The Spiritual Content Of Vedas

English: Student learning Veda. Location: Nach...
Student learning Veda. Location: Nachiyar Kovil, Kumbakonam, Tamilnadu. http://parampara.in (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Adapted from Dr Kenneth Chandler’s Origins Of Vedic Civilisation

What is Rig Veda and the Vedic literature ?

What is the Vedic tradition really about ?

It is as if we have been on an archeological dig on an ancient site in the Indus Valley and find a treasure room of vast extent, filled with books that are about an ancient science. As we decipher these ancient codes, we discover a body of knowledge more advanced than any science known to humanity today. Such is the excitement of the rediscovery of the Veda.

If the European scholars got the dates of the Vedic tradition and the invasion theory entirely wrong, neither did they understand anything of what was going on in the Vedic tradition. It takes direct experience to understand its transcendent revelations.

Veda means knowledge, the one structured within the inner silence of consciousness itself. It is knowledge unravelled by oneself when conscious of itself, of its own nature free of all physical-mental-intellectual terms. It exists on the reverse of how we are otherwise directed, away from ourself. The unbroken Vedic tradition yet holds the ancient, and now lost, knowledge of that conscious method of going within, like turning the sight away from objects in order to look at itself.

We too can experience the Veda deep within our own consciousness; if we do not, it because we are out of touch with the method of going within, of giving up our ‘individual’ occupation with differentiated consciousness of finite being and transiting over to our primordial, undifferentiated stillness and its infinite homogeneous depths. It is on the way that Vedic knowledge arises of its own accord in seer consciousness … of knowledge pure, of inclusive perspective to being in truth, and of human moral values at their source. With this experience, the seers know and declare that the Veda is eternal and safe forever in its transcendent realm.

The Veda is expression of the knowledge the seer passes by while transcending beyond the individual consciousness formed in gross and subtle receptacles available in the mind-body complex, or during the descent from that undifferentiated sublimity. Whilst cleansing the seer’s own mental and intellectual universe of all flaws and taints, the direct experience also retains the awareness of that oneness pervading all creation. It is not localised to individual awareness, as is confirmed by several seers contemporary, before and after; it is universal. Anyone else too can gain the same transcendental experience of the infinite, unbounded silence, and confirm the truth.

The infinite silence is not seen, as one sees an object separate from the self. It is what the seer becomes — the undifferentiated infinite. Since the Veda is structured in consciousness itself, which is not individual but universal and all-pervading, it exists within and is available to everyone. Every individual consciousness grows out of the vast ocean of universal consciousness, which is the Veda. By diving within our individual consciousness and beyond, to the infinite sea of universal consciousness, we can experience the self-interacting dynamics by which the world is created within the eternal sea of consciousness. This is to witness the mechanics of creation. Veda is this mechanics of creation.

The Vedic tradition grew out of a discovery of a way to go within consciousness and directly experience the Veda, which exists deep within it. It is only through this experience that there can be genuine knowledge of the Veda at all. It is for this reason that the seers laid out the method for everyone to go within and directly experience the silent expanse of consciousness. The method is as sacred as the Veda itself, for without it there would have been no way to verify and affirm the truth through unbroken tradition since antiquity. It has enabled humanity to access the silent, unconditioned, universal consciousness that underlies and pervades all manifest objects in the physical world.

The Vedic tradition therefore contrasts starkly with the monotheistic religions of the Book, principally Christianity and Islam. They offer no solid foundation – the method — for knowledge and understanding of their respective personal and personified God or Allah. Adherents of those religions are asked to keep faith, believe and pray; there is no tradition of exploring the fundamental inner silence of pure consciousness itself, that every human being is heir to. As a result, no one in those religions has the direct experience of that level of reality—the silent foundation of universal consciousness— which they write and speak of, exhort and preach about, but without the authority of personal evidence.

The Veda reveals the reality of consciousness through a constant stream of aligned expression, which was meant to be heard and repeated, contemplated and mediated upon, till the same essence of the revelation at source was imbibed and absorbed enough to yield its indescribable reality. The Vedic tradition carries knowledge of that spiritual method over time; amazingly, in fact, through six millennia or so. And Vedic civilisation was raised on that uniquely mystical experience, connecting the universal with the ephemeral !

The Rig Veda and the Vedic literature are a systematic expression of consciousness and the knowledge of consciousness. The Veda tells us something about our own consciousness, about our human potential to be in and to experience a universal field of consciousness that underlies all created things. The essential meaning of the Veda escaped the Western scholars. They failed to appreciate that, to people nurtured in Vedic tradition, the esoteric fulness signified in the Veda and eclectic means that seers have revealed through the ages are of immense practical import, far greater than any other method of knowledge.

Which is why the Veda is preserved as expression of deep knowledge and has survived over many thousands of years in virtually perfect condition, and that it holds the secret to unlocking new knowledge and a new approach to knowledge that will enhance civilisations everywhere more than any other discovery in the history of mankind.

Veda pathashala students doing sandhya vandana...

Story Of Vedic Civilisation

How Ancient Is The Vedic Tradition

Dr Kenneth Chandler

Origins Of Vedic Civilisation

Other Approaches to Dating the Vedic Tradition

In an article entitled, “Birth of a Civilization,” in Archeology, January/February 1998, anthropologist Mark Kenoyer sums up decades of scientific research on the archeology of India and argues that the Rig Veda verses were known on the subcontinent sometime before 1500 BC, by communities in the northwest area of the subcontinent. This is, again, a minimal date, not an attempt to fix the time of the Vedic period at 1,500 BC.

