The Religions of India - Handbooks On The History Of Religions, Volume 1, Edited By Morris Jastrow
by Edward Washburn Hopkins
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15     Next Part
Home - Random Browse



Professor of Semitic Languages in the University of Pennsylvania









"This holy mystery I declare unto you: There is nothing nobler than humanity."







(All rights reserved)










The growing interest both in this country and abroad in the historical study of religions is one of the noticeable features in the intellectual phases of the past decades. The more general indications of this interest may be seen in such foundations as the Hibbert and Gifford Lectureships in England, and the recent organization of an American committee to arrange in various cities for lectures on the history of religions, in the establishment of a special department for the subject at the University of Paris, in the organization of the Musee Guimet at Paris, in the publication of a journal—the Revue de l'Histoire des Religions—under the auspices of this Museum, and in the creation of chairs at the College de France, at the Universities of Holland, and in this country at Cornell University and the University of Chicago,[1] with the prospect of others to follow in the near future. For the more special indications we must turn to the splendid labors of a large array of scholars toiling in the various departments of ancient culture—India, Babylonia, Assyria, Egypt, Palestine, Arabia, Phoenicia, China, Greece, and Rome—with the result of securing a firm basis for the study of the religions flourishing in those countries—a result due mainly to the discovery of fresh sources and to the increase of the latter brought about by exploration and incessant research. The detailed study of the facts of religion everywhere, both in primitive society and in advancing civilization, and the emphasis laid upon gathering and understanding these facts prior to making one's deductions, has succeeded in setting aside the speculations and generalizations that until the beginning of this century paraded under the name of "Philosophy of Religion."

Such has been the scholarly activity displayed and the fertility resulting, that it seems both desirable and timely to focus, as it were, the array of facts connected with the religions of the ancient world in such a manner that the summary resulting may serve as the point of departure for further investigations.

This has been the leading thought which has suggested the series of Handbooks on the History of Religions. The treatment of the religions included in the series differs from previous attempts in the aim to bring together the ascertained results of scholarship rather than to make an additional contribution, though the character of the scholars whose cooeperation has beep secured justifies the hope that their productions will also mark an advance in the interpretation of the subject assigned to each. In accord with this general aim, mere discussion has been limited to a minimum, while the chief stress has been laid upon the clear and full presentation of the data connected with each religion.

A uniform plan has been drawn up by the editor for the order of treatment in the various volumes, by following which it is hoped that the continuous character of the series will be secured.

In this plan the needs of the general reader, as well as those of the student, for whom, in the first place, the series is designed, have been kept in view. After the introduction, which in the case of each volume is to be devoted to a setting forth of the sources and the method of study, a chapter follows on the land and the people, presenting those ethnographical and geographical considerations, together with a brief historical sketch of the people in question, so essential to an understanding of intellectual and religious life everywhere.

In the third section, which may be denominated the kernel of the book, the subdivisions and order of presentation necessarily vary, the division into periods being best adapted to one religion, the geographical order for another, the grouping of themes in a logical sequence for a third; but in every case, the range covered will be the same, namely, the beliefs, including the pantheon, the relation to the gods, views of life and death, the rites—both the official ones and the popular customs—the religious literature and architecture. A fourth section will furnish a general estimate of the religion, its history, and the relation it bears to others. Each volume will conclude with a full bibliography, index, and necessary maps, with illustrations introduced into the text as called for. The Editor has been fortunate in securing the services of distinguished specialists whose past labors and thorough understanding of the plan and purpose of the series furnish a guarantee for the successful execution of their task.

It is the hope of the Editor to produce in this way a series of manuals that may serve as text-books for the historical study of religions in our universities and seminaries. In addition to supplying this want, the arrangement of the manuals will, it is expected, meet the requirements of reliable reference-books for ascertaining the present status of our knowledge of the religions of antiquity, while the popular manner of presentation, which it will be the aim of the writers to carry out, justifies the hope that the general reader will find the volumes no less attractive and interesting.


* * * * *


[Footnote 1: In an article by the writer published in the Biblical World (University of Chicago Press) for January, 1893, there will be found an account of the present status of the Historical Study of Religions in this country.]

* * * * *




India always has been a land of religions. In the earliest Vedic literature are found not only hymns in praise of the accepted gods, but also doubts in regard to the worth of these gods; the beginnings of a new religion incorporated into the earliest records of the old. And later, when, about 300 B.C, Megasthenes was in India, the descendants of those first theosophists are still discussing, albeit in more modern fashion, the questions that lie at the root of all religion. "Of the philosophers, those that are most estimable he terms Brahmans ([Greek: brachmanas]). These discuss with many words concerning death. For they regard death as being, for the wise, a birth into real life—into the happy life. And in many things they hold the same opinions with the Greeks: saying that the universe was begotten and will be destroyed, and that the world is a sphere, which the god who made and owns it pervades throughout; that there are different beginnings of all things, but water is the beginning of world-making, while, in addition to the four elements, there is, as fifth, a kind of nature, whence came the sky and the stars.... And concerning the seed of things and the soul they have much to say also, whereby they weave in myths, just as does Plato, in regard to the soul's immortality, judgment in hell, and such things."[1]

And as India conspicuously is a country of creeds, so is its literature preeminently priestly and religious. From the first Veda to the last Purāna, religion forms either the subject-matter of the most important works, or, as in the case of the epics,[2] the basis of didactic excursions and sectarian interpolations, which impart to worldly themes a tone peculiarly theological. History and oratory are unknown in Indian literature. The early poetry consists of hymns and religious poems; the early prose, of liturgies, linguistics, "law," theology, sacred legends and other works, all of which are intended to supplement the knowledge of the Veda, to explain ceremonies, or to inculcate religious principles. At a later date, formal grammar and systems of philosophy, fables and commentaries are added to the prose; epics, secular lyric, drama, the Purānas and such writings to the poetry. But in all this great mass, till that time which Mueller has called the Renaissance—that is to say, till after the Hindus were come into close contact with foreign nations, notably the Greek, from which has been borrowed, perhaps, the classical Hindu drama,[3]—there is no real literature that was not religious originally, or, at least, so apt for priestly use as to become chiefly moral and theosophic; while the most popular works of modern times are sectarian tracts, Pur[=]nas, Tantras and remodelled worldly poetry. The sources, then, from which is to be drawn the knowledge of Hindu religions are the best possible—the original texts. The information furnished by foreigners, from the times of Ktesias and Megasthenes to that of Mandelslo, is considerable; but one is warranted in assuming that what little in it is novel is inaccurate, since otherwise the information would have been furnished by the Hindus themselves; and that, conversely, an outsider's statements, although presumably correct, often may give an inexact impression through lack of completeness; as when—to take an example that one can control—Ktesias tells half the truth in regard to ordeals. His account is true, but he gives no notion of the number or elaborate character of these interesting ceremonies.

The sources to which we shall have occasion to refer will be, then, the two most important collections of Vedic hymns—the Rig Veda and the Atharva Veda; the Brahmanic literature, with the supplementary Upanishads, and the Sūtras or mnemonic abridgments of religious and ceremonial rules; the legal texts, and the religious and theological portions of the epic; and the later sectarian writings, called Purānas. The great heresies, again, have their own special writings. Thus far we shall draw on the native literature. Only for some of the modern sects, and for the religions of the wild tribes which have no literature, shall we have to depend on the accounts of European writers.


For none of the native religious works has one a certain date. Nor is there for any one of the earlier compositions the certainty that it belongs, as a whole, to any one time. The Rig Veda was composed by successive generations; the Atharvan represents different ages; each Brāhmana appears to belong in part to one era, in part to another; the earliest Sūtras (manuals of law, etc.) have been interpolated; the earliest metrical code is a composite; the great epic is the work of centuries; and not only do the Upanishads and Purānas represent collectively many different periods, but exactly to which period each individually is to be assigned remains always doubtful. Only in the case of the Buddhistic writings is there a satisfactorily approximate terminus a quo, and even here approximate means merely within the limit of centuries.

