{hin' - doo - izm}

General Information

Developed in northern India about 950 BC

The Four Vedas are the sacred books of the Hindi

Hinduism emphasizes the necessity of escaping from material life and of extinguishing desire. Hinduism is very ritualistic and includes extreme self denial and self punishment. Cows are considered sacred as are rivers. Most Hindus believe in the transmigration of souls (reincarnation), where when a person dies, his soul enters the body of a newborn child or even the body of an animal. Over and over. Therefore, devout Hindus will not kill even a fly. They are vegetarians, lest by eating meat they become cannibals.

The caste system in India is directly related to their religious beliefs. About 2500 years before Christ, a white people called the Aryans came to India (probably from Persia.)

The Aryans formed a caste system in order to maintain the purity of their blood and to maintain white supremacy. Originally, they recognized only four castes:

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Later, these four castes multiplied until today where there are thousands of castes in India. Only Hindus practice the caste system; it is abandoned if a Hindu becomes a Mohammedan or a Christian.

The castes became hereditary which meant that all sons are necessarily members of the same caste as their fathers and that he has to follow his father's occupation. The 7000 modern castes even include a caste of thieves!

If someone is expelled from his caste or has no caste by birth, he is known as an Untouchable, a pariah, and such a person is in a hopeless and pitiable condition. There are currently more than 60,000,000 untouchables in India.

Hinduism teaches that anyone born into a lower caste or an Untouchable is being punished for the sins committed in his past life. If such a person is calmly resigned to his fate and lives rightly, he will be elevated in caste in his next life. This premise tends to make the members of the lower castes and the untouchables submissive to the terrible economic and social conditions under which they live.

Brahma is the chief god, the omnipresent one who is father of the Brahman Trinity. He has four heads, three of which (representing their Trinity) can be seen from any point of view.


Advanced Information

Hinduism, one of the great religions of the world, is the major religion of India, where nearly 85 percent of the population is classified as Hindu. Hinduism has developed over about 4,000 years and has no single founder or creed; rather, it consists of a vast variety of beliefs and practices. Organization is minimal and hierarchy nonexistent. In its diversity, Hinduism hardly fits most Western definitions of religion; rather, it suggests commitment to or respect for an ideal way of life, known as Dharma.

Beliefs and Practices

Caste System

The ideal way of life is sometimes referred to in classical sources and by Hindus as the "duties of one's class and station" (varnasramadharma). The term "class" (varna) is one of the words connoting the Caste system peculiar to India. The ancient texts suggest four great classes, or castes: the Brahmins, or priests; the Ksatriyas, or warriors and rulers; the Vaisyas, or merchants and farmers; and the Sudras, or peasants and laborers. A fifth class, Panchamas, or Untouchables, includes those whose occupations require them to handle unclean objects. It is speculated that the Untouchables were originally assigned such lowly tasks because of their non Aryan origins. This classification system hardly does justice to the modern complexity of the caste system, however. The classical works on dharma specify distinct duties for different classes, in keeping with the distinct roles each is expected to play in the ideal society.

Stages of Life

The classical works also outline four ideal stages (asrama), or stations of life, each with its own duties. The first of these is studentship (brahmacarya), from initiation at 5 to 8 years of age until marriage; the second, householdership (grihasthya), when one marries, raises a family, and takes part in society; the third, forest dwelling (vanaprasthya), after one's children have grown; and the fourth, renunciation (samnyasa), when one gives up attachment to all worldly things and seeks spiritual liberation. Besides the duties that are derived from an individual's class and station, general duties (sanatanadharma) are also incumbent on all moral beings. These include honesty, courage, service, faith, self control, purity, and nonviolence.

These ideal classes and stations encompass males only. The position of women in Hinduism has always been ambiguous; they are, on the one hand, venerated as a symbol of the divine, on the other, treated as inferior beings. Women were traditionally expected to serve their husbands and to have no independent interests. Recent movements within Hinduism, however, such as the Brahmo Samaj, have succeeded in altering this situation.

Aims of Life

Dharma is only one of the four aims of life (purusartha) distinguished within Hinduism. It is thought of as superior to two others - kama, or enjoyment of desires, and artha, or material prosperity. These three constitute the aims of those in the world (pravritti). The fourth aim is liberation (moksa), the aim of those who renounce the world (nivritti), and this is classically viewed as the supreme end of man.

Karma and Rebirth

A widespread feature of classical Hinduism is the belief in Transmigration of Souls, or samsara, the passage of a soul from body to body as determined by the force of one's actions, or Karma. The strict karma theory specifies that one's type of birth, length of life, and kinds of experiences are determined by one's previous acts. This is modified in popular understanding, but it probably has remained a strong influence on most Hindus throughout history. Liberation is release from this cycle of rebirth. It is typically to be achieved by working out those karmic residues which have already begun to mature, as well as by following certain practices to ensure that no further residues are produced to cause future rebirths. The practices by which one can achieve this are frequently termed Yoga, and the theory of liberation is the core of Indian philosophy.


Hinduism is usually said to include six philosophical systems. The systems called Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, and Yoga emphasize yogic practices coupled with an understanding of basic principles of metaphysics and epistemology. Nyaya, in addition, includes an analysis of logic. The systems called Mimamsa identify the performance of ritual - the Vedic sacrifice, or actions performed in that spirit - as the means to liberation. The many Vedanta systems, taking their inspiration from the Upanishads, tend to emphasize understanding of the relationship between the self (Atman) and ultimate reality (Brahman) as the critical aspect of any path to liberation. Philosophies associated with sectarian movements, such as the Bhakti cults, frequently localized in a linguistic or cultural area within the subcontinent, emphasize the path of theistic devotion.

Hindu Deities

The two great theistic movements within Hinduism are Vaishnavism, the cult of Vishnu, and Shaivism, the cult of Shiva. Hindu belief, however, usually holds that the universe is populated by a multitude of gods. These gods share to some extent the features of the Godhead but are seen as behaving much as humans do and as being related to each other as humans are.

This view is similar to that of the ancient Greeks. For example, the supreme gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva and some of the other gods are often viewed as activated through their relationships with female deities. These female consorts to the deities are called Shakti. Other well known gods are said to be relatives of a supreme god, such as Ganesha, the elephant - headed god, a son of Shiva and Parvati. Kali, or Durga, the consort of Shiva, is worshiped widely throughout India in the autumn. Hanuman, the monkey - faced god, is depicted in many shrines, and along with Lakshmi, Vishnu's wife, is among the most important deities associated with Vaishnavism. The sets of gods recognized by different sects are by no means mutually exclusive, however.

Forms of Worship

Hindu worship takes many forms. One of the least frequent is the congregational form so familiar in the West. Vedic sacrifices were conducted in any open place properly consecrated. Typical Hindu daily worship (puja) includes a stop at several shrines, a visit to a temple, and home worship. A Hindu may be devoted to several gods: the image of one god, frequently a family deity, is commonly installed in a small shrine in the home; a second god, worshiped at a nearby temple, may be the divinity to which the person's caste is committed; and still another may be the god to whom the individual makes obeisance as his Guru (teacher) or his guru's tutor. Because everything is sacred in a Hindu's eyes, almost anything may be considered worthy of devotion; rivers, cowpens, and the retreats of holy men are among the holy places frequented by the devout.

Home Worship

Home worship typically involves purification of the area through fire, water, and the drawing of symbolic diagrams. Depending on one's class and station, the frequency with which a Hindu is expected to perform the rites, and the role performed in them, will differ. The rites involve offering food, flowers, or incense to the deity, together with appropriate recitations of sacred words or texts. An especially important ritual is known as sraddha, in which Hindu males symbolically support their father, grandfathers, and great - grandfathers in other worlds by offering water and balls of rice; this ritual dates from Vedic times. The worshiper requires the services of a priest on this occasion, as for other life cycle ceremonies such as birth, initiation, marriage, and death.

Temple Worship

The priests also carry out temple worship, although the devotee may participate in the reading of certain hymns or prayers and may give flowers or money to the god directly. The image of a god is believed to be the god, and the cycle of worship in a temple centers on the daily life of the god, involving preparation of the god for worship - waking him up with bells, purifying him with incense, bathing him, dressing him, and feeding him. The worshiper comes to the temple to view (darshana) the god and to receive the food (prasada) that the god has touched. As in the cycle of an ordinary person, special days occur in the cycle of the god of the temple, and on these days special ceremonies are held. These are frequently the times of festivals and may involve elaborate ceremonies: pilgrimages of vast numbers of devotees, processions bearing the god's image throughout the city or countryside, and special music, plays, and dances for the occasion.

Sacred Cities and Festivals

The seven sacred cities of Hinduism are the following: Varanasi (Benares), Hardwar, Ayodhya, Dwarka, Mathura, Kanchipuram (Conjeeveram), and Ujjain. Other important pilgrimage spots include Madurai, Gaya, Prayaga (Allahabad), Tirupati, and Puri.

Each of these places has one or more temples where annual festivals are celebrated that attract large numbers of pilgrims.

Certain festival days are celebrated throughout India on a day fixed according to the Hindu lunisolar calendar. Prominent among these is Dipavali, the "Festival of Lights," occurring in October and November, at which lamps are placed around the house to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity. Holi, a spring festival in February or March, is a day of riotous funmaking; this frequently involves temporary suspension of caste and social distinctions, and practical jokes are the order of the day. In the fall (September and October) a ten day period is set aside to honor the Mother Goddess, culminating in Dashara, the tenth day, a day of processions and celebrations. This festival is extremely important in Bengal, where it is known as Durga Puja.

History and Literature

Scholars sometimes distinguish Vedism, the religion of ancient India based on the Vedas, from Hinduism, although it is difficult to pinpoint a time that demarcates them. The Vedas were hymns of the Aryans, who invaded in the 2d millennium BC.

Vedism stressed hope for a future existence in heaven and lacked the concepts of karma and rebirth; Hinduism characteristically includes karma and rebirth, and the greatest hope is for eventual release from their sway.

The Vedic deities were somewhat different from those which dominate in Hinduism, although scholars have traced the origins of Vishnu and Shiva back to Vedic counterparts. Later Vedism is sometimes called Brahmanism because of the authority accorded the Brahmins, or priests, who performed the ritual Vedic sacrifice. However, the challenge of non - Vedic religions, notably Buddhism and Jainism, led to the replacement of the rigid Brahmanical rules by more relaxed and varied forms of worship.

Although the Vedas continue to be spoken of as the final authority in Hinduism, other texts of equal importance exist. Thus, a literature was developed for each of the four aims of life: various Dharmasastras, such as the Code of Manu, which detail the duties of class and station; Kamasastras, such as the Kamasutras of Vatsyayana, handbooks of pleasure, erotic and otherwise; the Arthasastra, attributed to Kautilya (fl. 300 BC), which, like Machiavelli's The Prince, offers advice to a ruler as to how to keep the throne; and the philosophical literature of the various systems, which deals with liberation and how to achieve it.

