Myth and mysticism have reigned supreme in Rgvedic interpretation for more then two millennia and a half. Even now, it cannot be said to be free of these. This study aims at completing the process of rational enquiry in Regveda begun two centuries ago. It leaves behind myths and mystic experiences, simultaneously drawing the line between fact fancy which has eluded the scholars.
Two types of evidence-literary and archaeological-have been used. Literary evidence ranges from Rgveda to the Brahmanas. The archaeological material covers pre-Harappan, Harappan and post-Harappan levels. Through the interdisciplinary approach consisting of linguistic, anthropological and symbolical analysis of the material, the study emphasizes a consistently rational attitude to the study of Rgveda. In fact as the study amply demonstrates, the fresh air of reason may change our understanding of Regveda and also of ancient Indian history. Rgvedic hymns from this viewpoint may probably prove to be a valuable source of information of the historical events which led to the downfall of the pre-Aryan Indus civilization. This is correlated to the archaeological material available on the Harappan sites.
This is the first investigation of its kind and the conclusions of the study are no less original. Besides establishing the rationality of the Rgvedic narratives, it shows the events and their agents to be historical in the light of available archaeological material.
The theory and the approach hold out a promise and may transform our understanding of these ancient compositions from myth to history.
Malati J. Shendge, born in 1934, took her Ph.D. from University of Delhi in Esoteric Buddhism popularly known as Buddhist Tantrism. She studied Sanskrit and Pali languages upto post-graduate level and later acquired knowledge of Tibetan language and literature so very essential for the work on Buddhist Tantras. She was awarded a fellowship of the University for the period 1960-64.
A widely travelled person, she studied Japanese Esoteric Buddhism as Government of Japan scholar in University of Tokyo. On her return to India she worked at Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Simla, and later as a fellow of Indian Council Historical Research, New Delhi. She is currently placed in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
She has several works to her credit published in internationally acclaimed journals. She has studied Buddhist Tantrism from literary philosophico-religious, anti anthropological points of view, and has acquired knowledge of German and French, Buddhist, Chinese and Japanese languages, She remains by far a lone figure on the Indian academic scene working on Esoteric Buddhism on scientific principles.
The circumstances which led me to this problem are narrated later. There were many odds against which I had to strive. However, the undeniable importance of the problem to ancient Indian history and the vistas the new approach opened were the compelling forces.
The odds were not limited to my being an outsider to Vedic studies and archaeology. They extended to lack of institutional support and facilities. As a matter of fact, it will not be an overstatement to say that the research presented here was done in academic wilderness, during the years 1970-72. Only in 1973, I succeeded in getting financial assistance for the preparation of press-copy. Although the typescript was ready for press at the end of 1973, and my conclusions were circumstances beyond my control the book could not come out till now.
Is striving to complete the work, the chief assistance was rendered by Professor R. D Vadekar, my former teacher in Fergusson, College, Poona. His life as a teacher has been a message of unfailing service to all. True to his reputation, he filled up the gap created by the lack of institutional support. Besides giving me a access to his personal library, he used his good offices to make the material in the prominent libraries, of Poona, viz. Fergusson College, Vaidika Samsodhana Mandala and Deccan Collage Post-graduate Research Institute available to me. Throughout the work, he helped me in reading Rgveda. His incredible knowledge of Vedic, Buddhist, Jain and Prakrit literatures coupled with vast learning and good memory have been a great asset. His encouragement and assistance have been so patient, unfailing and constant, that it is difficult to think of the state of affairs without them. May he graciously condescend to accept this work as a very small token of my profound and lasting gratitude.
Many individuals have taken interest in his work and contributed to his completion in some way or other. I am deeply indebted to Professor Dr. V.V. Gokhale, who imbibed the critical attitude when I worked for my doctoral dissertation under him many years ago. Mr. M. N. Deshpande, now Director-General, Archaeological Survey of India, New Delhi understood the importance of the problem, gave me the right advice and facilities to work on archaeological material. I am deeply indebted to him. My thanks are due to the archaeological Survey of India for supplying the photographs of the excavated material and for giving the necessary. Permission to include them here. Professor Satish Chandra, Now Chairman, University Grants Commissions also showed appreciation of the project. I had many discussions with Drs. Ram-chandra Gandhi and Hiren Gohain and their suggestion have been extremely useful.
A fellowship and contingency grant from Indian, Council of His-torical Research have enabled me to get the manuscript ready for press-During my tenure as Fellow, I was affiliated to Indian history Congress, New Delhi. I acknowledge with thanks the facilities extended to me by the permanent secretary of the Congress, Professor Satish Chandra, I am extremely grateful to the individuals and private trusts who have advanced the publication of this work through generous donations.
I should like to thank Mrs. C.R. Mavalankar, the Librarian, Vaidika Samsodhana Mandala for willing assistance. I wish to express my appreciation of the efficiency and cooperation of Mr. V. B. Belsare and the staff in the library of Deccan Collage. I acknowledge with thank the cooperation of the library staff of Central Archaeological Survey Library, New Delhi and especially the assistance rendered by Shri Bhagavat Sahai.
Finally a word about the diacritical marks of Sanskrit, Avestan, and Akkadian words is necessary. Sanskrit system does not need any comments. In the Avestan transliteration Justi's system had to be used on account of the non-availability of the diacritical marks. For the same reason the Akkadian voiceless stop and voiceless palatal fricative are written as h and sh.
This study was never planned. Yet its unplanned and in fact almost accidental beginning is not without relevance to the objectivity with which the study had been carried out and is hoped to be understood, appreciated or criticized. The unbiased attitude is evident in his circumstance itself. How the hypothesis and methodology unfolded themselves is narrated in section3. in fact, there has been no conditioning of the author's attitudes by way of imbibing the viewpoints and biases of particular disciplines involved. This has its own benefits and handicaps. In this case, benefit seem to outweigh the handicaps.
The study uses primary sources in Vedic literature. As far as Rgveda is concerned, the literal translation of Geldner's German translation is generally given square brackets indicating the author's supplements whenever English translations of Vedic texts by Vedic scholars are available, they are used of course, not without reference to original Sanskrit texts. For the meaning of words Monier-Williams' 'A Sanskrit-English Dictionary 's has been used mainly for historical perspective, not to the exclusion of Grassmann's Worterbuch zum Rgveda. It has not been thought necessary to cite the vast bulk of secondary source material in Vedic studies because this work does not seek to refute the points of view professed by eminent scholars in the field but takes upon itself the task to demonstrate an approach which holds promise to the Vedologist, Archaelogist, Historian and Anthropologist alike. Its basic assumption is that despite the rational attitude of modern scholarship to the understanding of Rgveda and subsequent Vedic literature, the traditional Hindu point of view as reflected in Sayana's commentary persists and that interpretation of Rgveda had not changed radically or freed itself from the traditional approach. A broad summary of the present state of understanding of Rgveda has therefore been thought sufficient. Moreover no major work, having a direct bearing on the interdisciplinary approach demonstrated here, has been done so far.
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