COUNT BJORXSTJERNA3tys: “Poetry rules over all in India;
it has lent its forms, its coloring, and its charms even to the most abstract sciences, yea, even to religion.’”
Professor Max Dunker says: “The treasures of poetry in India are inexhaustible.”‘ Among such a “ poetical people” as the Hindus--as Professor Heeren3 aptly terms them—poetry flourished in wonderful luxuriance, and its various branches were cultivated with marvellous success. Professor Heeren says: “The various branches of poetry, such as the narrative and the dramatic, the lyric as well as the didactic and the apologue, have all flourished in Sanskrit literature, and produced the most excellent results.”}
Mr. Elphinstone says: “All who have read the heroic poems in the original are enthusiastic in their praise, and their beauties have been most felt by those whose own productions entitle their judgment to most respect. Nor is this admiration confined to critics who have peculiarly devoted themselves to Oriental literature. Milman and Schlegel vie with Wilson and Jones in their applause; and from one or other of these writers we learn the simplicity and originality of the composition; the sublimity, grace and pathos of particular passages; the natural dignity of actors; the holy purity of manners, and the inexhaustible fertility of imagination in the authors.”5
Theogony of the Hindus, p. 80. History of Antiquity, Vol. IV, p, 27.
allist. Researches, Vol. 11, p. 186. 4Hist. Researches, Vol. II, p. 147.
Elphinstone’s History of India, p. 155.
III. EPIC POETRY.
And here the singer for his art,
.Not all in vain may plead,
The song that nerves a nation’s heart, Is in itself a deed.
PROFESSOR HEEREN says: “The literature of the Hindus is rich in epic poetry.”‘ The Ramayana and the Mahnbharata, however, are the principal epics, the epics par excellence of India. Professor Monier Williams thus speaks of them: “Although the Hindus, like the Greeks, have only two great epic poems, namely, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, yet to compare these with the Iliad or the Odyssey is to compare the Indus and the Ganges rising in the snows of the world’s most colossal ranges, swollen by numerous tributaries spreading into vast shallows or branching into deep divergent channels, with the streams of Attica or the mountainous torrents of Thessally. There is, in fact, an immensity of bulk about this, as about every other department of Sanskrit literature, which to a European, accustomed to a more limited horizon, is absolutely bewildering.”2
Of these remarkable poems, the Ramayana is the older, while the Mahabharata is the larger of the two. Apart from their high poetical merits, in which they defy rivalry and discard comparison, their enormous bulk is a standing puzzle to the European critics.
‘Historical Researches, Vol. II, p. 147. 2 Indian Epic Poetry, p.
A comparison with the other great epics of the old world will give an idea of their enormous size. Mahabharata has 2,20,000 lines.
Ramayana has 48,000 7)
Homer’s Iliad has 15,693 17
Virgil’s }Enead has 9,868 17
The Iliad and Odyssey together contain 30,000 lines. Schlegel calls Ramayana “the noblest of epics.”
“ Ramayana,” says Professor Monier Williams, “is undoubtedly one of the greatest treasures in Sanskrit literature.” Sir W. Jones says: “The Ramayana is an epic poem on the story of Rama, which, in unity of action, magnificence of imagery and elegance of style far surpasses the learned and elaborate work of Nonnus.”]
After giving the argument of the Ramayana, Prof. Heeren, with his usual moderation, says “ Such, in few words, is the chief subject of Ramayana, while the devolopment and method of handling this simple argument is so remarkably rich and copious as to suffer little from a comparison in this respect with the most admired productions of the epic muse.”2
Professor Sir M. Monier Williams says: “There is not in the whole range of the Sanskrit literature a more charming poem than the Ramayana. The classical purity, clearness and simplicity of its style, the exquisite
1 Asiatic Researches, p. 255. . A writer in the Westminister 1?eieto for April 1868 offers Mahabharata such a remote antiquity as to leave behind not only Manu but even the writings of Asvalyana, eto. Count Bjornstjerna dates it at 2000 B C. Dr. Mittra points out that “ the Mahabharata, in the course of its thousands of verses, nowhere alludes to Buddhism and Buddha, and must therefore, and on other grounds not worth naming here, date from before the birth of Salya.”--ne hula Aryans, Vol. I, p. 38.
2 Eleeren’s Historical Researches, Vol. H, p. 149’
touches of true poetic feeling with which it abounds, its graphic descriptions of heroic incidents, nature’s grandest scenes, the deep acquaintance it displays with the conflicting workings and most refined emotions of the human heart, all entitle it to rank among the most beautiful compositions that have appeared at any period or in any country. It is like a spacious and delightful garden, here and there allowed to run wild, but teeming with fruits and flowers, watered by perennial streams, and even its most tangled jungle intersected with delightful pathways. The character of Rama is nobly portrayed. It is only too consistently unselfish to be human. We must in fact bear in mind that he is half a god, yet though occasionally dazzled by flashes from his superior nature, we are not often blinded or bewildered by it. At least in the earlier portion of the poem he is not generally represented as more than a heroic, noble-minded, pious, virtuous man, whose bravery, unselfish generosity, filial obedience, tender attachment to his wife, love for his brothers and freedom from all resentful feelings, we can appreciate and admire. When he falls a ‘victim to the spite of his father’s second wife, he cherishes no sense of wrong. When his father decides on banishing him, not a murmur escapes his lips. In noble language he expresses his resolution to sacrifice himself rather than allow his parent to break his pledged word. As to Sita, she is a paragon of domestic virtues.”2
1”When identified with the deity, he seems himself unconscious of his true character. It is even possible that the passages which make him an incarnation of Vishnu may be later interpolations,”
2Indian Epic Poetry, p. 12.
Sita is the noblest ideal of a woman. Her noble and calm devotion to her lord, her unbounded love, her exalted conception of the eternal, nay, divine relation of a wife to her husband are ideals unparalleled for loftiness and sublimity in any language or literature. Wnat can be more noble than her address to Rama when she pleads for permission to accompany him into banishment ?
A wife must share her husband’s fate. My duty is to follow thee Where’er thou goest. Apart from thee, I would not dwell in heaven itself Deserted by her lord, a wife is like a miserable corpse.
Close as thy shadow would I cleave to thee in this life and hereafter. Thou art my king, my guide, my only refuge, my divinity.
It is my fixed resolve to follow thee. If thou must wander forth. Through thorny trackless forests, I will go before thee treading down The prickly brambles to make smooth thy path. Walking before thee Shall feel no weariness: the forest-thorns will seem like silken robes; The bed of leaves a couch of down. To me the shelter of thy presence Is better far than stately palaces and paradise itself.
Protected by thy arm, gods, demons, men shall have no power to harm me, With thee I’ll live contentedly on roots and fruits. Sweet or not sweet, If given by thy hand, they will to me he like the food of life.
Roaming with thee in desert wastes, a thousand years will be a day; Dwelling with thee, e’en hell itself should be to me a heaven of bliss,
“Juliet,” says Prof. Dowden, “is but a passionate girl before this perfect woman,” meaning, Brutus’ Portia, but what becomes of Portia herself before this heavenly woman, this ethereal being, this celestial Sita?
As for Rama, his character simply stands unrivalled in all literature, ancient or modern, Asiatic or European.
Principal Griffith says: “Well may the Ramayana challenge the literature of every age and country to produce a poem that can boast of such perfect characters as a Rama and a Sita.” He adds: “Nowhere else are poetry and morality so charmingly united, each elevating the other as in this really holy poem.”
