HINDOOS

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HINDOOS, or GENTOOS ; the primitive inhabitants of the East Indies; one of the most. ancient nations; distinguished for their humanity, gentleness, industry, and polished by letters and the arts, at a time when most of their Asiatic neighbors were yet only in the first stages of civilization, when the Greeks lay in obscurity, and the people of Europe in general were destitute both of the useful and the fine arts. They form a numerous people, have preserved their national character for thousands of years, even under the dominion of foreigners, and have retained, to the present day, their language, their written characters, their government, religion, manners, customs and habits of life. They are, in general, of a brownishyellow complexion, but the higher and richer classed are almost as white as Europeans. They are somewhat above the middle height, wellproportioned, and, in particular, veiy flexible and dexterous. They are remarkable for their small hands. Temperance, frugality, hospitality, and obliging manners, are the favorable traits in their character. They are reproached with indolence and avarice. They possess great natural talents, but are, at present, deprived of opportunities for their developement. In earlier times, before they were oppressed by a foreign yoke, they had reached a higher degree of civilization, and their country has been considered as the cradle of all the arts and sciences. They practise agriculture, breeding of cattle, fishing, hunting and mining. They cultivate forests, and are largely engaged in manufactures, commerce and navigation. They manufacture cloths of a great variety and value, particularly of cotton and silk; among which are the finest muslins, fine shawls, mats, cordovan leather, &c, and are inimitable in dyeing. In the arts of music and painting, they are backward, but in dancing, statuary and architecture, they are more advanced. They are acquainted with arithmetic, astronomy and chronology, and are very fond of poetry and singing. The most extraordinary custom of the Hindoos is the burning of widows at the funeral of their husbandsa practice which has prevailed from times immemorial. (See Suttees.) This burning of the widows exists chiefly in the countries governed by the native princes. The division of the people into several entirely distinct orders, or classes, which has existed from the remotest times,forms the castes. (See Castes.) There are four castes, which, to the great disadvantage of cultivation, are essentially and perpetually separate from each other, so that no transition from one to another is possible; no connex ion between them by marriage, or in an\ other way, is permitted, and no individual of one class can assume the habits or engage in the occupations of another. The distinction is complete, in every sense, hereditary and personal; all the privileges or disabilities are inherited ; no one is permitted to become what he is destined to be by nature, but he is obliged to become what his birth permits, or to remain what it condemns him to be. The slightest transgression of these laws is punished with loss of caste, and sometimes, in particular cases, with death. Even the difference of food is precisely marked out. The three higher castes are prohibited entirely the use of flesh ; the fourth is allowed to eat all kinds, except beef; but only the lowest classes of the fifth caste are allowed every kind of food, without restriction. Thus the lower the rank of a Hindoo, the less he is restricted in his food and drink; but, on the other hand, the other burdensome restrictions increase with the inferiority of rank. The first and noblest caste is called Brahmana, and is the class of the Bramines,or Brahmanes,who are priests, scholars, teachers in schools and academies, lawyers, and state officers. (See Braynins.) The second noble order is called Cshatriyas, or Chehteree, and is composed of the Cshatriyas, or Rajaputras, the kings and warriors. They preserve the name Rajputs, Rajaputras, by way of distinction, in their old hereditary dominions in Hindostan. The third noble caste is called Bise, or Vaisyas ; it is composed of husbandmen and merchants. The merchants are called Banians, or Wannians The fourth noble caste is that of the Sood ras, or Shuder, and comprehends the artisans and laborers. Besides these four castes, with their subdivisions, there are numerous mixed castes, or spurious classes, called Burrun Shunker, which have sprung from the unauthorized unions of individuals of different castes. These mixed races form a transition to the degraded outcasts, the Farias, (q. v.), Chaclys and Peleya, that is, contemptible, vile, unclean men. These consist of those unhappy wretches who are obliged to do whatever no one else can do without pollution. They are not only considered unclean themselves, but they render unclean every thing they touch. They are deprived of all civil privileges, and stigmatized by particular laws, regulating their mode of life, their houses and their furniture; they are not allowed to visit the pagodas, or temples, of the other castes, but have their own pagodas and religious exercises ; they are not suffered to enter the houses of the other castes (if it is done incautiously, or from necessity, such a place is purified by religious ceremonies); they must not appear in public markets, are confined to the use of particular wells, which they are obliged to surround with bones of animals, to warn others against using them; they dwell in miserable hovels, distant from cities and villages, and are under no restrictions in regard to food. To the Hindoos belong the Seiks, Jats, Rajapoots, Mahrattas, the Singalese, &c, of whom some have gone over to the Mohammedan religion ; others, like the Seiks, have a religion of their own. (See Bengal, Hindoostan, India, Indian lAterahcre, Indian Mythology and Religion, and Indian Languages.) The abbe Dubois, who lived in the East Indies for thirty years, has described the Hindoos, in a faithful, complete and lively manner, in his work Mozurs, Institutions et CSremonies des Peuples d'Inde (Paris, 1825, 2 vols.).