James Bryce Bryce.

The book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 3) online

. (page 41 of 54)
Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 3) → online text (page 41 of 54)
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great a transformation among the Tartar
and Mongolian peoples that the northern
Buddhism of the present day is merely
a frightful caricature of the pure Buddhist
doctrine. The soul, to which Gautama
had denied an objective existence, was
reintroduced as an element of belief.
The souls of the future Buddhas, the
Bodhisattwas, especially those of the
Manjusri and the Avalokitesvara, were
accorded divine veneration, becoming
personifications of the mystical religious
knowledge and of the spirit of the Budd-
hist churches ; while almighty power was



typified in a third divinity, Vajradhara.
Thus the heaven of this Buddhist sect
was provided with a trinity, and to this
were attributed the most abhorrent
characteristics of the lower gods ; and
Shamanist customs and incantations, to-
gether with bloody sacrifices, were intro-
duced into the worship. This incorporation
of Indian Dravidian ideas and
n customs with Buddhism is

chiefl y the work of the Indian
monk Asanga, who lived at

Peshawar, in the Punjab, during the sixth
century A.D. The resulting doctrine,
called by the northern Buddhists the
Great Chariot, to distinguish it from that
which they contemptuously termed the
Little Chariot the earlier Buddhism
together with the conception that the
spirit of the Churches became incarnate
in one temporal head, eventually led to
the development of Lamaism in the
countries to the north of India.

Next to the Asoka inscriptions the
most important sources of information
upon Indian Buddhism are the accounts
of the Chinese Buddhists who made pil-
grimages to the sacred shrines of their
religion, especially the reports of Fa Hien
(400-414) and of Hiuen Tsang (629-645).
From Fa Hien we learn that in the whole
of Nearer India the two doctrines, the
Great Chariot, or Mahay ana and the Little
Chariot, or Hinayana, existed side by side,
though at the same time the Brahman
teaching counted numerous adherents. At

the time of Hiuen Tsang, Kashmir was
entirely given up to northern Buddhism,
while the Little Chariot was predominant
in Western and Southern India ; in the
Ganges district Buddhism suffered greatly
from the competition of Brahmanism.
Hiuen Tsang was present at the Council of
Kanauj, where the doctrines of the nor I horn
sect were formulated. Buddha's birth-
place was at that time in ruins, but his
religion was even then firmly established
in those countries in which he had him-
self been personally active. In the rest
of India the old doctrine was still highly
flourishing, and only in Kalinga had it been
driven back by the rise of Brahmanism
throughout that district.

Shortly after the pilgrimage of Hiuen
Tsang serious misfortunes came upon the
Buddhists. These are most probably to
be explained by persecutions, which were
at most purely local ; Indian Buddhism
collapsed more from internal weakness
and diversity of growth than from the
open hostility of other religions. Soon
after the conclusion of the first millennium
A.D. about 1200 it had ceased to exist
almost throughout India. The princes of
Kashmir and Orissa supported it for a
time ; but about 1340 its last stronghold,
Kashmir, also fell, and when the first
Mohammedan kingdom of India was
founded, nearly the whole population, with
the exception of some few adherents in
Bengal and Orissa, together with the
Jains, acknowledged the gods of Hinduism.


HTHOSE long-continued political disturb-
* ances which we have described proved
unfavourable to the strengthening of reli-
gious conviction. Among the Brahmans a
period of deep metaphysical speculation
had been succeeded by a period of repose,
while the lowest gods and the rudest
forms of worship had been gradually ac-
cepted by the people at large. It was not
until the eighth century that the reaction
began. Tradition names Kumarila, who
lived in the first half of that century, as at
once the deadly enemy of the Buddhists
and the reviver of the Brahman religion.
But the first great reformer so called was
probably Sankara Acharya. He was bofn
in the Deccan in 788, was chiefly active
in Northern India, and died in the Hima-
layas in 820. He rgvived the Vedanta phil-
osophy and created the new popular Hindu

religion. The esoteric portion of his doc-
trine acknowledges one unique supreme
god, the Brahma Para Brahma, the creator
and governor of the world, who is to be
worshipped by mystical introspection ;
the elements of religious thought extant
in the people as a whole he united and
inspired in the figure of Siva. The great
p apostle of the worship of

