Indian Civilization: The Untold Story — A Talk by Raj Vedam
Thank you all for attending this talk today. So I will be talking about the Indian civilization and provocatively I have a title that there is an untold story there and I hope as I progress through the talk it will become clear that there is indeed something like that.
Before I start Indian History Awareness & Research.., this is loosely a think-tank of professionals who are based in Houston, in Singapore, in Bangalore as well as Columbus Ohio. So I will start off my talk by pointing out some paradoxes of Indian history. So these paradoxes, we are a pretty ancient civilization and I hope I’ll make a case for that today but we are positioned otherwise, whether it be in media, in text books, in popular thinking and so on. We have been knowledge producers but we are positioned otherwise. We have very strong Indic sources and references; but these are ignored, devalued and discredited in today’s discourse. So we need a critique of methods and some mechanism to validate the narratives. Now, I have a science background so I bring a science bias to the discourse, so that is where I come from.
I would like to also point out that one of the greatest dishonesties of our times. We are told that the Indian civilization impacted every country and civilization to its east including China, Korea, Japan and all of these countries, however, it did not step one foot outside Afghanistan. So this is one more of those very interesting paradoxes that we have to live with and I will show how this is a consequence of some of the discourses that have been thrust on us. So in order to understand some of the problems that afflict us in our understanding of history today, we need to go to the roots of some these narratives and those are the colonial Indology because they set the stage for erasure, distortion, errors widespread devaluation/discrediting of Indic sources, led to a loss of continuity with our past and also loss of history of our civilization.
I have just put 2 or 3 gentlemen over here but there were a whole lot of who’s who in this who are complicit in this narration of history. William Jones he came to India to found the Asiatic society. He found common roots between Sanskrit, Greek and Latin and he proposed that they probably have some kind of a relationship. He was not very sure about it, but he suggested that the Aryan people are all related. He introduced that idea of Aryans. He was also the first person who distorted the Puranic genealogies when he attempted to write the history of India. He found that India had a Puranic genealogy spreading to about 5000 years and he being the very good Masonic scholar, that he was from the Anglican church of those days, presumed that God created the world in 4004 BCE as any self-respecting Englishman of that era would think, and he also thought that God destroyed the world through Noah’s flood at around 3000 BCE and nothing could have survived that flood so any history should be post dated from that period.
When confronted with enormous chronologies in the Indian context, these people took it on themselves to correct what they called were the distortions in the Indian calendar. So they infantalised the Indian context and saw themselves as having the white man’s burden of having to correct some of the chronological problems in the Indian calendar. So they cherry picked certain dates out of the calendar and… you know when you take a 5000 year old genealogy and put it into 1600 years you can’t do that with a lot of distortions and that is where the first set of distortions came in.
Bentley was a very interesting gentleman, he was a missionary and he was one of the strongest critics of Hindu astronomy. One of his contentions were that the texts were all forged in later periods to pretend great antiquity. Max Muller, we all know, he dated Vedas to the first millennium BC on linguistic analysis. Early in his career he proposed that Aryans were a race but later in his career he recanted and said that Aryans should be seen as a linguistic category rather than as a racial category.
Herbert Risley was an anthropologist and he used the discredited race science using the ratio of the length and breath of the nose as a metric they could use to classify the races of people and he managed to come up with the color coded map of India of those days where he saw so many races in India. He was also the census commissioner in 1901 the census in British India. So he entrenched the notion of Aryans as a race, he also entrenched caste in the census of 1901. He created, yes I use the word created, because that’s what he did, he created 2378 castes. Contrary to what one might think, when you are confronted with 2000 list when you write it in gazette you probably would write in an alphabetical order for easy retrieval of information. However, he ordered them in social preference and the social preference is again a reflection of the biases that he brought into the discourse and he entrenched certain things into that.
Bottom line, the narrative for the quest for the Indian identity is that Aryans invaded India around 1500 BCE, the Dravidians are driven south. Aryans impose Vedic religion. Oppression of Dravidians by Brahminical priesthood. Oppression caused Dravidian poverty and backwardness and that the Dravidians are a separate race and religion. So I see this as a failure to inculcate a national identity due to a failure of positive narration of Indian history. The inability to connect to the past. So almost all of us unfortunately have internalized certain values from our education system and we are all connected and not connected and rudderless.
