The Vedas date back to 6000 BC, Sanskrit scholars brainstorming on the dates of the ancient texts at a conclave organised by Delhi University’s Sanskrit department said on Saturday. This amounts to the Vedas getting older by 4500 years compared to what we thought.
“The time of the Vedas cannot be asserted before 6000 BC and thus Vedic civilisation is proved more ancient than the Indus Valley civilisation,” department head Ramesh Bhardwaj said in his keynote address, claiming that a correlation of archaeological, literary and astronomical evidence suggested so.
The innocuous sounding claim has deep political implications.
Influential Indian and European historians have for over a century seen the Vedas as dating back to 1500 BC, while the date of the Harappan civilisation is located around 2500 to 1800 BC. This had made the view that Vedic Aryans were early migrants to India commonplace.
Add to it a 19th century view of Indologists that Vedic Sanskrit had similarities with ancient European languages and early Persian — and that Tamil was distinct from Sanskrit.
These theories had spawned movements as varied as Jyotirao Phule’s anti-Brahmin movement in western India and the Dravidian movement in south India, which believed that there was an Aryan invasion in ancient times. Many saw the Vedic culture as superimposed over pre-Aryan cultures, while others talked of a migration sans invasion.
The present claim of these Sanskrit scholars makes the Vedas coincide with and even pre-date the Harappan civilisation, thus making the ancestors of today’s Hindus indigenous to India.
Many scholars have seen such assertions as crucial to the Sangh Parivar, which, they argue, sees Hindus as original inhabitants of India, and Islam and Christianity as later entrants. Significantly, the Sangh Parivar uses the term Vanavasi (forest dwellers) rather than Adivasi (original inhabitants) for India’s tribes.
“The Sanskrit department people aren’t experts in comparative linguistics. They are also not environmental historians to study the flora and fauna of the Vedas,” historian D.N. Jha told The Hindu . “Astronomical evidence is dubious. And I would like to ask why the department waited till 2015 for this finding? The most plausible date of the Vedas till now is 1500 BC.”
Scholars from Delhi, Varanasi and Gorakhpur apart, archaeologists K.N. Dikshit and B.R. Mani attended the meet.