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TO form a just conception of the state of darkness in which so many minds are involved as are comprised in the heathen population of India, a person had need become an inhabitant of the country, that he may read and see the productions of these minds, and witness the effects of the institutions they have formed, as displayed in the manners, customs, and moral circumstances of the inhabitants.
A correct knowledge of this people appears to be necessary when we consider, that their philosophy and religion still prevails over the greater portion of the globe, and that it is Hindooism which regulates the forms of worship, and the modes of thinking, and feeling, and acting, throughout China, Japan, Tartary, Hindoost'han, the Burman empire, Siam, Ceylon, &c., that is, amongst more than 400,000,000 of the human race! 'Here then we have the extraordinary fact, that the greater part of the human family are still Hindoos; or, in other words, that they are under the transforming influence of the philosophy and superstition which may be denominated Hindooism; regulated by systems invented by the Indian bramhun.' The opinions embraced by the more philosophical part of the Hindoo nation, are quite distinct from the popular superstition. In this philosophical system the one God is considered as pure spirit, divested of all attributes; and every thing besides God is declared to be inert matter. This Being is contemplated either as dwelling in his own eternal solitude, in a state of infinite blessedness or repose, or as individuated in every form of life, animal or vegetable.
There is another part of the Hindoo system, viz. devotion, and this is said to lead to wisdom and abstraction, and finally, to absorption; but as no Hindoos are now found to attain abstraction, we must suppose that the merit of their devotion is very deficient. Amongst the great body of Hindoos are a few more remarkable than the rest for devotion: these are mostly found amongst persons tired of the bustle of the world, who sit for hours and days together, repeating the name of some deity, using their bead-roll. Others retire to Benares or some sacred place, and spend their time in religious ceremonies: and these are promised the heaven of the god Shivu. Many persons spend all their days in visiting holy places, and in devotion there, seeking celestial happiness,
for a time, or the birth of a yogee. Among devotees who seek the same objects must be placed the persons who drown themselves, in a state of perfect health, at Allahabad, and in other places; and the widow who ascends the funeral pile, also seeks this higher happiness, and is promised by the shastru, that, by the merit of this act, she shall take her deceased husband and seven generations of his family and seven generations of her family with her to the heaven of Indru, the king of the gods, where they shall reside during thirty mil lions of years.
The Hindoo is unquestionably as susceptible of that improvement which is purely intellectual as the inhabitant of Europe. He may not be capable of forming plans which require great and original powers, nor fitted for bold and daring enterprizes. Reverence for the gods is produced in his mind by observing around him innumerable temples erected to their honour, where they are daily worshipped by persons next in rank to the gods. He is led to adore the priests of his native land, for he is told that the sacred books have been committed to their guardian care; that these sacred persons came forth from the head of Brumhu; that religion in all its offices and benefits must proceed from them; that they are the mouths of the gods; and that they hold the destinies of men at their disposal. As he passes through the streets, he sees every hand raised to do them homage; he observes people running after them with cups of water in their hands, soliciting the honour of drinking this water after they have condescended to dip their foot in it.
It will excite no astonishment, that a superstition thus appealing to the senses, administered by a priesthood receiving divine honours, connected with splendid and fascinating ceremonies, including music and dancing, and gratifying every voluptuous passion, should captivate the heart, and overpow er the judgment of youth. There is nothing in the cere monies of this system of a moral nature, or which can produce moral effects. That system must be essentially vi cious which dooms the great mass of society to ignorance, and treats rational beings as though they possessed no powers, except those of the animal. The education of all, except the Bramhuns, is confined to a few rudiments, qualifying them to write a letter on business, and initiating them into the first rules of arithmetic. The culture of the mind is never contemplated in these seminaries. Not a single Hindoo school for girls exists throughout India; the laws and customs of the Hindoos are inimical to the culture of the female mind.
A VIEW OF THE
IDOLATRY OF THE HINDOOS, Their History, Literature, Religion, Manners and Customs, &c.
EXHIBITING THEIR POPULAR SUPERSTITIONS-CEREMONIES-THEIR VARIOUS MODES OF WORSHIP-IMAGINARY DEITIES, &c.
HINDOOSTAN, both in respect to territory and population, includes the most important portion of southern Asia. It is bounded S. E. by the Coromandel coast and Bay of Bengal, and extends north to the boundary of Cashmire, beginning in lat. 8, and running to 35 N. near 2000 miles in length.
From east to west, it extends from the mountains which divide it from the Burman empire to the river Araha, making more than 1600 miles in breadth; viz. from long. 66 to 92 E. The total population of this vast country is estimated at more than one hundred millions, more than one half of which, viz. seventy-one millions, were, in 1815, under British jurisdiction and influence.
History.--The History of this country is involved in the darkest mystical obscurity. The Hindoo historians pretend to commence their accounts with the creation of the world, which they place at a vast distance of time anterior to the real era. They also give an account of the creation itself, of which the following is an abtract.
Creation.-Vishnoo, the preserver, was sleeping on the waters of the deluge, and from his navel had grown a lotus or water-lily from this flower sprang Brumha (the Creator) who created by his word four persons, but these living a life of austerity, did not propagate; in consequence of which, Brumba applied himself to severe austerities to obtain the blessings of the gods on the work of Creation, till at length he burst into a flood of tears from these tears a number of titans, or giants arose, after which Brumha's sighs gave birth
to the god Roodru (another name for Shivu.) Roodru, at the request of his father continued the work of creation, but in his hands it proceeded so slowly that Brumha was obliged to resume it; and he created water, fire, æther, the heavens, wind, the simple earth, rivers, seas, mountains, trees, climbing plants, divisions of time, day, night, months, years, &c. He then created several gods; one was formed out of his breath; another by his eyes; another from his head; another from his heart, &c. After this Brumha assumed a body possessing the quality of darkness, and created the giants; then assuming a body possessing the quality of truth, he created other certain gods, and in the evening the progenitors of mankind; he next assumed a body possessed of the quality which stimulates to activity, and created man. To the creation of man succeeded that of birds, cows, fruits, and all other substances, both animate and inanimate.
The form and size of the earth is described thus:-The earth is circular and flat like the flower of the water-lily, in which the petals project beyond each other its circumference is four thousand millions of miles. In its centre is mount Soomeroo, ascending six hundred thousand miles from the surface, and descending 128 thousand below it. This mountain is 128 thousand miles in circumference at its base, and 256 thousand wide at the top. On this mountain are the heavens of Vishnoo, Shivu, Indru, Aguee, Yumas, &c. The kings who first gave laws to mankind were of celestial origin, and were endowed with power, and length of days, in proportion to the grandeur and extent of such a world. Thus Sway. umbhoovu, from the Vedus or sacred books, found in a boat, compiled the institutes of Munoo, by which laws the world was governed. His son, who succeeded him reigned one billion two hundred millions of years, and then abandoning the world, by the power of devotion, obtained celestial happiness. The fourth king reigned 36 thousand years, and then had a separate heaven assigned him, as a reward of his virtues. Then follows a genealogical list of kings, for an account of whom we must refer the curious reader to those who have written more largely on this subject.
In what the Hindoo historians call the second age of the world, the first king, whose name was Suguru, had by one of his wives 60 thousand children. They were all sons, born in a pumpkin, and nourished in pans of milk, but when grown up were all reduced to ashes by the sage Kupilu. Several ages after, one of the descendants of Suguru being king, by his religious austerities obtained the descent of the Ganges,