By Nithin Sridhar
The Aryan Question: Part 6
The Aryan question continues to remain highly controversial and multidimensional in nature. In order to unravel the nitty-gritty of the issue, NewsGram interviewed various scholars who have researched various aspects of the issue in depth.
In this ‘Sixth installment’ of ‘The Aryan Question’, NewsGram brings an exclusive interview of Shrikant G. Talageri, independent scholar and author of many books dealing with Aryan issue, including two books analyzing the evidence present in the Rigveda titled ‘Rigveda: A Historical Analysis’ and ‘Rigveda and Avesta: The Final Evidence’.
Interview with Shrikant G. Talageri- 1
Nithin Sridhar: Different scholars have dated Rigveda to different time periods ranging from 1200 BC to 3000 BC. What period do you assign to Rigveda? Can you also share some important material evidence within Rigveda that helps one to determine the period of its composition.
Shrikant G. Talageri: The period generally accepted by a consensus of scholars is 1500-1200 BCE.
However, I have proven with irrefutable evidence that the Rigveda, which consists of 10 Mandalas or Books, was composed over three Periods: Early, Middle and Late. The Late Period of the Rigvedic composition began somewhere in the middle of the 3rd Millennium BCE. The New Books (1, 5, 8-10) of the Rigveda were composed in a cultural period which began somewhere around 2500 BCE or so. In fact, in your earlier interview with Prof. BB Lal, he has postulated a Stage IV of archaeological sites associated with the Harappan civilization, whose peak period was from 2600-2000 BCE. This clearly represents the peak period of the New Books of the Rigveda.
The Middle Period (the period of the Middle-Old Books 2, 4) clearly goes well beyond this, and the Early Period (the period of the Oldest Books 6, 3, 7) even further back. I will not speculate on the exact dates of these periods, but they will clearly go very much further back into the past beyond 2600 BCE. Prof. B.B.Lal (in your above interview) locates Stage I of this culture (which may be the period of the Oldest Books, or more likely the pre-Rigvedic period) in Haryana in the 6th-5th millennia BCE.
All the logical dates in the Aryan debate have been fixed on the basis of certain chronological markers. Thus the western scholars accept that the Rigveda was completed by 1200 BCE because the Rigveda cannot be pushed to a date later than 1200 BCE on the basis of a chronological marker: the Iron Age in India was established by 1200 BCE, and the Rigveda is a pre-Iron Age text. The dispersal of the various Aryan language branches from the Original Aryan Homeland (wherever it was located) cannot be pushed to a date much earlier than 3000 BCE on the basis of many chronological markers (as for example the invention of the wheeled cart). Similarly I have shown in my books that the Old Books of the Rigveda (Books 2-4, 6-7) go back far beyond the period of the New Books of the Rigveda, which commenced somewhere around 2500 BCE (or 2600 BCE) on the basis of chronological markers like the vast common Rigvedic-Avestan-Mitanni vocabulary (datable on the basis of the Mitanni records), the invention of spoked wheels, and the domestication of camels and donkeys.
NS: Scholars have often arranged various Mandalas of Rigveda in a chronological order. What is the basis of such a classification? What is the relevance of such classification in answering the Aryan question?
SGT: The Rigveda has 10 Mandalas or Books. The Tenth Mandala (Book 10) is accepted as the very latest in style, content and language. However, the main division of the Rigveda universally accepted by scholars is a division between the Family Books (2-7) which are earlier, and the Non-Family Books (1, 8-10) which are later.
In addition, all scholars from Oldenberg to Proferes have accepted that among the Family Books, Book 5 is different from the other Family Books and falls in the same category as the Non-Family Books in most ways. So the official classification is: Old Books: 2, 3, 4, 6, 7. New Books: 1, 5, 8, 9, 10.
The first (i.e. oldest version of) Rigveda consisted of the (presently-numbered) Books 2-7. Then Books 1 and 8 were added on either side of the Family Books. Later Book 9, and much later Book 10 were added. The scholars have also identified some hymns in each of the Family Books which were redacted (modified) at the time of addition of Books 1 and 8, and these may be called the Redacted Hymns.
