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calculus from the pebbles with which they were carried on before the invention of numerical signs, so the unknown quantities of the Indian algebra must have received those of the colours from the use of different coloured shells, flowers, or pieces of cloth, when the first rude essays towards inventing the science were made. This may rationally be considered as a collateral proof of the originality of the Hindû algebra; but there appear to be others much more direct in the solutions of various difficult problems given in the Bija Gannita, some of which continued to be unknown in Europe until the time of Euler, which could scarcely have been the case if they had been derived from the Greek and Arabian writers, whose works are the foundation of modern science. But I am so ignorant on this subject, that I have written even the name of algebra in fear and trembling, and only ventured to do so as an excuse to tell you where you might look for the best account of it in its Indian guise that we yet possess in this country.

The mode of dividing time in India is very unequal, as it depends on the seasons and consequent length of day and night: the great divisions are four day watches and four night watches, each of which must of course vary with the season; but the watches are subdivided into ghurrees which are fixed, and contain twenty


four English minutes, so that there are sixty ghurrees in the twenty-four hours, although the number of ghurrees in each watch or puhur is perpetually changing. The ghurree is divided into sixty puls, the pul into sixty bipuls, and the bipul into sixty till or anoopul. The way in which these periods are measured for the common purposes of life is with a kutoree, or thin brass cup perforated at the bottom and placed on the surface of water in a large vessel where nothing can disturb it, when the water has filled it to a certain line, which has been previously adjusted astronomically by an astrolabe, the ghurree allee or watchman strikes the ghurrée with a wooden mallet on a shallow bell-metal pan, like those we bring from China under the name of gongs, and besides the number of the ghurree, that of the puhur is rung at the end of each watch. The same kind of water measure, but very delicately arranged, is used for astronomical purposes. None but great men can afford the luxury of a ghurree al, or clock, as it requires the attendance of numerous servants, and the only public clocks in India are those attached to the armies.



A THOUSAND thanks for the patience you have had with my last letter, which has really encouraged me to begin this, and to go on with the plan I had proposed. Since, then, we have done with the heavens, it will not be amiss to inquire what the ancient Hindûs thought of the earth.

Their systems of geography are extremely curious, though involved in considerable obscurity, owing to the exuberance, or poverty, shall I say, of the Hindû imagination, which delights in describing mountains of precious stones, seas of milk, and rivers of honey or butter; and has pleased itself with rendering the world so equal, that for every mountain in the south there is its equivalent in the north, and that no river can flow without a sister stream in an opposite direction. Notwithstanding these disguises, however, it is plain that the Hindûs had a very general and tolerably correct notion of the old continent; and though at first sight they appear completely separated from the rest of the world, the means by which they acquired their true notions of it, become, on a little attention, abundantly apparent.

In the first place, the rich productions of their country, and the excellence of their manufactures, would naturally draw a number of traders to their cities, and as naturally lead them to travel with their merchandise. Besides, they believe that their ancestors came from the north, and it is certain that to this day several places in Tartary are visited by pilgrims as places of worship; and Mr. Duncan, the late governor of Bombay, told me he had seen one who had even been to Moscow on a similar errand*. A pretty regular intercourse has been at all times kept up between India and Samarkand, Balkh, and other northern cities where there are colonies of Hindûs, established from time immemorial; and one of the great pilgrimages from Hindostan is to the place called the Fiery Mouth, on the borders of the Caspian Sea.

We must not wonder that, in the early stages of society, the recitals of pilgrims and merchants concerning remote countries, should have been embellished not only by themselves, but by those who took upon them to record and preserve them; and hence, in all probability, arose part, at least, of the absurdity we remark in the Hindû systems of geography.

* An account of that man is published in the Asiatic Researches.

These systems differ considerably among themselves, even as related in the Puranas; but, for the most part, they divide the earth into seven Dwipa, or islands, the first of which, Jambhu Dwipa, is evidently India itself, with the countries surrounding it, bounded on the east by the Yellow Sea, on the west by the Caspian, extending north as far as the Frozen Ocean, and washed on the south by the Indian Sea*.

The Mount Meru occupies the centre of Jambhu Dwipa, and is described by the poets as composed of gold and precious gems, threepeaked, the habitation of the immortals, and from it flow four rivers to the four quarters of the earth, among which the Ganges rolls through the southern quarter, and its source leads us to the true position of Meru, the base of which is the land of Illavrati, surrounded on all sides by lofty mountains. Now this inclosed land is found in Western Tartary, having on the south Thibet, on the east the sandy desert of Cobi, on the west the Imaus, and on the north the Altai mountains; and from the four extremities of this raised plain four of the largest rivers of the old continent take their rise.

North and south of Meru three parallel ranges

* See Edinburgh Review, April, 1808.

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