Miss 111 ary Scott says: “The Rarnavana is full of poetry, and Sita one of the sweetest types of womanhood that I have ever read.”‘
As for the Mahabharata, Professor Hereen says: “It will scarcely be possible to deny the Mahabharata to be one of the richest compositions in Epic poetry that was ever produced.”2
Dr. F. A. Hassler of America thus waxes eloquent in praise of the Mahabharata: “In all my experience in life, I have not found a work that has interested me as much as that noble production of the wise, and I do not hesitate to say, inspired men of ancient India. In fact I have studied it more than any other work for a long time past, and have made at least 1,000 notes which I have arranged in alphabetical order for the purpose of study. The Mahabharata has opened to me, as it were, a new world, and I have been surprised beyond measure at the wisdom, truth, knowledge, and love of the right which I have found displayed in its pages. Not only so, but I have found many of the truths which my own heart has taught me in regard to the Supreme Being and His creations set forth in beautiful, clear language.’” The Hamilton Daily Spectator (May 31st, 1888) thus speaks of the Mahabharata “ This poem is really a series of religious, moral, metaphysical, philosophic and political disquisitions strung upon a thread of narrative. This not only gives to the modern world a living picture
1Letter to P. C. Roy, dated London, the 8th December 1883. Historical Researches, Vol. H, p. 164.
3 Letter to P. C. Roy, dated 21st July, 1888. See Roy’s Mababharata,
Dr. F. A. Hassler of America thus waxes eloquent in praise of the Mahabharata: “In all my experience in life, I have not found a work that has interested me as much as that noble production of the wise, and I do not hesitate to say, inspired men of ancient India: In fact I have studied it more than any other work for a long time past, and have made at least 1,000 notes which I have arranged in alphabetical order for the purpose of study. The Mahabharata has opened to me, as it were, a new world, and I have been surprised beyond measure at the wisdom, truth, knowledge, and love of the right which I have found displayed in its pages. Not only so, but I have found many of the truths which my own heart has taught me in regard to the Supreme Being and His creations set forth in beautiful, clear language.? The Hamilton, Daily Spectator (May 31st, 1888) thus speaks of the Mahabharata “ This poem is really a series of religious, moral, metaphysical, philosophic and political disquisitions strung upon a thread of narrative. This not only gives to the modern world a living picture
1Letter to P. C. Roy, dated London, the 8th December 1883. 2Historical Researches, Vol. II, p. 164.
3 Letter to P. C. Roy, dated 21st July, 1888. See Roy’s Mahabharata.
of Indian life, morals, manners, politics, religion and philosophy as they existed more than 2,000 years ago, but they transmit to us some of the most sublime poetry and some of the deepest and noblest thoughts that have ever been given to the world.”
Krishna, the greatest politician of the world, says :-
“ The wise grieve not for the departed, nor for those who yet survive. Ne’er was the time when I was not, nor thou, nor yonder Chiefs, and ne’er Shall be the time when all of us shall be not; as the unbodied soul In this corporeal frame moves swiftly on through boyhood, youth & age, So will it pass through other forms hereafter—be not grieved thereat. The man whom pain and pleasure, heat and cold affect not, he is fit
For immortality: that which is not cannot be—and that which is Can never cease to be. Know this :—the being that spread this universe Is indestructible; who can destroy the Indestructible ?
These bodies that enclose the everlasting soul, inscrutable,
Immortal, have an end—but he who thinks the soul can be destroyed, And he who deems it a destroyer, are alike mistaken: it
Kills not, and is not killed; it is not born, nor cloth it ever die; It has no past nor future—unproduced, unchanging, infinite: he Who knows it fixed, unborn, imperishable, indissoluble,
How can that man destroy another, or extinguish aught below ?
As men abandon old and threadbare clothes to put on others new, So casts the embodied soul its worn out frame to enter other forms.
No dart can pierce it; flame cannot consume it, water wet it not, Nor scorching breezes dry it: indestructible, incapable
Of heat or moisture or aridity—eternal, all-pervading,
Miss Mary Scott says: “The characters are splendidly portrayed. It is a thoroughly martial poem, and one can enter into the battles between the Pandas and Kurus.” Professor Sylvian Levi of Paris says: “The Mahabharata is not only the largest, but also the grandest of all epics, as it contains throughout a lively teaching of morals under a glorious garment of poetry.”‘
‘Letter to P. C. Roy, dated the 17th March 1888,
EPIC POETRY. 237
The American ethnologist, Jeremiah Curtin, writing to Babu P. C. Roy, the enterprising publisher of an English translation of the Mahabharata, says: “I have just finished reading carefully from beginning to end, 24 numbers of your translation of the Mahabharata, and can honestly say that I hale never obined more plea-
sure from reading gily_boole-in my life. The Mahabharata will’”oiFeiifb-reyesOTthe.WOHd TO’717 true character and intellectual rank of the Aryans of India You are certainly doing a great work, not only fO -mdustan, but for the Aryan race in other countries: habharata is a real mine of wealth not entirely known, I suppose, at pre-s-e-cal-Vrany-rifafFlaats our country, but which will be known in time and valued in all civilized lands for the reason that it contains information of the highest import to all men who seek to know in singleness of heart, the history of our race upon the earth, and the relations of man with the Infinite Power above ..s, around us and in us.”
‘pe-Bacitiolenly thus speaks of the Mahabharata in the Journal Des Savantes of September 1886: “ When a century ago (1785) Mr. Wilkins published in Calcutta an extract frowthe-grancipoem ( Mahabharata), and made it known through the-eLthe Bhagvadgita, the world was dazzled with its magnificence. Vya---s--a, the reputedan-t-h-OF of th-e-M-dab- ath---7aia,
appeared greater than even Homer, and it required a very little indeed to induce people to place India above Greece It has not the less been admitted that this prodigious Hindu epic is one of the grandest monuments of its kind of human intelligence and genius.”
18ee 1-toy’s Translation of Maliabliqrata, part XXX.
238 HINDU SUPERIORITY.
The Watertown. post (Tuesday, June 22, 1886), calls a. abharata, “ one of the most wonderful poems of which we have any record,” and says: “ The poem is the Mahabharata, the oldest, the most voluminous, and, according to Wheeler, the historian of India, the most valuable epic in any language. It consists of some 2,20,000 lines, is fourteen times longer than the Iliad.”
Sir Edwin Arnold, in his “ Indian Idylls,” claims for parts of it “ an origin anterior to writing, anterior to Puranic theology, anterior to Homer, perhaps to Moses.” He further says: “What truer conception of a wife than this, written more than three thousand years ago: “She is a true wife who is skilful in household affairs: she is a true wife whose heart. is devoted to her lord; she is a true wife who knoweth none but her lord. The wife is man’s half: the wife is the first of friends: the wife is the root of salvation. They that have wives have the means of being cheerful: they that have wives can achieve good fortune. Sweet-speeched wives are as friends on occasions of joy: they are as mothers in hours of sickness and woe. A wife, therefore, is one’s most valuable possession. No man even in anger should ever do anything that is disagreeable to his wife, seeing that happiness, joy and virtue, everything depended on the wife,” and concludes by saying: “ we may well accept this great poem as one of the priceless possessions of the East.”
Mr. Titus Munson Coan, in the New York Times (4th March, 1888), says: “The Hindu epics have a nearer significance for us than anything in the Norse mythology. The Mahabharata, one of the longest of these poems, has wider romantic element in it than
t PIC rOETRY. 23
King Frithiof’s Saga; its action is cast upon a grander scale, and its heroes belittle all others in mythology. The Hindu poems, early though they are, contain ethical and human elements that are unknown to the Norseman. It is in this that their enduring, their growing interest remains for the mind of Europe and of America.”