Maurice Winternitz, a German scholar and author of the two volume History of Indian Literature, extensively re-examined the evidence for Muller’s dates in 1981, a decade before the movement to push back the dates of Vedic civilisation that started in the 1990s. Winternitz estimated how long it would have taken for the vast body of Vedic literature to form and develop before the Buddhist revival in 500 BC. He considered each of the major periods of Vedic literature and estimated a bare minimal time for the incubation of each. His estimate of 1900 years put the beginning of the Vedic tradition at sometime before 2,400 BC as a bare minimum.

The vast literature of the Rig Veda, the Brahmanans, the Aranyakas, the Upanishads, the Vedangas, the Upangas, the Puranans, the Itihasa, the systems of Ayur-Veda, Winternitz argued—each a huge body of literature—required a sustained incubation period that must have taken an extended period of time. Winternitz could not imagine that this had taken place in the short span of time that had been assigned for it to happen between 1,500 BC and 500 BC when Buddha lived. This, it must be emphasised again, was Winternitz’s estimate of a minimum time, and was not meant to fix the date of the Rig Vedic beginning.

The City Under the Sea : Dwarka

Undersea exploration of an ancient city about half a mile off the coast of Gujarat in India, in 1981, lead to the discovery a city that had been submerged since 1,600 BC. The city is well established to be Dwarka, an ancient city mentioned in the Mahabharata, the great epic of the late Vedic period of Itihasa. The Mahabharata describes Dwarka as built on land reclaimed from the sea. Boulders have been found under the fortified city walls, showing that it was the result of land reclamation. The Mahabharata also mentions that Krishna warned the residents of Dwarka that the city would be reclaimed by the sea. The discovery of a seal engraved with a three-headed animal at the Dwarka site corroborates a reference made in the Mahabharata that such a seal was given to the city. Seven nearby islands described in the Mahabharata have also been discovered.

  1. Since archeological research shows that the city was submerged around 1,600 BC, this would date the Mahabharata at least before 1,600 BC. Again this is a minimum time.

  1. Pottery found at the site, inscribed with the script of the Indus valley civilisation, has been established by thermo-luminescene tests to be about 3,530 years old.

  1. The Mahabharata was written toward the end of the classical Vedic period. If we accept Winternitz’s estimates a minimum of 1,500 years lapsed from the beginning of the Vedic period to the Mahabharata, then since Dwarka was submerged by 1,600, this would set the date of the Rig Veda back to before 3,100 BC. This again marks the minimum date of the Rig Veda, and should not be construed as a fixed date.

  1. The body of literature produced by Greece and Rome from Homer to Proclus spans roughly 1,300 years. The Vedic tradition produced an even larger body of literature from the beginning of the Rig Veda to the end of the classical period; so it would probably require at least 1,300 years for the Vedic tradition to generate a larger amount of literature. If we take 1,600 BC as the minimum date of the Mahabharata, this would put the beginning of the Vedic tradition sometime before 2,900 BC. If we take Wintenitz’s estimate of at least 1,900 years, this would put the beginning of the Rig Veda before 3,500 BC.

  2. Frawley and Rajaram, as well as many others, now put the date of the Mahabharata war at about 3,000 BC (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi also gives this date in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita). If we add 1,900 years incubation time as Winternitz estimates, this would put the dates of the Rig Veda back before 4,900 BC.

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Story Of Vedic Civilisation

 

How Ancient Is The Vedic Tradition

Dr Kenneth Chandler

Origins Of Vedic Civilisation

Summary : Euro-centrism and Objective Science

For years, theories of the origins of the Indo-European people were based on small bits of evidence that were used to make sweeping generalisations. The Euro-centric perspective so heavily biased the discussion that it became necessary for scientists of the later twentieth century to re-examine and re-balance the perspectives in order to remove long-standing misconceptions formed by two centuries of speculative mythmaking. When these misconceptions are eliminated by objective science, no evidence remains that the Veda tradition came to India from outside.

Now we come to our second main question, How long ago was the Veda first cognised ?

When did the Veda first come to be known in the civilisation of India ?

How far back in time does the Vedic tradition go ?

How Ancient is the Vedic Tradition ?

New Light on the Cradle of Civilization

A second myth that dies hard is that Vedic civilisation came into existence as recently as 1000 to 1200 BC. Many scholars today have come to think that these dates are ridiculously recent and that the Vedic tradition, meaning the tradition of reciting the Rig Veda and the Vedic literature, is far more ancient. Scholars of the nineteenth century, the highly venerated Max Muller for one, give dates as recently as 1,000 to 1,200 BC. These dates, like the Aryan invasion theory, are products of a Euro-centric bias. They were rooted in unsustainable religious, cultural, and ethnic assumptions that were not based on scientific evidence.

Max Muller, one of many Christian missionaries to India, was firmly committed to the Biblical account of creation. Muller accepted the date of creation given in the Bible at 4004 BC and the great flood at 1500 BC. This compelled him to date the Rig Veda much later in time than an impartial scientist would have done. Muller had to fit the entire Vedic tradition into a time-frame following the great flood, which Biblical scholars held took place in 1500 BC.