In addition, certain collections of tales came to be widely known in popular life, especially the two great epics, the Mahabarata and the Ramayana. The Mahabharata tells of five princes who were cheated out of their kingdom and who, after a period of banishment in the forest, returned to fight a victorious and righteous war to regain it. An especially beloved portion of this epic is the section called the Bhagavad Gita, in which Arjuna, one of the brothers, is counseled by his charioteer Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The Ramayana tells the story of the ideal Hindu man, Rama, whose wife Sita is abducted by a demon, and of Rama's journey to Sri Lanka to recapture her. Both epics are filled with didactic tales, edifying poems, and fables. It is probably through their constant retelling in the village that Hinduism is most efficiently disseminated from generation to generation. Another source of Hindu lore is the Puranas, collections of legends and myths.

The period from roughly 500 BC to 1000 AD is sometimes spoken of as that of classical Hinduism. It was during this period that the major literature was composed, the great philosophical systems developed, and the basic Vaishnava and Shaiva sects organized. After 1000, beginning in south India somewhat earlier, a spirit of devotional fervor coupled with social reform swept through India, and the period from that time until near the present is known as the bhakti period. During this time the forms of religious worship changed and diversified further. Singing of devotional songs and poems in the vernacular rather than in Sanskrit, the language in which practically all classical Hindu literature was written, is one example. Direct approach to the god was emphasized, and the mediating role of the priest somewhat curtailed. Love, a sentiment common to all but particularly to the most ordinary villager, is now celebrated as the way to the highest end; some bhakti philosophies hold that liberation is not the supreme goal and that loving service to God is a higher one.

Recent developments in Hinduism are indicative of a movement away from certain aspects of classical practice, such as Suttee, a widow's suicide at her husband's funeral; caste distinctions; and even karma and rebirth.

Karl H Potter

A L Basham, The Origins and Development of Classical Hinduism (1989); S Chennakesavan, A Critical Study of Hinduism (1980); T J Hopkins, The Hindu Religion Tradition (1971); D Kinsley, Hinduism (1982); K K Klostermaier, A Survey of Hinduism (1988); R Lannoy, The Speaking Tree (1974); W D O'Flaherty, Dreams, Illusions and Other Realities (1984); L S S O'Malley, Popular Hinduism (1935); K M Sen, Hinduism (1961); P Thomas, Hindu Religion, Customs and Manners (1981); R C Zaehner, Hinduism (1962).


General Information

Shiva (Sanskrit for "auspicious one"), also called Siva, is the Hindu god who personifies both the destructive and the procreative forces of the universe. As the destroyer, he is represented wearing a necklace of skulls and surrounded by demons. His reproductive aspect is symbolized by the lingam, a phallic emblem. Shiva is also the god of asceticism and of art, especially dancing. He rides on the bull Nandi, and his consort is the mother goddess Uma, or Kali. Some Hindus worship Shiva as the supreme deity and consider him a benevolent god of salvation as well as a god of destruction.

Some Important Hindu Religious Documents Follow:

The Laws of Manu

1500 BC

translated by G Buhler

Chapter I

1. The great sages approached Manu, who was seated with a collected mind, and, having duly worshipped him, spoke as follows:
2. 'Deign, divine one, to declare to us precisely and in due order the sacred laws of each of the (four chief) castes (varna) and of the intermediate ones.
3. 'For thou, O Lord, alone knowest the purport, (i.e.) the rites, and the knowledge of the soul, (taught) in this whole ordinance of the Self existent (Svayambhu), which is unknowable and unfathomable.'
4. He, whose power is measureless, being thus asked by the high minded great sages, duly honoured them, and answered, 'Listen!'
5. This (universe) existed in the shape of Darkness, unperceived, destitute of distinctive marks, unattainable by reasoning, unknowable, wholly immersed, as it were, in deep sleep.

6. Then the divine Self existent (Svayambhu, himself) indiscernible, (but) making (all) this, the great elements and the rest, discernible, appeared with irresistible (creative) power, dispelling the darkness.
7. He who can be perceived by the internal organ (alone), who is subtile, indiscernible, and eternal, who contains all created beings and is inconceivable, shone forth of his own (will).
8. He, desiring to produce beings of many kinds from his own body, first with a thought created the waters, and placed his seed in them.
9. That (seed) became a golden egg, in brilliancy equal to the sun; in that (egg) he himself was born as Brahman, the progenitor of the whole world.
10. The waters are called narah, (for) the waters are, indeed, the offspring of Nara; as they were his first residence (ayana), he thence is named Narayana.

11. From that (first) cause, which is indiscernible, eternal, and both real and unreal, was produced that male (Purusha), who is famed in this world (under the appellation of) Brahman.
12. The divine one resided in that egg during a whole year, then he himself by his thought (alone) divided it into two halves;
13. And out of those two halves he formed heaven and earth, between them the middle sphere, the eight points of the horizon, and the eternal abode of the waters.
14. From himself (atmanah) he also drew forth the mind, which is both real and unreal, likewise from the mind egoism, which possesses the function of self consciousness (and is) lordly;
15. Moreover, the great one, the soul, and all (products) affected by the three qualities, and, in their order, the five organs which perceive the objects of sensation.

16. But, joining minute particles even of those six, which possess measureless power, with particles of himself, he created all beings.
17. Because those six (kinds of) minute particles, which form the (creator's) frame, enter (a - sri) these (creatures), therefore the wise call his frame sarira, (the body.)
18. That the great elements enter, together with their functions and the mind, through its minute parts the framer of all beings, the imperishable one.
19. But from minute body ( - framing) particles of these seven very powerful Purushas springs this (world), the perishable from the imperishable.
20. Among them each succeeding (element) acquires the quality of the preceding one, and whatever place (in the sequence) each of them occupies, even so many qualities it is declared to possess.

21. But in the beginning he assigned their several names, actions, and conditions to all (created beings), even according to the words of the Veda.
22. He, the Lord, also created the class of the gods, who are endowed with life, and whose nature is action; and the subtile class of the Sadhyas, and the eternal sacrifice.
23. But from fire, wind, and the sun he drew forth the threefold eternal Veda, called Rik, Yagus, and Saman, for the due performance of the sacrifice.
24. Time and the divisions of time, the lunar mansions and the planets, the rivers, the oceans, the mountains, plains, and uneven ground.
25. Austerity, speech, pleasure, desire, and anger, this whole creation he likewise produced, as he desired to call these beings into existence.

26. Moreover, in order to distinguish actions, he separated merit from demerit, and he caused the creatures to be affected by the pairs (of opposites), such as pain and pleasure.
27. But with the minute perishable particles of the five (elements) which have been mentioned, this whole (world) is framed in due order
28. But to whatever course of action the Lord at first appointed each (kind of beings), that alone it has spontaneously adopted in each succeeding creation.
29. Whatever he assigned to each at the (first) creation, noxiousness or harmlessness, gentleness or ferocity, virtue or sin, truth or falsehood, that clung (afterwards) spontaneously to it.
30. As at the change of the seasons each season of its own accord assumes its distinctive marks, even so corporeal beings (resume in new births) their (appointed) course of action.

31. But for the sake of the prosperity of the worlds he caused the Brahmana, the Kshatriya, the Vaisya, and the Sudra to proceed from his mouth, his arms, his thighs, and his feet.
32. Dividing his own body, the Lord became half male and half female; with that (female) he produced Virag.
33. But know me, O most holy among the twice born, to be the creator of this whole (world), whom that male, Virag, himself produced, having performed austerities.
34. Then I, desiring to produce created beings, performed very difficult austerities, and (thereby) called into existence ten great sages, lords of created beings,
35. Mariki, Atri, Angiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Praketas, Vasishtha, Bhrigu, and Narada.

36. They created seven other Manus possessing great brilliancy, gods and classes of gods and great sages of measureless power,
37. Yakshas (the servants of Kubera, the demons called) Rakshasas and Pisakas, Gandharvas (or musicians of the gods), Apsarases (the dancers of the gods), Asuras, (the snake deities called) Nagas and Sarpas, (the bird deities called) Suparnas and the several classes of the manes,
38. Lightnings, thunderbolts and clouds, imperfect (rohita) and perfect rainbows, falling meteors, supernatural noises, comets, and heavenly lights of many kinds,
39. (Horse faced) Kinnaras, monkeys, fishes, birds of many kinds, cattle, deer, men, and carnivorous beasts with two rows of teeth,
40. Small and large worms and beetles, moths, lice, flies, bugs, all stinging and biting insects and the several kinds of immovable things.

41. Thus was this whole (creation), both the immovable and the movable, produced by those high minded ones by means of austerities and at my command, (each being) according to (the results of) its actions.
42. But whatever act is stated (to belong) to (each of) those creatures here below, that I will truly declare to you, as well as their order in respect to birth.
43. Cattle, deer, carnivorous beasts with two rows of teeth, Rakshasas, Pisakas, and men are born from the womb.
44. From eggs are born birds, snakes, crocodiles, fishes, tortoises, as well as similar terrestrial and aquatic (animals).
45. From hot moisture spring stinging and biting insects, lice, flies, bugs, and all other (creatures) of that kind which are produced by heat.

46. All plants, propagated by seed or by slips, grow from shoots; annual plants (are those) which, bearing many flowers and fruits, perish after the ripening of their fruit;
47. (Those trees) which bear fruit without flowers are called vanaspati (lords of the forest); but those which bear both flowers and fruit are called vriksha.
48. But the various plants with many stalks, growing from one or several roots, the different kinds of grasses, the climbing plants and the creepers spring all from seed or from slips.
49. These (plants) which are surrounded by multiform Darkness, the result of their acts (in former existences), possess internal consciousness and experience pleasure and pain.
50. The (various) conditions in this always terrible and constantly changing circle of births and deaths to which created beings are subject, are stated to begin with (that of) Brahman, and to end with (that of) these (just mentioned immovable creatures).

51. When he whose power is incomprehensible, had thus produced the universe and men, he disappeared in himself, repeatedly suppressing one period by means of the other.
52. When that divine one wakes, then this world stirs; when he slumbers tranquilly, then the universe sinks to sleep.
53. But when he reposes in calm sleep, the corporeal beings whose nature is action, desist from their actions and mind becomes inert.
54. When they are absorbed all at once in that great soul, then he who is the soul of all beings sweetly slumbers, free from all care and occupation.
55. When this (soul) has entered darkness, it remains for a long time united with the organs (of sensation), but performs not its functions; it then leaves the corporeal frame.

56. When, being clothed with minute particles (only), it enters into vegetable or animal seed, it then assumes, united (with the fine body), a (new) corporeal frame.
57. Thus he, the imperishable one, by (alternately) waking and slumbering, incessantly revivifies and destroys this whole movable and immovable (creation).
58. But he having composed these Institutes (of the sacred law), himself taught them, according to the rule, to me alone in the beginning; next I (taught them) to Mariki and the other sages.
59. Bhrigu, here, will fully recite to you these Institutes; for that sage learned the whole in its entirety from me.
60. Then that great sage Bhrigu, being thus addressed by Manu, spoke, pleased in his heart, to all the sages, 'Listen!'

