Showing posts with label Avestan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Avestan. Show all posts

Date of Rig Veda

Date of Rig veda has always been controversial as it is the oldest surviving literary work. Generally it is put at 1900BC. Let us see how it came to that date and how experts differ on that date.

Max Muller
Max Muller assigned the period 1500 BCE to 500 BCE for Rigveda Samhita. One of the reasons given is that beginnings of human kind cannot be earlier to 4000 B.C.E. Muller took particular care to ensure that the hypothetical Aryan invasion took place after the Biblical flood and he arbitrarily assigned a date of 1200 B.C to the Rig Veda, which is considered as the oldest among the four Vedas. Since the evidence was flimsy, he recanted his earlier assignment near the end of his life

Aryan Invasion theory
This Aryan invasion theory was proposed by the British archaeologist Wheeler around the early part of the twentieth century. According to this theory, all the Vedas were not composed in India. They were composed by members of tribes, the so called Aryans, who invaded India from the Northwest, destroyed the old civilisation in the Indus Valley, supposedly Dravidian, and drove out these original inhabitants to the south of India and other parts. The ruins of this early Indus Valley civilisation dated 3000 BCE to 7000BCE or earlier. By this theory the date of Rig Veda is before 3000BC. All the modern archaeologists like Shaffer declare that there is no archaeological evidence for such an invasion; the invasion is a myth propagated by historians.

Avesta and Rig Veda
It lookslike avestan and vedas are not related , unnecesarily told they are related to create confusion.
According to Thapar, the date of Avesta has been controversial, but a mid-second millennium date is now being accepted. Thapar considers the the Hittite-Mittani treaty as more archaic than the Sanskrit of Rig-Veda and hence dates Rig-Veda to be of a date closer to the language and concept of Avesta.
Georg Fuerstein, Subhash Kak and David Frawley dismiss the dates suggested by Thapar, A. L. Basham and Max Muller. According to them, the Rig Veda mentions the river Saraswati which disappeared in 1900 BCE and so it has to be at least eight centuries older than the Max Muller's arbitrary date of 1200 BC. Vedic literature is considered older than Avestan literature by 500 - 1000 years though the dating of both is speculative.
The Mittani Indo-Aryan language is considered older than Vedic or Avestan because it has aika instead of eka. Vedic is supposed to to have merged ai to e and hence is considered younger. But if you take the word for seven in Mittani - satta, it is considered to be much later than Vedic. So some folks believe that this dating based on selectively chosen words cannot be trusted fully.
If you look at the Avestan and Vedic language you see that 'h' in one language has been renamed as 's' in another. There are people like Rajesh Kochchar and Romila Thapar who believe that the Vedic people migrated from the Haraxvati (Saraswati) region in Afghanistan and not the mythical Saraswati flowing underground through Rajasthan. It seems this replacing 's' with 'h' is prevalent in some parts of Rajasthan and Assam even today. One point of view is that it is not possible to find which one came first based on language traits.

The Sarasvati described in Rigveda is a massive river, located between Yamuna and Shutadrī (Sutlej) flowing into the ocean. The satellite studies indicate this river as completely dried up by the date 1750 BCE. The Satellite study cannot refer to the Sarasvati (Haraquiti) river in Afghanistan since it is a small river that dries up in the desert. Thus the lower bound for the Vedic civilisation is 1750 BCE. It is more ancient than this date because Rigveda does not mention any desert; it is mentioned in the Brāhmaņa books - Shatapatha Brāhmaņa - which is at least 500-1000 years later than Rigveda Samhita.

