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by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar TilakPaperback (Edition: 2010)
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The present volume is a sequel to my Orion or Researches into the Antiquity of the Vedas, published in 1893. The estimate of Vedic antiquity then generally current amongst Vedic scholars was based on the assignment of arbitrary period of time to the different strata into which the Vedic literature is divided; and it was believed that the oldest of these strata could not, at the best, be older than 2400 B.C. In my Orion, however, I tried to show that all such estimates, besides being too modest, were vague and uncertain, and that the astronomical statements found in the Vedic literature supplied us with far more reliable data for correctly ascertaining the ages of the different periods of Vedic Literature. These astronomical statements, it was further shown, unmistakably pointed out that the Vernal equinox was in the constellation of Mrga or Orion (about 4500 B.C.) during the period of the Vedic hymns, and that it had receded to the constellation of the Krttikas, or the Pleiades (about 2500 B.C.) in the days of the Brahmans. Naturally enough from this book results were, at first, received by scholars in a skeptical sprit.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak Born as Keshav Gangadhar Tilak 23 July 1856- 1 August 1920 (aged 64), was an Indian nationalist, teacher, social reformer and independence fighter who was the first popular leader of the Indian Independence Movement. The British colonial authorities infamously and derogatorily called the great leader as "Father of the Indian unrest". He was also conferred upon the honorary title of Lokmanya, which literally means "Accepted by the people (as their leader)". Tilak was one of the first and strongest advocates of "Swaraj" (self-rule) in Indian consciousness. His famous quote,"Swaraj is my birthright, and I shall have it !" is well- remembered in India even today.
The present volume is a sequel to my Orion or Researches into the Antiquity of the Vedas, published in 1893. The estimate of Vedic antiquity then generally current amongst Vedic scholars was based on the assignment of arbitrary period of time to the different strata into which the Vedic literature is divided; and it was believed that the oldest of these strata could not, at the best, be older than 2400 B.C In my Orion, however, I tried to show that all such estimates, besides being too modest, were vague and uncertain, and that the astronomical statements found in the Vedic literature supplied us with far more reliable data for correctly ascertaining the ages of the different periods of Vedic literature. These astronomical statements, it was further shown, unmistakably pointed out that the Vernal equinox was in the constellation of Mrga or Orion (about 4500 B.C) during the period of the Vedic hymns, and that it had receded to the constellation of the Krttikas, or the Pleiades (about 2500 B.C) in the days of the Brahmans, Naturally enough these results were, at first, received by scholars in a skeptical spirit. But my position was strengthened when it was found that Dr. Jacobi, of Bonn, had independently arrived at the same conclusion, and, soon after, scholars like Prof. Bloomfield, M. Barth, the late Dr. Bulher and others, more or less freely, acknowledged the force of my arguments. Dr. Thibaut, the late Dr. Whitney and a few others were, however, of opinion that the evidence adduced by me was not conclusive. But the subsequent discovery, by my friend the late Mr. S.B. Dixit, of a passage in the Satapatha Brahman, plainly stating that the Krttikas never swerved, in those days, from the due east i.e., the Vernal equinox, has served to dispel all lingering doubts regarding the age of the Brahmans: while another Indian astronomer, Mr. V.B. Ketkar, in a recent number of the Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, has mathematically worked out the statement in the Taittiriya Brahman (III, 1, 1, 5), that Brhaspati, or the planet Jupiter, was first discovered when confronting or nearly occulting the star Tisya, and shown that the observation was possible only at about 4650 B.C., thereby remarkably confirming my estimate of the oldest period of Vedic literature. After this, the high antiquity of the oldest Vedic period may, I think, be now taken as fairly established.
