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POETRY ....... 48 


POETRY ....... 70 






XI. CONCLUSION ...... 218 

NDEX ......... 227 


TT\ISRAELI somewhere asserts that experience is less 
than nothing to a creative mind, and that almost 
everything that is great has been done by youth. The theory 
may not hold good for latter-day society ; but it is eminently 
applicable to a particular stage in the history of almost every 
nation. In such a state of society the energy and exuberance 
of youth find expression in vigorous action, *n deeds of might 
and valour. The individual asserts himself against old 
bonds and old ties, which are replaced by new. 

Yet for what we call a " Heroic Age " something more is 
necessary. The heroism must be there ; but the hero must 
have someone to commemorate his acts. This record of his 
deeds is not a product of the imagination or the brain of a 
later time ; it originates there and then with the performance 
of the heroic action. We have extant such poetic records 
in the literature of various countries, poems which though 
" widely separated from one another both in date and place 
of origin " present strikingly similar features. The Iliad and 
Beowulf, the stories of Sigurthr and Roland are records of 
this type ; and the period to which they relate may, in each 
case, be called a " Heroic Age ". 

The Indian student of these poems is naturally led to 
inquire how far the " heroic " poems of his own country 
show resemblances to the Western products. In the following 
pages an attempt has been made to study the Sanskrit heroic 
poems as a parallel to similar poems of European lands. This 
involves an examination of the origin and development of 
these poems, including an investigation of the society to 
which they relate. In this investigation I have mainly relied 
on the originals, though some critical works have been of 


great help. All such obligations have been indicated in their 
proper place, but there is a much deeper debt which must be 
acknowledged here. I cannot adequately describe how much 
I owe to Professor H. M. Chadwick, Bosworth and Elrington 
Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Cambridge, but for whose help 
and encouragement the book would never have been written 
at all. Only those who have had the privilege of working 
with him will appreciate how deep is my debt. 

N. K. S. 




E narrative poetry of India, dating from about the 
beginning of the Christian era, is mainly to be found in 
two works, the Rdmdyana and the Mahdbhdrata. The main 
story of the former is included in the latter as an episode ; 
so that, in an attempt to summarize the earliest stories of 
the deeds of Indian kings and princes, we may confine 
ourselves to the latter work. 

The Mahdbhdrata is mainly concerned with the deeds of the 
Kurus and the Pandavas, who are described as cousins. 
Vicitravirya, the king of Hastinapura, having died early, 
his step-brother begot issue with his wives on the principle 
of the levirate. Two sons were born; and the elder, 
Dhrtarastra, being blind from birth, the younger son, 
Pandu, succeeded to the throne. After some time, however, 
the latter grew weary of royal duties and retired to the forest 
with his two wives, Kunti and Madri. It was probably in 
the forest that his five sons, Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, 
Nakula, and Sahadeva, were born ; and after Pandu's death, 
they were taken to Hastinapura by some hermits of the forest. 
Dhrtarastra, who had been in charge of the kingdom, in 
Pandu's absence, at first accepted Yudhisthira as the heir to 
the throne ; but his eldest son, Duryodhana, gradually won 
him over and began to plan the destruction of the Pandavas, 
Yudhisthira and his brothers. They were persuaded to go 
to Varanavata, a place near by, and dwell in a house made 
of lac ; but they came to know of Duryodhana's plans of 
burning the house over their heads, and escaped in time. 
After adventures with various monsters of the forest, in which 
Bhima is very prominent, they came to Ekacakra where they 
remained disguised as Brahmins. There they heard the news 


that DraupadI, the daughter of Drupada, the king of Paiicala, 

was going to choose a husband at a svayamvara 1 from a 

gathering of princes. It was not quite a free choice, for the 

princess was to choose the most successful hero from amongst 

competitors in archery. Arjuna, disguised as a Brahmin, 

succeeded where all the other heroes failed and Drupada 

accepted him as his son-in-law. The Pandavas, however, 

wished to enter into a polyandrous marriage, and Drupada 

was persuaded to allow all the five brothers to marry her. 

With the Paiicala king as their ally, they made Dhrtarastra 

come to terms with them. They were given half of the 

kingdom, but were to choose a new capital ; they built a 

wonderful city, Indraprastha. The brothers married other 

wives, and Arjuna's marriage with Subhadra, the sister of 

Vasudeva Krsna, is noteworthy as an instance of marriage 

by capture. After some years of prosperous rule at 

Indraprastha, the Pandavas wanted to perform the Rajasuya 

sacrifice, which would imply their overlordship over the rest 

of India. Jarasandha, the powerful king of Magadha, was 

killed, and other princes were subdued. The sacrifice was 

performed ; but there was a slight hitch as Sisupala, one of 

the assembled princes, would not accept the deification of 

Krsna and was killed by him. 

The Pandavas were now the most powerful princes of 
India, and this fact excited the envy of their cousins. They 
persuaded Yudhisthira to play at dice with their maternal 
uncle, Sakuni. The latter, who was apparently playing with 
loaded dice, won all throws against Yudhisthira, who lost 
not only his kingdom, but his brothers and himself and his 
wife, all of whom he had staked. Draupad! was insulted by 
Duryodhana's brother, and they all had to go into the forest 
to lead a hermit's life for twelve years. Moreover, they were 
to spend a thirteenth year in concealment in some king's 
service. They spent this year in the service of Virata, the 
king of Matsya, discharging various assumed functions. 

About this time Duryodhana and his friends invaded 
Virata's land on a cattle-raiding expedition and were repelled, 
mainly through Arjuna's prowess. Then the Pandavas 
revealed themselves and Virata offered his daughter Uttara 
in marriage to Arjuna. Arjuna declined the offer himself, 
but accepted it on behalf of his son, Abhimanyu, who was 
1 See p. 94 for explanation of the term. 


accordingly married to Uttara. The friends of the Pajidavas 
were invited to the marriage-feast ; and at the assembly it 
was decided that a messenger should be sent to Hastinapura 
asking for the surrender of Yudhisthira's kingdom, and that 
the help of other princes should be solicited for the purpose. 
The exchange of messages between the Kauravas 
Dhrtarastra and his sons and the Pandavas does not lead 
to any settlement ; and the friends of the former assemble 
at Hastinapura, while those of the latter come to Upaplavya. 
Krsna decides to side with the Pandavas as a non-combatant, 
and act as Arjuna's charioteer. 

Preparations for the war are hurried on, and 
Dhrstadyumna, the son of Drupada, is appointed commander- 
in-chief of the Pandava forces, while Bhisma, Dhrtarastra's 
uncle, is in charge of the Kauravas. After nine days of hard 
fighting Bhisma is killed by Arjuna with the help of 
Sikhandin. Dro^a, the military preceptor of the Kauravas 
and the Pandavas, is the next leader of Duryodhana's army. 
In the engagements that follow many prominent heroes lose 
their lives among others, Abhimanyu and Ghatotkaca on 
the Pandava side and Jayadratha on the Kaurava. Then 
Drona himself is killed through a deception practised by 
Yudhisthira on the advice of Krsna. Karna, the Suta prince 
of Afiga, is Drona's successor ; and Salya, the prince of the 
Madras, is his charioteer. There are encounters 1>e!ween 
Yudhisthira and Duryodhana, between Dhrstadyumna and 
Krpa, between Bhima and ASvatthama, Drona's son. But 
the main event is Karna's fight with Arjuna ; and Arjuna 
kills Karna when the latter is at a disadvantage through the 
wheels of his chariot having sunk into the earth. 

Salya is the next leader of the Kauravas ; but things go 
badly with them. Salya, Sakuni, and finally Duryodhana 
himself are killed ; and of the Kaurava host only three heroes 
are left. These three call to mind the various acts of treachery 
of the Pandavas and decide to fall on them when asleep at 
night. They succeed in surprising the Paiicjava host ; and 
almost all the supporters of the Pancjavas are slain. They 
have, however, gained the victory and they enter into the 
possession of the whole kingdom, while Dhrtar&stra and the 
older people retire into the forest. Yudhisthira then perform* 
the great horse-sacrifice and establishes his claim as the 


suzerain of the whole of North India. Finally, in -the company 
of his brothers and h$ wife, he proceeds to heaven. 

This is the main story of the Mahabharata ; but there are 
many episodes, introduced in the epic fashion. One of the 
best known of these l is the story of Nala. Nala, the king 
of the Nisadhas, had heard of the beauty of Damayanti, 
the daughter of Bhima, the king of the Vidarbhas. He had 
come to conceive a passion for her, and commissioned a 
swan to carry his message of love to Damayanti. Damayanti 
had already heard of the accomplishments of Nala, and was 
now ready to return Nala's love. Her father, in the mean- 
while, was making arrangements for her svayamvara, and 
all the famous princes hastened to the assembly. The gods, 
too, came to learn of the event ; and Indra, Agni, Yama, 
and others proceeded towards Bhima's capital. On the way 
they met Nala and persuaded him to act as their messenger 
to Damayanti ; but Damayanti would not accept anyone 
except Nala, and the deities were satisfied with her choice. 
However, one of the supernatural beings, Kali, was dis- 
pleased ; he entered into Nala to lead him to misfortune. 
Nala was induced to play at dice with his brother, Puskara, 
and lost all his possessions. Puskara insisted that no one in 
the city should offer hospitality to the homeless Nala, who 
had now to wander about in the forest with Damayanti. 
Nala asked his wife to go to her father's home leaving him 
there ; but devoted to her husband as she was, she would not. 
When, however, she had fallen asleep, Nala arose and went 
away, leaving her alone in the forest. After meeting with 
various adventures, she arrived at the capital of the king of 
the Cedis, where she was taken to the queen-mother and 
offered to act as her maidservant. The queen-mother accepted 
her services, and Damayanti was to be a companion to her 
daughter, Sunanda. Bhima, on hearing of the misfortunes 
of his son-in-law, sent out messengers to inquire as to the 
whereabouts of Nala and Damayanti; and one of these, 
Sudeva, saw her in Sunanda's company and recognized her. 
The queen-mother, on coming to know who she was, revealed 
that she was Damayanti's mother's sister. She thereupon 
made arrangements for Damayanti's return to her father's 

1 Mbh., iii, 53 ff. 


Back in Bhima's palace, Damayanti was not happy, but 
pined for her scapegrace husband. Najft was now serving as 
the charioteer of king Rtuparna of Ayodhya, to whom he 
desired to impart his knowledge of the management of horses 
in exchange for some instruction in the manipulation of dice. 
Before arriving at Ayodhya, Nala had encountered Karotaka, 
king of the Nagas, who in return for some services rendered 
by Nala had advised him to go to Rtuparna, and had trans- 
formed his appearance, so that Nala could not now be 
recognized by anyone. Damayanti, longing to rejoin her 
husband, sent messengers to the courts of various kings ; 
and one of them came back and reported some comments on 
Damayanti's story made by one Bahuka, the charioteer of 
king Rtuparna. Damayanti suspected that this was Nala ; 
and without informing her father, she sent a message to king 
Rtuparna. The messenger was to tell the king that as it could 
not be known whether Nala was alive or not, Damayanti 
was about to hold a second svayamvara on the next day. 
Rtuparna knew it was impossible to cover the long distance 
in one day, but Bahuka promised to do it and they started. 
On the way Rtuparna taught the disguised Nala the art of 
handling dice skilfully; and at that time Kali, who had 
tormented him so long, left his body. Arrived at the city of 
the Vidarbhas, Rtuparna was surprised to find no other prince 
there ; when Bhlma asked him why he had undertaken the 
journey he had to devise an excuse. In the meanwhile, 
Damayanti sent one of her servants to converse with Bahuka 
and find out who he was. On hearing of what Bahuka had 
said, Damayanti's suspicions were strengthened and she 
interviewed him herself. Nala then revealed himself to her 
and soon afterwards assumed his old appearance. After 
residing with Bhlma for a while he went back to his own land 
and challenged Puskara to a second game of dice. With his 
newly acquired skill Nala vanquished Puskara and won back 
his kingdom and all his possessions. 

The story of Rama is well known, since it was made the 
theme for the Rdmdyana. Dasaratha, king of Ayodhya, had , 
sons by three wives Rama by Kausalya, Laksma^a by | 
Sumitra, and Bharata by Kaikeyi. Dasaratha wanted to J 
instal the eldest, Rama, as the prince regent. But Kaikeyi 
reminded DaSaratha of a boon promised her long ago and got 


him to banish Rama and instal Bharata in his place. Rama 
proceeded to the forest, accompanied by his wife, Sita, 
and by Laksmana. Dasaratha died soon after, and Kaikeyi 
wanted to make her son king; but Bharata would not 
consent. He went to the forest to bring back Rama, who 
refused to disobey his father's orders, saying that he must 
remain in the forest for the fixed number of years. There he 
had an encounter with some Raksasas (monsters), slew their 
leaders, Khara and Dusana, and wounded their sister, 
Surpanakha. She went back to her brother, Havana, the 
ruler of Lanka, and incited him to injure Rama. Havana's 
friend, Marica, took the form of a golden deer and tempted 
Rama to pursue him, while Ravana slipped into the hermitage 
and abducted Sita. On the way, Jatayu, the king of the 
vultures, tried to stop him, but was mortally wounded. 
Rama, missing Sita in the hermitage, ran out and was 
informed by Jatayu about the abduction. Shortly after- 
wards Rama met the prince of the monkeys, Sugriva, who 
promised to help him provided Rama killed Vali, the king of 
the monkeys, and made Sugriva king. Rama killed Vail 
fby unfair means, and thus Sugriva became his ally. 
A monkey-messenger, Hanuman, was sent to learn Sita's 
whereabouts, and returned with the news that Sita was pining 
away in Ravana's house. With an army of monkeys from 
Kiskindhya, Rama proceeded against Ravana, and k on the 
way met Vibhlsana, Ravana's brother, who had been 
expelled from Lanka by him. Vibhlsana promised to guide 
Rama to Lanka and Rama's army crossed the sea. A terrible 
battle followed in which Indrajit and Kumbahkarna 
distinguished themselves on Ravana's side, while on the other 
side, besides Rama and Laksmana, there were several brave 
monkey-leaders. The battle, of course, ended disastrously 
for Ravana ; and his generals and he himself were killed. 
Sita was rescued, and accompanied by her and Laksmana 
Rama went back to Ayodhya to rule there in peace. 

Some stories are said to be of the far past ; and among them 
the most famous ones are those of Devayanl l and Sakuntala. 
Devayani's story falls into two parts, one relating her 

1 As many characters in this story are superhuman, it should perhaps be 
described among " the stories of the gods ", which, in an advanced form, are 
often modelled upon or, at least, influenced by heroic stories. 


adventures with Kaca, and the other those with Yayati. 
In the past there were mighty battles between the Devas 
and the Asuras for the sovereignty of the universe. Brhaspati 
was the priest of the Devas and Sukra of the Asuras. Now 
the Asuras had an advantage over the Devas in this, that 
their priest, Sukra, knew the science of Sanjlvanl or bringing 
the dead back to life, so that all the dead Asuras were revived 
by him. Then the Devas deputed Kaca, Brhaspati's son, to 
go to Sukra, and, if possible, to learn from him this valuable 
science. Kaca became Sukra's disciple ; and both Sukra 
and his daughter, Devayani, were pleased with his conduct 
and behaviour. One day, however, the Asuras saw him in 
the fields tending his preceptor's kine, and immediately 
killed him and gave his body to the wolves. When Devayani 
missed Kaca, she told her father that she could not live 
without him ; and Sukra, with hi& mantra (magic verses), 
revived Kaca. The Asuras killed him a second time, and he 
was again revived by Sukra. The third time they burnt his 
body, and, mixing the ashes with wine, gave it to Sukra to 
drink. When this time Sukra called him Kaca replied from 
within his stomach. Sukra found that Kaca's coming out 
would mean his own death ; so he taught him the sanjwanl 
mantra that Kaca might revive him when he came out ; 
and this Kaca did. When the period of his discipleship was 
over, Kaca wanted to go back ; but Devayani confessed her 
love for him and asked him to marry her. This he would not 
do ; he returned to the Devas with his newly acquired 

Some time after this, when Sarmistha, the daughter of 
the Asura king Vrsaparvan, Devayani and some others 
were bathing in a lake, their clothes left on the bank were 
mixed up by the wind. On getting up Sarmistha put on 
Devayani's clothes by mistake and there was a violent 
quarrel, when Sarmistha taunted Devayani with being the, 
daughter of one who merely chanted the praises of her father ; 
and finally Sarmistha threw her into a well. Shortly after- 
wards Yayati, the son of Nahusa, came to that well, and seeing 
Devayani there raised her up. She met her maid-servant, 
and sent her to tell her father how she had been ill used. 
Sukra was angry and wanted to leave the court of Vrsaparvan, 
who, in order to retain him, promised to do anything 


Devayani wished. Devayani wanted Sarmistha for her 
waiting maid, and this she had to become. Sometime later 
Devayam and her companions went into the forest and again 
came across Yayati. On learning who he was, Devayani 
offered him her hand. Yayati consulted ukra, who advised 
him to marry Devayani ; whereupon he took her to wife. 
Sarmistha accompanied Devayani to Yayati's home, and 
one day in the course of a conversation with Yayati she 
persuaded him that her friend's husband could be looked on 
as her own husband, too. Yayati accepted her suggestion, 
but knowing Devayam's temper, he kept the matter a secret 
from her. In course of time he had two sons, Yadu and 
Turvasu, by Devayani, and three, Druhyu, Anu, and Puru, by 
Sarmistha. One day one of these latter addressed Yayati 
as father in Devayani's presence, and thus she came to know 
everything. Furious at this, she went back to her father, 
and Sukra cursed Yayati with decrepitude. 

&akuntala also is placed in the far past. She is said to be 
the daughter of Visvamitra and an Apsara, Menaka. The 
mother had left the new-born baby on the bank of a river, 
where it was found by the sage Kanva. Kanva took her to 
his hermitage, and brought her up there as his daughter. 
Years afterwards, when akuntala was grown up, king 
Dusmanta (Dusyanta) one day lost his way while hunting 
in the forest and came to Kanva's hermitage. Kanva was 
away and akuntala received him. He was so much struck 
with her beauty that he wanted to marry her immediately 
according to the Gandharva form. Sakuntala would not 
consent until he promised that her son would be the heir- 
apparent. Dusmanta went away and &akuntala's son was 
born in the hermitage. When he was about six Sakuntala 
was advised by Kanva to go to her husband. She took her 
son, Bharata, with her and proceeded to Dusmanta's court. 
The king disclaimed all knowledge of herself or her son, and 
Sakuntala was leaving in anger when it was proclaimed 
through supernatural means that Bharata was Dusmanta's 
son. Then Dusmanta had to ask his wife to forgive him, and 
instal Bharata as his heir-apparent ; and Bharata was the 
ancestor of a line of mighty kings. 

The story of the birth and the early life of Devavrata 
Bhisma seems to have been popular. King Santariu of 


Hastinapura was out hunting and was wandering along the 
banks of the Ganges when he saw a beautiful maiden. He 
wanted to many her, but she would consent only on condition 
that he would never interfere with any of her acts. After their 
marriage as soon as a child was born, she threw it into the 
Ganges ; and this she did to seven children, one after another. 
But when she was about to throw the eighth the king 
prevented her. Thereupon she left the king; but before 
leaving she revealed that she was Ganga (Ganges), and that 
her sons had been heavenly beings, the Vasus, who had fallen 
through a curse. She had thrown them into the river, desiring 
them to return to heaven as soon as possible. Ganga went 
away, but her son, 1 Devavrata, grew up to be a strong and 
learned prince. Some years passed, and Santanu, while 
wandering about, met another beautiful maiden, Satyavatl, 
whom he wanted to marry. Her father, a fisherman, would 
give her to him only on condition that her son was to be the 
king's successor. As, however, Devavrata was alive, the 
king could not promise that and he came away in great grief. 
Devavrata noticed his father's melancholy and on coming to 
know the reason, he himself went to the fisherman and 
promised him that he would never lay any claim to the 
kingdom. The fisherman wanted to be more certain about 
his daughter's future, and he had fears that though Devavrata 
might relinquish the kingdom, his children might create 
trouble. On that he took a further vow that he would never 
marry, but remain a Brahmacarin all his life. Santanu 
had two children by Satyavatl, Citrangada and Vicitravirya. 
The former succeeded his father, but was soon slain in a 
battle with the Gandharvas. The latter, though still a boy, 
was installed as king by Devavrata, who was now known as 
Bhisma. Some time afterwards Bhisma got to know that the 
daughters of the king of KasI were having a svayamvara 
for the choice of a husband. He went to the assembly of 
princes, seized the three maidens, put them on his chariot, 
and drove away, afterwards challenging the other princes to 
fight him if they dared. They rushed against him, but Bhima 
was more than a match for all of them, including Salva. 
Bhisma took the maidens to Satyavatl and arrangements 

1 The Mbh. (i, 100) story evidently combines two versions and it is not dear 
whether Ganga left her son with &&ntanu or not. 


were made for marrying them to Vicitravlrya. Amba, the 
eldest of them, told Satyavati that she wanted to marry 
alva, and at her solicitations they allowed her to go away 
to her chosen prince. He, however, would have nothing to 
do with a girl who had been carried off by another prince. 
She did not know what to do ; but meeting the Brahmin 
hero, Parasu Rama, she persuaded him to adopt her cause 
and make Bhisma take her back. As Bhisma refused to do 
that Rama fought with Bhisma ; but he was worsted after 
a long and terrible encounter. Amba, foiled in her plans of 
revenge, entered into a life of severe austerities and finally 
sacrificed herself on the funeral pyre to gain her object. 

Some stories of the Mahdbhdrata are not heroic stories ; 
and the tone is different. Such, for example, is the popular 
story of Savitri and Satyavan, a story with a definitely 
religious note. Asvapati, king of the Madras, did not have a 
child till he was somewhat advanced in years. Then he had 
a daughter through the grace of the goddess Savitri, 
and named her after the goddess. When his daughter was 
grown up, Asvapati asked her to seek out a husband fit to 
be her partner. Attended by some of her father's counsellors, 
she went about the hermitages of royal sages, in search of a 
husband. On returning she reported to her father that she 
had chosen Satyavan, son of the blind Dyumatsena, who had 
formerly ruled in Salva, but had been driven out of his 
kingdom when he was helpless through blindness. The sage 
Narada, who was then present in Asvapati's court, dissuaded 
Savitri from the marriage ; for Satyavan, though endowed 
with all noble qualities, had one serious defect, namely that 
he was to die within a year. Savitri, however, had chosen 
once for all and would not have anyone else for her husband. 
So Asvapati went to Dyumatsena's hermitage and made 
arrangements for the marriage. After her marriage, Savitri 
counted the days of the year ; and when the day of her 
husband's death drew near she observed the Triratra vow, 
fasting for three nights. Then on the day when the year was 
complete, she begged permission from her father-in-law to 
accompany her husband when he went out for daily work in 
the forest. They had not been long out when Satyavan 
had a bad headache ; so he lay down, resting his head on his 
wife's lap. Soon a tall person in red appeared. He said he was 


Yama and had come to take away her husband ; and he 
drew out of Satyavan's body a person of the measure of a 
thumb, bound it with a noose and started to go away. Savitri 
followed him, in spite of his dissuasions, and so pleased him 
with her talk that he granted her several boons the 
restoration of his eyesight and kingdom to her father-in-law, 
one hundred sons to her father and herself, and finally her 
husband's life for four hundred years. He went away and 
Savitri turned back to the place where Satyavan's body was 
lying. He soon woke up, and they returned to the hermitage 
to find that Yama's promises had all been fulfilled. 

Then there are the priestly stories of Dhaumya and his 
three disciples, Aruni, Upamanyu, and Veda, as also l of 
Veda and Utahka, where the point is the unbounded 
reverence the disciple has for the preceptor. The story of 
Vasistha and Visvamitra is more important 2 as their quarrel 
is said to originate in the latter's desire to possess a splendid 
cow of Vasistha's. Moreover, the strength of the Ksatriya 
is here turned against the Brahmana. This Ksatriya- 
Brahmana interest must have operated in the handling of 
the stories of Pururavas and Nahusa. But the story of the 
former's adventures, including his love for Urvasi, as well as 
of Nahusa's greatness, we have only in bare outline. The 
story of Usmara 3 and his consideration for one who has 
sought his protection is used mainly to point a moral. Indra, 
in the shape of a hawk, comes to the king and begs of him his 
possessions, his flesh, and even himself ; and the king is 
willing to give all these. 

In the story of Agastya and Lopamudra 4 as well as in that 
of Cyavana and Sukanya, 5 a rsi (sage) marries a king's 
daughter, but the latter story is more interesting because it 
brings in the rivalry between men and gods for the love of 
beautiful maidens. The two Asvins desire Sukanya's love, 
and ask her to choose one out of the three they two and 
Cyavana who has been restored to youth and beauty through 
their grace. Sukanya chooses the right person, and Cyavana 
later on gives offerings to the Asvins to the neglect of Indra. 
The latter's anger is roused, and he tries to prevent the 

1 Mbh., i, 8. * Mbh., i, 177. 

', iii, 181. The story is told of ivi in iii, 107. We may compare the mention 
of Sivi, son of Utfnara, in i, 08, and vii, 56. 
* iii, 06 ff. * iii, 122-4. 


offerings reaching the Avins ; but he is powerless against 

The story of Tapati l describes the love of a mortal king 
for a celestial maiden. Tapati, the daughter of Surya (the 
sun -god), was seen by Samvarana when he was out hunting 
in the woods on the mountains. Seeing her matchless beauty 
he wanted to have her as wife ; but she vanished and the 
king fell down on the ground. She reappeared, told him who 
she was and explained that she could not marry without her 
father's consent. She disappeared, to the great grief of 
Samvarana ; but she finally became his wife through the 
efforts of the sage Vasistha. 

Various heroes are mentioned in the Drona Parva (50 ff.) ; 
yet it is difficult to conjecture the life-history of these from 
the brief mention there. The story of Rum and Pramadvara 
(i, 9) is an interesting complement to that of Savitri, as it 
shows a husband ready to sacrifice his life to save that of his 
wife. Then there are the purely mythological stories like 
those of Gadura in Bk. i (16 ff.), of Skanda in the third book 
(ch. 225 ff.), and of the churning of the ocean in the first 
book (17 ff.). 

Something must be said here of the scenes of the various 
heroic stories and the nationalities to which the different 
characters belonged. In the main story the contending parties 
of the Kurus and the Pandavas are said to belong to the 
same family, but the Pandavas had their capital at 
Indraprastha, near modern Delhi, while the Kauravas' 
chief town was farther north at Hastinapura. In the great 
battle they had allies from all parts of India. Following 
Mr. Pargiter's analysis 2 we may classify them in this order. 

The chief Pandava allies were Drupada, the Pancala king 
and Virata of the Matsyas. The latter had his capital at 
Upaplavya, to the south-west of Indraprastha, while the 
Pancalas probably occupied a tract corresponding to modern 
Rohilkhand. Along with Drupada and Virata are mentioned 8 
Dhrstaketu, king of Cedi, ruling in the tract south-east of 
Mathura, south of the Yamuna ; Sahadeva of Magadha, 
corresponding to a part of modern Bchar ; Yuyudh&na 
Satyaki ruling in Anarta in Gujarat; Cekitana, another 
prince of that tract; the Kaikeya princes, headed by 

i, 178 ff. * JRAS. (1008), p. 800 H. Bk. v. 


Brhatkatra, from the land between the Indus (Sindhu) 
and the Jhelum (Viitasta), and perhaps the king of Pandya 
from the far south. 

The chief Kaurava allies were: Kar^a, king of Anga, 
to the east of Magadha ; Bhagadatta of Pragjyotisa, to the north- 
east of Afcga, Jayadratha from the southern Indus-plains ; 
Salya of Madra, between the Ravi (Iravati) and the Chenab 
(Candrabhaga) ; Krtavarman the Bhoja from the Nerbuda- 
valley ; Nila of Mahismati from the same tract ; Vinda and 
Anuvinda of Avanti, to the north-west of the Vindhyas ; 
and Sudaksina the Kamboja from the extreme north-west. 

With most of the episodes mentioned above it is more 
difficult to settle the matter of scene and nationality, for many 
of the episodes relate to the past and a tribe may not have 
borne the same name then as in later times. We have also 
to take account of the migrations of tribes and one tribe may 
not have occupied the same tract in earlier times that it did 
later on. The difficulty is no doubt there even with the main 
story, but it is intensified in connection with the episodes, 
where all conclusions about the scenes of the events must 
be problematic. 

In the story of Damayanti the heroine is the daughter of 
Bhima, the king of Vidarbha, and Nala is the prince of the 
Nisadhas. A Bhima Vaidarbha is mentioned in the Aitareya 
Brdhmana (vii, 34), and Vidarbha mentioned in the 
Jaiminlya Upanisad Brdhmana (ii, 440) is probably to be 
identified with modern Berar. The Vedic Index (i, 461) 
points out that in the atapatha Brdhmana (ii, 3, 2, 1, 2) 
Naisidha is the epithet of Nada, a king of the south. It is 
tempting to identify him with the hero of our story and locate 
the Nisadhas to the west of the Vidarbhas, between the 
Narmada and the Tapti. 

The scene of the Rama-story is laid in different and widely 
separated areas of India. Rama's father ruled in Ayodhya, 
corresponding to modern Oudh, and Sita was the daughter of 
the king of Videha in North Behar, Videha lying to the 
north of the Ganges on both sides of the Gajjwjak. Havana 
ruled in Laftka (Ceylon) and Rama had to cross the whole 
length of India to lead the expedition against him. 

The stories of Devayani and Sakuntala deal with the 
ancestors of Duryodhana. Dusmanta is definitely described 


(Mbh., i, 74, 11) as ruling at Hastinapura, and Yayati must 
have belonged to the same tract. Neither Sakuntala nor 
DevayanI belonged to any roy^l family ; and the latter is 
regarded as of superhuman lineage. Hence it is not possible 
to locate the events of these stories, though one can do it 
fairly easily with the doings of Bhlsma in the story of the 
daughters of Kasiraja. Bhlsma was the grand-uncle of the 
Kaurava princes of the main story and Kasiraja probably 
ruled over the province round about Benares. 
* * * 

Many of these heroic stories were utilized by the dramatists. 
Thus riharsa used the Nala-story in the Naisadhlya ; 
Kalidasa the Sakuntala-story in his Sakuntala, while that of 
Arjuna's adventures with the Kirata (Mbh., iii, 39 ff.) were 
handled by Bharavi in Kirdtdrjttmyam. Sisupala's quarrel 
with Krsna (ii, 37 ff.) was utilized with Magha ; and the 
story of Rama was a popular one with various poets after 
the beginning of the Christian era. Still, for the oldest versions 
of the stories we do not rely on these works, but turn mainly 
to the Mahabhdrata and partly also to the Rdmdyana and 
the Purdnas. 



great storehouse of Indian heroic tradition, as, indeed, 
of many other traditions, is the Mahdbhdrata. As the 
popular saying has it : what is not in Bhdrata (Mahdbhdrata) 
is not in.Bharata (India). This composite character of the 
voluminous work makes the task of the investigator of the 
Indian Heroic Age very difficult, and the difficulties are 
increased by the absence of a really standard text. The two 
main editions of the Mahdbhdrata at present are the Calcutta 
one of 1839 and the Bombay one of 1863. There are no vital 
differences between these two editions, which seem to 
represent the same recension. For the eighteen books, 
the Bombay edition has about 200 slokas more than the 
Calcutta one, but omits the Harivamsa, which was included 
as a sort of supplement in the Calcutta edition. Quite 
a distinct recension is represented by the Madras edition of 
1855-60, printed in Telugu characters. This South Indian 
recension has been reprinted later, but it still requires careful 
editing, especially as it is materially different from the 
northern recension in a good many points. That these 
differences indicate the existence of a distinct southern 
recension was early suggested by Dr. Winternitz, 1 from 
an examination of two manuscripts in the Whish collection 
one a Grantha manuscript and the other a Malayalam one. 
Comparing these with the standard texts he found additions, 
omissions, and variations in the order of verses. The story of 
Ganesa writing the Mahdbhdrata is omitted, and the story of 
Kadru and Vinata is more intelligible than in the Calcutta 
or Bombay text. The stories of Rahu and Sakuntala are 
omitted as well, but it is possible that in the South Indian 
recension the latter was included in one of the later Adhydyas. 
However that may be, an examination of the various 
Mahdbhdrata manuscripts convinced Dr. Winternitz that 
"there is as much difference between the Northern and 

1 JRAS, 1898, pp. 147 ff. 


South Indian recensions of the Mahdbhdrata as between the 
different recensions of the Rdmdyana ",* and the South 
Indian recension is neither longer nor shorter than the 
Nagari editions. 

In recent years the Bhandarkar Research Institute of 
Poona has been trying to bring out an authoritative text of 
the Mahdbhdrata with the help of scholars like Dr. Winternitz. 
In their attempt to do this they have taken stock of the 
manuscripts available. The fullest list of such manuscripts 
is to be found in Aufrecht's catalogue, which is supplemented 
by the Trivandrum or Ananatasayana catalogue ; but these 
do not include some important manuscripts like Bendall's 
Nepalese one. The Institute prospectus mentions a total 
of 1,284 manuscripts for the Mahdbhdrata and the Ilarivamtia, 
of which 610 come from South India and 77 from Bengal. 
There are about 200 manuscripts in the different libraries 
of Europe, the India Office alone having 56. Some of the South 
Indian manuscripts are in Devanagari characters ; but most 
of them are in scripts peculiar to the Madras Presidency. 
Of these 1,300 manuscripts, only a few contain the whole 
work ; but an examination of all these will have to be made 
before one can settle the question whether there were different 
recensions for different parts of India. 

The Bhandarkar Institute have so far brought out only 
one book of the Mahdbhdrata- -the Virata Parva. In their 
effort to fix the text of this book they have relied on the 
Calcutta and Bombay editions, as well as on several good 
manuscripts. 2 Of these latter, one has got the date Sarnvat, 
1493 (A.D. 1436), and the characters are in old Nagari. 
Another also in Nagari characters with prsthamutras is 
dated Sarnvat 14 Chaitra ; but the page is damaged and it 
has been conjectured that the two figures are the lirst two 
of the original date. The third manuscript is much more 
modern ; but it gives the whole of the Mahdbhdrata and the 
different parras must have been written at different times. 
Various other manuscripts are mentioned ; but none of them 
seems older than the fifteenth century. For our purposes, 
till the work of the Bhandarkar Institute is completed, we 
have to depend on the Calcutta and the Bombay editions. 

1 JRAS, 1898, p. 149. 

1 pp. iv ff. of Introduction to Virfya Parva (Bhandarkar Institute). 


Now this text itself shows signs of having grown by 
additions and accretions. In different parts, the Mahdbhdrata 
is said to be of different lengths. Thus in i, 1, 81, Sauti says 
he knows 8,800 verses and so do Suka and perhaps Sanjaya ; 
and this has been taken by Macdonell and Weber to denote 
the original length of the work, i, 1, 101 says that Vyasa 
originally compiled the work in 24,000 verses, and "this 
much only is called by the learned the real Bhdrata ". Finally, 
i, 2, gives the number of verses in each parva ; and the total 
here, as also the total on counting up the actual number of 
verses in the existing versions ,of the different parvas, comes 
up to about 100,000 verses if we include the Harivamsa. 

An examination of the stories recordel in the Mahdbhdrata 
will verify the gradual growth of the whole work, for there 
are different and inconsistent versions of the same story in 
different parts. Let us take the description of Pandu's 
death, i, 125 tells us that after his death in the forest his 
two wives had an argument as to who should accompany 
the king and burn herself on the funeral pyre. MaJri 
sacrificed herself and was burnt on the same pyre as her 
husband. The next chapter, however, says that ascetics 
living in the forest resolved to carry the bodies of Pa$du 
and Madri to Hastinapura, the chief city of the Kurus. 
They did this, and the bodies of the king and the queen 
were burnt there with elaborate ceremonies. That the bodies 
were intact when the ascetics reached the city is evident 
from passages like : They then besmeared his body with 
various perfumes . . . They dressed it in a white raiment of 
desaja (country-made or as appropriate in the country) 
fabric ; so dressed, the king looked as though he were still 
living the tiger-like hero seemed only asleep on a costly 
bed (i, 127, 18 ff.). 1 This certainly indicates a combination 
of two versions, in one of which the cremation of Pan<Ju 
took place in the forest, while in the other his body was carried 
to his relatives for the ceremony. 

Or we may take the story of Arjuna's life in the forest, 
in i, 216 ff. Arjuna went into banishment according to the 
agreement that whichever of the brothers violated a certain 

1 Tatastasya Sarirantu sarva gandhadhivSsitam . . . 
Athainam deajaih duklairv&sobhih samyojayan 
Dam sa tu v&sobhiijivanniva nar&dhipah 
sa naravySghro maharha-Sayanocitah. ' 


rule about their relations with the common wife would have 
to lead the life of a Brahmacarin and practise the restraint 
of an ascetic in the forest for twelve years. Yet, as Hopkins 
points out, the life led by him during this period is very 
different from that of an ascetic. Entering into marriage 
relations with a sea-nymph, Ulupi, and a princess Citrangada, 
or forcibly carrying off another princess, Subhadra, in order 
to marry her should not have entered into the programme of 
a Brahmacarin. But the text as we have it never suggests 
that in marrying Citrahgada or Subhadra, Arjuna, violated 
the original agreement ; here, too, it seems that the 
adventures have been made to follow the vow of 
Brahmacarya through a mistake of some compiler of the 
work. There was probably one tradition about Arjuna's 
violation of a rule and consequent exile and a distinct 
tradition about his love-adventures in the course of some 
wanderings ; and these two have been combined in the present 
version in such a way as to produce an incongruous effect. 

Another tale cited by Hopkins l shows the inconsistencies 
very clearly. In iii, 12, DraupadI is made to narrate the story 
of the manoeuvres of Duryodhana to kill the Pandavas. 
On one occasion he set fire to the house where the Pandavas 
were sleeping with their mother. Terrified by the flames, 
Kunti cried out that they were all going to be destroyed. 
Thereupon Bhima supported his mother on the left side and 
Yudhisthira on the right, Nakula and Sahadeva on his 
shoulders and Arjuna on his back ; and with this burden he 
cleared the fire at one leap and thus saved them all from the 
fire. In the First Book, however, there arc three references 
to the same story, every one representing a different version. 
In i, 2, and 61, a bare summary of the story is given. 
According to that, the Pandavas, suspecting the design of 
Duryodhana, built an underground passage (surunga) as 
a means of escape from the house ; one night they themselves 
set fire to the house and escaped by the suruhga. i, 50, gives 
the story in detail ; and there we learn of the deliberate 
precautions taken by the Pandavas, precautions to make 
Duryodhana think that they had been burnt. We also learn 
that after they had come out of the passage, some of them 
were feeling the effect of sleeplessness and fear. Bhima 
1 Great Emc of India, pp. 872 If. 


ipported his mother on his shoulder, the twins (Nakula 
Sahadeva) on his sides, and Yudhisfhira and Arjuna 

i his arms, and so marched on. These are evidently different 
sions of the story, and Hopkins thinks 1 that the use of the 
1 surunga " (or suranga), a word derived from Greek 
1 syrinx ", marks the lateness of one version. But as against 
it must be pointed out that this version represents the 
_Pandavas in a very unfavourable light, and does not attempt 
jfco gloss over their sin in causing an innocent woman to be 
Sburnt with her sons. This, as we shall see later on, would 
perhaps suggest that the version of i, 150, was the earlier one. 
Draupadi's account in the third book may be the reflection 
of a later legend with an exaggeration of the natural strength 
of Bhima and an emphasis on the flying powers of the son of 
the wind-god, for that was the reputed parentage of Bhima 
such an exaggeration being necessarily the product of the 
imagination of later ages. 

A minor instance of such an inconsistency may be observed 
in the story of Kadru and her sons. Kadru wanted her sons 
to help her in practising a deception on her sister, Vinata. 
According to i, 20, they refused to do so ; and Kadru cursed 
them, saying that they would all be consumed by fire at the 
snake-sacrifice of Janamejaya. Brahma approved of the curse, 
which, it would seem from i, 13, etc., was fulfilled. But 
i, 22 ff., tell us that the Nagas, Kadru's sons, decided to obey 
their mother, and carried out the deception on Vinata. 
This, too, is evidently a mixture of two versions. 

It is easy to multiply instances of such glaring incon- 
sistencies ; but perhaps it would be instructive to examine 
some stories the varying versions of which show a difference 
in tone rather than in incidents. The story of Nahusa is 
one of the most instructive instances in point. In i, 75, 26 ff., 
we are told that he ruled his kingdom with great virtue and 
supported equally the Rsis, the Gandharvas, the Brahma^as, 
the Ksatriyas, and the Vaiyas. Moreover, it goes on : 

" Sa hatva dasyusarighatanrsin karamadapayat 
Pauvaccaiva tan prsthe vahayamasa viryav&n 
Karayamasa cendratvamabhibhuya divoukasah 
Tejasa tapasa caiva vikramenoujasa tatha." 

1 Op. cat., p. 872. 


This has been taken to mean : " He suppressed all the 
robbers with a mighty hand ; he made them pay tribute to 
the Rsis and carry them on their back as beasts of burden. 1 
Surpassing the very dwellers in heaven with his beauty, his 
asceticism, his prowess and energy, he reigned like Indra." 
There does not seem to be anything but praise for Nahusa 
here and he seems to be the ideal king. But iii, 179 ff., 
throw a different light on him. An enormous serpent which 
had seized and overpowered Bhima reveals that he was 
formerly the king Nahusa, and that by sacrifices, asceticism, 
the study of the Vedas, self-control and prowess, he easily 
gained mastery over the three worlds. The Brahmarsis, 
the celestials, the Gandharvas, the Yaksas, the Raksasas, 
the Pannagas and all the inhabitants of the three worlds had 
to pay him taxes. Having attained this position he was highly 
elated with pride, and employed thousands of Brahmanas 
to bear his palanquin. One day when the sage Agastya was 
bearing his palanquin, his feet touched Agastya's body ; 
whereupon Agastya in his anger cursed him and changed 
him into a serpent. In xiii, 99 ff., we get what is almost a 
variant of this second version. The scene is here definitely 
laid in heaven. Nahusa attained the kingdom of heaven 
through his meritorious deeds on earth. For a time he carried 
on his duties in the proper fashion ; though he was the lord 
of the celestials he paid due regard to the other celestials. 
But soon he became inflated with pride through the idea that 
he was Indra. He employed the sages to carry him about and 
gave up the performance of Yajnas, etc. The sages had to 
carry him by turn and one day Agastya's turn came. Bhrgu, 
another famous sage, was then with him. Bhrgu explained 
to him that though Prajapati (Brahma) had set Nahusa 
in Indra's place, he (Brahma) was now enraged at his conduct 
and had commissioned Bhrgu to degrade Nahusa and reinstate 
Indra as the lord of heaven. Then, of course, Bhrgu carried 
out his commission and Nahusa was transformed into a 

This last version evidently connects a story of the dethrone- 
ment of Indra with Nahusa's reign in heaven for a time, and 
his wicked behaviour with the sages. Very much light is 
thrown on this story in v, 9 ff.: T vasty, the lord of beings, had 
1 The interpretation of this second verse is disputed. 


a son, who by his asceticism seemed to threaten Indra's 
position among the celestials ; and Indra, failing to tempt 
him to lust, killed him with his thunderbolt. Tvastr thereupon 
created the giant Vrtra to avenge the death of his son. There 
was a fierce contest between Vrtra and Indra ; but in 
practically every encounter Indra had the worst of it. Peace 
was then brought about between the two and Indra promised 
that he would not try to slay Vrtra either in the daytime or 
at night, with a dry thing or a wet one, with a piece of stone 
or wood, with a weapon from a distance or in a hand-to-hand 
fight. One evening, however, seeing Vrtra on the sea-coast, 
Indra threw at him a huge mass of sea-foam with the thunder- 
bolt and slew him. Mainly for the sin of breaking the spirit 
of his promise Indra was deprived of his right senses. He left 
the heavens and hid himself in a lotus-stalk in the lake. Then 
for a time the heavenly regions were lordless, until the gods 
decided to anoint Nahusa as their king. 

For a while things fared well with Nahusa and he enjoyed 
himself to his heart's content in the pleasure-gardens of the 
gods, in the seas or in the lakes, surrounded by nymphs 
and fairies. One day he happened to see Saci, Indra's queen, 
and he desired that she should come and attend on him. 
Saci sought the protection of Brhaspati, the preceptor of 
the gods, against the advances of Nahusa. The other gods, 
all afraid of Nahusa, sought to bring her to choose Nahusa 
as her husband. On Brhaspati's advice she asked for some 
time to decide ; and the gods began to deliberate how to 
restore Indra. With Visnu's help they discovered the means 
of curing Indra of his disorder and freeing him from the 
burden of sin. The story might have ended here with the 
restoration of Indra and the dethronement of Nahu$a ; 
but it proceeds in a rambling way. The episode of the Rsis 
(sages) as carriers is brought in and this is said to lead to 
Nahusa's destruction and Indra's return. 

What is approximately the same version of the story in 
a shorter form is found in xii, 842, the variations being : 
(1) that Vrtra could be slain only with a weapon made of the 
bones of a great sage, Dadhici a weapon made primarily 
to slay his father, Visvarupa. (2) Indra's sin lay solely in 
slaying two Brahmanas Visvarupa and Vrtra. Hence his 
disgrace, xii, 281 ff., discuss in detail this sin of Indra's in 



slaying Vrtra, the great sin of Brahmanicide. iii, 101, too, 
throws some light on part of the story, on the slaying of 
Vrtra by Indra. Indra hurled his thunderbolt made of the 
bones of Dadhici at Vrtra, but not being certain that he had 
killed the dreaded being, he fled in fear to take shelter in a 
lake. There is no question here of his having committed any 
sin, and Tvastr, being the maker of the weapon designed to 
slay the demon, is represented as having no sympathies 
for Vrtra. 

It seems to me that in the version of the fifth book (combined 
perhaps with iii, 101), we have the story in its original form, 
rehandled by later people to suit their own notions. In Indra's 
exile either through fear or through the sin of falsehood, in 
Nahusa's elevation and his fall through desiring the queen 
of heaven, we have a genuine heroic story. 1 It sets up the 
great heroes of the world as the rivals of the gods, and regards 
the gods in the same light as great men of this earth. Parallels 
to this may be found in the heroic legends of Greece as well 
as of Scandinavia the story of Ixion and that of Ollerus 
as narrated by Saxo being very much to the point. But 
probably the pure heroic form of the story did not satisfy 
a later redactor who knew a version of Nahusa's having 
behaved very badly to the Brahmanas. As a matter of fact, 
neither Nahusa's grandfather, Pururavas, nor his son, 
Yayati, seems to have been popular with the Brahmanas. 
About Pururavas we are told that he lost his head through 
the pride of his power and quarrelled with the Brahmanas, 
caring little for their anger. He went so far as to rob them of 
their wealth and was ultimately slain through their curses 
(i, 75, 20-2). Yayati did not treat his Brahmana wife, the 
daughter of the sage Sukra, as well as she deserved and was 
condemned by Sukra to undergo premature decrepitude. Again, 
when retiring to the forest, he left the throne not to his eldest 
son, a son by Sukra's daughter, but to a younger son by 
another wife. It seems that Pururavas, Nahusa and Yayati 
upheld their position as kings and kept the priests in their 
proper place (according to heroic standards). The later 

1 We have the Ksatriya version in Indra's exile through fear. The exile 
through tin seems to show priestly influence ; but even this version of Indra's 
exile and Nahusa's elevation must be earlier than the story of Nahusa's 
treatment of the Rsis. Thus there is the earliest heroic version, followed by 
different strata of Brfthmanic influence. 


redactors therefore wanted to connect Nahusa's treatment 
of the Rsis with his fall from heaven ; and the latter event 
was put down as due to the agency not of the gods but of the 

The examination of different versions of this story has 
helped us to appreciate that there are different layers in 
this composite work, the Mahdbhdrata. It has led us a little 
farther, too, and helped us to understand a difference in the 
outlook on life. The one we may call the heroic or Ksatriya 
outlook lays stress on the value of action. The other regards 
the Brahmana as the embodiment of divinity and an insult 
to a priest is looked on as the worst sin. In the one Nahusa's 
ascendency is due to his heroism and energy ; Indra's fall 
to a cowardly fear. It emphasizes the value of protecting the 
weak and the evil that so often resulted from kings not 
respecting the marriage tie of others. In the other everything 
hinges on the layman's behaviour to the priest. Indra's fall 
is due to his slaying one Brahmana, Nahusa's disgrace to 
an insult offered to others. 

The whole thing, perhaps, illustrates the struggle for 
supremacy between the two classes at any rate a jealousy 
between the two the warrior and the priest, the Ksatriya 
and the Brahmana. It is well illustrated in the quarrel of 
Sarmistha, the daughter of a king, with Devayani, the 
daughter of his preceptor (i, 78). The latter thinks she is 
the more important person as the daughter of the sage, but 
the former silences her by saying that she is the daughter of 
one who merely chants the king's praises. The quarrel of 
Vasistha and Visvamitra (i, 177 ff.) may be a reflection of the 
same thing ; but for our purposes, armistha's remark is 
the most instructive. It gives us some idea as to how the old 
heroic tradition must have been preserved. Later on we shall 
have to discuss in detail the question of minstrelsy. Here we 
need simply point out that there must have been two 
essentially different types of minstrels : one, the king's 
court minstrel, the Suta, whose sole business was to sing for 
the delectation of a courtly audience, an audience which did 
not at all trouble itself about theology or metaphysics but 
was only interested in heroic deeds and stories of prowess ; 
the other, the ukra type of the bard, was more con- 
cerned with philosophy and didacticism. The old heroic tales 


they could not omit ; but they varnished and re-varnished 
them to suit their own ideals. 

This difference between the didactic and the heroic parts 
of the Mahdbhdrata is easily perceived. Things like the 
twelfth and thirteenth books have very little of the heroic 
element ; and it is acknowledged practically by all that they 
must be late additions due to the priestly carriers of tradition. 
To them also must be ascribed the portion of the sixth book 
known as Bhagavad Gitd, while we have fairly long pieces here 
and there 1 which have nothing to do with heroic tradition. 
The process by which the main didactic portions were added 
to an older work has been fully explained by Hopkins, 2 and 
we need not go over it here. Nor need we dwell on the 
incongruities introduced through the later Ahimsa doctrine, 
which seems to have troubled some reciters of these stories. 8 
We must, however, notice a distinction Hopkins draws 
between too kinds of additions : (1) " A natural expansion 
of matter already extant ", and (2) " the unnatural addition 
of new material ". " The twelfth book may serve as a type of 
the latter, the eighth of the former." As we shall have to 
discuss the first type of addition more fully in connection 
with minstrelsy, we need not go into it here in detail. 

One set of incongruities, however, calls for our notice, and 
that is in the character and conduct of the heroes in the main 
story. It has been found on examination that the Pandavas, 
the ideal heroes of the epic, suffer from grave lapses of conduct 
just as the Kauravas do ; and this has puzzled critics. Thus, 
while the Kauravas cheat at dice and have recourse to wicked 
stratagems to destroy their rivals, the latter do not always 
behave honourably. They cause an unfortunate woman to 
be burnt with her sons in the house of lac to give the 
impression that they themselves have been destroyed. Arjuna 
slays Karna when the latter is helpless through his chariot- 
wheels having sunk into the earth (viii, 90-1). Arjuna again 
interferes in a fight between Satyaki and Bhurisravas and 
kills the latter against all the laws of the game (vii, 142-8). 
Yudhisthira causes Drona to lay down his arms by telling 
him a lie; and Dhrstadyumna slays the unarmed Drona. 

1 Things like most of the Ttrtha-Ydtrd Parva in Book III. 

1 American Journal-Phil., vol. xix, and op. cit., Gt. Epic, p. 381. 

Cf. Hopkins, op. cit., pp. 879 ff. 


Arjuna learns that Bhisma will not wound Sikharujin 
and then placing ikhandin before himself he proceeds to 
shower arrows on Bhisma, finally killing him. Bhima strikes 
Duryodhana unfairly and slays him with what must be called 
a foul blow. Now, on most of these occasions the unfairness 
is condoned with the explanation that Krsna, the incarnation 
of the divinity, justified or even counselled such conduct of 
the Pandavas and surely ordinary moral laws cannot be 
applied in judging the actions of the divine Krsna. Hopkins 
suggests 1 that this denotes a development in the standard 
of morals ; and where the older poet was content merely to 
describe the deeds of heroes, a later bard thought it incumbent 
on him to justify these deeds wherever they did not 
harmonize with his moral code. Hence his excuses and con- 
donings. So Hopkins does not accept the older theory of 
Schroeder and Holtzmann, according to whom the original 
story had the Kurus as its heroes and the poem had been 
composed by some sorrowing child of Kuruland. Later 
bards saw the disadvantages of singing a song that painted 
the conquerors black ; and they tried to invert the story, 
to thrust the Kurus into a subordinate position and make the 
victors the real heroes. The old story was, however, there ; 
and they could not, in most cases, change the incidents in 
their narration. So they introduced the excuses. 

Closely allied with this theory is the idea that the war 
was originally described as one between the Kurus and the 
Pancalas. This contention is well brought out by 
Dr. Gricrson, 2 \vlio holds : (1) That in India there was a long 
struggle between the Brahmanas and Ksatriyas. (2) That 
the country to the cast, south and west of Kuruland was 
unorthodox. (8) That the unorthodoxy was thought out and 
fostered by learned Ksatriyas. (4) That some of these 
heterodox people had a home among Pancalas. (5) That the 
Pancalas permitted polyandry and their descendants do 
so now. (6) That the war was really due to the insult offered 
by the Pancala king, the Ksatriya Drupada, to a Brahmana 
who sought the help of the Kurus. (7) That the Mahabhdrata 
war is, in essence, a Kuru-Pancala war. 

This contention has been disputed by Professor Keith, 8 

1 JAOS, xiii, pp 61 ff. JRAS, 1008, pp. 987 ff. 

> JRAS, 1008, pp. 881 ff., and 1188 ff. 


who holds that the Mahdbhdrata has meaning only as a 
Pandava epic that for ethnography the work is of little 
use, " that it does not represent the victory of Ksatriya over 
Brahmana or preserve a record of a time when Pancala 
was unorthodox." 

Here I cannot go into the merits of the controversy. But 
the important fact is, that though the present version has 
its sympathies mainly for the Pandavas, the Kauravas are 
not absolutely evil, or rather, if the Kauravas have their 
defects, the Pandavas are not entirely blameless. And for 
this we may suggest an explanation based on the study of 
western heroic poetry. In the latter, with only a few excep- 
tions, all persons of royal rank, including the opponents of 
the leading characters, are treated with respect and even 
with sympathy. In Teutonic poetry the only person painted 
as really bad is Eormenric, who belongs to the far past, 
being the earliest of the kings figuring in these poems. The 
descriptions of Thrytho and Heremod in Beowulf imply 
violence and cruelty ; but in both cases the condemnation is 
qualified. We must of course exclude dialogues where a 
prince may be abused by his opponent as Guthhcre is by 
Waldhere 1 or Hagen by the dying Siegfried. 2 But the minstrel 
is never definitely virulent against any character ; and this 
is true of Greek heroic poetry too. As Professor Chadwick 
points oat, if we except dialogues and references (especially 
in the Nekyia) to persons of the far past, " there is a note- 
worthy absence of any display of feeling against the opponents 
of the poet's heroes as much in the case of Penelope's 
suitors as in that of the Trojans." 3 We may think of Nestor's 
account of Klytaimnestra (Od. iv, 263 ff.) where the tone is 
almost apologetic, as in the account of Thrytho in Beowulf, 
and we may remember the lenient treatment of Paris. As 
a matter of fact the most unfavourable light is thrown not 
on any human characters but on the gods. 

The reason for this is fairly obvious. The heroic poems were 
meant to be recited at the courts not of one or two princes 
but of many. They were of what we should call international 
currency. Hence it would not pay the poet to paint any prince 
as absolutely black, for that would mean the banning of the 

1 Waldhere, B. LI., 23 ff. ' Nibekmgcn Lied, xvi. 

* Heroic A&, p. 229. 


poem by his family as also by his kinsmen and friends. More- 
over all princes would have a certain amount of class feeling 
and would not be likely to tolerate vilification of one of their 
own order, no matter if he was a complete stranger. The 
poet had therefore to try to keep the balance between good 
and evil in all instances ; and perhaps the poet of the Kuru- 
Pancjava story had to do the same thing. The Kurus might 
have lost their kingdom and been annihilated ; but surely 
their friends ruled some parts of India. At any rate all the 
princes at whose courts the heroic songs were meant to be 
sung were members of a class to which the Kurus belonged 
and it would not do for the singer to represent the latter as 
entirely evil. He could not represent the Kurus as always in 
the wrong ; he would have to sing of the instances in which 
they were wronged by their opponents, though if his 
sympathies were with the latter he might try to find ex- 
tenuating circumstances for their wrong-doing. This is 
evident in the heroic story of the Mahdbhdrata as we have it. 

We may close this examination of the Mahdbhdrata by 
noting how the task of the critic of the Indian Heroic Age has 
been made difficult by the accretion of different layers upon 
the main story of the epic. What was purely a heroic poem 
has been transformed into a " fifth Veda " and the spiritual 
interest is often made more prominent than the earthly. 
There has not only been an addition of extraneous matter, 
but a change in the tone of stories, a change due to altered 
social and moral standards. 

The real difficulty is to separate the heroic ideal from the 
non-heroic and the theological ; and the difficulty is most 
felt when the conception of a heroic character or the pro- 
minence of one seems to have been altered to suit non-heroic 
ideals. We feel this when examining the main story of the 
epic ; for the king Yudhisthira, who is made to be the central 
figure in the present version, is certainly not the most heroic 
of the characters. 1 Arjuna is far more important as a hero ; 
he distinguishes himself most in the trials of valour and he 
is in a class apart from the time of his tutelage when he was 
learning the use of arms from Drona, 2 to the time of the great 

1 Cf. his fight with Krtavarman (vii, 165) ; with DIOQE (vii, 162) ; with 
Karpa (viii, 68), etc. 
1 Cf. e.g., i, 187; i, 140; i, 100, etc. 


battle. Yudhisthira, on the other hand, is made to be the 
pattern of a virtuous prince, though here too inconsistencies 
are introduced through the intermixture of different ideals. 
One may cite instances of his selfishness and lapses from the 
moral code, but they are all condoned in the great epic. The 
point is, however, that as the centre of gravity is shifted from 
Arjuna to Yudhisthira, the epic becomes less heroic in nature. 
We may say that the radical defect of this epic is the same 
as what Ker found in Beowulf that is, " a disproportion 
that puts the irrelevances in the centre and the serious things 
on the outer edges." 

In the case of Beowulf, of course, the irrelevances are the 
supernatural elements ; Grendel and the dragon take up the 
position in the centre of the canvas, the position which should 
have been occupied by Ingeld and Hrothulf, by Onela and 

With the Mahdbhdrata the irrelevances from our point of 
view are the didactic and moral episodes, and the abstract 
discussions, while the essential things are the deeds of Arjuna 
and Nala, of Karna and Rama. Still the parallelism between 
Beowulf and our epic is not a good one, for it is more a matter 
of accident than anything else that in the one Anglo-Saxon 
heroic epic which has been preserved the subjects of human 
interest are thrust into the background. We may be sure 
that the poet of Beowulf felt a greater interest in human 
actions than in the depredations of monsters and dragons. 
But in the Sanskrit epic the heroic element seems to have been 
more or less suppressed deliberately in favour of the religious 
element ; that is, a change has been made here, though not 
in Beowulf; and a better parallel to this shifting of the 
focus is to be found in parts of the Books of Judges, of Samuel 
and of Kings in the Old Testament, where the interest of 
the heroic deeds of the kings has also been very much obscured 
by the didactic interest of later narrators. 

* * * 

Yet with all its irrelevances the Mahdbhdrata is the main 
source of our information with regard to the Heroic Age of 
India. There are other records to supplement the information 
supplied by the Mahdbhdrata, sometimes perhaps to check 
it ; but for our purposes they can never be considered as 
important as the Great Epic. The most necessary among 


these supplementary records are the Pur anas. In Vedic and 
Brahmana literature the word " Purdna " is often found 
in the compound " itihdsa-purdna " to denote a " tale 
of olden times." It is found in the Atharva Veda as a separate 
word, but by the side of " itihdsa ", and there is perhaps 
nothing in the older literature to show that the two were 
distinguished. The Vedic Index (i, p. 76) mentions Geldner's 
conjecture that there existed a single work, "Itihdsa-Purdna" 
a collection of old legends of different types ; but the supposi- 
tion is probably inaccurate. In the Mahdbhdrata the word 
Purdna is used to indicate " ancient legendary lore " and one 
passage (i, v, 2) says that the Pur anas contain interesting 
stories (of the gods) and the history of the earlier generations 
of sages. Later on, a Purdna was taken to treat chiefly of 
five topics : 

(1) " The evolution of the universe from the material 


(2) Its recreation in each aeon. 

(3) The genealogies of divinities and sages. 

(4) Those of royal families. 

(5) An account of groups of great ages. 

The existing Purdnas number eighteen a number known 
to the last Book of the Mahdbhdrata ; but few of these 
eighteen contain all the five elements referred to. Only 
seven have the item most important from our point of view 
the genealogies of royal families which are very helpful in 
recreating the political history, particularly the chronology 
of our period. It is almost certain that the Purdnas as we 
know them are very different from what they were in earlier 
times, one evidence for this being the lists of couplets in the 
various Purdnas. These lists assign 400,000 couplets to 
the eighteen Purdnas, each individual work varying from 
about 10,000 to 80,000. But the length of none of the extant 
Purdnas approximates to that assigned to it it being 
generally less through the loss of various parts. The Vi?flu 
Purdna approximates most closely to the classical definition 
and has all its five elements ; and it has been taken to be the 
one best preserved of all the Purdnas. But even this has only 
7,000 couplets, though the lists assign 23,000 to it. 

The Purdnas contain many of the legends narrated in the 
Great Epic and in some cases the versions of the legends 


are certainly influenced by post- Mahdbhdrata literature. 
Thus the Padma-Purdna in its story of Sakuntala follows 
Kalidasa's drama rather than the Mahdbhdrata ; and in its 
story of Rama it is indebted more to the Raghuvamfa than to 
the Mahdbhdrata or the Rdmdyana. This would also tend to 
show that the eighteen Purdnas known to the Mahdbhdrata 
and the Harivamfa must have been rather different from the 
Purdnas as we know them. Most of these latter, however, 
repeat some legends in parts of the Matidbhdrata, legends 
not always heroic in substance. Thus the Kurma and the 
Matsya bring in the cosmological stories of the epic, and the 
Mdrkandeya discusses how Krsna became a man. The 
Bhdgavata narrates in detail the story of Krsna, and the 
Vdyu has a good many points in common with the Mahd- 
bhdrata and the Harivamsa, while the Garuda and the Agni 
are practically abstracts of these. 

Most of the extant Purdnas are strongly sectarian in tone, 
meant to glorify either Visnu or Siva. The ones mentioned 
above, as also the Brahma, the Brahmavairarta, the Ndradiya, 
the Vdmana and the Vardha are all Visnuitc products ; 
while the Skanda, the Siva, the Liftga and the Bhavisya or 
Bhavisyat (a name known to Apastamba) favour Siva. The 
same processes which had converted the Mahdbhdrata into a 
Dharma Sastra had been at work here also ; and what is 
essential from our point of view has been mostly thrust into 
the background and what we might be inclined to regard as 
irrelevances made specially prominent. 

Most of the Purdnas are said to be narrated by the reciter 
of the Mahdbhdrata, Ugrasravas or his father, the suta 
Lomaharsana. The narrator of the Visnu Purdna is said to 
be Parasara, the grandson of Vasistha who may be the sage 
of the seventh rnandala of the Rgveda ; he narrates it at the 
court of the Kuru king, Pariksit. The other Purdnas are 
said to be recited a few generations later, generally at the 
time of the Paurava king, Adhisimakrsna, or his contem- 
poraries, the Aiksvaku Divakara and the Magadha Senajit. 
The recitation of most of the Purdnas by a suta at the court 
of a prince probably indicates a Ksatriya origin of the world, 
though later on the priestly bards must have taken them up. 
As it is, the historical value of the Purdna has been generally 
underestimated in recent years and there has been a tendency 


to dismiss them as priestly products of the middle ages. 
With the publication, however, of Mr. Pargiter's Dynasties 
of the Kali Age (1918), a new development in Pauranic 
studies may be said to have started. This critical examination 
of the Purdnas may tend to show that however late the 
Purdnas in their present form may be, they are based on 
Prakrta chronicles of much earlier times handed down by 
oral tradition or otherwise. Though the imagination of an 
age devoid of the proper historical sense may have confused 
fact and fiction, it is nevertheless possible to disentangle the 
two threads and build up a history of the past on the basis 

of the Purdnas. 

* * * 

The third source of our information for the Heroic Age is 
the Ramayana. This is less important than the other two*. 
It is a work of much greater unity than the Mahdbhdrata and 
has been treated from quite early times as a Kdvya or artificial 
epic. The Mahdbhdrata professes to be the work of one author; 
but inconsistencies of the type we have noticed preclude 
such an idea and it is now generally acknowledged that 
Vyasa, the reputed author, is a synonym for the Unknown. 
The Rdmdyana, on the other hand, has an author with a 
" definite personality " and though there may have been 
later additions to the original text of Valmiki, the whole 
work bears the stamp of one design, nothing like the medley 
of episodes, theological, philosophical and heroic, which form 
the Great Epic. 

Yalmiki's text has not, of course, remained uncorrupted, 
as the presence of three distinct recensions shows. The three 
recensions, the Bengal, the Bombay and the West Indian, 
differ from cne another in important points of the text, 
about one third of the slokas of each version being absent 
from the other two. In its present form, the Rdmdyana is 
divided into seven Books, but the investigations of Professor 
Jacobi tend to prove that originally it was made up only of 
five. The work then ended with the sixth Book ; the seventh 
is undoubtedly a late addition and the first Book not only 
has statements conflicting with the other Books but has a 
table of contents which neglects the first and the last Books, 
though after the addition of these Books a new table was 
prepared and the modern Rdmdyana contains both. It has 


been further suggested, that the opening of the fifth canto 
of the first Book originally belonged to the second Book and 
formed a part of the opening of the whole poem. Thus the 
earlier work probably consisted only of Books II to VI, though 
whole cantos may have been added in later times. 

