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J. MUIK, D.C.L., LL.D.






(All rights reserved.)

Na vi&sho 'sti varnanam sarvatn brdhmam idetm jagat \
Urahmand pruva-srishtam hi Icarmabhir varnatam gatam


" There is no distinction of castes. This world, which,
as created by Brahma, was at first entirely Brahmanic,
has become divided into classes in consequence of men's
works." See pages 138 and 140.




THE main object which I have proposed to myself in
'this volume is to collect, translate, and illustrate the
principal passages in the different Indian books of the
greatest antiquity, as well as in others of comparatively,
modern composition, which describe the creation of man-
kind and the origin of classes, or which tend to throw
light upon the manner in which the caste system may
have arisen.

I have not, however, hesitated to admit, when they
fell in my way, such passages explanatory of the cosmo-
gonic or mythological conceptions of the Indians as
possess a general interest, although not immediately con-
nected with the chief subject of the book.

Since the first edition appeared my materials have so

much increased that the volume has now swelled to

more than twice its original bulk. The second and

third chapters are almost entirely new. 1 The fourteenth
and fifteenth sections of the fourth chapter are entirely
so. Even those parts of the book of which the sub-

1 The contents of these chapters are not, however, absolutely new, but
drawn from articles which I have contributed to the Journal of the Royal
Asiatic Society since the first edition of the volume appeared.


stance remains the same have been so generally expanded
that comparatively little continues without some altera-
tion of greater or less importance.

In order that the reader may learn at once what he
may expect to find in the following pages, I shall supply
here a fuller and more connected summary of their con-
tents than is furnished by the table which follows thir>
preface. c

The Introduction (pp. 1-6) contains a very rapid sur-
vey of the sources from which our information on the
subject of caste is to be derived, viz. the Yedic hymns,
the Brahmanas, the Epic poems, and the Puranas, in
which the chronological order and the general charac-
teristics of these works are stated.

The first chapter (pp. 1-160) comprehends the myth-
ical accounts of the creation of man and of the origin
of castes which are to be found in the Yedic hymns, in
the Brahmanas and their appendages, in the Kamayana,
the Mahabharata, and the Puranas. The first section
(pp. 7-15) contains a translation of the celebrated hymn
called Purusha Sukta, which appears to be the oldest
extant authority for attributing a separate origin to the
four castes, and a discussion of the question whether the
creation there described was intended by its author to
convey a literal or an allegorical sense. The second,
third, and fourth sections (pp. 15-34) adduce a series of
passages from the works standing next in chronological
order to the hymns of the Rig -veda, r which differ more
or less widely from the account of the creation given in
the Purusha Sukta, and therefore justify the conclusion


that in the Yedic age no uniform orthodox and authori-
tative doctrine existed in regard to the origin of castes.
In the fifth section (pp. 35-42) the different passages in
Manu's Institutes which bear upon the subject are
quoted, and shewn to be not altogether in harmony with
each other. The -sixth section (pp. 43-49) describes the
system of great mundane periods called Yugas, Man-
vantaras, and Kalpas , as explained in the Puranas, and
shews that no traces of these periods are to be found in
the hymns of the Kig-veda, and but few in the Brah-
manas (compare p. 215 f.). Sections seventh and eighth
(pp. 49-107) contain the accounts of the different crea-
tions, including that of the castes, and of the primeval
state of mankind, which are given in the Vishnu, Vayu,
and Markandeya Puranas, together with references (see
pp. 52 ff., 68 ff.) to passages in the Brahmanas, which ap-
pear to have furnished some of the germs of the various
Puranic representations, and a comparison of the details
of the latter with each other which proves that in some
respects they are mutually irreconcileable (see pp. 65 ff.,
102 ff.). The ninth section (pp. 107-114) adduces the
accounts of Brahma's passion for his daughter, which
are given in the Aitareya Brahmana and the Matsya
Purana. In the tenth section (pp. 114-122) are embraced
such notices connected with the subject of this volume as
I have observed in the Eamayana. In one of the passages
men of all the four castes are said to be the offspring of
Manu, a female, the , daughter of Daksha, and wife of
Kasyapa. The eleventh section contains a collection of
texts from the Mahabharata and its appendage the Hari-