The knowledge of mathematics in Rigveda and related texts is another important evidence. Rigveda not only mentions the decimal number system for integers but also the infinity. It mentions in detail the spoked wheel with arbitrary number of spokes (1.164.13,14,48). Clearly such verses would imply that these authors knew the associated mathematical properties of circle and square. The algorithm for circling the square needed for making the spoked wheel is given in the Baudhāyana Shulba Sūtra which is the oldest of the Shulba Sūtrās, ancient mathematical texts dealing with the methods for the construction of altars needed in Vedic rituals and other related mathematical topics. These books are later than the Rigveda Samhita. Even though Dutta made a detailed study of these books around 1930 and showed that the theorem attributed to Pythogoras is contained in these books in a more general form, the western indologists like Keith (or Whitney earlier) did not pay much attention since they were convinced, without any proof, that all the sciences in ancient India - mathematics, astronomy etc., were borrowed from Greeks or Egyptians. It was in 1962 that the American mathematician Seidenberg showed that, “the elements of ancient geometry found in Egypt and Babylonia stem from a ritual system of the kind found in Shulba Sūtrās.” The Shulba Sūtrās contain the algorithm for building the pyramid shaped funeral altar (smashāņa chit). Recall that the Egyptian pyramids are used as tombs for the dead. There is no ancient Egyptian literature for the detailed construction of these pyramids. Hence it is more than likely that their source is the Shulba Sūtrās. This piece of evidence fixes the date for the Baudhāyana Shulba Sūtra which gives a lower bound date for Rigveda.

Rigveda and all other ancient books contain several statements of astronomical significance like the position of Sun in the Zodiac on the two equinoxes, vernal or spring equinox and autumn equinox. Indian Astronomy is based on sidereal Zodiac. The Zodiac is divided into 27 roughly equal segments, all are measuring 130 20' of arc. The seventh mandala of the Rigveda records the vernal equinox in Mrigashira Constellation pointing to a date around 4000 BCE - a fact noted by Jacobi and Tilak. Again several Shulba Sūtrās declare that a pole star is visible. Since a visible pole star occurs only at certain epochs, such a citation gives a normal range of dates for that event. The astronomical dates put the dates before 4000BC.

Silver & Cotton
Again Rigveda does not mention either silver or cotton. Since the date of cotton is well established, again we get a lower bound on the Rig Vedic date.

Rigveda repeatedly refers to ancient sages and modern sages. The age associated with these ancient sages can be called as the high Rig Vedic period which is declared to be 3100 BCE or early. This period 3700-3800 BCE is the closing of the Rig Vedic age, especially the Mandalas seven and third associated with the sages Vasişhţa and Vishvāmitra. The Shulba Sūtrā texts of Baudhāyana, Ashvalāyana etc., can be dated 3100-2000 BCE; 1900 BCE is the drying up of Sarasvati and the end of Vedic age.

Iron Age
There is no mention of Iron in Rig veda , As the iron age starts before 12th century BC. The dates have to much earlier than that. Vedic term "ayas", interpreted as iron. 'Ayas' in other Indo- European languages like Latin or German usually means copper, bronze or ore generally, not specially iron. There is no reason to insist that in such earlier Vedic times, 'ayas' meant iron, particularly since other metals are not mentioned in the 'Rig Veda' (except gold that is much more commonly referred to than ayas). Moreover, the 'Atharva Veda' and 'Yajur Veda' speak of different colors of 'ayas'(such as red & black), showing that it was a generic term. Hence it is clear that 'ayas' generally meant metal and not specifically iron. Moreover, the enemies of the Vedic people in the 'Rig Veda' also use ayas, even for making their cities, as do the Vedic people themselves. Hence there is nothing in Vedic literture to show that either the Vedic culture was an ironbased culture or that there enemies were not.

Indus Valley Civilization.
Bhagwan Singh, an avid writer on the Indus Valley civilisation, sees the entire Harappan ecology in the Rig Veda. He chides those who have been "using both their brains and chair to save the Vedic Aryans from the Harappan authorship". "Now we have a continuous history of the Indian continent from 7000 BC. But isn't it ironical that we couldn't identify any of the archaeological cultures with literary cultures?" asks an archaeologist who does not want to be identified. He has no doubt that the Rig Vedic Aryans were the authors of the Harappan civilisation.

