The triangular sub-continent of India is cut off from the rest of Asia by the vast barriers of the Himalayas, the Hindu Kush, the Suleiman mountains, and the Indian Ocean. Its population comprises about two hundred and ninety-five millions, and is of greatest density on the fertile northern plain, which is watered by three river systems, the Indus and its tributaries on the west, and the Ganges and Brahmaputra with their tributaries which pour into the Bay of Bengal. South of the Vindhya mountain ranges is the plateau of the Deccan. The climate varies from temperate on the Himalayan slopes to tropical in southern India, and over the entire country there are two pronounced annual seasons, the dry and the rainy.
Our interest abides in this volume chiefly with the northern plain and the people who are familiar in varying degrees with the sacred and heroic literature passed under review; that is, with the scenes of the early Indian civilization known as Aryan and those numerous inheritors of Aryan traditions, the Hindus, who exceed two hundred and seven millions of the population of India. Modern Hinduism embraces a number of cults which are connected with the early religious doctrines of the Aryanized or Brahmanized India of the past; it recognizes, among other things, the ancient caste system which includes distinct racial types varying from what is known as the
Aryan to the pre-Dravidian stocks. Other religious organizations may be referred to in passing. Buddhists are chiefly confined to Burma, Sikhs number two millions, the Mohammedans nearly sixty-three millions, while the Parsecs number roughly ninety-five thousand; less than three million natives and half-castes are Christians.
Like Egypt, India is a land of ancient memories, but its history, or rather pre-history, does not begin until about a thousand years after the erection was completed of the great pyramids at Gizeh. Between 2000 B.C. and 1200 B.C. tribes of pastoral and patriarchal peoples of Aryan speech were pouring over the north-western frontier and settling in the Punjab. There are no written or inscribed records, or even native traditions, of this historic migration, but we are able to follow vaguely, from the references found in religious compositions, the gradual conquest of northern India, which covered a period of several centuries. To what extent this invasion was racial, rather than cultural, it is extremely difficult to discover. But no doubt can be entertained regarding the influence exercised by the ancient military aristocracy and their religious teachers. Certain of the Aryan gods still receive recognition in India after a lapse of over three thousand years. This fact makes Indian mythology of special interest to the ever-increasing number of students of comparative religion.
Indian mythology also possesses particular attractions for us on account of its intimate association with what is known as the "Aryan problem". Scholars of a past generation held pronounced views on Aryan matters, and produced a considerable literature of highly controversial character. In fact, theories regarding the Aryan languages and the Aryan "race" are as varied as they are numerous; the wordy warfare which occupied the greater
and not infrequently with much brilliance; occasionally, however, it was not awanting in the undesirable elements of personal feeling and national antipathy. But, happily, we appear to have reached a time when this fascinating and important problem can be considered dispassionately in the proper scientific spirit, and without experiencing that unnecessary dread of having to abandon decided opinions which may have been formed when the accumulated data had less variety and bulk than that which is now available. This change has been brought about by the extended study of comparative religion and the wonderful and engaging results which have attended modern-day methods of ethnic and archaeological research.
The Aryan controversy had its origin at the close of the eighteenth century, when that distinguished Oriental scholar Sir William Jones, who acted for a period as a judge of the Supreme Court in Bengal, drew attention to the remarkable resemblances between the Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, German, and Celtic languages. In 1808, Schlegel published his Language and Wisdom of the Hindus, and urged the theory that India was the home of an ancestral race and a group of languages that were progenitors of various European ones. Other scholars subsequently favoured Zend, the language of Persia, and transferred the "racial beehive" to that country; rival claims were afterwards set up for Asia Minor and the Iranian plateau.
The science of Comparative Philology was a direct product of these early controversies; it was established in the "thirties" when Bopp published his Comparative Grammar in which a new term, having a racial significance, was invented: he grouped all European languages, except Basque, Magyar, Turkish, and Finnish, as "Indo-Germanic". After the study of Sanskrit literature revealed, however,
that the Aryans occupied but a small part of India when their sacred hymns, the Vedas, were composed, the cradle of the Aryan race was shifted to some uncertain area beyond the Himalayan mountains.
Max Müller, the distinguished Sanskrit authority, who in the words of an Indian scholar "devoted his life-time to the elucidation of the learning, literature, and religion of ancient India", 1 abandoned Bopp's patriotic term "Indo-Germanic" and adopted Aryan, which he founded on the Sanskrit racial designation "Arya". At first he accepted the theory of an Aryan race and especially of an Aryan civilization which originated on the Central Asian plateau, but, as will be seen, he subsequently modified his views in this regard.
A new theory regarding the Aryans, who are now more commonly referred to as Indo-Europeans, was strongly advocated in 1851 and later by Dr. Robert Gordon Latham, who devoted many years to the study of ethnology and philology. He argued that as the major part of the peoples speaking Indo-European tongues was found in Europe, the cradle of the race might, after all, be transferred westward. This theory was supported by the fact (among others) that the Lithuanian language was no less archaic than Sanskrit.
