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Vol. XX.

MARCH, 1919




▸ORD Acton in one of his delightful letters to Mary Gladstone observes: "The great object in trying to understand history political, religious, literary or scientific is to get behind men and grasp ideas. Ideas have a radiation and development, an ancestry and posterity of their own, in which men play the part of God-fathers and God-mothers rather than of legitimate parents." To those who have studied the various books on Indian history that have appeared from time to time these remarks would appeal with great force. Events have been chronicled with painstaking fidelity and each period of the Nation's history has been dealt with as if it had very little relation to the past and a very problematical influence on the future. The rise and fall of great dynasties and the ebb and flow of the great waves of religious and political thought, the greatness of certain epochs and the stagnation and retrogression of others, have been treated as if capable of explanation without much reference to the laws of evolution, of thought and action which play so important a part in the shaping of the destinies of nations. Kings and Emperors, saints and sages, poets and warriors float before our vision not as links of a great chain but as isolated phenomena floating in an unending procession out of gloom, like travellers pressed by a breath of destiny.

No. 3.

It is therefore refreshing to turn to the History of Aryan Rule in India,* by Mr. Havell, where the learned author has tried to "get behind men and grasp ideas," and to show how and by what means Aryan leaven fermented and Aryan culture renewed itself at certain epochs.

To trace the history of the Aryans from the time of their first migration into India to the period when the hoary structure of Aryan State craft and culture was shaken to its foundation by the children of an alien faith, and to pick up the threads of the various under-currents that during a long and chequered history have mainly contributed to the building up of a civilisation and the formation of ideals, so characteristic of the Aryan dominion in India is no easy task requiring as it does not only great learning, industry and research but rare insight and sympathy. To this has to be added the difficulties of compressing the vast material and the divergent views on it into a handy and readable volume. If these difficulties are borne in mind, there can be little doubt that the work before us is one which reflects great credit on the author and lays a deep debt of gratitude on the student of Indian History.

The opening chapters take us to the dim antiquity of centuries when a young and gifted nation

The History of Aryan Rule in India. By Mr. E. B. Havell, George G. Harrap & Co., London.

poured through the passes of the Himalayas and began to colonise the fertile places watered by the Indus and the Ganges. Ancient History as the term is understood in dealing with Europe appears very modern when dealing with the rise of Aryan civilisation and the progress of Aryan conquest. Vista after vista opens before us in unending panorama of thought and action, and while time has efaced detail and distance lends enchantment, the student of History has always. the bed rock of the Vedas, the Brahmanas and the Upanishads to fall back upon both to build the structure and correct its proportions, The estimate of the worth of ancient Aryan culture and its influence on the Non-Aryan tribes must necessarily vary with the degree of knowledge one has of this ancient and vast literature and his sympathy with those ideas which the ancient thought were of enduring strength and greatness. Their idea of "Dharma," a word which, while it conveys a world of meaning to the Hindu, is often vague when tried to be translated as 66 Duty," no doubt varied from time to time, but throughout all their history it has certain fixed values which remained unalterable and which for good or evil shaped the destinies of the Aryan world. Under these circumstances, it cannot be wondered that divergent estimates have been formed of the nature and character of the ancient Aryan civilisation and the influence it had on the destinies of India. The views of Professor Max Muller, Vincent Smith, Weber and several other wellknown writers are sometimes not supported by the evidence afforded by the study of Vedic literature and are not easily reconcilable, and several generalisations are only true if applied to certain epochs of their development. For example, the view of Professor Max Muller in his history of ancient Sanskrit literature that Greece and India represent two opposite poles in the historical development of the Aryan man, that, while to the Greek existence is full of life and reality, to the

Hindu it is a dream and an illusion and that, while the Greek is ready to sacrifice even his life to the glory and independence of Hellas, the Hindu enters the world as a stranger his thoughts being all directed to another world, can hardly be justified except when we consider the period when, after long ages of war, conquest and civilization, the Aryan mind was directed to introspection. The satiety of conquest and the attainment of what one considers desirable to have in nations and individuals often resulted in the question so eloquently put by the psalmist : "What shall it profit and what shall a man or a nation give in exchange for his soul?" That this question was put by Aryans long before Greece was born is due not so much to a difference in temperaments but to the fact that Aryan civilization was hoary when Greece was only beginning to awake to a sense of national consciousness. The same experiences are undergone by different individuals and if one gives expression to them earlier, it is because time has dispelled illusions and changed the estimate of the relative power of each of the influences that moulded the past as he goes through successive stages in life's experience. In fact, the progress and evolution of the Greek intellect and philosophy present some remarkable parallels to Indian thought. It is no doubt true that to the Greek in the Golden Age of his history existence was full of life and reality and that he was prepared to sacrifice everything to his passion for liberty. But can it be said that the same is not true of the Aryan settlers of India during several centuries? The hymns of the Rig Veda which present a faithful picture of the lives and aspirations of the Aryan conquerors of India abound in expressions of the joy of life and devotion to the sacred land of India. The consciousness of intellectual and moral superiority and the lust for conquest in a great many prayers in the Riks are hardly those of persons who look upon existence as an evil, the present world as an

