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Part 1 - The Hindus 

India is crossed from East to West by a chain of mountains called the Vindhyas. The country to the North of this chain is now called Hindustan and that to the South of it the Deckan. Hindustan is in four natural divisions; the valley of the Indus including the Panjab, the basin of the Ganges, Rajputana and Central India. Neither Bengal nor Guzerat is included in Hindustan power. The rainy season lasts from June to October while the South West wind called the Monsoon is blowing. 

Every Hindu history must begin with the code of Menu which was probably drawn up in the 9th century B.C. In the society described, the first feature that strikes us is the division into four castes--the sacerdotal, the military, the industrial, and the servile. The Bramin is above all others even kings. In theory he is excluded from the world during three parts of his life. In practice he is the instructor of kings, the interpreter of the military class; the king, his ministers, and the soldiers. Third are the Veisyas who conduct all agricultural and industrial operations; and fourth the Sudras who are outside the pale. 

The king stands at the head of the Government with a Bramin for chief Counsellor. Elaborate rules and regulations are laid down in the code as to administration, taxation, foreign policy, and war. Land perhaps but not certainly was generally held in common by village communities. 

The king himself administers justice or deputes that work to Bramins. The criminal code is extremely rude; no proportion is observed between the crime and the penalty, and offences against Bramins or religion are excessively penalised. In the civil law the rules of evidence are vitiated by the admission of sundry excuses for perjury. Marriage is indissoluble. The regulations on this subject and on inheritance are elaborate and complicated. 

The religion is drawn from the sacred books called the Vedas, compiled in a very early form of Sanskrit. There is one God, the supreme spirit, who created the universe including the inferior deities. The whole creation is re-absorbed and re-born periodically. The heroes of the later Hindu Pantheon do not appear. The religious observances enjoined are infinite; but the eating of flesh is not prohibited. At this date, however, moral duties are still held of higher account than ceremonial. 

Immense respect is enjoined for immemorial customs as being the root of all piety. The distinction between the three superior or "Twice Born" classes points to the conclusion that they were a conquering people and that the servile classes were the subdued Aborigines. It remains to be proved, however, that the conquerors were not indigenous. The system might have come into being as a natural growth, without the hypothesis of an external invasion. 

The Bramins claim that they alone now have preserved their lineage in its purity. The Rajputs, however, claim to be pure Cshatriyas. In the main the Bramin rules of life have been greatly relaxed. The castes below the Cshatriyas have now become extremely mixed and extremely numerous; a servile caste no longer exists. A man who loses caste is excluded both from all the privileges of citizenship and all the amenities of private life. As a rule, however, the recovery of caste by expiation is an easy matter. The institution of Monastic Orders scarcely seems to be a thousand years old. 

Menu's administrative regulations have similarly lost their uniformity. The township or village community, however, has survived. It is a self-governing unit with its own officials, for the most part hereditary. In large parts of India the land within the community is regarded as the property of a group of village landowners, who constitute the township, the rest of the inhabitants being their tenants. The tenants whether they hold from the landowners or from the Government are commonly called Ryots. An immense proportion of the produce, or its equivalent, has to be paid to the State. The Zenindars who bear a superficial likeness to English landlords were primarily the Government officials to whom these rents were farmed. Tenure by military service bearing some resemblance to the European feudal system is found in the Rajput States. The code of Menu is still the basis of the Hindu jurisprudence. 

Religion has been greatly modified. Monotheism has been supplanted by a gross Polytheism, by the corruption of symbolism. At the head are the Triad Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the preserver, Siva the destroyer. Fourteen more principal deities may be enumerated. To them must be added their female Consorts. Many of the Gods are held to be incarnations of Vishnu or Siva. Further, there is a vast host of spirits and demons, good or evil. By far the most numerous sect is that of the followers of Devi the spouse of Siva. The religions of the Buddhists and the Jains though differing greatly from the Hindu seemed to have the same origin.

The five languages of Hindustan are of Sanscrit origin, belonging to the Indo-European family. Of the Deckan languages, two are mixed, while the other three have no connection with Sanskrit. 

From Menu's code it is clear that there was an open trade between the different parts of India. References to the sea seemed to prove that a coasting trade existed. Maritime trade was probably in the hands of the Arabs. The people of the East Coast were more venturesome sailors than those of the West. The Hindus certainly made settlements in Java. There are ten nations in India, which differ from each other as much as do the nations of Europe, and also resemble each other in much the same degree. The physical contrast between the Hindustanis and the Bengalis is complete; their languages are as near akin and as mutually unintelligible as English and German, yet in religion, in their notions on Government, in very much of their way of life, they are indistinguishable to the European. 

Indian widows sometimes sacrifice themselves on the husband's funeral pile. Such a victim is called Sati. It is uncertain when the custom was first introduced, but, evidently it existed before the Christian era. 

A curious feature is that as there are castes for all trades, so there are hereditary thief castes. Hired watchmen generally belong to these castes on a principle which is obvious. The mountaineers of Central India are a different race from the dwellers in the plain. They appear to have been aboriginal inhabitants before the Hindu invasion. The mountaineers of the Himalayas are in race more akin to the Chinese. 

Established Hindu chronology is found in the line of Magadha. We can fix the King Ajata Satru, who ruled, in the time of Gotama, in the middle of the sixth century B.C. Some generations later comes Chandragupta--undoubtedly the Sandracottus of Diodorus. The early legend apparently begins to give place to real history with Rama, who certainly invaded the Deckan. He would seem to have been a king in Oudh. The next important event is the war of the Maha Bharata, probably in the fourteenth century B.C. Soon after the main seat of Government seems to have transferred to Delhi. The kingdom of Magadha next assumes a commanding position though its rulers long before Chandragupta were of low caste. Of these kings the greatest is Asoka, three generations after Chandragupta. There was certainly no lord paramount of India at the time of Alexander's invasion. Nothing points to any effective universal Hindu Empire, though such an empire is claimed for various kings at intervals until the beginning of the Mahometan invasions.


 

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