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life. Hence that most singular fact noticed by the writer before quoted, that from the first hymn of the first Veda to the last chapter in the last of the Puranas, there is not in all that literature, extending over a period of three thousand years, a single page of plain matter-of-fact history unmixed with fable, or a single truthful biographical account of any poet; 'statesman, or philosopher, such as constitutes so valuable a portion of Grecian literature. Nor has the Sanskrit any chronology. It does not in all its extent furnish a single reliable date by which any event, or series of events, of which it treats, may be assigned its proper chronological place in the world's history. We are actually indebted to the Greek historians for the only trustworthy date that can be used as a starting-point in Hindu chronology. It is the fortunate occurrence of the name of an Indian prince in connection with the name of one of Alexander's successors that enables us to fix the date of that prince's reign, and from thence determine approximately that of other events, either before or after it, in the annals of that people.
While, however, we look in vain in the Sanskrit for any history or chronology asserting an earlier history of our race than we have been taught to believe, it may be asked whether the Sanscrit itself is not such evidence. There can be no doubt that
the Vedas are among the oldest of the extant writings of antiquity, perhaps the very oldest. It is an important inquiry, as bearing upon the subject in hand, What were their origin and their probable date?
In respect to their origin, the Hindus put forth various conflicting statements; and even in the later portions of the writings which are regarded as parts of the Vedas, it is ascribed to different sources. Thus it is alleged that they are eternal; that they issued from the mouth of Brahma at the creation ; that they are the breath of Brahma, etc. It is said that the Rig Veda was produced from fire, the Yajur-Veda from air, and the Sama-Veda from the sun; again, that the goddess Saraswati is the mother of the Vedas ; still again, that they are de- , rived from the mystical victim Purusha, or from the Gayatri, a sacred verse personified as a goddess, the wife of Brahma ; * or once more, that they
* The GAYATRI, or holiest verse in the Vedas. This is merely a prayer, as follows: “Let us adore the supremacy of that divine sun, the godhead, who illuminates all, who recreates all, irom whom all proceed, to whom all must return, whom we invoke to direct our understandings aright in our progress towards his holy seat.” — Rammohun Roy, p. 117.
This verse is preceded by a mysterious monosyllable (Om), a type of the three divinities Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, and the essence of the Vedas, and by the three scarcely less sacred
are the offspring of Time. This enumeration is not designed to be exhaustive.
These assertions show that there was much specu. lation among the Hindus regarding the origin of their sacred books; not, however, as implying any question as to their divine inspiration, which was never denied except by a single one of their schools of philosophy, and the heretical sect of the Buddhists. Nor did these statements, so far as I am aware, indicate speculations or discussions analogous to those held respecting the origin and inspiration of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, but rather as to the divine character and authority of these writings, in what the Hindus would call a higher sense.
Each sukta, or hymn, has for its reputed author
words, bhur, bhuwar, and swar, denoting earth, atmosphere, and heaven.”
It is said, “Whoever shall repeat these lines, day by day, for three years, without negligence, shall approach the most high God, become free as air, and acquire after death an ethereal essence.” — Rammohun Roy, pp. 110, 117. - “ The Veda begins,” says Rammohun Roy, " and concludes with three peculiar and mysterious epithets of God: first, Om; second, Tat; third, Sur. The first of these signifies that being which preserves, destroys, creates. The second implies a rishi, or teacher, by whom, in Brahmanical phraseology, it was "seen,” that is, to whom it was revealed. For the names of these rishis we are indebted, except when incidentally mentioned in the hymns themselves, to an index of the contents of the Vedas, which also specifies the meter and the number of stanzas in each hymn. The Rig Veda has 1017 hymns, and 10,417 stanzas (there is a difference of six or eight stanzas in different enumerations), the authorship of which is attributed to nearly 100 different rishis. Many of these hymns and parts of hymns appear in the three other Vedas, which are of a later date; indeed, the whole of the second or Sama-Veda has been found to have been taken from the first. The same is true of large portions of the contents of the Yajur and Atharva Vedas, so that these 1017 hymns of the Rig Veda are regarded as constituting almost all of the original Vedic hymns. Some of their reputed authors are the subjects of legends in the later mythology, but many are not mentioned in other parts of Sanskrit literature.
that only being which is neither male nor female.' The third announces the true being. These collective terms simply affirm, ONE UNKNOWN TRUE BEING IS THE CREATOR, PRESERVER, AND DESTROYER OF THE UNIVERSE.” - Trans. of the Vedas, p. 22.
In regard to the antiquity of these ancient writings, scholars are by no means agreed. Baron Bunsen thinks that some of the hymns were composed as long ago as B. C. 3000. Professor Whitney, who is probably the first Sanskrit scholar in America, has expressed the opinion that they were written during the first hälf of the second millennium before Christ (B. C. 2000-1500). Professor Max Müller, who has nearly completed his most valuable edition of the Rig-Veda, thinks that their collection and arrangement in their present form took place at least as early as from the 12th to the roth century before Christ, but that their composition occupied quite an indefinite period of, some centuries before. The late Professor Wilson, who was, I believe, regarded as the best Sanskrit scholar in England, thought Müller's date too recent by some two or three centuries. Ritter supposes they were composed or collected from 1600 to 1400 B. C. The most modern date I recollect to have seen is from 1000 to 1200 B. C. In each case, some centuries previous are allowed for their composition. « My own opinion, if I may be allowed to express one, after the eminent scholars just named, is, that the collection and arrangement of these hymns, as we now have them in the Rig Veda Sanhita, was made as early as the 15th or 16th century before Christ, and that the composition of the earliest of them may have been some five centuries previous, carrying it back to about the time of Abraham. This opinion is based partly on the style of the language, which is simple and archaic, and had