Shrikant Talageri

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Shrikant Talageri, born in 1958, was educated in Bombay where he lives and works. He has devoted several years, and much to study, to the theory of an Aryan invasion of India, and interpreted the Vedas with the help of the internal chronology of Rig vedic Rishes within Rig Veda with the help of genealogical records Anukramanis.

Quotes[edit]

  • “(Hindutva organizations) should spearhead the revival, rejuvenation and resurgence of Hinduism, which includes not only religious, spiritual and cultural practices springing from Vedic or Sanskritic sources, but from all other Indian sources independently of these: the practices of the Andaman islanders and the (pre-Christian) Nagas are as Hindu in the territorial sense, and Sanatana in the spiritual sense, as classical Sanskritic Hinduism. And this ideology should cover not only religious and spiritual practices and concepts, but every single aspect of India’s matchlessly priceless cultural heritage: climate and topography; flora and fauna; races and languages; music, dance and drama; arts and handicrafts; culinary arts; games and physical systems; architecture; costumes and apparels; literature and science …. A true Hindutvavadi should feel a pang of pain, and a desire to take positive action, not only when he hears that the percentage of Hindus in the Indian population is falling due to a coordination of various factors, or that Hindus are being discriminated against in almost every respect, but also when he hears that the Andamanese races and languages are becoming extinct; that vast tracts of forests, millions of years old, are being wiped out forever; that ancient and mediaeval Hindu architectural monuments are being vandalised, looted or fatally neglected; that priceless ancient documents are being destroyed or left to rot and decay; that innumerable forms of arts and handicrafts, architectural styles, plant and animal species, musical forms and musical instruments, etc. are becoming extinct; that our sacred rivers and environment are being irreversibly polluted and destroyed…”
    • Talageri in S.R. Goel (ed.): Time for Stock-Taking, p.227-228.
  • “Hinduism is the name for the Indian territorial form of worldwide Sanatanism (call it Paganism in English). The ideology of Hindutva should therefore be a Universal ideology: On the international level, the Sangh, as the apex organisational body of Hindutva ideology, should spearhead a worldwide revival, rejuvenation and resurgence of spiritualism, and of all the religions and cultures which existed all over the world before the advent of imperialist ideologies like Christianity, Islam, Fascism, Marxism, etc.”
    • Talageri in S.R. Goel (ed.): Time for Stock-Taking, p.227-228.

The Aryan Invasion Theory and Indian Nationalism (1993)[edit]

  • Sanskrit has many words for the horse: aśva, arvant or arvvā, haya, vājin, sapti, turanga, kilvī, pracelaka and gho ṭ aka, to name the most prominent among them. And yet, the Dravidian languages show no trace of having borrowed any of these words; they have their own words kudirai, parī and mā [...] The Santali and Mundari languages, however, have preserved the original Kol- Munda word sādom. Not only has no linguist ever claimed that the Dravidian and Kol-Munda words for ̳horse‘ are borrowed from 'Aryan‘ words, but in fact some linguists have even sought to establish that Sanskrit gho ṭ aka, from which all modern Indo-Aryan words are derived, is borrowed from the Kol-Munda languages.

The Rigveda: A Historical Analysis (2000)[edit]

Preface
  • This is on the basis of the Aryan invasion theory according to which 'Aryans' invaded India in the early second millennium BC, and conquered it from the 'natives'. This theory is based purely on an eighteenth century linguistic proposition, and has no basis either in archaeology, or in literature, or in the racial-ethnic composition of India. What concerns us more, so far as this present volume is concerned, is the attempt to brand Hindu religious texts, on the basis of this theory, as 'invader' texts: a UNESCO publication characterises the Rigveda as 'the epic of the destruction of one of the great cultures of the ancient world.'

Chapter 3 : The Chronology of the Rigveda[edit]

  • The chronological order of the MaNDalas, as we saw, is: VI, III, VII, IV, II, V, VIII, IX, X, with the chronological period of MaNDala I spread out over the periods of at least four other MaNDalas (IV, II, V, VIII).
  • The family MaNDalas can be divided into Early Family MaNDalas (VI, III, VII) and Later Family MaNDalas (IV, II, V).
  • ‘There are basically two systems of ascription of compositions of the hymns ….. in the older system, the hymns composed by an eponymous Rsi, as well as those composed by his descendants, are ascribed solely to the eponymous Rsi himself. It is only when a particular descendant is important enough, or independent enough, that hymns composed by him (and consequently by his descendants) are ascribed to him. This system is followed in the first five Family Mandalas (VI, III, VII, IV, II) and also in Mandala I’ ... [Mandala I also because] ‘it is, for the most part, earlier than Mandala V’

Chapter 4 : The Geography of the Rigveda[edit]

  • In sharp contrast to these intimate references to typically Indian animals are the references to an animal which is restricted to the extreme northwest: the bactrian camel of Afghanistan and beyond. This camel, uSTra, is referred to only in the following verses: ... The distribution of these references is restricted only to hymns belonging to the Late Period.
  • The identification of the BhRgus with Soma is deeper, older and more significant: it is clear that the Soma plant originated among the BhRgus of the northwest, and it is they who introduced the plant and its rituals to the Vedic Aryans and their priests.
  • The evidence in the Rigveda thus clearly shows that the Vedic Aryans did not come from the Soma-growing areas bringing the Soma plant and rituals with them: the Soma plant and rituals were brought to the Vedic Aryans from the Soma-growing areas of the northwest by the BhRgus, priests of those areas.

