The Spiritual Content Of Vedas

A portrayal of Vyasa, who classified the Vedas...

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 ?

What is Vedic Cognition and How is it Passed On ?

The Rig Veda was not “created” out the human imagination, as works of poetry or literature are created. Unlike poetry or literature, the Veda is experienced and then the experience of the Veda is recited in hymns that directly express the experience of the Veda. This is called Vedic cognition. Cognition means that the Vedic rishis or seers heard what is there in the universal field of consciousness and they sang out the sounds that they heard.

This experience is what the recited sounds of the Veda express. But the hymns of the Rig Veda are not about the Veda, as if the expression were something different from the Veda itself, which they were describing. The rishis heard the Veda and saw its structure, and this sound itself is expressed in the hymns of the Rig Veda. The experience of the Rig Veda flowed through the rishis into the hymns of the Rig Veda.

The hymns of the Rig Veda sought out those rishis who were fully awake and made themselves known to them, and the rishis passed on these hymns in a long unbroken tradition that endures to the present. The Rig Veda, the most ancient hymns of the Vedic tradition, has been preserved over time by a method of memorisation and recitation, and passed over from father to son in an unbroken sequence over vast stretches of time. By two pundits chanting the hymns (and by chanting them forwards and backwards), a method of ensuring their purity was established that allowed these hymns to be passed on over thousands of years without loss. The Veda we possess today, unbelievable as it may seem, is thus an expression of the sounds heard many thousands of years ago.

It was only in relatively recent times, probably around 3000 BC, that the Veda and Vedic literature, were committed to writing. Before that Veda was an oral tradition.

There are at least 40 distinct branches of the Veda and the Vedic literature. These include, first and foremost, the Rig Veda samhita, and the Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atharva Veda. These four bodies of sound are what is meant by the Veda. In addition to the Veda, the Vedic literature includes 36 branches, all based on the Veda itself : six branches of Vedanga, six branches of Upanga, and six branches of Ayur-Veda, for example. All branches of Vedic literature are considered, like the Veda itself, uncreated or eternal structures of knowledge.

The extent of the Veda and the entire Vedic literature is vast, huge—much larger, for example, than the remaining body of literature of all of ancient Greece and Rome. There are ten volumes of the Rig Veda alone in one of the best editions available in English (the Wilson translation). There are 54 books of Kalpa, just one of six branches of the Vedangas. There are 18 books of Puranas. The Itihasa includes the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the latter printed in an English edition having 20 volumes. There are thus, for example, over a hundred volumes in just these four branches of the Veda and the Vedic literature.

Seers see this vast body of the Veda and the Vedic literature as a systematic body of literature that has a detailed, intricate structure in every part, and all systematically related in a whole. It is systematic in the sense that is not a random collection of books that were written over vast stretches of time, but it forms a complete whole, with a comprehensive organisation and structure. Each of the books of Vedic literature relates in a systematic way to all the others and each forms an essential part of the whole of Vedic literature.

The Veda itself, which is expressed in the Vedas, exists in the unmanifest field of unbounded pure consciousness, called param vyoman. This is a universal silent field of consciousness that pervades everything in the universe. Since it is all-pervading, it pervades the body and mind of every individual. It exists on the most subtle, or fine scale, of activity. It is smaller than the smallest particle of the atomic nucleus. It is on a scale smaller than the smallest quark and lepton. It is the field of consciousness in its least excited state. Everything in nature is an excitation of this field. All particles of matter and force are excited states of this one all-pervading field.

To know the Veda, which is everywhere as the most subtle foundation of the world, we have only to take our awareness from the excited states of consciousness to the least excited state of consciousness. By taking our awareness from the active, gross level of activity to the silent field of pure consciousness, we allow our individual mind to become settled and stilled to that state of wakeful silence, and in that state the mind spreads out to identify with the all-pervading field of consciousness. On that level of awareness, the entire Veda and Vedic literature can be directly experienced as the fabrics of our own consciousness. We simply dive from the surface level of activity to the silent all-pervading depth where consciousness is eternally awake and interacting within itself. This self-interaction of consciousness as its flows from unity into diversity is the Veda. It is the eternal reality at the foundation of everything that exists in the observable manifest world.

The Veda has a structure. It is structured in the form of mandalas, or circles. The structure of the Veda and the Vedic literature is a flow of knowledge, not a static, frozen structure. As the eternal consciousness flowing within itself and knowing itself, it flows and creates within itself a structure that is dynamic and flowing. This flowing structure of Veda is an eternal flow of pure knowledge of the self as it unfolds knowledge of itself. It is the flow of consciousness as it knows itself while it flows from unity to diversity. It is the flow of self-knowledge within consciousness, giving rise to the entire diversity of creation. It is the flow of the oneness of eternal pure consciousness into the many formed unity of the Veda and, from there, to the forms and phenomena of the manifest universe, the visible material world.

The first flow of knowledge of the Veda is the flow from the One into the many. The eternal oneness of pure Being or pure consciousness knows itself. And in knowing itself, it breaks itself into many. The infinite One collapses into a point, and into infinitely many points. These points of consciousness are finite, separate, isolated points of individual consciousness. But they are all ultimately points of the one infinite whole of consciousness. Each is a collapsed point of the infinite whole, and in the process of returning to wholeness, the finite points of consciousness expand back into the infinite One from which they began. This is the fundamental process of creation that is expressed in the Rig Veda and in the Vedic literature.

The Rig Veda expresses this process in sound. The Rig Veda is essentially this sequence of vibrations that manifest as the process of consciousness knowing itself. It unfolds out of the process of consciousness knowing itself. This entire process is a necessary sequence of sounds that unfold the pure knowledge of consciousness to itself. It is the eternal murmuring of consciousness to itself.

