Imatges de pàgina
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Introductory Remarks. The precise time at which the Institutes of Manu were compiled is uncertain. Sir William Jones places the date about twelve hundred years before Christ, and Mr. Elphinstone about nine hundred, or about the age of Homer. It will be observed, by a reference to the translation (verses 69-73.), that the burning of the Satī, or Indian widow, is not even hinted at, which, of itself, fixes the time of the compilation of the laws far anterior to the era of Alexander the Great, the Macedonians having found this cruel and revolting custom prevalent at the period of their invasion. But whatever may be the date of this code, the matter it contains cannot fail to strike the most superficial observer as full of interest and importance. No one, it is presumed, will read the subjoined translation without admiring the lofty and almost Christian tone of morality that pervades it: and when it is remembered that we are entirely without historical account of the Hindus at these early ages, every one must admit the importance of a work, which, presenting us with a complete picture of their laws, religion, and social habits, may serve as a guide to many points in their political history.

Let not, however, the reader suppose that the translation we have here given of the most striking passages in these Institutes is intended to serve as a sample of the whole, or he will derive from its perusal a very exalted and a very false notion of the state of Hindu morality at this early epoch. The original work is polluted by numerous rules and prohibitions, having reference to practices which could only have prevailed in a corrupt and degraded state of moral feeling. It should, moreover, be borne in mind, that the compiler of this code, who was probably some learned Brahman of the day, collected from the literature of his country, and the opinions of his own time, what ought to be the laws which should regulate the community, rather than what those laws actually were; and that he doubtless mixed up with the existing state of things many of his own ideas upon questions of religion, morality, and law. Nevertheless, however much the minuter parts of the picture presented to us in this book are to be attributed to the imagination of the legislator, and however much it may be necessary to soften down the particular features of the landscape, still, taken as a whole, it furnishes us with a very valuable representation of the early condition of the Hindu people. And its importance will be enhanced, when it is remembered that the natives of India at the present day regard it not only as the oldest, but as the most sacred text after the Vedas, and that it still furnishes the basis of Hindu jurisprudence.

The original work is entirely wanting in arrangement, and the preceding extracts have been selected from various parts so as to give the cream of the whole with as much continuity and connexion as the subject would admit. The reader must understand that the most remarkable feature in Hindu society, as depicted in the Institutes, is the division of the people into four classes or castes : lst, The Sacerdotal; 2d, The Military; 3d, The Commercial; 4th, The Servile. The first three classes, though by no means equal, were admitted into one common pale, and called by the common name of "twice-born.” With reference to them alone were these Institutes composed, the 4th class being in that state of degradation which would seem to indicate that they were the aborigines of the soil, subject to a conquering race. As to the 1st, or Sacerdotal Class, the Brahmans who formed it were held to be the chief of all human beings; they were even superior to the king, and their lives and property were protected by the most stringent laws. They were to divide their lives into four quarters (or orders), living for the first quarter as students with their preceptors; for the second, as householders with their families; for the third, as anchorites in the woods; for the fourth, as religious mendicants, wandering from house to house, and emaciating their bodies by mortification and austerity. As to the 2d, or Military Class, although much inferior in rank to the Sacerdotal, they enjoyed great privileges, and, inasmuch as the king and his ministers were taken from their body, must have been practically the most powerful. As to the 3d, or Commercial,

they were not held in much esteem, their duties being to keep cattle, till the ground, and engage in trade. The 4th, or Servile Class, were excluded from all political and religious privileges ; and although it does not appear that they were the slaves of the state like those of Europe, their only duties were made to consist in serving the other three classes.

Mr. Elphinstone notices two great peculiarities in the society thus constituted : Ist, the little importance attached to the direction of public worship and religious ceremonies by the Brahmans ; 2dly, the strictness with which all the actions of the Brahmans are regulated, as if living in a convent, and not scattered over a vast tract of country, without head or council or ecclesiastical government.

The annexed translation is partly founded upon that of Sir William Jones; but although, in some passages, the words of that distinguished oriental scholar have been followed, it has been thought desirable to introduce many alterations in the present version.


1. For the sake of the preservation of all this creation, the Supreme in glory assigned separate duties to those who sprang respectively from his mouth, his arm, his thigh, and his foot.

2. To Brahmans he assigned the duties of teaching, of reading, of sacrificing, of assisting at sacrifices, of giving, and (if indigent) of receiving.

3. The (duties) of a Kshatriya are, in brief, the defence of the people, giving, sacrificing, reading, freedom from attachment to sensual pleasures.

4. To the Vaishya (he assigned the duties of) keeping cattle, giving, sacrificing, reading, trading, lending money at interest, and agriculture.

5. To the Shūdra, the Supreme Ruler appointed one single duty, the service of these (other) classes ungrudgingly.

6. Of created things, the most excellent are those which are animated ; of the animated, those endued with intellectual life ;


of the intelligent, mankind; and of men, Brahmans (or the sacerdotal class).

7. Of Brahmans, those who are learned (in the ritual); of the learned, those whose minds are acquainted with their duty ; of those who are acquainted with their duty, such as perform it; of such as perform it, those who have acquaintance with the Supreme Spirit

8. The seniority of Brahmans (or priests) is from sacred learning; of Kshatriyas (or soldiers) from valour ; of Vaishyas (or merchants and husbandmen) from (abundance of) grain and money ; of Shūdras (or slaves) from priority of birth alone.

9. The Brahman, the Kshatriya, and the Vaishya are the three twice-born classes (their sacred birth taking place at their investiture with the sacred thread); but the fourth class, or Shūdra, is once-born (as being excluded from investiture with the thread); there is no fifth class (except those which are mixed and impure).

THE FIRST, OR SACERDOTAL CLASS (OR BRAHMANS). Duties of the Brahman in the first Order (Ashrama) or Quarter of his Life, as a Brahmachūrī, or Student of Religion, subject to his

Guru or Preceptor. 10. Learning, having approached a Brahman, said to him, “I am thy divine treasure, preserve me, deliver me not to a scorner; so (preserved) I shall become supremely strong.

11. But communicate me to that student who will be a careful guardian of the treasure, and whom thou shalt know to be pure, self-governed, and a Brahmachārī."

12. Where virtue and worldly means (sufficient to secure it) are not found, or diligent attention proportioned (to the holiness of the subject), in that soil divine knowledge must not be sown, like good seed on barren land.

13. A teacher of the Veda should be willing to die with his learning rather than sow it in sterile soil, even though he be in grievous distress.

14. A Brahman who is the causer of spiritual birth, the teacher of proper duties, even though a child, becomes by right the father of an old man.

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