Early excommunications from / inclusions into vedic ...

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Tue Jun 30 02:36:32 UTC 1998

On Mon, 29 Jun 1998, Vidhyanath Rao wrote:

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

This is the pima facie, literal, mythological reading.
I was talking at a higher level...

In detail: this is (pseudo-)mythology:

(a) who has 100 sons, except for some really rich potentates?

(b) by the time of the late Ait.Br., the long deceased, now mythical
Visvamitra adopts the equally mythical Sunahsepa. (Diff. in RV)

(c) if some 50% of V's other 100 sons are the ancestors of the
Mundas, Andhras etc. etc. how would that work? Is this eastern Abraham
populating half of India? (Drav. & Mundas certainly have no linguistic or
other relationship with Vedic/Brahmanical culture until after

Or is he including the Munda and Dravida by this very scheme?
I think rather the latter.
One should not forget that the Brahmana text frequently argue
"backwards", a well known fact.

(d) if these tribes/peoples are Visvamitras "grandsons", albeit sons of
cursed sons, they are depicted as (degraded) Aarya, like the Kasi,
Kamboja, Iksvaku, or not?

(e) if they are similar to the Aarya they can be "bettered" just like the
Kasi, Videha and others who have to be (re)taught the use of the sacred
fire and of the rules & regulations of Vedic "Hinduism". (Details
in: "Inside the Texts")

But they first have to acquire the status of being Aarya at all, somehow.
And that is precisely what this neat little tale does here.

(f) thus they are "in" and 'out' at the same time and can be (re)taken
into the fold as the opportunity presents itself. We have dozens of
examples of this actually taking place, from then on until present times.


> shouting ``Substratum influence'' at every
> change is a reflection of this ["eternal India"] 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.

and, ditto, for some Indian indologists. Conspiracy, again??

Substrates exist anywhere in the world, except before the
Americas and Polynesia were first populated, comparatively
recently. E.g., Europe is full of substrates and no one denies or
deplores that. So why should it be different in South Asia? No one *ever*
entered ?

This is a belief only equalled by late Stalinist Marrism/archaeology and
now by Renfrew's *eternal *Britain, (well, he got a 'Sir' out of it)
which is supposed to have seen only 2 "invasions", that of
Caesar/followers and of the (few hundred!) Normans...


> 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'',...

Well, we don't do that: Gaur bahIkaH.
But "iyam gauH"  means, at least in Vedic,
"the cow is this one (i.e. the earth)".

Michael Witzel                       witzel at fas.harvard.edu

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list