The Rig Veda does not describe the process in articulate language, using descriptive terms, the way a scientist might describe an object of nature. The vibrations of consciousness as it moves within itself create unmanifest sounds in the unmanifest field of pure consciousness, which manifest as the sound of the Veda, and these sounds within the infinite field of pure consciousness become the vibrations that manifest in the forms and phenomena of physical creation.

The basic process of consciousness knowing itself takes the form of a collapse of the infinite whole of pure consciousness into finite points of consciousness. This process of infinity collapsing to a point, and the points expanding into infinity, is the basic process that structures the Veda. It is the process by which the eternal Oneness of pure consciousness knows itself.

The Rig Veda has a marvelous structure in which each of the parts reflects the structure of the whole. Thus, for example, the First Mandala of the Rig Veda, which gives the meaning of the Veda as a whole, has 192 suktas. The Tenth Mandala has the same number of suktas, mirroring the gaps between the suktas of the First Mandala. This is not an accidental structural parallel, but an indication of the intricately interlocked structure of the Veda as a whole. This kind of structural identity is reiterated in many places throughout Vedic literature.

First Syllable,  First Verse…

The first syllable of the Rig Veda, “Ak,” could be seen as containing the whole Rig Veda within itself. It represents the collapse of the continuum of flow of infinite wholeness to its own point. The “A” sound represents flow or continuum, and the “k” sound represents the stop, or collapse of the flow. This sound is actually the process of the infinite whole of consciousness collapsing to its point values. The line however continues …

अग्निमीळे पुरोहितं यज्ञस्य देवं रत्वीजम होतारं रत्नधातमम ||

aghnimīḷe purohitaṃ yajñasya devaṃ ṛtvījam | 

hotāraṃ ratnadhātamam || 

Griffith translates it as :

I Laud Agni,

The chosen Priest,

God, minister of sacrifice,

The Hotar, lavisher of wealth.

The traslation above is purely “Adhiyajñika“, in accord with Sayana’s commentary of 14th Century AD. It interprets the Vedic rik at ritual level in terms of performance of works accompanying its utterance. It entirely misses the Ādhyātmika sense that the mantra includes at the spiritual and psychological level in terms of being, individual and universal, commonly signified with use of terms such as God, Heaven, etc. And, lastly, there is always the Ādhidaivika or naturalistic or cosmological sense the reader or hearer obtains, pertaining to phenomenal creation and its laws observed in nature.

The unstrung Adhyatmika sense is included in the syllables as herebelow :

Agnim [Arc : to illuminate + Nī : to lead]

Īle [Īḍ : to praise, to glorify]

Purohitaṃ [Pṝ : full, complete, first

+ Hu : to sacrifice, to conduct]

Yajñasya [Yaj : to exalt, to offer]

Devam [Div(u) : to shine with power]

Ṛtvijaṃ [Ṛ : to guide rightly, to steer

+ Vij : to arouse, to strengthen]

Hotāraṃ [(1) Hve : to call;

(2) Hu : to sacrifice, conduct]

Ratna [Ram : to be or make content, to please]

Dhātamaṃ [(1) Dhā: to put, to order, to set in place;

(2) Dhṛ: to hold, to sustain]

Source :

Left unstrung, the sense which arises with utterance of syllable would fill the heart and intellect in accord with one’s own age, exposure and acquired sagacity, leaving the individual with his own meaning overall as his mind would string the parts up.

One such Adhyatmika translation would perhaps read thus :

Praise, the Prime Illuminator

Who lights up all and enlightens;

The Supreme who offers all

Whose exalted act

At first offered all in creation;

Who gloriously shines of own power

Who vests strength in each to arise;

Who rightly guides and steers all

With the call to our being

To be, to be blissful and content;

And sets each to order

In our own place.

The material or naturalistic is not attempted here for want of context.

In line with the spiritual sense offered above, the first syllable of the Rig Veda is elaborated and commented on in the first 24 richa (verses), which are further elaborated in the corresponding 24 pada (phrases) of the next eight richa, giving 192 meaning of the syllable Ak or [Arc]. These all emerge from the 24 sandhi (gaps) of the first richa. From the 192 gaps between the 192 akshara (syllables) of richa 2-9, emerge the 192 suktas of the First Mandala of the Rig Veda.

The 192 sandhi between the 192 suktas of the first Mandala give rise to the 192 suktas of the Tenth Mandala, a circular structure that precisely fills the gaps of the First Mandala. Similarly, the gaps between the nine richas of the first sukta are elaborated in Mandala 2-9 of Rig Veda, unfolding the total Rig Veda with all its ten Mandalas.

The whole of the Rig Veda has therefore a marvelous and intricately interwoven structure that is beyond the capacity of the human mind to create. It was not created, but cognised by the seers of ancient India. This is part of the reason that seers recognise the tradition and agree that the Veda and the Vedic literature is “eternal” or uncreated.

 *** See Tony Nader, The Human Physiology : Expression of Veda and the Vedic Literature,

(Vlodrop, Holland: Maharishi Vedic University Press, 2000), p. 57.

The Three-in-One Structure of Pure Knowledge

The flow of Rishi, Devata, and Chhandas in the Structure of the Veda is one other structure of the Veda that is basic to understanding the Veda. In the process of knowing itself, the infinite pure consciousness, which is eternal knows itself, creates a division within itself of knower, known, and process of knowing. This is necessary for it to know itself. It is both eternally one and yet eternally three—knower, knowing, and known—making a three-in-one structure of self-knowing consciousness.

This is another fundamental feature of pure consciousness that it is both eternally one and eternally many. From the three-fold structure of knower, known, and process of knowing, consciousness continues to reflect on itself, giving rise to many more reiterations of itself, until the one has evolved into the diversity of the entire Veda.

