« VorigeDoorgaan »
subjects, and in the prevailing tone of its mythological fictions, this Indian epic poetry is characterized by a style of fancy incomparably more gigantic, such as occasionally prevails in the mythology of Hesiod—in the accounts of the old Titanic wars--or in the fabulous world of Æschylus, and of the Doric Pindar. In the tenderness of amatory feeling, in the description of female beauty, of the character and domestic relations of women, the Indian poetry may be compared to the purest and noblest effusions of Christian poesy.” With respect to the Indian language, Schlegel observes that in its grammatical structure, it is absolutely similar to the Greek and Latin, even to the minutest particulars. the grammatical forms of the Sanscrit are far richer and more varied than those of the Latin tongue, and more regular and systematic than those of the Greek. In its roots and words the Sanscrit has a very strong and remarkable affinity to the Persian and Germanic race of languages.” He then gives one or two examples of this affinity, and instances the German word mensch (man) as agreeing in its root and signification with the Indian word manuschya, with this only difference, that in the Sanscrit the latter word has a regular root, and is derived from manu, spirit.
Enough, however, has been said upon this subject, and the wise reader will draw his own inference from it. As a conclusion to these introductory remarks, and as furnishing some idea of the grandeur and vast conceptions of the Indian poetry, I will extract a very singular Episode, from the Mahabharrat, Book 1, Chap. 15, which is translated by Mr. Wilkins and appended to the Geeta. It is very difficult, and, without the assistance of some of the Indian Pandects, perhaps impossible, fully to unravel the meaning of this old mythological writing. That there are mystic truths hidden in it, is evident encugh to the seeing eye, altho many of them have escaped the present writer. It seems to represent however, the old war between the good and evil principles of the universe; and to shew how the water of life, or immortality, was won by the gods for the human race.
What is the meaning of the Chowda Rattan, or fourteen jewels, which were sought after in the mighty churning of the ocean described in the poem, is not easy to discover. I may remark, however, that the whole poem is conceived with uncommon imagination and vigor, and that the machinery and actors are alike huge and Titanic. In the war between the gods, one is reminded of Milton's description of the battle of IIeaven, and there are other
not unlike Jeremy Taylor's awful picture of the last judgment.
The Episode of the Churning of the Ocean.
There is a fair and stately mountain, and its name is Meroo, a most exalted mass of glory, reflecting the sunny rays from the splendid surface of its gilded horns. It is clothed in gold, and is the respected haunts of Dews a and Gandarus. It is inconceivable; and not to be encompassed by sinful man; and is guarded by dreadful serpents. Many celestial medicinal plants adorn its sides, and it stands piercing the heavens with its aspiring summit, a mighty hill, inaccessible
a Dews. The Angels, or subordinate celestial spirits; all the attributes of the Deity; and every thing in heaven and earth which has been personificd by the imagination of
even by the human mind. It is adorned with trees and pleasant streams, and resoundeth with the delightful song of various birds.
The Soors, b and all the glorious hosts of heaven, having ascended to the summit of this losty mountain, sparkling with precious gems, and for eternal ages raised, were sitting in solemn synod, meditating the discovery of the Amreeta, or water of immortality. The Dew Narayan being also there, spoke unto Brahma, whilst the Soors were thus consulting together, and said: 'Let the ocean, as a pot of milk be churned by the united labor of the Soors and Asoors; ° and when the mighty waters have been stirred up the Amreeta will be found. Let them collect together every medicinal herb; and every precious thing; and let them stir the ocean, and they shall discover the Amreeta.'
There is also another mighty mountain, whose name is Mandar, and its rocky summits are like towering clouds. It is clothed in a net of the entangled tendrils of the twining creeper, and resoundeth with the harmony of various birds. Innumerable savage beasts infest its borders, and it is the respected baunt of Keenars, Dews, and Apsars. It standeth eleven thousand Yoyan above the earth, and eleven thousand more below its surface. As the united bands of Dews were unable to remove this mountain, they went before Veeshnoo, a who was sitting with Brahma, and addressed them in these words : 'Exert O Masters, your most superior wisdom to remove the mountain, Mandar, and employ your utmost power for our good.'
Veeshnoo and Brahma having said, 'It shall be according to your wish,' he with the lotus eye, directed the King of Serpents to appear; and Ananta arose and was instructed in that work by Brahma, and commanded by Narayan to perform it. Then Ananta by his power, took up that king of mountains, together with all its forests and every inhabitant thereof, and the Soors accompanied him into the presence of the Ocean, whom they addressed, saying : We will stir up thy waters to obtain the Amreeta. And the Lord of the Waters replied: 'Let me also, have a share seeing, that I am to bear the violent agitations that will be caused by the whirling of the mountain.' Then the Soors and Asoors spoke unto Koorma-raj, the King of the Tortoises, upon the strand of the Ocean, and said: 'My Lord is able to be supporter of this mountain.' The Tortoise replied: ‘Be it so ;' and it was placed upon his back.
