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It is not possible to conjecture when this more simple and primitive form of adoration was succeeded by the worship of images and types, representing Brahmá, Vishńu, Siva, and other imaginary beings, constituting a mythological pantheon of most ample extent; or when Ráma and Krishna, who appear to have been, originally, real and historical characters, were elevated to the dignity of divinities. Image-worship is alluded to by Manu, in several passages, but with an intimation that those Brahmans who subsist by ministering in temples are an inferior and degraded class. The story of the Rámáyana and Mahábhárata turns wholly upon the doctrine of incarnations; all the chief dramatis personæ of the poems being impersonations of gods, and demigods, and celestial spirits. The ritual appears to be that of the Vedas; and it may be doubted if any allusion to image-worship occurs. But the doctrine of propitiation by penance and praise prevails throughout; and Vishńu and Siva are the especial objects of panegyric and invocation. In these two works, then, we trace unequivocal indications of a departure from the elemental worship of the Vedas, and the origin or elaboration of legends which form the great body of the mythological religion of the Hindus. How far they only improved upon the cosmogony and chronology of their predecessors, or in what degree the traditions of families and dynasties may originate with them, are questions that can only be determined when the Vedas and the two works in question shall have been more thoroughly examined.
B. III., 152, 164. B. IV., 214.
The different works known by the name of Puráňas are evidently derived from the same religious system as the Rámáyana and Mahábhárata, or from the mythoheroic stage of Hindu belief. They present, however, peculiarities which designate their belonging to a later period, and to an important modification in the progress of opinion. They repeat the theoretical cosmogony of the two great poems; they expand and systematize the chronological computations; and they give a more definite and connected representation of the mythological fictions and the historical traditions. But, besides these and other particulars, which may be derivable from an old, if not from a primitive, era, they offer characteristic peculiarities of a more modern description, in the paramount importance which they assign to individual divinities, in the variety and purport of the rites and observances addressed to them, and in the invention of new legends illustrative of the power and graciousness of those deities, and of the efficacy of implicit devotion to them. Siva and Vishnu, under one or other form, are almost the sole objects that claim the homage of the Hindus, in the Puráňas; departing from the domestic and elemental ritual of the Vedas, and exhibiting a sectarial fervour and exclusiveness not traceable in the Rámáyaňa, and only to a qualified extent in the Mahabharata. They are no longer authorities for Hindu belief, as a whole: they are special guides for separate and, sometimes, conflicting branches of it; compiled for the evident purpose of promoting the preferential, or, in some cases, the sole, worship of Vishńu, or of Siva.?
· Besides, the three periods marked by the Vedas, Heroic That the Puráńas always bore the character here given of them may admit of reasonable doubt: that it correctly applies to them as they now are met with, the following pages will irrefragably substantiate. It is possible, however, that there may have been an earlier class of Puránas, of which those we now have are but the partial and adulterated representatives. The identity of the legends in many of them, and, still more, the identity of the words-for, in several of them, long passages are literally the same—is a sufficient proof that, in all such cases, they must be copied either from some other similar work, or from a common and prior original. It is not unusual, also, for a fact to be stated upon the authority of an “old stanza', which is cited accordingly; showing the existence of an earlier source of information: and, in very many instances, legends are alluded to, not told; evincing acquaintance with their prior narration somewhere else. The name itself, Puráńa, which implies 'old', indicates the object of the compilation to be the preservation of ancient traditions; a purpose, in the present condition of the Puranas, very imperfectly fulfilled. Whatever weight may be attached to these considerations, there is no disputing evidence to the like effect, afforded by other and unquestionable authority. The description given, by Mr. Colebrooke, of the contents of a Puráńa is
Poems, and Puranas, a fourth may be dated from the influence exercised by the Tantras upon Hindu practice and belief: but we are yet too little acquainted with those works, or their origin, to speculate safely upon their consequences.
· As. Res., Vol. VII., p. 202. *
* Or Miscellaneous Essays, Vol. II., pp. 4 and 5, foot-note.
taken from Sanskrit writers. The Lexicon of Amara Simha gives, as a synonym of Puráňa, Pancha-lakshana, “that which has five characteristic topics'; and there is no difference of opinion, amongst the scholiasts, as to what these are. They are, as Mr. Colebrooke mentions: I. Primary creation, or cosmogony; II. Secondary creation, or the destruction and renovation of worlds, including chronology; III. Genealogy of gods and patriarchs; IV. Reigns of the Manus, or periods called Manwantaras; and, V. History, or such particulars as have been preserved of the princes of the solar and lunar races, and of their descendants to modern times.' Such, at any rate, were the constituent and characteristic portions of a Puráňa, in the days of Amara Simha,* fifty-six years before the Christian era;† and, if the
1 The following definition of a Purána is constantly quoted: it is found in the Vishnu, Matsya, Váyu, and other Puranas:
सर्गश्च प्रतिसर्गश्च वंशो मन्वन्तराणि च ।
वंशानुचरितं चैव पुराणं पञ्चलक्षणम् ॥ A variation of reading in the beginning of the second line is noticed by Rámásrama, the scholiast on Amara, HRT HET, ‘Destruction of the earth and the rest, or final dissolution;' in which case the genealogies of heroes and princes are comprised in those of the patriarchs.
+ That Amarasińha lived at that time, though possible, has not been proved. Professor Wilson — Sanskrit Dictionary, first edition, Preface, p. v.— asserts that “all tradition concurs in enumerating him amongst the learned men who, in the metaphorical phraseology of the Hindus, are denominated the 'nine gems' of the court of Vikramaditya. *** Authorities which assert the contemporary existence of Amara and Vikramaditya might be indefinitely multiplied; and those are equally numerous which class him amongst the pine gems'," In the second
Puráňas had undergone no change since his time, such we should expect to find them still. Do they conform
edition of his Dictionary, under the word 79Tã, the Professor explains the “nine gems” to be: "The nine men of letters at the court of Vikramaditya, or, Dhanwantari, Kshapanaka, Amarasimha, Sanku, Vetalabhatta, Ghatakarpara, Kalidasa, Varahamihira, and Vararuchi.” The tradition about these ornaments he thinks — Meghadúta, second edition, Preface, p. v.-to be one of those regarding which "there is no reason to dispute the truth."
The "authorities” spoken of in the first of the preceding extracts are not specified by Professor Wilson; and they are not known to have fallen yet in the way of any one else. Those authorities apart, he adduces a stanza about the "nine gems", of which he says, that it "appears in a great measure traditionary only; as I have not been able to trace it to any authentic source, although it is in the mouth of every Pandit, when interrogated on the subject.”
The stanza in question occurs in the Jyotirvidábharańa, near its conclusion, where we find the following verses:
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