61. Six other high minded, very powerful Manus, who belong to the race of this Manu, the descendant of the Self existent (Svayambhu), and who have severally produced created beings,
62. (Are) Svarokisha, Auttami, Tamasa, Raivata, Kakshusha, possessing great lustre, and the son of Vivasvat.
63. These seven very glorious Manus, the first among whom is Svayambhuva, produced and protected this whole movable and immovable (creation), each during the period (allotted to him).
64. Eighteen nimeshas (twinklings of the eye, are one kashtha), thirty kashthas one kala, thirty kalas one muhurta, and as many (muhurtas) one day and night.
65. The sun divides days and nights, both human and divine, the night (being intended) for the repose of created beings and the day for exertion.

66. A month is a day and a night of the manes, but the division is according to fortnights. The dark (fortnight) is their day for active exertion, the bright (fortnight) their night for sleep.
67. A year is a day and a night of the gods; their division is (as follows): the half year during which the sun progresses to the north will be the day, that during which it goes southwards night.
68. But hear now the brief (description of) the duration of a night and a day of Brahman and of the several ages (of the world, yuga) according to their order.
69. They declare that the Krita age (consists of) four thousand years (of the gods); the twilight preceding it consists of as many hundreds, and the twilight following it of the same number.
70. In the other three ages with their twilights preceding and following, the thousands and hundreds are diminished by one.

71. These twelve thousand (years) which thus have been just mentioned as the total of four (human) ages, are called one age of the gods.
72. But know that the sum of one thousand ages of the gods (makes) one day of Brahman, and that his night has the same length.
73. Those (only, who) know that the holy day of Brahman, indeed, ends after (the completion of) one thousand ages (of the gods) and that his night lasts as long, (are really) men acquainted with (the length of) days and nights.
74. At the end of that day and night he who was asleep, awakes and, after awaking, creates mind, which is both real and unreal.
75. Mind, impelled by (Brahman's) desire to create, performs the work of creation by modifying itself, thence ether is produced; they declare that sound is the quality of the latter.

76. But from ether, modifying itself, springs the pure, powerful wind, the vehicle of all perfumes; that is held to possess the quality of touch.
77. Next from wind modifying itself, proceeds the brilliant light, which illuminates and dispels darkness; that is declared to possess the quality of colour;
78. And from light, modifying itself, (is produced) water, possessing the quality of taste, from water earth which has the quality of smell; such is the creation in the beginning.
79. The before mentioned age of the gods, (or) twelve thousand (of their years), being multiplied by seventy one, (constitutes what) is here named the period of a Manu (Manvantara).
80. The Manvantaras, the creations and destructions (of the world, are) numberless; sporting, as it were, Brahman repeats this again and again.

81. In the Krita age Dharma is four footed and entire, and (so is) Truth; nor does any gain accrue to men by unrighteousness.
82. In the other (three ages), by reason of (unjust) gains (agama), Dharma is deprived successively of one foot, and through (the prevalence of) theft, falsehood, and fraud the merit (gained by men) is diminished by one fourth (in each).
83. (Men are) free from disease, accomplish all their aims, and live four hundred years in the Krita age, but in the Treta and (in each of) the succeeding (ages) their life is lessened by one quarter
84. The life of mortals, mentioned in the Veda, the desired results of sacrificial rites and the (supernatural) power of embodied (spirits) are fruits proportioned among men according to (the character of) the age.
85. One set of duties (is prescribed) for men in the Krita age, different ones in the Treta and in the Dvapara, and (again) another (set) in the Kali, in a proportion as those ages decrease in length.

86. In the Krita age the chief (virtue) is declared to be (the performance of) austerities, in the Treta (divine) knowledge, in the Dvapara (performance of) sacrifices, in the Kali liberality alone.
87. But in order to protect this universe He, the most resplendent one, assigned separate (duties and) occupations to those who sprang from his mouth, arms, thighs, and feet.
88. To Brahmanas he assigned teaching and studying (the Veda), sacrificing for their own benefit and for others, giving and accepting (of alms).
89. The Kshatriya he commanded to protect the people, to bestow gifts, to offer sacrifices, to study (the Veda), and to abstain from attaching himself to sensual pleasures;
90. The Vaisya to tend cattle, to bestow gifts, to offer sacrifices, to study (the Veda), to trade, to lend money, and to cultivate land.

91. One occupation only the lord prescribed to the Sudra, to serve meekly even these (other) three castes.
92. Man is stated to be purer above the navel (than below); hence the Self existent (Svayambhu) has declared the purest (part) of him (to be) his mouth.
93. As the Brahmana sprang from (Brahman's) mouth, as he was the first born, and as he possesses the Veda, he is by right the lord of this whole creation.
94. For the Self existent (Svayambhu), having performed austerities, produced him first from his own mouth, in order that the offerings might be conveyed to the gods and manes and that this universe might be preserved.
95. What created being can surpass him, through whose mouth the

(continues . . . )

The Song Celestial

400 BC


Bhagavad - Gita

translated by Sir Edwin Arnold

Chapter I

Dhritirashtra. Ranged thus for battle on the sacred plain -
On Kurukshetra - say, Sanjaya! say
What wrought my people, and the Pandavas?
Sanjaya. When he beheld the host of Pandavas,
Raja Duryodhana to Drona drew,
And spake these words: "Ah, Guru! see this line,
How vast it is of Pandu fighting men,
Embattled by the son of Drupada,
Thy scholar in the war! Therein stand ranked
Chiefs like Arjuna, like to Bhima chiefs,
Benders of bows; Virata, Yuyudhan,
Drupada, eminent upon his car,
Dhrishtaket, Chekitan, Kasi's stout lord,
Purujit, Kuntibhoj, and Saivya,
With Yudhamanyu, and Uttamauj
Subhadra's child; and Drupadi's; - all famed!

All mounted on their shining chariots!
On our side, too, - thou best of Brahmans! see
Excellent chiefs, commanders of my line,
Whose names I joy to count: thyself the first,
Then Bhishma, Karna, Kripa fierce in fight,
Vikarna, Aswatthaman; next to these
Strong Saumadatti, with full many more
Valiant and tried, ready this day to die
For me their king, each with his weapon grasped,
Each skilful in the field. Weakest - meseems -
Our battle shows where Bhishma holds command,
And Bhima, fronting him, something too strong!
Have care our captains nigh to Bhishma's ranks
Prepare what help they may! Now, blow my shell!"

Then, at the signal of the aged king,
With blare to wake the blood, rolling around
Like to a lion's roar, the trumpeter
Blew the great Conch; and, at the noise of it,
Trumpets and drums, cymbals and gongs and horns
Burst into sudden clamour; as the blasts
Of loosened tempest, such the tumult seemed!
Then might be seen, upon their car of gold
Yoked with white steeds, blowing their battle shells,
Krishna the God, Arjuna at his side:
Krishna, with knotted locks, blew his great conch
Carved of the "Giant's bone;" Arjuna blew
Indra's loud gift; Bhima the terrible -
Wolf - bellied Bhima - blew a long reed - conch;
And Yudhisthira, Kunti's blameless son,
Winded a mighty shell, "Victory's Voice;"
And Nakula blew shrill upon his conch

Named the "Sweet sounding," Sahadev on his
Called "Gem bedecked," and Kasi's Prince on his.
Sikhandi on his car, Dhrishtadyumn,
Virata, Satyaki the Unsubdued,
Drupada, with his sons, (O Lord of Earth!)
Long armed Subhadra's children, all blew loud,
So that the clangour shook their foemen's hearts,
With quaking earth and thundering heav'n.
Then 'twas -
Beholding Dhritirashtra's battle set,
Weapons unsheathing, bows drawn forth, the war
Instant to break - Arjun, whose ensign badge
Was Hanuman the monkey, spake this thing
To Krishna the Divine, his charioteer:
"Drive, Dauntless One! to yonder open ground
Betwixt the armies; I would see more nigh

These who will fight with us, those we must slay
Today, in war's arbitrament; for, sure,
On bloodshed all are bent who throng this plain,
Obeying Dhritirashtra's sinful son."

Thus, by Arjuna prayed, (O Bharata!)
Between the hosts that heavenly Charioteer
Drove the bright car, reining its milk white steeds
Where Bhishma led, and Drona, and their Lords.
"See!" spake he to Arjuna, "where they stand,
Thy kindred of the Kurus:" and the Prince
Marked on each hand the kinsmen of his house,
Grandsires and sires, uncles and brothers and sons,
Cousins and sons-in-law and nephews, mixed
With friends and honoured elders; some this side,
Some that side ranged: and, seeing those opposed,
Such kith grown enemies - Arjuna's heart
Melted with pity, while he uttered this:
Arjuna. Krishna! as I behold, come here to shed
Their common blood, yon concourse of our kin,
My members fail, my tongue dries in my mouth,
A shudder thrills my body, and my hair

Bristles with horror; from my weak hand slips
Gandiv, the goodly bow; a fever burns
My skin to parching; hardly may I stand;
The life within me seems to swim and faint;
Nothing do I foresee save woe and wail!
It is not good, O Keshav! nought of good
Can spring from mutual slaughter! Lo, I hate
Triumph and domination, wealth and ease,
Thus sadly won! Aho! what victory
Can bring delight, Govinda! what rich spoils
Could profit; what rule recompense; what span
Of life itself seem sweet, bought with such blood?
Seeing that these stand here, ready to die,
For whose sake life was fair, and pleasure pleased,
And power grew precious: - grandsires, sires, and sons,
Brothers, and fathers-in-law, and sons-in-law,
Elders and friends! Shall I deal death on these

Even though they seek to slay us? Not one blow,
O Madhusudan! will I strike to gain
The rule of all Three Worlds; then, how much less
To seize an earthly kingdom! Killing these
Must breed but anguish, Krishna! If they be
Guilty, we shall grow guilty by their deaths;
Their sins will light on us, if we shall slay
Those sons of Dhritirashtra, and our kin;
What peace could come of that, O Madhava?
For if indeed, blinded by lust and wrath,
These cannot see, or will not see, the sin
Of kingly lines o'erthrown and kinsmen slain,
How should not we, who see, shun such a crime -
We who perceive the guilt and feel the shame -
O thou Delight of Men, Janardana?
By overthrow of houses perisheth

Their sweet continuous household piety,
And - rites neglected, piety extinct -
Enters impiety upon that home;
Its women grow unwomaned, whence there spring
Mad passions, and the mingling up of castes,
Sending a Hellward road that family,
And whoso wrought its doom by wicked wrath.
Nay, and the souls of honoured ancestors
Fall from their place of peace, being bereft
Of funeral cakes and the wan death water.
So teach our holy hymns. Thus, if we slay
Kinsfolk and friends for love of earthly power,
Ahovat! what an evil fault it were!
Better I deem it, if my kinsmen strike,
To face them weaponless, and bare my breast
To shaft and spear, than answer blow with blow.

