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Scholarship or Prejudice??

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  • vishalsagarwal <vishalsagarwal@yahoo.com>
    Title: Scholarship or prejudice? Source: The Hindu Date: 04 March 2003 URL (Temporary): http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/op/stories/2003030400010200.htm
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 3, 2003
      Title: Scholarship or prejudice?
      Source: The Hindu
      Date: 04 March 2003
      URL (Temporary):
      http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/op/stories/2003030400010200.htm
      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.

      Strange views


      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
      own.

      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.

      Odd endeavour


      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.

      DAVID FRAWLEY
    • Paul Kekai Manansala <a.manansala@attbi.
      ... Yet he is fair in his judgment of the Aryans and ... not ... their ... Is this true? If so, I think he will have a hard time selling non- agricultural
      Message 2 of 2 , Mar 4, 2003
        --- In IndiaArchaeology@yahoogroups.com, "vishalsagarwal
        <vishalsagarwal@y...>" <vishalsagarwal@y...> wrote:
        > Title: Scholarship or prejudice?
        > Source: The Hindu
        > Date: 04 March 2003
        > URL (Temporary):
        > http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/op/stories/2003030400010200.htm
        > Author: David Frawley


        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
        > own.
        >


        Is this true? If so, I think he will have a hard time selling non-
        agricultural Aryans to Indo-Europeanists.

        Regards,
        Paul Kekai Manansala
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