Nevertheless, criteria fortunately are not lacking to enable one to assign the general bulk of any one work to a certain period in the literary development; and as these periods are, if not sharply, yet plainly distinguishable, one is not in so desperate a case as he might have expected to be, considering that it is impossible to date with certainty any Hindu book or writer before the Christian era. For, first, there exists a difference in language, demarcating the most important periods; and, secondly, the development of the literature has been upon such lines that it is easy to say, from content and method of treatment, whether a given class of writings is a product of the Vedic, early Brahmanic, or late Brahmanic epochs. Usually, indeed, one is unable to tell whether a later Upanishad was made first in the early or late Brahmanic period, but it is known that the Upanishads, as a whole, i.e., the literary form and philosophical material which characterize Upanishads, were earlier than the latest Brahmanic period and subsequent to the early Brahmanic period; that they arose at the close of the latter and before the rise of the former. So the Brāhmanas, as a whole, are subsequent to the Vedic age, although some of the Vedic hymns appear to have been made up in the same period with that of the early Brāhmanas. Again, the Purānas can be placed with safety after the late Brahmanic age; and, consequently, subsequent to the Upanishads, although it is probable that many Upanishads were written after the first Purānas. The general compass of this enormous literature is from an indefinite antiquity to about 1500 A.D. A liberal margin of possible error must be allowed in the assumption of any specific dates. The received opinion is that the Rig Veda goes back to about 2000 B.C., yet are some scholars inclined rather to accept 3000 B.C. as the time that represents this era. Weber, in his Lectures on Sanskrit Literature (p. 7), rightly says that to seek for an exact date is fruitless labor; while Whitney compares Hindu dates to ninepins—set up only to be bowled down again. Schroeder, in his Indiens Literatur und Cultur, suggests that the prior limit may be "a few centuries earlier than 1500," agreeing with Weber's preferred reckoning; but Whitney, Grassmann, and Benfey provisionally assume 2000 B.C. as the starting point of Hindu literature. The lowest possible limit for this event Mueller now places at about 1500, which is recognized as a very cautious view; most scholars thinking that Mueller's estimate gives too little time for the development of the literary periods, which, in their opinion, require, linguistically and otherwise, a greater number of years. Brunnhofer more recently has suggested 2800 B.C. as the terminus; while the last writers on the subject (Tilak and Jacobi) claim to have discovered that the period from 3500 to 2500 represents the Vedic age. Their conclusions, however, are not very convincing, and have been disputed vigorously.[4] Without the hope of persuading such scholars as are wedded to a terminus of three or four thousand years ago that we are right, we add, in all deference to others, our own opinion on this vexed question. Buddhism gives the first semblance of a date in Hindu literature. Buddha lived in the sixth century, and died probably about 480, possibly (Westergaard's extreme opinion) as late as 368.[5] Before this time arise the Sūtras, back of which lie the earliest Upanishads, the bulk of the Brāhmanas, and all the Vedic poems. Now it is probable that the Brahmanic literature itself extends to the time of Buddha and perhaps beyond it. For the rest of pre-Buddhistic literature it seems to us incredible that it is necessary to require, either from the point of view of linguistic or of social and religious development, the enormous period of two thousand years. There are no other grounds on which to base a reckoning except those of Jacobi and his Hindu rival, who build on Vedic data results that hardly support the superstructure they have erected. Jacobi's starting-point is from a mock-serious hymn, which appears to be late and does not establish, to whatever date it be assigned, the point of departure from which proceeds his whole argument, as Whitney has shown very well. One is driven back to the needs of a literature in respect of time sufficient for it to mature. What changes take place in language, even with a written literature, in the space of a few centuries, may be seen in Persian, Greek, Latin, and German. No two thousand years are required to bridge the linguistic extremes of the Vedic and classical Sanskrit language.[6] But in content it will be seen that the flower of the later literature is budding already in the Vedic age. We are unable to admit that either in language or social development, or in literary or religious growth, more than a few centuries are necessary to account for the whole development of Hindu literature (meaning thereby compositions, whether written or not) up to the time of Buddha. Moreover, if one compare the period at which arise the earliest forms of literature among other Aryan peoples, it will seem very strange that, whereas in the case of the Romans, Greeks, and Persians, one thousand years B.C. is the extreme limit of such literary activity as has produced durable works, the Hindus two or three thousand years B.C. were creating poetry so finished, so refined, and, from a metaphysical point of view, so advanced as is that of the Rig Veda. If, as is generally assumed, the (prospective) Hindus and Persians were last to leave the common Aryan habitat, and came together to the south-east, the difficulty is increased; especially in the light of modern opinion in regard to the fictitious antiquity of Persian (Iranian) literature. For if Darmesteter be correct in holding the time of the latter to be at most a century before our era, the incongruity between that oldest date of Persian literature and the "two or three thousand years before Christ," which are claimed in the case of the Rig Veda, becomes so great as to make the latter assumption more dubious than ever.

We think in a word, without wishing to be dogmatic, that the date of the Rig Veda is about on a par, historically, with that of 'Homer,' that is to say, the Collection[7] represents a long period, which was completed perhaps two hundred years after 1000 B.C, while again its earliest beginnings precede that date possibly by five centuries; but we would assign the bulk of the Rig Veda to about 1000 B.C. With conscious imitation of older speech a good deal of archaic linguistic effect doubtless was produced by the latest poets, who really belong to the Brahmanic age. The Brahmanic age in turn ends, as we opine, about 500 B.C., overlapping the Sūtra period as well as that of the first Upanishads. The former class of writings (after 500 B.C. one may talk of writings) is represented by dates that reach from circa 600-500 B.C. nearly to our era. Buddhism's floruit is from 500 B.C. to 500 A.D., and epic Hinduism covers nearly the same centuries. From 500 to 1000 Buddhism is in a state of decadence; and through this time extend the dramatic and older Puranic writings; while other Purānas are as late as 1500, at which time arises the great modern reforming sect of the Sikhs. In the matter of the earlier termini a century may be added or subtracted here and there, but these convenient divisions of five hundreds will be found on the whole to be sufficiently accurate.[8]


At the outset of his undertaking a double problem presents itself to one that would give, even in compact form, a view of Hindu religions. This problem consists in explaining, and, in so far as is possible, reconciling opposed opinions in regard not only to the nature of these religions but also to the method of interpreting the Vedic hymns.

That the Vedic religion was naturalistic and mytho-poetic is doubted by few. The Vedic hymns laud the powers of nature and natural phenomena as personified gods, or even as impersonal phenomena. They praise also as distinct powers the departed fathers. In the Rig Veda I. 168, occur some verses in honor of the storm-gods called Maruts: "Self-yoked are they come lightly from the sky. The immortals urge themselves on with the goad. Dustless, born of power, with shining spears the Maruts overthrow the strongholds. Who is it, O Maruts, ye that have lightning-spears, that impels you within? ... The streams roar from the tires, when they send out their cloud-voices," etc. Nothing would seem more justifiable, in view of this hymn and of many like it, than to assume with Mueller and other Indologians, that the Marut-gods are personifications of natural phenomena. As clearly do Indra and the Dawn appear to be natural phenomena. But no less an authority than Herbert Spencer has attacked this view: "Facts imply that the conception of the dawn as a person results from the giving of dawn as a birth-name."[9] And again: "If, then, Dawn [in New Zealand and elsewhere] is an actual name for a person, if where there prevails this mode of distinguishing children, it has probably often been given to those born early in the morning; the traditions concerning one of such who became noted, would, in the mind of the uncritical savage ... lead to identification with the dawn."[10] In another passage: "The primitive god is the superior man ... propitiated during his life and still more after his death."[11] Summing up, Spencer thus concludes: "Instead of seeing in the common character of so-called myths, that they describe combats of beings using weapons, evidence that they arose out of human transactions; mythologists assume that the order of Nature presents itself to the undeveloped mind in terms of victories and defeats."[12] Moreover (a posteriori), "It is not true that the primitive man looks at the powers of Nature with awe. It is not true that he speculates about their characters and causes."[13] If Spencer had not included in his criticism the mythologists that have written on Vedic religion, there would be no occasion to take his opinion into consideration. But since he claims by the light of his comparative studies to have shown that in the Rig Veda the "so-called nature gods,"[14] were not the oldest, and explains Dawn here exactly as he does in New Zealand, it becomes necessary to point out, that apart from the question of the origin of religions in general, Spencer has made a fatal error in assuming that he is dealing in the Rig Veda with primitive religion, uncritical savages, and undeveloped minds. And furthermore, as the poet of the Rig Veda is not primitive, or savage, or undeveloped, so when he worships Dyaus pitar [Greek: Zeus pataer] as the 'sky-father,' he not only makes it evident to every reader that he really is worshipping the visible sky above; but in his descriptions of gods such as Indra, the Dawn, and some other new gods he invents from time to time, long after he has passed the savage, primitive, and undeveloped state, he makes it no less clear that he worships phenomena as they stand before him (rain, cloud, lightning, etc.), so that by analogy with what is apparent in the case of later divinities, one is led inevitably to predicate the same origin as theirs in the case of the older gods.

But it is unnecessary to spend time on this point. It is impossible for any sober scholar to read the Rig Veda and believe that the Vedic poets are not worshipping natural phenomena; or that the phenomena so worshipped were not the original forms of these gods. Whether at a more remote time there was ever a period when the pre-historic Hindu, or his pre-Indic ancestor, worshipped the Manes exclusively is another question, and one with which at present we have nothing to do. The history of Hindu religions begins with the Rig Veda, and in this period the worship of Manes and that of natural phenomena were distinct, nor are there any indications that the latter was ever developed from the former. It is not denied that the Hindus made gods of departed men. They did this long after the Vedic period. But there is no proof that all the Vedic gods, as claims Spencer, were the worshipped souls of the dead. No argumentum a fero can show in a Vedic dawn-hymn anything other than a hymn to personified Dawn, or make it probable that this dawn was ever a mortal's name.

In respect of that which precedes all tradition we, whose task is not to speculate in regard to primitive religious conceptions, but to give the history of one people's religious progress, may be pardoned for expressing no opinion. But without abandoning history (i.e., tradition) we would revert for a moment to the pre-Indian period and point out that Zarathustra's rejection of the daevas which must be the same devas that are worshipped in India, proves that deva-worship is the immediate predecessor of the Hindu religion. As far back as one can scrutinize the Aryan past he finds, as the earliest known objects of reverence, 'sun' and 'sky,' besides and beside the blessed Manes. A word here regarding the priority of monotheism or of polytheism. The tradition is in favor of the latter, while on a priori grounds whoever thinks that the more primitive the race the more apt it is for monotheism will postulate, with some of the older scholars, an assumed monotheism as the pre-historic religion of the Hindus; while whosoever opines that man has gradually risen from a less intellectual stage will see in the early gods of the Hindus only another illustration of one universal fact, and posit even Aryan polytheism as an advance on the religion which it is probable that the remoter ancestors of the Aryans once acknowledged.

