Page images

correcting and extending them according to present circumstances.

The inviolability of a Brahmin, is a fixed principle in the Hindu legislation: it is ordained by law, and sanctified by religion to deprive him of life, either by direct violence, or by causing his death in any other manner, is a crime which cannot be expiated. The person of the sovereign is also declared sacred.

"It is confessed on all hands that Hindu policy, both civil and religious, favours population, agriculture, and commerce.”* " It It may be objected, that a tribe of military forms one part of the Hindū system; and that war implies oppression. Against this, however, the same code provides a remedy. The produce of the field, the work of the artisan, the city without walls, and the defenceless village, are declared sacred and inviolable.+ Those only who

* Vincent, vol. i.


+ "Strabo, lib. xv.-Diod. Sic. lib. ii.-Paolino.See also Arrian."


used the sword, were to perish by the sword."* Nor did the order of priesthood produce obstruction to population; marriage in that class seems not only to have been admitted, but ordained. "A Brahmin cannot retire to the woods, that is to say, become Hylobius, or Jogee, till he has given children to the community."+

In the Laws of Menu we find regulations respecting interest on money, with a considerable latitude to those who lend it on bottomry, or adventures by sea, Previously to obtaining a knowledge of those laws, and other ancient Hindu writings, the

* Vincent.

+ The practice of exposing children to sale, legalised anciently in Greece, and still practised in China, Dr. Vincent observes, never existed in India. In Greece, says he, "a parent was allowed to expose every child; in China he may dispose of every female and every third male. This is a system that seems never to have entered into the conception of Indian legislators, civil or religious."-Vincent, vol. i. p. 85, and note to that


remotest mention that we had of money, was in the Scriptures: but if we admit the Laws of Menu to have existed at the dates generally allowed to them, and when various circumstances tend to shew they were in use, we shall find that not only the precious metals were employed as a medium of purchase, many centuries before their being first spoken of in that light in Jewish history, but that maritime commerce also was then practised in India. It seems to be almost universally allowed, that the knowledge of arts and sciences originated in, or was brought from India into more western nations; admitting this, we must allow time for their progress, and consequently conclude that the Hindus practised them long before the Hebrews.

Though circumstances are found to induce the belief, that the Hindūs at a most remote period employed money or current coins for purchase and hire, yet I have never heard of any Hindu coins of sufficient antiquity to support such belief. In the

Memoirs of the Asiatic Society, we have fac-similes of ancient inscriptions on silver and copper tablets, but it does not appear in those Memoirs that the subject of ancient Hindu money had yet occupied the attention of the society. Mr. Chambers, indeed, in his description of the ruins of Mahabalipoor or Mavalipuram, says: "It is much to be regretted, that a blind zeal, attended with a total want of curiosity, in the Mohammedan governors of this country, have been so hostile to the preservation of Hindū monuments and coins.-The Kauzy of Madras, who had often occasion to go to a place in the neighbourhood of Mahabalipoor, assured the writer of this account, that within his remembrance, a ryot (husbandman) of those parts had found, in ploughing his ground, a pot of gold and silver coins, with characters on them which no one in those parts, Hindu or Mohammedan, was able to decypher. He added, however, that all search for them would now be vain, for they had doubtless been long ago devoted to the crucible, as, in

their original form, no one there thought them of any value."*

It is said that in Nepaul, Boutan, Assam, and Thibet, where Mohammedan conquerors never established themselves, ancient coins are met with, bearing Sanscrit inscriptions on them. And in the description given of the ruins of the city of Oujein, that was buried under ground about 1800 years ago by an earthquake, we are told that ancient coins are found both in digging among the ruins and in the channels cut by the periodical rains.+

In the Laws of Menu, money is frequently referred to. In the article on marriages, when inculcating on those of a superior order the necessity of having due respect for their rank, it is said, by culpable marriages great families are sunk to a low state: so they are by practising manual arts, by lending at interest and other pe

[ocr errors]

*See Asiat. Res. vol. i. p. 158.

+ Narrative of a journey from Agra to Oujein, Asiat. Reg. vol. vi. p. 36.

« PreviousContinue »