Chapter 7 : The Indo-European Homeland[edit]

  • In such a situation, where any scholar, Indian or Western, who finds that the facts indicate an Indian homeland, has to struggle against a strong tide of prejudice in Western academic circles (not to mention the deeply entrenched leftist lobby in Indian academic circles), it is clear that establishing the truth about the original homeland is, practically speaking, an uphill task.
  • Witzel starts out with the intention of pitting the linguistic evidence of place-names and river-names against the evidence of archaeology; and he ends up having to try and argue against, or explain away, this linguistic evidence, since it only confirms the archaeological evidence.
  • On the other hand, northern India is the only place where place-names and river-names are Indo-European right from the period of the Rigveda (a text which Max Müller refers to as “the first word spoken by the Aryan man”) with no traces of any alleged earlier non-Indo-European names.
  • Does it appear that the Rigveda could be the end-product of a long process of migration in which the Indoaryans not only lost contact with the other Indo-European branches countless generations earlier in extremely distant regions, and then migrated over long periods through different areas, and finally settled down for so long a period in the area of composition of the Rigveda that even Witzel admits that “in contrast to its close relatives in Iran (Avestan, Old Persian), Vedic Sanskrit is already an Indian language”; but in which the people who composed the Rigveda were in fact not the original Indoaryans at all, but a completely new set of people who bore no racial connections at all with the original Indoaryans, and were merely the last in a long line of racial groups in a “gradual and complex” process in which the Vedic language and culture was passed from one completely different racial group to another completely different racial group like a baton in an “Aryanising” relay race from South Russia to India?
  • In keeping with a pattern which will be familiar to anyone studying the writings of supporters of the Aryan invasion theory, such unnatural or anomalous phenomena do not make these scholars rethink their theory; it only makes them try to think of ways to maintain their theory in the face of inconvenient facts.
  • Witzel’s attitude towards this evidence is typical of the generally cavalier attitude of Western scholars towards inconvenient evidence in the matter of Indo-European origins: he notes that the evidence is negative, finds it “surprising” that it should be so, makes an offhand effort to explain it away, and then moves on.

Chapter 8 : Misinterpretations of Rigvedic History[edit]

  • The sooner these anti-invasionist scholars realize that linguistics is a science which cannot, and indeed need not, be wished away, and the sooner they decided to expend their energies in the study, rather than the dismissal, of this science, the better they will be able to serve their own cause.
  • They, therefore, postulate that some time had elapsed since the actual invasion and conquest, and it was the close ancestors of the composers of the hymns who had come from outside, and the composers themselves were already settled in the area. The invasion and conquest, they conclude, is not recorded in the Rigveda, since the composition of the hymns of the Rigveda commenced after the period of the actual invasion and conquest.
  • But the same argument cannot hold for a post-Rigvedic movement from the northwest into the rest of India: it is clear that a full-fledged literary tradition had certainly started with the Rigveda at least; and any post-Rigvedic movements should be reflected in the later texts.
  • But the post-Rigvedic texts contain no reference whatsoever to the migration of the Aryans from the Punjab to the plains and plateaus of North and Central India, or to their interaction, or conflicts, with the non-Aryan inhabitants of these areas, or to the en masse adoption by these non-Aryans of completely new and unfamiliar Aryan speech-forms.
  • Pargiter’s examination of traditional history produces a picture which tallies perfectly with our theory. He describes the expansion of the Aryans from the region around Allahabad into the northwest and beyond in great detail.
  • Other scholars, when they deign to notice the evidence in the PurANas in respect of the indigenous origin of the Aryans and their expansion outside India, tend to dismiss this evidence as irrelevant on the ground that it is allegedly contradictory to the evidence of the Rigveda.

Chapter 9 : Michael Witzel - An Examination of Western Vedic Scholarship[edit]