So this is what I call the great Indian quest for an identity. Many of us cant identify with the underlying unity that is existing in this country as a civilization for thousands of years. So today you find discourses where people find a religious identity for themselves. The so called caste identity, regional identities, language identity, or the Aryan-Dravidian identity. Some people, youngsters these days go about saying I only have a corporate identity I work for Facebook, I work for Google, that is who I am. A few more enlightened youngsters go around saying that I dont believe in any of this. I am a global citizen.
So all of this I believe is a failure, its a failure of the education system to allow young people and others to connect to the past and acquire a healthy identity. That inability has caused people to express themselves in these ways and I say that each of these distorts and undermines the underlying framework of unity of the people and some of these are utterly spurious. So I am going to talk about the Aryan-Dravidian identity also because it goes to the root of who we are as a people and as a consequence of this, we also have a young chronology for India. Indic sources are disregarded or trivialized and an entrenched, divisive narrative unfortunately stays in place. So I am still setting up the problem. I have not come to the crux, the thrust of my talk. So can we validate the current narratives using science? Like I told you my biases are science and I am asking these questions. Can we bring in Archaeoastronomy, Archaeogenetics, Archaeology, Geology, climate studies., in an effort to uncover some of the truths, if so, in our narratives.
So here’s my case for the untold story of the Indian civilization. I’d like to pose it along these 4 questions :
- Is the Aryan Invasion/migration theory valid?
- How ancient is the Indian civilization?
- What did the ancient Indians know?
- Was India a source or a sink for knowledge?
You must understand that there is an allegation that most of the Indian knowledge came from the Greeks or the Babylons and so on. I would like to position to ask was it a source or a sink for knowledege? So I will highlight the untold story in each of these.
The very first story, Is the Aryan invasion/migration theory valid? So when we pose a problem we need to first define the contours of the problem, that is, what a scientist does, good scientist, tries to pose the contours of the problem. So, here the problem states that the current narrative of the Aryan invasion theory, bands of male warriors from central Asia invaded or migrated to India around 1500 BCE. They effectively replaced the existing civilizations and brought an entirely new Vedic religion, Sanskrit language and Vedic ecosystem. So we might think today that the Aryan invasion theory that started from colonial times only impacts the Indian people, but unfortunately what we find is that it has become a much bigger problem. It has evolved into a quest for the western identity. The western people ever since William Jones saw the commonality of languages would like to address the question, who are they as a people? Because they speak something called Indo-European language and this is supposed to have an ancestral language which they called the Proto-Indo European language and in order to find who they are as a people, they first need to address who are the Indians? Once they talk about who the Indians are, then they can talk about who the westerners are. So today we find that it is entrenched in the quest for the western identity.
So early scholars used a mechanism called comparative linguistics. Comparative linguistics involves if I suspect there is a relationship between a basket of languages, they would take about a dictionary of about 100 to 200 common words, universal words like hand, mouth, face, eat, sleep, you know, common words that we use in a language and they try to see the cognates or where a phoney might change from one to another in a language and try to see the distance between one language and any other language. Once they find two languages statistically close, then they’ll place them next to each other. So this is how you eventually have a tree model appearing out of looking at how close one language is related to another language and the context of this? 200 words or so.
So you have this so called proto-Indo European which is supposed to be the ancestor of all these languages and the categories like Balto-Slavic, Germanic, Celtic, Italic, Hellinic, Indo-Iranian and over here you have the Indic and the Iranian, then you have Sanskrit in all of these languages. Like to point out as an engineer and a scientist that, this is a static model which we can use something called similarity transformation for transferring to any other origin. What do I mean by all that jargon? What I mean is there is, no context of chronology here, there is only a context of nearness, a measure of nearness. So if I write a matrix of these things, language and nearness to everything else, then I might be able to use instead of proto-Indo-European use Sanskrit as a root and transform, with a new matrix transform everything to Sanskrit. The results will be 100% valid still, mathematically. So its an incomplete method in other words. The tree model is an idealization.
So the criticism that people levied at linguistic methods, led them to say why dont we try to fortify our linguistic methods with archaeology? If we can find some archaeological artifacts that corroborate what we are seeing in linguistics, maybe we will have a more powerful theory. So once again the quest for western identity continues with archaeology. Indian identity is key in the positioning of the western identity. AIT is both the centerpiece as well as the tail-end of the western narrative. And I will explain why. