With the help of the old Aryan language (Sanskrit) preserved in India over thousands of years ago, Europeon scholars have made great contributions from one of the most brilliant chapters in the early history of the advancement of human knowledge. The present author has made an effort to give a sketch of that history spaning from the Vedic Period to the Epic Period and the Rationalistic Period (B.C 1000-320).
The book contains twenty six chapters in total where each chapter has been examined very critically. Starting from the time of Indo –Aryans and the marvelous literature left by them. the book is designed to incorporative different aspects of Vedic Period (B.C. 1400-1000) has also been dealt with critically. The author has finally examined the Rationalistic Period the literature. The laws, caste and social life of the Hindus. The six systems of Indian Philosophy has also been discussed.
"If I were asked," says Professor Max Muller, "What I consider the most important discovery which has been made during the Nineteenth Century with respect to the ancient history of mankind, I should answer by the following short line:-
Sanskrit, Dyash, Pitar=Greek, Zeyahathp (Zeus Patar )= Latin, Jupiter =Old Nores, Tyr."
And certainly, the discoveries which have been made, by European scholars within the last hundred years, with the help of the old Aryans language preserved in india, from one of the old Aryan language preserved in india, from one of the most brilliant chapters in the history of the advancement of human knowledge. It is not my intention to give a sketch of that history here; but a few facts which relate specially to Indian Antiquties may be considered interesting.
It is about a century since Sir William Jones startled the literature of Asia has yet brought to light," and one of the tenderest and most beautiful creations of human imagination produced in any age or country. The attention of Europeon literary men was roused to the value and beauty of Sanskrit literature ; and the greatest literary genius of the modern age has recorded his appreciation of the Hindu dramatic piece in lines which have been often quoted, in orignal and translation:-
"Wouldst thou the life's young bloosms and the fruits of its decline.
And all by which the soul is special is pleased, enrapted, feasted, fed, wouldst thou the earth and heaven itself in one sweet name combine?
I name thee, O Shakuntala, and all at once is said," –GOETHE.
Sir William Jones translated Manu, founded the Asiatic Society of Bengal, and lived to continue his researches into stores –houses of Sanskrit literature, and achieved valuable results; but he did not live to find what he sought –a clue to Indian's "ancient history without any mixture of fable. "For his enthusiastic labours were mostly confined to the later Sanskrit literature –the literature of the Post Buddhist Era; and he paid little heed to the mine of weath that lay beyond.
Colebrooke followed in the footsteps of Sir William Jones. He was a Mathematician, and was the most careful and accurate Sanskrit scholar that England has ever produced.Ancient Sanskrit literature concealed nothin from his eyes He gave careful and accurate account of Hindu Algebra and Mathematics, and in 1805, he first made Europeans acquainted with the oldest work of the made Europeons aquainted with the oldest work of the Hindu and of the Aryan world, viz., the Vedas.
Colebrooks, however, failed to grasp the importance of the discovery he had made, and declared that the study of the Vedas "would hardly reward the labour of the reader, much less that of the translator."
Dr. H.H. Wilson followed in the footsteps of Colebrooke, and although he translated the Rig Veda Sanhita into English, his labours were mostly confined to later Sanskrit literature. He translated into elegent English the best dramatic works in Sanskrit, as well as the beautiful poem of Kalidas, called "Meghaduta". He also translated the Vishnu Purana, and laboured to adjusted the history of the later Hindu Period, and settled many points on a satisfactory basis.
The History of Ancient India is a history of thirty centuries of human culture and progress. It divides itself into several distinct periods, each of which, for length of years, will compare with the entire history of many a modern people.
Other nations claim an equal or even a higher antiquity than the Hindus. Egyptian scholars have claimed a date over four thousands years B.C for the foundation of the first Egyptian dynasty of kings. Assyrian scholars have claimed a date over three thousand years B.C. for Saragaon I, who united Sumir and Accad which preceded the Semetic conquent of Chaldea. The Chinese claim to have an authentic history of dynasties and facts from about 2400 B.C. For India, modern scholars have not claimed an earlier date than 2000 B.C for the hymnns were composed or thousands of years old when these hymns were composed.
But there is a difference between the records of the Hindus and the records of other nations. The hieroglyphic records of the Egyptians yield little information beyond the names of kings and pyramid builders, and accounts of dynasties and wars. The cuneiform inscriptions of Assyria and Babylon tell us much the same story. And even ancient Chinese records shed little light on the gradual progress of human culture and civilisation.