But if the age of the oldest Vedic period was thus carried back to 4500 B.C., one was still tempted to ask whether we had, in that limit, reached the Ultima Thule of the Aryan antiquity. For, as stated by Prof. Bloomfield, while noticing my Orion in his address on the occasion of the eighteenth anniversary of John Hopkin's University, "the language and literature of the Vedas is, by no means, so primitive as to place with it the real beginnings of Aryan life." "These in all probability and in all due moderation," he rightly observed, "reach back several thousands of years more," and it was, he said, therefore "needless to point out that this curtain, which seems to shut off our vision at 4500 B.C., may prove in the end a veil of thin gauze." I myself held the same view, and much of my spare time during the last ten years has been devoted to the search of evidence which would lift up this curtain and reveal to us the long vista of primitive Aryan antiquity. How I first worked on the lines followed up in Orion, how in the light of latest researches in geology and archeology bearing on the primitive history of man, I was gradually led to a different line of search, and finally how the conclusion, that the ancestors of the Vedic Rsis lived in an Arctic home in inter- Glacial times, was forced on me by the slowly accumulating mass of Vedic andAvestic evidence, is fully narrated in the book, and need not, therefore, be repeated in this place. I desire, however, to take this opportunity of gratefully acknowledging the generous sympathy shown to me at a critical time by that venerable scholar Prof. F. Max Muller, whose recent death was mourned as a personal loss by his numerous admirers throughout India. This is not the place where we may, with propriety, discuss the merits of the policy adopted by the Bombay Government in 1897. Suffice it to say that in order to put down certain public excitement, caused by its own famine and plague policy, the Government of the day deemed it prudent to prosecute some Vernacular papers in the province, and prominently amongst them the Kesari, edited by me, for writings which were held to be seditious, and I was awarded eighteenmonths' rigorous imprisonment. But political offenders in India are not treated better than ordinary convicts, and had it not been for the sympathy and interest taken by Prof. Max Muller, who knew me only as the author of Orion, and other friends, I should have been deprived of the pleasure, - then the only pleasure, - of following up my studies in these days. Prof. Max Miiller was kind enough to send me a copy of his second edition of the Rg-Veda, and the Government was pleased to allow me the use of these and other books, and also of light to read for a few hours at night. Some of the passages from the Rg- Veda, quoted in support, of the Arctic theory in the following pages, were collected during such leisure as I could get in these times. It was mainly through the efforts of Prof. Max Muller, backed by the whole. Indian press, that I was released after twelve months; and in the very first letter I wrote to Prof. Max Muller after my release, I thanked him sincerely for his disinterested kindness, and also gave him a brief summary of my new theory regarding the primitive Aryan home as disclosed by Vedic evidence. It was, of course, not to be expected that a scholar, who had worked all his life on a different line, would accept the new view at once and that too on reading a bare outline off the evidence in its support. Still it was encouraging to hear from him that though the interpretations of Vedic passages proposed by me were probable, yet my theory appeared to be in conflict with the established geological facts. I wrote in reply that I had already examined the question from that stand-point, and expected soon to place before him the whole evidence in support of my view. But, unfortunately I have been deprived of this pleasure by his deeply mourned death which occurred soon after.
The first manuscript of the book was written at the end of 1898, and since then I have had the advantage of discussing the question with many scholars in Madras, Calcutta, Lahore, Benares and other places during my travels in the different parts of India. But I hesitated to publish the book for a long time, - a part of the delay is due to other causes, - because the lines of investigation had ramified into many allied sciences such as geology, archeology, comparative mythology and so on; and, as I was a mere layman in these, I felt some diffidence as to whether I had correctly grasped the bearing of the latest researches in these sciences. The difficulty is well described by Prof. Max Muller in his review of the Prehistoric Antiquities of Indo-Europeans, published in the volume of his Last Essays. "The ever-increasing division and sub-division," observes the learned Professor, "of almost every branch of human knowledge into more special branches of study make the specialist, whether he likes it or not, more and more dependent on the judgment and the help of his fellow-workers. A geologist in our day has often to deal with questions that concern the