The Hamilton Daily Spectator of 31st May, 1888, after speaking of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata as “ immortal works,” says that the great epic of India, “ Mahabharata, is the longest and in some respects, the greatest of all epic poems.”
Mon. A. Barth says: “Some portions of the Mahabharata may well compare with the purest and most beautiful productions of human genius) The Ramayana is three times as large as Homer’s Iliad, and the Mahabharata four times as large as the Ramayana. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey have thirty thousand lines, the Mahabharata has two hundred and twenty thousand lines, and, in addition, a supplement of sixteen thousand three hundred and seventy-four couplets. But it is not in size alone that the sacred epics of Valmiki and Vyasa excel. They enchant by the wonderous story they tell of ancient Aryan life, faith and valour. There is also a lively teaching of morals under a glorious garment of poetry.” “Matchless vivacity, unsurpassably tender and touching episodes, and a perfect store house of national antiquities, literature and ethics.” 2
tRevue De L’Histoirc Des Religions. Paris 1889, p. 38.
2The Montreal Herald, (Thursday, Nov. 12th, 1891). Trubner’s American, European and Oriental Literary Record, new Series, Vol. VII, No. 3, speaks of the Mahabharata as “ the wonderful epic,” and regrets “how little has up to the present been done to unravel the mysteries it contains, or even to smooth a path leading to its golden treasures!”
240 HINDU SUPERIORITY.
Speaking of a certain part of the Mahabharata, a critic says: “We know of no episode, even in Homeric poems, which can surpass its grandeur or raise a more solemn dirge over the desolation of the fallen heart of men.”‘
The characters of the five Pandavas, of Krishna, Duryodhana, Drona, Bhishma and Karana, are drawn with a true poetic feeling “and with much artistic delicacy of touch.” Yudhishtra, Arjuna, Bhima, are portraits worthy of the highest poets, and can only be drawn by men of extraordinary imagination, and by soaring intellects as Vyasa.
Perfection is a merit known only to the Hindus. “ A European poet would have brought the story to an end” after the termination of the war in favour of the Pandavas, but “the Sanskrit poet has a far deeper insight into man’s nature,” and would not end there, to the dissatisfaction of the reader, but would wind up the story and end with the translation of the Pandavas to Heaven.
“The Ramayana and the Mahabharata,” says Wilson, “abound with poetical beauties of the first order, and particularly in delineations of picturesque manners and situations, and in the expression of natural and a le feeling.” 2
“There are many graphical passages,” says Professor ‘Iliams “in the Ramayana and 1Vlahabharatawhich
1- The Westministe Revito for October 1842. “Many of its (Mahabharata’s) episodes of themselves would make perfect poems of the first grade, and would stand comparison with any European poems. There is a touching episode, full of true poetic feeling, in Adiparva 6101, called Bakabadha, as there are a thousand others.”—Monier Williams’ Epic Poetry of India.
2 Mill’s India, Vol. II, p, 52, footnote.
EPIC POETRY. 241
for beauty of description, cannot be surpassed by anythinz in Homer, . .. that the diction of Indian epics is more p5Iiihed, regular and cultivated, and the language altogether in a nior advanced stage of devolopment than that of Homer.” Then, as to the description of sc-e-rier-y-Fin which: mdu poets are certainly more graphic a picturesque than either Greek or Latin . . . he
adds . “Yet there are not wanting indications in the Indian epics of a higher degree of cultivation than that represented in the Homeric poems. The battlefields of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are not made barbarous by wanton cruelties, and the description of Ayodhya and Lanka imply far Brea uxury and refinement an those of Sparta and Troy.” Ramayana a.. al-A-a-Manta rise 056\T t e is poems also in
the fact th. . .-. e
=. trus---nreani-ng-app_ derlie all the narrative, and that the wildest allegory may be intended to conceal a sublime moral, symbolizing the conflict between good and evil, teaching the hopelessness of victory in so terrible contest with purity of sou
self-abnegation and . _. e assions.” 2
Mr. Herbert Spencer, the greatest of the modern European thinkers, condemns the Iliad among other things for the reason “that the subject matter appeals continually to brutal passions and the instincts of the savage.”3
Sir Monier Williams says :—” And in exhibiting pictures of domestic life and manners, the Sanskrit
1”In Homer, the description of scenery and natural objects are too short and general to be really picturesque. Twining says that the Greek poets did not look, upon Nature with a painter’s eye.”—Monier Williams’ Indian Epic Poetry.
Indian Epic Poetry, p. 4.
7-ea Spencer’s Autobiography. Vol. I, p. 262.
242 HINDU SUPERIORITY.
epics are even more valuable than the Greek and Roman. In the delineation of women, the Hindu poet throws aside all exaggerated colouring, and draws from Nature. Kaikeyi, Mandodari, Kausalya, and even Manthra, are all drawn to the very life. Sita, Draupadi, and Damayanti engage our affections far more than Helen or even than Penelope. Indeed, Hindu wives’ are generally perfect patterns of conjugal fidelity: nor can it be doubted that in these delightful portraits of the prativrata, or devoted wife, we have true representations of the purity and simplicity of Hindu domestic manners in early times.”
“Nothing,” says the author further on,” can be more beautiful and touching than the picture of domestic and social happiness in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It is indeed in depicting scenes of domestic affection, and expressing those universal feelings and emotions w hich belong to human nature in all time and in all places, that Sanskrit epic poetry is unrivalled.”2
In addition to these two most celebrated epics, there are a large number of smaller epics which would well stand comparison with similar poems of any country.
1Count Bjornstjerna says: “Among other remarkable particulars in this poem is the pure light in which it sets the noble character and high-minded devotion of the women of India”—Theogony of the Hindus, p.82.
2lndian Epic Poetry, pp. 57, 58. “ Contrast with the respectful tone of Hindu children towards their parents the harsh manner in which Telemachus generally speaks to his mother. Filial respect and affection is quite ag noteworthy a feature in the Hindu character now as in ancient times. I have been assured by Indian officers that it is common for unmarried soldiers to stint themselves almost to straVation point that they may send money to their aged parents. In this, the Hindus might teach us (Englishmen) a lesson.” -- ir Monier Wi dime:
EPIC POETRY. 243
Mr. Colebrooke speaks of Bayhuvansa in the highest terms, and says, “ Sisupalbadh is another celebrated epic poem.”1 “Kirat Arjunya is remarkable,” according to Colebrooke “ for the variety of measures and the alliteration,’ while Maha Kavyas appears to the European reader very remarkable for verbal ingenuity.” “Bhattikavya, by Bhartari Hari, is a poem of considerable reputation.”3 “Kumar Sambhava is charming and fanciful,” and, adds Mr. Griffith, “ the author must ha’,-e tried all the fertility of resource, the artistic skill, and the exquisite ear of the author of Lala Rookh.”4
Nalodaya, which is attributed to Kalidasa, “is remarkable for showing the extraordinary powers of the Sanskrit language, and it is impossible not to wonder at the ingenuity of the workman.”5
The Raghava Pandava TTijaya, by Kaviraja, “ is rather a curiosity than a poem.” Mr. Colebrooke speaks of it as an instance of a complete poem, every canto of which exhibits variety of metre. “This,” says Mrs. Manning also, “ is an extraordinary poem.”
Of Nala Darnayanti, Professor Hereen says: “Re mark-able as this episode appears for inventive merit it is not at all inferior in point of style, and some passages would do credit even to Homer himself.”6
The imagination of the ancient Hindus was unrivalled in fertility and range; in fact, like the whole
2Manning’s Ancient and Medieval India, Vol. II, p. 135.