The European hypothesis found in time many able supporters, and the advocates of rival Teutonic and Celtic claims waxed eloquent and heated over the exact location of the Aryan homeland. An industrious search was mean-while conducted for words common to all Aryan languages which described the natural features of the racial "cradle". This work of reconstruction was certainly not lacking in picturesque results, for attractive visions were presented of Aryan Arcadias in which the simple and contemplative
ancestors of many bitter controversialists dwelt together in exemplary unity and peace. The question of location might remain unsettled, but it was generally agreed that the ancient people were surrounded by cows, sheep, and goats; sometimes they rode their horses or yoked them in rough rumbling carts, and sometimes they ate them. No asses were admitted to the fold because of their decided partiality for Central Asian plains, which seemed quite reasonable. Trouble was occasionally caused by wolves and bears, or, mayhap, a stray lion, but these and other worries associated with the simple life might be compensated for by the fact that the primitive people, as one writer 1 put it, "understood the art of drinking". Mead, brewed from honey, was found to be "dear to the hearts of the ancient Aryans"; had the Brahman ever forgotten his "madhu", the Welsh-man his "medhu", or the Lithuanian his "medus"? Problems arose regarding the ancients' knowledge of trees: it was found that "bhaga" was applied indifferently by the family groups to the beech and the oak, and more than one ingenious explanation was suggested to account for this apparent discrepancy. Then, suddenly, Professor Max Müller swept into the background the rival Aryan homeland pictures, pointing out the while that it is "almost impossible to discover any animal or any plant that is peculiar to the north of Europe and is not found sporadically in Asia also". Destructive criticism proceeded apace, until now nothing has been left to us of the ancestral Arcadia but "air, water, heat and cold". In his review of the widely accepted philological "evidence" regarding the Aryan homeland, Max Müller declared it to be so pliant that it was possible "to make out a more or less plausible case for any part of the world". The advanced group of philologists held, indeed, that no racial
centre could be located. Ultimately "Delbrück went so far," says Professor Ripley, "as to deny that any single parent language ever existed in fact". 1
Meanwhile ethnologists and archæologists were engaged accumulating important data. It was found that Europe had been invaded at the close of the Stone Age by a broad-headed (brachycephalic) people, who brought no culture and even retarded the growth of civilization in their areas of settlement. A new problem was thus presented: were the Aryans a brachycephalic (broad-headed) or a dolichocephalic (long-headed) people? Its solution was rendered all the more difficult when it was found that living representatives of both racial types were peoples of Aryan speech. The idea that skull shapes, which are associated with other distinct physical characteristics, were due to habits of life and the quality of food which had to be masticated, was in time advanced to discredit new methods of ethnic research, but it has since been thoroughly disproved. In many ancient graves are found skulls which do not differ from those of modern men and women, living under different conditions and eating different food.
Patriotic controversialists were not awanting again in dealing with the problem of varying skull shapes. French scientists, for instance, have identified the "broad heads", now generally known as the Alpine race, with the ubiquitous Celts, but as present-day Hindus are mainly "long heads", the Aryan racial connection here suggested remains obscure. A clue to the mystery was sought for in Asia Minor, but no satisfactory result could be obtained there to support philological theories, because the Armenians, who are "broad heads", and their enemies and neighbours the Kurds, who are "long heads", are
both peoples of Aryan speech. A scornful scientist has dismissed as a "prehistoric romance", the theory that the fair Scandinavian "long heads" are identical with the brunet "long heads" of India. Both the Celtic (Alpine) and Indo-Germanic racial theories are as inconclusive as they are diametrically in opposition.
The science of philology, which, at its inception, "dazzled and silenced all", has been proved to be no safe guide in racial matters. We must avoid, as Professor Ripley says, "the error of confusing community of language with identity of race. Nationality may often follow linguistic boundaries, but race bears no necessary relation whatever to them." 1
By way of illustration, it may be pointed out in this connection that English is spoken at the present day by, among others, the Hong Kong Chinamen, the American Red Indians and negroes, by the natives of Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, and the Scottish Highlands, besides the descendants of the ancient Britons, the Jutes, the Angles, the Saxons, the Norsemen, the Danes, and the Normans in England, but all these peoples cannot be classified in the racial sense simply as Englishmen. Similarly, the varied types of humanity who are Aryan in speech cannot all be regarded as representatives of the "Aryan race", that is, if we accept the theory of an "Aryan race", which Virchow, by the way, has characterized as "a pure fiction".
Max Müller, in his closing years, faced this aspect of the problem frankly and courageously. "Aryas", he wrote, "are those who speak Aryan languages, whatever their colour, whatever their blood. In calling them Aryas we predicate nothing of them except that the grammar of their language is Aryan. . . . I have declared again
and again that if I say Aryas, I mean neither blood, nor bones, nor hair, nor skull; I mean simply those who speak an Aryan language. The same applies to Hindus, Greeks, Romans, Germans, Celts, and Slays. When I speak of these I commit myself to no anatomical characteristics. The blue-eyed and fair-haired Scandinavians may have been conquerors or conquered, they may have adopted the language of their darker lords or their subjects, or vice versa. I assert nothing beyond their language when I call them Hindus, Greeks, Romans, Germans, Celts, and Slays, and in that sense, and in that sense only, do I say that even the blackest Hindus represent an earlier stage of Aryan speech and thought than the fairest Scandinavians. . . . To me an ethnologist who speaks of an Aryan race, Aryan blood, Aryan eyes and hair, is as great a sinner as a linguist who speaks of a dolichocephalic dictionary or a brachycephalic grammar." 1
Aryan, however, has been found to be a convenient term, and even ethnologists do not scorn its use, although it has been applied "in a confusing variety of signification by different philologists". One application of it is to the language group comprising Sanskrit, Persian, Afghan, &c. Some still prefer it to "Indo-European", which has found rivals in "Afro-European", among those who connect the Aryan languages with North Africa, and "Afro-Eurasian", which may be regarded as universal in its racial application, especially if we accept Darwin's theory that the Garden of Eden was located somewhere in Africa. 2 We may think of the Aryans as we do of the British when that term is used to include the peoples embraced by the British Empire.
In India the Aryans were from late Vedic times divided into four castes--Brahmans (priests), Kshatriyas (kings and warriors), Vaisyas (traders, &c.), and Sudras (aborigines).
Caste (Varna) signifies "colour", but it is not certain whether the reference is to be given a physical or mythological application. The first three castes were Aryans, the fairest people; the fourth caste, that comprising the dark-skinned aborigines, was non-Aryan. "Arya", however, was not always used in the sense that we have been accustomed to apply "Aryo-Indian". In one of the sacred books of the ancient people it is stated: "The colour of the Brahmans was white; that of the Kshatriyas red; that of the Vaisyas yellow; and that of the Sudras black". 1 This colour reference connects "caste" with the doctrine of yugas, or ages of the universe (Chapter VI).
Risley, dealing with "the leading castes and tribes in Northern India, from the Bay of Bengal to the frontiers of Afghanistan", concludes from the data obtained from census returns, that we are able "to distinguish two extreme types of feature and physique, which may be provisionally described as Aryan and Dravidian. A third type, which in some respects may be looked upon as intermediate between these two, while in other, and perhaps the most important, points it can hardly be deemed Indian at all, is found along the northern and eastern borders of Bengal. The most prominent characters are a relatively short (brachycephalic) head, a broad face, a short, wide nose, very low in the bridge, and in extreme cases almost bridgeless; high and projecting cheekbones and eyelids, peculiarly formed so as to give the impression that the eyes are obliquely set in the head. . . .
