Source: Varun Singh, 2017, Dating the Rig Veda: The western view and evidene, in: Puratattva No. 47, 2017, pp. 61-71
Dating of the Rigveda has been the most contentious and politically driven subject for almost hundred and fifty years. As to dating the composition of the Vedic hymns in the second millennium BCE by western scholars, it has been based on belief and not convincing evidence. Any date earlier than the second millennium is considered inadmissible. In this article I have used not only the textual but also the most recent archaeological evidence to determine the most probable period over which the hymns of Rigveda were composed. And in doing so, have exposed some of the lowest ‘make believe’ level of western scholarship on which the dating of Rigveda has been based.
Rigveda composed in verse, is the oldest and the most important document of India’s past.
Extemporaneous composition of the hymns by the rishis (sages or seers) while performing the daily worship, is a feat of achievement unparalleled in human history. But these achievements had lain unknown to the world and the beauty and power of Sanskrit, the language of the Vedic tradition, unrecognized, until, William Jones appointed to the position of judge to Supreme Court in Calcutta by the East India Company in 1783, decided to pay close attention to Sanskrit as well as the Hindu Law. He was quick to recognize close affinities between Sanskrit and two other ancient languages. Placing Sanskrit in a higher position, Jones averred that closeness of the three languages made him wonder if the three had originated from a common parent!
Europeans, in particular the Germans were overwhelmed by this discovery of a new language and culture soon after Jones’ translations of some Sanskrit texts appeared in Europe. To the extent that Friedrich Schlegel, an ardent member of the German Romantic Movement, posited in 1808 that in his opinion Sanskrit was the parent of all related languages (Schlegel 1808). Significantly, neither Jones, nor other leading members of the German Romantic Movement of early nineteenth century, felt that other European languages; such as Nordic or German for example, were in the same league as Sanskrit, Greek and Latin. What once was a language based relationship between languages grouped under the Indo-European rubric would be turned into a racial and ethnic entity by the end of the nineteenth century.
Europeans, especially the Germans and Austrians felt very strongly that the ‘Indo-European’ had to be European.
The discovery of ancient cities, Harappa and Mohenjo-daro — later to be called the Indus Civilization — at the same time as a new image of a ‘superior’ Indo-European race was emerging in Europe — was not only fortuitous but also unwelcome to the British colonists. Until then, enthusiasts and archeologists had searched for names and places described in the Bible and India for them was out of the Biblical orbit. John Marshall, the Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India, when announcing this new discovery to the world, could not hide his predicament about the racial origins of the people who had created such an advanced Civilization: ‘The most plausible view, however, is that they were the pre-Aryan (probably Dravidian) people of India, whose more developed civilization was destroyed by the Nordic invasions of the 3rd and 2nd millennium B.C.’ (Marshall 1926: 398). His tentative hypothesis was to form the foundation for racial identity of the people who had founded the great Indus Civilization with bare chance that the colonial image of the Dravidians being the dark skinned, flat nosed aborigines of India will ever be questioned or abrogated. Accordingly, it would be the white skinned Nordic people who will bring Sanskrit and the Vedic Tradition to India. Initial examination of the human remains from Mohenjo-daro, one of the two major Indus cities, had resulted in identification of four racial types, a distinction Kenneth Kennedy was unable to confirm later (2000: 304). Stuart Piggott who had expressed repulsion at the Harappan civilization could not conceal his disdain when he described the four racial types as ‘Mediterranean, Alpine, Mongoloid and the “black underdog” Proto-Australoid’. The ‘black underdog’ Proto-Australoid, to Piggott being none other than the Indian Dravidian, a stereotype that will from then on remain entrenched in the European mindset as the racial prototype of all South Asians, including the founders and creators of the great Indus civilization (Piggott 1950: 145-147).
The dating of Rigveda has been deeply rooted and tainted by the same colonial bias, a bias that has controlled the western mindset and also the views of some in India. In order to establish a time line as accurately as possible, I have used three pieces of latest scientific evidence as terminus ante quem for the period of composition of Rigveda: a– the drying of river Sarasvati around 2000-1900 BCE (Giosan et al. 2013: 888-889), b– the dates of early seventeenth century for presence of Mittani in north Mesopotamia and, c– as terminus ante quem for all the Vedic texts and the two epics Ramayana and Mahabharata - the most recent dates for Buddha and Mahavira of late seventh to early sixth century BCE (Coningham et al. 2013: 1104-1123).