It is nevertheless possible to discover a unified kernel of 
the Rdmdyana, while the Mahdbhdrata after all dissections 
remains a medley of episodes grouped round a central story, 
the original narration of different parts being attributed to 
different persons. We need not here go into Hopkins' dis- 
cussion l of the resemblances between the main stories of 
the two epics resemblances which arc striking enough. 
But Hopkins' conclusions 2 about the relative antiquity of the 
two stories are worth noting. He holds : (1) The story of 
Rama is older than that of the Pandavas. (2) The Pandava 
story has absorbed an older story, the Bharata Katha, the 
story of the Bharatas with its root in the episode of the 
Rajasuya (Bk. ii). (3) This story of the Bharatas is older 
than Valmlki's poem. The main part of our task in investi- 
gating the conditions of the Heroic Age of India is to discover 
as best as we can this old story of the Bharatas hidden under 
the different layers of the Mahdbhdrata. 

1 Op. cit., Gt. Epic, pp. 403 ff., etc. * Ibid., p. Oi. 



CEVERAL attempts have been made of recent years to 
^ fix the chronology of the Kuru-Pandava battle and the 
reigns of some of the descendants of the Pandavas. The main 
source for such an investigation is the list of the successors 
of the Pandavas in the Pur anas. Some of these lists profess to 
give the exact duration of the reigns of these kings, and of 
course the most straightforward method is to add up the 
reigns of kings who are said to have ruled before a definitely 
historical person like Candra Gupta, and thence fix the date 
of the Pandavas. Candra Gupta is taken by historians to 
have begun his reign about 322 B.C. His immediate pre- 
decessors, the Nandas, reigned 100 years according to the 
Purdnas. Next, there is the statement in the Matsya Purdna l 
that from the coronation of Mahapadma, the founder of the 
Nanda dynasty, to the birth of Pariksit, Arjuna's grandson, 
the interval is 1,050 (1,500, according to one reading) years. 
The Visnu Purdna (iv, 24, 32) fixes the interval as 1,015 
years. If we accept these figures, Pariksit was born in 1922 
or 1472 or 1437 B.C., and we know Pariksit was born shortly 
after the great battle 2 and his father's death in the battle. 

The Matsya (eh. 271) gives a list of the successors of 
Sahadeva, king of Magadha, who was killed in the great 
battle, and it gives the duration of the reigns of these kings. 
The first 21 (or 10) are said to reign over 940 years (or 792, 
according to one reading). The total is, however, given as 
1,000 years. The last of these, Ripuiijaya, is said to be slain 
by Pulaka, who places his son, Pradyota, on the throne. 
There were five kings in this dynasty ; and their reigns added 
together give from 130 to about 150 years, according to 
different readings. The Matsya (272, 5) gives the total as 
52, probably a mistake for 152, while the Visnu and the 
Bhdgavata give the total as 138. Nandivardhana, the last 
of the Pradyotas, is said to be slain by Sisunaga ; and the rule 

l 273 ,30. Cf. Rrahmanda, iii, 74, 227. It is 1,115 years according to BMg. 
ur. t xii, ii, 20. * * 

1 Mbh., xiv, 00, etc. 

88 D 


of his dynasty extended over 860 years according to the 
Matsya, and 362 according to the Visnu and Vdyu ; but the 
durations of the individual reigns all added together give 
only 340 years. The last of the Sisunagas is deposed by 
Mahananda. So all these years added together would take 
Sahadeva back to 1800 or 1900 B.C. 

But a closer examination of these lists reveals several 
interesting facts. The reigns of the 19 (or 21) members of 
Sahadeva's family extend over 792 years, according to the 
lowest computation, though the Purdnas generally fix the 
total as 1,000. This giues an average of about 50 years to 
each member of the dynasty, and that is surely a very highly 
exaggerated figure as compared with the duration of the 
reigns of historical kings. Similarly, the 500 years assigned 
to the 15 members of the next two dynasties seem very high 
too : and one is inclined to doubt the accuracy of these lists. 

The suspicion is strengthened when one sees the repetition 
of names like Nandivardhana in the Pradyota and isunaga 
lists, while the latter also mentions Mahanandi, the last 
king who was killed by Mahapadmananda who founded a 
new dynasty. Now for members of different dynasties to 
have exactly similar names like this is rather strange ; we 
may suppose that the desire to fill up gaps created new 
kings in the traditional genealogy, kings whose names were 
modelled on some of the earliest historical kings we hear of. 1 

Moreover the list of the isunagas in the Purdnas docs not 
agree with that given by the Ccylonese Chronicle, Mahdvamsa. 
Gciger compares the two lists and we may put them down here. 
Pur anas. Mahdvamsa. 

SiSunaga . 
Ksernadharma . 
Ksemajit . 

Vindhyasena (Bimbisara) 
[Kanvayana arid Bhurni- 

mitra] . 

Dar4aka (or Vamsaka 

Mahapadmananda, etc. 

1 For another explanation of this similarity of names, sec Mr. Jayaswal's 
article in the Journal oftlte Behar and Orissa Research Society, September, 1015. 


Bimbisara 52 


Udayi bhadda 
Anuruddha and 

Munda 8 





Ten sons of Kalasoka 22 


Nine Nandas . . 22 






Geiger discussed these differences l and noted not only the 
longer period assigned by the Pauranic tradition but also the 
difference in the order of the kings. Jacobi 2 and Geiger agree 
in identifying Kalasoka and Kakavarna. But the Purdnas 
place Kakavarna and his father at the head of the list, while 
the Mahdvamsa ranges them after Bimbisara and Ajatasattu 
and some others. There are other minor differences too. 
In these matters the Burmese tradition and the Nepalese 
list of the Asokavadana mainly agree with the Mahdvamsa as 
against the Purdnas. Geiger is therefore inclined to rely 
more on the Mahavamsa list. 

Finally the Purdnas place Pradyota at the head of the line 
that destroyed Sahadeva's dynasty, and Bimbisara is 
separated from him by eight reigns. According to Buddhist 
sources, however, the three great contemporaries of Bimbisara 
were Pajjota (Pradyota) of Avanti, Pasenadi (Prasenajit) of 
Kosala and Udena (Udayana) of Vamsa (Vatsa). Bhasa's 
Svapna Vdsavadattd and Pratijnd-Yaugamdhdrayana tell 
the story of Udayana's marriage with and love for 
Vasavadatta, the daughter of Pradyota who was at first a 
great enemy of Udayana's. The Majjhima Nikdya (iii, 7) 
speaks of Ajatasattu anticipating an attack of Pajjota, and 
it has been supposed 3 that this Pajjota, the enemy of the 
Magadha king, is no other than the Pradyota of the Purdnas. 
If so, the Parana list after Ripunjaya must be wholly rejected; 
and we must take Bimbisara as founding a new dynasty at 
the expense of an old one, while Pradyota too had ambitions 
about the kingdom and probably made more than one inroad 
on it. 

Such attempts at reconstruction must necessarily be 
conjectural ; but what remains certain is, that the 
period intervening between Sahadeva and Candra 
Gupta has been very much exaggerated by the Purdnas. 
Even the 100 years assigned to Mahapadma and his 
sons is rather improbable, and Mr. Pargiter in his Ancient 
Indian Tradition (pp. 179 ff.) was struck by the inordinate 

1 Introduction to Mahav. (Trans. Pali Text Soc.), pp. xliv ff. 

* Introduction to Kalpasutra. 

9 E.g. The Cambridge History of India (referred to hereafter as C.H.I.), 
i, pp. 810-11 ; and by Professor Bhandarkar : Cannichael Lectures, 1918, 
pp. 08 ff. On p. 72 there is an argument for regarding Bimbisara as a 
predecessor of Si6unftga, 


length of the reigns. So he took his stand on the Puranic state- 
ment about the dynasties contemporary with the Magadha 
one. The Matsya (272, 14 ff.) mentions the number of kings 
of other lines contemporary with the Magadha one from 
Senajit to Mahapadma. It says : " There will be 24 Iksvaku 
kings, 27 Pancalas, 24 of Kasi, 28 Haihayas, 32 Kalingas, 

25 Asmakas, 36 Kauravas, 28 Maithilas, 23 Surasenas and 
20 Vitihotra kings. 1 All these kings will endure the same 
time and will be contemporaries." That these arc con- 
temporaries from the time of Senajit onwards and not from 
Sahadeva is evident from the use of the future tense ; for 
the Purdrtas with the exception of the Visnu Parana profess 
to have been composed at the time of Senajit, seventh in 
the line after Sahadeva, and his contemporaries were the 
Paurava Adhisimakrsna and the Aiksvaku Divakara. The 
kings who came after are named in the form of a prophecy. 
Hence our initial point is the reign of these kings and the 
final point is the extermination of an older Magadha line 
by Mahapadma. This latter event Mr. Pargiter places in 
382 B.C., 60 years before Candra Gupta's accession. 

For the intervening period we have in the Matsya (272, 14) 
list 257 kings in ten kingdoms, that is an average of about 

26 in each. Now there must have been reigns of much 
greater length than others ; and we find that the largest 
average of reigns must have been among the Vltihotras who 
had only 20 in the period, while the shortest was among the 
Kalingas who had 32. So Mr. Pargiter argues : 20 long 
reigns = 32 short reigns-- 26 medium reigns and he obtains 
the proportion : longest average : shortest : medium : 26 : 
16* : 20. From an examination of various records he had 
found that the longest average was about 24 and the shortest 
about 12 years, while the average of all kings was 19 years. 
Hence assigning 18 years to an average reign, he gets 26 x 18 
= 468 years and this enables him to place Adhisimakrsna, 
etc., in 468 + 382, i.e., in 850 B.C. In the Magadha line, 
the average would work out at about 141 years per reign 
and the shortness may be justified by the violence which 
too often led to the overthrow of the kings. 2 Between the 

1 We cannot be certain about these figures owing to the corruption of the 
text. See C.//./., p. 815. 

* We may compare a passage not mentioned by J'argiter : Mahdv., iv, 1-8. 


kings in whose reigns the Purdnas are taken to be composed 
and the great battle of the Mahdbhdrata, there were 4 l kings 
in the Paurava line, 4 in the Aiksvaku line (Matey a, 271) 
and 6 in the Barhadratha (Magadha) line. This period we 
may take to be about 100 years and that would give us about 
950 B.C. as the date of the great battle. 

This is Mr. Pargiter's conclusion about the date and it is 
based on the probable lengths of reigns computed from the 
data of some historical dynasties. Such a conclusion is 
always problematic and open to criticism ; but the method 
of argument seems much more convincing than taking as 
correct the period of the reigns given in the Purdnas. 
Tradition may very well transmit genealogical lists of names 
from generation to generation ; and the shorter the list is 
the greater is the chance of its accuracy. When the list 
is very long, that is, when the genealogy is extended very 
far back, the tradition has to be examined very carefully, 
for the order of kings is easily liable to be changed. Omission 
of names and substitution too are probable ; and it is only 
through a comparison of various readings and various texts 
a number of genealogies if possible that we can arrive at 
a reasonable estimate of the line of kings. When however the 
lists profess to give the duration of reigns, they are surely 
far less reliable ; for though the audience of a reciter of 
vamsas (genealogies) is interested in an enumeration of 
ancestors and past kings, the lengths of the reigns do not 
matter, and the reciter does not care to remember them 
accurately. It is certainly more difficult to remember these 
figures than to memorize the names of kings. 

One cannot, however, rely very much on an argument from 
the probable lengths of reigns, and one should try to verify 
or correct it from other sources. I fancy we have such 
materials in the genealogies of the Pauravas and the 
Aiksvukus. Let us take the former from Matsya, 50 : 
Arjuna Abhimanyu Pariksit Janamejaya 
Satanlka Asvamedlmdatta 2 Adhisomakrsna (or 
Adhislmakrsna) Yivaksu (or Nicaksu) Bhuri (or 
Usna) Citraratha Sudrava (Sucidratha) Vrsnimat 

1 JJot perhaps 5, as Pargiter thinks, for Abhimanya should not be included. 
I his name lias been taken by some as qualifying Adhislmakrsna in the 
sense * gained through the performance of A6vamedha sacrifice ".' 


Susena Sunitha (Ruca) Nrcaksu Sukhibala 
Pariplava Sutapa (or Sunaya) Medhavin 
Puranjaya (or Nrpanjaya) Urva Tigmatman 
Brhadratha Vasudaman Satanika Udayana. 

Now Udayana is a historic figure and figures both in 
Buddhist and Sanskrit records, as has been already pointed 
out. He was a contemporary of the Buddha, just as Bimbisara, 
Prasenajit and Pradyota were. 1 For Bimbisara and the 
Buddha, the Cambridge History (p. 312) accepts the 
chronology as determined by Gciger in the " Introduction to 
the Translation of the Mahavamsa " (p. xlvi), where Bimbisara 
is taken to reign from 543 B.C. to 491 B.C. The Buddha 
attained nibbana (nirvana) in the eighth year of the reign 
of Ajatasatru, Bimbisara's son, i.e., in 483 B.C. Udayana 
survived the Buddha, 2 but if the stories of Bhasa and some 
Buddhist records are correct, he must have reigned a fairly 
long time and we may regard him as born somewhere about 
530 B.C. Now the genealogy we have mentioned places 23 
(or 24) gene rations 3 between Udayana and Abhimanyu who 
was killed in the great battle. 

In computing the length of a generation we arc not quite 
on so unsure a ground as the average lengths of reigns. 
In basing calculations on European genealogies, generally 
33 years are allowed for a generation. In India various 
factors would contribute to a shorter period. Moreover, 
although here in each case a successor is said to be the son 
of his predecessor, we cannot always be sure about it. In 
the inheritance of a kingdom the rule of primogeniture was 
not always observed ; and if a king died leaving a young 
son, the probabilities were that he would be supplanted by an 
uncle or some such person. In such a case, the reciter would 
not always remember the exact relationship of predecessor 
and successor but would put the latter down as the son of 
the former. Keeping in mind these considerations we may 
perhaps assign 25 years to a generation. 

Nevertheless, it would be rather unsafe to draw any 
definite conclusions merely from one genealogy. Fortunately 

1 C.//.7. (pp. 187-8), mentions the Buddhist sources, Ud&na, Sarpyutta, etc. 

* Peta-vatthu commentary, 140, mentioned in C.//./., p. 187. 

* Tliat it is generations and not simply succession* in evident from the 
constant use of the fifth case (e.g. Sucidratha* Citrarathftd) or the statement 
that the successor was the predecessor's son. 


we have at least two others. One is that of the Iksvakus and 
runs as follows : Brhadbala (Brhatksaya) Uruksaya 
Vatsadroha (Vatsavyuha) Prativyoma Divakara 
Sahadeva Dhruvasva (or Brhadasva) Bhavya 
(Bhanuratha or Bhavyaratha) Pratipasva Supratipa 

Marudeva Sunaksatra Kinnarasva Antarlksa 
Susena Sumitra (or Amitrajit) Brhadraja Dharmin 

Krtanjaya Ra nan jay a San jay a [Sakya 
Suddhodana Siddhartha Puskala (Rahula)] 

We have already pointed out that Prasenajit (or Pasenadi 
in Buddhist tradition) was a contemporary of the Buddha l ; 
and from the Samyutta Nikaya (i, 79 ff.) we hear of his 
fights against Ajatasattu and their ultimate reconciliation. 
He is evidently of the same generation as Bimbisara and was 
fairly old when Ajatasattu was reigning. According to the 
Purana genealogy there are 25 kings between Brhadbala 
who fought in the great war and Prasenajit. But there are 
at least four names in the list which have been introduced 
in later times ; and Sukya, the eponymous hero of Gautama 
Buddha's line, Buddha's father, himself and his son, have 
been put into the Kosala (Kosala) list. 2 This may have been 
due merely to the desire on the part of the Kosala bards 
" to magnify the lineage of their lord " ; but another reason 
may be suggested. Prasenajit was dethroned by his son, 
Vidudabha; and one of the first things the latter did was to 
invade the Sakya (Sakya) land and slaughter as many of 
the people as possible. 3 We cannot here go into the motives 
of the invasion ; but as has been pointed out by Dr. Rhys 
Davids, the fact of the annihilation of the clan is scarcely 
open to doubt. 4 Vidudabha is not mentioned in the Purdnas 
which give Ksudraka as Prasena jit's successor. But if 
Vidudabha annexed the Sakya (Sakya) land, it would be 
possible for his successors ruling in that territory to claim 
descent from the old ruling family. We may compare the 
case of Attila, who came to be associated with Dietrich 
(perhaps Theodric the Ostrogoth) in Germanic heroic legend, 

1 Majjhima Nikaya, ii, 124. 

* See C.//.7., p. 806. 

8 Mah&vamsa, viii, 18, uncl note (p. 63 of P.T.S. Trails.). 

4 See Buddhist India (1911 edn.), pp. 11 ff., and C.H.I., p. 182. 


as also of Hildebrand, the Teutonic hero, who was regarded 
as a Hun warrior. 1 

In any case we have to exclude the four names from our 
genealogy. This leaves us 21 kings between the great 
battle and Prasenajit. We must note that the successor 
is not always said to be the son of the predecessor, but as 
we have already made allowances for the contingency by 
taking only 25 years for a generation, we may, in the absence 
of any statement to the contrary, take the kings as repre- 
senting successive generations. So in the Aiksvaku 
genealogy we have 22 generations from the great battle, 
while the Paurava one has about 24 for the same period. 

Finally we may again take up the Magadha genealogy 
and see if that can give us any data. In that genealogy we 
have, according to Mr. Pargitcr's text of the Matsya, 271, 
22 kings in the first part after Sahadeva, who was killed in 
the great battle. The list is : Sahadeva Somadhi 
Srutasravas Apratlpin (or Ayutayus) Niramitra 
Suksatra (or Suraksa) Brhatkarman Scnajit 
Srutanjaya Vibhu Suci Kserna Suvrata 
Sunetra Nirvrti Trinctra Drdhadasena (Dyumatsena) 
Mahlnetra Sucala (or Acala) Sunetra Satyajit 
Visvajit Ripunjaya. The difficulty comes in the next 
part of the genealogy. First, there is the statement in the 
Purdnas that Pulaka slew his master, Ripunjaya, and 
installed his son, Pradyota or Balaka, as king ; and after 
four (or five) kings of this dynasty &sunaga's line came in. 
Here I think one can agree with Professor Uapson in con- 
sidering this as history distorted. 2 Independent lists have 
probably been placed in a false sequence ; and the great 
Pradyota of Avanti, a contemporary of Uirnbisara, who was 
a fierce antagonist of the Magadha kings, 3 is placed some 
generations earlier and made to be a destroyer of an old 
Magadha line. There is also the statement in the Matsya 
referred to in the Cambridge History (p. 311) which is said 
to imply the same thing. So I think we can take the line 
of Ripunjaya to have been succeeded by that of Uimbisara ; 

1 " pa kom erin hari Hildebrandr Hi'utakappi," quoted by Olrik in The 
Heroic Legends of Denmark (p. 3 of Hollander's trans.), from a lay of the cycle 
of the Danish royal race of the Siklings. 

1 C.H.J., p. 310. Majjhima Nik., iii, 7. 


and here we have already shown that there are good grounds 
for regarding Bimbisara as the founder of the line and Sisu- 
naga as one of his successors. Following the line of argument 
used in the case of the last genealogy, we may regard Bimbi- 
sara as separated from the time of the great battle by twenty- 
one generations. 

Now there does not seem very much of a discrepancy 
between the number of generations in the three genealogies. 
The three contemporaries, Bimbisara, Prasenajit, and 
Udayana, are regarded as in the twenty-second, twenty- 
third, and twenty-fourth generation respectively after the 
great battle. And if we regard them as reigning about 
500 B.C. we may put back the age of the great battle another 
575 (23 x 25) years and take the eleventh century as 

approximately our period. 

* * * 

Another way of attempting to fix the period of our heroes 
is to see if they are mentioned anywhere in the oldest 
Sanskrit Literature in the Vedas or the Brahmanas. 1 The 
first king we may take up is Janamejaya. The Vedic Index 
(i, 273) points out that he was a Pariksita famous towards 
the end of the Brahmana period. 2 The tfatapatha (xiii, 
5, 4, 13) mentions him as a performer of the Asvamedha. 
There is a discrepancy between the evidence of the Satapatha 
and Aitareya about his horse -sacrifice, for the former mentions 
the priest as Indrota Daivupi and the latter as Tura Kavaseya. 
His brothers Ugrasena, Bhimasena, and rutasena are said 
to have participated in the horse-sacrifice. Now in the 
epie there is a king, Janamejaya, the son of Parlksit and 
great-grandson of Arjuna, in whose presence the Mahdbhdrata 
is said to have been recited. There are one or two other 
Janamejayas, ancestors of the main heroes of the epic ; 
and it is disputable which of the three Janamejayas is 
referred to in the Brahmanas. The epic (i, 3, 1) mentions 
that the later Janamejaya had three brothers, Srutasena, 
Ugrasena, and Bhimasena ; and that these three were 
attending a horse-sacrifice along with Janamejaya. 3 

* Pargiter considers as futile the effort to rescue history from priestly 

| Sat. Bra., xiii, 5, 4, 1 ; Ait. Bra., vii, 34, etc. ; viii, 11, 21. 
1 argiter regards this as an absurd fable and would not put any reliance 


As regards the other and earlier Janamejayas, the epic 
(i, 94) mentions that Kuru had five sons including Aviksit 
and Janamejaya. Aviksit had eight sons, Pariksit and seven 
others. " In the race of these were born seven mighty 
charioteers with Janamejaya as their head. And unto 
Pariksit were born sons . . . Kaksasena, Ugrasena, Citrasena, 
Indrasena, Susena and Bhimasena." It will be noticed 
that two of the sons of Pariksit (the earlier one) bear the 
same names as two brothers of the Brahmanic Janamejaya. 
But there the resemblance ends, for Janamejaya is not 
described as the son of Pariksit ; hence these are not his 
brothers. Therefore, this evidence would point to the 
identification of the great-grandson of Arjuna with the 
Brahmanic Janamejaya. Further, as has been pointed out 
by Mr. Ray Chowdury, 1 the Brahmanic Janamejaya 
apparently performed two horse-sacrifices. This is evident 
from the mention of two priests for such and the Matsya 
Purdna (50, 63-4) speaking about Janamejaya, the great- 
grandson of Arjuna, says that he performed two horse- 
sacrifices. So there are at least some grounds for identifying 
him with the king mentioned in the Brdhmanas. 

The date of these Brdhmanas is taken to be in the neigh- 
bourhood of the year 700 B.C. 2 This would mean that 
Janamejaya, famous in tradition, must have reigned at least 
a hundred years before, very possibly more ; and this would 
give a date for the great battle not very far away from what 
we had arrived at from other considerations. 

Moreover, the Brhadtiranyaka Upanisad (iii, 3, 1) seems 
to indicate that the descendants of Pariksit had vanished 
and the family had lost all power ; and as the Upanwads 
are placed round about 600 B.C., 3 this too would agree very 
well with our hypothesis. A king Pariksit is mentioned 
in the Atharva Veda as ruling in Kuru-land, and in his 
kingdom peace and prosperity abound. If, as has been 
sometimes argued, 4 this Pariksit is the same as the grandson 
of Arjuna, the age of the Pdrtdavas might seem to be a little 
farther back than we have supposed. But the Vedic Index 
(i, 494) points out that the passage in the Atharva Veda 

1 Journal of Dept. of letters, Cal. ix. 
See C.ILL, p. 097. Cf. pp. 147 ff. 
See CJLL, p. 007. Cf. pp. 147 ff. 
4 Ray Chowdury in Journal of Letters, Calcutta. 


is late and hence probably not earlier than 800 B.C., 1 and this 
would fit in very well with our supposition. 

A Dhrtarastra Vaicitravlrya is mentioned in the Kdthaka 
Samhitd, which probably dates from the period of the 
Brdhmanas, and as Dhrtarastra, the father of the Kiiru 
princes in the Mahdbhdrata, is the son of Vicitravirya, one 
is tempted to identify the two. But Keith 2 doubts if the 
Samhita Dhrtarastra is a Kuru prince at all ; and he is 
inclined to identify him with Dhrtarastra of Kasi, mentioned 
in the Satapatha-Brdhmana. In any case, even if we could 
identify him with the prince of the epic, it would not advance 
matters very much. 

Another set of names which might give us some help is 
of Devapi, Santanu, and Vahlika (Balhika). In the epic 
(i, 94, and v, 149) the great-grandfather of the Kurus and 
the Pandus is Santanu, and his two brothers are Devapi 
and Vahlika, they being sons of Pratipa. Devapi was the 
eldest son, but he was prevented from succeeding to the 
throne cither through religious zeal (Mbh. i, 94) or through 
having a skin disease (Mbh. v, 149) and Santanu was 
installed as king. The history is given by Yaska in the 
Nirukta, a text of about 500 B.c., 3 where it is further stated 
that, in consequence of &mtanu's improper deed, no rain 
fell for twelve years, and he asked Devapi to become king. 
The latter would not ; but instead performed for the king 
a sacrifice to produce rain. Now the Rg-Veda (x, 98) 
states that Devapi Arstisena obtained (as priest) rain for 
Santanu (a king). 4 It must be noticed that there is no 
mention of brotherhood between the men nor that Devapi 
was a Ksatriya. Sieg, however, held 5 that the persons in 
the Rg-Veda are the same as those of Nirukta (and the epic). 
Devapi is associated with an Arstisena in the epic (ix, 40-1) ; 
and this Devapi is certainly Santanu's brother. This might 
lead us to suppose that the Rg-Veda persons are the epic 
ones ; and the fact that the atapatha (xii, 9, 3, 3) mentions 
a Vahlika Pratplya might support this idea. This view is 
combated by Keith 6 and upheld by Pargiter 7 ; and the 

[ Ibid., pp. 4 ff. C.H.I., p. 119. Also Ved. 2nd., i, 408. 

8 C.//./., p. H7. * }'ed. Ind., ii, 353. 

' Die Sa^enstoffe des Rg-l'edti : referred to in Ved. lnd. t ii, 338. 
Ved. Ind., ii, 04, and i, 378. 
Ancient Indian Tradition, pp. 165, 252, etc. 


latter's arguments are at least worth considering. However, 
even if this view is accepted that need not affect our hypo- 
thetical chronology, for the hymn in question is one in the 
tenth book of the Rg- Veda and the persons are those of three 
or four generations above the main figures of the epic. 

Next we come to figures of epic stories other than the main 
one stories like those of Yayati, akuntala and others. 
The epic professes to place these stories in the far past. 
If it is difficult to fix the chronology of the Kuru-Pandav'a 
war, it must be much more so to do so for these stories. We 
must notice, however, that Yayati is mentioned twice in 
the Rg-Veda (i, 81, 17; and x, C3, 1), once as an ancient 
sacrificer and once as Nahusya. Now this last is interesting, 
as in the epic (i, 75, etc.), Yayati is the son of Nahusa. The 
word Nahusa occurs several times in the Rg-Vcda and in 
one passage (viii, 46, 27) seems to be the name of a man. 

The story of Sakuntalfi tells us of Bharata, the son of 
Dusmanta and Sakuntala. The Sat. lirdhm. (xiii, 5, 4) 
mentions Bharata Dauhsanti as a kin^, an Asvamcdha- 
sacrificer, and the Ait. Brdlwi. mentions the same person as 
being crowned by Dlrghatamas Mumateya, who also figures 
in the epic (i, 104). The story of Nala is not definitely 
located by the epic in the distant past, but there is nothing 
to indicate when the characters lived. One Bhimu Vaidarbha 
(a prince of Vidarbha) is mentioned in the Ait. lirdhm. 
(vii, 34), and we may try to connect him with Bhlrna, the 
king of Vidarbha in the Nalopakhyana. The Satapatha 
(ii, 3, 2, 1-2) mentions a Nada Naisidha (Naisadha) who may 
or may not be the hero of this story. The Satapatha 
(iv, 1, 5, 1 ff.) gives the story of Cyavana in the same form 
as it is given in the epic (iii, 122 ff.), but the story was known 
to the Rg-Veda too. 1 The references to the Yadus, Anus, 
Turvasas, Druhyus, and Purus in the Rg-Veda (i, 108, 8) 
would not help us very much ; as though the five sons of 
Yayati are said in the epic (i, 75, etc.) to give their names to 
these five tribes, it is generally held that they are eponymous 
heroes, invented for the purpose. 

Finally we must point out that the Kurus, as such, are 
not mentioned in the Rg- Veda ; but Oldenburg may be 

1 i, 110, 118; v, 74, etc. 


right when he supposes l the Kurus were known by some 
other name in the Rg- Vedic times. One Kurusravana is 
described (in R. V. x, 83) as a descendant of Trasdasyu, 
a Puru king. There is great controversy as to whether 
Vedic literature knows of an enmity between the Kurus 
and the Pancalas. Keith holds 2 that the enmity is not 
known to the Vedic literature ; while Weber and Grierson 
support the opposite view. 3 If we could show that the enmity 
is to be traced back to the Vedic literature, it might be of 
some help in fixing the chronology. As to how far some of 
the stories in the first book of the epic may be placed in the 
distant past, we are not yet in a position to say anything 
definite. One admires Mr. Pargiter's elaborate reconstruction 
of the past ; but one is inclined to feel shy of accepting 
in toto a list of ninety-five generations (or successions) before 
the great battle and relying on them to build the history of 
India from about 2000 B.C. to 1000 B.C. ; for there is always 
the danger that lists of names contemporary with one 
another may have been placed in succession and genealogies 
of unmanageable and aristocratic length framed from them. 
In fixing this chronology, we have, then, to rely mainly 
on two kinds of evidence : (1) The evidence of genealogies, 
chiefly from the Puranas and (2) The mention of heroic 
figures in Vedic and Brahmana literature. We have not, as 
in the case of the Teutonic Heroic Age, historical records 
almost contemporary with the events, records which support 
and correct the stories 4 of heroic poems. The term " heroic ", 
of course, may be applied to pieces like the Eiriksmdl and 
Hdkonarmdl, just as much as to Beowulf or the Hilde- 
brandslied ; but generally the tw Teutonic Heroic Age " 
refers to the period from the time of Eormcnric, who died 
about 375, to that of Alboin, who died about 572. This is 
the period covered by common traditions of the various 
Teutonic peoples, traditions which are embedded in the 
heroic poems that have survived. For this period we 
can rely on Ammianus Marcellinus, on Jordanes' History 
of the Goths, on the History of the Franks by Gregory of Tours, 

1 Buddha, 403 ff. 

2 Jit AS. 1908, 831-0 ; 1138-42. Also red. 2nd., i, 100. 
8 Indian Literature, 114 ; JRAS, 1908, 002-7, 837-44. 

4 See Chadwick's Heroic Age, ch. ii. 


the History of the Lombards by Paulus Diaconus, and the 
letters of Cassiodorus, not to mention scraps of information 
contained in various chronicles, annals, and laws. 

We have no such records for the period we are investigating, 
and hence absolutely certain evidence of historicity is absent. 
Nor have we the evidence of archaeology for our support, 
evidence of the type Schliemann and Dorpfeld brought to 
bear on the Homeric story. The sites of ancient Indian 
heroic stories have yet to be thoroughly excavated, and so 
long as that is not done we have to rely on evidence similar 
to that of Eratosthenes, whose conclusions were based on 
the lengths of reigns ascribed to the kings of Sparta. The 
figures for the earlier reigns here have been shown to be 
greatly 1 exaggerated ; and in the case of the Indian evidence 
too that of the Purdnas we have to notice a similar 

In the case of the Greek 2 Heroic Age greater reliance 
has been placed on the genealogies given by Herodotus, 3 
where two historic figures, Leonidas and Leotychidas, arc 
traced back to Eurysthenes and Proklcs respectively. Then 
there is the evidence of Pausanias (i, 1 1 ) and other genealogies ; 
and from these, the period of the Heroic Age is sought to be 
fixed. We have attempted to follow a similar method and 
believe that some sort of a working date can be arrived at 
from these. 

1 See H.A., pp. 179 ff. * Ibid., p. 180. vii, 204 ; viii, 131. 



A method very similar to that adopted in this chapter has been used 
in computing dates in Polynesian history. Here one has to start with 
the present day and attempt to go back as far as possible on the basis 
of the genealogies. There are two groups of genealogies, one dealing 
with comparatively modern times and the other taking us back to 
the misty past. To take the former first, we may look at four lists 
starting from a Ilua or Whiro and bringing us down to the present 
day. The Hawaii genealogy starting from Hua mentions twenty-five 
generations, the Haiatea from Hiro or Whiro mentions twenty-five, 
the Rarotonga from Iro or Whiro twenty-six, and the New Zealand 
from Whiro and Hua twenty-six. There is thus a uniformity in the 
number of generations mentioned, and the lists may be used for 
historical purposes. Fornander in his Polynesian Races adopted the 
European standard of about thirty years. But Mr. S. P. Smith in his 
Hawaiki says that the consensus of opinion is for twenty-five. Counting 
on the latter basis we may place Whiro and Hua about 1250 or 1275. 
Proceeding farther back "we find the generations between Te Nga- 
taitoariki and Tangiia to be sixty-six in one list, sixty-nine in another, 
and seventy-one in several others. The numbers are not widely divergent 
here also ; so we may perhaps go back to about 475 B.C. and assign 
dates to important epochs of Polynesian History. 




THHE question of the date of the Mahdbhdrata in its present 
-** form has been discussed at length by various critics, 
and perhaps the most important contribution is that of 
Professor Hopkins. 1 He has collected all the external 
evidence on the matter ; and he points out that the 
Mahdbhdrata " is not recognized in any Sanskrit literary 
work till after the end of the Brahmana period and only in 
the latest Sutras, where it is an evident intrusion into the 
text ". Thus the Samkhyayana has a list of Sumantu, 
Jaimini, etc., with no mention of the epic. But the Asvald- 
yana inserts the Bhdrata and the Mahdbhdrata in the same 
list, while the iSdmbarya docs not notice the Bhdrata and 
recognizes only the Mahdbhdrata. Patunjali recognizes a 
Pandava epic in verse and Panini mentions some of the 
heroes and also knows the name Mahabharata. In none of 
these cases, however, can we be sure that the epic in its 
present form was known to the authors. 

The internal evidence is more difficult to discuss ; yet two 
or three important facts must be noticed. Thus the Roman 
denarius is known to the Harivamsa and the Harivamsa 
is known to the first and the last book. These must there- 
fore have come to their present form after the introduction 
of Roman coins (A.D. 100-200). Again, there seems to be 
sufficient evidence to show that at least portions of the present 
Mahdbhdrata must have been composed after the Greek 
invasion. 2 Another point worth noticing is the absence of 
any mention of copper-plate grants in the epic. Gifts to 
priests were safeguarded by such grants in the second or 
third century A.D., and they are mentioned in the law books 
of Visnu, Narada, and Yajfiavalka, but not before. Now 
in the epic, gifts of land to priests are highly praised ; but 
of copper-plate grants there is no mention at all. 

1 Op. cit., Gt. Epic of India, eh. vi. Op. cit., Gt. Epic, pp. 202-3. 



A consideration of matters like these led Hopkins to the 
following conclusions about the date of the epic. There is 
no evidence of an epic before about 400 B.C. A Mahabharata 
tale with Pancjava heroes and Krsna as a demi-god probably 
existed by about 200 B.C. The epic was re-made with 
Krsna as '* All-god " and the addition of Pauranic material 
and didactic discourse from 200 B.C. to A.D. 200. But the last 
book, the introduction to the first book and the thirteenth book 
in its present form must have been added about A.D. 200-400. 

If then the epic cannot be dated back beyond 400 B.C., 
while there is good ground for supposing that the heroes 
belonged to a period about 600 years further back, the 
question naturally arises how the accounts of the deeds of the 
heroes can have been carried on during this intervening 
period. The problem is how and when the heroic tradition 
was first treated by poets, as well as in what form it was 
preserved during the COO years. For the solution of this 
problem it may be useful first to study how heroic tradition 
has been preserved in other countries. 

The Teutonic evidence is quite clear on the point. 1 Long 
before the Teutonic Heroic Age Tacitus said 2 that the 
Germani possessed ancient songs and he added that these 
were their only means of preserving an historical record. 
In the Annals (ii, 88) he refers to the " heroic character " 
of these songs, saying how Arminius was still in his time 
a subject of such songs. Jordanes 3 says that the Goths 
celebrated the deeds of their great heroes in poetry and it is 
probable that some of the legends narrated by him were 
derived from such poetry. Very valuable evidence is supplied 
by Priscus' account of his visit to Attila's court where he 
heard the recitation of poems recounting Attila's victories 
and his valiant deeds of war. Attila was probably 
following the Gothic custom ; and we hear of Gothic court 
minstrels from the letters of Cassiodorus and Sidonius 
Apollinaris.* The poems also of Sidonius 5 and of Venantius 
Fortunatus 6 give evidence of Teutonic minstrelsy ; while 

1 Chadwick's 7/crotV Age, ch. v, etc. * Gtrmania, 2-8. 

4 rn !5 a ' ( Mlcrow 's trans.). 

C mentions C^odo*' rariaruro, ii, 40 ff., and Sidonius* 

"' t ' anslated *>y Hodgkin in Italy and her Invaders, vol. ii, p. 868. 
vii, 8, 61, referred to by Chadwfck, H.A., p. 85. 


Procopius (Vand. ii, 6) speaks of a Vandal king desirous of 
singing the story of his misfortunes to the accompaniment 
of the harp. 

The Anglo-Saxon poems supply us with good evidence 
on the matter. Dcor says that he was the " scop " or court 
bard of the Heodeningas and that his place has been usurped 
by Heorrenda, another skilful poet. In Beowulf we have 
several mentions of the " scop 'V whose business seems to be 
singing or recitation, to the accompaniment of the harp. 
It is Hrothgar's " scop " who recites the story of Finn and 
Hengist ; but other people at the court know the art of 
minstrelsy. Thus a " king's thegn " composes an account 
of Beowulf's Grendcl-advcnture almost immediately after 
the event, while the king himself can lay " his hands on 
the joyous harp " and recite " stories of old time ". Widsith 
is a wandering minstrel ; he is attached to one particular 
king, but moves on from one royal court to another. He 
is a prominent man in the court, one who offers presents 
to his lord and is probably entrusted with the care of a 
queen or princess on her way to a foreign court. 

There seem to have been minstrels of a different type 
too, minstrels who catered not for royalty but for the people. 
We hear of them in the seventh or eighth century in Bede's 
Ecclesiastical History, for example. Bode 2 says that at 
village gatherings every one had to take his turn at the harp 
and sing. William of Malmesbury tells 3 the story of 
Aldhelm who used to stand on a bridge and sing to people 
like a professional minstrel. Aleuin in a letter to Hygebald 
written in 797 refers to the tendency of priests to listen to 
a harpist singing the poems of the heathens ; poems about 
Ingeld, for example. From the Life of St. Liudgor we hear 
of a blind Frisian minstrel, Bernlef, who kw was greatly loved 
by his neighbours because of his geniality and his skill 
in reciting to the accompaniment of the harp stories of the 
deeds of the ancients and the wars of kings ". 

We have then several stages in the history of Teutonic 
heroic poetry. In the first stage we have the poems of the 
Heroic Age itself, poems actually composed at the courts 
of the heroes. Of this type is the account of Beowulf s 

1 Line* 90, 1000, etc. * Ui*t. Ec. t iv, 24. 

1 Getta Pontif., v, 190, mentioned in Chad wick '8 II. A., p. 80. 


adventure (11. 867 ff.) or the song sung before Attila. Deor 
and Widsith must have sung similar songs of their master's 
prowess ; and the princes themselves sometimes sang of 
their adventures. So did Hrothgar as well as Gelimer; 
and HrethePs dirge over his son may be placed in the same 

For a time, even after the death of the hero, new songs 
could have been made about him, songs dealing with 
adventures not yet celebrated by bards. But gradually 
these individual songs were brought together ; and this led 
to the composition of more ambitious works. This is the 
second stage of heroic poetry when the older court-poems 
give place to epic poems based upon them. Beowulf is 
clearly a product of this stage ; and the complete poems on 
Finn and Waldhere were most probably of this type. Here 
for a time the minstrels reciting the epics would have some 
freedom. If the hearers were not very familiar with the 
works, the reciters could introduce additions and alterations ; 
but with a courtly audience the treatment is fixed and the 
hands of the trained minstrel are tied. Attempts have been 
made to distinguish between poems like Beowulf and Wald- 
here on the one hand and Finn and Hildebrandslied on the 
other ; but the difference between the two is probably one 
of minor importance being more a question of length than 
anything else. 

In the third stage we have the popular versions of the old 
heroic stories ; and these tend to approximate to the type 
of the ballad. The main events and characters of the old 
stories are retained ; but details and minor characters are 
lost sight of and there is a tendency to amalgamate stories 
formerly unconnected. Bernlef s poems were probably of 
this type ; but unfortunately none of these has survived. 
Many of the mediaeval German poems on Dietrich, poems 
like Virginal, Sigenot, and Laurin, were probably based on 
such popular products ; perhaps Thithrek's Saga and Saxo's 
History owe a good deal to such compositions. 

There is another stage in the history of Teutonic heroic 
poetry a s t agc to which belong the Nibelungenlied and 
Kudrun, poems " composed at a time when heroic subjects 
naci again come into favour with the higher classes ". But 
with this stage we have little to do here. 


In the history of Greek heroic poetry we find parallels to 
all these four stages. For the first we may take the song 
of Demodokos in-Alkinoos' court (Odys., viii). He sang of 
the quarrel between Odysseus and Achilles in the presence 
of the former ; and he played on the lyre in accompaniment 
to his song. Princely heroes practised the art of the minstrel ; 
and the skill of Paris (//., iii) and Achilles (//., ix) parallels 
that of Hrothgar and Gclimer. When Odysseus and Aias 
visited Achilles, he was delighting his soul and singing the 
glories of heroes ; and he was probably singing the deeds 
of the heroes of his own time or of the near past. 

The Homeric poems we must regard as a parallel to works 
like Beowulf, epic and narrative poems based upon the 
court-poetry of the First Stage. 1 For the third stage of 
heroic poetry we have no extant examples from Greece, 
though such poems must once have existed. We do, indeed, 
find some of the features of popular poetry in the didactic, 
gnomic and catalogue poems of Ilcsiod, in the Thcogony 
and the Works and Days. These present a marked contrast 
to Homer in various ways. There does not seem to be any 
acquaintance with court life and little of high respect for 
royalty. There is no tendency to avoid indelicate subjects 
as there is in Homer or in Teutonic* court -poems.'- There is 
little of detailed description except in the discussion of a 
farmer's life. All these would point to the Hesiodic work 
as parallels to the products of the third stage, of popular 
minstrelsy. As for the fourth stage, some of the lost cyclic 
poems would probably have been very good examples. 
In the extant literature we get some useful illustrations from 
Greek drama; and the treatment of the story of 
Agamemnon's murder and Orestes' revenge is a good case 
in point. 

In Russian heroic poetry we may traee some of these 
stages. Some of the heroes themselves were expert minstrels, 
singing to the accompaniment of the gusly, a harp of four 
octaves. Thus in the story of Stavr Godinovioh the Boyar, 
minstrels were summoned to celebrate the marriage of Prince 
Vladimir's daughter. The harp-players came and played on 

1 See Chadwick'M //./I., pp. 223 ff. 

1 The song of Ares and Aphrodite and tlie btory of Weland are the only 


the guslyj and " sang songs of the olden days and of the 
present and of all times ". But the bridegroom was not 
satisfied ; he wanted to hear Stavr himself, the master- 
player upon the harp of maplewood. Stavr was summoned ; 
he strung his harp, played great dances, and " sang songs 
from over the blue sea ". Again, in the story of Dobrynya 
and Alyosha, Dobrynya on his expeditions came to learn 
of Alyosha's treachery and dashed back home. He put on 
his minstrel's garment, took his little gusly of maplewood, 
and proceeded to Alyosha's wedding-feast. There he tuned 
his harp and began to sing : " and the theme of his song was 
Dobrynya's adventures." Now these instances are certainly 
good examples of the practice of heroic poetry in the Heroic 
Age itself; they belong to what we have called the first 
stage and the -efforts of Stavr and Dobrynya are good 
parallels to those of Hrothgar and Achilles. 

There does not seem to be any good Russian example 
of the second stage, but the third stage is very prominent 
as a matter of fact, in some parts of Russia it continues to 
the present day. As Miss Hapgood points out, 1 Kobzars 
still exist in Little Russia, while the singers of stiks or religious 
songs arc professionals like the Kalyeki perekoihie, the 
wandering psalm-singers. These last are not very much 
to the point ; but most of the epic songs were recovered 
from peasants on the borders of Lake Onega only in the last 
half of the nineteenth century. In the Middle Ages, the Church 
denounced clowns, fiddlers, and players and those who sang 
" devilish " or worldly songs ; and it has been conjectured 
that these latter included the epic songs. 2 Such performances 
of professionals or peasants would be quite an apt parallel 
to the efforts of Bcrnlcf or Aldhelm ; and as a matter of fact 
most of the recovered poems have the characteristics of 
Stage III. The characters mentioned by name are few ; 
and the same characters recur in different poems about one 
district. Thus, in the Kief Cycle Ilya, Dobrynya, Alyosha 
come in again and again, while the ruling prince is usually 
Vladimir. The accounts of heroism are often highly 
exaggerated; and the action of a short poem sometimes 
takes years instead of days. 

1 Introduction to Hapgood's Epic Songs of Russia, pp. xxvii, etc. 
une is reminded of Alcuin's denunciation of the songs of Ingeld. 


These characteristics are also found in the poems current 
among the Mahomedans of Bosnia. As has been pointed 
out by Professor Murko, there is a living heroic poetry 
among these people, many of the characters in the poems 
being definitely historical. The minstrel recites his poem 
to the accompaniment of the tambura (a kind of guitar); 
and considerable freedom is allowed in recitation. Most of 
the minstrels are peasants and they recite their poems at 
village gatherings or at some rich man's palace. They are 
rarely professional minstrels ; but each one exercises his 
creative powers, to some extent. Consequently, there are 
numerous variants of the same poem, some versions being 
very much longer than others. These poems may all be 
said to belong to Stage III ; but we do not know if they 
have passed through Stage I or II. We do not know if 
they were ever sung by minstrels in the service of noblemen 
or princes. There may have been provincial noblemen of 
power and position in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, 
noblemen who kept professional bards in their household. 
But it is very doubtful if the position of their minstrels 
can be compared with that of Deor or kk Hrothgares scop ". 

The Serbian poems dealing with the battle of Kossovo 
present some sort of a parallel to the Iliad in that it is a 
story of war. So far as poetical qualities go, there may 
be little likeness between the Homeric poems and the Kossovo 
tales. But, as Professor Chadwick puts it, " we may strongly 
suspect that at an earlier stage in the history of Homeric 
poetry the resemblance would be much closer, although the 
art of heroic poetry in Greece had doubtless been elaborated 
for centuries to a far higher degree than was ever attained 
by Serbian poets." Court-poetry must have died out in 
Serbia after the fifteenth century ; and the later poems we 
should place in Stage III. Some of these late compositions 
do show characteristics of Stage III ; but the characteristics 
are absent from things like the banquet-poem which may 
perhaps be traced back to the fifteenth century. 

We cannot go into the Celtic heroic poems in detail here. 
The Irish evidence is important ; but it is very difficult to 
deal with owing to the difficulty of the language and the 
enormous mass of the material. The Welsh heroic stories, 
like the Irish ones, are in prose and have been transformed 


very greatly in the course of time. As we now have them 
they seem to be not much more than folk-tales. The poems 
of the Cymry dealing with Arthur, Gwallawg, Urien, etc., 
have little in common with the stories except the names. 
Most scholars now seem to be of the opinion that these poems 
are products of a later age based on annals and chronicles 
not of the nature of " authentic " heroic poetry. If they 
are late compositions, they must be said to be a clever 
copy of the works of Stage I, for their characteristics are 
mostly those of court-poetry. 1 

We have now to inquire whether minstrelsy is prominent 
in early Indian literature and if the minstrels carried on 
heroic tradition. We have also to examine what particular 
type of minstrels could have been responsible for the 
epic stories, if indeed these stories are the product of 

Poems of war are not unknown in the oldest Sanskrit 
literature, in the Rg-Veda for example. Thus one hymn 
(vii, 18) describes the victory of Sudas, a Trtsu king, over 
ten rivals. The defeat of Sambara by Divodasa is repeatedly 
mentioned. 2 Other passages 3 may be taken to refer to 
events of war ; but for the real cultivation of heroic poetry 
we get the best early notice from the Satapatha Brdhmana.* 
In connection with the description of a horse-sacrifice we 
are told that the Brahma na sings by day and the Rajanya 
(a man of noble rank) by night. They play on the lute and 
sing. The Brahmana sings of topics like " such sacrifices 
he offered such gifts he gave " ; but the Rajanya sings 
about the wars of the sacriticer-prince : " Such a war he 
waged ; such a battle he won ; for the battle is the 
Rajanya's strength ; it is with strength he thus endows him 
(the prince ?)." Again when the prince and the priests are 
seated together the Adhvaryu (the priest sacrificing) calls 
upon the Hotr (the singer priest), saying : " Hotr, recount 
the beings ; raise thou this saerificer (the prince) above the 
beings " [or perhaps Raise this saerificer above (or up to) the 
things of the past]. Thus called upon, the Hotr prepares to 
tell the Pariplava legend, the revolving or recurrent tales 

nia ST^n k ' 8 Heroic A &* PP- 103 ff - AnwvPs Prolegomena to the study of 
r C , ? ? try (pp ' 7 ff '> fav uw the theory of the late origin of the poems, 
i, 112, 116, 110 ; H, 19, etc. e.g. i, 03, * 

1, 5, ; xiii, 4, 8, 5. * 


which were told at intervals of ten days during the year. 
He addresses the men and goes over a hymn of the Rk to 
instruct them. Then the masters of the lute-players are 
called upon to " sing of the sacrificer along with the righteous 
kings of yore " ; and they accordingly sing of him ; and in 
thus singing of him they make him *' share the same world 
with the righteous kings of yore ". Then in the evening, 
whilst oblations for the safe-keeping of the horse are being 
offered, a Rajanya lute-player strikes up the " uttara- 
mandra " tune and sings three stanzas composed by himself : 
" Such a war he waged, such a battle he won." 

What this Rajanya, the man of the military caste, was 
singing was evidently heroic stories ; his work may be said 
to belong to Stage I of heroic poetry. Elsewhere in Vcdic 
literature we get the phrase " narasamsi " (celebrating men) 
and very probably it refers to heroic tales or songs. It is 
classed with Gatha and Raibhl in a passage of the Kg-Veda 
(x, 85, 6) ; and is distinguished from Gatha in a number of 
passages in later literature. 1 The Satapatha (xi, 5, 6) 
associates Narasamsi Gathas with Itihfisa-Puranas as honey- 
offerings to the gods. The Aitareya Brahma na describes 
how Narasamsi verses should be recited ; and the Taittirlya 
Brahmana (i, 3, 2) speaks of Nara sains! Gathas, i.e. 
the songs celebrating men. In the Asvalayana Grhya Sutras 
Narasamsis with Itihasa-Puranas are intended to be recited 
by the reciter of the Vedas. The Kathaka Samhita says that 
these Narasamsis are false ; but we cannot rely on such 
a bare statement, for perhaps the author was thinking more 
of those verses which were mere eulogies of patrons. 2 The 
term "Narasamsi" is clearly paralleled by the Greek tfc Klea 
Andron ", the " glories of heroes " which are sung by Achilles 
in the Iliad (ix, 189). We need have no doubts that the 
Narasamsis were really heroic stories ; still, we arc not 
certain if they were partly intended for edification or if they 
were sung frankly for entertainment by the courtiers of a 

Later on, of course, the instructive side was made 
prominent ; and the singing of these was supposed to conduce 

1 The Vedic Index (i, p. 445) mentions a number of passages ; Ath. t xv, 6, 4 ; 
Tail. Sam., vii, 5, 11, 2 ; Ait. Hra. t vi, 82 ; Kawf lira., xxx, 5, etc. 
1 Bloomfield's Atharva Veda emphasizes this side 


to the spiritual well-being of the hearers. But it may well 
be explained by Euhemerism, the kings whose deeds were 
sung being transformed into gods or demi-gods in later times. 
Once they had been made divine, the story of their prowess 
would naturally be taken to have a spiritual import ; and 
a work originally intended for entertainment may easily 
have become in later times a sacred thing. One may take 
it that the Narasamsis were songs of the nature of those sung 
by the Rajanyas in the Satapatha or of those which the 
lute-players in the Paraskara Grhya Sutras (i, 15, 7) are asked 
to sing songs of " the king or anybody else who is more 
valiant ". 

We may now take up the evidence of the Mahdbhdrata 
itself. We hear frequently of professional singers at the 
courts of princes, of men whose business it was to eulogize 
royalty. Thus in iii, 235, Dhrtarastra describes how Yudhis- 
thira, in his days of prosperity, was wakened by sutas and 
magadhas and other singers who recited his praises every 
morning, vii, 82 tells us how singers gifted with sweet 
voices sang the praises of the Kuru dynasty. Yudhisthira, 
" the delighter of the Kurus," was praised by all creatures 
and the minstrels gratified him with panegyrics. Later on 
" the minstrels and musicians greeted the heroic Arjuna 
with the sounds of musical instruments and eulogies ". 
The voices of the bards and minstrels " pronounced bene- 
dictions of victory " ; and these were accompanied by the 
sound of musical instruments. 

In xv, 23, Yudhisthira's praises are sung by a large number 
of sutas, magadhas and bards (vandins). In xii, 53, a batch 
of well-trained and sweet-voiced persons, conversant with 
hymns and the Purdnas (stutipuranajnah), began to recite 
the praise of Vasudeva ; and the sounds of musical instru- 
ments, vlnas, mrdangas, and sankhas were heard. In 
xii, 37, the king's praises are chanted by sweet-voiced 
panegyrists and bards (vaitalikaih, sutaih magadhaisca 
subhasitaih). In xiv, 70, actors, bards, and eulogists (natah 
granthikah sutamagadhasahghah) recited the praises of 
Janardana and the Kuru race. The praises of the 
Pandavas are hymned by eulogists, sutas, magadhas and 
bards (vandins).i When Duryodhana enters a city, bards 

1 xiv, 69. 


eulogize him. 1 In xv, 38, Yudhisthira laments that 
Dhrtarastra, who was formerly roused from sleep every 
morning by bands of sutas and magadhas, had then to sleep 
on the bare ground. In iv, 72, akhyanasilah, those versed 
in legendary lore, and vaitalikah, the reciters of genealogies, 
sing the praises of the prince. Moreover, these bards were 
not there simply in times of peace and enjoyment. They 
formed part of the royal retinue in war and Duryodhana, 
when proceeding to join battle with the Pandavas, is followed 
by his bards, singers, and eulogists (v, 197, 18). 

Eulogists are thus quite common in the courts of princes, and 
the question arises whether they sang of the actual deeds of the 
princes or merely recited conventional panegyrics of the kings. 
A passage like the last would seem to imply that the two 
arts went together ; and that those who sang the praises 
of the king were the very people who carried on the old 
heroic stories and traditional genealogies. 2 This is also 
what might be expected. Flattery that has no basis 
in fact may often seem a taunt ; and the best panegyrics 
are those which rest at least in part on actuality. Hence it 
would be quite natural for these encomiasts to describe the 
heroic deeds of the prince himself and of his ancestors. 
They would assuredly exaggerate the deeds of valour and 
prowess ; but unless some of the deeds had been 
actually performed, the praise would lose its point. Thus 
it seems probable that the praises were an enumeration 
of deeds of heroism and mostly of historical deeds too. 

But we have more direct evidence of the existence of 
narrative poetry carried on by oral tradition. Sometimes 
the princes themselves narrate " the glorious deeds of old ", 
as Arjuna and Krsna do (i, 222). Again, later on, when Krsna 
and Arjuna were both at Indraprastha, they narrated to 
each other tales of war and its hardships. Now these tales 
may have been prose-narratives of past events ; but the 
first passage seems to imply a set form of words. Even then, 
of course, we must acknowledge the possibility of prose- 
narratives handed down by tradition, narratives like those 
which preserved stories of adventure in Iceland and Ireland. 

1 iii, 256. 

1 I cannot here go into the relation of the old ftkhy&nas to the epic, nor 
into the vexed question of the Ku&lavas. 


Yet it appears probable that the stories were sung, for 
Arjuna seems to have been a skilled singer and musician. 

One passage in particular is very significant. When 
Arjuna explains what profession he will follow in disguise, 
in Virata's city, he says : " I shall please the king and the 
ladies by reciting stories often and often. I shall instruct 
these ladies of Virata's house in singing, in delightful dancing, 
and in musical performances of various kinds. By reciting 
various good deeds, I shall be able to keep my identity 
hidden." He is here connecting his recitations of stories 
with singing and music ; and one is inclined to think that 
Arjuna and Krsna, narrating stories of past achievements 
while the place was filled with the music of the flute, guitars 
and drums, must have sung these stories. 1 Another prince 
Yayati is said to sing some gathas, 2 but these seem to be only 
moral discourses. Yet gathas must have been at times pure 
narratives, for in iii, 88, Markandeya, an illustrious sage, 
is said to sing a gatha about king Nrga and his family. 

Elsewhere we get equally definite evidence for the cultiva- 
tion of narrative poetry carried on by oral tradition. A good 
example of such poetry is the Pauranic story of Vyusitasva, 
narrated by the Queen, Kunti. Persons who recite histories 
of the gods follow Arjuna when he sets out on his twelve 
years wanderings. Bards and reciters of Purdnas are 
prominent in the svayamvara of Draupadi. In Bk. xii we 
hear of narratives descending from ancient times, from father 
to son. In the first part of the first book we are told 
repeatedly of the recitation of narratives. The most 
important instance is of the recitation of the main story at 
the court of the great-grandson of the heroes. 3 The reciter 
is a priest, Vai sain pay ana ; and in v, 141, too, it is said that 
the Brahmanas will tell the world of the great battle of the 

Further evidence for the transmission of narratives as 
songs is to be found in the nature of particular descriptions. 
Thus in the lament of Dhrtarastra in i, 1, 150 ff., we find every 
verse ending with the same words, the refrain being " tada 
nasamse vijayaya Sanjaya ". 4 A sequence of 65 verses, 

1 See i, 222, 20. i, 75, and xii, 26. " 

8 We must note that no musical accompaniment is mentioned. 
4 " Then I had no hope of success, O Sanjaya." 


beginning with the same word and ending with the same 
phrase, surely shows that the verses were intended to be 
sung. A better example is perhaps found in the gambling 
scene in Bk. II. Here, in describing Sakuni's various throws 
and his winning each stake, the same verse is used over and 
over again. Everywhere it is " Vaisampayana uvaca ; | 
etat srutva vyavisito nikrtim samupasritah. | Jitamityeva 
Sakuniryudhisthiramabhasata ". 1 Such a refrain in this 
exciting narrative suggests a division of the poem into 
strophes in order to make it more suitable for singing. We 
must note that a refrain like this is rather different from the 
stock-phrases of a heroic poem, phrases like those in Beowulf : 
" Beowulf mathelode beam Ecgtheowes " 2 or " Hrothgar 
mathelode helm scyldinga ". 3 

The introduction of speeches by a stock-description is 
surely indicative of oral transmission. But the description 
of a particular action in the same form of words seems to me 
a better indication of the song-nature of the poems. Such 
refrains arc very common in ballad poetry, in what we may 
call " folk-songs " transmitted from generation to generation 
by oral tradition. 4 The other parts of the poem are sung 
or recited by one person ; but the whole company joins in 
the refrain and sings it in a chorus. This then is more 
properly a feature of popular minstrelsy, of what we have 
called Stage III, rather than of court-poetry. 

The stock-phrases we have noticed in Beowulf have their 
parallels in the Homeric poems ; and one can collect an 
immense number of such phrases from the Mahdbhdrata. 
Here we may simply refer to Hopkins' list 5 of the parallel 
phrases in the two epics. All of them are certainly not to 
our point ; but we can cull quite a number of cliches which 
must have been a minstrel's stock-in-trade. The introduction 
of speeches, however, is nothing like so elaborate as in 
Beowulf; it is always straightforward and simple like 
" Yudhisthira uvaca " or " Duryodhana uvaca ". 

1 " On hearing this Sakuni, addicted to dicing as he was, adopted unfair 
means and told Yudhisthira : * Lo ! 1 have won.' " 

* Beowulf, the son of Ecgtheow, spoke. 

' Hrothgar, the protector of the Scyldingas, s|x>ke. 

4 We may compare it with the refrains of borne mediaeval English ballads, 
e.g., " A Lyke-Wake Dirge " or " Milldams o' Binnorie ". 

* Appendix A, op. fit., Gt. Epic. 


The presence of stock-phrases and refrains does surely 
point to oral transmission. But in the introduction to the 
first book (i, 170 ff.) we are told that after the poem had been 
composed by Vyasa it was written down by Ganesa. This 
looks very much like a late addition, especially because 
Ganesa is the god of lexicography, according to later 
mythology. When the poem was being written down in 
later times, it would be natural for some scribes to think 
that the task of the first writer must have been too stupendous 
for human hands and only Ganesa could have done it. Such a 
suspicion, based on a priori grounds, is confirmed by Professor 
Winternitz's latest investigations into Adi Parva manuscripts. 1 
He is inclined to reject the ganandyaka passage as spurious, 
as a very late addition absent from the best manuscripts. 

There are other references to writing. In ii, 5, we hear of 
" clerks ", " lekhakah." Inscriptions are mentioned in 
xiii, 139 ; and xiii, 23, speaks of " reading the Vedas ". 
ii, 55, mentions " lekhyam " a figure a word occurring 
again in x, 148, though there it probably means " a picture ". 
Clerks " lekhakah " arc also mentioned in xv, 14 ; and in 
vii, 97 we are told of Arjuna's arrows, which were " naman- 
kita ", had names engraved on them, iii, 15 speaks of a 
sign used for entering and leaving a city ; this may or may 
not be something in writing. Hut the reference in v, 191 is more 
definite, for speaking of the education of I) ran padl, Bills ma says 
that her father took care to teach her writing and other arts. 

These references are there ; but we must note that they 
occur rarely in the heroic portions, the last passage being 
perhaps exceptional in this respect. A very common phrase 
in the introduction of stories is, "so it has been heard," 
as in viii, 33. In the Heroic Age itself, writing was almost 
certainly unknown. Even in later times, after the art of 
writing had come in, heroic poetry would probably be carried 
on by oral tradition. The want of suitable and durable 
materials for writing on may have contributed to this. 2 

1 The results of these investigations have not yet been published, but arc 
expected to appear shortly in the Adi-Parva edited by the Bhandarkar 
Research Insitute. 

8 Burnell in his Elements of South Indian Palceography says : " In con- 
sidering the question of the age and extent of the use of writing in India, it 
js important to point out that the want of suitable materials, in the North at 
least, before the introduction of paper, must have been a great obstacle to 
its general use." For the antiquity of Indian writing, see Weber's History of 
Indian Literature, pp. 10, 13, 15, etc. 


But certainly a more important factor was the continuance 
of minstrelsy, of recitation from memory, though the minstrels 
would then be probably of a class different from that of the 
early ones. 

This leads us on to a consideration of the status and caste 
of the minstrel both in early and in late times. The Satapatha 
distinguishes very clearly the business of the Ksatriya 
minstrel from that of the Brahmana. It is the former who 
tells of war and strife ; it is he who carries on the heroic 
stories. The Brahmana is concerned with tales of sacrifices 
and gifts at best with the tales recurrent throughout the 
year, tales which must have been intended mainly for the 
edification of the hearers. The fact that the "narasamsi 
gathas " were supposed to have an elevating influence might 
suggest that they were sung by the priests alone ; in the 
epic itself we have some evidence to support that idea. 
Vaisampayana who reeites the main story, Brhadasva who 
recites the Nala story, Markandeya who recites the Rama 
and Savitri stories, arc all apparently Brahmanas ; and we 
have noticed a passage in the fifth book saying that the 
Brahmanas will tell the world of the great battle. There is 
even clearer evidence : Sarmistha, the daughter of the 
Asura king, quarrels with Devayani, the daughter of the 
preceptor of the Asuras. When Devayani wants to assert 
her superiority as the daughter of the learned priest, 
armistha replies contemptuously : " Your father adores 
mine like a vandin, a chanter of praises. Your father chants 
the praises of others, and my father's praises are chanted. 
Your father lives on alms, arid my father bestows them." l 
This would indicate that one of the functions of the priest 
was to act as the panegyrist of his patron ; and that probably 
means that he was engaged in reciting the heroic deeds of 
the prince and his family. 

But the Brahmanas were not the only minstrels. There 
were others more directly in the line of the Rfijanya of the 
Satapatha. We have already noticed the bardic accomplish- 
ments of Arjuna and Krsna ; Duryodhana too seems to 
have been well acquainted with the art. 2 Again, one is 
inclined to suspect that all the singing sages were not after all 
Brahmanas. Let us take Brhadasva, for example : he is 

1 Mbh n i, 78, 0-10 * viii, 88. 


described as a " mahanrsi ", a great sage, who came to 
Yudhisthira, when the latter was living in exile in the forest. 
The name Brhadasva, however, is a typically Ksatriya 
name. The Ksatriyas' occupations were reflected in their 
names ; and if we examine any long lists of ancient dynasties, 
we shall see how common the ending " -asva " (horse) or 
" ratha " (chariot) is. In the list of the Iksvaku line, for 
example, in the list of kings between Iksvaku and Brhatksaya, * 
there are twelve kings whose names end " -asva " and 
three end in " -ratha " ; in the shorter Videha list there are 
three " asvas " and two " rathas ", in the East Anava list 
there are nine " rathas " ; and all the other lists have a 
considerable number of the horse and chariot men. The 
name Brhadasva itself occurs in the Iksvaku list ; one 
wonders if the reciter of the Nala story is not a Ksatriya too. 
It was not uncommon for princes to live in retirement in 
old age, to lead an ascetic life in the forest ; and a great 
" sage " may be such a prince for all that we know. 