This threefold structure of pure knowledge, that it is one and three at the same time, seers call “the three-in-one structure of pure knowledge.” It is expressed in the Veda in the terms rishi (knower), devata (process of knowing) and chhandas (known). Every sukta of the Rig Veda has a structure of rishi, devata, and chhandas, which is announced at the beginning of the hymn. There are infinitely many values of rishi, infinitely many values of devata, and infinitely many values of chhandas. These provide the basic key to understanding the structure of the Rig Veda, as well as Sama, Atharva, and Yajur Veda.

Not only the Veda but all of Vedic literature reflects this structure of knower, knowing, and known. Each branch of the Vedic literature flows out of the mechanics of self-knowing consciousness. The Vedic literature, with its six-fold organisation, reflects the process of movement from rishi, to devata, to chhandas, and from chhandas back to devata and rishi. This process is the basic process that structures the entire Rig Veda and the entire Vedic literature. It is the process of self-knowing consciousness.

Readers are encouraged to rediscover the structure of the entire Veda and Vedic literature. This is an immense voyage of discovery into a new world of knowledge that has been lost for thousands of years. It is a journey into the fabric of our own consciousness. It is regaining lost knowledge of our own infinite Self.

English: Student learning Veda. Location: Nach...

Student learning Veda. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

India and the West


vedic-mantras (Photo credit: drakoheart)

The Flow of Science and Mathematics

From India to Arabia and Europe

Dr Kenneth Chandler

Origins Of Vedic Civilisation

Summary and Conclusion

The Vedic heritage of India has been grossly miscalculated, misunderstood, and under-appreciated. The light of Vedic knowledge burned brilliantly in Vedic India long before is spread into Iran, the middle-east, and Europe. It appears that Rig Vedic civilisation originated in northern India, definitely before 1,900, and probably before 3,000 BC. The Vedic tradition may have originated before 6,500 BC. Passed on from father to son in unbroken tradition of pundits who recited the Vedic verses, it is still sung by pundits in India today.

Imagine if Homeric bards were found today who could still chant the Iliad and Odyssey according to the oral tradition handed down from Homeric times! This would be heralded as a monumental event. Yet the Vedic tradition was possibly as ancient to Homer when he lived as Homer is to us today.

The Vedic tradition lives in the songs softly chanted by pundits today that may have originated ten thousand or more year ago, or even further remote in time. The Rig Veda and the Vedic literature were preserved by a tradition of chanting, with self-correcting feedback methods, always involving two pundits reciting the verses together. Other methods of self-correction were used, so the authenticity of the tradition is well preserved. The written Veda did not emerge until the Devanagri script was invented, and that was post-Indus-Saraswati civilisation.

The Vedic civilisation, far more ancient than the Greek, spread from India to Europe, via Anatolia, Thrace, and Greece, and from there into Western Europe. The direction of the flow was from India into Arabia and then to Europe. Evidence shows that the Vedic tradition entered into Europe sometime before the early fourteenth century BC. The Rig Vedic tradition and its literature almost certainly came into existence sometime long before the earliest civilisations of Mesopotamia, Sumeria, and Egypt.

These were relatively late events in the history of civilisation and probably owe their existence to the earlier civilisation of Vedic India. It is necessary to reiterate that the origins of the Vedic tradition are still obscured in the fog of time, but it is necessary to shift it much further back than Muller’s contingent of scholars put it. A more balanced view of the Vedic tradition might place it as follows :

1. Before 6,500 to around 3,000 BC—early Rig Veda to Itihasa Period.

2. 2600-1900 BC, Mature Harappa civilisation.

3. 1900-1000 BC, late Vedic and Brahmana period.

4. 500 BC, Shankara’s revival.

Because we don’t know yet how ancient the earliest verses of the Rig Veda are, we have to abstain from any dogmatic pronouncements, but we have seen reason to think that they are far more ancient than Europeans scholars previously estimated. The ancient Vedic tradition was indigenous to the land of India, possibly overlapping the Indus and Saraswati valley civilisations and extending into the Himalayas, where the tradition continued unbroken for perhaps tens of thousands of years.

The Rig Veda extols the Indus rivers in the oft repeated refrain, “Flow Indus to Indra”—a metaphor for the flow of individual awareness into unbounded universal awareness. The whole tradition, as we see in the following chapters, is about the experience of awakened consciousness, or enlightenment. The refrain, “flow Indus to Indra” is also a reference to the Indus civilisation that lived along the banks of the Indus river since 6,500 BC.

It was this awakening of consciousness that cradled the ancient Vedic civilisation of Vedic India—long before civilisation emerged in Europe. As the river of civilization flowed from India westward, one of its main tributaries was the civilisation of ancient Greece and Asia

Minor. Greek civilisation possibly resulted from the spread of techniques that passed on the enlightenment tradition from India into the Eastern Mediterranean basin.

Mesopotamian, Sumerian, and Egyptian civilizations cannot, according to traditional archeology, extend much past 3,300 BC. Recent research has suggested that the pyramids were constructed as early as 12,500 BC.

One of the great puzzles of early history is to understand why sometime around 500 BC a great awakening of knowledge occurred simultaneously in India, China, and Greece. Lao Tzu and Confucius in China, Buddha in India, and Heraclitus and Parmenides in Greece all flourished around that time. Lao Tzu as well as several early Greeks, according to legend, made a journey to India. The possibility exists that the awakening came from India, where the Vedic tradition flourished from thousands of years before.

This was also the time of a great re-awakening of the Vedic tradition in India. Shankara’s teaching of transcendental meditation in India began, according to ancient records, contrary to what is currently taught in Western scholarship, sometime in the late sixth century BC. Shankara did not live in the ninth century where he was misplaced by modern scholars unfamiliar with the Vedic tradition. Modern scholars have traditionally placed Shankara in the ninth century AD. This results from a confusion of an illustrious successor of Shankara with the original Shankara who lived about 500 BC.

