The first Hindu Scriptures take the form of hymns, of which a large number were, sooner or later, collected together known as Vedas. The most famous of all is the Rig-Veda, a collection of over a thousand hymns. These are addressed to gods who bear a strong resemblance to the gods of the Norsemen-the distant cousins, so to speak, of old Aryans.
While the stories are not drawn wholly from the Vedas, some of the characters mentioned in this book appear more or less frequently in the hymns. Vashistha and Vishwamitra are supposed to have written some of them; traces of the Urvasi myth appear; and many of the gods are mentioned, though the position they occupied in Vedic days changed, in many cases, as time went on.
Passing over a large mass of important literature attached to the Vedas - though some of it contains a great deal of matter similar to that from which our tales are drawn-we should notice next the great holy books of India, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Puranas and the Upanishads. Ramayana means "Story of Rama," a great hero, who is represented as the seventh of the incarnations of God Vishnu. Lord Vishnu, according to Hindu legend, had appeared several times on earth generally in forms not human: for example, a fish, a tortoise, a boar, etc. Lord Vishnu, under one name or another, is the most popular of all the Hindu gods. Under the name of Ram, he still receives the worship of millions; and Krishna, the incarnation following Ram, is even more worshipped.
The story of each of these great heroes is shortly told in this book; and several of the minor tales are taken, either wholly or in part, from one holy book or the other.
HE word "Preface" suggests to many T youthful minds something learned and dry, and the result is that the Preface is not read. Certainly a book of stories like these ought not to be burdened with anything dry at the outset; but if the stories themselves are to prove reasonably interesting, it will do no one any harm to know something about the books in which they are found and the people among whom the books were written.
The language in which these tales have come down to us is called Sanskrit, a name which has no- thing to do with that of any people-like the names English, French, German, etc.-but is simply an adjective of which our term "high class," though not an exact translation, gives a good idea; because Sanskrit was the language spoken by the Brahmans, -i.e. the priests-and kings of various different nations of ancient India, while other classes of society commonly spoke what was called Prákrit, a vulgar form of Sanskrit.
Many centuries before the time of Christ, there came into India a people who called themselves Aryas, which means simply "nobles." From this name we derive the word "Aryan," denoting races belonging to the same great family, which includes, besides these invaders of India, many Western races, as may be easily seen by comparing Greek and Latin, and most modern languages of Europe, with the ancient Sanskrit.
The Aryan invasion of India doubtless covered many years, or even centuries; but it seems reason- able to think of 1500 B.c. as an average date for their settlement and earliest writings. From that time, they spread over the whole of Northern India, but made far less impression upon the South. The languages of Southern India are markedly different from those of the North; all the latter- excepting those of Mongolian or Muhammedan origin-bear the most evident tokens of close rela- tionship to Sanskrit; and some words are used to this day in Northern India exactly as they appear in the most ancient Hindu Scriptures, not less than 3,000 years old.
These first Hindu Scriptures take the form of hymns, of which a large number were, sooner or later, gathered together in collections known as Vedas. Of these there are four, though one of them is clearly altogether later than the others, and is much less respected. The most famous of all is the Rig-Veda, a collection of rather over a thousand hymns. These are addressed to gods who bear a strong ong resemblance to the gods of the Norsemen- the distant cousins, so to speak, of these old Aryans, and who are nothing more nor less than the great forces of Nature personified.
Children’s Books (95)
Brahma Sutras (87)
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