54 THE ARYANS IN INDIA. south-east, and in their new homes. The earliest songs disclose the race still to the north of the KMibar pass, in Kabul ; the later ones bring them as far as the Ganges. Their victorious advance eastwards through the intermediate tract can be traced in the Vedic writings almost step by step. The steady supply of water among the five rivers of the Punjab, led the Aryans to settle down from their old state of wandering half-pastoral tribes into regular communities of husbandmen. The Vedic poets praised the rivers which enabled them to make this great change — perhaps the most important step in the progress of a race. ' May the Indus,' they sang, ' the far-famed giver of wealth, hear us; (fertilizing our) broad fields with water.' The Himalayas, through whose south-western passes they had reached India, and at whose southern base they long dwelt, made a lasting impression on their memory. The Vedic singer praised ' Him whose greatness the snowy ranges, and the sea, and the aerial river declare.' The Aryan race in India never forgot its northern home. There dwelt its gods and holy singers; and there eloquence descended from heaven among men ; while high amid the Himalayan mountains lay the paradise of deities and heroes, where the kind and the brave for ever repose. The Kig-Veda. — The Rig-Veda forms the great literary memorial of the early Aryan settlements in the Punjab. The age of this venerable hymnal is unknown. Orthodox Hindus believe, without evidence, that it existed ' from before all time,' or at least from 3001 years B.C. European scholars have inferred from astronomical data that its composition was going on about 1400 b.c. But the evidence might have been calculated back- wards, and inserted later in the Veda. We only know that the Vedic religion had been at work long before the rise of Buddhism in the sixth century b.c The Rig- Veda is a very old collection of 10 1 7 short poems, chiefly addressed to the gods, and con- taining 10,580 verses. Its hymns show us the Aryans on the banks of the Indus, divided into various tribes, sometimes at war with each other, sometimes united against the ' black-skinned ' Aborigines. Caste, in its later, sense, is unknown. Each father of a family is the priest of his own household. The chieftain acts as father and priest to the tribe ; but at the greater festivals
Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/58
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