Zitierweise / cite as:
Payer, Alois <1944 - >: Quellenkunde zur indischen Geschichte bis 1858. -- 15. FrŁhe europšische Quellen und Quellen aus der Zeit der East India Companies. --15. Zum Beispiel: François Bernier: Letter to Monsieur Chapelain, 1667. -- Fassung vom 2008-06-12. -- http://www.payer.de/quellenkunde/quellen1515.htm
Erstmals publiziert als:
Bernier, François <1620-1688>: Travels in the Mogul empire, A.D. 1656-1668 / by François Bernier ... Translated on the basis of Irving Brockís version and annotated by Archibald Constable (1891). -- 2d ed., rev / by Vincent A. Smith [1848 - 1920]. -- London [u.a.] : Milford, Oxford University Press, 1916. li, 497, S. : Ill; 19 cm. -- S. 300 - 349. -- Online: http://www.archive.org/details/travelsinmogulem00bernuoft. -- Zugriff am 2008-05-19. -- "Not in copyright."
Erstmals hier publiziert: 2008-06-12s
Anlass: Lehrveranstaltung FS 2008
©opyright: Public domain.
Dieser Text ist Teil der Abteilung Sanskrit von TŁpfli's Global Village Library
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1 Jean Chapelain (1594-1674), an excellent man but a poor poet. In 1662 he was employed by Colbert (see p. 201, footnote 1) to draw up an account of contemporary men of letters to guide the King (Louis xiv.) in his distribution of pensions.
Abb.: Jean Chapelain
[Bildquelle: Wikipedia, Public domain]
I have witnessed two solar eclipses which it is scarcely possible I should ever forget. The one I saw from France in the year 1654, the other from Dehli in the Indies in 1666. The sight of the first eclipse was impressed upon my mind by the childish credulity of the French people, and by their groundless and unreasonable alarm ; an alarm so excessive that some brought drugs as [S. 301] charms to defend themselves against the eclipse ; some kept themselves closely shut up, and excluded all light either in carefully-barred apartments or in cellars ; while thousands flocked to their respective churches ; some apprehending and dreading a malign and dangerous influence ; others believing that the last day was at hand, and that the eclipse was about to shake the foundations of the world. Such were the absurd notions entertained by our countrymen, notwithstanding the writings of Gassendi1 Roberval2 and other celebrated astronomers and philosophers, which clearly demonstrated that the eclipse was only similar to many others which had been productive of no mischief; that this obscuration of the sun was known and predicted, and was without any other peculiarity than what might be found in the reveries of ignorant or designing astrologers.
1 For some account of Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655), the European Agah, 'Friendly Master,' of Bernier, see Chronicle of Events, etc., under date 24th October 1655, ante, p. xx.
2 Gilles Personne de Roberval (1602-1675), the great French mathematician. Appointed to the chair of Philosophy in the Gervais College in 1631, and afterwards to the chair of Mathematics in the College of France : an appointment which he held until his death, although a condition of tenure of that Professorship was that the holder should propose questions for solution and resign in favour of any one who solved them better than himself.
The eclipse of 1666 is also indelibly imprinted on my memory by the ridiculous errors and strange superstitions of the Indians. At the time fixed for its appearance I took my station on the terrace of my house, situated on the banks of the Gemna [Yamunā / यमुना], when I saw both shores of the river, for nearly a league in length, covered with Gentiles or idolaters, who stood in the water up to the waist, their eyes riveted to the skies, watching the commencement of the eclipse, in order to plunge and wash themselves at the very instant. The little boys and girls were quite naked ; the men had nothing but a scarf round their middle, and the married women and girls of six or seven years of age [S. 302] were covered with a single cloth. Persons of rank or wealth, such as Rajas (Gentile sovereign princes, and generally courtiers in the service and pay of the King), Serrafs1 or money-changers, bankers, jewellers, and other rich merchants, crossed from the opposite side of the river with their families, and pitching their tents fixed kanates2 or screens in the water, within which they and their wives washed and performed the usual ceremonies without any exposure. No sooner did these idolaters perceive that the obscuration of the sun was begun than they all raised a loud cry, and plunged the whole body under water several times in quick succession ; after which they stood in the river, lifted their eyes and hands toward the sun, muttered and prayed with seeming devotion, filling their hands from time to time with water, which they threw in the direction of the sun, bowing their heads very low, and moving and turning their arms and hands, sometimes one way, sometimes another. The deluded people continue to plunge, mutter, pray, and perform their silly tricks until the end of the eclipse. On retiring they threw pieces of silver at a great distance into the Gemna, and gave alms to the Brahmens, who failed not to be present at this absurd ceremony. I remarked that every individual on coming out of the water put on new clothes placed on the sand for that purpose, and that several of the most devout left their old garments as presents for the Brahmens.
1 The Arabic word sarādf, now modernised into shroff.
2 The side walls of a tent.
In this manner did I observe from the roof of my house the solemnisation of the grand eclipse-festival, a festival which was kept with the same external observances in the Indus, in the Ganges, and in the other rivers and Talabs (or tanks of the Indies], but above all in that one at Tanaiser,1 which contained on that occasion more than on [S. 303] hundred and fifty thousand persons, assembled from all parts of the empire ; its waters being considered on the day of an eclipse more holy and meritorious than those of any other.
1 The sacred tank at Thaneswar, in the Kamal District, situated on the line of the old Mogul road to Lahore, a very ancient place of Hindoo pilgrimage, being considered the centre of the `'Holy Land' of Kurukshetra. During eclipses of the moon, the waters of all other tanks are believed to visit this tank, so that he who bathes in the assembled water obtains the concentrated merit of all possible ablutions. Thaneswar, which is now gradually falling into ruin, is one of the oldest and most famous towns in India connected with the legends of the Mahābhārata and the exploits of the Pāndavas.
The Great Mogol, though a Mahometan, permits these ancient and superstitious practices ; not wishing, or not daring, to disturb the Gentiles in the free exercises of their religion. But the ceremony I have described is not performed until a certain number of Brahmens, as deputies from their fellows, have presented the King with a lecque [lakh] of roupies, equal to about fifty thousand crowns ; in return for which he begs their acceptance only of a few vests and an old elephant.
I shall now mention the wise and convincing reasons assigned for the festival of the eclipse, and for the rites with which it is attended.
We have, say they, our four Beths ;1 that is, our four books of law, sacred and divine writings given unto us by God himself, through the medium of Brahma. These books teach that a certain DeŁta,2 an incarnate divinity, extremely malignant and mischievous, very dark, very black, very impure, and very filthy (these are all their own expressions) takes possession of the Sun, which it blackens to the colour of ink, infects and obscures ; that the Sun, which is also a DeŁta, but of the most beneficent and perfect kind, is thrown into a state of the greatest uneasiness, and suffers a most cruel agony while in the power of and infected by this wicked and black being ; that an endeavour to rescue the Sun from so miserable a condition [S. 304] becomes the duty of every person ; that this important object can be attained only by means of prayers, ablutions, and alms ; that those actions have an extraordinary merit during the festival of the eclipse, the alms then bestowed being a hundred times more valuable than alms given at any other time ; and who is he, they ask, that would refuse to make a profit of cent per cent ?
1 A corruption of Vedas, Divine knowledge.
2 Deotah, a corruption of Devatā, 'Celestials,' most frequently the whole body of inferior gods.
These, Monsieur, were the eclipses which I told you I could not easily forget, and they naturally lead me to speak of other wild extravagancies of the unhappy heathens, from which I shall leave you to draw whatever conclusions you please.
In the town of Jagannat,1 situated on the Gulf of Bengale, and containing the famous temple of the idol of that name, a certain annual festival is held, which continues, if my memory fail not, for the space of eight or nine days. At this festival is collected an incredible concourse of people, as was the case anciently at the temple of Hammon, and as happens at present in the city of Meca. The number, I am told, sometimes exceeds one hundred and fifty thousand. A superb wooden machine is constructed, such as I have seen in several other parts of the Indies, with I know not how many grotesque figures, nearly resembling our monsters which we see depicted with two heads, being half man and half beast, gigantic and horrible heads, satyrs, apes, and devils. This machine is set on fourteen or sixteen wheels like those of a gun-carriage, and drawn or pushed along by the united exertions of fifty or sixty persons. The idol, Jagannat, placed conspicuously in the middle, richly attired, and gorgeously adorned, is thus conveyed from one temple to another.
1 In modern colloquial Juggernaut (a corruption of Jagannāth, one of the forms of Krishna), near the town of Pūri in Orissa.
The first day on which this idol is formally exhibited in the temple, the crowd is so immense, and the press so violent, that some of the pilgrims, fatigued and worn out in consequence of their long journey, are squeezed to [S. 305] death : the surrounding throng give them a thousand benedictions, and consider them highly favoured to die on such a holy occasion after travelling so great a distance. And while the chariot of hellish triumph pursues its solemn march, persons are found (it is no fiction which I recount) so blindly credulous and so full of wild notions as to throw themselves upon the ground in the way of its ponderous wheels, which pass over and crush to atoms the bodies of the wretched fanatics without exciting the horror or surprise of the spectators. No deed, according to their estimation, is so heroic or meritorious as this self-devotion : the victims believe that Jagannat will receive them as children, and recall them to life in a state of happiness and dignity.
The Brahmens encourage and promote these gross errors and superstitions to which they are indebted for their wealth and consequence. As persons attached and consecrated to important mysteries, they are held in general veneration, and enriched by the alms of the people. So wicked and detestable are their tricks and impostures that I required the full and clear evidence of them which I obtained ere I could believe that they had recourse to similar expedients. These knaves select a beautiful maiden to become (as they say, and as they induce these silly, ignorant people to believe) the bride of Jagannat, who accompanies the god to the temple with all the pomp and ceremony which I have noticed, where she remains the whole night, having been made to believe that Jagannat will come and lie with her. She is commanded to inquire of the god if the year will be fruitful, and what may be the processions, the festivals, the prayers, and the alms which he requires in return for his bounty. In the night one of these impostors enters the temple through a small back door, enjoys the unsuspecting damsel, makes her believe whatever may be deemed necessary, and the following morning when on her way to another temple, whither she is carried in that Triumphal Chariot, by the side of Jagannat her Spouse, she is desired by the Brahmens to state aloud [S. 306] to the people all she has heard from the lustful priest, as if every word had proceeded from the mouth of Jagannat. But let me relate follies of another kind.
In front of the chariot, and even in the DeŁras or Idol Temples, public women during festival days dance and throw their bodies into a variety of indecent and preposterous attitudes, which the Brahmens deem quite consistent with the religion of the country. I have known females celebrated for beauty, and who were remarkably reserved in their general deportment, refuse valuable presents from Mahometans, Christians, and even Gentile foreigners, because they considered themselves dedicated to the ministry and to the ministers of the DeŁra,1 to the Brahmens, and to those Fakires who are commonly seated on ashes all round the temple, some quite naked with hideous hair, like, we may suppose, to that of Megaera, and in postures which I shall soon describe.
