Was it not wisdom’s sovereign power That beamed her brightest, purest flame, T’illume her sages’ soul the thought to frame, And clothe with words his heaven-taught lore
-}ESCHYLUS: Prometheus Chained.
THERE is no surer test of the real greatness of a nation than its literature. Literature embodies not only the in- tellect of a nation but also its spirit. It is a record of the learning, the wisdom, the refinement, the achieve- ments, the civilization of a nation—a record of all that a nation thinks, says and does. Literature thus holds a mirror to the state of a nation, and serves as an index to mark its position in the scale of civilization and greatness. Mr. W. C.,,TaFlor thus speaks of Sanskrit litera- ture: “It was an astounding discovery _thataindustan possessed, in spite of the changes of realms and chances of time, a language of unrivalled richness and variety; a language, the parent of all those dialects that Europe has fondly called classical—the source alike of Greek flexibility and Roman strength. A philosophy, com- pared with which, in point of age, the lessons of Pytha- goras are but of yesterday, and in point of daring spe- culation Plato’s boldest efforts were tame and common- place. A poetry more purely intellectual than any of those of which we had before any conception; and sys- tems of science whose antiquity baffled all power of astronomical calculation. This literature, with all its colossal proportions, which can scarcely be described without the semblance of bombast and exaggeration claimed of course a place for itself—it stood alone, and it was able to stand alone.
“ To acquire the mastery of this language is almost the labour of a life; its literature seems, exhaustless. The utmost stretch of imagination can scarcely comprehend its boundless mythology. Its philosophy has touched upon every metaphysical difficulty; its legislation is as varied as the castes for which it was designed.”‘
Count Bjornstjerna says: “The literature of India makes us acquainted with a great nation of past ages, which grasped every branch of knowledge, and which will always occupy a distinguished place in the history of the civilization of mankind.”2
“ The Hindu,” says Mr. W. D. Brown, “ is the parent of the literature and the theology of the world.”‘ Professor Max Muller says: “Although there is hardly any department of learning which has not received new light and new life from the ancient literature of India., yet nowhere is the light that comes to us from India so important, novel, and so rich as in the study of religion and myth ology.”4
General Cunningham says: “Mathematical science -was so perfect and astronomical observations so complete that the paths of the sun and the moon were accurately measured. The philosophy of the learned few was perhaps for the first time, firmly allied with the theology of
i.Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. 11 (1834), W. C. Taylor’s paper on Sanskrit Literature,
2Theogony of the Hindus, p. 85.
3The Daily Tribune (Salt Lake City) for February 20, 1884. 411.1ax Muller’s India: What. can it teach us? p. 140.
the believing many, and Brahmanism laid down as articles of faith the unity of God, the creation of the world, the immortality of the soul, and the responsibility of man. The remote dwellers upon the Ganges distinctly made known that future life about which Moses is silent or obscure, and that unity and Omnipotence of the Creator which were unknown to the polytheism of the Greek and Roman multitude, and to the dualism of Mithraic legislators, while Vyasa perhaps surpassed Plato in keeping the people tremblingly alive to the punishment which,maited evil deeds.”‘
-)rofessor Hen says: “The literature of the Sanskrinanguage incontestably belongs to a highly-cultivated people, whom we may with great r---easonconsider to have been the most informed-of art-he F_Istir his, at the-same time, ascientific anTa poetic-literature.” He also says: “literature is one or the richest in prose and poetrI
—Sir W. Jones says that “ human life would not be sufficient to make oneself acquainted with any considerable part of Hindu literature.”
Professor Max Muller says: “The number of Sanskrit works of which Mss. are still in existence amounts to ten thousand. This is more, I believe, than the whole classical literature of Greece and Italy put together.”4
The Indian Sanskritist, Pandit Shyamji Krishnavarma, in his paper on the use of writing in Ancient India, speaks of Sanskrit literature as a literature more ex-
lCunninghain’s History of the Sikhs.
2Heeren’s Historical Researches, Vol. IL p, 201, 3Asiatic Researches, Vol. I, p. 354.
4Max Muller’s India: What can it teach us? p. 84.
tensive than the ancient literatures of Greece and Rome combined.”
