method of dating RV, III

Sun Jun 7 17:53:01 UTC 1998

On Thu, 4 Jun 1998 Michael Witzel wrote

>On Wed, 3 Jun 1998, Jan E.M. Houben wrote:

>> We cannot check the stability of the Rgvedic hymns before the brAhmaNas.

>In a way, we can check on them. As is well known,the Atharvaveda,
>Yajurveda and Samaveda contain very many stanzas from the Rgveda, but in a
>much inferior tradition; they have been transmitted in a less faithful way
>and 'corrupted' by 'perseveration' (H. Oldenberg, Prolegomena, 1888).

I guess my point was rather that once we have arrived at a point X in time for
which we have no attested check on the stability of the Rgvedic hymns (before
the composition of the brAhmaNas, and, if you want, before AV, YV and SV), we
do not know how long the hymns have remained stable until point X was attained.

Michael Witzel wrote:
>> And what was the methodological strength of Max Mueller's guestimate that the
>> Rgveda was pre-1000 BCE?

>I think we do not have to discuss Max Mueller any longer, this is like
>pre-Linnean biology or pre-Copernicus astronomy. Interesting only for a
>history of Indology.

The value of such a discussion would still be to show how far the
methodological quality of available evidence has now improved since his time.
If someone wants to propose an "alternative chronology" it will not do to try
to surpass Max Mueller's arguments. Michael Witzel's Development of Vedic canon
and Schools (if I have to mention a single compact publication) has certainly
set a new standard (drawing on much preceding philological and archeological
work). But here too there are qualitative differences between the support
available for different dates. For instance, ante quem for RV is relatively
stronger and more direct (with converging iron and rice-argument) than post
quem; still, in the absence of better alternatives I would accept the date and
search for additional evidence, all the while remaining open for attempts to
establish an alternative date (which may further strengthen the accepted date
when it flounders).

Greetings, JH

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list