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Maori and Polynesian: their origin, history and culture

The Early Vedic System is the only Religion in — South Asia to which the Polynesian Mythology — shows any Affinity

The Early Vedic System is the only Religion in
South Asia to which the Polynesian Mythology
shows any Affinity

(13) Had the ancestors of the Polynesians belonged to the expedition from the Kling coast in 290 b.c., we should have found in their religious ideas traces of full-blown Vishnuism; if not the names, at least the characteristics, of the new Hindoo gods. But Rangi and Papa, Tangaroa and Tane, Maui and Tawhaki have no kinship with Vishnu or page 106Siva. Nor is there any trace of Buddhism, which had taken root in North-east India in the fifth century before our era, and had reached Indonesia in the third. If we wish to find kinship in Polynesian religious myth and custom with things religious in India, we have to go back to Vedic times. The gods are still close to the phenomena of Nature that they symbolise. The priestly system is still in embryo. The worship is not far removed from the primitive Aryan definition of the features of the world around them, the elements, and the dead heroes and ancestors. Simple offerings of pastoral or agricultural produce form the chief part of the ceremonies. The language of the hymns and invocations is as often childish as childlike, and just as often imaginative, verging on the philosophical and mystic. There is no caste, not even a priestly. There are no cruel rites or fierce self-mutilations and tortures. There are no idols of monstrous form, before which monstrous sacrifices are made. There is no elaboration of ceremony or method of life, such as is codified in the laws of Manu. There is no development of the doctrine of the transmigration of souls, and none of heavens and hells as the instrument of discipline in the hands of an organised priesthood.

(14) In short it is the very earliest phase of Aryan religion in Southern Asia, as sketched in the Vedas, that gives us any point of contact between Indian and Polynesian religious ideas and customs, and not that all-penetrative spiritual despotism against which Gautama preached his crusade in the sixth century before Christ, and founded Buddhism. For any, even the faintest prototype of Polynesian worship we must go back to the entry of the Aryans into north-west India, some fifteen hundred years or more before our era. It was doubtless proximity to the oldest civilisation that we have yet unearthed relics of, that of the valleys of the Euphrates and the Tigris, that raised this eastern migration page 107from the primitive home of the Aryans on the European steps to so high a platform of culture as they show in the Sanskrit literature. It was intercourse with the old Babylonian and Assyrian race that brought the Persian contingent of the Aryan migrants eastward so early to the front. And nothing else can so well explain the quick ripening of Hindoo culture after the Aryans reached the Punjaub.