Abbildungen der Seite

this were the place for discussing any question concerning the antiquities of Persia.

The characters, in which the languages of India were originally written, are called Nagari, from Nagara, a city with the word Déva sometimes prefixed, because they are believed to have been taught by the Divinity himself, who prescribed the artificial order of them in a voice from heaven. These letters, with no greater variation in their form by the change of straight lines to curves, or conversely, than the Cufick alphabet has received in its way to India, are still adopted in more than twenty kingdoms and states, from the borders of Cashgar and Kboten, to Ráma's bridge, and from the Sindhu to the river of Siam; nor can I help believing, although the polished and elegant Dévanágari may not be so ancient as the monumental characters in the caverns of Jarasandha, that the square Chaldaick letters, in which most Hebrew books are copied, were originally the same, or derived from the same prototype, both with the Indian and Arabian characters: that the Pbenician, from which the Greek and Roman alphabets were formed by various changes and inversions, had a similar origin, there can be little doubt; and the inscriptions at Canárab, of which you now possess a most accurate copy, fęem to be compounded of Nagari and Ethios pick letters, which bear a close relation to each other, both in the mode of writing from the left hand, and in the fingular '

manner of connecting the vowels with the consonants. These remarks

may favour an opinion entertained by many, that all the symbols of sound, which at first, probably, were only rude outlines of the different

organs of speech, had a common origin: the symbols of ideas, now used in China and Japan, and formerly, perhaps, in Egypt and Mexico, are quite of a distinct nature ; but it is very remarkable, that the order of sounds in the Chinese grammars corresponds nearly with that observed in Tibet, and hardly differs from that, which the Hindus consider as the invention of their Gods.

II. Of the Indian Religion and Philosophy, I shall here fay but little; because a full account of each would require a separate volume : it will be sufficient in this dissertation to assume, what might be proved beyond controversy, that we now live

the adorers of those very deities, who were worshipped under different names in old Greece and Italy, and among the professors of those philofophical tenets, which the Ionick and Attick writers illustrated with all the beauties of their melodious language. On one hand we fee the trident of Nepture, the eagle of JupiTER, the satyrs of BACCHUS, the bow of Cupid, and the chariot of the Sun; on another we hear the cymbals of Rhea, the songs of the Muses, and the pastoral tales of Apollo NOMIUs. In more retired scenes, in groves, and in seminaries of learning, we may perceive the Bráhmans and the Sarmanes, mentioned by Clemens, difputing in the forms of logick, or discoursing on the vanity of human enjoyments, on the immortality of the soul, her emanation from the eternal mind, her debasement, wanderings, and final union with her source. The fix philosophical schools, whose principles are explained in the Der


fana Sastra, comprise all the metaphysicks of the old Academy, the Stoa, the Lyceum ; nor is it possible to read the Védánta, or the

many fine compositions in illustration of it, without believing, that PYTHAGORAS and PLATo derived their sublime theories from the same fountain with the fages of India. The Scythian and Hyperborean doctrines and mythology may also be traced in every part of these eastern regions ; nor can we doubt, that Won or Oden, whose religion, as the northern historians admit, was introduced into Scandinavia by a foreign race,' was the same with BUDDH, whose rites were probably imported into India nearly at the same time, though received much later by the Chinese, who soften his name into FO'.

This may be a proper place to ascertain an

[ocr errors]

important point in the Chronology of the Hindus; for the priests of BUDDHA left in Tibet and China the precise epoch of his appearance, real or imagined, in this Empire; and their information, which had been preserved in writing, was compared by the Christian Missionaries and scholars with our own era. COUPLET, DE GUIGNES, GIORGI, and BAILLY, differ a little in their accounts of this epoch, but that of Couplet seems the most correct: on taking, however, the medium of the four several dates, we may fix the time of BUDDHA, or the ninth great incarnation of Vishnu, in the year one thousand and fourteen before the birth of CHRIST, or two thousand seven hundred and ninety-nine years ago, Now the Cáshmirians, who boast of his descent in their kingdom, allert that he appeared on earth about two centuries after CRISHNA the Indian APOLLO, who took so decided a part in the war of the Mabábbárat; and, if an Etymologist were to suppose, that the Athenians had embellished their poetical history of PANDION's expulsion and the restoration of Ægeus with the Afiatick tale of the PANDUS and YUDHISHTIR, neither of which words they could have articulated, I should not hastily deride hiş conjecture : certain it is, that Pandumandel is called by the Greeks the country of PANDION, We have, therefore, determined another interest

ing epoch, by fixing the age of Crishna near the three thousandth year from the present time; and, as the three first Avatàrs, or descents of VISHNU, relate no less clearly to an Universal Deluge, in which eight persons only were saved, than the fourth and fifth do to the punishment of impiety and the humiliation of the proud, we may for the present assume, that the second, or silver, age of the Hindus was subsequent to the dispersion from Babel ; so that we have only a dark interval of about a thousand years, which were employed in the settlement of nations, the foundation of states or empires, and the cultivation of civil society. The

The great incarnate Gods of this intermediate age are both named Ra'ma but with different epithets; one of whom bears a wonderful resemblance to the Indian BACCHUS, and his wars are the subject of several heroick

poems. He is represented as a descendent from SU'RYA, or the Sun, as the husband of Si'ta', and the son of a princess named Cau'SELYA': it is very remarkable,, that the Peruvians, whose Incas boasted of the same descent, styled their greatest festival Ramasitoa ; whence we may suppose, that South America was peopled by the fame race, who imported into the farthest parts of Asia the rites and fabulous history of Ra'mA. These rites and this history are extremely curious ; and, although I cannot believe

« ZurückWeiter »