Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/67

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brAhman THEOLOGY. 63 Hindu trinity. Brahma, the Creator, or first person of the trinity, was too abstract an idea to be a popular god. Vishnu, the second person of the trinity, was a more useful and friendly deity. He is said to have ten times come down from heaven and lived on the earth. These were the ten incarnations (avatars) of Vishnu. Siva, the third person of the trinity, appears as both the Destroyer and Reproducer ; and thus shows to the eye of faith, that death is but a change of state, and an entry into a new life. Vishnu and Siva, in their diverse male and female shapes, now form the principal gods of the Hindus. Brahman Philosophy. — The Brahmans thus built up a re- ligion for the Indian people. They also worked out a "system of philosophy, and arranged its doctrines in six schools — dar- sanas, literally mirrors of knowledge — at least 500 years before Christ. They had moreover a circle of sciences of their own. The Sanskrit grammar of Panini, compiled about 350 b. c, is still the foundation of the study of Aryan language. In this subject the Brahmans were far before the Greeks or Romans, or indeed any European nation down to the present century. Their Sanskrit, or 'perfected speech,' succeeded after a long interval to the earlier language of the Veda. But Sanskrit seems to have been used only, or chiefly, by the learned. The people spoke a simpler form of the same language, called Prdkrit. From this old Prdkrit the modern dialects of India descend. The Brahmans, however, always wrote in Sanskrit, which sunk in time into a dead language unknown to the people. The Brahmans alone, therefore, could read the sacred books or write new ones ; and in this way they became the only men of learning in India. Indian Literature. — As early as 250 b.c. two alphabets, or written characters, were used in India. But the Brahmans preferred to hand down their holy learning by memory, rather than to write it out. Good Brahmans had to learn the Veda by heart, besides many other books. This was the easier, as almost all their literature was in verse (slokas). In the very ancient times, just after the Vedic hymns, a pure style of prose, simple and compact, had grown up. But during more than 2000 years the Brahmans have composed almost entirely in