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THE FIRST INHABITANTS
WHEN the first Aryan invaders entered India they
brought with them an exaggerated belief in the existence of various classes of evil beings, among whom those termed Rakshasas occupied the most prominent place. These demons were thought to be especially active and powerful during the darkness of the night, when, though invisible in their true shapes, they acted in many objectionable ways in opposition to the new settlers; and most of the ills which beset the Aryans were attributed to their malevolence. Every mysterious sound heard during the night, and especially the weird calls of the forest owls, showed them to be then in the immediate neighbourhood of the villages or encampments, but with the first gleams of sunrise they vanished; the spearlike rays of the mighty Sun-god had annihilated them, or at the least had driven them away into the obscurity of the trackless forests. Being thus powerful during the nocturnal hours, it was naturally believed to be they who inspired the night attacks of the aboriginal tribes, the constant enemies of the Aryan settlers; and many and fervent were the prayers addressed to Agni, the Fire-god, and Indra, the God of the Firmament, the Lord of the Thunder and the Controller of the Heavenly Fires, to arise and disperse and overwhelm them. In the fourth hymn of Book iv of the Rig-Veda (Griffiths' translation) the prayer runs :—
Rise, Agni, drive off those who fight against us: make manifest thine own celestial vigour.
Slacken the strong bows of the demon-driven. . .
As the Aryans advanced further into the country their belief in the existence of these demons of the night remained