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IV. Education, Religion — the use of proverbs in female and peasant education-in missionary teaching and preaching-in popular literature-in illustrating Scripture.


We are too apt, after the manner of certain ethnologists, to judge the mental calibre of Eastern races by the colour of their skin, the peculiarities of their hair, or the size of their brain, ignoring the mind, of which language gives the expression and manifestation. Now proverbs, as “bearing the stamp of their birthplace, and wearing the colouring and imagery of their native climes,” are most valuable guides for sounding the depths of the popular mind, so difficult to reach in the East. The wisdom of many is condensed in the wit of one; the people are made to describe themselves, and are by proverbs, as it were, put into the witness-box on trial; the inner life and national peculiarities are, as it were, photographed; they depict themselves, and are not surveyed through European spectacles.

An Italian writer remarks: "Days, months, years, centuries, pass away; in this interval words change their meaning, thoughts their hue; but proverbs remain alone firm and unflinching at their post, giving illustrations of the daily battle of life; they are the spontaneous generation of the people, who keep them as their hereditary property.” This is strikingly shown in Indian proverbs. We have heard much of Portuguese, Dutch, and French influence in India, but proverbs show that this was a mere surface wave; the depths below were still and quiet, the foreigner did not influence those " short sentences drawn from long experience."

While the social life of the East is so little known to Europeans who are unable to lift the veil that hides domestic manners and customs, or to penetrate the Oriental's house, which is more his castle than the Englishman's is, proverbs project a ray of light into the dark recesses, they make the occupiers stand out to the light of day, the Zenana's veil is rent, and woman appears with her “inner man of the heart." Proverbs are the stronghold of the Oriental woman; in them she expresses her intense and most secret feelings; she makes them her soul. Thus Burkhardt, in his Amsel el Mesr (Arabic and English, 1830), has, from the proverbial sayings in vogue at Cairo, illustrated the manners and customs of the Egyptian people.

How strongly are the predatory dispositions of the Turkomans shown in these proverbs used by them: "If thy enemy take thy father's tent, join him and share the

plunder.” “He who has worshipped the sword's hilt needs no further

pretext.” No grass grows where the Turk's horse treads." What changes have been rung on what is called the want of natural affection, the ingratitude, of the natives of India, and it has been said they have not a word in their language to express gratitude. But proverbs tell a different tale; they show that gratitude or the memory of the heart pulsates in the Oriental as well as in the Western. A grateful person is termed bandhi, or kritagya, i.e. who knows what is done; an ungrateful one is nimakháran, one who destroys his salt. As the Bengali proverb says:

" Whose food he eats, his praises he sings,

Whose salt he eats, his qualities he respects.” There is nothing the European in the East is more apt to form a false estimate of, with regard to the natives, than in relation to the intelligence and moral qualities of the common people, especially those so-called dumb animals the rayats, and the so-called enslaved women. Because the lower classes are not deep in booklore, they are supposed to be as dull as ditch-water; it is true they are not "books in breeches," they have not book-cram, but they have a strong undercurrent of information derived from observation, popular tradition, and conversation illustrated by proverbs. Their management of proverbs and keen observation of the phenomena of nature, show them to be a people of natural acuteness, who read through a man's character very soon.

Many pleasant hours have I spent in Bengal among the rayats by the side of a tank, or under the palm-tree's shade, talking on what was to them the cheerful topics of plants and proverbs, and in hearing their racy remarks. I was often reminded in a mango grove, of Bacon's aphorism, The genius, spirit, and wit of a nation are discovered in its proverbs”--they are truly the lokukti, or people's

utterances, welling up from minds which for ages have been consigned by a despotic priesthood to the Sorbonian bog of ignorance.

The feelings of the people in relation to their superiors, whether priests or nobles, are often depicted in striking words in their proverbs. I remember one day in Calcutta talking with a European gentleman, who had just arrived in India, on the condition of the rayats, a Zemindar who was present said the rayats were well treated by the landlords. I said the rayats' proverbs did not seem to indicate that state of things, and I quoted the well-known Bengali proverb

Musulmaner murghi posha

Jamidárer bhálabáshé, i.e. the same love the Musulman has to his fowls (which he keeps for slaughter) the Zemindar has to his rayat; or, as a Musulman Governor of Bengal said, “The people were like sponges which retained the water until it was convenient to squeeze it out.”