A word perhaps should be said, also, in order to a better understanding between the ethnologists as represented by Andrew Lang, and the unfortunate philologists whom it delights him to pommel. Lang's clever attacks on the myth-makers, whom he persistently describes as the philologists—and they do indeed form part of that camp—have had the effect of bringing 'philological theories' into sad disrepute with sciolists and 'common-sense' people. But the sun-myths and dawn-myths that the myth-makers discover in Cinderella and Red Riding Hood, ought not to be fathered upon all philologists. On the other hand, who will deny that in India certain mythological figures are eoian or solar in origin? Can any one question that Vivasvant the 'wide gleaming' is sun or bright sky, as he is represented in the Avesta and Rig Veda? Yet is a very anthropomorphic, nay, earthly figure, made out of this god. Or is Mr. Lang ignorant that the god Yima became Jemshid, and that Feridun is only the god Trita? It undoubtedly is correct to illuminate the past with other light than that of sun or dawn, yet that these lights have shone and have been quenched in certain personalities may be granted without doing violence to scientific principles. All purely etymological mythology is precarious, but one may recognize sun-myths without building a system on the basis of a Dawn-Helen, and without referring Ilium to the Vedic bila. Again, myths about gods, heroes, and fairies are to be segregated. Even in India, which teems with it, there is little, if any, folklore that can be traced to solar or dawn-born myths. Mr. Lang represents a healthy reaction against too much sun-myth, but we think that there are sun-myths still, and that despite his protests all religion is not grown from one seed.

There remains the consideration of the second part of the double problem which was formulated above—the method of interpretation. The native method is to believe the scholiasts' explanations, which often are fanciful and, in all important points, totally unreliable; since the Hindu commentators lived so long after the period of the literature they expound that the tradition they follow is useful only in petty details. From a modern point of view the question of interpretation depends mainly on whether one regard the Rig Veda as but an Indic growth, the product of the Hindu mind alone, or as a work that still retains from an older age ideas which, having once been common to Hindu and Iranian, should be compared with those in the Persian Avesta and be illustrated by them. Again, if this latter hypothesis be correct, how is one to interpret an apparent likeness, here and there, between Indic and foreign notions,—is it possible that the hymns were composed, in part, before the advent of the authors into India, and is it for this reason that in the Rig Veda are contained certain names, ideas, and legends, which do not seem to be native to India? On the other hand, if one adopt the theory that the Rig Veda is wholly a native work, in how far is he to suppose that it is separable from Brahmanic formalism? Were the hymns made independently of any ritual, as their own excuse for being, or were they composed expressly for the sacrifice, as part of a formal cult?

Here are views diverse enough, but each has its advocate or advocates. According to the earlier European writers the Vedic poets are fountains of primitive thought, streams unsullied by any tributaries, and in reading them one quaffs a fresh draught, the gush of unsophisticated herdsmen, in whose religion there is to be seen a childlike belief in natural phenomena as divine forces, over which forces stands the Heaven-god as the highest power. So in 1869 Pfleiderer speaks of the "primeval childlike naive prayer" of Rig Veda vi. 51. 5 ("Father sky, mother earth," etc.);[15] while Pictet, in his work Les Origines Indo-Europeennes, maintains that the Aryans had a primitive monotheism, although it was vague and rudimentary; for he regards both Iranian dualism and Hindu polytheism as being developments of one earlier monism (claiming that Iranian dualism is really monotheistic). Pictet's argument is that the human mind must have advanced from the simple to the complex! Even Roth believes in an originally "supreme deity" of the Aryans.[16] Opposed to this, the 'naive' school of such older scholars as Roth, Mueller,[17] and Grassmann, who see in the Rig Veda an ingenuous expression of 'primitive' ideas, stand the theories of Bergaigne, who interprets everything allegorically; and of Pischel and Geldner, realists, whose general opinions may thus be formulated: The poets of the Rig Veda are not childlike and naive; they represent a comparatively late period of culture, a society not only civilized, but even sophisticated; a mode of thought philosophical and sceptical a religion not only ceremonious but absolutely stereotyped. In regard to the Aryanhood of the hymns, the stand taken by these latter critics, who renounce even Bergaigne's slight hold on mythology, is that the Rig Veda is thoroughly Indic. It is to be explained by the light of the formal Hindu ritualism, and even by epic worldliness, its fresh factors being lewd gods, harlots, and race-horses. Bloomfield, who does not go so far as this, claims that the 'Vedic' age really is a Brahmanic age; that Vedic religion is saturated with Brahmanic ideas and Brahmanic formalism, so that the Rig Veda ought to be looked upon as made for the ritual, not the ritual regarded as ancillary to the Rig Veda[18]. This scholar maintains that there is scarcely any chronological distinction between the hymns of the Rig Veda and the Brāhmana, both forms having probably existed together "from earliest times"; and that not a single Vedic hymn "was ever composed without reference to ritual application"; nay, all the hymns were "liturgical from the very start"[19]. This is a plain advance even on Bergaigne's opinion, who finally regarded all the family-books of the Rig Veda as composed to subserve the soma-cult.[20]

In the Rig Veda occur hymns of an entirely worldly character, the lament of a gambler, a humorous description of frogs croaking like priests, a funny picture of contemporary morals [describing how every one lusts after wealth], and so forth. From these alone it becomes evident that the ritualistic view must be regarded as one somewhat exaggerated. But if the liturgical extremist appears to have stepped a little beyond the boundary of probability, he yet in daring remains far behind Bergaigne's disciple Regnaud, who has a mystical 'system,' which is, indeed, the outcome of Bergaigne's great work, though it is very improbable that the latter would have looked with favor upon his follower's results. In Le Rig Veda [Paris, 1892] Paul Regnaud, emphasizing again the connection between the liturgy and the hymns, refers every word of the Rig Veda to the sacrifice in its simplest form, the oblation. According to this author the Hindus had forgotten the meaning of their commonest words, or consistently employed them in their hymns in a meaning different to that in ordinary use. The very word for god, deva [deus], no longer means the 'shining one' [the god], but the 'burning oblation'; the common word for mountain, giri also means oblation, and so on. This is Bergaigne's allegorical mysticism run mad.

At such perversion of reasonable criticism is the exegesis of the Veda arrived in one direction. But in another it is gone astray no less, as misdirected by its clever German leader. In three volumes[21] Brunnhofer has endeavored to prove that far from being a Brahmanic product, the Rig Veda is not even the work of Hindus; that it was composed near the Caspian Sea long before the Aryans descended into India. Brunnhofer's books are a mine of ingenious conjectures, as suggestive in detail as on the whole they are unconvincing. His fundamental error is the fancy that names and ideas which might be Iranian or Turanian would prove, if such they really could be shown to be, that the work in which they are contained must be Iranian or Turanian. He relies in great measure on passages that always have been thought to be late, either whole late hymns or tags added to old hymns, and on the most daring changes in the text, changes which he makes in order to prove his hypothesis, although there is no necessity for making them. The truth that underlies Brunnhofer's extravagance is that there are foreign names in the Rig Veda, and this is all that he has proved thus far.

In regard to the relation between the Veda and the Avesta the difference of views is too individual to have formed systems of interpretation on that basis alone. Every competent scholar recognizes a close affinity between the Iranian Yima and the Hindu Yama, between the soma-cult and the haoma-cult, but in how far the thoughts and forms that have clustered about one development are to be compared with those of the other there is no general agreement and there can be none. The usual practice, however, is to call the Iranian Yima, haoma, etc., to one's aid if they subserve one's own view of Yama, soma, and other Hindu parallels, and to discard analogous features as an independent growth if they do not. This procedure is based as well on the conditions of the problem as on the conditions of human judgment, and must not be criticized too severely; for in fact the two religions here and there touch each other so nearly that to deny a relation between them is impossible, while in detail they diverge so widely that it is always questionable whether a coincidence of ritual or belief be accidental or imply historical connection.

It is scarcely advisable in a concise review of several religions to enter upon detailed criticism of the methods of interpretation that affect for the most part only the earliest of them. But on one point, the reciprocal relations between the Vedic and Brahmanic periods, it is necessary to say a few words. Why is it that well-informed Vedic scholars differ so widely in regard to the ritualistic share in the making of the Veda? Because the extremists on either side in formulating the principles of their system forget a fact that probably no one of them if questioned would fail to acknowledge. The Rig Veda is not a homogeneous whole. It is a work which successive generations have produced, and in which are represented different views, of local or sectarian origin; while the hymns from a literary point of view are of varying value. The latter is a fact which has been ignored frequently, but it is more important than any other. For one has almost no criteria, with which to discover whether the hymns precede or follow the ritual, other than the linguistic posteriority of the ritualistic literature, and the knowledge that there were priests with a ritual when some of the hymns were composed. The bare fact that hymns are found rubricated in the later literature is surely no reason for believing that such hymns were made for the ritual. Now while it can be shown that a large number of hymns are formal, conventional, and mechanical in expression, and while it may be argued with plausibility that these were composed to serve the purpose of an established cult, this is very far from being the case with many which, on other grounds, may be supposed to belong severally to the older and later part of the Rig Veda. Yet does the new school, in estimating the hymns, never admit this. The poems always are spoken of as 'sacerdotal', ritualistic, without the slightest attempt to see whether this be true of all or of some alone. We claim that it is not historical, it is not judicious from a literary point of view, to fling indiscriminately together the hymns that are evidently ritualistic and those of other value; for, finally, it is a sober literary judgment that is the court of appeals in regard to whether poetry be poetry or not. Now let one take a hymn containing, to make it an unexceptionable example, nothing very profound or very beautiful. It is this well-known

HYMN TO THE SUN (Rig Veda, I. 50).