3lbid, p. 137. “Verbal ingenuity is its most remarkable quality.” Colebrooke regards “Kirat Arjunya, Kumar Sambhava, Raghu Vansa, Nalodaya, I/leghduta, with another, as 6 excellent compositions in Sanskrit.”—Miscellaneous Essays, p. 84.
4 Preface to Griffith’s translation of the “Birth of the War God.” 501d Indian’ Poetry, 6 Heercn’s ,list. Researches, Vol, II, p, 167.
244 HINDU SUPERIORITY„
faceof nature, like those stupendous mountains, majes-
tic rivers, and boundless expanse of the country around
them, the ancient Hindu standards of strength _and
splendour are bewildering to some ritics _am
“aarasterriruttroTh. more limited horiz Their (Hindu)
eations are, therefore, not only unrivalled but unapproachable in beauty, richness and grandeu
—To—the European everything is grand, su ime and magnificent in India, whether you look at the outward expression of nature, or at the physical and mental resources of the country. Look at the creation of God or the creation of man, you are absolutely struck with amazement and awe! The snowy peaks of her sublime Hirnavat seem to raise their heads higher than the highest heaven, while before their Indra and Brahma the European Apollo and Jupiter sink into insignificance.
“If we compare,” says Professor Heeren, “the mythology of the Hindus with that of the Greeks, it will have nothing to apprehend on the score of intrinsic copiousness. In point of aesthetic value, it is sometimes superior, at others, inferior to the Greek: while in luxuriance and splendour it has the decided advantage. Olympus, with all its family of gods and goddesses, must yield in pomp and majesty to the palaces of Vishnu and Indra.”1 “ The Hindu mythology,” he says, “like the sublime compositions of Milton and litopstock, extends its poetic flight far into the regions of unlimited space.” He adds: “The Hindu Epos has a greater resemblance to the religious poetry of the Germans and the English than Greeks, with this difference, that the poet of India has a
Heeren’s Historical Researches. Vol. II, p. 285.
EPIC POETRY. 945
wider range afforded to his imagination than the latter.”
Some critics hold that the Ramayana is the original of the Iliad,’ that the latter is only an adaptation of the former to the local circumstances of Greece, that Homer’s description of the Trojan war is merely a mythological account of the invasion of Lanka by Ram Chandra. The main plot, of course, is the same. Troy stands for Lanka (Tabrobane), Sparta for Ajodhia, Menelaus for Rama, Paris for Ravana, Hector for Indrajit and Vibhishan; Helen for Sita, Agamemnon for Sugriva, Patroclus for Lakshmana, Nestor for Jamvant. Achilles is a mixture of Arjuna, Bhima and Lakshmana.
Indeed, it is very improbable, if not impossible, that the Greeks should produce all at once poems which stand amongst the greatest feats of human genius, and occupy a place in literature inferior only to the Indian epics (in some respects). Anterior to Homer, Greek literature has no existence, even no name, and it is difficult to believe that, without any previous cultivation whatever, some of the highest and the noblest work in the whole range of literature should come into existence. The English literature did not begin with Milton, or the Roman with Virgil; nor does the Sanskrit with Valmiki or Vyasa, as the Greek does with Homer.
Apart from external circumstances, the subject-matter lends support to the theory in a remarkable manner. The plot, the characters and the incidents resemble those of the Hindu epic poetry so strongly that it is difficult to explain this phenomenon, except by assuming that the one has drawn extensively, if not wholly, from the other.
1” Even the action of thd Hindu Epic is placed in an age far anterior to historicia computation.”— Heeren’s Historical Researches.
246 rmu SUPERIOR [TY.
And if we consider the external circumstances, the state of civilization of the two nations, their literature, wealth and constitution, the learning and character of their creators, little doubt remains as ho were the real creators and who the adapters. Hi .ol to Fauche in the Preface to his French translation of the Ramayana, says that “ Ramayana was composed before the omeric
poems, and that Homer took his ideas from
Apart from the fact that the main story has been adopted, and that the underlying plot of the one (Ramayana) and the principal characters of the other ( Mahabharata) have been taken and fused together into a national epic by the Greeks, it is clear that episodes and separate incidents from the Indian epics have been taken and versified in the Greek tongue.(2122e1W2r ford asserts that “ the subject of the Dionysus of Nonnus was borrowed from the Mahabharata.”‘ About Ravana’s invarstarr-orth-eliaigdoni-of n 1 punt Bjornstjerna says: “This myth is probably the foundation of the ancient Greek tradition of the attempt of the Titans to storm Heaven.”‘
Professor Max Dunker says: “When Dion Chrysostom remarks that the Homeric poems are sung by the Indians in their own language—the sorrows of Priam, the lamentations of Hecuba and Andromache, the bravery of Achilles and Hector—Lassen is undoubtedly right in referring this statement to the Mahabharata and putting Dhritrashtra in the place of Priam, Gandhari and Draupadi in the places of Andromache and Hecuba, Arjuna and Kama in the places of Achilles and Hector.”3
‘Asiatic Researches, Vol. IX, p. J8. 2 Theogony of the Hindus, p. SI.
3 History of Antiquity, Vol. IV, p. 81.
To wake the soul by tender strokes of art, To raise the genius and to mend the heart, To make mankind in conscious virtue bold, Live o’er each scene, and be what they behold.
—Port: Pro. to Addison’s Cato.
TnE dramatic writings of the Hindus are equally remarkable. External nature, as might be expected in a country which is “ the epitome of the world,”1 is the special forte of the Hindu poets, and, in no country, ancient or modern, has Nature (in contradistinction to man) been treated so poetically or so extensively introduced in poetry. But, though outward nature must attract, by its magnificence and its beauties, the attention of a people gifted with such marvellous powers of observation and sense for beauty, yet, the Hindus being a people given more than any other nation to analyzing thoughts and feelings and investigating mental phenomena, have made explorations in the realms of mind that exact the homage of mankind and defy emulation. To this reason, therefore, is due that the internal nature of man, the human mind with all its thoughts, feelings, volitions, all its desires and affections, its tendencies and susceptibilities, its virtues and failings and their developments are all drawn with a pencil at once poetic and natural. Creation in perfect harmony with nature is a feature of the Hindu drama. The characters are all creations, perfect in themselves and in their fidelity to nature. Extravagance, contradiction and unsuitability
1Alurray’s History of India, p. 1,
248 HINDU SUPERIORITY.
in the development—either of the plot or the characters
is never permitted. The dramas hold the mirror to Nature and, in this respect, the Shakespearean dramas alone can be compared to them: while, as regards the language, Sanskrit must of course always stand alone in beauty and sublimity.
With regard to the extent to which the dramatic literature has been cultivated in India, Sir W. Jones says that the Hindu theatre would fill as many volumes as that of any nation of modern Europe.
The Mohatnedan conquest of India resulted in the effectual repression of Hindu dramatic writings. Instead of receiving further development, the Hindu drama rapidly declined, and a considerable part of this fascinating literature was for ever lost.
Professor Wilson says: “It may also be observed that the dramatic pieces which have come down to us are those of the highest order, defended by their intrinsic purity from the corrosion of time.” Rupaka is the Hindu term for “ Play,” and “ Dasa Thipaka,” or description of the ten kinds of theatrical compositions, is one of the best treatises on dramatic literature and shows the extent to which dramatic literature was cultivated by the Hindus.
