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THE Mogul-empire is a country of which we hear much,
I and know little; whence it will naturally follow, that the public will pay due attention to any account of that part of the world, written by a Gentleman who has resided in it for so long a space as thirty years; and who, from his situation there, had opportunities of gaining the information necessary for such an undertaking : one, to whom an independent fortune, and a pleasing retirement, afford those hours of vacancy and leisure, which his abilities fufficiently enable him to employ, in a manner not less agreeable to himself, than useful to his country, and entertaining to his readers.
During his residence in Bengal, Mr. Holwell had frequent opportunities of collecting materials relative to the transactions, revolutions, and occurrences of that invaluable country, and the religious tenets of its inhabitants, natives of Indoftan. Among other things, he had procured many curious Gentoo manuscripts ; and, in particular, two very correct and valuable copies of the Gentoo Șbaftah, These, however, he unfortynately lost *, at the capture of Calcutta, in 1756: a loss the greater, too, as he had employed 18 months in a translation of the Shaftah ; and had made a considerable progress in the work. mAs that work, says he, opened upon me, I distinctly saw, that the Mythology, as well as the Cosmogony of the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, were borrowed from the doctrines of the Bramins, contained in this book, even to the copying their exteriors of worship, and the distribution of their idols,—though grossly mutilated and adulterated.— I should, in the compass of one year more, with the close application I intended beftowing on it, have accomplished a complete translation of the whole Shaftah, that would, I Aattered myself, have been a valuable acquisition to the learned world, had not the fatal catastrophe of fifty-six + put it totally out of my power ever to attempt it again.'
From that change in our [East-Indian) affairs, continues Mr. Holwell, a new chain of pursuits engrossed my time and attentig, so that I could no longer devote either, to the studies I had before so much at heart. However, during the last eight 'months of my residence in Bengal, being freed from the plagues of government, (thanks to my very honourable masters for it) I resumed my researches with tolerable success; which, joined to
* They were procured. Mr. H. tells us, with so much trouble and expence, that the commissioners of reftitution, tho' not at all disposed to favour him, allowed him 2000 Madras rupees in recompense for this particular loss.
t Vide our author's account of the dreadful affair of the BLACKHOLE ; in the horrors and distress of which he was himself involved: although he had the good fortune to be included in the small number of those who survived it.
some some manuscripts recovered by an unforeseen and extraordinary event, enables me to undertake the task I now aflign myself.'
Our Author adds, that having studiously perused all that has been written of the empire of Indoftan, both as to its ancient, as well as more modern state; as also the various accounts transmitted to us, by authors in almost all ages (from Arrian, down to the Abbé de Guyon) concerning the Hindoos, and the religious tenets of the Bramins, I venture to pronounce them all very defective, fallacious, and unsatisfactory to an inquisi. tive searcher after tru:h, and only tend to convey a very imperfect and unjust semblance of a people, who from the earliest times have been an ornament to the creation--if so much can with propriety be said of any known people upon earth.
All the modern writers represent the Hindoos as a race of stupid and gross idolators: from the ancients indeed these people met with better treatment; although they too as well as the others were equally ignorant in the subjects they treated of.
The modern authors who have wrote on the principles and worship of the Hindoos, are chiefly of the Romish communion, therefore we need wonder the less that they (from a superstitious zeal inseparable from that communion) should depreciate and traduce the mythology of the venerable ancient Bramins, on so Nender a foundation as a few insignificant literal translations of the Viedam, and these not made from the book itself, but from unconnected scraps and bits, picked up here and there by hearsay, from Hindoos, probably as ignorant as themselves.
From such weak grounds and evidence as this, and by the help of a few exhibitions of the Hindoos, seemingly monstrous idols, the popish authors hesitate not to stigmatize those most venerable sages the Bramins, as having instituted doctrines and worship, which if believed, would reduce them below the level of the brute creation, as every reader must have observed, who has misspent his time in the perusal of them ; in the way of their proper calling and function, they were however right; as having been appointed to propagate their own system of theology abroad; though strictly (peaking, their own tenets were more idolatrous than the system they travelled so far to arraign, On this mistaken method and false zeal of propagating any faith at any rate, I beg to be indulged in making the following general reflections, which naturally arise from the subject before us.
That ignorance, superstition and partiality to ourselves, are too commonly the cause of presumption and contempt of others,
those whofe knowledge of states and kingdoms extends no fur. ther than the limits of their native land, often imagine all beyond it scarce worth their thoughts, or at least greatly inferior in comparison with their own; a conclufion natural, though unjuft -If from clime and country we proceed to individuals, we shall see the same unwarrantable prepossession and preference to self take place; and proceeding still farther in our reflections, we may observe the same confined way of thinking and judging, leads the multiiude (and I wish I could say the multitude only) of every nation and sect, to arraign and have in utter detestation and contempt, the religious principles and worship of all that happen to be out of the pale of their own church or mode of faith.
· That every nation and feet should have a high and even superior opinion of the religious principles, under which they were born and educated, is extremely natural and just, provided they do not from an intemperate zeal or religious vanity (now so much the fathion) prelume to condemn, depreciate or invade the religious principles of others- this condemning fpirit can proceed only from one of the three following causes, a defect in understanding, a want of knowledge of the world (in men and things) or a bad (and reilless) heart. The salvation of mankind, so much pretended, has no place in the hearts or labors of these zealots, or they would not go about seeking whom they can confound in spirit, destroying the peace and tranquillity of their poor fellow christians.