But there is a third class of minstrels to be taken account 
of, the people called sutas and magadhas. These sutas and 
mdgadhas are professional court-minstrels, both in the epic 
and in the Furanas ; it has been generally held that they 
were members of a mixed caste. Thus Mbh. xiii, 48 says : 
" The offspring of the Ksatriya and the Brahmanl is the 
suta whose duties arc all connected with the recitation of 
eulogies and encomiums of kings and other great men. 
The offspring of the Vaisya and the Ksatriya is the vandin 
or magadha ; and the duties assigned to him are eloquent 
recitations of praise." The suta is elsewhere a charioteer, 1 
and he is evidently a man of the mixed caste too. Yet Kautilya 
has a rather puzzling statement about the suta and the 
magadha. He says 2 that the son of a Ksatriya and a Brahman a 
woman is the suta, that of a Vaisya and a woman of a higher 
caste is the magadha. But he goes on to say : " The suta who 
is mentioned in the Pnrdnas is different, and so also is the 
magadha who is mentioned there from Brahmana, Ksatriya 
offspring, by a real distinction." 3 This passage leaves us 

1 We may take Kama's reputed father. Arthaastra t Hi, 7. 

'This is Pargiter's translation of : Paurftnikastvanyas sutomftgadha$ca 
brahma-ksatrad vitesataU. Mr. Shama Sastri translates'it thus : " But men 
or the names Suta and MRgadha, celebrated in the Pur&nas, are quite different 
and of greater merit than either Brahmanas or Ksatriyas." 


doubtful if the minstrels, sutas, etc., formed one or two 
distinct castes of their own, or if men of the ordinary castes, 
Brahmanas, Ksatriyas, or Vaisyas, could be minstrels. 
There is a passage in Mbh. xii, 59, where we are told of two 
ancestors of sutas and magadhas : " Two persons named 
Suta and Magadha became the bard and panegyrist of Prthu. 
Prthu gave unto Suta some land lying on the sea-coast 
and unto Magadha the country known as Magadha." This 
passage is evidently a late introduction and will not lead us 
very far. 

We have then three types of bards, the priest, the military 
man, and the professional court-minstrel who was probably 
neither a priest nor a warrior. 1 All these three seem to have 
carried on the poetry of what we have called Stage I, though 
some doubt may be expressed as to whether the suta or 
magadha as panegyrist sang heroic narratives or not. The 
later evidence, however, always takes the suta to be a court 
bard, and we have seen that very probably he sang heroic 
stories, just as the warrior or the priest sometimes did. 
The western heroic poetry tells us about the royal bard and 
the professional bard ; the priestly minstrel is not so 
prominent. But Ammianus Marccllinus (xv, 10, ad fin.) 
speaks of the Gaulish priestly bard : " The bards were 
accustomed to employ themselves in celebrating the brave 
achievements of their illustrious men, in epic verse, accom- 
panied with sweet airs on the lyre." Panegyric poems are 
frequently attributed to these priestly minstrels. Then 
there were the Irish file, persons of a priestly character, 
who were at least partly responsible for the transmission 
of narrative poetry. The Irish sagas contain very many 
quotations from their poems. Moreover, it has been con- 
jectured that the Irish sagas were originally in verse ; but 
that owing to changes in the language, the dropping of old 
inflexions and endings, the old verse was transformed into 
prose. The Celtic bard thus seems to be the nearest parallel 
to the priestly singer of our epic. This parallelism is all the 
more interesting because it is only among the Celts that we 
hear of an almost exclusively priestly caste corresponding to 
the Brahmanas of India. 

1 We may, however, remember that Kicaka, commander of Virata's forces, 
is called " sttta " or " sGta putra " (iv, 14, 48 ; 15, 4 ; 16, 5, etc.). 


The Greek and Teutonic princes of the Heroic Age had 
their professional minstrels ; and at first sight we might 
be inclined to suppose that the suta occupied the position 
Dfemodokos had in Alkinoos' court or Phemios in Odysseus' 
or Deor in that of his patron. Yet there is a vital difference. 
The Greek minstrels of the type of Demodokos seem to have 
had an important position at the court. Agamemnon is 
said to have left his queen in charge of a minstrel (Odys. iii) 
and in Odys. viii Demodokos is called a " lord ", the Greek 
word being one often applied to princes. The Teutonic 
scop too appears to have had a recognized position. He 
received a grant of land from the king, 1 and he may have 
been a " king's thegn ". 2 The Indian suta, as we find him, 
is a much humbler individual. Whatever he might originally 
have been, we see him reduced to the position of an underling, 
one who is no better than a professional flatterer or clown. 

Yet the business of minstrelsy, of singing heroic narratives, 
could not have been looked down on in the Heroic Age. 
When princes practised it, when Arjuna and Duryodhana 
took it on themselves to narrate heroic stories, it could not 
have been a despised art. These princes do what the 
Teutonic or Greek prince, Hrothgar or Achilles, did ; they 
turned to the recitation of poetry when there was nothing 
more important to engage them. Is it then possible that 
the court-minstrel always occupied the position the suta 
seems to do ? The solution of this question will help us to 
differentiate the various stages of Indian heroic poetry, 
for apparently the stages here are not exactly the same as 
among the Teutons or the Greeks. And the difference 
seems to be mainly due to the presence of a class of literati, 
the priestly singers who had so much to do with the oral 
transmission of all the early literature of India. We have 
analysed the material at our disposal, and it seems to me we 
are now in a position to postulate the following stages in the 
history of Indian heroic poetry. 

In the First Stage, we may place the court-poems of the 
Heroic Age itself. The court-minstrel was most probably 
not a priest, but a member of the warrior caste. He had 
a recognized position at the court ; and he was not looked 
on as a mere encomiast. To this stage belong the old lays 

1 Deor, lines 4O-41. Beowulf, 867. 


dealing with Pururavas, Nahusa, and Yayati, kings who felt 
the superiority of the warrior over all others, including 
the priest. The earliest version of our main story too 
belongs to this stage ; only then the leading figures in the 
story at least the leading figures on the Pandava side 
were Arjuna and Bhima contending against Karna and 
Duryodhana. If the earliest version was not of a Kuru- 
Pandava war, but of a Kuru-Paficala one, the protagonists 
must have been Duryodhana and Karna, Sikhandin and 
Dhrstadyumna with Bhima and Arjuna in the background. 
Whoever the leading characters were, they were men of the 
true heroic mould ; a king like Yudhisthira, with a senti- 
mental weakness for priestcraft and religiosity, would have 
no place in it. 1 

To the Second Stage belong the epic or narrative poems 
based on the old court-poems. One of these was perhaps 
the old Bhdratl Kathd, dealing mainly with the story of a 
great battle in which all the prominent kings of Northern 
and Central India took part. Stories of other kings, of 
Yayati and Nahusa, of Pururavas and Nala, were probably 
introduced as episodes. Court-poetry was still flourishing, 
but it was rapidly undergoing a change in character. The 
great battle may have led to a centralization of power ; 
and smaller kingdoms were perhaps gradually losing their 
identity, being merged in bigger coalitions which might be 
called empires. Many of the older dynasties would now 
have lost their power and position ; and the centres of court- 
minstrelsy must have been greatly reduced in number. 
But probably there was an even greater change. The rulers 
at the new centres did not, perhaps, belong to any of the 
powerful dynasties of the past. They were a set of nouveaux 
riches and had little interest in the stories of the deeds of the 
older dynasties. The old court minstrels would be little 
prized at these new courts, for the direct appeal of the old 
stories would be gone. 

These conditions must have produced the narrative poetry 
of the Third Stage. If the tales of the warrior-minstrel 
were no longer prized, there was another class of singers 
who were not placed at the same disadvantage. The priestly 

1 The fact that the J&taka version of the P&ndava story makes Arjuna the 
eldest brother may have some significance. 


songs of sacrifice and ascetic life would still have the same 
popularity or unpopularity as of old. Perhaps these songs 
had increased in popularity in that the sense of formal 
religion had grown stronger ; with the decay of the old heroic 
spirit, superstition had gained ground and princes were 
inclined to listen to boring and dull pieces on the supposition 
that spiritual good wduld accrue from it. 

Yet the priests must have felt the shortcomings of their 
songs ; they could perhaps see how their end could be 
gained at the same time that these songs were made more 
interesting. They must have known the substance of the 
old heroic stories, if not the entire poems ; and the more 
capable among them might now turn their hands to reshape 
the old tales. The old story would be still narrated ; but 
it would have a moral and religious interest attached to it. 
The incidents might be retained ; but the characters would 
put on a new garb ; and the appeal of the whole would be 
different. Purely heroic figures would now tend to sink to 
the background ; and moralist-religious heroes would come 
to the forefront. The superiority of the priesthood would 
naturally be emphasized; and the stories of such kings as 
Pururavas, Nahusa and Yayati, of kings whose relations 
with the priests were not of the happiest, and the like would 
be badly mauled. The priest would sing his stories at 
the royal court, but he would not belong exclusively to the 
court nor would he be the official bard. Such a bard would 
be the suta or the mdgadha or the vandin. They would sing 
the king's praises, often perhaps with fulsome flattery ; 
if they sang narrative poems at all, these must be used only 
to give point to the flattery. Still they would perhaps 
carry on the pure heroic tradition, untainted by any religious 
bias. 1 But their influence would be as nothing compared 
to that of the priests. The priestly tales would appeal 
not only to royalty but to the masses at large ; and this 

1 The result of this gradual deterioration of the secular court-minstrel's 
Position may have been to a certain extent analogous to Stage III in the history 
or Western stories. The Indian poems can hardly have come into the hands 
of the literati till a fairly late date. Otherwise the poems would presumably 
oe preserved in an older form of language analogous to that of the Vedas. 
it would seem that the poems had been greatly modernized in language 
.y 1** their fonn became stereotyped ; and this would be natural enough 
ir tney were carried on for long ages by non-literate minstrels. 


wide appeal would lead to more ambitious works based on 
the priestly tales. 

Thus we have a Fourth Stage of narrative poetry, a stage 
in which we are not very much interested, for here are works 
in which the heroic interest has been completely thrust 
into the background ; and didacticism looms large. The 
works are capable of indefinite expansion ; but expansion 
always means the addition of new didactic material. The 
additions go on ; and gradually we have a monumental 
thing the Mahdbhdrata. 



Minstrelsy is prominent in these old Tamil narratives, and four types 
of bards are mentioned : (1) Panar, a not very reputable class of 
minstrels, associated with harlots ; (2) Kooththar, actors who took part 
in ballet-like compositions; (3) Ponmnor, war-bards, generally 
members of the suite of a chief or king ; (4) Viraliyar, female bards 
with duties similar to the Porunnar, 

G, U, Pope in J.R.A.S., 1899 (pp. 225 ff.) gives a detailed account of 
an early Tamil heroic poem, the Purra-Porul Venba-Malai, a work which 
in its present form dates from about the tenth century, but which is 
really based on much older works of mythic origin. It is divided 
into twelve sections, the first one of which introduces us to a band of 
cattle raiders, We arc told of the expedition for the cattle, the fight, 
the capture of the herd, the division of the spoils and the feast. The 
second section introduces the rescuers and the third describes their 
with the defence of the realm, particularly of the Fort, and the sixth 
invasion of the enemies' territories. The fourth and fifth are concerned 
concentrates its attention on the besiegers 1 attacks. In the general 
description of the war in Section VII, we come across an instance of 
Suttee , the widow of a king accompanying her husband in death, The 
eighth and ninth sections are mainly taken up with Royalty and the 
last three sections introduce miscellaneous interests. 

In its subject-matter, the theme of cattle-lifting involving a war, 
as also in the treatment of the theme, this Tamil poem invites a com- 
parison with heroic poems in other languages. 


T T EROIC stories were handed down by oral tradition in 
** various countries, generally in verse-form, for even in 
the case of a country like Ireland, where in later times we get 
only prose stories, it has been conjectured that the original 
medium was verse. The stories were probably first sung 
in the courts of princes of the Heroic Age in the form of lays ; 
these lays were, later on, the bases of heroic works on a more 
ambitious scale. The long heroic narratives based on the 
smaller lays have been styled " heroic epics " ; and they were 
not perhaps put down in writing and probably had no fixed 
form in the beginning. The work underwent a gradual 
growth and it was only after a length of time that its form was 
fixed. The final form of these works may or may not have been 
the accomplishment of one individual ; but even if one in- 
dividual was responsible for it, he was drawing on a common 
store-house of tradition and probably incorporating in his 
work a good deal of matter in exactly the same form in which 
it was being handed on. 

Such a treatment of heroic stories must be carefully dis- 
tinguished from ambitious works of another type, from what 
may be called " imitative " or " literary " epics, as opposed 
to the " authentic " or " heroic " epics. The " literary " epic is 
the product of a later generation, avowedly intended to rival 
the " authentic " work. It strives to imitate the " authentic " 
manner, it attempts to deal with truly heroic stories. But 
the whole thing is the product of one individual poet and all 
that he can depend on is a vague sketch of his story coming 
down from earlier times. He takes up this thin narrative and 
tries to amplify this into the true epic length in the style 
of the heroic epics of old. But while the latter-day poet has 
to build up the whole thing himself, the final form of the 
ancient heroic epic is achieved only by additions to and 
alterations of a mass of work already existing. 



Thus we can look out for various differences between the 
44 authentic " and " literary " epics ; and we take the Iliad, 
the Odyssey and Beowulf as examples of the former, while the 
Aeneid would be a very good example of the latter. The 
former may or may not be traced to a vague and shadowy 
author ; but with the latter we are certain of individual 
authorship and the personality of the author is sufficiently 
well-defined. Virgil, the poet of Augustan Rome, has at 
least as much of individuality as Shakespeare, quite different 
from that of the shadowy Homer, the one solid point of whose 
biography is that in the concluding passage of the " Hymn to 
Delian Apollo " in the Homeric Hymns : " A blind man who 
dwelleth in rocky Chios. His songs will be the best even in 
days to come." 

In the authentic epics we generally get no reference to the 
descendants of the main heroes, descendants who played a part 
in the history of later times. In the " literary " type we very 
often come across such passages ; we may take the Aeneid 
vi, 842 ff. as a good example. The only passage of this 
nature in Homer is one in Bk. xx of the Iliad referring to 
Aineias : " It is appointed to him to escape, that the race of 
Dardanos perish not without seed or sign, even Dardanos 
whom the son of Kronos loved above all the children born to 
him from the daughters of men. For the race of Priam hath 
Zeus already hated. But thus shall the might of Aineias reign 
among the Trojans, and his children's children, who shall be 
born in the after-time." l There may be a reference here to 
the greatness of Aineias's descendants in another land, to 
kings reigning in the poet's time somewhere in the neighbour- 
hood of Troy or at any rate somewhere in North-Western 
Asia Minor or Thrace. 2 But such references are exceptional 
in Homer and never occur in Beowulf. In the Aeneid, on the 
other hand, the author is interested in the hero not so much 
for the sake of his heroic achievements as for the fact that 
he was the ancestor of a particular line of kings ruling a land 
or a nation whose fortunes concern the author. 

This leads us on to a vital difference between the Homeric 
and the Virgilian types, a difference in this that the latter is 

i Translation of Lan Lea*, and Myers. 

The traditional story of Aineias* s conquest of Italy is probably not so 
ancient. * J 


more concerned with the fortunes of nations and states, 
while the former is more so with individuals and their heroic 
deeds. The interest of the Iliad and the Odyssey is not in 
the advance of the Greek cause or in the exaltation of some 
Greek state. It is in the fortunes of Achilles and Agamemnon, 
of Hektor and Odysseus that we are interested ; and the 
personal element is the most absorbing factor in polity and 
war. The Greeks are invading Troy, not from any national 
or patriotic motives, but to avenge the insult done to an 
individual Greek prince by a Trojan. The war too is not so 
much the conflict of armies as a whole ; it resolves itself in 
fights between individuals on whose prowess the fate of the 
campaign seems to depend. The absence of a hero like 
Achilles means disaster for his side and his return implies the 
discomfiture of his foes. The chief events of the prolonged 
contest, the events on which our interest is focussed, are the 
hand-to-hand fights between Menelaos and Paris, between 
Hektor and Patroklos, between Aineias and Diomedes, 
between Hektor and Achilles. The fate of the battle depends 
on these single combats and individual bravery is the one 
important element of the epic. Not so. however, in the Aeneid 
which is as much the epic of Rome as of Aeneas. The great- 
ness of Aeneas is not so much in his acts of prowess as in his 
being the progenitor of the Romans. The author's nationalism 
looms large ; and in his case at least it seems possible to apply 
Addison's dictum about heroic poetry that it should be 
emblematic of the author's patriotism and should convey a 
moral applicable to the state of the country at the time of 
the author. However absurd this idea may be if applied to the 
Iliad or Beowulf, it seems at least partly true of the Aeneid. 
One main difference then between the Virgiliari and the 
Homeric types is that the one is national while the other is 
international ; and there is a good reason why it should be 
international. The minstrel's songs, on which these heroic 
works were based, were not meant to be sung at the court 
of only one prince. They may have been composed in honour 
of a particular king ; but emphasis was laid on his heroism 
rather than on his nationality, in order that they might be 
popular at other courts too. A hero would always appreciate 
a praise of heroism but would have no liking for the 
glorification of a different nationality. Thus songs which 


were meant to have an international currency focussed the 
interest on the heroism of the individual and kept his 
nationality in the background. 

There are, however, other differences as well, for example, 
the matter of the compression of the events within a short 
space of time. The literary epic generally covers a long 
period perhaps the space of a man's life, taking in most 
events from his birth to his death. Or again it may describe 
the history of a land for a considerable period. But the action 
of the authentic epic is much more concentrated. The action 
of the Iliad covers just a few days ; the action of the Odyssey 
occupies only the last six weeks of the ten years of Odysseus' 
wanderings. It is true that Beowulf takes up a long space 
of time. But, as has often been pointed out, it is really 
made up of two detached parts, the Grendel-adventure and 
the dragon-adventure ; and in each part the action is quite 
swift. Of course, in all heroic epics we have episodes 
summarizing other heroic stories within a short compass, 
and the action of these stories certainly takes up a long 
period. Thus in Beowulf we have the Finn episode sketched 
in a few lines and the events of a comparatively long space 
of time had to be crammed within that. Now a comparison 
of this episode with the Finnsburg fragment will show an 
essential difference between the two styles. 

In the former the interest is one only of the progress of 
events, for the shortness of space does not admit of anything 
else. In the fragment, on the other hand, fullness of detail 
is possible ; and so the interest is one of heroic situations 
and heroic sentiments. The description of the events of a 
long period with this fullness of detail would assume monu- 
mental proportions. An account of the events of ten years 
in the same detailed manner as of a few days would take up 
a vast number of lines and would mean the repetition of 
almost similar details, thereby involving monotony and 
sacrificing the unity of action gained from compression. 
The poet can thus only deal conveniently with a short space 
of time. On the other hand, the interest of the episodes is, 
in a sense, the same as that of the literary epics the interest, 
namely, of a sequence of events describing the life history 
of an individual or, at any rate, the events of a considerable 
portion of his life. 


Again in the authentic epic the fact of oral transmission 
is very prominent. Speeches are constantly introduced 
in a set form, the same formulae being repeated over and 
over again. Thus in the first part of Beowulf eight out of 
the thirteen speeches of Beowulf are introduced with the 
same words : " Beowulf mathelode beam Ecgtheowes " ; 
and three out of Hrothgar's seven speeches are prefaced 
by : " Hrothgar mathelode helm Scyldinga." This would 
seem to indicate that the person who was reporting these 
speeches felt the importance of the speakers and could 
describe their speaking only in a formal way. 

It would be interesting to see how far the Mahdbhdrata 
possesses these features of authentic epics. First we must 
notice that the work is supposed to be recited at the court 
of the great-grandson of one of the chief heroes, so that at 
least three generations of descendants seem to be implied. 
Yet in the work itself no one later than Abhimanyu, son of 
the hero, Arjuna, plays a leading part. The birth of Abhi- 
manyu's son is just mentioned in one of the later books ; 
and the story itself has nothing to do with Janamejaya, 
Abhimanyu's grandson. But if the Mahdbhdrata is not 
concerned with the descendants of heroes it cannot be said 
to be equally uninterested in their ancestors. 1 Devavrata 
Bhisma, the brother of their grandfather, takes an active 
part in the great battle and is, for a time, the leader of the 
Kuru army. The ancestors beyond Bhisma are not brought 
into the main story but figure in some episodes ; and it is 
very difficult to bring these episodes within the true heroic 
category. Firstly, they are literary abridgements of the 
type of the Finn episode in Beowulf; and secondly, they 
are not always even heroic in tone. The main characters of 
Yayati's story are divine or semi-divine in nature, while the 
different versions of the Nahusa legend bring in different 
interests. Sakuntala's story has been supposed to be a late 
addition ; neither the matter nor the form has anything 
common with the main parts of the story. The theme is one 
of romantic love which rarely plays a part in heroic stories. 
The full and ambitious descriptions of natural scenes and 
surroundings remind one more of the works of a later age 

1 The opening lines of Beowulf introduce the ancestors of Hrothgar ; and the 
eleventh book of the Odyssey introduces some heroes of the past. 


of the dramas of Kalidasa and others. There is fullness of 
detail in the epic ; but as we shall see later on, the fullness 
is in descriptions of action rather than of anything else. 
Then again, in the heroic parts, speeches occupy a consider- 
able portion of the work, as they do in Homer or Beowulf ; 
but in the Sakuntala episode, as in other literary abridge- 
ments, there is too much of description in the third person. 
Other episodes dealing with the heroes' ancestors have the 
same features ; and we feel that they are accretions to our 
story introduced perhaps in later times. 

However, even if we take up only the story of the main 
heroes, it does not seem to show all the features we have 
associated above with the " authentic " epics. The action 
seems to be very diffuse and covers a very long period of 
time, the space of the whole life of the heroes. Yet this 
diffuseness is more apparent than real, as indeed is the case 
with Beowulf. The parts of the story dealing with fighting 
proper take up five books, Bks. vi to x ; and the addition of 
this part is certainly compressed within a few days. Then 
there arc the Prologue and the Epilogue. Of the former 
the second, fourth, and fifth books are mainly heroic ; but 
the first and third with their profusion of episodes, mostly 
very long ones in the case of the latter, are the most composite 
in their structure. They have heroic scenes and episodes ; 
but an extraordinarily vast amount of matter has been put 
into these books. Naturally it cannot be called purely heroic, 
and would require the most careful sifting for purposes of 
evidence. As regards the epilogue, the twelfth and thirteenth 
books concern us very little. The eleventh is a very small 
book. While the fourteenth has a good deal of useful matter, 
the latter books have practically no heroic interest. Thus in 
the nucleus of the work the action is fairly well compressed ; 
and it is chiefly here that we must look for the features 
of heroic poetry. 

The interest of the main story is centred on the doings 
of a group of individuals and national or tribal interest is 
rarely prominent. As a matter of fact, the rival heroes are 
said to belong to the same family though here we are not 
concerned with the problem of the correctness or incorrectness 
of this description. There is a religious interest, there is 
perhaps an attempt to exalt one particular cult at the expense 


of others ; but how far this forms part of the heroic epic 
will have to be discussed elsewhere. Here we must emphasize 
what is apparent on a first reading of the Mahdbhdrata, 
that it is a story of the heroism of Arjuna and Karna, of 
Bhima and Bhisma and the question of patriotism or tribal 
supremacy never strikes us. Numerous princes come to 
help the heroes on either side, and one feels that it is always 
the personal factor which determines these alliances. 

As we shall have to point out later on, Drupada, originally 
an enemy of the Pandavas, became their firmest ally through 
the tie of marriage, while a similar bond cemented the 
alliance between Virata and the Pandavas. In the actual 
fighting again, the interest is always focusscd on the deeds 
of individual heroes and the issue of the battle hangs not so 
much on the clash of whole armies as on single combats 
between distinguished warriors on cither side, combats which 
frequently take the shape of hand-to-hand fights. Thus 
the death of Ghatotkaca is regarded as a great disaster by 
the Pandavas, while the fact that he in dying slew an entire 
division of the enemies' soldiers does not seem wortli any 
exultation. The only redeeming feature in Ghatotkaea's 
death is that Karna in slaying him has lost the weapon which 
he had kept specially for use against Arjuna. The safety of 
Arjuna or of any distinguished hero is a much more important 
thing than the slaughter of thousands of the common soldiers 
of the enemy. So the land-marks of the great battle are not 
the repulse of one division or another, but the slaying of 
Bhisma by Arjuna, of Abhimanyu by Jayadratha, of Drona 
by Dhrstadyumna, of Ghatotkaca by Karna, of Karna by 
Arjuna, of Salya by Yudhisthira and of Duryodhana by Bhima. 
As one or the other hero is slain, victory seems to lean to his 
enemies, until with the destruction of all the great generals 
of the Kurus, the Pandavas can claim to be the final victors. 

In the discussion of ancient Indian minstrelsy in the last 
chapter we went into the evidences of the oral transmission 
of heroic stories l and we noticed that generally no conven- 
tional formulae were used for the introduction of speeches. 
But there is certainly a fullness of detail in other matters. 

1 Here we may add the fact of the repetition of so many descriptions, the 
thing being narrated once in the third person and once in the first, e.g. the 
same adventures of Duryodliana are described in the third person in ii, 47, 8 ff., 
and in the first in iii, 80, 25 ff. 


In the western heroic poems the movements of royal 
personages are carefully noted. Thus the Odyssey, i, 828 ff. 
has : " From her upper chamber the daughter of Ikarios, 
wise Penelope, caught the glorious strain ; and she went down 
the high stairs from her chamber, not alone, for two of her 
handmaids bore her company. Now when the fair lady 
had come unto the wooers, she stood by the pillar of the 
well-builded roof holding up her glistening tire before her 
face ; and a faithful maiden stood on either side her." l 
So again, Beowulf, 11,669 ff. has : " complete confidence 
had surely the prince of the Geatas in his impetuous strength 
and in the favour of God when he put off his iron corslet and 
the helm from his head, and gave his decorated sword, an 
excellent weapon, to his attendant squire, bidding him to 
take charge of the harness of battle." Or, again, 11,921 ff. : 
" As for the king himself, the guardian of the ring-hoards, 
famed for his sterling qualities, he likewise strode majestic- 
ally from his bed-chamber with a great following, and with 
him his queen traversed the ascent to the mead-hall, 
accompanied by a band of maidens. When Hrothgar arrived 
at the hall, he stood by the pillar (on stapole), gazing on the 
lofty roof, adorned with gold, and on Grendel's arm." 2 

With these passages we may compare Mbh. vi, 108, 58 ff. : 
" After having discussed the matter, the heroic Pandavas 
together with the highly powerful son of Vasudeva went 
towards the tent of Bhisma. They had already put off their 
armours and dresses ; and entering the tent, they all touched 
Bhlsma's feet with their hands. Then, O mighty monarch, 
the Pandavas saluted that foremost of the Bharatas with 
their bent heads and sought his protection. On this the 
mighty armed Bhisma, the grandfather of the Kurus, thus 
addressed them . . ." Or again, ii, 59, 1 ff. : " Having 
entered the assembly-hall, the sons of Prtha with Yudhisthira 
at their head, met all the kings present there. They 
worshipped all those who deserved to be worshipped, and 
saluted others as each deserved according to his age ; and then 
they seated themselves on seats covered with costly carpets." 

The stages in the arrival and reception of visitors^ 
generally described with great elaboration. The " 

1 Butcher and Lang's translation. 
* Professor Chadwick's translation. 


Telemachos and the disguised Pallas Athene at the court of 
Nestor may be taken as an illustration : " They came to 
the gathering and session of the men of Pylos. There was 
Nestor seated with his sons and round him his company 
making ready the feast, and roasting some of the flesh and 
spitting other. Now when they saw the strangers, they went 
all together, and clasped their hands in welcome, and would 
have them sit down. First Peisistratos, son of Nestor, drew 
nigh, and took the hands of each and made them to sit down 
at the feast on soft fleeces upon the sea sand, beside his 
brother Thrasymedes and his father. And he gave them 
messes of the inner meat and poured wine into a golden cup, 
and pledging her, he spake unto Pallas Athene . . . Therewith 
he placed in her hand the cup of sweet wine . . . And she 
gave Telemachos the fair two-handled cup." l 

The arrival of Beowulf at Hrothgar's court is as fully 
described in 331 ff. Beowulf is addressed by a henchman of 
Hrothgar's and replies, describing his mission. Wulfgar 
carries the message to Hrothgar : " Quickly then he sped to 
where Hrothgar was sitting, aged and grey-haired among 
his retinue of nobles. Exulting in his prowess he passed on 
until he took his stand at the side of the prince of the Danes ; 
for he knew the usage of chivalry." 2 Then Wulfgar addresses 
the king and the latter replies ; and Wulfgar carries a message 
of welcome to Beowulf. 

With these we may compare the account of Yudhisthira's 
arrival at Hastinapura in ii, 58 : " Having arrived at 
Hastinapura, he went to Dhrtarastra's palace. The high- 
souled Pandava then met Dhrtarastra, Bhlsma, Drona, 
Karna and Krpa. He also met the son of Drona. He duly 
saluted and embraced all of them and was saluted and 
embraced by them in return." He met various other princes 
who had arrived before him ; then accompanied by his 
brothers, he " entered the palace of the wise king Dhrtarastra 
and there saw the lady Gandhari, ever obedient to her 
husband. She was surrounded by her daughters-in-law like 
Rohini by the stars. He saluted Gandhari and was blest 
by her in return ". Or again we may take i, 208, 7 ff . : " At 
the command of Dhrtarastra, Vidura went to Drupada and 
the Pandavas. He carried with him numerous jewels, etc., 
1 Butcher and Lang's translation. Professor Chadwick's translation. 


for Drupada, his daughter and the Pandavas. O king, on 
having arrived there that virtuous man, proficient in all 
sacred lore, addressed Drupada in the proper fashion and 
waited upon him. Drupada too accorded to Vidura a proper 
reception ; and they enquired after each other's welfare. 
Bharata, there he saw the Pandavas and Krsna and 
embraced them, after having enquired about their welfare. 
They too worshipped in due order Vidura of immeasurable 
intelligence, who addressed words of affection to them. He 
then gave to the Pandavas, etc., the gems and various 
valuable things sent by the Kurus . . . " 

Perhaps an equally good parallel to these Mahdbhdrata 
passages is to be found in some scenes of the Odyssey or 
Beowulf, scenes where friends are greeted or bidden farewell. 
Thus the emotions are very fully described in Od., xvi, 14 ff. : 
" And he (Eumaios) came over against his master and kissed 
his head and both his beautiful eyes and both his hands, 
and he let a great tear fall. And even as a loving father 
welcomes his son that has come in the tenth year from a far 
country, his only son and well-beloved, for whose sake he 
has had great sorrow and travail, even so did the goodly 
swineherd fall upon the neck of godlike Telemachos and kiss 
him all over as one escaped from death, and he wept aloud." 1 

Again, we may take the scene of Hrothgar's farewell to 
Beowulf (1870 ff.) : " Then did the king of noble lineage, the 
prince of the Scyldingas, kiss that best of squires and clasp 
him round the neck. Tears fell from him, as he stood there 
with his grey hair. Aged and venerable as he was, he felt 
uncertain, indeed he thought it unlikely, that they would 
ever meet again in spirited converse. So dear was this man 
to him that he could not restrain his heart's emotion ; but 
in his breast, fast bound within his heart, a secret longing for 
the beloved man burnt in his blood." 2 With this we may 
compare a scene of farewell in the Mahabharata, for example, 
ii, 78-9, where Yudhisthira bids farewell to all the friends 
and relatives of the Kurus. Vidura persuades him to leave 
his mother behind and hopes to see him return in safety and 
crowned with success. " Then when Draupadi was about to 
start, she went to the illustrious Kunti and prayed for per- 
mission to depart. She asked her and the other ladies (of the 

1 Butcher and Lang's translation. ' Professor Chadwick's translation. 


royal household), who were all plunged in grief. After 
saluting and embracing each one of them as she deserved, she 
desired to go away. Thereupon loud lamentations were heard 
from within the inner apartment of the Pandavas. Kunti 
was greatly afflicted on seeing Draupadi about to start on 
her journey and uttered these words in a voice choked with 

Similes are very common in the Homeric poems and they 
are often very ambitious, expatiating on details which have 
little to do with the point of comparison. We may take, for 
example, xi, 112 ff. : " And as a lion easily crusheth the 
young fawns of a swift hind, when that he hath seized them 
in his strong teeth, and hath come to their lair, and taketh their 
tender life away and the hind, even if she chance to be 
near at hand, cannot help them, for on herself too cometh 
dread terror, and swiftly she speedeth through the thick 
coppice and the woodland, hasting and sweating before the 
onslaught of the mighty beast even so not one of the Trojans 
did avail to save them from their bane." 1 Similes are to be 
found in profusion in the Mahdbhdrata : and figures taken 
from wild beasts, as in the Homeric example just quoted, are 
very common. 2 There are ambitious similes too, but they are 
not on the Homeric line, for they do not deviate from the 
points of comparison. A good example would be 
ix, 24, 49-50 : " The vast hostile army was a terrible forest 
of bows. Darts were its prickles ; maces and bludgeons were 
its paths ; cars and elephants were its huge trees ; and the 
cavalry and infantry were its creepers." Such a simile is 
no doubt extravagant ; but it tries to find out resemblances 
between two objects at various points ; this is not the only 
instance of its kind. 3 Sometimes again we have a succession 
of similes, 4 the same object being likened to various things, 
one after another. 

Extravagant similes are not uncommon and sometimes 
they are quite short ones, the point of comparison being 
rather far-fetched. We may take vi, 86, 39 : " The mace 
crushed it (the chariot) and fell on the ground like a blazing 

1 Lang, Leaf and Myers* translation. 

1 Ci.Mbh. vi, 111, 8; vii,182,24; viii,00,29; 67,13; 79,82; 89,2,4,9; 
vi, 53, 81 ; 59, 90; 61, 2 ; 92, 6 ; 110, 17, etc. 
Cf. e.g. viil, 79, 1-5. 
4 E.g. vii, 1, 23 ff. ; 49, 16 ff., etc. Cf. //. ii, 455 ff. 


and fierce meteor dropping down from the skies." Or again, in 
vi, 80, 35 : " The mighty car-warrior hurled a great dart 
blazing like a fiery meteor." With such an extravagant 
simile we may compare Iliad, ii, 455 ff., where the gleam of 
armour is likened to a " ravaging fire " kindling " a boundless 
forest ". Or we may take Finn, 35 ff . : "A gleam arose 
from the swords as though Finn's fortress were all on fire." 
With these again we may compare Mbh. viii, 80, 18 : " As 
on a night a blazing forest of bamboos burns on a great 
mountain, so the great army appeared on fire from Arjuna's 
shots." l 

It is very common for Homeric similes to be derived from 
hunting scenes and a good example would be II. xv, 272 ff . : 
" As when hounds and country-folk pursue a horned stag or 
a wild goat, and it is saved by a precipitous rock or shady 
wood and they cannot succeed in finding it, but at their 
clamour a bearded lion has shown himself on the way, etc." 
Although similes are not so common in Teutonic heroic poems, 
we get pictures of hunting in various connections, 2 and an 
interest in hunting seems to have been a ruling passion in 
the Heroic Age, an interest the narrator of the heroic stories 
was careful to bring out. In Indian heroic poetry the 
narrator probably did not have the same interest in hunting ; 
and hence hunting similes are rather rare in the Mahdbhdrata. 
We get a few instances, however, and we may take viii, 80, 
26 : " They distressed Arjuna with fiery arrows even as 
hunters do the elephant " ; or viii, 56, 99 : " These two angry 
heroes . . . moved about like two elephants excited at the 
claps of hunters in a deep forest " ; or vii, 49, 15 : " The 
heroic warrior slain by the Kurus appeared beautiful like a 
wild elephant slain by the hunter " ; and a passage in the 
second Book seems to confirm what Aelian says that lions 
were hunted with dogs : " As a pack of dogs bark all together 
at a sleeping lion, so do all the rulers " etc. (ii, 40, 7). Deer- 
hunting was perhaps more common, as a detailed description 
in iii, 192, 89 ff. tends to show. 

So long we have been examining some common 
characteristics relating to style ; and even these sometimes, 

in* F rest - flre similes are quite common in Mbh. Cf. vi, 108,7 ; 106, 18; 
*U7 11 ; 18, 11, etc. 
1 Cf. Beo., 1860 ff. 


as in the case of the interest in hunting, seem to point to 
important features in the life of the age. But there are 
common passages of a different kind, passages which have 
a deeper significance. Thus, for example, the thirst for fame 
seems to have been a predominant characteristic of the 
heroes. It is in the prospect of undying fame that Achilles 
finds consolation in //. ix : " If I abide here and besiege the 
Trojan's city, then my returning home is taken from me ; 
but my fame shall be imperishable. But if I go home to my 
native land, my high fame is taken from me." The same 
thirst is prominent in Hektor's speech to Aias (//. vii, 85 ff.) 
and Agamemnon's description of the honours paid to Achilles 
(Od. xxiv, 80 ff.). In both instances a splendid grave-mound 
on the sea-shore is thought to be a fitting memorial to a dead 
hero, as such a monument will be seen from afar and remind 
people of the worth of the hero. The same idea comes out 
in Beowulf's desire for " a splendid grave-chamber where the 
head-land juts into the sea " (Bco. 2802 ff.). The prospect 
of glory is put before Waldhere to induce him to fight : " In 
this hour, champion of Attila, let not thy prowess yield, thy 
knightly courage fail. Now is the day come when thou, son 
of Aelfhere, must lose thy life, or else win lasting glory 
among men " * (Wald. A/8 ff.). 

With these we may compare Mbh. ix, 5, 29 : " Fame is all 
that one should acquire here. That fame can be acquired 
by battle and by no other means." Death on the battle-field 
is always regarded as the fitting end of the Ksatriya ; but 
the prospect of fame through such a deatli is not always 
brought out. On the contrary, the chief gain derived from 
such a death is often said to be eternal happiness in the next 
world. Thus we may take ix, 3, 53 : " Death on the field of 
battle while fighting in accordance with the custom of the 
Ksatriyas, is welcome. Undergoing such a death a person 
enjoys eternal happiness in the other world." We get similar 
sentiments in viii, 93, 5G, 59 ; ix, 5, 39 ; 19, 59-60 ; vii, 195, 
etc. The two sentiments are however combined in Karna's 
speech (iii, 299, 31 ff.) : " I long for fame even through the 
sacrifice of my life. Men having renown attain to heaven 
and those without it are lost ... In the next world fame leads 
men to supreme bliss and in this it prolongs life . . . 
1 Mr. Dickins' translation. 


Performing impossible feats in battle I shall sacrifice my life 
and through conquering my enemies I shall win fame alone 
... I shall win great renown in this world and have access 
to the highest heaven ; and this I have set my mind on that 
I shall preserve my good name at the sacrifice of my life." 
Again xi, 2, 14 is very much to the point : " He who is 
slain in battle attains to heaven and who slays his enemy 
acquires fame " so that in either case fighting is for the 
good of the warrior. An apt parallel to these sentiments is 
found in the song of Roland (11. 1474 ff.) : " Fated is it 
certainly that we should all perish ere long, and it may be 
that we should never more behold the sunrise. But of one 
thing can I stand a surety for you. To you shall be accorded 
the blessed realms of heaven ; there shall ye have your 
seats among the saints." 

Some of these passages emphasize the inevitableness of 
death ; and this idea is closely associated with a fatalism on 
the part of the heroes, an emphasis on Destiny as ruling the 
course of human events. Again and again, we come across 
the idea in Homer. Thus II. vi, 486 ff. has : " No man against 
my fate shall hurl me to Hades ; only Destiny, I ween, no 
man hath escaped, be he coward or be he valiant." Or 
xvi, 845 ff. : " But me have ruinous Fate and the son of 
Leto slain . . . Verily thou thyself art not long to live, but 
already doth Death stand hard by thee ; and strong Fate." 1 
Od. vii, 196 ff. speak of Fate and the spinning women who 
settle the destinies of men ; and this latter idea is very 
common in Teutonic story. The most significant treatment 
of the idea is found in the Saga of Nornagesti (Cap. ii) and 
we get it also in the Gylfaginning and Helgakvitha 
Hundingsbana, while it is fully handled in the Darratharljdth. 
The idea of an over-ruling Fate is not absent from Russian 
heroic legend and we have a good instance in the story of 
Svyatoger. He meets a superhuman being and asks him if 
he may know the fate that is decreed for him. He is asked to 
go to a smith in the mountains, one who forges the fates of 
men. In the story of Diuk Stepanovich, he refused to fight 
with Ilya of Murom, for the latter's death is not decreed to 
be in battle. 

The Mahdbharata repeatedly emphasizes the force of 
1 Lang, Leaf and Myers* translation. 


Destiny. " Human effort can never overcome Destiny " 
(vi, 124) l and in a moment of dejection one goes even so far 
as to say " I think Destiny is more powerful than exertion 
... Of the two Destiny is certainly the more mighty ; and 
exertion is of no avail" (vii, 9). Ordinarily Destiny is 
thought all-powerful ; but man should not desist from 
personal endeavour. Death or doom may be fixed beforehand 
by the " high gods " ; but the hero's aim is : 

" The day of deeds to accomplish and the gathering in 
of fame." 2 

Fame then is the objective and the heroes are not ashamed 
to boast of their deeds and to proclaim them in public. Thus 
Hektor exults over the dying Patroklos (//. xvi, 830 ff.) : 
" Surely thou saidst that thou wouldst sack my town, and 
from Trojan women take away the day of freedom, and bring 
them in ships to thine own dear country ; fool ! nay, in 
front of these were the swift horses of Hektor straining their 
speed for the fight ; and myself in wielding the spear excel 
among the war-loving Trojans, even I who ward from them 
the day of Destiny." 3 Again Diomedes thus addressed 
Paris (xi, 388 ff.) : " Feeble is the dart of craven man and 
worthless. In other wise from my hand, yea, if it do but 
touch, the sharp shaft flieth, and straightway layeth low 
its man, and torn are the cheeks of his wife and fatherless 
his children." So again the disguised Apollo taunts Aineias 
(in Bk. xx) with his futile boasts. 

In the Finn-fragment (24 ff.) Sigeferth boasts of his deeds 
and his lineage : " Sigeferth is my name ; I am prince of the 
Secgan, known as a rover far and wide. Many a hardship, 
many a fierce battle have I endured. Yet to thee is cither 
lot assured that thou wilt seek at my hands." Beowulf s 
boast in 636 ff. is slightly different ; he expresses his 
determination to perform a deed of knightly prowess or meet 
his death in the attempt. The Russian heroes, too, seem to 
have been given to bragging of their valour and we may 
take the following passage in the story of Dunai Ivanovich : 
"All was merry at the feast when the guests began their 
brags. One vaunted his good steed and one his youthful 

1 Cf. vi, 122, 9 ; vii, 1, 18 ; ix, 24, 17, etc. 

* Morris's Sigurd the VoUung. 

* Long, Leaf and Myers* translation. 


prowess, this knight his sharp sword and that his deeds of 
might." 1 The Serb heroes are not more modest. When 
Alil-Aga, the Sultan's man, meets Marko, he says : " Fair 
knight, come, loose thine arrows, thou vauntest thyself for 
a good knight of prowess ; thou didst boast in the Sultan's 
divan how with an arrow thou mayst smite the eagle-bird, 
even the eagle that leadeth the clouds." Elsewhere Philip 
the Magyar boasts thus : " Brothers, ye see white Karlovatz ; 
now there are thirty and three towers therein. I have 
garnished each with a head, save only the tower on the bridge, 
and that I shall presently garnish with the head of Krai je vie 
Marko." 2 

The French heroes, too, could boast as well as any others. 
Thus Roland says to Oliver before his last fight : " Many a 
mighty blow will I first strike with Durendal. Soon shall the 
blade thereof be stained with blood. To their ruin have the 
heathen made this journey to our borders, for I swear upon 
my troth that they all are damned to death . . . When on 
every side the fight is fiercely raging, then will I strike a 
thousand blows with my sword and seven hundred more. 
With blood will I stain my sword Durendal. And the Franks 
shall fight with valour, and it please God ; but those of 
Spain can nothing save from death." 3 

The Indian heroes were not behindhand in bragging. When 
Abhimanyu sees Duhsasana before him on the battle-field, 
he taunts him with his misdeeds and says (vii, 40) : " To-day 
in the presence of all these warriors I will chastise you with 
my arrows. To-day I will relieve myself of the weight of 
anger I bear against you as also from the debt I owe to my 
parents and uncles who ever desire your death. To-day in 
battle I will repay the debt I owe to Bhima. This day you 
shall not leave with your life, provided you do not abandon 
the fight." So in viii, 40, 5 ff. Karna vaunts his prowess and 
skill and appears confident of slaying Arjuna. He has a 
special arrow which can penetrate the mountains, and he will 
not discharge that arrow against any but Arjuna or Krsna, 
and such warriors as he can kill single-handed. Another hero, 
Salya, is equally confident : " When angered I can fight 

1 Hapgood's translation, p. 27, of Epic Songs of Russia. 

1 Low's translation of the Ballads of Marko. 

8 Crosland's translation of the Song of Roland, 11. 1067 ff. 


with the whole world consisting of the celestials, Asuras 
and men. I will defeat the assembled Parthas and Somakas 
in battle . . . Let the world behold me moving about fear- 
lessly on the field . . . Let the Parthas etc. witness the 
strength of my arms and the precious weapons I possess " 
(ix, 7). So again in v, 163, Bhima boasts of his strength and 
is confident of slaying single-handed all Kuru heroes. It is 
true that Asvatthama says in vii, 196 : "An Arya (or noble 
person) should not sound his own praises." 1 But it has been 
pointed out that no warrior excels Asvatthama in actual 

This feeling of pride is thus quite common in the heroes 
and often it is as much the pride of individual prowess as of 
noble lineage. Thus before they start fighting Aincias 
speaks to Achilles about their respective families : " We know 
each other's race and lineage in that we have heard the 
fame proclaimed by mortal men, but never hast thou set 
eyes on my parents or I on thine. Thou, they say, art son 
of noble Peleus and of Thetis of the fair tresses, the daughter 
of the sea : the sire I boast is Anchises, great of heart, and 
my mother is Aphrodite ... If thou wilt, learn also this, that 
thou mayest know our lineage, known to full many men: 
First Zeus the Cloud-gatherer begat Dardanos ; . . . then 
Dardanos begat a son, king Erichthonios . . . Erichthonios 
begat Tros, . . . and Tros Ilios and Assarkos . . . Assarkos 
begat Kapys, Kapys Anchises and Anchises me " (//. xx, 
200 ff.). With this introduction of himself as of illustrious 
descent we may compare Idomeneus' proud speech to 
Deiphobos in Iliad xiii, 448 ff. 

The Indian practice is shown in Mbh. i, 138, 31 ff. When 
Karna challenges Arjuna to a single fight, the latter' s friend, 
Krpa, wants to know Karna's lineage : " This is the son of 
Pandu, the youngest child of KuntI ; he is a Kuru and will 
engage in a single combat with you. But O mighty-armed 
hero, you too should tell us of your ancestry, the lineage of 
your father and mother and the royal family of which you 
are an ornament. Arjuna will decide whether he will fight 
with you only after hearing of your family, for the sons of 
great kings never engage in a duel with men of inferior 

1 Aryepa hi na vaktavya kad&cit stutir &tmanah. 


The feeling of pride in one's family is also clearly shown 
when it is threatened with extinction and Beowulf's farewell 
speech to Wiglaf (2814 ff.) brings it out : " Thou art the last 
remnant of our house, even of Waegmund's line. All my 
kinsmen in their knightly prowess has Fate swept off to their 
doom. I myself must follow them." l With this Professor 
Chadwick compares 2 Od. xiv, 180 ff. where Eumaios fears 
the fate of Odysseus on his return home : " Now the lordly 
wooers lie in wait for him on his way home, that the race of 
godlike Arkesios may perish nameless out of Ithaka." 

In the Mahdbhdrata the necessity of the continuance of 
a family is given a spiritual point, for the memorial offerings 
of sons are necessary for the salvation of ancestors. This 
point may well be an interpolation of post-heroic times, and 
there are many such things which depart from heroic 
standards. Thus Yudhisthira distressed at the havoc Bhisma 
was making among his troops, asked for Krsna's advice, 
saying : "I prize life very much ; and it is dear and scarce 
to be obtained. If I can save it now, I shall spend the rest 
of it in the performance of excellent deeds of piety " (vi, 108, 
23). Such a confession is surely unworthy of a truly heroic 
figure ; and in actual fighting Yudhisthira is not much better. 
Thus when he was in a difficult position in his fight with 
Drona, he quickly ascended Sahadeva's chariot and fled from 
the battle-field, being borne away by the fleetest steeds 
(vii, 106). Again, he fares no better in his fight with 
Krtavarman (vii, 1C5) : He was no match for the latter in 
feats of arms ; deprived of his armour and his car, he had 
to make good his escape from the battle-field. In vii, 20, he 
is sorely afraid of being captured by Drona, and 
Dhrstadyumna has to assure him that he need have no 
fears In the fight that follows Satyajit loses his life in trying 
to defend Yudhisthira, who escapes from the field of battle, 
" borne away speedily by his fleet steeds " (21, 57). 

There are other unheroic elements too. One is the great 
interest taken in the Brahmanas in what we have called the 
Prologue and the Epilogue. Thus in ii, 46, full details are 
given of the arrival of Vyasa at Yudhisthira's court and of his 
reception there ; and in the first book there are whole episodes 
about Brahmana sages and their disciples. Then there is the 
1 Professor Chadwick's translation. Heroic Age, p. 828. 


with the deeds of blood they perform. It is as with Virgil's 
Aeneas or Tennyson's Arthur : when the hero slays one of his 
opponents, it looks very much like murder. The impression 
, produced by the whole work is one of artifice, of what we 
have called a " literary " as opposed to the authentic epic of 
what the Sanskrit critic would call a " Kavya " as opposed 
to the " Itihasa-Purana ". 



TN discussing the history of minstrelsy, 1 we have had 
-* occasion to show that heroic poetry started with bardic 
songs about events almost contemporaneous. The historic 
basis was there, but the imagination of successive generations 
of bards played on it and added elements which can by no 
means be termed historical. Such elements are present in the 
Iliad and the Odyssey, in Beowulf and the Cuchulain Saga, 
in the ballads of Marko and Ilya of Murom, in the Volsung 
story and the Mahdbhdrata ; but their presence cannot be 
made a ground for denying the ultimate historicity of the 
stories. Thus Professor Chambers, while denying the 
historical existence of Beowulf, acknowledges that we cannot 
" disqualify Beowulf forthwith because he slew a dragon. 
Several unimpeachable historical persons have done this : 
so sober an authority as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle assures us 
that fiery dragons were flying in Northumbria as late as 
A.D. 793 ". 2 So again Olrik points out that dragons appear 
in many stories about historical persons, persons whose 
historicity is beyond all doubt. The Sagas of Ragnarr 
Lothbrok, of Ketil haeng and of Sivard digri, are cases in 
point. The Icelandic poet Bjorn Hitdaelakappi is said to have 
slain a dragon, when sailing on one of King Canute's ships ; 
and monster-slaying is mentioned as an achievment in the 
Njalssaga. 3 

These unhistorical elements may appear in the heroic 
poems in many forms, one of the commonest being the 
introduction of gods and goddesses who play an active part 
in the story. The reasons for such an introduction are easily 
understood. The heroes are taken to be superhuman, superior 
to the race of average men ; and they can quite conceivably 

1 In the chapter on " Early Indian Minstrelsy and Heroic Poetry ", pp. 49 ff. 
1 Chambers 1 Beoivulf, p. II. For an examination of Chambers' arguments, 
see note at the end, p. 112. 

Olrik, The Heroic Legends of Denmark, Hollander's translation, pp. 474 ff. 



be the rivals of divinities. The gods come down to strive 
with them and the heroes prove their mettle by fighting every 
inch of ground ; ultimately they come off no worse than the 
gods. Such combats alone can conclusively prove the super- 
human vigour of the heroes. Hence, to the primitive bard, the 
introduction of divinities seems an essential element of heroic 

Thus in the Homeric combats, the gods often take a leading 
part, fighting for their favourites. In the Iliad, Bk. v, 
Aphrodite and Ares came down to help the Trojans and are 
both wounded by Diomedes ; and in Book iii, Aphrodite 
rescues Paris from the hands of Menelaos. These instances 
must be distinguished from those of Books viii and xiv, 
where the heroes gain the victory through the aid of gods not 
taking an active part in the fray. Such instances do not tend 
to magnify the prowess of the heroes but rather depreciate 
their valour, for their victory is explained away as due to the 
overruling will of gods. These may be cited as instances of 
the religiosity of the poet, but not of his hero-worship. 

In Northern heroic stories and stories of the Viking Age l 
Othin sometimes takes an active part in fights the most 
noteworthy instance being perhaps in Saxo's account of the 
battle at Bra valla. There Othin disguises himself in the shape 
of a confidential servant of Harald Hilditonn, to lure him on to 
his ruin an incident which we may compare with Athene's 
behaviour to Hektor in //. xxii, 226 ff. In the Volsunga Saga, 
Sigmundr receives his sword from Othin, and in his last battle 
the sword is shattered at the touch of Othin's javelin. So 
again Othin chooses Sigurthr's horse for him and accompanies 
him on his expedition against the sons of Hundingr. But 
a much more striking instance of the intervention of divinities 
is to be found in the account of a strictly historical event, 

1 In these stories the gods are introduced in the following ways : 

(1) In representations of gatherings in heavenly regions. Eirikwndl, 
Hdkonarmdl. Cf. Vita S. Anscharii (ch. 23) all of these with reference to 
events almost contemporary. 

(2) Gods mingle with men : 

(a) In disguised form, e.g. at Bravalla, etc. 

(b) In true form : Hakon and Thorgerthr. 

(c) In conjugal relations : Hyndlulj6th and Saga of Olaf Tryggvason 

(ch. 173). 

(3) Men ready to attack gods : (Diarkamdl). 

(4) Squabbles and cheating among gods : Wiimile's story in Origp Genti* 


Earl Hdkon's battle against the J6msvfkings in A.D. 994. 
The J6msvikinga Saga tells us that the battle was at first 
going against Earl Hakon. But he then invoked the help 
of his goddess, Thorgerthr, who immediately appeared with 
her sister, Irpa, to help him and the battle was decided in his 

We may, however, have contests between gods and men in 
spheres other than of war. They may appear as rivals of the 
heroes for the love of earthly maidens, and sometimes be 
worsted. Thus in Saxo's story of Baldr, who is there at least 
a demi-god, he appears as the rival of an earthly king, 
Hotherus, for the love of Nanna ; in the fight which ensues, 
Baldr is worsted. We may also remember the Irish story of 
Eochaid Airem and Mider. The former, a high king of Ireland, 
had for his wife Etain who was loved by the god, Mider. The 
latter defeated the king at a game of chess, claimed the queen 
according to the conditions laid down before the game and 
ultimately carried her off. 1 

In the Mahdbhdrata we find gods playing all these different 
parts ; we find them fighting with men or ruling the fates of 
men or sharing in the loves of men. First, to take an instance 
of a hero's fight with a god, we may recall Arjuna's contest 
with Indra in i, 229. We are not exactly certain whether 
Indra hurled his dreaded thunderbolt against Arjuna 2 ; 
but he sent down a shower of stones which Arjuna repelled. 
He then tore up a large peak of the Mandara hills with trees 
and all else upon it, and dashed it against Arjuna, again with 
no avail, for Arjuna's arrow tore the peak into fragments. 
Some of the other gods 3 joined hands with Indra ; but 
Arjuna and Krsna were a match for the whole band. After 
the conclusion of the fight Indra showed his generosity by 
praising Arjuna, for his prowess, and telling him to seek for a 
boon. Arjuna prayed for his weapons. 

This was not Arjuna's only fight with the gods, iii, 89 

1 Hull's Text-book of Irish Literature (1906), pt. i, pp. 16, 83-4. 

1 Vv. 29-30 tell us that he did hurl it ; but v. 31 seems to contradict it, and 
we do not hear anything more about it, which would suggest that it was not 
hurled. Moreover, the shower of stones would be an anticlimax after the 

The list of gods is curious reading : Surya, Mitra, and Savita are mentioned 
separately with different weapons ; but one does not know how to distinguish 
them. So again with Yama and Mrtyu. Varuna, the ASvins, and Tvastr, 
however, present no difficulties. 


tells us of his encounter with Siva ; but we must note that 
the tone of the story is not exactly the same as in the one just 
referred to. For one thing, there is a feeling of exaggerated 
reverence for the god in this episode a feeling entirely 
absent from the story of the encounter with Indra. This 
feeling of reverence naturally tells against any excessive 
glorification of the hero, who is represented as fighting in 
ignorance of the divinity of his antagonist. As a matter 
of fact, when he is nearly getting the worst of the fight, he 
begins to worship Siva, hoping to gain victory thereby, 
and then comes to know that his opponent is the god himself. 
All this is not in the note of superhuman even super-divine 
heroism that we are accustomed to in heroic poetry. 1 

The Nala story shows us gods desirous of winning an 
earthly maiden for wife. iii. 44 ff. narrate how Damayanti 
wished to have Nala for her husband and to that end caused 
her father to announce that she would choose a husband 
at a formal svayamvara (ceremony of free choice). The 
gods Indra, Agni, Yama, and Varuna all wanted to win her 
and went to the ceremony, and even made Nala promise 
to help them. Damayanti, however, would choose none 
but Nala. But when she came out before the assembled 
princes, she found to her dismay several of them with the 
form and features of Nala, for the gods had all taken up that 
guise. She had to invoke their compassion by relating 
the story of her love and the gods were at last persuaded 
to put on their proper forms, so that Damayanti could 
choose her Nala. 

We come across a similar situation in iii, 123 which describes 
how the two gods, the Asvins, saw Sukanya, the daughter of 
King Saryati, and fell in love with her. She was already 
married to a sage, Cyavana and her loyalty to her husband 
prevented her accepting the love of the gods. She managed 
to persuade the gods to renew the youth of her husband, 
though after his magic bath she was placed in the same 
predicament as Damayanti, for her husband had acquired 
the form and features of the Asvins, and it was only with 
difficulty that she could identify him. 

1 It is curious that the episode with the genuinely heroic note introduces 
the Vedic supreme god, Indra, whereas the one we may call pseudo-heroic 
glorifies one of the later triad, Brahma, Vi?nu, and Siva. 


It is needless to go into instances where gods appear to 
adjust the fates of men, for these are common enough. 
Like Yama in the Savitri-story they are introduced very 
often in this character, which, of course, must be the most 
natural for them. They may be persuaded by the entreaties 
of men and women, but human efforts are of no avail against 
them. As has been pointed out, this is not strictly in harmony 
with heroic ideals and perhaps reflects the religiosity of a 
later age. Much more consistent with heroic tradition 
is the belief which would introduce them as the parents of 
the mighty princes. This is common in Greek and Irish 
tradition : Achilles is the son of Thetis, Aeneas of Aphrodite, 
Sarpedon of Zeus, Cuchulain of Lug. 1 In our main story 
all the heroic brothers are regarded as of divine origin. 
Yudhisthira is the son of Dharma, the god of justice, Bhima 
of Vayu, the wind-god, Arjuna of Indra, Nakula and Sahadeva 
of the two Asvins. This attribution of divine origin is 
natural in an attempt to glorify the prowess of the heroes, 
for their strength has a touch of the divinity in it. Such an 
attempt at glorification is found in the case of heroes of 
historical times as well and we may remember the case of 
Alexandros who was looked on as the son of Zeus. 

But gods are not the only supernatural beings introduced 
into heroic tales : we have supernatural beings of another 
type demons, giants, dragons. The parts, however, which 
deal with such creatures, are an intrusion of the " folk-tale " 
into heroic stories. Folk-tales are sometimes classed under 
"folk-sagas" and "Marchen", the former dealing solely 
with supernatural beings with definite names, attached to 
definite places. 2 These we shall have to consider later as 
" Myths " and here we are concerned only with the 
" Marchen " ; we take the term to refer to stories of almost 
universal diffusion, having variants in all parts of the globe. 
These deal with anonymous characters ; and the leading 
figures are described as "the man", "the woman", etc., 
or by some common name like Jack or Hans, or " by a name 

1 The story of Othin and his son in Saxo is not very much to our point. 

2 See MacCulloch's Childhood of Fiction, pp. 450 ff. But it is very doubtful 
if " folk-sagas " should be taken in this sense alone. It is more common to 
use the phrase for any current unwritten story deeding with 
personalities (real or not). When the saga treats of real 

come outside the purview of this chapter. When dealing 
beings of a definite personality they would come under * 


which is obviously made up to suit his or her special circum- 
stances or characteristics, such as Aschenbrodel or 
Sneewitchen "- 1 

We have elsewhere 2 discussed the common characteristics 
of heroic poetry and noted the following features. The 
main characters are persons of noble birth ; the opponents 
of the hero are generally treated with sympathy ; there is a 
tendency to avoid the coarse and the horrible ; and the poet 
delights to dwell on detailed descriptions of court life and 
etiquette. The folk-tale presents a sharp contrast on all 
these points : some of the main figures are of humble origin ; 
the enemies of the hero or heroine are made up of cruelty 
and vice ; the coarse and the horrible are not avoided ; 
the narrator is ignorant of court details ; and the manners 
reflected in the tales are " not of the court, but of the village ". 

Folk-tales often make their way into heroic poetry ; and 
we have examples both in Teutonic and Greek heroic poetry. 
Thus Panzer discovered 3 about two hundred variants of the 
Grendel-story, current in different parts of Europe and Asia, 
attention being drawn to these elements from remarkable 
similarities between this tale and the adventures of an 
Icelandic hero, Grettir, and those of another Icelander, 
Ormr. The dragon-fights of Sigurthr, Frothi and Beowulf 
himself have similarly been found to have folk-tale elements 
in them. It has been pointed out that the killing of a monster 
which is a pest to the land, and which at the same time guards 
a large treasure, has been the main achievement of numerous 
heroes. The folk-tales in Homer are to be mainly found in 
Odysseus' story of his adventures narrated in Alkinoos' 
court (Od. ix-xii). The tales of Polyphemos and the Laistry- 
gones introduce widespread stories of cannibalistic monsters, 
that of Kirke brings in a narrative of transformation equally 
popular in all parts of the world, while the visits to Aiolos, 
the journey to Hades, the singing of the Sirens, and the 
slaughter of sacred animals introduce equally well-known 

1 Chadwick's Heroic Age, p. 110. Professor Chadwick points out that most 
of the stories dealing with gods would in origin come under this category 
as well, for the gods often bear descriptive names, e.g. Thunor, Frig, Balder, 

See Ch. V. 

1 Studien xur germaniscken Sagcngeschichtc, 1, Beowulf. 


We may point out folk-tale elements in the heroic stories 
of other nations. The Russian heroic stories teem with them ; 
and it is difficult to find a single episode which does not have 
at least some of these elements. Thus the story of Dobrynya 
and Marina introduces another variant of the "transforma- 
tion " legend ; that of Duna'i Ivanovitch brings in the good- 
natured but rather stupid giant who wooes a princess for his 
lord and gains a beautiful bride himself; that of Dobrynya 
and Alyosha is another folk-tale about the hero who stayed 
too long away from his home but returned in time to prevent 
his friend's supplanting him with his bride. 1 

There are similar folk-tale elements in the Mahdbhdrata 
as well, and many of Bhima's adventures are but variants 
of such stories. Let us take one of the most striking of these 
from i, 159 ff. The Pandavas with their mother, Kunti, 
were living in disguise at Ekacakra in the house of a 
Brahmana ; and one day KuntT discovered the householder 
weeping in the company of his wife and daughter. She found 
out that the city was terrorized by a monster who had made 
it a condition with the inhabitants that they should supply 
him with one human being a day to be eaten by him. The 
people supplied him by turns and the next day it was this 
householder's duty to send the person. Kunti persuaded 
them to allow Bhima to go in place of one of them the 
daughter perhaps and Bhima killed the monster, after 
a desperate fight, when he came to consume his prey. 

This is but a variant of Herakles' 2 adventure in rescuing 
Laomedori's daughter, Hesionc, from a devastating dragon 3 ; 
while Perseus' deliverance of Andromeda is not very different. 
So there is an Avar story about the hero's rescue of a king's 
daughter from a dragon to whom a maiden had to be offered 
annually. A Senegambian ballad makes the dragon a lion, 
who is slain by Samba, the hero. 4 In the Arabian tale 
the Sultan of Yemen's son delivers a princess from a dragon 

1 This last story may not necessarily be a folk-tale. It is found no doubt in 
different parts of the world ; but such an adventure may have been quite 
common in a particular stage of society everywhere. 

8 It is curious that Bhima should resemble Herakles in so many ways. The 
favourite weapon of both is a club ; and both depend on the power of muscles 
to get the better of the enemy. Bliinia often finishes off his foe with his hard 
grip, just as Beowulf does. 

8 Diodorus Siculus, iv, 42. 

4 Brcnger-Fraud's Conies, p. 41 ; MacCulloch's Childhood of Fiction, 
p. 888. 


to whom she was offered ; and there^ire Japanese, Irish, 
and Esthonian parallels to this. In the Japanese story the 
hero immediately marries the rescued maiden ; but the other 
heroes go away and pass through various adventures before 
coming back to marry the girl. It is rarely that the adventure 
ends tragically ; but Berenger-F^raud tells the story of 
Phorloe, the daughter of a King of Latium, who was rescued 
from a monster demanding the annual victim ; the rescuer, 
however, lost his life in the attempt. 

Bhima's adventure with another ogre, Hidimba, also 
contains folk-tale elements. The fight is carried on without 
the help of weapons and it is ended through Bhima's getting 
a grip of the monster and breaking his back. The incident 
of the ogre's sister taking the form of a beautiful maiden 
to attract Bhima has its parallel in numerous folk- tales. 
There is the Bengalee tale of a wandering Brahmana who 
was welcomed by a beautiful woman as her long-lost husband. 
She was really an ogress who had devoured all the people of 
the land. 1 A Siamese story relates the misfortune of a king 
who was unfortunate enough to marry such a wife, and 
similar stories are current all over India. In all these, 
however, the ogress ultimately manifests her cannibalistic 
nature, while in Bhima's case she seems to have reformed 
for good. 

