THE ARCTIC HOME IN THE VEDAS
THE ARCTIC HOME IN THE VEDAS,
BEING ALSO A NEW KEY TO THE INTERPRETATION
BY BAL GANGADHAR TILAK,
B.A., LL. B., AUTHOR OF Orion or Researches into
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POONA: -- THE MANAGER, KESARI, POONA CITY.
BOMBAY:-- MESSRS. RAMCHANDRA GOVIND & SON, BOOKSELLERS
The present volume is a sequel to my 0rion or Researches into the Antiquity of the Vedas, published in 1893. The estimate of Vedic antiquity then generally current amongst Vedic scholars was based on the assignment of arbitrary periods of time to the different strata into which the Vedic literature is divided ; and it was believed that the oldest of these strata could not, at the best, be older than 2400 B. C. In my Orion, however, I tried to shew that all such estimates, besides being, too modest, were vague and uncertain, and that the astronomical statements found in the Vedic literature supplied us with far more reliable data for correctly ascertaining the ages of the different periods of Vedic literature. These astronomical statements, it was further shewn, unmistakably pointed out that the Vernal equinox was in the constellation of Mriga or Orion (about 4500 B. C.) during the period of the Vedic hymns, and that it bad receded to the constellation of the Kyittikas, or the Pleiades (about 2500 B. C.) in the days of the Br‚hmanas. Naturally enough these results were, at first, received by scholars in a sceptical spirit. But my position was strengthened when it was found that Dr. Jacobi, of Bonu, had independently arrived at the same conclusion, and soon after scholars like Prof. Bloomfield, M. Bartb, the late Dr. Bulher and others more or less freely acknowledged the force of my argurnents. Dr. Thibaut, the late Dr. Whitney and a few others were, however, of opinion that the evidence adduced by me was not conclusive. But the subsequent discovery, by my friend the late Mr. S. B. Dixit, of a passage in the Shatapatha, Br‚thmana, plainly stating that the Krittik‚s never swerved, in those days, from the due east, i.e., the Vernal equinox, has served to dispel all lingering doubts regarding the age of the B‚hmanas; while another Indian astronomer, Mr. V. B. Ketkar, in a recent number of the Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal
But if the age of the oldest Vedic period was thus carried back to 4500 B.C., one was still tempted to ask whether we had, in that limit, reached the ultima Thule of the Aryan antiquity. For, as stated by Prof. Bloomfield, while noticing my Orion in his address on the occasion of the eighteenth anniversary of John Hopkin's University, "the language and literature of the Vedas is, by no means, so primitive as to place with it the real beginnings of Aryan life." " These in all probability and in all due moderation," he rightly observed, reach back several thousands of years more, and it was, -he said, therefore " needless to point out that this curtain, which seems to shut off our vision at 4,500 B. C., may prove in the end a veil of thin gauze." I myself held the same view, and much of my spare time during the last ten years has been devoted to the search of evidence which would lift up this curtain and reveal to us the long vista of primitive Aryan antiquity. How I first worked on the lines followed up in Orion, how in the light of latest researches in geology and archaeology bearing on the primitive history of man, I was gradually led to a different line of search, and finally how the conclusion, that the ancestors of the Vedic Rishis lived in an Arctic home in inter-glacial times, was forced on me by the slowly accumulating mass of Vedic and Avestic evidence, is fully narrated in the book, -and need not, therefore, be repeated in this place. I desire, however, to take this opportunity of gratefully acknowledging the generous sympathy shewn to me at a critical time by that venerable scholar Prof. F. Max Muller, whose recent death was mourned as a personal loss by his numerous admirers throughout India. This is not the place where we may, with propriety, discuss the merits of the policy adopted by the Bombay Government in 1897. Suffice it to say that in order to put down certain public excitement, caused by its own famine and plague policy, the Government of the day deemed it prudent to prosecute some Vernacular papers in the province, and prominently amongst them the Kesari, edited by me, for writings which were held to be seditious, and I was awarded eighteen months' rigorous imprisonment. But political offenders in India are not treated better than ordinary convicts, and had it not been for the sympathy and interest taken by Prof. Max Muller, who knew me only as the author of Orion, and other friends, I should have been deprived of the pleasure, - then the only pleasure, - of following up my studies in these days. Prof. Max Muller was kind enough to send me a copy of his second edition of the Rig-Veda, and the Government was pleased to allow me the rise of these and other books, and also of light to read for a few hours at night. Some of the passages from the Rig-Veda, quoted in support of the Arctic theory in the following page, were collected during such leisure as I could got in these times. It was, mainly through the efforts of Prof. Max Muller, backed by the whole Indian press, that I was released after twelve months; and in the very first letter I wrote to Prof. Max Muller after my release, I thanked him sincerely for his disinterested kindness, and also gave him a brief summary of my Dow theory regarding the primitive Aryan home as disclosed by Vedic evidence. It was, of course, not to be expected that a scholar, who had worked all his life on a different line, would accept the new view at once, and that too on reading a bare outline of the evidence in its support. Still it was encouraging to hear from him that though the interpretations of Vedic passages proposed by me were probable, yet my theory appeared to be in conflict with the established geological facts. I wrote in reply that I had already examined the question from that stand-point, and expected soon to place before him the whole evidence in support of my view. But, unfortunately, I have been deprived of this pleasure by his deeply mourned death which occurred soon after.
