Scholarship or Prejudice??
- Title: Scholarship or prejudice?
Source: The Hindu
Date: 04 March 2003
Author: David Frawley
MICHAEL WITZEL predictably attacks anyone who suggests any greatness
for Vedic culture or any connection between it and the Harappan
civilisation. The number of such Vedic scholars East and West that he
has made personal diatribes against is now over a dozen, though to
his lament, he has still not succeeded in reducing their numbers or
weakening the appeal of their ideas.
Yet Witzel's own views, which he seldom highlights, are much
stranger. He has not only proposed an Aryan invasion/migration into
ancient India in the post-Harappan era (after 1500 BCE) through the
Panjab going east, he has similarly detailed a Dravidian
invasion/migration of India about the same time through Sind but
going south. Yet he is fair in his judgment of the Aryans and
Dravidians, he regards both peoples as equally primitive and as not
having even developed agriculture much less any civilisation of their
He has stated that both Vasishta and Agastya, the two greatest Vedic
sages of north and south India, were in fact Iranians. Now he is also
proposing that Buddha, called Shakyamuni, was a descendant of recent
Shaka (Scythian) migrants to Bihar from Iran around 600 BCE and
suggests that Buddhism itself might even be an Iranian heresy, not
anything really Indian. Influenced by the story of how Biblical Moses
led the Jews out of Egypt into Israel, Witzel has written that
Vasishta brought King Bharata (who gave his name to the land of
India) out of Eastern Iran into India! Of course, while the Bible
remembers such an exodus no such Vedic or Puranic records exist, but
that does not slow him down.
Instead of either the Aryans or Dravidians as the authors of the
great Harappan culture Witzel has proposed the Mundas or aborigines.
While he claims I have offended the Mundas and other aboriginals for
questioning their ability to create the Harappan civilisation, he
doesn't seem to find any problem in offending both the Aryans and the
Dravidians by finding them both quite incapable of its creation (in
spite of their literary and historical records of great antiquity for
which the Mundas have nothing comparable). Yet he also suggests that
the Mundas themselves could just as well be migrants into the region
from the southeast, completing his scenario that people and culture
must come to India from the outside, regardless of how many peoples
and cultures India is able to produce.
Such views are much stranger than suggesting that the Vedic
literature, the largest remaining literature of the ancient world,
may actually be related to the Harappan/Sarasvati civilisation, the
largest urban civilisation of the ancient world, particularly since
both reflect the same geographical region. Such scholars ignore the
great Sarasvati river and its many archaeological sites that number
in the hundreds. They would place the original Vedic Sarasvati river
in Afghanistan and have the Vedic Aryans strangely ascribe this name
of their holiest river to a dried up stream in India on which
Harappan culture had coincidently once been centred, as if the Vedic
people had some intuition of the river's former greatness long before
they arrived! They would equate the sophisticated and advanced Vedic
literature with the compositions of uncivilised, primitive nomadic
tribes, though it has managed to leave its mark on the culture of the
entire subcontinent, and no other earlier literature has survived.
When I recently suggested in an article about the ecology of ancient
India (which doesn't even mention his name), that India provided the
ideal subtropical river system for developing civilisation, Witzel
now adds that India is also an unsuitable place to live, quoting how
people from the Iranians to the Moguls found the climate too hot for
them to stay. I don't know if he ever counted the number of people
able to live on these hot north Indian rivers compared to the deserts
of Iran and Central Asia. Even in Harappan and post-Harappan times,
North India was densely populated and could easily support a great
civilisation and maintain its continuity through the ages.
Battle for the soul of India
Witzel's background is purely as a linguist. He does not claim a
deeper study of Indian philosophy, yoga, or spirituality, for which
he has never expressed any regard. So when he speaks now of the soul
of India one has to wonder what he is talking about. Nor has he ever
written about Indian culture or Bharatiya samskriti in a positive
light or as a real entity in its own right.
His `love' for India is so well known to the Indian community in the
U.S. that there is hardly an internet discussion list maintained by
them where his rigid anti-Hindu and anti-India views have not been
noted. Witzel's name is commonly mentioned along with Dan Burton and
other India-bashers. A simple search on the Internet will reveal
numerous contemptuous remarks that Witzel makes against Indians,
Hindus, India and the Indian government. His open support for the
Marxist historians of India is also well known. Many people have
started seeing through his misrepresentations, abuse and vitriol,
disguised as `scholarship.' The reader may himself refer to reviews
of his writings at http://www.bharatvani.org/indology.html, including
articles that question Witzel's knowledge of the Sanskrit language.
Witzel has even recently done some articles on the Vedic religion, as
he claims, to show what it really was and to counter the many
distortions about it that exist today (probably made by Hindus!).
This is a rather odd endeavour for someone who neither believes in
nor practises the Vedic religion, nor has ever shown any respect for
its great ancient or modern teachers, much less sought to be a
disciple in any Vedic tradition or lineage. It reminds one of the
atheists on temple boards that have occurred in Kerala.
Yet for perhaps the first time, Witzel suggests in his latest
response that he really honours the great civilisation of India after
all, but leaves us guessing in exactly what way. Perhaps he hasn't
quite figured it out yet. In any case he has not referred to which of
his papers actually say this.
No, India does not need people like Witzel to save its soul, any more
than it needs Christian missionaries to do so. It doesn't need them
to teach it what dharma, truth or civilisation really are. Similarly,
the world of Vedic scholarship does not require them to explain the
secrets of the Vedas, which clearly they don't even suspect, much
less know. In fact if Witzel is truly interested in real
spirituality, which is the true soul of India and of the Vedas, India
can provide him with quite enough teachers and teachings to keep him
quiet for a long time.
- --- In IndiaArchaeology@yahoogroups.com, "vishalsagarwal
<vishalsagarwal@y...>" <vishalsagarwal@y...> wrote:
> Title: Scholarship or prejudice?Yet he is fair in his judgment of the Aryans and
> Source: The Hindu
> Date: 04 March 2003
> URL (Temporary):
> Author: David Frawley
> Dravidians, he regards both peoples as equally primitive and asnot
> having even developed agriculture much less any civilisation oftheir
> own.Is this true? If so, I think he will have a hard time selling non-
agricultural Aryans to Indo-Europeanists.
Paul Kekai Manansala