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geniture. But its history furnishes a number of deviations from this established rule. During the reign of Alexander, there flourished several free states, whose very independence attracted the rage and reproach of their neighbors. Kings did not enjoy the exercise of unlimited power, bnt were restrained by the system of castes, by religious relations, and by family connections.
It is difficult to determine with precise accuracy whether, as some Indian writers affirm, only one king reigned in India. The education of the royal family was entrusted to the Brahmins, who were exempted on this account from pecuniary exactions. But the entire nation was subjected to a system of taxation, under the control of the king, who was regarded as the administrator of justice and the representative of the Divine will.
In their judicial proceedings, the Indians frequently resorted to appeals to the decisions of heaven. They seldom made use of the oath. In the earliest times, the visitations of fortune were regarded as clear manifestations of retributive justice.
The army was originally composed of a particular caste, set apart for the defence of the country, called Cshatriyas. When Buddhism obtained the supremacy, the soldiers were selected from all the castes. The present Anglo-indian army numbers about two hundred thousand men, most of whom are natives, the remainder Europeans.
The division of the people into castes, is the most striking feature in the political organization of India; an institution that has effectually retarded the progress of civilization, by sanctioning the existence of different orders of society which never come into contact with each other, and the transmission of dignities from father to son in fixed hereditary succession. The Buddhists, who never could furnish or substantiate any claims to pure descent from a regular caste family, endeavored to crush this great hierarchical fabric, but without permanent success. To this day, its power, though somewhat limited by the influence of the English, continues to be immense. According to the representations of the Brahmins, who boast of their pure extraction, the only genuine castes now extant, are their own, the Sudras, the remains of the Cshatryas, and some mixed families.
According to the primitive division, the Brahmins compose the first, or sacerdotal caste. Their proper employment consists in stu
dying and expounding the Sacred Books, some of which are said to have been originally a portion of the essence of Brahma himself, in offering and instituting sacrifices, in distributing and receiving alms. Though regarded as the representatives of the Divine being and as his priests on earth, they are permitted to engage in no war, in trade, in commerce, and other practical pursuits, such as collecting taxes, defending the frontiers whenever threatened with attack, teaching, writing and the study of the heavens. The Cshatriyas, or military class, from which the kings are generally chosen, are second in dignity. Their chief occupation is war. Only in cases of extreme necessity, are they allowed to cultivate the arts of peace. The Vaiyas rank third. They are composed of farmers and merchants. Agriculture was held in such high esteem, that in time of war the members of this caste are allowed to till their lands in perfect security. Lowest in the scale of castes stand the Sudras, who occupy a very degraded position. They were compelled to perform the most menial offices for the Brahmins, who in turn were bound to provide for their temporal support. Every attempt on their part to accumulate property was prohibited by their tyrannical masters.
They dare not venture even to open a page of the Sacred Books without incurring the danger of the severest anathemas. In the course of time, however, the condition of this caste was materially improved. At the present day, the Sudras compose the majority of the population, carry on trade and commerce, receive homage from several guilds, and exercise a kind of jurisdiction. The Pariahs, who are regarded as devoid of caste and consequently entitled to no respect, compose the lowest class of Hindoo society. These unfortunate beings, though forming the forty-first portion of the entire population, live in a state of utter degradation. According to the social system of India, they are looked upon as being constitutionally unclean; their touch is pollution. The haughty Brahmins particularly, in whose presence they dare not stand a single moment without the forfeit of their lives as the penalty, treat them with the most scornful contempt. And yet classes may be found in India which are compelled to submit to still more dishonorable treatment than even the Pariahs receive. It is very evident to the
• From the Sancrit root Kschi; in the Greek language, e. 8., ávaxtos, (avaš,) Táopae, ruler, possessor.
most superficial observer, that such a code of morality as these practices prove to have been in operation, must have exerted a very pernicious influence on the moral character of society in general, and prevented the expansion of mind.
