method of dating RV, III

Wed Jun 3 16:47:10 UTC 1998

We ended with a probable *melting point* of the Rgveda in a  pre-PGW period,
hence before 1200 BCE.

But now it becomes more difficult to make definite statements.

We cannot check the stability of the Rgvedic hymns before the brAhmaNas. There
is more *room* for entropy, and the hymns themselves value originality. But
when did this entail a living creativity resulting in actual entropy? How
stable and for how long can a nucleus (rather: one nucleus for each 'family')
of established hymns have continued without refined supporting system of
brAhmaNas and later on the pada-pATha, etc.? Perhaps there were social factors
which maintained the stability of a great number of the Rgvedic hymns? It is
also well known that myths and ritual structures can remain stable for a
considerable period of time, some elements going back straight to the Stone
Age. But then, going back in time in India, we encounter the remarkable
urbanization period of Sarasv-Indus. Some Vedic fire-techniques like carrying
around a pot with fire (useful in a Stone Age when making fire is difficult and
uncertain) are preserved in Vedic ritual, but they were outdated already in
Sarasv-Indus period where fire was well controled and domesticated. Churning
fire is Rgvedic (RV 1.141.1, with apologies to the Madhvas who see in the hymn
a prophecy of Madhva's birth). The rice-mess in the ritual establishment of
fire (agnyAdheya), however, must be post Rgvedic (at least as far as the
specific substance rice is concerned).

Now to the date of 1900 BCE as the post quem of the Rgveda: the Rgveda points
to certain political relations; once the collections are divided into family
books, we have independent references to a battle against an alliance of ten
kings, etc. (details in Witzel, Vedic canon and its political milieu). Evidence
is there, once we place the Rgveda in a period before 1200 BCE, but the
evidence is relatively one-sided. We have to assume the Sarasv.Indus-civ. to be
incompatible with the indications in the Rgveda, etc. Texts seem to allow
several scenarios. General methodological strength of support: 30-40?
Next, as pointed out: composing Rgvedic hymns presupposes not only the
actuallity of certain events like a battle with ten kings, but also a pre-
established culture, ritual, myths and poetical techniques: How much
continuitiy was there in the latter?

And what was the methodological strength of Max Mueller's guestimate that the
Rgveda was pre-1000 BCE?
No archeological parallels were sought or known to him. In a previous posting I
wrote that the date of the Buddha was his most firm starting point. In his
Physical Religion, 1891, he has a firmer starting point: the contemproary of
Alexander the Great, Candragupta. From there he goes to Asoka and estimates the
rise of Buddhism at ca. 500 B.C. Argues that Vedic texts must be earlier. Next
step is weaker, more guesswork: 200 years for sUtra-period, 200 for Brahmana,
and arrives at 1000 B.C. as date when collection of hymns has taken place (but
now we know: oldest brAhmanas do not know our saMhitAs). For the whole argument
we can speak of a "shrewd guess" only with hindsight. Average methodological
strength: 30.

Alternative datings: Rgveda at 4500 BCE (Jacobi, calculated on basis of
astronomic hints in Rgveda). Most problematic in his argument is his acceptance
of Rgveda as single unit: the marriage-of-sUryA myth may have been an older
myth expressed in a Rgvedic hymn. Other weaknesses pointed out by Oldenberg.
Yet Jacobi's argument was not entirely worthless for some Rgvedic mythic
elements, and if there were no other arguments against an old date much more of
the Rgveda could be old.
Average strength, for entire RV: 10;
for some mythical Vedic elements: 30.

Tilak's Arctic Home? Tilak adopted a method -- a defensible method in his time -
- and followed it, even when it led him to unexpected results. Very good. But
there are similar weaknesses as in the case of astronomical datings:
Average strength, for entire RV: 10;
for some mythical Vedic elements: 30.

Rgveda at 8000 BCE:
I am insufficiently familiar with the relevant arguments to be able to judge
One assumption is that Sarasv./Indus and RV-civilisation were not incompatible,
either because RV-poets did speak of 1000-pillared mansions, or because they
later on largely neglected co-existing urban cultures so might have done it
earlier as well. A more positive argument in support of it would have been
astronomical (Kak), in style similar to Jacobi's argument (please correct me if
I am wrong).
Average methodological strength of arguments in support of 8000 BCE,
for entire RV: 10;
for some mythical Vedic elements: 30.

Greetings, JH

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