Men who have been conversant with foreign countries, and made proper and benevolent remarks on the manners and principles of their inhabitants, will not despise or condemn the different ways by which they approach the Deity, but revere it still as a divine worship, though they may piously lament it deviates so much from their own.
To rescue distant nations from the gross conceptions entertained of ihem by the multitude, of all other persuasions, is the true busines and indispensable duty of a traveller ; or else his travels and remarks can only amuse his readers, without con-i veying to them any useful instruction or solid satisfaction . i
.6A meer description of the exterior manners and religion of a people, will no more give us a true idea of them, than a geographical description of a country, can convey a just conception of their laws and government; the traveller must fink deeper in his researches, would he feast the mind of an understanding reader.-His telling us such and such a people, in the East or West Indies, worship this stock, or that stone, or monstrous idol ; only serves to reduce in our esteem, our fellow creatures, to the most abject and despicable point of light. Whereas, was he skilled in the language of the people he describes, sufficiently : to trace the etymology of their words and phrases, and capable of diving into the mysteries of their theology; he would probably be able to evince us, that such seemingly preposterous worthip, had the moft sublime rational source and foundation, is id
< The traveller, who without these essential requisites, (as well as industry and a clear understanding) pretends to recribe and fix the religious tenets of any nation whatever, ditionestly imposes his own reveries on the world, and does the greateft injury and violence to letters, and the cause of humanity--How far the productions of most travellers may justly fall under this censure, I submit to the public. .« To the want of this attention and capacity in the traveller, we may ascribe in a great measure, the despicable, and I dare say unworthy notions, we too aptly entertain of most nations very remote from us; whereas, were we better informed, we should find our minds opened, our understandings enlarged, and ourselves inspired with that benevolence for our species, without which the human form becomes rather a disgrace chan ornament. . I am sorry to say, that in general the accounts published of the manners and religious principles of the East and WeftIndies, have been in the light and superficial way before objected to: but as my knowledge extends only to the former, I Mall confine my remarks to them; and endeavour to extricate them in some degree from the gross absurdities we have conceived of them ; confessing myself amazed that we should so readily believe the people of Indosan a race of stupid idolators, when to our costs, in a political and commercial view, we have found them superior to us. ." Having transiently mentioned the Viedam and Shastah, (the Gentoos scriptures) it is necessary I should inform youThe book first named, is followed by the Gentoos of the Mallabar and Cormandel coasts, and also of the island of Ceylon.
The Shastah is followed by the Gentoos of the provinces of Bengal, and by all the Gentoos of the rest of India, coinmonly called India proper; that is to say— the greatest part of Oriffa, Bengal Proper, Bahar, Banaras, Oud, Eleabas, Agra, Delhy, &c. all along the course of the rivers Ganges and Jumna to the Indus. :. Both these books contain the institutes of their respective religions and worships, as well as the history of their ancient Rajalis and Princes; often couched under allegory and fable ; their antiquity is contended for by the partisans of each - but the fimilitude of their names, idols, and great part of their worship, leaves little room to doubt, nay plainly evinces, that both these scriptures were originally one. And if we compare the great purity and chaste manners of the Shaftah, with the great absurdities and impurities of the Viedam; we need not hesitate to pronounce, the latter a corruption of the former.--All that I need add here, is, that my remarks follow the Shaftah only.'
· Having Having given this general intimation of the nature and import of his undertaking, Mr. H. proceeds to give us his bill of fare; observing, that as talte in reading differs as much as in the choice of viands, what proves a delicious morsel to one, is disguftful to another: he therefore presents his readers with the following list of what is provided for their entertainment, so that he whole stomach does not stimulate him to take the whole, may fall to, on that dish which best suits his appetite.
Under bis first general head, he gives a short history of the succeffion to the empire of Indoftan, from Aurenge Zebe to Mahomet Shaw; whose reign, if we mistake not, extended to the middle o! the present century.
His fecund general head contains the transactions in the Subahdaary of Bengali, from the time in which Jaffier Khan ruled these provinces, to the usurpation of the government by Aliverdi Khan, the CROMWELL of the East Indies ; with the 'extraordinary circumstances attending the rise of this last mentioned Subah, and his brother, Hodjee Hamet.
Thirdly, we have a summary account of the provinces of Bengal, properly so called ; its principal towns, their bearings and distances from each oiher, and from Calcutta : with an estimate of their revenues, and a seasonable important hint to the gentlemen in the East-India direction.
These three general heads comprehend all the subjects treated in this first part of our Author's design. In the second part, which he aflures his Readers will be speedily pubished, Mr. Holwell promises us, I. a summary view of the fundamental religious tenets of the Gontoos, followers of the Shaftah. II. A short account, from the Shafiah, of the creation of ihe worlds, or universe. III. The Gentoo manner of computing time, and their conceptions touching the use of the worlds, and the period of their diffolution. IV. An account and explanation of the Gentoo fafts and feftivals, with a representation of their grand feast of the Drugah; comprising a view of their principal idols, and the genealogy of their subordinate deities. V. A dissertation on the Gentoo doctrine of the Matempicofis, improperly called Pythagorean, by all who have wrote on this subject, hitherto so liile understood.
Having thus given a brief sketch of Mr. Holwell's plan, we thail.conclude the article with an extract of his seasonable hint to the gentlemen concerned in the East-India direction. I
Notwithstanding the plausible face of success our affairs in Bengal may wear at present, by late advices from thence, it is 25 demonstrable as any proposition in Euclid, that they cannot prorluce the great and effential end aimed at, viz. a lasting peace and settled government, without which, the company must firik under the pressure of a long expensive war, which not