We have now given a very brief description of government as it exists in India. What decision shall be passed upon it? Has it in the main advanced or retarded the march of civilization ? Its system of caste split society into innumerable divisions and subdivisions which kept the various interests of Kife in an immutable subordination. Had not its different departments thus sundered been compacted by a superstitious religion, complete disorganization would have been the inevitable result. But what are the necessary conditions for a healthful state of society? As was remarked in the history of the Chinese, the general social life which underlies every individual activity, must never remain stationary, but advance from inferior to higher stages of culture. On the other hand, freedom and liberal encouragement must be granted unto the members of every government for the cultivation of personal character and for the expansion of personal thought. If any one of these forces gains the ascendancy, the equilibrium of society is destroyed, and its progress checked. In India, the improvement of the individual beyond a certain point was impossible. The caste system confined him to a particular sphere, in which he was compelled forever to move. As the prospect for elevation into a higher class was shut out, his efforts at self-improvement were weak and trifling. But whilst this system so prejudicial in its operation, represscd the aspirations of individual minds, it stamped upon the whole nation the character of individuality. Under its action, the life of the nation was subdivided into a thousand individual forms, distinguished by striking features of difference. Thus, in the end, the individual principle of society gained the preponderance, and its general interests suffered neglect. In this respect, Indian civilzation differs very materially from that of China. The one is characterized by the tyranny of despotism over personal liberty, the other, by the predominance of individual activity over that of society at large. In China, every department presents a dry, monotonous appearance; its culture is stationary ; all is at a stand-still. In India, the surface of society is diversified by innumerable phases of private individual activity; but its culture is likewise stationary. Thus these two extreme systems of social
life, proceeding from different positions, find a point of unity in this, that both preclude the possibility of a solid and progressive civilization. Under their influence, a permanent advance towards true spiritual freedom is impossible.
As the Mohammedan, Persian, and Christian portions of Indian population took no prominent part in Indian history, so far as government is concerned, we will postpone their consideration to a more convenient season.
Upon the artistic productions of the Indians, are impressed the prominent features of their character, tenderness of feeling and liveliness of imagination. An overflowing fullness of fancy must reveal its contents in outward forms; it cannot remain locked up within the narrow confines of individual minds, but struggles to come to clear, full expression. The Indians, who passed almost their entire existence in the land of fancy, stimulated by what may be called an irrepressible poetic instinct, involuntarily clothed their profound thoughts either in the garb of imagery, or stamped them upon the materials of nature. Here again the culture of India surpasses that of China. The Chinese move forever in the treadmill of the finite Understanding; they see only with the eye of sense; the supersensible is beyond their apprehension. The true artist cannot bear to be tantalized with the question, Cui bono? ; but the Chinese can see no sense in anything but profit and loss calculations. Art is the organic representation of ideas; but the Chinese have " wooden heads filled with clock-work."
The remains of art are scattered over India in rich profusion; but the period of their execution cannot be accurately determined. The temples employed for religious service, seem to have been of the most costly and magnificent description. Those found at Salsetse and Elephanta, are the most remarkable. They all bear the same general character, having been excavated in the sides of mountains, with pillars, images, and openings at the top. Thə cavetemples of the Brahmins have flat roofs and columns, often tastefully decorated; the walls are ornamented with paintings. The Holy place, in which stand the images of their gods, are sometimes left open above. The Buddhist temple has a different character. Its
largest area embraces a semicircle; an arch spans the holiest place; underneath it stands the symbolical Dagob, in the form of a water bubble; tanks, galleries, siderooms, and the other usual departments Gill
up the interior. The Pagodas, which seem to be of modern origin, dating in all probability from the Middle Ages, represent an essentially distinct order of architecture. They are stone buildings, fashioned after the form of a pyramid, having voluted figures and crowded with ornaments. The impression they convey to the eye of the beholder is rather indistinct and confused.
In the decoration of their religious temples, the plastic arts did efficient service. The antiquarian, in his investigations into the remains of Indian art, will often discover reliefs and free figures which bear evident marks of an early origin. But in this respect our limited knowledge will not justify us in passing any decisive sentence on the value of Indian labor. Their statues evince some nobleness of feeling; presenting a harmonious appearance with symmetrical proportions, with features correctly taken and emotions delicately shaded. But some of their productions, though symbolical in their design, have a fantastic character, at variance with æs. thetical beauty. None of them, however, are childish, or without meaning. As the Indian seldom descends from the region of poetic dreams to the solid land of reality, his plastic representations partake of a mystical rather than a true historical character. His constitutionally unhistoric disposition has stamped a fabulous impress upon the products of his imagination.
Of the period when Indian painting reached the height of its prosperity, we have not sufficient knowledge to enable us to form a just judgment. Isolated specimens have been discovered which have elicited much praise. Their more recent performances in this department, possess large attractions, and are executed with a peculiar grace
and finish. As the Indian language contains many mythological elements, it is reasonable to suppose, (what facts fully prove,) that they possess considerable talent for music. The seven tones of the scale have been long familiar with them. They make use of the lyre, the drum, and other instruments not necessary to mention. Of dancing they are immoderately fond; in pantomimic feats, they give expresxion to their excited feelings.