mineralogist, the chemist, the archeologist, the philologist, nay, the astronomer, rather than the geologist pur et simple, and, as life is too short for all this, nothing is left to him but to appeal to his colleagues for counsel and help. It is one of the great advantages of University life that anyone, who is in trouble about some question outside his own domain, can at once get the very best information from his colleagues, and many of the happiest views and brightest solutions of complicated problems are due, as is well-known, to this free intercourse, this scientific give and take in our academic centers." And again, "Unless a student can appeal for help to recognized authorities on all these subjects, he is apt to make brilliant discoveries, which explode at the slightest touch of the specialist, and, on the other hand, to pass by facts which have only to be pointed "out in order to disclose their significance and far-reaching importance. People are hardly aware of the benefit which every branch of science derives from the free and generous exchange of ideas, particularly in our Universities, where everybody may avail himself of the advice and help of his colleagues, whether they warn him against yet impossible theories, or call his attention to a book or an article, where the very point, that interests him, has been fully worked out and settled once for all." But alas! It is not given to us to move in an atmosphere like this, and small wonder if Indian students are not found to go beyond the stage of passing the examinations. There is not a single institution in India, nor, despite the University Commission, can we hope to have any before long, where one can get all up-to-date information on any desired subject, so easily obtainable at a seat of learning in the West; and in its absence the only course open to a person, investigating a particular subject, is, in the words of the same learned scholar, "to step boldly out of his own domain, and take an independent survey of the preserves of his neighbors, even at the risk of being called an interloper, an ignoramus, a mere dilettante," for, "whatever accidents he may meet with himself, the subject itself is sure to be benefited." Working under such disadvantages, I was, therefore, glad, when, on turning the pages of the first volume of the tenth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, recently received, I found that Prof. Geikie, in his article on geology, took the same view of Dr. Croll's calculations, as summarized at the end of the second chapter of this book. After stating that Croll's doctrine did not make way amongst physicists and astronomers, the eminent geologist says that more recently (1895) it has been critically examined by Mr. E.P. Culver well, who regards it as "a vague speculation, clothed indeed with delusive semblance of severe numerical accuracy, but having no foundation in physical fact, and built up of parts which do not dovetail one into the other." If Dr. Croll's calculations are disposed of in this way, there remains nothing to prevent us from accepting the view of the American geologists that the commencement of the post-Glacial period cannot be placed ata date earlier than 8000 B.C.
It has been already stated that the beginnings of Aryan civilization must be supposed to date back several thousand years before the oldest Vedic period; and when the commencement of the post-Glacial epoch is brought down to 8000 B.C., it is not at all surprising if the date of primitive Aryan life is found to go back to it from 4500 B.C., the age of the oldest Vedic period. In fact, it is the main point sought to be established in the present volume. There are many passages in the Rg-Veda, which, though hitherto looked upon as obscure and unintelligible, do, when interpreted in the light of recent scientific researches, plainly disclose the Polar attributes of the Vedic deities, or the traces of an ancient Arctic calendar; while the Avesta expressly tells us that the happy land of Airyana Vaejo, or the Aryan Paradise, was located in a region where the sun shone but once a year, and that it was destroyed by the invasion of snow and ice, which rendered its climate inclement and necessitated a migration southward. These are plain and simple statements, and when we put them side by side with what we know of the Glacial and' the post-Glacial epoch from the latest geological researches, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the primitive Aryan home was both Arctic and inter-Glacial. I have often asked myself, why the real bearing of these plain and simple statements should have so long remained undiscovered; and let me assure the reader that it was not until I was convinced that the discovery was due solely to the recent progress in our knowledge regarding the primitive history of the human race and the planet it inhabits that I ventured to publish the present volume. Some Zend scholars have narrowly missed the truth, simply because 40 or 50 years ago they were unable to understand how a happy home could be located in the ice-bound regions near the North Pole. The progress of geological science in the latter half