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ART. I.-Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan. By Lieut. Colonel James Tod. Vols. I. and II. 4to. London. 1830-32.
N all nations poets have been the first historians. The annals of every race are lost in the mists of a mythic or fabulous period, in which the dimly-humanised forms of the gods, or men magnified by the uncertain haze to preter-human stature, people the long-receding and shadowy realm. Even where that is not the case, over every event, and every character, is thrown a poetic and imaginative colouring; the bard-chronicler never abandons the privilege, the attribute of his art; and until history has condescended to the sober march of prose, it does not restrain itself from the licence of fiction, or assume the authority of truth. And when at length this division of labour takes place, when the poet recedes into his own province, and leaves the domain of real life to a colder hand, the legends of former times, under his magic influence, have either assumed a sacred character, or become so completely incorporated with the popular belief, that the earliest prose historian, who of course could more easily have disengaged the latent truth from its fictitious or allegoric veil, is restrained by religious awe, or labours in vain to disenchant the fond and willing credulity of his countrymen. The mythic narrative therefore remains undisturbed; the reverential historian allows the gods to stand at the head of the genealogical tree; he relates, with grave fidelity, the established wonders of the olden time.' Sometimes (so Niebuhr would persuade us has been the case as to the Roman kings) the epic of the bard becomes the groundwork, or rather the actual substance of the national history, and retains its primeval authority-to be first called in question by the severer scepticism of a more intellectual age.
The native annals of India seem to present one great mythic period; in all their vast literature, history, properly speaking, has hitherto appeared almost unknown. Among her Homers and Platos no Herodotus arose, to collect from the records of her priesthood, or her living traditions, a consistent and harmonious narrative of the rise and progress of her various races. We are left to trace the shadowy outline of her earlier fortunes in the marvellous legends of the Puranas, or the wild creations of the two great epic poems, authorities, which being far more mythic
and imaginative, are less capable of furnishing even the groundwork for a credible history of India, than Homer and the Cyclic poets for that of Greece. Nor does this cloud of fable brood only over the most remote and inaccessible regions of her antiquity; the same spirit haunts the whole course of her annals: when we hope to be in some degree disembarrassed from this intimate association of things divine and human, to have reached the domain of unmingled mortal men, some fresh Avatar or incarnation of the Deity breaks forth; and we encounter a new race of mythological personages-a Crishna, or a Rama, or a Budh, with all their attendant demi-gods. Even more substantial beings, of whose actual existence we can scarcely doubt,-kings and founders of regular dynasties,-the poets themselves, Valmiki and Vyasa, the authors of the Ramayana and Mahâ-bârat,—are, as it were, unrealized, and refined into creatures of an intermediate order between gods and men. In short, all is, in Indian phrase, mava; poetic illusion floats over the whole: if truths severe' do indeed lie hid under the allegorical veil, they are so fantastically in fairy fiction drest,' that we almost despair of ever discovering their hidden secrets, or of obtaining the key to their vast system of poetical hieroglyphics.
The only work which can be called history, in the European sense of the word, is the Rájá Taringini, the Annals of Cashmir; of which we have an abstract, by Mr. Horace Wilson*, in the fifteenth volume of the Asiatic Researches. Even this work, although its chronology, at least traced back to a certain period, is consistent and satisfactory, and its regular succession of kings has every appearance of historic authenticity, wanders at times into poetic legend; and some of those events, which are of the most striking importance and interest-the religious revolutions -assume something of an allegoric or mythological form. Notwithstanding, however, this drawback, and although the history of Cashmir, for the most part, confines itself within the narrow limits of that kingdom-though its long line of kings pass over the mind, and disappear from the remembrance, almost as rapidly as the crowned forms which the witches conjure up before the bewildered eyes of Macbeth-the Rájá Tarangini is not only intrin
*The election of this gentleman to the Sanscrit Professorship at Oxford reflects the highest credit on that learned body, and is of the fairest promise to the cultivation of oriental literature. In every branch of Hindu knowledge, in poetry, in philology, in history, Mr. Wilson is equally distinguished; and among our younger Indian scholars, unquestionably stands pre-eminent and alone. Oxford has at once set itself at the head of this branch of literature, cultivated, as we have shown in a former article, with so much zeal and activity in many of the foreign universities. All that is valuable in Sanscrit antiquities will now issue, under the ablest auspices, from the Clarendon press, instead of being brought back to this country from Bonn, and Berlin, and Paris.