At the very end of this article, the latest genetic evidence and its damaging impact on the history of India is also briefly discussed.
Western approach to dating the Rig Veda
Friedrich Max Muller, a German philologist based in England has been credited with being the first to propose a date for the period of composition of Rig Veda of 1200-1000 BCE. He did so in 1859 by assigning the Sutra texts to 600-200 BCE, and by speculating that the earliest Brahmanas were composed around 800600 BCE, the Mantra texts of Atharva Veda and Yajur Veda to about1000-800 BCE. Asko Parpola states that although these date estimates have been debated and criticized — to many the Muller dates have turned out to be remarkably ‘sagacious’ and accepted by most scholars including himself (Parpola 2015: 8). It has to be admitted that Muller had paid some attention to the fact that the various opuses had been composed over a period of time, and yet his time line is far too compressed, as will be shown later, to be significant. Not only that, his reasoning that all the major and voluminous masterpieces he lists were composed in immediate juxtaposition to each other, as if in seamless continuity, will also be shown to have been absurdly flawed.
It is quite evident from the time lines he has laid down, that he had not studied any of the texts he lists in depth, and even if he had (a practical impossibility), he would have only managed to barely scrape their surface. A limitation I would say that afflicts the professed opinion of many a western scholar. Of interest and crucial for this discussion is Parpola’s view shared by most western scholars that the ‘Rigvedic and Atharvavedic traditions had fused’ well before all other texts were composed (Parpola 2015: 145-149). The more one looks at the views and opinions of western scholars the more one appreciates that one has to be an Indian to fully grasp the many nuances of not only the religious practices but also the language, making one wonder how on earth they (the western scholars) managed to miss this or that salient or crucial piece of evidence.
Returning to the subject of dating of the Sanskrit texts, mention needs to be made of J.P. Mallory’s apportioning a date of 1500-1000 BCE for the origin of Sanskrit language (Mallory and Adams 2006: 15). James Mallory, an indefatigable torch bearer of the European cause and not known to be familiar with Sanskrit, even the most sundry aspects of it, does not explain on what grounds or bases this five hundred period time line has been divined. Does he mean, one is prompted to ask, if the seeds and kernels of the language were sown in 1500 BCE and from which texts like Rig Veda finally came into existence? But one thing is certain, that what ever date for either Sanskrit as a language or for composition of Rig Veda is chosen, it has to be placed without question after the dates for the Hittites, one of the two major empires of mid second millennium BCE Near East. Cuneiform texts dated to ca. 1830-1718 BCE from Kultepe, an Assyrian colony in eastern Turkey were found to contain segments of a language that has been thought to be Indo-European. This date has been used as a chronological touchstone to make the language of the Hittite of Anatolia (Central Turkey), the oldest Indo-European language.
Atharva Veda, as will be evident, offers us critical evidence to prove that not only it was composed a long time after Rig Veda, but that it also post dates all other major opuses.
The Atharva Veda
The 732 hymns (sukta) and 5560 verses (mantra) of Atharva Veda have been grouped under 20 sections or Kanda. Atharva Veda differs from other opuses as not only the style of hymns and verses varies from Kanda to Kanda, most of the verses also lack the specificity and focus encountered in other Vedic texts such as the Rig Veda, the Sama and Yaju Samhitas and the Brahmanas. In that sense this collection lacks direction and ‘purpose’ for which the Samhitas and the Brahmanas, in particular were composed.
There are many peculiarities of Atharva Veda such as the fictitious names of the authors, plagiarizing of Rig Veda hymns in a heedless manner, haphazard ordering of the verses, and a shift to a younger language. Further, about 22% of the hymns are devoted to magic spells, incantations, curses, as well as description of ailments and their remedies. But it is the misappropriation of the Rig Veda hymns which has fooled western scholars into believing that the language of Atharva Veda was closer to that of Rig Veda. I offer following examples to explain.
a. Language relationship
Out of total of 143 hymns and 942 verses in the last section (Kanda 20), 93% of hymns and 84% of verses show exact 100% match with corresponding hymns of Rig Veda. The frequency of such concordances drops as one progresses forwards towards the earlier sections. Although 30% of hymns in the next Kanda 19 are on spells and remedies, hymn six (K19.6) is an almost perfect match to the famous Purusha Sukta of Rig Veda (10.90), with the exception of mismatches in the order of verses and the language. The first hymn K18.1 of Kanda 18 has 40% matches with the Rig Veda hymns, the frequency dropping in the remaining three hymns.
