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view, may be only an astronomical riddle, and allude to the apparent revolution of the fixed stars, of which the Brahmins made a mystery, I readily admit, and am even inclined to believe; but so technical an arrangement excludes all idea of serious history."*
They tell us, that in the first ages, men were greatly superior to the present race, not only in the length of their lives, but in the powers of their bodily and mental faculties; and that in consequence of vice, they gradually declined, and at last in this, the earthen age, or Kaly-Yug, degenerated to what we now see them.
In addition, however, to what has been
Jones, Asiat. Res. vol. i. 8vo. edit. p. 236 and seq. It seems now to be generally understood by those who have studied and examined the writings of the Hindus in their original language, that those periods absolutely refer to astronomical revolutions, particularly the procession of the equinoxes; and that the Brahmins gave that immense space of time to their Yugs, and employed the mystic jargon in which they express themselves, to confound and excite the wonder of the ignorant.
said on the affinity that exists between the mythology and ages of the Greeks and Hindūs, instances of resemblance are to be discovered in many of the practices, notions, and opinions of both nations. We find the same belief in the faculty, supposed to be enjoyed by certain persons, of looking into futurity, and discovering the most hidden secrets;* in magic and incantation; and
* The Astrologers of India hold at least as conspicuous a place in that country, as those of the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, held with them. The mind seems to be naturally disposed to superstition. From impressions made by pretended examples of divination, not only Hindus, but Mohammedans frequently, in moments of anxiety, consult the Indian astrologers. A remarkable instance of this occurs in the life of Tippoo Sultan, a man of a bold, intrepid character, and, of all Musalmāns, one of the most zealous and intolerant in respect to his religion. The circumstance we allude to, happened on the day that his capital was taken by storm.
"On the Sultan's return to his apartment," (from visiting the ramparts) "an incident occurred which tended much to depress his spirits, and to diminish the courage of his attendants. A procession of Brahmin astrologers now waited on him, and announced, that
the catalogue of omens, of things and days considered as lucky, or unfortunate, will be found on examination, to be equally numerous with those of the Greeks, and in many instances precisely the same.
some dreadful misfortune would befall him on that day, unless averted by the prayers of the righteous, and by pious offerings.
"Whether the Sultan's mind was now depressed by fear, or tainted by superstition, he repaired to his palace, and issued orders for all the ceremonies prescribed by the Brahmins to be duly performed, and, having given them several presents, requested their prayers for the prosperity of his government.
"His father, Hyder Ally, was very superstitious, and never commenced any undertaking without consulting the Brahmins, whom he liberally paid. This is the first time we have heard of Tippoo's consulting them."+
* Many examples might be adduced, of this affinity; but we shall mention one only in regard to omens, and which, ridiculous as it may seem, did not by any means appear so to the Hindus. A Rajah of an illustrious family in the province of Rajahmundry, demanded an interview with the chief, or European governor. The day
† See "A Descriptive Catalogue of the Oriental Library of the late Tippoo Sultan, and Memoirs of his life, &c." by Charles Stewart, Esq. p. 87.
and hour were accordingly fixed for their meeting, which was at the Government House, in a fort adjoining to the town also named Rajahmundry, and which is the capital of the province. The Rajah, whose place of residence was about thirty miles from it, but who had come thither on purpose for the meeting, was lodged in the town. He set out for the interview, accompanied by a numerous retinue, but in coming through one of the gates of the fort, a soldier happened to sneeze. The Rajah immediately gave orders to halt, offered up some short prayer, and sending for his first minister, who was in a palankin behind him, ordered him to wait on the chief, with a request to defer their meeting until some more auspicious moment. On returning to the place where he lodged, Brahmins and divines. were summoned, to be consulted on the occasion. Yet the Rajah, abstracted from superstitious prejudices, was a sensible man. His prejudices were the effects of impressions received in infancy, and which his education instead of correcting, had confirmed.
With the Greeks and Romans, sneezing was regarded as infallibly portentous. But things considered as ominous equally by the Hindūs, and by the ancient inhabitants of Egypt, Greece, and Italy, are too numerous to be quoted. We shall only add one other example. It is the regard for the right side, in preference to the left. We shall select an instance, which shews that even the most enlightened minds, and men of the most enterprizing characters, are not always free from the influence of early impressions, and hence it is of the highest importance to guard children from
imbibing any notions that may tend to shackle the mind, or weaken the powers of reason. Pliny very gravely reports, that on the day when Augustus narrowly escaped from being killed in a mutiny, it was recollected that he had put on the left shoe before the right. "Divus Augustus laevum prodidit sibi calceum præpostere inductum, quo die seditione militari propè afflictus est." (Plin. lib. ii. c. 7.) In dressing, the right side of the body was always clothed first. If a servant presented his master with the left sleeve of his garment first, or his left shoe or sandal, it was considered as portending something unlucky.