The first manuscript of the book was written at the end of 1898, and since then I have had the advantage of discussing the question with many scholars in Madras, Calcutta, Lahore, Benares and other places during my travels in the different parts of India. But I hesitated to publish the book for a long time,-a part of the delay is due to other causes, because the lines of investigation had ramified into many allied sciences such as geology, archaeology, comparative mythology and so on; and, as I was a mere layman in these, I felt some diffidence as to whether I had correctly grasped the bearing of the latest researches in these sciences. The difficulty is well described by Prof. Max Aluller in his review of the Prehistoric Antiquities of Indo-Europeans, published in the volume of his Last Essays. "The ever-increasing division and sub-division," observes the learned Professor, "of almost every branch of human knowledge into more special branches of study make the specialist, whether he likes it or not, more and more dependent on the judgment and the help of his fellow-workers. A geologist in our day has often to deal with questions that concern the mineralogist, the chemist, the archaeologist, the philologist, nay, the astronomer, rather than the geologist pur et simple, and, as life is too short for all this, nothing is left to him but to appeal to his colleagues for counsel and help. It is one of the great advantages of University life, that any one, who is in trouble about some question outside his own domain, can at once get the very best information from his colleagues, and many of the happiest views and brightest solutions of complicated problems are due, as is well-known, to this free intercourse, this scientific give and take in our academic centres!' And again, "Unless a student can appeal for help to recognised authorities on all these subjects, he is apt to make brilliant discoveries, which explode at the slightest touch of the specialist, and, on the other hand, to pass by facts which have only to be pointed out in order to disclose their significance and far-reaching importance. People are hardly aware of the benefit which every branch of science derives from the free and generous exchange of ideas, particularly in our Universities, where every body may avail himself of the advice and help of his colleagues, whether they warn him against yet impossible theories, or call his attention to a book or an article, where the very point that interests him, has been fully worked out and settled once for all. " But alas it is not given to us to move in an atmosphere like this, and small wonder if Indian students are not found to go beyond the stage of passing the examinations. There is not a single institution in India, nor, despite the University Commission, can we hope to have any before long, where one can get all up-to-date information on any desired subject, so easily obtainable at a seat of learning in the West; and in its absence the only course open to a person, investigating a particular subject, is, in the words of the same learned scholar, " to step boldly out of his own domain, and take an independent servey of the preserves of his neighbours, even at the risk of being called 'I an interloper, an ignoramus, a mere dilettante," for, "whatever accidents he may meet with himself, the subject itself is sure to be benefited." Working under such disadvantages, I was, therefore, glad, when, on turning the pages of the first volume of the tenth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, recently received, I found that Prof. Geikie, in his article on geology, took the same view of Dr. Croll's calculations, as summarised at the end of the second chapter of this book. After stating that Croll's doctrine did not make way amongst physicists and astronomers, the eminent geologist says that more recently (1895) it has been critically examined by Mr. E. P. Culverwell, who regards it as "a vague speculation, clothed indeed with delusive semblance of severe numerical accuracy, but having no foundation in physical fact, and built up of parts which do not dovetail one into the other. "If Dr. Croll's calculations are disposed of in this way, there remains nothing to prevent us from accepting the view of the American geologists that the commencement of the Post- glacial period can not be placed at a date earlier than 8000 B. C.