As regards the language of Atharva Veda, I found nothing that placed it ahead of many or most of Vedic texts that succeeded Rig Veda and preceded Atharva Veda. If anything, the evidence points to a language dating to a period close to when parts of Mahabharata and the Purana were being composed or sometime in the first millennium BCE.
b. Chronological position of Atharva Veda
There is no mention of Atharva Veda in Shukla Yajur Veda (SY 4.1), Aitareya Brahmana (AB 5.5.7) and Shatapatha Brahmana (SB 4.2.23-25; 18.104.22.168; 22.214.171.124-7). The listing of ‘rik or richa’ (Rig Veda), ‘Sama’ (Sama Veda) and ‘Yaju’ (Yajur Veda) in Atharva Veda on fourteen occasions (K7.54.1; K7.54.2; K9.6.12; K10.7.14; K11.3.14; K11.6.14; K11.7.5; K11.8.23; K12.1.38; K15.3.6; K15.3.7; K15.6.8 and K15.6.9.), the Brahmanas on four (K11.3.14; K11.8.23; K15.6.8 and K15.6.9), and Purana on two (K11.7.24 and K15.6.11) not only assures us that the Atharva Veda was created well after the Samhitas and the Brahmanas had been composed, but that the mention of the Purana confirms that part of it belongs to mid first millennium BCE, if not later.
Furthermore, the mention of Brahma as a deity on some seventeen occasions (K1.19.4; K1.32.2; K4.1.1; K4.1.5; K4.11.11; K5.6.14; K7.67.1; K9.6.1; K9.7.7; K10.7.24; K10.8.1; K10.10.22; K11.5.10; K15.1.1; K19.9.10; K19.9.12; K19.10.7) puts Atharva Veda in a post Upanishad chronological position.
Finally, the composers of Atharva Veda were also familiar with the two great epics. Of three well known figures from Ramayana and Mahabharata, Kubera is mentioned in K10.5.10 and 11, Narada, who has been given importance in many texts dating from Ramayana onwards in K12.4.42, and Dhritarashtra, the blind king of Mahabharata in K10.5.15. This evidence thus tells us that the two epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata were composed well before Atharva Veda, especially Ramayana – as in K10.2.31, the capital Ayodhya is described as the ‘city of Gods’.
Even though there is very little insight offered to us regarding the geography of places, one verse (K5.22.14) should leave no one in doubt that Atharva Veda was composed when the Vedic tradition had moved farthest east beyond the ‘kuru’ and ‘panchal’ lands or the modern state of Haryana in north-west India and the neighbouring western part of the present state of U.P. These are the lands of domicile for the composers of the Yaju and Sama Samhitas, the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas as well as probably the Upanishads. The authors of hymn K5 while talking about the distribution of ‘krimi’ or worms that infested the human body, make mention of four regions in verse K5.22.14.:
1. ‘Gandhara’ the modern Swat Valley of north-west Pakistan. 2. ‘Mujavat’ as yet unidentified mountainous region east to Gandhara, where the soma of Rigveda is said to have grown. 3. ‘Magadha’ modern Bihar province of north-east India. 4. ‘Anga’ modern Bengal in the extreme north east of India. Mention of ‘magadha’ (modern north-eastern province of Bihar) is most significant as it allows us to date the period of Atharva Veda to the time of Mahavira, Buddha, Bimbisar and Ajatshatru, or late seventh to early sixth century BCE. The evidence as presented here prompts me to place the period of composition of Atharva Veda in the middle two quarters of first millennium. Accordingly, the Upanishads, Ramayana and Mahabharata would have been composed in the first quarter of the first millennium BCE, in particular, the earliest version of Mahabharata.
