Dates of written Rgveda

Steve Farmer saf at SAFARMER.COM
Thu Mar 9 22:07:24 UTC 2000

Michael Witzel writes:

> Think again: the Rgveda, due to its near-perfect ORAL transmission,  can
> serve as a contemporaneous  document (even when it was first written down,
> c. 1000 CE, as Albiruni and the first surviving Vedic manuscripts seem to
> indicate)...

Please excuse these questions from a Western textual scholar and
comparative historian:

1. Oral transmission that is "near-perfect"? If the Rgveda were passed on
this way for the better part of two millennia, as I've repeatedly heard
Indologists claim, it would be a unique event in premodern intellectual

2. The Rgveda was first written down c. 1000 CE? I've always considered
traditional statements like this from Indologists to be extremely naive.
There are repeated suggestions in texts like Manu that the Rgvedas were
studied in written form. How is this evidence, as well as the supposedly
unique ability of Indian reciters to achieve "near-perfect oral
transmission," explained by Indologists?

> From what I know from my studies of the evolution of literate traditions
in other societies (especially in China and Europe), these claims seem
very unlikely.

Steve Farmer, Ph.D.

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