opu & Vishnu, on the other hand, was
R ". f Ramanuja, who lived in the first

half of the twelfth century. His
doctrines were preached by Kabir (1380-
1420) in Bengal, and Chaitanya (born
1485) in Orissa. From the time of those
reformers onward, Siva and Vishnu have
been the corner-stones in the system of
Hindu worship. In the popular religion
Brahma retires into the background.
The fundamental element in the philo-


sophical conception of Vishnu is imma-
nence, so that this kindly helping god
becomes properly the god of incarnations,
of Avatars. His being permeates all
things, and hence he may appear in most
different forms. Whenever gods or men are
reduced to the extremities of need, Vishnu
brings them help in one or another of his
A G manifestations. Legend num-

bers many of these incarnations,
in all twenty-two, but the
ns generally accepted number is
ten. In the first three the god appears as the
fish, the tortoise, the boar ; in the fourth,
as the male lion ; and in the later incarna-
tions in human form, first as a dwarf ; after-
ward, in the sixth, seventh, and eighth as
Parasurama, as Ramatshandra, and as
Krishna that is, in forms taken from the
heroic legends of Indian antiquity. Of
these incarnations n

Krishna has become
the most popular, the
people recognising a
national characteris-
tic in the amusing
tricks assigned to
Krishna by the
legend. The represen-
tation of Buddha as
the ninth incarnation
of Vishnu no doubt
belongs to a period
when an attempt was
made to unite Bud-

person of Siva, the god of destruction.
As Rudra he personifies the destructive
lorces of nature ; as Mahakala, the dis-
solving power of time ; as Bahirava, he
is the destroyer, or destruction as such ;
and as Bhuteswara, adorned with a gar-
land of snakes and death's-heads, he is the
supreme deity of all the demons of the
Dravidian belief. Thus Siva is rather a
Dravidian Vishnu than an Aryan creation ;
as, indeed, is manifested by the distribu-
tion of their several worships, the devotees
of Siva being more numerous in the south
and those of Vishnu in the north.

Thus in the northern districts of the
Madras presidency the worshippers of
Vishnu preponderate by a number vary-
ing from ten to one to four to one ; while
in the central districts of the presidency
the number of adherents of each faith is
almost equal. In the
south, the worshippers
of Siva surpass those
of Vishnu by a num-
ber varying from four
to one to sixty-seven
to one. In the loftier
conception of Siva,
Brahman thought
becomes more promi-
nent ; from death
springs up fresh life,
from destruction the
new and more beauti-
ful is restored. Thus
" destroyer "


religion. A later In Indian mythology, after a god was personified, he was becomes a benefactor,

given a consort. Saraswati is the goddess of learning. , - , , . c i

theory also considers
Buddha under this incarnation as an agent
who tempts the wicked to scorn the Vedas
and the laws of caste in order to secure
their eventual destruction, and so to free the
world of them. Finally, the last incarna-
tion of Vishnu belongs to the future ; at
the end of the present age the god will
appear as Kalki and found a new kingdom
of purity.

In the conception of Siva, Brahman
ideas of " darkness " meet the demon
beliefs of the Dravidians. It is among the
mountain tribes of the Himalaya that the"
figure of Siva, the " mountain spirit,"
originates, borrowed from Kiraata, a
divinity given over to sensual pleasures,
drinking, and dancing, and followed by a
train of lower spirits. The fundamental
conception of the Dravidian races of
divinity as evil in nature is commingled
with the Brahman ideas of darkness in the

Sada, Siva, Sankara,
Sambhu ; he personifies the reproduc-
tive forces of Nature, and as such is
worshipped under the name Mahadeva,
the great god ; Isvara, the chief lord.
No image is of more frequent occurrence
in India than his symbol. Yet more
definitely Brahman is the idea of the power
of the sacrifice and of asceticism, and in
this connection Siva appears in the form
of the " Great Penitent," Mahayogin. Per-
sonification has not extended
so far among the Hindu deities
as it did among those of Greece
and Rome; consequently, the
Hindu pantheon is not composed of
one great family of grandparents, fathers
mothers and children. Brahma and
Vishnu had no son, and only two sons
exist loosely connected with Siva known
as Subrahmanya, or Skanda, the god of
war, and Ganesa, the, god of cunning


Gods of
the Hindu



An ancient stone temple, built in imitation of the original type

of the Car of Juggernaut, which, in many different forms\ the purer and higher powers OI

has so long figured and still figures in Hindu processions. !_,_ U^rhiJcrr, i= r^rt^nlarlw

female side of his existence plays
a more important part, owing to
the fact that the god himself
occupies a position of greater ac-
tivity, and has absorbed a larger
proportion of Dravidian deities who
were essentially feminine. Each of
the chief forms, under which Siva
appears, has been intensified by the
addition of a wife.