1 Hindostanee for a temple, a corruption of the Sanskrit, Devala, a temple.
What has been said concerning women burning themselves will be confirmed by so many travellers that I suppose people will cease to be sceptical upon this melancholy fact. The accounts given of it have been certainly exaggerated, and the number of victims is less now than formerly ; the Mahometans, by whom the country is governed, doing all in their power to suppress the barbarous custom. They do not, indeed, forbid it by a positive law, because it is a part of their policy to leave the idolatrous population, which is so much more numerous than their own, in the free exercise of its religion ; but the practice is checked by indirect means. No woman can sacrifice herself without permission from the governor of the province in which she resides, and he never grants it until he shall have ascertained that she is not to be turned aside from her purpose : to accomplish this desirable end the governor reasons with the widow and makes her enticing promises ; after which, if these methods fail, he sometimes sends her [S. 307] among his women, that the effect of their remonstrances may be tried. Notwithstanding these obstacles, the number of self-immolations is still very considerable, particularly in the territories of the Rajas, where no Mahometan governors are appointed. But not to tire you with the history of every woman whom I have seen perish on the funeral pile, I shall advert to only two or three of those shocking spectacles at which I have been present ; and first I shall give you some details concerning a female to whom I was sent for the purpose of diverting her from persevering in her dreadful intention.
One of my friends, named Bendidas,1 Danechmend-kan's principal writer, died of a hectic fever for which I had attended him upwards of two years, and his wife immediately resolved to burn herself with the body of her husband. Her friends were in the service of my Agah, and being commanded by him to dissuade the widow from the commission of so frantic an act, they represented to her that although she had adopted a generous and commendable resolution, which would redound to the honour and conduce to the happiness of the family, yet she ought to consider that her children were of a tender age, that it would be cruel to abandon them, and that her anxiety for their welfare ought to exceed the affection she bore to the memory of her deceased husband. The infatuated creature attended not, however, to their reasoning, and I was requested to visit the widow as if by my Agah's desire, and in the capacity of an old friend of the family. I complied, and found on entering the apartment a regular witches' Sabat of seven or eight old hags, and another of four or five excited, wild, and aged Brahmens standing round the body, all of whom gave by turns a horrid yell, and beat their hands with violence. The widow was seated at the feet of her dead husband ; her hair was dishevelled and her visage pale, [S. 308]
1 The Muhamadanised form of Benidas, a common name among Hindoo 'writers' or clerks, who were largely employed, some of them in positions of considerable responsibility, by the Moguls.
but her eyes were tearless and sparkling with animation while she cried and screamed aloud like the rest of the company, and beat time with her hands to this horrible concert. The hurly-burly having subsided, I approached the hellish group, and addressed the woman in a gentle tone. 'I am come hither,' said I, 'by desire of Danechmend-kan, to inform you that he will settle a pension of two crowns per month on each of your two sons, provided you do not destroy your life, a life so necessary for their care and education. We have ways and means indeed to prevent your ascending the pile, and to punish those who encourage you in so unreasonable a resolution. All your relations wish you to live for the sake of your offspring, and you will not be reputed infamous as are the childless widows who possess not courage to burn themselves with their dead husbands.' I repeated these arguments several times without receiving any answer ; but, at last, fixing a determined look on me, she said, 'Well, if I am prevented from burning myself, I will dash out my brains against a wall.' What a diabolical spirit has taken possession of you, thought I. 'Let it be so then,' I rejoined, with undissembled anger, 'but first take your children, wretched and unnatural mother ! cut their throats, and consume them on the same pile ; otherwise you will leave them to die of famine, for I shall return immediately to Danechmend-kan and annul their pensions.' These words, spoken with a loud and resolute voice, made the desired impression : without uttering a syllable, her head fell suddenly on her knees, and the greater part of the old women and Brahmens sneaked toward the door and left the room. I thought I might now safely leave the widow in the hands of her friends, who had accompanied me, and mounting my horse returned home. In the evening, when on my way to Danechmend-kan to inform him of what I had done, I met one of the relations who thanked me, and said that the body had been burnt without the widow, who had promised not to die by her own hands. [S. 309]
In regard to the women who actually burn themselves, I was present at so many of those shocking exhibitions that I could not persuade myself to attend any more, nor is it without a feeling of horror that I revert to the subject. I shall endeavour, nevertheless, to describe what passed before my eyes ; but I cannot hope to give you an adequate conception of the fortitude displayed by these infatuated victims during the whole of the frightful tragedy : it must be seen to be believed.
When travelling from Ahmed-abad to Agra, through the territories of Rajas, and while the caravan halted under the shade of a banyan-tree1 until the cool of the evening, news reached us that a widow was then on the point of burning herself with the body of her husband. I ran at once to the spot, and going to the edge of a large and nearly dry reservoir, observed at the bottom a deep pit filled with wood : the body of a dead man extended thereon ; a woman seated upon the same pile ; four or five Brahmens setting fire to it in every part ; five middle-aged women, tolerably well dressed, holding one another by the hand, singing and dancing round the pit; and a great number of spectators of both sexes.
1 'Bourgade' in the original, which I have ventured to take in this passage as intended for Bargat, the common name in Hindostan for a 'banyan '-tree, the Ficus Indica, L. A caravan would not halt even in a village (bourgade), especially when in a foreign territory ; in the words of a previous translator, 'while the caravan halted in a town under the shade.' A famous banyan-tree near the town of Hardoi in Oudh is, or rather was, so extended (natural decay has, I believe, almost entirely destroyed it) that 'tis said that in 1858 two regiments of soldiers encamped under the shade of its branches. In various other parts of India other large 'banyan'-trees may be met with, quite capable of sheltering an ordinary caravan or camp.
The pile, whereon large quantities of butter1 and oil had been thrown, was soon enveloped in flames, and I saw the fire catch the woman's garments, which were impregnated with scented oil, mixed with sandalwood powder and saffron ; but I could not perceive the slightest indication [S. 310] of pain or even uneasiness in the victim, and it was said that she pronounced with emphasis the words five, two, to signify that this being the fifth time she had burned herself with the same husband, there were wanted only two more similar sacrifices to render her perfect, according to the doctrine of the transmigration of souls : as if a certain reminiscence, or prophetic spirit, had been imparted to her at that moment of her dissolution.
1 Ghee, which is clarified butter ; see p. 438, footnote 4
But this was only the commencement of the infernal tragedy. I thought that the singing and dancing of the five women were nothing more than some unmeaning ceremony ; great therefore was my astonishment when I saw that the flames having ignited the clothes of one of these females, she cast herself head-foremost into the pit. The horrid example was followed by another woman, as soon as the flames caught her person : the three women who remained then took hold of each other by the hand, resuming the dance with perfect composure ; and after a short lapse of time, they also precipitated themselves, one after the other, into the fire.
I soon learnt the meaning of these multiplied sacrifices. The five women were slaves, and having witnessed the deep affliction of their mistress in consequence of the illness of her husband, whom she promised not to survive, they were so moved with compassion that they entered into an engagement to perish by the same flames that consumed their beloved mistress.
Many persons whom I then consulted on the subject would fain have persuaded me that an excess of affection was the cause why these women burn themselves with their deceased husbands ; but I soon found that this abominable practice is the effect of early and deeply rooted prejudices. Every girl is taught by her mother that it is virtuous and laudable in a wife to mingle her ashes with those of her husband, and that no woman of honour will refuse compliance with the established custom. These opinions men have always inculcated as an easy mode of [S. 311] keeping wives in subjection, of securing their attention in times of sickness, and of deterring them from administering poison to their husbands.
But let us proceed to another of these dreadful scenes, not witnessed indeed by myself, but selected in preference to others at which I happened to be present on account of the remarkable incident by which it was distinguished. I have seen so many things which I should have pronounced incredible, that neither you nor I ought to reject the narrative in question merely because it contains something extraordinary. The story is in every person's mouth in the Indies, and is universally credited. Perhaps it has already reached you in Europe.
A woman, long engaged in love intrigues with a young Mahometan, her neighbour, by trade a tailor, and a player on the tambourine,1 poisoned her husband, hoping that the young man would marry her. She then hastened to her lover, informed him of what she had done, and claiming the performance of his promise to take her to wife, urged the necessity of immediately flying, as had been previously projected, from the scene of their guilt ; 'for,' added she, 'if there be the least delay, I shall be constrained by a common sense of decency to burn myself with the body of my dead spouse.' The young man, who foresaw that such a scheme would involve him in difficulty and danger, peremptorily refused, and the woman, without betraying the smallest emotion, went at the instant to her relations, informed them of the sudden death of her husband, and of her fixed resolution to die on the funeral pile. Pleased with so magnanimous an intention, and with the honour she was about to confer on the family, her friends prepare a pit, fill it with wood, lay the body upon the pile, and kindle the fire. These arrangements being completed, the woman makes the round of the pit for the purpose of embracing and bidding a last farewell to her [S. 312] kindred, among whom stood the young tailor, invite thither with other musicians to play on the tambourine according to the custom of the country. Approaching the lover as if she intended to take a last and tender adieu, the infuriated creature seized him with a firm grasp by the collar, drew him with irresistible force to the edge of the pit, and precipitated herself headlong, with the object of her resentment, into the midst of the raging fire.
1 Probably a khunjuree; a small tambourine played upon with the fingers.
As I was leaving Sourate for Persia, I witnessed the devotion and burning of another widow : several Englishmen and Dutchmen and Monsieur Chardin1 of Paris were present. She was of the middle age, and by no means uncomely. I do not expect, with my limited powers of expression, to convey a full idea of the brutish boldness, or ferocious gaiety depicted on this woman's countenance ; of her undaunted step ; of the freedom from all perturbation with which she conversed, and permitted herself to be washed ; of the look of confidence, or rather of insensibility which she cast upon us; of her easy air, free from dejection ; of her lofty carriage, void of embarrassment, when she was examining her little cabin, composed of dry and thick millet straw, with an intermixture of small wood; when she entered into that cabin, sat down upon the funeral pile, placed her deceased husband's head in her [S. 313] lap, took up a torch, and with her own hand lighted the fire within, while I know not how many Brahmens were busily engaged in kindling it without. Well indeed may I despair of representing this whole scene with proper and genuine feeling, such as I experienced at the spectacle itself, or of painting it in colours sufficiently vivid. My recollection of it indeed is so distinct that it seems only a few days since the horrid reality passed before my eyes, and with pain I persuade myself that it was anything but a frightful dream.
1 Sir (then simply Monsieur) John Chardin, the celebrated traveller, was born at Paris in 1643, and died in London in 1713, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, where his monument bears the very appropriate inscription, Nomen sibi fecit eundo. His first journey was to Persia and India in 1665, and while there he received the patronage (his business was that of a jeweller) of Shāh Abbās II. He returned to Paris in 1670, and in 1671 he again set out for Persia and India, and in 1677 he returned to Europe by the Cape of Good Hope. A Protestant, the persecution going on in France led him to settle in London in 1681, where he was appointed Court Jeweller and knighted by Charles II. Chardin was in Surat in 1667 and in 1677, and it must have been in 1667 that Bernier met him there; as we know from the date of this letter to Monsieur Chapelain (see p. 300) that Bernier was in Shiraz in October 1667, after his return from India, via Surat, and, most probably, Bandar Abbassi.
