Dr.Thompson' dating of the RV: Parts 1 and II

Vishal Agarwal vishalagarwal at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri May 28 23:06:48 UTC 1999

Following is a brief response only on pertinent points. A detailed response
will be sent personally to Dr. Vassilkov since I donot want to inflict
myself on the list members.

a fundamental flaw of logic....If I can not question Dr.Thompson's date
just because I do not have a suggestion for the same then by the same token
I cannot criticise Silvestor Stallone's acting because I cannot act better
Sorry, dear Mr Agrawal, but at that point I have to return the words
about "flaw of logic" back to you. Yes, you can criticise an actor's art
not being a better actor yourself. But in the field of science there works
another set of rules. If you criticise a scholar's work you have to be
a scholar competent in the relevant field of studies, you should have your
firm opinion on the same subject and if you reject a
scholar's theory (using even such harsh words as "absurd" and "absurdity"),
you should first analyse the facts this theory was based on and then suggest
a better, alternative way to explain these facts.
Again, your logic is wrong. A detailed rebuttal/response will be sent
privately. Suffice it to say, that I am well cognizant with the 'scientific

What surprised me most of all in your initial posting was that you evidently
had no clear idea of the facts Prof. Thompson had based his hypothesis on.
You wrote that he based his dating "on a comparison of the other
Indo-European languages" (?). It means
that you do not know his system of arguments at all. George Thompson
a scrupulous linguistic, historical and cultural study of many passages in
Rgveda and Avesta, which demonstrated quite convinsingly that there are some
(sometimes formulaic) and contrasts, which made one believe that Vedic
and Avestan Iranians were conscious of each other's existence and there was
even a kind of religious "polemics" between them. If so, Rgveda and Avesta
not be separated by many centuries, as was the common opinion until now.
the question arises: how can we date the period when Rgveda and the Old
were at least partly contemporary? Prof. Thompson is inclined to date this
period as about 1000 BCE - making the Rgveda a little "younger" than it is
usually thought to be and closer to the date of Zoroaster (which is,
to him, around 1000 BCE).
As you have yourself acknowledged, the parellels between the Avestan texts
and the Vedas are well known. Did I deny that? You have incorporated just a
fragment of my 'Siddhanta', leaving the other portion. This has resulted in
the confusion at your end. But more of this later. There is tons of
literature available on the subject and I am familiar with at least some of

By the way, I am inclined to disagree with Prof. Thompson's final
conclusion. I think the RV (its oldest core) is probably at least several
centuries older than 1000 BCE. But I can not ignore the facts discovered
and proven by G.Thompson. And before I proceed with my own dating, I have
to explain these facts in some different way. In particular, it seems to me
that we should better explain the synchronisms between Rgveda and Avesta
not by way of making Rgveda "younger", but rather by accepting an earlier
date for Zoroaster (some Iranists now tend to date him by the middle of the
2nd century BCE).
VA RESPONDS: Correct. The works of M. Boyce etc. have lead to this
conclusion (This was pointed out to me by a List member. I was aware of some
other articles on the same issue). So, again, even you have been forced to
reject this date. What is the problem if I do the same using the Theory of
the Historical Development of Indian Texts?

But you, Mr Agrawal, did not even try to get acquainted with the
texts and facts Prof. Thompson had referred to (which you could do with the
help of INDOLOGY's archive). You simply rejected his dating, calling it
"absurd", for the only reason that it does not fit with the results of your
own calculations. You even accused Prof. Thompson in "the neglect of a
rigorous study of Sanskrit literature" - quite undeservedly, as has been
in the recent postings (May 21 & 22) by Mr. Venkataraman Iyer.
There! We get the other fragment of my 'Siddhanta.' This unwarrantated
splitting of the sentence has led to the misinterpretation (Vakyabheda). As
far as Mr. Iyer is concerned, I still have to respond to his posting- so
hang on. Now consider the full sentence in its entirety. I have myself been
in a Doctoral Program. My understanding is that although we adopt a certain
methodology to conduct our research and arrive at our conclusions, we cannot
afford to wear side-blinds and ignore how other perspectives could affect
the results. In a Thesis defense, it is not uncommon for some committee
members to ask questions analyzing the results using a different
methodology. The Candidate can be in serious trouble if his results are
proven false when analyzed from these other perspectives. Likewise, while
Dr. Thompson's methodology might be correct (and why should it be not-the
use if Mleccha words for interpretation of Vedic texts is accepted even by
Jaimini), it rests on the twin-fold assumption: That Zarathushtra lived
around 1000 B.C.E or later (doubts against which have been expressed for so
many decades now) and that the parrallel Indian Vedic tradition does not
presuppose a development period of more than 13 centuries. While the falsity
of the former has been acknowledged by you yourself, I attempted to disprove
the latter. More of the latter later.