  • A true scholarship would examine, and then either accept or reject, with good reason, any new theory which challenges a generally accepted theory admitted to be full of sharp anomalies. However, this has not been the attitude of world scholarship towards our earlier book. The general attitude has been as follows: there is a school of crank scholarship in India which is out to prove, by hook or by crook, that India was the original homeland of the Indo-European family of languages; and the writers of this school deserve to be firmly put in their place. And the best method of doing this is by tarring all scholars who support, or even appear to support, an Indian homeland theory, with one brush; and then pointing out particularly untenable propositions made by one or the other of the scholars so branded together, to prove that all the scholars so named belong to one single school of irrational scholarship.
  • Sergent’s last thrust represents the unkindest cut in this whole smear campaign. It is not we who have avoided debate. It is these Western scholars who have chosen to conduct a spit-and-run campaign from a safe distance, while restricting their criticism of our theory (elaborated by us in our earlier book) to name-calling and label-sticking rather than to demolition of our arguments.
  • How does Witzel get a chronological order so completely different from our own (which is VI, III, VII, IV, II, V, VIII)?.. The answer is very simple: although Witzel postulates the establishment of a chronological grid “on the strength of a few pedigrees of chiefs and poets available from the hymns,” he does not establish any such grid.
  • What Witzel actually does is as follows: he draws up a geographical picture for each MaNDala of the Rigveda; and then, on the principle “the more western the geography of a MaNDala, the older the MaNDala”, he prepares a chronological grid arranging the MaNDalas in such a way as to show a movement from west to east. “Pedigrees of chiefs and poets” play no role at all in this chronological grid!... What is more, even the geographical picture for each MaNDala, as drawn up by Witzel, is based on the manipulation and misinterpretation of geographical data, manipulated to show this movement.
  • MaNDala III mentions KIkaTa in Bihar, the easternmost location named in the Rigveda. Witzel, naturally, finds such an eastern location difficult to swallow, and asserts that the KIkaTas are “still frequently misplaced in Magadha (McDonell and Keith, 1912, Schwartzberg, 1975) even though their territory is clearly described as being to the south of KurukSetra, in eastern Rajasthan or western Madhya Pradesh, and Magadha is beyond the geographical horizon of the Rigveda.”... Here, incidentally, Witzel indulges not just in manipulation, but in outright misrepresentation: nowhere are the KIkaTas described, clearly or otherwise, as being to the south of KurukSetra.
  • Witzel takes up two verses which clearly refer to eastern rivers, misinterprets them as references to the Indus, further misinterprets them as references to crossings of the Indus river from west to east, and then reconstructs an entire saga of the immigration of the Rigvedic Aryans into India on the basis of these misinterpretations. He even pinpoints the exact area “eastern Iran” from which specific immigrants, “the Bharatas and VasiSTha”110, led this historical exodus across the Indus.... Is “gross misrepresentation” an adequate word to describe this whole exercise?... His sole criterion in preparing a chronological arrangement is his own geographical grid prepared on the basis of deliberate misinterpretations of Rigvedic geography.
  • In these circumstances, writers, particularly Indian ones, who stake claims for India only arouse his contempt. By and large, he would prefer to ignore this riff-raff; but when a few Western academicians also start saying the same things, it is time, in Witzel’s opinion, to put a stop to this nonsense.... In putting a stop to it, if Witzel finds that he has to stretch or bend the facts a little, or to ignore, suppress or distort them, it is all in the cause of “TRUTH”. A few in-convenient facts cannot be allowed to prevent the “TRUTH” from prevailing.... Clearly, this kind of attitude is not conducive to any “scientific evaluation” of anything. Nor is it conducive to any academic debate.
  • An academic debate on any subject should concentrate on the pros and cons of the arguments presented by the two (or more) opposing sides in the debate; it should be conducted in an open and sincere atmosphere; and the natural desire (not academically wrong in itself) to win the debate should not be allowed to overpower the academic desire to arrive at the truth... And an academic debate cannot be won by the simple expedient of name-calling and label-sticking, and consequent disqualification of the opposing side from even taking part in the debate.
  • And, on this principle, Witzel’s papers themselves are “devoid of scholarly value”, since he is also “motivated” by the desire to counter the Indian homeland theory. Erdosy testifies that “the principal concern” of scholars (like Witzel) studying South Asian linguistics is to find “evidence for the external origins - and likely arrival in the 2nd millennium BC - of Indo-Aryan languages”; and Witzel himself admits that his historical analysis of the Rigveda is motivated by the desire to counter “recent attempts (Biswas 1990, Shaffer 1984) to deny that any movement of Indo-European into South Asia has occured.”
  • Witzel claims to arrive at his conclusions on the basis of a combination of a geographical grid and a chronological grid, but, as we have seen, he does not prepare a chronological grid at all: else, he would never place MaNDala II before MaNDala VI (when the very eponymous RSi of MaNDala II is a descendant of a composer, Sunahotra BhAradvAja, in MaNDala VI) or MaNDala VIII before MaNDala III (when the very eponymous RSi of MaNDala VIII is a descendant of a composer, Ghora ANgiras, in MaNDala III).

Michael Witzel – An Examination of his Review of my Book (2001)[edit]