Muller wrote a letter to his wife, dated 1886, in which he said “The translation of the Veda will hereafter tell to a great extent on the fate of India and on the growth of millions of souls in that country. It is the root of their religion, and to show them what the root is, I feel sure, is the only way of uprooting all that has sprung from it during the last 3,000 years.” These are hardly the words of an unbiased scientist. No matter how great Muller’s scholarly reputation, we have to examine his reasons for setting the dates around 1000 to 12000 BC.

Muller recognised that the Vedic tradition had to exist before Buddha, who lived in about 500 BC and who reacted against the Vedic tradition. Muller and other Germanic scholars also noticed that the Agni Purana and other Vedic texts refer to Buddha, so they felt justified in thinking that the Vedic tradition was just a little more ancient than Buddhism, and they put the dates of the Vedic period roughly two-thirds of way between the great flood (the Biblical limit they accepted) and the time of Buddha.

* * * These dates were given by Max Muller. For a recent discussion of Muller’s projected dates, which were meant as a minimum of time, not an actual dating, see Maurice Winternitz, A History of Vedic Literature, Vol. 1, (New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1981), pp. 270-288, especially p.273.

Muller thus set the dates of the Vedic period at 1000 to 1200 BC. Muller reasoned that if Buddha rejected the Vedic tradition, the Rig Veda must have preceded him by at least several centuries, but it had to have started (in his opinion as a Bible scholar) after the great flood.

Even Muller, however, recognised that this was an estimate of a bare minimum of time that lapsed between the beginning of the Vedic tradition and the time of Buddha. However, it became commonplace for textbooks to give the dates of the Vedic tradition as 1,000 to 1200 BC, based on Muller’s minimum estimate. Soon these were known as the dates of the Rig Veda. This fixed Muller’s estimate of a bare minimum into an absolute date in the popular imagination. The mud of speculation had become sedimented into the brick of common belief.

Current evidence shows that the Veda did not began so recently in human history. The references to Buddha occur in very late additions and have no bearings on the far more ancient origins of the Vedic tradition.

Satellite Photographs and Geological Evidence :

Dates of the Saraswati River and the Rig Veda

More recent scholars, such as David Frawley, Dr. B.G. Siddharth, Dr. S.B. Roy, Professor Subhash Kak, Dr. N.R. Waradpande, and Bhagwan Singh have made a case for much more ancient dates of the Rig Veda. Also B.G. Tilak, P.C. Sengupta, Pargiter, Jagat Pati Joshi, Dikshit, K.N. Shastri, Sri Aurobindo, Hermann Jacobi, Dayananda Saraswati, among many others, have argued for its greater antiquity.

David Frawley and N.S. Rajaram, in Vedic “Aryans” and the Origins of Civilisation, put forward an interesting and compelling theory of the origins of Vedic civilisation. Drawing upon a large array of evidence from anthropology, satellite mapping, geology, historical linguistic, and literary study, they have helped discredit the old “Aryan invasion theory” to establish that the Rig Veda was of much greater antiquity than Muller had estimated.

One of the strongest bits evidence comes from satellite pictures of an ancient and dried riverbed that is now taken to be the former bed of the Saraswati river. This great river, described in the Rig Veda as a “mighty river flowing from the mountains to the sea,” has long since disappeared from the maps of modern India, until satellite pictures revealed the bed of an ancient river running from the Himalayas to the western gulf of the Indian ocean, roughly paralleling the course of the Indus, but lying to the east of the Indus.

* * * There is strong evidence that Max Muller mistakenly judged the antiquity of the Indian literature by thousands of years or more. His arbitrary and most unconvincing placement of Alexander’s visit to India to coincide with Chandragupta Maurya is widely disputed today by many scholars. According to the evidence of the Purunas, Buddha lived approximately 1,800 BC, and Chandragupta/Tekshasila (Taxila) was about 1700 BC. The university at Nalanda probably flourished around 1,400 BC.

Satellite photos and geological field studies show that the Saraswati ceased to be a perennial river and flowed only seasonally, sometime before 3,000 BC. Also, since approximately 1900 BC the Saraswati riverbed has been completely dry. This, as we will see, is a key piece of the scientific evidence to establish dates of the Rig Veda. The Saraswati was fed by melt from Himalayan glaciers, after the receding of the last ice age, about 8,000 BC. As the melting glacial waters ceased to feed the river, it changed its course, became a seasonal river, perhaps went underground, and eventually dried up in its former riverbed. Some, like Subhash Kak, hold that the change in thecourse of the river was due to an earthquake.

This event left the many settlements along the banks of the Saraswati to their fate. As the river dried, without water the agricultural settlements and villages were no longer sustainable. After this time, the towns and cities were re-located to the Indus river valley nearby and still later, after the droughts and flooding that came to the Indus and Saraswati valleys around 1,900 BC, settlers migrated further east to the Ganges river plain.

The Rig Veda mentions the Indus river quite often, and it mentions the Saraswati no less than 60 times. Its reference to the Saraswati as a “mighty river flowing from the mountains to the sea” shows that the Rig Vedic tradition must have been in existence long before 3,000 BC when the Saraswati ceased to be a “mighty river” and became a seasonal trickle. Frawley and Rajaram drew the conclusion that the Rig Veda must have been composed long before 3,000 BC.

