In his Discourse on Sanskrit and Its Literature, given at the College of France, Professor Bournouf states, “We will study India with its philosophy and its myths, its literature, its laws and its language. Nay it is more than India, it is a page of the origin of the world that we will attempt to decipher.”
In History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, Max Mueller observed, “In the Rig-Veda we shall have before us more real antiquity than in all the inscriptions of Egypt or Ninevah… the Veda is the oldest book in existence”
On a more personal note, another famous German thinker, Schopenhaur, remarked in his book, The Upanishads, “In the whole world there is no study so beneficial and so elevating as that of the Upanishads. It has been the solace of my life (and) it will be the solace of my death.”
What are the Vedas ?
Before beginning our discussion on the antiquity of the Vedic civilization, we should first of all understand what the Vedas are. The Sanskrit root vid means ‘to know’. Hence Veda means knowledge. The term Vedic refers to the literature and teachings of the Vedas. The Vedic scriptures are the spiritual literature of the ancient Indian culture, written in the Sanskrit language. They comprise of a huge collection of books which include material (mundane), religious (ritualistic) as well as spiritual (monotheistic) knowledge.
The Vedas are immense in both their size and scope. Quantitatively, the Bible and the Koran do not compare, and the Vedas easily surpass the lengthy ancient works such as Homer’s epics and the sacred cannon of China. For example, Mahabharata, one of the Vedic Historical texts, has 110,000 four line stanzas, making it the world’s largest poem – approximately eight times as old as Iliad and Odyssey combined. Ramayana, another Vedic history, on the other hand , consists of 24,000 couplets. The Vedic literature comprise not only of the Rig, Yajur, Atharva and the Sama Vedas but also of Upanishads, Puranas, Bhagavad Gita and Itihasas like Ramayana & Mahabharata. It encompasses all literature that upholds the Vedic tradition and culture.
Talking about the Vedic scope, it includes the nature, the universe, and a grand hierarchy of living beings – nonhumans, humans & humanoids. There is a large section of the Vedic literature, dealing with the detailed descriptions of the non-material worlds beyond the entire fabric of time and space.
For the earthly humans, however, the Vedas prescribe a balance between their spiritual and material lives. The Vedic social system combines the material impetus with the spiritual dynamics, and places a great emphasis on civilization as a precise tool for both material and spiritual upliftment.
Digging into the Past
A city dating back to 7500 BC
As was announced on January 16, 2002 from New Delhi, that the Indian scientists found pieces of wood, remains of pots, fossil bones, etc near the coast of Surat, Indian Science and Technology Minister Murli Manohar Joshi told a news conference. He said, “Some of these artifacts recovered by the National Institute of Ocean Technology from the site, such as the log of wood date back to 7500BCE, which is indicative of a very ancient culture in the present Gulf of Cambay that submerged subsequently.” Current belief is that the first cities appeared around 3500 bce in the valley of Sumer, where Iraq now stands. “We can safely say from the antiquities and the acoustic images of the geometric structures that there was human activity in the region more than 9,500 years ago (7500 BC),” said S.N. Rajguru, an independent archaeologist.
Michael A. Cremo, historian of archeology, claims that all the history textbooks would have to be rewritten if this ancient find proves to be of Vedic origin. According to Cremo, “The ancient Sanskrit writings of India speak of cities existing on the Indian subcontinent in very primeval times. Although historians tend to dismiss such accounts as mythological, these new discoveries promise to confirm the old literary accounts.”
Discovering River Saraswati
The legend of the mighty Saraswati River has lived on in India since time immemorial. The Vedic scriptures are full of tantalizing hymns about it being the life-stream of the people.
An Indian and French archaeological field team on the ground, coordinating with a French SPOT satellite in space, has ascertained that the Saraswati River, as described in the Vedas, is fact, not mythology. Vividly exposing the signatures of old rivers and their branches, data from SPOT shows that the Saraswati did exist.The Satellite’s sensors and pointable optics reveal the dried bed of a river extending from the present Ghaggar River and flowing four miles wide, in the region of India, west of what is now Delhi. In what is now Punjab, the Satellite imagery has shown the Saraswati’s bed to be twelve miles wide. From space, researchers can detect that Saraswati had several tributaries, watering an immense area of fertile soil. Traces of artificial canals watering remote agricultural locations are also visible.
Ancient Hindu Temples found worldwide
A Siva Lingam monument, a relic from the lost Champa Kingdom, stands proudly at the My Son site in Vietnam. Images depicting the Yoni and Lingam can be found in Hindu-influenced cultures across the entire Asian region.
