Advice for Indologists
#1
(Cross-posted at the Religious Education Forum)

Timothy Insoll has some very helpful advice for Indologists and historians on page 35 of his book Archaeology and World Religion:

Quote:The textual roots of Hindu religious tradition go back to the four Vedas; the Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, and Atharvaveda which are conventionally dated to between 1500 to 1000 BCE. More reflective of reality is the belief that these are composite texts containing diverse traditions of diverse periods and cannot represent any specific period in the Indian historic sequence. There is no Vedic Age. Similarly, there is no Vedic Archaeology. The same may be said about the textual corpus associated with the main bodies of the Vedas, such as the Upanishads. What is clear from the point of view of the present chapter is that the first textual phase of Indian philosophical and religious tradition has to remain undated and that archaeology has to be kept out of it.
In such a situation archaeology can do only one thing: try to trace different ritual behaviors which Hindus traditionally associate with Hinduism. It is not a question of beginning with a checklist of rituals and looking for their archaeological manifestations. Rather, it is a question of looking at the early archaeological record as a whole and pointing out the categories of evidence which make sense from the point of view of later, well-documented Hinduism.
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#2
(05-Sep-2010, 02:11 AM)TTCUSM Wrote:
Quote:The textual roots of Hindu religious tradition go back to the four Vedas; the Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, and Atharvaveda which are conventionally dated to between 1500 to 1000 BCE. More reflective of reality is the belief that these are composite texts containing diverse traditions of diverse periods and cannot represent any specific period in the Indian historic sequence. There is no Vedic Age. Similarly, there is no Vedic Archaeology. The same may be said about the textual corpus associated with the main bodies of the Vedas, such as the Upanishads. What is clear from the point of view of the present chapter is that the first textual phase of Indian philosophical and religious tradition has to remain undated and that archaeology has to be kept out of it.
In such a situation archaeology can do only one thing: try to trace different ritual behaviors which Hindus traditionally associate with Hinduism. It is not a question of beginning with a checklist of rituals and looking for their archaeological manifestations. Rather, it is a question of looking at the early archaeological record as a whole and pointing out the categories of evidence which make sense from the point of view of later, well-documented Hinduism.

There is nothing wrong in assigning a range a periods to history, even when we are not completely sure of the assigned dates. We can at least place upper and lower bounds beyond which an event cannot have taken place. Of course, the implicit assumption is that the dates are true only as long as there is supporting evidence.

Now the advice that Timothy Insoll gives is bad. If he had given a stern warning that there is a bit of uncertainty involved in dating the Vedas and Upanishads, it would have been fine. There is always uncertainty in dating old stuff. Be it the age of the Earth, dawn of the human species, discovery of agriculture etc...

But he goes further and asks us to completely ignore the dating of the Vedic texts. That gives plenty of excuses for hindutva fanatics to make stupid claims like how Vedas and Upanishads are timeless as they are shruti.

The advice is also cowardly. He is basically saying "I can't figure out this stuff, so I give up and so should everybody else".
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#3
(05-Sep-2010, 02:33 AM)Lije Wrote: The advice is also cowardly. He is basically saying "I can't figure out this stuff, so I give up and so should everybody else".

That is NOT what he is saying.
He is saying that the Vedas and Upanishads may be from such-and-such time period, but they also incorporate older traditions, so assigning a particular date to them might be misleading.

For example, on page 44, he mentions fire-altars at the Harappan site of Kalibangan. The Vedas probably weren't around yet, but fire-altars would play a significant role in the later Vedic religion.
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#4
(05-Sep-2010, 04:53 AM)TTCUSM Wrote: For example, on page 44, he mentions fire-altars at the Harappan site of Kalibangan. The Vedas probably weren't around yet, but fire-altars would play a significant role in the later Vedic religion.

Interestingly enough, Agni is referred to as an "Asura" several times in the Rig Veda:

Book 2, Hymn 1 (Agni):
6 Rudra art thou, the Asura of mighty heaven: thou art the Maruts’ host, thou art the Lord of food,
Thou goest with red winds: bliss hast thou in thine home. As Pūṣan thou thyself protectest worshippers.

Book 4, Hymn 2 (Agni):
5 Agni, be this our sacrifice eternal, with brave friends, rich in kine and sheep and horses,
Rich, Asura! in sacred food and children, in full assembly, wealth broad-based and during.

Book 5, Hymn 12 (Agni):
1. To Agni, lofty Asura, meet for worship, Steer of eternal Law, my prayer I offer;
I bring my song directed to the Mighty like pure oil for his mouth at sacrifices.

Book 5, Hymn 15:
1. To him, the far-renowned, the wise Ordainer, ancient and glorious, a song I offer.
Enthroned in oil, the Asura, bliss-giver, is Agni, firm support of noble, riches.

Book 7, Hymn 2:
3 We will extol at sacrifice for ever, as men may do, Agni whom Manu kindled,
Your very skilful Asura, meet for worship, envoy between both worlds, the truthful speaker.

Book 7, Hymn 30:
3 When fair bright days shall dawn on us, O Indra, and thou shalt bring thy banner near in battle,
Agni the Asura shall sit as Herald, calling Gods hither for our great good fortune.

Book 10, Hymn 11 (Agni):
6 Urge thou thy Parents, as a lover ' to delight: the Lovely One desires and craves it from his heart.
The priest calls out, the sacrificer shows his skill, the Asura tries his strength, and with the hymn is stirred.
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#5
(05-Sep-2010, 04:53 AM)TTCUSM Wrote:
(05-Sep-2010, 02:33 AM)Lije Wrote: The advice is also cowardly. He is basically saying "I can't figure out this stuff, so I give up and so should everybody else".

That is NOT what he is saying.
He is saying that the Vedas and Upanishads may be from such-and-such time period, but they also incorporate older traditions, so assigning a particular date to them might be misleading.

"Don't even try to date the texts". That is an interpretation one could make out of the passage you posted. Hence my observation.

As to your point, if he thinks the currently proposed dates are misleading, fine. He should let evidence speak for itself. If he is not making an evidence based case, he should say that it is his own personal opinion. He shouldn't be advising other indologists based on personal opinions.
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#6
Read the material at this link:

http://harappanwriting.piczo.com
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