Dating the Rig Veda
Having established that Atharva Veda was composed sometime in mid first millennium BCE, and that the Upanishads and the two grand epics earlier in the first quarter of the first millennium, we need to turn our attention to the daunting subject of dating the Rig Veda. One of greatest hurdles to placing the composition of Rig Veda earlier than the second millennium has been the apocryphal belief, not supported by any evidence, that Sarasvati as a river had ceased to exist and that it was a name of a mythical river in Iran that was given to a dried up river bed in India. The fact that a river in exactly the same location as the dried up river bed has been described in hymn 10.75 in Rig Veda has been dismissed as a piece of Palaeo-reincarnation. In addition, the fact that no such river has ever been mentioned in the Old Avestan texts has never deterred proponents of this idea. I will not go into details of why the logic blinded by a pre-determined bias is was so seriously tainted, because I have discussed this subject in detail in a recent article (Singh 2017: 13-14) except to say that recent advances enable us to refute this baseless supposition. Very heavy concentration of Indus Civilization sites, more than anywhere else — on both banks of what is now a dried up river bed, archaeologists believe, could not have been sustained if these sites had no water source to subsist on. Views of Indian archaeologists that the title ‘Indus Civilization’ was no longer acceptable and that there were cogent reasons for replacing it with ‘Indus-Sarasvati Civilization’, have recently received resounding support from a British archaeologist, Jane McIntosh (McIntosh 2002: 24). The basis for this claim rests on discovery of an increasing number of new sites in the Indian part of what was once a geographically massive Indus Civilization. A picture is emerging that the Vedic Sarasvati was a geographical and historical reality and quite different from other rivers of the Indus Civilization, as it was dominantly monsoon fed. Understanding the complex archaeological data is not easy, so I feel it appropriate that I quote the whole concluding passage from Liviu Giosan and colleagues:
Finally, our research points to a perennial monsoonalfed Sarasvati river system with benign floods along its course, which could well be considered important for early agricultural civilizations such as the Harappan. A novel analysis of the Rig Veda (rather than later secondary sources) by Aklujkar paints exactly such a picture of a benevolent river with multiple courses affecting a wide area, which would certainly explain the amazing density of settlements across the S–Y interfluve rather than only along definite river courses. This description conforms well to the model that is slowly emerging for the Sarasvati, a perennial monsoonal river with many feeding streams in its headwaters with mild and nourishing floods when compared to the Indus or its large Himalayan tributaries. This is a testament to the acuity of the Rig Veda composers who transmitted to us across millennia such an incredibly accurate description of a grand river! (Aklujkar 2014: 91187).
And indeed Ashok Aklujkjar has convincingly invalidated claims that the Rig Veda hymns of Bharadvaja (RV 6.61) and Vasishtha (RV 7.95 and 7.96.1-5) were no more than a figment of their imagination. As regards the absurdity of claims made by Asko Parpola in his recent book that the hymns of Rig Veda were composed in Afghanistan and that river Haetumant of younger Avesta is the real Sarasvati, I refer the reader to the article just mentioned.
Taking cognizance of the fact the process of desiccation of the river Sarasvati occurred slowly over a period of time, according to latest evidence from about 4200-3900 years ago, or approximately 2200 to 1900 BCE, we can with confidence place the last phases of composition of Rig Veda to around 2000-1900 BCE. The Vedic Tradition would then move further east to the ‘kuru’ ‘panchal’ lands where, as defined earlier, many of the post Rig Veda corpora were composed.
But before establishing the period over which the hymns of Rig Veda were composed, we need to pay attention to another piece of archaeological evidence that is entirely in keeping with the end of the Rig Veda tradition by the end of third millennium BCE. Mittani, like the Hittites had created a powerful empire in mid second millennium Near East. Their identity as IndoAryans has been based on scant traces of the language they spoke and their worship of four Vedic gods (Indra, Varuna, Mitra and Nasatya) in cuneiform texts. I have shown in a chapter on the Mittani in my forthcoming book and in the article already mentioned that the Mittani spoke a dialect like Prakrit and were masters of horse management and chariotry. The evidence dated to early seventeenth century BCE, that they had arrived from India is provided by the discovery of two zebu bull figurines in the lowest levels at Tell Brak. It also appears more than probable that they may have been present in north Mesopotamia as early as ca. 1760 BCE.
Rig Veda – Migration and the Period of Composition
The moment we approach the subject of the period of composition of Rig Veda and the alleged migration of the bearers of the Vedic religion and its language, Sanskrit, we are confronted with two fundamental questions, e.g., the period over which a language like Sanskrit would have evolved, and signs of preservation of and memory of a culture imported from lands outside India in Rig Veda.
1. Period over which languages evolve: When western scholars glibly assume that they have the power to determine the age of any language as they feel ‘fit’, then all they manage to do is to expose a striking deficit of insight, logic and sound reasoning. The case in point being James Mallory’s divining the period of 1500-1000 BCE for the origin of Sanskrit, because this range of dates was chosen with the express purpose of placing Sanskrit at a later date than the language of the Hittites. Further, we are not informed if these dates refer to the period when Rig Veda was composed or over which Sanskrit evolved. Languages take a considerable time to evolve, measured in millennia and not centuries from their elementary primitive building blocks to a final literal form. Sanskrit of Rig Veda was already a full fledged language, with its vocabulary and structure so full, extensive and complete to become the bedrock on which all later compositions would stand. A point pithily made by William Jones in his 1786 discourse ‘The Sanscrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either’.