A Cangkuang villager hunting for termites under a tree discovered a sharp hand-carved stone. Further investigation revealed that the location was the site of an ancient Vedic/Hindu temple. ony Djubiantono, head of West Java’s Bandung Archeology Agency says, “Based on a preliminary finding of various remains there are indications that this is a Hindu temple built in the seventh or eighth century.”
The ancient Nandeeshwara temple (dedicated to Lord Shiva) at Malleswaram was discovered only three years ago, but it has stood for 7,000 years on that spot. Being buried over the years hasn’t diminished its aura at all. The temple was discovered recently when the land was being dug up and it was found that the temple had remained untouched over the years .
Nearly 40 kilometers from the Thai-Cambodia border the Chen Sran temple has been discovered in the jungle of the northern Preah Vihear province. It was built in the ninth or tenth century, and is dedicated to the Vedic tradition. The temple stands 15 meters tall, and is 150 meters in length by 100 meters wide. Nearly 50 percent of the structure is damaged and most of its artifacts have been plundered, even though there is no decent road to the temple.
Archaeologists have found a statue of Nandi, the sacred bull that carried the Hindu god Shiva, among the ruins of what is believed to be an ancient temple at an excavation site in Yogyakarta in Indonesia.
In south Germany, a prehistoric idol of “lion-man” has been discovered which has caused amazement to scientists around the world. It is made out of tusk of a mammoth in the form of a human body with a lion head. Amazingly it is dated to be 32000 years old. The artifact was discovered in a cave named Stadel-Höhle im Hohlenstein in the Lonetal of the Swabian Alps, Germany. The figure was found exactly at the place in the cave where day and night meet, about 20 meters away from the entrance and buried 1.20 meter deep under the ground. The Vedic scriptures tell us that Krishna appeared in the divine form of a half-man, half-lion with a lion face, to protect His devotee Prahlad and to stop irreligion, personified by the demon Hiranyakasipu. A description of a standing Deity form of Nrsimha Avatara of the Lord is found in the agama Silpa Shastra, and is referred to as kevala-narasimha.
Major Anthropology Find Reported in India
Scientists report they have found evidence of the oldest human habitation in India, dating to 2 million years, on the banks of the Subarnarekha River. The 30-mile stretch between Ghatshila in the province of Jharkhand and Mayurbhanj in Orissa has reportedly yielded tools that suggest the site could be unique in the world, with evidence of human habitation without a break from 2 million years ago to 5,000 B.C. which makes it more important than even the Aldovai Gorge in East Africa, the Somme Valley of France, Stonehenge in England or the Narmada basin in Madhya Pradesh.
Anthropologist S. Chakraborty told the Calcutta Telegraph: “There are no signs of terra incognito (a break in the continuum) in the Subarnarekha valley, unlike any other site in India. Some of the heavier tools resemble those found in the East African stone-age shelters, used by the Australopithecus.”
Ancient Vishnu Deity Found in Russia
An ancient Vishnu idol (Vishnu is an incarnation of the Supreme God, as mentioned in the Vedas) has been found during excavation in an old village in Russia’s Volga region, raising questions about the prevalent view on the origin of ancient Russia.
The idol found in Staraya (old) Maina village dates back to VII-X century AD. Staraya Maina village in Ulyanovsk region was a highly populated city 1700 years ago, much older than Kiev, so far believed to be the mother of all Russian cities.
“We may consider it incredible, but we have ground to assert that Middle-Volga region was the original land of Ancient Rus. This is a hypothesis, but a hypothesis, which requires thorough research,” Reader of Ulyanovsk State University’s archaeology department Dr Alexander Kozhevin told state-run television Vesti.
Dr Kozhevin, who has been conducting excavation in Staraya Maina for last seven years said that every single square metre of the surroundings of the ancient town situated on the banks of Samara, a tributary of Volga, is studded with antiques.
Prior to unearthing of the Vishnu idol, Dr Kozhevin has already found ancient coins, pendants, rings and fragments of weapons. (Times of India, Dec 2006)
A broken storage jar with inscriptions in an ancient form of Tamil script, dated to the first century BCE., has been excavated in Egypt.