Shankara” had become a title, so in the long succession of Shankaracharyas, or masters of the Shankara tradition, there were many Shankaras. It was a natural confusion but the first Shankara lived in the mid to early sixth century BC. (See Maharishi’s discussion of this in his Bhagavad Gita, A New Translation and Commentary, Livingston Manor, NY: MIU Press, 1967, p. 186.) There are historical records of the Shankarcharya tradition that link it back to the original Shankara in the sixth century BC, mentioning each of the Shankaracharayas in the long succession.

The Vedic tradition gives a much deeper meaning to the word “tradition” than has been known before. Nothing in the West approximates it. For thousands of years, the Vedic tradition expanded, and grew richer in detail, commenting on itself and expanding by knowledge of itself. Each contributor built on what the previous had done, cumulating in a systematic exposition of the structure of pure consciousness. Techniques to gain enlightenment were developed, cultivated, and passed on generation after generation. The techniques sustained the tradition and gave it substance through making the experience available.

Vedic civilisation centered around the discovery of pure consciousness and the delineation of its structure. The Rig Veda and the Vedic literature gave a monumental depiction of this structure of eternal consciousness. These remarkable works give a prior to the battle of Troy, the event that marks the mythological beginning of the early Greek literary tradition, and 3,000 years before the earliest Pre-Socratic philosophers.

For a fuller discussion of this new wave of scholarship, see David Frawley and N.S. Rajaram Vedic “Aryans” and the Origins of Civilisation: A Literary and Scientific Perspective, 1995. See also George Feuresein, Subhash Kak, and David Frawley, In Search of the Cradle of Civilization: New Light on Ancient India, 1995. Also, David Frawley, Gods, Sages Kings, (Morson Publishing, 1991). See also, N.S. Rajaram The Hindustan Times (Nov. 28, 1993).

Rajaram writes, “It is now recognised by scholars that the Aryan invasion theory of India is a myth that owes more to European politics than anything in Indian records or archaeology.”

Frawley writes. “the rationale behind the late date for the Vedic culture given by Muller was totally speculative. Max Muller, like many of the Christian scholars of his era, believed in Biblical chronology. This placed the beginning of the world at 400 BC and the flood around 2500 BC. Assuming to those two dates, it became difficult to get the Aryans in India before 1500 BC.”

See also 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). See also Mark Kenoyer, “Indus Valley: Secrets of a Civilization” in Wisconsin, Fall 1998 and Kenneth Kennedy, “Have Aryans Been Identified in the Prehistoric Skeletal Record from South Asia” appearing in The Indo-Aryans of South Asia (Walter de Gruyter, 1995)

Kennedy writes, “Assumptions that blondism, blue-grey eyes and light skin pigmentation are physical hallmarks of either ancient Aryans or of members of Brahmin and other social groups in modern south Asia, find their origins in the improper marriage of excerpts from Vedic texts with nineteenth century Germanic nationalistic writings.”

vedic mantra

vedic mantra (Photo credit: drakoheart)

India and the West

A German manuscript page teaching use of (indo...

A German manuscript page teaching use of (indo-)Arabic numerals (Talhoffer Thott, 1459). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Flow of Science and Mathematics

From India to Arabia and Europe

Dr Kenneth Chandler

Origins Of Vedic Civilisation

A Lighthouse for Scientific and Mathematical Discovery

India remained a lighthouse for the advance of civilisation long after the classical Vedic period. Our modern zero-based number system (the place-value number system) was first developed in India. Called ‘Arabic numerals’ in the West, they actually originated in India and were passed into Europe through Arabia, whence they derived their name in the West.

In Arabia, mathematics was called the “Indian Art,” and the numerals used in Arabia were called “Indian numerals.” Arabic scholars knew that mathematics had come into Arabia from India and not vise versa. It was also in India that the counting numbers were first invented. This inspired Albert Einstein to say, “We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made.”

The following chart shows the evolution of the numerals from the early Indus-Saraswati valley script to Devanagri to the Arabic to the present :

  • Evolution of the “numerals” which are mistakenly called “Arabic numerals” in the West. In fact they came into Arabia from India. In ancient Arabic, these numerals were called “Indian numerals” and mathematics was called the “Indian art.”

  • The value of “pi” was first calculated in India by Baudhayana (conservative scholars put him at least in the sixth century BC) long before it was known in Europe.

  • Baudhayana was also first to introduce a mathematical way to calculate the hypotenuse of a right triangle. The Shulba Sutra (the Baudhayana) written prior to the eighth century BC in India, used the theorem about two centuries before it was introduced by Pythagoras into Greece in the sixth century BC.

The wording of the theorem in the Shulba Sutras is exact :

“The diagonal chord of the rectangle makes both the squares that the horizontal and vertical sides make separately.”

  • The Shulba Sutra are among the most ancient of mathematical texts known to man. In the valley of the Indus River of India, the world’s oldest civilisation had developed its own system of mathematics. The Vedic Shulba Sutras (fifth to eighth century BC), meaning “codes of the rope,” show that the earliest geometrical and mathematical investigations among the Indians arose from certain requirements of their religious rituals. When the poetic vision of the Vedic seers was externalized in symbols, rituals requiring altars and precise measurement became manifest, providing a means to the attainment of the unmanifest world of consciousness. “Shulba Sutras” is the name given to those portions or supplements of the Kalpa sutras, which deal with the measurement and construction of the different altars for religious rites.