In the original stories from which the cannibal tales come, 
it is quite possible that the ogre was merely an uncivilized 
barbarian of another tribe, a non-Aryan in the Mahabharata 
stories. This barbarian would naturally be regarded as 
a monster and one of the main tasks of the cultured invader 
would be to repel the onslaughts of the more ferocious 
original inhabitants who, failing in open fight, would attempt 
to carry on sporadic depredations. Once they got a few 
isolated enemies in their power they would act as Polyphemos 
or Hidimba wanted to do. Thus one of the achievements 
of the Aryan hero would be to get rid of as many of these 
pests as possible, and many folk-tales of ogre-slaying would 
be attached to the famous warrior. 2 

Some of Bhima's other adventures too seem to be borrowed 

1 Day's Folk-Tales of Bengal ; cf. the story of Rfima and Havana's sister in 
Mbh. (iii) and R&mayana. 

1 For variants of cannibal stories, see MacCulloch, ch. 10. 


from folk-tales : among others we may mention his forced 
journey to the nether regions (i, 128). Folk-tales have not 
clung to other heroes to the same extent. But one or two 
cases may be mentioned. We have already referred to the 
story of Havana's sister ; but a more curious story is that 
of Kalmasapada, a king who suddenly lapses into the customs 
of the savage past and resumes cannibalistic activities. 
The story is apparently made up of two versions ; in the 
one his lapse is due to his whipping a Rsi (Sage), in the other 
to his supplying a Brahmana with human flesh. Whatever 
the reason may be, such lapses into savagery are not unknown 
in other parts of the world and similar stories may be cited 
from various countries. 1 

Another famous folk-tale is that of Pururavas and Urvasi. 2 
Urvasi, a beautiful nymph, consented to marry Pururavas, 
an ancestor of the Pandavas, on condition that he must 
never allow her to see him naked ; she disappeared as soon 
as he violated the condition. This is a variant of the story 
of Cupid and Psyche, which has its parallel among the 
Eskimos, 3 among the Indians of the Amazon, 4 and the 
Australians, and probably reflects some old taboo by which 
the husband and the wife were forbidden to see each other. 

Among the various features of these folk-tales we must 
notice the tendency to introduce supernatural beings other 
than gods, the giants, ogres, and fay-nymphs figuring largely 
in the list ; and Hidimba, Vaka, Menaka (in the Sakuntala 
story) and Urvasi the two last-named being parallels to 
creatures like Eidothee or Kirke or Kalypso all come 
under that head. The raksasas of the Rama-story are most 
difficult to place and Rama's fight with the inhabitants 
of Lanka (Ceylon) has been taken to reflect history. It 
has been held that Rama's allies, the monkeys, and his 
enemies, the raksasas, simply represent the earlier non- 
Aryan inhabitants of India, who, being on a lower scale of 
civilization, are referred to contemptuously as other than 
human. We have seen that some of Bhima's adventures 
may also be explained on the same lines ; but there is a 

i MacCulloch, ch. 10. 

'Referred to vaguely in Rg-Veda (x, 05), it is related in a connected way 
in Sat-Bra. Handled most' fully in K&tid&sa's famous drama, VikramonoM. 

* Rink's Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo, pp. 236 ff. 

* Hartt's Amazonian Tortoise Myths, p. 40. 


difference. Stories of encounters with individuals can 
scarcely be regarded as history, especially when similar 
stories are current all over the world. But a long drawn-out 
war such as Rama waged with his enemies may very well 
represent a distinct historical event. 

In this connection we must also notice demi-gods and evil 
spirits who play a part in the destinies of men. Kali, in 
the Nala-story, is a spirit of this type. Bent on doing Nala 
mischief, he is on the look-out for any slip on his part ; as 
soon as he sees one, he enters his body and " possesses " 
him. It is through his instigations that Nala is led to play 
at dice with Puskara and loses everything, the dice always 
going against him through the unseen interposition of 
Dvapara, an attendant of Kali. 1 Kali possesses Nala even 
after the loss of his kingdom and all his property, and leads 
him to forsake his devoted wife, Damayanti ; he is expelled 
only through the good services of a creature whom Nala 
has benefited. 2 

But sometimes supernatural powers arc ascribed to men 
and no supernatural beings may be introduced. Such 
powers would account for Odysseus' journey to Hades and 
his holding converse with the dead. Such powers, again, 
enabled Sigurthr to understand the language of the birds, 
who warned him about Reginn's treachery and enabled him 
to pass the barrier of fire to the castle where Brynhildr 
was sleeping. 3 Similar powers were possessed by some heroes 
of episodes in the Indian epic. Foremost among these is 
Sukra, the preceptor of the Asuras, the opponents of the gods. 
Sukra had the power of reviving dead men through his magic 
incantations a power supposed to be possessed by many 
heroes of stories of magic. One is reminded of the powers 
of Hildr in the Norse version of the Hethinn-Hogni tale 
and of Medea's craft in renewing the youth of her father- 
in-law. Thor, of course, has this power, but then he was a 
god ; it is not quite clear whether Sukra is to be taken as 
semi-divine or not. His daughter is, however, married to 

1 Dvapara and Kali are the names of the evil ages of the world, the earlier 
and happier ages having been the Satya and Treta. 

8 The evil spirits of historical persons, too, are sometimes represented. 
A noteworthy instance is in the story about Charles Martel, representing the 
spirit of the dead prince as a dragon. See Chadwick, 11. A., p. 127. 

* V6lsunga Saga, chs. 10-20. This is another folk-tale that of the Sleeping 
Beauty current all over the world. 


a famous king, an ancestor of the Pandavas, and except for 
his magical lore Sukra seems to be an ordinary man. Stories 
of resuscitation through magic are found in Japan, among 
the American Indians, in Lorraine, in Kashmir, Bengal, 
New Guinea, indeed, everywhere. (See Chamberlain, 
"Kcji-ki," p. 70, etc.; Petitot's "Indian Traditions"; 
Cosquin's " Conies Populaires de Lorraine" ii, 5, etc. ; Day's 
" Folk-Tales of Bengal," p. 81 ; Knowles' " Folk-tales of 
Kashmir" etc.) 

In other instances too, supernatural powers are ascribed 
to men. Yayati was cursed with decrepitude, but he could 
transfer his weakness to any one of his sons who was willing 
to endure it and give his own vigour to his father. Puru, his 
youngest son, consented to do this, and Yayati enjoyed youth 
for a long time after this and could, when he was satiated 
with the joys of life, re-transfer his youth to his son. 1 Many 
of the Brahmin sages too are represented as having wonderful 
powers : Saktri could convert a king into a cannibal (i, 178) ; 
Cyavana could control all the activities of a whole army 
(iii, 122) ; Vasistha was no less powerful (i, 179, etc.). Many 
of Bhima's achievements, again, border on the supernatural 
(i, 150, etc.) ; but perhaps they are better described as 
exaggerations of the probable. 

Such exaggerations are common in all heroic poems, 
being due to a natural desire to magnify the prowess of the 
heroes. Even in Homer, who is perhaps the sanest in this 
respect, the mighty leaders slay the ordinary soldiers by 
the hundred. So did Agamemnon in his fury : " And as 
when ruinous fire falleth on dense woodland, and the whirling 
wind beareth it everywhere, and the thickets fall utterly 
before it, being smitten by the onset of fire, even so beneath 
Agamemnon son of Atreus fell the heads of the Trojans as 
they fled " (//. xi, 155 ff.). So again Patroklos in II. xvi, and 
Achilles in II. xx; and such prodigies of valour are not 
quite so improbable as they would seem at first sight, for 
much better equipped with arms, both offensive and defensive, 
as the hero was, he could do what he liked with the ordinary 
soldier opposing him. 

Less probable perhaps are the deeds of some Teutonic 

1 This may be a " popular " tale ; one variant is attributed to the Moghul 
king, B&bar, and his son, Humayun. 


heroes : the story of Sigmundr and Sinfjotli (Vol. Saga, ch. 
7 ff.) often goes beyond the marvellous ; the account of 
Atli's slaying of the Giukings is at best an exaggeration of 
the probable (ch. 37-8). But in the story of Hygelac's 
death, the description of Beowulf's swimming across the 
sea with thirty-one suits of armour on his arm seems really 
fantastic much more so than his swim with Grendel's head 
and the magic sword (Beo., 11. 2361-2 and 1618 ff.). 

In the Irish stories the exaggeration often becomes 
grotesque, and most of Cuchulain's adventures cannot be 
reconciled with any degree of probability. The Russian 
stories are not more rational in this respect ; we may think 
of the story of Ilya and Nightingale, of Dunai* and the Tatars 
of Volga and his early adventures. The Serbian stories 
follow the same vein ; we may remember many of the 
marvellous deeds of Marko. Take, for example, his rescue 
of the three Serb warriors from General Vuca. He first 
slays the three hundred horsemen sent against him and 
then fights against the whole army of Vuca. " His sabre 
was in his right hand, in his left his battle-spear, in his teeth 
the bridle ; whomsoever Marko smote with his sabre was 
made two instead of one : . . . And when he had turned him 
about once again, the troop of horsemen went to the devil ! " l 
And most of Marko's other adventures follow these lines. 
The Spanish hero, the Cid, is not behindhand with his exploits. 
The Moorish King, Miramamolin, came against him with 
fifty thousand horsemen, and the Cid had only a few followers. 
But he dashed against them in all his fury and " his arms 
up to the shoulder with Moorish blood were red ". " To 
every Moor who met him He gave a single stroke ; Their 
ranks before his charger In wild disorder broke." 2 

The Indian heroic stories are given to exaggerations 
as much as any of these ; the effect is often grotesque, more 
so even than in the Irish stories. Some of Bhima's wonderful 
deeds have already been referred to ; and in his case, an 
explanation of his enormous strength is given in the epic 
(i, 128). When the boy Bhima was poisoned and thrown 
into the waters, he sank down and was taken to Vasuki, the 
king of the snakes. Vasuki asked him to drink off a vessel 

1 Low's translation of the Ballads of Marko, p. 55. 
Gibson's translation of the Cid Ballads, Rom., 59. 


of divine juice which could confer enormous strength on 
the drinker. Bhima finished oft eight such vessels, and 
acquired wonderful might from doing so. After this, feats 
of muscular strength, as performed against Kirmira in 
iii, 11, seem natural to him. 

But Bhima is not the only one who performs these prodigies 
of valour. Parasurama exterminates all the Ksatriyas 
not once, but many times. Ghatotkaca is killed while 
flying in the air and in his fall crushes a whole legion of 
soldiers ; but his mother was the ogress, Hidimba, and any- 
thing is possible for the offspring of Hidimba and Bhima. 
Pradyumna does wonders against Salya (iii, 20) ; Bhisma 
can vanquish hundreds of princes single-handed (v, 173). 
When the Kuru host was carrying off Virata's cattle, Arjuna 
routed them practically unaided (iv, ^5 ff.). Attacked 
by the great Kaurava warriors on all sides, Arjuna is pierced 
by hundreds of arrows, but remains unmoved (vi, 52). 
So again in vi, 89, Arjuna wounds Bhisma with a thousand 
shafts without any appreciable effect. 

In speaking of numbers the poet rarely considers the limits 
of reason. Bhisma slays a hundred thousand warriors in 
ten days (vi, 13) : and in one part of the Pandava army 
" there stood a hundred thousand warriors in front, a hundred 
millions at thu back and a hundred and seventy thousand 
on the sides " (vi, 50). iii, 282, tells us about the supporters 
of Rama against Ravana : Susena came with ten billion 
of followers and "the terrible-looking Gavaksa with six 
hundred billions " ; " the celebrated Gandhamadana came 
with a hundred thousand crores " and the intelligent Panasa 
with hundreds of millions. 

Such exaggerations are no exceptions, but form the general 
rule. One has to get used to them in the Indian epic, for 
at times it is difficult to get behind these exaggerations 
and think of a substratum of fact underlying them. The 
grotesqueness and improbability of some parts of the stories 
may lead us to reject the whole as imaginary ; but as has 
been pointed out, we must always guard ourselves against 
such an assumption. 

The question remains whether all heroic stories were 
ultimately based on fact, or whether some were mythical 
in origin. A few Teutonic stories those of Weland, of 


Hethinn, and Hogni and of Sigurthr have been sometimes 
held to be ultimately myths. 1 The story of Weland is said 
to be the myth of a fire-demon ; that of Hildr and Hethinn 
a myth of " unceasing strife between conflicting powers " ; 
that of Sigurthr and Brynhildr a " myth of light and dark- 
ness ". But it has been pointed out 2 that these suppositions 
are not based on a thorough examination of the different 
versions of the stories. Thus the end of the Weland story 
Weland rising into the air and flying away is supposed to 
point most clearly to a fire-myth ; but this feature is present 
only in the Norse version. So again the endless battle 
at the conclusion of the Hildr-story is a feature of only the 
Northern version, which we have no right to regard as the 
oldest element of the story, and the interpretation of Hild 
(War) as a Valkyrie is doubtful. 3 In the Sigurthr-story too 
the name " Niflungar " is wrongly taken to be connected 
with " nifl " (mist), the word being really " Hniflungar " 
and not " Niflungar ". The evidence again for regarding 
Sigurthr, Brynhildr, and Hogni as mythical figures is at 
best weak. 

In the Homeric stories, Achilles as the son of a deity is 
supposed to be mythical ; but it has been pointed out that 
many historical princes claimed divine descent, the presence 
of Woden (or Odin) in Teutonic genealogies being quite 
common. The story of the abduction of Helen has been 
regarded as a myth, from a fancied connection with sun and 
moon stories. The theory of tribal myths in the Homeric 
poems brings in too complex a problem for examination 
here ; but it seems certain that it does not rest on a safer 
foundation than the other imagined myths. 4 

Mythical interprctat i ons of the main story of the Mahabhdrata 
too have been attempted. Thus Ludwig took the Pandava 
story to be a sun and earth myth. Krsna, the dark one, 
was taken to be the earth, the Pandavas, the seasons, 
possessing her in turn. Krsna is interpreted as the sun, 
even though he has the same name as Draupadi ; but the 

1 I shall not attempt to define " myth " ; but it may be described as " what 
I do not believe but other people do ". 

8 Chadwick's Hermc Age, pp. 132 ff. 

8 Professor Chadwick points out that half the feminine names in Anglo- 
Saxon heroic poetry contain the element " hild ". 

* See Chadwick's Heroic Age, pp. 267 ff. 


theory is open to more serious objections, and is altogether 
unconvincing. It is mainly due to the desire to explain away 
the custom of polyandry and the idea that all popular stories 
of the far past heroic or non-heroic are nature myths, 
even though the reconstructed story may be very different 
from the actual one. But, as we have already seen, there 
are more than reasonable grounds for taking the Pandava 
story as historical in origin 1 ; and we shall attempt to show 
later that polyandry may be explained through certain 
social usages of the time. 2 

But a mythical character has been attributed to some 
episodes on other grounds. The characters in the Kaca 
and Devayam story are all semi-divine, and hence it is taken 
to be a myth. But we have already seen that Kaca's 
adventures while a disciple of Sukra are at least partly a 
folk-tale of the revival of the dead ; and we may add that 
most of the characters in the story bear descriptive names. 
In the sequel of the story in the account of the later 
adventures of Devayam the semi-divine nature of the 
characters is hardly brought out, Sukra appearing just as 
the priest of an ordinary king, while Yayati has no pretensions 
to divinity. 

If there is still some ground for regarding the Devayani 
story as mythical in origin, there is none at all for making 
the Pandava story a myth by taking Krsna and Arjuna 
as the two gods Visnu and Indra anthropomorphized. 
Some sort of divinity is certainly attributed to Krsna through- 
out the story and the value of his help to the Pandavas is 
always emphasized. But he does not generally work for the 
victory of the Pandavas by exercising any divine powers ; 
all that Arjuna gains from him is some shrewd advice which 
Krsna as his charioteer is always at hand to give. Arjuna 
is connected with him by marriage he has married Krsna's 
sister and that makes Krsna's help all the more natural. 
Towards the end of the story (xvi, 4) Krsna meets the fate 
of ordinary princes, being struck down by old age (personified 
as Jara) and death. Thus, even if he is to be taken as the 
incarnation of Visnu, in our story he is an earthly king, 
wiser perhaps than all his contemporaries and hence to be 

1 In the chapter " The Chronology of the Heroic Age " and elsewhere. 
1 See Chs. VII and VIII, pp. 120 ff., etc. 


placed on a higher level. After all, this attribution of 
divine nature to a great earthly king is not very uncommon l ; 
we have no right to take our story as one of the divine Visnu 
and not the earthly Krsna. 

If there is small ground for taking the Krsna of the heroic 
story as the god Visnu, there is less for regarding Arjuna 
as Indra. It is true he is regarded as Indra's son ; but as 
has been pointed out, the attribution of a divine parentage 
does not disprove his historicity or make him mythical. 
He is a great warrior, wonderfully skilful in archery, partly 
as the result of careful training by Drona in his childhood. 
But he has a strong rival in Karna, and in the final fight 
of the two it is doubtful whether Arjuna would have been 
the victor had he not taken an unknightly advantage of an 
accident to his rival. He is a hero a great one but with 
the hero's defects ; and it is a distortion of the story to hold 
him up as a god, such a distortion being only possible through 
a superimposition of religious elements on the heroic story, 
the conversion of the Bharata tale into a dharmasastra. 

Of course, there are episodes in which all the characters 
are gods or demons ; and the Sunda-Upasunda story (i, 209- 
212) is a good example. These ddnavas (superhuman 
enemies of gods) had become too powerful, and the gods 
feared an extinction of their powers from the encroachments 
of these two. Then Visvakarma, the smith-god, fashioned 
a woman, made up of the essence of beauty, and tempted 
the two danavas with her love ; and the two were killed 
fighting about her. 

This and similar stories, e.g. that of Skanda in iii, 224 ff., 
are certainly myths, introducing practically no human 
figures. 2 A different kind of myth is seen in the attempted 
explanation of natural phenomena, e.g. in the story of Rahu 
in i, 19, with its explanation of eclipses (cf. however the 
account of xii, 843). vii, 53 supplies an account of the origin 
of death, and i, 179, explains the names of certain rivers ; 
while the story of churning the ocean (i, 18, etc.) accounts 
for the origin of various material and immaterial objects. 

There is one story in the first book which may be taken 

1 The further discussion of the problem of incarnation is postponed till 
we come to discuss " Religion in the Heroic Age of India ". 

1 Skanda is the son of six mothers, like Heimdall, the son of nine mothers, 
in the Norse story. 


either as a myth or as an exaggeration of the probable. The 
famous quarrel of Vasistha and Visvamitra began over the 
possession of a magic cow with wonderful powers. With 
a community of people, whose chief treasure was cattle, such 
a quarrel would be perfectly natural and we may remember 
the cattle raid story of Book iv. But this cow is no ordinary 
animal and it is perhaps possible to find a myth in the story. 1 

The question of myth-making leads us on to that of creative 
fiction in the heroic poems. Following Aristotle we may say 
that poetry is never the same as history, that it " is a more 
philosophical and a higher thing than history ; for poetry 
tends to express the universal, history the particular ", 2 
In other words, the imagination of the poet is never content 
merely to record facts, it must seek to idealize them, to make 
them as they ought to be rather than as they are. This 
implies a certain amount of fiction in all poetry even in 
poems based on fact, in poetical accounts of events like 
the Battle of Maldon or the Battle of Brunanburh. Heroic 
poems, dealing as they often do with the more distant and 
the less definitely known past, are bound to contain a larger 
amount of fiction. Now this fiction may imply the invention 
of whole stories, including the creation of new characters. 
Or it may involve no more than changes in the structure 
of stories, mistakes in history, and the inclusion of mythical 
and folk-tale elements. So far as the Teutonic heroic poems 
go, there is no conclusive evidence for the composition of 
wholly fictitious narratives or the deliberate invention of 
characters. 3 The influence of fiction " was shown chiefly 
in the imaginative presentation or structure of stories, 
some of which were founded on fact, others on popular 
report or rumour which frequently introduced elements 
from folk-tales, occasionally even from myth. All such cases 
however, may be included among the * things that may have 
happened ', if we take into account the spirit of the times ", 4 

With the Greek heroic poems we are on less sure ground 
because of the absence of historical evidence ; and many 
scholars, like Jebb, have held the Homeric tale of Troy 

1 We may compare the Tain story of the Cuchulain Saga. 
a Butcher's translation. 

8 Unferth and Widsith may be inventions ; Sunilda Hamthir, SOrli, Wiglaf 
are more doubtful. 

4 Chadwick's H.A., p. 166. 


to be " essentially a poetic creation ". The question, 
however, arises whether we are right in postulating such 
a development of the inventive faculty in these early times. 
There can be no doubt that the ancient Greeks, including 
Thucydides and Herodotus, considered the Homeric heroes 
as real men and believed the events to be based on fact. Are 
we justified in rejecting this opinion, especially when the 
heroic poems of other parts of Europe support it ? If we 
wish to do so, we have to prove that they are fictitious. 
It cannot be said that such proof has been forthcoming ; 
and it seems reasonable to assume " that the use of fiction 
must have been confined within certain limits ". When the 
poet's courtly hearers were sufficiently familiar with the 
facts on which his poem was based, they would tolerate only 
a limited manipulation of them. They would object to a 
radical perversion of tradition, such, for example, as would 
involve the introduction of heroes from quite different cycles 
into the same story. This may have been possible in what 
we have called x Stage IV of heroic poetry, but not in Stage II, 
to which the poems under consideration belong. 

Most of these arguments hold true of Indian heroic poetry 
as well. The inhabitants of ancient India regarded the 
heroic characters as real not simply the composers of the 
Purdnas but even perhaps sober grammarians like Panini. 2 
Of historians unfortunately there were none ; but we have 
elsewhere found it possible to reconstruct history from the 
Purdnas and even to establish the chronology of the Heroic 
Age. People who consider the heroic stories as wholly 
fictitious have here, as elsewhere, the burden of proof on 
them ; they have to prove their hypothesis about such a 
high development of the inventive faculty among the early 
Hindus. They have not supplied the proof; and we may 
accept the basis of fact, rejecting palpable instances of fiction 
and obvious mistakes in history. 

There are certainly plain cases of creative fiction : we 
may think of the stories brought forward to justify the 
Pandavas' polyandry (i, 199, etc.). It is difficult to regard 
the story of the five Indras as a pure myth ; it seems to be 
a story made up to support the special case of the five brothers. 

1 In the discussion of Early Minstrelsy. 

1 One wishes his references to Vasudeva, Arjuna, and Yudhifthira (iv, 3, 
98 ; viii, 3, 05, etc.) were more definite. 


So again in the story of Tapati and Samvararia (i, 173 ff.) 
one does not know how much of fiction is mixed up with 
the myth. Samvarana sees the nymph, Tapati, and falls 
in love with her ; but she disappeared immediately and for 
a time the king was as disconsolate as Freyr for Gerthr, 
or as Mider the Irish god for the loss of Etain. On seeing 
the king's state, Vasistha, the king's priest, went to the 
nymph's father, the sun-god, and managed to secure his 
permission for his daughter's marriage with the King. 1 

In these cases, as in other stories dealing with the far past, 
the invention of the poet colours old myths or folk- tales. 
It is doubtful if he ever made up a whole story or created 
creatures of flesh and blood out of his imagination. 2 In his 
treatment of the main stories, he may introduce fictitious 
details or pervert the order of facts ; but he is never purely 
a " Maker ". Nevertheless, his work belongs to a stage of 
heroic tradition different from that of Beowulf or Homer. 
The Anglo-Saxon bard might bring the same person into 
contact with heroes of different ages ; but he would not 
introduce these heroes as actors in the same story. Thus 
Widsith is said to know Eormenric, Guthere, and Alboin ; but 
he has not brought them into contact with one another in 
the same legend. The Indian poet can do this and bring 
princes of different ages into touch with one another. Thus 
Parasurama is made to fight with Bhisma (Mbh. v, 178 ff., 
etc.), and with Rama Dasarathi (Mbh. iii, 99, and Rama. 
i, 74 ff.), though if the evidence of genealogies is to be trusted, 
he belonged to a much earlier generation. 3 So again Drona 
is said to visit Parasurama (Mbh. i, 130), and Karna, like 
Bhisma, is said to have learntthe use of arms from him (viii, 34). 
As there were often kings with the same name belonging to 
different ages, they are confused with one another and history 
is curiously perverted. A very good example is the case 
of the two Sukas, discussed by Mr. Pargiter (A.I.H.T., 
pp. 64-5). The story of Utahka in xiv, 53-8 is full of 
historical absurdities and many of the Santi-Parva stories are 
no better. 

1 Pargiter suggests that the story has a historical background that history 
has been here mythologized. See Ancient Indian Historical Traditions, p. 66. 

* Personifications of abstract qualities or anthropomorphizing of the gods 
must obviously be left out of account. 

See PargiterWncien/ Indian Historical Tradition, pp. 265 ff., 144 ff., etc. 


But in many of these cases the mistakes may not be the 
results of a deliberate exercise of the creative powers of the 
poet. They may be due to a confusion of tradition owing to 
the lapse of ages ; or they may be due to the Brahmanical 
bard's lack of interest in the accurate presentation of the 
past, in the deeds of the heroes of bygone ages ; and the 
lack of historical sense in the hearers would co-operate. 
Some critics have, however, held that these bards occasionally 
manipulated the events of the story deliberately, changing 
the characters of actors of the old tale, introducing new 
figures in the leading role . Of this type a very good example 
is the " inversion " theory of Schrocder and Holtzmann 
referred to elsewhere 1 ; and we may repeat what we pointed 
out there that the inconsistencies and contradictions which 
led to the invention of the " inversion "-theory may be 
explained in other ways from the analogy of Western Heroic 

We must conclude by emphasizing a point referred to 
often enough : the fate of Indian heroic stories has been 
different from that of Teutonic or Greek ones mainly in 
that in later times the heroic poems were varnished over with 
religious sentiment ; the dead heroes were given a sacred 
nature and the story of their deeds was regarded as 
part of the scriptures. So the difficulty in detecting the 
historical basis has been doubled, for not only have the 
usual unhistorical elements of legend been introduced, 
but the whole spirit of the narrative has been changed, 
its interest being no longer in the straightforward account 
of the deeds of prowess, of the " gathcring-in of fame ", 
but in the advancement of some religious cults, some 
theological dogmas. While the Brahmana bard is busy 
with his hair-splitting discussions, his moral treatises, 
his ethical discourses, the heroic narrative is left in the 
background, and what is worse, sometimes mishandled 
to point a moral or glorify a priest. It is difficult to call 
these elements unhistorical, for they have nothing to do 
with history. They have come and imposed themselves 
on heroic tradition ; and it is difficult to liberate it from 
their clutches, to get back the " Bharati-Katha " from the 
present dharma-tfdstra. 

1 See ch. ii, p. 25. 


To recapitulate : The unhistorical elements may be classed 
under the following heads : 

(1) The introduction of gods. 

(2) Folk-tale elements, including : 

(a) Supernatural beings other than gods. 
(6) Gross exaggerations of the probable, including the 
ascribing of supernatural powers to men. 

(3) Myth. 

(4) Creative fiction, with which is allied, 

(5) Mistakes in history. 



Professor Chambers, in his latest work on Beowulf, 1 has adduced 
several reasons for denying historical existence to Beowulf: 

(1) In the accounts of Scandinavian kings, whether written in Norse 
or Latin, there is no mention of a name corresponding to Beowulf, 
King of the Geatas. 

(2) Beowulf's name does not alliterate with that of the Geatish 
kings, Hrethel, Herebeald, Haethcyn, Hygelac, nor with that of 

(3) There is always something extravagant and unreal about his 
deeds, e.g. his swimming home with thirty suits of armour. 

(4) He did not immediately attempt to avenge the death of his lord, 
the young prince, Heardred. 

(5) Bothvar, who has been identified with Beowulf, is not regarded 
as king of Geatas. 

(6) If Beowulf had a successful reign of fifty years, why should the 
kingdom be in confusion on his death ? 

If we take these arguments individually, they may all be rebutted : 

(1) Mr. Chambers himself points out that this argument does not 
mean much " when we consider how little, outside Beowulf, we know of 
the Geatic Kingdom at all ". Ptolemy and Procopius mention the 
Gautoi, but have nothing about any of their kings, nor has Jordanes 
who talks about the Visigauti . Gregory and the Gesta Rcgum Francorum 
mention Hygelac, but not as a king of the Geatas. 

(2) It is true that in the Heroic Age names of one royal family often 
alliterated with one another, perhaps because it helped the introduction 
of the names into alliterative heroic poetry. But the rule was no 
universal one ; and if we went on it we should have to deny the historical 
existence of Sigismund, the son of Gundobad of Burgundy (whose family 
had mostly " G- " names), or of Gontran, the son of Clothair (whose 
house specialized in " C- " or " Th- "). Beowulf again was only the 
daughter's son of Hrethel , and Ecgtheow's family, not b*ing the rulers 
of the land, would not be expected to follow the alliterative rule rigidly. 

(3) Beowulf's marvellous deeds follow the usual lines of achieve- 
ments of heroic princes. We have tried to point out how common 
these exaggerations are in heroic poetry ; the attribution of extravagant 
deeds to Beowulf should not invalidate his historicity any more than 
that of many a prince of history. Thus if we take the case of Hygelac, 
who is generally accepted as a historical figure, we read the following 
account of him in the " liber Monstrorum ", a collection of mediaeval 
texts : " Of tremendous stature was king Huiglaucus (or Huncglaucus) 
who ruled over the Getae and was slain by the Franks. At the age of 
12, no horse could carry him ; and his bones rest on an island at the 
mouth of the Rhine, and are shown as a wonder to visitors from afar." 
And this, we must understand, is not from a heroic poem, where poetic 
exaggerations are all too probable. 

1 Beowulf: An Introduction, pp. 10 ff. 


(4) It is true that the tie which bound the comitatus to the lord was 
very strong in the Heroic Age ; and we may remember the historical 
instance of Chonodomarius, the king of the Alamanni, 1 and in later 
times of Cynewulf , the Wessex king. But if we are to take Mr. Chambers' 
rendering of the " Ethics of the blood-feud ", we may well understand 
Beowulf's inaction after the slaying of Heardred. As Mr. Chambers 
puts it : "It happens not infrequently that after some battle in which 
a great chief has been killed, his retainers are offered quarter and accept 
it ; but I do not remember any instance of their doing this if, instead 
of an open battle, it is a case of treacherous attack." a We have no 
reason to suppose that Heardred was slain treacherously. He was 
apparently defeated and killed in an open fight ; and Beowulf probably 
accepted the quarter offered by the victor. Of course, he would bear no 
good will towards Onela and would be looking out for an opportunity 
of vengeance. Such an opportunity may have been offered in later 
times when Eadgils claimed the Swedish throne against Onela. 

(5) The fact that Bothvar is not regarded as king of the Geatas is 
no strong argument, for after all, the identification of Bothvar and 
Beowulf is problematic. It is quite possible that in late documents like 
Hrolfs Saga or Saxo's History, the adventures of more than one hero 
have been foisted on Bothvar ; at any rate they may not have described 
all the achievements of the hero, being interested mainly in his relations 
with the Danish king. The king of the Geatas may quite well have 
died fighting for his ally, Hrolfr Kraki, lor obviously the account of 
his death in a dragon fight is not historical. 

(6) In the Heroic Age, prosperity and stability of the kingdom 
depended solely on the rule of a strong king. The king was the all- 
important figure ; and however prosperous the state of the kingdom 
might be under him, if he died without leaving an able, grown-up 
son, everything would be in immediate confusion ; the fall of the 
kingdom would not be far off. Thus Theodric the Ostrogoth died in 
526, after a prosperous rule of over thirty years, and the Ostrogothic 
kingdom was destroyed in 553. Gaiseric the Vandal died in 477, after a 
successful reign of fifty years, and the Vandal kingdom vanished in 
534. Gundobad of Burgundy died in 516, after a reign of about forty 
years, and the Burgundians were subjugated in 534. So it does not 
seem very unnatural that the Geatish kingdom would be in danger 
on the sudden death of a childless king. 

Thus we may say that individually these arguments do not come 
to much ; but certainly they have a cumulative effect and one feels 
sceptical of accepting the fifty years' reign of Beowulf, though he may 
have been the ruler of the Geatas for a time. 

1 Ammianus, xvi, 12, 60. 

2 Beowulf: An Introduction, p. 277. 




Kinship and Social Classes 

E have discussed parallelisms in the growth and develop- 
ment of a particular type of poetry in different parts 
of Europe and in India. We have found similarities in 
subject-matter not merely in outline but in details as well. 
We have, moreover, discovered that the poems were generally 
based on fact and that they were originally composed by 
people with first-hand information of the events and social 
conditions they were talking about. Thus the similarities 
we have discussed so far would lead us to expect a similarity 
in the social conditions of the period described. 

In a discussion of this society, one has to notice that in 
most of the poems it is an age of youth, not in the sense of 
youthfulncss of social organization, of primitive forms of 
human endeavour, but in the domination of the old by the 
young, the weak by the strong. Strength of muscles and 
skill in arms imply leadership in society, and youthful 
precocity is very much in evidence in the immaturity of 
the leaders, so far as age goes. It is not as in modern 
warfare, where the leader of men must be a bronzed veteran 
marked more by his experience of men and the world than 
by his personal valour. The result of the great battle of 
modern times depends on the clash of armies as a whole. 
Even if we neglect the part played by artillery and the latest 
scientific inventions, the fate of the battle cannot be said 
to depend on individual heroism but on collective bravery. 
The general is not called upon to perform marvellous feats 
of arms or display extraordinary muscular strength ; his 
skill lies in guiding the movements and manoeuvres of masses 
of soldiers. The acquisition of this skill is generally a matter 
of time and experience and the youthful commander of 
armies is an exceptional figure. 



In the period we are discussing, however, the issue of 
warfare depends on the personal bravery of vigorous young 
men, ambitious of fame, confident of prowess, proud and 
boastful, but fatalists about the overruling powers of 
Destiny. 1 We notice this youthfulness as much in Beowulf, 
the slayer of Grendel, as in Achilles or Sigurthr or Dobrynya 
or Marko. At the reception held in Beowulf's honour, 
he is seated in the midst of the youthful warriors, the 
" gioguth ", Hrethric and Hrothmund and the sons of 
warriors, the " hceletha beam ". He is the " hyse " whom 
Hrothgar thinks of adopting as his son (Beo. 11. 1175, 946 ff., 
etc.), and on whom Wealhtheo relies for the protection of 
her young sons (11. 1226-7). Dobrynya is always the 
" young " Dobrynya, be it in his encounter with Alyosha 2 
or with the Dragon of the Cavern, 3 or in his effort to win 
back Nastasya. 4 The youthfulness of Achilles is emphasized 
as much during his quarrel with Agamemnon 5 as in the 
prognostications of his early death. 6 The chief heroes of the 
Indian epic are not all equally youthful. As a matter of fact 
if we accept the Mahdbhdrata estimate of the age of the 
heroes as strictly accurate, Arjuna and Karna, Duryodhana 
and Bhima, would be well advanced in years, while Bhisma 
and Drona would be quite old at the time of the great battle. 
Arjuna is supposed to have lived in banishment for twenty- 
five years once for twelve and again for thirteen ; the 
length of this period must be taken to be highly exaggerated. 
Nevertheless, with his son, Abhimanyu, taking part in the 
war as a prominent hero, Arjuna could not have been quite 
young at the time ; Duryodhana, Karna and Bhima were 
all as old as he. Still, the fact that Abhimanyu and 
Ghatotkaca are almost as distinguished as Arjuna or Bhima 
is very instructive. Abhimanyu, described as a " mere 
boy " in vii, 51, 12, and as a " child in years " in 52, 4, was 
strong enough to discomfit most of his enemies and was slain 
only through an unfair fight, several warriors directing 

1 See the discussion of " The Common Characteristics of Heroic Poetry ", 
pp. 70 ff. 

8 Story of Dobrynya and the Pavilion : Hapgood's Epic Songs of Russia, 
pp. 06 ff. 

8 Dobrynya and the Dragon, Hapgood, pp. 140 ff. 

4 Hapgood, pp. 193 ff. 

* Cf. for example //. ix, 138 ff., where Agamemnon is ready to look on him 
as a son. 

6 II. xviii, 55 ff. ; 92 ff., etc. 


themselves against him at the same time. Ghatotkaca 
was not much older than Abhimanyu and yet made such 
havoc among his enemies that Karna had ultimately to 
cast his most terrible weapon against him, a weapon which he 
(Karna) had treasured for a long time for utilizing against 
Arjuna (vii, 176 ff.). If we carried on the Greek parallel 
we might say that if Bhisma corresponds to Nestor in age, 
Karna and Arjuna would correspond to Agamemnon and 
Odysseus, Abhimanyu and Ghatotkaca to Achilles and 
Patroklos ; and in this warfare the youngest often 
distinguished himself more than the maturest. 

This precocity of the heroes in warfare was evident in 
their more peaceful occupations too, in the sphere of 
diplomacy and politics, for example. If we trace the strife of 
the Kauravas with the Pandavas from its first beginnings, 
we should see that the plots and conspiracies of the former 
started when the sons of Dhrtarastra and Pandu were 
barely out of their teens. Arjuna first made his mark 
as a great warrior by capturing the Pancala king after a 
fierce fight and he had then just finished his period of educa- 
tion and tutelage. It was shortly after this that Duryodhana 
formed his first plots for the destruction of the Pandavas ; 
these plots were countered by the shrewdness as well as 
the bravery of the youthful Pandavas. On their marriage 
with the Pancala princess they felt strong enough to challenge 
openly the rights of the Kurus ; and at the time of their 
establishing themselves in a new capital they must have 
been quite young. 

One of the most noticeable features of the age we arc 
discussing is, then, the ambition and vigour of youthful 
heroes ; and their strength and violence bring out the 
weakness of the older ties of clan and kindred so much so 
that the bonds of kinship seem on the point of disintegration. 
Thus there are too many instances of strife amongst relatives 
both in the Greek and the Teutonic heroic poems. 1 The 
Iliad mentions a good many of such instances : Tlepolemos 
slew his cousin Likymnios (ii, 662 ff.) and Epeigeus killed 
a cousin (xvi, 570 ff.). Meleagros seems to have slain his 
mother's brothers (ix, 566 ff.) and Phoinix came near to 

1 This in spite of what Procopius says in Goth, ii, 14, or what Beowulf 
points out (11. 2441 ff.) about the kinsman's duty of vengeance. 


killing his father (v, 456 ff.). Aigisthos slew his first cousin, 
Agamemnon, and the latter's son, Orestes, took vengeance 
by slaying Aigisthos and perhaps his mother Klytaimnestra 
(Od. iv, 520 ff.). The Teutons were no better; and the 
quarrel in Ougenthcow's family led to the death of Onela 
and Eanmund (Beo. 2396, etc.). Unferth, the " spokes- 
man " (thyle) of Hrothgar's court, slew his brothers (Beo. 
587 and 1167-8) ; and Eormenric apparently killed his 
nephews. Numerous instances are found in the historical 
records too : Clothair, the Frankish prince, is said to have 
killed his nephews with his own hand and had his son, 
Chramnus, burnt with his family ; Gundobad of Burgundy 
slew his brother, Chilpcric ; Cloderic slew his father, Siegbert 
the Lame, king of the Rhineland Franks ; and Irminfrith 
the Thuringian slew his brother, Berthari. 1 

This disintegration of the bonds of kinship among the 
Greeks and Teutons was probably due to a transitional 
stage in kindred organization ; in many of the Greek royal 
families we find matrilincar relationship gradually giving 
way before the patrilinear. Kingship often descends in 
the male line as in the case of Odysseus and Nestor ; but 
Frazer mentions a good many instances of inheritance through 
the female. 2 Tydeus was a son of Ocneus, king of Kalydon 
in Aetolia ; he migrated to Argos and married the king's 
daughter. His son, Diomede, went to Daunia in Italy, 
where he married the king's daughter and received part of 
the kingdom. In the Iliad (Bk. vi) we hear how Bellerophon, 
a stranger, won part of the kingdom of Lycia by marrying 
the king's daughter. Similarly, Menelaos seems to have 
inherited Sparta from his father-in-law, Tyndareos ; and 
later authorities narrate similar things not only in regard 
to the house of Pelops Tantalos, Pelops, Atreus, Agamemnon 
but also about Peleus, Telamon, Teukros, etc. 

Among the Teutons too, there are some instances of the 
inheritance of a kingdom through marriage with a woman 
of the blood-royal. Thus there is Saxo's story 3 of 
Hermutrude, a legendary queen of Scotland, who yielded^ 

1 Gregory of Tours' History of the Franks, iii, 4, 5, 1 8, etc. 
8 Early History of Kingship, pp. 238 ff. The instances mentione 
matri-local, rather than inatri-linear ones. 
8 Bk. iv, p. 126, of Elton's translation. 


the kingdom with herself, 1 and Sigurthr, even if he did not 
acquire a kingdom, seems to have resided at his wife's home. 
Again the kingdom was sometimes acquired by marrying 
the last king's widow. This seems to have happened with 
Aigisthos and Gyges, with Hamlet's uncle, with Feng and 
his successor, Wiglet. Marriages with the step-mother 
seem to have been based on the same principle. 2 Thus 
according to Procopius (De Bell. Goth, iv, 20), Herme- 
gisklos, the king of the Warni, left instructions that his son, 
Radiger, should marry his widow (R's. step-mother) and 
inherit the kingdom. So the A.S. Chronicle (Ann. 616) 
says of Eadbold, the Kentish king : He renounced his 
baptism and followed heathen customs, so that he married 
his father's widow. 3 So again Ethelbald shocked public 
opinion by marrying his father's widow, Judith, who had 
been formally crowned queen at her wedding to the old king, 
Ethelwulf, and used to sit crowned beside him on state 

occasions. 4 

When we come to examine the Indian evidence for heroic 
society we are faced with the difficulty we have had to notice 
before. Here we possess only very late versions of the 
heroic stories versions in which the religious and ethical 
interest has completely overshadowed the interest of heroic 
deeds and heroic characters. Everything is vkwed from the 
angle of the priest, and instead of a straightforward narrative 
we have didactic digressions on the sanctity of the priestly 
class, the value of virtue, the futility of bravery unsupported 
by religion, and so on. But if the interference of the priestly 
bard had ended here, our task would not have been so 
difficult, for we could have easily separated the chaff from 
the grain, the clerical moralizing from the heroic tradition. 
As it is, these late revisers maltreated the traditional stories 
as well and tried to give a new point to the old tales. They 
were shifted from their proper centre, the heroic figures 
were thrust into the background, and moralizing princes 
dear to the heart of the priest came forward to acquire 

1 We may compare the case recorded by Tacitus (Ann., xii, 20 ff.) of the 
king of the Quadi being displaced by two sons of his sister. 

8 One explanation of such a custom may be just provision for the widow. 
8 Lifode on hethenum theawe swa he heafde his fader lafe to wife. 
* Asser, 13. 


The result is that in an effort to describe the social con- 
ditions of the Heroic Age we cannot depend on the direct 
evidence of the epic, but have often to attempt reconstructions 
of the old heroic stories. The mass of abstract statements, 
occurring generally in the didactic parts of the epic, we have 
to reject or at least check by the concrete events and 
actions of the plainly heroic episodes. This task is difficult 
and the difficulty faces us at every turn, as we shall 
see in this as well as subsequent discussions of the 
Heroic Age. 

Thus we are faced with a serious difficulty when we come 
to examine the strength of the ties of kinship in the Indian 
Heroic Age. The main story of the Mahdbhdrata is of the strife 
of the Kauravas and Pandavas, who are said to be first cousins, 
and the battle is fought between close relatives, between 
cousins and cousins, between nephews and uncles. The 
prominent allies of a protagonist are his relatives by marriage ; 
his bitterest enemies his kinsmen by blood. Thus two of 
the greatest helpers of Dhrtarastra and his sons are 
Dhrtarastra's brother-in-law, Sakuni, and his son-in-law, 
Jayadratha ; the best friends of the Pandavas are their 
brothers-in-law, Dhrstadyumna, Sikhandi, and Krsna, and 
the kings, Virata and Drupada, connected with them by 
ties of marriage. But the fact that Dhrtarastra and Pandu 
were brothers did not prevent their sons from being the 
bitterest of enemies. 

Here, however, we are faced with the problem as to how 
far we can depend on the fact of this relationship between 
the Kauravas and Pandavas. Did the earliest heroic poems 
regard Dhrtarastra and Pandu as brothers and Yudhisthira 
and Duryodhana as first cousins ? In discussing this 
question we have to take several facts into consideration. 
First of all, the name, Pandu, " the pale one," is very curious. 
There was some peculiarity about his complexion which 
led to this name, and how can this peculiarity be explained ? 
The story in Mbh. i, 106, 1 is very unconvincing ; and the 
suggestion that he had some skin disease, leprosy or some- 
thing like that, is not very helpful because this defect would 
probably have prevented him from superseding his elder 

1 It tells us that his mother turned very pale when Vyasa approached her 
to raise offspring on her and hence her son had a pale complexion. 


brother, who was being passed over on the ground of 
blindness. 1 

Pandu as a king is a very shadowy figure, practically 
no events being recorded of his reign. Next we must note 
he had no children when he retired from his kingdom. His 
sons were all born in the Himalayan forests and they are his 
sons only in theory, their real parents being the gods. After 
Pandu's death some ascetics of the forest brought the five 
boys to Hastinapura and asked Dhrtarastra to accept them 
as his brother's sons. When they had grown up, their claim 
to part of the kingdom was naturally disputed by 
Dhrtarastra's sons and they had to spend some time in 
exile. In this exile they contracted a polyandrous marriage 
with the daughter of the Pailcala king ; and this is another 
point which throws doubt on their relationship with the 

Drupada, the Pancala king, points out that polyandry is 
against all usage and the rules of the scriptures ; and certainly 
it is never found among the cultured Aryans to whom the 
Kurus belonged. Can we rely on this to prove that the 
Pandavas must have been non-Aryans, belonging to certain 
northern hill-tribes among whom polyandry is practised 
even to-day ? There are, however, certain facts which have 
to be considered before we accept this contention. The 
polyandry the Pandavas practised was of a peculiar type, 
one wife being married to five brothers ; and is this very 
different from the custom of " Niyoga ", which was certainly 
in vogue among the Aryan Hindus ? In Niyoga sons are 
begotten with the widow or wife of a childless person, the 
children being regarded as offspring of the husband ; and 
in many of the old Hindu instances, it is the husband's 
brother who is asked to beget issue for him with his widow 
or wife. 2 Thus when Vicitravirya dies without leaving any 
children, his mother asks one step-brother of his, Bhisma, 
to beget issue for him with his widows, and when Bhisma 

1 Cf. the instance of Devapi (v, 149) passed over on account of a skin 
disease. The fact, however, that another son was sought to be raised after 
Pandu's birth may support the leprosy-hypothesis. 

2 The custom is probably not unknown in the Jfgvcda, and we may compare 
the passage in x, 18, 8, where the widow is asked to rise from the pyre of 
her dead husband and accept the hand of a new husband, almost certainly 
the last man's brother. 


refuses owing to his promise of celibacy, another step- 
brother performs the task and the children are regarded 
as Vicitravirya's. 1 

The principle here may be that the wife is given not to 
the individual but to the family, the practice originating 
either with economic necessity or with the scarcity of women ; 
and we may try to see such an implication in the disgusting 
story of Mamata and Brhaspati (i, 104). The principle of 
the Pandava marriage as of the Pracetasas whose story is 
cited to defend the Pandava's conduct may be taken to be 
the same. 2 After all, however, there is a radical difference 
between the Niyoga or levirate on the one hand and this 
particular type of polyandry on the other. The marriage of 
a woman to several brothers, all living, is essentially different 
from her marrying them one after the other. For one thing 
the latter never raises the difficulty of succession and 
inheritance that the former must do. The order of patrilinear 
succession could never exist in a society which permitted 
a woman to have SCA eral husbands at the same time. Owing 
to the difficulties of locating the parentage of the offspring, 
the matrilinear order would have to be followed. 

The difficulty is, of course, obviated to some extent if all 
the husbands are*brothers and the issue may reside at the 
paternal dwelling and inherit the common family property 
of the parents. 3 Still, the difficulty must be there in important 
matters, e.g. in succession to a throne. The Mahdbhdrata 
recognizes this difficulty and the present version indicates 
that the common wife lived with each brother for one year, 
so that her five sons can be assigned to their respective 
parents. Yet there might have been trouble if these sons had 
lived on to the time of Yudhisthira's abdication, as then it 
might have been difficult to choose the successor. As it is, 
they were all slain, so that Arjuna's descendants by Subhadra 
could inherit the throne. 

1 This story, like all other references to Vyasa, seems a late addition (see 
ch. iv). The priestly bards of later ages were probably responsible for the 
introduction of Vyasa into the Mbh. story. 

8 These stories are certainly late additions of an age when the standard of 
moral conduct had changed considerably from what it was in the Heroic Age. 

8 We may compare Ceasar about the Britons (De Bell. Gall, v, 14) : " Ten 
or even twelve have wives common to them, and particularly brothers among 
brothers, and parents among their children ; but if there be any issue by these 
wives, they are reputed to be the children of those by whom respectively each 
was first espoused when a virgin." 


To return to our main point, however, it seems difficult to 
regard the Pandavas as cousins of the Kauravas. The 
shadowy figure of Pandu, the birth in the forest, the unknown 
parentage, 1 the custom of polyandry, all these would go to 
suggest that the Pandavas belonged to a different family, 
probably to a different tribe at a level of culture lower than 
the Kauravas. The cousinship was probably invented later 
on by bards singing at the courts of the descendants of the 
Pandavas, by poets desirous of glorifying the lineage of their 
patrons through linking them with the ancient family of the 
Kuru kings, famous even in Vedic literature. 

In estimating the strength of the bonds of kinship then we 
shall have to leave aside this instance of a strife between 
cousins and look out for cases where the relationship is not 
open to similar doubts. In an examination of these ties, the 
first instance that occurs to us is naturally the Pandavas ; 
and here at first sight the ties of kinship appear to be very 
strong. The five brothers seem always very loyal to one 
another and it is mainly through the prowess of his two 
brothers that Yudhisthira can regain his kingdom, while all 
through in their long exile there is nothing but amity 
between the brothers. Yet there are some instances which 
are rather puzzling. Let us take the case of Arjuna's exile in 
the First Book (chs. 215 ff.). 2 In our present version he is 
said to go willingly to lead the life of a Brahmacarin (a 
celibate ascetic) for a number of years. But it is strange 
asceticism that he practises entering into marriage relations 
with princesses wherever he goes ! In the first of these 
episodes, Arjuna refers to his vow of asceticism ; but that does 
not prevent him from accepting the princess. In the second 
one, he goes to the king of the land and, declaring his lineage, 
desires the king's daughter in marriage. After having lived 
with this wife for a time, he journeys to another land where 
also he falls in love with a princess whom he carries off by 
force and marries. Obviously this is not the conduct one 
would expect from a willing ascetic ; one suspects that the 
reasons assigned for Arjuna's exile are not the real reasons. 
These suspicions are strengthened when we find that Arjuna 
returns to his land after having married the sister of Krsna of 

1 To say that they are the offspring of the gods is, rationally speaking, to 
admit that their parentage is unknown. 
1 See pp. 17-18. 


Dvaraka, the most revered of the princes of the time. Such 
alliances were, as we shall see later on, 1 the great sources of 
a prince's strength, and it may be that Arjuna could return 
only after the acquisition of such strength. These facts would 
seem to suggest that the real reason for Arjuna's banishment 
was perhaps some quarrel with his elder brother about their 
relations with the common wife, that he was not a willing exile 
through the breach of some conditions imposed on such 
relations, as the epic would suggest (i, 215) ; and Yudhisthira's 
remarks on the death of Draupadi and of each one of his 
brothers (xvii, 2) would show that he had no great sympathy 
for the latter and was particularly jealous of Arjuna. There 
were probably serious quarrels between the Pandava 
brothers ; but these have perhaps been glossed over by the 
priestly bard of later times, desirous of holding up the 
Pandavas as a pattern of brotherly love. 2 

But there are many better instances of the slackening of 
the ties of kindred, instances in which we need not depend 
mainly on conjectures and reconstructions. One of the most 
striking of these is the story of the destruction of the Vrsnis 
and Andhakas in xvi, 3. They were all kinsmen and relatives, 
feasting together while on a journey. The trouble started 
with one hero taunting another about a cowardly act in the 
past. Soon it developed into a free fight in which, according 
to our text, " sons killed their fathers and fathers killed their 
sons" (3, 41). They went on slaying one another until 
practically the whole band was destroyed, only three or four 
being left alive. 

On the occasion of the great battle kinsmen, even brothers, 
fought on opposite sides. After the death of Jarasandha, the 
Magadha king, Krsna and the Pandavas placed his son, 
Sahadeva, on the throne (ii, 24) and naturally he sided with 
the Pandavas in the battle (v, 59) ; but apparently he had a 
brother Jayatsena, who was not satisfied with the arrangement 
and sided with the Kurus when his chance came. He must 

1 See Chapter on " Government", pp. 185 ff. 

8 The fact that they helped one another in battle or at the time of exile 
does not prove much, for common misfortunes have always a tendency to 
unite even long-standing enemies. Even in the exile, however, it was not all 
amity between the brothers. Cf. e.g. iii, 33 if. It is probable that the love and 
reverence which these brothers undoubtedly had for their mother, helped to 
keep them together on many occasions. For this reverence for the mother 
see next chapter, p. 161. 


be the king of Magadha mentioned in vi, 17, 18 etc., for he 
was slain by Abhimanyu (viii, 5). 1 

Again, for an earlier generation we may take the case of 
Yayati and his eldest son, Yadu", who was deprived of his 
rightful inheritance because he had quarrelled with his father 
(v, 149). This quarrel may have been due to his refusal of 
an unreasonable request of his father's (i, 85) or to something 
else ; but as a result of this he was cursed by his father and 
disowned by him. Much more serious must have been 
Havana's quarrel with Vibhisana, as the latter joined Rama 
to destroy his own brother (iii, 282 and Ram.) and as a reward 
for his help was given Havana's kingdom after his death 
(iii, 290) ; while we may compare the relations of Sugriva 
and Vali in the same story (iii, 279). Nala's bitterest enemy 
was his brother, Puskara, most of the former's miseries 
being due to the latter. 

It is true that the didactic epic holds up the father as an 
object of reverence and the brother of love ; but the actual 
instances often contradict this rule. Even the examples 
which seem to support the rule are at times quite instructive. 
The main story of the Rdmdyana is a case in point : Valmiki 
and the poet of M bh. iii, 272 ff . find in Rama and his brothers 
types of ideal virtue, devoted to one another and to their 
father. Yet the main theme of the story rests on the banish- 
ment of Rama by his father, in order to benefit Rama's 
younger brother, Bharata, a son of the favourite wife. Rama's 
life in exile leads to his other misfortunes which supply the 
heroic elements of the story. In Valmiki's story as also in that 
of the third Book of the Mahdbhdrata we find the old king 
acting much against his will, so much so that he dies broken- 
hearted after Rama's banishment, while Bharata docs not 
at all want to gain the throne through the machinations of 
his wicked mother. Yet we must remember that these are 
not the main elements of the story, which is one of Rama's 
exile, Ravana's outrage and Rama's revenge. The fraternal 
attachment of Bharata and the paternal love of Dasaratha 
may well be an addition of a poet living a thousand years after 
the events of the story, or may be due to a gradual change in 
the conception of the characters of Dasaratha and Bharata 
due to these thousand years of oral transmission. 
1 He is mentioned by name in vi, 16. 


We have then good grounds for supposing that in the 
Indian Heroic Age too the ties of kinship and blood had 
become slack, though in some instances this strife among 
kinsmen was varnished over by later moralists to suit the 
standard of virtue of a later age. Now we have to investigate 
if such strife was merely the usual result of jealousy and 
ambition or if there were more deep-seated reasons in a change 
of social ties, in a transitional stage of social organization. 
Generally we find that the law of succession followed the male 
line and kingdoms descended from father to son ; but there 
is evidence that in some cases at least maternal relationships 
were very strong and matrilinear succession was not 
unknown. The best instance is perhaps that of Vahlika 
(Balhika), the second son of Pratipa, Bhisma's grandfather. 
v, 149, tells us that he left his father rnd brothers and 
succeeded to the rich kingdom of his mother's brother. 1 
Then there is the Manipura instance in i, 215, where we are 
told that the reigning king will be succeeded by his daughter's 
son and in xiv, 79, we find the latter reigning on the throne of 
his maternal grandfather. 2 If we regard Arjuna's connection 
with Ulupi (i. 214) as a regular marriage, that also furnishes 
a similar instance, though not quite a satisfactory one, for 
Ulupi is not regarded as an ordinary human being and 
there is no clear indication of matrilinear succession. Much 
more important from our point of view is the custom of 
polyandry practised by the Pandavas. If this custom was 
common in their tribe, they could only have matrilinear 
succession for the reasons discussed above ; and in present- 
day India we find a similar rule of inheritance among the 
hill-tribes and the South-Indian races which still permit 

Next we find that in the epic stories and in later literature 
the mother's brother occupied a very prominent position 
amongst relatives. If we take the case of the junior Fandavas, 
Prativindhya, Sutasoma and others taking part in the great 
battle, we find that while their mother's father and mother's 
brothers were all fighting for them, they had few relatives on 

1 Balhlko matulakulam tyaktva rajyam sama&ritah. Pitrn bhratrn 
parityajya praptavan paramrddhimat. 

* Of course, it is pointed out in i, 217, that the daughter's son succeeds 
simply because the king has no son ; but this excuse may be a late addition. 


the father's side among their allies. 1 Abhimanyu's mother's 
brother was the greatest helper of the Pandavas, just as 
Duryodhana's mother's brother is one of his most prominent 
allies. As Hopkins points out (JAOS. xiii, p. 141), Sakuni, 
Duryodhana's maternal uncle, is his bosom-friend, and a 
constant resident at the royal palace. In a fable (v, 160) the 
mice want to have a cat for their protector and say : " We 
have many enemies ; so let this one be our maternal uncle and 
act as our guardian." Again, in the Purdnas, the maternal 
uncle is very important : in the list of gurus (venerable 
persons) of the Brhannaradiya Pur. (9, 88 ff.) the mother's 
brother is mentioned but not the father's brother. The Vayu 
(ii, 8) says : " A son reveres (bhajate) his maternal uncle, a 
daughter her father." Manu also favours the maternal uncle : 
He alone is honoured while returning from a journey (iii, 119) ; 
and the " only uncle one should not dispute with is the 
mother's brother " and the mother and maternal relatives 
are important 2 (iv, 148, 183). 

All this evidence may lead us to conclude that one signifi- 
cant feature of Indian heroic society was a transitional stage 
in kindred organization and probably a consequent slackening 
of the ties of kinship. A more significant feature of this 
society is a classification of its members in well-defined 
groups and castes. Theoretically there were four castes ; 
and the twelfth and thirteenth Books have elaborate 
discussions of their respective duties. The heroic stories, 
however, generally deal with only the upper two of these, the 
Brahmana and the Ksatriya. The chief business of the former 
was to act as a priest and of the latter to fight ; and we have 
to start our investigation by considering how far the two kept 
to these usual duties, and whether they were placed in water- 
tight compartments. 

To take the priests first, we may know a good deal of their 
life from some stories near the beginning of the first Book. 
One of the Brahmana's main duties was to act as a teacher, 8 

1 Contrast, however, Salya fighting against his sister's sons a curious 
instance from many points of view. 

* Curiously enough Hopkins finds the mdtula (maternal uncle) more 
important in later literature than in earlier ; but as he suggests, the change 
may be purely linguistic mdtula, in later literature, coming to mean " uncle " 
in general. 

8 This, of course, in addition to his duties at sacrifices, and bardic 
occupations, for which see the discussion of " Early Indian Minstrelsy ". 


and the students who came to learn spiritual wisdom lived 
with him as his disciples and were expected to obey him 
implicitly in everything. Thus we hear of a sage, Dhaumya, 
who had three disciples, Aruni, Upamanyu and Veda. One 
day the preceptor asked Aruni to stop a breach in the water- 
course of his field ; and Aruni failing to do it otherwise 
lay down there himself and won great praise by thus carrying 
out the preceptor's orders. Upamanyu was asked to give all 
the proceeds of his begging to his preceptor, without keeping 
anything for himself, and not to feed himself even on the milk 
of the kine he tended ; and Upamanyu is regarded as an ideal 
disciple because he obeyed his teacher at the risk of starving 
himself. After completing his period of learning, the disciple 
left the teacher's house, married and started life on his own, 
teaching students, as Veda taught Utaiika. The student was 
educated free and lived as a member of the teacher's family ; 
but he was expected to give some daksina (present) at the time 
of leaving. 1 

Some light on the state of the Brahmana student is also 
thrown by the story of Kaca and Devayam (i, 76), Kaca's 
duties including the tending of the kine and the fetching of 
sacrificial wood and Kusa grass for the use of the preceptor. 
He was regularly taught sacred lore by the preceptor, until he 
became proficient in all the scriptures and knew all the Vedas 
by heart. The hermitages of the famous sages were thus 
great centres of learning where the students congregated. 
Such hermitages were those of Vasistha and Visvamitra in 
ix, 42 and of Kanva in i, 70. The hermits were not all men, 
as we know from ix, 54 : ladies sometimes practised 
Brahmacarya and acquired great learning, as in the Upanisada 
instances of Maitreyi and Gargi. 

The Brahmana preceptor had various means of livelihood. 
The main source was the proceeds of begging, and sometimes 
gifts from princes included land and cattle. Thus the priest 
carried on agriculture and tended cattle as well, and could 
depend on the proceeds for his livelihood. Sometimes there 
was great rivalry between prominent sages, the Vasistha- 
Visvamitra strife (ix, 42) being the most famous instance of 
such rivalry. Perhaps some of these quarrels originated in a 
desire for the exclusive patronage of some powerful king, of 
1 For didactic rules on discipleship, see xii, 66, and 242 ; also v, 44. 


obtaining him as a disciple (cf. i, 178-9) ; and the priest was 
generally a prominent figure in the court. Some Brahmanas, 
agian, cherished military ambitions, and we shall see later 
that just as the warrior sometimes became a hermit and 
attained Brahmanahood, so the priest sometimes became, to 
all intents and purposes, a Ksatriya. 

The Ksatriya's business was to fight, and, according to 
the didactic epic, his duty was to die on the battle-field or, 
if he lived to be old, to die in retirement in the forest (xii, 29 
and xiii, 85. Cf. v, 160, 81 ff.). The Ksatriya son 
should possess " strength, prowess, heroism, skill in the use 
of weapons and manliness " and show these in battle. Thus 
Duryodhana says in ix, 5, 30 ff. : " The death of a Ksatriya 
on his bed is highly sinful ... He is no man who dies 
miserably, borne down by disease ... So I shall now fight 
a righteous battle and repair to the domains of Indra, obtain- 
ing the companionship of those who have attained to the 
highest bliss." So Krsna says to Jarasandha in ii, 22 : " The 
Ksatriyas start on the sacrifice of war with the prospect of 
heaven before them and thus conquer the whole world." 
So again on Abhimanyu's death Yudhisthira says to his 
warriors : " This heroic son of Subhadra has been slain by the 
enemy on the battle-field without flinching from the fight and 
has consequently proceeded to heaven." l 

War then was the Ksatriya's business ; and his education 
in boyhood was turned towards the acquisition of martial 
skill, though according to the present version of the stories, 
sacred learning was not absolutely neglected. Thus Bhisma, 
one of the greatest of warriors, took charge of the education 
of his nephews, Dhrtarastra, Pandu and Vidura, and being 
engaged in the usual study and vows, they acquired pro- 
ficiency in all sorts of athletic sports. They became learned 
in the Vedas and acquired skill in archery, in club-fights, in 
the use of the sword and the shield. They became experts in 
horsemanship, as also in the management of elephants ; 
while sacred lore the knowledge of the Niti-Sastras, the 
Itihasa-Puranas, the Vedas and the Vedangas was not 
neglected. 2 Among the princes, Pandu excelled in the science 

1 See chapter on " The Common Characteristics of Heroic Poetry " for 
elaboration of Ksatriya traits. 

As usual, it may be doubted if this priestly learning formed originally 
part of the warrior's training. It looks like a late priestly addition. 


of archery and Dhrtarastra in the strength of the muscles 
(i, 109). 

Again, when the sons of Dhrtarastra and Pandu grew up, 
Bhisma looked out for a preceptor, well skilled in the science 
of arms ; having found a teacher after his heart in Drona, he 
entrusted the education of the boys to him. Drona began 
teaching them the use of all weapons ; and princes from the 
neighbouring lands as well came to learn from Drona, being 
attracted by his reputation. Of these princes Arjuna excelled 
in archery and Drona taught him the use of wonderful magic 
weapons. Duryodhana and Bhima became experts in club- 
fighting and Nakula and Sahadeva in the use of the sword. 
For all-round skill however, Arjuna is the best and he is 
called the best of the car-warriors. Drona accepted Ksatriya 
princes as his pupils, but would not accept the Nisada prince, 
Ekalavya, because he was a Nisada, one of a low caste, 
presumably non-Aryan. Ekalavya, however, went to a 
secluded forest, made a statue of Drona and practised archery 
with great persistence before that statue, taking that for his 
preceptor. He acquired wonderful skill with the bow and 
Drona, afraid of Ekalavya's surpassing his own pupils, 
claimed the meed of the preceptor (gurudaksina) from him, 
as he had learnt before Drona's statue ; and Ekalavya 
having consented, Drona demanded his thumb ! Ekalavya 
sacrificed even this, as the guru must have what present he 
selects. From his other pupils Drona claimed a different 
daksina (reward) : He wanted to be avenged on Drupada, 
the Paiicala king, for an insult and he asked Arjuna and others 
to bring Drupada a prisoner before him. They accomplished 
this and thus discharged the obligation of the daksina. 

The Ksatriya when he was grown up lived in the court of 
a prince as one of his retinue. He led an idle life in time of 
peace, taking part perhaps in tournaments and trials of skill ; 
but such intervals were probably rare in the Heroic Age, as 
he had not only to fight when his prince quarrelled with some 
other prince, but often to go to the help of some king of a 
distant land engaged in a war, some king who had a claim on 
his prince and solicited his help in times of difficulty. Thus 
soldiers came even from the far East, West and South to 
take part in the Kuru-Pandava war, simply because their king 
thought it his duty to join the one party or the other, it being 


customary for the parties to send requests for help to all kings 
likely to render aid (see Bk. v). We may notice in particular 
the effort of both parties to enlist the services of Krsna and 
Salya (v, 7-8). Both Duryodhana and Arjuna reached 
Krsna's capital on the same day. When Duryodhana arrived 
at Krsna's palace, he was asleep ; so Duryodhana took a 
seat near Krsna's head and Arjuna coming shortly after stood 
near Krsna's feet. When Krsna arose Duryodhana claimed 
his help on the ground that he had arrived first ; but Krsna 
said that he had seen Arjuna first x and so his own services 
must go to Arjuna, but he was ready to send a large body of 
his soldiers to help Duryodhana. Salya, on the other hand, 
was coming to help his nephews, the two youngest of the 
Pandavas ; but Duryodhana met him on the way and 
entertained him so well that Salya could not refuse him when 
he solicited Salya's services in the war. 