It is true, however, that I have known some of these unhappy widows shrink at the sight of the piled wood ; so as to leave no doubt on my mind that they would willingly have recanted, if recantation had been permitted by the merciless Brahmens ; but those demons excite or astound the affrighted victims, and even thrust them into the fire. I was present when a poor young woman, who had fallen back five or six paces from the pit, was thus driven forward ; and I saw another of these wretched beings struggling to leave the funeral pile when the fire increased around her person, but she was prevented from escaping by the long poles of the diabolical executioners.
But sometimes the devoted widows elude the vigilance of the murderous priests. I have been often in the company of a fair Idolater, who contrived to save her life by throwing herself upon the protection of the scavengers,1 who assemble on these occasions in considerable numbers, when they learn that the intended victim is young and handsome, that her relations are of little note, and that she is to be accompanied by only a few of her acquaintance. Yet the woman whose courage fails at the sight of the horrid apparatus of death, and who avails herself of the presence of these men to avoid the impending sacrifice, cannot hope to pass her days in happiness, or to be treated with respect or affection. Never again can she live with [S. 314] the Gentiles : no individual of that nation will at any time, or under any circumstances, associate with a creature so degraded, who is accounted utterly infamous, and execrated because of the dishonour which her conduct has brought upon the religion of the country. Consequently she is ever afterwards exposed to the ill-treatment of her low and vulgar protectors. There is no Mogol who does not dread the consequences of contributing to the preservation of a woman devoted to the burning pile, or who will venture to afford an asylum to one who escapes from the fangs of the Brahmens ; but many widows have been rescued by the Portuguese, in sea-ports where that people happened to be in superior strength. I need scarcely say how much my own indignation has been excited, and how ardently I have wished for opportunities to exterminate those cursed Brahmens.
1 Sweepers, halāl-khors, who frequent burning ghāts (places for cremation) for various purposes at the present day.
At Lahor I saw a most beautiful young widow sacrificed, who could not, I think, have been more than twelve years of age. The poor little creature appeared more dead than alive when she approached the dreadful pit : the agony of her mind cannot be described; she trembled and wept bitterly ; but three or four of the Brahmens, assisted by an old woman who held her under the arm, forced the unwilling victim toward the fatal spot, seated her on the wood, tied her hands and feet, lest she should run away, and in that situation the innocent creature was burnt alive. I found it difficult to repress my feelings and to prevent their bursting forth into clamorous and unavailing rage ; but restrained by prudential considerations, I contented myself with silently lamenting the abominable superstition of these people, and applied to it the language of the poet, when speaking of Iphigenia, whom her father Agamemnon had offered in sacrifice to Diana :
. . . quod contra saepius illa
religio peperit scelerosa atque impia facta.
Aulide quo pacta Triviai virginis aram
Iphianassai turparunt sanguine foede [S. 315]
ductores Danaum delecti, prima virorum.
. . . .
tantum religio potuit suadere malorum.1
1 This quotation (from Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, Book I. 82-6, 102) has been thus rendered by H. A. J. Munro :
'Whereas on the contrary, often and often, that very religion has given birth to sinful and unholy deeds. Thus in Aulis the chosen chieftains of the Danai, foremost of men, foully polluted with Iphianassa's blood the altar of the Trivian maid. ... So great the evils to which religion could prompt !'
I have substituted the latest critical version, for the one given by Bernier, which he took from a Dutch edition of Lucretius.
I have not yet mentioned all the barbarity and atrocity of these monsters. In some parts of the Indies, instead of burning the women who determine not to survive their husbands, the Brahmens bury them alive, by slow degrees, up to the throat ; then two or three of them fall suddenly upon the victim, wring her neck, and when she has been effectually and completely choked, cover over the body with earth thrown upon it from successive baskets, and tread upon the head.
Most of the Gentiles burn their dead ; but some partially broil the bodies with stubble, near the side of a river, and then precipitate them into the water from a high and steep bank.1 I have attended these funeral rites on the Ganges several times, and observed flights of crows fluttering about the carcass, which becomes as much the prey of those birds as of the fish and crocodiles.
1 This is done by those too poor to afford the cost of an ordinary cremation.
Some again carry a sick person, when at the point of death, to the river-side ; place his feet in the water, let him sink gradually to the neck ; and when it is supposed that he is about to expire, they immerse his whole body into the river, where they leave him, after violently clapping their hands, and crying out with great vehemence. The object of this ceremony (at which I have been present) is that the soul may be washed, on taking its flight, from [S. 316] all impurities which it may have contracted during its abode in the body. This absurd notion is not confined to the vulgar ; I have heard it seriously defended by men of the highest reputation for learning.
Among the vast number, and endless variety of Fakires, or Derviches, and Holy Men, or Gentile hypocrites1 of the Indies, many live in a sort of convent, governed by superiors, where vows of chastity, poverty, and submission are made. So strange is the life led by these votaries that I doubt whether my description of it will be credited. I allude particularly to the people called Jauguis,2 a name which signifies 'united to God.' Numbers are seen, day and night, seated or lying on ashes, entirely naked ; frequently under the large trees near talabs, or tanks of water, or in the galleries round the DeŁras, or idol temples. Some have hair hanging down to the calf of the leg, twisted and entangled into knots, like the coat of our shaggy dogs, or rather like the hair of those afflicted with that Polish disease, which we call la Plie. 3 I have seen several who hold one, and some who hold both arms, perpetually lifted up above the head ; the nails of their hands being twisted, and longer than half my little finger, with which I measured them. Their arms are as small and thin as the arms of persons who die in a decline, because in so forced and unnatural a position they receive not sufficient nourishment; nor can they be lowered so as to supply the mouth with food, the muscles having become contracted, and the articulations dry and stiff. Novices wait upon these fanatics, and pay them the utmost respect, as persons endowed with extraordinary sanctity. No Fury in the infernal regions can be conceived more [S. 317] horrible than the Jauguis, with their naked and black skin, long hair, spindle arms, long twisted nails, and fixed in the posture which I have mentioned.
1 In the original, 'ou Santons Gentils des Indes.' Santon originally meant a peculiar sect of Moslem devotee, but I have translated the word as meaning a hypocrite, in which sense it is used by Rabelais.
2 Jogi, a corruption of Yoga, union or junction. Applied to those followers of the Yoga doctrine who are supposed to go about preaching the duty and necessity of religions retirement and meditation.
3 The disease known as Plica Polonica.
I have often met, generally in the territory of some Raja, bands of these naked Fakires, hideous to behold. Some had their arms lifted up in the manner just described ; the frightful hair of others either hung loosely or was tied and twisted round their heads ; some carried a club like to Hercules ; others had a dry and rough tiger skin thrown over their shoulders. In this trim I have seen them shamelessly walk, stark naked, through a large town, men, women, and girls looking at them without any more emotion than may be created when a hermit passes through our streets. Females would often bring them alms with much devotion, doubtless believing that they were holy personages, more chaste and discreet than other men.
I was for a long time disgusted with a celebrated Fakire, named Sarmet, who paraded the streets of Dehli as naked as when he came into the world. He despised equally the promises and the threats of Aureng-Zebe, and underwent at length the punishment of decapitation from his obstinate refusal to put on wearing apparel.
Several of these Fakires undertake long pilgrimages, not only naked, but laden with heavy iron chains, such as are put about the legs of elephants. I have seen others who in consequence of a particular vow stood upright, during seven or eight days, without once sitting or lying down, and without any other support than might be afforded by leaning forward against a cord for a few hours in the night ; their legs in the meantime were swollen to the size of their thighs. Others again I have observed standing steadily, whole hours together, upon their hands, the head down, and the feet in the air. I might proceed to enumerate various other positions in which these unhappy men place their body, many of them so difficult and painful that they could not be imitated by our tumblers ; and all this, let it be recollected, is performed from an [S. 318] assumed feeling of piety, of which there is not so much as the shadow in any part of the Indies.
I confess that this gross superstition filled me, on my first arrival in Hindoustan, with amazement. I knew not what to think of it. Sometimes I should have been disposed to consider the Fakires as remnants, if not as the founders, of the ancient and infamous sect of Cynics, could I have discovered anything in them but brutality and ignorance, and if they had not appeared to me vegetative rather than rational beings. At another time, I thought they might be honest though deluded enthusiasts, until I found that, in fact they were, in the widest sense of the word, destitute of piety. Again, I reflected that a life of vagrancy, idleness, and independence may have a powerful and attractive charm ; or that the vanity which intermingles itself with every motive of human action, and which may be discovered as clearly through the tattered mantle of a Diogenes as under the comely garb of a Plato, was probably the secret spring that set so many strange engines in motion.
The Fakires, it is said, exercise painful austerities in the confident hope that they will be Rajas in their renascent state ; or, if they do not become Rajas, that they shall be placed in a condition of life capable of more exquisite enjoyment than is experienced by those sovereign princes : but, as I have frequently observed to them, how can it be believed that men submit to a life of so much misery for the sake of a second state of existence, as short and uncertain as the first, and which cannot be expected to yield a much greater degree of happiness even to him who may be invested with the high dignity of Rana, or who may resemble Jesseingue or Jessomseingue, the two most powerful Rajas of the Indies ? I am not to be so easily deceived, said I to them ; either you are egregious fools, or you are actuated by some sinister views which you carefully hide from the world.
Some of the Fakires enjoy the reputation of being [S. 319] peculiarly enlightened saints, perfect Jauguis, and really united to God. These are supposed to have entirely renounced the world, and like our hermits they live a secluded life in a remote garden, without ever visiting a town. When food is brought to them, they receive it : if none be offered to them it is concluded that the holy men can live without food, that they subsist by the favour of God, vouchsafed on account of previous long fasts and other religious mortifications. Frequently these pious Jauguis are absorbed in profound meditation. It is pretended, and one of the favoured saints himself assured me, that their souls are often rapt in an ecstasy of several hours' duration ; that their external senses lose their functions ; that the Jauguis are blessed with a sight of God, who appears as a light ineffably white and vivid, and that they experience transports of holy joy, and a contempt of temporal concerns which defy every power of description. My saintly informant added that he could at pleasure fall into such a trance as he described, and not one of the individuals who are in the habit of visiting the Jauguis doubts the reality of these vaunted ecstasies. It is possible that the imagination, distempered by continued fasts and uninterrupted solitude, may be brought into these illusions, or that the rapturous dreams of the Fakires may resemble the natural ecstasies into which Cardan1 tells us he could fall whenever he pleased, especially as the Fakires practise some art in what they do, prescribing to themselves certain rules for the binding up of their senses by slow degrees. For example, they say that after having fasted several days upon bread and water, it is necessary to be alone in a sequestered spot, to fix the eyes most steadily toward heaven, and when they have been so riveted for some [S. 320] time, to lower them gradually, and then point them both in such a manner that they shall look at one and the same time upon the tip of the nose, both sides of that feature being equally seen ; and in this posture the saint must continue firm, the two sides of the nose in even proportions remaining constantly within sight until the bright luminary makes its appearance.