To the narrow circle of the
supreme gods is added a number of
superior beings, partly drawn from
prehistoric legend, such, for in-
stance, as the sacred singers of the
Vedas, the Rishis, the Pandu
I brothers of the Bharata battles, and
: others drawn from the numerous
; band of lower deities worshipped by
I individual tribes. The Hindu
heaven is spacious enough to con-
tain any deity of the smallest im-
portance or mystery, and includes
stones and mountains, rivers and
tanks, weeds and trees, useful and
dangerous animals, spirits of the
deceased, individual demons, and
every variety of atmospherical

The wide differences in fact, the
oppositions which characterise the
manifestations of the divine ele-
ment are reflected in the worship ;
the lowest fetish worship exists
side by side with the veneration of

and success, who is invoked upon every

heaven. Hinduism is particularly
distinguished from all monotheistic reli-

necessity of daily life, and whose de- gion by the fact that its votaries do not
formed, stumpy figure with the elephant's constitute a Church, or, indeed, possess

head is everywhere to be found.
Consorts are assigned to all the more

a universally accepted creed. A Hindu
may worship Vishnu or Siva in one

important deities ; yet the conception of or other of their different forms, as also

wifehood has in this case been over- Ganesa, or one of the many Saktis ;

shadowed by the personal attributes of his choice depends entirely on the

the deity, might or power. According forms of prayer and incantation which

to Brahman philosophy, as soon as a he has received from his spiritual tutor

supreme being becomes personal, his and adviser, the Guru. These formulae

attributes coalesce into male and female vary in the case of individual gods,

divisions, the latter of which, contrary and any god can be transformed into

to our conceptions, is the more operative
of the two. In the case of the less active
gods, Brahma and Vishnu, this opposi-
tion is by no means so prominent. The
consort of Brahma, Saraswati, is the
goddess of learning and knowledge ;
while Lakshmi, the wife of Vishnu, is the
goddess of supreme good and beauty.

the patron deity of the Hindu who
bears upon his forehead the sign of this
special god. Under these circumstances
common worship is impossible. Worship,
like faith, is purely personal, and is com-
posed of formulae and spells of magic
power, of purificatory rites and sacrifices
which the worshipper offers to the gods

However, in the worship of Siva the or induces his priest to offer for him.

The image of Ganesa, the God of Success, who has the head of an elephant, may be seen in one of the vessels.

Worship of this kind, therefore, demands
no great space or building where the
congregation may meet together before
their god ; the sanctuary proper is never
more than a small shrine or an unim-
portant chapel with the symbol or image
of the god. The temples, which have
increased to enormous size, especially in
Southern India, owe their dimensions to
the addition of subordinate rooms such
as pilgrim halls, side galleries, or tanks
surrounded by steps.

Divine worship is carried on under
three main different forms. Vishnu, of
all the supreme gods, is most like man
in shape. Consequently, his statue is
tended like a human being by priests
specially appointed for the purpose. The
worship of his image may be compared
to the playing of a small child with its
doll, and the offerings made to him are
those things which delight the Hindu


heart rice, coraco, pastry, and flowers
or decorations of pearls and precious
stones. Siva, on the other hand, the
lofty and often terrible god, dwells at
heights unattainable by humanity. It
is exceptional for his temple to contain
a statue. However, worship is rendered
everywhere to his symbol, the lingam,
which is bathed in holy water, smeared
with butter or covered with flowers.
The worship of the third group of gods,
Dravidian in origin, necessitates a bloody
sacrifice. Goats are slaughtered before the
altars, and the images and temple floor
are sprinkled with the blood of the ani-
mal. Poorer people offer a cock to these,
or to other lower divinities. The human
sacrifices prevalent at an earlier period
are now practically abolished, though
survivals in a milder form occur even at
the present day.