sically curious and valuable; but, as it shows that historical composition was not altogether unknown in India, almost warrants the hope, that still richer treasures may yet reward the research of Sanscrit scholars. On this subject, Colonel Tod is sanguine; he believes that Europeans are yet only on the threshold of Indian science; that there are immense libraries which have escaped the Omars, whose Mahometan bigotry warred not only on the liberties, but on the literature of India,-royal collections, in parts of the country never entirely subdued, and among the religious communities, particularly of the Jains, who preserved their consciences unviolated, and their temples unplundered, by the intolerant and rapacious Moslemin :—
Is it to be imagined, (proceeds our enthusiastic author) that a nation so highly civilized as the Hindus, amongst whom the exact sciences flourished in perfection, by whom the fine arts, architecture, sculpture, poetry, music, were not only cultivated, but taught and defined by the nicest and most elaborate rules, were totally unacquainted with the simple art of recording the events of their history, the characters of their princes, and the acts of their reigns? Where such traces of mind exist, we can hardly believe that there was a want of competent recorders of events, which synchronical authorities tell us were worthy of commemoration. The cities of Hastinapoor and Indraprest'ha, of Anhulwara and Somanat'ha, the triumphal columns of Delhi and Cheetore, the shrines of Aboo and Girnar, the cavetemples of Elephanta and Ellora, are so many attestations of the same fact; nor can we imagine that the age in which these works were erected was without an historian. Yet, from the Maha-bharat, or great war, to Alexander's invasion, and from that great event to the era of Mahmood of Ghizni, scarcely a paragraph of pure native Hindu history (except as before stated) has hitherto been revealed to the curiosity of western scholars. In the heroic history of Pirthi-raj, the last of the Hindu sovereigns of Delhi, written by his bard Chund, we find notices which authorise the inference that works similar to his own were then extant, relating to the period between Mahmood and Shabudin (A.D. 1000-1193); but these have disappeared.'
Yet considering the essentially poetic genius of Indian civilization, which is not only indelibly stamped upon her vast and luxuriant works of art, but even enters into her exact sciences,-which lures her astronomy into calculations of immeasurable yugas, where millions of ages are lavished with boundless prodigality; which crowds her metaphysical philosophy with wild mythological impersonations, and attempts, as in the Bhagavat Gita, to embody her pantheism in visible forms; and even in the dry and barren province of grammar and philology, can scarcely refrain from introducing a kind of mythic machinery to account for the origin and variations of language; considering the unhistoric character of
Brahminism, of which Colonel Tod seems perfectly aware (page 26), we can scarcely indulge the hope of discovering the noble stem of history, unencumbered and unchoked by the parasitic growth of mythology. If genuine historical records are found, we venture to predict, that it will be among the less imaginative Buddhist or Jain communities;* most probably the less mythic and legendary character of Chund and the Rajput bards, whose songs seem to approach so much nearer to the truth of history, is to be traced to the foreign, the Scythian or Tartar, origin of the race. It was the policy, as well as the genius, of the more regular and perfect Brahminism, to impregnate everything with fable; religious legend was its vernacular language; the wild symbolic form, and the mysterious allegory, formed a sacred hieratic character, in which the events of the past, and even the occurrences of the present, were recorded,―at first perhaps bearing more distinct meaning to the initiated ears of the priesthood-but of which even to them the key was gradually lost; while, though accessible to the vulgar, they were read with awful reverence, and with no suspicion of their hidden and originally esoteric sense.
Though severer reason warns us from this enchanted ground, on the active and inquisitive mind such warnings are generally lost. Even the grave historian is perpetually excited by the hope of discovering some of the leading facts in the early experience of our race within this mythic period. In such researches it is obvious, that peculiar rules of historic criticism must be adopted; it requires a different process to decompose, as it were, into its primary elements, the poetical legend, from that with which an historic relation is formed on more unimaginative data; nor can the result of the most successful inquiry claim the same degree of authority. Still we conceive that it would be unwise, and unfavourable to the progress of real knowledge, altogether to abandon this field, and to proscribe, in the mass, the fabulous legends of every nation, as containing neither trace nor vestige of fact. The connexion, the common descent or affiliation, of the different races of mankind, are often indicated by the manifest relationship of their mythic traditions, as well as by that of their customs and language; the particular character of each tribe is shown in that of its fables-the genius of the religion reigns throughout the whole mythology. Even in India, the true nature of the Brahminical hierarchy cannot be comprehended without the assistance of their golden legend, the Puranas; and though the real philosophy of the connexion between the gods of India; Greece, and Italy, we may add of the Teutonic sagas, may * According to M. Abel Rémusat (Mélanges Asiat., vol. i. p. 114), the Budhists of Tibet and China have preserved historical works, in Sanscrit, in their monasteries.