Dr. Roberta Tomber, a pottery specialist at the British Museum, London, identified the fragmentary vessel as a storage jar made in India. Iravatham Mahadevan, a specialist in Tamil epigraphy, has confirmed that the inscription on the jar is in Tamil written in the Tamil Brahmi script of about the first century. (The Hindu, November 2007)
Vedic Culture and today’s world
The above evidences clearly hint at the existence of a worldwide flourishing Vedic civilization, not so long ago, signifying the importance and authenticity of the Vedic scriptures. It shows, that our forefathers walked the Vedic path to attain the higher essential spiritual goals of life.
As a matter of fact, the Vedic civilization, being the oldest , has influenced every major culture and religion around the world that we know today, and can be declared as the parent of humanity.
The philosopher and researcher Edward Pococke also wrote about this conclusion in his book India in Greece (page 251). He states: “Sir William Jones concluded that the Hindus had an immemorial antiquity with the old Persians, Ethiopians and Egyptians, the Phoenicians, Greeks and Tuscans, the Scythians or Goths, and the Celts, the Chinese, Japanese and Peruvians.”
Pococke continues in his observation: “Now the whole of the society of Greece, civil and military, must strike one as being eminently Asiatic, much of it specially Indian. I shall demonstrate that these evidences were but the attendant tokens of Indian colonization with its corresponding religion and language. I shall exhibit dynasties disappearing from India, western India, to appear again in Greece, clans who fought upon the plains of Troy.” Therefore, since Greece is supposed to be the origins of European culture, and since Greece displays much of the same culture as India, we can say that the pre-Christian culture of Europe was Vedic.
William Durant, author of the 10-volume Story of Civilization, wrote, “India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of European languages. She was the mother of our philosophy, of our mathematics, of the ideals embodied in Christianity, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all.”
The above quotes would indicate that the Vedic culture was a global faith, a world influence. This may be given further credence in the remarks of Ctesias, the Greek writer that “The Hindus were as numerous as all the other nations put together.”
This is further corroborated in P. N. Oak’s World Vedic Heritage (p. 506) in which he presents evidence that, “In pre-Christian times the temples of Vedic Deities such as Vishnu, Shiva, the Mother goddess, Rama, Hanuman, and Krishna used to abound in all regions of the world. Evidence of this is found in the works of ancient authors such as Megasthenes, Strabo, and Herodotus. All those names are of Vedic origin, too. The term Megasthenes is Megh-Sthan-eesh, i.e. the Lord of the Region of the clouds. The name Herodotus is Hari-dootus, i.e. Messenger of [Hari] God.”
In Some Missing Chapters of World History P. N. Oak also explains that Shiva was worshiped all over the world, even in the Vatican. The word vatican comes from the Sanskrit word vatica, which means a bower or sylvan hermitage. He explains that even the premises of the Vatican have many Shiva emblems buried in their walls and cellars. Many such emblems have been dug up in other parts of Italy as well. And some of those found in the Vatican are still preserved in the Vatican’s Etruscan museum.
Similarly, there is striking similarity in all major religions in the world and by careful comparison; we can trace back the essence in all of them to the teachings of the Vedic literature. We can understand how the Vedic culture influenced Zoroastrianism, which influenced Judaism, which influenced Christianity, which influenced Islam. However, each succeeding religion became more distant from the original spiritual teachings and understanding, until each one thought that, rather than offering truths and processes to be followed, they promoted the idea that they were the only way, superior to all else. This topic however is outside the scope of this article and I shall deal with it some other day.
The Universal Message of the Vedas
The Vedas are compared to a desire tree because they contain all things knowable by man. They deal with mundane necessities as well as spiritual realization. The Vedas contain regulated principles of knowledge covering social, political, religious, economic, military, medicinal, chemical, physical, metaphysical subject matter and above all specific directions for spiritual realization.
The real essence of Vedic literatures can be categorized into three headings:
Sambandha: Understanding the answers to the questions, “Who am I? Who is God? What is my relation with God?”
Abhideya: The process of reviving our relationship with God
Prayojana: The mature result: attainment of love of God.
Thus the three subject matters described in the Vedic literature are: the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the central point of all relationships,
acting in devotional service to Him is one’s real occupation and attainment of love of God is the ultimate goal of life.
Further the Bhagavad-gita (4.34) enjoins the sincere seekers to approach a bonafide spiritual master for this purpose and “Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.”
~ Dwaipayan De, Kolkata, India
- Searching for Vedic India – Devamrita Swami
- Bhagavada Gita As it Is
- India in Greece – Edward Pococke
- Story of civilization – William Durant
- Some Missing Chapters of World History – P.N. Oak