So speaking, in the face of those two hosts,
Arjuna sank upon his chariot seat,
And let fall bow and arrows, sick at heart.

Here Endeth Chapter I of the


Entitled "Arjun - Vishad,"

Or "The Book of the Distress of Arjuna."

Chapter II

Sanjaya. Him, filled with such compassion and such grief,
With eyes tear dimmed, despondent, in stern words
The Driver, Madhusudan, thus addressed:
Krishna. How hath this weakness taken thee?
Whence springs
The inglorious trouble, shameful to the brave,
Barring the path of virtue? Nay, Arjun!
Forbid thyself to feebleness! it mars
Thy warrior name! cast off the coward - fit!
Wake! Be thyself! Arise, Scourge of thy Foes!
Arjuna. How can I, in the battle, shoot with shafts
On Bhishma, or on Drona - O thou Chief! -
Both worshipful, both honourable men?

Better to live on beggar's bread
With those we love alive,
Than taste their blood in rich feasts spread,
And guiltily survive!
Ah! were it worse - who knows? - to be
Victor or vanquished here,
When those confront us angrily
Whose death leaves living drear?
In pity lost, by doubtings tossed,
My thoughts - distracted - turn
To Thee, the Guide I reverence most,
That I may counsel learn:
I know not what would heal the grief
Burned into soul and sense,
If I were earth's unchallenged chief -
A god - and these gone thence!

Sanjaya. So spake Arjuna to the Lord of Hearts,
And sighing, "I will not fight!" held silence then.
To whom, with tender smile, (O Bharata!)
While the Prince wept despairing 'twixt those hosts,
Krishna made answer in divinest verse:
Krishna. Thou grievest where no grief should be! thou speak'st
Words lacking wisdom! for the wise in heart
Mourn not for those that live, nor those that die.
Nor I, nor thou, nor any one of these,
Ever was not, nor ever will not be,
For ever and for ever afterwards.
All, that doth live, lives always! To man's frame
As there come infancy and youth and age,
So come there raisings - up and layings - down
Of other and of other life - abodes,
Which the wise know, and fear not. This that irks -

Thy sense - life, thrilling to the elements -
Bringing thee heat and cold, sorrows and joys,
'Tis brief and mutable! Bear with it, Prince!
As the wise bear. The soul which is not moved,
The soul that with a strong and constant calm
Takes sorrow and takes joy indifferently,
Lives in the life undying! That which is
Can never cease to be; that which is not
Will not exist. To see this truth of both
Is theirs who part essence from accident,
Substance from shadow. Indestructible,
Learn thou! the Life is, spreading life through all;
It cannot anywhere, by any means,
Be anywise diminished, stayed, or changed.
But for these fleeting frames which it informs
With spirit deathless, endless, infinite,

They perish. Let them perish, Prince! and fight!
He who shall say, "Lo! I have slain a man!"
He who shall think, "Lo! I am slain!" those both
Know naught! Life cannot slay. Life is not slain!
Never the spirit was born; the spirit shall cease to be never;
Never was time it was not; End and Beginning are dreams!
Birthless and deathless and changeless remaineth the spirit for ever;
Death hath not touched it at all, dead though the house of it seems!
Who knoweth it exhaustless, self sustained,
Immortal, indestructible, - shall such
Say, "I have killed a man, or caused to kill?"

Nay, but as when one layeth
His worn out robes away,
And, taking new ones, sayeth,
"These will I wear today!"
So putteth by the spirit
Lightly its garb of flesh,
And passeth to inherit
A residence afresh.

I say to thee weapons reach not the Life;
Flame burns it not, waters cannot o'erwhelm,
Nor dry winds wither it. Impenetrable,
Unentered, unassailed, unharmed, untouched,
Immortal, all - arriving, stable, sure,
Invisible, ineffable, by word
And thought uncompassed, ever all itself,
Thus is the Soul declared! How wilt thou, then, -
Knowing it so, - grieve when thou shouldst not grieve?
How, if thou hearest that the man new - dead
Is, like the man new - born, still living man -
One same, existent Spirit - wilt thou weep?
The end of birth is death; the end of death
Is birth: this is ordained! and mournest thou,
Chief of the stalwart arm! for what befalls
Which could not otherwise befall? The birth

Of living things comes unperceived; the death
Comes unperceived; between them, beings perceive:
What is there sorrowful herein, dear Prince?

Wonderful, wistful, to contemplate!
Difficult, doubtful, to speak upon!
Strange and great for tongue to relate,
Mystical hearing for every one!
Nor wotteth man this, what a marvel it is,
When seeing, and saying, and hearing are done!

This Life within all living things, my Prince!
Hides beyond harm; scorn thou to suffer, then,
For that which cannot suffer. Do thy part!
Be mindful of thy name, and tremble not!
Nought better can betide a martial soul
Than lawful war; happy the warrior
To whom comes joy of battle - comes, as now,
Glorious and fair, unsought; opening for him
A gateway unto Heav'n. But, if thou shunn'st
This honourable field - a Kshattriya -
If, knowing thy duty and thy task, thou bidd'st
Duty and task go by - that shall be sin!
And those to come shall speak thee infamy

From age to age; but infamy is worse
For men of noble blood to bear than death!
The chiefs upon their battle chariots
Will deem 'twas fear that drove thee from the fray.
Of those who held thee mighty souled the scorn
Thou must abide, while all thine enemies

(continues . . . )


Catholic Information

Hinduism in its narrower sense, is the conglomeration of religious beliefs and practices existing in India that have grown out of ancient Brahminism, and which stand in sharp contrast to orthodox, traditional Brahminism today. Hinduism is the popular, distorted, corrupted side of Brahminism. In its broad sense, it comprises those phases of religous, social, and intellectual life that are generally recognized in India today as the legitimate outgrowth of ancient Brahmin institutions, and hence are tolerated by the Brahmin priests as compatible with Brahmin traditions. Far from being a uniform system of worship, Hinduism, in this large sense, comprises, besides orthodox Brahminism, the numerous sectarian developments of cult in honour of Vishnu, Siva, and their associates, in which for centuries the great mass of the people have found satisfaction for their religious cravings. In Hinduism, as distinguished from the heretical sects of India, it is of minor importance what sort of worship is adopted, provided one recognizes the supremacy of the Brahmins and the sacredness of Brahmin customs and traditions. In the pantheistic all-god Brahma, the whole world of deities, spirits, and other objects of worship is contained, so that Hinduism adapts itself to every form of religion, from the lofty monotheism of the cultivated Brahmin to the degraded nature-worship of the ignorant, half savage peasant. Hinduism, to quote Monier Williams, "has something to offer which is suited to all minds. Its very strength lies in its infinite adaptability to the infinite diversity of human characters and human tendencies. It has its highly spiritual and abstract side suited to the metaphysical philosopher151its practical and concrete side suited to the man of affairs and the man of the world-its esthetic and ceremonial side suited to the man of poetic feeling and imagination-its quiescent and contemplative side suited to the man of peace and lover of seclusion. Nay, it holds out the right hand of brotherhood to nature-worshippers, demon-worshippers,

animal-worshippers, tree-worshippers, fetish-worshippers. It does not scruple to permit the most grotesque forms of idolatry, and the most degrading varieties of superstition. And it is to this latter fact that yet another remarkable peculiarity of Hinduism is mainly due-namely, that in no other system in the world is the chasm more vast which separates the religion of the higher, cultured, and thoughtful classes from that of the lower, uncultured, and unthinking masses" (Brahmanism and Hinduism, 1891, p. 11). Hinduism is thus a national, not a world religion, it has never made any serious effort to proselytize in countries outside of India. The occasional visits of Brahmins to countries of Europe and America, and their lectures on religious metaphysics are not to be mistaken for genuine missionary enterprises. Not to speak of its grosser phases, Hinduism, even in its highest form known as Brahminism, could not take root and flourish in countries where the caste system and the intricate network of social and domestic customs it implies do not prevail. Nor has Hinduism exercised any notable influence on European thought and culture. The pessimism of Schopenhauer and his school is indeed very like the pessimism of Buddhism and of the Vedanta system of philosophy, and seems to have been derived from one of these sources. But apart from this unimportant line of modern speculation, and from the abortive theosophic movement of more recent times, one finds no trace of Hindu influence on Western civilization. We have nothing to learn from India that makes for higher culture. On the other hand, India has much of value to learn from Christian civilization.

According to the census of 1901, the total population of India is a little more than 294,000,000 souls, of which 207,000,000 are adherents of Hinduism. The provinces in which they are most numerous are Assam, Bengal, Bombay, Berrar, Madras, Agra, and Oudh, and the Central Provinces. Of foreign religions, Mohammedanism has, by dint of long domination, made the deepest impression on the natives, numbering in India today nearly 62,500,000 adherents. Christianity, considering the length of time it has been operative in India, has converted but an insignificant fraction of the people from Hinduism. The Christians of all sects, foreign officials included, number but 2,664,000, nearly one-half being Catholics.

