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HISTORY OF INDIA
FROM THE EARLIEST AGES.
J. TALBOYS WHEELER,
ASSISTANT SECRETARY TO THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA IN THE FOREIGN DEPARTMENT.
SECRETARY TO THE INDIAN RECORD COMMISSION.
THE VEDIC PERIOD AND THE Mahá bhÁRATA.
THE VEDIC PERIOD
AND THE MAH
More than a century has passed away since the rise of British ascendancy in India, and yet a history which should combine a tolerably exhaustive review of the religion and civilization of the Hindús, together with an exposition of the policy which has hitherto guided the British Government in its dealings with Native powers, is still a desideratum in European literature. Accordingly this task has been attempted during a residence of some years in the country, under circumstances peculiarly favourable to its accomplishment; and in announcing the early publication of the first three volumes, it seems desirable to indicate the general character and scope of the entire work.
The materials for the History of India may be indicated under three distinct heads, viz.
1st. The religious books of the Hindús, and especially the two great Epics, known as the Mahá Bharata and Ramayana, which may be regarded as the national treasuries of all that has been preserved of the history and institutions of the people.
2nd. The compilations of Mussulman annalists and biographers.
3rd. The original records which have been preserved in the several departments of the Government of India, and in the record rooms of the local governments, together with
the unofficial travels, narratives, and histories which have been published since the period when the peninsula of India was first explored by adventurers from Europe and elsewhere.
Three volumes of the projected History of India are now in course of publication, and are intended to comprise what may be called the Hindú period. The first volume, which is now presented to the public, comprises the Vedic period, and the traditions preserved in the Maha Bharata. The second volume, which is already in the press, will exhibit the traditions to be found in the Rámáyana, and will be published at an early date. The third volume is in preparation, and will include the results of the first and second volumes, as well as those which are to be drawn from the more salient points in Sanskrit and Mussulman. literature; and will thus form a resumé of the History of India from the earliest period to the rise of British power.
It should be remarked that the primary object of the author is not so much to draw up a history of the literature or religion of the Hindús, or to exhibit the results of comparative philology, as to delineate the civilization and institutions of the people with especial reference to their present condition and future prospects, and to the political relations of the British Government with the great Indian feudatories of the Crown. But it must be borne in mind that the ancient traditions of the people of India are household words in every quarter of the Peninsula; that they have not passed away from the land in the same way that those of Stonehenge and Druidism, the worship of Thor and Odin, and the wars of the Heptarchy, have passed away from the people of England; but that they are to the Hindú all that the Old Testament is to the Jew, and all that the Bible, the Library, and the Newspaper, are to the European. In a word, it may be emphatically stated that a thorough acquaintance with the ideas and aspirations of the masses is impossible without a close familiarity with the subject-matter of the Mahá Bhárata and Rámáyana.