1 JANUARY 1876, Page 19


AN educated Hindoo, who signs himself "A Member of the Brahmo-Somaj," and is therefore no Hindoo by creed, but a Theist, writes to the Times this week to complain that Indian pomp should be described by the word "barbaric." He evidently confuses the word with "barbarous," and goes on to a general defence of the civilisation of India as compared with that of England, which is out of place, as he might have met the attack in a much more direct fashion. It is very doubtful whether the Indian pomp,—of which we hear so much during the Prince's visit that Englishmen will fancy Indian life all reception, procession, and elephant—can fairly be described as "barbaric," even in the limited sense in which the Times declares that it has used the word, as expressing only splendour without taste. The native of India is by no means specially addicted to that particular fault. He is, as a rule, rigidly simple in dress, habitually using white for his costume, and when he departs from it, choosing colours with an eye for restrained effect, that secures results which are admired by Europeans in exact proportion to their artistic knowledge. And it is natural that it should be so. Living in a country where the air is filled with a painful wealth of pene- trating light, such as men bred in our climate can scarcely realise, he loves shade and dusk and quiet colours, builds halls of reception in which a perpetual twilight reigns, plants his house in a grove of broad-leaved trees in order to enjoy the shade, and dresses him- self by preference in white—the white, be it observed, being not the glaring white of this paper, but white toned by the dusky skin just seen beneath the muslin, till it has something of the cream-like effect which is the distinction of Satsuma-ware. Even when he desires splendour and employs bright colours, their- garishness, made so obvious by the lighted atmosphere, pains- and annoys him, till he has learnt, by the observation of- centuries, to combine them into a flat brilliancy which is the despair of European artists. It is the positive pain received• by the eye in that climate from garishness which has taught the native to combine insufferably gaudy colours into the Cashmere shawl, the Mirzapore carpet, the marble-work of his floorings, and the broad-brimmed, coloured turban of full dress, often a mar- vellous specimen of art, and always, unless injured by some caste rule or family tradition, producing an effect of subdued splendour as little barbaric as the newest French ribbon in feints degrades. The dress of a great native magnate, the account of which reads so• " splendiferous," is usuallya marvel of restrained effect, and no more barbaric—that is, no more wanting in essential harmony with its end—than that of the great Parisienne, who, like the native noble, employs gems to set off her raiment and show her wealth. If, indeed, " gold and pearl " be in themselves " barbaric," as Milton said—he only meant "foreign," as the Greeks did when they used the word—then the Times is right, but that is surely not true taste. It is brightness out of place which is barbaric, not brightness itself. Who doubts the artistic accuracy of the most blazing of all jewels—a lady's collar of tiger-claws set in gold and rubies? It is true, a native noble prefers his gems uncut, but that arises from reasons which are not bar- baric, and will appeal to many connoisseurs. You cannot imi- tate the uncut stone, with its strange, momentary revealings of colour, and that sort of mystery of light hidden in it which touches a native imagination, and is the secret of his delight in the half - translucent gems, in the opal, in the cat's- eye — which is worth in India many times its value in Europe, and is invested with all manner of weird attri butes—and in the unrevealing depth of the larger carbuncles, which seem to emit instead of receiving light, till the native asserts that they actually do it. In his management of a ceremo- nial or a procession, the Hindoo, who holds the ceremonial in a hall filled with one broad shadow, and begins his procession in half-light, is not seeking garishness, or an exhibition of mere wealth, but an effect which in Europe, in theatres and opera-houses, we all profess to enjoy, an effect of splendour with which reality has nothing to do. The truth about him on this side of his head is not that he is barbaric, but that he is histrionic to excess, and when the mood is on him will seek his theatrical result by means which, to Europeans, who assume the necessity of tinsel on the stage, but forget it in India, seem grotesque or barbarous. The painting of animals' heads, the adornment of elephants with gold bracelets, and all the like exhibitions, are not efforts at display, as the Times fancies, but efforts to realise a picture existing in the native's mind, as it exists in that of the scone-painter, and we may add, very often realised. The gold and the paint, we say, are out of place, but they are no more so in inten- tion than the black-lead with which we darken the coats of funeral-horses, or the spangles with which a dancer tries to give her dress a coruscating effect. The evil is not want of true taste, which in such matters a Hindoo has, but a histrionic disregard for reality when in search of impressions. " A Member of the Brahmo-Somaj " is right enough when he points to the English lady's chignon as more barbaric than his pomp, for the wearer of the chignon does not when wearing it postulate in her mind a stage-effect, as the Hindoo does.