It was not till towards the end of the eighteenth century that Europeans-excepting Father de Nobili and a few other early missionaries-acquired any knowledge of Sanskrit and allied tongues in which the sacred literature of India was preserved. The extensive commerce which the English developed in Bombay and other parts of India gave occasion to English scholars to make extensive studies in this new field of Oriental research. Sir William Jones was one of the first European scholars to master Sanskrit and to give translations of Sanskrit texts. He translated in 1789 one of Kalidasa's classic dramas, the "Sakuntalã", and in 1794 published a translation of the "Ordinances of Manu". He founded, in 1784, the Royal Asiatic Society, destined to prove a powerful means of diffusing the knowledge of Indian literature and institutions. An able, but less famous, contemporary was the Portuguese missionary, Father Paulinus a Sancto Bartholomeo, to whom belongs the honour of composing the first European grammar of the Sanskrit tongue, published at Rome in 1790. The first important study of Indian literature and rites was made by Henry T. Colebrooke. His "Miscellaneous Essays on the Sacred Writings and Religion of the Hindus", first published in 1805, became a classic in this new field of research. The collection was reedited in 1873 by Professor E. B. Cowell, and is still a work of great value to the student of Hinduism. Other distinguished scholars of England who contributed to the knowledge of Brahminism and Hinduism were Horace H. Wilson, author of a Sanskrit dictionary and of a translation of the Vishnu Purana (1840) and other Hindu texts; John Muir, author of the great work "Original Sanskrit Texts on the Origin and History of the People of India, their Religions and Institutions" (5 vols., London, 1858-70), and Sir Monier Williams, whose work "Brahmanism and Hinduism, Religious Thought and Life in India" (4th ed., London, 1891), is a masterly exposition of Hinduism. With these may be associated Professor Max Müller, though whose exertions the most important sacred texts of India as well as of other Oriental lands have been made accessible to English readers in the well-known collection, "The Sacred Books of the East". In America Professor William D. Whitney made valuable contributions to the understanding of the Atharva Veda and other Brahmin texts. His labours have been ably supplemented by the studies of Professors C. R. Lanman, M. Bloomfield, and E.W. Hopkins. The contributions of Continental scholars to the knowledge of the literature and religions of India are of the very greatest importance. The distinguished Orientalist Eugène Burnouf, in the midst of his studies on Buddhism and Zoroastrianism, found time to translate in part the "Bhagavata Purana" (Paris, 1840). R. Roth and F. Kuhn made valuable studies on the early Vedic texts, while Chr. Lassen produced his "Indische Alterthumskunde" in four volumes (Bonn, 1844-61), a monument of erudition. A. Weber, among other works in this field, published a "History of Indian Literature" (English translation, London, 1892). Eminent modern Indianists are A. Barth, author of the excellent "Religions of India" (London, 1882), H. Oldenberg, and G. Bühler, whose valuable translations of sacred texts may be found in the "Sacred Books of the East". Among those who have made valuable contributions to the study of Hinduism are a number of Catholic priests. Besides Father Paulinus, already mentioned, are the Abbé Roussel, who was chosen to assist in completing the translation of the voluminous "Bhagavata Purana", begun by Burnouf, and who has besides published interesting studies on Hinduism; the Abbé Dubois, who published a masterly exposition of Modern Hinduism under the title "Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies" (Oxford, 1897); and Father J. Dahlmann, S.J. Finally, it is but fair to note that considerable excellent work is being done by native Hindu scholars in translating and interpreting sacred Hindu texts. One of the most diligent is Nath Dutt, author of the following works: "The Mahabharata, Translated Literally from the Sanskrit Text", Parts I-XI (Calcutta, 1895-99); "The Bhagavadgita" (Calcutta, 1893); "The Vishnu Purana Translated into English Prose" (Calcutta, 1896). F. B. Pargiter has translated into English the "Markandeya Purana", Fasc. i-vi (Calcutta, 1888-99), and E. P. C. Roy, besides giving an English translation of the Mahabharata (Calcutta. 1883-96), has published the "Sree Krishna" (Calcutta, 1901). M. Battacharya has published an interesting work entitled "Hindu Castes and Sects" (Calcutta, 1896).

Publication information Written by Charles F. Aiken. Transcribed by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York


Ann. du Musée Guimet (Paris, 1885); HOPKINS, The Grand Epic of India, its Character and Origin (New York, 1901); India Old and New (New York, 1901); Religions of India (Boston, 1895); MITCHELL, The Great Religions of india (New York, 1906); WILLIAMS, Hinduism (New York, 1897); DAHLMANN, Das Mahabharata als Epos und Rechtsbuch (Berlin, 1895); IDEM, Genesis des Mahabharata (Berlin, 1899); ROUSSEL, Légendes morales de l'Inde empruntées au Bhagavata Purana et au Mahabharata (2 vols., Paris, 1900-01); IDEM, Cosmologie hindoue d'après le Bhagavata Purana (Paris, 1898); DE TASSY, Histoire de la littérature hindoue et hindoustanie (3 vols., Paris, 1870-71); WILKINS, Modern Hinduism (2nd ed., London, 1887); COLINET, Les Doctrines philosophiques et religieuses de La Bhagavadgita (Paris, 1884).


Catholic Information

By Brahminism is meant the complex religion and social system which grew out of the polytheistic nature-worship of the ancient Aryan conquerors of northern India, and came, with the spread of their dominion, to be extended over the whole country, maintaining itself, not without profound modifications, down to the present day. In its intricate modern phases it is generally known as Hinduism.


Our knowledge of Brahminism in its earlier stages is derived from its primitive sacred books, originally oral compositions, belonging to the period between 1500-400 B.C.

First of all, there are four Vedas (veda means wisdom) dating from 1500 to 800 B.C., and consisting

of a collection of ancient hymns (riks),the so-called Rig-Veda, in praise of the many gods;

of the Sama-veda, compiled from parts of the Rig-Veda as a song-service for the soma-sacrifice;

of the Yajur-Veda, a liturgy composed partly of ancient hymns and partly of other prayers and benedictions to be used in the various forms of sacrifice;

and of the Atharva-Veda, a collection of popular exorcisms and magical incantations largely inherited from primitive Aryan days.

Next in order are the Brahmanas (about 1000-600 B.C.). They are a series of verbose and miscellaneous explanations of the texts, rites, and customs found in each of the four Vedas, composed expressly for the use of the Brahmins, or priests. They are followed (800-500 B.C.) by the so-called Upanishads, concerned chiefly with pantheistic speculations on the nature of deity and the end of man; and lastly, by the Sutras (600-400 B.C.), which are compendious guides to the proper observance of the rites and customs. The most important are the Grhya-Sutras, or house-guides, treating of domestic rites, and the Dharma-sutras, or law-guides, which were manuals of religious and social customs. Being meant for layman as well as priest, they reflect the popular, practical side of Brahminism, whereas the Brahmanas and Upanishads show us the religion on its priestly, speculative side. Closely related to the law-guides is the justly famed metrical treatise, Manava-Dharma-Sastra, known in English as the Laws of Manu. It belongs probably to the fifth century B.C. These, together with the two sacred epics of a later age, the "Ramayana," and the "Mahabharata," embrace what is most important in sacred Brahmin literature.


The religion of the Vedic period proper was comparatively simple. It consisted in the worship of many deities, great and small, the personified forces of nature. Prominent among these were

Varuna, the all-embracing heaven, maker and lord of all things and upholder of the moral law;

the sun-god, variously known as

Surya, the enemy of darkness and bringer of blessings; as

Pushan the nourisher;

Mitra, the omniscient friends of the good, and the avenger of deceit; as

Savitar the enlightener, arousing men to daily activity, and as Vishnu, said to have measured the earth in three great strides and

to have given the rich pastures to mortals;

the god of the air, Indra, like Mars, also, the mighty god of war, who set free from the cloud-serpent Ahi (or Vritra), the quickening rain; Rudra, later known as Siva, the blessed one, the god of the destructive thunderstorm, an object of dread to evil-doers, but a friend to the good; Agni, the fire-god, the friend and benefactor of man, dwelling on their hearths, and bearing to the gods their prayers and sacrificial offerings; Soma, the god of that mysterious plant whose inebriating juice was so dear to the gods and to man, warding off disease, imparting strength and securing immortality.

There were no temples in this early period. On a small mound of earth or of stones the offering was made to the gods, often by the head of the family, but in the more important and complicated sacrifices by the priest, or Brahmin, in union with the householder. The object of every sacrifice was to supply strengthening food to the gods and to secure blessings in return. Human victims, though rare, were not wholly unknown, but animal victims were at this period in daily use. First in importance was the horse, then the ox or cow, the sheep, and the goat. Offerings of clarified butter, rice, wheat, and other kinds of grain were also very common. But dearer to the gods than any of these gifts, and rivaling the horse-sacrifice in solemnity, was the offering of the inebriating juice of the Soma-plant, the so-called Soma-sacrifice. Hymns of praise and petitions, chiefly for the good things of life, children, health, wealth, and success in undertakings, accompanied these sacrificial offerings. But the higher needs of the soul were not forgotten. In hymns of Varuna, Mitra, and the other gods there are striking texts expressing a sense of guilt and asking for forgiveness. At a time when the earlier Hebrew scriptures were silent as to the rewards and punishments awaiting man in the future life, we find the ancient rik-bards giving repeated expression to their belief in a heaven of endless bliss for the just, and in an abyss of darkness for the wicked.

Devotion to the Pitris (Fathers), or dead relatives, was also a prominent element in their religion. Although the Pitris mounted to the heavenly abode of bliss, their happiness was not altogether independent of the acts of devotion shown them by the living. It could be greatly increased by offerings of Soma, rice, and water; for like the gods they were thought to have bodies of air-like texture, and to enjoy the subtile essence of food. Hence, the surviving children felt it a sacred duty to make feast-offerings, called Sraddhas, at stated times to their departed Pitris. In return for these acts of filial piety, the grateful Pitris protected them from harm and promoted their welfare. Lower forms of nature-worship also obtained. The cow was held in reverence. Worship was given to trees and serpents. Formulae abounded for healing the diseased, driving off demons, and averting evil omens. Witchcraft was dreaded, and recourse to ordeals was common for the detection of guilt.


In the period that saw the production of the Brahmanas and the Upanishads, the Vedic religion underwent a twofold change. On the practical side there was an exuberant growth of religious rites and of social restrictions and duties, while on the theoretical side, Vedic belief in the efficacy of personal deities was subordinated to a pantheistic scheme of salvation. Thus the earlier religion developed on the one hand into popular, exoteric Brahminism, and on the other hand into priestly, esoteric Brahminism. The former is reflected in the Brahmanas and the Sutras; the latter in the Upanishads.

The transformation to popular Brahminism was largely due to the influence of the Brahmins, or priests. Owing to their excessive fondness for symbolic words and forms, the details of ritual became more and more intricate, some assuming so elaborate a character as to require the services of sixteen priests. The sacrifice partook of the nature of a sacramental rite, the due performance of which was sure to produce the desired end, and thus became an all-important center around which the visible and invisible world revolved. Hence it merited liberal fees to the officiating priests. Still it was not a mere perfunctory rite, for if performed by an unworthy priest it was accounted as both useless and sacrilegious. In keeping with this complicated liturgy was the multitude of prayers and rites which entered into the daily life of both priest and layman. The daily recitation of parts of the Vedas, now venerated as divine revelation, was of first importance, especially for the Brahmins. It was a sacred duty for every individual to recite, morning and evening, the Savitri, a short prayer in honor of the vivifying sun. A scrupulous regard for ceremonial purity, surpassing even that of the Jewish Pharisee, gave rise to an endless succession of purifactory rites, such as baths, sprinkling with water, smearing with ashes or cow-dung, sippings of water, suppressions of breath--all sacramental in character and efficacious for the remission of sin. There is reason to believe that the consciousness of guilt for sin committed was keen and vivid, and that in the performance of these rites, so liable to abuse, a penitential disposition of soul was largely cultivated.

