intelligent conversation

zydenbos at zydenbos at
Thu Nov 14 02:16:24 UTC 1996

Replies to msg 13 Nov 96: indology at (ucgadkw at

 uau> In other words, I'm hereby banishing "intelligent
 uau> conversation" from
 uau> :-)

Ah... yes, perhaps it is time to discard the more casual remark in favour of
something more elaborate, explicit and precise, for the sake of a possible
polite further discussion (if anyone is at all interested).

I certainly do not mean that Hindi is useless as a medium of communication.
What I do mean is that there is a Western perception that Hindi is "the" modern
language of India. My contention is that it is, but only to a very limited
extent. It may be amusing (?) to note here that, in a parallel case, many
Indians  believe that they can speak English with the rest of the world. But is
English spoken all across Europe? Yes, in a way; but in another sense: no,
certainly not. There are highly intelligent people in Europe who cannot carry
on a significant conversation, which they themselves find satisfactory, in
English; this has nothing to do with their intelligence, but with their active
mastery of the language. This again has to do with real linguistic
difficulties, very real cultural differences, etc. etc. And I contend that this
is not merely the same with Hindi in India, but more so.

Let us take the example of Tibetan refugees living in Karnataka. They learnt
Hindi and now realize that apart from their most basic economic dealings, they
are socially isolated from the surrounding population. This isolation is caused
largely by a language barrier which Hindi has hardly helped them overcome. [I
speak Hindi with some of them. :-)]

The distinctions made between filmi Hindi, Urdu etc. etc., which Richard Barz
calls "artificial", are socially and linguistically highly relevant if we wish
to discuss the effectiveness of the language as a medium of communication
throughout the entire gamut of communication within the culture of a country
like India, i.e. also as a means of intercultural communication between the
many sub-cultures of the Indian sub-continent. (And perhaps it can be labelled
a form of "orientalism", in Said's sense, if one denies that these distinctions

Of course the evaluation of the role of any language depends mainly on  exactly
what one needs the language for: in which contexts, in interaction with which
people, to which purposes, etc. For certain specific purposes, Hindi is very
effective throughout India. But what is the nature of the "cultural spread" of
Hindi in India, which Richard Barz writes about? Is this not an Indological
topic? Is it not (at least a little) interesting that millions of people (more
than the populations of most Western countries) hold Hindi in contempt or hate
it as (what they consider) a tool of political oppression? Surely it is not
"Hindi-bashing" to ask such legitimate questions. (As for the remark on the
side by the same critic, concerning English vs. Hindi: English gets you further
than Hindi in the south, where able speakers of Hindi are a minuscule

I believe that my original statement, along with this elaboration (sorry for
this apparently necessary lengthiness), still holds good. But if it is not
politically correct for an Indologist to speak about the majority of the people
of India - or if we are not supposed to look at what actually happens in India
- or if we should not question the "cultural spread" of Hindi (which I did when
I wrote about the now banished i[...] c[...]) - or if we should hush up that
people have died for the official recognition of their languages and for the
creation of linguistic states - or if we should not wonder why the value of
Indian banknotes is printed on them in so many languages (remember our earlier
postings?) - or if all this has already been discussed, or if persons in
INDOLOGY start yelling at each other or bash or accuse others of bashing, -
well, then we can discuss on-line libraries, fonts, and other nice things. :-)

Robert Zydenbos

> From 101621.104 at CompuServe.COM 14 96 Nov EST 02:43:56
Date: 14 Nov 96 02:43:56 EST
From: Anthony P Stone <101621.104 at CompuServe.COM>
Subject: Re: Date of the Veda

With regard to the astronomical methods of dating the Rid Veda, the deities of
the 27 nakshatras are listed in Taittiriya Samhita 4.4.10; Taittiriya Brahmana
1.5.1; and Kathaka Samhita 39.13.   Lists for the 28 nakshatras  (i.e. including
Abhijit) are found in TB 3.1.1-2;  Maitrayani Sam. 2.13.20.

So a lot depends on the relative dating of TS and VJ. 

On Nov 13, 1996  Edwin F Bryant wrote:

> Purushottama, Thank you for your response.

>Yes, the first part of Tilak's book, at least sections of it, do make rivetting
reading.  >He and Jacobi, both within two weeks of each other and originally
oblivious of each >others work, submitted their results to  Buhler for
consideration.  Buhler fully >supported their views (that the Rig veda contains
astronomical clues that would >date the text far earlier than had been accepted
by most Indologists), and added >numerous more references in support of them.
Their views were opposed by >Whitney, Thibaut and Oldenberg.  However, Jacobi
and Tilak (I don't know about >Buhler) never retracted or modified their
position. Whitney and Thibaut did not >disprove their claims, but did show that
alternative explanations were possible for >the references that Jacobi and Tilak
(J & T) had brought forward, so that such >claims could not be used as proof of
the antiquity of the Veda. 
>	Although the debate, almost exactly a century ago now, has never
>resurfaced in mainstream Western academic circles, Indian astronomers,  in
>general, have never accepted that Whitney and Thibaut (W & T) had finalised the
>matter.  It boils down to what assumptions one chooses to make.  W & T's
>assumption is that there is no evidence that the Indo-Aryans had the same
>nakshatra system earlier, as it had by the time of the Vedanga jyotisha (even
though several nakshatras are mentioned in the Rig).  They also claimed that
there >is no explicit reference to the solstice or equinox in the Rig.  Their
assumption, in >short, is that non-mention of such skills equals non-familiarity
with them.
>	T & J, Buhler, and most astronomers I am familiar with in India, do not
>share this assumption.  For them non-mention of such things is not tantamount
to >ignorance of them, and the references themselves suggest familiarity with
>elementary, basic astronomical abilities, which would be very essential for any
>pre-technological society.

>Any comments anybody?   Edwin Bryant,   Columbia University

Tony Stone

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