To these forms of daily worship, prayer
and sacrifice, must be added the religious
festivals which occur upoif the days
dedicated to numerous individual gods.
Scarce a people or a religion can be found
which celebrates so many pious festivals
as the Hindus. Specially meritorious is
a pilgrimage carried out under circum-
stances of unusual difficulty to the
source of some holy stream such as the
Ganges or the Narbada or to one of
the great sanctuaries of Siva or Vishnu.
As Brahmanism had already sowed the



seed which was to develop into Hinduism
and its religion, so upon the social side
the Brahman caste regulations provided
a practical basis for organisation. The
caste system has been promoted by many
influences and checked by many others.
Even Buddhism showed a tendency to
equalise and level the sharp barriers
existing between the castes.

Id CasTe WhCn at a latCr ? eri d Moham -
~ n * medanism was introduced, its

adherents declined to recognise
caste, and many Hindu sects in imitation
laid down the social equality of all men
as a fundamental principle.

On the other side influences existed
which furthered the persistence and multi-
plication of the castes. During antiquity
the incorporation of members of foreign
races must have produced subdivisions
within the several castes ; newcomers
would be regarded with some contempt
by the older members, and differences of
this nature grew in course of time to
absolute division. Within the warrior
caste this process was constantly repeated ;
and in the same way deep schisms often
arose within the Brahman caste, especially
in the south. It was a common occurrence
for a caste or some part of it to claim and
acquire a higher position by means of
falsified genealogies or other evidence,
though without obtaining absolute recog-
nition. Local separation of the members
of one and the same caste naturally
results in a multiplication of castes. The
divided parts mistrust one another,
especially on the point of purity of descent,
and ultimately the sense of their common
unity is lost, and that which had been
one caste becomes two. Caste divisions
of this nature are especially common
among nomadic shepherd tribes or trading
and agricultural castes, which are driven
from time to time by outbreaks of famine
to change their dwelling-place and to
divide their forces ; divisions may also be
brought about by war and the
ncrease sn jf tm g o f political boundaries.
of Caste A , r

D . . . A man who has arrived at

high prosperity often attempts,
and with success, to break away from his
caste brothers, and to assume the name
and the special customs of a higher caste.
Religious divisions are also a frequent
cause of caste disruption.

One of the commonest causes of caste
increase is change of profession, which
often results in a change of circumstances


or social conditions. Under European
supremacy it is a phenomenon of daily
occurrence that the Hindu who enters the
service of a white man thinks himself
better than his former caste brothers,
and new castes of coachmen, \\aicr-
bringers, grass-cutters are constantly aris-
ing in this way. At the present time
separation of profession is the main char-
acteristic of the caste system, profession
being invariably hereditary. This custom
tends to preserve the purity of blood ; no
one who belongs to one caste may marry
with the member of another caste. Among
the higher castes mere contact defiles, or
the breath of a low-born man even at a
considerable distance. Eating with a
member of another caste is absolutely
forbidden. Stern precepts thus regulate
individual behaviour. Castes have their
own presidents and inspectors, appoint
pecuniary fines or expulsion as punish-
ment for grievous offences, and also
watch over the welfare of the whole, by
maintaining the rate of wages and the
hours of labour, by organising strikes
upon occasion, and by supporting the

poor and maintaining widows
Position j i. A i

, ... and orphans. Almost as great

of Women

.... an obstacle to national develop-

in India , . a

ment as caste influence has been

the low position held by the woman.
Among the Aryans and also among the
lower native tribes the woman was
respected and honoured. During the epic
period she was the central point of interest
in the brilliant tournaments of the
Kshatriya, and was the equal companion
of man for the poets of the succeeding
age, whereas now she is but a miserable
creature, an oppressed and hard-worked