In popular Brahminism of this period the idea of retribution for sin was made to embrace the most rigorous and far-reaching consequences, from which, save by timely penance, there was no escape. As every good action was certain of future recompense, so every evil one was destined to bear its fruit of misery in time to come. This was the doctrine of karma (action) with which the new idea of rebirth was closely connected. While the lasting bliss of heaven was still held out to the just, different fates after death were reserved for the wicked, varying, according to the nature and amount of guilt, from long periods of torture in a graded series of hells, to a more or less extensive series of rebirths in the forms of plants, animals, and men. From the grade to which the culprit was condemned, he had to pass by slow transition through the rest of the ascending scale till his rebirth as a man of honorable estate was attained. This doctrine gave rise to restrictive rules of conduct that bordered on the absurd. Insects, however repulsive and noxious, might not be killed; water might not be drunk till it was first strained, lest minute forms of life be destroyed; carpentry, basket-making, working in leather, and other similar occupations were held in disrepute, because they could not be carried on without a certain loss of animal and plant life. Some zealots went so far as to question the blamelessness of tilling the ground on account of the unavoidable injury done to worms and insects. But on the other hand, the Brahmin ethical teaching in the legitimate sphere of right conduct is remarkably high. Truthfulness, obedience to parents and superiors, temperance, chastity, and almsgiving were strongly inculcated. Though allowing, like other religions of antiquity, polygamy and divorce, it strongly forbade adultery and all forms of unchastity. It also reprobated suicide, abortion, perjury, slander, drunkenness, gambling, oppressive usury, and wanton cruelty to animals. Its Christianlike aim to soften the hard side of human nature is seen in its many lessons of mildness, charity towards the sick, feeble, and aged, and in its insistence on the duty of forgiving injuries and returning good for evil. Nor did this high standard of right conduct apply simply to external acts. The threefold division of good and bad acts into thought, words, and deeds finds frequent expression in Brahmánic teaching.

Intimately bound up in the religious teaching of Brahminism was the division of society into rigidly defined castes. In the earlier, Vedic period there had been class distinctions according to which the warrior class (Kshatriyas, or Rajanas) stood first in dignity and importance, next the priestly class (Brahmins), then the farmer class (Vaisyas), and last of all, the servile class of conquered natives (Sudras). With the development of Brahminism, these four divisions of society became stereotyped into exclusive castes, the highest place of dignity being usurped by the Brahmins. As teachers of the sacred Vedas, and as priests of the all-important sacrifices, they professed to be the very representatives of the gods and the peerage of the human race. No honor was too great for them, and to lay hands on them was a sacrilege. One of their chief sources of power and influence lay in their exclusive privilege to teach the youth of the three upper castes, for education then consisted largely in the acquisition of Vedic lore, which only priests could teach. Thus the three upper castes alone had the right to know the Vedas and to take part in the sacrifices, and Brahminism, far from being a religion open to all, was exclusively a privilege of birth, from which the despised caste of Sudras was excluded.

The rite of initiation into Brahminism was conferred on male children only, when they began their studies under a Brahmin teacher, which took place generally in the eighth year of the Brahmin, and in the eleventh and twelfth years for the Kshatriya and the Vaisya respectively. It consisted in the investiture of the sacred cord, a string of white cotton yarn tired together at the ends, and worn like a deacon's stole, suspended on the left shoulder. The investiture was a sort of sacrament in virtue of which the youth was freed from guilt contracted from his parents and became Dvi-ja, twice-born, with the right to learn the sacred Vedic texts and to take part in the sacrifices. The period of studentship was not long for members of the warrior and farmer castes, but for the young Brahmin, who had to learn all the Vedas by heart, it consumed nine years or more. During this period, the student was subjected to severe moral discipline. He had to rise before the sun, and was not allow to recline until after sunset. He was denied rich and dainty foods, and what he ate at his two daily meals he had to beg. He was expected to observe the strictest chastity. He was bound to avoid music, dancing, gambling, falsehood, disrespect to superiors and to the aged, covetousness, anger, and injury to animals.

Marriage was held to be a religious duty for every twice-born. It was generally entered upon early in life, not long after the completion of the time of studentship. Like the initiation rite, it was a solemn sacramental ceremony. It was an imperative law that the bride and groom should be of the same caste in the principal marriage; for, as polygamy was tolerated, a man might take one or more secondary wives from the lower castes. For certain grave reasons, the household might repudiate his wife and marry another, but a wife on her part had no corresponding right of divorce. If her husband died, she was expected to remain for the rest of her life in chaste widowhood, if she would be honored on earth, and happy with him in heaven. The later Hindu practice known as the Suttee, in which the bereaved wife threw herself on the funeral pyre of her husband, seems at this period to have been unknown. All knowledge of the Vedic texts was withheld from woman, but she had the right to participate with her husband in the sacrifices performed for him by some officiating priest. One important sacrifice remained in his own hands--the morning and evening offering of hot milk, butter, and grain to the fire on the hearth, which was sacred to Agni, and was kept always burning.

A strong tendency to asceticism asserted itself in the Brahminism of this period. It found expression in the fasts preceding the great sacrifices, in the severe penances prescribed for various kinds of sin, in the austere life exacted of the student, in the conjugal abstinence to be observed for the first three days following marriage and on certain specified days of the month, but, above all, in the rigorous life of retirement and privation to which not a few devoted their declining years. An ever increasing number of householders, chiefly Brahmins, when their sons had grown to man's estate, abandoned their homes and spent the rest of their lives as ascetics, living apart from the villages in rude huts, or under the shelter of trees, eating only the simplest kinds of food, which they obtained by begging, and subjecting themselves to extraordinary fasts and mortifications. They were known as Sannyasis, or Yogis, and their severity of life was not so much a penitential life for past offenses as a means of acquiring abundant religious merits and superhuman powers. Coupled with these mortifications was the practice of Yogi (union). They would sit motionless with legs crossed, and, fixing their gaze intently on an object before them, would concentrate their thought on some abstract subject until they lapsed into a trance. In this state they fancied they were united with the deity, and the fruit of these contemplations was the pantheistic view of religion which found expression in the Upanishads, and left a permanent impress on the Brahmin mind.


The marked monotheistic tendency in the later Vedic hymns had made itself more and more keenly felt in the higher Brahmin circles till it gave rise to a new deity, a creation of Brahmin priests. This was Prabjapati, lord of creatures, omnipotent and supreme, later known as Brahmá, the personal creator of all things. But in thus looking up to a supreme lord and creator, they were far removed from Christian monotheism. The gods of the ancient pantheon were not repudiated, but were worshipped still as the various manifestations of Brahmá. It was an axiom then, as it has been ever since with the Hindu mind, that creation out of nothing is impossible. Another Brahmin principle is that every form of conscious individuality, whether human or Divine, implies a union of spirit and matter. And so, outside the small school of thinkers who held matter to be eternal, those who stood for the supreme personal god explained the world of visible things and invisible gods as the emanations of Brahmá. They arrived at a personal pantheism. But speculation did not end here. To the prevailing school of dreamy Brahmin ascetics, whose teachings are found in the Upanishads, the ultimate source of all things was not the personal Brahmá, but the formless, characterless, unconscious spirit known at Atman (self), or, more commonly Brahmâ. (Brahmâ is neuter, whereas Brahmá, personal god, is masculine.) The heavens and the earth, men and gods, even the personal deity, Brahmá, were but transitory emanations of Brahmâ, destined in time to lose their individuality and be absorbed into the great, all-pervading, impersonal spirit. The manifold external world thus had no real existence. It was Maya, illusion. Brahmâ alone existed. It alone was eternal, imperishable.

This impersonal pantheism of the Brahmin ascetics led to a new conception of the end of man and of the way of salvation. The old way was to escape rebirths and their attendant misery by storing up merits of good deeds so as to obtain an eternal life of conscious bliss in heaven. This was a mistake. For so long as man was ignorant of his identity with Brahmá and did not see that his true end consisted in being absorbed into the impersonal all-god from which he sprang; so long as he set his heart on a merely personal existence, no amount of good works would secure his freedom from rebirth. By virtue of his good deeds he would, indeed, mount to heaven, perhaps win a place among the gods. but after a while his store of merits would give out like oil in a lamp, and he would have to return once more to life to taste in a new birth the bitterness of earthly existence. The only way to escape this misery was through the saving recognition of one's identity with Brahmâ. As so as one could say from conviction, "I am Brahmâ," the bonds were broken that held him fast to the illusion of personal immortality and consequently to rebirth. Thus, cultivating, by a mortified life, freedom form all desires, man spent his years in peaceful contemplation till death put an end to the seeming duality and he was absorbed in Brahmâ like a raindrop in the ocean.


The pantheistic scheme of salvation just described, generally known as the Vedanta teaching, found great favor with the Brahmins and has been maintained as orthodox Brahmin doctrine down to the present day. But it made little progress outside the Brahmin caste. The mass of the people had little interest in an impersonal Brahmâ who was incapable of hearing their prayers, nor had they any relish for a final end which meant the loss forever of conscious existence. And so, while the priestly ascetic was chiefly concerned with meditation on his identity with Brahmâ, and with the practice of mortification to secure freedom from all desires, the popular mind was still bent on prayer, sacrifices, and other good works in honor of the Vedic deities. But at the same time, their faith in the efficacy of these traditional gods could not be but weakened by the Brahmin teaching that freedom from rebirth was not to be obtained by acts of worship to personal deities who were powerless to secure even for themselves eternal conscious bliss. The result was popular development of special cults of two of the old gods, now raised to the position of supreme deity, and credited with the power to secure a lasting life of happiness in heaven.

It was in the priestly conception of the supreme personal Brahmá that the popular mind found its model for its new deities. Brahmá was not a traditional god, and seems never to have been a favorite object of cult with the people. Even today, there are but two temples to Brahmá in all India. His subordination to the great impersonal all-god did not help to recommend him to the popular mind. Instead we find two of the traditional gods honored with special cults, which seem to have taken rise independently in two different parts of the country and, after acquiring a local celebrity, to have spread in rivalry over the whole land. One of these gods was the ancient storm-god Rudra, destructive in tempest and lightning, renewing life in the showers of rain, sweeping in lonely solitude over mountain and barren waste. As the destroyer, the reproducer, and the type of the lonely ascetic, this deity rapidly rose in popular esteem under the name of Siva, the blessed. The other was Vishnu, originally one of the forms of the son-god, a mild beneficent deity, whose genial rays brought gladness and growth to living creatures. His solar origin was lost sight of as he was raised to the position of supreme deity, but one of his symbols, the discus, points to his earlier character.

These two rival cults seem to have arisen in the fourth or fifth century B.C. As in the case of the personal god Brahmá, neither the worship of Siva nor of Vishnu did away with the honoring of the traditional gods and goddesses, spirits, heroes, sacred rivers and mountains and trees, serpents, earth, heaven, sun, moon, and stars. The pantheism in which the Hindu mind is inevitably cast saw in all these things emanations of the supreme deity, Siva or Vishnu. In worshiping any or all, he was but honoring his supreme god. Each deity was credited with a special heaven, where his devotees would find after death an unending life of conscious happiness. The rapid rise in popular esteem of these cults, tending more and more to thrust Brahminism proper in to the background, was viewed by the priestly caste with no little concern. To quench these cults was out of the question; and so, in order to hold them iN at least nominal allegiance to Brahminism, the supreme god Brahmá was associated with Vishnu and Siva as a triad of equal and more or less interchangeable deities in which Brahmá held the office of creator, or rather evolver, Vishnu of preserver, and Siva of dissolver. This is the so-called Tri-murti (tri-form), or trinity, altogether different from the Christian concept of three eternally distinct persons in one Godhead, and hence offering no legitimate ground for suggesting a Hindu origin for the Christian doctrine.