The Family Books are distinguished from the Non-Family Books in two main ways: 1. Each book generally belongs to one (out of a total of ten) families of rishis, while the Non-Family Books are more mixed and general. 2. The hymns are arranged in a specific order: first according to deity (first Agni, then Indra, etc.), then within each deity according to number of verses in the hymns (e.g. 13, 11, 9, 8, etc), then within the same number of verses according to the meter (jagati and trishtubh followed by anushtubh and gayatri, etc.). The Non-Family Books however, do not follow this order; and within the Family Books the Redacted Hymns also violate this order.
The New Books (Book 5 and the Non-Family Books) are distinguished from the Old Family Books in their language. They contain many new words and grammatical forms which a) are not found in the Old Books except sometimes in the Redacted Hymns, b) are not found in the Indo-European (Aryan) languages of Europe, c) but are commonly and abundantly found in all (post-Rigvedic) Vedic and Sanskrit texts and in the later Classical Sanskrit language.
This classification into Old Books (2, 3, 4, 6, 7) and New Books (1, 5, 8, 9, 10) is absolutely vital to the analysis of Vedic and ancient Indian history and to the solution of the Aryan problem.
NS: You have proposed your own chronological classification of Rigvedic Mandalas based on Anukramanis (Indices) which is quite different from the conventional classification. Can you elaborate more regarding Anukramanis, your methodology of classification and how it differs from the conventional classification? Please shed some light on what made you to propose this alternate classification and its implications on the Aryan issue.
SGT: My classification is not at all different from the conventional classification. As I pointed out above, this conventional classification is absolutely vital to our analysis, and without it we would never be able to analyze the history of the Rigveda.
But we know the fickle and politically oriented nature of the so-called “academic” scholarship. Facts which have been universally accepted and forcefully reiterated by them for centuries can suddenly be totally and suddenly rejected when it becomes politically inconvenient to them, and it is as if all the voluminous academic evidence of centuries never existed (as in Orwell’s “1984”!).
Three examples will suffice: 1. All academic references to the Ayodhya structure for centuries accepted that the mosque stood on a demolished Hindu (Ram) temple, but the moment the Ayodhya movement began, the very idea became (in all academic and media circles worldwide) a baseless, fraudulent invention of Hindu fanatics. 2. The Sarasvati of the Rigveda was identified in all academic studies and references since centuries as the Ghaggar-Hakra river. But the moment the full implications of this identification became clear during the Aryan debate in the 1990s, all these academicians have taken the opposite stand and started denying this identification (even when they themselves may have personally reiterated it before) and claiming it as a new politically motivated identification. 3. Prof. BB Lal was acclaimed all over the academic world as the most eminent living Indian archaeologist. But the moment he rejected the AIT, he is now being systematically vilified as an “RSS archaeologist” or “Hindutva archaeologist”. Likewise, AIT proponent ‘scholars’ have now started trying to squirm their way out of accepting the implications of their own conventional classification because I have shown that it conclusively and irrefutably proves the Indian Homeland Theory or OIT.
Therefore, what I have done in my books is: I have proved the conventional classification to be absolutely correct with so much additional evidence that it is academically impossible to now reject it. In fact, I have presented a more detailed version within the conventional classification which is useful in deeper historical analysis: Oldest Family Books (6,3,7, in that chronological order), Middle-Old Family Books (2,4), New Family Book (5), New Non-Family Books (1,8,9,10).
This detailed classification has been established based on the following mass of evidence (given in my 2000 book “The Rigveda – A Historical Analysis“, my 2008 book “The Rigveda and the Avesta – The Final Evidence“, and E.W.Hopkins’ 1896 articles “Numerical Formulae in the Veda” and “Pragathikani” in the “Journal of the American Oriental Society” Vols. 16 and 17 respectively):
- An analysis of the (ancestor-descendant) relationships between the composers of the hymns.
- An analysis of the references within the hymns to earlier or contemporaneous composers and to kings and other (non-composer) Rṣis.
- An analysis of the (adherence to ‘purity’ of the) family identity of the composers of the individual books.
- An analysis of the system of ascriptions of hymns to composers.
- An analysis of a large category of personal name types shared in common by the Rigveda with the Avesta and the Mitanni.
- An analysis of another category of personal names shared by the Rigveda with the Avesta.
- An analysis of the geographical names and terms in the Rigveda.