  • My book was published in early 2000, and I sent a copy of it to Witzel (not in a nasty spirit, and certainly not in anticipation of bouquets, but only to facilitate a healthy dialogue, or, at the very least, as a matter of courtesy). Earlier, I had also sent a copy to another scholar at Harvard (with whom I had earlier established indirect and temporary contact). Within a month I received an e-mail letter from that scholar ...relating that there had been a discussion between Witzel and himself “about the possibility of Talageri coming to study with him (Witzel) in Harvard to do advanced study or a Ph.D.” Witzel, the scholar wrote, “is the Vedic scholar par excellence, and Shrikant could get proper training and academic credentials if he were to be accepted”. I was asked to “contact Michael Witzel directly”. There was a proviso – as discreetly phrased as the rest of the letter – “provided he is open-minded and flexible in his views, and does not show himself to be intransigent or predisposed to certain ideas”.
  • (Witzel's) review should logically have consisted of two parts: 1. A rebuttal of chapter 9 of my book (my critique of WITZEL 1995a, 1995b)... This chapter of my book shows Professor Witzel inventing evidence, suppressing inconvenient data, following an inconsistent methodology, retrofitting data into pre-conceived notions, contradicting himself again and again, and using misleading language. 2. A review of my own theory and conclusions.
  • But while he purports to present the latter, he studiously avoids dealing with the former with truly admirable consistency – a consistency he maintained with steadfast doggedness throughout our e-mail debate and which (I am told) he has been maintaining with equally steadfast doggedness throughout the course of Internet debates with other “Indian Superpatriots.”... Witzel, with characteristic disregard for the truth, claims that my criticism of his papers is based on my own views given in my first 5 chapters, and so it does not merit any reply! The readers must “see for themselves”: my criticism is not based on my views and criteria at all, but on glaring mistakes, contradictions and falsehoods in his own writings... Witzel clearly finds it impossible to defend his 1995 papers which stand totally discredited. Thus, his review already loses half the battle – and “battle” it is, as per the tone and tenor of his review, and his stated view that a “cultural war is in full swing” (§9, pg. 24). Indeed, Michael Witzel has now literally taken it upon himself to prove the advent of Aryan languages into India via the Aryan Invasion Theory or its softer versions. He has published numerous articles, the recent ones being replete with hysterical attacks, non-academic remarks and abuses against those who disagree with his views.
  • Readers will recall that in the 1830’s, when colonialism and European imperialism was gaining ground in Asia and Africa, a British administrator named Lord Macaulay had made a similar remark to the effect that the languages of India and Arabia have not produced any worthwhile literature in comparison with European languages. Witzel is merely echoing Macaulay’s Eurocentric and racist remarks with respect to the state of Vedic studies in India. While Macaulay’s prejudice can be blamed on the white-supremacist worldview of Imperialists and on the prevalent notions of his era of Colonialism, Witzel’s clearly sounds repugnant in this “post enlightenment” age.
    • Talageri commenting on Witzel's comment : "“But Talageri, who cannot read any modern scholarly language besides English, does not leave a clue that he is aware that these works exist.” "
  • Witzel’s criticism of my book contains only two “substantial” objections: the issue of an allegedly “original” vs. an allegedly “interpolated” (present day) RV, and the issue of the Anukramanis as allegedly “late” and “unreliable”.
  • It is difficult to believe that Witzel is serious in his incredible assertions [about the Sarasvati river]... And when other verses do refer to a river of that name, this river may be “anywhere” from Arachosia to the “night time sky”: anything but the Haryana river – the sky is the limit! In his 1995 papers, he locates the Sarasvati in hymn 6.61 squarely in Kurukshetra in his “Geographical Data” (WITZEL 1995b: 343,349) as well as in his descriptions of Mandala 6: “W/NW, Panjab, Sarasvati, Ganga” (WITZEL 1995b: 318, 320). And nowhere in those papers does he suggest anything contrary!
  • To paraphrase himself: “give Witzel one archaeological site, and he will produce a comprehensive dictionary, complete with etymological analysis, of its language”.
  • In general the only criterion Witzel has in accepting any analysis is that “the results should be close to those found in Witzel 1995, 1999” (§7) – except, of course, where Witzel has reason to believe that something “found in Witzel 1995, 1999” (or any other year) is now inconvenient to his position and fits in with his “opponent’s” position, in which case “results should be close to those convenient to Witzel today”!
  • Witzel rejects my etymology (one of the few etymologies actually proposed by me) of the word purusha (man) from Puru on the direct analogy of manusha (man) from Manu (p.147 OF MY BOOK) and pontificates:
  • But Witzel, desperate to send my present book hurtling to its “doom” (to the fate he fondly and wishfully assumes overtook my “heavily criticized earlier effort”) finds a persistent “purANic mindset” in my book which reminds him of “the popular comic books, Amar Chitra Katha” (§8)! Well, we find a Biblical mindset in his depiction of Vasistha (Moses) leading an exodus of the Bharatas (Jews) from Iran (Egypt), across the mountains of Afghanistan (Sinai), and finally entering, occupying and transforming the face of the Punjab (Palestine).
