[INDOLOGY] Fwd: Politics of ICHR: Talageri

Hock, Hans Henrich hhhock at illinois.edu
Wed Jun 24 06:19:43 EDT 2015


Dear Dr. Elst,

What you characterize as ‘widespread scholarly opinion’ concerns the composition of the Rig Veda, in terms of which books were included earlier and which ones later. Book 8 was indeed incorporated later, but that does not mean that all of its hymns are later than those of the Family Books. In his detailed study of “Vedic metre” and other chronological issues in the Rig Veda, Arnold came to the conclusion that the Kaṇva hymns of Book 8 are among the oldest hymns of the Rig Veda. (Other scholars may have disagreed on specific judgments but esssentially agree that hymns of Book 8 cannot automatically be rejected as late.) To reject this conclusion, Talageri would have had to engage in a detailed discussion of Arnold’s (and other scholars’) criteria; but evidently he hasn’t done that (in fact, if memory serves, he doesn’t even refer to Arnold’s monograph and only mentions a much shorter publication of his.)

Certainly, poorly defined criteria such as “prefix” and “suffix” are no substitute for proper scholarly engagement with earlier literature. But this approach is the foundation for Talageri’s attempt at establishing the relative chronology of the Rig Veda on the basis of naming patterns and, based on that chronology, arguing that Vedic civilization orinated at the Sarasvati and only later expanded to the west. So, showing that his methodology in this regard is problematic is not a trivial matter.

Best wishes,

Hans Henrich Hock


On 23 Jun 2015, at 20:36, <koenraad.elst at telenet.be<mailto:koenraad.elst at telenet.be>> <koenraad.elst at telenet.be<mailto:koenraad.elst at telenet.be>> wrote:

Dear Prof. Hock,


In response to your remark on Talageri, I heard him out and am reformulating his response as follows:


While you may of course criticize Talageri on specific points, his assumption that book 6 is older than book 8 is a rather unfortunate choice. That the Family Books are older than Books 8-9-10 is not his invention, is not far-fetched, but is a widespread scholarly opinion. He points to a section of his article, available online, in reply to Narahari Achar’s criticism of his book on “astronomical” grounds. [Achar supports a traditional chronology, with e.g. the Mahabharata ca. 3100 BC (which on astronomical grounds I consider too high, it must fall after the crossing of Magha/Regulus over the solstice ca. 2300 BC, and on other grounds even later, in the age of chariot warfare, second half of the second millennium BC), and the Vedas even higher. Talageri puts the MBh war in the 15th century BC on grounds of scriptural genealogies]:

"To begin with, the western academic scholars themselves (see TALAGERI 2008:132-135 for details) have classified the books of the Rigveda into two groups: the family books (2-7) and the non-family books (1, 8-10), and testified, on the basis of their own analyses, that the family books were composed and compiled before the non-family books. Further, they have detached book 5 from the other family books and concluded that it agrees with the non-family books rather than with the other family books. By their analysis, the books of the Rigveda can be classified into three categories: the earlier family books (2-4, 6-7), the later family book (5), and the later non-family books (1, 8-10). This fully agrees with my own classification into Early books (6,3,7), Middle (4,2) and Late books (5,1,8,9,10); except that the Early and Middle books are clubbed together in one category in the western classification, and the internal order within the groups is not analyzed.