vamsa, in which various and discrepant explanations are
given of the existing diversity of castes, one of them
representing all the four classes as descendants of Manu
Vaivasvata (p. 126), others attributing the distinction of
classes to an original and separate creation of each, which,
however, is not always described as occurring in the same
manner (pp. 128 ff. and 153); whilst others, ag'ain, more
reasonably, declare the distinction e te have arisen out of
differences of character and action. This section, as
well as the one which precedes it, also embraces accounts
of the perfection which prevailed in the first yugas, and
of the gradually increasing degeneracy which ensued in
those that followed. The twelfth section (pp. 155-158)
contains extracts from the Bhagavata Purana, which
coincide for the most part with those drawn from the
other authorities. One text, however, describes mankind
as the offspring of Aryaman and Matrika ; and another
distinctly declares that there was originally but one caste.
The thirteenth section (pp. 159 f.) sums up the results of
the entire chapter, and asserts the conclusion that the
sacred books of the Hindus contain no uniform or con-
sistent theory of the origin of caste; but, on the con-
trary, offer a great variety of explanations, mythical,
mystical, and rationalistic, to account for this social phe-

The second chapter (pp. 160-238) treats of the tra-
dition of the descent of the Indian nation from Manu.
The first section (pp. 162-181) contains a series of texts
from the Eig-veda, which speak of Manu as the pro-
genitor of the race to which the authors of the hymns


belonged, and as the first institutor of religious rites ;
and adverts to certain terms employed in the hymns,
either to denote mankind in general or to signify certain
tribal divisions. The second section (pp. 181-196) ad-
duces a number of legends and notices regarding Manu
from the Brahma^ias and other works next in order of
antiquity to the hymns of the Eig-veda. The most in-
teresting and important of these legends is that of the
deluge, as given in the S'atapatha Brahmana, which is
afterwards (pp. 216ff.) compared with the later versions
of the same story found in the Mahabharata #nd the
Matsya, Bhagavata and Agni Puranas, which are ex-
tracted in the third section (pp. 196-220). Some re-
marks of M. Bumouf and Professor Weber, on the
question whether the legend of a deluge was indigenous
in India, or derived from a Semitic source, are noticed
in pp. 215 f. The fourth section adduces the legendary
accounts of the rise of castes among the descendants of
Manu and Atri, which are found in the Puranas ; and
quotes a story given in the Mahabharata about king
Yitahavya, a Kshattriya, being transformed into a Brah-
man by the mere word of the sage Bhrigu.

In the third chapter (pp. 239-295) I have endeavoured
to shew what light is thrown by a study of the hymns of
the Eig- and Atharva-vedas upon the mutual relations of
the different classes of Indian society at the time when
those hymns were composed. In the first section (pp;
240-265) the various texts of the Eig-veda in which the
words brahman and brahmana occur are cited, and an
attempt is made to determine the senses in which those


words are there employed. The result of this examina-
tion is that in none of the hymns of the Eig-veda, except
the Purusha Sukta, is there any distinct reference to a
recognized system 1 of four castes, although the occasional
use of the word Brahmana, which is apparently equi-
valent to Brahma-putra, or "the son a of a priest," and
other indications seem to justify the conclusion 1 that the
priesthood had already become a profession, although it
did not yet form an exclusive caste (see pp. 258 f., 263 ff.).
The second section (pp. 265-280) is made up of quota-
tions from the hymns of the Eig-veda and various other
later works, adduced to shew that persons who according
to ancient Indian tradition were not of priestly families
were in many instances reputed to be authors of Vedic
hymns, and in two cases, at least, are even said to have
exercised priestly functions. These two cases are those
(1) of Devapi (pp. 269ff.), and (2) of Yisvamitra, which is
afterwards treated at great length in the fourth chapter.
This section concludes with a passage from the Matsya
Purana, which not only speaks of the Kshattriyas Manu,
Ida, and Pururavas, as " utterers of Vedic hymns "
(mantra-vddinah) ; but also names three Yaisyas, Bha-
landa, Vandya, and Sankirtti, as " composers of hymns "
(mantra-kritaJi). The third section (pp. 280-289) shews
by quotations from the Atharva-veda that at the period
when those portions of that collection which are later
than the greater part of the Eig-veda were composed,
the pretensions of the Brahmans had been considerably
developed. The fourth section (pp. 289-295) gives
an account of the opinions expressed by Professor