Life and Time controversies of Zarathushtra

Let us see some of the controversies associated with Zarathushtra

Date of Zarathushtra

No one knows where or when the Prophet was born. Some legends place his birth in western Iran, perhaps near Tehran; others, which are somewhat more likely due to the eastern Iranian language of his poetry, place his birthplace in the east. As for the date of his birth, it has been since ancient times a matter of controversy. Greek sources placed him as early as 6000 B.C., a reckoning derived from poorly transmitted Zoroastrian legends; few if any scholars take that date seriously. The traditional Zoroastrian date for Zarathushtra's birth and ministry is around 600 B.C. This is derived from a Greek source that places him "300 years before Alexander" which would give that date; other rationales for the 600 BC date identify the King Vishtaspa of Zarathushtra's Gathas with the father of the Persian King Darius, who lived around that time.

As the linguists of both Europe and India worked on the Gathas, however, it became clear that the language of the Gathas attributed to Zarathushtra was far older than the language spoken in Iran at the time of King Darius' father. Gathic Avestan was very close to the Sanskrit of the Indian Rig-Vedas, which can be dated from the period 1500-1200 BC. This would mean that Zarathushtra lived far earlier than the "traditional" date. Some scholars have said that the 600 BC date is still plausible if Gathic Avestan was actually an artificially preserved sacred language, somewhat like Latin, which continued in literature and rituals thousands of years after it had ceased to be spoken.

Recent work by Martin Schwartz and Almut Hintze tends to discount this theory, as the linguists show that the Gathas are not the work of an academic writing in a dead language; they show all the signs of poetry composed and recited in an oral tradition, similar to the heroic poetry of Homer or the Rig-Vedas. These studies would confirm the earlier date for Zarathushtra.

The problem of Zarathushtra's time will never be solved, unless some improbable archaeological find turns up. Most scholars agree on a time-frame for Zarathushtra which could be as early as 1700 B.C. or as late as 1000 B.C.

Zoroaster's Name

The name Zarathustra is a Bahuvrihi compound in the Avestan language, of zarata- "feeble, old" and usatra "camel", translating to "having old camels, the one who owns old camels". The first part of the name was formerly commonly translated as "yellow" or "golden", from the Avestan "zaray", giving the meaning "having yellow camels".

A more romantic, but inaccurate, translation of the name in the past has been Bringer of the Golden Dawn, based on the mistaken assumption that the second part of the name is a variant of the Vedic word "Ushas" meaning "dawn".

This last translation seems to have derived from a desire to give a more fitting meaning to the prophet's name than "owner of feeble camels."

An alternate reading is "old camel." Animals such as camels and horses were essential and even sacred to the people of Zarathushtra's age, and thus a name containing one of these animals marks a person as important. A similar naming practice occurred among the ancient Greeks where names containing "-ippos" or horse denoted high birth - such as Philippos (lover of horses), Aristippos (best horse), or Xanthippos (yellow horse).

The later Zoroastrians, perhaps embarrassed by their prophet's primitive-sounding name, said that the name meant "Golden Light," deriving their meaning from the word zara and the word ushas, light or dawn. There is no doubt about Zarathushtra's clan name, which is Spitama - perhaps meaning "white." Zarathushtra's father was named Pouruchaspa (many horses) and his mother was named Dughdova (milkmaid). His birthday is celebrated on March 26, as part of the Iranian New Year Festival.

Life if Zarathushtra

Zarathushtra is said to have had six children, three boys and three girls. This is not exact information, since the number and gender equals that of the six Amesha Spentas and may be only symbolic. But the last Gatha is composed for the marriage of Zarathushtra's daughter Pouruchista (Full of Wisdom) so he is known to have had at least one child. Zarathushtra, in the legends, had three wives (in sequence) of whom the last was Hvovi (Good Cattle) the daughter of King Vishtaspa's prime minister. Thus Zarathushtra married into the king's court; Pouruchista, in turn, married the prime minister.

