Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/59

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THE ARYANS OF THE VEDIC HYMNS. 55 he chooses some one specially learned in holy offerings to conduct the sacrifice in the name of the people. The king himself seems to have been elected ; and his title of Vis-pati, literally ' Lord of the Settlers,' survives in the old Persian Vis- paiti, and as the Lithuanian Wiez-patis in east-central Europe at this day. Women enjoyed a high position ; and some of the most beautiful hymns were composed by ladies and queens. Marriage was held sacred. Husband and wife were both ' rulers of the house ' {dampati) ; and drew near to the gods together in prayer. The burning of widows on their husbands' funeral pile was unknown ; and the verses in the Veda which the Brahmans afterwards distorted into a sanction for the practice, have the very opposite meaning. ' Rise, woman,' says the Vedic text to the mourner ; ' come to the world of life. Come to us. Thou hast fulfilled thy duties as a wife to thy husband.' Aryan Civilization in the Veda. — The Aryan tribes in the Veda have blacksmiths, coppersmiths, and goldsmiths among them, besides carpenters, barbers, and other artisans. They fight from chariots, and freely use the horse, although not yet the elephant, in war. They have settled down as husbandmen, till their fields with the plough, and live in villages or towns. But they also cling to their old wandering life, with their herds and ' cattle-pens.' Cattle, indeed, still form their chief wealth — the coin in which payment of fines is made — reminding us of the Latin word for money, pecunia, from pecus, a herd. One of the Vedic words for war literally means ' a desire for cows.' Unlike the modern Hindus, the Aryans of the Veda ate beef ; used a fermented liquor or beer, made from the soma plant; and offered the same strong meat and drink to their gods. Thus the stout Aryans spread eastwards through Northern India, pushed on from behind by later arrivals of their own stock, and driving before them, or reducing to bondage, the earlier * black- skinned ' races. They marched in whole communities from one river valley to another ; each house-father a warrior, husband- man, and priest ; with his wife, and his little ones, and his cattle. The Gods of the Veda.— These free-hearted tribes had a great trust in themselves and their gods. Like other conquer- ing races, they believed that both themselves and their deities