Rajaram writes that the “Saraswati described in the Rig Veda belongs to a date long before 3,000 BC.” He concludes that, “All this shows that the Rig Veda must have been in existence no later than 3,500 BC.” He thus places the beginning of the Vedic tradition “long before 3,000 BC” and its end before 2,000 BC. The Mahabharata, the great epic of classical Sanskrit, describes the Saraswati as a seasonal river. Since the Saraswati dried up by 1900 BC, the Mahabharata would have to be dated at least before 1,900 BC. Since it was still a seasonal river in 3,000, Rajaram and Frawley put the date of the Mahabharata in 3,000 BC.

Evidence from French SPOT satellite and the Indo-French field study have changed this conception of history. By showing that the Saraswati ceased to be a mighty river long before 3,000 BC, they showed that the Rig Vedic civilisation must have begun long before the Saraswati became a seasonal trickle sometime long before 3,000 BC. If the Rig Vedic tradition began before 3,500 BC, this would date it earlier the civilizations of Egypt, Harappa, or Mesopotamia.

The next in series….

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Story Of Vedic Civilisation

How Ancient Is The Vedic Tradition

Dr Kenneth Chandler

Origins Of Vedic Civilisation

Causes of the Decline of the Indus-Saraswati Civilisation

Geological and archeological evidence, it turns out, give strong evidence that a long and devastating drought followed by devastating floods led to the abandonment of the settlements along the banks of the Indus and Saraswati rivers in western India, ending an urban civilisation that had flourished, archeologists now surmise, sometime between 2,600 BC and 1,900 BC. The Indus and Saraswati valley civilisation was vast and widespread, and covered over 250,000 square miles, from north central India in the east all the way to the eastern edge of Iran in the west. There is no evidence to suggest that this vast civilization was destroyed by Indo-European Aryan invaders, but rather, it is now virtually certain that its demise came as a result of widespread climatic changes that occurred in 1,900 BC.

Recent studies by Louis Flam of H. H. Lehman College of the City University of New York have shown that the course of the Indus river changed dramatically around 1,900 BC, probably flooding many settlements along the river and disrupting the Indus valley civilisation. Jim Schaffer of Case Western University has found impressive evidence that settlers of the Indus valley migrated at this time east to the plains of the river Ganges.

Mortimer Wheeler, the anthropologists who excavated Mohenjo-Daro in the in the 1920s , one of the most well-preserved cities of the Indus Valley civilisation, brought to the project an “outside invasion theory.” He found unburied skeletons in the most recent layers of the city which led him to think that he had evidence that the civilisation was overrun by invaders from outside. More reliable recent evidence has shown that the people of the Indus valley were not victims of invasion and massacre, but that their civilisation withered as a result of various climactic changes, including prolonged droughts and extensive flooding, and possibly also earthquakes that changed the courseof the rivers.

It was not outside invaders of India who brought an end to the Indus-Saraswati civilisation, but a series of climactic changes and natural disasters. The biases of European scholarship caused them to see invaders where there were none. They existed only in the imagination of European scholars.

Historical Linguistics and Migrations of Early Civilisation

The other issue that needs to be considered is language origins. Historical linguistics appears to detect patterns of language change which some think may imply patterns of migration of early peoples, and which may therefore provide a clue to the origins of Vedic civilisation.

The original theory proposed by the early historical linguistics who considered these issues was that Vedic Sanskrit conserved the original sound system of the “proto-Indo-European” language most closely, and that Iranian and European languages underwent a systematic sound shift, creating break-away or daughter languages spoken by the people who populated India and Europe. According to this theory, Vedic Sanskrit was put at near the trunk of the proto-Indo-European language tree, if not the trunk itself.

This theory has been challenged and hotly debated in recent years, most especially by computer linguists. Since the 1990s, it is now common for computer linguists to hold that Sanskrit is not so near the root of the Indo-European language tree, but a subsequent branch. A currently dominant theory is that the original Indo-European language stemmed from an Indo-European proto-language that has since been lost.

The first languages to break off from the proto-Indo-European root, according to the dominant contemporary linguistic theories, was Anatolian (the language of what is now central Turkey), followed by Celtic (a language found in nearby Thrace in northeastern Greece, and also Ireland suggesting that there was a commerce or colonisation between Ireland and early Thrace), then Greek, and then Armenian. According to these theories, the Indian and Iranian language groups are still later branches off the proto-Indo-European “root.”

The linguistic evidence appears to imply migrations of people from the Black Sea area into India, and yet there is no anthropological evidence to support either a migration into northern India, or an invasion. Evidence from skeletal remains, as we saw, as well as pottery and other artifacts, show no cultural replacement at any time in north Indian history. This makes it difficult to conclude that a people speaking a proto-Indo-European root language migrated to India from outside, resulting in a language shift to the daughter language of Sanskrit. The hard anthropological evidence just does not support such a view. How else, then, can we account for the apparently late evolution of Sanskrit from the proto-Indo-European root language ?

* * * Dr. Don Ringe and Dr. Ann Taylor, two linguists at the University of Pennsylvania, with the help of computer scientist Dr. Tandy Warnow, developed a computer algorithm to sift through the Indo-European languages and look for grammatical and phonetic similarities between them. Their work, published in 1996, has thrown up four possible family trees. “We have come up with a favorite,” says Dr. Warnow. The tree shows that the first breakaway language was Anatolian, an ancient group of languages once spoken in Turkey. Celtic was quick to follow, spawning Irish, Gaelic, Welsh and Breton. Armenian and Greek then developed from proto-Into-European. Strangely enough, one of the later branches to emerge, according to the runs of the computer programs, was Sanskrit.