2. Preservation of and memory of past life and culture in the lands of origin: Archaeologists making a case for the origin of the Vedic tradition and Sanskrit in southern Russia or Central Asia have made wanton misuse of textual material from Rig Veda, misinterpreting poor and indifferent translations not aware that Rig Veda was composed in north-west South Asia in parts of what is now the Punjab in both Pakistan and India, lands further north-west of Punjab and east as far as the river Ganga in central-north India. Even traces of memory of landmarks as such as rivers, mountains, seasons and climate etc would have made the case for migration much stronger than it is. Not only that, remains of the same Vedic tradition even in its most slenderest of vestigial form in Central Asia would have offered more persuasive evidence. What we have been offered as evidence is absurdities — such as likening of the horse remains with human burials at Sintashta in Russia with the horse sacrifice ‘ashvamedha’ described in hymn 1.162 in Rig Veda, totally out of context and result of callow intelligence, as ‘ashvamedha’ was never a part of funeral rites. This striking and dire memory deficit in the cognitive function of the Russian and Central Asian migrants has to be compared with the supernormal memory the followers of Vedic tradition of India were required to have in order to transmit these voluminous opuses by word of mouth from generation to generation. The picture, these anachronisms paint, suggests that the migrants suffering severe cognitive impairment and memory deficit were given a sudden infusion of superior intellectual powers, the moment they set foot on the Indian soil. If the Russians or Central Asians did indeed bring the Vedic Tradition and Sanskrit to India then the only way this seismic transformation in the linguistic and cultural scene in India can be explained is by a massive migration or invasion, resulting in a total population replacement of the upper two thirds of the Indian subcontinent and a total ‘emptying out’ of Central Asia.
I have selected three items to illustrate this point:
First and foremost, the position of Sindhu in their life was so important that it became a generic name for body of waters, rivers, and even a celestial deity.
Kutsa Angirasa ends hymn 1.94.16 thus - tat nah mitro varuno mamhantam aditih sindhuh p r thiveeh uta dy a uh — May you gods mitra varuna aditi sindhu prithivee and heaven, protect (prolong) our life. Then we have a recurrent use of Sindhu in reference to the figurative and often mentioned phrase ‘seven rivers’ as ‘saptasindhvaha’ or ‘saptasindhuna’. Surely, the Central Asian migrants would have remembered the ancient name of the Oxus River, on whose banks the Oxus civilization, also known as the Bactria Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC) was based. Revealing is the fact that we see no record, whether written or in memory, of what Oxus River was called by the migrants. It certainly was not Sindhu.
Next we are given an insight into an event of distant past, preserved in memory of Sindhu having changed its course and flowing in the wrong direction towards the north. Grit Samada in RV 2.15.6 says - sah udancam sindhum arinat mahitva — Indra with his might (powers) made Sindhu flow upwards (to the north).
Indra is again praised for probably what was a major cataclysmic event that had occurred in remote past the memory of which will never be forgotten as the name ‘vritra’ vanquished by Indra will be recounted in texts as late as the two epics and Atharva Veda. Hiranyastupa, a son of Angira (1.31.11) and in my opinion one of the most senior figures of Rig Veda has described an event in hymn 1.32 in Rig Veda, of an evil being, a snake like creature (ahi) obstructing the flow of rivers. This is the gist of this event (the verse numbers are in parenthesis).
Hiranyastupa starts off by saying that ‘I will describe feats of greatness performed by Indra in the earliest (ancient) times (1) Living in the mountains, ahi had surrounded and obstructed the flow of rivers and Indra with the vajra made for him by tvashta smote vritra, the obstructer (2) Hit by Indra’s vajra (thunderbolt) vritra fell on earth (5) and fell to the bottom of rivers still obstructing the flow (8) his mother tried to shield him by lying above him, but Indra was able to get through to vritra, even when he was underneath (9) and finally as a result of destruction of vritra, the flow of the seven rivets was restored’.
What Hiranyastupa has described as an event that took in ancient times was the result of a glacier blocking the flow of Sindhu and its tributaries in the upper reaches of the Himalaya, close to the origin of Sindhu. This is indubitable proof that the composers of the hymns of Rig Veda not only knew the geography from the earliest times, but also remembered such events, a testament of their long domicile in ancient India.