- An analysis of other important and historically significant words.
- An analysis of the meters used in the composition of the hymns of the Rigveda.
- An analysis of the sacred numerical formulae in the Rigveda.
- A detailed and path-breaking analysis by Hopkins of several large and important categories of words in the Rigveda.
The conventional classification alone is enough to prove the Indian Homeland Theory or OIT. My more detailed classification only helps to fill in blank spaces and give a deeper and more detailed picture.
NS: Can you shed light on the geographic area of the Rigvedic people based on the details found in Rigveda? Can you briefly elaborate on this?
SGT: The geographical area of the New Books (1, 5, 8-10) is the same as the geographical area of the Rigveda as a whole. It stretches from westernmost U.P, Uttarakhand, and Haryana, in the east to southern and eastern Afghanistan in the west. As Prof. BB Lal has pointed out in his earlier interview, this is also the area of the Harappan Civilization.
But the geographical area of the Oldest Books (6, 3, and 7 in that order) is completely different. That is, it covers only the eastern parts of the Rigvedic area. These three oldest books mention the eastern rivers Ganga/Jahnavi, Yamuna, Drishadvati/Hariyupiya/Yavyavati, Apaya, Sarasvati, Shutudri, Vipash, Parushni, Asikni, but they do not mention the western rivers Marudhvrdha, Vitasta, Arjikiya, Sushoma, Sindhu and its western tributaries Trishtama, Susartu, Anitabha, Rasa, Shveti, Shvetyavari, Kubha, Krumu, Gomati, Sarayu, Mehatnu, Prayiyu, Vayiyu, Suvastu, Gauri, Kushava, all of which are mentioned in the New Books. They mention the eastern place names Kikata, Ilaspada, but they do not mention the western place names Saptasindhava, Gandhari, both of which are mentioned in the New Books. They mention the eastern lake Manusha, but they do not mention the western lake Sharyanavat(i) and the western mountains Mujavat, Sushom and Arjik, all of which are mentioned in the New Books. They mention eastern animals like the buffalo, the gaur (Indian bison), the elephant, the peacock and the spotted deer, but they do not mention western animals (whose names are found in common with the Avesta) like the ushtra, varaha, mathra, chhaga, vrishni, ura and mesha, all of which are mentioned in the New Books.
These Oldest Books (6, 3, 7) show complete ignorance of western areas, but easy familiarity with and emotional attachment to the eastern areas. The Oldest Book of all (Book 6) knows only the areas to the east of the Sarasvati. In VI.45.31 the long bushes on the banks of the Ganga figure in a simile (showing their long acquaintance and easy familiarity with the topography and flora of the Ganga area), and the second oldest book (Book 3) refers in III.58.6 to the area of the Jahnavi (Ganga) as the “ancient homeland” of the Gods. The Sarasvati is deified in three whole hymns, VI.61, VII.95-96, and in 52 other verses in these Oldest Books. III.23.3-4 remembers the establishment of a perpetual sacred fire by Devavata, a far ancestor of the Rigvedic king Sudas, at Ilaspada on the eastern banks of the Sarasvati.
Their expansion westwards is fully documented. III.53 records an Ashvamedha performed by Sudas on the eastern banks of the Sarasvati, after which he is described as expanding his kingdom in all directions. III.33 describes Sudas’ expansionist conquests westwards in which he, with his armies, crosses the two easternmost rivers of the Punjab, the Shutudri and the Vipash. VII.18 (also 19,33 and 83) describes the subsequent Dasharajna battle (the Battle of the Ten Kings) on the banks of the third easternmost river of the Punjab, the Parushni, in which Sudas, moving in from the east, battles and subsequently defeats a coalition of ten Anu tribes who are fighting from the west (and who are therefore referred to, in VII.5.3, as the people of the Asikni, the fourth easternmost river of the Punjab).
Therefore, the detailed data in the Rigveda makes it clear that the area of the Rigvedic people originally lay to the east of the Sarasvati river of Haryana, and that they started expanding westwards during the period of the Oldest Books (6,3,7), but had still not expanded even up to the Indus river by the end of this period. That expansion took place later during the period of the composition of the Middle-Old Books (specifically book 4, since Book 2 is a curiously data-less book restricted only to the Sarasvati area).
(To be continued)
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