It is interesting that the Celts settled in Thrace in northern Greece, just a short distance from Anatolia. Thrace was the birthplace of the Orphic mysteries which swept into Greece in the sixth century BC. Celtic is one of the earliest languages, along with Anatolian and Greek, to break off from the Indo European proto-language. The technique for self-knowledge described by Socrates were said to have come from Thrace. The Anatolians of central Turkey occupied the area near where the pre-Socratic tradition sprang up in the sixth century BC. This suggests that a technique was passed from India into the Celtic language.

Eminent computer linguists caution against drawing conclusions from computer-simulated language programs—which may reflect the assumptions of the programmers more than the branches of the linguistic tree. They caution that computer linguists tend to program in assumptions that reflect their own biases and expectations, and therefore the outcomes cannot be any more accurate than the assumptions. Computer linguistics does not necessarily mean unbiased, objective linguistics, but may, on the contrary, program in distinct biases of the linguists. If linguists start with a theory of an outside invasion, they will naturally bring those biases into their work, and it is not unthinkable that such biases have colored computer and historical linguistic theories.

It also needs to be pointed out that if a false assumption is programmed in, then anything at all can come out. Anything at all can be derived from a false assumption. If the assumption that Sanskrit is not the proto-Indo-European language root be false, then anything follows.

More on the Indo-European Proto-Language

* * * In 1990, Thomas V. Gamkrelidze and V. V. Ivanov, authors of the two volume The Indo-European Language and the Indo-Europeans, published an article in Scientific American, in which they state, “The landscape described by the reconstructed Indo-European proto-language is mountainous—as evidenced by the many words for high mountains, mountain lakes and rapid rivers flowing from mountain sources.” They note also that, “the [proto-Indo-European language] has words for animals that are alien to Europe, such as “leopard,” “snow leopard,” “lion,” “monkey” and “elephant.”” The authors suggest, on the basis of this and other linguistic evidence, that the homeland of the proto-Indo-Europeans was somewhere in the Caucasian mountains of western Asia near the Black Sea in around 4000 BC.

These same words could be used to make the case that the mountainous terrain, and more especially the elephant, monkey, and snow leopard are more commonly found in the region of northern India and the Himalayas. If the words for elephant, monkey, snow leopard, and mountains are in fact more abundant in the Indo-European proto language, this would most likely put the proto-Indo-European home somewhere in the Himalayan region of northern India, rather than in the Mountains to the east of the Black Sea. This would tend to support the hypothesis that the Indo-European proto language originated in the region of the Himalayas of northern India and Tibet, rather than in the area of central Turkey, where there are few monkeys and elephants.

At present, there is simply not enough evidence to discern the early patterns of migration and language shift that brought about the different language groups. We can say with relative certainty, however, that the Vedic people did not migrate into India from outside, so it is relatively unlikely that the Vedic language came from outside India. Thus the origins of Vedic Sanskrit remain obscure.

Many linguists stress that our “linguistic heritage, while it may tend to correspond with cultural continuity, does not imply genetic or biological descent. There is no more reason to suppose that we, as speakers of an Indo-European language, are descended biologically from the speakers of proto-Indo-European, than that the English speaking population of Nigeria is Anglo-Saxon.”17 It is necessary to be very careful in drawing conclusions about migration patterns and racial origins from linguistic evidence.

Rules of Language Transformation

A main tool of historical linguistics is the set of rules of sound and grammatical transformation governing the language change. One language evolves into another due to cultural or geographic separations of peoples due to migrations or other cultural displacements, such as conquest. Using the rules of historical linguistics, it appears to be possible to discern patterns of change and to determine which language has shifted into the other.

* * * Thomas V. Gamkrelidze and V. V. Ivanov, “Family Tree of the Indo-European Languages,” Scientific American, March, 1990, argue that more “recent evidence now places the probable origin of the Indo-European language in western Asia.” They hypothesize that the proto-Indo-Europeans originated sometime around 4,000 BC in the region around the Black Sea.

* * * Radio-carbon dating of skeletal remains of the “Kennikut man” found in the late 1990s in the Columbia river gorge on the west coast of north America shows that caucasoidal men inhabited Oregon more than ten thousand years ago. Some words of the Klamath Indians of that region of Oregon are also of apparent Indo-European origin. The Klamath word which means “to blow” is “pniw” and may be linked to the Greek “pneu” which means breath or to blow, and ultimately to the Sanskrit “prana” which means breath. Linguists assume this was mere accident before the discovery of Caucasoid remains in the area. This would suggest that a migration into the Americas took place 10,000 years ago or more—and the immigrants brought with them an Indo-European language, putting the dates of the proto-European root at before 10,000 BC. The Rig Veda civilisation, like the American Indians, had a bow and arrow technology. Rig Vedic civilisation can be placed in time as more advanced than the Indian culture of 10,000 years ago.

One of the rules of historical linguistics is the softening of consonants over time. Thus, for example, the “v” in the Sanskrit “Veda,” meaning knowledge, is transformed into the softer English “w” in “wit,” “witten,” “wisdom” and the German “wissen,” which also means knowledge, and derives from the more ancient Sanskrit root. The Sanskrit “deva” is transformed into the softer Latin “deus,” Greek “theos,” Lithuanian “dewas,” Irish “dia,” and Old Prussian “diews.”

