صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

re

comfortable, would follow as inevitable. We find among the Greek domestic deities the prytanei, and it is corded of Æneas that he carried from Troy his penates, the palladium, and the sacred fire. It is also recorded, in exceedingly doubtful Roman historians, that Lavinia, the mother of Romulus and Remus, was one of the vestal virgins who guarded the same pure flame, when she was surprised by Mars, and made the mother of the Roman twins.

In Persia, the Irans were so strongly wedded to this worship that when Zarathustra developed his doctrine of the dual principles Ormuizd and Ahriman, he was obliged to permit the adoration of fire as one of the forms of beneficence vouchsafed to man by the Deity. And so great is the devotion of the modern Parsi to this idea, that he refuses to smoke, since it would be à desecration of the sacred emblem; and when railroads were introduced into the Guzerat, there was a strong contention whether it were permissible to ride on the fire-chariot.

In Cutch, where the inhabitants are Hindus, mostly of the Suryawansi caste, the universal practice is to place small portions of food among the embers before commencing the repast. This is probably the relic of an old oblation to fire, though it must be acknowledged that Surya, the sun, is the principal deity of this people, and it may be an acknowledgment of the blessings given by the sun.

The idea entertained of Agni was peculiar. At first worshipped as a great God, he became afterwards the divine mediator between Indra and manthe bearer of sucrifice. In the hymn to Agni, composed by the seer, Vashista, this conception is clearly brought out.

“Like the lover of the dawn, Agni sends forth his rays, he develops all his fires. Pure, fertile, luminous, resplendant, he has come at the prayer of the worshippers who invoke him. Like the sun, Agni has shone with the dawn that brings back the day, and whilst the priests recite the prayer, he makes ready the sacrifice; for Agni is the holy deity who becomes the benevolent mediator between mortals and the gods.

“By him prayers and saintly meditations ascend to the gods. They

raise themselves to Agni, to whom they supplicate with ardor, to Agni the agreeable, Agni the charming, the generous bearer of sacrifice.

“O Agni, bring to us Indra with the Vasus. Unite with him Rudra, and with Rndra, Aditi, who is the parent of all things, and the Adityas. Thus supplicates the rich Vrihaspati, with the poets who chant the praises of the protecting gods. The people in the midst of the sacrifice celebrate Agni, who makes our joy-Agni the ever youthful priest who gives us fire; for it is he who, morning and evening, has ever been the indefatigable messenger whom rich men employ to address themselves to the deities."

It

The picture presented here is a very pleasant one. seems the Aryans worshipped at sunrise and sunset, and it is probable that this practice arose from sun worship. The hymns to the sun are more probably poems in which the author celebrates the beauty of nature in the early morning, and the glowing blushes of the dawn before her lover the sun god Mitra. References to the sun-lover, who follows the blushing goddess, occur almost everywhere in the Vedic hymns, and one of the commonest titles of the sun is “lover of the dawn." The resemblance to the myth of Apollo, who pursues Daphne and overtakes her only to find her vanish amid the fragrance of the laurel, is undoubtedly identical with this myth. And the description of the Hindu sun-god, in his resplendant chariot drawn by shining coursers, is almost, word for wordis certainly idea for idea, similar to the Grecian myth of the chariot of Phæbus Apollo. The sun in many of the Vedic hymns is called the resplendant torch of the deities, the eye of Mitra the sun god, of Varuna and of Agni. This would seem strong confirmation of the idea that Varuna is to be considered as Ouranos, the blue vault of heaven, and not the god of the sea.

Aditi, whom Agni is requested to bring in the train of Rudra, another name for Varuna, but afterwards appropriated by the robber Shiva, would seem to be the night--the fruitful mother of all existing things. The word Aditi is not-day, and the children of the night, the Adityas, in this early age were evidently regarded as beneficent beings. In later times they are ranked with the Asuras or demons, whose name has, by the bye, the same derivation, Sura being the name for the the sun's disk. There was an old Greek legend that all

things were created by Nox and Erebus; the meaning being, probably, that all things arose from primeval darkness and love. This would seem hinted at in the hymn to Agni.

The hymns to Indra* are certainly of a later date, and reveal a changed condition, more civilized but less happy. The votaries request to be made rich in downright terms, and speak with unfeigned rapture of treasure cities and chariots laden with precious things. The Asenas are recognized as demons, under a leader, Sambara, who is destroyed by Indra. Indra also slays Ahi, and Bala, who was climbing to heaven, and is generally a warlike god. He leads the warriors to battle, and they invoke him in the combat. He sits upon a cloud, and slays his enemies with his lightnings. He accepts libations, offerings, and hymns, and appears in every particular to correspond, not with Zeus, but with Jupiter, the Pelasgian deity, whose actions and characteristics are as distinct from the amorous cloud-compeller who quarrels with Hera, as the mind can possibly conceive.t Any one whose researches have been carried back to the earliest records of the Greek and Roman people, must be sufficiently alive to the difference existing between them to feel that Jupiter and Zeus are distinct creations; so also Venus and Aphrodite, Mars and Ares, Mercury and Hermes. This error has, however, crept into the consideration of the Hindu mythology, and competent authorities have pronounced Indra to be identical with Zeus. Indra is represented everywhere, indeed, as the king of heaven and of men; but this is a characteristic common to all ruling deities, and applies to Jupiter, divum pater atque hominum rer, equally with Zeus, avas aròpov.

