The religion of India - BRĀHMAṆAS AND UPANISHADS

          Centuries have passed since the hymns of the Ṛig-vēda were composed. The Aryans have now crossed the fateful ridge on the east of their former settlements, and have spread themselves over the lands of Northern Hindostan around the upper basins of the Ganges and Jamna, reaching eastward as far as Bihar and southward down to the Vindhya Mountains, and in the course of their growth they have absorbed not a little of the blood of the dark-skinned natives. 

The old organisation of society by tribes has come to an end, though the names of many ancient tribes are still heard; the Aryans are now divided laterally by the principle of what we call "caste," which is based upon a combination of religious and professional distinctions, and vertically by the rule of kings, while a few oligarchic governments still survive to remind them of Vēdic days. In these kingdoms the old tribes are beginning to be fused together; from these combinations new States are arising, warring with one another, constantly waxing and waning. Society is ruled politically by kings, spiritually by Brahmans. With the rise of the kingdom an Established Church has come into existence, and the Brahman priesthood works out its principles to the bitterest end of logic.

The Brahmans are now, more than they ever were before, a close corporation of race, religion, and profession, a religious fraternity in the strict sense of the words. While other classes of the Aryans have mixed their blood to a greater or less degree with that of the natives, the Brahmans have preserved much of the pure Aryan strain. They, moreover, have maintained the knowledge of the ancient Vēdic language in which the sacred hymns of their forefathers were composed, of the traditions associated with them, and of the priestly lore of Vēdic ritual. Proud of this heritage and resolved to maintain it undiminished, they have knitted themselves into a close spiritual and intellectual aristocracy, which stands fast like a lighthouse amidst the darkness and storms of political changes. They employ all the arts of the priest, the thinker, the statesman, and even the magician to preserve their primacy; and around them the manifold variety of the other castes, in all their divisions and subdivisions, groups itself to make up the multi-coloured web of Indian life.