The outline of generations provided here, in my opinion, is a poor reflection of the reality as a number of families, notably Angira, Atri and Kanva were large and would have spread over many — more than four or five generations. And yet they could not be accommodated in the scheme for reasons that should be obvious. Figure1 lists the generations that I consider give us some insight on the probable period of composition of the Rig Veda. A figure of thirty years for each generation, as employed by the geneticists, is used here.
Fig.1: Rig Veda chronology: lineages of two family lines - Angira and Vasistha are used in the diagram
But before presenting the schematic list of generations, a number of egregious misconceptions and claims, perpetrated by western scholars of early twentieth century, like Arthur Macdonell and others and still followed today by some in India, require dismissal. There is no substance to the claim that some of the major figures were mythical and not real, as all of them fall within the chronological envelope of Rig Veda. We start with Atharva, the earliest and most important figure and who has been credited with having laid down the foundations of the Vedic ritual of yajnya. Gotama (another senior figure) in verses 1.80.16 and 1.83.5 gives us a clear glimpse of Atharva’s role.
1.80.16:- Hey Indra, the yajnya Atharva, father (our) Manu, Dadhichi performed, manifested in our Svarajya, (independence), the mantra and uktha (songs) then reached you.
1.83.5:- Atharva first by yajnya expanded the path, then guardian of vrata (code of life) radiant Surya (Indra) appeared….
From these two verses we learn that Atharva was a contemporary of Manu, who with Atharva obtained independence: I would say from the Pani who had reduced the Vedic people to a marginal existence (Singh 2002-03: 43-44). Angira may have been a few generations behind Manu. Unfortunately, after his son Hiranyastupa, we lose all leads on succession of descent in the Angira family, as we then suddenly come across Lokanam — the father of Brihaspati and grandfather of Bharadvaja. I see it as most likely that Lokanama comes several generations after Hiranyastupa. It should be noted that both Hiranyastupa and Brihaspati were major figures and would have had their own books, but they have not survived. The placing of five hymns of Hiranyastupa in Book-1 (1.31-35) and two hymns of the great Brihaspati in Book-10 (10.71 and 72), tells how much Rig Veda material has been lost. The loss in my opinion being of a magnitude greater than 50%!
With Bharadvaja we come to the most important part of Rig Veda as it was the action described by Bharadvaja and those who followed him that has been preserved, at the expense of hymns from earlier periods. Then after Garga, the son of Bharadvaja we hear no more of king Divodasa, but of his son Sudasa. Vasishtha, like Bharadvaja had looked after Sudasa’s interests. Casting an eye on (Fig.1), the reader will observe that if we were to count generations from Atharva to Parashara, we reach a figure of ten generations or three hundred years. I have placed Vyaghrapada, of Vasishtha family at the bottom as I believe that he is a later figure separated from Parashara by a few generations. The total number of generations, thus, comes to eleven or 330 years — which we will call our short chronology or if we were to convert it into chronological dates then from about 2330 BCE to 1900 BCE. Allowing for the generation gaps and considerable uncertainty about the how many generations may have existed before the tradition of hymn composition came to its end, the actual figure is likely to be 600 years. I could have tried to accommodate the Vishvamitra family after Vasishtha, as Vishvamitra had taken over from Vasishtha after his death during the famous Ten King War (RV 7.33), but did not as I felt that the names of their sons would have overlapped. The belief that Book-3 of Vishvamitra is older than Book7 (Vasishtha), is groundless as apart from mention in his own Book-3 on six occasions, Vishvamitra is not remembered or mentioned in any of the other books; from Books 1 to 10, with a single exception in Book 10 (10.167.4).
Having shown that the end of the tradition of Rig Vedic hymn compositions came to an end about the same time as the drying of river Sarasvati around 1900 BCE, we need now to focus on the dating of the texts that followed Rig Veda. The reader would have noted that the analysis of Atharva Veda allowed us to place the chronology of the Upanishads and the two grand epics in the first quarter of the first millennium BCE.
All that is left to be done is to fill in the space and time gap between say 1900 to 1000-900 BCE.