Aloft this all-wise[22] shining god His beams of light are bearing now, That every one the sun may see.

Apart, as were they thieves, yon stars, Together with the night[23], withdraw Before the sun, who seeth all.

His beams of light have been beheld Afar, among [all] creatures; rays Splendid as were they [blazing] fires,

Impetuous-swift, beheld of all, Of light the maker, thou, O Sun, Thou all the gleaming [sky] illum'st.

Before the folk of shining gods Thou risest up, and men before, 'Fore all—to be as light beheld;

[To be] thine eye, O pure bright Heaven, Wherewith amid [all] creatures born Thou gazest down on busy [man].

Thou goest across the sky's broad place, Meting with rays, O Sun, the days, And watching generations pass.

The steeds are seven that at thy car Bear up the god whose hair is flame O shining god, O Sun far-seen!

Yoked hath he now his seven fair steeds, The daughters of the sun-god's car, Yoked but by him[24]; with these he comes.

For some thousands of years these verses have been the daily prayer of the Hindu. They have been incorporated into the ritual in this form. They are rubricated, and the nine stanzas form part of a prescribed service. But, surely, it were a literary hysteron-proteron to conclude for this reason that they were made only to fill a part in an established ceremony.

The praise is neither perfunctory nor lacking in a really religious tone. It has a directness and a simplicity, without affectation, which would incline one to believe that it was not made mechanically, but composed with a devotional spirit that gave voice to genuine feeling.

We will now translate another poem (carefully preserving all the tautological phraseology), a hymn

To DAWN (Rig Veda VI. 64).

Aloft the lights of Dawn, for beauty gleaming, Have risen resplendent, like to waves of water; She makes fair paths, (makes) all accessible; And good is she, munificent and kindly.

Thou lovely lookest, through wide spaces shin'st thou, Up fly thy fiery shining beams to heaven; Thy bosom thou reveals't, thyself adorning, Aurora, goddess gleaming bright in greatness.

The ruddy kine (the clouds) resplendent bear her, The blessed One, who far and wide extendeth. As routs his foes a hero armed with arrows, As driver swift, so she compels the darkness.

Thy ways are fair; thy paths, upon the mountains; In calm, self-shining one, thou cross'st the waters. O thou whose paths are wide, to us, thou lofty Daughter of Heaven, bring wealth for our subsistence.

Bring (wealth), thou Dawn, who, with the kine, untroubled Dost bring us good commensurate with pleasure, Daughter of Heaven, who, though thou art a goddess, Didst aye at morning-call come bright and early.

Aloft the birds fly ever from their dwelling, And men, who seek for food, at thy clear dawning. E'en though a mortal stay at home and serve thee, Much joy to him, Dawn, goddess (bright), thou bringest.

The "morning call" might, indeed, suggest the ritual, but it proves only a morning prayer or offering. Is this poem of a "singularly refined character," or "preeminently sacerdotal" in appearance? One other example (in still a different metre) may be examined, to see if it bear on its face evidence of having been made with "reference to ritual application," or of being "liturgical from the very start."

To INDRA (Rig Veda, I.11).

'Tis Indra all (our) songs extol, Him huge as ocean in extent; Of warriors chiefest warrior he, Lord, truest lord for booty's gain.

In friendship, Indra, strong as thine Naught will we fear, O lord of strength; To thee we our laudations sing, The conqueror unconquered.[25]

The gifts of Indra many are, And inexhaustible his help Whene'er to them that praise he gives The gift of booty rich in kine.

A fortress-render, youthful, wise, Immeasurably strong was born Indra, the doer of every deed, The lightning-holder, far renowned.

'Twas thou, Bolt-holder, rent'st the cave Of Val, who held the (heavenly) kine;[26] Thee helped the (shining) gods, when roused (To courage) by the fearless one.[27]

Indra, who lords it by his strength, Our praises now have loud proclaimed; His generous gifts a thousand are, Aye, even more than this are they.

This is poetry. Not great poetry perhaps, but certainly not ground out to order, as some of the hymns appear to have been. Yet, it may be said, why could not a poetic hymn have been written in a ritualistic environment? But it is on the hymns themselves that one is forced to depend for the belief in the existence of ritualism, and we claim that such hymns as these, which we have translated as literally as possible, show rather that they were composed without reference to ritual application. It must not be forgotten that the ritual, as it is known in the Brāhmanas, without the slightest doubt, from the point of view of language, social conditions, and theology, represents an age that is very different to that illustrated by the mass of the hymns. Such hymns, therefore, and only such as can be proved to have a ritualistic setting can be referred to a ritualistic age. There is no convincing reason why one should not take the fully justified view that some of the hymns represent a freer and more natural (less priest-bound) age, as they represent a spirit freer and less mechanical than that of other hymns. As to the question which hymns, early or late, be due to poetic feeling, and which to ritualistic mechanism or servile imitation, this can indeed be decided by a judgment based only on the literary quality, never on the accident of subsequent rubrication.

We hold, therefore, in this regard, that the new school, valuable and suggestive as its work has been, is gone already farther than is judicious. The Rig Veda in part is synchronous with an advanced ritualism, subjected to it, and in some cases derived from it; but in part the hymns are "made for their own sake and not for the sake of any sacrificial performance," as said Muller of the whole; going in this too far, but not into greater error than are gone they that confuse the natural with the artificial, the poetical with the mechanical, gold with dross. It may be true that the books of the Rig Veda are chiefly family-books for the soma-cult, but even were it true it would in no wise impugn the poetic character of some of the hymns contained in these books. The drag-net has scooped up old and new, good and bad, together. The Rig Veda is not of one period or of one sort. It is a 'Collection,' as says its name. It is essentially impossible that any sweeping statement in regard to its character should be true if that character be regarded as uniform. To say that the Rig Veda represents an age of childlike thought, a period before the priestly ritual began its spiritual blight, is incorrect. But no less incorrect is it to assert that the Rig Veda represents a period when hymns are made only for rubrication by priests that sing only for baksheesh. Scholars are too prone to-day to speak of the Rig Veda in the same way as the Greeks spoke of Homer. It is to be hoped that the time may soon come when critics will no longer talk about the Collection as if it were all made in the same circumstances and at the same time; above all is it desirable that the literary quality of the hymns may receive due attention, and that there may be less of those universal asseverations which treat the productions of generations of poets as if they were the work of a single author.

In respect of the method of reading into the Rig Veda what is found in parallel passages in the Atharva Veda and Brāhmanas, a practice much favored by Ludwig and others, the results of its application have been singularly futile in passages of importance. Often a varied reading will make clearer a doubtful verse, but it by no means follows that the better reading is the truer. There always remains the lurking suspicion that the reason the variant is more intelligible is that its inventor did not understand the original. As to real elucidation of other sort by the later texts, in the minutiae of the outer world, in details of priestcraft, one may trust early tradition tentatively, just as one does late commentators, but in respect of ideas tradition is as apt to mislead as to lead well. The cleft between the theology of the Rig Veda and that of the Brāhmanas, even from the point of view of the mass of hymns that comprise the former, is too great to allow us with any content to explain the conceptions of the one by those of the other. A tradition always is useful when nothing else offers itself, but traditional beliefs are so apt to take the color of new eras that they should be employed only in the last emergency, and then with the understanding that they are of very hypothetical value.

In conclusion a practical question remains to be answered. In the few cases where the physical basis of a Rig Vedic deity is matter of doubt, it is advisable to present such a deity in the form in which he stands in the text or to endeavor historically to elucidate the figure by searching for his physical prototype? We have chosen the former alternative, partly because we think the latter method unsuitable to a handbook, since it involves many critical discussions of theories of doubtful value. But this is not the chief reason. Granted that the object of study is simply to know the Rig Veda, rightly to grasp the views held by the poets, and so to place oneself upon their plane of thought, it becomes obvious that the farther the student gets from their point of view the less he understands them. Nay, more, every bit of information, real as well as fancied, which in regard to the poets' own divinities furnishes one with more than the poets themselves knew or imagined, is prejudicial to a true knowledge of Vedic beliefs. Here if anywhere is applicable that test of desirable knowledge formulated as das Erkennen des Erkannten. To set oneself in the mental sphere of the Vedic seers, as far as possible to think their thoughts, to love, fear, and admire with them—this is the necessary beginning of intimacy, which precedes the appreciation that gives understanding.


After the next chapter, which deals with the people and land, we shall begin the examination of Hindu religions with the study of the beliefs and religious notions to be found in the Rig Veda. Next to the Rig Veda in time stands the Atharva Veda, which represents a growing demonology in contrast with soma-worship and theology; sufficiently so at least to deserve a special chapter. These two Vedic Collections naturally form the first period of Hindu religion.