The change in the condition of the Hindus is also marked in the sacrifice. Indra receives now libations, sacrifices, and hymns. Formerly the offering was simply the burning of ghee (clarified butter) in the holy flame. It is probable that the libations were made exactly in the fashion recorded by Latin authors. It is difficult for any one who

* Barthelemy St. Hilaire. Les Vedas. Iymne à India par Gritsamada.

f Schlegel, Literature and Wisdom of the lindus, book i., p. 466.

has not witnessed the funeral ceremonials of a Hindu, to believe how closely it follows the account given by Virgil in the Æneid, when the hero pays the last rites to a departed companion. The libations, the arrangement on the pyre, the conduct of the relations, the chanting of the priests, all are identical. It may, therefore, well be imagined, and with a reasonable hope of accuracy, that the ceremonials of Indra did not differ materially from those of Jupiter, the solemn protector of Rome.

That the Adityas became demons is not contrary to what we read in Greek and Roman mythologies. Plutarch's idea was, that the most virtuous human souls became heroes, and that these in course of time became demons, and of these a small number became divine, and were worshipped as deities by mankind. These demons, according to him, were good, beneficent beings, ministers and messengers of the gods.* Yet, in course of time the word had an evil' signification, and the demons, though still servants of the dii majores, were only used to punish and to affright. Whether this explanation of the changed belief in the Adityas be as correct as the idea advanced by a German mythologist,t that the words Adityas Asuras, and Dityas Suryas, simply have reference to a line of princes who claimed descent from the sun as the Peruvian Incas, will be hard to determine. But one thing must be pointed out, that the Hindu does not recognize the demons as having any effect on human life, as our Greek and Roman friends believed. The doctrine of metempsychosis forbid such a belief; nor did they ever hold that the glorified souls of man became in any way connected with their theogony. This was also impossible, from the very nature of the theory of emanation ; for this doctrine explained that all things emanated from Brahm, the divine essence, and would in time return to it again. The good or evil conduct of an individual would be rewarded by an advance to assimilation, or punished by a descent in the scale into some animal whose vices the human being had imitated.

This was

the doctrine of metempsychosis, taught, indeed, by Pythagoras

* Opinion Philosoph., lib. i., c. 8.

| Bunsen, Place of Egypt, book v.

[ocr errors]

in Greece, but never having any effect on the Hellenic mind.

Nor was there any trace of this doctrine among the Pelasgians, who are confessedly nearer to the Hindu Aryans than any other; the theory of the Greeks, Romans, and allied races, being altogether dissimilar. It was an accepted fact among the ancients, that each individual had his tutelary demon, or guardian spirit, and, unquestionably, Plutarch points to this faith. That the spirits of the dead should minister to the living was a beautiful and noble idea. But it finds no parallel in any Hindu belief, and is only met with among the ancient Lithuanians, which has been received in modern times by Etienne Garczynski, the philosopher and poet of Posen. “Les ecrivains lithuaniens,” says Micziewicz, “placent dans le monde spirituel le centre de toute action, et regardent le monde visible et les hommes comme des instruments.” And, again, he quotes from Lithuanian writers: Toute force reside dan le genie de l'homme."

This was exactly the Roman idea of the tutelary demon. But the Hindu Asuras and Adityas are simply enemies of the gods, and contend with them in heaven, but never meddle with earthly matters. They are in no wise to be compared with the demons proper, but rather to the history of the Titans, and their great leader Jalandhara to Typhon.

Between the Vedic literature and the Sanskrit, in which the Smriti, or Institutes of Manu, are written, there is a great gulf, which history at present is powerless to bridge

Between the death of one language and the birth of another, what events may not have transpired? Schlegel has pointed out that a language is never uprooted, save by. some violent convulsion, and, though we do not know the fact, we may imagine that a long and dreadful series of intestine wars must fill that remarkable cleft. Nor can we say how or when the idea of Brahm, the divine essence, originated. The language of the Rig Veda is so extraordinary as to warrant the supposition of divine revelation. “Eternel, tout-puissant, incompréhensible, infini, être qui existe de soi-même," is the translation of a French author.* Nor

over.

*

* M. Langlois, Le Rik-Veda traduit en Francais, vol. i., p. 84.

« السابقةمتابعة »