So the Mountain being set upon the back of the Tortoise, Endra began to whirl it about as if it were a machine. The Mountain Mandar served as a churn, and the serpent Vasookee for the rope; and thus in former days did the Dews, the Asoors, and the Danoos, begin to stir up the waters of the ocean for the discovery of the Amreeta.
The mighty Asoors were employed on the side of the serpent's head, whilst all the Soors assembled about his tail. Ananta, that sovereign Dew, stood near Narayan.
They now pull forth the serpent's head repeatedly, and as often let it go; whilst there issued from his mouth, thus violently drawn to and fro by the Soors and Asoors,
b Soors: Good Angels. c Asoors : apparently Evil spirits. à Veeshnoo : He who filleth or possesseth all space; one of the 12 suns; and the name of the Deity in his preserving quality.
a continual stream of fire and smoke and wind; which ascending in thick clouds replete with lightning, it began to rain down on the heavenly bands, who were already fatigued with their labor; whilst a shower of flowers was shaken from the top of the mountain, covering the heads of all, both Soors and Asoors. In the meanwhile the roaring of the ocean, whilst violently agitated with the whirling of the mountain Mandar by the Soors and Asoors, was like the bellowing of a mighty eloud. Thousands of the various productions of the waters were torn to pieces by the mountain, and confounded with the briny flood; and every specific being of the deep, and all the inhabitants of the great abyss which is below the earth, were annihilated; whilst from the violent agitation of the mountain, the forest trees were dashed against each other, and precipitated from its utmost height, with all the birds thereon; from whose violent confrication a raging fire was produced, involving the whole mountain with smoke and flame as with a dark blue cloud, and the lightnings' vivid flash. The lion and the retreating elephant are overtaken with the devouring flames, and every vital being, and every specific thing, are consumed in the general conflagration.
The raging flames thus spreading destruction on all sides, were at length quenched by a shower of eloud-borne water poured down by the immortal Endra. And now a heterogeneous stream of the concocted juices of various trees and plants ran down into the briny flood.
It was from this milk-like stream of juices produced from those trees and plants, and a mixture of melted gold, that the Soors obtained their immortality.
The waters of the ocean being now assimilated with those juices, were converted into milk, and from that milk a kind of butter was presently produced; when the heavenly bands went again into the presence of Brahma, the granter of boons, and addressed him saying: 'Except Narayan every other Soor and Asoor is fatigued with his labor, and still the Amreeta does not appear; wherefore the churning of the ocean is at a stand.' Then Brahma said unto Narayan :
Endue them with recruited strength, for thou art their support.' And Narayan answered and said: 'I will give fresh vigor to such as co-operate in the work. Let the Mandar be whirled about, and the bed of the ocean be kept steady.'
When they heard the words of Narayan, they all returned again to the work, and began to stir about with great force the butter of the ocean, when there presently arose from out the troubled deep, first the moon with a pleasing countenance, shining with ten thousand beams of gentle light; next followed Sree, the goddess of Fortune, whose seat is the white lily of the waters; then Soora Devee, the goddess of wine, and the white horse called Oochisrava. And after these there was produced from the unctuous mass, the jewel Kowstoobh, that glorious sparkling gem worn by Narayan on his breast; so Parejat the tree of Plenty, and Soorabhee, the cow that granted every hearts' desire.
The moon, Soora-Devee, the goddess Sree, and the horse as swift as thought, instantly marched away towards the Dews, keeping in the path of the sun.
Then the Dew Dhanwantaree, in human shape, came forth, holding in his hand a white vessel filled with the immortal juice Amreeta. When the Asoors beheld these wondrous things appear, they raised their tumultuous voices for the Amreeta, and each of them clamorously exclaimed: This of right is mine!'
In the meanwhile Iravat, a mighty Elephant, arose, now kept by the god of thunder; and as they continued to churn the ocean more than enough, that deadly poison issued from its bed, burning like a raging fire, whose dreadful fumes in a moment spread thröout the world, confounding the three regions of the Universe with its mortal stench; until Seev, at the word of Brahma, swallowed the fatal drug to save mankind; which remaining in the throat of that sovereign Dew of magic form, from that time he hath been called Neel-Kant, because his throat was stained blue.
When the Asoors beheld this miraculous deed they became desperate, and the Amreeta, and the goddess Sree, became the source of endless hatred.