Rev. Mr. Ward says: “No reasonable person will deny to the Hindus of former times the praise of very extensive learning. The variety of subjects upon which they wrote prove that almost every science was cultivated among them. The manner also in which they treated these subjects proves that the Hindu learned men yielded the palm of learning to scarcely auy other of the ancients. The more their philosophical works and lawbooks are studied, the more will the enquirer be convinced of the depth of wisdom possessed by the authors.”‘ Mrs. Manning says: “The Hindu had the widest range of mind of which man is capable.”‘
The high intellectual and emotional powers of the ancient Hindus were in any case destined to produce a literature, remarkable for its sublimity and extent; but when these great gifts had the most perfect, melodious, and the richest language in the world to work with, the result could not but be a literature not only the most fertile and fascinating in the world but wonderful in range and astonishing in depth.
Sir W. Jones, the most intellectual of the European critics of Sanskrit literature, pronounced the Sanskrit language to be “ of a wonderful structure, more perfect
iward’s Antiquity of Hinduism, Vol. IV, conclusion. 2Ancient and Medimral India, Vol. II, r. 148.
than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either.”‘
Professor Bopp’ also says that “ Sanskrit is more perfect and copious than the Greek and the Latin and more exquisite and eloquent than either.”
Professor Max Muller calls Sanskrit the “ language of languages “, and remarks that “ it has been truly said that Sanskrit is to the Science of language what Mathematics is to Astronomy.”3
Professor Wilson says: “The Hindus had a copious and a cultivated language.” “ The Sanskrit,” says Professor Heeren, “ we can safely assert to be one of the richest and most refined of any. It has, moreover, reached a high degree of cultivation, and the richness of its philosophy is no way inferior to its poetic beauties, as it presents us with an abundance of technical terms to express the most abstract ideas.”4
The distinguished German critic, Schlegel, says: “Justly it is called Sanskrit, i.e., perfect, finished. In its structure and grammar, it closely resembles the Greek, but is infinitely more regular and therefore more simple, though not less rich. It combines the artistic fulness
lAsiatic Researches, Vol. I, p. 422. “ Sanskrit has the most prodigious compounds, some of them extending to 1i52 syllables”—Asiatic Researches, Vol. I, p. 860.
2Edinborough Review, Vol. XXXIII, p. 43, 3Science of Language, p. 203.
4Historical Researches, Vol. II, pp. 109, 110.
As an example of Mr. James Mill’s perverted taste and inveterate prejudice against everything Hindu, the following may he cited: Le Pere Paolino says that “Sanskrit is more copious than Latin. It has several words to express the samething. The sun has more than 30 names, the moon more than 20; a house has 20, a stone 6 or 7, a leaf 5, an ape 10, and a crow 9.” Mr. James Mill, thereupon says that “ the highest merit of language would consist in having one name for everything which required a name and no more than one.” On this Prof. Wilson exclaims: “What would become of poetry, of eloquence, of literature, of intellect, if language was thus shorn of all that gives it beauty, variety, grace and vigour.”--Mill’s India, Vol, II, p. 91,
indicative of Greek development, the brevity and nice accuracy of Latin; whilst havino: a near affinity to the Persian and German roots, it is distinguished by expression as enthusiastic and forcible as theirs.”‘ He again says: “The Sanskrit combines these various qualities, possessed separately by other tongues: Grecian copiousness, deep-toned Roman force, the divine afflatus characterising the Hebrew tongue.”2 He slso says: “Judged by an organic standard of the principal elements of language, the Sanskrit excels in grammatical structure, and is, indeed, the most pefectly-developed of all idioms, not excepting Greek and Latin.”‘
The importance of this “language of languages” is clearly recognised when we consider, with Sir W. W. Hunter, the fact that “the modern philology dates from the study of Sanskrit by the Europeans.”4
Sir W. Jones’ assertion that “ Deonagri is the original source whence the alphabets of Western Asia were derived,”5 not only proves the great antiquity of the Sanskrit literature but points out the channel through which Sanskrit philosophy and learning flowed towards the West, and, working in the new and fresh materials available there, produced Homer, Hesiod, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Zeno, Cicero, Scarvola, Varoo, ‘Virgil and others to divide the laurels of literary
‘ Schelegel’s History of Literature, p. 117.