Figure-2 lays out the time line when various corpora were or could have been composed. The two Samhitas; Yaju and Sama, were not composed immediately after the last hymns of Rig Veda had been composed, but after an interregnum, when it was realized that the whole Vedic tradition, its execution and practice were at the risk of being lost. Hence the Yaju Samhita, which deals with the execution of ritual and Sama Samhita with instructions for singing of the Rig Veda hymns, had to be composed. There seems to have been a hiatus or a break in continuity as the authors of the Samhitas do not claim direct descent from the famous family names of Rig Veda: something they would have fallen backwards to claim. And also there is a distinct shift in the language from that of the Rig Veda.
The next group of creations, the Brahmanas, came into being after another interregnum, but the reasons were identical. The new society needed to be instructed and explained the ways and methods by which Vedic religion had to be executed and performed, all over again. Shatapatha Brahmana was the new set of directions and functions for the Yaju rituals, and Tandya Mahabrahmana (Panchavimsha Brahmana) following the tradition of Sama Samhita. The order as laid out in Fig. 2 is only a broad sketch as there are many other texts that could not be accommodated. The arrangement of opuses during the first millennium hardly requires an explanation as the order of arrangement has been based on the evidence provided by Atharva Veda.
Summary: Taking account of the probability that more than 50% of Rig Veda has been lost, the preAtharva, Angira, Bhrigu society must date to the early centuries of the third and Sanskrit at a minimum, to the fourth millennium. Double meaning of Sanskrit verb ‘vah’ ‘to carry and also to flow’ suggests that this term was first introduced when waterways were used for transport, that is long before the wheeled carts were invented; and therefore most likely in the fourth, or even the fifth millennium BCE. Thus to a period that places pre-Vedic and Vedic Indians, in chronology terms, far earlier than the alleged age of Hittite language or the dates for Russian and Central Asian cultures.
Fig. 2: Chronology of all Vedic texts
I have discussed the standards of western scholarship in places, and would like to bring yet another example to the reader’s attention.
Michael Witzel in an article on Mittani migration from Central Asia makes following assertions (sic);
‘.. some of them started a move southward, across the western Central Asian deserts soon after that date. This may have followed the great streams, and all the mountain range pastures of the Tien Shan, down to the high mountain pastures of the Pamirs where according to the R±gveda and Avesta, the best Soma/Haoma was found at mount Mu¯javant..’(Witzel 2013: 423-441).
The fact of the matter is that this mountain, apart from Rig Veda, is also mentioned in a number of postRig Veda texts. Mention of Mujavat or Munjvat (not Mujavant) in relation to Soma is encountered on three occasions in Rig Veda, 1.161.8, 1.191.3 and 10.34.1. How this scholar, a self professed authority on Vedic texts, failed to spot this evidence defies credulity. Because the evidence listed below proves beyond doubt that this mountain or mountainous region is very much part of the Indian geography, as is evident from the following instances:
•Shukla Yajur Veda mentions ‘Mujavat’ in 3.61. • In Shatapatha Brahmana, (126.96.36.199), rope made from munja grass is described as the item used for tying the feet of the seat (throne) thus ‘mounjabhih rajjubhih’. • In Atharva Veda ‘Mujavat’ grass is mentioned in verses; K1.2.4, K5.22.5, K5.22.7 and then finally as one of the four regions in K5.22.14.
One can with little doubt place this region in the Indian part of the Himalaya for it to have been a source for readily available grass, obviously obtained from the stems of hemp (cannabis plant) and not ephedra, as has been baselessly assumed. Another testimony to the appalling and failed standard of western scholarship as the description in Rig Veda and Avestan Nerangistan makes the distinction transparently clear.
All the observations and conclusions related in this article are based on evidence, textual and also archaeological, and not some vacuous pre-fixed bias. Having said that I see little likelihood that the western mindset will be affected or influenced sufficiently to result in a reviewing and revising of their ‘beliefs’, as for them too much is at stake and at no stage their cherished, often based on no evidence beliefs — can be allowed to be challenged.
The Genetic Evidence
Study of genes and understanding how the genes (DNA) can explain our origins and our past and relationship to other societies, is a relatively new field. Two components of genetic material have been used to obtain genetic information, mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA (maternal) and the male gene, the Y chromosome and of the two, mtDNA has a longer life span.
Study of DNA has revolutionized our understanding of our past and has confirmed that we came out of Africa. Sub-Saharan Africans hold the oldest mtDNA lineage, L3, followed by M2 and other M lineages which are concentrated in India with a time depth of about ~ 70,000 years. Geneticists from Tartu University, Estonia, led by Toomas Kivisild in a ground breaking study reported that the genetic profile of the Indian tribal (aboriginal) people suggested that India had acted as an incubator of early genetic differentiation of modern humans moving out of Africa. And ‘The phylogeographic patterns of
the Y chromosome and mtDNA support the concept
that the Indian subcontinent played a pivotal role in
the late Pleistocene genetic differentiation of the
western and eastern Eurasian gene pools’ (Kivisild et al. 2003: 327).