The Vedic period is followed by what is usually termed Brahmanism, the religion that is inculcated in the rituals called Brāhmana and its later development in the Upanishads. These two classes of works, together with the Yajur Veda, will make the next divisions of the whole subject. The formal religion of Brahmanism, as laid down for popular use and instruction in the law-books, is a side of Brahmanic religion that scarcely has been noticed, but it seems to deserve all the space allotted to it in the chapter on 'The Popular Brahmanic Faith.' We shall then review Jainism and Buddhism, the two chief heresies. Brahmanism penetrates the great epic poem which, however, in its present form is sectarian in tendency, and should be separated as a growth of Hinduism from the literature of pure Brahmanism. Nevertheless, so intricate and perplexing would be the task of unraveling the theologic threads that together make the yarn of the epic, and in many cases it would be so doubtful whether any one thread led to Brahmanism or to the wider and more catholic religion called Hinduism, that we should have preferred to give up the latter name altogether, as one that was for the most part idle, and in some degree misleading. Feeling, however, that a mere manual should not take the initiative in coining titles, we have admitted this unsatisfactory word 'Hinduism' as the title of a chapter which undertakes to give a comprehensive view of the religions endorsed by the many-centuried epic, and to explain their mutual relations. As in the case of the 'Popular Faith,' we have had here no models to go upon, and the mass of matter which it was necessary to handle—the great epic is about eight times as long as the Iliad and Odyssey put together—must be our excuse for many imperfections of treatment in this part of the work. The reader will gain at least a view of the religious development as it is exhibited in the literature, and therefore, as, far as possible, in chronological order. The modern sects and the religions of the hill tribes of India form almost a necessary supplement to these nobler religions of the classical literature; the former because they are the logical as well as historical continuation of the great Hindu sectarian schisms, the latter because they give the solution of some problems connected with Civaism, and, on the other hand, offer useful un-Aryan parallels to a few traits which have been preserved in the earliest period of the Aryans.[28]

* * * * *


[Footnote 1: Megasthenes, Fr. XLI, ed. Schwanbeck.]

[Footnote 2: Epic literature springs from lower castes than that of the priest, but it has been worked over by sacerdotal revisers till there is more theology than epic poetry in it.]

[Footnote 3: See Weber, Sanskrit Literature, p. 224; Windisch, Greek Influence on Indian Drama; and Levi, Le theatre indien. The date of the Renaissance is given as "from the first century B.C. to at least the third century A.D." (India, p. 281). Extant Hindu drama dates only from the fifth century A.D. We exclude, of course, from "real literature" all technical hand-books and commentaries.]

[Footnote 4: Jacobi, in Roth's Festgruss, pp. 72, 73 (1893); Whitney, Proceed. A.O.S., 1894, p. lxxii; Perry, Pūshan, in the Drisler Memorial; Weber, Vedische Beitraege.]

[Footnote 5: Westergaard, Ueber Buddha's Todesjahr. The prevalent opinion is that Buddha died in 477 or 480 B.C.]

[Footnote 6: It must not be forgotten in estimating the broad mass of Brāhmanas and Sūtras that each as a school represents almost the whole length of its period, and hence one school alone should measure the time from end to end, which reduces to very moderate dimensions the literature to be accounted for in time.]

[Footnote 7: 'Rig Veda Collection' is the native name for that which in the Occident is called Rig Veda, the latter term embracing, to the Hindu, all the works (Brāhmanas, Sūtras, etc.) that go to explain the 'Collection' (of hymns).]

[Footnote 8: Schroeder, Indiens Literatur und Cultur, p.291, gives: Rig-Veda, 2000-1000 B.C.; older Brāhmanas, 1000-800; later Brāhmanas and Upanishads, 800-600; Sūtras, 600-400 or 300.]

[Footnote 9: Principles of Sociology, I. P.448 (Appleton, 1882).]

[Footnote 10: Ib. p. 398.]

[Footnote 11: Ib. p. 427.]

[Footnote 12: Ib. p. 824.]

[Footnote 13: Ib.]

[Footnote 14: Ib. p. 821.]

[Footnote 15: Compare Muir, Original Sanskrit Texts, V. p. 412 ff., where are given the opinions of Pfleiderer, Pictet, Roth, Scherer, and others.]

[Footnote 16: ZDMG., vi. 77: "Ein alter gemeinsam arischer [indo-iranic], ja vielleicht gemeinsam indo-germanischer oberster Gott, Varuna-Ormuzd-Uranos."]

[Footnote 17: In his Science of Language, Mueller speaks of the early poets who "strove in their childish way to pierce beyond the limits of this finite world." Approvingly cited, SBE. xxxii. p. 243 (1891).]

[Footnote 18: The over view may be seen in Mueller's Lecture on the Vedas (Chips, I. p. 9): "A collection made for its own sake, and not for the sake of any sacrificial performance." For Pischel's view compare Vedische Studien, I. Preface.]

[Footnote 19: Bloomfield, JAOS xv. p. 144.]

[Footnote 20: Compare Barth (Preface): "A literature preeminently sacerdotal.... The poetry ... of a singularly refined character, ... full of ... pretensions to mysticism," etc.]

[Footnote 21: Iran und Turan, 1889; Vom Pontus bis zum Indus, 1890; Vom Aral bis zur Gangā 1892.]

[Footnote 22: Or "all-possessing" [Whitney]. The metre of the translation retains the number of feet in the original. Four [later added] stanzas are here omitted.]

[Footnote 23: So P.W. possibly "by reason of [the sun's] rays"; i.e., the stars fear the sun as thieves fear light. For 'Heaven,' here and below, see the third chapter.]

[Footnote 24: Yoked only by him; literally "self-yoked." Seven is used in the Rig Veda in the general sense of "many," as in Shakespeare's "a vile thief this seven years."]

[Footnote 25: jetāram āparājitam.]

[Footnote 26: The rain, see next note.]

[Footnote 27: After this stanza two interpolated stanzas are here omitted. Grassman and Ludwig give the epithet "fearless" to the gods and to Vala, respectively. But compare I.6.7, where the same word is used of Indra. For the oft-mentioned act of cleaving the cave, where the dragon Val or Vritra (the restrainer or envelopper) had coralled the kine(i.e. without metaphor, for the act of freeing the clouds and letting loose the rain), compare I.32.2, where of Indra it is said: "He slew the snake that lay upon the mountains ... like bellowing kine the waters, swiftly flowing, descended to the sea"; and verse 11: "Watched by the snake the waters stood ... the waters' covered cave he opened wide, what time he Vritra slew."]

[Footnote 28: Aryan, Sanskrit arya, arya, Avestan airya, appears to mean the loyal or the good, and may be the original national designation, just as the Medes were long called [Greek: Arioi]. In late Sanskrit ārya is simply 'noble.' The word survives, perhaps, in [Greek: aristos], and is found in proper names, Persian Ariobarzanes, Teutonic Ariovistus; as well as in the names of people and countries, Vedic Āryas, Īran, Iranian; (doubtful) Airem, Erin, Ireland. Compare Zimmer, BB. iii. p. 137; Kaegi, Der Rig Veda, p. 144 (Arrowsmith's translation, p. 109). In the Rig Veda there is a god Aryaman, 'the true,' who forms with Mitra and Varuna a triad (see below). Windisch questions the propriety of identifying Īran with Erin, and Schrader (p. 584^2) doubts whether the Indo-Europeans as a body ever called themselves Aryans. We employ the latter name because it is short.]

* * * * *



The Aryan Hindus, whose religions we describe in this volume[1], formed one of the Aryan or so-called Indo-European peoples. To the other peoples of this stock, Persians, Armenians, Greeks, Italians, Kelts, Teutons, Slavs, the Hindus were related closely by language, but very remotely from the point of view of their primitive religion. Into India the Aryans brought little that was retained in their religious systems. A few waning gods, the worship of ancestors, and some simple rites are common to them and their western relations; but with the exception of the Iranians (Persians), their religious connection with cis-Indic peoples is of the slightest. With the Iranians, the Hindus (that were to be) appear to have lived longest in common after the other members of the Aryan host were dispersed to west and south[2]. They stand in closer religious touch with these, their nearest neighbors, and in the time of the Rig Veda (the Hindus' earliest literature) there are traces of a connection comparatively recent between the pantheons of the two nations.

According to their own, rather uncertain, testimony, the Aryans of the Rig Veda appear to have consisted of five tribal groups[3]. These groups, janas, Latin gens, are subdivided into vicas, Latin vicus, and these, again, into grāmas. The names, however, are not employed with strictness, and jana, etymologically gens but politically tribus, sometimes is used as a synonym of grāma.[4] Of the ten books of the Rig-Veda seven are ascribed to various priestly families. In the main, these books are rituals of song as inculcated for the same rites by different family priests and their descendants. Besides these there are books which are ascribed to no family, and consist, in part, of more general material. The distinction of priestly family-books was one, possibly, coextensive with political demarcation. Each of the family-books represents a priestly family, but it may represent, also, a political family. In at least one case it represents a political body.[5]