A writer says: “We might also conveniently transfer to them (Hindu dramas) the definitions of the European stage, and class them under the head of Tragedy, Comedy, Opera, Ballet, Burletta, Melodrama and Farce.” Professor Heeren says: “There are specimens of Hindu comedy still extant no way inferior to the ancient Greek.”‘
I Historical Researches; ‘Vol. II, p. 191.
Hindu drama, however, is in many respects superior to the Greek drama.
(1) Among the Hindus there are nine rasa or effects to be produced on the spectator. They are love, mirth, tenderness, fury, heroism, terror, disgust, wonder and tranquillity. “ The serious part of this list is much more comprehensive than the Greek tragic rasa of terror and pity.”
(2) “ The love of the Hindus is less sensual than that of the Greek and Latin comedy.”—Wilson.
(3) Valour, whenever displayed in the Hindu drama, is calm, collected and dispassionate, The calm intrepidity of the hero of Vir Charitra presents a very favourable contrast to the fury of Tidides or the arrogance of a Rinaldo. The Hindu taste is much finer.
(4) Females were represented in general by females. “ Boy Cleopetra” was unknown to the Hindu stage.
(5) The precise division of the Hindu plays into acts is a feature unknown to the Greeks. The division into acts proves higher development.’
(6) There was, moreover, no want of instruction for stage business, and we have the “asides” and “aparts” as regularly indicated as in the modern theatre in Europe.2
1” In respect of dress and decorations, the resources of the Hindu
theatre are sufficiently ample.”—Heeren’s Historical Researches, Vol. IL
20n Mill’s instituting a comparison between the Chinese and the
Hindu drama, Professor Wilson says: “The action of the Chinese plays
is unskilfully conducted, and they are wanting in the high poetic tone
which distinguish those of the Hindus: at the same time they are ingenious
and of ten interesting. They represent manners and feelings with truth.
They are the works of a civilized people.”—Mill’s India, Vol. II, p. 60
250 HINDU SUPERIORITY.
Following nature more closely, the Hindu drama usually blended “seriousness and sorrow with levity and laughter.” In this respect, the Hindu drama may be classed with much of the Spanish and English drama to which, as Schlegel observes, “ the terms tragedy and comedy are wholly inapplicable, in the sense in which they are employed by the ancients.”
The higher purpose of the dramatic art was never lost sight of by the Hindus. This is a distinguishing feature cf the Hindu drama. Professor Wilson says: “We may, however, observe to the honour of the Hindu drama, that Parakiya, or she who is the wife of another person, is never to be made the object of a dramatic intrigue: a prohibition that would have sadly cooled the imagination and curbed the wit of Dryden and Congreve.”
Sir W. Jones says: “The dramatic species of entertainment must have been carried to great perfection when Vicramaditya, who reigned in the first century before Christ, gave encouragement to poets, philologers, and mathematicians.” “ But what a course of preliminary mental improvement,” says Professor Heeren, “ must the nation have gone through ere they could possess a writer like Kalidasa! ere they could understand and appreciate his genius!”
Greater masters of drama, however, lived and died in India before Kalidasa; Dandi was one of them. Unhappily; however, to the eternal misfortune and regret of the civilized world, his works have met the same fate as productions of the highest class in many other departments of Hindu literature and science have done.
Love or sring(r, the emotion which after hunger is the most powerful emotion in the world, is a leading principle in the dramatic literature pf the world, and Mrs. Manning says: “Nowhere is love expressed with greater force and pathos than in the poetry of India.”‘
The best known dramatists of the Hindus are Kalidasa and Bhavbhuti. Kalidasa, “one of the greatest dramatists the world has ever produced,” flourished in the reign of Vieramaditya in the first century B.C.,’ while Bhavbhuti lived many centuries later.
The masterpiece f)Kalidasa is the play of Sakuntala. The plot of this astonishina literary performance,” as a great German critic calls it, is taken from the Mahabharata.1”02fes_s_or_ffeeren speaks in rapturous terms of this “far-famed which is incomparable fWfts7.3ewut chL,yFncIlerlefidelity to nature, and which, in fact. stands at the head of the dramatic literature of the wort He says: “And we must, in truth, allow Kalidasa to be one of those poets who have
Ancient and Madiacval India, Vol. II, p. 148.
2Some critics affect to ‘think that the author of Sakuntala was a contemporary of Raja Bhoja and not Vicramaditya, because a.poet named Kalidasa is also found to have flourished in the court of Bhoja. Professor Wilson says: “There having been two Kalidasas in India, and the existence of a Kalidasa at the court of Bhoja, is no argument against Amar’s being contemporary with another bard of the same name, or their both having flourished long anterior to the reign of the prince.” Professor Wilson then proceeds to explain the cause of such wild criticism, Nvhich he says is twofold: (1) The disputants run into the opposite vice of incredulity in order to avoid being thought credulous. (2) “ Their opposition to the many claims of Hinduism is not founded so much in greater learning or superior talents as in strong prejudices in favour of their own country and high conceit of their own abilities.” See Mill’s History of India, Vol. I, p. 174.
3Manning’s Ancient and Mediaeval India, Vol, II, p. 171,
252 HINDU SUPERIORITY.
done honour not merely to their nation but to all civilized mankind.”)
Augustus Schlegel, the foremost German Sanskritist, says of Sakuntala, that it presents “ through its Oriental brilliancy of colouring, so striking a resemblance to our (English) romantic drama that it might be suspected that the love of Shakespeare has influenced the translator, were it not that other Orientalists bore testimony to his fideli .72
Alexander Von Humboldt also notes the masterly mode in whit a idasa de-Sdril3es “the influence of nature upon the minds of lovers, his tenderness in the expression of feelings, and above all the richness of his creative fancy”3 “Her (Sakuntala’s) love and sorrow,” says Dr. Sir W. Hunter, “have furnished a theme for the great European poet of our age.” Goethe sings :—
Wonldst thou the young years blossom and the fruit of its decline,
And all by which the soul is charmed, enraptured, feasted, fed.
Wouldst thou the Earth and Heaven itself in one sole name combine,
I name thee, 0 Sakuntala! and all at once is said.
As regards the diction of the Hindu drama, Professor Wilson says: “It is impossble to conceive language so beautifully musical or so magnificently grand as that of the verses of Bhavbhuti and Kalidasa.”4 No dramatic
‘Historical Researches, Vol. II, p. 194.
2Monier Williams’ Sakuntala, Preface.
Schlegel (History of Literature, p. 115) says: “What we chiefly admire in their poetry is that tender fondness of solitude and the animated vegetable kingdom that so attract us in the drama of Sakuntala, the traits of female grace and fidelity and the exquisite loveliness of childhood, of such prominent interest in the older epics of India. We are also struck with the touching pathos accompanying deep moral feeling,”
3 Ancient and Mediaeval India, Vol. II, p, 142.
4Wilson’s Theatre of the Hindus, Vol. I, p. 63. As an instance of the great diversity of composition, I may mention the fact that the first 35 stanzas of Sakuntala exhibit eleven kinds of metre.
literature dating earlier than the first century before Christ is extant to enable one to judge of its quality. The earliest specimen available shows the language itself and the study of versification to have reached the highest point of refinement, for the era of Vicramaditya, says Professor Heeren, “ gave birth to the greatest masterpieces in the art.”
Another celebrated play of Kalidasa is Vicrama and Urvasi. Comparing this play with Sakuntala, Professor Wilson says: “ There is the same vivacity of description and tenderness of feeling in both, the like delicate beauty in the thoughts and extreme elegance in the style. It may be difficult to decide to which the palm belongs, but the story of the present play is perhaps more skilfully woven and the incidents arise out of each other more naturally than in Sakuntala, while, on the other hand, there is perhaps no one personage in it so interesting as the heroine of that drama.” He adds: “The chief charm of this piece, however, is its poetry. The story, the situation and the characters are all highly imaginative, and nothing, if partiality for his work does not mislead the translator, can surpass the beauty and justice of many of the thoughts.”