More remarkable was the intimate association of other new deities--the creations of the religious fancies of the common people--with the gods Siva and Vishnu. With Siva two popular gods came to be associated as sons. One was Ganesha, lord of troops and mischievous imps, who has remained ever since a favorite object of worship and is invoked at the beginning of every undertaking to ensure success. The other was Scanda, who seems in great measure to have replaced Indra as the god of battle. Beyond the doubtful derivation of the name Scanda from Alexander, there is nothing to indicate that either of these reputed sons of Siva had ever lived the lives of men. NoT so the gods that enlarged the sphere of Vishnu's influence. In keeping with Vishnu's position as god of the people, two of the legendary heroes of the remote past, Rama and Krishna, whom popular enthusiasm had raised to the rank of gods, came to be associated with him not as sons, but as his very incarnations. The incarnation of a god descending from heaven to assume a human of animal form as a sort of savior, and to achieve some signal benefit for mankind, is known as an avatar. The idea antedates Buddhism and, while applied to Siva and other gods, became above all a characteristic of Vishnu. Popular fancy loved to dwell on his avatar as a fish to save Manu from the devastating flood, as a tortoise to recover from the depths of the sea precious possessions for gods and men, as a boar to raise the submerged earth above the surface of the waters, but most of all as the god-men Rama and Krishna, each of whom delivered the people from the yoke of a tyrant. So popular became the cults of Rama and Krishna that Vishnu himself was largely lost sight of. In time the Vishnuites became divided into two rival schisms:the Ramaites, who worshipped Rama as supreme deity, and the Krishnaites, who gave this honor rather to Krishna, a division that has persisted down to the present day. The evidence of the early existence of these innovations on Brahmin belief is to be found in the two great epics known as the "Ramayana" and the "Mahabharata." Both are revered by Brahmins, Sivaites and Vishnuites alike, particularly the latter poem, which is held to be directly revealed. In the "Ramayana," which belongs to the period 400-300 B.C., the legendary tales of the trials and the triumphs of the hero Rama and his faithful wife Sita were worked into a highly artificial romanbtic poem, largely in the interests of Vishnu worship. The "Mahabharata," the work of many hands, was begun about the fifth century B.C. under Brahmin influence, and in the folowing centuries received additions and modifications, in the interests now of Vishnuism now of Sivaism, till it assumed its final shape in the sixth century of the Christian Era. It is a huge conglomeration of stirring adventure, popular legend, myth, and religious speculation. The myth centers chiefly around the many-sided struggle for supremacy between the evil tyrants of the land and the hero Arjuna, aided by his four brothers. The role that Krishna plays is not an integral part of the story and seems to have been interpolated after the substance of the epic had been written. He is the charioteer of Arjuna and at the same time acts as his religious advisor. Of his numerous religious instructions, the most important is his metrical treatise known as the "Bhagavad-gita," the Song of the Blessed One, a writing that has exercised a profound influence on religious thought in India. It dates from the second or third century of the Christian era, being a poetic version of a late Upanishad, with its pantheistic doctrine so modified as to pass for a personal revelation of Krishna. While embodying the noblest features of Brahmin ethics, and insisting on the faithful performance of caste-duties, it proclaims Krishna to be the superior personal all-god who, by the bestowal of special grace helps on his votaries to the attainment of eternal bliss. As an important means to this end, it inculcates the virtue of Bhakti, that is a loving devotion to the deity, analogous to the Christian virtue of charity. Unhappily for the later development of Vishnuism, the Krishna of the "Bhagavad-gita" was not the popular conception. Like most legendary heroes of folk-lore, his character was in keeping with the crude morals of the primitive age that first sounded his praises. The narrative portions of the epic show him to have been sly and unscrupulous, guilty in word and deed of acts which the higher Brahmin conscience would reprove. But it is in the fuller legendary story of his life as given in the so-called "Hari-vansa," a later supplement to the epic, and also in some of the Puranas of the ninth and tenth centuries of our era, that the character of the popular Krishna appears in its true light. Here we learn that Krishna was one of eight sons of noble birth, whom a Herod-like tyrant was bent on destroying. The infant god was saved from the wicked designs of the king by being secretly substituted for a herdsman's babe. Krishna grew up among the simple country-people, performing prodigies of valor, and engaging in many amorous adventures with the Gopis, the wives and daughters of the herdsmen. Eight of these were his favorites, but one he loved best of all, Radha. Krishna finally succeeded in killing the king, and brought peace to the kingdom.

Between this deified Hindu Hercules and Our Divine Lord, there is no ground for comparison, one only for contrast. That the idea of incarnate deity should be found in pre-Christian Hindu thought is not so remarkable when we consider that it answers to the yearning of the human heart for union with God. But what is at first sight astonishing is to find in the religious writings subsequent to the "Mahabharata" legendary tales of Krishna that are almost identical with the stories of Christ in the canonical and apocryphal Gospels. From the birth of Krishna in a stable, and his adoration by shepherds and magi, the leader is led on through a series of events the exact counterparts of those related of Our Divine Lord. Writers hostile to Christianity seized on this chain or resemblances, too close to be mere coincidence, in order to convict the Gospel writers of plagiarism from Hindu originals. But the very opposite resulted. All Indianists of authority are agreed that these Krishna legends are not earlier than the seventh century of the Christian Era, and must have been borrowed from Christian sources.


The steady weakening of Brahmin influence, in consequence of the successive waves of foreign conquest, made it possible for the religious preferences of the huge, heterogeneous population of India to assert themselves more strongly. Both Sivaism and Vishnuism departed more and more strongly from traditional Brahminism, and assumed a decidedly sectarian character towards the older religion and also towards each other. With this weakening of Brahmin influence they absorbed the grosser elements of low-grade popular worship, and became abused by the accretion of immoral rites and groveling superstitions. While, on the one hand, the practice of asceticism was pushed to its utmost extremes of fanaticism, on the other the doctrine of bhakti was perverted into a system of gross sexual indulgence, for which the amours of Krishna and the Gopis served as the model and sanction. The Brahmin-caste distinctions were broken down, and an equality of all men and women was asserted, at least during the ceremonies of public worship. The Brahmin rites were in great measure replaced by others particular to each cult and held to be all-sufficient for salvation. Everywhere splendid temples arose to Siva, Vishnu, and his two human avatars; idols and phallic symbols innumerable filled the land; and each rival cult lauded its own special deity as supreme, subordinating all others to it, and looking down with more or less contempt on forms of worship other than its own. One factor which contributed strongly to the degradation of these sectarian forms of religion was the veneration of the Sakti, or female side, of these deities. Popular theology would not rest until each deity was supplemented with a wife, in whom the active nature of the god was personified. With Brahmá was associated an ancient river-goddess, Sarasvati, honored as the patroness of letters. Vishnu's Sakti was Sri, or Lakshmi, patroness of good fortune. With Siva the destroyer there was associated the terrible, blood-thirsty, magical goddess Durga, or Kali, formerly delighting in human victims, now appeased with sacrifices of goats and buffaloes. Rama had his consort, Sita, and Krishna his favorite Gopi, Radha. The worship of these Saktis, particularly Siva's consort Durga-Kali, degenerated into shocking orgies of drunkenness and sexual immorality, which even today are the crying scandal of Hinduism.

Such were the sectarian developments of post-epic times. They found expression in the inferior, quasi-historic Puranas, of the seventh and following centuries, and in the Tantras, which are more modern still, and teach the symbolic magic of Sakti-worship. Neither of these classes of writings is regarded by orthodox Brahmin as canonical.

Of the two hundred million adherents of Hinduism today, only a few hundred thousand can be called orthodox Brahmin worshipers. Sivaism and Vishnuism have overshadowed the older religion like a rank growth of poisonous weeds. In their main outlines, these two great sects have retained the characteristics of the Purana period, but differences of view on minor points have lead to a multiplication of schismatic divisions, especially among Vishnu-worshipers. Both sects, which today are fairly tolerant of each other, have a number of devotional and liturgical practices that are alike in kind, though marked by differences in sectarian belief. Both Sivaite and Vishnuite lay great stress on the frequent recital of the numerous names of their respective supreme gods, and to facilitate this piety, each carries with him, often about his neck, a rosary, varying in material and the number of beads according as it is dedicated to Siva or Vishnu. Each sect has an initiation rites, which is conferred upon the young at the age of reason and in which the officiating guru puts a rosary around the neck of the applicant and whispers into his ear the mantra, or sacred motto, the recital of which serves as a profession of faith and is of daily obligation. Another rite common to both is that in which the presiding officer brands on the body of the worshiper with hot metal stamps the sacred symbols of his sect, the trident and the linga of Siva, or the discus and conch-shell (or lotus) of Vishnu.

But in their highest act of ceremonial worship the two sects differ radically. The Sivaite takes his white stone pebble, the conventional phallic emblem which he always carries with him, and while muttering his mantra, sprinkles it with water and applies to it cooling Bilva leaves. Owing to its simplicity and cheapness, this rite is much in vogue with the ignorant lower classes. The Vishnu rite is less degrading but more childish. It consists of an elaborate and costly worship of the temple image of Vishnu, or more often of Rama, or Krishna. The image is daily awakened, undressed, bathed, decked with rich robes and adorned with necklaces, bracelets, crowns of gold and precious stones, fed with choice kinds of food, honored with flowers, lights, an incense, and then entertained with vocal and instrumental music, and with dancing by the temple girls of doubtful virtue, consecrated to this service. As Krishna is generally worshipped in the form of a child-image, his diversion consists largely in the swinging of his image, the spinning of tops, and other games dear to the heart of the child.

Siva, too, has his temples, vying in magnificence with those of Vishnu, but in all these, the holy place is the linga-shrine, and the temple worship consists in the application of water and Bilva leaves to the stone symbol. The interior walls of these, and of Vishnu temples as well, are covered with shocking representations of sexual passion. and yet, strange to say, these forms of religion, while giving a sanction to the indulgence of the lowest passions, at the same time inspire other devotees to the practice of the severest asceticism. They wander about in lonely silence, naked and filthy, their hair matted from long neglect, their bodies reduced to mere skin and bones by dint of incredible fasts. They will stand motionless for hours under the blazing son, with their emaciated arms uplifted toward heaven. Some go about with face ever turned upwards. Some are known to have kept their fists tightly clenched until their growing nails protruded through the backs of their hands.


