2. Astronomical data and the Aryan
2.1. DATING THE RG-VEDA
of the age in which Vedic literature started and flourished has its consequences
for the Aryan Invasion question. The oldest text, the Rg-Veda, is
full of precise references to places and natural phenomena in what are
now Panjab and Haryana, and was unmistakably composed in that part of India.
The date at which it was composed is a firm terminus ante quem for
the entry of the Vedic Aryans into India. They may have come from
abroad or they may have been fully native, but by the time of the Rg-Veda,
they were certainly Indians without memory of a foreign homeland.
a rather shoddy way, Friedrich Max Müller launched the hypothesis
that the Rg-Veda had to be dated to about 1200 BC, and eventhough he later
retracted it, that arbitrary guess has become the orthodoxy.1
It is forgotten too often that in his own day, other scholars rejected
this extremely late date on a variety of grounds. Maurice
Winternitz based his estimate on purely philological considerations: “We
cannot explain the development of the whole of this great literature if
we assume as late a date as round about 1200 BC or 1500 BC as its starting-point.”2
Isn’t it refreshing to find how logical and unprejudiced the early researchers
were? You cannot credibly cram the complicated linguistic, cultural
and philosophical developments which are in evidence in Vedic literature,
into just a few centuries.
this argument of plausibility can always be countered with the argument
that unlikely developments are not strictly impossible, we need a firmer
basis to decide this chronological question. The most explicit chronology
would be provided by astronomical markers of time.
story of Max Müller’s chronology and its impact is told by N.S Rajaram:
The Politics of History, Voice of India, Delhi 1995, ch.3.
Winternitz: History of Indian Literature (1907, reprint by Motilal
Banarsidass, Delhi 1987), vol. 1, p.288.
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