The story is founded on a legend from the Satpath Brahrnana. Vicrama (a king) loves Urvasi (a nymph of Heaven), and his love is not rejected; but he is warned that if he is ever seen by her naked or unveiled, she shall be banished. This is a myth, and the high dramatic treatment of this scientific myth does the highest credit to the wisdom, observation and learning of Kalidasa. Explanations of this myth are given by Max Muller in his “Comparative Mythology,” as well as by
254 IIINDU SUPERIORITY.
Dr. Kuhn, wherein he allUdes also to the ideas of Weber. Max Muller makes Urvasi= dawn. Another explanation is that Pururavas (or Vicrama) personifies the sun, whilst Urvasi is the morning mist (see Chamber’s Encyclopaedia, S.V, Pururavas). Urvasi is an apsara, and we find in G-oldstticker’s dictionary that the apsaras “are personifications of the vapours which are attached by the sun and formed into mists or clouds.” Apsaras is derived from ap = water, and saras= who moves.’ Professor G-oldstticker holds, therefore, that the legend represents the absorption by the sun of the vapour floating in the air. When Pururavas becomes distinctly visible, Urvasi vanishes, because when the sun shines forth the mist is absorbed. Urvasi afterwards becomes a swan in the Satpath, but Kalidasa changes the nymph into a climbing plant. “ In Greece, Daphne beconies a laurel, because the country abounds In laurels, which are manifest so soon as the sun has absorbed the mist.”
Bhavbhuti’s popularity perhaps rivalled that of Kalidasa. Professor Wilson bears testimony to the extraordinary beauty and power of his language, and attributes his peculiar talent for describing nature in her magnificence to his early familiarity with the eternal mountains and forests of GondWana. His best-known plays are the Uttra Ram Charitra and Madhava Malati. As regards the former, Professor Wilson says: “It has more pretentions to genuine pathos than perhaps any other specimen of Hindu theatre. The mutual sorrows of Rama and Sita, in their *state of separation are pleasingly and tenderly expressed, and the meeting of
1See Wilson’s Theatre of the Hindus, Vol. I, p. 193.
the father and sons may be compared advantageously with similar scenes with which the fictions of Europe, both poetical and dramatic, abound. Besides the felicitous expression of softer feelings, this play has some curious pictures of the beau ideal of heroic bearing and of the duties of a warrior and a prince. A higher elevation can scarcely be selected for either. The true spirit of chivalry pervades the encounter of the two young princes. Some brilliant thoughts occur, the justice and beauty of which are not surpassed in any literature.”‘
As regards Madhava Malati, Prof: Wilson says: “It offers nothing to offend the most fastidious delicacy, and may be compared in this respect advantageously with many of the dramas of modern Europe, which treat of the passion that constitutes its subject. The manner in which love is here depicted is worthy of observation, as correcting a mistaken notion of the influence which the passion exercises over the minds of the natives of at least one portion of Asia. However intense the feeling—and it is represented as sufficiently powerful to endanger existence—it partakes in no respect of the impetuosity which it has pleased the writers of the West to attribute to the people of the East.
The barbarous nations whose inhuman love Is wild desire, fierce as the sun they feel.
The heroine of this drama is loved as a woman. She is no goddess in the estimation of her lover. The passion of Malati is equally intense with that of Juliet. The fervour of attachment which unites the different
1Wilson’s Theatre of the II indus, Vol. I, pp. 383, 84.
256 IIINDU SUPERIORITY.
personages of the drama so indissolubly in life and death is creditable to the Hindu national character. Unless instances of such disinterested union had existed, the author could scarcely have conceived, much less pictured,
emotion of love to be found in the literature of any nation.
The political life and manners of the Hindus are
well depicted by Visakhadatta in This celebrated play,
Mudra Rafchshasa. It has the stir and action of city life,
the endless ingenuity of political and court intrigue, and
the “staunch fidelity which appears as the uniform
characteristic of servants, emissaries and friends, a
singular feature in the Hindu character,” which, Pro-
fessor Wilson remarks, “it has not wholly lost.” Professor
Wilson adds: “It is a political or historical drama, and
unfolds the political policy of Chhnakya, the Machiavel
of India in a most ingenious manner. The plot of the
drama singularly conforms to one of the unities, and
the occurrences are all subservient to one action—the
conciliation of Rakhshasa. This is never lost sight of from first to last without being made unduly prominent.
It may be difficult in the whole range of dramatic literature to find a more successful illustration of the rule.”‘
The Mrichchhlcati, or the Toy Cart, by Maharaja S adraka, possesses considerable dramatic merit. The interest is rarely suspended, and in every case the apparent interruption is with great ingenuity made subservient to the common design. The connection of the two plots is much better maintained than in the play we usually refer to as.
1Wilson’s Theatre of the Hindus, Vol. II, p. 254. “The author is the Massinger of the Ilinclus,”—
a happy specimen of such a combination, “The Spanish Friar.” The deposition of Palaka is interwoven with the main story so intimately, that it could not be detached from it without injury, and yet it never becomes so prominent as to divert attention from that to which it is only an appendage.”‘
The hero of the play, however, is Samsthanaka, the Raja’s brother-in-law. “A character so utterly contemptible has perhaps been scarcely ever delineated. It would be very interesting to compare this drama for its merit of unity with The Merchant of Venice or The Two Noble Kinsmen, two of the best English dramas, in both of which the underplot is so loosely connected with the mainplot.”
One more play2 and I have done. The celebrated drama, Prabodha Chandrodaya by Krishna Misra, is much admired by Professor Lassen,3 who calls it peculiarly Indian, and “unlike anything in the literature of other countries. The allegorical personifications are not only well sustained but are wonderful, and the whole plot constructed with so much ability as to excite the admiration of all readers.”
“Much of that of the Hindus,” says Professor Wilson, “may compete successfully with the great number of dramatic productions of modern Europe, and offers no affinity to the monstrous arid crude abortions which preceded the introduction of the legitimate drama in the West.”
I Wilson’s Theatre of the Hindus, Vol. I, p. 181.
2There are many other dramas of considerable merit and high repute. Mahahir Charitra by Bhav Bhuti, Ratnavali by Sri Harish Deo, Maharaja of Kashmir, and Veni Samhara are among those which can be advantageously compared with similar dramas in the literature of- other nations.
3lndische Alterthundeunde, Vol. III, p. 790.
258 HINDU SUPERIORITY.
And fill this song of Jai Deva with thee,
And make it wise to teach, strong to redeem,
And sweet to living souls. Thou, mystery
Thou, Light of Life! Thou, Dawn beyond the dream!
—Hymn to Vishnii.
