Early excommunications from / inclusions into vedic ...

Vidhyanath Rao vidynath at MATH.OHIO-STATE.EDU
Mon Jun 29 19:17:10 UTC 1998

Michael Witzel <witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU> wrote:

>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).

How is the AB story the `opposite' of `excommunication'? Vi"svaamitra
wants to adapt "Suna.h"sepha as his eldest son. Of V's 100 sons, the
fifty who are older than "S object. Then V curses them (anyvyaajahaara)
saying ``antan va.h prajaa bhak.sii.s.ta''. This looks like
disinheriting rather than adopting.

N. Ganesan wrote:

>Does one of the reasons for excommunication have anything to do with
>beef? Obviously, there is quite a bit of beef in the Vedic.
>After Aryans (gently) intruded into India, they learnt to
>avoid it wheras Yavanas, etal., continue comsuming.

>Like systemic retroflexion, I believe the beef avoidance more due to
>the local habits' catalytic effect than the internal independent development.

The most serious objection to this is that evidence from IVS and other
sites indicates the use of beef there/then.

We have gone over the beef question before. In the Vedas, beef is
limited to ritual or guest reception (madhuparka). Other pastoral
societies too allow the consumption of beef in ritual while frowning on
the use of beef in general. Attacking this was an easy and obvious
propaganda ploy for the heterodox. Given the use of beef outside the
`Aryan' communities as well, their influence is a matter of stubborn
belief in face of contrary evidence.

On the question of ahi.msa in general, see H. P. Schmidt in Festschrift
Renou. Here too, internal development is likely. What we see with beef
is part of what happened in general.

It was(is?) quite common to believe in ``Unchanging East'' vs ``Dynamic
West''. For some eye-opening examples, see Schaffer and Lichtenstein in
the Erdosy volume so often mentioned recently. [But I do not recall
anyone proposing to discuss the issues raised in this paper.] The urge
to wave ones arms about shouting ``Substratum influence'' at every
change is a reflection of this attitude. Denial is easy. But prejudices
did exist among Western Indologists and it is important to sort out the
implications, or give an ab initio treatment, before their conclusions
can be cited.

Incidentally, the translation of `go' as `cow' in all contexts adds to
the clouding of the issue. When I see ``ayam gau.h'' translated as
``this is a cow'', I cannot help recalling the joke about the new
graduate from an Ag and Tech place telling the seasoned farmer ``I
would be surprised if you can get any milk out of this cow.'' [I have
deliberately omitted the punch line.]


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