  • The reader is struck by Witzel’s repeated disparaging remarks against the Puranas and their utility in the derivation of Indian history. Scholars who have read Witzel’s publications in detail inform me that there is nothing in them that betrays even a faint understanding and first-hand knowledge of this genre of literature on his part. Thus, Witzel’s repeated attempts to downgrade Puranas as a valid source of history (which, albeit should be used with caution) merely reflect his attempt to hide his own ignorance.
  • Here, again, a case of what Max Muller called “special pleading”: now Witzel claims not only to be able to identify “non-Indoaryan” loanwords in Vedic, he can also identify the exact regions from which these “loanwords” were borrowed: we have Punjab loan words, U.P. loan words, Bactria-Margiana loan words…! Witzel knows, with scientific exactitude that “loanwords”, from imaginary “substrate languages”, which are found in both Vedic and Iranian are definitely from Central Asia, and not from the Punjab or U.P., and, equally, that “loanwords” found only in Vedic are from the Punjab or U.P. – not, of course, because his theory suggests these locations, but because he has found actual inscriptions from pre-RV eras, in one or more non-Indo-Iranian languages, from the respective areas, where these words are actually recorded!
  • “What you require is not old interpolation-theories, but a new EXTRAPOLATION theory to explain just why those Mandalas which I have designated as Early contain no references to western rivers, places and animals; to later technological innovations like ‘spokes’; to composer-personalities from those Mandalas which I have designated as later ones, etc. etc. Perhaps, some OIT conspirator, in the eighteenth or nineteenth century AD managed to delete all such references from the collective memories of reciters all over India, and from every existing manuscript, even going ‘to each Pandit’s house, in the jungles of Orissa, etc’ and ‘forging their palm leaves???’. It is you who will find yourself in need of ‘conspiracy theories’ in order to counter my analysis”.
  • To sum up, Oldenberg’s principles do not affect my analysis at all. His principles are undoubtedly important, but not in demarcating “original” hymns from “interpolated” ones: as we saw, hymn 6.45, which is a late “interpolated” hymn as per (Witzel’s interpretation of) Oldenberg’s principles, proves to be linguistically very archaic, and hymns 6.3,24,25,28, which are similarly “original” hymns, abound in late words. Oldenberg’s (or rather, Witzel’s) numer(olog)ical division therefore cuts across another division which could be established on the basis of linguistic analysis. And both these divisions become irrelevant when the data in these hymns is examined from a historico-geographical point of view, since all the hymns in any given Mandala are historically and geographically homogenous. .... Therefore, neither Oldenberg’s numerical principles, nor linguistic strata discernible in the hymns, can negate the fact that the RV we have today is, for all practical purposes, the “original” RV, and my historical analysis is an “invincible” analysis of the emphatically right Rigveda text.
  • To begin with...: “a) Each Mandala (or upam). contains hymns ascribed to the descendants of earlier mandalas (or upam.s), or the ancestors of later mandalas (or upam.s). b) Each Mandala (or upam.) contains references to composers from earlier or contemporaneous mandalas (or upam.s)” And “in not one of these respects do we find the allegedly ‘concocted’ Anukramani ascriptions …. differing from the allegedly ‘original’ ascriptions”.
  • That is, none of the Rishi ascriptions (either for an allegedly “original” hymn or an allegedly “interpolated” hymn) shows a contrary order: i.e. if Mandala A has a hymn ascribed to an ancestor of a Rishi composer from Mandala B, we do not find another case where Mandala B has a hymn ascribed to an ancestor of a Rishi composer from Mandala B. And the references within the hymns follow suit: no hymn from Mandala A refers to a Rishi composer from Mandala B (for example, the three Early Mandalas do not contain a single reference to a Rishi composer from the Middle or Late Mandalas, the Bhrgu hymns being a special case apart).
  • All this can mean one of only two things: either the Anukramani ascriptions are genuine; or else they have been concocted with incredible efficiency and coordination: this would involve great skill not only in concocting ascriptions for new hymns, to make them fit into the pattern, but also in changing older Anukramani ascriptions where a descendant of a Rishi composer from a later (as per my chronology) Mandala figured as a composer in an earlier (as per my chronology) Mandala, and in extrapolating references from within the hymns of an earlier (as per my chronology) Mandala which referred to a Rishi composer from a later (as per my chronology) Mandala!
  • Among other things, these “Piltdown men of ancient India” must also have been in telepathic communication with me to find out which concoctions, changes and extrapolations would best suit my theory! .... The question is: did the alleged concocters of the Rishi ascriptions of the Anukramanis, in an allegedly post-RV period, sit down and examine all the above factors and then deliberately decide to concoct the Rishi ascriptions as per one system in the other Family Mandalas, and as per another system in Mandala 5 and the non-family Mandalas? ... Obviously, except for those with an irresistible passion for conspiracy theories, the only conclusion is that the Rishi ascriptions in the Anukramanis are perfectly genuine, and hence absolutely valid in any historical analysis of the text.