Then Narayan assumed the character and person of Moheenee Maya, the power of enchantment in a female form of wonderful beauty, and stood before the Asoors; whose minds being fascinated by her presence, and deprived of reason, they seized the Amreeta and gave it unto her.
The Asoors now clothe themselves in costly armour, and seizing their various weapons, rush on together to attack the Soors. In the meantime Narayan, in the female form, having obtained the Amreeta from the hands of their leader, the hosts of Soors during the tumult and confusion of the Asoors, drank of the living water.
And so it fell out, that whilst the Soors were quenching their thirst for immortality, Rahoo, an Asoor, assumed the form of a Soor, and began to drink also. And the water had but reached his throat, when the sun and moon in friendship to the Soors discovered the deceit; and instantly Narayan cut off his head as he was drinking, with his splendid weapon Chakra. And the gigantic head of the Asoor, emblem of a mountain's summit, being thus separated from his body by the Chakra's edges, bounded into the heavens with a dreadful cry, whilst his ponderous trunk fell cleaving the ground asunder and shaking the whole earth unto its foundation, with all its islands, rocks, and forests. And from that time the head of Rahoo resolved an eternal enmity, and continueth even unto this day at times to seize upon the sun and moon.
Now Narayan, having quitted the female figure he had assumed, began to disturb the Asoors with sundry celestial weapons; and from that instant a dreadful battle was commenced, on the ocean's briny strand, between the Asoors and the Soors. Innumerable sharp and missile weapons were hurled, and thousands of piercing darts and battle axes fell on all sides. The Asoors vomit blood from the wounds of the Chakra, and fall upon the ground pierced by the sword, and spear, and spiked club. Heads glittering with polished gold, divided by the Pattees' blade, drop incessantly; and mangled bodies, wallowing in their gore, lay like fragments of mighty rocks sparkling with gems and precious ores. Millions of sighs and groans arise on every side; and the sun is overcast with blood as they clash their arms and wound each other with their dreadful instruments of destruction.
Now the battles were fought with the iron spiked clubs, and as they close with clenched fist; and the din of war ascendeth to the heavens, they cry-'Pursue ! strike! fell to the ground ! so that a horrid and tumultuous noise is heard on all sides.
In the midst of this dreadful hurry and confusion of the fight, Nar and Narayan, entered the field together. Narayan beholding a celestial bow in the hand
of Nar, it reminded him of his Chakra, the destroyer of the Asoors. The faithful weapon, by name Soodarsan, ready at the mind's call, flew down from heaven with direct and refulgent speed, beautiful yet terrible to lehold.
And being arrived, glowed like the sacrificial flame, and spreading terror around, Narayan with his right arm formed like the elephantine trunk, hurled forth the ponderous orb, the speedy messenger, and glorious ruin of hostile towns that, raging like the final all destroying fire, shot bounding with desolating force, killing thousands of the Asoors in his rapid flight, burning and involving, like the lambent flame, and cutting down all that would oppose him. Anon he climeth the heavens, and now again darteth into the field like a Peesach to feast in blood.
Now the dauntless Asoors strive, with repeated strength, to crush the Soors with rocks, and mountains, which hurled, in vast numbers into the heavens, appeared like scattered clouds, and fell with all the trees thereon in millions of fear-exciting torrents, striking violently against each other with a mighty noise ; and in their fall, the earth, with all its fields and forests, is driven from its foundation: they thunder furiously at each other as they roll along the field, and spend their strength in mutual conflict.
Now Nar seeing the Soors overwhelmed with fear, filled up the path to heaven with showers of golden-headed arrows, and split the mountain summits with his unerring shafts; and the Asoors, finding themselves again sore pressed by the Soors, precipitately flee: some rush headlong into the bring waters of the ocean, and others hide themselve within the bowels of the earth. The
rage of the glorious Chakra, Soodarsan, which for awhile burnt like the oil fed fire, now grew cool; and he retired into the heavens from whence he
And the Soors having obtained the victory, the mountain Mandar was carried back to its former station with great respect; whilst the waters also retired, filling the firmament and the heavens with their dreadful roarings.
The Soors guarded the Amreeta with great care, and rejoiced exceedingly because of their success; and Endra, with all his immortal bands, gave the water of life to Narayan, to keep it for their use.
Such is the story of the Churning of the Ocean; thrö which several astronomical, as well as mythological truths, gleam here and there; altho, as I said, it is impossible fully to unravel its meaning. I have quoted it indeed, rather as a specimen of the old Sanscrit literature, than as a riddle wherewith to puzzle my readers.
G. S. P.