Date of Jyotisa Vedanga

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Wed Mar 22 12:52:48 UTC 2000

S. Palaniappan:
>I have an interesting scenario. The CT text paripATal has some interesting
>astronomical information, even though the text is not an astronomical text.
>In this century (20th), it has been translated into Sanskrit. Assuming the
>Tamil tradition is totally lost and replaced with Hindi/Sanskrit, won't a
>future researcher a la Elst and Kak looking at the Sanskrit translation of
>paripATal say that the text was produced 1500+ years earlier based on the
>astronomical information? On the other hand, won't a traditional Indologist
>looking at the features of the language use say that it is a much later text
>(assuming the Sanskrit used in the 20th century text is different from an
>older text)? Is such a scenario possible w.r.t Vedanga JyotiSha?

Interesting, as a thought experiment, but not likely in *this* very fashion:

1. The Jyotisa Vedanga is composed, as has already been said by several
members,  in post_Vedic language.
For example, there are long compound nouns, or compounds with tat- as first
part, or space fillers in meter such as: tu, caiva, tathaa, tathaiva ca,
eva ca, api ca.

Most interestingly, "Vedic" vai occurs once, but not as usual, in slot no.
2 in a sentence or  Paada but at the end of a Paada: indro nirRtir Apo vai
/ vizve devAs tathaiva ca /  (note: eva ca!).

As I have noticed some years ago (unpublished), this is precisely a feature
of LATE Epic. In both texts, Mbh. and Ram.,  c. 13% of all cases of vai
have this characteristic: they occur at the end. And are most common in
Mahabharata 12, Ramayana 1 and 7. <I must look up the exact figures for the
other books>. Which provides an interesting time frame for the COMPOSER of
the Jyotisa (and vice versa).

2. We can add: The text is composed in Epic Shloka meter which is not
exactly a Vedic one (though we have the Vedic  Anustubh). Now, its is a
well known fact that you cannot change arround or modernize sentences as
easily in verse as you can in prose. Note the famous case (Lueders) of the
old, eastern forms in stanzas of the Pali canon.

In the present case, the 'empty' words such as tu, vai, eva ca etc. clearly
belong to the verses they stand it, since their very function is to fill
gaps in the meter that the "real text' does not cover. Common in Epic as
In short, the present Jyotisa text is an *'Epic time'/style composition.*
Not a translation, to follow the experiment presented above by S.Palaniappan.

Note that even the section mentioning Vedic gods, (including even the very
rare, typically Rgvedic Ahir Budhnya), has these late features: tathaiva
ca, eva ca.  Someone put them together in an Epic line...

3. Add now the facts produced already by Luis Gonzalez-Reimann  (on 3/17)
and you have an "Epic"production, whatever the time of the original
observations of the stars may have been.

Cf. L. Gonzalez-Reimann's  2nd msg:  the "astronomical knowledge is
the same one reflected in the GargasamhitA; the language used; etc.  And
Garga's text has been dated on several grounds, including the fact that the
Yuga Purana (which is part of it) was convincingly dated by Mitchiner
(p.82) to the end of the last century BCE"

This is not the only case where older astronomical observations have been
mentioned in a much later text.  Note the case recently discussed by
N.Achar and me in EJVS 5.2    where an
astronomical observation, of the equinox in KRttikA (3rd mill.BCE),  has
been mentioned in the clearly Iron Age, slightly pre-Buddhist, pre-Magadha
realm text, the Satapatha Brahmana. Much has been made of that, but one can
by no means date the SB in the 3rd mill. BCE.  It simply is a reminiscence,
as is the mentioning of Ursa Maior as RkSAH "the bears", while they are of
course usually called sapta rSAyaH. Now, the "bears" are an old
Indo_European expression (Greek, Latin, etc.), but they still occur ONCE in
the Rgveda , and they clearly are remembered here -- as SB says: "formerly
called", in the SAME section that deals with the Krttika  equinox.  (This
fact is never mentioned in the discussions!!)

Note also the interesting slip, we *all* still make every day, and for some
time to come, see above: "In this century (20th), it has been translated
into Sanskrit .... assuming the Sanskrit used in the 20th century text...."
--  Well, we are in the 21st now...

In short, in these 3 cases you have a remembrance of some older traditions,
"written up",  I mean composed,  by a later author, and
-- that all, folks!

Michael Witzel
Department of Sanskrit & Indian Studies, Harvard University
2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge MA 02138

ph. 617-496 2990 (also messages)
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