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The child, hood and youth of Rama, his marriage with the beautiful Sita, and his banishment to the great forest of Dandaka (the jungles of Central India), are all described in most beautiful and glowing language; but the part that is historically most important is that which describes the invasion of Southern India and Lanka, or Ceylon, by the Aiyan conqueror Rama. Of the great lawgiver Manu himself we know nothing certain, but his laws give us a good general view of Hindu society as it existed during the Brahmanic period.
In the latter part of the Heroic Age, when the Aryans had conquered all Northern India, or Aryavartta, as far as Bengal, and had made slaves of all those aborigipes who had not been killed or driven away, there appears to have been a great deal of wealth and luxury in the palaces of the Maharajas ; the nobles were rich and powerful ; the merchants and the industrial classes had become wealthy, and under the name of Vaisyas formed one of the three higher or ' twice-born ' castes of which we shall speak presently. The former is devoted to an account of the exploits of the hero Rama, a scion of the royal solar (or sun-descended) race of Ayodhya or Oudh. Hence this period of Indian history, following the Heroic Age, is sometimes called the Brahmanus Age ; it lasted from a very early time (how early we do not know) to about 300 B. X.] North at Ambalah -was the ancient fortress of Sirhind [see Chap. 19 the Hindus during the Brahmamc Age are fully illustrated and described in one of the Smritis, or Dharmasdstras, called the Manava Dharmasastra, or Laws of Manu. The religious writings of the Hindus are divided into Sruti, to which the Vedas belong, and Smriti, including all the other writings regarded as sacred, but not possessing that divine authority ascribed to the Vedas.
In the village communities the system of administra- tion seems to have been almost identical with that which has prevailed in India for ages. He crossed the Indus by a bridge of boats, which was built for him by his Greek admiral, Skylax. Nearly two hundred years afterwards the Empire of Persia was con- quered by the Greeks under Alexander the Great, King of Macedon ; and in the year 327 B. In the great battle that followed the Indian army was more numerous than the Greek, and had moreover the advantage of two hundred elephants and three hundred war-chariots. Their capital was at Patna, on the Ganges, then called Patalipntra. Besides this, they are storehouses of mythological and legendary stories ; they contain not only genealogies and lives of gods, but also genealogies of kings and heroes ; and from some of the latter gleams of historical truth may be derived. Though teach- ing a veneration for the Vedas, the religion is quite dif- ferent from the Vaidik, and also from that of the Darsanas. The marriage laws were fair and just ; the wife was commanded strictly to obey her husband, and other women to obey their natural guardians ; but every provision was made for the welfare of the female sex. 23 bouring provinces belonged to the new religion the Bang of Magadha [see next chapter] being one of the converts 2. The doctrines of Buddha rapidly spread into other parts of India ; and afterwards into Tibbat, Burmah, Siam, Ceylon, and China. They are said to be sober, temperate, and peaceable ; remarkable for simplicity and integrity ; honest, and averse to litigation. These are called the edicts of Asoka, and prove that his kingdom extended at least to Orissa and the eastern parts of the Dakhin, on the one side of India, and to the west of Gujarat and to the extreme north of the Panjab, on the other side. It is probable, however, that after the fall of the great Mauryan dynasty of Buddhists the religion of the Brahmans began gradually to revive throughout India. During the decline of Buddhism another religion, called Jainism, was very powerful in India. This was effected by purifying the ' fountain of fire ' with water from the Ganges, when there sprang from the fountain four warriors, called the Agni- Tculas, or generation of fire, who, amidst many marvels, cleared the land of the Rakshasas. High regard for immemorial custom is an important feature in the Laws of Manu. The pure and simple morality of Buddhism com- mended it to the people ; and before the death of Buddha it is probable that a great part of Bihar and the neigh- THE HISTORY OF INDIA. Ultimately, a dynasty of Bactrian kings, who all bore the name of Soter, were driven out of their northern dominions into India ; and for many years they ruled over an empire which included Sindh, part of the North- West Provinces, the Panjab, and Afghanistan. The men are described as braver than any Asiatics whom the Greeks had yet met, and singularly truthful. Many inscriptions made by order of Asoka have been re- cently discovered in various parts of India, containing some of his laws and proclamations. The Mauryan line of kings reigned for more than a hundred years in Bihar, and was succeeded by other powerful Buddhist dynasties in suc- cession ; and Buddhism was flourishing in Magadha aa late THE HISTORY OF INDIA. D., when it was visited by the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, Hiouen Thsvng. 29 der foot, and that the land was in the possession of Rak- shasas (or Buddhists), they were ordered by Brahma to re-create the race of Kshatriyas, who had been extirpated by Parasu Rama. The arts of life in this period, though still in a simple state, were not rude ; and the numerous professions spoken of (goldsmiths, carvers, artists, &c.) show that the people possessed most things necessary to civilisation. Six great sects or schools of philosophy were founded amongst the Hindus at various unknown times. Another council followed it ; and a third was held in the seven- teenth year of the reign of King Asoka [see Chap. For some centuries during the period of which we are speaking the most powerful family in India, and the greatest of all the Rajput dynasties, was called Andhra. Brahmans were ordered to divide their lives into four portions ; in their youth they were to be students, and to observe celibacy ; in the second portion of their lives they were to live with their wives as house- holders, and discharge the ordinary duties of Brahmans ; in the third portion they were to live as hermits in the woods, and submit to very severe penances ; in the fourth they were to engage solely in contemplation, and were freed from all ceremonial observances. The Hindus have always been fond of the study of philosophy ; and it is probable that this study much influenced the na- tional mind during the Brahmanic period, and had some share in inducing them to accept Buddhism [see next chapter]. A Buddhist Council, or meeting of the chief followers of the faith, was held shortly after his death. The practice of widows becoming satt had already been in- troduced, but probably only partially ; for it is spoken of by Aristobulns as one of the extraordinary local peculiari- ties which he heard of at Taxila. Though Buddhism existed in India until the twelfth century A. that is, for more than 1,300 years longer and often was the religion of powerful kings and great states, yet on the whole it declined from this time, about 200 B. Whilst the great city of Kanauj had always remained devoted to Brahmanism, the other cities and kingdoms of India one by one returned to a mo- dified form of their earlier religion, the same form as that which is now professed by most Hindus. In point of doctrines it was midway between Buddhism and Brahmanism ; it originated about 600 A. D., though many Jainas are still to be found in various parts of India. Many of the modern Rajputs claim descent from these Agnikulas, who thus propagated Brahmanism.