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Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 2, p. 206.


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CHAPTER VI
SANSKRIT LITERATURE
Impor- FOR a full comprehension of modern India a knowledge of
stance ot Sanskrit literature is indispensable. The language in which it
Sanskrit
literature. is written was, in its earliest form, the parent of nearly all the
vernaculars of Northern India, while even the Dravidian tongues
of the South are saturated with Sanskrit words. The literature
itself furnishes the key to the civilization of the Hindus, the
vast majority of the population of the Indian Empire. While
ranking very high among the literatures of ancient peoples in
aesthetic merit, it is superior to all as a source for the study of
human evolution. An indication of its importance in this re-
spect is the fact that, while the discovery of the Sanskrit language
gave rise to the science of Comparative Philology, acquaintance
with the Vedas resulted in the sciences of Comparative Myth-
ology and Comparative Religion. One of the two departments
in which the main strength of Sanskrit literature lies is religion.
This in part explains how the Indians are the only division of
the Indo-European family which has created not only a great
national religion, Brahmanism, but also a great world-religion,
Buddhism. In philosophy, too, the Indian mind has produced
independently several systems which bear evidence of high
powers of speculation. The great interest, however, which
these two branches of Sanskrit literature have for us lies not so
much in the results arrived at, as in the fact that they reveal
every step in the evolution of religious and philosophical
thought.
Owing chiefly to the gigantic mountain barrier which isolates
the Peninsula from the rest of the world, the civilization of
India, as well as the literature which reflects it, displays not
only an originality, but also a continuity, which has scarcely
a parallel elsewhere. Thus no other country (with the possible
exception of China) can trace its language, literature, and
institutions through an uninterrupted development of more
than three thousand years.



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