3 Ibid, p. 106.
4Imperial Gazetteer, “ India,” p. 264. The foundation of the science of comparative philology was laid by the publication of Bopp’s Comparative Grammar in 1818 A.D.
5Asiatic Researches, Vol. I, p. 423. Professor Heeren Researches, Vol. II, pp, 201 and 202) says that Sanskrit literature is not only very rich but also extremely-ancient.
reputation with Vyasa, Kapila, Gautama, Tatanjali, Kanada, Jaimuni., Mirada, Panini„ Marichi and Valmiki. The study of comparative philology, in so far as it has advanced, tends to show that Sanskrit is the mother of all Indo-Edr6g-ean lariguagA. From the Sanskrit were derived the original roots and those essentially necessary words which form the basis of all these languages. In other words, the part that is common to all or most of the languages of this group is supplied to each language by the Sanskrit.
Ir. Pococke says: “The Greek language is a derivation from the Sanskrit.”‘ The learned Dr. Pritchard says: : “The affinity between the Greek language, and the old Parsi and Sanskrit is certain and essential. The use of cognate idioms proves the nations who used them to have descended from one stock, (That the religion of the Greeks emanated from an Eastern source no one will deny We must-TEerefore7suppose the religion as well as the language of Greece.to have been derived in great part immediately from the East.”2 Sir W. Jones says “ I was not a little surprised to find that out of ten words in Du Rerron’s Zind Dictionary six or seven were pure Sanskrit.”)
Professor Heeren says: “In point of fact, the Zind is derived from the SRnskrit.”4
As the Deonagri is the source from which the alphabets of Western Asia are derived, so are the Sanskrit names of the figures 1 to 10 the source from which most languages have derived their names of the said figures.
lIndia in Gieece, p, 18,
2Dr. Pritchard’s Physical History of Man, Vol. I, p. 502. 3Sir V4’71-ores”-Wori,s,--Vol. 1, pp. 82, 80.
4Heeren’s Historical Researches, Vol. II, p. 220.
The scale of calculation is common to all nations, and owes its origin to the Hindus. Dr. Ballantyne is inclined to support the theory that Sanskrit is the mother of all Aryan (Indo-European) languages. Mr. Bopp1 says that at one time Sanskrit was the one language spoken all over the world. 1 Edinborough Review, Vol. XXXIII, p. 43.
Mons. Dubois1 says that Sanskrit is the original source of all the European languages of the present day.
Miss Carpenter2 says that though the original home of Sanskrit is Aryawarta, yet it has now been proved to have been the language of most of the countries of modern Europe in ancient times.
merman critic says that “ Sanskrit is the mother of Greek, Latin and German languages, and that it has no other relation to them: this is the reason why Max Muller calls„it the ancient language of the Aryal)’
The great antiquity of Indian civilization is unquestionably beyond comparison; and the antiquarians are unanimous as to the incomparable antiquity of the Sanskrit literature also. The oldest writings of the oldest nations except the Hindils are, according to some Orientalists, the records of various developments of Buddhism which took its_rise in India after the decline of the Vedic religion.’ Count Bjornstjerna3 says: “The so-called Hermes Scrrpttires---(the names of all the sacred writings of the Egyptians)contail metaphysical treatises in the form of dialogue between Hermes (Spiritual wisdoin) and Tod1, Bodh, Buddh (earthly wisdom), which throughout exhibit the doctrines of Buddhism.” Again, “the early Egyptian writing which in the translation is called Pimander’s Hermes Trismegistus, and forms a dialogue between Pimander (the highest intelligence) and Thodt, (Bodh, Buddha) which developes the metaphysics of the Buddhists touching the trinity.”
2Journal of the Indian Association. 3Theogony of the Hindus, p, 100.
Mr. Weber says: “And while the claims of the written records of Indian literature to a high antiquity are thus indisputably proved by external geographical testimony, the internal evidence in the same direction, which may be gathered from their contents, is no less conclusive.”‘