1 Girolamo Cardan, born at Pavia in 1501, died 1576, was famous as a mathematician, physician, and astrologer. He published his celebrated treatise on astrology in 1543, and in 1552 visited Scotland, as the medical adviser of Archbishop Hamilton of St. Andrews. Cardan, owing to the boldness of many of the theories which he enunciated, was involved in many disputes with his contemporaries.
The trance, and the means of enjoying it, form the grand Mysticism of the sect of the Jauguis,1 as well as that of the Soufys. I call it Mysticism [Mystere], because they keep these things secret among themselves, and I should not have made so many discoveries had it not been for the aid of the Pendet, or Indou Doctor whom Danechmend-kan kept in his pay, and who dared not conceal anything from his patron ; my Agah, moreover, was already acquainted with the doctrines of the Soufys.2 I believe that extreme poverty, long fasts, and perpetual austerities count for something in the condition at which these men arrive. Our Friars and Hermits must not suppose that on these points they surpass the Jauguis or other Asiatic religionists. I can, for instances, appeal to [S. 321] the lives and fasts of the Armenians, Copts, Greeks, Nestorians, Jacobins, and Maronites ; compared to these people our European devotees are mere novices, though it must be confessed, from what I have myself experienced, that the pains of hunger are not so sensibly felt in the Indies as in our colder climates.
1 In the original, 'le grand Mystere de la Cabale des Jauguis.'
2 It would be difficult to give any better definition of Sufism than that by Mr. E. H. Whinfield, M.A., late B.C.S., in the Introduction (pp. 15, 16) to his edition of the Masnavi-i Ma'navi, the Spiritual couplets, of Mulāna Jalālu- d-dīn Muhammad-i Rūmī, London, TrŁbner, 1887. After explaining that the message of Muhammad, as revealed in the Koran, was eminently practical and not speculative, popular in language, and not meant to bear the strain of analysis, Mr. Whinfield relates how, after the death of Muhammad, the Faithful did philosophise, notwithstanding all the injunctions extant against such speculation as was then indulged in. Schoolmen arose who carried philosophy into divinity, and, in the light of the new learning, derived from Plato, Aristotle, and the speculations of the Christian sects, debated all the trite topics of Moslem theology. 'Parallel to this stream of scholasticism there ran another stream of mystical theosophy derived in part from Plato, "the Attic Moses," but mainly from Christianity, as presented in the "spiritual Gospel" of St. John, and as expounded by the Christian Platonists and Gnostics. This second stream was Sufism.'
I have now to give an account of certain Fakires totally different from the Saints just described, but who also are extraordinary personages. They almost continually perambulate the country, make light of everything, affect to live without care, and to be possessed of most important secrets. The people imagine that these favoured beings are well acquainted with the art of making gold, and that they can prepare mercury in so admirable a manner that a grain or two swallowed every morning must restore a diseased body to vigorous health, and so strengthen the stomach that it may feed with avidity, and digest with ease. This is not all : when two of these good Jauguis meet, and can be excited to a spirit of emulation, they make such a display of the power of Jauguisism, that it may well be doubted if Simon Magus, with all his sorceries, ever performed more surprising feats. They tell any person his thoughts, cause the branch of a tree to blossom and to bear fruit within an hour, hatch an egg in their bosom in less than fifteen minutes, producing whatever bird may be demanded, and make it fly about the room, and execute many other prodigies that need not be enumerated.
I regret that I cannot bear my testimony to the truth of all that people report of these conjurers. My Agah sent for one of these famous soothsayers, and promised to give him three hundred roupies (about an hundred and fifty crowns) if on the following day he would tell him, as he said he could do, what might then be passing in his mind, which he would previously write down in his presence to prevent any suspicion of unfair dealing on his own part. I engaged at the same time to present him [S. 322] with five-and-twenty roupies if he mentioned my thoughts ; but the prophet did not again approach our house. On another occasion I was also disappointed in my expectation of the company of one of these egg-hatchers, to whom I had promised twenty roupies. Notwithstanding my diligence to pry into everything, I have never been so fortunate as to witness any marvellous performance ; and whenever I happened to be present when a deed was done which excited the surprise of the spectators, it was generally my misfortune to examine and to question until I ascertained that the cause lay in some cheat or sleight of hand. I recollect detecting the gross deception of a fellow who pretended to find out, by the rolling of a cup, the person who had stolen my Agah's money.
But there are Fakires of a much more comely appearance than those whom we have been considering, and their lives and devotion seem less extravagant. They walk the streets barefooted and bareheaded, girt with a scarf which hangs down to the knee, and wearing a white cloth which passes under the right arm and goes over the left shoulder in the form of a mantle, but they are without any under garment : their persons, however, are always well washed, and they appear cleanly in every respect. In general they walk two and two with a very modest demeanour, holding in one hand a small and fair three-footed earthen pot with two handles : they do not beg from shop to shop like many other Fakires, but enter freely into the houses of the Gentiles, where they meet with a hearty welcome and an hospitable reception, their presence being esteemed a blessing to the family. Heaven defend him who accuses them of any offence, although everybody knows what takes place between the sanctified visitors and the women of the house : this, however, is considered the custom of the country, and their sanctity is not the less on that account. I do not indeed attach much importance to their transactions with the females of the house : such practices we know are not [S. 323] confined to the Great Mogol's dominions; but what appears truly ridiculous is their impertinent comparison of themselves with our own clergy in the Indies. I have sometimes derived much amusement from their weakness and vanity : I used to address them with great ceremony, and apparently with the most profound respect, after which they immediately observed to one another: 'The Frangui knows who we are ; he has resided many years in the Indies, and is well aware that we are the Padrys1 of the Indous.' But I dwell too long upon these heathen beggars, and shall proceed to notice the books of law and science.
1 The Portuguese word Padre was originally applied to Roman priests only. It is now the name given all over India to priests, clergymen, or ministers of all denominations, and is sometimes applied by natives to their own priests. Lat Padre Sahib, or the Lord Padre Sahib, is now the Indian name for a Christian bishop.
Do not be surprised if, notwithstanding my ignorance of Sanscrit1 (the language of the learned, and possibly that of the ancient Brahmens, as we may learn further on), I yet say something of books written in that tongue. My Agah, Danechmend-kan, partly from my solicitation and partly to gratify his own curiosity, took into his service one of the most celebrated Pendets in all the Indies, who had formerly belonged to the household of Dara,2 the eldest son of the King Chah-Jehan [Shāh Jahān] ; and not only was this [S. 324] man my constant companion during a period of three years, but he also introduced me to the society of other learned Pendets, whom he attracted to the house. When weary of explaining to my Agah the recent discoveries of Harveus and Pecquet in anatomy, and of discoursing on the philosophy of Gassendi and Descartes,3 which I translated to [S. 325] him in Persian (for this was my principal employment for five or six years) we had generally recourse to our Pendet, who, in his turn, was called upon to reason in his own manner, and to communicate his fables ; these he related with all imaginable gravity without ever smiling; but at length we became disgusted both with his tales and childish arguments.
1 'Hanscrit' in the original, see p. 329, footnote 3
2 Dārā Shikoh, when Governor or Viceroy of Benares, in 1656, caused a Persian translation to be made from the Sanskrit text of the Upanishads ('the word that is not to be revealed'), which he called the Sarr-i-Asrār, or Secret of Secrets. This translation, which was made by a large staff of Benares Pandits, has been rendered into Latin by Anquetil-Duperron, and published by him at Paris, 1801, under the title of Oupnekhat (id estt Secretum Tegendum) opus ipsa in India rarissimum, etc. etc. His version is criticised in an article published in the second number (January 1803) of The Edinburgh Review, which I believe to have been written by Alexander Hamilton, 'a Scotchman who had been in India ; . . . of excellent conversation and great knowledge of Oriental literature. He was afterwards professor of Sanscrit' [in the official lists he is designated Professor of Hindū Literature and History of Asia] 'in the East India College at Haileybury,'p. 141, vol. i. Cockburns Life of Lord Jeffrey, Edin. 1852, also see p. 256, vol. i. of Lord Brougham's Life and Times, Edin. and Lond. 1871. In this critique pleasing testimony is borne to the great abilities of Prince Dārā Shikoh, as follows : 'If intolerance and fanaticism be the usual concomitants of Islamism (an assertion, we think, too generally expressed), the descendants of Tamerlane, who reigned in Hindustan, furnish some remarkable exceptions to the received opinion. At the head of these illustrious personages we should, perhaps, place Dara Shecuh, the eldest son of the Emperor Shah Gehan. The attention which this Prince bestowed, investigating the antique dogmas of the Hindu theology, and the munificence with which he rewarded the learned Brahmans, whom he collected from all parts of the empire, furnished his brother Aurengzebe with a pretext to misrepresent his motives, and to alarm the zealous Moslems with the danger of an apostate succeeding to the throne. The melancholy catastrophe which ensued ; the death of the unhappy Dara, with the long and brilliant reign of the successful hypocrite, who founded his greatness on the destruction of his brothers, are detailed in the page of history. If the sceptical philosopher be disposed to exclaim with the Roman Epicurean, 'Tanta Religio potuit suadere malorum,' we must state our conviction that ambition, not fanaticism, prompted the deed ;though the steps by which he mounted the throne threw the rigid veil of superstition over the subsequent conduct of Aurengzebe, and gave that tone to his court.'
3 William Harvey, born in 1578, and died in 1657. It was in 1616, the year of Shakespeare's death, that he began his course of lectures to the Royal College of Physicians in London, and formally announced his discovery of the circulation of the blood, which has rendered his name for ever famous.
Jean Pecquet, born at Dieppe, in France, in 1622, died in 1674. He studied medicine at Montpellier, where Bernier was also a student, and it was there that he prosecuted those investigations which led to his discoveries, in connection with the conversion of the chyle into blood, which have immortalised his name.
Rene Descartes, born at La Haye, Touraine, in France, in 1596, and died at Stockholm in 1650.