The word shulba refers to the ropes used to make these measurements. Although Vedic mathematicians are known primarily for their computational genius in arithmetic and algebra, the basis and inspiration for the whole of Indian mathematics is geometry. Evidence of geometrical drawing instruments from as early as 2,500 BC. has been found in the Indus Valley. The beginnings of algebra can be traced to the constructional geometry of the Vedic priests, which are preserved in the Shulba Sutras. Exact measurements, orientations, and different geometrical shapes for the altars and arenas used for the religious functions (yagyas), which occupy and important part of the Vedic religious culture, are described the Shulba Sutras. Many of these calculations employ the geometrical formula known as the Pythagorean theorem. This theorem (c. 540 BC.), equating the square of the hypotenuse of a right angle triangle with the sum of the squares of the other two sides, was utilized in the earliest Shulba Sutra (the Baudhayana) prior to the eighth century BC. Thus, widespread use of this famous mathematical theorem in India several centuries before it being popularised by Pythagoras has been documented.

The proof of this fundamentally important theorem is well known from Euclid’s time until the present for its excessively tedious and cumbersome nature; yet the Vedas present five different extremely simple proofs for this theorem. One historian, Needham, has stated, “Future research on the history of science and technology in Asia will in fact reveal that the achievements of these peoples contribute far more in all pre-Renaissance periods to the development of world science than has yet been realised.”

  • The Shulba Sutras have preserved only that part of Vedic mathematics which was used for constructing the altars and for computing the calendar to regulate the performance of religious rituals. After the Shulba Sutra period, the main developments in Vedic mathematics arose from needs in the field of astronomy.

  • Jyotisha, the science of the planets, utilizes all branches of mathematics. The need to determine the right time for their religious rituals gave the first impetus for astronomical observations. With this desire in mind, the priests would spend night after night watching the advance of the moon through the circle of the nakshatras (lunar mansions), and day after day the alternate progress of the sun towards the north and the south. However, the priests were interested in mathematical rules only as far as they were of practical use. These truths were therefore expressed in the simplest and most practical manner. Elaborate proofs were not presented, nor were they desired.

  • Major centers of learning operated in ancient India. The World’s first major university and trade school was in Taxila (Takshila) then in northwestern India, around 700 BC (some scholars estimate). It boasted a thousand students from all over the known world who studied 60 disciplines taught there. The University of Nalanda, established in the forth century BC, was also a major center of learning in the ancient world.

  • The Indian astronomer and mathematician Bhaskaracharya in the 5th century BC (this is an estimated date that may be too recent), calculated the time taken by the earth to orbit the sun to nine decimal places. Algebra, trigonometry, and calculus were first set forth in ancient India.

Aryabhata the Elder (476-550 AD) gave a summary of Indian mathematics that covers astronomy, spherical trigonometry, arithmetic, algebra and plane trigonometry. Aryabhata also gives a formula for finding the areas of a triangle and a circle. His main work, the Aryabhatiya, contains continued fractions, quadratic equations, sums of power series and a table of sines. Aryabhata gave an accurate approximation for “pi” of up to 3.1416 and was one of the first to use algebra. His most important achievement was the invention of the “0,” which enabled the development of the place number system. Aryabhata also wrote a text on astronomy, the Siddhanta, which taught that the apparent rotation of the heavens was due to the rotation of the Earth on it axis.

Aryabhata gives the radius of the planetary orbits in terms of the radius of the Earth/Sun orbit as essentially their periods of rotation around the Sun. He believed that the Moon and planets shine by reflected sunlight, and he taught, incredible though it may seem, that the orbits of the planets around the sun are ellipses. This was over a thousand years before Copernicus and Kepler came up with the same discovery in Europe. He also correctly explained the causes of the eclipses of the Sun and the Moon and calculated the value for the length of the year at 365 days 6 hours 12 minutes 30 seconds. This is a slight overestimate since the true value is less than 365 days 6 hours. His work, written in 121 stanzas, gives a remarkably accurate view of the structure of the solar system.

  • Brahmagupta (598-670 AD, again an estimated date that may off), head of the astronomical observatory at Ujjain, the foremost mathematical center of ancient India, developed algebraic notation and gave remarkable formulas for finding the area of a cyclic quadrilateral and for the lengths of the diagonals in terms of the sides.

  • According to Bhaskaracharya’s calculations, which were made in the 5th century BC, the time taken by earth to orbit the sun is 365.258756484 days (slightly larger than the correct time).

  • Aryabhata also introduced the versine (versin = 1-cos) into trigonometry.

  • Brahmagupta also studied arithmetic progressions, quadratic equations, theorems on right-angled triangles, surfaces and volumes, and calculated the length of the year at 365 days 6 hours 12 minutes 36 seconds.

  • Quadratic equations were first discovered by Sridharacharya in the 11th century. Then Bhaskara (1114-1185 AD) reached an understanding of the number systems that solved equations which were not solved in Europe until several centuries later. Like Brahmagupta before him, Bhaskara was head of the astronomical observatory at Ujjain, where he developed a sophisticated understanding of 0 and the negative numbers.

  • The art of navigation was invented 6,000 years ago by navigators of the Indus river. The English word navigation is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Navgatih’ and the word navy from the Sanskrit ‘Nou.’ The first known reservoirs and dams for irrigation were also built in India.

  • Ayur-Veda, the earliest known system of medicine and surgery, was developed in the Vedic period in India. Sushrut, the father of surgery, developed surgical procedures including cesareans, cataract removals, setting fractures, removing urinary stones and even plastic and brain surgery. Over 125 surgical tools are named in the ancient Sushrut medical texts. Anesthesia was also well known. Detailed texts on anatomy, physiology, etiology, embryology, digestion, metabolism, genetics, and immunity date from Vedic times.

  • Sometime around 444 BC, Empedocles introduced a medical system into Greece modeled on the then ancient Ayurvedic system of India. Empedocles’ book on Purification gives, as we saw, the same definition of health as the Charaka Samhita. It bears repeating: health is the balance of the fundamental elements (earth, air, fire and water) in all parts of the body, each part having the proper proportion of each that is right for it. Empedocles adopts this definition from the Vedic tradition. Plato’s Timaeus defines health in the same way.

