Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/76

This page needs to be proofread.


72 THE ARYANS IN INDIA. father's retreat in the jungle. Before returning to his capital, he gives his bride a ring as a pledge of his love ; but, smitten by a curse from a Brahman, she loses the ring, and cannot be recognized by her husband till it is found. Sakuntala bears a son in her loneliness, and sets out to claim recognition for herself and child at her husband's court. But she is as one unknown to the prince, till, after many sorrows and trials, the ring comes to light. She is then happily reunited with her husband, and her son grows up to be the noble Bharata, the chief founder of the Lunar dynasty, whose achievements form the theme of the Mahabharata. Sakuntala, like Sfti, is a type of the chaste and faithful Hindu wife ; and her love and sorrow, after forming the favourite romance of the Indian people for perhaps eighteen hundred years, supplied a theme for Goethe, the greatest European poet of our age. Other Dramas. — Among other Hindu dramas may be men- tioned the Mrichchhakatf, or Toy Cart, in ten acts, on the old theme of the innocent cleared and the guilty punished; and the poem of Nala and Damayantf, or the Royal Gambler and the Faithful Wife. Many plays, often founded upon some story in the Mahabharata or Ramayana, issue every year from the Indian press. Beast Stories. — Fables of animals have from old been favourites in India. The Sanskrit Pancha-tantra, or Book of Beast Tales, was translated into Persian as early as the sixth century a.d. ; and thence found its way to Europe. The animal fables of ancient India are the familiar nursery stories of England and America at the present day. Lyric Poetry. — Besides the epic chronicles of their gods and heroes, the Brahmans composed many religious poems. One of the most beautiful is the Gita Govinda, or Song of the Divine Herdsman, written by Jayadeva about 1200 a.d. The Puranas are an enormous collection of religious discourses in verse ; they will be described hereafter at p. 103. Brahman Influence. — In order to understand the long rule of the Brahmans, and the influence which they still wield, it is necessary ever to keep in mind their position as the great literary caste. Their priestly supremacy has been repeatedly