Enlightened Hindus of modern times have made attempts to institute a reform in Hinduism by rejecting all idolatrous and immoral rites, and by setting up a purely monotheistic form of worship. Of these, the earliest and most noted was the so-called Brahmá Samaj (Congregation of Brahmá), founded in Calcutta in 1828, by the learned Rammohun Roy. He tried to combine a Unitarian form of Christianity with the Brahmin conception of the supreme personal God. After his death in 1833, differences of view as to the nature of God, the authority of the Vedas, and the obligation of caste-customs caused the society to split up into a number of small congregations. At present there are more than a hundred independent theistic congregations in India. Some, like the Arya Samaj, rest on the sole authority of the Vedas. Others are eclectic, even to the extent of choosing for devotional reading in their public services passages from the Avesta, Koran, and Bible. Few of them are altogether free from the taint of pantheism, and, being more like clubs for intellectual and moral improvement than for ritualistic forms of worship, they make but little progress in the way of conversion.

In short, Brahminism cannot succeed in reforming itself. Its earlier sacred books are steeped in the polytheism out of which it grew, and the pantheistic view of the world, to which it was afterwards committed, has been like a dead weight dragging it hopelessly into the stagnant pool of superstition, pessimism, and immorality. In virtue of its pantheistic attitude, there is no form of religion, high or low, that cannot be tolerated and incorporated into its capacious system. The indifference of Brahminism to the gross buses of Hinduism is, after all, but a reflex of the indifference of its supreme god. Sin loses most of its hideousness when it can be traced ultimately to the great impersonal Brahmâ. There is but one form of religion that has any prospect of reforming the religious life of India, and that is the Roman Catholic. For the shadow, pantheistic deity it can set form the One, Eternal, Personal Spirit and creator; for the crude Tri-murti, the sublime Trinity; and for the coarse and degrading avatars of Vishnu, the incarnation of the Son of God. It can replace the idolatrous and immoral Hindu rites with its own imposing liturgy, and substitute the Cross for the abominable linga.

Brahminism, being a natural religion and a privilege of Hindu birth, has never made any concerted attempt at proselytizing in foreign lands. But some years ago steps were taken by a few individuals of England to foist upon English-speaking people a new religious system embodying the pantheistic belief and magical superstition of the Vedanta school of Brahminism. This new system, known as Theosophy, was to embrace within its fold members of every form of religion, reconciling all differences of creed in the pantheistic view that all deities, high and low, are but transitory emanations of the supreme, incomprehensible Reality, devotion to which was the highest religion. This quasi-cult, which also made pretensions to the exercise of magical powers, soon met the ridicule and obloquy it deserved. It is practically obsolete at the present day.

Publication information Written by Charles F. Aiken. Transcribed by M. Donahue. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume II. Published 1907. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York


Texts.-- Muir, Original Sanskrit Texts, 5 vols. (London, 1868-70); Mueller, Vedic Hymns in Sacred Books of the East, XXXII; Oldenberg, Vedic Hymns, op. cit. XLVI; Bloomfield, The Atharva Veda, op. cit., XLII; Eggeling, The Satapatha Brahmana. op. cit., XII, XXVI, XLI; Mueller, The Upanishads, op. cit., XV; Oldenberg and Mueller, The Grihya-Sutras, op. cit., XXIX, XXX; Buehler, The Sacred Laws of the Aryas, op. cit., II, XIV; idem, The Laws of Manu, op. cit., XXV; Thibaut, The Vedanta-Sutra, op. cit. XXXIV, XXXVIII; Telang, The Bhagavad-Gita, op. cit VIII; Bournouf-Roussel, Le Bhagavata Purana, 5 vols. (Paris, 1898).

General Treatises.--Barth, The religions of India (London, 1882); Monier-Williams, Brahminism and Hinduism, or Religious Thought and Life in India (London, 1891); Idem, Hinduism (London, 1897); Idem, Indian Wisdom (London, 1876); Hopkins, The Religions of India (Boston, 1895); Dubois, Hindu Manners, Customs, and Ceremonies (Oxford, 1897); Gough, The Philosophy of the Upanishads and Ancient Indian Metaphysics (London, 1882); Deussen, Das System des Vedanta (Leipzig, 1883); Idem, Der Philosophie der Upanishads (Leipzig, 1899); Kaegi, The Rig-Veda (Boston, 1886); Oldenberg, Die religion des Veda (Berlin, 1894); Colebrooke, Miscellaneous Essays, 2 vols. (London, 1873); Weber, The History of Indian Literature (London, 1892); Dahlman, das Mahabharata (Berlin, 1895); Shoebel, Las Ramayana in Annales du musee Guimet (Paris, 1888), XIII; de la Saussaye, Lehb. der Religionsgesch. (Freiburg, 1905), II.

The Laws of Manu

Catholic Information

"The Laws of Manu" is the English designation commonly applied to the "Manava Dharma-sastra", a metrical Sanskrit compendium of ancient sacred laws and customs held in the highest reverence by the orthodox adherents of Brahminism. The Brahmins themselves credit the work with a divine origin and a remote antiquity. Its reputed author is Manu, the mythical survivor of the Flood and father of the human race, the primitive teacher of sacred rites and laws now enjoying in heaven the dignity of an omniscient deity. The opening verses of the work tell how Manu was reverently approached in ancient times by the ten great sages and asked to declare to them the sacred laws of the castes and how he graciously acceded to their request by having the learned sage Bhrigu, whom he had carefully taught the metrical institutes of the sacred law, deliver to them this precious instruction. The work thus pretends to be the dictation of Manu through the agency of Bhrigu; and as Manu learned it himself from the self-existent Brahma, its authorship purport to be divine. This pious Brahmin belief regarding the divine origin of the "Laws of Manu" is naturally not shared by the Oriental scholars of the western world. Even the rather remote date assigned to the work by Sir William Jones, 1200-500 B.C., has been very generally abandoned. The weight of authority today is in favour of the view that the work in its present metrical form dates probably from the first or second century of the Christian era, though it may possibly be a century or two older. Most of its contents, however, may be safely given a much greater antiquity. Scholars are now pretty well agreed that the work is an amplified recast in verse of a "Dharma-sutra", no longer extant, that may have been in existence as early as 500 B.C.

The sutras were manuals composed by the teachers of the Vedic schools for the guidance of their pupils. They summed up in aphorisms, more or less methodically arranged, the enormously complicated mass of rules, laws customs, rites, that the Brahmin student had to know by heart. Every Vedic school of importance had its appropriate sutras, among which were the "Grihya-sutras", dealing with domestic ceremonies, and the "Dharma-sutras", treating of the sacred customs and laws. A fair number of these have been preserved, and form part of the sacred Brahmin literature. In course of time, some of the more ancient and popular "Dharma-sutras" were enlarged in their scope and thrown into metrical form constituting the so-called "Dharma-sastras". Of these the most ancient and most famous is the "Laws of Manu", the "Manava Dharma-sastra", so called as scholars think, because based on a "Dharma-sutra" of the ancient Manava school. The association of the original sutra with the name Manava seems to have suggested the myth that Manu was its author, and this myth, incorporated in the metrical "Dharma-sastra", probably availed to secure the new work universal acceptance as a divinely revealed book.

The "Laws of Manu" consists of 2684 verses, divided into twelve chapters. In the first chapter is related the creation of the world by a series of emanations from the self-existent deity, the mythical origin of the book itself, and the great spiritual advantage to be gained by the devout study of its contents. Chapters two to six inclusive set forth the manner of life and regulation of conduct proper to the members of the three upper castes, who have been initiated into the Brahmin religion by the sin-removing ceremony known as the investiture with the sacred cord. First is described the period of studentship, a time of ascetic discipline devoted to the study of the Vedas under a Brahmin teacher. Then the chief duties of the householder are rehearsed, his choice of a wife, marriage, maintenance of the sacred hearth-fire, sacrifices to the gods, feasts to his departed relatives exercise of hospitality. The numerous restrictions also, regulating his daily conduct, are discussed in detail especially in regard to his dress, food, conjugal relations, and ceremonial cleanness. After this comes the description of the kind of life exacted of those who choose to spend their declining years as hermits and ascetics. The seventh chapter sets forth the divine dignity and the manifold duties and responsibilities of kings, offering on the whole a high ideal of the kingly office. The eighth chapter treats of procedure in civil and criminal lawsuits and of the proper punishments to be meted out to different classes of criminals. The next two chapters make known the customs and laws governing divorce, inheritance, the rights of property, the occupations lawful for each caste. Chapter eleven is chiefly occupied with the various kinds of penance to be undergone by those who would rid themselves of the evil consequences of their misdeeds. The last chapter expounds the doctrine of karma, involving rebirths in the ascending or descending scale, according to the merits or demerits of the present life. The closing verses are devoted to the pantheistic scheme of salvation leading to absorption into the all-embracing, impersonal deity.

The "Laws of Manu" thus offers an interesting ideal picture of dornestic, social, and religious life in India under ancient Brahmin influence. The picture has its shadows. The dignity of the Brahmin caste was greatly exaggerated, while the Sudra caste was so far despised as to be excluded under pain of death from participation in the Brahmin religion. Punishments for crimes and misdemeanours were lightest when applied to offenders of the Brahmin caste, and increased in severity for the guilty members of the warrior, farmer, and serf caste respectively. Most forms of industry and practice of medicine were held in contempt, and were forbidden to both Brahmins and warriors. The mind of woman was held to br fickle, sensual, and incapable of proper self-direction. Hence it was laid down that women were to be held in strict subjection to the end of their lives. They were not allowed to learn any of the Vedic texts, and their participation in religious rites was limited to a few insignificant acts. Guilt involving penances was attributed to unintentional transgressions of law, and there was a hopeless confusion of duties of conscience with traditional customs and restrictions in large part superstitious and absurd. Yet, with all this, the ethical teachings of the "Laws of Manu" is very high, embracing almost every form of moral obligation recognized in the Christian religion.

The "Laws of Manu" is accessible to modern readers in a number of good translations. It was published in English dress finder the title, "The Institutes of Manu", by Sir William Jones in 1794, being the first Sanskrit work to be translated into a European tongue. This version is still recognized as a work of great merit. In 1884 a very excellent translation, begun by A.C. Burnell and completed by Professor E.W. Hopkins, was published in London with the title, "The Ordinances of Manu". Two years later appeared Professor George Buhler's able version with a lengthy introduction, constituting volume xxv of the "Sacred Books of the East". In 1893 Professor G. Strehly published in Paris a very elegant French translation, "Les Lois de Manou" forming one of the volumes of the "Annales du Musée Guimet".

Publication information Written by Charles F. Aiken. Transcribed by Joseph P. Thomas. Dedicated to the memory of Mr. P.R. Kutty The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York


MACDONELL, Sanskrit Literature (New York, 1900); FRAZER, A Literary History of India (New York, (1898); MONIER WILLIAMS, Indian Wisdom (4th ed. London, 1803); JOHANTGEN, Ueber das Gesetzbuch des Manu (Leipzig, 1863).

The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.

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