Here, too, Brahman influence is to be
traced in the repression of the woman.
The Brahmans considered that the safest
means of securing racial purity, the
fundamental precept of their social organi-
sation, was to limit the freedom of the
woman to the closest possible regulations.
The only task left to her was to present
her husband with descendants of pure
blood, and to this task everything that
may raise the esteem in which woman is
held was ruthlessly sacrificed. Contempt
and stern compulsion accompany her
from birth to death. Should a son be
born to a Hindu the festival conch-shell
is blown, and the friends bring congratula-
tions and cheerful offerings ; but when


the child is a girl, the father looks upon
the ground in embarrassment, while his
friends offer him condolences instead of
congratulations. Special festivals are
arranged only in honour of boys and never
of girls. After the birth of a son the
mother remains unclean for three weeks,
but for four weeks after the birth of a
daughter. The boy is instructed by his
spiritual tutor in accordance with his
father's position ; the girl receives no
instruction at all. Whatever she learns
she learns from her mother, who knows
nothing more than a few texts and prayers
for the possession of a faithful husband,
and a few curses against polygamy and

At the age of seven to nine years old the
girl is married to a boy of from twelve
to fourteen years of age, or even to an
old widower, without any attempt being
made to consult her inclination ; often
she meets her husband at the ceremony for
the first time. After the ceremony is
concluded she remains for the moment in
her parents' house, to be transferred to
her husband upon the first signs of puberty.

Mothers of thirteen and four-
Practice i
, .. teen years of age are by no
of Child ,- b , / ,-
M . means exceptional in India.

How unfavourable an influence
must be exercised by early marriages of this
kind upon the physical and intellectual wel-
fare of the nation is "sufficiently obvious.
Upon her marriage a girl begins a miserable
life of slavery within the prison of the
woman's apartments ; she must cover
her face before every male member of the
family, she may not speak to her husband
for days together, she may not call him
by name or eat with him ; her existence
is passed in deadly monotony. Before
the period of the English supremacy the
woman's ideal was to be cremated with
her dead husband. These suttees are now
a thing of the past, but the lot of the
widow is almost worse than death by fire.
The death of her husband is ascribed to
her ill deeds committed in a former state
of existence, and her remaining days are
weighted down by hatred, severe penance,
mortification, and the burden of the
heaviest tasks.

Such is the lot of woman in those strata
of society which profess to fulfil the
ideal of Hindu existence. In reality, these
severities are often tempered by mild-
ness and affection. Among the poorer
Hindus of the lower castes the wife is

obliged to share the task of procuring
sustenance for the family, and thus rises
to be the equal of the man, and gains
self-respect by the consciousness of being
of some use in the world, though at the
same time even in this class of society the
wife is considered an inferior being.

In the subordination of civil society as

arranged by themselves, the

ra man Brahmans retained learning

earnh an< ^ sc i ence ^ their preroga-

Ing tive, and were themselves under

the special protection of the goddess of

learning, Saraswati, the chief wife of


The Brahmans have left their special
mark upon the whole religious, scientific,
and artistic literature of India by the
creation of a learned language, Sanscrit.
The earliest hymns of the Vedas, dating
perhaps from the third millennium B.C.,
are written in an ancient but highly-
developed language ; from this the popular
tongue gradually diverged as in course of
time it was broken into different dialects.
The priests considered it of high import-
ance that the language in which they
spoke to the gods should be higher and
more perfect than the vulgar tongue.
As they gradually rose above the common
people to power and influence they trans-
formed the language of religious thought
and worship by a strictly logical and
scientific procedure into the Samskrita,
the " perfect language," as distinguished
from the vulgar tongue or " original "
language, the Prakrita. They can pride
themselves upon including in their number
the greatest grammarian of all time,
Panini, who flourished apparently about
the middle of the. fourth century B.C.
The contrast befween the esoteric lore of
the Brahmans and the more popular
teaching of Buddha is expressed in the
fact that Buddha and his disciples
preached to the people- in their own tongue
in every country which they visited. It
was not until Buddhaghosha
(410-430) had transcribed the
!? ges commentaries of the great Bud-
dhist Mahinda into the sacred
books that this language, the Pali, became
the sacred tongue of southern Buddhism.
Brahman influence is also apparent in the
formation of the southern branch in so
far as -this latter chose Sanscrit and not
Pali for the purposes of religious writing.

The most important part of Brahman
literature is concerned with jeligious



questions. The Vedas are the foun-
dation of all later religious and philo-
sophical developments. Of the four
collections of the Vedas, the Rig Veda

Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 3) → online text (page 41 of 54)