[paragraph continues] This type . . . may be conveniently described as Mongoloid. . . ." 1
According to Risley, the Aryan type is dolichocephalic (long-headed), "with straight, finely-cut (lepto-rhine) nose, a long, symmetrical narrow face, a well-developed forehead, regular features, and a high facial angle". The stature is "fairly high", and the body is "well proportioned, and slender rather than massive". The complexion is "a very light transparent brown--'wheat coloured' is the common vernacular description--noticeably fairer than the mass of the population".
The Dravidian head, the same authority states, "usually inclines to be dolichocephalic", but "all other characters present a marked contrast to the Aryan. The nose is thick and broad, and the formula expressing its proportionate dimensions is higher than in any known race, except the Negro. The facial angle is comparatively low; the lips are thick; the face wide and fleshy; the features coarse and irregular." The stature is lower than that of the Aryan type: "the figure is squat and the limbs sturdy. The colour of the skin varies from very dark brown to a shade closely approaching black. . . . Between these extreme types", adds Risley, "we find a large number of intermediate groups." 2
Of late years ethnologists have inclined to regard the lower types represented by hill and jungle tribes, the Veddas of Ceylon, &c., as pre-Dravidians. The brunet and long-headed Dravidians may have entered India long before the Aryans: they resemble closely the Brahui of Baluchistan and the Man-tse of China.
India is thus mainly long-headed (dolichocephalic). We have already seen, however, that in northern and eastern Bengal there are traces of an infusion of Mongolian
[paragraph continues] "broad heads"; another brachycephalic element is pronounced in western India, but it is not Mongolian; possibly we have here evidences of a settlement of Alpine stock. According to Risley, these western broad heads are the descendants of invading Scythians, 1 but this theory is not generally accepted.
The Eur-Asian Alpine race of broad heads are a mountain people distributed from Hindu Kush westward to Brittany. On the land bridge of Asia Minor they are represented by the Armenians. Their eastern prehistoric migrations is by some ethnologists believed to be marked by the Ainus of Japan. They are mostly a grey-eyed folk, with dark hair and abundant moustache and beard, as contrasted with the Mongols, whose facial hair is scanty. There are short and long varieties of Alpine stock, and its representatives are usually sturdy and muscular. In Europe these broad-headed invaders overlaid a long-headed brunet population, as the early graves show, but in the process of time the broad heads have again retreated mainly to their immemorial upland habitat. At the present day the Alpine race separates the long-headed fair northern race from what is known as the long-headed dark Mediterranean race of the south.
A slighter and long-headed brunet type is found south of Hindu Kush. Ripley has condensed a mass of evidence to show that it is akin to the Mediterranean race. 2 He refers to it as the "eastern branch", which includes Afghans and Hindus. "We are all familiar with the type," he says, "especially as it is emphasized by inbreeding and selection among the Brahmans. . . . There can be no doubt of their (the Eastern Mediterraneans) racial affinities with our Berbers, Greeks, Italians, and
Spaniards. They are all members of the same race, at once the widest in its geographical extension, the most populous and the most primitive of our three European types." 1
Professor Elliot Smith supports Professor Ripley in this connection, and includes the Arabs with the southern Persians in the same group, but finding the terms "Hamitic" and "Mediterranean" insufficient, prefers to call this widespread family the "Brown race", to distinguish its representatives from the fair Northerners, the "yellow" Mongolians, and the "black" negroes.
North of the Alpine racial area are found the nomadic Mongolians, who are also "broad heads", but with distinguishing facial characteristics which vary in localities. As we have seen, the Mongoloid features are traceable in India. Many settlers have migrated from Tibet, but among the high-caste Indians the Mongoloid eyes and high cheek bones occur in families, suggesting early crossment.
Another distinctive race has yet to be accounted for--the tall, fair, blue-eyed, long-headed Northerners, represented by the Scandinavians of the present day. Sergi and other ethnologists have classed this type as a variety of the Mediterranean race, which had its area of localization on the edge of the snow belt on lofty plateaus and in proximity to the Arctic circle. The theory that the distinctive blondness and great stature of the Northerners were acquired in isolation and perpetuated by artificial selection is, however, more suggestive than conclusive, unless we accept the theory that acquired characteristics can be inherited. How dark eyes became grey or blue, and dark hair red or sandy, is a problem yet to be solved.
The ancestors of this fair race are believed to have
been originally distributed along the northern Eur-Asian plateaus; Keane's blonde long-headed Chudes 1 and the Wu-suns in Chinese Turkestan are classed as varieties of the ancient Northern stock. An interesting problem is presented in this connection by the fair types among the ancient Egyptians, the modern-day Berbers, and the blondes of the Atlas mountains in Morocco. Sergi is inclined to place the "cradle" of the Northerners on the edge of the Sahara.
The broad-headed Turki and Ugrians are usually referred to as a blend of the Alpine stock and the proto-Northerners, with, in places, Mongolian admixture.
As most of the early peoples were nomadic, or periodically nomadic, there must have been in localities a good deal of interracial and intertribal fusion, with the result that intermediate varieties were produced. It follows that the intellectual life of the mingling peoples would be strongly influenced by admixture as well as by contact with great civilizations.
It now remains for us to deal with the Aryan problem in India. Dr. Haddon considers that the invading Aryans were "perhaps associated with Turki tribes" when they settled in the Punjab. 2 Prior to this racial movement, the Kassites, whose origin is obscure, assisted by bands of Aryans, overthrew the Hammurabi dynasty in Babylon and established the Kassite dynasty between 2000 B.C. and 1700 B.C. At this period the domesticated horse was introduced, and its Babylonian name, "the ass of the East", is an indication whence it came. Another Aryan invasion farther west is marked by the establishment of the Mitanni kingdom between the area controlled by the Assyrians and the Hittites. Its kings had names
which are clearly Aryan. These included Saushatar, Artatatama, Sutarna, and Tushratta. The latter was the correspondent in the Tel-el-Amarna letters of his kinsmen the Egyptian Pharaohs, Amenhotep the Magnificent, and the famous Akhenaton. The two royal houses had intermarried after the wars of Thothmes III. It is impossible to fix the date of the rise of the Mitanni power, which held sway for a period over Assyria, but we know that it existed in 1500 B.C. The horse was introduced into Egypt before 1580 B.C.
