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Let us recall the narrated history of ancient India

Let us recall the narrated history of ancient India

Author: M R Mallya
Publication: Organiser
Date: March 3, 2002

In The Hindu (January 22) and Organiser (February 3), N.S. Rajaram has given an overview of the wrong theories on ancient Indian history. He has suggested that the Vedic age and the Indus-Saraswati civilization was in the same areas, they were most probably closely related. By deciphering the Indus script one can bridge the vast archeological remains and the considerable literature of the Vedic Aryans. In a rejoinder, Michael Witzel (The Hindu, January 29) calls Rajaram's views a "serious misrepresentation". This leaves the reader nonplussed. Rajaram has not misrepresented Max Mueller, nor has he said that he "derived his history from the Bible". Witzel is again incorrect in stating that the "Indus civilization is dated by all archaeologists between 2600 (not 3100) and 1900 BC". This is contradicted by the excavations of the French archaeologist Jarrige and also by Asko Parpola and J. M. Kenoyer in his recent publication in Pakistan (Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. OUP, 2000). From Mehergarh to Dholvira, the Indus Saraswati region had settlements and towns from BC. The recent findings at Cambay further confirms these remote dates.

Now Clarence Maloney (The Hindu, February 5) has serious doubts about Rajaram's main thesis on the ground of the primacy of Dravidian and other languages, whose importance has not been fully understood in our attempts to unravel ancient Indian history. (As if the past 80 years efforts in this direction was not long enough).

Rajaram is on strong grounds in contending that ancient Indian history has been a victim of the arbitrary views of Western scholars for which there is no proof at all: that the Aryans invaded, later migrated, to India; that the Dravidians were the original inhabitants of the Indus region and its civilization; that the Rigvedic culture is later to the Indus civilization, etc. Their wrong theories get compounded by farfetched explanations mooted by Witzel and Maloney. (These get repeated by their mentors in India.) What is now required is the deciphering of the Indus script that could throw some light on the subject.

While the script is yet to be read, the symbols and motifs encountered in the Indus-Saraswati basin are a clear pointer to the Vedic/Hindu heritage, as mentioned by Asko Parpola (Deciphering the Indus Script, 1994) and Kenoyer. In fact Kenoyer even goes further and agrees that the Aryan invasion is a myth (p 180).

It appears that the deciphered Indus script could be Vedic Sanskrit, though this is yet to be conclusively proved. The script has 12 alphabets in common with Brahmi. Some of the decipherments appear to be Vedic Sanskrit but some others cannot be easily explained.

Narration in the Rigveda and the Puranas

But apart from it, why should Indian historians, or world historians, hesitate to scrutinize the narration of events in the Vedas and our Puranas, which are the "old narratives"? Some of these are as old as the Vedas. One can cross check them with Vedic references and any other historical data and accept them just as in other histories similar narrations are accepted, e.g. ancient China, the Biblical narrations that don't even have an archaeology as a basis, like the Jewish exodus from Egypt under Moses.

If historical events as mentioned in the Vedas and the Puranas, (after deleting any exaggerations) are more realistic and explain related data than the presently based 'postulates' and 'theories' that fail to explain the controversies, then these should he accepted as the truly authentic history of India just as other countries do, in the light of their ancient literature

One should first get rid of many false notions spread only in the last two hundred years that ancient Indian history is based on Aryan vs. Dravidian tribes and Sanskrit vs. Dravidian languages. This incorrect framework has bedeviled Indian history along false lines creating unnecessary controversies. According to the Rigveda and the Puranas, speakers of Sanskrit and related languages were mostly in Aryavarta while the Dramilas were mostly in Dakhsinapatha, but they often shared a relationship and culture with each other. There were Dravidian rishis even in the Vedic age, like Kushik, Gadhi, Rishabha, That is why the South Indian "phoneme" occurs in the Rigveda even though' it is not included in Panini's classical Sanskrit. (L.S. Wakankar). There were Dravidians. Later they intermarried with Kshatriya princes even during the Gupta age. There were also Brahmin priests, Panch Dravidas as mentioned in the Skandapurana, Sahyadri khanda, chapter 1:

"The Maharashtras, Andhras, Dravidas (Tamils) Kamatas and Gurjaras live to the South of the Vindhyas and are called Panch Dravidas.

