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A Bengali gentleman, who seemed to speak feelingly, stated at a meeting of the Bethune Society, Calcutta, that some women have too much influence. Ward asserts that occasionally Bengali viragoes beat their husbands! An old grandmother often rules the house, and is the great supporter of idolatry.
Considering the impure and superstitious character of Hindu literature, females probably sustain no loss in being unable to read it. W. Muir, Esq., in his “ Life of Mahomet," has the following remarks on the seclusion in which Mahomedan females are kept :
The truth is that the extreme license of polygamy and divorce permitted to his followers by Malomet rendered these safeguards necessary. Such lieenise could not, without gross and fagrant immorality, be compatible with the free and open intercourse of European society. It would not in any nation be tolerated without restrictions which fetter and degrade the female sex. On that account the introduction of European manners and customs into Mahomedan society, is altogether to be deprecated. The licentiousness of the system, without the present checks, cruel and unnatural as they are, would certainly create in Mussulman countries, an utter dissolution of morality, already at a sufficiently low ebb." Vol. IV. p. 234.
The above remarks apply partly to Hindu society. Woman in India cannot be raised to her
station till the country is Christianised. Still, early marriages, Kulin polygamy, and the cruel treatment of widows, may be denounced, and every encouragement given to female education.
Value of Knowledge. -A single quotation may be given to show the importance of being acquainted with the superstitions current in India :-
“ Mr. Swartz deeming it necessary, in order to converse with advantage with the people, to be well acquainted with their system of theology, whatever it was, spent five years, after he had obtained some proficiency in their language in reading their mythological books only. Hard and irksome as this task must have been to a devout mind, he has reaped this benefit from it, that he can at any time command the attention of the Malabars, by allusions to their favourite books and histories, which he never fails to make subservient to tbe truth."
Demon Worship - Before the Aryan invasions, demonolatry prevailed among the Turanian tribes. It was, indeed, the most wide-spread form of superstition that ever existed. In several countries it is still dominant; traces of it are to be found in every quarter of the globe. A full account of the system is a desideratum.
The Shanars of South India and rude aboriginal tribes everywhere, are especially noted for their demon worship. Caldwell observes, “ Every Hindu work containing allusions to native life, and the dictionaries of all the Hindu dialects, prove the general prevalence of a belief in the existence of malicious or mischievous demons, in demoniacal inflictions and possessions, and in the power of exorcisms. The chief peculiarity of the superstition, as it exists among the Shanars, consists in their systematic worship of the demons in which they believe." In its essential features as it prevails in Tinnevelly, he congiders it identical with the Shamanism of Siberia. Tennent thus writes of it in Ceylon :
“ Under the icy coldness of this barren system (Buddhism) there burns below the unextinguished fires of another and darker superstition, whose flames overtop the icy summits of the Buddhist philosophy, and excite a deeper and more reverential awe in the imagination of the Singhalese."
The compiler has witnessed superstition in varied forms; but perhaps he has seen none more appalling than the midnight orgies of demon worship in the jungles of Ceylon, when evil spirits are invoked from the four quarters to accept the offerings presented to them.
The people say that the gods are by nature welldisposed, and will, therefore, not do them any harm; but they must propitiate the malignant beings that cause sickness and other misfortunes. Through a large part of India it will be found, that when epidemics are prevalent, and even in cases of individual illness, demon worship, more or less, is practised. The Brahmanical deities are then deserted, and the aboriginal practices are resumed. With the spread of education and a knowledge of the laws of health, as well as the diffusion of Christian truth, the system is declining. Good native doctors would be of great value in this matter.
The best account of demonolatry the compiler has met with, is contained in Caldwell's “ Tinnevelly Shanars.” The Missionary in most parts of India will require to investigate for himself.