Ancient Hindu works are of a different charactertics. If they are defective in some respects, as they undoubtely are, they are defective as accounts of dynasties, of wars, of so-called historical incidents. On the other hand, they give us a full, connected and clear account of the advancement of civilisation, of the progress of the human mind, such as we shall seek for in vain among the records of any other equality ancient nation. The literature of each period is a perfect picture –a photograph, if we may so call it –of the Hindu civilisation of that period. And the works of successive periods form a completer history of ancient Hindu civilisation for three thousand years, so clear, that he who runs may read.
Inscreaption on stone and tablets, and writing on papyri are recorded with a design to commemorate passing events. The songs and hymns and religious of its civilisation and its thought. The earliest effusions of the Hindus were not recorded in writing –they are, therefore, full and unrestricted –they are a natural and true expression of the nation's thoughts and feelings. They were preserved, not on stone, but in the faithful memory of the people, who handed down the great heritage from country to century with a scruplous exactitude which, in modern days, would be considered a miracle.
Scholars who have studied the Vedic hymns historically are aware that the materials they afford for constructing a history of civilisation are fuller and truer than any accounts which could have been recorded on stone or papyri. And those who have pursued Hindu literature through the different periods of ancient Hindu literature through the different periods of ancient Hindu history, are equally aware that they form a complete and comprehensive story of the progress and gradual modifications of Hindu civilisation thought, and religion through three thousand years. And the philosphical historian of human civilisation need not be a Hindu to think that the Hindus have preserved the fullest, the clearest, and the trust materials for his work.
We wish not to be misunderstood. We have made the foregoing remarks simply with a view to remove the very common and very erroneous impression that Ancient India has no history worth studying, no connected and reliable chronicle of the past which would be interesting or instructive to the modern reader.
Ancient India has a connected story to tell, and so far from being uninteresting, its speacial feature is its intense attractiveness. We read in that ancient story how a gifted Aryan people, seprated by circumstances from the outside world, out their civilisation amidst natural and climatic conditions which were peculiarly favourable. We note their religious progress and developments through successive centuries; we mark their political career, as they gradually expand over India, and found new kingdoms and dynasties; we observe their struggles against priectly domination, their successess and their failures; we study with interest their great social and religious revolutions and their far- reaching consequences. And this great story of a nation's intellectual life –more thrilling in its interest than any tale which Sharzadi told is –nowwhere broken and nowhere disconnected. The great causes which led to great social and religious changes are manifest to the reader, and he fellows the gradual development of ancient Hindu civilisation through thirty centuries, from 2000 B.C. to 1000 years after Christ.
The very short comings of Hindu civilisation, as compared with the younger civlisation of Greece or Rome, have their lessons for the modern reader. The story of our successes is not more instructive than the story of our failures. The hymns of Vishvamitra, the philosophy of Kapila, and the poetry of Kalidasa have no higher lessons for the modern reader than the decadane of our political life and the ascendancy of priests. The story of the religious rising of the people under the leadership of Gautama Buddha and Ashoka is not more instructive than the absensce of any efforts after popular freedom. And the great heights to which the genius of Brahmins and Kshatriayas soared in the infancy of the instructive life are great heights to which the genius of Brahmans and Kshatriyas soared in the infancy of the world's intellectual life are not more suggestive and not more instructive than the absence of genius in the people at large in their ordinary pursuits and trades –in mechanical inventions and maritime discoveries, in sculpture, architecture, and arts, in manifestation of popular life and the assertion of popular power.
The history of the intellectual and religious life of the ancient Hindus is matchless in its continuity, its fulness, and its philosphical truth. But the historian who only paints the current of that intellitual life performs half his duty. There is another and a sadder portion of Hindu history and it is necessary that this portion of the story, too, should be faithfully told.
We have said before that the history of Ancient India divides itself into several distinct and long periods or epoches. Each of these periods has a distinct literatures, and each has a civilisation of the next period under the operation of great political and social causes. It is desirable that we should, at the outset, give a briefs account of these historical epochs and the great historical events by which they are marked. Such an outline –account of the different periods will make our readers acquainted with the plan and scope of this work, and will probably help them to grasp more effectually the details of each period when we come to treat them more fully. We begin with the earliest period, viz., that of Aryan settlement in the Punjab. The hymns of the Rig Veda furnish us with the materials for a history of this period.
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