It is generally believed that the Aryans were the tamers of the horse which revolutionized warfare in ancient days, and caused great empires to be overthrown and new empires to be formed. When the Aryans entered India they had chariots and swift steeds.
There is no general agreement as to the date of settlement in the Punjab. Some authorities favour 2000 B.C., others 1700 B.C.; Professor Macdonell still adheres to 1200 B.C. 1 It is possible that the infusion was at first a gradual one, and that it was propelled by successive folk-waves. The period from the earliest migrations until about 800 or 700 B.C. is usually referred to as the Vedic Age, during which the Vedas, or more particularly the invocatory hymns to the deities, were composed and compiled. At the close of this Age the area of Aryan control had extended eastward as far as the upper reaches of the Jumna and Ganges rivers. A number of tribal states or communities are referred to in the hymns.
It is of importance to note that the social and religious organization of the Vedic Aryans was based upon the principle of "father right", as contrasted with the principle of "mother right", recognized by representative communities of the Brown race.
Like the Alpine and Mongoloid peoples, the Vedic Aryans were a patriarchal people, mainly pastoral but with some knowledge of agriculture. They worshipped gods chiefly: their goddesses were vague and shadowy: their earth goddess Prithivi was not a Great Mother in the Egyptian and early European sense; her husband was the sky-god Dyaus.
In Egypt the sky was symbolized as the goddess Nut, and the earth as the god Seb, but the Libyans had an earth-goddess Neith. The "Queen of Heaven" was a Babylonian and Assyrian deity. If the Brown race predominated in the Aryan blend during the Vedic Age, we should have found the Great Mother more in prominence.
The principal Aryan deities were Indra, god of thunder, and Agni, god of fire, to whom the greater number of hymns were addressed. From the earliest times, however, Aryan religion was of complex character. We can trace at least two sources of cultural influence from the earlier Iranian period. 1 The hymns bear evidence of the declining splendour of the sublime deities Varuna and Mitra (Mithra). It is possible that the conflicts to which references are made in some of the hymns were not unconnected with racial or tribal religious rivalries.
Indra, as we show (Chapter I), bears resemblances to other "hammer gods". He is the Indian Thor, the angry giant-killer, the god of war and conquests. That his name even did not originate in India is made evident by an inscription at Boghaz Koi, in Asia Minor, referring to a peace treaty between the kings of the Hittites and Mitanni. Professor Hugo Winckler has deciphered from this important survival of antiquity "In-da-ra" as a Mitanni
deity who was associated with Varuna, Mitra, and Nasatya.
No evidence has yet been forthcoming to indicate any connection between the Aryans in Mitanni and the early settlers in India. It would appear, however, that the two migrations represented by the widely separated areas of Aryan control, radiated from a centre where the gods Indra, Varuna, and Mitra were grouped in the official religion. The folk-wave which pressed towards the Punjab gave recognition to Agni, possibly as a result of contact, or, more probably, fusion with a tribe of specialized fire-worshippers.
If we separate the Indra from the Agni, cremating worshippers, it will be of interest to follow the ethnic clue which is thus suggested. Modern-day Hindus burn their dead in accordance with the religious practice of the Agni worshippers in the Vedic Age. It is doubtful, however, if all the Aryan invaders practised cremation. There are references to burial in the "house of clay", and Yama, god of the dead, was adored as the first man who explored the path to the "Land of the Pitris" (Fathers) which lay across the mountains. Professor Oldenberg considers that these burials referred to the disposal of the bones and ashes of the dead.
Professor Macdonell and Dr. Keith, however, do not share Professor Oldenberg's view in this connection. 1 They hold that the epithet Agni-dagdhah, "burnt with fire", "applies to the dead who were burned on the funeral pyre"; the other custom being burial--An-agni-dagdhah, "not burnt with fire". They also refer to Paroptah, "casting out", and Uddhitah, "Exposure of the dead", which are expressions of doubtful meaning
[paragraph continues] These authorities add: "Burial was clearly not rare in the Rigvedic period: a whole hymn (x, 18) describes the ritual attending it. The dead man was buried apparently in full attire, with his bow in his hand, and probably at one time his wife was immolated to accompany him. . . . But in the Vedic period both customs appear in a modified form: the son takes the bow from the hand of the dead man, and the widow is led away from her dead husband by his brother or nearest kinsman. A stone is set up between the dead and the living to separate them."
The Persian fire-worshippers, on the other hand, did not cremate their dead, but exposed them on "towers of silence" to be devoured by vultures, like their modern-day representatives the Parsees, who migrated into India after displacement by the Mohammedans. In Persia the sacred fire was called Atar, 1 and was identified with the supreme deity Ahura-Mazda (Ormuzd).
Agni of the Vedic Age is the messenger between gods and men; he conducts the deities to the sacrifice and the souls of the cremated dead to Paradise; he is also the twin brother of Indra.
Now, it is of interest to note, in considering the racial significance of burial rites, that cremation was not practised by the western representatives of the Brown race. In pre-Dynastic Egypt the dead were interred as in Babylon, 2 with food vessels, &c. Neolithic man in Europe also favoured crouched burials, and this practice obtained all through the Bronze Age.
The Buriats, who are Mongols dwelling in the vicinity of Lake Baikal, still perpetuate ancient customs, which
resemble those of the Vedic Aryans, for they not only practise cremation but also sacrifice the horse (see Chap. V). In his important study of this remarkable people, Mr. Curtin says: 1 "The Buriats usually burn their dead; occasionally, however, there is what is called a 'Russian burial', that is, the body is placed in a coffin and the coffin is put in the ground. But generally if a man dies in the Autumn or the Winter his body is placed on a sled and drawn by the horse which he valued most to some secluded place in the forest. There a sort of house is built of fallen trees and boughs, the body is placed inside the house, and the building is then surrounded with two or three walls of logs so that no wolf or other animal can get into it." The horse is afterwards slain. "If other persons die during the winter their bodies are carried to the same house. In this lonely silent place in the forest they rest through the days and nights until the first cuckoo calls, about the ninth of May. Then relatives and friends assemble, and without opening the house burn it to the ground. Persons who die afterwards and during the Summer months are carried to the forest, placed on a funeral pile, and burned immediately. The horse is killed just as in the first instance."
