method of dating RV, III

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Wed Jun 10 13:08:16 UTC 1998

Just a few notes on:

On Mon, 8 Jun 1998, Jan E.M. Houben wrote:

> Therefore, here are some thoughts on "methods [for] 'fitting' RV texts . . .
> with the 'external' evidence":
> Neither did they refer to DESERTED Harappan cities.

except: armaka 1.133.3 and (if one follows Geldner): [mahaa-]vailasthaana
also in 1.133.1  (cf. paper on arma(ka) by Harry Falk: Vedisch arma.
Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenlandischen Gesellschaft 131, 1981,

> Nor did they refer
> to "a squatter
> population living amid the ruins"
Not in this passage. One would have to look more carefully. I do not
remember any passage to that effect right now.

> If the RV-poets adhered strongly to a tradition  (poetic,
> mythological and ritual), their perception of reality must have been somehow
> restricted and selective.
Yes,  but they CAN also be quite mercenary, esp. in their daanastutis...

restrictive also as the RV is a collection of hymns (almost exclusively?)
composed for the (New Year [thus, Kuiper]) Soma sacrifice. What do you
expect of a liturgy for Easter or Passover? David's latest military
exploits and his love affairs? As you pointed out: we have to be happy
with what the poets actually mentioned, often in their similes! (usually
one of the best sources for contemporary info).

> mythological references may simultaneously refer to present
> circumstances.

The famous daasa/dasyu references.... Or S'ambara with his mountain
fortresses... We still do that as well: foreign devils, the
great/small Shaitan, the Hun...

> a list of things and situations ...
> 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

Fine. Here H.Falk's comparison with the Godaar tribe of SW Afghanistan (in
the volume "Inside the texts..")  can serve as a starting point! Societies
can live side by side in that manner: RV poets and cattle herders have
little interest in agriculture and agriculturists, though they are
mentioned (kiinaaza) .- cf. similar situation in the later PGW culture,
discussed recently. -

They refer to these 'neighbors' occasionally: I like RV 3.33 best:  "what
is the use of cows with the KiikaTa"? i.e. a "Massai" attitude:  all cows
belong to us, and only we know how to handle them and how to offer them to
the gods...

> 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 there is alrady Iranian (Avest.) is'tiia, from the same root...
Apparently they knew of bricks, maybe learned it from the (pre-)BMAC
cultures, before c.  2000 BC. at the northern fringes of Iran/Afghanistan.
Note the two separate formations (perhaps, also cf. Tocharian izcem).

> 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).

They did not take the closely related Iranian evidence into account...
Not everything must come from Harappa... (Staal now has a paper, forthc.,
which takes note of the Avestan evidence).

I agree for the rest...
Michael Witzel                       witzel at

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