The Hindous then affirm that God, whom they call Achar, the Immovable or Immutable, has sent to them four books, to which they give the name of Beths, a word signifying science, because, according to them, these books comprehend all the sciences. The first of the books is named Atherbabed; the second Zagerbed; the third Rekbed ; and the fourth Samabed. These books enjoin that the people shall be divided, as in fact they are most effectually, into four tribes [Tribus] : first, the tribe of Brahmens, or interpreters of the law ; secondly, the tribe of Quetterys, or warriors ; thirdly, the tribe of Bescuť, or merchants and tradesmen, commonly called Banyanes ; and fourthly, the tribe of Seydra, or artisans and labourers. These different tribes are not permitted to intermarry, that is to say, a Brahmen is forbidden to marry a Quettery, and the same injunction holds good in regard to the other tribes.1 [S. 326]
1 Achara is well defined by Bernier, and this whole chapter is a good example of the careful manner in which he investigated such subjects. The word also means eternal beatitude, or exemption from farther transmigration. His enumeration of the order of the Vedas does not correspond with that now generally adopted as the results of modern criticism, which assigns to the Rig-veda the greatest antiquity, after which the Yajur-veda, then the Sāma-veda, and places the Atharva-veda last, as the most recent of all. Bernier possessed a good knowledge of Persian, and as a rule his transliterations are excellent. In the enumeration of the theoretical divisions of Hindoo society, it is evident that he had to transliterate from the viva voce account given in Sanskrit or perhaps Hindi, by his Pandit, into Persian, then into French. Bernier's Tribus is a much more scientific term than our word 'caste,' or ' cast' as Elphinstone prefers to have it, a word derived from the Portuguese Casta, 'creed, race, or kind.' The modern renderings of these four divisions are, Brāhmans, Kshattriyas, Vaisyas, and Sūdras. There appears to be a slip in Bernier's transliteration of the name of the second tribe or class ; Khātrī, a subdivision of the Vaisyas, is confounded with Kshattriyas, or, in its popular form, Chutree ; although as a matter of fact some authorities hold that the Khatris are included in the second division.
The Gentiles believe in a doctrine similar to that of the Pythagoreans with regard to the transmigration of souls, and hold it illegal to kill or eat any animal ; an exception being made, however, in favour of a few of the second tribe, provided the flesh eaten be not that of the cow or peacock. For these two animals they feel a peculiar respect, particularly for the cow, imagining that it is byholding to a cow's tail they are to cross the river which separates this life from the next. Possibly their ancient legislators saw the shepherds of Egypt in a similar manner pass the river Nile, holding with the left hand the tail of a buffalo or ox, and carrying in the right a stick for the guidance of the animal; or this superior regard for the cow may more probably be owing to her extraordinary usefulness, as being the animal which supplies them with milk and butter1 (a considerable part of their aliment), and which may be considered the source of husbandry, consequently the preserver of life itself. It ought likewise to be observed that owing to the great deficiency of pasture land in the Indies it is impossible to maintain large numbers of cattle ; the whole therefore would soon disappear if animal food were eaten in anything like the proportion in which it is consumed in France and England, and the country would thus remain uncultivated. The heat is so intense, and the ground so parched, during eight months of the year, that the beasts of the field, ready to die of hunger, feed on every kind of filth like so many swine. It was on account of the scarcity of cattle that Jekan-Guyre, at the request of the Brahmens, issued an edict to forbid the killing of beasts of pasture for a certain number of years ; and not long since they presented a similar petition [S. 327] to Aureng-Zebe, offering to him a considerable sum of money to ensure his compliance.2 They urged that the neglected and ruinous condition of many tracts of country during the last fifty or sixty years was attributable to the paucity and dearness of oxen.
1 That is, ghee.
2 In recent years, similar action as regards petitioning the Supreme Government has been taken in India by influential Hindoos.
Perhaps the first legislators in the Indies hoped that the interdiction of animal food would produce a beneficial effect upon the character of the people, and that they might be brought to exercise less cruelty toward one another when required by a positive precept to treat the brute creation with humanity. The doctrine of the transmigration of souls secured the kind treatment of animals, by leading to the belief that no animal can be killed or eaten without incurring the danger of killing or eating some ancestor, than which a more heinous crime cannot be committed. It may be also that the Brahmens were influenced by the consideration that in their climate the flesh of cows or oxen is neither savoury nor wholesome except for a short time during winter.
The Beths render it obligatory upon every Gentile to say his prayers with his face turned to the East thrice in the twenty-four hours : in the morning, at noon, and at night. The whole of his body must also be washed three times, or at least before every meal ; and he is taught that it is more meritorious to perform his ablutions and to repeat his prayers in running than in stagnant water. Here again regard was probably had to what is not only proper but highly important in such a climate as that of Hindoustan. This, however, is found an inconvenient law to those who happen to live in cold countries, and I have met in my travels with some who placed their lives in imminent danger by a strict observance of that law, by plunging into the rivers or tanks within their reach, or if none were sufficiently near, by throwing large pots full of water over their heads. Sometimes I objected to their [S. 328] religion that it contained a law which it would not possible to observe in cold climates during the winter season, which was, in my mind, a clear proof that it possessed no divine original, but was merely a system of human invention. Their answer was amusing enough.
'We pretend not,' they replied, 'that our law is of universal application. God intended it only for us, and this is the reason why we cannot receive a foreigner into our religion. We do not even say that yours is a false religion : it may be adapted to your wants and circumstances, God having, no doubt, appointed many different ways of going to heaven.' I found it impossible to convince them that the Christian faith was designed for the whole earth, and theirs was mere fable and gross fabrication.
The Beths teach that God having determined to create the world would not execute his purpose immediately, but first created three perfect beings ; one was Brahma, a name which signifies penetrating into all things ; the second, Beschen, that is, existing in all things ; and the third Mehahdeu, or the mighty lord. By means of Brahma he created the world ; by means of Beschen he upholds it ; and by means of Mehahdeu he will destroy it.1 It was Brahma who, by God's command, published the four Beths, and for this reason he is represented in some temples with four heads.
1 Brahma was from the beginning considered as the Eternal Creative Power, the Holiest of the Holy, and he continued to be regarded as fulfilling the same function even after he had sunk into a subordinate position, and had come to be represented by the votaries of Vishnu and Mahādeva respectively as the mere creature and agent of one or other of these two gods.
I have conversed with European missionaries who thought that the Gentiles have some idea of the mystery of the Trinity, and maintained that the Beths state in direct terms that the three beings, though three persons, are one God. This is a subject on which I have frequently heard [S. 329] the Pendels dilate, but they explain themselves so obscurely that I never could clearly comprehend their opinion.1 I have heard some of them say that the beings in question are in reality three very perfect creatures., whom they call DeŁtas, without being able, however, properly to explain what they mean by this word DeŁta, like our ancient idolaters, who could never, in my opinion, explain what they meant by the names Genii and Numina, which were probably equivalent to the DeŁta of the Indians.2 I have also discoursed with other Pendets distinguished for learning, who said that these three beings are really one and the same God, considered under three different characters, as the creator, upholder, and destroyer of all things ; but they said nothing of three distinct persons in one only God.
I was acquainted with the Reverend Father Roa,1 a [S. 330] Jesuit, a German by birth, and missionary at Agra, who had made great proficiency in the study of Sanscrit. He assured me that the books of the Gentiles not only state that there is one God in three persons, but that the second person has been nine times embodied in flesh.4 He added that when he was at Chiras, on his return to Rome, a Carmelite Father in that city succeeded, with much address, in ascertaining that the following doctrines are held by the Gentiles. The second person in the Trinity has been, according to them, nine times incarnate in consequence of various evils in the world, from which he delivered mankind. The eighth incarnation was the most remarkable ;5 for they say that the world having been enthralled by the power of giants, it was rescued by the second person, incarnated and born of a virgin at midnight, the angels singing in the air, and the skies raining flowers that whole night. [S. 331] This in some degree savours of Christianity, but here comes the fable again ; for it is added that this incarnate god began by killing a giant who flew in the air, and was so huge as to obscure the sun : his fall caused the whole earth to tremble, and by his weight he so penetrated it that he tumbled at once into hell. The incarnate deity, wounded in the side in the conflict with this mighty giant, fell also, but by his fall put his enemies to flight. He arose again, and after delivering the world ascended into heaven, and because of his wound, he is generally known by the appellation of 'The wounded in the side.' The tenth incarnation, say the Gentiles, will have for its object the emancipation of mankind from the tyranny of the Mahometan, and it will take place at the time when, according to our calculation, Antichrist is to appear; this is however but a popular tradition, not to be found in their sacred books.
1 'I shall declare to thee that form composed of Hari and Hara (Vishnu and Mahādeva) combined, which is without beginning, middle or end, imperishable, undecaying. He who is Vishnu is Rudra : he who is Rudra is Pitāmaha (Brahmā) ; the substance is one, the gods are three : Rudra, Vishnu-, and Pitāmaha.' Muir's Original Sanskrit Texts, vol. iv. p. 237.
2 See p. 303.
3 Thus in all the editions of Bernier's Travels known to the editor, intended for Father Heinrich Roth, S. J., attached to the Goa Mission. About 1650-1660 he journeyed from Goa to Agra, via Central India, and during these years studied Sanskrit and the doctrines of the Hindoo religion, in which he was ever afterwards regarded as the best authority of his time, and it is pleasant to find that even thus early, a German should attain such fame as a Sanskrit scholar. About 1665 he travelled from Agra to Rome, via Lahore, Multan, down the Indus to 'Sindi' [? Sind] at its mouth, thence by sea, vid Surat, to Ormuz, and overland through Persia and Armenia to Smyrna and Rome. He there drew up for Father Kircher (see p. 332, footnote 1), the five engraved plates published by him in his China lllustrata. The first four plates contain the alphabet and elements (in the Devanagri character) of Sanskrit, explained in Latin, and the fifth is Our Lord's Prayer and an Ave Maria, in Sanskrit and Latin, to serve as an exercise for beginners. In most of the early editions of Bernier, certainly in all of those published during his lifetime, Sanskrit is everywhere printed Hanscrit This peculiarity has arisen, I believe, in this wise. Father Roth doubtlessly acquired his grounding in Sanskrit from a Persian Munshi, who would call the language 'Sanskrit, or Sahanskrit' the form used in the Persian texts of the Āīin, which was written about 1599. We learn from Father Kircher (who by the way never uses the word Sanskrit in any form), in the text of the work cited above, that it was Father Roth who with his own hand drew out the originals of these plates. The first plate is headed Elementa Lingua [sic] Hanskret, the letters Sa having been omitted by the engraver, or 'dropped,' to use a technical term ; because although he has begun the heading correctly as to position, the centre of the 'title' being axial with the body of the plate, the word Hanskret ends just too short by a space sufficient for two letters. This error was probably discovered too late to be satisfactorily remedied, and has misled many subsequent writers without special or technical knowledge ; and in Yule's Glossary this form of the word is characterised as 'difficult to account for.' Hyde, the well-known Orientalist of the Oxford University, has, however (p. 264, vol. ii., Syntagma Dissertationum quas olim Thomas Hyde separatim edidit. Oxon. 1767. Edited by Gregory Sharpe), questioned the correctness of Father Kircher's Hanskrit, himself using the word 'Sanscreet ' to denote the language of the Brahmins.
4 Avatār, a descent, especially of a deity from heaven ; an incarnation. Allusion is made by Bernier to the ten avatārs of Vishnu.
5 That of Vishnu as Krishna, in which he is supposed to have been completely incarnate, at Brindabun in the Mathura (Muttra) District.