India’s most substantial gift to world civilization was, however, the discovery of pure consciousness and the mapping out of the architectonic structure of pure knowledge. All other achievements derive from this great awakening of knowledge that took place in ancient Vedic India.

To be concluded …

Astronomical detail, Jantar Mantar.

Astronomical detail, Jantar Mantar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

India and the West

Goblet from Navdatoli, Malwa, 1300 BCE

Goblet from Navdatoli, Malwa, 1300 BCE (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Flow of Science and Mathematics

From India to Arabia and Europe

Dr Kenneth Chandler

Origins Of Vedic Civilisation

The european scholars who postulated the aryan invasion theory were biased, unscientific—and ultimately wrong. The Rig Veda was cognised by a people indigenous to India, probably sometime long before 3,000 BC.

So we move on to the next question. How did the Vedic Civilisation of India influence the civilisations of the Middle-East, Egypt, and Europe ? Evidence from a variety of sources shows that an influence of Vedic civilisation flowed west to the continent of Europe. As we will see, science and mathematics originated in India and came to Greece centuries later. Science and mathematics were probably introduced into Europe and Egypt from India, mainly through Persia, Arabia, and Mesopotamia.

Vedic and Indic Influences on Persian and Greek Civilisation

The Zend-Avesta of Persia took many names of deities from the Rig Veda, most notably Indra, and included Vedic deities in its pantheon. An archeological excavation in 1907 found clay tablets from early fourteenth century BC in Boghazköi, near the site of the ancient city of Troy on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean, in what is now northwest Turkey. These tablets invoke the names of four Vedic deities—Indra, Mitra, Varuna, and Nasatyau—in sealing a treaty between the Hittites and the Mitani. A Vedic influence was definitely in eastern Mediterranean prior to the Trojan war, which occurred about a century later. This site is just up the coast from the Greek city states where the Pre-Socratic philosophers of Greece sprang up about eight hundred years later.

Indications of Vedic influence in the Zend-Avesta in Persia are found earlier than 1,600 BC, and in Greece as early as 1,400 BC. But there is much evidence of a link between the early Greeks and the more ancient Vedic civilisation of India, suggesting that Vedic culture flowed west to Persia and Europe.

* * * Maurice Winternitz, A History of Vedic Literature, Vol. 1, pp. 282-283.

Many of the Greek gods and goddesses are similar to those of the Vedic people, suggesting a strong historical connection. Both Vedic Indra and the Greek Zeus, called king of the gods, were associated with the unbounded power and called by the appellation “Thunderbolt.” Saraswati and Athena, female goddesses of sacred knowledge, both had similar roles as representing wisdom and nurturers of the creative arts. The Vedic Pushan and Greek Dionysus were both associated with youth, goats, and wine. Pushan was described as “goat-born,” Bacchus “half-goat.” The tenth Mandala of the Rig Veda relates that the young god Pushan stole the cattle of Indra, herded them backwards into a cave, and hid them somewhere inside in a mountain. Homeric hymns from the ninth century BC attribute exactly the same feat to the young god Dionysus, who put false feet on the cows, pointed backwards, and then herded them into a mountain cave, so the gods could not find them.

The Katha Upanishad of the Vedic tradition relates a metaphor in which the self is the lord of the chariot, the intellect the charioteer, the body the chariot, the horses, and the senses. “He who has no understanding…” the Upanishad say, “his senses are out of control, as wicked horses are for a charioteer.” Exactly 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. There is also a link between the “angirasas” of the Rig Veda, who were higher beings – intermediates between gods and men and attendants of Agni, who is often described as a messenger between heaven and earth. They personify flames of fire as messenger to heaven. This view is borne out by the etymological connection of Sanskrit “angiras” with the Greek “angelos” (messenger).

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 (although the legends are rarely given credibility). Commentators on the early Greeks from around the first and second century passed BC 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. It was not ideas or concepts from India but Vedic practices which brought to the Greek awakening of early sixth century BC a unique 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.

To be continued …

The first two verses of the Purusha sukta (Suk...

The first two verses of the Purusha sukta (Suktam/Sooktam), with Sayana’s commentary. Page of Max Müller’s Rig-Veda-sanhita, the Sacred Hymns of the Brahmans (reprint, London 1974). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Story Of Vedic Civilisation

English: Replica of 'Dancing Girl' of Mohenjo-...

English: Replica of ‘Dancing Girl’ of Mohenjo-daro at in Mumbai, India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


How Ancient Is The Vedic Tradition

Dr Kenneth Chandler

Origins Of Vedic Civilisation

The Devanagri Script

Now we consider the Devanagri script in which Vedic Sanskrit is written. For years after Mohenjo-Daro and other settlements of the Indus valley were excavated, the only evidence of a writing script were a few artifacts that were inscribed with characters that appeared to be pre-Devanagri. Devanagri is the language in which both Vedic and Classical Sanskrit are written, so if the script of the Indus valley was indeed an earlier and more primitive script, as it appears to be, this led many archeologists to speculate that the Vedic tradition belongs to a post-Indus valley civilization and that the period came after the end of the Indus-Saraswati civilization. Thus some scholars felt that the Vedic tradition must belong to a period more recent than 1900 BC, when the peoples of Indus and Saraswati settlements apparently abandoned their homelands and migrated east to the Ganges river valley.

This speculation, it turns out, is completely unfounded. Recent digs in western India have unearthed stone inscriptions in Devanagri, that date from 3,000 BC. This is an extremely important finding. For one thing, we know that the Vedic tradition began as an oral tradition. Recitation of the Vedic hymns employed, as we mentioned, elaborate methods to perpetuate the oral tradition. The Vedic tradition existed before the advent of a written script, and was passed on in an oral tradition long before the advent of a written script.

The Rig Veda was memorised by heart and recited in teams of two pundits, who sang in unison to preserve its purity, precisely because there was no script in which to write it down and preserve it over time. Preservation depended on memorisation and passing it on in a formal method of oral recitation.