  • The above provides the most perfect illustration of Witzel’s mode of academic(?) discussion: he does not raise points because he believes in them and wants to get them either clarified or accepted; he raises them only to heckle and raise a din, like a speaker in a political harangue or a schoolboy in a school slanging match between two rival groups, where the same accusation is repeated again and again with a deaf ear turned to the response or clarification.
  • Totally undaunted, Witzel repeats these points again in his review article in 2001! Is it really surprising if “Occasionally …. T. lapses into ‘a bored yawn’ (p. 344)”?
  • To see some really “inconsistent statements” and “cavalier” establishment of “divisions” of the composer families of the RV, the reader should read Witzel’s 1995 papers, where Witzel shows himself to be completely and (as his present statements show) irretrievably lost at sea (see pp. 446-449 OF MY BOOK): there, at one point, he “wants to limit the clans involved in the composition of the Rgvedic hymns” to only three families, the Vishvamitras, the Atris and the Angirases (in the third of which, he includes all the other Rishis); and, at another point, his broom sweeps all the Rishis in Mandala 8 into two “divisions”, the Kanva and the Angiras. At another, he counts the Vishvamitras in the Bhrgu family, and then goes on (in the absence of even the faintest hint to this effect anywhere in the RV, or even in any subsequent text) to place Vishvamitra at the head of the coalition against Sudas in the Dasharajna battle (not to mention minor(?) slip-ups like treating the Shaunakas as non-Bhargavas, and Ghora as a son or descendant of Kanva)!
  • Therefore, until Witzel can produce a new set of Anukramanis, which can be proved to be older than the existing Anukramanis, and which contains distinctly different data (different from the data common to all the existing Anukramanis) which produces a completely different chronological and geographical picture to the one produced by me in my book – but one at least as coherent, complete and integrated as mine – my analysis stands unchallenged and (as Witzel is so fond of repeating) “invincible”.
  • It is clear, from his complete dependence on abuse, innuendo, misleading statements and lies in his “review article”, that Witzel has no logical argument to offer against my theory, analysis and conclusions. .... Far from launching a crusade against 19th century colonialism (Witzel’s review article is a typical specimen of how a crusading article sounds), I in fact point out at some length why I cannot subscribe to any view which holds the 19th century “colonial” scholars more than superficially guilty for the AIT or its present-day ramifications.
  • As we can see, Witzel is not writing a review article of my book: he is writing a “review article” of an imaginary book – a book he imagines would be written by an OIT proponent on the basis of principles which Witzel imagines Hindutva represents – and “exposing” the “underlying political agenda” behind this book by letting the imaginary ‘“facts speak for themselves”! ... What stands exposed, by Witzel’s slanderous statements about the political agenda “underlying” my book, is Witzel’s own political agenda and the blatantly dishonest nature of his “review article”.
  • After chapter 9 (etc) of my book, his unfruitful “offer”, and our rather acrimonious e-mail debate, and now this “review article” that he was compelled to write as a natural sequel to all this, Witzel cannot easily admit that he finds my analysis and conclusions acceptable.... To sum up: when it comes to indulging in “inane accusations and outright slander”, even under cover of writing a “review article” of a book, Witzel is second to none! .... Throughout the whole debate, Witzel epitomizes the kind of scholar described by Max Muller (in his book “India – what it can teach us”) as being very rare in India, but not so rare in the west (a generalization which need not be true in general, but is definitely true in this case): the scholar who indulges in “rudeness of speech … quibbling….. special pleading ….. (and) untruthfulness” and who “writes down what he knows perfectly well to be false, and snaps his fingers at those who still value truth…”
  • At another point, Witzel writes: “Talageri also views as interpolations the vAlakhilya hymns of 8.49-59 (although these are, in fact, included and analyzed in zAkalya’s padapATha)” (§1). Is it, to begin with, Witzel’s contention that if a hymn or verse is “included and analyzed in Shakalya’s padapatha”, it automatically means that the hymn or verse in question is not an interpolation? All scholars are in agreement that the Valakhilya hymns are later than the other hymns in Mandala 8, and were inserted later into the middle of the Mandala in the Shakalya Samhita.
  • Witzel is apparently secure in his knowledge that (as he put it in his e-mail letter of 3 August 2000): “Nothing of all this is of any importance to our daily life. Nobody cares, neither in the University, nor outside, what we write on such matters.” This leaves him free to indulge himself to the utmost without bothering about his academic reputation.

