Page images
PDF
EPUB

Vedas in regard to circumcision. The Arabs, who are descended from Abraham by Ishmael, and are likewise jealous of the invaded honours of the great patriarch their progenitor, contend, that Brahma and Abraham are the same, and Herbelot * informs us, that a Brahmin, named Bethergir, converted to Mahommedism, communicated to those Arabs the book called L'Ambertkend, which he calls, Livre qui contient tous les Dogmes de la Religion des Indiens, but of which book I have not been able to gain any tidings, and the description seems alone applicable to the Vedas. interesting, and, if true, a very important, piece of historical information is related in the “ Account of the East-Indies," by Mr Hamilton, since it appears to account for a very large portion of those ten dispersed tribes, whose place of residence, ever since the period of their captivity, has so long been the object of curious investigation among the learned. A colony of Jews, to the amount of no less than eighty thousand families, is asserted, by

A very

* See Herbelot Biblioth. Orient. under the article Behergir, in which a mistake of this great Orientalist should be corrected, since he calls him, Un Brahman de la secte, ou de l'ordre, de ceux que l'on appelle Gioghis (Yogees). Now the Yogees are not Brahmins, but candidates for that order. My edition of Herbelot is that of Maestricht, 1776.

that

!

that author, on the authority of the Dutch records at Crangamore, on the coast of Malabar, to have antiently flourished, in the kingdom of Cochin, under elders and judges of , their own election. Their traditional history, which they anxiously preserve on copper-plates, deeply engraved in Hebrew characters, deposited in the sanctuary of the synagogue, relates, that their ancestors came thither before the downfail of the Babylonian empire; and that history descends, in a regular series of events, from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar to the present time. It announces them to be of the tribe of Manasses, and describes their tedious journey of three years from Babylon to the coast of Malabar, the various sufferings which this miserable and exiled race, amount. ing to twenty 'thousand families, endured in their progress thither, the hospitable reception they met with from the natives, their thriving commerce, their increasing population, the

period of their highest power and aggrandization, and that of their gradual decline, down to their present number, of about four thousand families only. A similar colony, if we may believe the Jesuits, established themselves in China.

Although I thought it incumbent upon me to mention these circumstances, yet I am cau

tious

tious of urging any argument that may seem to arise from this evidence of the antient intercourse which the Indians enjoyed with the chosen people of God, for, polytheism has ever flourished with more vigour in the Peninsula than on the continent of India. From this source, then, I dare not assert, that the Hindoos derived their purer theological tenets, since those tenets appear to me to be of superior antiquity. It is only from Noah himself, their famed Menu, the great inspired prophet of the ante-diluvian race of mortals, and the august father of the present, or else from one or other of the sons of the righteous SHEM, who might make this happy region their early abode, that this unfathomable antiquity of the Brahmin scriptures allows me to derive the grand principia of their almost Christian theology; that august fabric, of which we observe the UniTY OF GOD forms the central pillar. This sublime doctrine OF AN INVISIBLE, ETERNAL, AND SELF-EXISTENT, GOD, WHOM ALL

REPRESENTATION MUST DEGRADE, has ever been upheld by those among them who have dared to divulge a dogma kept profoundly secret from the vulgar, whose sensual conceptions, they imagined, were only to be actuated upon, and whose stubborn minds were only to be kept in sacred subjection to an

arbitrary

[ocr errors]

SYMBOLICAL

[ocr errors]

arbitrary priesthood by external objects

, and who, consequently, were permitted to plunge by degrees into the lowest abyss of gross and multifarious idolatry. They were first suffered to adore the attributes of God under res presentative figures, decorated with emblematical ornaments; they were next allowed to pay divine honours to rajahs, in whom the Deity had condescended to become incarnate, and who were, therefore, supposed to be invested with a portion of his divinity; for, the doctrine of the AVATARS, or descents of Deity in the form of man, undoubtedly, contributed to keep alive, if it did not originally give birth to, the belief of the Metempsychosis, as well as to cherish the errors of idol-worship in India. The symbol in time came to be adored instead of the original, the rajaḥ was honoured in the place of his Creator. The more artful and luxurious Brahmin, who, under the garb of austerity and sanctity, fattened upon the spoils of superstition, beheld, and exulted in the success of his project; he crowded the sculptured wall of the sacred cavern with symbolical figures and statues of deified rajahs; hę bade the people approach them with holy reverence, and he excited their wonder and respect by recounting to them the heroic feats they had performed during the period of their VOL. II.

T

sojourning

[ocr errors]

peace and

sojourning with mortals. But this alone was vot sufficient; terror has a niore lasting influence than admiration upon the human mind. With the symbolic figures of the mercy and goodness of God were blended those of his justice and his wrath.

As the former were sculptured with smiling aspects, and were decorated with the ensigns of

protection, so were the latter pourtrayed with horrible distorted visages, and arrayed with every dreadful symbol that could alarm and terrify the beholder. These figures, converted into dæmons, under the notion of being the avenging ministers of omnipotent justice, were most

purpose of the priest. He recited their number, he magnified their enormous power, and he awakened the agonising terrors of his audience by impressing them with ideas of their constant and immediate interference in human affairs. To the gazing and infatuated multitude, who thronged the porches and the body of the august temple, he. exclaimed : BEHOLD YOUR GODS ! and the imagination was acted upon in the same manner as at this moment, in the modern pagodas, by descriptive paintings, by expressive symbols, and mysterious ceremonies and exhibitions,

But, in · every successive age of the Indian empire, from its foundation to the present time, there have

to the

/

[ocr errors]

not

« PreviousContinue »