"The Saraswats, Kanyakubjas, Gaudas (Bengalis), Utkalas and the Maithilis are living to the North of the Vindhyas and are called Panch Gaudas".

When, from the Himalayas to Dakshinapatha, the various tribes and kingdoms had a common culture, religious rites, etc., the notion of 'Aryan tribes driving out the Dravidians to the South' is purely the figment of western imagination.

Much is made of the linguistic differences by Maloney. While Sanskrit and its related languages (Prakrit, Pall, etc) were predominant in Aryavarta. there was continuous interaction with other languages, notably Dramila in the South, Munda in the cast and Dardic language in the North. The truth about the borrowing of words by the different languages can be endlessly debated where parochialists will take extreme positions. It hardly matters in determining the trends of ancient Indian history. However, the Vedas and the Puranas antedate the Dramila languages, and Sanskrit has often contributed to these other languages. The literature of even Tamil goes back to only about 100 BC and it was heavily influenced by Sanskrit language and literature (Swaminatha Iyer, Dravidian Theories, 1975). Tamil itself was written in a form of Brahmi. The role of sage Agasthya in the south and of Parasurama in the west coast in spreading the Vedic culture shows how well the North and the South of India was a part of the Vedic religion. Southern rites had an equal role in a polytheistic religion and a pluralistic society.

The Aryan tribes in the Indus valley or Aryavartha were not always Vedic Aryans though most of them worshipped Vedic deities. There were Panis who were cattle breeders and merchants, Vratyas who followed different rites, Mlecchas who did not observe Aryan customs. It was they who probably traded with Mesopotamia and were known as 'Melekha', as the Mesopotamian seals indicate.

In short, even during the very early period of 5000-2000 BC, various tribe tribes/kingdoms, mostly Sanskrit-speaking, inhabited the Indus valley and most of Aryavartha, though, with pockets of Dravidian-speakers, or Munda-speakers, etc.

It is most likely that the Indus script is allied to Sanskrit or related languages though not necessarily to Vedic religion. On this matter further investigation is going on. Jha and Rajaram are hopeful of making a major breakthrough in this regard.

If the speculative assumptions of Western scholars going against the literature and traditions of India are discarded, then, there should be no difficulty in understanding clearly what the Rigveda and the Puranas say:

1. The Rigvedic culture mainly flourished on the banks of the Saraswati river east of the Indus whose dried up sources have now been located by archaeologists and geologists like K. S. Valdiya. It was a mighty river flowing earlier to 8000 BC. It gradually dried up after 2000 BC, due to tectonic and other reasons. The Aryans of the Rigveda antedated the Indus civilization in its later phase of towns and cities, since at that time they were yet to know the use of cotton, or iron or how to produce 'baked' bricks.

2. The Rigveda clearly mentions the two battles fought by Mandhata, and later by Sudas, when they drove out the enemy Aryan tribes westwards across the Parushni (Ravi) towards Afghanistan and beyond. The Puranas even mention that some of these tribes went further westwards to distant, foreign, lands. Pargiter mentions this-and much greater details are available in Talageri's two- books, Aryan Invasion Theory (1993) and The Rigveda, a Historical Analysis (2000). By ignoring these references certain scholars are only obfuscating the realistic narration of ancient Indian history.

Clarence Maloney concludes that the "real issue" is not how to rewrite ancient history but "how to reinvigorate Indian civilisational creativity in modern concepts." His remarks against the "six Indian languages" are derogatory; nor have they anything to do with the subject under discussion. Hence, irrelevant. Let us recall what Shrikant Talageri says: "History is a very potent subject... a nation which forgets, or falsifies, or will fully ignores, or glosses over the lessons of its history is a nation heading towards doom."

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