Using such transformation rules, linguists attempt to reconstruct which languages are earlier and which broke off later in the transmutation of language. Historical linguists assume that these rules are constant over time and that they apply to early transformations as well as later ones.

If we assume that the basic rules of language transformations are constant and do not mutate over time, then these conclusions follow. But could there have been sound shifts in the opposite direction at much earlier times in history ? Perhaps different laws applied at the time when Vedic Sanskrit changed from and to other languages.

Consider that there are also changes in the reverse direction. For example, the “g” in the Sanskrit “go,” (meaning cow) is transformed into the harder consonant “k,” to make the German word “kuh” for cow. The English word “cow,” pronounced with a hard “k,” is a harder, guttural form than the “g” in the Sanskrit “go.”

Also, in the case of the Vedic tradition, we have a people who were highly conscious of language and sound and the rules of sound transformation, even from the early Vedanga period. The Vedangas give elaborate theories of sound and its relation to meaning. Ancient Sanskrit grammar has its own rules for the transformation of consonants, internal rules for change, codified in ancient texts on phonology and grammar (Nirukta and Vakaran), both of which express elaborate theories of sound. Such self-reflective theories at an early date may have influenced the direction of language shift and may be anomalous to the rules applied in later linguistic theory.

Other hypotheses may explain why Vedic Sanskrit appears to not be the proto-Indo-European root language. One might propose, for example, that an early form of Sanskrit arose in northern India, and that some north Indian peoples migrated west to the Black Sea area, where their language mutated into Anatolian, Armenian, Celtic, and Greek. Then language change within Vedic Sanskrit, due to self-reflective grammatical theories, have mutated this earlier form of Sanskrit in a direction contrary to the typical rules of linguistic transformation.

Computer simulated models of language change may be simply wrong or misleading. In other words, the transformation “rules” of historical linguistics may not apply to changes as early as Vedic Sanskrit. Or they may reflect more the racial and cultural biases of the programmers. Rather than assume a migration from the Black Sea area into India, which is not supported by anthropological evidence, we must simply acknowledge that we do not have enough knowledge to discern the early patterns of migration of the people who wrote the Vedic literature.

The simplest hypothesis to account for the data may be that Vedic Sanskrit is itself is the mother tongue of the proto-Indo-European peoples.

The next in series….  

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Story Of Vedic Civilisation

How Ancient Is The Vedic Tradition

Dr Kenneth Chandler

Origins Of Vedic Civilisation

To many European scholars of the nineteenth century (characterised more by their Euro-centrism than by scientific attitudes towards peoples of other cultures), the idea that the family of European languages family could have originated in India was unthinkable. It was just not culturally acceptable to think that the roots of European language and culture could be traced to darker-skinned peoples indigenous to India. So European thinkers began to speculate about a pre-historic “proto-Indo-European” race who had migrated from somewhere in Western Asia, perhaps around the Black Sea, Eastern Europe, or Russia, to settle in India and in Europe. This, as we will see, was a purely racial and cultural bias, with no basis in archeological fact.

Many European scholars immediately bought in to the “Indo-European hypothesis,” which was the stimulus to develop the discipline of historical linguistics. European scholars like Max Muller, Thomas Young, Joseph de Goubinau, Dwight Witney, Sir Mortimer Wheeler, A.L. Basham, George Cox, and John Fiske all adopted the theory of Indo-European origins. They commonly proposed that a people speaking “proto-Indo-European” came from somewhere in central or Western Asia or southeastern Europe, invaded India from the northwest, overran the local culture, and settled in the north of India.

These Indo-Europeans were said to be “Aryans” in race and language, which meant primarily fair-haired and light-skinned people. By the twentieth century they were conceived, mainly by German scholars, as a blue-eyed, blond race that was the stock of the Germanic people—all nicely fitting the cultural-political-racial agendas of Western Europe—and Nazi Germany in particular.

In spite of the large number of scholars of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century who believed the invasion theory, it turns out, as we see below, that there is almost no shred of evidence to support it. It is one of the great myths formed by European scholars to support their bias that outside invaders created early Indian civilisation. Anthropologist today find all evidence points to an origin of the Vedic tradition that is indigenous to northern India.

Scientific Archeology : The End of the Invasion Theory

In the 1990s, a new wave of scientific evidence, coming partly from satellite photos, geological study, archeological digs, and other anthropological finds began to seriously discredit the old myth. Once the rubble of false assumptions was cleared away, a far more simple scientific picture of the origins of ancient north Indian civilization began to emerge.

* * * Professor Colin Renfrew, professor of archeology at Cambridge University, in his Archeology and Language: The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins, (1988) gives evidence for Indo-Europeans in India as early as 6,000 BC. He comments : As far as I can see there is nothing in the Hymns of the Rigveda which demonstrates that the Vedic-speaking population were intrusive to the area : this comes rather from a historical assumption about the ‘coming’ of the Indo-Europeans.

* * * Professor Schaffer at Case Western University writes in “Migration, Philology and South Asian Archaeology” that there was an indigenous development of civilization in India going back to at least 6000 BC. He proposes that the Harappan or Indus Valley urban culture (2600-1900 BC) centered around the Saraswati river described in the Rig Veda and states that the Indus Valley culture came to an end, not because of outside invaders, but due to environmental changes, most important of which was the drying up of the Saraswati river.