E. Roth and Dr. M. Haug regarding the origin of

The fourth chapter (pp. 296-479) contains a series of
legendary illustrations derived from the Ramayana, the
Mahabharata, and the Puranas, of the struggle which
appears to have occurred in the early ages of Indian
history between the Brahmans and the Kshattriyas, after
the former had begt\Q to constitute an exclusive sacerdotal
class, but before their rights had become accurately denned
by long prescription, and when the members of the ruling
caste Vere still indisposed to admit their pretensions.
I need not here state in detail the contents of the first
five sections (pp. 296-317) which record various legends
descriptive of the ruin which is said to have overtaken
different princes by whom the Brahmans were slighted
and their claims resisted. The sixth and following
sections down to the thirteenth (pp. 317-426) contain,
first, such references to the two renowned rivals, Va-
sishtha and Visvamitra as are found in the hymns of
the Rig-veda, and which represent them both as Yedic
rishis ; secondly, such notices of them as occur in the
Brahmanas, and shew that Visvamitra, as well as Va-
sishtha, had officiated as a priest; and, thirdly, a series
of legends from the Ramayana and Mahabharata which
describe the repeated struggles for superiority in which
they were engaged, and attempt, by a variety of
fictions, involving miraculous elements, to explain the
manner in which ^isvamitra became a Brahman, and
to account for the fact which was so distinctly cer-
tified by tradition (see pp. 361 ff.), but appeared so un-


accountable in later ages (see pp. 265 f., 364ff.), that that
famous personage, although notoriously a Kshattriya by
birth, had nevertheless exercised sacerdotal functions. 2
The fourteenth section (pp. 426-430) contains a story
from the S'atapatha Brahmana about king Janaka, a Ea-
janya, renowned for his stoical temperament and religious
knowledge, who communicated theological instruction to

, <

2 As I have omitted in the body of the work to say anything of the views
of Signor Angelo de Gubernatis about the purport of the Vedic texts
relating to Vasishtha and Vis'vamitra, I may state here that this young
Italian Sanskritist, in his Essay, entitled " Fonti Vediche dell' jCpopea "
(see the Rivista Orientale, vol. i. pp. 409 ff., 478 f), combats the opinion
of Professor Roth that these passages refer to two historical personages,
and to real events in which they played a part ; and objects that Roth
" took no account of the possibility that a legend of the heavens may have
been based upon a human foundation " (p. 409). Signor de Gubernatis
further observes that the 33rd and 53rd hymns of the third Mandala of the
Rig-veda " may perhaps have been recited at a later period in connection
with some battle which really occured, but that the fact which they cele-
brate seems to be much more ancient, and to be lost in a very remote
myth" (p. 410). Vis'vamitra, he considers, is one of the appellations of
the sun, and as both the person who bears this name, and Indra are the
sons of Kusika, they must be brothers (p. 412. See, however, the remarks
in p. 347 f. of this volume on the epithet Kausika as applied to Indra).
Sudas, according to Signor de Gubernatis (p. 413), denotes the horse of the
sun, or the sun himself, while Vasishtha is the greatest of the Vasus, and
denotes Agni, the solar fire, and means, like Vis'vamitra, the sun (p. 483).
Signor de Gubernatis is further of opinion (pp. 414, 478, 479, and 483) that
both the 33rd and 53rd hymns of the third, and the 18th hymn of the
seventh Mandala are comparatively modern ; that the names of Kus'ikas
and Vis'vamitras claimed by the authors of the two former, are fraudu-
lently assumed ; while the last (the 18th hymn of the seventh Mandala) was
composed by a sacerdotal family who claimed Vasishtha as its founder.
I will only remark tliat the theory of Signor de Gubernatis appears to me
to be an improbable one. But the only point of much importance for my
own special purpose is that ancient Indian tradition represents both
Vasishtha and Vis'vamitra as real personages, the one of either directly
divine, or of sacerdotal descent, and the other of royal lineage. They
may, however, have been nothing more than legendary creations, the
fictitious eponymi of the families which bore the same name.


