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Tales of Bengal   By:

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S. B. Banerjea

Edited by

Francis Henry Skrine.


I. The Pride of Kadampur II. The Rival Markets III. A Foul Conspiracy IV. The Biter Bitten V. All's Well That Ends Well VI. An Outrageous Swindle VII. The Virtue of Economy VIII. A Peacemaker IX. A Brahman's Curse X. A Roland for His Oliver XI. Rámdá XII. A Rift in the Lute XIII. Debenbra Babu in Trouble XIV. True to His Salt XV. A Tame Rabbit XVI. Gobardhan's Triumph XVII. Patience is a Virtue


That "east is east, and west is west, and never the twain shall meet," is an axiom with most Englishmen to whom the oriental character seems an insoluble enigma. This form of agnosticism is unworthy of a nation which is responsible for the happiness of 300,000,000 Asiatics. It is not justified by history, which teaches us that civilisation is the result of the mutual action of Europe and Asia; and that the advanced races of India are our own kinsfolk.

The scene of Mr. Banerjea's tales has been won from the sea by alluvial action. Its soil, enriched by yearly deposits of silt, yields abundantly without the aid of manure. A hothouse climate and regular rainfall made Bengal the predestined breeding ground of mankind; the seat of an ancient and complex civilisation. But subsistence is too easily secured in those fertile plains. Malaria, due to the absence of subsoil drainage, is ubiquitous, and the standard of vitality extremely low. Bengal has always been at the mercy of invaders. The earliest inroad was prompted by economic necessity. About 2000 B.C. a congeries of races which are now styled "Aryan" were driven by the shrinkage of water from their pasture grounds in Central Asia. They penetrated Europe in successive hordes, who were ancestors of our Celts, Hellenes, Slavs, Teutons and Scandinavians. Sanskrit was the Aryans' mother tongue, and it forms the basis of nearly every European language. A later swarm turned the western flank of the Himalayas, and descended on Upper India. Their rigid discipline, resulting from vigorous group selection, gave the invaders an easy victory over the negroid hunters and fishermen who peopled India. All races of Aryan descent exhibit the same characteristics. They split into endogamous castes, each of which pursues its own interests at the expense of other castes. From the dawn of history we find kings, nobles and priests riding roughshod over a mass of herdsmen, cultivators and artisans. These ruling castes are imbued with pride of colour. The Aryans' fair complexions differentiated them from the coal black aborigines; varna in Sanskrit means "caste" and "colour". Their aesthetic instinct finds expression in a passionate love of poetry, and a tangible object in the tribal chiefs. Loyalty is a religion which is almost proof against its idol's selfishness and incompetence.

Caste is a symptom of arrested social development; and no community which tolerates it is free from the scourge of civil strife. Class war is the most salient fact in history. Warriors, termed Kshatriyas in Sanskrit, were the earliest caste. Under the law of specialisation defence fell to the lot of adventurous spirits, whose warlike prowess gave them unlimited prestige with the peaceful masses. They became the governing element, and were able to transmit their privileges by male filiation. But they had to reckon with the priests, descended from bards who attached themselves to the court of a Kshatriya prince and laid him under the spell of poetry. Lust of dominion is a manifestation of the Wish to Live; the priests used their tremendous power for selfish ends. They imitated the warriors in forming a caste, which claimed descent from Brahma, the Creator's head, while Kshatriyas represented his arms, and the productive classes his less noble members... Continue reading book >>

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