and other works, it must have occupied a considerable time, previous to the tenth century B. O., before Brahmanism could have penetrated from Aria Varta (Central India) and Kashmir to the Dekhan, even making full allowance for the victorious armies of Ram, which, though like Napoleon's, they may have over-run a continent, would yet require other and more permanent influences to establish a national faith.
The history of Kashmir becomes important at the time, which
be reckoned the commencement of the historic age India—the war of the Mahabharat, when the races of Northern contended for the prize of empire with Southern India; in fact the Pandava race, which acted so prominent a part in the war of the Mahabharat, was probably of Kashmirian origin, as there is strong historical evidence in favour of the fact that Pandu was a native of "the happy valley.” The early existence of Brahminical institutions in Kashmir, which were as much identified with the political supremacy of the Pandu race, as the ascendancy of Romanism in the Netherlands was with the rule of Philip II., confirms this. The assaults of the Raksbases, the fights of Suras and Asuras, though dressed up with poetic ima. gery, yet, when viewed in the light of historic criticism, simply refer to the struggles for religious superiority between the Brahminical invaders and the aboriginal inhabitants of the land.
At an elevation of 6,000 feet above the sea-level, surrounded by the lofty ranges of the Himalayas, whose tops are buried in everlasting snow, the valley of Kashmir presents one of the most interesting points in India to the traveller. Like the valley of Nepal, it was originally a lake, and was dried up, either in consequence of an earthquake, or by that elevating process, which has changed Bengal, from a bay into a valley. Yet, interesting as is its physical conformation, its history is equally
80, as it dates from a very remote period. We have an account in the Mahabharat that the kings of Kashmir took part in the “ Great War.” In modern times, its chief claims to attention have been Ranjit Sing's influence, its magnificent shawls, the beauty of its women, and its lovely scenery, which made the Emperor Jehangir declare that he would rather lose his throne than lose Kashmir. But we shall notice it now solely in connection with its history previous to the Muhammaddan invasion, and with the important work, which we have placed at the head of our article, and which is highly creditable to the judgment and indefatigable research of its editor, Monsieur Troyer. We hope that the Raja-tarangini will soon reach a second edition, and that the blunders made by the printers in figures, which render the references to the Sanskrit slokes in various places useless, may be corrected, and also that the editor will separate the Sanskrit words to a greater extent. Wherever the rules of Sandhi do not prevent, every word ought to be separate. The Pandits love to have the words all joined together, as it renders their aid more necessary, and gives an air of mystery to "the language of the gods;" but the object of European philologists ought to be, to open wide the portals of this magnificent language, and to facilitate by every means the study of a tongue, which is now essential even to European linguistic studies, and a key to the feelings, thoughts, and ancient condition of the vast population of India.
This history of Kashmir gives us little insight into the manners and mode of living of the people. The kings generally acted on the maxim of a modern ruler- l'etat, c'est moi; and historians seem to adopt it by filling their works with details of the butcheries and intrigues of ruthless conquerors. The only classes of women, whom Kalhana mentions, are courtesans and queens.
These queens seem to have exercised on various occasions great political power, and to have ruled their ministers, as much as Elizabeth ever did. One of them Diddha, the Messalina of Kashmir, was noted for her extraordinary profligacy, rivalling any thing that is recorded of Catherine of Russia.
It is the same with the men. Indeed the very name, Rajatarangini or “river of kings,” indicates the existence of only two classes-despots, and serfs. The doctrine of legitimacy was the only one recognized in the valley of Kashmir, and the personal character of a monarch was regarded as nothing in comparison with his office. The notices, recorded of some of those monarchs, call before our memory the days of Napoleon. "The people,” says Kalhana," knew of the presence of the monarch only by the birds of prey, eager to feed on the carcasses of slaughtered warriors." But Kalhana Pandit gives a view of conquerors more conformable to Chris. tian morals, than mapy Christian writers do, when he describes their glory " though scattering everywhere its rays, yet productive of terror, like the glare of a funeral pyre.” There are no such eulogies pronounced on warriors and princes by Kalhana the Brahman, as were uttered ad nauseam by Massillon, and the Court Preachers in the churches of " Le Grand Monarque." Many of these kings seemed to have quieted the stings of conscience, like the monarchs of the middle ages, by founding edifices for religion-Buddhist temples after a life of slaughter! Others, however, rendered eminent service to their country by the construction of canals, embankments, and roads. A question has been raised as to the period when bunds were first made in Bengal. No answer can be given to this : but we find that, perhaps 3,000 years ago in Kashmir, monarchs spent the wealth of kingdoms in constructing them on a mag. nificent scale, and one king lent all his royal treasures to the engineer, who erected a series of embankments round the valley. It has been stated, that, previous to the advent of Christianity, there had been no hospitals : but we find that a king of Kashmir, long anterior to that period, had established Hospitals and Dispensaries. Some of these kings, indeed, seem to have paid far greater attention to the physical comforts of their subjects, and to the making of good roads than any European conquerors have done in India. The Marquis of Wellesley is the only Governor-General, who planted trees along the sides of roads to give shade and refreshment; but it was a very common practice among the Kashmirian monarchs. It is highly creditable to Lord Ellenborough, that when the public presented him with a service of a plate, as a token of their approval of bis Indian career, had his own wishes been consulted, he would have preferred the money to have been spent in planting rows of trees along the Grand Trunk Road, as a more useful memorial.
The ancient Kashmirians were well acquainted with certain branches of practical science, as the forming of embankments, mining,* coining, sculpture, and architecture. The drama, which exercised so important an influence in the development of the Hindu mind, was brought to a high state of cultivation. Learned men were highly respected. In the reign of Jayapira, “ the name of a Pandit was held in greater repute than that of a king."
• The traces of mining operations, found in the Rajmahal hills and the Birbhum district, as well as in other remote parts of India, indicate, that the Hindus of former days possessed a skill in these things, which their successors have not maintained.