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grandsire. He became a student of Sanskrit, and translated the Upanishads, philosophical treatises appended to the Vedas, into Persian. This was in the year 1657, a year before he was put to death by his younger brother, the bigoted Aurengzebe. This prince's translation was translated into French by Anquetil Duperron, in the year 1795, the fourth year of the French Republic; and was for a long time the principal source from which European scholars de rived their knowledge of the sacred literature of the Brahmans.
At the time at which we have now arrived, the reign of Aurengzebe (1658–1707), the cotemporary and rival of Louis XIV., the existence of Sanskrit and Sanskrit literature was known, if not in Europe generally, at least to Europeans in India, particularly to missionaries. Who was the first European that knew of Sanskrit, or that acquired a knowledge of Sanskrit, is difficult to say. When Vasco de Gama landed at Calicut, on the 9th of May, 1498, Padre Pedro began at once to preach to the natives, and had suffered a martyr's death before the discoverer of India returned to Lisbon. Every new ship that reached India brought new missionaries; but for a long time we look in vain in their letters and reports for any mention of Sanskrit or Sanskrit literature. Francis, now St. Francis Xavier, was the first to organize the great work of preaching the Gospel in India (1542); and such were his zeal and devotion, such his success in winning the hearts of high and low, that his friends ascribed to him, among other miraculous gifts, the gift of tongues - a gift never claimed by St. Francis himself. It is not, how
1 Müllbauer, p. 67.
ever, till the year 1559 that we first hear of the missionaries at Goa studying, with the help of a converted Brahman,the theological and philosophical literature of the country, and challenging the Brahmans to public disputations.
The first certain instance of a European missionary having mastered the difficulties of the Sanskrit language, belongs to a still later period, be called the period of Roberto de Nobili, as distinguished from the first period, which is under the presiding spirit of Francis Xavier. Roberto de Nobili went to India in 1606. He was himself a man of high family, of a refined and cultivated mind, and he perceived the more quickly the difficulties which kept the higher castes, and particularly the Brahmans, from joining the Christian communities formed at Madura and other places. These communities consisted chiefly of men of low rank, of no education, and no refinement. He conceived the bold plan of presenting himself as a Brahman, and thus obtaining access to the high and noble, the wise and learned, in the land. He shut himself up for years, acquiring in secret a knowledge, not only of Tamil and Telugu, but of Sanskrit. When, after a patient study of the language and literature of the Brahmans, he felt himself strong enough to grapple with his antagonists, he showed himself in public, dressed in the proper garb of the Brahmans, wearing their cord and their frontal mark, observing their diet, and submitting even to the complicated rules of caste. He
to what may
1 Ibid. p. 80. These Brahmans, according to Robert de Nobili, were of a lower class, not initiated in the sacred literature. They were ignorant, he says, “ of the books Smarta, A postamba, and Sutra." — Müllbauer, p. 188. Robert himself quotes from the Âpastamba-Sûtra, in his defence, ibid. p. 192. He also quotes Scanda Purâna, p. 193; Kadambari, p. 193.
was successful, in spite of the persecutions both of the
1 The Ezour-Veda is not the work of Robert de Nobili. It was probably written by one of his converts. It is in Sanskrit verse, in the style of the Purânas, and contains a wild mixture of Hindu and Christian doctrine. The French translation was sent to Voltaire and printed by him in 1778, “L'Ezour Vedam traduit du Sanscritam par un Brame." Voltaire expressed his belief that the original was four centuries older than Alexander, and that it was the most precious gift for which the West had been ever indebted to the East. Mr. Ellis discovered the Sanskrit original at Pondichery. (Asiatic Researches, vol. xiv.) There is no evidence for ascribing the work to Robert, and it is not mentioned in the list of his works. (Bertrand, la Mission du Maduré, Paris, 1847–50, t. iii. p. 116; Müllbauer, p. 205, note.)
interest attaching to the existence of an ancient civilization so perfect and so firmly rooted as to require accommodation even from the missionaries of Rome. At a time when the discovery of one Greek MS. would have been hailed by all the scholars of Europe, the discovery of a complete literature was allowed to pass unnoticed. The day of Sanskrit had not yet come.
The first missionaries who succeeded in rousing the attention of European scholars to the extraordinary discovery that had been made were the French Jesuit missionaries, whom Louis XIV. had sent out to India after the treaty of Ryswick, in 1697.1 Father Pons drew up a comprehensive account of the literary treasures of the Brahmans; and his report, dated Karikal (dans le Maduré), November 23, 1740, and addressed to Father Duhalde, was published in the “ Lettres édifiantes.” 2
Father Pons gives in it a most interesting and, in general, a very accurate description of the various branches of Sanskrit literature, - of the four Vedas, the grammatical treatises, the six systems of philosophy, and the astronomy of the Hindus. He anticipated, on several points, the researches of Sir William Jones.
But, although the letter of Father Pons excited a deep interest, that interest remained necessarily barren, as long as there were no grammars, dictionaries, and Sanskrit texts to enable scholars in Europe to study Sanskrit in the same spirit in which they studied Greek and Latin. The first who endeavored to supply this want was a Carmelite friar, a German of the name of Johann Philip Wesdin, better known as Paulinus a Santo Bartholomeo. He was in India from 1776 to 1789; and he published the first grammar of Sanskrit at Rome, in 1790. Although this grammar has been severely criticised, and is now hardly ever consulted, it is but fair to bear in mind that the first grammar of any language is a work of infinitely greater difficulty than any later grammar.1
1 In 1677 a Mr. Marshall is said to have been a proficient in Sanskrit. Elliot's Historians of India, p. 265.
2 See an excellent account of this letter in an article of M. Biot in the “ Journal des Savants," 1861.
We have thus seen how the existence of the Sanskrit language and literature was known ever since India had first been discovered by Alexander and his companions. But what was not known was, that this language, as it was spoken at the time of Alexander, and at the time of Solomon, and for centuries before his time, was intimately related to Greek and Latin, in fact, stood to them in the same relation as French to Italian and Spanish. The history of what may be called European Sanskrit philology dates from the foundation of the Asiatic Society at Calcutta, in 1784.2 It was through the labors of Sir William Jones, Carey, Wilkins, Forster, Colebrooke, and other members of that illustrious Society, that the language and literature of the Brahmans became first accessible to European
1 Sidharubam seu Grammatica Samscrdamica, cui accedit dissertatio historico-critica in linguam Samscrdamicam, vulgo Samscret dictam, in qua hujus linguæ existentia, origo, præstantia, antiquitas, extensio, maternitas ostenditur, libri aliqui in ea exarati critice recensentur, et simul aliquæ antiquissimæ gentilium orationes liturgicæ paucis attinguntur et explicantur autore Paulino a S. Bartholomæo. Romæ, 1790.
2 The earliest publications were the “ Bhagavadgita,” translated by Wilkins, 1785; the “Ilitopadeśa," translated by Wilkins, 1787; and the "Sakuntalâ," translated by W. Jones, 1789. Original grammars, without mentioning mere compilations, were published by Colebrooke, 1805; by Carey, 1806; by Wilkins, 1808; by Forster, 1810; by Yates, 1820; by Wilson, 1841. In Germany, Bopp published his grammars in 1827, 1832, 1834; Benfey, in 1852 and 1855.