"A Member of the Brahmo-Somaj" might have made a better case for his countrymen's pomps, and when he passes to the general question of comparative civilisations, he makes a muddle between civilisation and morality, and to be even intelli- gible should have added definitions. What does he understand by civilisation ? We understand by it that state of society in which the will, the interests, and the passions of the individual are restrained by irresistible law for the protection of the whole com- munity, or it may be, for its advancement towards an end deemed by that community in its wisest moments permanently. desirable.. There can be no doubt that, so defined, civilisation exists in Western Europe; and as little that, so defined, it exists in part in India. A native is bound in every action of his life by codes and laws, and customs having the force of law, which he never violates, and the majority of which are intended either to benefit the community, or to advance towards an ideal, or to main- tain intact the divinely-appointed order of society. Neverthe- less, civilisation in the East and West is not the same thing. The difference, the radical difference, is not only, as the Times says, that the Western civilisation is progressive and the Eastern stationary—for any civilisation, however lofty, with which its subjects were thoroughly content would be sta- tionary, and we have no proof that progress is to last for ever—but that in India breaks are allowed in the grand chain which often render it feeble, or seem to destroy it altogether. Three doors always stand open in India for the reintrusion of barbaric individualism. Any man who professes that his religion justifies or enjoins a particular act is thereby exempt from. " civi- lisation,"—that is, from the general polity made in the interest of all. The Hindoo moral code is, in substance, the same as our own ; but if a sept declares that its creed or its caste-rule enjoins infanticide, as among Ilajpoots ; or unlimited poly- gamy, as among Koolin Brahmins ; or abnormal sexual laws, as among some sections of the Sivaites ; or murder, as among the followers of Bhowani ; or defiance of all rules of decency, as among the Joins, Jogees, and some other sects, authority drops its sword, and even opinion ceases to act. The absolute right of the individual, as against civilisation, is restored, and however abhorred or however noxious, he is not effectively condemned. If a Government alien from the people chooses to suppress abnormal religious practices, the people neither resent nor resist ; but the Indian civilisation of itself, by the law of its being, cannot suppress suttee, female infanticide, Thuggeeism—though self-de- fence may order the killing of the individual Thug—phallic wor- ship, or the unrestricted wandering of naked devotees of both sexes in front of palaces tenanted by all-powerful persons, who, whether moral or immoral themselves, hold on all these subjects the same ideas of civilisation as Europeans. The chain of civilisation breaks before the claim of religious freedom, and admits a rush of barbarism which affects all external as well as all internal life in India, every caste professing some tenet or maintaining some privilege intended to operate for its own advantage against the general good of the community. Another break, and quite as potent a one, is the liberty allowed to the ruler. His duty, on the Hindoo theory, is precisely his duty on the English theory ; but he is unbound by law, and consequently, if he is bad, civilisa- tion ends. The will of the ruler, or of those he appoints, is not subordinated to the interest of the community, but is allowed to act against it without punishment, and except in very extreme cases, without serious reproach. All Hindoo thought condemned a life like that of the late ruler of Baroda, but it is nearly certain he would not have been upset, and quite probable that he was popular. The power of the ruler being great, his individualism, thus left free, may and frequently does break up civilisation, makes commerce, for instance, impossible, or throws counties out of culti- vation, or arrests the whole course of education for a genera- tion. Those evils do not happen in Western Europe, even when what is here called absolutism has been vested in the ruler. His will is not really released even if, like the Kings of Denmark, he is declared by the Constitution " absolute throughout his dominions." And finally, there is a third break in the chain, in the one-sidedness with which the doctrine that the individual is to give way to the community is applied. The doctrine—allowing for the two great exemptions we have mentioned—is held in theory as a prohibitory law as strongly as in Europe, but as a stimulating law it is not held at all. No Hindoo holds himself at liberty to hurt the community, but no Hindoo holds himself bound to benefit it to his own effacement. For instance, any Hindoo would deny that he had a right to rob the village Treasury, and if a decent man he would not do it, any more than an English clergyman would steal his sacramental plate. But no Hindoo who could avoid the tax paid to that Treasury would think himself morally wrong in avoiding it. The man who would not murder for the world is not bound in his own mind to warn the traveller of the approaching Thug. The man who would not steal for the world—and there are millions of Hindoos just as likely to steal as the Archbishop of Canterbury—does not feel obliged to prevent a theft. Indi- vidualism is rampant on this side, the right to tolerate anything, until India has been conquered by successive hosts of foreigners. It is alleged that Hindoos have no patriotism, and many Europeans will assert that no such idea as that of "country" even has ever Ientered their minds. We utterly disbelieve it,—believe, on the contrary, that Hindoos have a patriotism of a sensitive kind, a profound belief that India is, and ought to be, and ultimately will be, for them ; that invasion is unjust, and that the invader ought to depart. But that he who thinks so individually ought to risk life, property, or freedom in making the intruder depart, he does not think; and so, unless he can gain by the effort, he leaves him to conquer at his will. India is, in fact, a civilised country, in which the community is above the individual, except when the latter pleads religion, when the latter is a ruler, and when the duty to be observed is positive, and not negative ; and those three exceptions make its civilisation so imperfect, that careless observers are almost justified in calling it "barbaric."