Suppose a third world war happened and only two books based on ancient Indian texts survived. One is Devdutt Patnaik’s version of Ramayana and another is Rupa Pai’s version of Bhagavad Gita. As usual the few surviving copies of these books will be ignored by surviving Indians till these fall into the hands of a western scholar who does some research on them. After reading these books, the researcher will not only have a distorted idea about Ramayana and Bhagavad Gita but also about their period of composition. “The Ramayana – a fiction about an abduction and attempted rape of the protagonist called Sita, was written in the early part of the twenty first century / later part of the twentieth century”, the western scholar would write. Leading publishers and universities of that time will take his version as gospel truth. It will be part of all text books including in India.
There is no disagreement over the fact that there was no single author for most of the ancient Indian texts and these texts were repeatedly revised over centuries or even millennia. If a text was originally composed in 5000 BC and its last revision was in 500AD one may date it to 5000 BC and another to 500 AD and both will find shreds of evidence to support their respective views. Ultimately what enters the text books or the popular literature depends upon which intellectual group is most influential.
As I have already mentioned in my article on Dayabhaga, the western writers usually go for a later date than the native Indian scholars. Here I include those Indian writers who write mainly to pander to the interests of specific international lobby groups for reasons best known to them. There are also writers like Devdutt Patnaik who are too lazy to learn Sanskrit and read the original texts. So they base their writings on western sources only.
Some authors argue in favour of a later date for a particular reason. These belong to the schools who are in favour of the Aryan Invasion theory. According to them, like the British and the Moghuls before them, Aryans too came to India from outside and conquered the natives to establish their rule. So there was nothing wrong if the Mughals or the British also came from outside and exploited the natives. But as more and more neutral and Indian scholars are doing research on this they are finding no evidence to support this view. Aryan Invasion theory is a fiction created by the British to redeem their exploitative rule in India.
From twelfth century to fifteenth century India suffered a number of Islamic invasions. Subsequently their rule stabilized in the form of the Mughals till the British took over in the eighteenth century. During Islamic invasions and rules a large number of temples and educational Institutes were destroyed. Temples were not only places of worship but also centres of culture and education. As a result, millions of ancient texts that must have included chronicles and almanacs were lost. Subsequently the ancient history of India was taken up by the British and scholars from other European countries. Many of them were not neutral. A large number of Indic study projects were funded by the Church. The collective view of the western scholars became the mainstream view about the History of ancient India.
Though it is far fetched, there is a school of western writers led by white supremacists who propagate the myth that the knowledge of ancient texts in India including Yoga, Ayurveda, and the Sanksrit language itself originated in the west and subsequently travelled to India. Of course this is done to debunk the fact that many of the mathematical and other innovations of ancient India travelled via Middle East to the West. So assigning a later date also suits the claim of such groups since it is near impossible for them to manipulate the dates related to Greek and Roman civilisations which are well chronicled.
It is encouraging to see that many Indian scholars are now taking interest to do fresh research and are also questioning the flimsy sources on which most of the earlier findings were based. What is more interesting is that western scholars are also willing to examine the latest findings.
The Rigveda is the fountain head of vedic sciences, the ancient spiritual science of the Himalayas from which such systems as Yoga, Vedic Astrology and Ayruveda arose. It is the basis of the Sanskrit language and of the culture, the arts and the sciences of traditional India. It is also the oldest book in any Indo-European language and if recent archeological finds in India prove correct, it may be thousands of years older than the current estimation of it (1500 BC). ---- Dr. David Frawley, American Scholar in 'Wisdom of the Ancient Seers'
More research on the recent excavations at Rakhigarhi and Shinauli is expected to throw more light on not only our ancient history but also the period of composition of various ancient texts. I have already examined the reasons for the lack of authentic sources for our ancient history in an earlier post that was part of last year’s A to Z challenge.
This is the sixth post (alphabet F post) of Blogchatter AtoZ Challenge 2021. My theme this year is ‘The beauty of Sanskrit and Sanskrit texts’, where in I explore selected compositions in Sanskrit and also some unique aspects of Sanskrit language and texts. Join with me in my journey to understand India’s spiritual and intellectual heritage. All the posts of AtoZ Challenge 2021 can be accessed here.