Schaffer holds that the movement of populations away from the Saraswati to the Ganges after the Saraswati dried up in about 1900 BC, is reflected in the change from the Saraswati-based literature of the Rig Veda to the Ganges-based literature of the Itihasa and Puranic texts. He also states that the Aryan invasion theory reflects a colonial and Euro-centric perspective that is quite out of date. He concludes : We reject most strongly the simplistic historical interpretations… that continue to be imposed on south Asian culture history…Surely, as south Asian studies approach the twenty-first century, it is time to describe emerging data objectively rather than perpetuate interpretations without regard to the data archaeologists have worked so hard to reveal.

Anthropologist Brian Hemphill of Vanderbilt University has been studying the human remains of the northern Indian subcontinent for years. He states categorically that his analysis shows no indication of population replacement or large-scale migration.

Archaeologist Mark Kenoyer, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and co-director of the Harappa Archeological Research project, holds that the invasion theory is completely unsupported by archeological, linguistic, or literary evidence. He writes in an article on the Indus valley civilisation : Colin Renfrew, Professor of Archeology at Cambridge University, in his famous work, Archeology and Language : The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins, (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1988) Renfrew also sees evidence that the Indo-Europeans were in Greece as early as 6,000 BC. If previous scholars were wrong about the origin of the Indus people, they also missed the boat when it came to explaining their downfall, which they attributed to an invasion by Indo-Aryan speaking Vedic tribes from the northwest. Archeological evidence simply does not support the thesis of an outside invasion.

Kenoyer argues, “it’s likely that the rivers dried up and shifted their courses, altering trade routes and undermining the economy.” Kenoyer holds that the Indus valley script can be traced to at least 3,300 BC—making it as old or older than the oldest Sumerian written records.

Archaeologist Kenneth Kennedy writes that no Aryan skeletons have been found in the Indus valley that differ from the skeletons of indigenous ethnic groups. All prehistoric human remains recovered from the Indian subcontinent are phenotypically identifiable as south Asians. Furthermore their biological continuity with living peoples of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the border regions is well established across time and space.

Scientific archeology, it is now safe to say, no longer gives the invasion theory a grain of credibility. It has lost its supporters among serious scientists. Also, as professor Renfrew argues, there is no internal evidence from the ancient Vedic literature that Vedic civilisation originated outside India. The verses of the Rig Veda, the most ancient songs of Vedic tradition, detail many aspects of daily life of the people. There is no hint in this vast literature of a migration or of a history that lies in a homeland beyond the mountains of northern India. All evidence from archeology, anthropology, and Vedic literature indicate that Vedic civilisation was indigenous to northern India. Geological data now explains the demise of the Indus and Saraswati valley civilisations in terms of climactic change, bringing an end to the outside invasion theory.

The next in series….  

Story Of Vedic Civilisation

How Ancient Is The Vedic Tradition

Dr Kenneth Chandler

Origins Of Vedic Civilisation

How did it begin ? Was it the creation of a people who invaded India from outside, as many European scholars believed for centuries ? Or did it arise among an indigenous people of northern India ?

According to the Vedic tradition, the Veda is eternal. It exists within the eternal fabric of consciousness itself. As such it is uncreated. But even so, we can ask, when was the Veda first cognised ? And when did the tradition of reciting the Veda begin ? Many myths about the Veda and Vedic tradition have formed that must be dispelled before we can get an accurate picture of its origins.

One myth is that a race of light-skinned Aryan peoples invaded India from outside, pushing the dark-skinned natives, called Dravidians, into the south. According to this theory, the lighter-skinned race invaded India in an incursion that took place, some scholars project, around 1,500 BC. This myth persisted long after an overwhelming body of scientific evidence, and a consensus of archeologists, showed that it is completely untenable. It must be discredited before we can get an accurate picture of the character of Vedic Civilisation.

As we will see, the Veda was first “cognized,” not by invading races from outside India, but by a people who had lived continuously in India for thousands of years. Also, the dates commonly ascribed to the origin of the Vedic tradition are probably off by many thousands of years. Archeologists at Harvard, Oxford, and other top universities in the US and Europe are now widely agreed that there was no invasion of India from outside that displaced the peoples of the Saraswati and Indus river valleys. This civilisation arose within northern India and there is evidence that Vedic civilization was either a precursor to the Indus-Saraswati civilisation or an early contributor to its cultural and spiritual heritage. Vedic civilisation arose in India many millennia before the speculative mythologies of the past suggest.

Origins of the Indo-European Hypothesis

Linguistic similarities between Indian and European languages were recognised by the earliest European scholars. In the late eighteenth century, it was observed that Sanskrit, Iranian, and most European languages share many common words and grammatical structures. Early linguists classified Vedic Sanskrit and the majority of European tongues in the same “family of Indo-European languages.”

Sir William Jones was the first to show that there are many common cognate words shared by Sanskrit and European languages. Speaking to the Asiatic Society in Calcutta on February 2, 1786, Jones made a statement which was soon to become quite famous :

the Sanskrit 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, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong, indeed, that no philosopher could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer exists.