These results were never accepted by the western geneticists and efforts have continued to be made, most notably by the geneticists from the Max Planck institute in Germany to undermine what the Tartu group had achieved. More recently attempts have been made to prove that what was determined as the Indian genes by the Tartu group and many others — are not indigenous to India. And then David Reich and his Harvard team in their second 2013 paper, confidently asserted that Reich’s earlier division of Indian populations into two groups, the ANI (Ancient North Indians) and ASI (Ancient South Indians) was confirmed (Moorjani et al. 2013: 422-438). In this paper they suggested on the strength of study of Indian autosomes that a constant stream of migrations and invasions had taken place over 2000 years (from about 4000 years to 2000 years ago). On the face of it, the evidence seemed persuasive, once account was taken of the many invasions and incursions India has suffered, beginning with the invasion by Darius, the Persian emperor in sixth century BCE.
But a closer look at the data and inference made the situation clearer and revealed a most startlingly alarming scenario, where these hordes of invaders relentlessly over a period of 2000 years went straight down to Andhra Pradesh in order to copulate with the females of the Madiga, the Mala and the Chenchu tribes. And as a result produced the founding fathers of not only all ANI (Ancient North Indians) but also of the Pathan and Sindhi populations of Pakistan. That this assertion had taken no account of the geography of South Asia was obvious as what was being proposed by the Harvard team was that these foreign invaders, without break over 2000 years, had traversed through Afghanistan, modern Pakistan, the Indian Punjab, followed by Rajasthan, western UP, then Gujarat, M.P., Maharashtra and Vidarbha, having not come across a single suitable female to mate with — as if the entire large landmass was unpopulated and empty. The ludicrous absurdity of this scheme will not be lost on us Indians for the simple reason that the same tribal people have never been known to have come in contact with settled societies until recently. The findings, a result of manipulation and concoction of the data, were intended to neatly ‘fit’ the western view of arrival of Indo-Europeans from out of India and the time line as predicated by the Aryan Invasion of the second millennium BCE. It is most regrettable, I feel, that the geneticists belonging to the C.C.M.B. Hyderabad, who were the co-authors of this paper failed to see the political agenda behind Reich’s devious intentions and designs.
The Chenchu were targeted because the Tartu University geneticists had shown that they possessed some mtDNA and Y chromosome lineages that were older and so ancestral to many western lineages. Regrettably, these findings cannot be overturned until ancient DNA from India is examined.
The example of how the geneticists managed to manipulate the evidence in the name of science, forms part of a greater and larger scale of challenges India is facing today. Once colonialism took root, India’s legendary status of Milton’s Paradise Lost was reduced to a peripheral one of inferior people subdued and subjugated by the Europeans.
The least these Europeans could have done was to have a look at the far from flattering image of the Europeans painted by Roman historians like Tacitus and Pliny. Judgments are passed on the Hindu religion from the time of Max Muller to Louis Renou and more recently Wendy Donniger: based on comparing the tenets of Christianity with the Vedic and post Vedic beliefs grouped under the ‘Hindu Religion’. But without taking note of the fact that the life span of the ancient religions of the Greeks and the Romans was very short and unable to withstand influence of Christianity, a religion that had its roots in Judaism and therefore totally foreign and alien to these ‘superior Europeans’, Muller in the title of his 1859 book describes the religion of the Brahmans as ‘primitive’ (Muller 1859). One wonders if he had made the effort of comparing the theological and metaphysical concepts of Rig Veda with ancient religions of Greece and Rome or for that matter the most primitive creation myths of north Europeans! Different sects in India are spoken of in a derisory manner, when in fact they are part of the same belief system which dates back to Rig Veda and live in harmony and equanimity. Quite unlike the Christians who split into two major divisions, Roman Catholic and Protestant, and who even today do not see eye to eye, with many reluctant to share their churches and schools. The sectarian violence in Ireland, intolerance to blasphemy resulting in capital punishment, brutal Spanish inquisitions and wars, conflicts and carnages between the different divisions have no parallels in India.
That is how I see India’s current position, dire, beyond redemption and rescue and hope that more Indians come out to redress and put an end to this inequality that dates from India’s colonial past.
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