Page images
PDF
EPUB

6

[ocr errors]

" that no code was approved, which contradicted Menu ; " that other Sástras, and treatises on grammar or logick, · retained splendour so long only, as Menu, who taught ' the way to just wealth, to virtue, and to final happiness,

was not seen in competition with them ;' VYA'sa too, the son of PARA'SARA before mentioned, has decided, that

the Véda with its Angas, or the six compositions deduced from it, the revealed system of medicine, the Puranas, or sacred histories, and the code of Menu, were four works of supreme authority, which ought never to be shaken by arguments merely human.'

It is the general opinion of Pandits, that Brahma ' taught his laws to Menu in a hundred thousand verses, which Menu explained to the primitive world in the very words of the book now translated, where he names himself, after the manner of ancient sages, in the third person ; but, in a short preface to the law tract of NA'Red, it is asserted, that - Menu, having written the laws of • Brahma' in a hundred thousand slócas or couplets,

arranged under twenty-four heads in a thousand chapters, delivered the work to NA'Red, the sage among

gods, who abridged it, for the use of mankind, in twelve thousand verses, and gave them to a son of ' BHRIGU, named Sumati, who, for greater ease to the · human race, reduced them to four thousand ; that mor

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

- tals read only the second abridgement by SUMATI, ' while the gods of the lower heaven, and the band of ' celestial musicians, are engaged in studying the pri

mary code, beginning with the fifth verse, a little "varied, of the work now extant on earth ; but that

nothing remains of Na'red's abridgement, except an

elegant epitome of the ninth original title on the administration of justice.' Now, since these institutes consist only of two thousand six hundred and eighty five verses, they cannot be the whole work ascribed to Sumati, which is probably distinguished by the name of the Vriddha, or ancient, Mánava, and cannot be found entire ; though several passages from it, which have been preserved by tradition, are occasionally cited in the new digest.

A number of glosses or comments on Menu were composed by the Munis, or old philosophers, whose treatises, together with that before us, constitute the Dherma Sastra, in a collective sense, or Body of Law; among the more modern commentaries, that called Médhátiť hi, that by GO'VINDARA'JA, and that by DHARANI'-DHERA, were once in the greatest repute; but the first was reckoned prolix and unequal; the second, concise but obscure; and the third, often erroneous.

At length appeared Cullu'cA BHATTA ; who, after a painful course

of

с

of study and the collation of numerous manuscripts, produced a work, of which it may, perhaps, be said very truly, that it is the shortest, yet the most luminous, the least ostentatious, yet the most learned, the deepest, yet the most agreeable, commentary ever composed on any author ancient or modern, European or Asiatick. The Pandits care so little for genuine chronology, that none of them can tell me the age of Cullu'ca, whom they always name' with applause; but he informs us himself, that he was a Bráhmen of the Váréndra tribe, whose family had been long settled in Gaur or Bengal, but that he had chosen his residence among the learned on the banks of the holy river at Cási. His text and interpretation I have almost implicitly followed, though I had myself collated many copies of Menu, and among them a manuscript of a very ancient date : his gloss is here printed in Italicks ; and any reader, who may choose to pass it over as if unprinted, will have in Roman letters an exact version of the original, and may form some idea of its character and structure, as well as of the Sanscrit idiom, which must necessarily be preserved in a verbal translation ; and a translation, not scrupulously verbal, would have been highly improper in a work on so delicate and momentous a subject as private and criminal jurisprudence

Should

Should a series of Bráhmens omit, for three generations, the reading of MENU, their sacerdotal class, as all the Pandits assure me, would in strictness be forfeited; but they must explain it only to their pupils of

he three highest classes ; and the Bráhmen, who read it with me, requested most earnestly, that his name might be concealed; nor would he have read it for any consideration on a forbidden day of the moon, or without the ceremonies prescribed in the second and fourth chapters for a lecture on the Véda : so great, indeed, is the idea of sanctity annexed to this book, that, when the chief native magistrate at Banares endeavoured, at my request, to procure a Persian translation of it, before I had a hope of being at any time able to understand the original, the Pandits of his court unanimously and positively refused to assist in the work; nor should I have procured it at all, if a wealthy Hindu at Gayi had not caused the version to be made by some of his dependants, at the desire of my friend Mr. Law. The Persian translation of Menu, like all others from the Sanscrit into that language, is a rude intermixture of the text, loosely rendered, with some old or new comment, and often with the crude notions of the translator ; and, though it expresses the general sense of the original, yet it swarms with errours, imputable partly to haste, and partly to ignorance : thus where Menu says, that emissaries are the eyes of a prince, the Persian phrase makes him ascribe four eyes to the person of a king; for the word chár, which means an emissary in Sanscrit, signifies four in the popular dialect.

The work, now presented to the European world, contains abundance of curious matter extremely interesting both to speculative lawyers and antiquaries, with many beauties, which need not be pointed out, and with many blemishes, which cannot be justified or palliated. It is a system of despotism and priestcraft, both indeed limited by law, but artfully conspiring to give mutual support, though with mutual checks; it is filled with strange conceits in metaphysicks and natural philosophy, with idle superstitions, and with a scheme of theology most obscurely figurative, and consequently liable to dangerous misconception; it abounds with minute and childish formalities, with ceremonies generally absurd and often ridiculous ; the punishments are partial and fanciful; for some crimes, dreadfully cruel, for others reprehensibly slight; and the very morals, though rigid enough on the whole, are in one or two instances (as in the case of light oaths and of pious perjury) unac

countably

« PreviousContinue »