We have discussed the main difference between the priest's 
and the warrior's way of life ; and now we have to see whether 
the classes formed water-tight compartments with no alliances 
between one another or whether it was possible for a man to 
change his occupations and caste. That the caste-division 
was not so rigid as in later times is seen in at least several 
instances. The most prominent instance is of course that of 
Visvamitra who is a king, desirous of possessing the sage 
Vasistha's fine cattle. Finding his arts of war fail against 
the rsi, he wants to become a Brahmana, and through 
asceticism succeeds in becoming one 2 ; and in ix, 42 we see 
Vasistha and Visvamitra as rival hermits. Other instances 
are those of Devapi and Sindhudvlpa, Ksatriya princes who 
had become Brahmanas, according to ix, 40 ; and xiii, 30 
narrates the story of prince Vitahavya becoming a Brahmana. 
When Yudhisthira is disgusted with war and wants to retire 
to the forest he speaks of kings who had renounced power and 
become hermits (xii, 6 ff .). We do not know if they actually 
became Brahmanas, but they would probably be called 

1 This story reminds one of the Langobardic story about Wodan's help in 
the war of the Vandals and the Winniles. Wodan promised victory to whom- 
soever he saw first in the morning ; and by a stratagem he was made to see 
the Winniles first and grant them victory. Paulus Diaconus* Hist. Lang., 
i, 8, and Origo Gentis Langobardorum referred to in Chadwick's ILA., pp. 10, 
115, etc. 

1 i, 71, 29, says : He was originally a Ksatriya, but became a Brahmana 
by his own strength (abhavat br&hmano valat). 


brahmarsis, as Pandu was (i, 120), or brahmabhutah, as 
Yati was (i, 75). The Puranas know of numerous instances of 
Ksatriyas becoming Brahmanas, as we find from Matsya, 
50, 88 ; Vayu, 99, 278 ; Vayu, 57, 121 ; Harivamsa, 27, 
1469 and 32, 1773, etc. 

There are also instances of Brahmanas becoming almost 
Ksatriyas, as in the case of Rama Jamadagnya (Mbk. iii, 
115 ; v, 178 ; xii, 49). Though a Brahmana, he is said to 
have exterminated the Ksatriyas off the earth twenty-one 
times ! Then there are the instances of Krpa and Drona 
(i, 130-1). Krpa, the son of the sage Gautama, is said to have 
mastered the four kinds of arms (caturvidham dhanurvedam) 
and in the great battle he was one of the prominent fighters 
on Duryodhana's side. Drona, the son of the famous 
Brahmana, Bharadvaja, had knowledge of all arms and it was 
he who schooled the famous princes of the time in all martial 
skill ; later he was for a time the commander-in-chief of 
Duryodhana's army (Bk. vii). 

These instances would seem to imply that the barrier of 
caste was not a rigid one, and there are at least some instances 
of inter-marriage. The sage Cyavana is said to have married 
the princess, Sukanya (iii, 122 ff.) ; Agastya married 
Lopamudra, the princess of Vidarbha ; the two rsis, Narada 
and Parvata, quarrelled about a princess, the daughter of 
king Srfijaya, whom they both wanted to marry (vii, 55). 
We may also remember that though the Pandavas were 
disguised as Brahmanas, that did not prevent their winning 
king Drupada's daughter. 

Again, to take instances of a different type, of Ksatriya 
bridegrooms with Brahmana brides, the king Dusmanta 
marries Sakuntala, presumably the daughter of a priest 
(i, 71) ; Yayati takes the daughter of the sage, Sukra, to 
wife (i, 81 ff.). 1 Here, as elsewhere, we must not be misled 
by the didactic rules of the epic, xiii, 40, 11-12 tells us that 
a man should always marry one of the same caste. This has 
been modified to mean that a man should not marry a wife 
of a higher caste, as seems implied in Janaka's refusal to 
marry Sulabha (xii, 321, 59). That a king should not marry 
a Brahmana's daughter is also mentioned in xii, 90 2 ; and 

1 Of course, the latter story has a supernatural background ; but it may 
well represent what actually happened. * Contrast i, 81, 19. 


this is probably the implication of the statement that a 
Brahmana may have four wives, a Ksatriya three, a Vaisya 
two, and a Sudra one (xiii, 47, and 48, 4 ff.) each a wife from 
his own caste and one from each of the inferior castes. But 
the actual instances of the heroic stories are there in spite 
of all didactic rules to the contrary ; and we have naturally 
to take the latter as late additions. 

But the didactic epic too does not always insist on the 
rigidity of the caste-line. Thus the passages from xiii, 47 
and 48 referred to above, as also xiii, 44, 11 ff. recognize that 
a Brahmana may legally marry a Ksatriya or Vaisya woman, 
though his Sudra wife may not be regarded as a wife at all 
(xiii, 44 and v, 12). But what is more important, the issue 
of a Brahmana by a wife of one of the three higher castes is 
regarded as a Brahmana (v, 11). 

Again, it is recognized that it is not birth alone but actions 
and character that make a Brahmana. So xii, 35, 17 ff. : 
A Brahmana who neglects his proper duties and goes about 
armed for slaying others may be killed ; and his slayer 
does not incur the guilt of Brahmanicide, for he is no proper 
Brahmana (cf. vii, 160). Or again xii, 63, 4 ff. : The wicked 
Brahmana who neglects his duties becomes a Sudra. So 
again in iii, 312, 108 ff., Yudhisthira asserts : It is neither 
birth nor learning that makes a Brahmana but good character 
alone that confers Brahma nahood. Even the study of the 
four Vedas does not make a wicked person better than a 
Sudra. So too iii, 180, 21 ff. : He alone is a Brahmana who 
is truthful, charitable, benevolent and forgiving ; and if the 
Sudra possesses these qualities he is to be regarded as a 
Brahmana. The proper duties of a Brahmana are hinted 
at in various parts of the didactic epic, for example, in 
xiii, 62, 63, 112 and 141. 

So it seems probable that in the Heroic Age, caste-barriers 
were nothing like so rigid as in later times. Under the 
conditions prevailing in the period, the Ksatriya would most 
probably have the higher position and the greater honour ; 
and the Brahmana would be little better than what Sarmistha 
tauntingly calls (i, 78) " the king's laudator " (vandin). 
Generally he would not care very much for secular power and 
worldly wealth, being dependent for his sustenance on the 
patronage of the king. In those cases where the Brahmana 


sought to vie with the warrior, he would have to adopt the 
weapons of the latter, as Drona did to humiliate Drupada. 
Skill in arms and strength of the muscles would be the telling 
factors in life ; and priestly holiness and scriptural learning 
would be prized only in spare moments. 

By the time the stories had reached the form in which we 
have got them, great changes had taken place in the manners 
and conditions of society. The importance of the priest had 
increased immensely, and that of the warrior had diminished 
proportionally. The prince no longer sets the standard as 
he did in the heroic stories (i, 82, 18) ; it is the priest who is 
the model for all. Spirituality is more prized than valour 
and the Brahmana is always superior to the Ksatriya, as 
so many statements of Bks. xii and xiii assert. A very 
interesting fact comes out in a comparisor of some abstract 
statements of Bks. iii and xiii with a concrete episode of 
Bk. i, iii, 133, 1, and xiii, 104, 25 ; both seem to affirm that 
the right of way belongs to the Brahmana as against the 
Ksatriya or anybody else. But in the actual instance of 
i, 178, when the king finds a Brahmana in the way, he is 
furious with the latter for not moving aside and strikes 
him with his whip. It is true that our present version has 
devised a punishment for the king ; but it is curious that 
the punishment reacts on the Brahmana and leads to his 
death. 1 

The didactic epic, however, while following the dictum of 
i, 177, 45 " Fie on the warrior's prowess ; the priest's 
power is the true power " has to insist on the necessity of a 
bond between the warrior and the priest. Thus iii, 185, 25 : 
" As the fire helped by the wind can burn down entire forests, 
so the union of the energies of the priest and the warrior 
can destroy all enemies." So again xiii, 59, 36 : " The energy 
of the warrior is neutralized when opposed to that of the 
priest." i, 75, 14 says : " The priest, the warrior and other 
men were born of Manu ; then the priest's power was united 
with that of the warrior." One reason why the priestly 
author had to insist on this bond was of course the necessity 
for peace and security, which could be had only through the 

1 The early version probably described how the sage lost his temper on 
being whipped and cursed the king, with the result that he was put to death 
by the king. 


help of the warrior. But the priest was also dependent for 
livelihood on the gifts of princes, and was never tired of 
insisting on the good to accrue from suitable gifts to 
Brahmanas. This insistence is to be found in xiii, 81, 83, 
35, 47, 62 and many other chapters, the point being that, 
as the giver benefits himself by the gift, he should regard it 
as a privilege if the gift is accepted. 

The priests and the warriors arc prominent in our heroic 
stories, but we hear little or nothing of the two other castes. 
The didactic parts have of course numerous statements 
about them, their duties, their statues, their possessions ; 
but one never knows how much to rely on them for the state 
of things in the Heroic Age. xii, CO, 23 ff. may be taken as a 
specimen of such statements : The Vaisya, trading with 
capital supplied by others, is allowed a small fraction of the 
profits, and his main business is to tend cattle. Agriculture 
must have been one of his main occupations, too, but there 
seems to be a growing feeling against it on account of the 
cruelties involved, a feeling, this, that may be due to 
Buddhistic influences (see iii, 207, 23 ; also i, 03, 11). ii, 5, 
speaks of the professions of agriculture, trade, 1 cattle-rearing 
and usury ; and iv, 10, 1, may imply the mixture of Aryans 
and non-Aryans in this class, for the cow-boys apparently 
speak a dialect (bhasa) not intelligible to others. 2 The 
occupations of the Vaisya were not regarded as contemptible ; 
and it is recognized that the destitute Brahmana may follow 
the Vaisya occupations. Such may be implied by the 
Purana instance of Bhalandana becoming a Vaisya (Visnu, 
iv, 1, 15 ; Bhdg., ix, 2, 23, etc.) 3 ; while Vaisyas can become 
Brahmanas too (Harivamsa, 11, 658 ; Brahma Par., 7, 42). 

The care of the cattle was an important duty, for cattle 
seem to have been highly prized as property. The king 
himself was a cattle-owner on a large scale ; and iii, 239 
tells us about the formal ceremony of counting and branding 
the royal cattle ; the king personally supervises the counting, 
examining their limbs and marks ; he causes the calves 
(the three-year-olds) to be marked and takes note of those 

1 See Note * 4 B " at the end of the chapter. 

* It is not, however, safe to draw any inference about racial distinctions 
from linguistic considerations alone. 

1 Vatsapri Bhalandana is the reputed author of Kg- Veda ix, 08, and 
probably of x, 45 and 46. 


which were yet untamed, while the cows whose calves had 
not yet been weaned are separately counted. Again, princes 
do not seem to have been above taking part in cattle raids ; 
and in iv, 30 ft., we get an elaborate account of such a raid. 
The Trigartas and the Kurus join hands to rob the Matsya 
king, Virata, of his cattle ; and it was only through the help 
of the disguised Pandavas that the animals could be recovered 
after a desperate fight. We may also remember the prince 
Visvamitra's desire to possess the splendid cow belonging to 
the sage Vasistha, a desire which led to the long quarrel 
between the two ; while the quarrel between Jamadagni 
and the Haihayas started from the wrongful seizure of cattle. 1 

According to the didactic rules, the Sudras had no rights 
or privileges (xii, 60 ; 294 ; 295 ; 297). In xiii, 118, he is 
slightly higher than a beast, but 132, 1 4, is more favourable 
to him, while xii, 328, 47, says that the scriptures may be 
expounded to people of all castes- a rule which may include 
the Sudras. 295, 4, holds that if the Sudra is unable to 
earn his livelihood by serving the other three castes, then 
he may take to trade or the tending of cattle or the mechanical 
arts ; and we are given the story of his mythical origin in 
viii, 32, xii, 60, and xii, 319. 

This then is the social gradation we find in the Indian 
epic and we may investigate how far this corresponds to the 
social order found in the heroic poems of other lands. The 
Irish stories attribute an exalted position to the file, though 
perhaps it is hardly correct to describe him as a priest. He 
was a court poet and sage, and in pre-Christian times a 
prophet. 2 The classical prose- works give us ample informa- 
tion about the priestly order among the Celts. According 
to Caesar (De Bell. Gall., vi, 13 ff.) the priests had entire control 
of religion and sacrifices, decided all suits and were instructors 
of the young. They were excused military service and tribute, 
but did not form a distinct caste, for they were sometimes 

1 The Purana stories about Krsna's boyhood spent in the company of 
cowherds may have some significance in this connection. See, too, Mbh. 
xiii, 118, 22. Cf. Satapatha Bra. v, 2, 3. 

8 See Hull's Text-Book of Irish Literature, i, pp. 181 ff. The relation of the 
file to the Irish druid is uncertain. Possibly the druid was originally a chief 
file. File originally meant "seer". Cf. Welsh giceled (= "to see") and 
Veleda, name of a prophetess in Tacitus. The Irish File corresponds tu the 
Gaulish vales, but ancient writers were apparently confused between votes 
and druids. 


drawn from the nobility as in the case of Deiviciacus the 
Aeduan, whose brother was a chief magistrate. Caesar calls 
these priests Druids, and Strabo (iv, 4, 4) associated them 
with Bards and Vates, the Bards being the minstrels and 
poets and the Vates sacrificers and interpreters of natural 
phenomena, while the Druids practised philosophy and 
decided suits. Diodorus (v, 31) takes the Vates as experts 
in augury and divination and the Druids as philosophoi 
offering sacrifices to the gods. 

There were some resemblances between the Indian priests 
of the Heroic Age and these Celtic priests : both had entire 
control of religious matters, including sacrifices, and were 
responsible for the instruction of the young. The Brahma nas 
were probably minstrels just like the Celtic " Bards " and 
were certainly philosophoi ; and both among the Celts and 
the Hindus of this age, the priesthood did not form a distinct 
caste, the priests being sometimes drawn from the warrior 

Caesar says (vi, 21) that the Germans have no Druids. 
Probably this docs not mean that they had no priests, for 
in Tacitus' time 1 priesthood was an important feature of 
Germanic society. The priest's duties included augury, 
the guardianship of groves and holy objects, the opening 
of public assemblies and inflicting punishment on delinquents 
and probably duties relating to sacrifices. Ammianus 
(xxviii, 5, 14) speaks of the Burgundian chief priest who held 
a life office and Jordanes 2 says the Gothic priests were 
drawn from the nobility, while Bede speaks (in Hist. EC., 
ii, 13, etc.) of the priests of the Ancient English. 

But there is evidence for a more important parallelism 
between the early social organization of some Teutonic tribes 
and of the Indians. The Translatio St. Alexandri (Cap. i) 
speaking of Old Saxon society of a period near enough to the 
Heroic Age says that there were four classes among them, 
the nobles, the freemen, the freedmen and the slaves ; and 
the class-barrier was very strict. There was an injunction 
that no one was to seek a wife outside his own class. If any 
one married a wife of a higher class, he was to pay for it with 

1 See Germania, 6, 7, 10, 11 , 40, 43. 

1 Getica (De Getarum Origine) transl. by C. Mierow (Princeton Univ. Press, 


death. In England, too, in the sixth or seventh century, 
there was a social gradation. Thus in Wessex there were 
the nobles or gesithcund and the freemen or ceorlas, in addition 
to the free Welsh population. In Kent there were the eorlcund 
man (nobleman), the ceorl or frig man (freeman) and the laet, 
who was probably a freedman. There were similar classes 
among the Bavarians, the Frisians and other continental 
Teutons ; and in so far as this classification was a hereditary 
one we may take it as a parallel to the Indian gradation of 
Ksatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras. 

The Teutonic heroic poems are, however, silent on the 
matter of social classification. They are concerned mainly 
with the prince and his retainers, the comitatus, with the king 
and his court ; and this corresponds to some extent with 
what we have found in the Indian heroic stories, with the 
difference that the latter in their present versions speak of 
the priests side by side with the warriors. The priests are 
absent from Teutonic heroic tradition and their absence 
may or may not be due to later Christian rehandling. In the 
Homeric poems however their presence is well indicated. 
One of the most noteworthy instances is that of Chryses, 
the priest of Apollo the Far-Darter, in the beginning of the 
Iliad. lie came to ransom his daughter, a prisoner among 
the Achaians, but was rudely sent away by Agamemnon. 
So the priest returned in anger ; and Apollo who heard his 
prayer aimed deadly arrows against the Argives. 1 

Another point of resemblance between the Homeric 
and the Indian stories is in the value set on cattle as property. 
We may think of various passages in the Iliad, e.g. vi, 420 ff. : 
" Fleet-footed goodly Achilles slew them all amid their kine 
of trailing gait and white-fleeced sheep." xi, 670 ff. : 
Nestor says : " A strife was set between the Eleians and 
ourselves, about a raid on the kine ; what time I slew 
Hymoneus . . . when I was driving the spoil. And in 
fighting for his kine was he smitten in the foremost rank 
by a spear . . ." xx, 90 ff. : Aeneus says : " Once before 
drove he (Achilles) me ... when he harried our kine and 
wasted Lyrnesscs." 2 From the Odyssey too we may recall 

1 There seem generally to have been three classes among the ancient 
Greeks corresponding more or less to the three Indian classes. Later this 
classification was generally disturbed by considerations of wealth. 

* Lang, Leaf and Myers* translation. 


the incident in the isle of Thrinakia (xii, 338 ff ) when Odysseus* 
companions came to grief through slaying the kine of Helios. 
These and some incidents in the Irish heroic stories x remind us 
of Duryodhana's care of his cattle (Mbh. iii, 239) and the 
attempted cattle-raid in Virata's kingdom (iv, 30 ff.). 

Finally, the more martial portions of the Indian epic agree 
with the Iliad in overcrowding the stage with princes and 
hence have little opportunity for showing the relations of the 
king with his retainers, relations on which the Teutonic 
poems lay such special stress. But the discussion of this 
question of the king and his comitalus as also of the king's 
international relations must be postponed till we come to 
examine the general problem of government in the Heroic 

1 The Tain story, for example. Hull's Text-Book of Irish Literature, i, 
ch. iii, gives us instances of cattle-raids. 



There were four types of soldiers, the greatest number fighting on 
foot, then a number on horseback and on elephants and finally some on 
chariots. The actual numbers of a division (aksauhini) are given as 
follows : 109,000 infantry, 65,000 cavalry, 2i,000 elephants, and 
21,000 chariots ; but this number is probably exaggerated, as the 
Pandavas are said to have seven such divisions and the Kauravas 
eleven at the beginning of the fight. A rule of fight was that horsemen 
should fight against horsemen, elephants against elephants and so on 
(vi, 45) ; but this was not always observed. The distinguished heroes 
never fight on horseback and rarely on elephants, their place being on 
the chariots. The hero is a rathin or a mahdratha or an atiratha. There 
are a few exceptions, e.g. in vi, 20, where Duryodhana is on an elephant, 
but it is before the actual battle starts. Some of his allies, Bhagadatta 
(vii, 29), Vinda and Anuvinda * are on elephants too ; and Bhisma 
says of his grand-nephews, Duryodhana, etc., that they fight equally 
well on an elephant or a chariot. Uttara, Virata's son, was on an 
elephant when fighting with Salya on a chariot, and he seems to have 
driven the elephant himself (vi, 47), as Bhagadatta too probably did 
(vii, 26, 41 ; 28, 27). 2 

The chariot usually contained only two men, the warrior and the 
driver. 3 It was not unusual for a very distinguished prince to act as 
the charioteer of another. Thus Krsna acted as Arjuna's charioteer ; 
and Salya who succeeded Karna in the command of the whole Kuru 
army had been Kama's charioteer in his last great fight (Bk. viii). It 
seems to have been quite usual for an enemy to kill the helpless chariot- 
eer in order to paralyse the warrior. Thus in vi, 45, 15, Brhadbala, the 
Kosala king, slays Ahbimanyu's charioteer and in 54, 117 Satyaki kills 
Bhisma' s. And we may compare vii, 140, 17-18, where Alambusa's 
charioteer is slain, while xiv, 82, 17, describes Arjuna's slaughter of the 
Magadha king's charioteer. 

The horses of the chariot too were an object of attack as in the last 
two passages. In viii, 84, Vrsasena killed the beautiful chargers of 
Nakula's chariot : in vii, 168, Salya slays those of Virata and in vi, 47, 
alya's horses are killed. The elephants were not spared either and in 
vii, 29, Arjuna first kills Bhagadatta' s elephant and then the warrior 
himself. When the horses of the chariot are killed, the warrior generally 

1 The two latter arc, however, called " car-warriors " in viii, lis. It is 
curious that later on (xiv, 75, 9), we see Bhagadatta's son too fighting on an 

8 We may quote the historical instance of Poms in Alexander's invasions. 
Strabo quotes Megesthcnes to the effect that on elephants there were usually 
three archers besides the driver. 

8 Contrast Curtius who in the account of Poms' army says that each chariot 
had six men two with shields, two with bows and two armed drivers. 
Other classical writers mention three two fighters and a driver. 



comes out and continues fighting on foot. 1 This he has to do also when 
his arrows fail, and he has to use the sword, axe or mace (see vii, 192). 
These latter were not the great warrior's usual weapons, for the hero's 
chief arms are always his bow (dhanus) and arrows (sara or isu). The 
other weapons were the club (gada or musala), favoured by Bhima, 
Duryodhana and Salya ; the sword (asi), Nakula's favourite weapon, 
used sometimes by Bhima too (vi, 54) ; the spear (sakti), generally 
carried along with the bow and arrows ; the axe (parasu), the old hero 
Parasu-rama's weapon ; the hammer (mudgara) ; the discus (cakra), 
Krsna's weapon ; and the missile (bhindipala or prasa). 2 

As regards the art of fighting there is considerable similarity between 
the Homeric poems and the Indian epic. The distinguished heroes in 
the Iliad generally used chariots as the Indian heroes did, 3 but unlike 
the latter, they got down at the time of fighting (11. iii, 1 1 2 ff. ; iv, 45 ff. ; 
v, 108 ff., etc.), and got up again only to get away from the battle-field 
(xiv, 424 ff. ; v, 42 ff., etc.). The chariot warriors whom Caesar saw in 
Britain (Dc B. G. iv, 33, v, 16-17, etc.) were more like the Indian 
heroes in this, that they carried on at least part of the fighting from their 
chariots. The weapons used by the Homeric heroes were mainly the 
sword (and the shield), the spear, and in special eases, e.g. of Paris, bow 
and arrows, the metal used being bronze. The Indian heroes used 
the same weapons, and probably bronze ones too as the word ayasa * 
seems to indicate. 

1 When Kama's car is broken in iii, 240, he jumps out with his sword and 
shield, hut finds it better to flee from the battlc-iicld in another's chariot than 
continue to fight at a disadvantage. 

2 A comprehensive list of weapons is found from vii, 179, 23 ff. ; vii, 148, 
38 ff., and ix, 45, 108 ff. 

8 There does not appear to be any archery from chariots in Homer. The few 
archers mentioned are on foot. Chariot-archery was practised by the 
Egyptians of the (? eighteenth and) nineteenth dynasties and the Hit tiles and 
by the Assyrians down to the ninth century at least. 

* What metal is exactly referred to by ayas is uncertain. The Vedic Index 
(i, 31) summarizes the arguments for regarding it as bronze : Some Rg.V. 
passages (i, 88, 5 ; v, 02, 8, etc.) speak of Agni as ayodamstra (with teeth of 
aycut) and the car-seat of Mitra and Varuna as ayati-sthitna (with pillars of 
ayas) the colour indicating bronze rather than iron. A list of metals in 
Vaj. Sam. Ayas, Syama, Loha, SIsa (lead), and Trapu (tin) seems to 
indicate the same, for Syama (dark) is evidently iron and Loha (red) is copper, 
so that Ayas is probably bronze. Some Atharva Veda arid &atapatha Bra. 
passages are cited, too. Wilson and Goldstucker, however, following 
Amarakosa, Hcmacandra, and others take ayas = iron. 



The heroic poems we have been discussing know little of the heroes 
of industry. The Homeric poems mention instances of trading people ; 
but the tradesman is never thought worthy of being mentioned by name. 
Moreover, he generally caters for the needs of the ordinary soldier as 
distinguished from the princes. Thus in the Iliad, vii, 465 ff., many 
ships of Lemnos bring wine for Agamemnon and Menelaos from Jason's 
son Buncos. But the ordinary Achaians have to buy wine from them, 
** some for bronze and some for gleaming iron, and some with hides 
and some with whole kine, and some with captives ". The lesser princes 
probably had to buy some things for themselves, especially articles of 
luxury ; but they always looked down on the merchants who earned 
their livelihood by selling such articles. Thus the Phoenicians in the 
Odyssey, (xv, 414 ff.), renowned mariners as they are, are no young, 
light-hearted Masters of the Waves, but " greedy merchantmen, with 
countless gauds in a black ship." One of them came to the house of 
the ruler of the city, " with a golden chain strung here and there with 
amber beads. Now the maidens in the hall and my lady mother (the 
queen), were handling the chain and gazing on it and offering them their 
price." So again, the " wandering men " coupled with beggars in 
xix, 72, are probably merchants ; and the renowned prince would 
ordinarily have nothing to do with them. Such a prince would receive 
his necessities from his subjects and the articles of luxury as presents 
from other kings as Telernachos did from Menelaos in Od. iv or Odysseus 
from Alkinoos in xiii or Yudhisthira from various princes in 
Mbh. ii, 34, 5 and xiv, 85, 18. Such presents he would receive and 
it would be his duty to offer presents in exchange at the proper time as 
Yudhisthira did in Mbh. xiv, 89, 31. 

The rise of the merchant would be due, among other things, to the 
multiplication of the needs of life, the decay of the art of hospitality 
and the slackening of the bonds between the prince and his retainers. It 
is then that we can have songs about the Merchant Sadko of Novgorod 1 
in the midst of mercantile surroundings. It is then too that we can have 
a discourse from the merchant, Tulfidhara, superior to the rest of the 
world in righteousness and wisdom (Mbh. xii, 201-2). 

A curious side-light on the condition of the merchant in the Teutonic 
Heroic Age is thrown by the story of Samo in the Chronicle of 
" Fredegar." The chronicler says : " At this time Samo, a Frank, 
joined himself with several merchants, went to these Slavs to trade, and 
accompanied their army against the Avars. He showed remarkable 
bravery ; an enormous number of Avars fell ; he was chosen king, 
ruled successfully for thirty-live years and beat the Avars in all the 
following wars." The Cambridge Mediaeval History (ii, p. 451) points 
out that though this event is put under 623 A.D. the revolt must have 
taken place by 605 at the latest, a date, this, not very distant from the 
Teutonic Heroic Age when apparently a merchant could be a fighter at 
moments of need. The fact however that the trader can fight on equal 
terms with the professional warrior and can be even a leader of men 
reminds one more of the Viking Age than of the Heroic Age. 

1 Hapgood's Epic Songs of Russia, pp. 242 ff . 



One of the main principles of Teutonic heroic society was that slaying 
a man involved the payment of compensation to his nearest relatives ; 
the amount of this compensation generally depended on the position of 
the slaughtered person. In the Beowulf account of the accidental killing 
of Herebald by his brother, Haethcyn, the main thing that strikes the 
poet is (11. 2441 ff.) : " That was a slaughter without compensation ; 
the prince had to lose his life unavenged," as here the person to receive 
the compensation and the person to pay it were one and the same. So 
again Onela was a bitter enemy of his nephew, Eanmund ; but when 
one of his followers slew the latter, the poet comments (2618 ff.) : " He 
did not speak of the blood-guiltiness (incurred by the slayer), 1 though 
he had slain his brother's son ." So also in Fafnismal and 
Skald skaparmal, Sigurthr slays Ileginn's brother, at his prompting ; 
but when the deed is done Rcginn comes and says that he (Sigurthr) 
has killed his brother ; still he can offer Sigurthr reconciliation on con- 
dition that the latter gives him something he desires. 2 

Compensation to relatives for manslaughter was evidently a feature 
of Greek heroic society as well. Thus Aias says in II. ix, 032 ff. : " Yet 
doth a man accept recompense of his brother's murderer or for his dead 
son ; and so the man-slayer for a great price abideth in his own land, 
and the kinsman's heart is appeased, and his proud soul, when he 
hath taken the recompense ". So again in the description of Achilles' 
shield we find the picture of two men disputing about the " blood- 
price " of a man slain (xviii, 499 ff.) : " The one claimed to pay full 
atonement, expounding to the people, but the other denied him and 
would take naught." 3 

For the Viking Age the evidence is more specific. Thus Njals Saga , 
123, informs us that the amount to be paid for the slaughter of 
Hoskuldr, a gothi (magistrate), was a triple wergeld, i.e., six hundred, of 
silver ; and this is said to be the highest wergcld ever paid in Iceland. 
So again in the Saga of Harold the Fairhaircd (Ch. 82), we arc told that 
the Orkney people had to pay to king Harold a wergeld of sixty marks 
of gold for his son, Half dan. 

The Codes of Laws give more information about the gradation of 
wergelds according to class. Thus in the seventh or eighth century the 
wergeld of the West Saxon superior nobleman was 1 ,200 shillings which 
would probably mean 200 oxen ; that of the inferior nobleman was 600 
shillings or probably 100 oxen, and of the ceorl 200 shillings or probably 
33 oxen ; while in Kent the nobleman seems to have been valued at 
300 oxen and the freeman at 100. Similar gradations we find elsewhere 
in England as well as on the continent, among the Franks, the Alamanni, 
the old Saxons, the Frisians, etc. 

1 No ymbe tha faehthe spraec. 

1 Kom tha Reginn at ok sagthi, at hann hefthi drepit brothur nans, ok 
bauth honum that at saett, at hann skyldi, etc. (Sfcdlds. 88). 
1 Lang, Leaf and Myers' translation. 



In India too it is the Law-books which are most explicit about graded 
wergelds. In Vedic and Brahmana literature (R.V. ii, 32, 4 ; Tait. 
Btd. 2, 8, 1, 4 ; Ait. Bra. viii, 15, 7), one of the epithets for a man is 
gatadaya, one for whom a hundred (cows) has to be paid, indicating 
something like a system of wergelds. Then in R.V. v, 61, the Pan! is 
declared to be a man only in so far as he has a wergeld vairadeya 
what is to be paid in respect of enmity. The law-book of Baudhayana 
(i, 10, 19, 1 ff.) says : " For slaying a Ksatriya (the offender) shall give 
to the king 1,000 cows and a bull besides in ' expiation for his sin ' " 
(" in order to remove the enmity of the relatives of the murdered man " 
is Govinda's suggestion) ; while for a Vaisya 100 cows have to 
be paid. We must notice that it is probably the king who receives the 
cattle paid for the slaughter of a Ksatriya ; and it may be that the 
king is regarded as the head of the retainer's family. But in Europe 
too the wergeld was not always divided among the relatives. Miss 
Phillpotts instances the case of Iceland injthe Sturlung period, 1 while 
in Norway too it was probably the same. 2 Apastamba says in i. 9, 24, 1 : 
He who has killed a Ksatriya shall give a thousand cows (" to relatives 
of the murdered man " holds Biihler, though the alternative suggestion 
is "to Brahmanas ") for "the removal of enmuy", according" to 
Biihler, though some suggest " for the expiation of sin ". 100 cows are 
to be paid for the VaiSya and 10 for the Sudra ; while one bull is said 
to be necessary for expiation, i. 9, 25, 11, seems to imply that death is 
the proper punishment for the slayer of the Brahmana. Manu, in his 
chapter on Penance, has elaborate schemes of payment : one-fourth of 
what has to be paid for the murder of a Brahmana is prescribed for 
killing a Ksatriya, one-eighth for killing a Vaisya and one-sixteenth for 
killing a virtuous Sudra. But if a Brahmana unintentionally kills a 
Ksatriya, he has to give 1,000 cows and a bull, or perform penance for 
three years ; for killing a Vaisya it is one year or 100 cows and a bull ; 
for a Sudra six months or " 10 white cows, and a bull to a Brahmana". 
We get similar laws in Gautama, xxii, 14 ff. ; Vasistha, xx, 31 ff. ; 
Visnu, 1. 6 ff. ; Yajnavalka, iii, 266, 7 ff. ; also the laws of defamation 
and theft in Manu, viii, 266 ff. and 336 ff. (Gautama, ch. xii) may be 

1 Kindred and Clan, pp. 31 ff. 2 Kindred and Clan, pp. 49 ff. 




The Woman and the Family 

HPHE insertion of this chapter may need some justifica- 
* tion, as neither the woman nor family ties could have 
counted for much in the Heroic Age. The general attitude 
of the hero towards the woman may be taken to be something 
like that of Marko of the Serbian ballads. This hero's treat- 
ment of women is illustrated in three of his adventures, 
" The Sister of Leka Kapctan," " Marko and the Daughter of 
the Moorish King," and " Marko and Philip the Magyar ". 
In the first, a lady refuses to marry Marko and two other 
heroes and abuses them for their presumption in coming to 
court her. On this Marko seized the lady by the hand, " He 
drew the sharp dagger from his girdle and cut off her right 
arm ; he cut off her arm at the shoulder, and gave the right 
arm into her left hand, and with the dagger he put out her 
eyes, and wrapped them in a silken kerchief, and thrust 
them into her bosom." l In the next story, Marko, who had 
been confined by the Moorish King in a dungeon for seven 
years, was rescued by the king's daughter after he had promised 
to take her to wife. They mounted their horses and left the 
land of the Moors ; but one morning when the Moorish 
maiden tried to embrace him, the sight of her black face 
caused a loathing in him and he drew his " rich- wrought 
sabre " and slew her. Then when he was repulsed from the 
house of Philip by his wife, he " smote her on the face with 
the palm of his hand. On his hand was a golden ring ; sore 
scathe it did upon her fair visage and put out three sound 
teeth from their place ", 2 

This is how Marko deals with women and the conduct of 
other " heroes " parallels it. Thus the Spanish Cid, chivalrous 
though he is at times, is not very courteous to the lady he 

1 Low's translation of the Ballads of Marko, p. 44. 
1 Low's translation of the Ballads of Marko, p. 80. 



marries later. He had slain the father of Dona Ximena 
Gomez and goes on persecuting her. She thus complains of 
his conduct to the king (Row. viii) : 

" I sent to tell him of my grief 

He sent to threaten me, 
That he would cut my skirts away, 

Most shameful for to see. 
That he would put my maids to scorn, 

The wedded and to wed, 
And underneath my silken gown 

My little page strike dead." 1 

So when Odysseus, on his return home, learns that some of 
the women of the house had been living as mistresses of the 
wooers, he asks Telemachos first to bid the women to help him 
in cleansing the house and when the house has been set in 
order, to " lead the maidens without the stablished hall, 
between the vaulted room and the goodly fence of the court, 
and there slay them with long blades, till they shall have all 
given up the ghost and forgotten the love that of old they 
had at the bidding of the wooers ". Telemachos would not 
soil his sword with slaying these women and so he arranges 
to have them all hung up in a row, " that they might die 
by the most pitiful death " (Od. xxii, 438 ff.). So far as the 
Indian heroes, too, are concerned, we shall see later that 
they often regarded women as no better than chattels. 

Further, we have already seen how the bonds of kinship 
do not seem to have been particularly strong in heroic 
society. Moreover, the heroic poems, preoccupied as they 
are with deeds of valour and prowess, have little to do with 
a picture of the family or the domestic life of the hero or the 
average individual. Yet it would be wrong to say that the 
poems we have been discussing supply us with no materials 
for reconstructing the life of the family or discussing the 
status of women. In the most martial poems there are 
always domestic episodes throwing a sidelight on heroic 
society ; while practically the whole of the Odyssey " presents 
us with a picture of the king's house in time of peace ". On 
the basis of this evidence we may attempt a picture of the 
family in heroic times ; and this picture will always have the 
lady of the house in the centre of the canvas. The status 
of the woman is thus the main problem before us in this 

1 Gibson's translation of the Cid Ballads. 


chapter, and this will help us, to some extent, in understanding 
the strength or weakness of family ties in the society we are 

Moreover, it is here necessary to add a word of caution 
about what has been said in the last chapter concerning the 
weakening of ties of kindred during the Heroic Age. Instances 
were cited to show that the slaying of kinsmen was not at all 
uncommon in this period. But we must not forget that there 
is a different sort of evidence as well, evidence for a different 
state of things perhaps in the period immediately preceding 
the Heroic Age. Thus Procopius (Goth, ii, 14) in his descrip- 
tion of a curious custom of the Heruli says that when the 
dying man is laid upon the pyre, a countryman of his goes and 
stabs him ; but it is definitely stated that he must not be a 
relative of the victim. So too in a pathetic description in 
Beowulf (2435 ff.) the poet describes the accidental slaying 
of Herebald by his brother Haethcyn, a deed contrary to the 
laws of nature (ungedefelice). Even Clovis recognizes the 
sanctity of kindred blood (Gregory ii, 40), though his actions 
do not confirm this idea. The Homeric poems too sometimes 
assert the strength of the ties of blood, as Menelaos does when 
lamenting the death of his brother Agamemnon (Od. iv, 88 ff.) : 
" While I was yet roaming in those lands, gathering much 
livelihood, meantime another slew my brother privily, at 
unawares, by the guile of his accursed wife. Thus, look you, 
I have no joy of my lordship among these my possessions." 1 
Both among the Teutons and the Greeks it is recognized 
that if kindred blood has been shed it is the duty of the 
nearest relative to take up the vendetta and claim revenge ; 
and in the Odyssey (iv, 542 ff.) it is felt that either the son or 
the brother would be the first to take up the duty of vengeance. 
Sometimes a compensation from the slayer may solve the 
problem of revenge ; but even then the compensation would 
go to the nearest relative of the slain person. 2 

Thus ties of blood seem to have been potent factors of 
Greek and Teutonic society, in the period preceding or 
subsequent to the Heroic Age, though in the Heroic Age 
itself things may have been different. In India even for the 
Heroic Age we have no very strong evidence for the weakening 

1 Butcher and Lang's translation. 

1 See discussion of wergelds, pp. 142-3. 


of the ties of blood, 1 and in the^epic we have numerous 
domestic episodes which throw light on the life of the family i 
while even in the more martial parts, kinship and ties of 
marriage seem to have played a prominent part, e.g., in 
forming and cementing military alliances. This is evident 
if we examine the allies of the Pandavas and the Kauravas 
in the great battle. The three most powerful helpers the 
Pandavas had were : (1) Drupada of Pancala and his sons, 
Dhrstadyumna and Sikhandin, Drupada being the father- 
in-law of the Pandavas ; (2) Virata of Matsya, the father-in- 
law of Abhimanyu, Arjuna's son ; and (3) Krsna of Dvaraka, 
Arjuna's brother-in-law. And one of the prominent allies 
of the Kauravas was Jayadratha, their brother-in-law. 
The battle itself is taken to be between the five sons of Pandu 
on the one side and the numerous sons of Dhrtarastra on 
the other, among the prominent warriors for the former 
being the young sons of Arjuna and Bhlma. 

In this society, therefore, though the woman is necessarily 
in the background, she has a good deal of influence, due to 
her association with the hero. In order to arrive at a true 
estimate of her position in the Heroic Age of India we may, 
as in the last chapter, rely on two types of evidence in the 
Mahdbhdrata : the one is the mass of abstract statements 
about her occurring mainly in the didactic parts of the book, 
the other is what we deduce from the parts played by women 
in the stories. The former evidence has to be regarded as 
very unreliable as such passages come in the portions of the 
book which are avowedly late and unheroic in tone. More- 
over, they are often contradictory and it is not possible to 
reconcile statements found in one part of the work with 
those in another part. Thus xii, 165, 82, tells us that a woman 
never becomes impure ; but in xiii, 38, 1, we hear that woman 
is the root of all evil and she is always light-minded ; v. 12 
emphasizes that there exists no greater evil than woman 
and v. 19 says that women of good family envy the 
prostitutes, wishing for the ornaments and dress of the latter, 
xii, 213, 7, gives a philosophic explanation of evil : all evils 
arise from birth and as woman causes birth she is responsible 
for all the evil of the world. Woman simply hangs on love 
(xii, 88, 45 ; xiv, 90, 14) and she is always untrustworthy 
1 See last chapter. 


(iii, 71, 6 ; iii, 150, 44 ; xii, 83, 56). Still she is to be respected 
(xii, 46, 8). 

In trying to deduce her position from the thread of the 
heroic stories we are on firmer ground. The abstract state- 
ments need not be wholly set aside ; but what one has got to 
do is to see how far they harmonize with the examples recorded 
and how far they represent the written wisdom of a later age. 1 

To come to the subject proper we may proceed chrono- 
logically, that is, try to analyse the position of woman through 
the four stages of life usually accepted in the Sastras : baby- 
hood, youth, maturity and old age. 

The first stage is naturally spent in her father's home. 
To the Hindu father a daughter cannot be as great a blessing 
as the son who is to save him from hell ; yet the natural 
affection cannot be denied. In i, 157, we are told that some 
fathers love the boy more, some the girl. We have an idyllic 
picture of Krsna in childhood, sitting in her father's lap and 
picking up crumbs of wisdom from the remarks of learned 
priests. But another father, Matali, is not equally affec- 
tionate ; he cries out that a girl is a trouble to her mother's 
as well as her father's family (v. 97). Similarly, i, 159, frankly 
says that a daughter is a nuisance. 

Still, whatever the father's feelings for his daughter might 
be, in one respect he is better than his modern successors. 
He does not appear to neglect wholly the girl's education 
and some of the epic women seem as qualified intellectually 
as the men. Draupadi's case has been mentioned ; and she 
shows her intellectual abilities on more occasions than one. 
In the gambling scene she well argues that she could not 
have been gambled away by a slave, as the latter has no 
property ; in the exile in the forest she can argue with 
Yudhisthira on equal terms. Similarly Devayam can carry 
on discussions with Kaca or Sukra (her father) or Yayati 
(her husband) ; and Sakuntala can argue with Dusmanta. 
The intellectual attainments of women are in evidence 
in the Upanisads too, the most noteworthy instances being 
the disputation of Gargl with Yajnavalka and the teaching 
of Maitreyl by Yajnavalka. 

Still, when all is said and done about the epic examples, 

1 As in the Greek works of the seventh century B.C. (Hesiod, Simonides, 
etc.), and Havamal in Norse. 


one is doubtful how far they represent the state of things 
in the heroic times. In all the argumentative skill of women 
one seems to detect the dialectic interest of a later age ; 
and the women seem mere mouth-pieces of priestly poets 
who liked best to engage in a hair-splitting disputation. The 
long examples referred to are too academic to be genuine 
survivals from a Heroic Age. 

We are also told that women were taught to dance and 
sing. There are statements to that effect in the Samhitas 
(Tail, vi, 1, 6, 5, and Mail, iii, 7, 3) and Brahmanas (Sola, iii, 
2, 4). In the epic we have the instance of the women of 
Virata's family. 

There is little else to be said about childhood, and the 
question about her next stage is whether it begins in her 
father's house or not. In other words is she a child at the time 
of marriage or not ? In one instance, she does seem to be a 
child. Uttara was not above playing with her dolls when 
she was married to Abhimanyu. But all the other heroines 
are sufficiently old. Foremost among these is Devayani 
who had a love affair before her marriage. Sakuntala is 
certainly not a child when she meets Dusmanta. Kunti 
and Satyavati had sons before marriage. 1 Damayanti has 
certainly arrived at years of discretion when she chooses 
Nala ; and Draupadi is not a baby at the time of her 
svayamvara. Savitri when old enough requested her father 
to let her go in search of a bridegroom. Subhadra and the 
daughters of Kasiraja are not children at the time of marriage, 
and we may neglect the didactic rules fixing 7 or 10 as the 
proper marriageable age (xiii, 44, 12, etc.). 

If the daughter was a grown-up woman at the time of 
marriage, how far was she at liberty to choose her own 
husband ? This brings us to a consideration of the different 
kinds of marriage in the epic. We need not here go into the 
academic discussion of the eight kinds of marriage as to which 
are proper for Brahmanas, which for Ksatriyas, and so on. 
We may broadly divide the kinds of marriage into three 
groups : (1) by the payment of a price for the bride ; (2) 
by mutual consent of bride and bridegroom ; and (3) by 
forcible abduction of the bride. 

1 Cf. i, 120, 33-4, where in the list of sons, the son born in maidenhood is 


The first method seems to have been fairly prevalent, 
though it is repeatedly condemned. Thus xiii, 45, 18 : 
" One taking a fee for his daughter's marriage goes to hell." 
vii, 73, 42 : " One disposing of a girl for fee is wicked." 
But the practice is there. The king of the Madras refuses 
to give his sister to a suitor who though acceptable otherwise 
had not offered a fee for the bride (i, 113). The suitor has 
to pay the price, and he who is looked on as a great saint 
pronounces himself in favour of such a law (i, 113, 12 ff.). 
In xiii, 4, Gadhi would not give his daughter to Ricika 
until the latter paid a fee for her. The marriage fee is also 
mentioned in i, 193. 

Of course, there is another side to the picture ; and a 
dowry paid to a daughter or a son-in-law is not unknown. 
Virata bestows 7,000 horses and 200 elephants on his son-in- 
law (iv, 72) ; Krsna carries gifts to his sister's husband 
(i, 221) ; Drupada makes many gifts on the occasion of his 
daughter's marriage. We need not here enter into a discussion 
of the question as to how far such a dowry was the property 
of the bride. 

Marriages after the payment of money for the bride are 
not peculiar to the Heroic Age of India. Procopius narrates 
the story of Radiger, a prince of the Warni, who sought the 
sister of the King of the Angli in marriage. He had to pay 
a large sum of money in furtherance of his suit. 1 Among the 
Greeks too the payment of eethna is repeatedly mentioned ; 
and in some passages it certainly denotes the sum paid by 
the bridegroom to the bride's guardian, though in others 
it probably refers to the presents given to the bride by her 
relatives. In Od. i, 277-8 and ii, 53, we hear of the price to 
be paid for Penelope. In Od. xv, 367, Ktimene's parents send 
her to Same and get a " great bride-price ". Idomeneus in 
his taunting speech in //. xiii, 375 ff., mentions the gifts of 
wooing. As a rule perhaps the bride goes to the highest 
bidder, but in the case of a favoured suitor, the price may be 
remitted. Thus Agamemnon in //. ix, 140 ff., says that he 
has three daughters in his " well-builded hall " ; and 
Achilles may take to Peleus' house any one of them without 
gifts of wooing. Then again a portion of the bride-price may 

1 The Lex Saxonum says that 800 shillings are to be paid for the bride if 
the parents are willing ; 600 if the parents are unwilling. Cf . Mundr in None. 


go back with a daughter " dearly beloved " as in Od. i, 278 and 
ii, 196. In the Hesiodic Fragment, 93, "gifts of wooing" 
are sent by the suitors to Helen. 

Coming now to the second method of marriage, of the 
mutual consent of the bride and the bridegroom, we may 
find numerous examples. It is thus that Devayani and 
Sarmistha marry Yayati, that Sakuntala marries Dusmanta 
and Savitri Satyavan. Here too we may repeat what we 
have already pointed out, that the modern Hindu ideas with 
regard to caste did not always stand in the way of the heroes 
and heroines of the epic l ; and we may recall the instances 
of Devayani and Yayati, of Sakuntala and Dusmanta, of 
Sukanya and Cyavana, and of the Pandavas disguised as 
Brahmanas winning Draupadi. 

This brings us to the very important variant of mutual 
consent, the formal svayamvara. This is the formal selection 
of the bridegroom by the bride from amongst a host of 
assembled suitors. It is thus that Damayanti chose Nala, 
and Prtha chose Pandu. The father of the bride invites 
princes from far and near to come to an assembly where 
his daughter will choose a husband. Many famous princes 
arrive and are seated in a great hall on the day of choice. 
The princess then enters the hall with a garland in her hand, 
a garland which she places round the neck of the prince of 
her choice ; and then the marriage rites are celebrated in 
due form with all pomp and ceremony. 

We must distinguish between this pure svayamvara and 
that where the bride is bestowed on one who performs a 
definite deed of prowess at the assembly. Thus the condition 
of winning Draupadi is success in a feat of archery, of winning 
Sita, the bending of a bow. In such cases the bride has no 
free choice. Once the specified deed has been performed, 
she must accept the successful hero. She may, however, 
prevent some hero from taking part in the competition 
by expressing beforehand her definite disapproval of him. 
Thus Draupadi excluded Karna from the number of her 
suitors. It is practically certain that marriage by svayam- 
vara was meant only for Ksatriyas. In i, 221, 21, marriage 
by svayamvara is said to be the proper marriage for 
fcsatriyas. We may compare i, 102, 11 : " The svayamvara 
1 See last chapter, pp. 181-2. 


form is highly praised by Ksatriyas " ; and 191, 7 : 
" According to the Sruti, the svayamvara is for the Ksatriyas." 
This is probably the reason why the Ksatriyas make a vigorous 
protest when Arjuna, disguised as a Brahmana, wants to take 
part in the competition of archery for winning Draupadi ; 
and the protests become more articulate develop, in fact, into 
a regular fight when Drupada expresses his intention of 
bestowing his daughter on the successful Arjuna. 

For the marriage by mutual consent we naturally have a 
good many parallels in the Heroic Age of European lands ; 
and we may mention the instances of Walther and Hiltgund 
and Hagbarthr and Signy among others. For the svayam- 
vara, proper it is difficult to cite any parallels. The nearest 
approach is perhaps the choice of a husband by Skathi from 
amongst the assembled gods. 1 For the other form of svayam- 
vara, for the winning of a bride by a contest with other 
suitors, we have at least one good instance in Homer. 
Penelope promised to marry one who could bend Odysseus' 
bow and send an arrow through twelve axe- heads. The former 
task reminds one of Rama's feat and the latter of Arjuna's. 2 

This winning of a wife by prowess in a contest is explained 
at times in Sanskrit literature as a variant of the payment 
of a bride-price. The suitor pays for her with vlryasulka, 
the fee of bravery, as the Agni Purana (v. 11-2) explains 
in Rama's case. But this method is also connected with the 
third way of winning a bride, namely by forcible capture. 

It is thus that Arjuna wins Subhadra and he is advised to 
do so by Krsna who thinks this a very proper Ksatriya form 
of marriage. Bhlsma's abduction of the daughters of 
Kasiraja is a similar instance, though there the ceremony 
started as a svayarnvara. 3 Such abduction was not, in itself, 
regarded as marriage. The ceremony was celebrated after- 
wards, as in the case of Arjuna and Subhadra. In the case 
of Bhlsma, of course, he carried the girls away not for himself, 

1 Cf. Saxo, p. 27, Engl. transl. Also account of Helen's marriage in the 
Hesiodic Fragments. 

8 We may compare the story of Kleisthencs' daughter (in Herod. , vi, 12G ff.). 
Also the story of Pelops in Pindar. In the case of Brynhild in the 
Nibelungenlied the suitors had to contend not against other competitors, but 
against the bride herself. 

3 An exact parallel is found in the Vimu Parana story of the abduction of 
Duryodhana's daughter by Krsna's son, Samba (v, p. 35). Samba was pursued N 
and captured by Duryodhana, but released through the prowess of his uncle, 


but for his brother, who married two of them, while the 
third was allowed to go away to the prince whom she loved 
and whom she would have chosen at the svayamvara if 
Bhisma had not interfered. 

As might be expected, such forcible capture of the bride 
is not unknown in the Heroic Age of European lands. The 
case of Hethinn and Hildr is most to the point, the latter 
being carried away by the former in the absence of her 
father, Hogni. Similar may have been the story of the 
origin of the quarrel between Hnaef s family and Finn. 1 
The abduction of Helen may also be regarded as a parallel. 

But this carrying off of the bride to the husband's home 
brings with it the question whether the bride had, in all cases, 
to leave her father's home and go to her husband's. The 
generarrule seems to have been for the bride to go to her 
husband's home ; and we have already dealt with the 
exceptional instance of Arjuna who is said to have married 
Citrahgada, the daughter of the Raja of Manipura, and had 
by her a son who remained with his mother in her father's 
home when Arjuna returned to his kingdom. Of course, 
we may not regard this or Arjuna's connection with Ulupi, 
the daughter of the king of Nagas, as a regular marriage, 
as Arjuna had other wives at home, but as we shall see later, 
polygamy was prevalent in royal families. We may also note 
the instances of Sakuntala and Santanu's wife, Ganga, 
both of whom kept their sons with themselves when the 
husband went away to his own home. But it is doubtful 
if either of these can be called a regular marriage. 

To come now to the question of the wife's position in her 
husband's home, we must first note that she may have to 
put up with co-wives. Adi. 9 eh. 160, tells us that polygamy 
in men is an act of merit and most of the epic princes are 
polygamous. Arjuna's case has been already mentioned ; 
Bhinia too has several wives ; Yayati had at least two, 
while Dusinanta seems to have had several ; Bhisma brought 
three girls to be married to his brother, and Pandu had two 
wives ; and we may go on multiplying instances. Co-wives 
did not naturally become friends and as Hopkins points out 
(JAOS. xiii, p. 354, note) there are many remarks on the 
ytflousy of wives. We may remember, in particular, the 

1 MOller'a Theory. 


sentiments of Devayani and Draupadi on learning of a 
second marriage of their husbands. 

Polygamy was quite common among the greater princes 
of Europe in the Heroic Age or in the centuries immediately 
preceding. Eormanric is one of the most noteworthy instances 
and we have numerous other examples. One of the reasons 
of polygamy may have been that marriages were often 
matters of convenience ; that is, a prince sometimes married 
the daughter of another to cement an alliance with him. 
Thus Virata offered Uttara as a wife to Arjuna ; but the 
latter refused the offer. 

The discussion of polygamy brings with it that of 
polyandry which we dealt with in the last chapter, and we 
found that the particular form of polyandry found in the 
epic is connected with the principle of levirate and " Niyoga ". 
This principle of the " Niyoga " throws some light on the 
status of the wife, in that it shows what the main aim of 
marriage was. Marriage was primarily for raising issue, 
for a son's services in offering pindas (oblations) to the 
pitrs (ancestors) were necessary in procuring salvation for 
the father (i, 160). The son saves his father from the hell 
called put (Ram. ii, 150 ; Mbh. i, 160 and ii, 74) ; and for a 
king a son is doubly valuable as an heir. A legend like that 
of Jantu in iii, 127, shows how kings sought to have more 
sons than one, for " one son is no son ". A curse is said 
to fall on all barren women (xiii, 127 ; xiii, 129) and we read 
in Law-books (Apastamba ii, 5, 11, 12 ; Manu ix, 81) that 
if the first wife fails to bear a son, the husband must have 
a second wife. A wife in iii, 97, while claiming that love should 
be shown to a wife has to acknowledge that a woman is 
wedded only that she may bring forth offspring. 

It must be noted in this connection that a daughter can 
never offer " pinda " to her father, but the daughter's son 
can ; and this point operated adversely in the matter of the 
marriage of a brotherless girl. The husband of such a girl 
could not expect the first " pinda " from his son, for that 
would go to the mother's father. Hence the Vedic condemna- 
tion of the girl without a brother (R. V. i, 124, 7 ; cf. Manuiii, 
11, and ix, 136). 

Yet it cannot be denied that the wife was to some exteil^ 
a companion too. In the Satapatha Brahmai^a (i, 9, 2, 14) 


she shares with her husband in sacrifices ; and in the epic 
(i, 119) the wife shares the right of penance with the husband, 
accompanying him to the forest. Then there are passages 
like those culled by Hopkins on pp. 363-4 of JAOS. xiii : 
" Without a wife the house is empty " or like " a dreary 
forest " ; "a man's highest good is a wife " ; " there is no 
medicine equal to a wife, no friend like a wife, no refuge 
like a wife " ; " one's wife is a friend given by God " ; " happy 
are those that have wives, the highest good " ; " reverend 
are women, sacred lamps in the house " ; " wives are the 
joy of a house " (see v, 33, 88 ; xii, 144-5 ff. ; xii, 267, 31 ; 
xii, 343, 18 ; iii, 61, 29-30 ; iii, 313, 72 ; i, 74, 42-8 ; iv, 
2, 17 ; v, 38, 11). 

But passages like those in iii, 96, and iii, 106, explain that 
a wife's importance lies in her husband taking birth in her 
as son. With it we may compare xii, 267, 32 ff. ; iv, 21, 
40 ff. ; and i, 74, 37 ff. 1 Thus it is the husband who glorifies 
the wife ; and if we may again borrow from Hopkins' list, 
we have passages like : " a woman's sole possession is her 
husband " ; " he is her chief ornament " ; " she has no 
divinity equal to her husband " ; " he is her sole hope and 
possession, her protector and her refuge." (See i, 104, 30 ; 
i, 233, 26 ; iii, 68, 19 ; iii, 234, 2 ; xii, 145, 4 ; xii, 148, 7 ff. ; 
xiii, 146, 40 ff.) Also xii, 145, 3 : " When the husband is 
pleased, the divinities are pleased " and xiii, 46, 12 : " The 
wife obtains heaven solely by obedience to her husband." 
We may also look at the long and detailed list of the wife's 
duties as given in xiii, 123, 1 ff. 

We have always to take abstract statements with caution ; 
yet the stories themselves seem to confirm the idea that a 
woman's highest object of worship is her husband. These 
are the feelings of Sita and Savitri, Draupadi and Dama- 
yanti ; and it must be said that in some of these cases the 
husbands hardly deserve the regard shown them. Some 
consideration is shown to wives in minor episodes like those 
of xiv, 90, and xiii, 95. 

We must mention also that though general statements 

1 Krsn& urges Bhima to defend her against Kicaka. This^ is her 
expostulation : "By protecting one's wife, one's offspring are protected ; 
Jmd by protecting one's offspring one protects oneself. It is because one begets 
one's own self in one's wife, the wife is called a jftya." So also Sakuntala 
to Dugmanta. 


may regard the marriage only as a means of raising issue, the 
tone of the heroic stories is not always the same. As has 
been pointed out before, love-marriages are not unknown. 
In the stories of Devayani, Sakuntala, Damayanti and 
Savitrl, love plays a prominent part ; marriage is the 
natural outcome of love. The necessity of having legal issue 
may have been recognized by all heroes, all the more so 
because a prince seems generally to have been succeeded 
by his eldest son if the latter happened to be of sound health, 
without any infirmities. But even if marriage was a necessary 
event for the hero, the choice of a wife was not a thing of 
minor importance. The priestly generalizations about the 
aim of marriage might blind us to this fact and might lead 
us to think that the person of the wife was of no moment. 
But almost every story tells us that love was as much a ruling 
passion of these heroes as war itself was ; and they were 
ready to plunge themselves precipitately into either. 

In such cases of love marriages, if the wife happened to be 
of sufficient personality, she had quite an important influence 
even in public affairs. We must remember that in the 
Heroic Age politics consisted of the relations of princes to 
one another. The kings had generally unlimited power over 
their subjects, and international relations were determined 
by those of the respective kings. Alliances between states 
were cemented by marriages between members of the royal 
families ; in our epic we have quite a number of such 
diplomatic marriages. The Pandavas in their early life 
were great enemies of the Pancala king, and to please their 
preceptor they had subjected him to severe humiliation. 
But he became their greatest ally after they had married 
his daughter. So again the alliance between Virata and the 
Pandavas is cemented by the marriage of his daughter 
with Arjuna's son. 

Quite a number of parallels may be cited from the heroic 
stories of Europe. Ilrothgar sought to put an end to the 
feud with Ingeld, by giving him his daughter, Freawaru, 
in marriage ; Volsung tried a similar method with Siggeirr, 
and in historical records we read of the various alliances 
of Theodric the Ostrogoth. If, however, such marriages 
were mere matters of convenience, the object of peacethj, 
relations was not always attained. Thus Ingeld and Siggeirr 


returned to their inimical operations against their fathers- 
in-law. There are many historical parallels, e.g. the relations 
of Amalaric the Visigoth and Childebert the Frank. The 
woman was used as the " peace-weaver " ; and when the 
project failed, she became the most tragic figure in the story. 
She had to look on the mortal combat of her husband and her 
father, not knowing for whose victory to wish. 

If the queen was a clever and forceful woman, she could 
manipulate public affairs, to a great extent. In a con- 
stitutional monarchy or republic a woman has less chance 
of acquiring the power she may have in the rule of an 
absolute monarch. One man may be more easily influenced 
than a hundred ; and the greatest heroes have not seldom 
been easy prey to feminine instigations. In Beowulf, Queen 
Hygd had so much power that she couH give away the 
kingdom on her husband's death. " Hygd offered Beowulf 
the treasury and the government, the rings and the throne." 
She does not seem to have consulted anyone else, but to have 
acted on her own initiative. So Procopius says that when 
Radiger wanted to break off his engagement with the princess 
of the Angli, the latter invaded Radiger's land, took Radiger 
prisoner and forced him to marry her. Paul the Deacon 
narrates that the war between the Heruli and the Langobardi 
was due to the wicked deed of a Langobardic princess. Frede- 
gund and Brunhild seem to have managed the affairs of 
the Frankish state for a long time, and we have the English 
instance of Queen Sexburg. In Homer we have in the picture 
of Alkinoos' court a queen who seems a more important 
personage than the king. 

Then again the abduction of princesses and queens seems 
to have been a frequent motif in international quarrels. 
We have already noticed the instance of Hethinn and Hogni. 
In Beowulf, Haethcyn carried off the Swedish queen and met 
his doom in the war consequent on it. Then of course there 
is the instance of Helen. 

But women sometimes definitely instigated their relatives 
to quarrels. The father of Clotilda, the queen of the Franks, 
was murdered by his brother, Gundobad ; and when her sons 
grew up, she incited them to take vengeance for this. So 
IB/&O Clotilda, the wife of Amalaric the Visigoth, instigated 
Tier brother against her husband. In Guthrunarhvot, Guthrun 


incites her sons to take vengeance on Jormunrekkr for the 
murder of her daughter. 

In our epic we have some forceful women. Draupadi 
is certainly the most striking instance. On various occasions 
she incites her husbands to destroy people who have insulted 
her. Her speech in the gambling scene is an instance in 
point ; and she returns to it at other times, e.g. in iii, 27. 
Yudhisthira, unheroic as he is, preaches to her the value 
of forgiveness and patience. But she has more spirit than 
he ; and she succeeds in rousing her other husbands when 
she appeals to them. Thus she incites Bhima to destroy 
Kicaka and but for his abject penitence Jayadratha would 
have met a similar fate. As in Jayadratha's case, Havana's 
discomfiture is brought about through his abduction of a 
queen ; only as he remains impenitent he loses his life as 
well. In this story, however, the heroine does not appear to 
be a spirited woman of the type of Draupadi. Sakuntala 
and Savitri display forcefulness and determination in other 
ways, the former to enforce the claims of her son and the 
latter to save her husband from death. Devayani's influence 
led to a breach between the king of the Asuras and their 

Turning to abstract statements we note that v, 38, 43, 
recognizes the possibility of women-rulers of a land, though 
it affirms that affairs must be in a sod state among such a 
people, iii, 51, 25, seems to regard such lands as far off, 
for those who live in the women's kingdom are mentioned 
side by side with barbarians, the Yavanas and the Chinese. 1 

The question of women's importance in state affairs 
naturally brings with it the question of the seclusion of 
women. Here, as usual, we have evidence both for and 
against it in our epic. There are various instances which 
seem to preclude the notion of a seclusion of women. There 
is, of course, the fact that they might choose their husbands 
in a formal assembly, a svayamvara ; but the Rain ay ana 
(vi, 99, 83) would have it that this was an exceptional case. 
It says : " In calamity, in marriage and at the time of 
sacrifice, a woman's coming into sight is not objectionable." 

1 NSrada's question about the oppression of people by women (ii,*>5) 
suggests their importance in public affairs. The whole passage is, howevery. 
a late addition. x 


But an epic heroine seems to have had freedom of move- 
ment at other times too. 

Of course, there are the forest-scenes where no seclusion 
was to be expected. Thus Draupadi could not have been in 
her innermost apartments when Jayadratha saw her nor could 
Sita have been behind the Purda when Havana carried her 
off. But these instances would have come under the general 
rule of the Ramayana, for life in the forest was a calamity 
both for Draupadi and Sita. Still Sakuntala, when meeting 
Dusmanta, is equally free ; for her, forest life was not that 
of an exile. So also Devayam's movements do not seem to 
have been restricted in any way, and in her case there is not 
even the excuse of forest-life. Draupadi's actions in Virata's 
city may be described as due to the pressure of calamity ; 
but SavitrTs wanderings when in search of a husband can 
hardly come under this category. In iii, 309, 15, we are told 
that the seclusion of women is contrary to nature. Then there 
are the not very reputable scenes of i, 148, 8 ; i, 219, 7 ; 
i, 222, etc. 1 

Nevertheless there seems to be a feeling that respectable 
married ladies of the court, the queen and the wives of 
princes, should keep to the inner apartments. Women in 
MahismatI are not guarded by their husbands (ii, 31, 38), 
but they represent a lower form of society. When in the 
gambling scene (ii, 69) Draupadi is forcibly dragged into the 
hall, she cries out with natural exaggeration that she whom 
neither the wind nor the sun had ever before beheld at home, 
has now been forced into that hall. The heroes echo her 
indignation by saying that they had never caused a righteous 
woman to enter the assembly hall ; and Duhsasana's deed 
has set aside the eternal law. In iii, 55, 21, we are told about 
a princess that her dwelling is closely watched, for her father 
is a man of severe rule. Damayanti has to be somewhat 
free under calamity ; but ordinarily, even in her father's 
house, she seems to have lived in inner apartments far removed 
from the parts of the palace to which men had access. 

Again, we are told that after the death of Salya and the 
flight of Duryodhana, women who had never been seen by 

1 A Nisada gets drunk in the company of her sons ; in a festive scene 
aupadi and Subhadra are as drunk as less reputable women. Cf. also the 
f ni women. 


the sun in their houses were now exposed to the gaze of 
ordinary men as they returned to the city (ix, 29, 71). After 
the conclusion of the fight the widows of the slain princes 
came to the Ganges to offer libations of water ; women who 
had not formerly been seen even by the gods were now in 
their widowhood seen by ordinary mortals (Stri. 10, 8-9). 
In xii, 321, we find a king rebuking a woman for her immodesty 
in visiting him, even though she was only a beggar ; and a 
few chapters later, in 326, we learn that the women's quarters 
were well secluded (see iii, 12, 68 ; i, 233, 31 ; and xiii, 
104, 138). 