some eminent Brahmans, and became a member of their
class. In the fifteenth section (pp. 431-436) two other
instances are adduced from the same Brahmana and from
two of the Upanishads, of Kshattriyas who were in pos-
session of truths unknown to the Brahmans, and who,
contrary to the usual rule, became the teachers of the
latter. The sixteenth section (pp. 436-440) contains an
extract from the 4dtareya Brahmana regarding king
Visvantara who, after at first attempting to prevent
the S'yaparna Brahmans from officiating at his sacrifice,
became at length convinced by one of their number of
their superior knowledge, and accepted their services.
In the seventeenth section (pp. 440-442) a story is told
of Matanga, the spurious offspring of a Brahman woman
by a man of inferior caste, who failed, in spite of his
severe and protracted austerities, to elevate himself (as
Visvamitra had done) to the rank of a Brahman. The
eighteenth section (pp. 442-479) contains a series of
legends, chiefly from the Mahabharata, regarding the
repeated exterminations of the Kshattriyas by the war-
like Brahman Parasurama of the race of Bhrigu, and
the ultimate restoration of the warrior tribe, and a
variety of extravagant illustrations of the supernatural
power of the Brahmans, related by the god Vayu to
king Arjuna, who began by denying the superiority of
the priests, but was at length compelled to succumb
to the overwhelming evidence adduced by his aerial
monitor. %^

In the fifth chapter (pp. 480-488) I have given some
account of the opinions entertained by Manu, and the


authors of the Mahabharata and the Puranas, regarding
the origin of the tribes dwelling within, or adjacent to,
the boundaries of Hindustan, but not comprehended in
the Indian caste-system.

The sixth and concluding chapter (pp. 489-504) con-
tains the Puranic accounts of the parts of the earth ex-
terior to Bharatavarsha, or India, embracing first, the
other eight Yarshas or divisions of Jambudvipa, the cen-
tral continent ; secondly, the circular seas and continents
(dvipas) by which Jambudvipa is surrounded ; and,
thirdly, the remoter portions of the mundane system.

The Appendix (pp. 505-515) contains some supple-
mentary notes.

As in the previous edition, I have been careful to
acknowledge in the text and notes of this volume the
assistance which I have derived from the writings of the
different Sanskrit Scholars who have treated of the same
subjects. It will, however, be well to specify here the
various publications to which I have been indebted for
materials. In 1858, I wrote thus : " It will be seen at
once that my greatest obligations are due to Professor
H. H. Wilson, whose translation of the Vishnu Purana,
with abundant and valuable notes, derived chiefly from
the other Puranas, was almost indispensable to the suc-
cessful completion of such an attempt as the present."
In this second edition also I have had constant occasion
to recur to Wilson's important work^aow improved and
enriched by the additional notes of the editor Dr. Fitz-
edward Hall. It is to his edition, so far as it has yet ap-


peared, that my references have been made. I acknow-
ledged at the same time the aid which I had received
from M. Langlois' French translation of the Harivamsa,
and from M. Burnouf's French translation of the first
nine books of the Bhagavata Purana, which opened up
an easy access to the contents of the original works. A
large amoftnt of materials has also been supplied to me,
either formerly or for the preparation of the present
edition, by Mr. Colebrooke's Miscellaneous Essays ; by
Professor C. Lassen's Indian Antiquities ; Professor
Eudolph Eoth's Dissertations on the Literature and
History of the Yedas, and contributions to the Journal of
the German Oriental Society, and to Weber's Indische
Studien, etc. ; Professor Weber's numerous articles in
the same Journals, and his History of Indian Literature ;
Professor Max Miiller's History of Ancient Sanskrit
Literature, Chips from a German Workshop, article on
the Funeral rites of the Brahmans, etc. ; Professor
Benfey's Glossary of the Sama Yeda, and translations
of Yedic hymns ; Dr. Haug's text and translation of
the Aitareya Brahmana : while much valuable aid has
been derived from the written communications with
which I have been favoured by Professor Aufrecht,
as well as from his Catalogue of the Bodleian Sanskrit
MSS. I am also indebted to Professor Miiller for point-
ing out two texts which will be found in the Appendix,
and to Professor Goldstucker for copying for me two
passages of KumarHa Bhatta's Mimansa-varttika, wMch
are printed in the same place, and for making some
corrections in my translations of them.


I formerly observed that at the same time my own
Researches had u enabled me to collect a good many
texts which I had not found elsewhere adduced ; " and
the same remark applies to a considerable portion of
the new matter which has been adduced in the present



v. xvi. PREFACE.




