method of dating RV, III
Jan E.M. Houben
JHOUBEN at RULLET.LEIDENUNIV.NL
Mon Jun 8 11:23:00 UTC 1998
On Fri, 5 Jun "S. Kalyanaraman" wrote:
>Scenarios and percentages... Should RV be expected to contain
>EVERYTHING as Subrahmanya had observed in another context?
>. . .
>Maybe, some rigour in methods should be discussed here, before
>'fitting' RV texts and poesy with the 'external' evidence from other
>disciplines such as archaeology, historical metallurgy or earth
"The Rigveda is not a book, but a library and a literature" (E.V. Arnold 1905).
We can expect quite a lot in this rich collection. Yet, the poets did not
intend to leave a record of their natural, political and social environment to
their decendents, still less to modern scholars.
Therefore, here are some thoughts on "methods [for] 'fitting' RV texts . . .
with the 'external' evidence":
The meaning of pu'r as philologically established by Rau does not suit the
Harappan cities. So the RV-poets did not refer to Harappan cities. But neither
did they refer to DESERTED Harappan cities. Nor did they refer to "a squatter
population living amid the ruins" although such populations must have been
around if the Aryans came into being (through South-Central Asian exchange and
acculturation) after the Harappans (for the post-Harappan squatters cf. Allchin
1995:31). If the RV-poets adhered strongly to a tradition (poetic,
mythological and ritual), their perception of reality must have been somehow
restricted and selective. Someone told me several years ago that in Indonesian
politics people are wont to refer to each other in term of MahAbhArata-
personages: those are Kauravas, you behave like bhIma, etc. In the same way
mythological references may simultaneously refer to present circumstances. Yet,
certain restrictions and selections are unavoidably there.
Hence, rather than going for what Allchin calls so nicely "spurious certainty",
it will be important to try to establish how selective the perception and
representations of the RVic poets was. For this purpose, one could start with
making a list of things and situations which "must have been around" in the
RVic poets' time (e.g. under the hypothesis: RV post 1900, pre 1200 B.C.) but
to which they did not refer. Harappan ruins would be one item, but other quite
extensive settlements of the post-urban period seem also to have been neglected
if p'ur means what it philologically apparently means. Quite another thing
which must have been around but was not referred to is the iSTakA or brick (or
is there another RV-ic word referring to it?). But an iSTakA having technical
links with the Harappan culture appears soon after the RV in the YVic texts and
was used in the Agnicayana (cf. Romila Thapar in Staal's Agni, vol. 2).
Animals not referred to: nakula, not even in comparisons . . .
Any additions to this list ?
For the ante quem of ca. 1200 B.C. this would not have serious consequences.
But for the post quem at 1900 B.C. the argument would have to be elaborated.
It could be said that missing the much more conspicuous inhabited Harappan
cities is less likely than missing their ruins or the people squatting there.
Probably some more complicated argument is needed, which circumferes the
problem of a restricted perception and reflection of reality by RV poets.
A sketch of such an argument: earlier Vedic texts presuppose a social world
quite different from that of the second urbanized period (for an exploration of
the social structure and social institutions obtaining in this pre-urban period
see Falk 1986). This early Vedic social structure would also be incompatible
with a strongly urbanized society during the SarasvatI-Indus civ., as the
urbanized culture during its flourishing period would profoundly influence the
surrounding settlements as well. The wars and upheavels referred to in the
"bulk of the RV" (Witzel) would also be incompatible with an era in which urban
centers profoundly influence the environment, economically and politically. The
main RV-period must then be post Sarasv-Indus. Why not pre-Sarasv.-Indus? If a
long period of strong urbanization would have intervened between the
composition of the RV on the one hand and the AV etc. on the other (the latter
being linked with increasing importance of iron, rice), one could not expect so
many strong continuities between RV and AV etc. This would exclude a pre-
Sarasv.-Indus RV (at more than 2500 B.C.).
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