This investigation of proverbs gives a more genial view of the common people. It is too much the practice of Europeans in the East to call natives niggers or black fellows. They see only their dark side, and rank them as barbarians, though they themselves would find it

very difficult to give an accurate definition of civilization. Matters, however, are greatly improved since Colebrooke wrote the following words :—“Never mixing with the natives, a European is ignorant of their real character, which he therefore despises. When they meet, it is with fear on one side and arrogance on the other. Considered as a race of inferior beings by the appellation of black fellows, their feelings are sported with, and their sufferings meet no more compassion than those of a dog and monkey."

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Proverbs have been very properly styled the coins of history. They are records of the past, not graven on stone, but on the fleshly tablets of the heart. Like the etymology of words and proper names, they throw light on geography, antiquities, and local history. They give us in a condensed form the voice of tradition, so valuable regarding


1 The term nigger applied to natives is used chiefly by officers of the Queen's Army, who dislike the Hindus, "hateful and hated," on the principle of the Russian peasants, who call the devil tchert, or the black fellow.


a people which, though full of intellectual life, and delighting in abstract science, has so few historical records.

While the Mohammedan and Persian writers have given us such valuable works on Indian history, with the exception of the Rajatarangini we have no political history from the Hindus. We have, however, in their dramatic literature a clue to much of the social and intellectual history of the people, their manners and feelings. The Bengali popular drama, dealing largely in proverbs, is very rich in this respect.

I sent more than two hundred pamphlets on this subject to the Paris Exhibition, and the Commissioners were pleased to award me a medal for it.

I have published a collection of 6000 Bengali Proverbs, and have prepared a translation of them with notes. They throw light on the Bengalis, who were always a subject and submissive race, and hence did not choose to criticize their conquerors in their proverbs. Still we have various references to points of local history, to eminent characters, notices of temples, and places of pilgrimage, which might be used, as Fergusson does architecture-throwing light on antiquity from fragments surviving the wreck of time. What an inkling, for instance, is given as to the interference of the Moslems in Bengali social life in that pithy Bengali Proverb

" Ask the Kúsi (a Moslem judge), the Hindu has no holidays." Or in reference to the poor and proud Moslem noble

Like a Hindu's cow, or a Musalman's bastard,

One is of little use, the other vicious and contemptible.The problem relating to the migrations of nations from their original seat in Central Asia-how and in what order they proceeded and settled in Europe and Southern Asia—is still unsolved. The grammatical and lexicographical affinities of their respective languages afford a certain clue, so do their village municipal systems, common to the Teutonic, Slavonic, and Indian races, as also the tribal or communal rights in land which existed among the New Zealand tribes, the Kelts, the Slavs of Russia, and the Hindus of India. Maine's “Village Communities of the East and West” gives a good popular view of this subject.

Proverbs, as going back to pre-historic days, may shed some light on this subject. We give illustrations of this from the village

communal system that existed on the same principle both in India
and Russia, as well as in England at an early period.
The Russian Proverbs say of the Mir, or village community,

What the Commune has arranged is God's decision.
Over the Commune there is no Judge, but God.
The neck and the shoulders of the Commune are broad, it will carry

The Commune sighs and the rock is rent asunder.
A thread of the Commune becomes a shirt for the naked.

The Commune is answerable for the country's defence." The Bengali Proverbs say of the village council, composed of ten, seven or five persons,

" Where ten persons are gathered together, God is in the midst.
What ten persons say has a foundation.
The power of ten persons is equal to a lion's."
From the mouth of ten persons truth.
Seven thieves assembled can divide even peas."

Ten flowers together make a nosegay." The Aborigines of India are a portion of that outcast race which once occupied all America, Northern Europe, Africa, Australia, and the Isles of the Pacific. A great problem connected with the Aborigines, or Dasyas, in India, is how they came there, and where they came from, and how they intermingled with the Aryans; whether they came from Western Asia, through Scinde and the Panjab, or from North-Eastern Asia, or, lastly, whether they are of Mongolian origin. Their small eyes, high cheek-bones, hairless face, broad, short nose, lend some countenance to the last theory, as also the fact that it is now generally admitted that all Eastern and Southern Asia, including India, was occupied by tribes speaking a Turanian language.

The stone monuments, extending in an unbroken chain from India, through Persia, the Mediterranean Coasts and France, to Britain and Scandinavia, together with identical superstitions, traditions, etc., also indicate a common influence.

Among the Aborigines we have no clue in buildings or books. Language, as given in their proverbs, may therefore be some guide through the darkness of antiquity, throwing light on the origin

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