Aryan Invasion
 
Western vs Indic
   


WESTERN INDOLOGY V/S. INDIC TRADITION

-David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri)

The ongoing academic and media battle over the Aryan invasion and the Vedic-Harappan convergence is part of the de-colonization process.

Record of failure:The sad fact is that after nearly two hundred years, Western Indology has still failed to understand India, her culture, her soul or her history. It has progressed little beyond Eurocentric and missionary stereotypes, only adding Marxist.

Freudian and other modern stereotypes to these, naively believing that these Western ideologies are somehow dramatically enlightening to India and its ancient and profound spiritual culture, when they are usually irrelevant or inferior and have failed in the West. Meanwhile it has discovered little more in the vast treasures of Vedic culture than any primitive culture.

Western Indology does not understand the philosophy of India, its emphasis on dharma and karma, liberation and enlightenment, or its great traditions of yoga and meditation. It does not acknowledge the value of its rishi/yogi culture and its Vedic origin.

Nor does it recognize any such higher yogic spiritual tradition as behind any ancient civilizations or behind humanity as a whole. From its perspective, Indian spirituality is a self-serving fantasy hiding what is unscientific, inhumane or archaic.

Yet even more sadly Western Indology does not want to recognize that India as a unique civilization really exists. It fails to see any real identity to Indic civilization prior to British rule or any real continuity to it from ancient times. Rather it views India as a melting pot of invading cultures with no overriding political or cultural background or unity.

It was in fact stated by Marx that India has no history, and what is called history is the record of successive intruders.This is the position still taken by Western Indologists and their counterparts in India. They fiercely resist any suggestion of an indigenous civilization in India.

Western thought reads the type of political and psychological motives into Indic schools of thought that are the norm for its own history. It tries to understand the Indic tradition according to Marxism, Freud, Deconstructionism or whatever the latest trend in Western thought happens to be, as if these characteristic preoccupations of the outward looking Western mind could unlock the keys to a very different spiritual and yogic culture.

In fact, they usually tell us more about the Western mind than anything really of India's traditional culture. In short, the West has never really questioned the appropriateness of its means of knowledge for understanding Indic civilization.

Not surprisingly, Indic civilization remains a mystery for it and the West does not even suspect the riches of the higher mind that it contains. Western intellectual culture is generally quite critical of the Indic tradition and rejects most of it as unscientific or erroneous. It styles Indic thought as mystical, irrational, superstitious or even absurd.

The main approach of Western Indology has been one of negationism, denial and denigration. This failure of Western Indology is nowhere more evident as in its treatment of the Vedas. The monumental literature of the Vedas the largest of the ancient world and given a reverence throughout India throughout its history is reduced to the record of invading hordes or pastoral nomads that should have left no real literary record anyway.

Vedic literature is not examined in depth but simply explained away by such negationist theories, as something of no consequence that need not be taken seriously.

Negation of Vedic Literature-

According to Western Indology the Vedic is a literature that should not exist, that if it does exist is primitive, distorted or deceptive. Whatever is sophisticated in the Vedas that Indologists might be able to perceive becomes an interpolation or a cynical borrowing from indigenous people that the Vedic people supplanted and denigrated.

Western Indology first viewed Vedic literature as the record of invading/militant Aryan hordes from Central Asia as they destroyed the sophisticated Dravidian urban culture of Mohenjodaro and Harappa. Now that the Harappan culture has been shown to have not ended in violence but in geological and river changes, they haven't given up their old views but simply modified them, without even acknowledging their previous distortions.

They now see the Vedas as the record of a pastoral culture that gradually infiltrated its way into India after 1500 BCE and, in some unknown way, subverted the language and literature of the land, though no real evidence for this or record of it has remained.

Such views do not explain the Vedic literature, its extent, sophistication or continuity. Ruthless hordes would not produce such a literature or be able to continue it through the centuries. Pastoral infiltrators would be less able to do so.

No subcontinent would carry on such a vast literature as a great spiritual legacy that represents small groups of intrusive peoples that had no real civilization! To carry on such a vast literature, particularly one that requires very elaborate and expensive rituals, would require a royal patronage and from an early period.

There is a similar negationism about Harappan civilization, which is also left in the dark. Harappan civilization is viewed as a mysterious civilization that came and went leaving no real trace in the later culture.

That it was the largest and most sophisticated urban culture of the ancient world at the time is similarly downplayed. Rather the impression is given that it was only a sidelight to much smaller Near- Eastern cultures that were the real center of civilization at the time.

Its obvious connections to Vedic thought found in artifacts and symbols like the swastika, the 'Om', and others are stubbornly ignored. In making the Harappan a so-called Dravidian culture, the fact that there is no archaeological record, history or trace of a movement of Dravidians south to confirm this change is similarly ignored.

Vedic literature does represent the Indic tradition from ancient times. It is the most ancient literature that India, as a culture, chose to perpetuate and which nearly all later literatures in the country refer to, including non-Vedic groups or thinkers. We cannot ignore Vedic literature or place it in Central Asia.

We cannot pretend that it has no connection or origin in India by ignoring references to Indian geography, flora and fauna. Even today, many great Indian thinkers draw inspiration from the Rigveda itself, including such great figures as Sri Aurobindo, who established an entire new modern school of Vedic interpretation.

Harappan urban culture similarly represents the urban aspect of Indic civilization since ancient time. We cannot pretend that it had no literature and no continuity of its culture and peoples in the region.

On Top of the Page

Nor can we pretend that it could have been entirely forgotten by the existent Vedic literature. The literature record and urban ruins, though very different sources of information that will give diffeent points of view, cannot be kept apart. The continuity of Indic civilization and its literature cannot be negated away. We cannot place the ancient literature of India outside of India and understand the development of Indian civilization.

