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Erudite but misled – Part I

Posted by desicontrarian on July 12, 2009

The rants & raves pages of  Outlook magazine are usually trashy. It is a tribute to the liberal (free for all) editorial policy of the great man, Vinod Mehta. He has been a true liberal ever since he started with Debonair and The Sunday Observer.

Not always worth reading, but some times interesting discussions take place.  A recent set of  readers’  letters talk about Hinduism, Rig Veda and the Indus valley/Vedic civilization connection.

The assertions made are:

  1. Rig Veda(RV) was  completed in about 1500 B.C. Hinduism and its basic tenets introduced to Indian culture in 1500 B.C.
  2. Doctrine of Maya creates fatalism & passivity
  3. Indus valley Yogi seal shows indigenous element being absorbed into Vedic culture
  4. Vedic religion is different from Hindu religion. They are connected, but different.
  5. RV is exclusively religious. Does not care about temporal, geographical, historical, zoological, topographical information.
  6. RV geographically limited to Punjab. Does not yet know of iron but hard metal of copper & bronze. Iron found only in later Vedic texts, since in makes its appearance in Asia only 1200 to 1000 BC. Therefore RV earlier than that.
  7. RV does not know of large cities like the Indus civilization, but only ruins and small forts. So, it must be later than the disintegration of IVC, around 1900 B.C.
  8. Mitanni documents of N.Syria 1400 BC mention RV gods and some other old IE words.
  9. Mantra language whose geography is from  Bactria to Alga (NW Bengal) mention iron for the first time.
  10. Yajur veda geography is Haryana region, UP and Chambal. Conteporaneus with archeologocally attested painted greyware culture (upto 800 BC)
  11. Upanishads pre-date Buddha – 400 BC, cities around 450 BC.
  12. So  the Vedic period is between 1500-500 BC.

This is the Romila Thapar/Irfan Habib version of Ancient Indian history. It is important to know the intellectual tradition of this school, before one accepts their version. Yes, this is the version drilled into India’s collective mind by these historians. They have controlled school texts through their dominance on the ICHR over the last 50 years.

A reader opines thus:

There is some evidence at Harappa/Mohenjadaro with its sophisticated civilization of at most 35,000 people that had “servants’ quarters” outside the protective walls. But the ideology of Varna (and its caste progeny) came with the Vedic immigrants and their sacred literature. Specifically, Rig Veda that was mostly likely completed in its oral form around 1500 B.C.

Let us wind back to this excerpt from Macaulay’s Minute on Education.

We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern,  –a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect.

I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia. The intrinsic superiority of the Western literature is indeed fully admitted by those members of the committee who support the oriental plan of education.

Let us now add the Karl Marx view to complement it.

The Asiatic community supplies the key to the riddle of the unchangeability of Asiatic societies, which is in such striking contrast with the constant dissolution and refounding of Asiatic states, and the never-ceasing changes of dynasty.

There existed some forms of state, which were ruled by tribute-collecting despots based on the system of production-property relations, described as “Asiatic mode of production

Oriental despotism is, thus, the political superstructure that was developed in succession. It was explained to have prevented states from progressing, or,, “Asia fell asleep in history“. Dynasties might have changed, but overall the structure of the state remained the same – until an outside force (i.e. Western powers) artificially enforces “progressive” reforms.

Now stir it with the  witches brew called Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT).

You get a consistent ideological edifice that is remarkable for a nation that reportedly won freedom from colonialism 62 years ago. The ideological sepoys of the erstwhile British Raj tell us what to think about Ancient Indian History.

Yet, all is not lost. There is a large body of research and literature that convincingly demontrates the falsehood called official Indian history.

  1. The Rig Veda  predates Sindhu-Sarawathi civilization. According to Nicolas Kazanas – There are misconceptions about rigvedic purratha and samudra based on the Aryan Invasion/Immigration myth. Then, there are some 10 characteristic features of the Sarasvati-Sindhu Culture which are not found in the Rig Veda. Moreover palaeoastronomical evidence (mainly N. Achar’s work) places some BrAhmaNa texts c 3000 and the oldest layers of the MahAbhArata 3067. All this (and more) suggests that the (bulk of the) Rig Veda should be assigned to well before 3200 BCE – however unpalatable to mainstream thought this may be.
  2. There’s a ton of evidence that Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) is a false hypothesis.
  3. Romila Thapar, the prominent AIT proponent, has discarded it and moved to an Aryan Migration Hypothesis (AMT).
  4. David Frawley has written extensively about it, here and here.
  1. The situation regarding the primary sources of ancient India may be summarised as follows: no satisfactory explanation has been found to account for the separate existence of Harappan archaeology and the Vedic literature, both of which flourished in the same geographical region. On the one hand, there is Harappan archaeology, the most extensive anywhere in the world, but no Harappan literature. On the other, there is the Vedic literature, which exceeds in volume all other ancient literature in the world combined several times over, but no Vedic archaeological remains. So we have archaeology without literature for the Harappans and literature without archaeology for the Vedic Aryans. This is all the more puzzling considering that the Harappans were a literate people while we are told that the Vedic Aryans knew no writing but used memory for preserving their immense literature. This means only the literature of the illiterates has survived.
  2. As Seidenberg observed: ” … the elements of ancient geometry found in Egypt (before 2100 BC) and Babylonia (c. 1900 — 1750 BC) stem from a ritual system of the kind observed in the in the Sulbasutras.” This means that the mathematics of the Sulbasutras, which are Vedic texts, must have existed long before 2000 BC, i.e., during the Harappan period.
  3. The fall of the Indus or Harappan culture, just as was the case for many in the ancient world, was owing to ecological factors, something that nineteenth and early twentieth century migrationist views of history completely missed. It occurred not because of the destruction wrought by the proposed Aryan invaders but by ecological changes brought about by the drying up of the Sarasvati River around 1900 BCE. This didn’t end civilization in the region but caused its relocation mainly to the more certain waters of the Ganga to the east. Such a movement is reflected in the shift from Vedic literature that is centered on the Sarasvati to the Puranic literature that is centered on the Ganges.
  4. THE RECENT find of a submerged city in the Gulf of Cambay, perhaps as old as 7500 BC, serves to highlight the existence of southern sources for the civilisation of ancient India. The Gulf of Cambay find is only the latest in a series that includes Lothal (S.R. Rao), Dholavira (R.S. Bisht) and others in Gujarat. These discoveries have been pushing the seats of ancient Indian civilisation deeper into the southern peninsula.
  5. The Harappan-Sarasvati urban civilisation of India was by far the largest of its time (3100-1900 BCE) in the ancient world spreading from Punjab to Kachchh. We can no longer separate this great literature and this great civilisation, particularly given that both were based on the Sarasvati River, whose authenticity as a historical river before 1900 BCE has been confirmed by numerous geological studies.
  6. This is largely because of the oceanic character of Vedic symbolism in which all the main Rig Vedic Gods as well as many of the Vedic rishis have close connections with samudra or the sea. In fact, the image of the ocean pervades the whole of the Rig Veda. Unfortunately many scholars who put forth opinions on ancient India seldom bother to study the Vedas in the original Sanskrit and few know the language well enough to do so. The result is that their interpretation of Vedic literature is often erroneous, trusting out of date and inaccurate interpretations from the Nineteenth century like the idea that the Vedic people never knew the sea!

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