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In this work an endeavour has been made to supply the long-felt want of a Hindu Classical Dictionary. The late Professor Wilson projected such a work, and forty years ago announced his intention of preparing one for the Oriental Translation Fund, but he never accomplished his design. This is not the first attempt to supply the void. Mr. Garrett, Director of Public Instruction in Mysore, published in India a few years ago a “Classical Dictionary of India,” but it is of a very miscellaneous character, and embraces a good deal of matter relating to the manners and customs of the present time. It has not obtained favour in Europe, and it cannot be considered as any obstacle in the way of a more complete and systematic work.
The main portion of this work consists of mythology, but religion is bound up with mythology, and in many points the two are quite inseparable. Of history, in the true sense, Sanskrit possesses nothing, or next to nothing, but what little has been discovered here finds its place. The chief geographical names of the old writers also have received notice, and their localities and identifications are described so far as present knowledge extends. Lastly, short descriptions have been given of the most frequently mentioned Sanskrit books, but only of such books as
are likely to be found named in the works of European writers.
It must be understood from the first that this work is derived entirely from the publications of European scholars. I have not resorted to original Sanskrit authorities. My remaining span of life would at the best be quite insufficient for an investigation of their manifold and lengthy volumes. But I have gleaned from many European writers, and have sought to present a summary of the present condition of our knowledge of the religion and mythology of Ancient India.
The work is no doubt very defective. The full harvest of Sanskrit learning has not yet been gathered in, but the knowledge which has been stored by former labourers ought to be made readily available for the service of their successors, to lighten their labours and strengthen them for onward progress. There is nothing in this book for which authority is not to be found in some one or more of the many works upon Hindu literature and religion, but the aim has been to condense and bring together in a compact form that information which lies scattered in many volumes. Hindu mythology is so extensive, and the authorities are often so at variance with each other, that I cannot but feel diffident of the success of my labours. I have worked diligently and carefully, I hope also intelligently, but mistakes have no doubt been made, and it may be that matters have been passed over which ought to have been recorded, and others have been printed which might well have been left unnoticed. But while I have no expectation of any near approach to perfection, I do hope that a good beginning has been made, and that a basis has been laid on which a greater and more worthy structure may hereafter be raised. If the work is
received with anything like favour, I shall be constantly on the watch to improve it, and honest criticism will be welcomed and carefully considered.
The book would be more valuable and interesting were it well illustrated with plates and cuts, but the work is a speculative ope, and does not directly appeal to a large field of students and readers. The expense of befitting illustrations would be heavy, too great to be at once ventured upon. But if the work is approved, and illustrations are desired, an attempt will be made to supply the want by a series of plates containing a selection of subjects from the stores of our museums and from other sources.
It is unnecessary to specify all the works that have been used in the compilation of this book. Some have been referred to occasionally, but the mainstays throughout have been the “ Original Sanskrit Texts” of Dr. Muir and the works of the late Professor H. H. Wilson, including his translation of the Rig-veda, and more especially that of the Vishnu Purāna, republished with additional notes by Dr. Fitz Edward Hall. I have also levied numerous contributions from the writings of Williams, Max Müller, Roth, Böhthlingk, Lassen, Weber, Whitney, Wollheim da Fonseca, and many others too numerous to mention.