When the dead are buried without being burned, the corpse is either carried on a wagon, or it is placed upright in front of a living man on horseback so as to ride to its last resting place. The saddle is broken up and laid at the bottom of the grave, while the body is turned to face the south-east. In this case they also sacrifice the horse which is believed to have "gone to his master, ready for use
Cremation spread throughout Europe, as we have said,
in the Bronze Age. It was not practised by the early folk-waves of the Alpine race which, according to Mosso, 1 began to arrive after copper came into use. The two European Bronze Age burial customs, associated with urns of the "food vessel" and "drinking cup" types, have no connection with the practice of burning the dead. The Archæological Ages have not necessarily an ethnic significance. Ripley is of opinion, however, that the practice of cremation indicates a definite racial infusion, but unfortunately it has destroyed the very evidence, of which we are most in need, to solve the problem. It is impossible to say whether the cremated dead were "broad heads" or "long heads".
"Dr. Sophus Müller of Copenhagen is of opinion that cremation was not practised long before the year 1000 B.C. though it appeared earlier in the south of Europe than in the north. On both points Professor Ridgeway of Cambridge agrees with him." 2
The migration of the cremating people through Europe was westward and southward and northward; they even swept through the British Isles as far north as Orkney. They are usually referred to by archæologists as "Aryans"; some identify them with the mysterious Celts, whom the French, however, prefer to associate, as we have said, with the Alpine "broad heads" especially as this type bulks among the Bretons and the hillmen of France. We must be careful, however, to distinguish between the Aryans and Celts of the philologists and archæologists.
It may be that these invaders were not a race in the proper sense, but a military confederacy which maintained a religious organization formulated in some unknown area where they existed for a time as a nation. The Normans
who invaded these islands were Scandinavians 1; they settled in France, intermarried with the French, and found allies among the Breton chiefs. It is possible that the cremating people similarly formed military aristocracies when they settled in Hindustan, Mitanni, and in certain other European areas. "Nothing is commoner in the history of migratory peoples," says Professor Myres, 2" than to find a very small leaven of energetic intruders ruling and organizing large native populations, without either learning their subjects' language or imposing their own till considerably later, if at all." The archæological evidence in this connection is of particular value. At a famous site near Salzburg, in upper Austria, over a thousand Bronze Age graves were discovered, just over half of which contained unburnt burials. Both methods of interment were contemporary in this district, "but it was noticed that the cremated burials were those of the wealthier class, or of the dominant race." 3 We find also that at Hallstatt "the bodies of the wealthier class were reduced to ashes". 4 In some districts the older people may have maintained their supremacy. At Watsch and St. Margaret in Carniola "a similar blending of the two rites was observed . . . the unburnt burials being the richer and more numerous". 5 The descent of the Achaens into Greece occurred at a date earlier than the rise of the great Hallstatt civilization. According to Homeric evidence they burned their dead; "though the body of Patroklos was cremated," however, "the lords of Mycenae were interred unburnt in richly furnished graves". 6 In Britain the cremating people mingled with their predecessors perhaps more intimately
Click to enlarge
THE CREMATION GHAT, BENARES
than in other areas where there were large states to conquer. A characteristic find on Acklam Wold, Yorkshire, may be referred to. In this grave "a pile of burnt bones was in close contact with the legs of a skeleton buried in the usual contracted position, and they seemed to have been deposited while yet hot, for the knees of the skeleton were completely charred. It has been suggested in cases like this, or where an unburnt body is surrounded by a ring of urn burials, the entire skeleton may be those of chiefs or heads of families, and the burnt bones those of slaves, or even wives, sacrificed at the funeral. The practice of suttee (sati) in Europe rests indeed on the authority of Julius Cæsar, who represents such religious suicides as having, at no remote period from his own, formed a part of the funeral rites of the Gaulish chiefs; and also states that the relatives of a deceased chieftain accused his wives of being accessory to his death, and often tortured them to death on that account." 1 If this is the explanation, the cremating invaders constituted the lower classes in Gaul and Britain, which is doubtful. The practice of burning erring wives, however, apparently prevailed among the Mediterranean peoples. In an Egyptian folk-tale a Pharaoh ordered a faithless wife of a scribe to be burned at the stake. 2 One of the Ossianic folk tales of Scotland relates that Grainne, wife of Finn-mac-Coul, who eloped with Diarmid, was similarly dealt with. 3 The bulk of the archæological evidence seems to point to the invaders, who are usually referred to as "Aryans" having introduced the cremation ceremony into Europe. Whence came they? The problem is greatly complicated by the evidence from Palestine, where cremation was practised by the hewers of the great artificial caves which were constructed about
[paragraph continues] 3000 B.C. 1 As cremation did not begin in Crete, however, until the end of period referred to as "Late Minoan Third" (1450-1200 B.C.) 2 it may be that the Palestinian burials are much later than the construction of the caves.
It seems reasonable to suppose that the cremation rite originated among a nomadic people. The spirits of the dead were got rid of by burning the body: they departed, like the spirit of Patroklos, after they had received their "meed of fire". Burial sites were previously regarded as sacred because they were haunted by the spirits of ancestors (the Indian Pitris = "fathers"). A people who burned their dead, and were therefore not bound by attachment to a tribal holy place haunted by spirits, were certainly free to wander. The spirits were transferred by fire to an organized Hades, which appears to have been conceived of by a people who had already attained to a certain social organization and were therefore capable of governing the communities which they subdued. When they mingled with peoples practising other rites and professing different religious beliefs, however, the process of racial fusion must have been accompanied by a fusion of beliefs. Ultimately the burial customs of the subject race might prevail. At any rate, this appears to have been the case in Britain, where, prior to the Roman Age, the early people achieved apparently an intellectual conquest of their conquerors; the practice of the cremation rite entirely vanished.
