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THE PANDION KINGDOM.
3 cane, tobacco, cotton, indigo, and Indian corn. In the plains, rice is the chief article produced, as a large supply of this grain is needed for the support of the people, the majority of whom scarcely use any other kind of food.
The early history of India seems, as far as the accounts of the Hindoos are concerned, so deeply imbued with a legendary character, that it is extremely difficult to separate the facts themselves from the imaginative elothing in which tradition has invested them. It appears, however, from the Hindoo Epic entitled the Ramayana, that a flourishing Indian kingdom existed in Oude at a period of remote antiquity. A son of the then reigning monarch, Rama, is represented by the poet as making an expedition against Ceylon, in which he was assisted by the Monkey king, Hunnamān.
Besides the romantic narrative contained in this poem, there are more authentic testimonies to the establishment, in the north, of a second empire, the capital of which was denominated Pratishthana. In early times three kingdoms, also, of some importance, occupied the southern part of the Hindoo peninsula. The Pandion, Cholan, and Cheran dynasties, who ruled over them, are said to have come originally from Oude, introducing for the first time into the Carnatic the learning and civilization of the north. Under the auspices of these sovereigns an university was founded at Madura, one of the members of which was Tiroo Vullavan (the sacred Pariah), whose writings are still extant, and to whom his countrymen have assigned a high place among Hindoo classical writers. Pliny, Arrian and Ptolemy, mention the Pandion monarch, and thus confirm the statements of native historians.
It seems probable, however, that India was conquered and colonized by successive tribes of invaders, at a period anterior to the earliest history which is known to us; and this hypothesis, if correct, may serve to explain the division of the people into castes, and the physical dissimilarity
which prevails between the races composing the four principal classes, termed respectively Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras. The Sudras were possibly the first who entered India from Central Asia; after them followed the Vaisyas, the Kshatriyas, and the Brahmins. This ancient arrangement, however, has since its commencement undergone numerous modifications, and the four pure castes seem at the present day almost lost in the crowd of distinctions, to which their endless subdivisions have given rise. Besides these four chief castes, which may perhaps represent the successive conquerors of Hindoostan, a numerous class, or rather collection of classes, exists, who may be looked upon as the descendants of the vanquished aborigines of India. If this race has survived at all, it must be sought for among the wild and savage tribes inhabiting the mountain regions, such, for instance, as the Bheels, the Gonds, and the Toders, who still maintain in their elevated table-lands the habits and freedom of a totally uncivilized age.
To the above might be added the Pariahs of the plains, with their multifarious offshoots, since the difference which prevails between the depressed Hindoo outcasts and the high-spirited hill tribes can be easily accounted for by the centuries of degradation and oppression to which the former have been subjected. Yet in broaching this theory upon the authority of the learned and acute Heeren, candour demands the admission, that the system of caste prevailed in ancient times among a people more homogeneous than the Hindoos. Herodotus found seven of these divisions existing in Egypt," while his description of the persons composing them warrants the supposition that they differed very little from the various Hindoo castes. It is also worthy of notice, that the Greek writers enumerate seven of the latter, a circumstance which if well authenticated would
EXPEDITION OF ALEXANDER.
go far to establish a very early connexion between Egypt and Hindoostan.
The invasion of India by Alexander, casts some light upon the habits and country of a people but little known before to the great nations of the west. Commerce had indeed made the latter familiar with the productions of Hindoostan,-such of them, at least, as ministered to the requirements of luxury and the offices of religion. Its jewels and its perfumes were equally prized with its myrrh, its incense and cinnamon, while the embalmers of Egypt drew from thence their richest spices and choicest gums. The roots of its mother language, the Sanscrit, are still to be traced in the dialects of polished Greece, and victorious Latium; and the fables of Pilpay may, perhaps, have suggested those compositions which bear the name of Æsop. Nor was this all: tradition spoke in obscure and faltering tones of the expeditions of Bacchus and Semiramis, although these conquests, even if authentic, could hardly have risen above the rank of mere incursions, not being followed by the lasting subjugation of any portion of the Indian territory.