Since the oral tradition of recitation was a phenomenon that belonged to the period before the advent of a written script, and, since the Devanagri script existed in the Indus-Saraswati valley by 3,000 BC, this would place the origins of the Vedic tradition long before 3,000 BC. The Vedic literature in its entirety is a body of oral literature, passed on first in recited songs, and only later written down, after the advent of a script. If we take Winternitz’s estimated time for the incubation of the Vedic period, which is 1,900 years, this would put the beginnings of the Vedic oral tradition sometime before 4,900 BC.

New Light on the “Cradle of Civilisation”

Textbooks on the origins of civilisation commonly state, even today, that the “cradle of civilisation” was in Mesopotamia, in the flood plane between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Mesopotamian artifacts have been dated as far back possibly as 4,500 BC, and Egyptian, Assyrian, and other ancient civilizations extend back possibly as far as the early fourth millennium BC.

The discovery of cities such as Mehrgarh in the Indus valley, which dates from 6,500 to 7,000 BC, puts the Indus valley settlements much further back in time. Exactly how long ago the Rig Vedic tradition began remains unfathomable, but there are far more ancient cities in the Indus-Saraswati valley than have been found in the middle-eastern civilisations of Mesopotamia.

How long ago did urban civilisation begin in India ? The most reliable answer is that we don’t know. More importantly, the Vedic tradition may have begun before the advent of the written languages and the building of brick towns and cities. The appearance of a written script and building of cities may have come after the decline of the oral Vedic tradition. Moreover, there is evidence of a long period of human activity in India long before the earliest appearance of towns in the Indus-Saraswati valley around 7,000 BC.

Archeological evidence shows that at 40,000 BC, during the last ice age, groups of hunter-gatherers lived in central India in painted shelters of stacked rocks. There are also sites with rock windbreaks in northern Punjab in India dating from this time.

As early as 100,000 BC, there were humans with 20th-century man’s brain size (1,450 cc), and as early as 300,000 BC, Homo Sapiens roamed from Africa to Asia. Evidence of human use of fire dates to 360,000 BC. There is also evidence that hominids occupied the Punjab region of northern India as early as 470,000 BC. Stone hand axes and other primitive chopping tools found in northern India have been dated to 500,000 BC. Other stone artifacts found in India have been found dating from two million years ago. Remains of the genius “Homo” were found in Africa that are dated between two and a half to three million years ago.

How far back in time, then, does the Vedic tradition go ? The most sure answer is still at this point in time that we simply do not know. At present there is not enough evidence to determine, except we can venture that it is far more ancient than has been commonly supposed. The Rig Vedic civilization almost certainly dates from long before 3,000 BC, and possibly before 6,000 BC.

However, in dating the Rig Veda, the range of possibilities must not be considered too narrowly. We must not arbitrarily assume that Vedic tradition originated at any given date. Its origins may go back in time tens of thousands of years, or even longer. Since it is an oral tradition, it left no footprints in stone. What is certain is that the Aryan invasion myths and the dates given by Muller and other nineteenth century scholars came from wild speculations that served nationalist, religious, and racist agendas, not from scientific considerations.

The First Pioneers Of Indology

It may be surprising to learn that the first pioneer in indology was the 12th Century Pope, Honorius IV. The Holy Father encouraged the learning of oriental languages in order to preach Christianity amongst the pagans. Soon after this, in 1312, the Ecumenical Council of the Vatican decided that …

“The Holy Church should have an abundant number of Catholics well versed in the languages, especially in those of the infidels, so as to be able to instruct them in the sacred doctrine.”

Consequently, chairs of Hebrew, Arabic and Chaldean were created at the Universities of Bologna, Oxford, Paris and Salamanca. A century later in 1434, the General Council of Basel returned to this theme and decreed that …

“All Bishops must sometimes each year send men well-grounded in the divine word to those parts where Jews and other infidels live, to preach and explain the truth of the Catholic faith in such a way that the infidels who hear them may come to recognise their errors. Let them compel them to hear their preaching.”

Centuries later in 1870, during the First Vatican Council, Hinduism was condemned in the “five anathemas against pantheism,” according to the Jesuit priest John Hardon in the Church-authorized book, The Catholic Catechism. However, interests in indology only took shape when the British came to India.


Story Of Vedic Civilisation

How Ancient Is The Vedic Tradition

Dr Kenneth Chandler

Origins Of Vedic Civilisation

Astronomical References in the Rig Veda and Other Evidence

Evidence from other sources known since the late nineteenth century also tends to confirm the great antiquity of the Vedic tradition. Certain Vedic texts, for example, refer to astronomical events that took place in ancient astronomical time. By calculating the astronomical dates of these events, we thus gain another source of evidence that can be used to place the Rig Veda in a calculable time-frame.

A German scholar and an Indian scholar simultaneously discovered in 1889 that the Vedic Brahmana texts describe the Pleiades coinciding with the spring equinox. Older texts describe the spring equinox as falling in the constellation Orion. From a calculation of the precision of the equinoxes, it has been shown that the spring equinox lay in Orion around 4,500 BC.

The German scholar, H. Jacobi, came to the conclusion that the Brahmanas are from a period around or older than 4,500 BC. Jacobi concludes that “the Rig Vedic period of culture lies anterior to the third pre-Christian millennium.”

Bal Gangadhar Tilak, using similar astronomical calculations, estimates the time of the Rig Veda at 6,000 BC.

More recently, Frawley has cited references in the Rig Veda to the winter solstice beginning in Aries. On this basis, he estimates that the antiquity of these verses of the Veda must go back at least to 6,500 BC. The dates Frawley gives for Vedic civilisation are :

Period 1. 6500-3100 BC, Pre-Harappan, early Rig Vedic

Period 2. 3100-1900 BC, Mature Harappan 3100-1900, period of the Four Vedas

Period 3. 1900-1000 BC, Late Harappan, late Vedic and Brahmana period.