The Rigveda and the Avesta (2008)[edit]

  • An analytical examination of just the three following assertions by Michael Witzel provides us with a great many examples of this exercise in deception:...Thus there is a regular AIT methodology by which every geographical name or word found in, or missing in, the Rigveda is to be interpreted: every eastern word found in the text is to be treated as indicative of a new area with which the Rigvedic Aryans are newly becoming familiar, and every eastern word not found as indicative of an eastern area not yet known to the immigrating Aryans; every western word found is to be treated as indicative of an area associated with the early days of the Aryan immigrations, and every western word not found as indicative of an area already old and forgotten by the immigrating Aryans
  • The importance of the Sarasvatī in Indian historical studies has multiplied manifold since archaeological analyses of the Ghaggar-Hakra river bed, combined with detailed satellite imagery of the course of the ancient (now dried up) river, conclusively showed that it had almost dried up by the mid-second millennium BCE itself, and that, long before that, it was a mighty river, mightier than the Indus, and that an overwhelming majority of the archaeological sites of the Harappan cities are located on the banks of the Sarasvatī rather than of the Indus. This has lethal implications for the AIT, which requires an Aryan invasion around 1500 BCE after the decline of the Harappan civilization, since it shows that the Vedic Aryans, who lived ―on both banks (Rigveda VII.96.2) of a mighty Sarasvatī in full powerful flow, must have been inhabitants of the region long before 1500 BCE and in fact may be identical with the indigenous Harappans.
    Therefore, there is now a desperate salvage operation on, in powerful leftist and "secularist" political circles in India, to put a complete full stop to any further official research on the Sarasvatī (including archaeological and geological investigations), and to launch an all-out Goebbelsian campaign through a captive media to deny that there ever was a Vedic Sarasvatī river in existence in India: the river named in the Rigveda was either completely mythical, or it was the river in Afghanistan, but it definitely was not identical with the Ghaggar-Hakra!
  • Witzel‘s location of the Sarasvatī in Book 2 in Afghanistan is not an honest one: he does it only because he wants a Rigvedic Book which refers only to western rivers, in order to show the Vedic Aryans ―fighting their way through the NW mountain passes in their alleged movement from west to east, and Book 2 is his only option, since the name of only this one river is mentioned in the whole of this Book, and it is a name which can be manipulated from east to west by creating a dual entity (thanks to the existence of a Sarasvatī, the Avestan Harahvaiti, in Afghanistan).
  • But Jahnāvī is typically a Rigvedic form of the post-Vedic Jāhnavī, and it does not require any "Epic/Purāṇic concepts" to recognize it as the name of a river: a river is a geographical feature, not a mythological entity whose identity is based on traditional historical or mythological texts. On the other hand, Witzel‘s claim that ―Jahnāvī was the wife or a female relation of Jahnu or otherwise connected to him or his clan is definitely based on Epic/Purāṇic concepts: no person named Jahnu is mentioned anywhere in the Rigveda,...Jahnu himself is an Epic/Purāṇic figure...Not only does Witzel accept this Epic/Purāṇic person as the source of the Rigvedic word Jahnāvī, he even visualizes, in the manner of the Amar Chitrakatha comic books, a mysterious lady named Jahnāvī, "the wife or a female relation of Jahnu or otherwise connected to him or his clan", whose very existence is completely unknown to the whole of Vedic and Epic/Purāṇic literature and Indian tradition, but who is apparently so very important in the Rigveda that she is mentioned twice (how many other ladies are mentioned twice in the Rigveda outside of references to people aided by the Aśvins?) in special references, which are worded so peculiarly (what, after all, unless she was a symbol of the motherland, like the present-day Bhāratmātā, has this lady to do with an ―ancient home), that they can be more conveniently and logically translated as references to a river!
  • Note what Witzel is writing shortly before reading TALAGERI 2000:....But immediately after reading the analysis of the Rigveda in TALAGERI 2000, there is a magical transformation in Witzel‘s attitude:...The fact is that writing in historical subjects has become a front for pursuing political agendas or personal ego-trips. Before the year 2000, also, Witzel was an AIT writer; but this was not his main battlefront. It had genuinely never occurred to him, any more than it could have occurred to any other AIT writer, that there could be a serious and fundamental threat to the AIT model on which the analysis of the ancient history of South Asia, and of the Vedic texts, had so far been based. Therefore, they could indulge in academic quibbling on other minor points within the AIT framework....But, after the publication of TALAGERI 2000, priorities changed rapidly: it became necessary to close AIT ranks in a holy crusade against the new case and the new evidence for the OIT. The identity of the Harappan language could wait ― or could be pursued separately in different articles; after all, Witzel has a limitless capacity for writing mutually contradictory things, sometimes on the very same page, without causing the slightest dent in the faith and loyalty of his admirers ― what was important now was to rapidly drag the Vedic Aryans of the early period all the way back from the area of the Gangā to the safety of Afghanistan. Hence, all the post-2000 assertions and conclusions about the Gangā! Clearly, such writing can not be called scholarly writing under any circumstance, and one must be very, very careful indeed before placing the slightest credence in the views, interpretations and conclusions of such writers, howsoever high a position they may hold in the academic world.
  • In my earlier book on the Rigveda, I examined the Rigvedic data in detail, and showed that the chronological order of the ten Books of the RV is: 6,3,7,4,2,5,8,9,10, with different parts of Book 1 covering the periods of all but the three earliest Books. I also showed in systematic detail that Family Books 6, 3 and 7 belong to the Early period, Family Books 4 and 2 to the Middle period, and the rest (Book 5 among the Family Books, and all the other, ie. non-family, Books, 8, 9 and 10, and most of Book 1) belong to the Late period
  • What is important, at this point, is to make it very, very clear, at the outset itself, that this level of chronological information, simply classifying the Books into "earlier" (2-4, 6-7), and "later" (5, 1, 8-10), officially accepted by the western scholars themselves, is sufficient (without going into further chronological details) to irrefutably establish the two conclusions that we arrived at in our chapters on the Relative Chronology and Geography of the Rigveda...
  • But this, besides being seemingly "possible" (by straining the credulity of even the most credulous and partisan reader to the utmost limit) only in respect of a very few names, would not help in explaining the almost complete absence of Western geographical data in the Early Books. Therefore, Witzel also tries to transfer eastern geographical data to the west,.... or by creating dual entities (eg. an Eastern Haryana-Sarasvatī, as well as a Western Afghan-Sarasvatī, both referred to in the Rigveda, with Witzel being the only person possessing the key to distinguish which Sarasvatī is being referred to in which verse.
  • As we saw, there is a large class of personal names and name-elements common to the Late Books and hymns of the Rigveda (386 hymns in the Late Books of the Rigveda and 8 Late hymns in the earlier Books), and to the Avesta (the bulk of the names, right from the name of the first composer of the Avesta, and the names of his closest associates), the Mitanni (including every common name element known), and the Kassites (the only known name). These names and name-elements are fundamental to all four groups, but completely absent in the Early and Middle Books of the Rigveda (apart from the 8 Late hymns mentioned earlier). And all these names and name-elements are very common in post-Rigvedic texts.
  • Witzel frequently refers to the references to armaka, "ruins", in the RV, as evidence that the RV is later to the desolation of the Indus cities... In any case, the word armaka, so frequently referred to in the post-RV literature, is found in the RV only in one late hymn in a Late Book: in I.133.3. The Early and Middle Books, and even much of the Late Books, are totally ignorant about these ruins.