Alexander crossed the Indus near Taxila (the modern Attock), and encountered on the banks of the Hydaspis (the Jhylum), the gallant though unfortunate Porus, in whose fearless bearing and magnanimous reply we behold manifested in a striking manner the characteristics of his modern Rajpoot descendants. But the great Macedonian conqueror did not permanently obtain possession of any portion of this noble country. His advance to the East was opposed by numerous independent chiefs, who compelled him to direct his march towards the South. When he reached the Hyphasis, his soldiers refused to proceed any farther, and he was at length obliged to give up, though reluctantly, the design of conquering India. Sailing down the Indus to the sea, he despatched Nearchus with his fleet along the shores of the Persian gulf to the Euphrates, while he himself conducted the army to Babylon, by land.
Seleucus, one of the successors of Alexander, who had obtained possession of Syria and the provinces near Babylon, next attempted to subjugate some portion of Hindoostan. But during an expedition set on foot against the Prasii, a numerous and warlike Punjaub tribe, he was informed that his rival, Antigonus, had taken advantage of his absence to menace the territories of the Seleucidæ, in Western Asia. Hastily concluding a treaty of peace, therefore, with Sandracottus or Chandragupta, the Rajah of the Prasii, he marched homewards, and never again resumed his schemes of conquest. Two embassies were subsequently despatched by the Seleucidæ to the Prasian monarch, and one of the envoys, Megasthenes, remained for some time at Palibothna, on the Ganges; but soon after these transactions the Macedonians lost entirely their possessions in India, and from this period we derive little or no information respecting that country through the medium of foreign writers. The inhabitants, indeed, of the Grecian kingdom of Bactria, which lasted about 130 years, carried on a large commercial intercourse with India ; but this power was finally overwhelmed by an irruption of Tartar tribes, who afterwards invaded Hindoostan, concerning whose history and actions we have no information handed down to us.
The enterprising merchants of Alexandria were not slow in availing themselves of the advantages which their position conferred upon them with respect to the Indian trade. Sailing down the Red Sea into the ocean, Hippalus discovered the properties of the monsoons or trade winds, and this circumstance gave a fresh impetus to the valuable and important traffic now carried on between the Indian coast and the capital of Upper Egypt. The navigators first proceeded to Ocelis, or Cane, in Arabia, crossing over from thence by the aid of the south-west
INTRODUCTION OF CHRISTIANITY.
monsoon to Mangalore, a period of forty days being occupied in the voyage. At the beginning of January they returned with the north-east monsoon, and conveyed their rich Indian freights upon the backs of camels from Berenice, the place of debarkation, to Koptos, a distance of nearly 260 Roman miles. From Koptos, the merchandise was despatched to Alexandria, and thence diffused through the ports of Italy, Spain, Gaul, and Greece.
During the domination of the Romans, but few additions were made to the knowledge of India acquired by the Greeks; the Geography of Ptolemy, however, describes with tolerable accuracy some of the principal maritime provinces of Hindoostan: although the acquaintance of the ancients with this distant country was limited in the extreme. The accounts transmitted to the west by the merchants and seamen who visited the Hindoo coasts are too largely mingled with fables and legends to have conveyed to the minds of the historians and geographers of those times true and faithful impressions of the countries which the narrators had traversed.
Various Chaldean writers of early date ascribe the first planting of Christianity in India to St. Thomas the Apostle. Tradition reports that he preached the Gospel on the Malayalim coast, where the Portuguese found upon their landing about fifteen thousand families professing the Christian faith, and differing in many important particulars from the Roman church. From these extreme parts of Southern India, it is said that St. Thomas proceeded to Meliapore, near the modern Madras, at which place the Eastern writers relate that he suffered martyrdom for the sake of Christ. A small mound eight miles from the present city bears his name, and is revered by the Roman Catholic Christians as a sacred locality.
After the decline of the Roman empire we read little of India in the pages of western writers; but during the