It has been already stated that the beginnings of Aryan civilisation must be supposed to date back several thousand years before the oldest Vedic period; and when the commencement of the Post-glacial epoch is brought down to 8000 B.C., it is not at all surprising if the date of primitive Aryan life is found to go back to it from 4500 B. C., the age of the oldest Vedic period. In fact, it is the main point sought to be established in the present volume. There are many passages in the Rig-Veda, which, though hitherto looked upon as obscure and unintelligible, do, when interpreted in the light of recent scientific researches, plainly disclose the Polar attributes of the Vedic deities, or the traces of an ancient Arctic calendar; while the Avesta expressly tells us that the happy land of Airyana. VaÍjo, or the Aryan Paradise, was located in a region where the sun shone but once a year, and that it was destroyed by the invasion of snow and ice, which rendered its climate inclement and necessitated a migration southward. These are plain and simple statements, and when we put them side by side with what we know of the Glacial and the Post-glacial epoch from the latest geological researches, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the primitive Aryan home was both Arctic and inter-glacial. I have often asked myself, why the real bearing of these plain and simple statements should have so long remained undiscovered; and let me assure the reader that it was not until I was convinced that the discovery was due solely to the recent progress in our knowledge regarding the primitive history of the human race and the planet it inhabits, that I ventured to publish the present volume. Some Zend scholars have narrowly missed the truth, simply because 40 or 50 years ago they were unable to understand how a happy home could be located in the ice-bound regions near the North Pole. The progress of geological science in the latter half of the last century has, however, now solved the difficulty by proving that the climate at the Pole during the interglacial times was mild, and consequently not unsuited for human habitation. There is, therefore, nothing extraordinary, if it be left to us to find out the real import of these passages in the Veda and the Avesta. It is true that if the theory of an Arctic and inter- glacial primitive Aryan home is proved, many a chapter in Vedic exegetics, comparative mythology, or primitive Aryan history, will have to be revised or re-written, and in the last chapter of this book I have myself discussed a few important points which will be affected by the new theory. But as remarked by me at the end of the book, considerations like these, howsoever useful they may be in inducing caution in our investigations, ought not to deter us from accepting the results of an inquiry conducted on strictly scientific lines. It is very bard, I know, to give up theories upon which one has worked all his life. But, as Mr. Andrew Lang has put it, it should always be borne in mind that "Our little systems have their day, or their hour : as knowledge advances they pass into the history of the efforts of pioneers." Nor is the theory, of the Arctic home so new and startling as it appears to be at the first sight. Several scientific men have already declared their belief that the original home of man must be sought for in the Arctic regions; and Dr. Warren, the President of the Boston University, has anticipated me, to a certain extent, ill his learned and suggestive work, the Paradise Found or the Cradle of the Human Race at the North Pole, the tenth edition of which was published in America in 1893. Even on strict philological grounds the theory of a primitive Aryan home in Central Asia has been now almost abandoned in favour of North Germany or Scandinavia ; while Prof. Rhys, in his Hibbert Lectures on Celtic Heathendom, is led to suggest "some spot within the Arctic circle" oil purely mythological considerations. I go only a step further, and show that the theory, so far as the primitive Aryan home is concerned, is fully borne out by Vedic and Avestic traditions, and, what is still more important, the latest geological researches not only corroborate the Avestic description of the destruction of the Aryan Paradise, but enable us to place its existence in times before the last Glacial epoch. The evidence on which Irely is fully set forth in the following pages ; and, though the question is thus brought for the first time within the arena of Vedic and Avestie scholarship, I trust that my critics will not prejudge me in any way? but give their judgment, not on a passage here or an argument there,-for, taken singly, it may not sometimes be found to be conclusive,-but on the whole mass of evidence collected in tile book, irrespective of how farreaching the ultimate effects of such a theory may be.
In conclusion, I desire to express my obligations to my friend and old teacher Prof. S. G. Jinsiv‚le, M.A., who carefully went through the whole manuscript, except the last chapter which was subsequently written, verified all references, pointed out a few inaccuracies, and made some valuable suggestions. I have also to acknowledge with thanks the ready assistance rendered to me by Dr. R‚mkrishna Gopil Bh‚nd‚rkar, C. I. E., and Khan Bah‚dur Dr. Dastur Hoshang
POONA: March, 1903. B. G. TILAK.
ject matter of the Vedic hymns is here referred to almost in the same terms in which it is expressed by Vy‚sa in the Mah‚bh‚rata verse quoted above; and with such express texts before us, the only way to reconcile the conflicting statements about the human and the superhuman origin of the hymns is to refer them to the form and the matter of the hymns respectively, as suggested by Patanjali and other schol. ars. Dr. Muir notices a passage (VIII, 96, 4-5) where the poet is said to have "generated (ajÓjanat) for Indra the new est exhilerating hymn (navÓyasÓm mandr‚m giram), springing from an intelligent mind, an ancient mental product (dhiyam pratn‚m), full of sacred truth."(1) Here one and the same hymn is said to be both new and old at; the same time; and Dr. Muir quotes Aufrecht to show that gir, that is, expression or wording, is here contrasted with dhÓ or thought, obviously showing that an old thought (pratn‚ dhÓh) has been couched in now language (navÓyasÓ gÓh) by the bard to whom the hymn is ascribed. In other words, the hymn is ancient in substance though new in expression,-a conclusion to which we have been already led on different grounds. We may also cite in this connection the fact that amongst the different heads into which the contents of the Br‚hmanas have been classified by Indian divines, we find one which is termed Pur‚-kalpa or the rites or traditions of a by-gone age, showing that even the Br‚hmanas are believed to contain ante-diluvian stories or traditions. The statement in the Taittirlya Samhit‚ that "The priests, in old times, were afraid that the dawn would not terminate or ripen into sunshine," is quoted by S‚yana as an example of Pur‚-kalpa, and we have seen before that this can be explained only by supposing it to refer to the Arctic dawn,- an incident witnessible by man only in the inter-glacial times. If the Br‚hmanas can be thus shown to contain or refer to the facts of a by-gone age, a fortiori the