  • The first and foremost point is that the people of the Harappan areas, who were allegedly speaking a totally unrelated (to Indo-European) language, or languages, Munda, Dravidian, proto- Burushaski or Language X, completely abandoned that language, or those languages, and switched over to speaking Indo-European (specifically "Indo-Aryan") languages. And this switchover was so total that not a trace remains of the original language (except stray words in Vedic or later Indo-Aryan, which are alleged by certain linguists to be substrate words from those languages, but which, by their nature, would appear, if anything, more to be non-basic adstrate words adopted from neighbour or visitor languages: for example, a word which appears to be undoubtedly of Dravidian origin, the Vedic word kā ṇ a, "one- eyed", from Dravidian ka ṇ , "eye"). This situation is unique, extraordinary and unparalleled in more ways than one: the linguistic transformation was allegedly so complete that even the names of places and rivers in the area were so completely Indo-Europeanized or "Aryanized" that not a trace remains, even in the oldest hymns, of any alleged earlier "non-Aryan" names. ...Therefore, the transformation that is alleged to have taken place in the Harappan areas was absolutely total. It is alleged to have left almost no traces whatsoever of the original "belief, mythology and language", or of the original "complex of material and spiritual culture", other than "complex" clues that scholars like Witzel, and his predecessors and colleagues in the AIT cottage industry, have occasionally managed to dig out for our benefit.
  • The totality of the alleged transformation itself is clearly unparalleled and unprecedented, and in every way contrary to the normal: Witzel himself, see above, repeatedly describes different aspects of it as "surprising", "relatively rare" and against what "one would have expected" in such cases. The case becomes impossible when we consider all the aspects together: (a) the transformation was total, (b) the people who brought about this transformation were illiterate, pastoral nomadic tribes "on the move" who "trickled" into the area in miniscule numbers, (c) the people who were transformed were the inhabitants of the most densely populated urban civilization of the time, covering a larger area, and having a relatively longer continuity without much change, than any other contemporary civilization, (d) the change took place within a few hundred years, and (e) it left absolutely no traces in the archaeological record, either of the conflicts and struggles involved or the necessarily resultant changes in ethnic and material composition of the areas after the transformation. It requires extraordinary "special pleading" to advocate such a case.
  • What is particularly notable in this special pleading is that it asks us to believe in a combination of abnormal phenomena and lack of evidence. Thus, for example, we could have accepted, in principle, that the river names of the Harappan areas (in an AIT scenario) may have been "Indo-Aryanised", if transformation of river names were the norm in such cases, even in the absence of evidence in this case of any earlier names. But it is not the norm: as Witzel points out, the names of most European rivers, to this day, ―reflect the languages spoken before the influx of Indo-European speaking populations [and] are thus older than c. 4500-2500 B.C. Again, we would have had to accept that such a transformation took place here, even if it went contrary to the norm, if earlier "non-Indo-Aryan" names of these rivers were on record at least in the texts. But there is not the faintest clue, even in the oldest hymns, that any such names ever existed. This pleading therefore goes both against the norm as well as against the available evidence.
  • What adds to the force of the archaeological evidence (of continuity in material and ethnic culture) is the fact that there is considerable acceptable archaeological, as also hydronomic, evidence, for the Indo-European intrusions, in the case of the earliest habitats of most of the other Indo-European branches,...So here, more than in any of the other cases, we should have found massive and unambiguous evidence of the "Indo-Aryan" intrusions, if they ever took place. The total absence of any indications in the material remains of the area, of such a cataclysmic transformation, constitutes massive evidence for the rejection of the very idea that such a transformation took place at all.
  • Witzel is finally compelled to fall back on open pleading as follows: "any archaeologist should know from experience that the unexpected occurs and that one has to look at the right place". In other words, "there is no archaeological evidence, true. But it must be there somewhere, it is just that no-one has found it as yet; it is only just waiting to be found"! As if some yet-to-be-discovered sites could provide the archaeological and anthropological evidence, for a total transformation which affected the entire region, which is missing in all the discovered sites from the same region. This is the sort of wishful appeal-to-faith pleading that Indians are (not unjustly) accused of resorting to when their ideas of ancient India are out of tune with the material evidence:... By Witzel‘s logic, even the claim of many Indians that ancient India had aeroplanes should not be dismissed simply because aeroplanes have not yet been found in any archaeological record!
  • But it is time this state of affairs came to an end and accountability is brought into the AIT-vs.-OIT debate. AIT scholars can not be allowed to get away with this kind of compartmentalized discussions any more, where they can postulate any theory or situation to answer the objection, or the uncomfortable fact which cannot be swept under the carpet, that is before them at the moment, even when this theory or postulated situation sharply contradicts, or is totally incompatible with, what they postulate in other contexts.
  • The Harappan civilization is situated deep within Indo-European ("Indo-Aryan") territory. The closest non-Indo-European families are at some distance:... There is no linguistic, archaeological or anthropological evidence indicating that the Harappan civilization was supplanted by a linguistically different race of people: on the contrary, archaeologists and anthropologists insist on continuity in the anthropological situation from Harappan times well into post- Vedic times. In these circumstances, the Harappan civilization should have been assumed to be Indo-European until proved otherwise. However, in gross violation of normal scholarly practice, it has been assumed to be non-Indo-European.
  • So we have scholars accepting two different paradigms, both of which complement each other and should therefore have been treated as two parts of a whole: on the one hand, a widespread network of archaeological sites of a vast, highly-developed civilization (the Harappan civilization) lasting over thousands of years, which has allegedly left no literary records at all although it had a writing system; and, on the other, a full-fledged developed culture and civilization (the Vedic civilization) which has left a vast and detailed body of organized literature (unparalleled by any other known civilization of the same period) although it had no system of writing at all, but which has left absolutely no archaeological traces behind, both located in more or less the very same area! [This contradiction was first pointed out by David Frawley].
  • The "equine argument" is one of the most hypocritical arguments in the AIT armory, since the crux of the argument seems to be as follows: "the equine archaeological data does not provide material evidence for an OIT, therefore the OIT stands automatically disqualified. The equine archaeological data does not provide any material evidence whatsoever for an AIT either; but this does not disqualify the AIT, as the AIT does not require this evidence since the AIT is beyond doubt or question".

Quotes about Shrikant Talageri[edit]

  • “The new picture of Rgvedic history painted by Talageri may in one sense be ‘logical’ as his supporters claim, but only if we accept the unreliable traditional sources, described below, that Talageri depends on in this book and its 1993 predecessor”.
    • WITZEL, Michael .2001. “WESTWARD HO! The Incredible Wanderlust of the Rgvedic Tribes Exposed by S. Talageri” in EJVS 7.2

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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