They say also that the third person of the Trinity1 has manifested himself to the world ; the following story is related of him. The daughter of a certain king, when she had reached the age of puberty, was desired by her father to mention the person whom she felt disposed to marry, and having answered that she would be united to none but a divine being, the third person of the Trinity appeared in the same instant to the king in the form of fire. He presently apprised his daughter of this happy circumstance, and she without hesitation consented to the marriage. The divine personage, though still assuming a fiery appearance, was invited to the king's council, and finding that the privy counsellors opposed the match, he first set fire to their beards, and then burnt them together with the royal household, after which he married the princess. Ridiculous !2 In regard to the second person, the Gentiles say that his first incarnation was in the nature of a Lion, the second in that of a Hog, the third in that [S. 332] of a Tortoise, the fourth in that of a Serpent, the fifth in that of a dwarfish or pygmy Brahmen [Pygmee Brahmane], only a cubit in height, the sixth was in the form of a monstrous Man-lion, the seventh in that of a Dragon, the eighth as already described, the ninth in the nature of an Ape, and the tenth is to be in the person of a mighty Cavalier.
1 Mahādev or Siva, the Destroyer and Creator.
2 In the original, ' Contes de ma mŤre l'Oye.'
I entertain no doubt that the Reverend Father Roa derives from the Beths his knowledge of the doctrines held by the Gentiles, and that the account he gave me forms the basis of their mythology. I had written at considerable length upon this subject, sketched the figures of several of the gods or idols placed in their temples, and caused them to give me the characters of their language, Sanscrit ; but finding that the principal matter of my manuscript is contained in the China Illustrata of Father Kirker1 (who obtained much of his information when at Rome from Father Roa2), I deem it sufficient to recommend that book to your perusal. I must observe, however, that the word 'incarnation,' employed by the Reverend Father,3 was new to me, having never seen it used in the same direct sense. [S. 333] Some Pendets explained their doctrine to me in this manner : formerly God appeared in the forms which are mentioned, and in those forms performed all the wonders which have been related. Other Pendets said that the souls of certain great men, whom we are wont to call heroes, had passed into the different bodies spoken of, and that they had become DeŁtas ; or, to speak in the phraseology of the idolaters of old, they had become powerful Divinities, Numina, Genii, and Daemons ; or, if you will, Spirits and Fairies ; for I know not how else to render the word DeŁta ; but this second explanation comes much to the same thing as the first, inasmuch as the Indous believe that their souls are constituent parts of the deity.
1 Published at Amsterdam by Janszon in 1667, in which, between folios 162 and 163, will be found five full-page copperplate engravings, the first specimens of Sanskrit ever printed or engraved (as for a book) in Europe, or indeed anywhere. Athanasius Kircher, S. J., was born at Giessen near Fulda in 1602, and died at Rome in 1680. A man of immense literary activity, he was, inter alia, what we would now call Home Editorial Secretary of the annual reports sent to Europe by the Jesuit and other Roman missionaries. Kircher was also at one time Professor of Oriental Languages at WŁrtzburg. See p. 329, footnote 3.
Abb.: Die erste gedruckte Wiedergabe der Devanāgarī-Schrift
[Bildquelle: Kircher, Athanasius <1602-1680>: Athanasii Kircheri e Soc. Jesu China monumentis, qvŗ sacris quŗ profanis, nec non variis naturś & artis spectaculis, aliarumque rerum memorabilium argumentis illustrata, auspiciis Leopoldi Primi roman. imper .. Amstelodami : apud Jacobum ŗ Meurs, in sossa vulgÚ de Keysersgracht, 1667. -- 237 S. : Ill. ; 33 cm. -- Nach S. 162. -- Online: http://shl.stanford.edu/Eyes/china/. -- Zugriff am 2008-06-12]
2 Father Roth supplied Kircher with all the information concerning Hindoo mythology contained in his China Illustrata, which will be found, illustrated with curious engravings after Indian drawings, at pp. 156-162 of that work.
3 Kircher quotes Father Roth's own words as follows : 'Universim dicunt, secundam personam ex Trinitate novies jam incarnatam fuisse, et adhuc semel incarnatum est.'
Other Pendets again gave me a more refined interpretation. They said that the incarnations or apparitions mentioned in their books, having a mystic sense, and being intended to explain the various attributes of God, ought not to be understood literally. Some of the most learned of those Doctors frankly acknowledged to me that nothing can be conceived more fabulous than all the incarnations, and that they were only the invention of legislators for the sake of retaining the people in some sort of religion. On the supposition that our souls are portions of the deity, a doctrine common to all Gentiles, must not (observed the Pendets) the reality of those incarnations, instead of being made a mysterious part of religion, be exploded by sound philosophy ? for, in respect of our souls, we are God, and therefore it would in fact be ourselves who had imposed upon ourselves a religious worship, and a belief in the transmigration of souls, in paradise, and in hell, which would be absurd.
I am not less indebted to Messieurs Henry Lor and Abraham Roger1 than to the Reverend Fathers Kirker and [S. 334] Roa. I had collected a vast number of particulars concerning the Gentiles, that I have since found in the books written by those gentlemen, and which I could not have arranged in the order which they have observed without great labour and difficulty. It is not necessary, therefore, that I could do more than touch briefly on the studies and the science of this people ; which I shall do in a general and desultory manner.
1 Henry Lord, the Anglican chaplain at Surat and author of (i) A Display of two forraigne Sects in the East Indies ; (2) A Discoverie of the Sect of the Banians ; (3) The Religion of the Persees. Imprinted at London for Francis Constable, and are to be Sold at his Shoppe in Panic's Churchyard, at the signe of the Crane, 1630.
Abraham Roger, the first Dutch chaplain (1631-1641) at Pulicat, the earliest settlement of the Hollanders on the mainland in India ; their fort, which they called Geldria, having been built in 1609. He returned home in 1647, and died at Gouda in 1649. His widow published her husband's work, which is in every way superior to Henry Lord's, as ' La Porte ouverte, pour parvenir a la connoissance du Paganisme Cachť. Amsterdam, Chez Jean Schipper, 1670.' The information contained in this book is very correct, as the author had it all at first-hand from a Brahman, whom he calls Padmanaba (Padmanābha), who knew Dutch, and who gave him a Dutch translation of Bhartrihari's Satakas, see p. 293 of Roger's book, the first published translation from Sanskrit into any European language.
The town of Benares, seated on the Ganges, in a beautiful situation, and in the midst of an extremely fine and rich country, may be considered the general school of the Gentiles. It is the Athens of India, whither resort the Brahmens and other devotees ; who are the only persons who apply their minds to study. The town contains no colleges or regular classes, as in our universities, but resembles rather the schools of the ancients ; the masters being dispersed over different parts of the town in private houses, and principally in the gardens of the suburbs, which the rich merchants permit them to occupy. Some of these masters have four disciples, others six or seven, and the most eminent may have twelve or fifteen; but this is the largest number. It is usual for the pupils to remain ten or twelve years under their respective preceptors, during which time the work of instruction proceeds but slowly ; for the generality [S. 335] of them are of an indolent disposition, owing, in a great measure, to their diet and the heat of the country. Feeling no spirit of emulation, and entertaining no hope that honours or emolument may be the reward of extraordinary attainments, as with us, the scholars pursue the studies slowly, and without much to distract their attention, while eating their kichery,1 a mingled mess of vegetables supplied to them by the care of rich merchants of the place.
1 See p. 152, footnote 2
The first thing taught is the Sanscrit, a language known only to the Pendets, and totally different from that which is ordinarily spoken in Hindoustan. It is of the Sanscrit that Father Kirker has published an alphabet, which he received from Father Roa.1 The name signifies 'pure language;' and because the Gentiles believe that the four sacred books given to them by God, through the medium of Brahma, were originally published in Sanscrit, they call it the holy and divine language. They pretend that it is as ancient as Brahma himself, whose age they reckon by lecques [lakhs], or hundreds of thousands of years, but I could not rely upon this marvellous age. That it is extremely old, however, it is impossible to deny, the books of their religion, which are of unquestionable antiquity, being all written in Sanscrit. It has also its authors on philosophy, works on medicine written in verse, and many other kinds of books, with which a large hall at Benares is entirely filled.
2 See p. 329, footnote 3.
When they have acquired a knowledge of Sanscrit, which to them is difficult, because without a really good grammar, they generally study the Purane,1 which is an abridgment and interpretation of the Beths ; those books being of great bulk, at least if they were the Beths which were shown to me at Benares. They are so scarce [S. 336] that my Agah, notwithstanding all his diligence, has not succeeded in purchasing a copy. The Gentiles indeed conceal them with much care, lest they should fall into the hands of the Mahometans, and be burnt, as frequently has happened.
1 The Purānas, eighteen in number ; and it is said that there are also eighteen Upa-Purānas or minor Purānas, but many of them are not now procurable.
After the Purane, some of the students apply their minds to philosophy, wherein they certainly make very little progress. I have already intimated that they are of a slow and indolent temper, and strangers to the excitement which the possibility of advancement in an honourable profession produces among the members of European universities.
Among the philosophers who have flourished in Hindousian six bear a great name;1 and from these have sprung the six sects, which cause much jealousy and dispute, the Pendets of each pretending that the doctrines of their particular sect are the soundest, and most in conformity to the Beths. A seventh sect has arisen, called Bautť,2 which again is the parent of twelve others ; but this sect is not so considerable as the former : its adherents are despised and hated, censured as irreligious and atheistical, and lead a life peculiar to themselves.
1 These schools of philosophy are : I. The Nyāya, founded by Gautama ; 2. The Vaiseshika, by Kanada ; 3. The Sānkhya, by Kapila ; 4. The Yoga, by Patanjali ; 5. The Mimānsa, by Jaimini ; 6. The Vedanta, by Bādarāyana.
2 Buddha, whose religion, Buddhism, although asserting itself from the first as an independent religion, may be fairly said to be in many respects a development of Brahmanism. This passage bears unmistakable signs of the Hindoo origin of the information regarding this creed recorded by Bernier.
All their sacred books speak of first principles ; but each in a manner totally different from the others. Some say that everything is composed of small bodies which are indivisible, not by reason of their solidity, hardness, and resistance, but because of their smallness ; and upon this notion they build many other hypotheses, which have an affinity to the theories of Democritus and Epicurus ; but their [S. 337] opinions are expressed in so loose and indeterminate a manner that it is difficult to ascertain their meaning ; and considering the extreme ignorance of the Pendets, those even reputed the most learned, it may be fairly doubted whether this vagueness be not rather attributable to the expounders than to the authors of the books.
Others say that everything is composed of matter and form, but not one of the doctors explains himself clearly about matter, and still less about form. They are so far intelligible, however, as to show me that they understand neither the one nor the other in the same manner as these terms are usually explained in our Schools, where we speak of educing form out of the power of matter ; for they always take their examples from material objects, such as that of a vessel of soft clay, which a potter turns and forms into various shapes.
Some hold that all is composed of the four elements and out of nothing; yet they give not the least explanation concerning commingling and transmutation. And as to 'nothing,' which is nearly tantamount to our privation, they admit I know not how many sorts, which I imagine the Pendets neither comprehend themselves, nor can make intelligible to others.