These great political groups, which, perhaps, are represented by family rituals, were essentially alike in language, custom and religion (although minor ritualistic differences probably obtained, as well as tribal preference for particular cults); while in all these respects, as well as in color and other racial peculiarities, the Aryans were distinguished from the dark-skinned aborigines, with whom, until the end of the Rig Vedic period, they were perpetually at war. At the close of this period the immigrant Aryans had reduced to slavery many of their unbelieving and barbarian enemies, and formally incorporated them into the state organization, where, as captives, slaves, or sons of slaves, the latter formed the "fourth caste." But while admitting these slaves into the body politic, the priestly Aryans debarred them from the religious congregation. Between the Aryans themselves there is in this period a loosely defined distinction of classes, but no system of caste is known before the close of the first Vedic Collection. Nevertheless, the emphasis in this statement lies strongly upon system, and it may not be quite idle to say at the outset that the general caste-distinctions not only are as old as the Indo-Iranian unity (among the Persians the same division of priest, warrior and husbandman obtains), but, in all probability, they are much older. For so long as there is a cult, even if it be of spirits and devils, there are priests; and if there are chieftains there is a nobility, such as one finds among the Teutons, nay, even among the American Indians, where also is known the inevitable division into priests, chiefs and commons, sometimes hereditary, sometimes not. There must have been, then, from the beginning of kingship and religious service, a division among the Aryans into royalty, priests, and people, i.e., whoever were not acting as priests or chieftains. When the people becomes agricultural, the difference tends to become permanent, and a caste system begins. Now, the Vedic Aryans appear in history at just the period when they are on the move southwards into India; but they are no irrupting host. The battles led the warriors on, but the folk, as a folk, moved slowly, not all abandoning the country which they had gained, but settling there, and sending onwards only a part of the people. There was no fixed line of demarcation between the classes. The king or another might act as his own priest—yet were there priestly families. The cow-boys might fight—yet were there those of the people that were especially 'kingsmen,' rājanyas, and these were, already, practically a class, if not a caste[6]. These natural and necessary social divisions, which in early times were anything but rigid, soon formed inviolable groups, and then the caste system was complete. In the perfected legal scheme what was usage becomes duty. The warrior may not be a public priest; the priest may not serve as warrior or husbandman. The farmer 'people' were the result of eliminating first the priestly, and then the fighting factors from the whole body politic. But these castes were all Aryans, and as such distinguished most sharply, from a religious point of view, from the "fourth caste"; whereas among themselves they were, in religion, equals. But they were practically divided by interests that strongly affected the development of their original litanies. For both priest and warrior looked down on the 'people,' but priest and warrior feared and respected each other. To these the third estate was necessary as a base of supplies, and together they guarded it from foes divine and mortal. But to each other they were necessary for wealth and glory, respectively. So it was that even in the earliest period the religious litany, to a great extent, is the book of worship of a warrior-class as prepared for it by the priest. Priest and king—these are the main factors in the making of the hymns of the Rig Veda, and the gods lauded are chiefly the gods patronized by these classes. The third estate had its favorite gods, but these were little regarded, and were in a state of decadence. The slaves, too, may have had their own gods, but of these nothing is known, and one can only surmise that here and there in certain traits, which seem to be un-Aryan, may lie an unacknowledged loan from the aborigines.

Between the Rig Veda and the formation or completion of the next Veda, called the Atharvan, the interval appears to have been considerable, and the inherent value of the religion inculcated in the latter can be estimated aright only when this is weighed together with the fact, that, as is learned from the Atharvan's own statements, the Aryans were now advanced further southwards and eastwards, had discovered a new land, made new gods, and were now more permanently established, the last a factor of some moment in the religious development. Indications of the difference in time may be seen in the geographical and physical limitations of the older period as compared with those of the later Atharvan. When first the Aryans are found in India, at the time of the Rig Veda, they are located, for the most part, near the Upper Indus (Sindhu). The Ganges, mentioned but twice, is barely known. On the west the Aryans lingered in East Kabulistan (possibly in Kashmeer in the north); and even Kandahar appears, at least, to be known as Aryan. That is to say, the 'Hindus' were still in Afghanistan, although the greater mass of the people had already crossed the Indus and were progressed some distance to the east of the Punjāb. That the race was still migrating may be seen from the hymns of the Rig Veda itself.[7] Their journey was to the south-east, and both before and after they reached the Indus they left settlements, chiefly about the Indus and in the Punjāb (a post-Vedic group), not in the southern but in the northern part of this district.[8]

The Vedic Aryans of this first period were acquainted with the Indus, Sutlej (Cutudri), Beas (Vipāc, [Greek: Yphtsis]), Ravi (Parushni or Irāvatī); the pair of rivers that unite and flow into the Indus, viz.: Jhelum (Vitastā, Behat), and Chināb (Asikni,[9] Akesines); and knew the remoter Kubhā ([Greek: Kophhen], Kabul) and the northern Suvāstu (Swat); while they appear to have had a legendary remembrance of the Rasā, Avestan Raṅha (Rangha), supposed by some to be identical with the Araxes or Yaxartes, but probably (see below) only a vague 'stream,' the old name travelling with them on their wanderings; for one would err if he regarded similarity or even identity of appellation as a proof of real identity.[10] West of the Indus the Kurum and Gomal appear to be known also. Many rivers are mentioned of which the names are given, but their location is not established. It is from the district west of the Indus that the most famous Sanskrit grammarian comes, and long after the Vedas an Indic people are known in the Kandahar district, while Kashmeer was a late home of culture. The Sarasvati river, the name of which is transferred at least once in historical times, may have been originally one with the Arghandāb (on which is Kandahar), for the Persian name of this river (s becomes h) is Harahvati (Arachotos, Arachosia), and it is possible that it was really this river, and not the Indus which was first lauded as the Sarasvatī. In that case there would be a perfect parallel to what has probably happened in the case of the Rasā, the name—in both cases meaning only 'the stream' (like Rhine, Arno, etc.)—being transferred to a new river. But since the Iranian Harahvati fixes the first river of this name, there is here a stronger proof of Indo-Iranian community than is furnished by other examples.[11]

These facts or suggestive parallels of names are of exceeding importance. They indicate between the Vedic Aryans and the Iranians a connection much closer than usually has been assumed. The bearings of such a connection on the religious ideas of the two peoples are self-evident, and will often have to be touched upon in the course of this history. It is of less importance, from the present point of view, to say how the Aryans entered India, but since this question is also connected with that of the religious environment of the first Hindu poets, it will be well to state that, although, as some scholars maintain, and as we believe, the Hindus may have come with the Iranians through the open pass of Herat (Haraiva, Haroyu), it is possible that they parted from the latter south of the Hindukush[12] (descending through the Kohistan passes from the north), and that the two peoples thence diverged south-east and south-west respectively. Neither assumption would prevent the country lying between the Harahvati and Vitastā[13] from being, for generations, a common camping-ground for both peoples, who were united still, but gradually diverging. This seems, at least, to be the most reasonable explanation of the fact that these two rivers are to each people their farthest known western and eastern limits respectively. With the exception of the vague and uncertain Rasā, the Vedic Hindu's geographical knowledge is limited by Kandahar in the west, as is the Iranian's in the east by the Vitastā.[14] North of the Vitastā Mount Tricota (Trikakud, 'three peaks') is venerated, and this together with a Mount Mūjavat, of which the situation is probably in the north, is the extent of modern knowledge in respect of the natural boundaries of the Vedic people. One hears, to be sure, at a later time, of 'northern Kurus,' whose felicity is proverbial; and it is very tempting to find in this name a connection with the Iranian Kur, but the Kurus, like the Rasā and Sarasvatī, are re-located once (near Delhi), and no similarity of name can assure one of a true connection. If not coincidences, such likenesses are too vague to be valuable historically.[15]

Another much disputed point must be spoken of in connection with this subject. In the Veda and in the Avesta there is mentioned the land of the 'seven rivers.' Now seven rivers are often spoken of in the Rig Veda, but only once does this term mean the country, while in the 'Hymn to the Rivers' no less than twenty-one streams are enumerated (RV. X. 75). In order to make out the 'seven rivers' scholars have made different combinations, that most in favor being Mueller's, the five rivers of the Punjāb together with the Kabul and (Swat or) Sarasvatī. But in point of fact 'seven' quite as often means many, as it does an exact number, and this, the older use, may well be applied here. It is quite impossible to identify the seven, and it is probable that no Vedic poet ever imagined them to be a group of this precise number. It would be far easier to select a group of seven conspicuous rivers, if anywhere, on the west of the Indus. A very natural group from the Iranian side would be the Herīrūd, Hilmund, Arghandāb, Kurum, Kabul, Indus, and Vitastā. Against this, however, can be urged that the term 'seven rivers' may be Bactrian, older than the Vedic period; and that, in particular, the Avesta distinguishes Vaikerta, Urva, and other districts from the 'seven rivers.' It is best to remain uncertain in so doubtful a matter, bearing in mind that even Kurukshetra, the 'holy land,' is said to-day to be watered by 'seven streams,' although some say nine; apropos of which fact Cunningham remarks, giving modern examples, that "the Hindus invariably assign seven branches to all their rivers."[16]

Within the Punjāb, the Vedic Aryans, now at last really 'Hindus,' having extended themselves to the Cutudri (Catadru, Sutlej), a formidable barrier, and eventually having crossed even this, the last tributary's of the Indus, descended to the jumna (Yamunā), over the little stream called 'the Rocky' (Drishadvatī) and the lesser Sarasvatī, southeast from Lahore and near Delhi, in the region Kurukshetra, afterwards famed as the seat of the great epic war, and always regarded as holy in the highest degree.

Not till the time of the Atharva Veda do the Aryans appear as far east as Benares (Vārānasī, on the 'Varanāvatī'), though the Sarayu is mentioned in the Rik. But this scarcely is the tributary of the Ganges, Gogra, for the name seems to refer to a more western stream, since it is associated with the Gomatī (Gomal). One may surmise that in the time of the Rig Veda the Aryans knew only by name the country east of Lucknow. It is in the Punjāb and a little to the west and east of it (how far it is impossible to state with accuracy) where lies the real theatre of activity of the Rig Vedic people.

