Heesterman's 'axial-breakthrough'

Wed Jul 19 15:27:03 UTC 1995

Good question. You are not the only one who has been frustrated.

Point is, that Heesterman reconstructs his heroic age from middle Vedic 
and late Vedic sources (Yajurveda Samhita prose texts, Brahmanas, Sutras)
and projects it into some mythical (Indo-Iranian?) past -- while he  
completely neglects the evidence from the *early* Vedic texts, i.e. the 
Rgveda.(see, e.g., H.-P.Schmidt's article on Pathas, Indo-Iranian Journal 15,
some 20 years ago!) This stratum of literature contains much that he would 
need for his theory.

If you are interested in the "breakthrough" -- not an axial one at all, 
unless you want a very "thick" axle from c. 1100 BC (India) to 500 BC 
(Greece, China) --- you may look at several shorter or longer 
versions of an article which will provide you with 

(a) the rough date for the breakthrough (I prefer: intential reform, first
Sanskritization), at the beginning of the Indian iron age (Atharvaveda, 
c. 1150 BC), 

(b) the area (Kuruksetra and surroundings), and most importantly 

(c) some of the *reasons* for the changes and the procedures employed in 
carrying them out  -- mostly socio-political, as could be expected 
by anyone not fixated by a purely religious/ritualistic approach, 
(establishment of the great Kuru chieftainship, and not simply a
Glasperlenspiel underemployed Brahmins with a lot of time to spare...) 

Especially (c) was long overdue, I believe. In order to find data one has 
to read the often untranslated early middle Vedic texts such as the 2 
versions of the Atharvaveda, the completely neglected Rgveda Khilani, and 
the various versions of the Yajurveda Mantras (Maitrayani etc. Samhitas) 

Sorry for the svastuti: for details see: 

M. Witzel, The Realm of the Kurus: Origins and Development of the First 
State in India. The Realm of the Kurus, Nihon Minami Ajia Gakkai Zenkoku 
Taikai, Hokoku Yoshi, [Summary  of the Congress of the Japanese Association
for South Asian Studies], Kyoto 1989, pp. 1-4 

or the slightly longer version:
Early Sanskritization: Origins of the first Indian State.
Proceedings of the Munich Conference on Indian History 1992, ed. B. Kolver 
(pp. 20, forthcoming)

or, in great detail:
The Realm of the Kurus, Sachsiche Akademie der Wissenschaften, Leipzig, 
(forthcoming) pp 160 

(available on request; on second thought, I may put the shorter summary in 
the next number of the Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies).subscribe at:
ejvs-list-request at arcadiax1.arcadia.polimi.it; 
WWW: http://www.arcadia.polimi.it /~ejvslist)

Hope this helps. 

You can reach J.Heesterman at Instituut Kern, University of Leiden, 
Leiden, The Netherlands

or at Vienna: Institut fuer Indologie, Universitaet Wien, Wien, Austria.

----- don't fellow Indologists think that this makes for another 
intersting pointof SUMMER discussion???


>  I consider myself to be pretty familiar with the various works of J.C. 
> Heesterman,...... What has always frustrated me however, is that while he 
> presents a diachronic theory of the shift from sacrifice to ritual, 
> Heesterman has never as far as I am aware ......
........ posited even a tentative date for this axial breakthrough...

>                                  Steven Columbus,
>                                  Dept. of Phil. & Religious Studies,
>                                  University of Canterbury,
>                                  New Zealand.
> e-mail: Phil029 at csc.canterbury.ac.nz


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