A quick glance at some of the common cognate words of English and Sanskrit shows definite family resemblances that Jones spoke about :

Common Cognate Words             English          and          Sanskrit

                                                     advocate,                             adhivaktr

                                                         agri,                                    ajira

                                                         bind,                                  bandhi

                                                        bright,                                bharajat

                                                        brother,                                bhatr

                                                        candle,                               chandra

                                                        cardio,                                   hrd

                                                         come,                                  gam

                                                         deity,                                  devata

                                                         eight,                                   ashta

                                                         end,                                     anta

                                                         genus,                                  janus

                                                         gnosis,                                 gnana

                                                          idea,                                    vidya

                                                         identity,                                idamta

                                                         immortal,                               amrta

                                                         kalon,                                  kalyana

                                                         mega,                                   maha

                                                          man,                                    manu

                                                          mind,                                   manas

                                                         mortal,                                   mrta

                                                         mother,                                  matr

                                                         same,                                    sama

                                                         three,                                      tri

                                                          vivi,                                        jiva

                                                         voice,                                     vaca

                                                         wind,                                      vata

                                                         wit video,                                 vid

                                                          yoke,                                     yoga

                                                          young,                                   yuvan

In nineteenth century, the German linguist Friedrich Schlegel suggested that the main body of European languages were derived from Sanskrit. Schlegel’s suggestion was widely rejected, mainly because European scholars did not like to think that their language and culture derived from India. But the early nineteenth century it was widely recognized that all European languages and the Indic languages belonged to a common “family,” distinct, for example, from Chinese, African, and American Indian language families and groups. All but a few of the European languages, such as Basque for example, belong to this distinct family of Indo-European languages. Thus, the idea that an Indo-European language was at the root of the family of the main body of European languages came into prominence.

The next in series…. 

Story Of Vedic Civilisation

English: Replica of 'Dancing Girl' of Mohenjo-...
Replica of ‘Dancing Girl’ of Mohenjo-daro

To capture the story of any civilisation is easy but only in parts.

The whole narrative, especially its beginning, is impossible. 

Material in this series of essays has been sourced from diverse websites.

I include them here because I believe our present truth derives from its civilisation origins, even as we hurtle towards catastrophes caused by degenerate values, inferior belief systems, ever so subtle but globally entrenched feudalism in governments, democratic or not, in manipulated power heirarchies of regressive and aggressive societies, and in the pyramidal finance structure managed transnationally to collect and pull, direct and push massive finance flows … 

Are we still in the same line of human civilisational aspiration and enterprise, best evident at its source ?

Or is it long since hijacked by some neo-feudals and subverted by swarm of power brokers ? 

Let’s revert to some glimpses of our civilisational facts and inscrutable truths.

*  *  * 

The first three chapters of Kenneth Chandler’s Origins Of Vedic Civilisation makes for a good start. It is a scholarly work in progress. 

Few Images. Some Facts.

A picture of a king seated in yoga ‘Padmasan‘ posture, with Pipili Leaf adorning his head, was found in the ancient city of Mohenjo-daro in the Indus valley. Mark Kenoyer, the University of Wisconsin anthropologist, describes this figure as “seated in a yogic posture.” He characterises it as a deity with three faces, feet in a yogic posture extending beyond the throne, with seven bangles on each arm, and a pipili plant showing over his head. 

The Katha Upanishad of the Vedic tradition relates a metaphor in which the individual self is the lord of the mind-body chariot, intellect the charioteer, and the senses are the horses. “He who has no understanding…” the Upanishad say, “his senses are out of control, as wicked horses are for a charioteer.” Exactly the same metaphor is found in Plato’s Phaedrus, which uses the image of a chariot moving through heaven and falling to earth when the self, the charioteer, allows the horses, representing sense and appetite, to get out of control. 

The Vedic practice of performing sacrificial rites also has echoes in the religious practices of Greece and Israel. In the Odyssey, Odysseus makes sacrificial offerings of a bull to the gods, and in Israel, in the Old Testament, there are many descriptions of burnt offerings of animals to the gods. These practices have their roots in more ancient Vedic rites. 

Fragments from Empedocles’ book on Purification give the same definition of ” health ” that the Charaka Samhita of the Vedic tradition did more than two thousand years earlier. Heraclitus defines “health” as a balance of the fundamental elements (earth, air, fire and water) in all parts of the body, each part ideally having the proportion proper to it. Plato’s Timaeus defines health in the same way. 

Ancient legends in Greece speak of the early Pre-Socratics as traveling to India. Thales, Pythagoras, Empedocles, Democritus, and Plato were all fabled to have made the journey. These deserve a skeptical respect as sources of credible possibilities. Commentators on the early Greeks from around the first and second century BC have written on these legends. While these journeys may or may not have taken place, it is not unthinkable, for there were well established commercial routes between India and Greece along the Silk Road, protected by Persian king, as well as between ports on the Red Sea that linked Greece with India in a thriving spice trade. 

Plotinus in the third century AD set out from Alexandria (a city famed for its esoteric knowledge) on an expedition to India to gain more experiential knowledge of the transcendent. The expedition never completed the journey, so that Plotinus never arrived in India, but Plotinus believed that it was the place to learn about the transcendental unity of Being. If anything specifically Vedic brought about the Greek awakening that occurred in the early sixth century BC, it was not ideas or concepts from India, but the introduction of a technique of transcending to experience pure consciousness. Plato writes about a “fair word” that a physician of Thrace gave to Socrates to enable him to become immortal and gain self-knowledge.

The next in series….

Children's toy from Mohenjo-daro. Located in t...
Children’s toy from Mohenjo-daro.