We have gone far afield to find a clue to assist towards the solution of the Aryan problem in India. The evidence accumulated is certainly suggestive, and shows that the conclusions of the early philologists have been narrow in the extreme. If the long-headed Kurds are, as Ripley
believes, the descendants of the Mitanni raiders, then the Aryans of history must be included in the Brown race. As, however, cremation was not practised by the Berbers, the Babylonians, the early Cretans, or other representatives of the ancient brunet dolichocephalic peoples, it may be that the custom, which still lingers among the Mongolian Buriats, was not in the narrow sense of Aryan origin. It may have been first practised among an unknown tribe of fire-worshippers, who came under the influence of a great teacher like Zoroaster. We cannot overlook in this connection the possibility of an individual origin for a new and revolutionary system of religious doctrines. Buddhism, for instance, originated with Buddha.
As we have said, the Vedic religion of the Aryans in India was characterized by the worship of male deities, the goddesses being of secondary and even slight importance. A religious revolution, however, occurred during the second or Brahmanical Age--the age of priestly ascendancy. Fresh invasions had taken place and the Aryans were divided into tribal groups of Westerners and Easterners, on either side of a central power in Madhyadesa, the "Middle Country" which extended between the upper reaches of the Saraswati and the Ganges and the Jumna rivers. The Westerners included the peoples of the Punjab and the north-western frontier, and the Easterners the kingdoms of Kasi (Benares) and Maghadha as well as Kosala and Videha, which figure prominently in the Ramáyana epic, where the kings are referred to as being of the "Solar race". The Middle Kingdom was the centre of Brahmanical culture and influence: it was controlled by those federated tribes, the Kuru Panchalas, with whom were fused the Bháratas of the "Lunar race". It is believed that the military aristocracy of the "Middle Country" were late comers
who arrived by a new route and thrust themselves between the groups of early settlers. 1 The Bharatas worshipped a goddess Bharati who was associated with the Saraswati river on the banks of which the tribe had for a period been located. Saraswati became the wife of Brahma, the supreme god, and it would seem that she had a tribal significance.
If the Bharatas of the "Lunar race" worshipped the moon and rivers, it is possible that they belonged to the Brown race. The folk-religion of the tribe would be perpetuated by the people even although their priests became speculative thinkers like the unknown authors of the Upanishads. It is significant to note, therefore, that the goddesses ultimately came into as great prominence in India as in Egypt. This change took place during the obscure period prior to the revival of Brahmanism. In the sixth century before the Christian era Buddhism had origin, partly as a revolt of the Kshatriya (aristocratic) class against priestly ascendancy, and the new faith spread eastward where Brahmanic influence was least pronounced. When the influence of Buddhism declined, the Pantheon is found to have been revolutionized and rendered thoroughly Mediterranean in character. The Vedic gods had in the interval suffered eclipse; they were subject to the greater personal gods Brahma, with Vishnu and Shiva, each of whom had a goddess for wife. Brahma, as we have said, had associated with him the river deity Saraswati of the Bharatas; the earth goddess, Lakshmi, was the wife of Vishnu; she rose, however, from the Ocean of Milk. But the most distinctive and even most primitive goddesses were linked with Shiva, the Destroyer. The goddess Durga rivalled Indra as a deity of war. Kali, another form of Durga, was as vengeful and bloodthirsty
Click to enlarge
From a bronze in the Calcutta Art Gallery
as the Scottish Cailleach, or the Egyptian Hathor, who, as the earlier Sekhet, rejoiced in accomplishing the slaughter of the enemies of Ra. 1 Kali, as we shall see (Chapter VIII) replaced the Vedic king of the gods as a successful demon slayer. As the Egyptian Ra went forth to restrain Hathor, so did Shiva hasten to the battlefield, flooded by gore, to prevail upon his spouse Kali to spare the remnant of her enemies.
The rise of the goddesses may have been due in part to the influence of Dravidian folk-religion. This does not, however, vitiate the theory that moon, water, and earth worship was not unconnected with the ascendancy of the Brown race in India. The Dravidian brunet long heads were, as we have said, probably represented in the pre-Aryan, as well as the post-Vedic folk-waves, which mingled with pre-Dravidian stocks. Mr. Crooke inclines to the view that the Aryan conquest was more moral and intellectual than racial. 2 The decline of the patriarchal religion of the Vedic military aristocracy may thus be accounted for; the religious practices of the earlier people might ultimately have attained prominence in fusion with imported ideas. If the Aryan racial type was distinctive, as it appears to have been, in colour at any rate, the predominant people who flourished when the hymns were composed, may have greatly declined in numbers owing to the ravages of disease which in every new country eliminates the unfit in the process of time. Even if Aryan conquest was more racial in character than Mr. Crooke will allow, the physical phenomena of the present day can be accounted for in this way, due allowance being made, of course, for the crossment of types. In all countries which have sustained the shock of invasion, the tendency to revert to the aboriginal type is very marked.
[paragraph continues] At any rate, this is the case in Egypt and Crete as present-day evidence shows. In Great Britain, which was invaded by the broad heads of the Bronze Age, the long-headed type is once again in the majority; a not inconsiderable proportion of our people show Stone Age (Mediterranean) physical characteristics.
In this connection it is of interest to refer to immemorial beliefs and customs which survive in representative districts in Britain and India where what may be called pre-Aryan influences are most pronounced. A people may change their weapons and their language time and again, and yet retain ancient modes of thought. In Devon, which the philologists claim to be largely Celtic like Cornwall, the folk-lore shows marked affinities with that of Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, suggesting the survival of ancient Mediterranean racial influence, for much of what we call Celtic links with what belongs to ancient Greece and the Egyptian Delta. Mr. Gomme has shown 1 in an interesting summary of recorded folk-practices that the "ram feast" of Devon resembles closely in essential details similar ceremonies in ancient Greece and modern India. At the beginning of May the people of Devon were wont to sacrifice a ram lamb to the deity of waters. The animal was tied to a pillar, its throat was cut, and young men scrambled to obtain pieces of its flesh for girls. The devourer was assured of good luck during the year. After the ceremony, dancing, wrestling, and drinking were indulged in. A comparison is drawn between this and similar rites among the ancient Semites and ancient Greeks. In India a Dravidian Paria acts as the temporary village priest. He uses a whip like the "gad whip" in Lincolnshire, and kills the lamb by tearing its throat with his teeth. A scramble takes place for the flesh, the people
circulate the village, as some communities in our own country still perpetuate the ceremony of "riding the marches" of ancient burghs; then universal licence prevails. Similarly law was suspended at the ancient Scottish Hallowe’en celebrations; in some districts even in our own day Hallowe’en and New Year practical jokes and rowdyism is still prevalent. Herodotus refers to the universal licence and debauchery which characterized the Isis festival in Egypt.
