[INDOLOGY] [RISA-L LIST] Background and chronology of Vedic texts

asko.parpola at helsinki.fi asko.parpola at helsinki.fi
Sat Jul 20 08:20:38 UTC 2013

Since the early 1970s, I have tried to correlate the Indo-Iranian
languages and texts with archaeology, and to work out their
prehistoric evolution and chronology taking into account the linguistic
and religious evidence.

My present understanding is summarized in the following papers:

"Formation of the Indo-European and Uralic (Finno-Ugric) language families
in the light of archaeology: Revised and integrated 'total' correlations",
Pp. 119-184 in: Riho Grünthal & Petri Kallio (eds.), Linguistic map of
Prehistoric Northern Europe. (Mémoires de la Société Finno-Ougrienne 266.)
Helsinki 2012 [2013].

"The Dāsas of the Ṛgveda as Proto-Sakas of the Yaz I -related cultures.
With a revised model for the protohistory of Indo-Iranian speakers."
Pp. 221-264 in: Martin E. Huld, Karlene Jones-Bley & Dean Miller (eds.),
Archaeology and Language: Indo-European Studies presented to James P. Mallory.
(Journal of Indo-European Studies Monograph 60.) Washington, D.C. 2012.

"Sāmaveda and sorcery", in press.

Briefly and very roughly:

Proto-Indo-Iranian c. 2800-2300 BCE in the Pontic steppes between
the Dnieper and the Volga.

Proto-Iranian c. 2300-1500 BCE in the Pontic-Caspian steppes between
the Dnieper and the Ural rivers.

Proto-East-Iranian / Proto-Saka speakers came
c. 1500 BCE as horse-riders to southern Central Asia, mixing
there with "Proto-Ṛgvedic" Indo-Aryans; by 1000 BCE this resulted
in the creation of the earliest parts of the Avesta.

Proto-Indo-Aryan c. 2300-1350 BCE in the forest-steppes and steppes
of the Volga, the Urals (contact with Uralic/Finno-Ugric), Siberia,
southern Central Asia, Iran, Syria, and northwestern India

Proto-Indo-Aryan came to southern Central Asia and South Asia in
two waves with some differention in language and religion.

The first to arrive in southern Central Asia c. 21st century BCE
was the "Pre-Atharvavedic" branch, coming from the southern Urals
with horse-chariot (principal deities: Aśvins and then Mitra-and-Varuṇa
the latter probably doubles of the Aśvins with the royal function).
They took over the originally non-Indo-European speaking
Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC).

Part of these BMAC-Indo-Aryans proceeded to South Asia c. 1900 BCE.
In South Asia they started mixing with the majority population of
Late Indus Civilization, which spoke Proto-Dravidian.

The "pre-Ṛgvedic" branch of Proto-Indo-Aryan speakers
(main deity: Indra, worshipped with Sauma cult) arrived in
southern Central Asia c. 1750 BCE, mixing there with the
"pre-Atharvavedic" branch, whose representatives probably
introduced the "proto-Sāmavedic" pragātha/gāyatrī poetry and
the Aśvin & Mitra-and-Varuṇa cult to the resulting "Proto-
Ṛgvedic" tradition (c. 1500-1350 BCE), to which the Mitanni
Aryans belonged

King Divodāsa and his offspring led the Ṛgvedic Aryans
from the Kandahar region via eastern Afghanistan (where
the battles with the Dāsas mainly took place) to the Panjab
c. 1350 BCE. The Ṛgvedic hymns were probably composed
c. 1350-1100 BCE.

In the Indus Valley, the Ṛgvedic Aryans mixed with the
earlier arrived "pre-Atharvavedic" Indo-Aryans who had
been subject to the Harappan substratum influence.
This mixing resulted first in the composition of the late books
of the Ṛgveda and the hymns of the Atharvaveda,
perhaps c. 1100-1000 BCE, and then the Brāhmaṇa literature
(the Yajurvedic Samhitās as its earliest parts), perhaps
c. 1000-700 BCE.

The Āraṇyakas, earliest Upaniṣads and the Śrautasūtras of
Baudhāyana and Vādhūla might date from around the 7th century BCE.

In any case it took some time for the sūtra style to reach
the condensation level of Pāṇini, whose date cannot be
much later than c 350 BCE.

Cheers, Asko Parpola

Quoting "Witzel, Michael" <witzel at fas.harvard.edu>:

> Leaving apart the discussion on Prof.Narain and the date of the  
> Buddha, the Upanisads can by no means can be as early as 900 BCE, or  
> eve 800 as some have it:
> * the Rgveda is a late Bronze Age text. The Iron Age starts, in the  
> northwestern subcontinent (Panjab etc.), around 1000 BCE.
> * after this text we have the traditional Samhitas, Brahmanas and  
> Arayanyakas: certainly not with 100 years.
> * Rather, we know that the language of the Rgveda is followed by 4  
> stages before we reach the level of the Upanisads:
> - late Rgveda (book 10),
> - Mantra language: Yajurveda mantras, Samaveda mantras, Atharvaveda,  
> Rgveda Khila
> - Yajurveda prose (Maitr., Katha, Taitt. Samh.)
> - the Brahmanas proper
> - late Brahmanas, Aranyakas, earliest Upanisads (Jaiminiya Upanisad  
> Brahmana, Brhadaranyaka, Chandogya Up. : sic!) + earliest Sutras  
> (Baudhayana Srautasutra)
> All of this takes quite a few centuries, whatever the date of the Buddha!
> Literature to be provided, if needed.
> Cheers, MW
> On Jul 15, 2013, at 2:40 PM, Timothy Conway wrote:
> The older date allows us to keep very old dates for the pre-Buddhist  
> Upanisads (circa900 BCE for the Brhadaranyaka and Chandogya) and  
> various texts from around the time of the Buddha. Please someone  
> correct me on this if any research has arisen just the past few  
> years to suggest otherwise about the hoary provenance of these most  
> ancient Upanisads. (And no, i'm not referring to the "5,000 year-old  
> Rg Veda" idea.)
> --timothy
> Timothy Conway, PhD
> Lecturer, Santa Barbara City College, Continuing Education Div.
> 805-569-9927
> ============
> Michael Witzel
> witzel at fas.harvard.edu<mailto:witzel at fas.harvard.edu>
> <www.fas.harvard.edu/~witzel/mwpage.htm<http://www.fas.harvard.edu/%7Ewitzel/mwpage.htm>>
> Wales Prof. of Sanskrit &
> Director of Graduate Studies,
> Dept. of South Asian Studies, Harvard University
> 1 Bow Street,
> Cambridge MA 02138, USA
> phone: 1- 617 - 495 3295, fax 617 - 496 8571;
> my direct line:  617- 496 2990

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