The other aspect of Western Indology that is yet more questionable is its holding on to wrong views even after they have been disproved. To date the most common impression people have about ancient India from textbooks and depictions all over the world is Wheeler's massacre at Mohenjodaro and the image of the invading Aryan hordes like the later Huns and Mongols.

(See for example the entry on Mohenjo Daro in the Encyclopedia Britannica.) Though Western Indologists, if pressed, acknowledge that this view is wrong and that Harappan culture declined and fell without such outside invasion and violence, they have done nothing significant to change these distortions.

They seem to absolve themselves of any responsibility for them or the political and social problems that their misinterpretations have caused or aggravated. However, they are outraged if Hindus should question their record or their motives. Wholesale Negation of Indic Civilization.This negationism of Indian civilization is not just a matter of the Vedas or the Aryan Invasion Theory. That merely sets the precedent for a negation of India's civilization as a whole. The same predictable pattern repeats itself in other areas of culture.

It is not only ancient India but all aspects of Indic civilization that are questionable. The logic is simple. Everything in Indian civilization came from migrants from the West (like the Aryan Invasion), borrowings from the West (like from the Greeks in ancient times), is inferior to that of the West (Hindu monism being at best a crude approach to Christian monotheism), or is simply not of any value at all (fantasy, mythology, error or superstition).

Whatever limited indigenous tradition there might have been is reduced to some mysterious Harappan, Dravidian culture that was erased by the intrusive Aryans or taken over by them without giving any credit in the process. This means that Indian civilization if it is indigenous to any significant degree remains fraudulent!

Puranic records of a hundred kings before the time of Krishna are dismissed as fanciful, even though names for one major dynasty, that of the Ikshvakus, and years of reign going back well over a thousand years prior to the Buddha, are recorded. For reconstructing any authentic history of India, Western Indologists rely on happenstance Greek, Chinese and Islamic travelers (who had their own religious and political motives), refusing to accept anything from Indians themselves.

That such visitors are often quite unreliable is ignored. Ancient travelers were prone to exaggerations and misinterpretations, like the Spanish in later times when they first visited America. Even Greek records are selectively used or distorted, like failing to mention Megasthenes's statement that Indians possessed records that went back hundreds of generations before Alexander.

Relative to the culture of ancient India, its negation by Western
Indologists is almost total. For sculpture, which was particularly important for the iconic temple worship in India, we are also told that what was of any value in it came from the Greeks after the time of Alexander. That Harappan statues are quite sophisticated and realistic and could represent indigenous influences is ignored. Later sculpture like that of South Indian temples is dismissed as quite inferior to that of Europe.
With regard to theatre, which was quite important in India, we are also told that it came from a Greek influence because the Greeks had great dramas (though lacking in the spiritual and yogic style of the Indians), again though there is no Indian recollection to such a Greek influence. For poetry, we are told that the classical Sanskrit poetry of such as Kalidasa is artificial, sterile and unrealistic, though it is highly spiritual, very musical and quite sophisticated.

We are told that it can't compare with that of the Greeks and Romans, much less Shakespeare! Great Indian traditions of music and dance, said to go back to the Sama Veda, are generally ignored as not of much value in world music, at most meriting a short footnote!

Relative to science, most of Indian science, including Astronomy, is reduced to a borrowing from the Greeks, though Indian astronomy and mathematics follows different lines. Indians did not need the Greeks to bring them Babylonian astronomy, as many such scholars state, as they had contact with that region long before Alexander and generally influenced the Middle East more than it did India.

Ayurvedic medicine is similarly thought to owe a lot to the Greeks, though Ayurveda has clear Vedic roots.

We must remember that India had a history of a great civilization going back three thousand years before the time of Alexander. Alexander's so-called conquest of India, which was more of a raid, was not even mentioned in historical records of India. Greek rulers in the third and second century BC were mentioned, but were not considered extraordinary.

It is extraordinary that the later, minor Greek rulers should find mention but not Alexander! In general, Alexander's supposed influence on India is exaggerated out of all proportion to reality. There was certainly no great adulation of Greek culture as superior to that of India, though Greek contributions in the field of astronomy were recognized.

On the contrary, the Greeks spoke highly of the civilization of India. Megasthenes, who came to India about the time of Alexander, in the fragments of his Indika that remain records and Indian tradition of 153 kings going back over 6400 years. Clearly, India had a sense of tremendous antiquity for its civilization when the Greeks came. They didn't see the Greeks as their superiors, as we do, nor did the Greeks themselves.
When it comes to religious literature, we are told that Vedic prayers and metaphors cannot compare with the psalms of the Bible in sensitivity or sophistication. For philosophy, there has been a desire to reduce Upanishadic thought to a Greek influence, even though history does not support that. Still a Greek borrowing is suspected.

For spirituality, we are told that Yoga, Vedanta and Buddhism are inferior to Western monotheism and its greater sense of compassion and that their claims of spiritual realization are either religiously or psychologically suspect. This is in spite of the fact that Western mystics like Meister Eckhart sound more like Hindu Vedantists than like Catholics, and though the ancient Greeks looked up to the Indians for their spiritual wisdom.

Though devotion is emphasized in Vedic texts and in the Gita itself, we are told that the great Hindu devotional tradition (Bhakti Yoga) owes a lot to the Christians and Muslims, though these religions do not have devotion as a yoga path or as connected with an understanding of yogic states of consciousness!

What we are dealing with, therefore, is an unprecedented and total negation of an entire civilization. We are not presented with India as having its own indigenous civilization comparable to that of China, Europe or the Middle East, but India as having little cultural, religious, historical or political unity of its own. And even this, we are told, was brought by invading people and not an indigenous development.
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