60 THE ARYANS IN INDIA. epithets. They were not allowed to be present at the great national sacrifices, or at the feasts which followed them. They could never rise out of their servile condition ; and to them was assigned the severest toil in the fields, and all the hard and dirty work of the village community. The Brahman Supremacy established. — The Brahmans or priests claimed the highest rank. But they seem to have had a long struggle with the Kshattriya or warrior caste, before they won their proud position at the head of the Indian people. They afterwards secured themselves in that position, by teaching that it had been given to them by God. At the beginning of the world, they said, the Brahman proceeded from the mouth of the Creator, the Kshattriya or Rajput from his arms, the Vaisya from his thighs or belly, and the Sudra from his feet. This legend is true ,so far, that the Brahmans were really the brain- power of the Indian people, the Kshattriyas its armed hands, the Vaisyas the food-growers, and the Sudras the down-trodden serfs. When the Brahmans had established their power, they made a wise use of it. From the ancient Vedic times they recognized that if they were to exercise spiritual supremacy, they must renounce earthly pomp. In arrogating the priestly function, they gave up all claim to the royal office. They were divinely appointed to be the guides of nations and the counsellors of kings, but they could not be kings themselves. As the duty of the Sudra was to serve, of the Vaisya to till the ground and follow middle-class trades or crafts ; so the business of the Kshattriya was to fight the public enemy, and of the Brahman to propitiate the national gods. Stages of a Brahman's Life. — Each day brought to the Brahmans its routine of ceremonies, studies, and duties. Their whole life was mapped out into four clearly-defined stages of dis- cipline. For their existence, in its full religious significance, commenced not at birth, but on being invested at the close of childhood with the sacred thread of the Twice-born. Their youth and early manhood were to be entirely spent in learning the Veda by heart from an older Brahman, tending the sacred fire, and serving their preceptor. Having completed his long studies, the young Brahman entered on the second stage of his
Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/64
This page needs to be proofread.