There is no exact or provable information about Zarathushtra's life at court, though it may be assumed that it was here that he composed the Gathas, and the names of king and court appear in the poetry as if, in oral recitation, they were there listening to him. The prophet may have spent almost three decades there, before his death at age 77.

Again, no one knows how Zarathushtra died. Many legends, and Zoroastrian tradition, say that he was killed, while praying in the sanctuary, by a foreign enemy of the king. But there is no holiday commemorating the martyrdom of the Prophet, as there would be in other religions (Christianity, for instance) and other Zoroastrian traditions, and scholars, say that Zarathushtra died peacefully.

One of the controversies about Zarathushtra concerns whether he was a priest. He did not live in a religious vacuum, but was born into a society that practiced the polytheistic rites of ancient Indo-Iranian religion. This religion already had a well-developed system of priesthood and service. In one verse of the Gathas (Y,33, 6) Zarathushtra calls himself a "zaota" which in later Zoroastrian usage is the word for officiating priest. The word, though, literally means "invoker" and both Taraporewala and Jafarey translate it simply, claiming that Zarathushtra never meant to call himself a priest. It is very possible that Zarathushtra, if not a priest, had priestly training (how else would he know the highly technical spiritual language found in the Gathas, as well as the ability to compose philosophical/religious poetry?). Other Zoroastrians, including more traditionally minded ones, say that Zarathushtra was indeed a priest and the first of the millennia-old tradition of Zoroastrian ritualizing priesthood.

In the later Avesta, Zarathushtra is used as a character in dialogue with Ahura Mazda; he is featured in ritual texts and in law- texts, and great amounts of ritual and doctrine are thus attributed to him, whether he was their originator or not. In much later Zoroastrian traditions, some of which were not recorded until centuries after the Arab conquest, the life of the Prophet abounds with miracles and divine interventions.

His mother glowed with the divine Glory usually reserved for kings; the soul of the prophet was placed by God in the sacred Haoma plant (which Z. condemned in the Gathas) and the prophet was conceived through the essence of Haoma in milk (though the birth is not a virgin birth, but the natural product of two special, but earthly parents.). The child laughed at his birth instead of crying, and he glowed so brightly that the villagers around him were frightened and tried to destroy him. All attempts to destroy young Zarathushtra failed; fire would not burn him nor would animals crush him in stampedes; he was cared for by a mother wolf in the wilderness.

He spent years in the wilderness communing with God before his first vision, in which Vohu Manah came to him in the form of a huge Angel. All the heavenly entities, the Amesha Spentas, instructed Zarathushtra in heaven, and he received perfect knowledge of past, present, and future. Zarathushtra's preaching to King Vishtaspa was enhanced by miracles, especially the healing of a paralyzed horse that convinced the king to accept the new religion.

Most of these motifs are familiar from the lives of other culture heroes such as Romulus, Moses, and Jesus. Whether any of this literally happened is a matter for belief, not scholarship. Tradition-minded Zoroastrians do accept these legends as truth about Zarathushtra. Other, more modern Zoroastrians, who rely more on the Gathas as a scriptural source, discount the legends as pious fantasies, noting that there are no miracles or supernatural interventions in the Gathas.

Unlike Mohammed's recitation of the Koran, the Gathas of Zarathushtra are not "channeled" - that is, the Gathas are regarded as the inspired composition of a poet-prophet rather than a text dictated by a heavenly being. Zarathushtra was inspired by God, through the Bounteous Immortals of Vohu Manah, Asha, and the others - but he was not a passive recipient of the divine wisdom. In accordance with Zoroastrian philosophy, he reached God through his own effort simultaneously with God's communication to him.

Zarathushtra was never divine, not even in the most extravagant legends. He remained a man like all others, though divinely gifted with inspiration and closeness to Ahura Mazda. His life is an inspiration for Zoroastrians of all persuasions, traditionalist and modern - in his innovation, loving relationship with God, and spiritual courage he is a model for all his followers. After his death. Zarathushtra's great soul attains almost the level of a Bounteous Immortal, but still is not merged in the divinity.