THE Lyric poetry of the Hindus is the finest of its kind in the world, for the reason that the language in which it is written is the most melodious and musical on earth. As Professor Wilson remarks, the poetry of the Hindus can never be properly appreciated by those who are ignorant of Sanskrit. To judge of the merits of Hindu poetry from translations is to judge it at its worst. Moreover, owing to the peculiarities of life and character of the Hindus, Europeans can hardly be expected to fully appreciate and enjoy their poetry; as they can neither fully understand their character, nor fully enter into their feelings and sympathise with them. To the Hindus, Bharata’s conduct in following Rama into the jungle and entreating him to return to Ayodhia is as natural as anything in the world, while to Mr. Talboys Wheeler, the historian of India, it appears, “ contrary to human nature.” As Mr. Wheeler regards the venerable Dasratha as shamming when he gives vent to sorrow after having sentenced Rama to exile to keep a vow, what should he have thought of the Hindu ladies of the present day had he known that they would die or suffer anything rather than open their lips even to those who are dearer to them than life itself, when they think modesty
LYRIC POETRY. 259
forbids their doing so, even when life itself is in danger? Hindu ideas of duty, obedience and modesty are much more complex than those of other nations. Still, when Hindu Lyric poetry has been properly judged, the praise has been liberal, and approbation emphatically expressed.
Gita GovinDs the finest extant specimen of
Hindu yric retry, and it is difficult to find in an language lyrics that can vie with it in melody and grace. r. Griffit says: “The exquisite melody of the verse can only be appreciated by those who can enjoy the original’
Schlegel says: “Tender delicacy of feeling and elep&c love cast a halo over Indian poetry,” and “ the whole is recast in the mould of harmonious softness, and is redolent of elegaic sweetness,’ILD
—Gita Govind has been analysed by Lassen in his Latin translation, beautifully translated in German by Ruckert, and has been dwelt upon with admiration by Sir W. Jones in his essay on the Mystical Poetry of the Hindus.
Professor Heeren says: “The Hindu lyric surpassed that of the Greeks in admitting both the rhyme and blank verse.”3 He further says: “How much of the beauty of a lyric must inevitably be lost in a prose translation it would be superfluous to remark; and yet it is impossible to read the Gita Govind without being charmed It is impossible, however, not to notice the extreme richness of the poet’s fancy, the strength and vivacity of his sentiment particularly observable in
‘Ancient and Medixyal India, Vol. II, p. 269. 2Schlegel’s History of Literature, p. 117.
3 Historical Researches, Vol, II, p. 187.
260 HINDU SUPERIORITY.
his delicate taste for the beauties in general, and which
not even the ardour of passion was able to extinguish.”‘
“ Gila Govind exhibits,” says Mr. Elphinstone, “ in perfection the luxuriant imagery and the voluptuous softness of the Hindu school.”2
Another Hindu lyric is the Ritu Sangrah, something like “ Thompson’s Seasons” in the English language. Mrs. Manning says about it: “Ritu Sangrah, a lyric poem by Kalidasa, is much admired not only by the natives of India, but by almost all students of Sanskrit literature.”3
Mr. Griffith, in his translation of “Ritu Sangrah,” says: “Sir W. Jones speaks in rapturous terms of the beautiful and natural sketches with which it abounds,” and, after expressing his own admiration, adds, “it is much to be regretted that it is impossible to translate the whole.”4
Lyric poetry was extensively cultivated in India. Sir W. Hunter says: “The Medieeval Brahmans displayed a marvellous activity in theological as well as lyric poetry.”
Special charm must attach to the lyric poetry of the Hindus, for, as Mrs. Manning remarks, “Nowhere is love expressed with greater force or pathos than in the poetry of the Hindus.”5
‘Ancient and Medimval India, pp. 189, 190, Jaideva, its author was born, as he himself says, at Kenduli, situated either in Calinga or in Burdwan.
2llistory of India, p. 156.
3llistorical Researches, Vol. II. Professor Von Bohlen translated it into German and Latin in 1840 A.D.
4Manning’s Ancient and Medival India, Vol. II, p. 265.
5 Manning’s Ancient and Mcdiaval India, Vol, II, p. 148.
LYRIC POETRY. 261
Megh Data is an excellent example of purely descriptive poetry. Mrs. Manning says: “It is the most important of its kind, and is a favourite with the Europeans too.”1 Professor H. H. Wilson says: “The language (of Megh Duta) although remarkable for the richness of its compounds, is not disfigured by their extravagance, and the order of the sentences is in general the natural one. The metre combines melody and dignity in a very extraordinary manner, and will bear an advantageous comparison with the best specimens of uniform verse in the poetry of any language, living or dead.”‘
Manning’s Ancient and Medimval India, Vol. II, p. 257. 2Wilson’s Essays, Vol. II, p. 312.
262 HINDU SUPERIORITY.
Thy power the breast from every error frees And weeds out all its vices by degrees.
THE Hindu achievements in this branch of literature establish once for all their intellectual superiority. It is this part of their literature that has made its way to the remotest corners of Europe and America. Its sway over the mind of the civilized world is almost despotic and complete.
Professor Wilson says: “Fable constitutes with them (Hindus) practical ethics—the science of Niti or Polity—the system of rules necessary for the good government of society in all matters not of a religious nature—the reciprocal duties of the members of an organized body either in their private or public relations. Hence it is specially intended for the education of princes, and proposes to instruct them in those obligations which are common to them and their subjects, and those which are appropriate to their princely office; not only in regard to those over whom they rule, but in respect to other princes, under the contingencies of peace and war. Each fable is designed to illustrate and exemplify some reflection on worldly vicissitudes or some precept for human conduct; and the illustration is as frequently drawn from the intercourse of human beings as from any imaginary adventure of animal existence, and this
ETIIICO -DIDACTIC POETRY. 263
mixture is in some degree a peculiarity of the Hindu plan of fabling or storytelling.”‘
It is now admitted by the learned everywhere that the fabulous literature of the world, which is such an important, and, in some respects, so necessary a part of the education of young men all over the world, apart from it being one of the most amusing, interesting and instructive diversions from labour and severe study, owes its origin solely to the intelligence and wisdom of the ancient Hindus.
Panchtantra is far and away the best masterpiece in the whole fabulous literature of the world; nay, it is the source from which the entire literature of fables, Asiatic or European, has directly or indirectly emanated. Mr. Elphinstone says: “In the composition of tales and fables they ( Hindus) appear to have been the instructors of the rest of mankind.2 The most ancient known fables (those of Bidpai) have been found almost unchanged in their Sanskrit dress; and to them almost all the fabulous relations of other countries have been clearly traced by Mr. Colebrooke, the Baron-de-sacy and Professor Wilson.”
Dr. Sir W. W. Hunter says: “The, fables of animals, familiar to the Western world from the time of IEsop downwards, had their original home in India. The relation between the fox and the lion in the Greek versions has no reality in nature, but it was based upon
Wilson’s Essays on Sanskrit Literature Vol. II, p. 85.
2History of India, pp. 156, 157, For a guide to further inquiry as to the Hindu origin of European fables, see Transactions of the R. A. S., Vol. I, p, 156. “ The complicated system of storytelling, tale within tale like the Arabian Nights, seems also to have been of their invention, as are the subjects of many well-known tale’s and romances, Oriental and European.”—Elphinstone’s History of India, p. 157.
264 HINDU SUPERIORITY.
the actual relation between the lion and his follower, the jackal, in the Sanskrit stories. Panchtantra was translated into the ancient Persian in the sixth century A.D., and from that rendering all the subsequent versions in Asia Minor and Europe have been derived. The most ancient animal fables of India are at the present day the nursery stories of England and America. The graceful Hindu imagination delighted also in fairy tales, and the Sanskrit compositions of this class are the original source of many of the fairy stories of Persia, Arabia and Christendom.”‘
Professor Max Mulled says: “The King of Persia, Khusro Nausherawan (531-579 A.D.) sent his physician, Barzoi, to India in order to translate the fables of the Panchtantra from Sanskrit into Pahlavi.”‘ Hitopdesa (hita=good and updesa=advice) as Mrs. Manning says, is the form in which the old Sanskrit fables became introduced into the literature of nearly every known language.