Professor Dinesh Agrawal of Penn State University reviewed the evidence from a variety of sources and estimated the dates as follows:

Rig Vedic Age – 7000-4000 BC

End of Rig Vedic Age – 3 750 BC

End of Ramayana-Mahabharat Period – 3000 BC

Development of Saraswati-Indus Civilization – 3000-2200 BC

Decline of Indus and Saraswati Civilization – 2200-1900 BC

Period of chaos and migration – 2000-1500 BC

Period of evolution of syncretic Hindu culture – 1400-250 BC.

The Taittiriya Samhita (6.5.3) places the constellation Pleiades at the winter solstice, which correlates with astronomical events that took place in 8,500 BC at the earliest.

The Taittiriya Brahmana (3.1.2) refers to the Purvabhadrapada nakshatra as rising due east—an event that occurred no later than 10,000 BC, according to Dr. B.G. Siddharth of India’s Birla Science Institute. Since the Rig Veda is more ancient than the Brahmanas, this would put the Rig Veda before 10,000 BC.

Attempts to date the Rig Veda based on astronomical evidence have some merit, but the conclusions are hotly debated, and probably not entirely free of conjecture. Some contemporary scholars take them quite seriously as a method of dating the Rig Veda, but the evidence is inconclusive at present.

Evidence from Sthapatya Veda Architecture

Perhaps the most interesting evidence for the antiquity of the Vedic tradition comes from architectural remains of towns and cities of the ancient Indus-Saraswati civilisation. The Indus Valley Civilisation flourished, according to the most reliable current scientific estimates, between 2,600 and 1,900 BC—but there are cities, such as Mehrgarh, that date back to 6,500-7,000 BC. These dates are based on archeological field-work using standard methods that are commonly recognised in the scientific community today. Over 1600 settlements have been found in the vast Indus/Saraswati region that extended over 25,000 square miles.

The most well known cities of the Indus valley civilisation, Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, were built of kiln-fired brick and laid out on an exact north-south axis. This means that the main streets of the city ran north-south, and the entrance of the homes and public buildings faced east. The cities were also built to the west of the rivers, so that they were on land that sloped east to the river.

These facts, which may seem trivial on first glance, turn out to be highly significant. The ancient architectural system of Sthapatya Veda prescribes detailed principles of construction of homes and cities. One of the main principles of Sthapatya Veda is that cities be laid out on an exact north-south grid, with all houses facing due east. Another is that the buildings be oriented to the east with a slope to the east and any body of water on the east. Most of the cities of the Saraswati and Indus valley followed these principles exactly.

These early cities were planned and constructed according to exact principles that align the microcosm of human dwelling to the larger cosmos. They applied laws of nature that are set out in Sthapatya Vedic architecture. When the principles were codified into a system is open to question, but since the building and city planning were done according to Sthapatya Vedic principles, it is reasonable to conclude that Sthapatya Veda was known and practiced during the ancient period of Indus-Saraswati valley civilisations. The system called Sthapatya Veda architecture may have preceded this period, or may have been codified later, but the cities were built according to Sthapatya Vedic architecture.

Since these cities were constructed as early as 6,500 to 7,000 BC, this would suggest that Sthapatya Veda may have been known as early as that. This gives another reason to put the origins of Rig Vedic tradition even before that time. This is another bit of evidence, which is not noted in previous literature, that may establish the great antiquity of the Rig Vedic tradition.

Archeological research has shown Indus Valley civilization was an outgrowth of an earlier agrarian civilisation. Richard H. Meadow of Harvard University has shown for instance a gradual shift from the hunting of game to the raising of sheep, goats, and cattle called the humped zebu, which were apparently domesticated in the Indus valley.

* * * The city of Mehrgarh, lying to the West of the Indus river near the Bolan Pass, between ancient India and Afghanistan, was first inhabited from 6,500 BC to 7,000 BC by a largely agrarian people who cultivated barley and cattle.

* * * The Rig Veda frequently mentions barley and milk cattle, and may have come from this agrarian period that was precursor to the Indus-Saraswati valley civilisation.

Yoga in the Ancient Indus Valley

There are still other reasons to think that the ancient city of Mohenjo-daro was home to a civilisation that knew the Vedic tradition. One artifact from Mohenjo-daro is a seal with a figure of a seated deity, in lotus posture. Mark Kenoyer describes this figure as “seated in a yogic posture.” Kenoyer characterises it as a deity with three faces, his feet in a yogic posture extending beyond the throne, with seven bangles on each arm, and a pipili plant adorning his head.

Here is further evidence that the Indus valley civilisation was not pre-Vedic. Rather than being overrun by “Indo-Europeans” who composed the Rig Veda, the Indus valley was apparently intimately linked to the Vedic tradition, and its kings practiced yoga. If the practice of yoga was known at the time of Indus valley civilisation, yoga must have been practiced in India before 1,900 when the Indus Valley settlements were withered by drought.

If the Indus valley civilisations practiced Sthapatya Veda architecture and Yoga, then the Vedic tradition was well established in India during the Indus valley civilisation which flourished, archeologists think, around 2,600 BC. The Indus Valley civilisation is thus either contemporaneous with the Vedic tradition, or the Vedic tradition was its predecessor; but in no case was the vast Indus Valley civilisation, extending over 2,500 square miles and 1,600 settlements, destroyed by outside invaders. The Indus-Saraswati civilisation may have been a successor to, or late remnant of, an earlier Vedic civilisation, which built their towns and cities on Sthapatya Vedic principles in the Indus valley and introduced yoga. It was the drying up of the Saraswati in around 1900 BC that ended Indus-Saraswati civilisation, not Aryan invaders.



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