illusion and whose entire aspirations point heavenward. I shall quote a few Riks from 12 various mandalas, "Let those enemies be asleep and oh hero let the friend be awake, oh Indra of extensive bounty and quickly make us worthy of esteem in point of cows and horses, bright riches and thousandfold wealth." "Destroy all misery and slay him who does us harm." "Ushas conduct better all the gods for drinking Soma. Set on us strength which would lead to good exploits and which would evoke admiration and was for us kine and steeds." "Be thou oh Indra, the dispeller of our poverty with kine and gifts of steeds. Procuring the annihilation of Dasyas at the hands of Indra through the glistening draughts of Soma we liberated from our enemies shall be amply supplied with sustenance. With wealth and sustenance we shall be filled, aye, with powers bright and extremely delightful, we shall be blessed with that favour of those whereby the power of our heroes will obtain scope wherever the gift of kine is prominent and which also bestows horses," "Set on us, oh Maruts, a highly commendable power, brilliant, unsurpassed in battles bringing wealth worthy of praise and encompassing the world may bring up progeny of a hundred winter's life. Set on us, Maruts, fortune which is stable, which abounds in heroes, which tires the enemies out, which is to be measured by hundreds and thousands and which is ever increasing. Only a hundred years are with us, Oh Gods, within which time you bring old age to our bodies and during which short space those who today are sons have to become fathers to-morrow. Do not therefore cut short our life in the middle of its course." "Perform, oh hero, with our warlike soldiers whatever heroic deeds thou hast to achieve. Long have the godless enemies been puffed up with arrogance. Slay them and bring to us the wealth they have usurped." masters of all sorts of wealth and endowed with "May we be manly spirit and impatient for glorious deeds. May


we vanquish the unbelievers who may attack us with armed force. "" "Oh Indra, make us a gift of immense riches coveted by all. Grant a life of one hundred years and give us ever abiding good warriors."

Such prayers run through several of the mandalas of the Rig Veda and may be taken to represent the hopes and aspirations of generations of Aryan settlers.

Running through hymns like these there run like golden threads prayers to deliver men from evil and which recognise the existence of a Supreme Being to whose eternal laws it is the duty of man to conform. "Deliver me from sin as from a rope and let us obtain thy path of righteousness" cries the sage and there is many a prayer to keep the Aryan on the straight path. This world was to the ancient Aryans the best of worlds and there is little to support the view that it is the duty of man to renounce the good that the Gods in their bounty give. Death is not considered as a deliverance from evil but as an event which the Gods ought to avert before the "hundred winters" allotted to man.. "May the thread not be torn while I am weaving my prayer, may the form of my pious work not decay before its season" is not the prayer of one weary of life.

It is when we come to the Upanishadic period (between which and the Riks several centuries must have elapsed) that Vedic outlook on life begins to undergo a change. Conquest of the fairest part of India and subjugation of foes internal and external gave the Aryan intellect free scope for speculation which seems to have been ingrained in its nature. The eternal questions 66 whence wherefore and whither "2 were asked and were attempted to be answered with the result that standing between two immensities the mind thought very little of the brief space allotted to man wherein to work out his destiny. "Look back how it was with those who came before, look forward how it will be with those who came

hereafter. A mortal ripens like corn, like corn he springs up again" says the Kathopanishad. Regret and desire were as it were found equally vain in this world of impermanency for all joy was but the beginning of an experience that must have its end in pain." The result was that the summum bonum was considered to be a state of mind which was unaffected by "the pairs of opposites. It is a fascinating study-the philosophy of the Upanishads and the causes which led to so great a change in the outlook on life-but one which is hardly possible to treat with any adequacy in the pages of a magazine. But it is well to recognise the fallacy of thinkers that Aryans were, from the beginning of time, dreamers and pessimists.

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The study of Greek thought and philosophy affords some very striking points of similarity, To the Homeric heroes, life was a very enjoyable thing and death had no compensations. The bravest of the warriors looked upon the life beyond with a shudder and prayed for long life and material prosperity in this world. The optimism of the Platonic School with its central thought of the realization of a divine purpose gave little scope for pessimism. As has been well observed, the philosophy of Plato centres round" the Supreme Goodness by the light of which all the processes of the natural world, all the functions of man on the State are to be interpreted." It is to the speculation of later philosophers that we have to attribute the tendency to glory in the insignificance of man and to view with rapture the prospect of self loss in the bosom of universal nature. Plato's confident and trustful idealism gradually gave place to speculation where the evil in life was recognised and the Gods were represented as sipping their nectar careless of mankind or who when they deigned to interest themselves in mundane affairs thought of men less for their welfare than for their chastisement.

I am afraid I have digressed considerably but

the digression is necessary to show the soundness of the view which Mr. Havell has taken in his estimate of early Aryan culture and civilization which is more sympathetic and which accounts for a great deal of what would be otherwise inexplicable in early Indian history. The author is perfectly right when he rejects the theory that "the Aryans when first known to history were some barbaric tribes who borrowed their civilization from the more cultured races they conquered both in India and Europe." That they had attained to a fairly high degree of civilization when they entered India is fairly evident from a perusal of the Vedas. Full of life and action, with a mind eager and responsive with just that amount of introspection that was necessary to keep them in the right path, they began their wonderful career in India and as the centuries unfolded themselves they built up a great civilization. It would be idle to deny that close association with the people they conquered did exercise a certain amount of influence on Aryan thought and ideals, but as the author rightly points out, "it was their own creative genius which gave the matter new higher forms and inspired it with deeper thoughts." In the long course of history, it is wonderful how little Aryan theories of life and conduct were affected or changed by the condition of the people they found themselves amongst and how on the contrary the handful of conquerors gradually imposed their culture on the subject

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