7 15. SECT. I. Ninetieth hymn of the tenth Book of the Rig-

veda Sanhita, called Purusha-Sukta, or the hymn to

15 \6. SECT. II. Quotation from the Taittiriya Sanhita, vii. 1,

1, 4ff.
17 22. SECT. III. Citations from the S'atapatha Brahmana, the

Taittiriya Brahmana, the Vayasaneyi Sanhita, and the


22 34. SECT. IV. Further quotations from the Taittinya Brah-
mana, Sanhita, and Aranyaka, and from the S'atapatha


35 42. SECT. Y. Manu's account of the origin of castes.
43 49. SECT. VI. Account of the system of yugas, manvantaras,

and kalpas, according to the Vishnu Purana and other

49 73. SECT. VII. Account of the different creations, including

that of the castes, according to the Vishnu Purana, with

some passages from the Brahmanas, containing the gexms

of the Purfcr'c statements.
74 107. SECT. VIII. Account of the different creations, including

that of the castes, according to the Vayu and Markandeya




107 114. SECT. IX. Legend of Brahma and his daughter, according

to the Aitareya Brahmana, and of S'atarupa, according to

the Matsya Purana.
114 122. SECT. X. Quotations from the Ramayana on the creation,

and on the origin of castes.
122 155. SECT. XI. Quotations from the Mahabharata and Hari-

vamsa on the same subjects, and on the four yugas.
155 158. SECT. XII. Citations from the Bhagavata Purana on the

creation and on the origin of castes. *

159160. SECT. XIII. Results of this chapter.


162 181. SECT. I. On Manu as the progenitor of the Aryan Indians
and the institutor of religious rites, according to the
hymns of the Rig-veda.

181 196. SECT. II. Legend of Manu and the deluge from the S'ata-
patha Brahmana, and other notices regarding Manu from
the S'atapatha, Aitareya, and Taittiriya Brahmanas, the
Taittirlya Sanhita, and the Chandogya Upanishad.

196 220. SECT. III. Extracts from the Mahabharata and the Matsya,
Bhagavata, and Agni Puranas regarding Manu, and the
deluge ; and comparison of the versions of this, legend
adduced in this and the preceding section.

220 238. SECT. IV. Legendary accounts of the origin of castes
among the descendants of Manu and Atri, according to
the Puranas.



240 265. SECT. I. On the signification of the words brahman and
brahmana, etc., in the Rig-veda.

265 280. SECT. II. Quotations from the Rig-veda, the Nirukta, the

Mahabharata and other works, to show that according to

ancient Indian tradition persons not of priestly families

were authors of Yedic hymns, and exercised priestly

e functions.

280289. SECT. III. Texts from the Ath:.rva-veda, illustrating the
progress of Brahmanical pretensions.

289 295. SECT. IV. Opinions of Professor R. Roth and Dr. M. Haug
regarding the origin of caste among the Hindus.





296 298. SECT. I. Manu's summary of refractory and submissive


298 306. SECT. II. Legend of Vena.
306 307. SECT. III. Legend of Pururavas.
307315. SECT. IV. Story of Nahusha.
316317. SECT. V. Story of Nimi.
317 337. SECT. VI. Vasishtha, according to the Rig-veda and later

works. *

337 371. SECT. VII. Visvamitra, according to the Rig-veda, Aita-
reya Brahmana and later authorities ; earlier and later

relations of priestly families and the other classes.
371 375. SECT. Vila. Do the details in the last two sections enable

us to decide in what relation Vasishtha and Visvamitra

stood to each other as priests of Sudas ?
375378. SECT. VIII. Story of Trisanku.
379 388. SECT. IX. Legend of Harischandra.
388 397. SECT. X. Contest of Vasishtha and Visvamitra, and en-

trance of the latter into the Brahman caste, according to

the Mahabharata.
397 411. SECT. XI. The same legend, and those of Trisanku, and

Ambarisha, according to the Ramayana, with a further

story about Visvamitra from the Mahabharata.
411 414. SECT. XII. Other accounts from the Mahabharata of the

way in which Visvamitra became a Brahman.
414 426. SECT. XIII. Legend of Saudasa, and further story of the

rivalry of Vasishtha and Visvamitra, according to the

Mahabharata, with an extract from the Raja Tarangim.
426 430. SECT. XIV. Story from the S'atapatha Brahmana about

king Janaka becoming a Brahman, with extracts from the

Online LibraryJ. (John) MuirOriginal Sanskrit texts on the origin and history of the people of India, their religion and institutions (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 57)