1. See Muir 0. S. T., Vol. III, p. 239.
Vedas may, very well, be said to do the same. Thus from whatever side we approach the question, we are irresistibly led, by 'internal as well as external evidence, to the conclusion that the subject matter of the Vedic hymns is ancient and inter- glacial, and that it was incorporated into the Vedic hymns in post-Glacial times by Rishis who inherited the same in the shape of continuous traditions from their inter-glacial forefathers.
There are many other points in Vedic interpretation, or in Vedic and Pur‚nic mythology, which are elucidated, or, we may even say, intelligently and rationally explained for the first time, by the theory of the Arctic home in inter-glacial times. For instance, we can now easily account for the disappointment of those Western scholars, who, when the Vedas became first known to them, expected to find therein the very beginnings of the Aryan civilisation or the out-pourings of the Aryan mind as it first became impressed with awe and wonder by the physical phenomena or the workings of natural elements and looked upon them an divine manifestations. Our theory now shows very clearly that though the Vedas are the oldest records of the Aryan race, yet the civilisation, or the characteristics and the worship of the deities mentioned therein did not originate with the Vedic bards, but was derived by them from their inter- glacial forefathers and preserved in the forms of hymns for the benefit of posterity ; and if any one wants to trace the very beginnings of the Aryan civilisation he must go back beyond the last Glacial period, and see how the an. cestors of the Aryan race lived and worked in their primeval Polar home. Unfortunately we have very few materials for ascertaining the degree of this civilisation. But we think we have shewn that there are grounds to hold that the inter-glacial Aryan civilisation and culture must have been of a higher type than what it is usually supposed to be ; and that there is no reason why the primitive Aryans should not be placed on an equal footing with the prehistoric inhabitants of Egypt in point or culture and civilisation. The vitality and superiority of the Aryan races, as disclosed by their conquest, by extermination or assimilation, of the non-Aryan races with whom they came in contact in their migrations in search of new lands from the North Pole to the Equator, if not to the farther south, is intelligible only on the assumption of a high degree of civilisation in their original Arctic home; and when the Vedas come to be further examined in the light of the Arctic theory, we may certainly expect to discover therein many other facts, which will farther support this view, but which are still hidden from us owing to our imperfect knowledge of the physical and social surroundings amidst which the ancestors of the Vedic Rishis lived near the North Pole in times before the last Glacial epoch. The exploration of the Arctic regions which is being carried on at present, may also help us hereafter in our investigation. of the beginnings of the Aryan civilisation. But all these things must be left to be done by future investigators when the theory of the Arctic home of the Aryans comes to be generally recognised as a scientific fact. Our object at present is to show that there is enough evidence in the Veda and the Avesta to establish the existence of an Arctic home in inter- Glacial times; and the reader, who has followed us in our arguments, set forth in the preceding pages, will at once perceive that the theory we have endeavoured to prove, is based on a solid foundation of express texts and passages traditionally preserved in the two oldest books of the Aryan race, and that it is amply fortified by independent corroboration received from the latest results of the correlative sciences, like Geology, Archaeology, Linguistic, Palaeology, Comparative Mythology and Astronomy. In fact the idea of searching for the evidence of an Arctic home in the Vedas may be said to have been stimulated, if not suggested, by the recent advances made in these sciences, and it will be seen that the method, adopted by us in working it up, is as rigid as it ought to be. It is now several centuries since the science of Vedic exegetics was founded by Indian Nairuktas ; and it may seem surprising that traces of an Arctic home in the Vedas should remain undiscovered so long. But surprises like these are out of place in investigations of this kind, where one must be prepared to accept the results proved, in the light, of advancing knowledge, by the strictest rules of logic and scientific research. It is these rules that we have taken For our guide, and if the validity of our conclusions be tested by this standard, we hope it will be found that we have succeeded in discovering the true key to the interpretation of a number of Vedic texts and legends hitherto given up as hopeless, ignored or misunderstood. In these days of progress, when the question of the primitive human culture and civilisation is approached and investigated from so many different sides, the science of Vedic interpretation cannot stand isolated or depend exclusively on linguistic or grammatical analysis ; and we have simply followed the spirit of the time in seeking to bring about the co-ordination of the latest scientific results with the traditions contained in the oldest books of the Aryan race, -books which have been deservedly held in the highest esteem and preserved by our ancestors, amidst insurmountable difficulties, with religious enthusiasm ever since the beginning of the present age.