System of the Vedas.--The worship of the elements was the religious system of the first Aryan settlers. Max Muller says :
“ In the hymns of the Veda we see man left to himself to solve the riddle of this world.' We see him crawling on like a creature of this earth, with all the desires and weaknesses of his animal nature...But be begins to lift up his eyes. He stares at the tent of heaven, and asks who supports it ? He opens eyes to the winds, and asks them whence and whither? He is awakened from darkness and slụcuber by the light of the sun, and Him whom his eyes cannot behold, and who seems to grant hiin the daily pittance of his existerice, he calls his life, bis "health, his brilliant Lord and Protector. He gives names to all the powers of nature...they all seem to grow paturally into beings like himself, nay greater than himself. He invokes them, he praises them, he worships them."
The system gradually assumed more and more of a polytheistie character. Indra is generally regarded as the principal among the gods who are celebrated in the Rig-Veda.
He is the lord of the firmament, the wielder of the lightnings, who pierces the clouds with
his thunderbolts, and compels them to discharge their fertilizing showers on the earth. The hostile power which withholds the rain, is personified as Vritra or Abi, a demon whose frequent conflicts with Indra, and defeats by the superior prowess of his antagonist, are largely celebrated in the hymns. Agni (the Ignis of the Latins) is the god of fire. The sun appears as a deity under several characters. Mitra is said by Hindu commentators to be the god of day, as Varuna is of night. Varuna is represented as enthroned in splendour in his remote and lofty palace. Ushas is the goddess of the dawn. Vayu is the wind personified. * Thirty-three gods and goddesses are enumerated. Their relationship is not settled. The god who in one hymn is the father is in another the son; the same goddess is sometimes the mother, sometimes the wife. The chief religious services consisted in keeping alive the sacred fire, and in offering the intoxicating juice of the somaplant, which the deities were invited to quaff like thirsty stags.
Hymns to be recited at sacrifices were gradually composed. As gifts were bestowed on those by whom they were chanted, the hymns were preserved to form a patrimony to certain families. The period when the hymns were reduced to writing is not exactly known.
Max Muller has published several volumes of the Sanskrit text of the Rig-Veda, with the commentary of Sayana. The late H. H. Wilson was proceeding with the English translation till his death. Three volumes appeared during his life-time; the late Dr. Ballantyne edited three more volumes. Max Muller's “ Ancient Sanskrit Literature" gives much interesting information about the Vedas. Part Third of Muir's Sanskrit. Texts treats of Hindu opinions with regard to their Origin, Division, Inspiration, and Authority. The Aitareya Brahmanam of the Rig Veda, containing the
* Abridged from Dr. Muir, North British Review, No. 49.
earliest speculations of the Brahmans on the meaning of the sacrificial prayers, and on the origin, performance, and sense of the rites of the Vedic Religion, has been translated by Dr. Haug.
An account of the Vedas is given in Colebrooke's Essays. A knowledge of the Vedas is of less importance to a Missionary than some suppose. Many of the Brahmans never saw a single fragment of them ; they know nothing of their contents. "If the Missionary attempts to prove that popular Hinduism is wrong, because the Vedas make such and such statements, instead of accepting what he says, they regard him as trying to palm off a great lie upon them. Educated Hindus, to whom Wilson's translation can be shown, have in general renounced all faith in Hinduism, and require a different treatment. Still, there are cases in which some acquaintance with the Vedas will be of direct advantage, and no Indian Missionary should be without a general idea of their nature.
Modern Hinduism.-—The worship of the Vedic gods gradually declined, and new deities rose into notice. H. H. Wilson thus shows the change which took place ;
“The divinities worshipped (the Vedic gods) are not unknown to later systems, but they perform very subordinate parts, whilst those deities who are the great gods—the Dii majores — of the subsequent period, are either wholly unpamed in the Veda, or are noticed in an inferior and differeut capacity. The names of Siva, of MAHADEVA, of DURGA, of Kali, of RAMA, of KRISHNA, never occur, as far as we are yet aware ; we have a RUDRA, who, in after times, is identified with Siya, but who, even in the Puronas, is of very doubtful origin and identification, whilst in the Veda he is described as the father of the winds, and is evidently a form of either Agni or INDRA ; there is not the slightest allusion to the form in which, for the last ten centuries at least, Siva seems to have been almost exclusively worshipped in India—that of the Linga or Phallus : neither is there the slightest hint of another important feature of later