Isis unveiled, vol. I
Chapter XV –INDIA THE CRADLE OF CIVILIZATION
Pages 584 – 590
Louis Jacolliot was severely critical of present day India’s degradation, which, he rightly attributed to the perversion of ancient caste system over the last few centuries. His rebuke of modern India is proportionate to his admiration for the intensity of her past grandeur. He points the source of ancient creeds, including the Book of Moses, to be ancient India, the cradle of humanity and the hotbed of the lost arts and sciences of antiquity. “To study India,” said he, “is to trace humanity to its source.”
Says Jacolliot : In the same way as the modern society jostles antiquity at each step, as our poets have copied Homer and Virgil. Sophocles and Euripides, Plautus and Terrene; as our philosophers have drawn inspiration from Socrates, Pythagoras, Plato and Aristotle; as our historians take Titus Livicus, Sallust, or Tacitus, as models; as our orators, Demosthenes or Cicero; our physicians study Hippocrates, and our codes transcribe Justinian—so had antiquity’s self also an antiquity to study, to imitate, and to copy, and that was ancient India. It is quite logical. Peoples precede and succeed each other, knowledge acquired by one nation overflows into other nations. India of 6000 years ago, brilliant, civilized, overflowing with population, impressed upon Egypt, Persia, Judea, Greece, and Rome, as these last have impressed upon us.
The Age of the Code of Manu
The evidence of the past glories of ancient India lies buried in her literature. Christian missionaries anxiously summon every argument in support of their contention that the Ordinances of Manu were compiled at various times and the oldest cannot be earlier than the Christian era. But impartial Orientalists are of a different view. Sir William Jones is of the opinion that the laws of Manu, such as we possess them, do not comprise fully the older text under the name Vriddha Manava or the Ancient Code of Manu which has not yet been entirely reconstructed, although many passages of the book have been preserved by tradition. Jacolloiot says that in the preface to a treatise on legislation by Narada, written by one of his adepts, it is said that Manu wrote laws of Brahma in 100,000 verses (slokas) which formed 24 books and a thousand chapters, and gave it to Narada, the sage of sages, who abridged it for the use of mankind to 12000 verses; that this was passed on to a son of Brighu, named Soumati, who, for the greater convenience of man, reduced them to 4000.
Sir William Jones affirmed that the fragments which are the subjects of study of the scholars could not be the The Ancient Code of Manu. Jacolliot, after consulting authorities and after his own research, wrote :
“The Hindu laws were codified by Manu more than 1000 years before the Christian era, copied by the whole of antiquity, and notably by Rome, which alone has left us a written law—the Code of Justinian; which has been adopted as the basis of all modern legislation.”
Many Indologists, including Jacolliot, suspected that many of the Vedic texts and Laws of Manu sent by the Asiatic Society of Calcutta to Europe were not genuine texts at all, mostly due to cunning efforts of Jesuit missionaries to mislead science with a view to throw a cloud of uncertainty on the history of India. (Jacolliot’s Christna et el Christ).
The code of Manu commented upon by Brighon does not even form part of the ancient Manu called Vriddha Manava. What has been discovered is only a small part of it. The whole of it nevertheless exist in certain temples of India. Jacolliot proves that the texts sent to Europe disagree entirely with the same texts found in the Pagodas of Southern India.
The Age of the Vedas and Manu
According to the Hindu tradition we are now Kali Yuga, the last of the four Yugas, of which Satya or Krita Yuga is the first, during which the laws of Manu were established. Sir William Jones accepted the authenticity of the chronology, which, of course, contradicts the chronology of the Jewish scriptures, according to which just about 45000 years have elapsed since the “creation” of the world. The Hindu chronology agrees better with the geological chronology of modern science. Kali Yuga began about 4500 years ago.
The contention of some scholars that the laws of Manu do not date farther back than three centuries B.C. is based on evidence of some ancient documents which were abridgment of those laws, compiled and arranged by later Brahmans to serve as an authority for their ambitious projects of creating for themselves a rule of dominion. There are however strongest possible arguments in favour of the great antiquity of the Books of Manu. Some of the arguments Louis Jacolliot brings forward in support of the same are worth considering :
Jaccolliot proves that the Code of Justinian was copied from Laws of Manu. Then we have to ascertain the age of the former. According to Varro, Rome was built in 3961 of the Julian period (754 B.C.). The Roman Law, as compiled by the order of Justinian, called Corpus Juris Civilis, was not a code but a digest of the customs of legislation of many centuries. The chief source from which the jus scriptum, or written law, was derived, was jus non scriptum, or the law of custom, which in turn was derivation from still earlier sources. This alone carries it back to more than 1000 years B.C.
- Manava Dharma Sastra, embodying the Hindu system of cosmogony is recognized to be next to the Vedas in antiquity. Colebrook assigns to the latter 15th century B.C. Therefore, Laws of Manu cannot be assigned an age as recent as third century B.C.
- While the Vedas are held to be divinely Revealed (Sriti), the Code of Manu is considered to be a collection of oral traditions (Smriti), which are among the oldest and most revered in the land. Brahmans have undeniably remodelled these traditions at some distant period, and made many of the laws as they now exist to answer their ambitious views. Therefore, they must have been made at a time when Suttee (widow mounting the funeral pyre of her dead husband) had not become a social custom, which it had been for nearly 2500 years. There is no sanction in the Vedas for practice of Suttee nor is it sanctioned on the Code of Manu. If Brahmans had been the authors of the Code of Manu in recent times as some scholars believe, they would not have omitted to include the Suttee as a part of the code. This alone is a proof of the great antiquity of the Code of Manu
In the next blog legends about the pre-Vedic cradle of Humanity will be discussed.