Some scholars believe that this people had already heard of the two oceans. This point again is doubtful in the extreme. No descriptions imply a knowledge of ocean, and the word for ocean means merely a 'confluence' of waters, or in general a great oceanic body of water like the air. As the Indus is too wide to be seen across, the name may apply in most cases to this river. An allusion to 'eastern and western floods,'[17] which is held by some to be conclusive evidence for a knowledge of the two seas, is taken by others to apply to the air-oceans. The expression may apply simply to rivers, for it is said that the Vipāc and Cutudrī empty into the 'ocean', i.e., the Indus or the Cutudrī's continuation.[18] One late verse alone speaks of the Sarasvatī pouring into the ocean, and this would indicate the Arabian Sea.[19] Whether the Bay of Bengal was known, even by hearsay and in the latest time of this period, remains uncertain. As a body the Aryans of the Rig Veda were certainly not acquainted with either ocean. Some straggling adventurers probably pushed down the Indus, but Zimmer doubtless is correct in asserting that the popular emigration did not extend further south than the junction of the Indus and the Pancanada (the united five rivers).[20] The extreme south-eastern geographical limit of the Rig Vedic people may be reckoned (not, however, in Oldenberg's opinion, with any great certainty) as being in Northern Behār (Māgadha). The great desert, Marusthala, formed an impassable southern obstacle for the first immigrants.[21]

On the other hand, the two oceans are well known to the Atharva Veda, while the geographical (and hence chronological) difference between the Rik and the Atharvan is furthermore illustrated by the following facts: in the Rig Veda wolf and lion are the most formidable beasts; the tiger is unknown and the elephant seldom alluded to; while in the Atharvan the tiger has taken the lion's place and the elephant is a more familiar figure. Now the tiger has his domicile in the swampy land about Benares, to which point is come the Atharvan Aryan, but not the Rig Vedic people. Here too, in the Atharvan, the panther is first mentioned, and for the first time silver and iron are certainly referred to. In the Rig Veda the metals are bronze and gold, silver and iron being unknown.[22] Not less significant are the trees. The ficus religiosa, the tree later called the 'tree of the gods' (deva-sadana, acvattha), under which are fabled to sit the divinities in heaven, is scarcely known in the Rig Veda, but is well known in the Atharvan; while India's grandest tree, the nyagrodha, ficus indica, is known to the Atharvan and Brahmanic period, but is utterly foreign to the Rig Veda. Zimmer deems it no less significant that fishes are spoken of in the Atharvan and are mentioned only once in the Rig Veda, but this may indicate a geographical difference less than one of custom. In only one doubtful passage is the north-east monsoon alluded to. The storm so vividly described in the Rig Veda is the south-west monsoon which is felt in the northern Punjāb. The north-east monsoon is felt to the southeast of the Punjāb, possibly another indication of geographical extension, withal within the limits of the Rig Veda itself.

The seat of culture shifts in the Brahmanic period, which follows that of the Vedic poems, and is found partly in the 'holy land' of the west, and partly in the east (Behār, Tirhut).[23] The literature of this period comes from Aryans that have passed out of the Punjāb. Probably, as we have said, settlements were left all along the line of progress. Even before the wider knowledge of the post-Alexandrine imperial age (at which time there was a north-western military retrogression), and, from the Vedic point of view, as late as the end of the Brahmanic period, in the time of the Upanishads, the northwest seems still to have been familiarly known.[24]

* * * * *


[Footnote 1: We take this opportunity of stating that by the religions of the Aryan Hindus we mean the religions of a people who, undoubtedly, were full-blooded Aryans at first, however much their blood may have been diluted later by un-Aryan admixture. Till the time of Buddhism the religious literature is fairly Aryan. In the period of "Hinduism" neither people nor religion can claim to be quite Aryan.]

[Footnote 2: If, as thinks Schrader, the Aryans' original seat was on the Volga, then one must imagine the Indo-Iranians to have kept together in a south-eastern emigration.]

[Footnote 3: That is to say, frequent reference is made to 'five tribes.' Some scholars deny that the tribes are Aryan alone, and claim that 'five,' like seven, means 'many.']

[Footnote 4: RV. III. 33. 11; 53. 12. Zimmer, Altindisches Leben, p. 160, incorrectly identifies vic with tribus (Leist, Rechtsgeschichte, p. 105).]

[Footnote 5: Vicvāmitra. A few of the hymns are not ascribed to priests at all (some were made by women; some by 'royal-seers,' i.e. kings, or, at least, not priests).]

[Footnote 6: Caste, at first, means 'pure,' and signifies that there is a moral barrier between the caste and outcast. The word now practically means class, even impure class. The native word means 'color,' and the first formal distinction was national, (white) Aryan and 'black-man.' The precedent class-distinctions among the Aryans themselves became fixed in course of time, and the lines between Aryans, in some regards, were drawn almost as sharply as between Aryan and slave.]

[Footnote 7: Compare RV. iii. 33, and in I. 131. 5, the words: 'God Indra, thou didst help thy suppliants; one river after another they gained who pursued glory.']

[Footnote 8: Thomas, Rivers of the Vedas (JRAS. xv. 357 ff.; Zimmer, loc. cit. cap. 1).]

[Footnote 9: Later called the Candrabhāga. For the Jumna and Sarayu see below.]

[Footnote 10: This is the error into which falls Brunnhofer, whose theory that the Vedic Aryans were still settled near the Caspian has been criticised above (p. 15).]

[Footnote 11: Compare Geiger, Ostiranische Cultur, p. 81. See also Muir, OST. ii. p. 355.]

[Footnote 12: Lassen, I. p. 616, decided in favor of the western passes of the Hindukush.]

[Footnote 13: From Kandahar in Afghanistan to a point a little west of Lahore. In the former district, according to the Avesta, the dead are buried (an early Indian custom, not Iranian).]

[Footnote 14: Geiger identifies the Vitaḡuhaiti or Vitanghvati with the Oxus, but this is improbable. It lies in the extreme east and forms the boundary between the true believers and the 'demon-worshippers' (Yasht, 5, 77; Geiger, loc. cit. p. 131, note 5). The Persian name is the same with Vitastā, which is located in the Punjāb.]

[Footnote 15: On the Kurus compare Zimmer (loc. cit.), who thinks Kashmeer is meant, and Geiger, loc. cit. p. 39. Other geographical reminiscences may lie in Vedic and Brahmanic allusions to Bactria, Balkh (AV.); to the Derbiker (around Meru? RV.), and to Manu's mountain, whence he descended after the flood (Naubandhana): Catapatha Brāhmana, I. 8. 1, 6, 'Manu's descent'.]

[Footnote 16: Arch. Survey, xiv. p. 89; Thomas, loc. cit. p. 363.]

[Footnote 17: RV. x. 136. 5.]

[Footnote 18: RV. iii. 33. 2.]

[Footnote 19: RV. vii. 95. 2. Here the Sarasvatī can be only the Indus.]

[Footnote 20: Panca-nada, Punjnud, Persian 'Punjāb,' the five streams, Vitasā, Asiknī, Irāvatī, Vipāc, Cutudrī. The Punjnud point is slowly moving up stream; Vyse, JRAS. x. 323. The Sarayu may be the Herīrūd, Geiger, loc. cit. p. 72.]

[Footnote 21: Muir, OST. ii. 351; Zimmer, loc. cit. p. 51 identifies the Kīkatas of RV. iii. 53. 14 with the inhabitants of Northern Behār. Marusthala is called simply 'the desert.']

[Footnote 22: The earlier ayas, Latin aes, means bronze not iron, as Zimmer has shown, loc. cit. p. 51. Pischel, Vedische Studien, I, shows that elephants are mentioned more often than was supposed (but rarely in family-books).]

[Footnote 23: Weber, Indische Studien, I. p. 228; Oldenberg, Buddha, pp. 399 ff., 410.]

[Footnote 24: Very lately (1893) Franke has sought to show that the Pāli dialect of India is in part referable to the western districts (Kandahar), and has made out an interesting case for his novel theory (ZDMG. xlvii. p. 595).]

* * * * *



The hymns of the Rig Veda may be divided into three classes, those in which are especially lauded the older divinities, those in which appear as most prominent the sacrificial gods, and those in which a long-weakened polytheism is giving place to the light of a clearer pantheism. In each category there are hymns of different age and quality, for neither did the more ancient with the growth of new divinities cease to be revered, nor did pantheism inhibit the formal acknowledgment of the primitive pantheon. The cult once established persisted, and even when, at a later time, all the gods had been reduced to nominal fractions of the All-god, their ritualistic individuality still was preserved. The chief reason for this lies in the nature of these gods and in the attitude of the worshipper. No matter how much the cult of later gods might prevail, the other gods, who represented the daily phenomena of nature, were still visible, awe-inspiring, divine. The firmest pantheist questioned not the advisability of propitiating the sun-god, however much he might regard this god as but a part of one that was greater. Belief in India was never so philosophical that the believer did not dread the lightning, and seek to avert it by praying to the special god that wielded it. But active veneration in later times was extended in fact only to the strong Powers, while the more passive divinities, although they were kept as a matter of form in the ceremonial, yet had in reality only tongue-worshippers.

With some few exceptions, however, it will be found impossible to say whether any one deity belonged to the first pantheon.

The best one can do is to separate the mass of gods from those that become the popular gods, and endeavor to learn what was the character of each, and what were the conceptions of the poets in regard both to his nature, and to his relations with man. A different grouping of the gods (that indicated below) will be followed, therefore, in our exposition.

After what has been said in the introductory chapter concerning the necessity of distinguishing between good and bad poetry, it may be regarded as incumbent upon us to seek to make such a division of the hymns as shall illustrate our words. But we shall not attempt to do this here, because the distinction between late mechanical and poetic hymns is either very evident, and it would be superfluous to burden the pages with the trash contained in the former,[1] or the distinction is one liable to reversion at the hands of those critics whose judgment differs from ours, for there are of course some hymns that to one may seem poetical and to another, artificial. Moreover, we admit that hymns of true feeling may be composed late as well as early, while as to beauty of style the chances are that the best literary production will be found among the latest rather than among the earliest hymns.