That was the best moment for you to remember the favourite sayings of your
father: "vidyA dadati vinayam" and "vidyAdambhaH kSANasthAyi" - not later,
when you suddenly preferred to declare that you have no opinion of your own
on the problem of
the Rgveda's dating.
VA RESPONDS: Let us ignore the condescending tone of your response. The mere
fact that I cannot criticize Dr. Thomspon because I do not have an opinion
of mine is an untenable argument as stated earlier. Again, the 'Process of
Elimination' is used when one does not know the final and correct result,
but can reject some (not all) of the possible ones. You will understand what
I am trying to see if you have ever solved multiple answer questions.

But, in fact, you have such an opinion, and you formulated it in your
posting of 18 May (to be analysed in the second part of this letter).
But, in fact, you have such an opinion, Dr.Agrawal, and you formulated
it in your posting of 18 May. Your starting point was your feeling that
Prof. Thompson's
date for the RV - 1000 BCE - gives us too small (as it seems to you) a
- only (!) 13 centuries - for the development of the great Vedic literature
with all its branches, genres etc.
First-as I recall, Mr. Iyer asked what I felt the date of the RV was. I said
I have no opinion. This means that I cannot propose any fixed date of RV on
the basis of current knowledge. My rejection of 1000 B.C.E as the date of RV
as being too late is clear from my preceding as well as the succeeding
posts. So what is the confusion here? Did I need to repeat that 1000 B.C.E
is too late? As for the 13 centuries, please note that hardly anyone says
that the 'Vedic Period' ended after 400 B.C.E. In fact, even these people
concede that it ended most likely a little before or a little after the
Sakyamuni. What does this mean? It means that the Vedic corpus was closed
before the end of that period. This means that we are left with a period of
5-7 centuries for the compilation of the Vedic corpus. The few texts (I did
name some) are actually outlyers, speaking statistically. I expanded the 5-7
centuries into 13 to include these few outlyers, and this should have been
clear to you. In any case, the argument is not affected even if we retain
the 13 century figure, for then we will have to include hosts of non-Vedic
texts as well J

You did not take into account that the most
productive period of Vedic literature falls upon the so called "Axial
in the world cultural history, when the great religious and social
took place in different parts of the world, when the civilizations and great
literary traditions emerged, developed at an exceptional rate and sometimes
died after only several centuries of existence. That is why I reminded you
classical Greece and China. You did not confine yourself to expressing your
feeling that this period is too short, you tried to prove the same by means
logical arguments. But, I am sorry to say, you demonstrated here total
arbitrariness of approach and lack of logic.
That is really a strange argument to justify your position that it is
possible for many texts to be composed/compiled in such short time. First,
the notion of  'Axial period' is merely a theoritical construct and cannot
prove anything. Many countries did not produce any literature in this
period. Second, when the theory was initially proposed, it was assumed that
Zarathushtra lived in the 6-7 Cent. B.C.E --which has now been proved false.
Third, it unnecessarily equates the writings of parochial leaders of an
insignificant province of large empire to those of Buddha etc. This suffers
from the error of back projection of current distribution and influence of
religions/cultures in the World. Last, how could the happenings in Greece
have had an affect, on say, China, (or those in India affect those in China)
at that time? Unless of course you assume an Apaurusheya Hand Waving
benignly over the world at that time!