"It will be seen that every analysis of the data reinforces this classification: An analysis of the (ancestor-descendant) relationships between the composers of the hymns establishes the chronological order 6,3,7,4,2,5,8,9,10 (1 alongside 4-10) (TALAGERI 2000:37-50). An analysis of the references within the hymns to earlier or contemporaneous composers (TALAGERI 2000:53-58) and to the kings and (non-composer) ṛṣis mentioned within the hymns (TALAGERI 2000:59-65) confirms the above chronological order. An analysis of the (adherence to “purity” of the) family identity of the composers of the individual books (TALAGERI 2000:50-52) confirms the exactitude of the above chronological order, with a steady progression in dilution of the family identity of the composers from book 6 (in which every single hymn and verse is composed by composers belonging to one branch of one family) to book 10 (where every single family has hymns, and a large number of hymns are by composers who are either unaffiliated to any family or whose family is unidentifiable). An analysis of the system of ascriptions of hymns to composers (TALAGERI 2000:52-53) shows a quantum change from the Early and Middle books (6,3,7,4,2), where hymns are composed by descendant ṛṣis in the name of their ancestor ṛṣis, to the Late Books (5,1,8,9,10), where hymns are composed by ṛṣis in their own names. An analysis of a large category of personal name types shared in common by the Rigveda with the Avesta and the Mitanni (TALAGERI 2008:20-43) shows a fundamental distinction between the Early and Middle books on the one hand and the Late books on the other, with these name-types being found in 386 hymns in the Late books (and in all other post-Rigvedic texts), but found in the Early and Middle books in only 8 hymns which have been classified by the western academic scholars as Late or interpolated hymns within these books. An analysis of another category of personal names shared by the Rigveda with the Avesta (TALAGERI 2008:16-20, 47-48) shows a fundamental distinction between the Early books on the one hand and the Middle and Late books on the other, with these names being found in 60 hymns in the Middle books and in 63 hymns in the Late books (and in all other post-Rigvedic texts), but completely missing in the Early books. An analysis of the geographical names and terms in the Rigveda (TALAGERI 2000:94-136, TALAGERI 2008:81-129) shows a progression from east to west, with the eastern names found distributed throughout the Rigveda and the western names appearing in the books in chronological progression. And again, these names (found in all other post-Rigvedic texts) reinforce the above chronological order: the Indus and rivers to its west are found named in the Middle and Late books, but are missing in the Early books. The names of western animals, places, mountains and lakes are found in the Late non-family books, but are missing in the family books (Early, Middle and Late). An analysis of other important and historically significant words (TALAGERI 2008: 48-49, 189-200) again reinforces the above chronological order: for example, spoked wheels, or spokes, invented in the late third millennium BCE, and camels and donkeys, domesticated in Central Asia around the same time, are found in the Late books, but missing in the Early and Middle books. An analysis of the meters used in the composition of the hymns of the Rigveda (TALAGERI 2008:54-80) again reinforces the above chronological order. The dimetric meters used in the Rigveda clearly developed from each other in the following order: gāyatrī (8+8+8), anuṣṭubh (8+8+8+8), pankti (8+8+8+8+8), mahāpankti (8+8+8+8+8+8) and dimeter śakvarī (8+8+8+8+8+8+8). Gāyatrī and anuṣṭubh are found throughout the Rigveda; pankti is found in the Late (family and non-family) books, but missing in the Early and Middle books; mahāpankti and dimeter śakvarī are found in the Late non-family books, and are missing in the family books (Early, Middle and Late). An analysis of the sacred numerical formulae in the Rigveda (HOPKINS 1896b) shows that the use of certain numbers, in sacred numerical formulae used as phrases in the hymns, is commonly found in the Late books, but missing in the Early and Middle books. A detailed and path-breaking analysis (HOPKINS 1896a) shows large categories of words found in the Late books (1,8,9,10, and often 5), but missing in the Early (6,3,7) and Middle books (4,2) except in a few stray hymns classified by the western academic scholars as Late or interpolated hymns within these books. These include such categories as words pertaining to ploughing or to other paraphernalia of agriculture, words associated with certain occupations and technologies (and even with what could be interpreted as the earliest references to the castes), words where the r is replaced by l (playoga and pulu for prayoga and puru), a very large number of personal names (not having to do with the name types, common to the Rigveda, Avesta and Mitanni records, analyzed by me), various suffixes and prefixes used in the formation of compound words, certain mythical or socio-religious concepts (Sūrya as an Āditya, Indra identified with the Sun, the discus as a weapon of Indra and the three-edged or three-pointed form of this weapon, etc), various grammatical forms (cases of the resolution of the vowel in the genitive plural of ā stems, some transition forms common in later literature, the Epic weakening of the perfect stem, the adverb adas, etc.), particular categories of words (Soma epithets like madacyuta, madintara/madintama, the names of the most prominent meters used in the Rigveda, etc.), certain stylistic peculiarities (the use of reduplicated compounds like mahāmaha, calācala, the use of alliteration, the excessive use of comparatives and superlatives, etc.), and many, many more. Also, Hopkins notes many words which are used in one sense in the earlier books, and in a different sense in the later books: words like muni, tīrtha, vaiśvānara, hita, etc., or which are only used as adjectives in the earlier books, but figure as names in the later books (he cites śaviṣṭha, svarṇara, durgaha, prajāpatin, adhrigu as examples) [note also words like atri, kutsa and auśija (TALAGERI 2000:79-88), which have a different sense in the earlier books as against the later books, and even the word trita, which is a name in the later books but occurs once with the meaning “third” in book 6]."



As to "Vadhryashva", this is no evidence that "ashva" names can be early ones. It is not a name but a hostile nickname for Divodasa's father (or ancestor), apparently Srnjaya: It means "impotent, eunuch", and no sane parent would name his son thus. Talageri also refers to Hopkins in his article Pragathikani (JAOS 1896), where he clearly states that the ashva names are late names found only in the late books; and to the Vedic Word Concordance of Vishwa Bandhu, which in its Uttarapadanukrama Suchi clearly excludes vadhri- (on page 3622) from the list of prefixes of the word asva on grammatical grounds, and places the word Vadhryasva as a separate un-hyphenated word (A Grammatical Word Index to the Four Vedas, Volume 2, 1963, pg.835) on its own.
 Finally, you have argued about a single word. If correct, it would still only cut a very small hole in the massive caseTalageri has built, with thousands of Vedic passages taken into account. Anyone who wants to prove him wrong, should not be satisfied with saying something he should  say everything. Rigvedic analysis and exegesis have too often been based on single words that have been used to arrive at momentous conclusions. The word anas ("mouthless", wrongly interpreted as "noseless", then imagined to imply an African-type physique among the "Black Aboriginals", crucial evidence for the racial version of the AIT) being a case in point. Fortunately, this fateful analysis of the Rg-Veda as the story of a racial conquest has been refuted, and the Vedic use of colour terms put in a more realistic perspective, in 1999 in the Bronkhorst & Deshpande volume, by a certain HH Hock. Good job! In this case too, conclusions drawn from the single word "Vadhryashva" might be unwarranted.


Yours sincerely,

Koenraad Elst

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