A remarkable feature of post-Vedic religion in ancient India is the prominence given to the doctrine of metempsychosis (transmigration of souls) and the conception of the yugas or ages of the universe.
In Rigveda the soul of the dead proceeds at once, or at any rate after burial, towards the next world. In one passage only is it spoken of "as departing to the waters or the plants", and this reference, Professor Macdonell suggests, 1 "may contain the germs of the theory" of transmigration. In the speculative prose treatises, the Upanishads, which were composed in the Middle Country, the doctrine of metempsychosis is fully expounded. It does not follow, however, that it originated in India although it may have obtained there unrecognized by the priestly poets who composed the hymns to the deities, long before it became an essential tenet of orthodox or official religion. Other representative communities of the Brown race professed this doctrine which appears to have evolved from the vague belief shared by more than one primitive race, that the souls of the dead, and especially of dead children, were ever on the outlook for suitable mothers. Even in Central Australia a particular tribe has perpetuated "the germs of the theory", which may also be traced in the widespread custom of visiting standing
stones at a certain phase of the moon to perform a ceremony so that offspring may be obtained. The Upanishadic doctrine of metempsychosis is less likely to have been so much coincidental as racial when we find that it is restricted to those areas where definite racial influences must have been at work. The Greeks believed in transmigration. So did also a section of the Egyptian people as Herodotus has stated and as is proved by references in folk-tales, temple chants and inscriptions. 1 As we show (Chapter VI), the Irish conception closely resembled the Indian, and it also obtained among the Gauls. There is no trace, however, that the Teutonic peoples were acquainted with the fully developed doctrine of metempsychosis; the souls of the dead departed immediately to Valhal, Hela, or the loathsome Nifelhel.
The doctrine of the world's ages is common to the Indian, Greek, and Irish mythologies, but is not found in Teutonic mythology either. 2 There are indications that it may have at one time obtained in Egypt, for there was an Age of Ra, then a deluge, an Age of Osiris, an Age of Set, &c.; but the doctrine, like other conceptions in Egypt, probably suffered from the process of priestly transformation in the interests of sectarian propaganda.
In India the ages are called the yugas, and this term has a totally different meaning in Vedic and Upanishadic times. Evidently the Bharata invasion and the establishment of the middle country power of their allies, the Kuru-Panchalas, was not unconnected with the introduction of the doctrines of metempsychosis and the yugas, and the prominence subsequently given to the worship of female deities.
If this theory can be established, we are confronted by an extremely interesting problem. It would appear that the mythology of the Vedic period bears a close resemblance to Teutonic, while that of the post-Vedic period connects more intimately with Greek, Celtic, and Egyptian. Assuming that the Vedic people were influenced by what we recognize as Teutonic modes of thought, do we find here proof that the Aryans came from Europe? In Chapter II it is shown that the Norse Heimdal displays points of resemblance to Agni. The former, however, has been developed almost beyond recognition as a fire god, and it is evident that we find him in northern Europe in his latest and most picturesque form. On the other hand, there is no dubiety about the origin of the Vedic Agni.
The evidence afforded by archæology is highly suggestive in this connection. Scandinavia received its culture from the south at a comparatively late period in the Bronze Age, and it certainly exercised no intellectual influence in Europe in earlier times. Bronze is, of course, of less ethnic significance than beliefs, but it is difficult to believe, at the same time, that an isolated and poorly armed people could have imposed its intellectual culture over a wide area without having received anything in return. It is more probable that the northern Germanic peoples were subjected to the same influences which are traceable in their mythology and in the Vedic hymns, from a common source, and there may be more than mere mythology in the persistent tradition that the ancestors of the Teutons immigrated from Asia led by Odin. We need not assume that the movement was so much a racial as a cultural one, which emanated from a particular area where religious conceptions were influenced by particular habits of life and "immemorial modes of
thought". Among the settled and agricultural peoples of the Brown race, the development of religious ideas followed different lines, and were similarly controlled by early ideas which sprang from different habits and experiences.
In the opening chapters we present various phases of Aryan life and religion in India, beginning with the worship of Indra, and concluding with the early stages of modern Hinduism. From the ancient tribal struggles of the Middle Country accumulated the hero songs which received epic treatment in the Mahábhárata, while the traditions of the "Easterners" were enshrined in the Rámáyana. Although neither of these great works can be regarded as historical narratives, they contain a mass of historical matter which throws much light on the habits and customs and beliefs of the early peoples.
These epics were utilized by Brahmanical compilers for purposes of religious propaganda, and survive to us mainly as sacred books. In our pages we have given prominence to the heroic narrative which remains embedded in the mass of doctrinal treatises and mythological interpolations. The miraculous element is somewhat toned down in the accounts of conflicts, and the more dramatic phases of the heroic stories are presented in as full detail as space permits, so as to afford our readers glimpses of ancient life in northern India at a time when Vedic religion still held sway. This applies especially to the Mahábhárata, the kernel of which, no doubt, contains the hero songs of the Bharata and other tribes. The mythical conflicts of the Rámáyana appeal less to western minds than its purely human episodes. We cannot help being impressed by the chivalrous character of the leading heroes, the high sense of honour displayed by the princes, and the obedience shown by sons to their parents. We may weary of Rama's conflicts with giants and demons,
but will long remember him as the child who pronounced his name as "’Ama" and cried for the moon, or sat on his father's knee at meetings of the State Council. Our interest will also abide with him as a lover and a faithful husband who suffered wrong. His brothers are noble and heroic characters, worthy of Shakespeare. But even the Bard of Avon never depicted more wonderful and fascinating women than the heroines of the Mahábhárata and Rámáyana. Our gallery includes, among others, the noble and self-sacrificing Savitri, who rescued her husband from the clutches of death by exercise of her strong love and devotion; the faithful and virtuous Sita, and the sorrowful and constant Damayantí, and beautiful Shakuntalá. In western literature romance usually ends with marriage; in India the devotion of wives is of more account than the yearnings of love-smitten Juliets on moonlight nights.