BHADANTA YV WROTE: You start, e.g., with the
following reasoning: "At present, we have about 200 Vedic texts...We also
know that the extant Vedic literature is a small fraction of what once
and therefore can safely assume that there were literally more than a 1000
texts that existed once". Why did you name this exact figure? Why not "more
than 3000"? Or "5000"? Why not "more than 500"? I don't think you are ready
to answer.
VA RESPONDS: Did you notice the word 'safely' in the sentence? Rather than
exaggerating, I am infact, being conservative. At my present state of
knowledge, I could psossibly list more than 1000 Vedic texts ONLY, not
500-1000 or more than 3000 or more than 5000. If you do not believe me,
refer to some books I listed for Mr. Iyer. If you do not believe these books
as well, consider the fact that as late as the 9-11 Cent. C.E., the author
of Prapancahrdaya lists around 45 Yajurveda Sakhas extant in Tamil Nadu.
Similarly, Dr. Durgamohan Bhattacharya quotes medieval sources to show that
6 Sakhas of AV (as against possibly 1 today) were extant in AP alone. I
repeat my charge therefore: "You seem to have no idea about the extent of
the lost Vedic literature."

Another example of your reasoning: "Maharshi PANini quotes 2 dozen or so
predecessors" (you mention then several pre-PANinean or no-PANinean grammar
texts that have survived)..."My point is that even the current extant texts
pre-suppose several millenia of systematic development" (end of the
        Please, try to reread your posting of May 18 in a quiet moment, when
you are free of polemic ardour, and tell us then what logic makes you think
that if PANini had 2 dozen or so predecessors (some of them could be
contemporaries, by the way), and there were also some rival schools, it
necessarily "pre-supposes SEVERAL MILLENIA of systematic development"?
Logically speaking, it would not even presuppose "several centuries".
Taking the sentence "pre-suppose
." first. You have clearly misinterpreted
my argument. This statement, although occuring in same para as that of
Vaiyyakaranas, is nevertheless a part of the 'Siddhanta' as such and
therefore applies to previous paras as well (SamAkarshanAt). When you
understand this, the statement might not appear all that absurd. If you
think that I am shifting my position here, please refer to my response to
Dr. Madhuresan dated 5/21/99 (Time: 14:48:18). Besides, the same argument
was restated in one or more posts. While I apologize for the confusion that
resulted due to misplacement of the sentence, I recommend a study of the
Purva Mimamsa and also Madhva's commentary on B.S. 1.1.4 by you to avoid
such lapses. BTW, I never claimed that the 23 predecessors of Panini were
all non-contemporaries. But the extremely
speculative/casual/calluous/flippant manner in which you dismiss this
example now doubly justifies my charge "Therefore. Dr. Thompson's dating,
based on
." against you. It would have been better if you could have humbly
stated that you do not know any itivrtta of these Vaiyyakaranas. For an
account of them, please read "Vyakarana Sastra ka Itihasa' etc.

If you think that it is not enough, please tell me and I will show
some other logical inconsistencies in your arguments in the posting of May
(I have no time for it now).
Please go ahead. But take care not to misinterpret me as you have done
before. And also, please wait for my personal response before penning
anything else.

Therefore, I do not think that your way of reasoning can be considered
to be "more accurate method" (your posting of 23 May) that the methods used
by modern scholarship.
As above.

I still think, Mr Agrawal, that your participation in the Indology is
benefitial to the List, because you represent in it the position of
Indian scholarship.
Thanks for the 'certification'. Please note however that my participation
here depends on the discretion of the Listmaster and availability of time to

Modern scientific indology and traditional scholarship are
two quite different, heterogeneous trends of thought, with different aims
methods; "never the twain shall meet", and no true synthesis, I am afraid,
possible, but the dialogue between them has always been very fruitful.
like you can do a great thing by way of establishing the links of dialogue
between two traditions. But the necessary condition of the dialogue is that
participants have to be tolerant to each other, to avoid offensive words and
polemic exaggerations.
Yes. I have certainly drawn one benefit from this whole affair-increased
motivation for procuring a copy of Dr. Thompson's Thesis (all attempts in
the past have been a cropper). I look forward to greater interaction with
you in the future.

Enjoy the long (if you are in the USA, regular sized otherwise) weekend.



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