THE FOUR CASTES FORMED. 59 prose works, called Brahmanas, in order to explain the sacrifices and the duties of the priests. Like the four Vedas, the Brah- manas were held to be the very word of God. The Vedas and the Brahmanas form the revealed Scriptures of the Hindus — the sruti, literally ' Things heard from God.' The Vedas supplied their divinely-inspired psalms, and the Brahmanas their divinely- inspired theology or body of doctrine. To them were after- wards added the Sutras, literally ' Strings of pithy sentences ' regarding laws and ceremonies. Still later the Upanishads were composed, treating of God and the soul; the Aranyakas, or 'Tracts for the forest recluse'; and, after a very long interval, the Puranas, or ' Traditions from of old.' All these ranked, however, not as divinely-inspired knowledge, or things ' heard from God ' (sruti), like the Vedas and Brahmanas, but only as sacred traditions — smriii, literally ' The things remembered! The Pour Castes formed. — Meanwhile the Four Castes had been formed. In the old Aryan colonies among the Five Rivers of the Punjab, each house-father was a husbandman, warrior, and priest. But by degrees certain gifted families, who composed the Vedic -hymns or learned them off by heart, were always chosen by the king to perform the great sacrifices. In this way probably the priestly caste sprang up. As the Aryans conquered more territory, fortunate soldiers received a larger share of the lands than others, and cultivated it not with their own hands, but by means of the vanquished non-Aryan tribes. In this way the Four Castes arose. First, the Priests or Brah- mans. Second, the warriors or fighting companions of the king, called Rajputs or Kshattriyas, literally ' of the royal stock.' Third, the Aryan agricultural settlers, who kept the old name of Vaisyas, from the root vis, which in the primitive Vedic period had included the whole Aryan people. Fourth, the Sudras, or conquered non-Aryan tribes, who became serfs. The three first castes were of Aryan descent, and were honoured by the name of the Twice-born Castes. They could all be present at the sacrifices, and they worshipped the same Bright Gods. The Sudras were 'the slave-bands of black descent' of the Veda. They were distinguished from their ' Twice-born ' Aryan con- querors as being only ' Once-born,' and by many contemptuous
Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/63
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