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cause the attempt to explain the nature of that Being, or in any way to assimilate it with our own, the Hindu deists consider not only as a proof of folly, but also of extreme impiety.
The system of representing the attributes of God by ostensible objects, as practised by all the believers in the doctrines of the Vedas, once established, was afterwards nourished, extended, and involved in mystery, by an ingenious and artful priesthood As the Brahmins rigidly monopolized learning and the sciences, all others were naturally exposed to receive implicitly what was promulgated by them; and things the most simple in themselves, were held out to, and believed, by the multitude, as proceeding from supernatural causes. The aid of priests, as the only agents between man and the divinities, became constantly wanted, either to procure their protection or avert their wrath. In multiplying divinities, they found new sources of wealth; every one had some deity to fear, or to solicit, and who on those occasions
was to be approached with some offering. But in a country, where the food of the people consists almost entirely of vegetables, and where, as in India, no part of the year is sterile, perhaps no divinity has been so productive to the Brahmins as Lacshmi, who as Sris, corresponds with the Grecian Ceres; to whom must be added Bhavani, who in one of her attributes is likewise named the goddess of abund
The making of pious vows in case of escape from danger, or of success in some projected enterprize, seems to be as much encouraged by the priesthood, and practised by the people of India, as it was formerly in Greece, and in modern times by pious Catholics. Paper
The book of the Hindu Scriptures, named Veda, is supposed to be of divine origin, revealed by Brahma to Menu, by him communicated to a holy personage, or demigod, named Bhrigu, and afterwards arranged in its present order by a learned sage, who obtained the name of Vyasa, or Veda-vya
sa, compiler of the Vedas. He divided it into four parts, named Rich, Yajush, Saman, and At'harvana; each of which bears the denomination of Veda, Rig-veda, Yajur-veda, Sama-veda, and Atharva-veda; but doubts exist whether the last be really a part of the original Veda, or whether it be not a chapter added to it.*
* See article on "the Vedas, or sacred writings of the Hindus," by Mr. Colebrook, Asiat. Res. vol. viii. p. 337.—and a note, by M. Langlès, in the first translation into French of that work, vol. i. p. 393.
A complete copy of the Vedas, in eleven volumes in folio, in the Devanagary character, and Sanscrit language, was presented to the British Museum by the late Colonel Polier, who is several times mentioned in the Asiatic Researches, and in Rennell's Memoir of a Map of Hindustan. Colonel Polier had resided a number of years in India, first in the military service of the English, afterwards at Delhy in that of the Emperor Shaw Allum, and during his stay in that country, had bestowed much pains in acquiring a knowledge of the learning and religion of the Hindus.
Sir William Jones says, "That the Vedas are very ancient, and far older than any other Sanscrit compositions, I will venture to assert from my own examination of them, and a comparison of their style with that of the Purana, or Dharma Sastra."
The work named Upanishad, contains chiefly extracts from the Vedas; the Upaveda, commentaries on them.
The poem entituled the Maha-bharat, or the Great Bharat, relates the wars between the Kourous and the Pandous. It contains, we are told, no less than 125,000 verses, and is supposed to have been written by Krishna Douypen Vyas above 4,000 years ago. A famous battle, said to have been fought at the beginning of the Kaly-Youg, near the spot where Delhy now stands, gave the sovereignty to Yuddhishthira, the oldest of the Pandous. Arjuna, who bears a conspicuous part, and is said to have been a favourite of the god Vishnu, never himself reigned, though his son succeeded to the throne.*
The Pouranas, consisting of eighteen volumes in verse, are histories. The Oupa
* An episode of this poem, containing dialogues between Krishna and Arjuna, named " Bhagvat Geeta,” was translated from the Sanscrit into English, by Mr., now Dr. Charles Wilkins.
Pourana, which is an addition to those, consists also of eighteen volumes, containing things said to have been omitted in the Pouranas, as well as a commentary on each. In this work, beside various other matters, is the epic poem, named Ramayan, containing the wars and heroic feats of Rama, which are related in twenty-four thousand couplets.*
The Shastras, and the commentaries upon them, are, we believe, still more voluminous than any of the other sacred books above-mentioned. The DhermaShastra alone consists of above ten large volumes, comprehending all law books of authority.†
But it would be useless to recapitulate
* An English translation of the Ramayuna has been executed by Drs. Carey and Marshman, in three vols. 4to.
+"The word Sastra, derived from a root signifying to ordain, means generally an ordinance, and particularly a sacred ordinance delivered by inspiration: properly, therefore, this word is applied only to sacred literature, of which the text exhibits an accurate sketch."-Jones.