So here, as before, we seem faced by the customs of 
different ages in different parts of the epic. It is probable 
that while in earlier days a good deal of freedom was allowed 
to all women, things had greatly changed by the time the epic 
had come to be written down. In the early days Sita and 
Draupadi, Sakuntala and Devayani moved about as they 
pleased ; and the wives of the Kaurava princes could 
go from one place to another without feeling the necessity 
for being closely veiled. But to the latest authors of the epic, 
such acts seemed improper ; and they felt it incumbent on 
them to offer comments on or excuses for them. So they 
formulate exceptional cases when a woman can show herself 
in public and rightly feel that most instances of woman's 
freedom in the heroic stories would come under these. 

In those instances which cannot be comprehended within 
any rules, the stories are said to refer to a distant past as those 
of Devayani and Sakuntala. The process is the same as we 
had to notice with regard to the intellectual rights of women. 
Though in the early days they were admitted to all religious 
knowledge and shared in sacrifices, they had lost nearly all 
rights by the time that the latest parts of the epic were 
composed. Knowledge of the Vedas was now denied them : 
" For a woman to study the Vedas indicates (is a sign of) 
confusion in the realm " (iii, 33, 82) ; or xiii, 40, 11-2 : 
"There is a revelation to the effect that woman should 
have nothing to do with religious ceremonies." As in the 
matter of acquiring knowledge, so in her movements, the 
woman had lost in later times a good deal of her old freedom. 
It is hardly necessary to notice that Teutonic heroic society 
knows no such seclusion of women. The queen is generally 


present beside her lord in courtly scenes ; and she moves 
about freely among the assembled warriors, rewarding any 
of them who have achieved distinction. It is thus that 
Wealhtheow, the queen of the Danes, acted in Hrothgar's 
court. Hygd, the queen of the Geatas, went to the heroes 
and offered them wine, while Freawaru, the Danish king's 
daughter, attends on the warriors in the same way. Women 
of the royal family also seem to have been sent as hostages 
to powerful kings of distant lands. Thus Hiltgund was sent 
to Attila, and probably Ealhhild to Eormenric. 

The Greek evidence is not equally clear. Agamemnon, 
when leaving for the wars, entrusted his wife to the care of 
a minstrel (Od. iii, 267 ff.) and Odysseus did something 
similar in asking Mentor to take charge of his household 
(Od. ii, 226 ff.). Penelope mostly keeps to her rooms, but 
that may be due to the presence of the suitors in the house. 
On the other hand, Arete is the central figure in Alkinoos' 
court ; and in Sparta, however ashamed Helen may be of 
her past, she is beside her husband in the court. In later 
times, however, in Athens and generally in Ionic cities women 
were secluded. But it varied from state to state ; and they 
were not secluded at Sparta or in Lesbos. 

Coming now to the position the woman occupied with regard 
to her children, we see her in a better position. Manu (ii, 145) 
says that the reverence to a mother should be a thousand 
times that to a father. So xii, 108, 17, etc., of the epic seem 
to imply that the mother is to be respected more than the 
father. But there is one story, that of Jamadagni and his 
sons, which gives the lie to such statements. Jamadagni 
asks his sons to slay their mother because of a moral slip 
of hers, 1 and Parasurama, who does obey his father, is one 
of the great heroes of tradition. There are also passages 
in the didactic epic which set the mother below the father 
(e.g. xiii, 105, 15). 

Nevertheless, the mother is an object of great reverence. 
Kunti is always looked on as such by her heroic sons. The 
whole trouble of polyandry is said to arise from a casual 
phrase of hers 2 ; her orders, however unreasonable they may 

1 Another story (in the twelfth book), that of Gautama and Cirakarin, places 
the son in a similar dilemma. 

When the PSndavas were living in disguise in the P&ftcala kingdom, they 
to go out every morning to beg for alms for the day's sustenance. On 


be, must be carried out. On return from a journey the son's 
first duty is to do formal obeisance to his mother and the 
mother's will is always law. Thus iii, 292, 35 : " The son 
who does not protect his widowed mother suffers disgrace." I 
xii, 266, 31 : " There is no shelter or refuge like the mother ; 
none so dear as she." i, 196, 16 : " Amongst all superiors, 
it is well-known that the mother is the foremost." iii, 313, 
60 : " The mother is weightier than the earth ; the father 
higher than the heavens." xii, 108, 8 ff. : " By serving the 
mother with regularity one attains to regions of felicity in 
the next life." xiii, 104, 145 : " One should always obey 
the commands of the mother, the father and the preceptor." 

This excessive reverence for the mother is a sentiment 
more Indian than heroic ; and it is quite possible that it has 
been a trait of Indian character from time immemorial. 
In the martial scenes, the mother has naturally no prominence; 
but in every domestic scene she is an object of great venera- 
tion. There is a reason for the prominence of this feeling 
in the main story. Yudhisthira, who is made the central 
figure here, is not so much the hero as the good king of 
priestly tradition, the upholder of traditional morality and 
religion which would emphasize the reverence due to the 

This ostentatious respect for the mother is to be found 
only in our epic ; it would be difficult to find a parallel in the 
heroic stories of the west. In the few scenes that we have 
between mothers and sons, e.g. in that between Thetis and 
Achilles (II. ii, 70 ff . ) or those between Penelope and Telcmachos 
(Od. xvii ; 40 ff. ; xviii, 215 ff., etc.) this feeling of reverence 
is never prominent. In Teutonic history we have queen- 
mothers with great powers. Amalaswintha, Brunhild and 
Fredegund are instances that occur to one. But the feeling 
of reverence for the mother is not noticeable. The Russian 
hero, Dobrynya, has more of veneration for his mother. 

the day they won Draupadi, they came back and represented her as the alms 
they had got. Kunti, who was within, did not see them, but asked them to 
enjoy together what they had got. Then when she saw Draupadi she did not 
know how to go back on her word and the Pandavas did not want to go against 
her command the obeying of which was a sacred duty for them. The only 
solution seemed that they should all marry her (i, 194). 

1 A passage like this as also the instance of Kunti would seem to show that 
the mother was an object of reverence even when the father was dead perhaps 
more so then than before. 


When downcast with the prospect of a terrible enterprise 
he can be consoled only by the advice of his mother. Again 
before setting forth on his travels he comes to his mother for 
her permission, " Give me thy leave to ride upon this heroic 
quest," and he proceeds after his mother has laid the cross 
of blessing on him. 

Curiously enough the most striking European parallel to 
the Indian princes is in the Servian hero, Marko, whom we 
noticed at the beginning of the chapter as devoid of all feelings 
of chivalry towards women. For his mother, however, he has 
extraordinary affection and respect and he follows her advice 
even though it might be against all his inclinations. Thus 
once when proceeding to fish in the lake of Ochrida he was 
preparing to arm himself, but his mother asked him not to 
take any weapon with him, saying he was so used to blood 
that he might be inclined to shed it even on this festal day, 
the day of his patron saint, when the celebration of the 
slava was being held. 1 Then Marko was in a difficulty : " 111 
it were, it seemed to him, to go unarmed ; and yet more evil 
to give no heed to his mother. So he took no weapon with 
him." Again, when the Turks came to his manor on Slava 
day, he desired to slay them all. But his mother besought 
him to stop, saying : "Do no deed of blood this day. This 
day is thy glorious Slava ; if any enter into thy manor this 
day, give drink to the thirsty, give food to the hungry," and 
he paid heed to his mother's words, putting by his sabre. 2 

Before leaving the subject of the woman's married life, 
one should discuss what her rights to property were. 
In the Samhita and Brahmana literature we are told that 
women are not to take an inheritance (tSatapatha Brdhmana, 
iv, 4, 2, 13 ; Tail. Samhita, vi, 5, 8, 2 ; Mail. Sam. iv, 6, 4). 
Before her marriage she is dependent on her father and after 
marriage on her husband (xiii, 46, 14) ; and Keith suggests 
that when her husband died she passed to his family 
with the inheritance like the Attic epikleros (JRAS. 1912, 
p. 427, and Camb. Hist., p. 134). 

The general rules formulated in the epic on the matter, 
are, as usual, contradictory. According to v, 33, 64, i, 82, 

1 Marko and Djemo the Mountaineer. 

* Low's translation of " The Turks come to Marko's Slava ". It is curious 
/lhat both instances are of heroes belonging to Eastern Europe. 


22, and ii, 71, 1, a woman can have no property. Yet xiii, 
45, 10 ff., 46, 2, and 47, 28-5 have something different to say. 
Yudhisthira asked Bhlsma whether the daughter should be 
regarded in the same way as the son and what happened to 
the wealth of a man who left daughters. Bhlsma answered : 
" The son is even as one's self and the daughter is like unto 
the son. How can another take the wealth when one lives 
in one's own self in the form of one's own daughter ? What- 
ever wealth is termed the Yautuka property of the mother 
forms the portion of the maiden daughter. When a person 
has got only a daughter and she has been invested by him 
with the status of a son, if he then happens to have a son, 
such son shares the inheritance with the daughter." Such 
a daughter has a better claim than a son by adoption or 
purchase. Again, " the highest sum that the husband should 
give unto the wife, is three thousand. The wealth that the 
husband gives unto the wife, the latter may spend or dispose 
of as she likes. Upon the death of the childless husband 
the wife shall enjoy all his wealth. Whatever wealth the 
Brahman! wife may acquire by gift from her father, should 
be taken by her daughter, for the daughter is like the son." 

These discussions are, however, academic in their nature, 
and being probably the product of a much later period are 
almost valueless in throwing light on the conditions of the 
Heroic Age. If we turn to the stories themselves, we find 
one good verification for the statement that women are as 
slaves. In the gambling scene Yudhisthira stakes his wife 
and loses her. In the confusion which follows, the general 
sentiment seems to be that if the husband is a free man he 
can count his wife among his chattels and do what he likes 
with her. The point is that Yudhisthira had staked and lost 
himself first ; so had he any right after that to stake his 
wife ? Bhlsma confesses his inability to decide the point 
and says : " Wives are always under the orders and at the 
discretion of their lords ; but one that hath no wealth 
cannot stake the wealth belonging to others " (ii, 67). 

Another royal gambler, Nala, had more sense than 
Yudhisthira. When Nala had lost everything else, Puskara 
said : " What stake hast thou now ? Damayanti only 
remaineth ; all else hath been won by me. Well, if thou 
likest, let Damayanti be our stake now." Nala did not stake 


his wife ; but evidently he was at liberty to do so. 1 This 
fact that the wife is regarded as a chattel is only a special 
instance of the theory we have had to notice in connection 
with Savitri, Sita and the Brahman! of i, 160 the theory 
that the husband is a divinity to the wife. 

To proceed to the next stage of a woman's life, one has to 
discuss her condition in widowhood. The first question here 
is whether she had any right to live as a widow or whether 
she was expected to accompany her husband to the funeral- 
pyre. To take up the general statements in this connection 
we may first mention xii, 149, 9, where it is said that the 
chaste widow does not wish to survive her husband, but 
enters into the fire. Ram. v, 26, 24-5 says that the wife 
who does not accompany her husband in death leads an 
evil life. 2 

In the epic there is one good concrete instance of self- 
immolation of a widow. After Pandu's death, there is a 
discussion between his two widows as to who will accompany 
the husband. KuntI claims to have the right as the elder 
of the two wives. But Madrl's arguments about being more 
beloved prevail and she follows her husband in death 
(i, 125). Again in xv, 33, Vyasa says that widows desirous 
of attaining to the regions acquired by their husbands should 
cast off all sloth and plunge into the Bhagirathi. Hearing 
these words of his, those ladies obtained the permission of 
their father-in-law and plunged into the waters of the 
Bhagirathi. In xvi, 7, Rukmini, the princess of Gandhara, 
Saivya, Haimavati and Jamvavati ascended the funeral 
pyre of their husband. 

In the case of no other hero does the widow seem to sacrifice 
herself, i, 109, 11, seems to imply that the custom was not 
so popular as it used to be, for it was in the ideal past, in a 
golden age of Kuruland, that there were no widows. Now 
women neglect to perform their duty of dying with the 

1 We are reminded of the Irish story of Cormac mac Airt, who gave away 
his wife and daughter for the branch of a wonderful tree. 

* The A.V. speaks of it as an old custom and R.V. seems to indicate that 
it was no longer practised except in form, the widow lying down beside the 
dead husband on the pyre and then getting up (x, 18). It seems hard to 
reconcile this with the instances and precepts of the Mbh., and the explanation 
is probably in this, that suttee was intended mainly for the widows of warriors. 
Cf. the Mahdbh&rata instances (i, 125, xvi, 7, etc.), and see Hopkins 
(JAOS, xiii, 178, note). 


husband. The result is confusion in society, for all men run 
after a woman whose husband is dead, just as birds run after 
food (i, 160, 12). The rule that the widows of soldiers dying 
on the battle-field are to receive a pension (ii, 5, 54) con- 
templates no instance of suttee. Narada asks Yudhisthira : 
" Dost thou support the wives of men who have given 
their lives for thee ? " * 

This practice of suttee is not peculiar to India but is found 
in Europe in the Heroic stories and elsewhere. The earliest 
mention in European literature is probably in Herodotus 
v, 5 : According to him each Thracian has several wives. 
No sooner does a man die than there is a sharp contest between 
his wives as to which of them was most loved by the husband. 
She to whom the honour is adjudged is slain over her husband's 
grave by her next of kin and buried with her husband. 

Coming to the Heroic Age, we have Procopius' statement 
in Gothic War, ii, 14, that suttee was practised by the Eruli : 
" When a man of the Eruli dies, it becomes incumbent on 
his widow, if she makes any claim to virtue and wishes to 
leave behind her a good reputation, to strangle herself to 
death without much delay beside her husband's tomb. If 
she does not do this, she forfeits all respect for the rest 
of her life and incurs the enmity of her husband's relatives." 

We have several instances from Scandinavia. Saxo 
narrates that Gunnilda, the wife of Asmundas, did not want 
to survive her husband and took her life. In the first part 
of the Volsunga Saga Signy encompasses the destruction of 
her husband, Siggcirr, but refuses to survive his death : 
" Merrily now will I die with King Siggeirr, though I was not 
at all merry to wed him." In the same Saga Brynhildr, who 
desired to be Sigurthr's wife, killed herself immediately after 
his death and gave directions that she was to be burnt with 
him. In the Hellreith she hopes that she will never again be 
parted from Sigurthr. We may compare the fate of Ingibiorg 
who dies (or commits suicide, according to one version) on 

1 Of course, the presence of widows in society does not by itself disprove 
the continuance of the custom of suttee. For one thing, the warriors were 
mostly polygamous, and when one of them died, it was his favourite wife who 
was expected to burn herself with him as Madri did with Pandu. Sometimes 
it was not one favourite wife, but several who were loved by the dead prince 
more than all others. But even then a good many wives would be left behind, 
and they were expected to remain celibate, though as seems evident from 
DamayantTs instance, mentioned below, they might not always remain so. 


hearing of the death of her betrothed, Hialmar (Hervarar 
Saga, ch. 5). We may compare Saxo's story of Hagbarthus 
and Sygne. The Gylfaginning story of Nanna's death on the 
funeral pyre of her husband, Baldr, may also be mentioned. 

The custom seems to have been known to the Western 
Slavs down to comparatively late times. It is mentioned by 
Bonifacius in 745 A.D. ; and Thietmar of Merseburg says that 
it was common among the Poles in the tenth century. Then 
we have Ibn Fadhlan's story of the funeral of a Russian 
noble on the Volga about 922. Among other creatures killed 
and laid on his pyre, a young woman was slain and laid beside 
him. She was chosen from among his concubines who were 
asked which of them was ready to die with their master. A 
voluntary offer was made, but she who made it could not 
retract it afterwards. 

Where the chaste woman was expected to die with her 
husband, marriage for the widow would be out of the question. 
The Brahmam in i, 160 puts it in a plain antithesis : " Poly- 
gamy in men is an act of merit ; but for a woman it is very 
sinful to take a second husband after the first." The geheral 
rule on the subject is stated by DIrghatama in i, 104 : " Every 
woman shall have to adhere to one husband for life. Whether 
the husband is dead or alive, it shall not be lawful for a woman 
to have connection with another. She who has such a 
connection shall be regarded as fallen." The keynote of 
the Savitri-story is similar. As Savitri puts it : "A daughter 
can be given away but once. With a life, short or long, I have 
once for all selected my husband." 

The custom of Niyoga has been urged by some to indicate 
remarriage of widows. But in theory it is not a new marriage ; 
the appointed man stands for the person of the deceased 
husband and the children are those of the deceased husband. 
Thus Dhrtarastra, Pandu, etc., are looked on as the children 
of Vicitravlrya and not of Vyasa. 

Still there are indications that the celibacy of widows was 
not so strictly observed as a latter-day Hindu would like to 
think. We have already referred to the passage in i, 160 : 
" As birds seek with avidity for meat that has been thrown 
away on the ground, so do men solicit a woman who has lost 
her husband." And a clearer indication is given in the story 
of Damayanti. When she wants to find out the whereabouts 
of Nala she sends a message to King Rtuparna's court saying 


that she will choose another husband : " Damayanti will 
hold another svayarpvara and all the kings and princes are 
going there. If it is possible for you, go there without delay. 
To-morrow after the sun has risen, she will choose a second 
husband, as she does not know whether the heroic Nala lives 
or not ! " The proposal is readily believed by Rtuparna and 
he goes to the pretended svayamvara post-haste (iii, 70 ff.). 
We may also compare the taunting remarks of Kama to 
Draupadi arguing that a man reduced to slavery is as one 
dead : " Your husbands who are slaves are your husbands 
no longer. So select another husband now, one who will 
not make you a slave by gambling (with yourself as a stake) " 
(ii, 71, 4). 

To recapitulate : Before marriage in her father's home, the 
girl was perhaps given some education and taught to dance 
and sing. She was not married very young and the marriage 
was arranged (a) by the payment of bride-price, or (b) by a 
mutual consent, sometimes in the form of an elaborate 
svayamvara ; or (c) the bride might be forcibly carried off by 
the suitor. Restrictions of caste were not always regarded. 
The wife had to go to her husband's home, where she might 
have to endure the presence of co-wives, as the heroes were 
often polygamous. Polyandry was exceptional. The sole 
object of marriage is said to be the desire to have sons ; but 
the element of love is prominent in the heroic stories. Forceful 
women who had influence in state-affairs were not unknown, 
and women in the Heroic Age proper were probably not 
secluded. It is doubtful if woman could inherit property in 
her own right ; and even by the virtuous king she is looked on 
as a mere chattel. The mother is an object of great reverence 
both in didactic rules and in the stories. The widow had not 
always to die with her husband but such a death was highly 
praised. Remarriage of widows was not common, but not 
absolutely unknown. 

There will always be some uncertainty about such conclu- 
sions because of the mixture of contemporary tradition with 
later academic rules ; and the fact that the priests were not 
only instrumental in the writing of the epic but also to some 
extent for minstrelsy in the Heroic Age itself has led to a 
mixture of priestly ideals and heroic prowess ; and the most 
difficult problem for the student of this Indian epic is to 
disentangle these two threads. 


The Vedic Indians were meat-eaters, though their principal food was 
milk and some preparations from it clarified butter or milk mixed 
with grain. The sheep, the goat and even the ox formed part of their 
ordinary food, the slaughter of oxen being regarded as particularly 
appropriate for feeding guests. The epic shows, as usual, a mixture of 
different standards in the matter of food. The didactic epic often con- 
demns cruelty towards animals and forbids the slaughter of cattle for 
food. A passage like xii, 262, 34 ff. is very instructive ; not only is 
there condemnation for those who slay animals for food, but for those 
too who make the oxen bear huge loads or torture them in other ways. 
Even agriculture is bad, because the ploughshare wounds many 
creatures living in the earth, while the bullocks are tortured through 
being yoked iii the plough. It is equally sinful to trade in animals, 
living or dead, or even to offer animals for sacrifices, the proper objects 
to be offered being herbs, fruits and roots or libations of butter, milk 
and curd with perhaps balls of rice. 

Such a passage obviously reflects the tendencies of an age deeply 
influenced by the ahimsd (kindness to all) tenets of Buddhism and 
Jainism. In the Heroic Age these doctrines were absolutely unknown as 
shown in the habitual meat-eating of the heroes. When Kicaka has a 
sumptuous meal prepared for himself, he has various kinds of excellent 
meat (iv, 15, 8). When Yudhisthira feeds thousands of guests, he 
provides them with milk and rice, ghee (clarified butter) and fruits, as 
also with the meat of the boar and the deer. There were various 
preparations of meat side by side with those of milk and grain (ii, 4, 1 ff.). 
Princes hunted deer, as in i, 118, 6 ff., obviously for using the meat as 
food and animals offered at sacrifices were also eaten. Thus in xiv, 88, 
hundreds of animals are sacrificed and the meat is cooked according to 
due rites (89, 1), while 89, 40 speaks of innumerable animals killed for 
food. Similarly in iv, 72 on the occasion of the festivities of 
Abhimanyu's marriage, many deer and other animals are slain. 

A very interesting episode is narrated in iii, 207 : A fowler wants to 
justify his business by pointing out that animal food is prescribed in 
the Sruti (sacred literature). Moreover, he can recall the practice of 
famous kings of the past, of Rantideva for example, for whose kitchen 
two thousand animals were slaughtered every day. Again what sin 
can there be in slaying animals for food when every day we trample to 
death innumerable insects living in the earth? We must remember 
that there are innumerable organisms in trees and fruits as in water, 
organisms we destroy in ignorance. The story of Sivi (or Uslnara, 
according to iii, 131) is rather puzzling to the fowler ; but the point of 
that legend is not in ahimsa for animals, but rather in the duty of pro- 
tecting creatures which "have taken refuge with us. From all this 
evidence it seems that the idea of the people of the Kali Age alone being 
carnivorous (as in iii, 190, 69) is entirely wrong. 




discussing social conditions of the Heroic 
Age of western countries we have had to notice 
that though the bonds of kindred and blood were weak, the 
ties of allegiance binding the retainer to his lord were strong 
indeed. There is plenty of evidence for the strength of this 
bond in the Teutonic Heroic Age ; and the evidence is derived 
from historical as well as poetic documents. We find it 
emphasized quite early by Tacitus in his Germania (xiv) : 
" If the prince dies on the field, the follower who survives 
him survives to live in infamy. All are bound to defend 
their leader, to succour him in the heat of action, and to make 
their own actions subservient to his renown. This is the bond 
of union, the most sacred obligation. The chief fights for 
victory ; the followers for their chief." 

This statement of Tacitus is fully borne out by later writers. 
Thus Ammianus Marcellinus (xiv, 12, 60) speaks about 
Chonodomarius, King of the Alamanni, who was defeated and 
captured by the Romans in A.D. 356. Ammianus says that 
when the prince was captured, nearly two hundred of his 
retainers voluntarily surrendered themselves to share his 
captivity. Bede in his Ecclesiastical History (iii, 1) mentions 
that while Edwin ruled in Northumbria, the sons of his 
predecessor Aethelfrith had to live in exile among the Picts 
or the Scots and they were accompanied by many of the 
nobility, probably the retainers of their father. Agathias 1 
tells the more striking story of Folchere, a leader of the 
Heruli, ambushed by the Franks : " Folchere, left behind 
with his bodyguard, would not deign to take to flight . . . He 
made a stand as best as he could, with his back to a tomb, and 
slew many of his foes, now rushing forward on them, now 
withdrawing gradually with his face to the foe ... So he 
held out to the last, till he fell forward upon his shield, his 
breast pierced with numerous arrows and his head smashed 
1 Agathias, i, 15, referred to by Chambers in Widsith, p. 60. 



by an axe. Upon his body his followers fell to a man, perhaps 
voluntarily or perhaps as they were cut off.' 9 

The same bond is in evidence in the fall of Odoacer's body- 
guard round about him in the hall of the palace at Ravenna as 
also in the slaughter of the followers of Cynewulf , the Wessex 
king, in 786. The Anglo-Saxon chronicle gives a full account 
of the latter event, describing how Cynewulf with only a few 
followers was ambushed by a rival prince, Cynehard. When 
Cynewulf had been slain, Cynehard offered his followers life 
and rewards. But none of them would accept this and they 
continued fighting till they all lay dead, with the exception 
of one British hostage, and he was severely wounded. We 
get similar evidence from the heroic stories as well. When 
Hrolfr Kraki is treacherously attacked by Hiarwarus (or 
Hjorvarthr), his men stand loyally about him and the fight 
is not decided till all of Hrolfr's followers are slain there, the 
one man who surrendered after the fight doing so to take 
vengeance on the foe for the treacherous slaughter of his lord. 1 
The story of Gundahari's fall in Etzel's hall is not far different, 
for there too the loyal body of retainers is slain to a man 
before the prince himself is killed. 2 

While the retainers were so greatly attached to the king, he 
himself had to act in a way to deserve this attachment. 
Magnanimity was the first thing expected of the good prince ; 
and he had to be generous in his gifts of land and jewels to 
his followers. Thus when Beowulf returns home after per- 
forming a difficult task he is granted a province as a present ; 
Beowulf himself rewards Wiglaf with a present of land. 
Jewels are distributed broadcast in Hrothgar's hall. One of 
the main defects of Hcremod, the wicked prince of the story, 
was that he would not give presents to his followers, as his 
reputation demanded (nallas beagas geaf Denum aefter dome). 
Heremod did not work for the joy of his retainers and the 
result was disastrous for him he had to suffer lasting misery. 
Another wicked king Eormenric, a " wrath waerloga ", 
flourished because he was open-handed to his followers. As 
the old chronicler points out he was " more cunning than all 

1 Ilrolfr's story is told by Saxo in Bk. ii, and also in the Saga of Hrolfr 

8 There are instances of retainers not following their lord in death, e.g. 
those of Beowulf and Hnaef. But the text points out the iniquity of their 
conduct and suggests that they are permanently branded with shame. 


in guile, but more generous in gifts " ; and this generosity of 
his as also his tyranny is emphasized as much by Widsith 
as by mediaeval works like Alpharfs Tod or Thithreks Saga. 
The ideal prince like Theodric, however, would go one step 
further and be ready to risk his life for his followers and thus 
bind them all the closer to him. 

This bond between the prince and his retainer is not so 
much in evidence in the Homeric poems, mainly because in 
the Odyssey we have the picture of a royal household in 
times of peace, a household again where the master is absent ; 
while in the Iliad the stage is so overcrowded with princes 
that there is little room for their humbler attendants. Still 
the relation of some of the lesser princes to the greater ones may 
have been that of the retainer to the lord, and it may be 
possible to explain the attachment of Patroklos and Phoinix 
to Achilles in this way. This is a matter, however, to which 
we shall have to return later on ; here we have mainly to 
emphasize the importance of the ties of the prince and his 
comitatus in the Heroic Age, for after all is said and done 
about the powers of king's councils and the checks on his 
tyranny there seems to be little doubt that the king could rule 
his people as he liked provided he had a loyal and devoted 
comitatus. There are several instances of English princes of 
the seventh or eighth century being dethroned or slain by their 
followers ; but if we examine these cases 1 we shall find them 
to be parallel to that of Heremod, their fall being due to a 
decay of the princely spirit of the Heroic Age. And what we 
find true of Teutonic states will be equally true of the Indian 
states of which we get a picture in the heroic parts of the 

The didactic epic emphasizes the importance of a faithful 
comitatus : " The king who is desirous of acquiring pro- 
sperity should always be served by followers, brave, devoted 
and not to be imposed on by enemies. They should be 
muscular and well-mannered, born in, and connected with, 
respectable families of the land ..." (xii, 57, 23 ff.). Ch. 81 
emphasizes the danger to a land where the nobles are unruly 
and the prince not strong enough to command their allegiance. 
Ch. 107 discusses how the king should treat the brave men 
gathered in his court or kingdom. Avarice and anger on the 
1 E.g., of Sigeberht of Wessex, of Osred of Northumbria, etc. 


part of the king alienates him from his nobles. If the king 
tries to exact too much from them or if he persecutes them 
through anger, disaster is imminent for the kingdom. But 
the influence of these nobles depends, to a great extent, on 
their being well organized. The king has to value the opinions 
of their leaders if they are a united band ; disunited, however, 
they waste their energies in fighting against one another and 
are no longer the decisive factor in the state. 

This organization of the nobles and the importance of the 
leaders of a well-united band seem to indicate the formation 
of guilds of warriors mainly but perhaps of other members 
of society as well. Various late passages of the epic emphasize 
the importance of such guilds : xii, 140, 64 says that the 
king should take care to produce dissensions among the leaders 
of srenis, as otherwise probably they may work as 
inconvenient checks on his power, xv, 7, 8 points out that 
these srenis are as powerful as the army and xii, 59 suggests 
that the king should take the help of spies to get the leaders 
of such organized classes on his side. The word gana is 
frequently used (xiii, 14, 295-6 ; xiii, 17, 76, 96 ; i, 1, etc.) and 
we hear of the heads of ganas, ganamukhyah. These ganas 
have been taken to stand for guilds whose opinions the king 
had to respect as much as those of his personal retainers. 

But whatever might have been the state of things at a later 
time, it seems doubtful if in the Heroic Age itself the king had 
to consider the opinions of any except his own comitatus. 
Thus when Duryodhana is defeated by his enemies, he laments 
that he is left alive and has to go back to his ganamukhyah 
and tell them about his discomfiture (iii, 248, 16). And these 
ganamukhyah seem to be just the leading nobles of the land, 
the " captains and counsellors " of a king who are so often 
mentioned by Homer (cf. Od. vii, 136, 184 ; viii, 389 etc.). 
The " elders " were probably the same as the more experienced 
warriors with the addition in the Indian case of a number of 
priests whose counsel might be sought by the king. 1 

The bond between the king and his comitatus is emphasized 
again and again in concrete instances. Arjuna had slain 
Jayadratha in the great battle ; and when in later times 

1 It is interesting to compare the word " gana " with German " nans " 
or Ang. Sax. " hos ", wliich originally meant a crowd and later on a guild. 
It is probable that the word gana also meant first a crowd and then a guild. 


Arjuna marches through Jayadratha's land, the nobles and 
warriors attack him, desirous of avenging the death of their 
lord, recollecting that it was Arjuna who had slain Jayadratha 
in battle (xiv, 77, 11 ; 78, 17). So again when Arjuna goes to 
the land of the Gandharas whose king, Sakuni, he had 
formerly slain, he has to face the Gandhara warriors, " burning 
with the desire to avenge the death of their prince, Sakuni " 
(xiv, 84, 2). Many of the followers of these princes had 
probably laid down their lives when the princes themselves 
were slain ; and those who did not have the opportunity of 
doing so at least remember that their bitterest enemy is the 
man who slew their lord. When the prince is almost in the 
power of his enemies and likely to be taken away a captive, 
his followers rush forward and do what they can to rescue him 
(xiv, 74, 27 ff.). Dhrtavarman's followers are not so devoted 
as those of Chonodamarius ; they are not determined enough 
to follow him in captivity as Jayadratha's followers were not 
all brave enough to act like Cynewulfs retainers. But the 
spirit of binding allegiance is there ; and the poets, with 
their interest mainly centred in the doings of princes, must 
have omitted to record numerous deeds of self-sacrifice, of 
the valour of humble followers seeking to serve their prince as 
best they could. 1 

From this point of view it is rather unfortunate that in the 
descriptions of great battles the stage should have been so 
overcrowded with princes as to leave the humble retainers 
completely in the background. There it is attachment of 
one prince for another, the desire of one to avenge the death 
of his friend, that is mainly emphasized. 2 But the relation 
of these princes may have resembled those of Patroklos and 
Phoinix to Achilles ; and sometimes at least the desire of one 
prince to avenge the death of another may have gathered 
impetus from the fact that the latter was one of his under- 
kings or his over-lord. 

This brings us to the question of what we may call inter- 
national relations ; but before discussing that we must 
examine the nature of kingship a little more in detail. Both 
among the Teutons and the Greeks of the Heroic Age, kingship 

1 In the didactic epic what is emphasized is the duty of every warrior to 
stand by his comrade in arms, no matter whether he is leader or not 
(xii, 97, 20 ff.). 

* Cf. vii, 73, 20 ff. ; 140, 22 ff. ; 143, 1 ff., etc. 


seems to have implied irresponsible monarchy. Kings were 
sometimes slain or expelled ; but it was generally the king's 
retinue with some members of the royal family at the head 
that carried out this work of deposing, no democratic assembly 
or council seems to have been responsible for it. Thus 
Heremod lost his kingdom through incensing his followers : 
Sigeberht in later times was driven out by Cynewulf. The 
West Saxon Council is mentioned as co-operating with the 
latter ; but if the whole passage (A. S. Chron. 755) is closely 
examined, it is evident that Sigeberht had forfeited the 
allegiance of his followers and this led to his downfall. 

Even in the 10th and llth centuries, the instances of the 
choice of a king by the council, those of Athelstan, Edgar and 
Edmund Ironside, are found on examination to be a recogni- 
tion by the court and the troops. When Cocnwalh gave 
away an earldom to Cuthred or Hygelac to Beowulf, their 
acts do not seem to have needed the ratification of a council. 
On the death of Hygelac, his wife, Hygd, seems to have had 
the power to dispose of the kingdom as she liked ; and 
Sexburh, the widow of Coenwalh, on the king's death kept the 
throne for herself. Agamemnon was slain, not through un- 
popularity as a king, but as the result of an intrigue between 
his wife and his cousin. In the absence of Odysseus there was 
anarchy in his kingdom, mainly through the ambition of the 
nobles of the land. Bellerophon is said to have been granted 
a demesne by the Lycians ; but it is the king who grants him 
the royal rights. It is the tie of blood or marriage which 
determines succession to a throne, and the king seems to have 
been free to nominate his successor. 

In India, the evidence as to royal succession in the Vedic 
period is riot conclusive. Zimmer's ideas about elective 
monarchy have been disputed ; and the Vedic Index (ii, 211) 
agrees with Geldner in taking the passages in question x in 
the sense of acceptance by the subjects, not as choice or 
election. Kings were sometimes expelled from the kingdom, 
but mainly perhaps as the result of war or intrigue in the 
court, not through unpopularity with their subjects in general. 
As for the Heroic Age, we cannot set any great store 
statements of the didactic epic (xii, 59, 14 ff.). " At i 
was no sovereignly, no king, no punishment, no 

i RV., x, 124, 8 ; 173 ; AV., i, 9 ; iii, 4 ; iv, 42. 


People protected one another righteously until error clouded 
their hearts. Then they lost all sense of virtue and vice, became 
covetous and subject to lust and anger . . . The gods being 
frightened created the rules of Law and Order and chose 
one man to act as sovereign and restore peace and virtue." 
This idea of a monarchy being substituted for an original 
democracy cannot be substantiated by the actual stories. 
Kingship is practically universal ; and it is only individual 
passages * which contemplate the existence of states without 
a king, of states where people are miserable indeed. 

The order of succession is generally according to primogeni- 
ture ; and it is only in exceptional cases that the eldest son 
is passed over. Among such cases are those of Yadu in the 
Yayati story, of Dhrtarastra in the main story, and of Devapi 
in an episode. All these instances arc instructive : Yadu 
had offended his father Yayati, through refusing to carry 
out an unreasonable request of his (i, 84) or through an actual 
rebellion against him (v, 149, 6 ff.). Yayati thereupon 
deprived him of his heirship and installed his younger son, 
Puru, on the throne, himself retiring to the forest to lead a 
life of meditation in old age. In i, 85 the people are repre- 
sented as protesting against the supersession of the elder son, 
but the king of course has his way. 

The Dhrtarastra and Devapi instances arc rather different. 
Dhrtarastra was the elder son, but born blind ; and through 
this defect he was passed over in favour of his younger 
brother, Pandu (v, 149, 29). A warlike age demanded a 
king whole in limbs and possessed of the manliest vigour of 
muscles and skill in arms. A blind king like Dhrtarastra 
would have spelled disaster for the state ; hence through the 
influence of the prince's uncle the king himself was dead 
and other members of the court, Pandu's succession was 
arranged. Devapi, too, had defective limbs ; he was afflicted 
with a skin-disease, possibly leprosy (v, 149, 17). His father, 
on the advice of his counsellors, set him aside and installed 
his younger brother, Santanu, as the heir-apparent. In 
Dhrtarastra's case, matters became more complicated through 
Pandu's retirement to the forest, leaving the kingdom in 
charge of his elder brother. When after his death his sons 
appeared in the capital, their claim to the throne was 

1 Mbh. i, 41, 27 ; i, 105, 44 ; v, 89, 78, etc. 


contested by Dhrtarastra's eldest son, but then there was the 
additional ground that the parentage of Pandu's sons was 
disputed by their rivals. The dispute was ultimately followed 
by the partitioning of the kingdom between Dhrtarastra's 
eldest son and Pandu's a decidedly unsatisfactory arrange- 
ment which did not last long, and the whole matter had to 
be settled by the great battle. 

The king and the royal family are therefore all-important 
in the Heroic State. Much has been written about the king's 
duties in war and peace. For Vedic times, Macdonell and 
Keith point out that the proper king had to carry on offensive 
and defensive wars : The Kuru-Pancala kings used to make 
their raids in the dewy season l and carry off booty, a part of 
which they kept for themselves, apparently distributing the 
rest among their followers. The defence of his subjects was 
however, the more important duty of the king ; he was 
" the protector of the tribe ". In return for this defence 
the king received obedience and monetary contribu- 
tions from the tribe ; he was also responsible for ad- 
ministering justice. Criminal jurisdiction was vested in 
him personally ; but apparently the power could be 
delegated to his officers. 

The didactic epic has elaborate disquisitions on these royal 
duties. In ii, 5, 21 the king is supposed to look after eight 
principal things, the eight being probably " agriculture, trade, 
roads, forts, bridges, elephant-training, taxes and the occupa- 
tion of deserted places ". He is said to have seven chief officers 
of the state who, according to the commentator, are " the 
inspectors of the fort, the army and laws, the chief priest, the 
physician, the astrologer and the commander-in-chief ". 
One of the king's main duties is to see proper justice done 
and the sage asks the virtuous king to be careful that his 
ministers do not decide cases wrongfully, influenced by bribes, 
and also exhorts him not to oppress his people with cruel 
and severe punishments (Bk. ii). xii, 69 tells us : The king 
should always appoint officers endowed with wisdom and a 
knowledge of worldly affairs for settling judicial suits, as the 
welfare of the state really depends on the proper administra- 
tion of justice. While pronouncing judgments in disputes 
the king should not show any mercy . . . The proper 
1 Tail Bra., i, 8, 4, 1. 


regulation of punishment is the great duty of kings and 
deserves high praise. 

The king receives taxes from his subjects l generally one- 
sixth of the corn produced. It is probable that the priests 
and warriors were not taxed, 2 but the Vaisyas certainly were, 
though passages like those in xii, 87 urge that taxes on them 
should be light so that they might have resources to improve 
the agriculture of the land and develop its trade. The king 
may gradually increase the burden on his subjects like a 
person gradually increasing the load on a bullock. The king 
needs money and it must be taken from the rich traders ; but 
they must not feel any oppression or they may leave the king- 
dom. The king is the keeper of wealth (xii, 321, 123) and he 
has somehow to keep his treasury full (xii, 130, 33 ; 7, 37 ff. ; 
26, 25 ff. ; 12, 14 ff.; 14, 14 ff . ; 19, 1 ff.). Taxes over and 
above the legal amount must not be demanded but begged 
for (xii, 87 ; xii, 71) ; when the prince conquers a new tribe 
he should first ask for the proper taxes and if the people are 
unwilling to pay it they must be forced to do so (xii, 95, 2). 
If there is drought and consequently a poor crop or none at all 
the king should expect little in taxes (ii, 5, 78 ; xiii, 61, 25). 
When the king receives these taxes his duty is to protect the 
people, as many passages of the twelfth book indicate. 3 
If the people suffer any loss of property, the burden of sin 
lies on the king as he has failed in his duty (i, 215, 9 ; xiii, 61, 

Most of these rules are, of course, the academic products 
of the post-heroic age. In the Heroic Age the king would 
probably not be bound down by any such rules ; and provided 
he kept his retainers pleased there seems to have been little 
he could not do. On festive occasions he distributed gifts 
all around (xiv, 85, 25 ff. ; 88, 27 ff. ; 89, 4 ff.) ; and he 
certainly needed to have means for such generosity. The 
popular king therefore had to engage in expeditions against 

1 xiii, 112, 19 ; i, 215, 9 ; xii, 24, 11 ff. ; 130 ; C9. 

* A passage like xii, 87, 13 ff., discussing the matter of taxation in detail 
speaks only of the Vaisyas as the people to be taxed. Moreover, the main 
reason for taxation is said to be the necessity of protecting the taxpayers, 
a reason which would lead to the exemption of the warriors, entrusted with the 
duty of protecting the realm. This supposition is coniirmcd by the evidence of 
the Sutra literature. Cf. Vasistha, xix, which excludes priests and royal 
servants from taxation. 

* Note especially 75, 8-12, and 24, 17. 


wealthy lands and prosperous princes. The booty included 
various objects of utility ; cattle in particular were immensely 
prized, as the Kaurava attempt against Virata's kingdom 
seems to indicate. But as we shall see later on, very often 
the expeditions contemplated a more permanent source 
of revenue, for if the prince could once impose his suzerainty 
over another, he could expect an annual tribute from him. 1 
With wealth thus acquired he could be generous with his 
followers and mild with his ordinary subjects. The dis- 
tinguished and martial prince had therefore always a better 
chance of popularity in his kingdom than the prudent 
administrator or wise legislator. 

There has been considerable difference of opinion as to how 
far the king was the owner of all land. Among the Teutons 
he was certainly the absolute owner, making grants of land 
to his subjects for services rendered to him, but grants which 
were not heritable at all. Thus Widsith mentions that 
Eormenric had given him the valuable present of a rich 
bracelet. When he came back home he gave it to his lord, 
Eadgils a gift to his beloved prince, " in requital of his 
kindness, because he had given me land, my father's estate." 2 
Deor laments : " For many years I had a goodly office and 
a generous lord till now Heorrenda, a skilful bard, has re- 
ceived the estate (londryht) which the protector of warriors 
gave to me in days gone by." 3 Wiglaf rebuking Beowulf's 
cowardly followers says : " Your offspring (cynne) shall be 
deprived of the receiving of treasure and the presentation 
of swords, of all the pleasure of landed estates, of sustenance 
(lufen) ; every member of the kindred will have to go destitute 
of property in land, when princes far from here learn the 
story of your flight." 4 These passages seem to indicate that 
the king was the owner of all land and that though he granted 
estates to his followers he could revoke his grant at will, and 
the son of the grantee did not automatically inherit the land 
the inheritance depended on the king's pleasure. 

We are not equally certain of the state of things in the 
Heroic Age of India. Hopkins has examined the Vedic and 
Brahmana evidence on the matter and is of opinion that the 

1 This is suggested in many passages : iii, 255, 16 ; iv, 18, 26 ; viii, 8, 20. 

' Thaes the he me lond forgeaf, Mines feeder ethel. 

* Mr. Dickins' translation of Dear, 88 ff. 

4 Professor Chadwick's translation of Beo., 2884 ff. 


king was regarded as the owner of all the land. 1 He refers 
to the Vedic passages 2 where the king is regarded as " devour- 
ing the people ", a statement, this, which probably does not 
mean that the king was always an oppressor but rather that 
he and his followers lived mainly on the contributions of the 
people for the land granted them. Various Brahmana passages 3 
repeat the same idea, emphasizing that the Vaisya can be 
" devoured " at will, while in later legal literature Brhaspati 
and Narada recognize the overlordship of the king and Manu 
has a passage (viii, 39) describing the king as " lord of all " 
which Biihler in his edition (S.B.E. 25, 259) took as a proof of 
the king's ownership of land. 

Still later, Megasthenes found that the agriculturists held 
land as the king's tenants and that they paid both a rent for 
the land and a tax in the shape of a fourth part f the crops. 
In the epic, however, we find no evidence for the double pay- 
ment ; what is paid is generally a fraction of the crops, and 
this may or may not be taken as rent for the land. Here we 
must remember that the priests and the warriors paid nothing 
for the land they held 4 ; they offered their services to the 
king instead. This would naturally mean that they held the 
land only so long as the king was satisfied with their services 
or needed them. The son of a former owner would have no 
claim to the land simply through his sonship he would have 
to justify it by his work. That the king did sometimes deprive 
the holders of their land is seen from the repeated protests 
of the priestly bard that there is no sin " greater than 
depriving a priest of land " ; and the supersession of one 
court-priest by another 5 might imply a transfer of at least 
part of the former's land to the latter. 

It is useless to discuss whether the king might rightfully 
do this or not, as also whether the power of devouring the 
people was a political right or one of ownership. In the age 
we are discussing the political right probably included all 
other rights ; and the king by virtue of his position set the 
standard of right and wrong. So whatever the theory of 

India, Old and New, pp. 221 ff. 
R.V. t i, 65, 4 ; A.V., iv, 22, 7, etc. 

Ait. Bra., vii, 29 ; viii, 12, 17. Sat. Brd. t i, 8, 2, 17 ; iv, 2, 1, 8, 17 ; x, 
6, 2, 1, etc. 

See footnote, p. 178. 

See discussion of " Society in the Heroic Age " above. 


ownership might be, in practice the owner was almost 
certainly the king. 

This question of the autocracy of the king naturally brings 
in the vexed question of the nature of the king's assembly or 
council and its powers. We have already had occasion to 
point out that the Teutonic kings had such assemblies though 
they did not exercise anything like the powers which have 
sometimes been attributed to them. Professor Chadwick 
points out l that national assemblies are fairly prominent in 
Tacitus and they survived down to much later times. But 
after the conversion of the Teutons to Christianity they 
became practically military reviews, while in the North they 
appear to have been primarily religious gatherings. 

In the Heroic Age itself the assemblies were probably small 
bodies of the type of the Anglo-Saxon roya 1 . councils which 
were just meetings of the court. Occasionally other leading 
men of the land were summoned ; but the nucleus of the 
body was always formed by the king's retinue. Thus the 
witan Scyldinga of Beowulf were probably the members of 
the court who entertained the hero ; and the " distinguished 
men of the nation " in the Radiger story, 2 the gathering 
where Genseric received his compatriots from Europe, 8 
and the " council of wise men " where Edwin of Northumbria 
discussed the adoption of Christianity 4 were not perhaps very 
different. In the stories of Genseric and Radiger as also in 
that of Thorisin the councillors had their opinion accepted by 
the king ; but there are equally good instances on the other 
side, e.g., of Hygd offering the throne to Beowulf without 
reference to any assembly or Amalswintha associating 
Theodahath in the sovereignty with herself. 

The councils mentioned in the Iliad and the Odyssey were 
also probably made up of the members of the royal family 
and the court in general. The " elders of the people " who 
were with Priam in the Iliad (Bk. iii) were warriors who 
" had now ceased from battle for old age " ; and the seven 
of them mentioned by name were either members of the 
royal family or fathers of distinguished captains. Again, the 
" captains and counsellors of the Phaeacians " mentioned 
repeatedly in the Odyssey (vii and viii) formed Alkinoos' 

1 H.A., pp. 368 ff. * Procopius' Gothic War, iv, 20. 

* Procopius' Vand., i, 22. < Bede's Hist. Eccles., ii, 18. 


council. From viii, 26 ff. they appear to have been made up 
of " noble youths " and " sceptred kings ", these latter being 
" twelve glorious princes " " who ruled among the people and 
bore sway ". The composition was thus parallel to the 
Teutonic ones of comes and miles, the former a man with some 
kind of jurisdiction over others and the latter, a young man 
in the personal service of the king or of some member of the 
royal family. If the analogy holds good the real council 
would be made up of the experienced men, the comites or 
sceptred kings ruling under Alkinoos' suzerainty. 
Agamemnon's council in the Iliad is made up of the 
distinguished Greek leaders ; but it is essentially a war- 
council and there of course few else would be expected. 
National assemblies as in Ithaka (Od. ii) appear to have been 
informal gatherings ; while great public gatherings as in 
Od. iii, 5 ff. were essentially religious festivals. 1 

These councils do not seem to have possessed any definite 
powers. Agamemnon may sometimes follow the advice of 
Nestor, and Alkinoos that of Echenoos ; but the council as 
such does not influence the king. In Agamemnon's absence 
the government was apparently carried on by his wife, who 
being a strong person managed to keep things in order and to 
get rid of Agamemnon when he reappeared after his long 
absence. Penelope was apparently more womanly and could 
not control her unruly nobles ; it was only the return of the king 
which could restore order in the country. If the council had 
any definite powers the government in the king's absence 
would be vested in them ; but we learn that Agamemnon had 
entrusted his wife to the care of a minstrel and Odysseus 
his household to Mentor. The members of the Council 
being mainly the king's retinue would have to follow him to 
the wars and the older men left behind were apparently 
not expected to act in his absence. 

The Indian evidence on the matter is not particularly 
definite. We are not certain about the nature of the Vedic 
sabhd or samiti. The Vedic Index notices the diversity of 
opinion in the matter ; Ludwig thought that the sabha was 
an assembly not of all the people but of the Brahmins and 
" rich patrons " ; Zimmer took it to be the meeting-place 
of the village-council ; Bloomfield thought of a more domestic 
1 See Chadwick's II. A., pp. 882-8. 


use of the word, while Hillebrandt distinguished between the 
sabha or the place of the assembly and the samiti or the 
assembly itself. All that we are definite about is that the 
king sometimes went to the samiti (R.V. ix, 92, 6, etc.) ; but 
as to what the function of the assembly was or what its 
relation to the king was we have little evidence. 1 

Another body, that of the " Ratnins ", was made up of 
the members of the royal household, the charioteer, the 
chamberlain etc. ; but we do not know if they formed any 
definite council at all or if they had any collective duties 
apart from the individual ones. The Pancavimsa Brahmana 
(xix, 1, 4) mentions eight viras or heroes as friends of the 
king ; but we know nothing more about them and it is 
extremely doubtful if any formal body is meant. The term 
" rajakrt " or " king-maker " has been taken by some to 
indicate a group of men of great influence and authority in 
the state, men whose powers included the setting up of 
princes on the throne ; but the passages in which the term 
occurs 2 seem to indicate that they merely helped in the 
consecration of the king. 

The epic has a good deal to say about the assemblies and 
councils, v, 35, 58 tells us : " That is no sabha where there 
are no elders ; and those are not elders who do not declare 
the law." The " sabhastara " and the " sabhasad " are 
mentioned over and over again and they apparently refer to 
the courtiers of various grades. But the important question 
for us is whether there was any formal royal council and 
whether the councillors exercised an effective control on the 
activities of the king. The rdjasamiti is mentioned more than 
once ; but we are not certain as to who were the members 
of the body. The unheroic parts of the epic take the 
councillors and ministers to be mainly priests. Thus xv, 5, 20 
says : " The ministers (or councillors) should be Brahmanas 
possessed of learning and endowed with humility." This 
is insisted upon in many passages of the first, third and twelfth 
books 3 ; and in the Ramayana, it is a priestly council which 
is consulted on various state affairs. 

1 Some of the soundest Indian scholars, however, hold that these assemblies 
were essentially democratic. For the evidence on the matter one may look 
up Mr. K. P. Jaiswnl's work on ancient Indian polity. 

> A.V. iii, 5, 7, etc. xii, 78 ; iii, 26 ; i, 74, etc. 


But as Hopkins points out l the stories of the Mahdbhdrata 
represent a different state of affairs. In times of difficulty, 
the main advisers of the king are his relatives and generals, 
not his priests. Thus one of Duryodhana's craftiest 
counsellors was Sakuni, his mother's brother ; and the most 
trusted adviser of the Pandavas was Krsna, a near relative 
on their mother's side and also connected by other ties of 
marriage with them. The people whose counsel is most often 
sought by the Kuru king are Bhisma, Drona and Vidura, 
Bhisma being Duryodhana's great-uncle, Vidura his uncle 
and Drona his military preceptor. When Santanu died, his 
successor, Vicitravirya, was a boy ; and in his minority the 
government was carried on, not by any priestly or popular 
council, but by his step-brother, Bhisma, who had renounced 
his claim to the throne (i, 102). Later on again, after 
Vicitravlrya's death Bhisma had to rule the kingdom on 
behalf of his infant nephew (i, 109). He took charge of his 
education and brought him up carefully, the kingdom 
reverting to the nephew when he was of age. Again, when 
Yudhisthira with his brothers retired from his kingship 
leaving the throne to the boy, Pariksit, the protection of 
the capital was entrusted to Yuyutsu and Dhaumya, a warrior 
and a priest, to act jointly. 

If there had been any royal council of influence and 
authority, no matter whether a priestly body or otherwise, 
we should certainly have expected it to function in these 
cases of emergency. But we find instead one individual 
or another carrying on the duties of the king. The prince 
goes to the council to listen to its deliberations ; but if he 
has made up his mind already the council has no influence 
with him. Before embarking on the great war (v, 148 ff.) 
Duryodhana meets his councillors who speak strongly 
against fighting with the Pandavas ; but their words have 
no effect on the rash prince. So too in the Ramayana, 
Havana's sabha has little of influence to exert ; Havana 
meets it before the battle, but it is more as a formal procedure 
than anything else he does not attend to its deliberations. 
We must notice too that in all these instances it is no 
representative body of the people that the poet has in view ; 

1 JAOS, xiii, pp. 101 ff. He points out how the councillors or ministers 
were mostly nobles or warriors. 


it is only the prince's nobles and generals who might be 
expected to influence him most, but even they can achieve 
very little indeed. 

Now we come to the matter of international relations. 
We have to see what the distinguished king was expected 
to do in his relations with neighbouring kings, for international 
relations meant nothing more than the personal relations 
of the kings of the nations. The first few lines of Beowulf 
describe the career of a truly great king, great according 
to the standards of the Heroic Age. " We have heard in 
the days of old of the might of the kings of the martial 
Danish nation. Very many were the royal families which 
Scyld Scefing with his troops of warriors deprived of their 
banqueting halls ... He attained success and gained 
such glory that every one of his neighbours across the sea had 
to obey him and pay him tribute." The ambitious king 
tried his best to become overlord over the neighbouring 
princes and his efforts were supported by his warlike followers, 
whose restless spirit could not enjoy for long the formal life 
of the court in peace and who had every prospect of acquiring 
fame and material gain in foreign expeditions. 

At times, however, the powerful prince liked to consolidate 
his empire rather than extend it. We find this towards the 
end of the Teutonic Heroic Age when the warlike spirit of 
the period was probably fast decaying, and the princes 
sought to cement the relations of peace and goodwill between 
themselves by the ties of marriage. The alliances of Theodric 
the Ostrogoth are the most famous in this connection : one 
of his daughters was married to Alaric, king of the Visigoths, 
and another to Sigismund, king of the Burgundians ; he 
himself had married a sister of Clovis, king of the Franks, 
while his own sister was married to Thrasamund, king of the 
Vandals, and his niece to Irminfrith, king of the Thuringians. 

These alliances did not always bring about the desired result. 
Thus Theodric had to undertake an expedition against 
Sigismund to punish him for the murder of his own son, 
Theodric's grandson. Theodric the Visigoth gave his 
daughter in marriage to the son of the great Vandal king, 
Gaiserich, desiring to secure his friendship. Some time 
later Gaiserich suspected that his daughter-in-law was trying 
to poison her husband and he sent her back to her father 


with her nose and ears cut off. Amalaric the Visigoth wanted 
to strengthen his position by marrying into the powerful 
Frankish family; but the marriage ultimately brought 
about his ruin, for his wife Clotilda, the daughter of Clovis, 
was not allowed to retain her own religion at her husband's 
home, and complained of this to her brother, King Childebert 
of Paris. Childebert marched against the Goths and overran 
their kingdom. The marriage of Athanagild's two daughters 
with Frankish princes, Sigebert and Chilperic, had unhappy 
sequels, and Clovis's marriage with a Burgundian princess 
was the direct cause of the discomfiture of Gundobad, the 
Burgundian king. 

There are similar instances, also, in heroic poems. The 
marriage of Signy with Siggeirr did not cement any friend- 
ship between her husband and her father but rather hastened 
the catastrophe. Guthrun's marriage with Atli did not make 
him a friend of her brothers ; and Ingeld's with Freawaru 
was equally ineffectual. Hildeburh had probably been 
married to Finn to be a " peace-weaver " ; but perhaps 
her intervention could do nothing to check the hatred 
generated by ambition. As has been already pointed out l 
the tragedy of the " peace- weaver's " position struck the 
bardic poet and she became the most pathetic figure in the 
story. It is difficult to speculate on which side her sympathies 
would lie : probably in the earlier period the ties of blood 
would be stronger, as in the instances of Volsung's daughter 
and Guthrun. Later on the ties of love and marriage might 
appear more powerful as in the case of Kriemhild in the 
Nibelung story. 

In the Greek heroic poems we also find marriages between 
royal families arranged to cement good feelings. The most 
noteworthy instance is that of Agamemnon in the Iliad, 
ix, 144 ff. : Agamemnon says : " Three daughters are mine 
in my well-builded hall, Chrysothemis and Laodike and 
Iphianassa ; let him (Achilles) take of them which he will, 
without gifts of wooing to Pelcus' house, and I will add a 
great dower such as no man ever yet gave with his daughter." 
All this he is ready to do, if Achilles will be reconciled with 
him and fight side by side with him against the Trojans. 
Similarly Menelaos married his daughter to Achilles' son ; 

1 In Chap. VIII, p. 157. 


and Ikarios his two daughters to kings in Ithaka and 

International relations thus depended purely on the 
personal factor, and a study of the origins of some wars 
of the period is certainly instructive. We have noticed 
some historical instances among the Teutons, and we may 
add that of the Heruli-Langobardi war which, according to 
Paulus Diaconus, was caused by the murder of a brother 
of a king of the Heruli by a Langobardic princess. The 
instance of the Trojan war is even more significant ; for all 
the princes of Greece banded themselves together to avenge 
an insult done to one of them by a prince of a distant land. 
In the carrying on of the war, the personal and not the political 
factor also predominated, and a quarrel between Achilles 
and Agamemnon led to the withdrawal of the former with 
his followers, thereby giving the Trojans an opportunity 
for some temporary triumphs. 

In the Indian heroic stories likewise, the personal element 
is all-important. We have already noticed 1 two instances 
of the cementing of friendship by marriage between the 
royal families : one is the marriage of the Pandavas with the 
daughter of Drupada, the Paficala king, and the other that 
of Arjuna's son with Virata's daughter. The latter was 
purely a " marriage of convenience ". When Virata comes to 
know what great princes had been serving him in disguise 
he wants to bind himself to them by ties of marriage and 
offers his daughter, Uttara, a mere child, in marriage to 
Arjuna. Arjuna excuses himself on the ground that he has 
been teaching her dancing and singing and has been a sort 
of preceptor to her. She has been as a daughter to him and 
cannot now be his wife, but he is ready to take her as his 
daughter-in-hw . Virata is rather disappointed at Arjuna's 
refusal, but accepts his proposal as the next best thing, for 
" he who has a marriage connection with Arjuna has all 
his desires fulfilled ". 2 In the great battle which followed 
very soon, Virata and his son were among the principal allies 
of the Pandavas and naturally they brought with them the 
whole of the Matsya army. 

Draupadi's marriage with the Pandavas was not meant 

1 In Chap. VIII, pp. 147, 154, etc. 

* Sarve kfimah samrddh&6ca sambandhi yasya mehrjunah. 


to be a political marriage Arjuna won her in a straight- 
forward competition. But this general idea of giving the 
king's daughter in marriage to the prince most skilful in 
arms, skilful enough to perform marvels of archery or swords- 
manship, may have started with a political aim, for such a 
prince would always be a powerful ally of the father-in-law, 
especially so in the Heroic Age when personal valour counted 
for so much. Whatever Draupada's aims may have been, 
the result of the marriage was a firm political alliance between 
the Pandavas and Drupada ; this is all the more striking 
as the former had been before this bitter enemies of the 
Pancala king. They had heaped the worst humiliation on 
him to please their preceptor, Drona ; they had captured 
him in battle and offered him as a present to Drona, who 
thought that his enemy's humiliation would be all the more 
complete if he were allowed to go away with his life. How- 
ever, after the marriage of Drupada's daughter with the 
Pandavas this enmity was completely forgotten and he 
became their firmest ally. In the great battle, while Drona 
was one of the leaders on the opposite side, Drupada and his 
sons rendered the greatest service possible to the Pandavas. 

A detailed examination of the lists of allies of both the 
Kauravas and the Pandavas would show how important 
the tie of marriage was in the formation of such alliances ; 
we may mention Dhrtarastra's brother-in-law, Sakuni, 
and son-in-law, Jayadratha, who fought for Duryodhana 
while Arjuna's brother-in-law, Krsna, was such a great help 
to the Pandavas. 1 We may take it as a fairly general rule 
that marriage between royal families was one of the chief 
means of cementing international alliances. 

But there were other means as well : among the Teutons 
we sometimes hear of princes entering into a relationship 
of " father " or " son " to other princes. Professor Chad wick 
mentions an instance in one of the Cassiodorus' letters 
addressed to a king of the Heruli " informing him that 
Theodric creates him his * son in arms ' (filing per arma) 
which is a great honour ". With this we may compare the 
instance in the ^4.5. Chronicle, 924 : when Edward the Elder 

1 It is easy to find instances in other parts of the epic, too. Cf. e.g. ii, 14, 
80-1, where the alliance of Jar&sandha and Karnsa is said to be strengthened 
by the tie of marriage. 


had been able to make his power sufficiently felt in all parts of 
Britain, the Scottish king and some other princes accepted 
him as father and lord (hine ge ces tha to fader ond to hlaforde 
Scotta cyning and call Scotta theod ; ond Regnald . . -). 1 

The alliances in these instances seem to have been some- 
what firmer than the ordinary offensive and defensive 
alliances, e.g. that of Edmund with Malcolm, the Scotch king, 
who promised to be the former's co-operator (midwyrhta) 
both by sea and land. But when one prince accepted another 
as his " father ", it certainly meant that he took the other as 
his suzerain, under whom he was a subordinate prince. 
Such an understanding was perhaps often arrived at after 
a good deal of warfare, the victorious prince being able to 
call himself an over-lord only after he had made his prowess 
felt by his neighbours. In such instances, the Mahdbhdrata 
generally takes the victorious prince to stand in the relation 
of a preceptor to the others, who are like his disciples. Thus 
ii, 38, 7 : " When a great Ksatriya prince, after having 
overcome another Ksatriya in war and having captured 
him, sets him free, he becomes the latter's preceptor." 2 
So too in the case of a prince who had accepted the suzerainty 
of Jarasandha, the Magadha king, it is said : "He waits 
upon him (Jarasandha) as his disciple " (ii, 14, 12). 3 In relation 
to the people he rules over, the great king is often taken to be 
as a father as in ii, 13, 9 ; but in relation to his under-kings 
he is a guru (preceptor), that appearing the highest object 
of respect to the priestly bard. 

The powerful prince in India, as among the Greeks and the 
Teutons, sought to exercise his overlordship, to become an 
emperor over his neighbouring princes. Some Teutonic 
instances we have already noticed. Among the Greeks 
Agamemnon probably exercised some sort of suzerainty over 
other princes for warriors from the neighbouring kingdoms 
were expected to follow him in war. Thus in //. xiii, 665 ff . 
we hear of one Euchenor, a man of Corinth, who would have 

1 Cf. Beo., 947, where Hrothgar says to the hero : " O Beowulf, thou best 
of men, I shall regard thee in my heart as a sow." Also Wealhtheo to Hrothgar 
(1175-0) : " People tell me thou wishest to adopt the warrior (Beo.) as thy 

1 Yo muficati vase krtvS gururbhavati tasya sah. 

8 Tameva ca mahSraja isyavat samupasthitah. These expressions are 
certainly the product of post-heroic times. To the priestly bard of these ages 
the relation of preceptor and disciple would seem the most significant. 


had to pay a " heavy war fine " if he had refused to follow 
Agamemnon against Troy. Agamemnon's suzerainty was 
not probably extended over Ithaka, for Odysseus seems to 
have been at liberty to refuse his requests for martial help 
(Od. xxiv); but he could not exercise his power over neigh- 
bouring regions like Corinth and Sikyon. 1 

For India we find in the Mahdbhdrata a formal ceremony 
of being installed as emperor (samraj) a ceremony called 
the rajasuya. But before proceeding to the ceremony the 
prince must be sure of his position, he must make certain 
that his supremacy will not be challenged by any one of his 
neighbours. Thus when Yudhisthira has consolidated his 
position within his kingdom, his ministers tell him that he 
must now think of proclaiming himself an emperor : "A 
king with great powers in his kingdom wishes to acquire all 
the glory of an emperor by means of the c rajasuya ' sacrifice. 
. . . You are certainly worthy of being an emperor, and so 
your friends consider that the time has come when you should 
perform the ' rajasuya ' ... at the conclusion of which 
you will be installed in the sovereignty of the empire " 
(ii, 13, 21 ff.). 

Krsna points out that the chief obstacle in the way of 
Yudhisthira's " emperorship " would be Jarasandha, the 
Magadha king, who was then the suzerain over the greater 
part of Northern India. Krsna mentions the kings who have 
had to pay homage to Jarasandha, while others who had 
refused to do so had been deprived of their kingdoms and 
had either saved themselves by flight or been capturqd and 
imprisoned by Jarasandha. The comitatus of this emperor 
is made up of many of his under-kings, and a new claimant 
to overlordship would have first to get rid of the existing 
suzerain with his allies. The Pandavas proceed to do this, 
and after slaying Jarasandha march through various other 
kingdoms claiming homage from them. Some submit 
peacefully ; but some like Bhagadatta offer resistance 
(ii, 26, 8 ff.) and are vanquished. The discomfited princes 
have to pay a heavy tribute to the over-lord (ii, 26, 15 ; 
27, 4 ; 30, 18 ff., etc.) ; and must be prepared to help him 
in war (v, 4, 11, etc.). After the emperor is certain of his 
position he makes arrangements for the great " rajasuya " 
1 11. xxiii, 206, etc. 


sacrifice and invites all his under-kings to come to his capital. 
They have to come to this ceremony of installation, bearing 
costly presents with them (ii, 34). But the wise emperor, 
desirous of securing their goodwill, does not seek to humiliate 
them ; he receives them properly and pleases them with 
words of welcome. They remain there while the sacrifice 
is carried on ; and when it is finished they return to their 
respective kingdoms, leaving the emperor in formal possession 
of his imperial dignity (ii, 45). 1 

The fourteenth Book gives us a full description of another 
method of confirming the claim to suzerainty. The horse- 
sacrifice is regarded as the best for expiating sins. But as a 
preliminary to that, the horse is let loose to wander about 
among different kingdoms at its own free will. It goes 
protected by an army ; and if any prince wants to seize 
the horse, he has first to overcome the attendant warriors. 
If these latter succeed in vanquishing the prince, they 
invite him to the sacrifice ; of course the sacrifice can take 
place only if the defenders of the horse can bring it back 
to the kingdom safe after all attempts against it. Arjuna, 
who was in charge of this horse, had to undertake many 
perilous fights before the horse turned back towards 
Yudhisthira's capital, the most perilous of these being 
perhaps that with his own son, Babhruvahana, who fought 
against him not knowing him to be his father, thus reminding 
one of the Teutonic story of Hildebrand and Hadubrand 2 
or the Persian one of Sohrab and Rustam. 3 When Arjuna 
comes back with the horse, arrangements are made for the 
sacrifice ; and the great kings of the earth come to the 
ceremony to please Yudhisthira. They come bringing 

1 One does not know how far one is justified in using the words " over-lord " 
and " suzerain " \viih regard to the Heroic Age. " Samraj," the word used 
in later Sanskrit literature for an " emperor ", is used of Yudhisthira in 
Ii, 15, etc. But it may mean here just a " sovereign " or " superior ruler ", 
the appellation of an important king. The tribute and the help in war may be 
explained by the simple fact of the less powerful kings wanting to be on 
friendly terms with more powerful ones. There was certainly no confederacy 
of states as in historical times under Asoka. All that the " samraj " asserted 
by his " rajasuya " or " a6vamedha " was a more important position than 
that of ordinary princes. Jarasandha made his position most felt by other 
princes and he is the nearest approach to a full-fledged emperor. All 
performers of the " rajasuya " do not seem to have attained the same position. 
(See Vedic Index, ii, 433.) 

