I extend a hearty welcome to Pandit Dharmadeva Vidyamartand's book on the Vedas which is the result of life- long work on the subject by this most devoted Vedic scholar.
There are two main aspects of the Vedas: first, the facts about their composition, and second, the contents and their significance. Traditionally the Vedas have been considered to be immortal, without human authorship revealed in the souls of sages. Oriental scholars, on the other hand, have tried to show them as near modern times as possible. But one thing stands out clearly: that the truths dealt with by the Vedas and the values upheld by them are what should be classed as ultimate. In this sense the Vedas are no more bound down to a date than, say, the law of gravitation is bound down to Newton's age.
In respect of contents, different views have been held about the meaning of the Vedas by different schools of interpreters. One of them is Sayanacharya who, inspite of his monumental work, is found to have read the mythologies of his own times (14th century A.D.) into the Vedas. Western orientalists struck out new lines, but, being (some of them with missionary zeal) attached to christianity (exceptions are rare), they have shown a distinct tendency to consider everything that is at variance with their own religion (with its belief in a God in heaven exercising His will as He likes) to be crude and primitive. Sometimes they were disabled by a repressed mentality to realise the Vedic joy of living and the Vedic ennoblement of human nature through affiliation to a higher spiritual life. To their old-word sin- consciousness and modren 'obscenity'-consciouness, certain robust poetic visions of life, dealing particularly with married love, have appeared shocking. There have been Indian scholars, too, who unacquainted with the spiritual background of the Vedic religion and its noble history through the ages have indulged in cheap denunciation of the Vedas, often surpassing their 'authorities', the western orientalists, in the virulence of their attack. But their surrender to their authorities is sometimes more dogmatic than the surrender of medieval European scholars to theological authorities. Pandit Dharmadeva has setected a book containing such an approach to the Vedas, for special criticism. It is, 'Vedic Age' published in Bombay, which is found on the list of text-books of many Indian Universities for students of ancient Indian history. The writer on Atharva Veda in that book states:
"Bloomfield's excellent monograph on the Atharva Veda, ... offers practically everything that a student of the Vedic literature might wish to know about the Atharva Veda. The Section on the Atharva Veda in this chapter is mainly based on Bloomfield's monograph. (Vedic Age, P. 239, quoted on P. 111 of this book)."
Our enthusiastic worshipper of authority did not know that a student of Vedic literature or any other literature might wish to know many more things than what even a Bloomfield could offer. Our scholar not only accepts Bloomfield as his authority, but gives him a certificate for perfection .
..... there can be no doubt that Bloomfield was perfectly right in characterising the Atharva Veda as follows-On the whole, Atharva Veda is the bearer of the old tradition not only in the line of popular charms, but also to some extent its hieratic material.. .. (Vedic Age, P. 232, quoted on P. 491 here)
The disciple outbids the authority in his logic, based on it :
"The 17th Kanda, consisting of only one hymn of purely magical contents, is a curious anomaly and must be regarded as a late accretion though partly appearing also in the Pippalada text. (Vedic Age, P. 234] quoted on P. 496 here)
The authority does not say that the 'hieratic material' cannot fill the whole or most of a single chapter.
Speaking of the Rigveda, the learned contributor to the Vedic Age says:
The Rigveda repeatedly refers to the attacks on the aborigines. (Y.A. p. 261, quoted on P. 380 here)
One should ask, does the Rigveda say the aborigines were attacked or do the western authorities say so? Our scholar continues:
They are called Krishnatvach (black-skinned) metaphorically. (V.A. P. 261, quoted on P. 380 here)
How does our scholar know that Krishnatvach is used metaphorically?
Do the European authorities find a metaphor in the expression?
Pandit Dharmadeva has not mentioned the fact that the writer on the Rigveda in 'Vedic Age' consider the hymns to have beenjust 'manufactured': There is at least one trait of the western orientalise that our Indian scholar did not share-the former's wide acquaintance with world literature, ancient and modern, and keen sensitiveness to poetic values. A reason for the lack of the right response to the appeal of the Vedas has been pointed out by a modem Professor of literature, J. Mascaro, whom Pandit Dharmadeva quotes in the book.
"If Sanskrit could find a group of translators with the same feeling for beauty of language and the same love for the sacred text in the original as the Bible has found in England, eternal treasures of old wisdom and poetry would enrich the times of today. Among those compositions, some of them living words before writing introduced, the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita would rise above the rest like Himalayas of the spirit of man." (The Himalayas of the Soul by J. Mascara, P. 151 , quoted on P. 159 here)
I congratulate our author on the vast learning that his book discloses and the masterly hold on the subject. As a lover of literature. I should wish the contents of the Vedas to be intensively studied for their spiritual, poetic, moral and social significance independently of the question of their divine or human origin. Even when so approached, the Vedas will appear to carry a deeper sense of spiritual, aesthetic and moral values and a more comprehensive vision of life than modem man can claim to have experienced. And they will give a clue to the perennial spring at which the sages, saints and philosophers of the land have drunk through the millenniums and kept the soul of India alive.
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