Charles Harcourt Ainslie Forbes-Lindsay.

India, past and present / C. H. Forbes-Lindsay (Volume 1) online

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yt//y childlike repentance on the part of the
Hindu, and on that of the Muhammadan by the re-
sixjctful loyalty of the brave man, while they who.


like the Sikh, honored their salt were bound by
double ties to the domiuant race.

The great deterrent to the progress of the country,
the cause of many of its calamities, but also the source
of some of its advantages, is caste. This curious, and
to the Western mind never wholly understandable,
institution was probably in existence when the Ish-
maelites traded between India and Egypt. The most
ancient portion of the Vedas alludes to four great
classes or Varnas of the Hindu people ; these were
the Brclhmans or priests, the Kshattriyas or soldiers,
the Vaisyas or tillers of the soil, and the Sudras or
traders and menials, in the order of their importance.

While this broad classification exists to-day, inva-
sion, intermarriage and extension of industries has led
to the creation of a large number of subdivisions, and
indeed, as early as the fourteenth century before
Christ, the laws of Manu recognized several offshoots
from the original castes.

The faith of these numerous septs centres in a
triune godhead, but the Hindu Pantheon includes a
host of inferior deities. The great triad consists of
Brahma, the creator and the supreme; Vishnu, the
preserver; and Siva, the destroyer. Tliese two last
have been time and again Avatar , or incarnate, and
hence the imagination of their worshipers has given
to them a variety of tangible forms to symbolize
powers and qualities auxiliary to their prime functions.
Although the Brahraanical religion has a decidedly


t^jiiiitiial side, the devotions of tlie majority of Hindus
are restricted to its external phases and ceremonial

The Buddhist doctrine, which inculcates a philos-
ophy rather than a religion, had at one time a very
large following, and in the reign of King Asoka, who
was converted to the sect in tiie year 244 B.C., it bid
fair to supplant Briihmanism in India. The older
faith prevailed, however, and the disciples of Gau-
tama have long since lost their hold upon the conti-
nent, although they are still numerous in Ceylon,
where some of the best specimens of their sacred
architecture may be found. The small sect of Jains
is virtually all that remains of Buddhism in India
proper. This is, perhaps, to be regretted ; for the
code of Gautama afforded a good, and in many respects
Christian-like, theory for the conduct of life, and
" substituted a religion of emotion and sympathy for
one of ceremonial and dogma." In this regard the
two great religions of ancient India were not dis-
similar from the conflicting doctrines which rent Jeru-
salem at the inception of our era.

The comparatively modern sect of Sikhs was
founded among the Hindus of the Punjab by Niinak
Shah toward the close of the fifteenth century. The
Sikh religion is a politico-military system. The most
divine object recognized by its adherents is the Granth,
or holy book. The Sikh denounces idolatry, but is tole-
rant of other creeds, and takes no cognizance of caste.


India is essentially an agricultnral country, about
sixty per cent, of the population deriving their liveli-
hood directly from the tillage of the soil. Under
such circumstances drought, with its fearful resultant,
famine, must necessarily affect a large proportion of
the people. The efforts of the British Government to
eradicate or ameliorate these constantly recurring
evils have been stupendous. The irrigation system
has been wrought under tremendous difficulties, and

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Online LibraryCharles Harcourt Ainslie Forbes-LindsayIndia, past and present / C. H. Forbes-Lindsay (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 19)