Some maintain that light and darkness are the first principles, and in support of this opinion they make a thousand foolish and confused observations ; alleging reasons disowned by true philosophy, and delivering long discourses which would suit the ear only of the vulgar and illiterate.
There are others again who admit privation as a principle, or rather the privations which they distinguish from nothing, and of which they make a long enumeration, so useless and unphilosophical that I can scarcely believe their authors would employ the pen about such trifling opinions, and that consequently it cannot be contained in their books.
Many, in fine, pretend that everything is the result of [S. 338] fortuitous circumstances, and of these they also have a long, strange, and tedious catalogue, worthy only of an ignorant and low babbler.
In regard to all these principles, it is agreed by the Pendets that they are eternal. The production from nothing does not seem to have occurred to their mind, any more than to the mind of many of the ancient philosophers. There is one of the sages, however, who, they pretend, has said something on the subject.
On physic they have a great number of small books, which are rather collections of recipes than regular treatises. The most ancient and the most esteemed is written in verse. I shall observe, by the way, that their practice differs essentially from ours, and that it is grounded on the following acknowledged principles : a patient with a fever requires no great nourishment; the sovereign remedy for sickness is abstinence ; nothing is worse for a sick body than meat broth, for it soon corrupts in the stomach of one afflicted with fever ; a patient should be bled only on extraordinary occasions, and where the necessity is most obvious as when there is reason to apprehend a brain fever, or when an inflammation of the chest, liver, or kidneys, has taken place.
Whether these modes of treatment be judicious, I leave to our learned physicians to decide ; I shall only remark that they are successful in Hindoustan, and that the Mogol and Mahometan physicians, who follow the rules of Avicenna and Averroes, adopt them no less than do those of the Gentiles, especially in regard to abstinence from meat broth. The Mogols, it is true, are rather more given to the practice of bleeding than the Gentiles; for where they apprehend the inflammations just mentioned, they generally bleed once or twice, not in the trifling manner of the modern practitioners of Goa1 and Paris, but [S. 339] copiously, like the ancients, taking eighteen or twenty ounces of blood, sometimes even to fainting; thus frequently subduing the disease at the commencement, according to the advice of Galen, and as I have witnessed in several cases.
1 The doctors of Goa were held in high esteem, and great honours, such as being allowed to have umbrellas carried over them, were paid to them. John Huyghen van Linschoten, who lived in Goa for five years, 1583-1588, says of them: 'There are in Goa many Heathen phisitions which observe their gravities with hats carried over them for the sunne, like the Portingales, which no other heathens doe, but [onely] Ambassadors, or some rich Marchants. These Heathen phisitions doe not onely cure there owne nations [and countriemen] but the Portingales also, for the Viceroy himselfe, the Archbishop, and all the Monkes and Friers doe put more trust in them then in their own countrimen, whereby they get great [store of] money, and are much honoured and esteemed.' Voyage to the East Indies, Hakluyt Soc. ed. 1885, vol. i. p. 230.
It is not surprising that the Gentiles understand nothing of anatomy. They never open the body either of man or beast, and those in our household always ran away, with amazement and horror, whenever I opened a living goat or sheep for the purpose of explaining to my Agah the circulation of the blood, and showing him the vessels, discovered by Pecquet, through which the chyle is conveyed to the right ventricle of the heart. Yet notwithstanding their profound ignorance of the subject, they affirm that the number of veins in the human body is five thousand, neither more nor less ; just as if they had carefully reckoned them.
In regard to astronomy, the Gentiles have their tables, according to which they foretell eclipses, not perhaps with the minute exactness of European astronomers, but still with great accuracy. They reason, however, in the same ridiculous way on the lunar as on the solar eclipse, believing that the obscuration is caused by a black, filthy, and mischievous DeŁta, named Rach,1 who takes possession of the moon and fills her with infection. They also maintain, much on the same ground, that the moon is four [S. 340]
1 Rakshasas, literally giants, 'unknown creatures of darkness, to which superstition of all ages and races has attributed the evils that attend this life, and a malignant desire to injure mankind.'
hundred thousand coses [kos], that is, above fifty thousand leagues, higher than the sun ; that she is a luminous body, and that we receive from her a certain vital liquid secretion, which collects principally in the brain, and, descending thence as from its source into all the members of the body, enables them to exercise their respective functions. They believe likewise that the sun, moon, and stars are all so many deŁtas ; that the darkness of night is caused by the sun retiring behind the Someire,1 an imaginary mountain placed in the centre of the earth, in form like an inverted sugar loaf, and an altitude of I know not how many thousand leagues : so that they never enjoy the light of day but when the sun leaves the back of this mountain.
1 By this is meant Su-meru, or the Golden Meru, the shape of which is variously described in the different Purānas, though all represen it as of enormous size and great beauty the Olympus of the Hindoos.
In geography they are equally uninstructed. They believe that the world is flat and triangular; that it is composed of seven distinct habitations, differing in beauty, perfection, and inhabitants, and that each is surrounded by its own peculiar sea ; that one sea is of milk ; another of sugar ; a third of butter ; a fourth of wine ; and so on ; so that sea and land occur alternately until you arrive at the seventh stage from the foot of the Someire mountain, which is in the centre. The first habitation, or that nearest to the Someire, is inhabited by DeŁtas who are very perfect ; the second has also DeŁtas for inhabitants, but they are less perfect ; and so it is with the rest, whose inhabitants are less and less perfect, until the seventh, which is our earth, inhabited by men infinitely less perfect than any of the DeŁtas; and finally that the whole of this world is supported on the heads of a number of elephants, whose occasional motion is the cause of earthquakes.
If the renowned sciences of the ancient Bragmanes of the Indies consisted of all the extravagant follies which I have detailed, mankind have indeed been deceived in the [S. 341] exalted opinion they have long entertained of their wisdom. I should find it difficult to persuade myself that such was the fact, did I not consider that the religion of the Indians has existed from time immemorial ; that it is written in Sanscrit, as are likewise all their scientific books ; that the Sanscrit has long become a dead language, understood only by the learned ; and that its origin is unknown : all which proves a very great antiquity. I will now say a word or two on the worship of idols.
When going down the river Ganges, I passed through Benares, and called upon the chief of the Pendets, who resides in that celebrated seat of learning. He is a Fakire or Devotee so eminent for knowledge that Chah-Jehan, partly for that consideration, and partly to gratify the Rajas, granted him a pension of two thousand roupies, which is about one thousand crowns. He is a stout, well-made man, and his dress consists of a white silk scarf, tied about the waist, and hanging half way down the leg, and of another tolerably large scarf of red silk, which he wears as a cloak on his shoulders. I had often seen him in this scanty dress at Dehli, in the assembly of the Omrahs and before the King, and met him in the streets either on foot or in a paleky. During one year he was in the constant habit of visiting my Agah, to whom he paid his court in the hope that he would exercise his influence to obtain the pension of which Aureng-Zebef anxious to appear a true Musulman, deprived him on coming to the throne. I formed consequently a close intimacy with this distinguished personage, with whom I had long and frequent conversations ; and when I Visited him at Benares he was most kind and attentive, giving me a collation in the university library,1 to which [S. 342] he invited the six most learned Pendets in the town. Finding myself in such excellent company, I determined to ascertain their opinion of the adoration of idols. I told them I was leaving the Indies scandalised at the prevalence of a worship which outraged common sense, and was totally unworthy such philosophers as I had then the honour of addressing. 'We have indeed in our temples,' said they, 'a great variety of images, such as that of Brahma, of Mehadeu,2 of Genic,3 and of Gavani,4 who are the principal and the most perfect of the DeŁtas, and we have many others esteemed less perfect. To all these images we pay great honour ; prostrating our bodies, and presenting to them, with much ceremony, flowers, rice, scented oil, saffron and other similar articles. Yet do we not believe that these statues are themselves Brahma or Bechen5 ; but merely their images and representations. We show them deference only for the sake of the deity whom they represent, and when we pray it is not to the statue, but to that deity. Images are admitted in our temples, because we conceive that prayers are offered up with more devotion where there is something before the eyes that fixes the mind ; but in fact we acknowledge that God alone is absolute, that He only is the omnipotent Lord.'
1 Tavernier, when travelling from Agra to Bengal in 1665, on which journey he was accompanied by Bernier, was at Benares on the 11th, 12th, and 13th December of that year. He tells us (Travels, vol. ii. pp. 234, 235) that adjoining a great temple, 'on the side which faces the setting sun at midsummer, there is a house which serves as a college, which the Raja JAI SINGH, the most powerful of the idolatrous princes, who was then in the Empire of the GREAT MOGUL, has founded for the education of the youth of good families. I saw the children of this Prince, who were being educated there, and had as teachers several Brahmins, who taught them to read and write in a language which is reserved to the priests of the idols, and is very different from that spoken by the people.'
2 Mahā-Deva, the great god, one of the names of Siva.
3 Ganesh, the son of Siva and Parvati, the god of good luck.
4 Probably a misprint for Bavani, meaning Bhawānī, one of the names of the wife of Siva.
5 Vishnu, the preserver and restorer.
I have neither added to nor taken from the answer that the Pendets gave me ; but I suspect it was so framed [S. 343] as to correspond with the tenets of Christianity. The observations made to me by other learned Pendets were totally different.
I then turned the conversation to the subject of chronology, and my company soon showed me a far higher antiquity than ours. They would not say that the world was without a beginning; but the great age they gave it sounded almost as if they had pronounced it eternal. Its duration, said they, is to be reckoned by four Dgugues, or distinct ages ;1not ages composed, as with us, of an hundred years, but of one hundred lecques [lakhs], that is to say, of an hundred times one hundred thousand years. I do not recollect exactly the number of years assigned to each Dgugue, but I know that the first, called Sate-Dgugue, continued during a period of five-and-twenty lecques of years ; that the second, called Trita, lasted above twelve lecques; the third, called Duapor, subsisted, if I mistake not, eight lecques and sixty-four thousand years; and the fourth, called the Kale-Dgugue, is to continue I forget how many lecques of years. The first three, they said, and much of the fourth, are passed away, and the world will not endure so many ages as it has done, because it is destined to perish at the termination of the fourth Dgugue, when all things will return to their first principles. Having pressed the Pendets to tell me the exact age of the world, they tried their arithmetical skill over and over again ; but finding that they were sadly perplexed, and even at variance as to the number of lecques, I satisfied myself with the general information that the world is astonishingly old. Whenever any of these learned Brahmens is urged to state the facts on which he grounds his belief of this vast antiquity, he entertains the inquirer with a set of ridiculous fables, and finishes by [S. 344] asserting that it is so stated in their Beths, or Books of the Laws, which have been given to them by Brahma.
1 Yugas or ages, concerning the correct method of reckoning which there are many conflicting accounts. They are termed the Krita (same as the Sate, for Satya, of Bernier's enumeration), Treta, Dwāpara, and Kali Yuga.
