Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/190

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161
PERSIA.

age these dispositions, by their ignorance and bigotry. With them, the forms of religion are every thing: they never view it according to its true nature, as a gift bestowed by the deity on men to sanctify in their eyes the principle of morality, and to make them happy in this life through fear of the punishments and hope of the rewards of a future existence. "Let an Armenian," says Thevenot, "confess that he has committed robbery, murder, or any other heinous offence, the confessor tells him that God is merciful: but, should he accuse himself of having eaten butter on a Wednesday, Friday, or fast-day, oh! this is a most atrocious crime, for, which nothing but the severest penance can atone."

The Armenian clergy consist of a patriarch resident at the convent of Etschmiazyn, archbishops, bishops, doctors, secular priests, and monks. The patriarch is styled Catholicos, a denomination which the Armenians have borrowed from the Greeks.


SECTION III.

THE BANIANS.

The Hindoos who are scattered over Persia, and who are engaged in mercantile pursuits, are called Banians. This appellation is a corruption of the Indian word, vanik or banik, merchant.

The Banians were the chief agents of the trade between India and Persia: they rivalled the Armenians in activity, intelligence, industry, and wealth; and at the time of Shah Abbas, their number at Ispahan amounted to fifteen thousand. Their fortunes have followed those of the other inhabitants of Persia. So long as they found a market for their merchandise and enjoyed security of property, they continued to dwell in that country, which they enriched with the gold of India: but despotism drove them from it, and few of them are now to be met with, except in the southern provinces, on the shores of the Persian Gulf.

The Banians resident in Persia have retained the manners, customs, and religion of their native country.


SECTION IV.

THE COURDS.

The Courds, who once dwelt chiefly in the mountains situated between Turkey and Persia, and gave their name to a very extensive country, are now spread over the whole of the latter kingdom, where they retain the rude manners of a pastoral race.