Early excommunications from / inclusions into vedic ...

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Sat Jun 27 13:53:14 UTC 1998


> I am extremely sorry if I have offended any of the list members
> by quoting the vishNu purANa passage. I tender an unconditional apology.
> My intention in quoting the passage is simply out of curiosity and
> purely academic. No political overtones are involved.

An apology was completely unnecessary, as nobody feels offended if some
old religious/political text of another cultural area talks about its
neighbors in that fashion. If so, we would have to stop reading and
quoting(!) all of our various classical literatures from Egypt to China...

The very fact that such an apology was offered thus tells  us something
significant about the mind-set of the apologizers and about the times we
live in.

A late text such as the Visnu Purana (Gupta period?) certainly can tell us
little about the Indo-Aryan homeland or immigration which should have
taken place some 2000 years earlier. Do you take medieval European
chronicles or religious tractates as serious sources for Near Eastern or
Greek history?

To be serious, if the Visnu Purana has a (politically motivated, Y.
Vassilkov) "excommunication", the *opposite* is seen much earlier, in late
Brahmana time, when the long dead Rgveda personality (and Vasistha's
enemy), Visvamitra, literally adopts the PuNDra, Zabara, Pulinda, Muutiba
(Muuciipa), Andhra, "who live in large numbers beyond the borders."
(Aitareya Brahmana 7.18). He thus *includes* the non-Indo-Aryan tribes of
the Eastern of North India . Note that such tribes are still called

I do not know of a better political strategy in the early period to expand
one's cultural and political influence.

NB.: Visvamitra works, in AB 7, for the (originally despised) Iskvaku
dynasty of the Eastern U.P. area. They make their ascendency in this
period by such 'dubious' means. The same strategy is still followed in the
hills of Central India or in the Himalayas. --- For details on all of
this, see "Inside the Texts," p. 307 sqq., p.321 and already: C. Caillat
(ed.), Dialectes dans les litteratures indo- aryennes, Paris 1989, Tracing
the Vedic dialects p. 237.

> ><Did such a pan-vedic religion exist? What can this contribute to our
> ><discussion of Aryan homeland.

Apparently the Vedic(--> Hindu) sphere was extending then, as it has ever
since up to Bali, GB/USA... A pan-Vedic religion, of course, belongs to
the realm of phantasy of those who see (Indo-)Aryans anywhere from Syria
(Sura), Assyria (Asura), Egypt (misr = Mizra), the Hittites (Heth = KaTha
school), Mitanni (Maitrayaniya), Phoenicians (paNi), to Mexico (Maya) --
the name says it all: maayaa!

Michael Witzel                       witzel at fas.harvard.edu

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