It would, indeed, be admissible, if one had any certainty in regard to the age of the different parts of the Rig Veda, simply to divide the hymns into early, middle, and late, as they are sometimes divided in philological works, but here one rests on the weakest of all supports for historical judgment, a linguistic and metrical basis, when one is ignorant alike of what may have been accomplished by imitation, and of the work of those later priests who remade the poems of their ancestors.

Best then, because least hazardous, appears to be the method which we have followed, namely, to take up group by group the most important deities arranged in the order of their relative importance, and by studying each to arrive at a fair understanding of the pantheon as a whole. The Hindus themselves divided their gods into highest, middle, and lowest, or those of the upper sky, the atmosphere, and the earth. This division, from the point of view of one who would enter into the spirit of the seers and at the same time keep in mind the changes to which that spirit gradually was subjected, is an excellent one. For, as will be seen, although the earlier order of regard may have been from below upwards, this order does not apply to the literary monuments. These show on the contrary a worship which steadily tends from above earthwards; and the three periods into which may be divided all Vedic theology are first that of the special worship of sky-gods, when less attention is paid to others; then that of the atmospheric and meteorological divinities; and finally that of terrestrial powers, each later group absorbing, so to speak, the earlier, and therewith preparing the developing Hindu intelligence for the reception of the universal god with whom closes the series.

Other factors than those of an inward development undoubtedly were at work in the formation of this growth. Especially prominent is the amalgamation of the gods of the lower classes with those of the priest-hood. Climatic environment, too, conditioned theological evolution, if not spiritual advance. The cult of the mid-sphere god, Indra, was partly the result of the changing atmospheric surroundings of the Hindus as they advanced into India. The storms and the sun were not those of old. The tempests were more terrific, the display of divine power was more concentrated in the rage of the elements; while appreciation of the goodness of the sun became tinged with apprehension of evil, and he became a deadly power as well as one beneficent. Then the relief of rain after drought gave to Indra the character of a benign god as well as of a fearful one. Nor were lacking in the social condition certain alterations which worked together with climatic changes. The segregated mass of the original people, the braves that hung about the king, a warrior-class rapidly becoming a caste, and politically the most important caste, took the god of thunder and lightning for their god of battle. The fighting race naturally exalted to the highest the fighting god. Then came into prominence the priestly caste, which gradually taught the warrior that mind was stronger than muscle. But this caste was one of thinkers. Their divinity was the product of reflection. Indra remained, but yielded to a higher power, and the god thought out by the priests became God. Yet it must not be supposed that the cogitative energy of the Brahman descended upon the people's gods and suddenly produced a religious revolution. In India no intellectual advance is made suddenly. The older divinities show one by one the transformation that they suffered at the hands of theosophic thinkers. Before the establishment of a general Father-god, and long before that of the pantheistic All-god, the philosophical leaven was actively at work. It will be seen operative at once in the case of the sun-god, and, indeed, there were few of the older divinities that were untouched by it. It worked silently and at first esoterically. One reads of the gods' 'secret names,' of secrets in theology, which 'are not to be revealed,' till at last the disguise is withdrawn, and it is discovered that all the mystery of former generations has been leading up to the declaration now made public: 'all these gods are but names of the One.'


The hymn which was translated in the first chapter gives an epitome of the simpler conceptions voiced in the few whole hymns to the sun. But there is a lower and a higher view of this god. He is the shining god par excellence, the deva, sūrya,[2] the red ball in the sky. But he is also an active force, the power that wakens, rouses, enlivens, and as such it is he that gives all good things to mortals and to gods. As the god that gives life he (with others)[3] is the author of birth, and is prayed to for children. From above he looks down upon earth, and as with his one or many steeds he drives over the firmament he observes all that is passing below. He has these, the physical side and the spiritual side, under two names, the glowing one, Sūrya, and the enlivener, Savitar;[4] but he is also the good god who bestows benefits, and as such he was known, probably locally, by the name of Bhaga. Again, as a herdsman's god, possibly at first also a local deity, he is Pūshan (the meaning is almost the same with that of Savitar). As the 'mighty one' he is Vishnu, who measures heaven in three strides. In general, the conception of the sun as a physical phenomenon will be found voiced chiefly in the family-books: "The sightly form rises on the slope of the sky as the swift-going steed carries him ... seven sister steeds carry him."[5] This is the prevailing utterance. Sometimes the sun is depicted under a medley of metaphors: "A bull, a flood, a red bird, he has entered his father's place; a variegated stone he is set in the midst of the sky; he has advanced and guards the two ends of space."[6] One after the other the god appears to the poets as a bull, a bird,[7] a steed, a stone, a jewel, a flood, a torch-holder,[8] or as a gleaming car set in heaven. Nor is the sun independent. As in the last image of a chariot,[9] so, without symbolism, the poet speaks of the sun as made to rise by Varuna and Mitra: "On their wonted path go Varuna and Mitra when in the sky they cause to rise Surya, whom they made to avert darkness"; where, also, the sun, under another image, is the "support of the sky."[10] Nay, in this simpler view, the sun is no more than the "eye of Mitra Varuna,"[11] a conception formally retained even when the sun in the same breath is spoken of as pursuing Dawn like a lover, and as being the 'soul of the universe' (I. 115. 1-2). In the older passages the later moral element is almost lacking, nor is there maintained the same physical relation between Sun and Dawn. In the earlier hymns the Dawn is the Sun's mother, from whom he proceeds.[12] It is the "Dawns produced the Sun," in still more natural language;[13] whereas, the idea of the lover-Sun following the Dawn scarcely occurs in the family-books.[14] Distinctly late, also, is the identification of the sun with the all-spirit (ātmā, I. 115. 1), and the following prayer: "Remove, O sun, all weakness, illness, and bad dreams." In this hymn, X. 37. 14, Sūrya is the son of the sky, but he is evidently one with Savitar, who in V. 82. 4, removes bad dreams, as in X. 100. 8, he removes sickness. Men are rendered 'sinless' by the sun (IV. 54. 3; X. 37. 9) exactly as they are by the other gods, Indra, Varuna, etc. In a passage that refers to the important triad of sun, wind and fire, X. 158. I ff., the sun is invoked to 'save from the sky,' i.e. from all evils that may come from the upper regions; while in the same book the sun, like Indra, is represented as the slayer of demons (asuras) and dragons; as the slayer, also, of the poet's rivals; as giving long life to the worshipper, and as himself drinking sweet soma. This is one of the poems that seem to be at once late and of a forced and artificial character (X. 170).

Although Sūrya is differentiated explicitly from Savitar (V. 81. 4, "Savitar, thou joyest in Sūa's rays"), yet do many of the hymns make no distinction between them. The Enlivener is naturally extolled in fitting phrase, to tally with his title: "The shining-god, the Enlivener, is ascended to enliven the world"; "He gives protection, wealth and children" (II. 38.1; IV. 53. 6-7). The later hymns seem, as one might expect, to show greater confusion between the attributes of the physical and spiritual sun. But what higher power under either name is ascribed to the sun in the later hymns is not due to a higher or more developed homage of the sun as such. On the contrary, as with many other deities, the more the praise the less the individual worship. It is as something more than the sun that the god later receives more fulsome devotion. And, in fact, paradoxical as it seems, it is a decline in sun-worship proper that is here registered. The altar-fire becomes more important, and is revered in the sun, whose hymns, at most, are few, and in part mechanical.

Bergaigne in his great work, La Religion Vedique, has laid much stress on sexual antithesis as an element in Vedic worship. It seems to us that this has been much exaggerated. The sun is masculine; the dawn, feminine. But there is no indication of a primitive antithesis of male and female in their relations. What occurs appears to be of adventitious character. For though sun and dawn are often connected, the latter is represented first as his mother and afterwards as his 'wife' or mistress. Even in the later hymns, where the marital relation is recognized, it is not insisted upon. But Bergaigne[15] is right in saying that in the Rig Veda the sun does not play the part of an evil power, and it is a good illustration of the difference between Rik and Atharvan, when Ehni cites, to prove that the sun is like death, only passages from the Atharvan and the later Brahmanic literature.[16]

When, later, the Hindus got into a region where the sun was deadly, they said, "Yon burning sun-god is death," but in the Rig Veda' they said, "Yon sun is the source of life,"[17] and no other conception of the sun is to be found in the Rig Veda.

There are about a dozen hymns to Sūrya, and as many to Savitar, in the Rig Veda.[18] It is noteworthy that in the family-books the hymns to Savitar largely prevail, while those to Sūrya are chiefly late in position or content. Thus, in the family-books, where are found eight or nine of the dozen hymns to Savitar, there are to Sūrya but three or four, and of these the first is really to Savitar and the Acvins; the second is an imitation of the first; the third appears to be late; and the fourth is a fragment of somewhat doubtful antiquity. The first runs as follows: "The altar-fire has seen well-pleased the dawns' beginning and the offering to the gleaming ones; come, O ye horsemen (Acvins), to the house of the pious man; the sun (Sūrya), the shining-god, rises with light. The shining-god Savitar has elevated his beams, swinging his banner like a good (hero) raiding for cattle. According to rule go Varuna and Mitra when they make rise in the sky the sun (Sūrya) whom they have created to dissipate darkness, being (gods) sure of their habitation and unswerving in intent. Seven yellow swift-steeds bear this Sūrya, the seer of all that moves. Thou comest with swiftest steeds unspinning the web, separating, O shining-god, the black robe. The rays of Sūrya swinging (his banner) have laid darkness like a skin in the waters. Unconnected, unsupported, downward extending, why does not this (god) fall down? With what nature goes he, who knows (literally, 'who has seen')? As a support he touches and guards the vault of the sky" (IV. 13).

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15     Next Part
Home - Random Browse