of the last century has, however, now solved the difficulty by proving that the climate at the Pole during the inter- Glacial times was mild, and consequently not unsuited for human habitation. There IS, therefore, nothing extraordinary, if it be left to us to find out the real import of these passages in the Veda and Avesta. It is true that if the theory of an Arctic and inter-Glacial primitive Aryan home is proved, many a chapter in Vedic exegetics, comparative mythology, or primitive Aryan history, will have to be revised or rewritten, and in the last chapter of this book I have myself discussed a few important points which will be affected by the new theory. But as remarked by me at the end of the book, considerations like these, howsoever useful they may be in inducing caution in our investigations, ought not to deter us from accepting the results of an inquiry conducted on strictly scientific lines. It is very hard, I know, to give up theories upon which one has worked all his life. But, as Mr. Andrew Lang has put it, it should always be borne in mind that "Our little systems have their day, or their hour as knowledge advances they pass into the history of the efforts of pioneers." Nor is the theory of the Arctic home so new and startling as it appears to be at the first sight. Several scientific men have already declared their belief that the original home of man must be sought for in the Arctic regions; and Dr. Warren, the President of the Boston University, has anticipated me, to a certain extent, in his learned and suggestive work, the Paradise Found or the Cradle of the Human Race at the North Pole, the tenth edition of which was published in America in 1893. Even on strict philological grounds the theory of a primitive Aryan home in Central Asia has been now almost abandoned in favour of North Germany or Scandinavia; while Prof. Rhys, in his Hibbert Lectures on Celtic Heathendom, is led to suggest "some spot within the Arctic circle" on purely mythological considerations. I go only a step further, and show that the theory, so far as the primitive Aryan home is concerned, is fully borne out by Vedic and Avestic traditions, and, what is still more important, the latest geological researches not only corroborate the Avestic description of the destruction of the Aryan Paradise, but enable us to place its existence in times before the last Glacial epoch. The evidence on which I rely is fully set forth in the following pages; and, though the question is thus brought for the first time within the arena of Vedic and Avestic scholarship, I trust that my critics will not prejudge me in any way, but give their judgment, not on a passage here or an argument there, - for, taken singly, it may not sometimes be found to be conclusive, - but on the whole mass of evidence collected in the book, irrespective of how far-reaching the ultimate effects of such a theory may be.
In conclusion, I desire to express my obligations to my friend and old teacher Prof. S.G. Jinsivale, M.A., who carefully went through the whole manuscript, except the last chapter which was subsequently written, verified all references, pointed out a few inaccuracies, and made some valuable suggestions. I have also to acknowledge with thanks the ready assistance rendered to me by Dr. Ramkrsna Gopal Bhandarkar, C.L.E., and Khan Bahadur Dr. Dastur Hoshang J amaspji the High Priest of the Parsis in the Deccan, whenever I had an occasion to consult them. Indeed, it would have been impossible to criticize the A vestic passage so fully without the willing co-operation of the learned High Priest and his obliging Deputy Dastur Kaikobgd. I am also indebted to Prof. M. Rangacharya M.A., of Madras, with whom I had an opportunity of discussing the subject, for some critical suggestions, to Mr. Shrinivgs Iyengar, B.A., B.L., of the Madras High Court Bar, for a translation of Lignana's Essay, to Mr. G. R. Gogte, B.A., LL.B., for preparing the manuscript for the press, and to my friend Mr. K.G. Oka, who helped me in reading the proof-sheets, and but for whose care many errors would have escaped my attention. My thanks are similarly due to the Managers of the Anandasharma and the Fergusson College for free access to their libraries and to the Manager of the Arya-Bhusana Press for the care bestowed on the printing of this volume. It is needless to add that I am alone responsible for the views embodied in the book. When I published my Orion I little thought that I could bring to this stage my investigation into the antiquity of the Vedas; but it has pleased providence to grant me strength amidst troubles and difficulties to do the work, and, with humble remembrance of the same I conclude in the word of the well known consecratory foumula.
|2||The Glacial Period||17|
|3||The Arctic Regions||33|
|4||The Night of The Gods||51|
|5||The Vedic Dawns||65|
|6||Long Day and Long Night||99|
|7||Months and Seasons||118|
|8||The Cows’ Walk||149|
|9||Vedic Myths- the Capital Waters||186|
|10||Vedic Myths- The Matutinal Deities||237|
|11||The Avestic Evidences||287|
|13||The Bearing of Our Results on The History of Primitive Aryan Culture and Religion||333|