* Cf. the fragment Hildebrandslied. 

8 Narrated by Firdausi, in his Shahnamah. 


with them valuable presents "many gems and female 
slaves, horses and weapons " (xiv, 85, 18). They were 
properly received by the emperor, received presents in 
exchange and returned home at the end of the sacrifice. 1 

The really important point about these international 
relations is that the emperor could count most of his sub- 
ordinate princes as part of his comitatus ; they were some- 
times little better than the governors of provinces who were 
ordinarily left to act as they liked, but who in times of war 
had to come with their soldiers to aid the overlord. Or we 
may vary the language and say that the rulers of important 
provinces of a king's domain were regarded as kings in their 
own land. In times of peace they were left to themselves ; 
but they had to come with their retainers to aid the king 
in war, just as the friendly rulers of neighbouring kingdoms 
did. Help in war was the most important thing ; and if a 
warrior was really distinguished, he might be rewarded with 
princely rank even though he might be low-born. This would 
almost correspond to the mediaeval system of " knighting " 
deserving heroes ; and a very interesting account in the 
Mahdbhdrata is that of conferring a kingdom on Karna 
(i, 136 ff.). When the young sons of Dhrtarastra and Pandu 
had completed their military training, a tournament was 
arranged to give them an opportunity of showing off their 
skill. Arjuna appeared to be the most expert of them all 
and excited the envy of his cousins by his various feats of 
arms. But when the tournament was nearly finished, 
Karna entered the lists and challenged Arjuna to a single 
combat. Arjuna however, refused to fight with one who was 
not of the royal line, it being generally thought that Karna 
was the son of a charioteer. Duryodhana thereupon installed 
him as king of Aiiga and conferred royal rank on him, 
Karna in return promisihg him his friendship, which of 
course mainly implied help in strife with enemies. 

To sum up then, we may say that the most prominent 
factor of the heroic state was the king, and next to him 
his personal retinue. The generous king had always a faith- 
ful comitatus and within his kingdom his powers were 

1 It is interesting to compare with this Herodotus (i, 215) on the 
Massagetae : Herodotus seems to think that their most prominent religious 
rite was the horse sacrifice, " the sacrifice of the swiftest of all mortal creatures 
to the swiftest of the gods (the sun)." 


practically unlimited. Theoretically he had various duties 
to perform, chief among them being the protection of his 
subjects and the administration of justice. He received 
taxes from the people and was probably regarded as the 
owner of all land. The order of succession was generally 
one of primogeniture. The royal council, mainly composed 
of the king's relatives and nobles, was an advisory body 
which might have little practical power. International 
relations were regulated by the connections between the kings 
of the various lands, and ties of marriage frequently cemented 
diplomatic alliances. The ambitious prince often wanted a 
formal acknowledgment of his superior position, and in 
India he confirmed his position by the performance of the 
rajasuya or asvamedha sacrifice, each of these being preceded 
by an expedition of conquest and subjugation. 



HPHE question of government here leads on naturally 
-* to that of religion, as kingship in the Heroic Age 
was often supposed to have a sacred character. Ammianus 
Marcellinus (xxviii, 5, 14) points out how Burgundian kings 
were deposed as a consequence of famine in the land ; and 
this seems to indicate that kings were supposed to have 
superhuman powers, powers, for example, of conferring 
fertility on the soil and producing bumper crops. If a king 
lacked such powers he was not thought worthy to be a king. 
The Ynglinga Saga (C.47) mentions two instances of Swedish 
kings sacrificed in years of famine and says that the kings 
called Yngvi after the god Frey, and regarded as his descend- 
ants, were supposed to have control over the seasons. As, 
regards Greece also, some post-Homeric documents invested 
kings of the Heroic Age with divine powers ; the best example 
is to be found in an account of Clement of Alexandria. He 
mentions a Zeus Agamemnon worshipped in Sparta and this 
may imply that Agamemnon was being worshipped as a god, 
while we also have the indication that kings sometimes assumed 
the name Zeus to denote either descent from him or a claim 
to be his representative. 

That descent from the gods was claimed by many of our 
heroes we have already had occasion to notice. 1 Thus 
Sarpedon is regarded as the son of Zeus, Aeneas of Aphrodite, 
Achilles of Thetis ; Cuchulain is thought to be the son of 
Lug, Mongan of Manannan Mac Lir. In the same way, in 
India Yudhisthira is taken to be the son of Dharma, Bhima 
of Vayu, Arjuna of Indra, Nakula and Sahadeva of the 
two Avins. 

Such a divine parentage would certainly confer some sort 
of divinity on the prince and hold him up as worthy of the 
worship of his people. But in the Indian epic some princes 
are thought to be divine in a more immediate sense : they 

1 See Chap. VI, p. 05. 


axe taken to be incarnations of the god, the god himself in 
a human form. Thus Krsna and Rama are regarded as 
incarnations of Visnu in different ages and in the Mahd- 
bhdrata we have numerous instances of the worship of Krsna. 
So iii, 271, 72 ff. : They now call Visnu the unconquerable 
Krsna, with conch, discus and club in his hands. The deity 
wears the Srivatsa, is clad in yellow silken raiment and is the 
best of those versed in the use of weapons ; and such a 
Krsna protects Arjuna. Dhrtarastra knows that Krsna is 
Visnu himself (sanatano Vrsniviras ca Visnuh) ; and 
Draupadi in extreme distress (ii, 68, 41 ff.) prays to the 
absent Krsna, " the soul of the universe, the creator of the 
world," to save her from the insults of her enemies. In the 
great battle he acts as Arjuna's charioteer ; but even there 
his identity with Visnu is not forgotten (e.g. viii, 62, 1). 
When Arjuna slays the helpless Karna against all laws of 
knightly warfare, it is pointed out that the counsel of the 
deity prompted him to act as he did (viii, 91, 18, etc.). 
Sisupala and Jarasandha might deny the divinity of Krsna 
(ii, 41, 17 etc.) ; but the Pandavas and their friends are never 
tired of emphasizing what Markandeya says in iii, 189, 
52 ff. : " The lotus-eyed deity whom I saw in the days of 
old is Janardana who has now become your relative . . . 
Krsna is that deity, the ancient supreme lord, the incon- 
ceivable Hari, the dhata and vidhata, the destroyer of all, 
the Eternal, the Lord of all creatures." 

Yet it must not be forgotten that Krsna was an earthly 
prince with the ordinary human relations. He helped 
Yudhisthira to perform the rajasuya particularly to get 
rid of Jarasandha who was his own enemy too, being 
connected by marriage with his cousin, Kamsa, whom he 
had killed. Krsna is Arjuna's cousin as well as his brother* 
in-law and is his greatest helper in the great battle, being 
constantly at hand to give him advice on military tactics as 
on many other things. In this capacity his actions are not 
always above reproach, as already remarked in the scene of 
Karna's slay ing, and Duryodhana frames a whole list of charges 
against him in ix, 61, 31 ff. He caused Bhisma to be slain 
through the unknightly ruse of placing Sikhandin before 
Arjuna ; he had the false impression conveyed to Drona 
that Drona's son Asvatthama was slain, an impression which 


caused Drona to lay aside his arms and be slain unarmed 
by Dhrstadyumna. So too in the slaying of Bhuri&ravas, 
it was Krsna who was responsible for the unknightly conduct 
of the Pandava warriors and Duryodhana clinches his 
accusations by saying : "By adopting the most wily unfair 
means you have caused the death of many princes observant 
of the duties of their order." Krsna can excuse his conduct 
by only referring to Duryodhana's numerous misdeeds ; 
but of course that is no adequate defence. 

As marks of his human nature Hopkins enumerates the 
following l : " His unreasonable rage and broken promise 
(vi, 59, 88 ff.) 2 ; his ignorance (in battle he cannot say where 
Arjuna is, vii, 19, 21) ; his worship of Uma from whom he 
gets his thousands of wives (xiii, 15, 7, etc.) ; his power 
* received from the gods ', because he killed Naraka and 
recovered Aditi's ear-rings (v, 48, 80 ff.) ; his own admission 
that he was ' unable at any time to perform a divine act ', 
but he would do what he could do as a man, purusakaratah, 
that is, he could not interfere with the will of gods ; his 
admission that he would have been unable to kill Karna, 
if Karna had not thrown away Indra's spear (vii, 180)." 

All this is difficult to reconcile with the statements about 
his divinity in other parts of the epic. The gradual growth 
of the epic is taken to account for most of these incon- 
sistencies. The original heroic poems probably laid a greater 
emphasis on his humanity, while later on ideas of his divinity 
overshadowed it. The exceptional intelligence of the earthly 
prince may have gradually become the omniscience of the 
god, though traces of the former have remained in parts of 
this composite epic. One reason for ascribing divinity to 
him has been already suggested : the minstrel singing at the 
court of a descendant of the Pandavas or one of their allies 
would desire to whitewash some of their sins, their unknightly 
conduct on many occasions. Taking Krsna as a god, he could 
point out that whatever the Pandavas did must be right, 
as they acted on the suggestions of Krsna. 

Krsna, however, is not the only incarnation of a god 

1 Epic Mythology, p. 215. 

* On seeing the Pandava soldiers flying before the Kurus, Krsna lost control 
of himself and forgetting his promise about not bearing arms, he jumped down 
from the chariot whirling his discus, desirous of slaying all the Kuru generals. 


mentioned in the epic. In a later passage in xii, 340, Nara- 
yana (Visnu) mentions what forms he will take in the various 
ages. J3e says : " Assuming the form of a boar I shall slay 
the proud Hiranyagarbha ; then taking up the form of a 
man-lion I shall kill Hiranyakasipu, the great destroyer of 
sacrifices. As the son of Aditi I shall slay Bali, the foremost 
of the Danavas, and in the Treta age I shall take birth as 
Rama in the line of Bhrgu. Towards the end of Treta and 
the beginning of Dvapara, I shall be born as Rama, the son 
of Dasaratha, and at the meeting-point of the Dvapara 
and Kali ages I shall again appear in the world in the city 
of Mathura for the purpose of killing Kamsa." This list of 
Visnu's avatars (incarnations) is amplified in the Puranas 
and in the final form mentions twenty-two shapes, while the 
didactic epic (e.g. xii, 340, 100) as well as the Harivamsa 
do not go beyond ten. 

While these lists of various incarnations are fairly late, 
it seems probable that in the original heroic poems too 
Krsna was regarded as superhuman or at least more than 
the ordinary warrior-prince. His quarrel with Sisupala 
in the second book seems to be part of an old story, coming 
down from a time when his spiritual greatness was not 
unchallenged. At the conclusion of Yudhisthira's rajasuya 
sacrifice an arghya is presented to Krsna as a symbol of 
worship, and the problem arises if it is meant to indicate his 
temporal greatness. The sacrifice was to signalize Yudhis- 
thira's suzerainty over the other princes ; the arghya is 
meant to mark the superiority of Krsna over the rest. 
Sisupala is furious at this, for he thinks Krsna is no king at 
all, and takes it to be an insult to all the kings assembled 
to place Krsna above them. He suggests that the Pandavas 
have become void of judgment through their asceticism 
(krpandtica tapasvinah) and have fallen from the path of 
virtue and true religion, in thus offering worship to Krsna. 
Bhisma defends the offering by saying : " In this assembly 
of kings I do not see any prince who has not been defeated 
by the prowess of Krsna." This prowess may of course 
indicate martial skill ; but the latter part of the speech 
(ii, 38, 9 ff.) suggests spiritual prowess more. iupala in 
his rejoinder scoffs at Krsna's martial skill and adds : 
" Hearing you constantly assert c he is the foremost of all 


wise men', 4 he is the lord of the universe,' Krsna has come to 
believe that they are all true ; but certainly they are all 
false." So the quarrel continues; it is finally ended with 
Krsna's throwing his cakra (discus) at Sisupala and chopping 
off his head. 

Thus, in the present version at any rate, the quarrel 
seems to be mainly about the spiritual ascendancy claimed 
by Krsna. Whether it was originally just a question of 
temporal precedence or not, it is very difficult to say. We 
can, however, say definitely that the epic nowhere glorifies 
simply his military valour. It is his intellectual powers 
that mark him out from the other princes of heroic legend. 
Thus in the great battle he appears not as a fighter but as a 
counsellor of the Pandavas, one to whose advice they were 
often indebted for their victories. It seems therefore extremely 
probable that the cult of Krsna has come down from the 
Heroic Age and is not simply a late insertion of priestly 

This idea of the incarnation of a deity is practically without 
any western parallels. There is one Irish story, 1 however, 
which suggests something similar : Mider, the foster-father 
of Oengus, son of the Dagda, had two wives, both goddesses. 
Oengus carried off one of these, Etain ; and Mider mourned 
long for her. Fuamnach, Mider's other wife, resented this 
and caused Etain to be blown away from her chamber 
in Oengus' palace. The wind caught her up and carried 
her to the world of men. There she fell into the cup of a 
noble lady when the latter was at a banquet. The lady 
swallowed Etain with her drink and Etain was born as her 
daughter. When she had grown up she was married to the 
High-king of Ireland ; but Mider, who had not forgotten 
her, finally succeeded in carrying her off from the king's 
palace. This story tells us of the incarnation of a divine 
personage ; but it is difficult to take it as a parallel to the 
Indian idea of the god taking human form to expel certain 
kinds of evil from the world. 

A different kind of parallel is found in the instance quoted 
in the beginning, as also in Jordanes, who in his account of 
the Goths mentions the worship of, or at least veneration 

1 See D'Arbois and Jubainville's Irish Mythological Cycle (Eng. trans., 
pp. 176 if.) following Windisch's Irische TcxU, pp. 127 ff. 


for, distinguished men of the past. 1 With these we may 
compare what is said in two Eddie poems about Othin : 
" They call me now Othin, but formerly I was called the 
Dread One ; and before that I was called Thundr ; I have 
been called Watcher and Shaker . . . names which, I think, 
all come from myself alone " (Grimnismdl). So again in the 
Hdvamdl : " Othin wrote this before the world began ; 
he rose up where he came back." It is difficult to say if these 
passages contemplate incarnations of Othin in the Indian 
sense ; but in this connection we may think of the account 
of Othin as an earthly king in the Ynglinga Saga. 

Coming now to the gods whose divinity is not open to 
question, we may first consider the devas known to Vedic 
literature. Most of these older gods are present in the 
heroic stories : we come across Surya, the sun-god and 
Vayu, the wind-god, Agni, the fire-god, and Varuna, the 
ocean-god, Yama, the god of death, and Indra, the lord 
of the heavens. Four of these, Indra, Varuna, Agni and Yama, 
appear in the Nala-story as the suitors of Damayanti ; 
but on recognizing that her heart is fixed on Nala they do not 
press their claims and leave the assembly after having 
conferred various boons on Nala. Yama appears in the 
Savitrl-story to claim the soul of a doomed man, but shows 
mercy at the entreaty of a devoted wife, and gives the dead 
man a fresh lease of life. Indra is the chief of the gods 
in the Kaca-story as also in the Sakuntala episode ; while 
the main story introduces all these gods in various incidents. 
Hopkins, in his Epic Mythology (pp. 83-152), has given us a 
catalogue of the Mahdbhdrata passages in which these 
gods appear and has shown how these passages very often 
contradict one another. All that they serve to show is that these 
gods were not yet forgotten in the Heroic Age, though 
they had now very serious rivals in new gods who had perhaps 
become prominent in the heroic pantheon. These later 
" supreme gods " too are fully dealt with by Hopkins in 
pp. 189-231. Here we may confine ourselves to the examina- 
tion of the relations between the older or Vedic gods and the 
later triad, 2 Brahma, Visnu and Siva. 

1 We may compare a passage in Ynglinga Saga, 41, which may imply the 
worship of a prince of the Heroic Age in later times. 
1 For triads in other mythologies, see note B at the end. 


We must first note that it would not be correct to describe 
the triad as non-Vedic, for they are all mentioned in various 
passages even of the Rg-Veda. Thus Macdonell in his Vedic 
Mythology notices the various verses referring to Visnu, 
passages which describe his munificence and greatness. 
He crosses the heaven with three strides and makes fast 
the earth ; he and Indra are looked on as masters of the 
world and his highest place is the realm of the departed 
spirits. He is Indra's helper, but distinctly subordinate 
to him. 1 Siva is the Vedic Rudra and the change in the name 
is instructive. From being the fierce, malevolent one he has 
become the good well-wisher; and the change appears to 
be parallel to the renaming of the Erinyes as the Eumenides. 2 
In the Rg-Veda he is fierce and destructive like a terrible 
beast (ii, 33, 9, 11, etc.). He is malevolent ; his ill-will 
and anger are repeatedly emphasized ; but he has healing 
powers as well and can remove sickness (i, 114, 7 ; ii, 33, 
4-6 ; ii, 33, 12, and vii, 46, 2). He is, however, asura, or 
rather the great asura of heaven (v, 42, 11 ; ii, 1, 6). Brahma 
as Prajapati is mentioned in several passages of the tenth 
book of the Rg- Veda and appears in the Satapatha and other 

In the epic, however, these three gods are much more 
prominent, and it is interesting to compare the parts where 
they are regarded as supreme with those which introduce 
Indra and his companions. It is certainly in the didactic 
and avowedly unheroic parts that the triad is most prominent ; 
the most elaborate passages about them come mainly in the 
twelfth and thirteenth books of the epic. It is not always 
the case that Brahma is regarded as the Creator, Visnu as 
the Preserver and Siva or Mahesvara as the Destroyer. 
Brahma sometimes appears as Preserver or Destroyer and 
Visnu as Creator or Destroyer ; while various passages 
would regard Siva as Creator. 3 But more interesting than 
these purely theological passages are those incidents where 
Indra is brought into touch with Visnu or Siva and shown - 
as inferior to them. Thus in the story of the five Indras 
(i, 199) Indra is absolutely helpless before Siva, and all the 

i RV., viii, 12, 17 ; iv, 18, 11 ; viii, 89, 12, etc. 

* We may compare the instance of Persephone who is not to be mentioned 
by name. Also the instances of Male-ventum (Bene) and Euxine. 
See Hopkins, E.M., pp. 103, 196, etc. 


gods look on Brahma as the master of creation. Indra in 
difficulties worships Visnu in v, 18. Indra may be discomfited 
by great heroes, kings or sages ; we may think of his 
encounters with Arjuna or Cyavana, of his being supplanted 
by Nahusa (v, 9, etc.) and of his fear of supersession by 
Visvamitra (i, 71). 

But we have to see if we can discover the relative position 
of the older gods and the later triad in the original heroic 
poems and understand accurately the reverence for either in 
the Heroic Age. Here we must point out that in the main 
thread of essentially heroic episodes such as those of Nala 
or Sakuntala, Brahma, Visnu and Siva are never introduced. 
In the main story with all its different layers they do appear 
on many occasions, and we have to see if their introduction 
is consistent with the heroic tone of the passages. We must 
omit the passages where various sages discourse on Siva or 
Brahma to Yudhisthira, for these cannot in any sense be 
said to be derived from heroic lays. In the scenes of war and 
fighting, as also in the story of the childhood and youth of 
our heroes, gods are introduced. But it is almost always 
Indra or Agni, Yama or the Asvins. Indra, Vayu and the 
Asvins are regarded as the parents of the heroic Pandavas, 
Yudhisthira alone being the offspring of the abstract Dharma, 
virtue. Karna, the most prominent hero on the opposite 
side, is the son of Surya, the sun-god. When the heroes are 
fighting, they may not be actively supported by the gods, but 
these latter show their partiality for the one or the other of 
the combatants as Indra and Surya do when Arjuna and 
Karna are fighting (viii, 90, 18). Indra teaches his son, 
Arjuna, to use various weapons and in i, 230, tests his prowess 
by fighting with him. The fight leads to Indra's defeat ; 
but Indra is said to be pleased with it, for it shows him how 
powerful his son is. Agni, too, comes into intimate touch 
with Arjuna, particularly in the scenes of the burning of the 
forest, Khandava (i, 2, 24 ff.), while Yama and others appear 
in some battle-scenes. 

But Arjuna is associated with Siva as well. In iii, 89, 
the former comes out with bow and arrows to fight with 
Arjuna and in the course of the fight the hero offers worship 
to Siva. Yet this very fact of the hero's piety, as opposed 
to dependence on pure valour, shows that the episode is 


removed from the heroic plane. Arjuna receives weapons 
from Siva in iii, 167 and 178 ; and it is curious that in both 
of those passages, especially in the latter, Siva is " Rudra ". 
But if Rudra here offers weapons to Arjuna, Indra has him 
taken to heaven, and it is indicated here also that Arjuna's 
connection with Indra is more intimate than that with 
Mahadeva (Siva-Rudra). These very events are referred to 
in the form of a prophecy in i, 123, which also essentially 
emphasizes Arjuna's connection with Indra. Arjuna is not 
associated directly with Visnu in the heroic scenes : his 
intimacy with Krsna has been taken as his dependence on 
Visnu. We have already gone into the question and found 
that the Krsna-cult perhaps dates back to the Heroic Age ; 
but this cannot certainly be interpreted as Arjuna's worship 
of the triad or even of Visnu as opposed to Indra. 

It is thus clear that Indra and his companions were perhaps 
most prominent in the original heroic lays, though gradually 
they lost their position to the three deities of a later time. 
Of these, Brahma as the impersonal creator of the world did 
not probably strike the popular imagination in the same way 
as Visnu or Siva. The latter had their own worshippers who 
exalted the one or the other as the supreme god. Thus 
Visnu is supreme in xii, 341 ff. In a fight between him and 
Siva in 343, 115 ff. Brahman asks the latter to throw off 
his weapons and propitiate the former. In xiii, 14, on the 
other hand, Siva is the creator of Brahman as well as of 
Visnu. Such rivalries and supremacies, however, reflecting 
as they do the religious conditions of a later time, have little 
of interest for the investigator of the Heroic Age. 

In addition to these gods there are others, not mentioned 
at all in Vedic literature, gods introduced into the latest 
parts of the epic. Of this type is Skanda who is taken to be 
the son of Agni l in iii, 224, and xiii, 85, while ix, 44, regards 
him as the offspring of Mahesvara's energy. The son of 
six mothers, of the wives of six Rsis, 2 he is said to have been 
taken as a god first by Visvamitra and even as an infant 
caused fear in Indra and the celestials. Later on he was 
selected as the commander-in-chief of Indra's army and 

1 Agni is, however, identified with Rudra. 

1 This suggests a parallel with the Norse Heimdallr, the son of nine mothers 
(Gylfaginning, 27 ; Skaldskaparmal, 8 and 16). 


crushed the danavas, the enemies of the gods ; and for this 
achievement he was lauded as the invincible hero to whom 
all the celestials paid their obeisance. Skanda was married 
to Devasena, the goddess of prosperity, who was also called 
Laksmi or Asa. She is another of the later deities, rather in 
the nature of an abstraction, especially in the detailed 
description she gives of herself in xii, 225. Here Indra does 
not know her nor does any of the other gods ; she has no 
permanent home but moves on from one place to another, 
being attracted by penances, prowess and virtue. Another 
goddess of the later pantheon, Durga, the deity of destruction, 
appears in the fourth Book, which has a whole hymn addressed 
to her (iv, 6). This is, however, a very late addition and the 
whole section has been rejected as spurious by the latest 
editors of the Virata Parva. Another late section, vi, 23, 
contains a hymn to her, a hymn that Arjuna chanted on the 
advice of Krsna in order to gain victory in the great battle. 
Pure abstractions too, like Death in vii, 54, are not very 
uncommon in the late portions of the epic ; while great seers 
like Dattatreya were sometimes deified and regarded as 
gods in the fullest sense of the term (iii, 115 ; xii, 49 ; xiii, 
91). Similar perhaps are the instances of Usanas and 
Brhaspati ; but Bhrgu, Vasistha, Visvamitra, Gautama, 
Bharadvaja, etc., never attained to divinity proper. More 
definite is the divinity attributed to rivers like Ganga and 
Sarasvati or to mountains like Himavat, Mainaka and 

These beings, along with a whole world of spirits, 1 were 
worshipped at the time that the latest parts of the epic were 
written down ; though the student of the Heroic Age is 
concerned mainly with the earliest of the devas, the others 
having been introduced in post-heroic times. 2 But how were 
these deities worshipped ? It is extremely doubtful whether 
idols of the gods were worshipped in the Heroic Age, though 
such idols are mentioned in late parts of the epic, vi, 2, 26, 
says that among the evil omens preceding the fight was this : 
that the images of the gods and goddesses sometimes smiled, 

1 See Hopkins' Epic Mythology (pp. 152-76) for the Gandharvas, the 
Kiipnaras and Kimpurusas, the Apsaras, the Maruts, the Vasus, the 
Vifivedevas, the Vidy&dharas, etc. 

* The worship of rivers and mountains is probably ancient and dates back 
to the Heroic Age. 


sometimes trembled and sometimes again vomited blood, 
perspired and fell down, iii, 292 describes Savitri approaching 
the family deity which must signify an image of that deity ; 
and iii, 84, 133, speaks of Visvesvara with Devi at Jesthila, 
meaning probably their images at that place. Similar images 
seem to be referred to in iii, 84, 102 ; iii, 88, 8, etc., in the 
description of the various holy places. But such passages 
are avowedly late and intended to glorify places of pilgrimage 
in a later age. More significant perhaps is the worship of the 
image of a spiritual preceptor, of Drona's image by Eka- 
lavya who had not been accepted as a student by Drona. 

But the worship of idols is not mentioned in the detailed 
descriptions of the religious duties of princes in the main 
story. Such a description is found in vii, 82 : Yudhisthira 
having arisen early in the morning, bathed, and decked 
himself with garlands and sandal-paste, before proceeding 
to the chamber where the sacrificial fire was kept. He 
worshipped the fire with purified wood and the recitation 
of the mantras and then came out and distributed treasure 
among the Brahmanas. So again in v, 83, Krsna rises early 
and listens to the auspicious hymns recited by Brahmanas, 
before performing the usual religious rites of the morning 
which included a bath, the wearing of holy ornaments and 
worshipping the sun and fire. Arjuna in exile is said to 
have performed many fire-sacrifices ; having kindled fires 
on the banks of the Ganges, he poured libations of clarified 
butter into the fire and worshipped it with flowers (i, 216, 8 ff.). 
In a passage referred to above, Savitri fasts before offering 
oblations to the sacrificial fire and worshipping the deity 
with flowers. A more elaborate sacrifice, the Asvamedha 
one of xiv, 88, involves the sacrifice of many animals in 
addition to the usual oblations, recitation of hymns and 
distribution of presents, but the rajasuya may not have 
involved animal-sacrifice. 

The chief feature of these rites is the worship of the sacri- 
ficial fire which seems to have been kept constantly burning 
in hermitages l as in households, and all religious ceremonies, 
those of daily worship as also of marriages and funerals, 
were performed near the fire (cf. i, 70, 19 ; i, 216, 9-10, 
14-15 ; i, 200, 11, etc.). Temples do not seem to have been 

1 Cf. xv, 87, 15, etc. 


specially constructed for the purpose of keeping this fire. 
The word devayatana or devatayatana is sometimes used ; 
but one does not know how far it refers to specially built 
temples. Thus in xiii, 10, 19 ff. a Sudra goes into the depth 
of the forest and makes for himself a hut of twigs and leaves, 
and an altar for sacrifices and " devatayatanani ", which 
obviously cannot be any elaborate structures. Another 
late passage, iii, 190, 67, mentions " devasthana and 
devagrha " and iii, 16, 3, points out that troops, in choosing 
grounds for pitching a camp, have to avoid cremation-grounds 
and the temples of gods smasanani devatayatanani ca 
another indication that the temples were probably little 
more than mounds of earth dedicated to a deity. Similar 
too are the devatayatanas of i, 155, 22, where Bhima is 
taken by Hidimba, or those of i, 140, 64, where as in gardens 
and places of amusement spies have to be stationed, while 
the punyanyayatanani of i, 217, 4. and 9, are perhaps only 
sanctified spots. Some temples referred to in the Ramayana 
may be more stable buildings ; of this type would be the 
ayatana of a god in Earn, ii, 6, 4, or the devagara of iii, 55, 6, 
while the passage in Mbh. vi, 118, which speaks of the deva- 
tayatanas of the Kuru kings, may contemplate something 

Much more common than elaborate temples seem to be 
sacred groves or trees, dedicated to or regarded as the abode 
of gods. Thus i, 157, 28, mentions the devaranyas, the woods 
of the gods, and iii, 16, 3, the caityavrksas, the sacred trees. 
Holy hermitages have frequently tall trees with very large 
trunks (i, 70, 21) ; and these would be the large trees beneficial 
to men (caityamsca vrksan kalyanan) mentioned among 
objects to be revered in a late passage (ii, 5, 100). i, 153, 33, 
speaks of the tree full of leaves and flowers that becomes 
sacred and is worshipped by all ; and Hopkins in his Epic 
Mythology (p. 72) notes various Ramayana and Mahdbhdrata 
passages mentioning the caitya, which is probably a sacred 

These references to holy trees and sanctified groves seem 
to indicate a stage of society when town-life was a com- 
paratively recent development, when men had not yet 
been able to get rid of the sylvan associations of a primitive 
life. So far as the dwellings of princes and nobles went, 


newer standards of comfort had led to the construction of 
magnificent structures and gorgeous palaces. But men 
are generally more conservative in matters of religion, and 
traditional associations are slow in changing. Places and 
objects regarded as sacred from the olden days could not 
lose their sanctity with the migration of the people to newer 
centres of life ; while the priests lived in the courts of 
princes, they were never tired of emphasizing the holiness of 
the hermits leading a retired life in the wilderness or the 
spiritual value of leaving towns and the societies of men for 
a quiet life in the forest. The hero, after leading a life of 
action in his youth and maturity should retire to the forest 
and prepare himself for death. As ix, 5, 30 ff. points out : 
"The death of a Ksatriya on his bed at home is highly 
sinful. The man who meets with death in the forest or in 
battle acquires great glory," or as xii, 298, 38, asserts : 
" Repairing to the Sarasvati, the Naimisa forest or the 
Puskara lake one should practise renunciation and purify 
himself with penances, etc." This dictum of the didactic 
epic is observed by some of the heroes in actual practice. 
Thus Yayati in his old age bestowed his kingdom on Puru 
and proceeded to live in the forest in the company of priests 
and ascetics (i, 85, 33). So again in i, 119, Pandu retired 
to the forest to lead a life of asceticism when he felt he could 
not enjoy the pleasures of life any longer ; and xv, 8 ff. 
Dhrtarastra and his wife left the royal city for the forest 
after the loss of all their sons, and it was there that they 
met their death. The hermitages of the famous saints of 
Kanva, Vasistha and others, were all in the forest, and 
elaborate descriptions of their surroundings are supplied 
even in the literary abridgements of some episodes as in that 
of Sakuntala in i, 70. 

The inference drawn here is supported by a feature of 
heroic poems which we have had to notice in our discussion 
of the common characteristics of Heroic Poetry. Similes 
taken from the life of wild beasts of the forest are common 
in the Mahdbhdrata as in Homer ; and we noticed numerous 
passages of this kind : Mbh. vi, 53, 31 ; 59, 90 ; 61, 2 ; 
92, 6 ; 110, 17 ; 111, 8 ; vii, 182, 24 ; viii, 66, 29 ; 67, 18 ; 
79, 82 ; 89, 2, 4, 9, etc. 1 Such similes would naturally occur 
1 Cf. Iliad, xi, 112 ff. 


to a poet fully conversant with the wild life of the forest 
and would make their appeal too mainly to an audience who 
had knowledge of such life. 

Of course, a part of such knowledge would be acquired 
from the heroes' love of hunting, of which we have had 
evidence from passages like Mbh. viii, 56, 99, or 80, 26, 
or from a full description as in i, 69 ff . But this would not fully 
explain the knowledge of and interest in the life of wild 
beasts such as we have in the passages referred to. More- 
over there is another type of simile we have had to notice, 
the very common one of forest fires as in vi, 18, 11 ; 103, 7 ; 
106, 13 ; 107, 11 ; viii, 80, 18 ; vi, 49, 39 ; 50, 23 ; ix, 11, 9 ; 
24, 59-60 ; viii, 24, 58, etc. A very full description of such 
a fire occurs in i, 224 ff., where the burning of the forest is 
taken to be an offering to the god Agni who wants this food 
to satisfy his hunger ; and it is probable that dwellers in 
the forest for whom such a fire would be of the greatest 
terror would take it in this light and be resigned to their 
fate. It was in such a fire that the old king Dhrtarastra 
and the mother of the Pandavas, who were living in the forest, 
met their death, and they did not regard it as a calamity, 
for fire is sacred to the ascetic (xv, 37). 

These then would tend to confirm the evidence of the 
sacred trees and groves that city life was a comparatively 
recent development. Parallels to the caityas are to be found 
in various places of Europe. Tacitus mentions sacred groves 
in Germania, 9, 39, 40, 43, as also in Annals i, 61, and ii, 12. 
Later, Claudian l speaks of " groves grim with ancient 
religious rites and oaks resembling a barbaric divinity " 
and the Translatio S. Alexandri speaks of the Saxons wor- 
shipping trees. These are not good parallels to the Mahd- 
bhdrata instances, for they are the testimonies of strangers 
to the customs of the Germans and may not reflect the 
state of things in the Heroic Age but of a period antecedent 
or subsequent to it. In later times, however, we hear of the 
holy grove besides the temple at Upsala with its sacred 
evergreen tree. 2 There may also be a connection between 

1 De Cons. StiL, i, 288. 

1 Professor Ghadwick suggests that the GlaesisvOllr sanctuary of Hervarar 
Saga is probably connected with holy groves Glaesir may be Glasir, the 


sacred groves and the guardian tree of Swedish homesteads, 
while place-names with " -lund " denote the former presence 
of grove sanctuaries ; and the afhus of late heathen times is 
probably a development of the holy grove. 

We have good evidence for Baltic tree-sanctuaries as well. 
Aeneas Silvius 1 says that the Lithuanians worshipped woods 
dedicated to devils. According to Erasmus Stella, 2 the 
Prussians thought that sacrifices should be offered to the 
gods dwelling in groves and woods. The intrusion of strangers 
into sacred groves was thought to cause pollution, and it 
could be atoned for only by the sacrifice of human victims. 
Among the Letts there was something like the guardian tree 
of the homestead ; but the most famous tree-sanctuary 
was that of the Prussians at Romovc, an evergreen tree 
with thick foliage idols and the perpetual fire (corres- 
ponding to the Indian sacred fire) being placed under the tree. 

There were also tree-sanctuaries among the Slavs ; there 
was a sacred oak at Stettin, while Wigbert is said to have 
destroyed a sacred grove in 1008. The Kelts too had their 
sacred trees and groves that Pliny, Lucan and Tacitus 
speak of ; while Greek and Roman tree-sanctuaries probably 
existed in pre-classical times and were replaced by temples 
later on, as in the instance of the temple at Dodona or that 
of Jupiter Capitolinus at Rome. 

It seems possible to work out a connection between the 
tree-sanctuary and the thunder-god. The Dodona-sanctuary 
resembles that of Romove in a good many points, among 
these being the god's manifestation in thunder. Among the 
Kelts the cult of the thunder-god was important and there 
was special veneration for sacred groves and trees, particularly 
for the oak. The two may be connected as in the statement 
of Maximus Tyrius, who says : " The Kelts worship Zeus ; 
the Keltic image of Zeus is a lofty oak." 3 Among the Romans 
the oak was associated with the thunder-god as in the crown 
of " oak-leaves " connected with the Jupiter-cult and in the 
fact of the famous Jupiter Capitolinus temple standing on 
the site of a sacred oak. In Sweden, the Upsala sanctuary 

1 Hisioria de Europa, cap. 26. 

* De Borussiae Antiquitatibus ; published in Novus Orbis Terrarum ac 
Inttularum Veteribus Incognitarum, Basel, 1537, pp. 581 ff. 

* Maximus Tyrius : Dissertationes (or Dialexeis), viii, 8. 


was chiefly connected with Thor whose image occupied the 
chief position in the temple, while for the Greeks in addition 
to the Dodona and Lykaios examples connecting Zeus with 
the oak, there is the testimony of Aristophanes in the Birds : 
The oak is sacred to Zeus. 

It seems possible that among the Indians too the sacred 
trees were chiefly associated with the thunder-god, Indra. 
He appears as the protector of the forest in i, 225, 6 ff. ; 
i, 70, 17, describes a sacred spot in the wood as looking 
like a pole erected in Indra's honour. 1 iii, 126, 36-7, 
describes the efforts of a religious king, Mamdhatr, who 
erected many citacaityas, probably on the sites of sacred 
trees and groves, and obtained " half of Indra's seat " as a 
reward (Sakrasyardhasanam labdhavan). Similarly Gay a 
in iii, 121, 13, obtained the region of Indra through the 
erection of many " caityas ", a word which we have already 
found to have associations with the s acred tree. Among the 
trees of Paradise the most famous was the Parijata which 
was specially the possession of Indra, from whom it was 
taken away by Krsna (vii, 11, 22, etc.) ; it is possible that 
the forests of the gods through which Indra's queen journeys 
in v, 14, 6, were specially dedicated to him. 

One reason why Indra was specially associated with sacred 
trees and groves is probably to be found in his powers as a 
rain-god. No particular earthly tree is associated with him 
as is the oak with Zeus. The Asvattha is the chief tree and 
corresponds to Yggdrasil, the tree of life, and Krsna's 
description of it in Mbh. vi, 39, 1 ff., is instructive ; while 
in 34, 26, he identifies himself with it. Other gods also 
have their trees in late passages : in xiii, 17, 11, Siva is 
identified with the Vakula, sandalwood and chada trees, 
while in xiii, 85, 44, the Sami is the birthplace of Agni. 

In addition to these sacred trees, there are vegetal 
divinities like Sakambharl (iii, 84), the Corn-mother, who 
dwells in the green vegetation of the earth ; and Sita, the 
heroine of the Rdmdyana, who rose in the furrows of the 
ploughed field, is probably taken to be a similar being in 
this story of her origin. Next there were supernatural birds 
and animal divinities who were objects of worship ; but 
with these we have little to do, for their worship is generally 

1 Cf. ix, 17, 52. 


mentioned in very late passages and has practically no 
bearing on the affairs of the Heroic Age. 1 

Next we may discuss the heroic conception of an after- 
life, a state of existence after death in this world. Duryo- 
dhana asserts in ix, 5, 80 ff. that the Ksatriya's glory is to 
die on the battlefield ; through death in a righteous battle 
he can pass on to the regions of Indra and obtain the 
companionship of those who have already reached those 
regions. So again in vii, 49, 38, Yudhisthira strives to 
console the sorrowing companions of the slain Abhimanyu 
by saying that Abhimanyu had killed in battle ten thousand 
car-warriors including that supreme hero, the Kosala king, 
and must consequently have gone to the mansion of Indra. 
Again in xi, 26, 12, Yudhisthira says : " Those mighty 
heroes who have cheerfully faced death in fierce battle have 
all attained to regions like those of Indra." vii, 74, 81-3, 
too, describes such a region in the words of Drona : " The 
Kurus, the Pandavas, the Vrsnis and others ... all 
destroyed by the powerful God of Death, will proceed to 
the regions of the departed . . . even those regions that the 
heroic Ksatriyas gain by the performance of their own 
duties." 2 

This belief in a warrior's paradise is elaborated in a late 
passage in the eighteenth book, ch. 1-3. There it is explained 
that princes with more of evil than good in them first pass 
to the happy regions and having enjoyed the fruits of that 
little good are doomed to tortures for ever after. The good 
heroes, on the other hand, first suffer for their trifling sins 
and next enjoy the companionship of the blessed in Paradise. 
Thus Yudhisthira, on his arrival in heaven, saw Duryodhana, 
enthroned in glory, while Karna, Arjuna and the other 
heroes were being tortured in a loathsome spot. Very 
soon, however, the state of things changes and Arjuna, 
Bhima, etc., are transported to the blissful regions where 
they are waited on by gods and Gandharvas and beautiful 

1 The worship of some animal divinities like Hanumat is probably to be 
traced back to the Heroic Age. 

1 We may compare the following passage of the didactic epic (xii, 97, 81 ff.) : 
The hero who does not retreat from battle but lights in the van to the best 
of his powers, careless of life itself, lives in the end with Indra in heaven. 
Wherever the hero meets with death in the midst of enemies without showing 
ignoble fear or gloom, he succeeds in acquiring hereafter the regions of the 


apsaras (divine nymphs). Indra appears and points out to 
Yudhisthira the respective places of all his brothers and 
friends, each blazing in his own glory and each having become 
a part of a deity ; there it is their destiny to remain in 
happiness for ever. 

It is interesting to compare this conception of a warrior's 
paradise with the Norse Valholl, Othin's chief dwelling, 
where all persons who fell in battle were supposed to go. 
Such persons are said to " go to lodge with Otbin " or " be 
Othin's guests ", phrases these, exactly parallel to those 
in the passages just quoted " to live with Indra " or " to 
go to the regions of Indra ". Thus in the Saga of Ragnarr 
Lothbr6k when Aslaug hears of the death of her son, she 
says : " he, the youngest of my sons, has, in his terrible 
valour, come to Othin." l 

In the Hervarar Saga Hialmarr says : "It seems to me very 
likely that we shall all be Othin's guests in Valholl to-night." * 
In Hromundar Saga Kari, mortally wounded, says : " Fare- 
well, I am going to be Othin's guest." The Valkyries, 
Othin's daughters, were sent by him to choose slain warriors 
for Valholl: Thus in Hakonarmal, Gondul and Skogul 
" were sent to choose a king of Yngvi's race, who should go 
to join Othin and dwell in Valholl ". They " summon 
Haakon with a great host to the divine abodes " and then 
ride off " to the green homes of the gods, to tell Othin that 
a monarch is coming to enter his presence ". Othin sends 
two of the heroes of olden times, Hermothr and Bragi, to go 
and welcome the prince who on his arrival is asked to accept 
ale from the Aesir. The Einherjar, the dead warriors in 
Valholl, spend their days in fighting and their evenings 
in feasting. They make preparations for the arrival of any 
new warrior and welcome him as Herm6thr and Bragi welcome 
Haakon in Hakonarmdl or Sigmundr and Sinf jotli welcome 
Eric in Eiriksmal. The whole picture is taken from the 
court of a warlike prince ; the warriors after death are 
supposed to lead a life similar to that in this world. 

The picture of Indra's mansion is not nearly so definite, 

and there is no military atmosphere in the one detailed 

description of heaven that in xviii, 1-8. As a matter of 

fact, it is more like the court of a decadent, pleasure-loving 

1 Professor Chadwick's translation. 


prince. But we may conjecture that originally the warrior's 
paradise was as warlike as the courts of the kings where the 
heroic lays were sung ; and that its atmosphere was changed 
with the changing tastes of royalty in this world to suit 
the Epicureanism of a later age rather than the militarism 
of the earlier. 



The fullest account of the funeral rites of an Indian " hero " occurs 
in Mbh. i, 127 ff. The bodies of the dead king and queen, wrapped in 
rich clothes and bedecked with flowers, were carried out of the city to 
a sacred wood by the Ganges. The funeral-car was decorated with 
garlands and rich hangings and a white umbrella was held over it. 
Gems were distributed among the crowd accompanying* the procession 
which was headed by priests in white, pouring libations of ghee (clarified 
butter) on the sacred fire which was carried in an ornamental vessel. 
Musical instruments were played throughout the sad journey, while the 
king's friends and relatives wept loudly. When they had arrived at the 
place where the bodies were to be burnt, they carefully besmeared 
them with perfumes and sandal-paste and laid diem on the pyre of 
sandalwood to which they now set fire. After the bodies had been burnt, 
the king's relatives performed the " water-ceremony " and passed 
twelve days in mourning. They then celebrated the formal Sraddha 
and were cleansed from the impurity caused by the death of the king. 
Pindas (offerings to the dead) were offered and an enormous amount 
of riches distributed among the people, while a feast concluded the whole 

A more sketchy account is found in xi, 26-7 : Yudhisthira made 
arrangements for the burning of the dead heroes on the battlefield. The 
pyre was made of sandalwood and the fire was fed by ghee and oil ; the 
dead bodies were anointed with perfumes and clothed in rich silken 
robes and then placed on the pyre, while many of the weapons and cars 
of the dead heroes were burnt along with them. The pitrmedha rites 
in honour of the great dead were performed and samans and rks were 
sung, while the fire burned brightly. After the bodies had been burnt, 
Yudhisthira and others went to the Ganges, where they threw off 
their upper garments, belts and ornaments and offered oblations of 
water to all their dead kinsmen thus performing the necessary water- 

The points to be noticed in these ceremonies are : the anointing of 
the dead bodies ; the sacred fire used to light the pile of costly wood ; 
the sacred music accompanying the funeral procession and the actual 
burning ; the distribution of riches both before and after the burning ; 
the water-rites after the bodies had been burnt ; the state of impurity 
of the relatives for twelve days till the formal Srdddha is performed ; 
the offering of pindas on that occasion, and the funeral feast. 

The Iliad xxiii, gives a full description of the funeral of a Greek hero. 
First his companions rode round the body, moaning ; a funeral feast 
was then held. Thereupon they built a huge pyre a hundred feet square 
and placed his body on it. Some sheep, oxen and dogs, as well as 
twelve captured Trojans, were sacrificed and thrown on the pyre. 
There was some trouble in lighting the fire, but ultimately it burned 
merrily and when the body was well consumed the fire was quenched 
with wine and the white bones of the dead hero were collected and placed 
in a golden urn. Then " they marked the circle of the barrow, and set 



the foundations thereof round the pyre and straightway heaped thereon 
a heap of earth." After the barrow had been built, Achilles made 
arrangements for funeral games and offered prizes for the best chariot- 
racers, boxers, wrestlers, throwers of the javelin, and for the fleet- 
footed. These contests were held, the prizes awarded and then the 
assembly dispersed. 

In Hektor's funeral there were no games after the body had 
been burned and the barrow built over the urn containing the bones ; 
but as in the Indian instance, " a noble feast was held at the palace of 
Priam, Zeus-fostered king." It seems therefore that while the bodies 
were cremated both in India and in Greece, the Greeks had the additional 
ceremony of burying the bones of the dead and heaping up a barrow of 
earth or stones ; this is a point in which the Greek funerals appear to 
have resembled the Teutonic. 

There are several passages in Beowulf referring to the disposal of the 
dead by cremation. Thus 1108 ff. : " The noblest of Scylding warriors 
was ready to be cremated. At that pyre one could see blood-stained 
corselets and swine covered with gold, boars made of hard iron and 
many princes who had succumbed to deadly blows ; for not a few were 
they who had perished in the slaughter. Then Hildeburh gave orders 
that her own son should be committed to the flames at Hnaef's pyre 
. . . The lady mourned and chanted sorrowfully as the warrior ascended 
[the pile (?)]. To heaven rolled the greatest of funeral fires, roaring in 
front of the barrow." 

A fuller description of the ceremony is to be found in the dying 
Beowulf s injunctions to his companion (2802 ff.) and the actual des- 
cription of the funeral (3137 ff.). Beowulf desired that after the crema- 
tion a lofty barrow should be constructed on the edge of a cliff, a mound 
that could be seen by sailors from afar. After his death, the Geatas 
prepared for him a funeral pyre hung over with helmets, shields and 
coats of mail and set fire to it. While the fire was consuming the hero's 
body, the people mourned his death and his queen sang a song of 
lamentation. Afterwards they built a wall round the remains of the 
pyre, and constructed a barrow in which they placed rings and bright 
jewels. Next, twelve brave warriors rode round the barrow, mourning 
for the king, giving expression to their feelings of grief and praising 
his heroism, his deeds of prowess, to the courtiers (eahtodan corl-scipe, 
ond his ellen-weore duguthum demdon). 

The necessity of burning a hero's arms with him is emphasized in the 
Ynglinga Saga, 8, where Othin is said to have ordained that " all dead 
men should be burnt and brought on to the pyre with their property. 
Every dead man should come to Valholl with such property as he had 
on the pyre." " The ashes were to be cast into the sea or buried in the 
earth," as in the case of Beowulf. With this we may compare Elpenor's 
request to Odysseus to "burn him with all his arms, all that he 
possesses " l and Achilles 9 treatment of the slain Eetion ; " yet he 
despoiled him not, for his soul had shame of that, but he burnt him in 
his inlaid armour and raised a barrow over him ".* 

Doubts have been expressed as to whether the passage in Beowulf 
accurately describes the funeral customs of the Heroic Age, even 
though the description is confirmed by archaeological and literary 
evidence. Thus in the description of Attila's funeral as given by 
Jordanes following Priscus we notice the following features : u the 

i Odystty, xi, 60 ff. ' Iliad, vi, 416 ff. 


lying in state " while the best horsemen ride round the body, singing 
the hero's praise ; the funeral feast ; and the burial of the body. It has 
been pointed out 1 that this description does not tally with that of 
Beowulf, for no feast is mentioned in the latter and cremation is followed 
by burial, whereas in Attila's case it was inhumation. Also the riding 
and singing took place after the funeral with Beowulf and before with 
Attila. Next it is contended that we cannot rely on Jordanes 9 account, 
for (1) the horsemen of Attila were probably Christians and (2) " the 
historian who has preserved the account was an orthodox cleric." 
Finally, the archaeological evidence does not confirm the Beowulf 
account about the burning of helmets and coats of mail followed 
by a burial of treasure. 2 From these points it is concluded 
that the passage in Beowulf is not an accurate description of the state 
of things in the Heroic Age but the effort of a later Christian poet trying 
to describe " a funeral of the old heathen type." 

It may be pointed out with regard to these observations : 

(1) There were always local differences in funeral customs of the 
same age. Thus the archaeological evidence tends to show that for 
the period we are considering, the Teutons nearest to the Romans, 
the Allemanni, the Burgundians, the Goths u nd the Langobardi 
practised inhumation almost universally, 8 while in North Germany 
cremation was the general practice. In the Scandinavian lands too 
there is considerable variation in customs. Sjaelland had inhumation- 
graves and no barrows ; Fyn supplies evidences of cremation ; Jutland 
and Sweden of both inhumation and cremation. The omission of the 
feast in the Beowulf account is not vital, nor the discrepancy as regards 
the time of riding round the dead body. In both these points Jordanes' 
version agrees with the Homeric account rather than with Beowulf; 
the Iliad (xxiii) mentions the "ample funeral feast " and the mourning 
led by Achilles : "so thrice round the dead they drove their well- 
manned steeds, moaning," before the ^emation of the body. Thus 
the difference between Jordanes and Beowulf here also may indicate 
merely a difference in local customs a difference in minor points while 
the main feature of the riding round the dead and the formal lamentation 
is the same. 

(2) But can we rely on Jordanes 9 account any more than on the 
one in Beowulf, the former being given by an orthodox cleric and the 
latter by a supposedly Christian poet ? We cannot here go into the 
controversy about the Christian authorship of Beowulf, but may 
note just one or two points : (a) Jordanes 9 account is based on that 
of Priscus, who was practically a contemporary of Attila's and whose 
account must be regarded as fairly trustworthy, (b) A cleric of even 
a later time describing a historical event of a pagan society would 
try to be much more accurate than when describing a legendary 
ceremony like the funeral of Beowulf. In the latter case he would 
be much more likely to introduce the customs of the Christian society 
of his own age. But the Beowulf account agrees in essence with that 
of Priscus ; and the probabilities are in favour of its having come 
down from heathen times and not having been composed by a cleric 
of the seventh century, (c) In spite of Dr. Chambers 9 contentions on 
pp. 831-2 (Introd. to Beo.) one feels with Professor Chadwick that an 

1 Chambers' Bewoulf, p. 124, etc. * Ibid., p. 854, etc. 

8 Baldwin Brown's Arts and Crafts, pp. 106, 118, etc. Lmdenschmidt, 
pp. 72, 111-17, 122, 124, 127, etc. 


author who knew Virgil and Statius would not have disguised this 
knowledge and probably would have lacked both the inclination and 
the ability to compose a poem like Beowulf. 

(3) Whatever the religion of the horsemen of Priscus' account might 
be, the ceremony described was one of the pagan court of Attila and 
these riders would follow the customs of that court and not of their 
own religion or tribe, if they were different. 

(4) There is archaeological evidence for the burial of weapons and 
ornaments with the deceased ; but mail-coats and helmets are rare. 
Here one must allow for poetic exaggeration in the description of the 
funeral of a great king, a king whose death was the greatest national 
disaster. The poet might want to imply that after the death of such 
a king, in the absence of such a leader, his warriors would have no 
prospects of victory in war, and they might signify their helplessness 
by sacrificing all their best weapons with the passing of their chief, 
and being prepared for the inevitable subjugation by a foreign prince. 

One may therefore take the Beowulf account as a fairly accurate 
description of what took place in some Teutonic lands at least in the 
Heroic Age, and compare it with the Homeric and the Mahabharata 
accounts. The body was cremated in all these instances but Beowulf 
and the Iliad describe the construction of barrows after the cremation. 
There is no Indian parallel to the riding of the horsemen, singing the 
praises of the dead hero or lamenting his loss. The hero's relatives 
lament all the time, and observe a period of formal mourning after the 
cremation ; but nothing corresponding to the lamenting horsemen is 
mentioned. The Indians had a funeral feast like the Greeks ; but 
Beowulf does not mention it, though Jordanes docs. The Greeks had 
funeral games which are not mentioned either in Beowulf or in the 
Mahabharata, but a curious parallel is described in Wulfstan's account 
of the funeral customs of the Estas (Prussians ?) (Alfred's Orosius). 



It is curious that the number of supreme gods should be three in 
various western countries, the three having sometimes different powers 
and different provinces assigned to them. Thus the Triad in Greece 
was composed of Aides, Poseidon and Zeus and each of them had a 
distinct province of his own. But the early Irish Triad of Bress, Balor, 
and Tethra seem to have originally been one deity who was later on 
differentiated into three. Another Irish Triad was of the three kings 
of the Tuatha de Danann, Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht and Mao Grene, 
elsewhere described as Brian, luchar and Uar. Regarded as gods of 
knowledge, of art and of poetry, they are sometimes merged into one 
deity, the father of Ecne who stands for all their three spheres. Lucan 
in his Pharsalia (444-6) mentions a celebrated triad of Gaul, Esus, 
Teutates and Taranus. These gods were sometimes identified with 
Graeco-Rornan divinities and an altar has been found at Chester 
dedicated to Jupiter Taranus, I.O.M. Tarano, identifying the Roman 
thunder-god with the Gaulish one. In Hertfordshire, at York and 
Old Carlisle, the inscription, Marti Toutati or Totati, has been found 
apparently connecting Mars with Lucan' s Teutates 1 ; and this 
connection is also indicated in an inscription found at Seckau in Styria. 
Marti Latobio Harmogio Toutati Sinati Mog Enio. The spirit of evil 
too may have been represented as a triad in Gaul ; this seems to be 
the suggestion of the three heads of the serpent representing this spirit 
in a monument at Autun. With these triads we may compare the 
classical triads, not of supreme deities, but of divine beings with 
similar powers. Such, for example, arc the triple Graces or the triple 

1 Ward's Roman Era in Britain, p. 105. 




TX 7E have examined the society and government of 
* ^ the Indian Heroic Age and found striking resem- 
blances with the Heroic Ages of Western countries. We have 
also found similarities between the literary works which 
preserve the record of this Age in the various lands simi- 
larities both in the transmission of tradition and in certain 
literary traits of the poems which have embodied the tradition. 
We are, however, prevented from attempting to find out a 
historical connection between the periods, separated as they 
are by centuries. It is true the Indian Heroic Age may be 
taken to be almost contemporaneous with the Greek Heroic 
Age, for the evidence of tradition seems to bring the end of 
the latter period towards the close of the eleventh century 
before Christ l and similar evidence points to the middle 
of the eleventh century for the end of the Indian Heroic 
Age. 2 But the Teutonic Heroic Age is probably fourteen 
centuries later and extends, roughly speaking, from about 
A.D. 850 to A.D. 570, while Welsh heroic poetry deals with 
people of the sixth and seventh centuries. The Russian heroic 
poems take us to the eleventh and twelfth centuries and 
the earlier Serbian Heroic Age points to the end of the 
fourteenth century, the battle of Kossovo being fought in 
1389. Attempts to discover a historical connection between 
these periods are therefore absolutely futile and we have to 
explain the similarities in a different way. 

Professor Chadwick sums up the conditions requisite for 
a Heroic Age in the phrase, " Mars and the Muses." 8 Poetry 
is certainly responsible for the preservation of heroic tradition ; 
but the part played by Mars may not be always obvious. " It 
is clear from Beowulf and the Odyssey that a state of actual 
war is not a necessary condition either for heroic society or 
even for the formation of a heroic story." Yet there does 

1 See Chadwick's H.A., pp. 174-83. 

' See Chap. III. See II. A., pp. 440 ff. 




not seem to be " a single story in which the hero, i.e. the 
leading sympathetic character is not distinguished for 
personal bravery ; and usually the main action of the story 
turns upon a situation in which opportunity is given for the 
display of this quality ". It appears incredible " that the 
types of character most prominent in all these forms of heroic 
poetry could have flourished in times of profound inter- 
national peace and settled social conditions. . . . Warfare 
is the state of affairs most commonly involved in heroic 
stories ; . . . and this warfare almost invariably takes the 
form of hand-to-hand fighting and very frequently that of 
a series of single combats. The national aspect of war is 
seldom brought into much prominence." 1 

All this is eminently true of the Indian Heroic Age. The 
Muses are certainly responsible for the preservation of the 
heroic stories, and the leading characters of these stories 
are not such as would come into prominence in times of quiet 
and peace. Their qualities are best shown in war and it is a 
state of warfare that is depicted in the central books of the 
Mahdbhdrata. In the main story, Yudhisthira is an exception 
to the general rule of martial figures ; but as has been 
repeatedly pointed out, his position in our epic is anomalous. 
The great lawgiver and the wise administrator are as much 
of a rarity in the Indian Heroic Age as in the Heroic Age 
of other lands. Even when in a story like that of Nala 
an actual state of warfare is not represented, the hero is 
marked for his warlike attainments, his skill in the manage- 
ment of horses and his mastery of the bow. We have also 
noticed 2 that a battle is generally a series of single combats 
and that the national or tribal aspect of war is never brought 
out. Emphasis is always laid on individual heroism and 
individual ambition ; and the story is that of the courage 
and might of Arjuna and Kama, of Bhima and Drona not 
of the overthrow of one nation by another. 

Perhaps it is possible for us to go a little deeper into the 
causes of the Heroic Age, when we remember some of the 
prominent features of heroic society. One of these features 
was a slackening of the ties of kindred, consequent sometimes 
on a change in social organization from the matri-linear 
to the patri-linear type. We may go a little further and 
* H.A., pp. 440-1. See Chap. V. 


investigate the causes of this change, and we may find it 
to have been due to a clash of differing civilizations, to the 
replacing of older and more primitive standards by those 
acquired from contact with a higher and more advanced 
culture. In discussing the relationship of the Pandavas 
to the Kauravas, we concluded on the evidence both of the 
story of the birth and parentage of the former and of some 
of their peculiar social customs that they probably belonged 
to a different tribe. Further, this tribe was perhaps on a lower 
plane of civilization, practising polyandry and possibly 
following the matrilinear order of succession. This idea 
about the inferiority in culture is strengthened if we 
look at the weak points of the Pandavas and Kauravas 
respectively. The former violate the laws of warfare, laws 
which must have been dear to the courtly Kauravas. When 
a friend of Arjuna is being worsted in single combat, Arjuna 
comes to his help and slays his enemy against all rules of 
combat (vii, 142-3). When Karna is helpless through the 
wheels of his chariot having stuck into the ground, Arjuna 
slays him without any compunction (viii, 91 ). 1 The Kauravas 
sin, as Professor Hopkins points out, 2 " after the manner of 
adroit and polite rascals. They do not break their smaller 
laws of propriety. They do not play tricks openly and then 
exult in them. But they secretly seek to burn the Pandus 
alive ; they skilfully deceive the Pandu king at dice and 
pretend that it is fair play . . . They are, in a word, cunning 
and sly, while the Pandus are brutal and fierce." The 
failure of the Pandavas in gambling is worth special notice, 
for skill with the dice was a courtly art ; and though 
Yudhisthira's ill-success may be paralleled with that of 
Nala, the Pandavas show in various ways that they are the 
nouveaux riches, " flaunting in the eyes of their guests all the 
evidences of their wealth and making the lowly but 
aristocratic Kurus objects of ridicule." 3 On this evidence 

1 Great heroes seem curiously prone to unfairness in fighting unfairness, 
that is, from the standpoint of later ages. Cf. Cuchulain's treacherous murder 
of Curoi Mac Daire, king of Munster, in Curoi's own house. Also Achilles 9 
slaughter of Polydoros, etc., in Iliad xx. The brutality of these heroes, too, 
is always evident. Cf. Achilles' slaughter of Tros in //. xx, and treatment of 
Hektor's body in II. xxii. See also the conduct of Irish heroes, e.g. of Conall 
Cernach in the " Lay of the Heads ". 

JAOS, xiii, p. 65. 

CHl t p. 262. Cf . Mbh. ii, 47, for such conduct of the Pandavas. 


as also on the grounds discussed already 1 one is inclined 
to agree with Hopkins that " two types of civilization are 
embalmed in the poem ". 2 

These Pancjava princes then probably belonged to a tribe 
with an inferior culture, but were brought up in a more 
civilized court, where they learnt a polish and acquired an 
education which they could not entirely assimilate. They 
began to be emancipated from their older ties of kindred and 
tribal obligation, and tried to make their conduct approxi- 
mate to the standards of the society in which they found 
themselves. They did not always succeed in doing so and 
one result of the imposition of conflicting ideals was that 
they acted in an irresponsible fashion obeying practically 
no restraints of society and family. Such conduct on the 
part of similar characters forms the main theme of the 
heroic poems of other lands as well ; and as Professor 
Chadwick points out, 3 it may be traced in most of the 
instances to a contact between a semi-civilized people and one 
of a higher culture, leading through a period of training of 
the former to one of domination of the latter by the former. 

To take the Teutonic Heroic Age first, we find how greatly 
the semi-civilized Teutons were influenced by the more 
cultured Romans. Individual princes were taken as hostages 
by the Romans and were brought up at Roman centres, 
the most famous instance being that of Theodric the Ostro- 
goth. 4 When a prince of this type came to rule over his 
tribe he would naturally introduce the ideas and ideals he 
had acquired in foreign lands. Moreover, trade, international 
relations and the employment of mercenary Teutonic 
soldiers this last factor the most important of them all all 
these were bringing the Teutons into close touch with the 
Romans and the civilization of the Empire. We find the 
result of such intercourse in the deposits of antiquities 
found in Teutonic lands dating from the first four centuries 
after Christ, deposits which always contain a large proportion 
of Roman objects. All this shows us the " training " of a 
less cultured people by a more civilized one over whom 
they tried to dominate or from whose power they sought 
to emancipate themselves in the Heroic Age. 

1 See Chap. VII. CHI, p. 266. 

9 H.A., pp. 448 ff. BradJey's The Goths, pp. 184-5. 


The same process is found to a certain extent in the 
development of the Welsh Heroic Age. Nearly a century 
perhaps elapsed between the end of Roman Government in 
Britain and the beginning of this Heroic Age. Also the 
chief figures in Welsh heroic poetry belong to the less 
Romanized parts of the country. The Heroic Age was thus 
a product of communities which had remained at least 
partially independent but had at the same time been deeply 
affected by the influence of Roman civilization, a civilization 
which did not disappear immediately with the collapse of 
Roman organization in the island. The antecedent con- 
ditions of the Welsh Heroic Age were thus similar to those 
of the Teutonic Heroic Age. 

The earlier Serbian Heroic Age furnishes an interesting 
parallel : The Serb territory had been originally part of the 
Roman Empire and from about the seventh century to the 
twelfth the Serbians were in close touch with the Greek 
Empire and their princes acknowledged an allegiance to the 
emperor. The influence of Greek civilization was exerted 
on the Serbs through their princes and perhaps also through 
some of them employed as mercenary soldiers in the Greek 
army. On the decay of the Empire towards the close of the 
twelfth century, the Serbian principalities were united into 
a powerful state and by the middle of the fourteenth century 
they came to rule over nearly the whole of the Balkan 
peninsula. This was their Heroic Age, a product of factors 
similar to what we have seen with the Teutons and the 

With the later Serbian Heroic Age, we find the inhabitants 
exposed to a foreign influence ; " but this influence was of 
a very different character from the others and little calculated 
to produce emancipation, whether intellectual or otherwise." 
With the Gauls, however, the influence seems to have been of 
the same type as noticed with the Teutons and others, the 
influence of Etruscan and Greek civilization as evidenced 
particularly in the Etruscan objects found in the Gaulish 
deposits of antiquities. Definite evidence, linguistic or 
historical, is lacking, but in the earliest times the Gauls 
" appear as auxiliaries or mercenaries in the service- of the 

There is no historical information for the Greek Heroic 


Age as well. But it seems certain that the places occupied 
by the Achaeans in the heroic poems were centres of a high 
civilization before their advent. Important seats of civiliza- 
tion like Tiryns and Mycenae were probably founded in pre- 
Achaean times, for we cannot rely very much on the stories 
of foundation at the hands of Proitos and Perseus, and even 
if we did rely on them we could not be certain that these 
princes were Achaeans. The pre-historic civilization was 
there and the Achaeans came into contact with it probably 
only at its fall, as Professor Ridgeway suggests. 1 The monu- 
ments of this civilization were not constructed under Achaean 
domination, but probably before the chief centres fell into 
Achaean hands. 