Fabel maintains the Indian origin of the fables common to India and Greece, which proves the antiquity of the Hindu fables.’
Professor Weber says: “Allied to the fables are the fairy tales and romances, in which the luxuriant
‘Imperial Gazetteer, “ India,” p. 238.
: What can it teach us? p. 93. “ The Panchtantra was translated into Persian in the sixth century by order of Nausherawan and thence into Arabic and Turkish and lastly into French,”— Heeren’s Historical Researches, Vol. II, p. 200.
3 W eber’s Indian Literature, p. 211. “The fable reported by Arrian of Hercules having searched the whole Indian ocean ‘and found the pearl with which he used to adorn his daughter, is of Hindu origin.”— Heeren’s Historical Researches, Vol. II, p. 271.
ETHICO-DIDACTIC POETRY. 265
fancy of the’ Hindus has, in the most wonderful degree, put forth all its peculiar grace and charm.”‘
Professor Wilson says: “The Fables of the Hindus are a sort of machinery to which there is no parallel in the fabling literature of Greece and Rome.”2 He also says that the Hindu literature contained collections of domestic narrative to an extent surpassing those of any other people.
Mrs. Manning thus remarks on the Panchtantra: “Each fable will be found to illustrate and exemplify some reflection on worldly vicissitude or some precept for human conduct; and instead of being aggregated promiscuously or without method, the stories are all strung together upon a connected thread and arranged in a framework of ‘continuous narrative, out of which they successively spring.” 3
A careful study of the subject will show that even the books which appear to have a distinctive Persian character and are generally regarded to be of Persian origin are in reality Hindu to the core. Count Bjornstjerna remarks: “The thousand and one Nights, so universally known in Europe, is a Hindu original translated into Persian and thence into other languages. In Sanskrit the name is Vrihat katha.”4 Professor Lassen of Paris asserts that “ the Arabian N ights
Entertainments are of Hindu. origin,Despite the authority of so many learned Orientalists
in favour of the Hindu origin of this literature, and the
Weber’s Indian Literature, p. 213. 2Wilson’s Essays, Vol. II, p. 85.
3Ancient and Medimval India, Vol. 1I, p. 274.
4 Iheogony.of the Hindus, p. 85. 5See his, Ind. Alt. IV, p. 902.
266 raNDu sUPERIORITY.
express historical evidence as to the transmission of the Hindu fables to Arabia and Persia, there is overwhelming internal evidence in the fables themselves to support the assertion that the Hindus have been the teachers of the rest of mankind in this important branch of literature. Take, for instance, the case of a particular fable. In the Panchtantra there is a story of a female bird who wished to make her nest further inland, because on the day of full moon the sea would be sweeping over the place where she then was. But the male bird objects, believing that he Was as strong as the sea and that it could not encroach upon his nest. (Benfey, Vol. II, pp. 87-89). Now this story is, as Professor Wilson remarks, one of the decisive proofs of the Indian origin of the fables. The name of the bird in Arabic is Titawi, a word which cannot be resolved to any satisfactory Arabic root. It is “ only a transcript of the Sanskrit Tittibha, Bengali Titib and Hindu Titihri.
Wilson remarks that in the translation of Panchtan-
tra, Kalalawa Damna, the name of the ox in Sanskrit
was Sanjiwaka, whence the Arabic Shanzebeh, and those
of the jackals, Karataka and Damnaka, whence the Arabic
Kalala and Damna.” The tale of Ahmad and Pari Banu
betrays palpably its Indian origin. Pari Bhanu is decid-
edly a Hindu name. The eldest of the three princes, Prince
Husein, in search of some extraordinary rarity which may
entitle him to the hand of the Princess Nuran Nihar, re-
pairs to the Indian city, Bisnagar (decidedly an Indian
name) a metropolis of extraordinary wealth and population.
Mr. Deslongchamps says: “The book of Sinclebad
is of Indian origin, and adds thatthe under-mentioned three
stories were in a special degree derived from the original.
ETRICO-DIDACTIC POETRY 267
(1) The Arabic story of a King, his Son, his favourites and seven Vaziers. ( 2) The Hebrew romaned of the Parables of Sendebar, and (3) the Greek romance of Syntipas. From the Hebrew romance above described, Deslongchamps derives, “the history of the seven sages of Rome,” Historia septem ,sapicutan Romoe, a very popular work in Europe for three centuries.
Professor Wilson says: “In a manuscript of the
Parable of Sendebar, which existed in the British. Museum, it is repeatedly asserted in anonymous Latin notes that the work was translated out of the Indian language into Persian and Arabic, and from one of them into Hebrew. Sendebar is also described as a chief of the Indian Brahmans, and Beibar, the King, as a King of -India.”—Ellis’ Metrical Romances, Vol. III.
A.deeisive proof of SindeVad being an Indian is the direct evidence on the subject, of the eminent Arabic writer, Masudi. In his “Golden Meadows” (MirajulZeheb), in a chapter on the ancient kings of India, he speaks of an Indian philosopher named Sindebb-I, who was contemporary with Kurush, and was the author of the -work entitled, “ The Story of Seven Vaziers, the tutor, the young man and the wife of the king.” “This is the work,” he adds, “ which is called the book of SendebAd.”
By his interesting analysis of the Syntipas and the Parables of Sendebetel,’ Professor Wilson clearly shows that the stories are one and all of Hindu origin.2 He also shows that the “ Seven Sages of Rome “ is also of Hindu origin. Besides these fables and stories, says Professor Wilson, “ various narratives of Indian origin forced their way individually and unconnectedly to Europe.”3
‘Wilson’s Sanskrit Essays, Vol. II, pp. 99, 100. 2 ibid, p, 101. 3 Wilson’s Sanskrit Essays,- Vol, -II, p. 1-01.
268 HINDU SUPERIORITY.
Sir John Malcolm says: “ Those who rank the highest among Eastern nations for genius have employed their talents in works of fiction, and have added to the moral lessons they desired to convey so much of grace and ornament that their volumes have found currency in every nation of the world.”‘
It is thus clear that the Hindus have produced a branch of literature the kind of which, in any considerable degree, has never been produced by any other nation in the world, Asiatic or European, ancient or modern. This wonderful phenomenon is thus explained by Professor Heeren. “ The poetry of no other nation exhibits in such a’striking manner the didactic character as that of the Hindus; for, no other people were so thoroughly imbued with the persuasion that to give and receive instruction was the sole and ultimate object of life.”2
1 He fixes the Crusades as the time of the emigration to Europe of some of the well-known works of this kind, such as :—(1) The Katha Saritasagar, (2) The Vetal Panchvinsati, (3) The Singhasane Dwatrinsati, and (4) The Sukasaptati. The first of these works.was composed for the amusement and instruction of Sri Hanish of Kashmir, by the order of his grandmother, Suryavati, who became sati in 1093 A.D. But that the stories of which it is made up were of great antiquity is proved from the fact ‘of one of them occurring in Odyssey. In the fifth book of Katha Saritasagar there is a story of a man who being shipwrecked is caught in a whirlpool, and escapes by jumping up and climbine. the branch of a fig tree., apparently the bunyan (Ficus Indica) celebrated for its pendulous roots. Professor Wilson here refers to Odyssey, XII, pp. 101-104, where Ulysses escapes from a whirlpool by jumping up and clinging to the branches of a fig tree—probably the Indian fig tree or bunyan, the pendulous branches of which would be more within reach than those of the Sicilian fig; and Horner, he thinks, may have borrowed’ the incident from some old Eastern fiction.