I then tried them on the nature of their DeŁtas, but their explanation was very confused. These Gods consist, they said, of three kinds, good, bad, and indifferent. Some of the learned believe that the DeŁtas are composed of fire, others that they are formed of light, and many are of opinion that they are Biapek;1 a word of which I could obtain no clearer explication than that God is Biapek, that our soul is Biapek, and that whatever is Biapek is incorruptible and independent of time and place. There are Pendets again who, according to my learned host and his companions, pretend that DeŁtas are only portions of the divinity ; and lastly, others consider them as certain species of distinct divinities, dispersed over the surface of the globe.
1 For vyāpaka (Sanskrit), all-pervading.
I remember that I also questioned them on the nature of the Lengue-cherire,1 which some of their authors admit ; but I could elicit no more from them than what I had long before learnt from our Pendet ; namely, that the seeds of plants, of trees, and of animals do not receive a new creation ; that they have existed, scattered abroad and intermixed with other matter, from the first creation of the world ; and that they are nothing more or less, not only in potentiality, as it is called, but in reality, than plants, trees and animals entirely perfect, but so minute that their separate parts only become visible when being brought to their proper place, and there receiving nourishment they develop and increase ; so that the seed of an apple- or pear-tree is a Lengue-cherire, a small [S. 345]
apple- or pear-tree, perfect in all its essential parts ; and the seed of a horse, of an elephant, or of a man is a Lengue-cherire, a small horse, a small elephant or a small man, which requires only life and nourishment in order to its visibly assuming its proper form.
1 Linga, or spiritual body, of the Bhagavad Gitā, or Sacred Lay, the great Sanskrit philosophical poem. Bernier here alludes to the doctrine of the immortality of the soul and the transmigration of the soul, after the material body formed in the womb has been dissolved into its primary elements after death. The spiritual body (linga), formed of the finer elements of matter, then accompanies the soul in all its migrations, until the latter has attained to nirvana, or absorption into the Supreme Creator.
In conclusion, I shall explain to you the Mysticism of a Great Sect1 which has latterly made great noise in Hindoustan, inasmuch as certain Pendets or Gentile Doctors had instilled it into the minds of Dara and Sultan Sujah, the elder sons of Chah-Jehan2. You are doubtless acquainted with the doctrine of [S. 346] many of the ancient philosophers concerning that great life-giving principle of the world, of which they argue that we and all living creatures are so many parts : if we carefully examine the writings of Plato and Aristotle, we shall probably discover that they inclined towards this opinion. This is the almost universal doctrine of the Gentile Pendets of the Indies, and it is this same doctrine which is held by the sect of the Soufys and the greater part of the learned men of Persia at the present day, and which is set forth in Persian poetry in very exalted and emphatic language, in their Goul-tchen-raz,2 or Garden of Mysteries. This was also the opinion of Flud,3 whom [S. 347] our great Gassendy has so ably refuted ; and it is similar to the doctrines by which most of our alchymists have been hopelessly led astray. Now these Sectaries or Indou Pendets, so to speak, push the incongruities in question further than all these philosophers, and pretend that God, or that supreme being whom they call Achar4 (immovable, unchangeable) has not only produced life from his own substance, but also generally everything material or corporeal in the universe, and that this production is not formed simply after the manner of efficient causes, but as a spider which produces a web from its own navel, and withdraws it at pleasure. The Creation then, say these visionary doctors, is nothing more than an extraction or extension of the individual substance of God, of those filaments which He draws from his own bowels ; and, in like manner, destruction is merely the recalling of that divine substance and filaments into Himself; so that the last day of the world, which they call maperlť or pralea,5 and in which they believe every being will be annihilated, will be the general recalling of those filaments which God had before drawn forth from Himself. There is, therefore, say they, nothing real or substantial in that which we think we see, hear or smell, taste or touch ; the whole of this world is, as it were, an illusory dream, inasmuch as all that variety which appears to our outward senses is but one only and the same thing, which is God Himself; in the same manner as all those different numbers, of ten, twenty, a hundred, a thousand, etc., are but the frequent repetition of the same unit. But ask them some reason for this idea ; beg them to explain how this extraction and reception of substance occurs, or to account for that apparent variety ; or how it is that God not being corporeal [S. 348] but biapek, as they allow, and incorruptible, He can be thus divided into so many portions of body and soul, they will answer you only with some fine similes : That God is as an immense ocean in which many vessels of water are in continual motion ; let these vessels go where they will, they always remain in the same ocean, in the same water ; and if they should break, the water they contain would then be united to the whole, to that ocean of which they were but parts. Or they will tell you that it is with God as with the light, which is the same everywhere, but causes the objects on which it falls to assume a hundred different appearances, according to the various colours or forms of the glasses through which it passes. They will never attempt to satisfy you, I say, but with such comparisons as these, which bear no proportion with God, and which serve only to blind an ignorant people. In vain will you look for any solid answer. If one should reply that these vessels might float in a water similar to their own, but not in the same ; and that the light all over the world is indeed similar, but not the same, and so on to other strong objections which may be made to their theory, they have recourse continually to the same similes, to fine words, or, in the case of the Soufys, to the beautiful poems of their Goul-tchen-raz.
1 In the original, 'le mystere d'une grande Cabale.'
2 Mīrza Muhammad Kāzim, the historian, in his Alamgīr Nāma, which is a history of the first ten years of the reign of the Emperor Alamgīr (Aurangzeb), written in 1688, treats of the heresy of Dārā Shikoh as follows : 'Dārā Shukoh in his later days did not restrain himself to the freethinking and heretical notions which he had adopted under the name of Tasawwuf (Sufism), but showed an inclination for the religion and institutions of the Hindus. He was constantly in the society of Brāhmans, Jogis, and Sannyāsis, and he used to regard these worthless teachers of delusions as learned and true masters of wisdom. He considered their books, which they call Bed, as being the Word of God and revealed from Heaven, and he called them ancient and excellent books. He was under such delusion about this Bed that he collected Brāhmans and Sannyāsis from all parts of the country, and paying them great respect and attention, he employed them in translating the Bed. He spent all his time in this unholy work, and devoted all his attention to the contents of these wretched books. . . . Through these perverted opinions he had given up the prayers, fasting, and other obligations imposed by the law. ... It became manifest that if Dārā Shukoh obtained the throne and established his power, the foundations of the faith would be in danger and the precepts of Islam would be changed for the rant of infidelity and Judaism.' Elliot, History of India, vol. vii. page 179. For a definition of Sufism, which is and always has been looked upon as rank heresy by orthodox Moslems, see p. 320, footnote 2. Sannyāsi is the name in modern times for various sects of Hindoo religious mendicants who wander about and subsist upon alms; the 'naked Fakires' described by Bernier (p. 317), of whom Sarmet was one. According to the laws of Manu, the life of a Brahman was divided into four stages, the fourth of which was that of a Sannyāsi. 'The religious mendicant who, freed from all forms and observances, wanders about and subsists on alms, practising or striving for that condition of mind which, heedless of the flesh, is intent only upon the Deity and final absorption.' Dowson, Classical Dict. of Hindu Mythology, London, 1879.
2 The Gulshān Rāz, or 'Mystic Rose Garden,' was composed in 717 A.H. (1317 A.D.) in answer to fifteen questions on the doctrines of the Sufis propounded by Amir Syad Hosaini, a celebrated Sufi of Khorāsān. Hardly anything is known of the author, Muhammad Shabistari, further than that he was born at Shabistar, a village in Azarbaijan, and that he wrote this poem and died at Tabriz, the capital town of the same province, in 720 A.H. = 1320 A.D. 'To the European reader the Gulshan Raz is useful as being one of the clearest explanations of that peculiar phraseology which pervades Persian poetry, and without a clear understanding of which it is impossible to appreciate that poetry as it deserves. And it is also interesting as being one of the most articulate expressions of "Sufism," that remarkable phrase of Muhammadan religious thought which corresponds to the mysticism of European theology.' See the Gulshan Raz of Najm ud din, otherwise called Sa'd ud din Mahmud Shabistari Tabrizi. Translated by E. H. Whinfield, M.A., of the Bengal Civil Service. Wyman and Co., Publishers, Hare Street, Calcutta, 1876.
3 Robert Flud, or Fludd, Physician, healer by 'faith-natural,' and Rosicrucian, was born at Bearsted in Kent in 1574, and died in London, 1637. He is the chief English representative of that school of medical mystics who laid claim to the possession of the key to universal science, and his voluminous writings on things divine and human, attracted more attention abroad than in his own country. Gassendi's contribution to the controversy was his Examen Philosophiae Fluddanae, published in 1633, and an earlier treatise, published in 1631.
4 See p. 325.
5 Mahā-pralaya, or total dissolution of the universe at the end of a kalpa (a day and night of Brahma, equal to 4,320,000,000 years) when the seven lokas (divisions of the universe) and their inhabitants, men, saints, gods, and Brahma himself, are annihilated. Pralaya is a modified form of dissolution.
Now, Sir, what think you ? Had I not reason from all this great tissue of extravagant folly on which I have remarked ; from that childish panic of which I have spoken above ; from that superstitious piety and compassion toward the sun in order to deliver it from the malignant and dark DeŁta ; from that trickery of prayers, of ablutions, of dippings, and of alms, either cast into the river, or bestowed on Brahmens ; from that mad and infernal hardihood of women to burn themselves with the body of those husbands whom frequently they have hated while alive; from those various and frantic practices of the Fakires ; and lastly, from all that fabulous trash of their Beths and other books ; was I not justified in taking as a motto to [S. 349] this letter, the wretched fruit of so many voyages and so many reflections, a motto of which the modern satirist has so well known how to catch and convey the idea without so long a journey 'There are no opinions too extravagant and ridiculous to find reception in the mind of man' ?
To conclude, you will do me a kindness by delivering Monsieur Chapelle's1 letter into his own hands; it was he who first obtained for me that acquaintance with your intimate and illustrious friend, Monsieur Gassendi, which has since proved so advantageous to me. I am so much obliged to him for this favour that I cannot but love and remember him wherever my lot may be cast. I also feel myself under much obligation to you, and am bound to honour you all my life, not only on account of the partiality you have manifested toward me, but also for the valuable advice contained in your frequent letters, by which you have aided me during my journeys, and for your goodness in having sent me so disinterestedly and gratuitously a collection of books to the extremity of the world, whither my curiosity had led me; while those of whom I requested them, who might have been paid with money which I had left at Marseilles, and who in common politeness should have sent them, deserted me and laughed at my letters, looking on me as a lost man whom they were never more to see.
1 The letter referred to, despatched, as was the present one, from Chiras, but on the 10th June 1668, Concerning his intention of resuming his studies, on some points which relate to the doctrine of atoms, and to the nature of the human understanding, is not printed in this present edition. It contains much curious matter, but nothing directly relating to Bernier's Indian experiences. Claude-Emmanuel Luillier Chapelle (1626-1645) was a natural son of Francois Luillier's, at whose house Gassendi was a frequent guest ; struck by the talent of young Chapelle he gave him lessons in philosophy together with Moliere and Bernier.
Zu: 16. Zum Beispiel: Vertrag zwischen Admiral Ove Giedde im Namen KŲnig Christians IV. und dem KŲnig von Tanjore vom 19. November 1620