The Greek Heroic Age too therefore appears to be a close 
parallel to the Teutonic and other Heroic Ages ; and we have 
found that the Indian Heroic Age falls into line with all these. 
Various factors like their advent from the hilly tracts of the 
north, their practice of polyandry, their vices and defects, 
led us to conclude that the Pandavas belonged to a less 
civilized tribe brought into touch with the more cultured 
and decadent Kauravas. Here, as elsewhere, we have the 
same series of causes operating for the production of the 
Heroic Age. As Professor Chadwick puts it for the European 
Heroic Ages 2 : " Firstly, we find a long period of ' education', 
in which a semi-civilized people has been profoundly affected 
from without by the influence of a civilized people. Then a 
time has come when the semi-civilized people has attained 
to a dominant position and possessed itself, at least to some 
extent, of its neighbour's property. The phenomena which 
we have recognized as characteristic of the Heroic Age 
appear to be the effects produced upon the semi-civilized 
people by the^e conditions." 3 " Heroic " society cannot 
be regarded as primitive, and the people of the Heroic Ages 
are not to be considered as savages. The characteristics 
of such Ages " are those neither of infancy nor of maturity " ; 
the typical man of the Heroic Age is to be compared 
rather with a youth. The characteristics we have discussed 
those of emancipation from tribal obligations, of freedom 

1 The Early Age of Greece, vol. i, ch. iv, etc. 

1 The Irish Heroic Age, as also that of the Mahomedan Serbians, are 
1 H.A., pp. 458-9. 


even from ties of kindred are the characteristics of 
adolescence. The true analogy is, as Professor Chadwick 
suggests, " the case of a youth who has outgrown both the 
ideas and the control of his parents such a case as may be 
found among the sons of unsophisticated parents, who 
through outside influence, at school or elsewhere, have 
acquired knowledge which places them in a position of 
superiority to their surroundings." x 

This contact then of two differing types of civilization 
leading to the consequences noted above may be described 
as one of the most important causes of the Indian Heroic 
Age ; and we are next led on to investigate the possible 
reasons for the end of the Heroic Age. Here we are on even 
less secure ground, for not only is there no historical informa- 
tion but the evidence of tradition too is not so helpful as 
before. Janamejaya, the great-grandson of Arjuna, is the 
last Pandava king that the Mahdbhdrata speaks of and 
Pauranic literature knows only the names of his successors. 
The Heroic Age proper has ended with Pariksit or rather with 
Abhimanyu, and Janamejaya's reign is instructive only 
in so far as it suggests the reasons for this end. The king 
still follows the life of the old Ksatriya princes ; he is given 
to hunting and undertakes campaigns of conquest, 2 but the 
epic account is not interested in these events of his reign. 
Hundreds of lines go to describe the great sacrifice of his 
reign and his dealings with the famous priests of the time ; but 
his victorious campaign against Taksasila is referred to only 
in a single verse or so. A Heroic Age depends both on Mars 
and the Muses. Mars may still be there ; but the Muses 
are absent. Poets are no longer interested in the deeds of 
prowess ; they like much better to discourse on ritual and 
theology. It is difficult to believe that the old court-minstrel, 
the suta, has already disappeared. All that we have to 
understand is that his efforts have not stood the test of time, 
while those of his priestly contemporaries have been cherished 
more and more on account of the spiritual merit to which 
they could lay claim. The records of the older heroic deeds 
were materially changed ; and less illustrious acts of later 
ages, deeds which had not gained such a strong foothold 
on the popular imagination, were slurred over altogether. 

1 H.A., p. 44. > i, 8, 18, 22, etc. 


Again, the growth of empires, of one or two centres of 
authority acknowledged as supreme by smaller principalities, 
was a feature of the Heroic Age. But such a strong central 
power did not contemplate the extinction of the smaller 
kingdoms. These lesser princes owned allegiance to the 
great king and helped him in times of war, but were ordinarily 
absolute rulers within their own dominions. The courts 
of all these princes were centres of heroic poetry, the themes 
of which were often supplied by their mutual jealousies and 
strifes. When this order of things is changed and a real 
confederacy of states formed under a single ruler, many 
of the centres of court-poetry would disappear and though 
there would still be minstrels at the courts of the one or two 
great kings, it would be difficult for them to attract their 
audience with new tales of heroism. They would have to 
fely on fresh versions of the great stories of the past and 
even here the growing importance o? the priestly bard would 
drive them out of the field. The latter would have the 
enormous advantage of being able to give amusement and 
edification at the same time, and they would be able to 
exert the greatest influence on religiously minded princes. 
Thus with the narrowing down of the centres of court-poetry 
and the rise of the priestly poet, the end of the Heroic Age 
is reached. 


Abhimanyu, son of Arjuna, 2, 3, 38, 

74, 76, 85, 86, 115, 124, 210, 224 
Achaians, 137, 223 
Achilles, 52, 72, 82, 86, 101, 115, 

116, 137, 186, 194 
Addison, cited, 72 
Aeneas, 72, 86, 90 
Aeneid, 71, 72 
Agamemnon, 52, 65, 82, 101, 116, 

146, 150, 182, 186, 189, 190 
Agastya, sage, 11, 20 
Agni, deity, 4, 94, 199, 201, 207 
Alboin, 45, 109 
Alcuin, 50 

Alkinoos, 157, 181, 182 
Allegiance, sanctity of, 170-2 
Alliances, means of cementing, 188 
Alyosha, 53 
Ammianus Marcellinus, 45, 64, 170, 


Anchises, 86 
Andhakas, 123 
Andromeda, 97 
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 91, 118, 171, 

175, 188 

Aphrodite, 86, 92, 194 
Apollinaris, 49 
Apollo, 137 
Aristophanes, 209 
Arjuna, 1, 2, 17-19, 24, 25, 27, 28, 

57-9, 61, 74, 76, 85, 93, 103, 

115, 122, 129, 130, 153, 172, 

187, 192, 195, 201 
Aruni, 127 
Asuras, 7 

Asvattha, sacred tree, 209 
Asvapati, king of the Madras, 10 
Asvins, 11, 94, 201 
Atharva Veda, 42 
Athelstan, 175 
Attila, 39, 49, 82 
Avatars (Incarnations), 197 
Ayodhya, 5, 6, 13 

Baldr, story of, 93 

Bavarians, 137 

Bede, 50, 136, 170 

Bellerophon, 175 

Beowulf, 26, 28, 45, 50-1, 60, 71-5, 

91, 102, 115, 171, 181,218 
Bernlef, minstrel, 50, 51, 53 
Bhagavad Gita, 30 
Bhandarkar Research Institute, 16 

Bharata, prince of Ayodhya, 5, 6, 

124 ; son of Sakuntala, 8, 44 
Bharavi, dramatist, 14 
Bhima, son of Pandu, 1, 3, 18, 19, 

25, 97, 98, 115 ; king of the 

Vidarbhas, 4-5 
Bhishma, Kaurava leader, 3, 74, 77, 

78, 87, 103, 115, 152, 164, 184, 


Bhrgu, sage, 20, 197, 203 
Bimbisara, king of Magadha, 34, 35, 

38, 40, 41 

Bosnia, Mah-medan minstrels of, 54 
Brahma, deity, 199-202 
Hrdhmanas, sacred books, 41-4 
Brahmimas, caste, 19, 23, 25, 126-8, 

Brhadasva, sage, 62, 63 

Brhaspati, priest of the Devas, 7, 21, 


Brunanburh, battle of, 107 
Buddha, Gautama, 38, 39, 203 

Caesar, Julius, 135, 136 

Cambridge History of India, 35, 38, 


Candra Gupta, 33, 35, 36 
Cassiodorus, 49 
Caste, barriers of, 130-3 
Cattle, high value placed on, 134, 

135, 179 

Celibacy of widows, 166-7 
Celts, 54-5, 136, 208 
Chadwick, Prof. H. M., cited, 26, 49, 

54, 55, 87, 181, 188, 218, 224 
Chonodomarius, 170 
Chowdury, Mr. Ray, cited, 42 
Chronology, of the heroic age in 

India, 83-46 ; evidence of 

genealogies, 33-41 ; evidence 

of early Sanskrit literature, 


Chryses, priest of Apollo, 137 
Cid, the, 102, 145 
Citrangada, princess, 18 
Clement of Alexandria, 194 
Clotilda, queen, 157 
Clovis, 146, 185, 186 
Comitatus, royal council, 137, 172-4 
Cuchulain Saga, 91, 102, 194 
Cyavana, story of, 11-12, 44, 101, 

Cymry, Welsh poet, 55 




Cynehard, 171 

Cynewulf, king of Wessex, 171, 175 

Damayanti, princess, 4-5, 13, 04, 

149, 150, 164, 167 
Dasaratha, king of Ayodhya, 5, 6, 124 
Davids, Dr. Rhys, cited, 30 
Delhi, 12 

Demodokos, 52, 65 
Deor, 50, 65 
Devapi, 43, 176 

Devavrata Bhisma, story of, 8-10 
Devayani, princess, story of, 6-7, 13, 

14, 23, 62, 105, 127, 148, 160 
Dharma, deity, 05 
Dhaumya, story of, 11, 127, 184 
Dhrstadyumna, Pandava leader, 3, 

76, 87, 110, 106 
Dhrtarastra, king of Hastinapura, 1 , 

3, 57, 50, 78, 110, 128, 176 
Dietrich, 51 
Diodorus, 136 
Diomedes, 84, 02 
Diuk Stepanovich, 83 
Dobrynya, 53, 07, 115 
Draupadi, princess, 2, 59, 61, 70, 

104, 123, 148, 151, 158, 160, 187 
Drona, Kaurava leader, 3, 24. 27, 

76, 78, 87, 106, 100, 113, 158, 

160, 187 
Druids, the, 136 
Drupada, king of Pancala, 2, 12, 

78-0, 110, 120, 133, 147, 187 
Dunai Ivanovich, 84, 07 
Durga, deity, 203 
Duryodhana, 1-3, 18, 25, 57,76, 115, 

110, 126, 120, 130, 172, 184, 106, 

Dusmantu, king, 8, 13, 131, 153 

Edmund Ironside, 177 

Edward the Elder, 188 

Edwin, king of Northumbria, 170, 

Ekacakra, city, 1,07 

Ekalavya, prince, 120 

Emperorship, in the heroic ages, 

Eochaid Airem, 03 

Eormenric, 26, 45, 100, 171, 170 

Epic Poetry of the heroic ages, 
70-80 ; k authentic ' and 

4 literary ' epics, 71 ; Homeric 
and Virgilian types, 71-4; 
Mahabharata considered as an 
* authentic ' epic, 74-0 ; 
similes, 80-1 ; favourite themes 
fame, death, destiny, pride 
of birth and prowess in war, 
81-7 ; the tt&mayana, a ( literary* 
epic, 88-90 

Ethelbald, 118 
Ethelwulf, 118 
Euchenor of Corinth, 180 
Eumaios, 70 
Eumenides, 200 

Finn, 51, 73, 74, 81, 84, 186 

Fire, worship of, 204-5 

Folchere, story of, 170 

Folk-lore, prominence of in heroic 

poetry, 01-111 
Frisians, 137 
Funeral ceremonies, note on, 213-16 

Gaiserich, Vandal king, 185 

Gana (guild), 173 

Ganesa, deity, 1 5, 61 

Ganga, deity of the Ganges. 

Ganges, river, 0, 204 

Gargi, 148 

Germain, ancient songs of, 40 

Ghatotkaca, Pandava leader, 3, 76, 
103, 116 

Goths, the, 40 

Government, in the heroic age, 
170-93 ; loyalty to the king, 
170-2 ; Comitatus or royal 
council, 1 72-4 ; order of royal 
succession, 1 75-6 ; duties of the 
king, 177-8 ; sources of re- 
venue, 178-0 ; ownership of 
land, 170-81 ; personal powers 
of the king, 181-5 ; inter- 
national policy, 185 ; matri- 
monial alliances, 185-8 ; 
" emperorship,"' 100-2 

Greece, heroic age of, 223-4 

Grierson, Dr., cited, 25 

Guthrun, 157, 186 

Hakon, Earl, 03 

Hamlet, 118 

Hanurnan, 6 

Hari, deity ; see Krsna 

Uarivamsu Purana, 15, 17, 30, 48, 
131, 134, 197 

Hastinapura, 1, 3, 12, 13, 17, 78, 120 

Hcktor. 72, 82, 84 

Helen of Troy, 104, 151, 161 

llemkles, 07 

Heremod, 171, 172 

Hermits, 127, 206 

Hermitages, 127,205 

Hermutrudr, queen, 117 

Herodotus, 46, 108 

Heroic Ages, essential characteris- 
tics of, 218-10; Indian heroic 
age, 219-21 ; Teutonic, 221-2 ; 
Welsh, 222; Serbian, 222-3; 
Greek, 223-4 

Ilervarar Saga, 211 



Hesiod, 52 

Hidimba, monster, 98, 09, 108, 205 

Hildebrand, 40 

Hildeburh, 186 

Hildr, 100, 104 

Homeric Poems, 52, 54, 60, 71-2, 

80-1, 83, 96, 101, 137, 146, 172, 

Hopkins, Prof. E. W., cited, 18,19, 

24, 25, 32, 49, 60, 125, 155, 196, 


Horse-sacrifice, 3, 41, 191 
Hrethel, 51 
Hrolfr Kraki, 171 
Hromundar saga, 211 
Hrothgar, king, 50, 52, 65, 72, 77, 

79, 115 

Hygd, queen, 157, 161, 175, 181 
Hygelac, 102 

Idols, worship of, 202-5 

Idomeneus, 86, 150 

Ikarios, 187 

Iliad, the, 71-3, 81, 83, 88, 91-2, 

116-17, 137, 172, 181, 186 
Indra, deity, 4, 11, 20 ; contest with 

Vrtra, 21-2, 93, 94, 95, 104, 

194, 199-202, 209 
Indraprastha, city, 2, 12, 58 
Ireland, heroic stories of, 54-5, 64, 

102, 135, 198 
Irminfrith, 185 
Itihasa-Purana, 29 
Ixion, 22 

Jacobi, Prof., cited, 31, 35 
Jamadagni, story of, 161 
Janamejaya, king, 41 , 42, 224 
Jarasandha, king of Magadha, 2, 

123, 189, 190, 195 
Jatayu, king of the vultures, 6 
Jordancs, 45, 49, 198 
Jupiter Capitolinus, 208 
Justice, administration of, 177-8 

Kaca, son of Brhaspati, 7, 105, 127, 

Kadru, story of, 19 

Kaikeyi, wife of Dasaratha, 5 

Kali, deity, 4, 100 

Kalidasa, dramatist, 14, 75 

Kalmasapada, king, 99 

Kanva, sage, 8 

Kama, prince of Anga, 76, 78, 85, 
86, 106, 109, 116, 192, 195, 196, 
201, 210 

Kauravas, the : war with Pandavas, 
8-4, 12-18 ; character and con- 
duct of, 24-7, 220-1 

Keith, Prof. A. B., cited, 25, 43, 45, 

Kent, class distinctions in, 137 
Kingship ; right of succession to', 

117, 175-6; duties pertaining 

to, 177-8 ; sanctity of, 194 
Kirdtdrjuniyam, drama, 14 
Krsna, deity, 2, 3, 25, 30, 49, 58-9, 

79, 85, 87, 93, 104, 106, 119, 123, 

130, 148, 195-8 
Ksatriyas, caste, 25, 68, 82, 128-31, 


Kudrun, Teutonic poem, 51 
Kunti, queen, 59, 79, 86, 97, 149, 

161, 165 
Kurus, the, 25, 27, 43, 44-5, 57 

Lakshmi, deity, 203 

Laksmana, prince of Ayodhya, 5, 6 

Land, ownership of, 178- 81 

Lanka (Ceylon), 6, 13, 99 

Lithuanians, 208 

Liudger, St., 

Lopamudra, 11 

Lucan, 208 

Madii, wife of Pandu, 17, 165 

Magadha, kingdom of, 2, 12, 18, 64 

Magadhas, minstrels, 63-4, 67 

Mahdbhdrata, epic, main story of, 
1-4 ; other stories of, 4-14 ; 
editions of, 15-17 ; text of the 
Bhandarkar Research Insti- 
tute, 16-17; length of, 17; 
inconsistencies in, 17-19 ; moral 
aspect of examined, 24-7 ; date 
of, 48-9 ; considered as an 
4 authentic ' epic, 74-6 ; 
mythical aspect of, 104-7 

Mahadeva, deity ; see Siva 

Mahapadma, king, 33, 35, 36 

Mahdvamsa, Ceylonese Chronicle, 84, 

Mahcsvara, deity ; see Siva 

Malcolm, of Scotland, 189 

Maldon, battle of, 107 

Malmesbury, William of, 50 

Mamdhatr, religious king, 209 

Markandeya, sage, 59 

Marko, Serbian hero, 102, 115, 144, 

Marriage, 150-3 ; alliances by, 186-8 

Matsya, kingdom of, 2, 12 

Matsya Purana, 30, 33, 34, 36. 37, 40, 

Maximus Tyrius, 208 

Medea, 100 

Megasthencs, 180 

Menelaos, 72, 88, 92, 117, 146, 186 

Mider, deity, 93, 109, 198 

Minstrels, status and classes of, 62-4 

Minstrelsy : Teutonic, 40-51 ; 
Anglo-Saxon, 50; Greek, 52; 



Russian, 52-3 ; Serbian, 54 ; 
Indian, 55-6 

Mothers, reverence paid to, 101-3 

Mycenae, 223 

Myths, variety and significance of 
in heroic literature, 91-110; 
gods take part in human affairs, 
91-5 ; demons, monsters and 
ogres, 95-9 ; supernatural 
powers ascribed to men, 100-3 ; 
mythical aspect of the 
Mahdbhdrata, 104-7 ; creative 
fiction, 108-10 

Nahusa, king, the story of, 19-20; 

varying versions of, 20-3, 44, 

74, 201 

Naisadhlya, drama, 14 
Nakula, son of Pandu, 1, 194 
Nala, king of the Nisadus, story of, 

4-5, 13, 44, 62, 94, 100/104, 

167, 199 

Nanda dynasty, 33 
Nandivardhana, 33, 34 
Xarasamsis, heroic stories, 50, 57 
Nestor, 26, 78, 116, 137 
Nibelungunlied, 51 
Nirukta, 43 
Niyoga, polyandric custom, 120, 121, 

154, 167 
Nornagesti, saga of, 83 

Odoacer, 171 

Odysseus, 52, 73, 87, 100, 110, 145 

Odyssey, 71-3, 77, 87, 91, 90, 137, 
145, 172, 181, 218 

Ollerus, 22 

Olrik, 91 

Olthin, Viking, 92, 199, 211 

Onega, lake, 53 

Oral Tradition, heroic stories pre- 
served by, 55-00 

Orestes, 52 

Padma-Purdna, 30 

Pallas Athene, 78 

P&ncala, 2, 12, 25, 116, 120, 156, 187 

Pandavas, origin of, 1-2 ; war with 

the Kauravas, 2-4 ; allies of, 

12-13 ; character and conduct 

of, 24-7, 220-1 
Pandu, 1, 17, 119, 120, 128, 170, 206, 


Panzer, 96 

Paradise, conceptions of, 209-12 
Parasuxftma, Brahmaiiic hero, 103, 

109, 161 
Pargiter, Mr. F. E., cited, 12, 31, 35, 

36, 37, 41, 43, 45, 109 
Pariifita, sacred tree, 209 
Pariksit, king, 30, 33, 42, 184, 224 

Paris, Greek hero, 72, 92 

Patroklos, 72, 84, 101, 116, 172 

Peisistratos, 78 

Penelope, 26, 77, 150, 161, 182 

Perseus, 97 

Philip the Magyar, 85 

Pliny, 208 

Polyandry, 120-1, 154, 161, 168 

Polygamy, 154, 167 

Polynesian Genealogies, note on, 47 

Polyphemos, 96, 98 

Pradyota, 34, 35 

Prasenajit, 38, 39, 41 

Priests, as minstrels, 66-8, 118 

Priscus, 49 

Procopius, 146, 150, 157, 166 

Purdnas, the, 14, 29-31 ; chronology 

of, 33-7, 46 
Pururavas, story of, 99 
Puskara, 4, 124 

Radiger, story of, 150, 157, 181 
Ragnarr, Saga of, 21 1 
Rajanyas, minstrels, 55, 56, 57 
Hajashya, ceremony, 2, 190, 193 
Raksasas, monsters, 6, 89, 99 
Rama, prince of Ayodhyii, story of, 

5-0, 13, 32, 99, 103, 109, 124 
Ramayana, epic, 1, 3, 14, 31, 82, 

88-9, 158, 183, 184, 205 
Ratnins, council, 183 
Rfivana, king of Lanka, 0, 103, 124, 

158, 184 

Religion : Sanctity of kingship, 
194-5; divinity of Krsna, 
195-8 ; the Vedie pods, 199 ; 
the later triad, Hrahma, Visnu, 
and Siva, 199-202; the lesser 
gods, 202-3 ; idol worship, 
203 5 ; sacred groves and trees, 
205-9 ; conceptions of Paradise, 

/4-JY<to, 43, 4t, 45, 200 
Uipunjaya, Magadha king, 33, 35, 40 
RomoNc, Prussian sanctuary at, 208 
Rtuparna. 5, 107, 108 
Rudra, deity, 202 

Sahadeva, dynasty of, 33-4, 35, 87, 

129, 101 

Sakamuharl, deity, 209 
Sukimi, 2, 60, 119, 126 
Sakuntala, story of, 7-8, 13, 14, 44, 

74, 75, 88, 131, 148, 158, 160, 

199, 201 

Sakuntald, drama, 14 
Sulya, Kaurava leader, 3, 130, 159 
Samiti, council or assembly, 182-8 
Samvuruna, 12, 109 
Santunu, king of Hastinapura, 9-10, 

43, 176 



Sarasyati, deity, 203 

Sarmistha, princess, 7, 8, 23 

Sarpedon, 194 

Satapatha Brahmana, 41, 43, 44, 
55, 62, 154, 163 

Satyavan, 10-11 

Satyavati, 9, 149 

SAvitri, story of, 1O-11, 149, 199 

Scyld Scefmg, 185 

Senajit, 36 

Serbia, minstrelsy of, 54, 85, 102, 
163 ; heroic age in, 218, 222-3 

Sidonius, 49, 50 

Siegfried, 26 

Sigismund, 185 

Sigmundr, 92 

Sigurthr, 96, 100, 104, 115, 166 

Sisunaga, dynasty of, 34, 41 

Sisupala, his quarrel with Krsna, 

Sita, wife of Rama, 6, 151, 155, 159, 

Siva, deity, 30, 94, 199-202 

Skanda, deity, 106, 202 

Society, in the heroic age, 115-68 ; 
youthful warriors, 115-17 ; ties 
of kinship, 117-26 ; caste 
system, 126 ; Brahmanas, 
Ksatryias, and Vaisyas, 126-34 ; 
Sudras, 135 ; other social organ- 
izations, 135-8 ; status of 
women, 144-9 ; marriage, 
15O-3 ; polygamy, 154 ; posi- 
tion and influence of married 
women, 154-0; seclusion of, 
156-61 ; mothers, 161-3 ; legal 
status of women, 163-5 ; immola- 
tion of widows, 1 65-7 ; celibacy 
of widows, 167-8 

Sparta, 117, 161 

Sriharsa, dramatist, 14 

Stavr Godinovich, story of, 53 

Strabo, 136 

Sudras, caste, 132, 135 

Sugriva, 6 

Sukanya, story of, 11-12 

Sukra, priest of the Asuras, 7-8 

Sunanda, 4 

Surya, deity, 199, 201 

Sutas, minstrels, 23, 63-4 

Suttee, 165-7 

Svyatoger, 83 

Swayamvara, ceremony, 4, 5, 9, 59, 
94, 151, 152 

Tacitus, 49, 170, 207 
Tamil Poetry, note on, 69 
Tapati, story of, 12, 109 
Taxation, 178-9 
Telemachos, 78, 79, 145 
Temples, 205 

Tennyson, 90 

Teutonic Heroic Poetry, 26, 49-51, 

65, 81, 96, 101, 103, 137 
Theodric the Ostrogoth, 89, 185, 188, 


Thithrek, saga of, 51 
Thor, deity, 100, 209 
Thrasamund, Vandal king, 185 
Thrasymedes, 78 
Thucydides, 108 
Tiryns, 223 

Trade, in the heroic age, note on, 141 
Trees, sanctity of, 207-9 
Troy, siege of, 72 
Tvastr, deity, 20-1 
Tydeus, 117 

Udayana, king, 38, 41 

Ulupl, 18, 125, 153 

Upamanyu, 11, 127 

Vpanisads, 42. 148 

Upsala, temple at, 207 

Urvasi, nymph, 99 

Usinara, stoiy of, 11 

Uttaia, princess, 2, 3, 88, 149, 154 

Vahlika, 43, 125 

Vaisampayana, priest, 59, 62 

Vaisyas, caste, 19, 63, 132, 134, 178 

Vakula, sacred tree, 209 

Valholl, Norse paradise, 211 

Valour, rewards for, 192 

Varuna, deity, 94, 199 

Vasistha, sage, 107, 135, 127, 130, 203 

Vasudeva, deity, 57, 77 

Vayu, deity, 199 

Vayu Purana, 34 

Vedas, the, 41, 42, 45, 160 

Vedic Index, 13, 29, 41, 175, 182 

Vibhisana, 124 

Vicitravirya, king of Hastinapura, 

1, 9, 120, 121, 184 
Vidudabha, 39 
Virata, king of Matsya, 2, 12, 119, 

135, 147, 154, 179, 187 
Virata Parva, 16 
Virgil, 71-2, 90 

Visnu, deity, 21, 30, 105. 195, 199-202 
Visnu Purana, 33, 36 
Visvamitra, 8, 11, 107, 127, 130, 

135, 203 

Vladimir, prince, 52, 53 
Volsunga Saga, 92, 166 
Vrtra, giant, his contest with Indra, 

Vyusitasva, story of, 59 

Waldhere, 51, 82 

Wales, heroic stories of, 54-5, 218, 222 
War, art of, note on, 189-40 
Weland, story of, 104 

282 INDEX 

Weigelds, note on, 142-8 Yadu, 124, 176 

Wessex, class distinction in, 127 Yama, deity, 94, 95, 199, 210 

Widows, immolation of, 165-7 ; Yayati, 7-8, 14, 44, 59 

celibacy of, 167-8 Y&jnavalka, 48, 148 

Widsith, minstrel, 50, 109, 179 Yggdrasil, 209 

Winternitz, Dr., cited, 15, 16, 61 Ynglinga Saga. 194, 199 

Witan Scyldinga, 181 Yudhisthira, 1, 2, 8, 19, 24, 27, 28, 
Wodin (Odin), 105 51-8, 76, 78, 87, 98, 119, 121, 

Women, status of; see under Society 123, 130, 132, 162, 164, 190, 194, 

Writing, art of, 61 210, 218 

Printed in Great Britain by Stephen Austin & Sons. Ltd.. Hertford. 

Nearly sixty volumes are now available 








Edited by 


* P of Magdalene College, Cambridge 


j J PubliM by 



] ! 1935 

1 'q&HPWft^^ 


THIS series marks one of the most ambitious adventures in the 
annals of book publishing. Its aim is to present in accessible 
form the results of modern research throughout the whole 
range of the Social Sciences to summarize in one comprehensive 
synthesis the most recent findings of historians, anthropologists, 
archaeologists, sociologists, and all conscientious students of civilization. 

To achieve success in this stupendous undertaking, the new French 
series, UEvolution de PHumanite, in which the leading savants of France 
are collaborating with the Director of the Bibliothfcque de Synthese 
Historique, M. Henri Berr, is being incorporated. Distinguished 
historians, both European and American, are contributing volumes in 
their several departments 

The field has been carefully mapped out, as regards both subjects 
and periods ; and, though the instalments will be published as they are 
ready, the necessary chronological sequence will be secured by the 
fact that the volumes of the French collection will be used as a nucleus- 
Each work will be entirely independent and complete in itself, but 
the volumes in a given group will be found to supplement one another 
when considered in relation to a particular subject or period. 

The volumes are uniformly bound in a fine art-cambric cloth, with 
specially designed gold lettering and emblem, royal octavo in size. 

article to the first four volumes, in which the series was described as 
being " composed by all the talents ". 

THE MANCHESTER GUARDIAN wrote that " it is a heroic 
attempt, which will be sympathetically watched, to bring some light into 
the vast mass of ill-organized knowledge which we owe to modern research 
and so make it available in the end for the guidance of the world." 

NATURE, the leading scientific journal, in a six-column review, 
provides a striking summary of the aims and objects of the series : " The 
History of Civilization promises to be perhaps the most important 
contribution so far undertaken towards the task of organization and 
systematization of the social studies. A glance at the prospectus makes 
us anticipate a library of masterpieces, for the best workers of France, 
Great Britain, and some other countries are contributing from their 
own speciality and are attempting to bring it into line with the con- 
tributions from neighbouring fields and with the results of general 

sociology. Including all the volumes of the important French collection, 
L 9 Evolution de rHumanite, the English library contains additions and 
improvements which will place it above its continental counterpart. 
The volumes already issued bear out our best hopes." 

The following plan, comprising just under one hundred titles > though not 
definitive, will serve to convey a general notion of the nature and scope of 
the enterprise :* 



"Social Organization W '. H. R. Rivers 

The Earth Before History Edmond Perrier 

Prehistoric Man Jacques de Morgan 

*Life and Work in Prehistoric Times G. Renard 

X*The Dawn of European Civilization V Gordon Childe 

Language : a Linguistic Introduction to History J. Vendryes 

A Geographical Introduction to History L. Febvre 

Race and History E. Pittard 

**The Aryans V. Gordon Childe 

From Tribe to Empire A. Moret and G. Davy 

"Money and Monetary Policy in Early Times A. R. Burns 

**The Diffusion of Culture G. Elliot Smith 


The Nile and Egyptian Civilization A. Morel 

The Mesopotamian Civilization L. Delaporte 

The ^gean Civilization G. Glotz 

*Minoans, Philistines and Greeks Andrew Robert Burn 


The Formation of the Greek People A. Jarde 

*Ancient Greece at Work G. Glotz 
Religious Thought of Greece L. Gernet and A. Boulanger 

Art in Greece W . Deonna and A. fie Ridder 

Greek Thought and the Scientific Spirit L. Robin 

The Creek City and its Institutions G Glotz 

Macedonian Imperialism P. Jouguet 


Primitive Italy and Roman Imperialism Leon Homo 

The Roman Spirit in Religion, Thought, and Art A. Grenier 
*lioman Political Institutions Leon Homo 

Rome the Law-Giver J Declareuil 

Economic Life of the Ancient World J. Toutain 

9 An asterisk denotes that the volume does not form part of the French collection 
L' Evolution de VHvmamtL 


The Roman World 
Ancient Rome at Work 
The Rise of the Celts 
The Greatness and Decline of the Celts 

Germany and the Roman Empire 
Ancient Persia and Iranian Civilization 
Chinese Civilization 
Chinese Thought 
*Feudal Japan 

*A Thousand Years of the Tartars 
Nomads of the European Steppe 
# Ancient India 
^ *The Heroic Age of India 
X *Caste and Race in India 
> *The Life of Buddha as Legend and History 
; *The History of BuddhLt Thought 


Israel, from its Beginnings 

Jesus and the Birth of Christianity 

The Formation of the Church 

The Advance of Christianity 
*History and Literature of Christianity 


The End of the Ancient World 

The Eastern Empire 


The Collapse of the Carlo vingi an Empire 

The Origins of the Slavs 
'Popular Life in the East Roman Empire 
The Northern Invaders 

Victor Chapot 
Paul Louis 
H. Hubert 
H. Hubert 

H. Hubert 
Clement Huart 
M. Granet 
M. Granet 
G. F. Hud ton 
E. H. Parker 
G. F. Hudson 
P. Masson-Oursel 
N K. Sidbanta 
G. S. Gburye 
E. J Thomas 
E. J. Thomas 


ddolpbe Lods 
C. Guignebert 
C. Guignebert 
C. Guignebert 
P. de Labrwllt 

Ferdinand Lot 
C. Diebl 
L. Half hen 
Ferdinand Lot 
(Ed.) P. Boyer 
Norman Bay net 
B. S. Phillpotti 



Islam and Mahomet 
The Advance of Islam 
Christendom and the Crusades 
The Organization of the Church 

The Art of the Middle Ages 
The Papacy and the Arts 

The Foundation of Modern Monarchies 
The Growth of Public Administration 
The Organization of Law 

E. Douttr 

L. Barrau-Dihigo 

P. Alpbandny 

R. Genestal 

P. Lorquet 
E. Strong 

C. Petit- Dutailfa 
E. Meynial 
E. Meynial 


The Development of Rural and Town Life G. Bourgin 

Maritime Trade and the Merchant Gilds P. Boissonnade 

The Court of Burgundy Otto Cartellim 

*Life and Work in Medieval Europe P. Boissonnade 

The Life of Women in Medieval Times Eileen Power 

Travel and Travellers of the Middle Ages (Ed.) A. P. Newton 
"Chivalry and its Historical Significance (Ed.) Edgar Prestagt 


Education in the Middle Ages G. Huisman 

Philosophy in the Middle Ages E. Brthier 

Science in the Middle Ages Abel Rev and P. Boutroux 


Nations of Western and Central Europe P. Lorquet 

Russians, Byzantines, and Mongols (Ed.) P. Boyer 

The Birth of the Book G. Renaudet 

*The Grandeur and Decline of Spain C Hughes Hartmann 

*The Influence of Scandinavia on England M. E. Seaton 

*The Philosophy of Capitalism T. E. Gregory 

*The Prelude to the Machine Age Mrs. Bertrand Russell 

*Life and Work in Modern Europe G. Renard and G. Weulersse 

*London Life in the Eighteenth Century M. Dorothy George 

*China and Europe in the Eighteenth Century A. Reichwein 

A special group of volumes will be devoted to 


The History of Medicine C. G. Cumston 

*The History of Witchcraft Montague Summers 

*The Geography of Witchcraft Montague Summers 

The History of Money T. E. Gregory 

The History of Taste 7- lsaac 

The History of Oriental Literature E. Powys Mathers 

The History of Music Cecil Gray 


The Ethnology of Africa L H. Dudley Buxton 

The Peoples of Asia L H. Dudley Buxton 

The Threshold of the Pacific C. E. Fox 

The South American Indians Rajael Karste* 

The American Indian Frontier J. G. Macleod 

The Ethnology of India T. C. Hods on 

Death Customs E. Bendann 

In the Sections devoted to MODERN HISTORT the majority oj titles 
will be announced later. 


The following volumes have already been issued. They are arranged 
roughly in the order in which they were published. But their place in the 
ffheme of the whole series may be discovered from the list above : 

THE EARTH BEFORE HISTORY : Man's Origin and ike 

Origin of Life 

By EDMOND PERKIER, late Hon. Director of the Natural History 
Museum of France. 

With 4 maps, 155. net 

" It goes back to the birth of the world and the transformations of land and 
water, and takes us through the growth of life on the planet, the primitive 
animal forms, the peopling of the seas, and the forms of life in the primary, 
secondary, and tertiary periods, to the growth of the human form. Thus, start- 
ing from the origin of matter, it leads us in easy stages to homo sapifni himself." 

Daily \ttcf. 
" A remarkable volume." Yorkshire Post. 

PREHISTORIC MAN : A General Outline oj Prehistory 
By JACQUES DE MORGAN, late Director of Antiquities in Egypt. 

With 190 illustrations and maps. J2s. 6J. net. 
" A notable and eminently readable study in the carlv history of civilization, 

and one well worth its place in the preat series now being issued by the publishers. 

It bears on every page the impress of the personality of its author, who strives 

to give the reader a clear, composite picture of early civilization taking one topic 

after anot>er." Nation 

" A masterly summary of our present k-iowlcd^e at a low price. As a full 

survey the book has no rival, and its value it enhanced by the lavish illustrations." 

\t".c Leader. 


By W. H. R. RIVERS, LL.IX F.R.S. Preface by PROFESSOR G. 


Third edition, IDS. 6d. net. 

" Social Organization is the first volume of the series of lu'storical works on the 
whole range of human activity. May the present book be of good augury for the 
rest ! To maintain so high a standard of originality and thoroughness will be 
no easy task." JANE HARRISON, in Nation. 

The book is a great contribution to the sum of human knowledge in the 
region of pure sociology." Daily News. 


the Social Organization, Magic, and Religion of the People 
of San Cristoval in the Solomon Islands 
With 14 plates and 40 text illustrations, i8s. net. 

" A masterpiece. One of the very best contributions to ethnology we possess. 
It has, besides its intrinsic value as a masterly record of savage life, also an in- 
direct one ; it is a remarkable testimony to the indispensable need of scientific 
method for the observer. His account of magical ritual and spells will become 
a classical source for students. The account of the life-history of the individual 
is depicted with a clearness and fulness unrivalled in ethnographic literature 
. . . " Timf< Literary Supplement. 

LANGUAGE : a Linguistic Introduction to History 
By J. VENDRYES, Professor in the University of Paris 
Second impression. i6s. net. 

" A book remarkable for its erudition and equally remarkable for originality 
and independence of thought." Sunday Times. 

" As an introduction to philology thi c volume is a splendid piece of haute 
vulgarisation, for which anyone who at all loves words or who is at all curious 
about language, must be grateful. It covers nearly all the ground from every 
useful angle. A wide, level-headed and erudite study." Nation. 


By LUCIEN FEBVRE, Professor in the University of Strasburg. 
Second impression. With 7 maps, i6s. net 

" A masterpiece of criticism, as witty as it is well-informed, and teeming with 
nice observations and delicate turns of argument and phrase." 

Times Literary Supplement. 

"A broad, clear-headed introduction to the fascinating study of human 
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that anyone with no knowledge of geography can read with avidity, for it is the 
greatest of pleasures to watch the clear logical thought of the writer rapidly 
treating with masterly power these great and important topics." Nat.' on. 

CHRISTIANITY : from Tertullian to Boetkius 
By PIERRE DE LABRIOLLE, Professor of Literature at the 
University of Poitiers. Foreword by CARDINAL GASQUET. 

255. net. 

" A masterly volume. A scholar of the finest accomplishment, an enthusiast 
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" This interesting and valuable book." W. L. COURTNEY, in Daily Telegraph. 



Second impression. With 8 plates, 2 is. net. 

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And she will have the satisfaction of restoring faith to many minds in the reality 
of progress." Observer. 

u One of the best pieces of research in social and economic history which 
have appeared for many years." Nativn 


By E. H. PARKER, Professor oj Chinese in the Victoria University 
oj Manchester. 

With 5 illustrations and maps, I2s. 6d. net. 

" Professor Parker takes us back to a period roughly contemporaneous with 
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has done all that was possible to enliven his subject and has certainly succeeded 
in giving us a most valuable text -book." Saturday 

CHINA AND EUROPE: their Intellectual and Artistic 
Relations in the Eighteenth Century 

With 24 plates, I2s. 6d. net. 

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" A fascinating subject. The references to literature are admirably full and 
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Second Impression. With 198 illustrations and 4 maps, i6s. net. 

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" He has done a very great service 10 learning, and given a clear and reliable 
outline of the earliest civilization of Europe. His book ' fills a gap ' indeed." 

" A very fine piece of work." Manchester Guardian. 


MESOPOTAMIA: the Babylonian and Assyrian Civili- 

By L. DELAPORTE, Professor in the Catholic Institute of Paris. 
With 60 illustrations and maps, i6s. net. 

" This book is for the most part very good. The author has handled his 
difficult material cleverly. Where he succeeds is in his admirably written 
description of the social life, of which he makes a fascinating story. Here is 
presented an enten aining picture of the inhabitants in 2000 B.C. Then from the 
earlier Babylonians he passes to the Assyrians, dealing with them in a similar 
excellent way. This is one of the best books of its kind which we have seen for 
some time." limes Literary Supplement. 


By G. GLOTZ, Professor of Greek History in the University of Paris 
With 4 plates, 87 text illustrations, and 3 maps, 1 6s. net. 

" This is a marvellous summary, divided into c our books, describing in detail 
the material, social, religious, artistic and intellectual life of the people. Every 
one of these sections is full of interesting and new knowledge. A wonderful 
book, thoroughly scholarly and attractive in presentation." Birmingham Post. 

" Reads like a romance . . . presents a very vivid picture of this 
marvellous civilization." Times Literary Supplement. 


By L. H. DUDLEY BUXTON, M.A., F.S.A., Lecturer in Physical 
Anthropology in the University of Oxford 

With 8 plates, I2s. 6d. net. 

44 Although the physical characters of the principal racial strains are described 
in some detail, the author keeps before his readers the bearing of these data upon 
the broader problems of racial distribution, as well as the intensely interesting 
question of the interaction of race, environment, and modification by contact 
due to migration. The exposition of anthropological method given in an 
introductory chapter is admirably lucid." Manchester Guardian. 

RACE AND HISTORY: an Ethnological Introduction to 

By E. PITTARD, Professor of Anthropology in the University of 

Second Impression. With 9 illustrations and maps, 2is. net. 

A companion to Febvre's Geographical Introduction to History, which 
estimated the value of " environment " as a factor in history, while the present 
volume considers the " racial " factor. " No one is better qualified to compose 
a thoroughly level-headed treatise on the subject of race. For the peoples 
who occupy a conspicuous place in history, and especially the peoplf s of Europe, 
no better guide could be found." Times Literary Supplement. 


Fifth to tbi Fifteenth Century 

By P. BOISSONNADE, Professor in the University of Poitiers. 
Translated with an Introduction by EILEEN POWER, D.Litt. 

With 8 plates, i6s. net. 

" His work is so interesting that it is to be hoped he will follow Sir James 
Frazer's admirable example and take each chapter in turn for the purpose of 
converting its highly concentrated essence of history into a more ample dish for 
scholars. His subject is attractive and his pages are eminently readable by 
laymen." Tines Literary Supplement. 

"There is no book in English which gives so clear and comprehensive a view 
of the labour question all through the Middle Ages. Readers will find no single 
volume so useful and so readable as this." G. G. COULTON, in Observer. 


Fifteenth to the Eighteenth Century 

By G. RENARD, Professor at the College of France, and G 
WEULERSSE, Professor at the Lycie Carnot. Introduction by EILEEN 
POWER, D. Litt.^ Reader in Economic History in the University of London 
With 8 plates, i6s. net. 

" This can certainly be pronounced a most useful book. There is nothing 
that covers anything like the same- ground . indeed, there is actuJh no book in 
English which even pretend* to i;ivc an outline ot European economic history 
as a whole. It is interestingly written, and is a storehouse of valuable informa- 
tion." New Statesman. 


Edited by A. P. NEWTON, Rhodes Professor of Imperial History in 
the University of London. 

Second impression. With 8 plates and maps, 12s. 6d. net. 

** This work is no mere collection of stray essays, but in some respects the 
most important contribution to the history of medieval travel since Professor 
Beazley's Dawn of Modern Geography and the new edition of Yule's Cathay. 
. . . We have said enough to indicate that this work is one which bhould 
appeal both to the general reader and to the scholar. The illustrations are 
good." Times Literary Supplement. 

CHIVALRY : Its Historical Significance and Civilizing Influence 
Edited by EDGAR PRESTAGE, Camtens Professor in the 
University of London. 

With 24 full-page plates, 155. net. 

" This is an excellent book, at once learned and entertaining, a valuable 
addition to our painfully limited library of medieval studies. The book is worth 
haring, and there is an abundance of beautiful illustrations." Daily News. 

" An equally interesting and beautiful volume, a piece of work which appeals 
alike to the general reader and to the specialist in history. "Journal of Education. 


ANCIENT GREECE AT WORK : an Economic History of 
Greece from the Homeric Period to the Roman Conquest 

By G. GLOTZ, Professor of Greek History in the University of Paris. 
With 49 illustrations, i6s. net. 

" This is a learned but thoroughly interesting description of farming, 
industry, and business in general in ancient Greece, and should interest the 
student of economics as well as the classical scholar, since it shows practices 
developing from their simplest form. Besides giving hard economic facts the 
author makes interesting remarks on the Greek attitude to slaves, to foreigners, 
and to labour. This is a very readable and unusual book." Spectator. 

" A really fascinating economic history of the Greek people." New Leader. 


By A. JARDE, Professor of History at the Lycce Lakanal. 
With 7 maps, i6s. net. 

"One render at least will tell the world he has enjoyed the book, has 
profited by it, and io not yet done with it ; he means to use it again, and mean- 
while ventures to tell others interested that thi< is a book for them." Nation. 

" He has given his readers an analysis of the course of events in the various 
City states in their external relations inter se and with other peoples, of then- 
political, social, and intellectual development, of Hellenic expansion and of 
Hellenic unity, which is little short of brilliant." ^a 

'THE ARYANS : a Study of Indo-European Origins 


With 8 plates, 28 text illustrations, and a map, los. 6d. net. 

" Mr. Childc has followed up his intcre&ting book, The Dawn of European 
Civilization, with another archaeological study not less scholarly and sound. 
By a joint use of philological deduction and archaeological induction, he contrives 
a thoroughly scientific handling of the problem." Times Literary Supplement. 

" Here is a book that must be of perennial interest, for it covers the whole 
field to the time of writing, and is precisely what a work dealing with problems 
of enormous intricacy should be." New Statesman. 

FROM TRIBE TO EMPIRE : Social Organization among the 
Primitives and in the Ancient East 

By A. MORET, Professor in the University of Paris, and G. DAVY, 
of the University of Dijon. 

With 47 illustrations and 7 maps, 1 6s. net. 

" The object of the authors of this valuable addition to the series is to 
demonstrate how Empires grew from the primitive totemistic dan. Leaving 
M. Davy's excited, learned, and highly controversial dissertation on primitive 
tociety for M. Moret's calm review of the history of the Ancient East is like 
passing from storm into quiet. M. Moret's story remains the most lucid and 
satisfactory general survey of the Ancient East that has yet appeared. It is the 
very romance of history, and he would be dull indeed who did not find recreation 
and delight in these stirring pages." New Statesman. 


THE HISTORY OF MEDICINE, from the tine of the 
Pharaohs to the end of the Eighteenth Century 

With 24 plates, i6s. net. 

" Will be an invaluable source of reference to those who wisely remain student* 
all their days. Beginning with the first dynasty of the Pharaohs, the ideas and 
the personalities of medicine are described in a manner which compels wonder 
for the amount of literary research, thought, and time which must have been 
devoted to its construction." British Medical Journal. 

"The book should be as interesting to the general public as to the 
doctors." Sunday Times. 


By MONTAGUE SUMMERS, editor of Congreve, Wycberley, etc 
With 8 full-page plates, 123. 6d. net. 

*' Mr. Summers has just the literary style to do justice to the stewing of 
witches' broth or the licentious dancing of the Sabbat. This book is one of the 
most masterly products of psychological-historical literatuie ; and one feels 
that the editor of this learned series was perfectly justified in including in it 
such a storehouse of facts. Mr. Summers has our hearty thanks. His book is 
enthralling." Out/ook. 

" No mor? learned, no more corinuslv documented work on tin* ^ubject has 
seen the light for a long while." Birmingham Po*t. 



With 8 lull-page plates, 2 is. net. 

"The History described the general characteristic*! of European witchcraft 
in the middle ages ; the present volume gives particulars of actual witches in 
the various countries of Western Kurope. Mr. Summers includes within the 
scope of his exceedingly painnalinc work all the varieties of the black art, from 
cattle laming to the concoction of love philtres, to demoniac possession and 
unnatural vice. The book is beautifully produced and contains some excellent 
illustrations." Spectator. 

INDIANS, with special reference to Magic and Religion 

By RAFAEL KARSTEN, Ph.D., Professor at the University of 
Finland, Helsingfors. Preface by PROFESSOR E. WESTERMARCK. 

25$. net. 

" A very solid piece of work. . . Whether Professor Karsten be right or 
wrong in his contentions, his book can be read with the utmost profit, because 
he cites the evidence fully and fairly." Times Literary Supplement. 

" Dr. Karsten can congratulate himself on having written a work that will 
form not merely a contribution to the ethnology of South America, but also a 
valuable addition to the small number of really useful works on the ideas of the 
less cultured peoples." Saturday Review. 


PRIMITIVE ITALY, and the Beginnings of Roman 

By LEON HOMO, Professor in the University of Lyons. 
With 13 maps and plans, i6s. net. 

" This able and scholarly work, which has summoned to its aid all the resources 
of anthropology, archaeology, epigraphy and philology. Here is laid bare the real 
history of Rome's origins, and especially of her Etruscan origins. A volume 
characterized alike by scientific caution and a marked power of lucid recon- 
struction . " Spectator. 

u He gives us a spirited account of the development of Rome from her obscure 
origins to her establishment as the dominant power of the Mediterranean world. 
It would be hard to find a clearer or better proportioned account of the stages 
by which Rome achieved the miracle . . " Times Literary Supplement. 

ANCIENT ROME AT WORK : an Economic Histary oj 
Rowe from the Origins in the Empire 

With 4 illustrations and 6 maps, i6s. net. 

" The main stages in Rome's imperial progress arc indicated, and the eco- 
nomic causes of her decline are adequately analysed. Agriculture and commerce, 
industry and finance, road* and communications, slavery and its developments, 
the rise of the colonate, and the influence of guilds are dealt with in turn, and 
their bearing on society and the social structure are discussed. . . . The 
volume presents a vivid, rapidly-moving picture of the economics of the Roman 
State." Times Literary Supplement. 

THE ROMAN SPIRIT in Religion, Thought, and Art 
By A. GRENIER, Professor in the University ojStrasburg. 
With 1 6 plates and 16 text illustrations, i6s. net. 

" I have not space to set out all the things in the book that have interested 
me and given me pleasure. The sections on religion and literature are fresh and 
stimulating. The classical scholar and the general reader can be recommended 
alike to read every page of this admirable book." Nation. 

4k A brilliant interpretation of Latin literature and religion." New Leader. 


By ]. DECLAREUIL, Professor in the University of Toulouse. 

1 6s. net. 

" The level of scholarship is extremely high, and the treatment hardly more 
technical than the subject-matter demands. The author traces the develop- 
ment of Roman law from its origin to its codification, and on to the later 
refinements \hich in their range, subtlety, and realistic logic have given it such 
unrivalled universality and completeness. While recommending this valuable 
synopsis as a whole, we may note as specially significant the chapter on the 
organization of credit." Saturday Review. 


LIFE OF BUDDHA, as Legend and History 
By E. J. THOMAS, D.LiTT., Under Librarian in the University 
.Library, Cambridge. 

Second edition. With 4 plates and a map, 12$. 6d. net. 

" He has produced an authoritative account of all that is known of the life 
of the great teacher. We would recommend this important work to all interested 
in Eastern philosophy." Spectator. 

" The treatment of his subject is as thorough as one could wish. His know- 
ledge of the sources, his historical sense, and the soundness of his judgment make 
him a safe guide in a field in which there are many pitfalls. The book is a worthy 
addition to a notable series." Manchester Guardian 

ANCIENT PERSIA, and Iranian Civilization 

By CLEMENT HUART, Member of the Institute of France. 
With 4 plates, 35 text illustrations, and a map, izs. 6d. net 

" A very good account of the cultural history of old Iran. A vhid picture 
of the country and an account of the scripts is followed by a history of the Achae- 
menids, Arsacids, and Sassanids. The real value of the book consists in the 
excellent analyses of the cultural data referring to each epoch : the social organi- 
zation, the religious cults and beliefs, and the- artistic productions. The powerful 
character sketches of the monarchs and heroes receive new life from the back- 
ground in which they are set." Mature. 

** An admirable epitome of the known facts ''AW Statesman 


By A. DE RIDDER, Curator at the Louvre Museum, and 
W. DEONNA, Director (f the Genera Museum of Art and 7/n/orv. 
With 24 plates and 66 text illustrations, 2 is. net. 

44 A fascinating addition to the scries. The authors have written attractively 
not only of Greek art irom its beginnings to the Hellenistic period and its final 
decline, but of e\er\day Greek life and its relation to art and the artists of the 
time." Daily News. 

" Even on the most familiar ground it is remarkably fresh and penetrating." 

.\ew Statesman. 

By A. R. BURNS, B.Sc. ECON. 

With 16 plates, 255. net. 

" He has treated the subject with care and caution and shown clearly what the 
puzzles are. He deals mainly with Greece and Rome, slightly with Assyria, and 
gives a paragraph at the end of each chapter to the wholly independent and 
interesting coinage of China." -Times Literary Supplement. 

" He is to be congratulated. The book is a striking contrast to the previous 
superficial treatments of the subject. Documents have been searched and the 
material obtained, digested, and presented in a most readable form." 



By A. MORET, Professor at the College of France. 

With 24 plates, 79 text illustrations and 3 maps, 253. net. 

" This brilliant story of Egyptian society. M. Moret's peculiar contribution 
to Egyptology is that he has taken the disjecta membra of Egyptian history and 
of them has built anew the living body of that amazing culture. What was it 
that secured to Egypt a civilization more stable than that of any other of the 
great kingdoms of antiquity ? M. Moret tells us. It was the Nile, coupled 
with the establishment of a religious system imposing its sanctions on every 
social duty. As seen in his sympathetic retrospect, this great religion is curiously 
attractive. It was the real moral and spiritual force permeating the whole of 
Ffvptian life. Art and science and literature ministered to it, and it sustained 
for milleniums the most massive, coherent, and amiable civilization the world 
has known." Times Literary Supplement. 


Second impression. I2s. Cd. net. 

" Here is just the book readers have been looking for, and looking for too 
long in vain. No music-lover would find it other than arresting from cover 
to cover. Its distinction of style . . its meticulous accuracy 
its fresh and original standpoint. It is not too much to say that it is one of the 
most illuminating books of this decade." SIR RICHARD TERRY, in Queen. 

" A book which is quite one of the best of its kind." Observer. 


By VICTOR CHAPOT, Professor at the Ecole des Bean x-Ans. 
With 2 plates and 12 maps, i6s. net. 

" This survey of the Roman Empire presents in a compendious form an 
account of the expansion of Rome, the machinery of provincial government, 
and finally a survey of the Empire and its fortunes province by province. This 
is the fullest account of the Empire which has appeared in English since the 
translation of IMommscn's two volumes nearly fifty years ago. It is enriched by 
the discoveries that have been made in the meantime, and its excellent bibli- 
ography brings the sources up to date. The volume has some useful maps." 

Times Literary Supplement. 

MACEDONIAN IMPERIALISM, and the Hellenization of 

the East 

By P. JOUGUET, Professor in tbs University of Paris. 
With 7 plates and 5 maps, 2 is. net. 

" He has told a most fascinating story and told it so well that it forms an 
excellent sequel to the ordinary histories of Greece. 'Particularly valuable is 
his account of the Hellenization of Asia and of Egypt, of the public and private 
life of the latter, and of the establishment of the Greek and Macedonian military 
and other colonies. To read his book shows that no one can afford to neglect 
the study of the Hellenistic period, which wr.s responsible for many fundamental 
elements of modern civilization." Times Literary Supplement. 



By WILLIAM CHRISTIE MACLEOD, Assistant Professor in the 
University of Pennsylvania. 

With 13 maps, 255. net. 

" It is a tale, alike for its romantic and its historical values, well worth the 
telling : and it is not likely to find many tellers so competent and so vivid as 
Professor Macleod. His book is an important contribution to historical ethno- 
logy. The picture of American Indian culture drawn, with a wealth of colour 
and atmosphere, by this leading authority is in many ways attractive. The 
erudition is enlivened by innumerable human touches." New Statesman. 

GREEK THOUGHT, and the Origins of the Scientific Spirit 

By L. ROBIN, Professor in the University of Paris. 
With a map, 2 is. net. 

" His contribution will probably rank as one of the finest in the series. For 
immense erudition combined with perfect clarity of expression the book can 
have few equals." Nature. 

" Apart from his account of the three outstanding figures of Greek philosophy 
[Plato, Aristotle and Pythagoras], a special meed of thanks is due to him for his 
full treatment of Plotinus and of the Stoics. Professor Robin's work is characterized 
throughout by an exceptional sense of proportion." Times Literary Supplement. 


By G. RENARD, Professor at tkf College of France. 
With 9 plates, izs. 6d. net. 

44 In a text which is always informing and never dull, it ij> hard to know where 
to begin or when to stop [quoting]. Throughout there is a pithiness of diction 
resulting in memorable epigram. In short, the conjunction of style and matter 
is so fortunate that it gives the whole volume the individuality that marks a 
contribution to literature as contrasted with a mere textbook. The student who 
wishes to use it in the latter capacity will get from it just the right stimulus to 
send him forward. He will be made to realize the importance of the evolution of 
the useful and decorative arts. He will be conducted through a veritable museum 
of curious and telling facts. In short, there is inspiration in everything that 
Professor Renard has written." Ti mes Literary Supplement. 


With 25 plates, 2 is. net. 

" Professor Cartellieri chose a period steeped in romantic colour. When he 
began to work he was fascinated by the rich and splendid culture of the brilliant 
court. But there were bigger matters, as he found the more he explored, and 
his attention turned to 1 spiritual and social questions. The result is the work 
of a specialist, who has the gift of attractively presenting pictures of a strange 
period, its life and manners, its art, literature, and music, its ruler and Court, 
how the knight and the lady lived, the feasts, jousts, and tourneys." Times. 

" His richly-illustrated volume is a learned and engaging guide to the culture 
of late medieval society at its most brilliant." Saturday Review. 



By N. K. SIDHANTA, Professor oj English at Lucknow University. 

I2s. 6d. net. 

" A valuable contribution. The Heroic Age is an epoch in practically all 
races and cultures. They all show characteristics which the Indian age also 
displays. The Mababharata is his principal quarry ; the heroes of that epic 
seem near to us. With their drinking and love-making, their chivalry and 
brutality, they are of the schoolboy age of humanity. It is a delightful world 
to which Professor Sidhanta transports us. Not only scholars but all who 
would recapture the illusions of boyhood owe him a debt." 

Times Literary Supplement. 

THE GREEK CITY, and its Institutions 

By G. GLOTZ, Professor of Greek History in the University of Paris. 

1 6s. net. 

" The theme of this admirable book is the autonomous Greek city as it 
appeared in time from its first dim beginnings in the Homeric age down to its 
overthrow by Philip of Macedon. It combines great learning with philosophical 
power, and with a pure and lively style. It, of course, contains the facts, but it 
contains much more. His remarks on ostracism and the selection of magistrates 
by lot are good examples of his knowledge and his reasoning power." 

Sunday Times. 

" He is eminently qualified to write of Greek institutions, and his account 
of the evolution of man as a ' political animal ' in Greece is enriched with the 
results of discovery since the days of Fustel de Coulanges, whom he rivals in 
logic and lucidity." Times Literary Supplement. 

By LEON HOMO, Professor in the University of Lyons. 

i6s. net. 

" No other English book presents in so convenient a form the story of the 
stages through which the Roman Constitution arrived at its ultimate form of 
absolute monarchy and bureaucratic organization. From a description of the 
rise of the oligarchy, he proceeds to give a lively account of the period of transition 
in which the ideals of Pompey and Caesar, Principate and Monarchy, struggle 
for the victory, and goes on to show how the Principate of Augustus passes by 
inevitable development into the military monarchy of the later Emperors." 

Times Literary Supplement. 

By J. TOUTAIN, Sometime Member of the French School at Rome. 

With 6 maps, i6s. net. 

" He has written a lucid and attractive volume, mainly concerned with 
Greece and Rome. But he sketches the beginnings of trade in primitive society, 
the history of Carthage, and the dawn of commerce in prehistoric Italy as well 
as the development of Etruria. Those who imagine that capital is a modern 
phenomenon may be commended to the chapter on capitalism in Republican 
Rome from the Punic Wars onwards." Spectator. 


By A. R. BURN, sometime Scholar of Christ Church, Oxford. 

With 1 6 plates, 155. net. 

" A comprehensive study of the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages in the 
Eastern Mediterranean for which there is now ample evidence. The author's 
reconstruction becomes an enthralling, sometimes a thrilling, reanimation, in 
which a continuous narrative is evolved, and the Hebrew legends of the Judges 
and of Saul and David and the Greek epic traditions of Minos and Theseus 
and of the wars of Thebes and Troy are set in historical perspective. A remark- 
able book." Morning Post. 

DEATH CUSTOMS : an Analytical Study of Burial Rites 

By E. BENDANN, Ph.D., A.M. 

I2s. 6d. net. 

" The beliefs and customs associated among primitive peoples with death and 
the disposal of the body make up a complex manifold, the analysis and explana- 
tion of which is a rich field for the ethnologist ; they give us too some insight 
into savage philosophy. The author makes an intensive investigation in thil 
field, over Melanesia, Australia, North-Kast Siberia and India. Her criticismi 
on the Diffusionist school are shrewd and her study is to be commended." 

Times Literary Supplement. 


By M. GRANET, Professor at UEcole des Langues Orientates. 
With 12 plates and 5 maps, 255. net. 

" The imposing storv of China's past achievements becomes a clear account 
of the emergence of an obscure tribe from the unknown lands of central Asia 
to the proud position of leader of Asiatic civilization. The second part of the 
book is devoted to a careful analysis of Chinese society, life, customs, cities, 
feudalism, and the numerous social changes wrought by the change of Court and 
the growth of moral ideals. The author displays a rare combination of re- 
strained imagination and careful scholarship. The book should be read widely, 
and will be a necessary part of the equipment of students of Asiatic history for 
some time to come." The Spectator. 

THE END OF THE ANCIENT WORLD, and the Beginning 
of the Middle Ages 
By FERDINAND LOT, Professor in the University of Paris. 

With 3 plates and 3 maps, 21 s. net. 

" The author strikes a new note in the theory lie puts forward that the influx 
of the barbarian hordes was not the regenerating element which produced the 
new ideas of the Middle Ages. The author holds that the real regeneration 
of mankind only appeared when Islam challenged the superstition and idolatry 
of the Dark Ages, when the reformed Papacy became at last conscious of iti 
mission and when feudalism was able to establish, however imperfectly, something 
which could give rise to the modern state. The book has an excellent biblio- 
graphy and index and can be heartily recommended." Listener. 
" This masterly book." The Spectator. 


ISRAEL, from its Beginnings to the Middle of the Eighth 

By A. LODS, Professor at the Sorbonne. 

With 12 plates and 41 maps and text illustrations, 25$. net. 
This book fills a distinct gap in the long list of modern books on the Old 
Testament. Its peculiar value lies in the careful and lucid way in which Pro- 
fessor Lods, from his exhaustive knowledge of the results of recent excavation 
in Palestine, has given us a convincing picture of the early cultural background 
of the Hebrew people, enabling us to see the religious, social, and political life 
of Canaan when Abraham and his descendants were settling down in the 
land. The effect of the culture of the great empires of Egypt and Babylon 
upon Canaan is drawn in bold outlines, giving us the clue to the unique develop- 
ment of Hebrew religion, at once influenced by and protesting against the 
religious and social patterns of its environment. 


By G. S. GHURYE, Reader in Sociology, Bombay University. 
i os. 6d. net. 

One of the most remarkable developments in the history of sociology is the 
institution of caste. To grasp its significance is one of the first requirements 
for understanding some of the problems of modern India, the history of its 
social structure, its complex religious development, and its future destiny. This 
volume has been written by an Indian author who knows the actual facts from 
within, and who has combined a mastery of the principles of anthropological 
science with a knowledge of the modern theories of caste. 


By E. J. THOMAS, D.Lrrr., author of " The Life of Buddha ". 
With 4 plates, 155. net. 

" Dr Thomas's fine history . . . To approach Buddhism one must learn 
Buddha's aim. It was astonishingly simple. Buddha believed in re-birth. 
It clarified the problem of injustice. He was far too practical to care for 
metaphysics or fruitless debate. But Buddha's followers had no such self- 
denying wisdom, and the bulk of the commentaries is reckoned to be 700 times 
that of the Bible. Dr Thomas's erudition in winnowing this haystack is 
astonishing ; moreover he makes it live." The Observer. 


With 47 illustrations and 12 maps, i6s. net. 

" The whole problem has never been more completely surveyed than it was 
by the late M. Henri Hubert. He spent a lifetime on it. ... Taking as 
his starting point the Indo-European unity, of which he sees signs in the East, 
he produced in this, the first attempt to construct a history of all the Celts and 


a picture of all the Celtic world, a vast encyclopedia, conceived, however, in the 
spirit of that finely co-ordinated literary unity in which the French mind excels. 
. . . From the welter of varied data M. Hubert traces the migration of the 
Celts, and distinguishes more clearly than his predecessors the two great groups, 
the Brythons of the Continent and Britain, and the Goidels of Ireland and 
Scotland. ... He had the double competence of a Celticist and an Assyrio- 
logist ; and his whole career was inspired by the gift of synthesis." 

Sunday Times. 



With 3 maps, i6s. net. 

This volume deals with the period of greatest Celtic expansion and the 
subsequent decline. It describes Celtic settlements in Italy, Galatia, Spain, 
Gaul and the Danube valley ; the adventures of Celtic mercenaries in Egypt 
and elsewhere on the Mediterranean ; the conquest of Celtic countries by the 
Roman Empire ; and later struggles with invaders in Ireland, Scotland, and 
Wales. A great part of the book is given to a survey of the whole of ancient 
Celtic life, including such subjects as the survival of primitive customs like 
potlatch and headhunting, the nature of the clan, the influence of the Druids 
and the morality of honour. 

ANCIENT INDIA, and Indian Civilization 


Witli 40 illustrations and 5 maps, about i6s. net. 

This work presents native, pre-Moslem India. A description of the country 
and its races is followed by a summary of its history and an examination of 
political, social and economic life. In the largest section, dealing with the 
religions and philosophies, the authors, while emphasizing the different way in 
which the Indian mind works from the Western, give the essence of the various 
beliefs and theories with remarkable clarity. The section on literature, with 
its delightful summaries of the plots of epics, plays, and stories, and that on art, 
with its interesting remarks on Indian and Western taste, complete a glowing 
but accurate picture of a past world. 

Ready shortly :