Another aspect of Sanskrit literature is the feeling of the poets for Nature. These voluminous writers revelled in the luxuriant loveliness and splendour of Indian forests, and the charms of gleaming valleys and serene, snow-capped mountains; even the gods loved to hear the hum of insects and the songs of melodious birds, and, like mortals, to gather flowers of sweet scents and brilliant colours. Hundreds of songs were sung in praise of the lotus blooms that gemmed the clear waters of lakes and ponds, and Paradise was pictured as a jungle of beauty, fanned by soft winds, radiant with blossoms, and ever vocal with music and song. To illustrate this phase of India's classic literature, we reproduce at length the representative story of Nala with much of its poetic details.
The civilization revealed by the narrative poems was of no mean order. The ancient Aryans were chivalrous knights. No such barbaric incident occurs in the Mahábhárata battles as when in the Iliad the victorious
[paragraph continues] Achilles drags behind his chariot the body of the slain Hector. When Arjuna, the Indian Achilles, slays Karna, the Indian Hector, he honours his fallen foe and performs those rites at the funeral pyre which assures the dead hero immortal bliss in Paradise. When, again, Arjuna mortally wounds Bhishma, he procures water to quench the thirst of his dying opponent. Even the villains are not without their redeeming qualities. Duryodhana of the Mahábhárata, who consents to the slaughter of his sleeping rivals, dies with grief because the innocent children of his enemies were slain. Rávana, the demon king of Ceylon, touches us in the Rámáyana by his grief for his son, who was slain fighting against Laksmana, brother of Rama.
To appreciate fully the sacred and romantic literature of India, we should follow the advice of Robert Louis Stevenson. "To learn aright from any teacher," he wrote, "we must first of all, like a historical artist, think ourselves into sympathy with his position." And if in endeavouring to understand the religious conceptions of the ancient forest sages, we, at times, find ourselves in difficulties, it may be that "if a saying is hard to understand, it is because we are thinking of something else"--we are looking on India with European eyes and with European prejudices. "There is always", said Stevenson, "a ruling spirit behind the code of rules, an attitude, a relation, a point of the compass, in virtue of which we conform or dissent." 1
We are confident that our readers who peruse with sympathy and, we hope, with enjoyment, the chapters which follow, will feel themselves drawn closer than hitherto to the millions of our fellow subjects in the great dependency of the British Empire, by whom Rama and Yudhishthira are regarded as ideal types of strong manhood, and Savitri and Sita as perfect women and exemplary lovers and wives.
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A VYASA, OR PUBLIC READER, RECITING THE MAHABHARATA
xx:1 Romesh C. Dutt's Ramáyana dedication.
xxi:1 Rydberg's Teutonic Mythology.
xxii:1 The Races of Europe, W. Z. Ripley, p. 481.
xxiii:1 The Races of Europe, W. Z. Ripley, p. 17.
xxiv:1 Biographies of Words and the Home of the Aryas, pp. 120 and 245.
xxiv:2 The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin, chap. vi, p. 155 (1889 ed.), and The Ancient Egyptians, G. Elliot Smith, pp. 63, 64 (1911).
xxv:1 Muir's Original Sanskrit Texts, vol. 1, p. 140.
xxvi:1 The Tribes and Castes of Bengal, H. H. Risley, vol. 1, xxxi.
xxvi:2 ibid. xxxii-xxxiii.
xxvii:1 The People of India, H. H. Risley, p. 59.
xxvii:2 The Races of Europe, W. Z. Ripley, 450 et seq.
xxviii:1 The Races of Europe, W. Z. Ripley, p. 451.
xxix:1 Man, Past and Present, A. H. Keane, p. 270.
xxix:2 The Wanderings of Peoples, A. C. Haddon, p. 21.
xxx:1 Vedic Index of Names and Subjects (1912), p. viii.
xxxi:1 A convenient term to refer to the unknown area occupied by the Vedic Aryans before they invaded India.
xxxii:1 Vedic Index of Names and Subjects, A. A. Macdonell and A. B. Keith, Vol. I, pp. 8, 9 (1912).
xxxiii:1 Compared with the Latin atrium, "the room that contained the hearthfire". Agni is cognate with the Latin ignis, cf. Lithuanian, ugnis szwenta, "holy fire"--Early Religious Poetry of Persia, Professor Moulton, pp. 38, 39.
xxxiii:2 The theory that certain Babylonian graves show traces of cremation has been abandoned.--A History of Sumer and Akkad, L. W. King, pp. 20, 21 (1910).
xxxiv:1 A Journey in Southern Siberia, Jeremiah Curtin, p. 101.
xxxv:1 The Dawn of Mediterranean Civilization, A. Mosso, London Trans., 1910.
xxxv:2 British Museum Guide to the Antiquities of the Bronze Age, pp. 23, 24.
xxxvi:1 Associated, some authorities urge, with Germans from the mouth of the Elbe.
xxxvi:2 The Dawn of History, J. L. Myres, p. 199.
xxxvi:3 British Museum Guide to the Antiquities of the Bronze Age, p. 98.
xxxvi:4 British Museum Guide to the Antiquities of the Early Iron Age, p. 8.
xxxvi:5 ibid. p. 6.
xxxvi:6 ibid. p. 8.
xxxvii:1 British Museum Guide to the Antiquities of the Bronze Age, pp. 16, 17.
xxxvii:2 Egyptian Myth and Legend, p. 143.
xxxvii:3 Campbell's West Highland Tales, vol. iii, p. 55.
xxxviii:1 A History of Civilization in Palestine, R. A. S. Macalister.
xxxviii:2 The Discoveries in Crete, Professor R. M. Burrows, p. 100. Dating according to Crete the Forerunner of Greece, C. H. and H. B. Hawes, p. xiv.
xl:1 Vedic Index of Names and Subjects.
xli:1 See Egyptian Myth and Legend.
xli:2 The North-Western Provinces of India, 1897, p. 60.
xlii:1 Ethnology in Folklore, George Lawrence Gomme, p. 34 et seq.
xliii:1 A History of Sanskrit Literature, p.115.
xliv:1 See Egyptian Myth and Legend.
xliv:2 The "Golden Age" of the gods, and the regeneration of the world after Ragnarok, do not refer to the doctrine of the world's ages as found in other mythologies.
xlviii:1 Lay Morals.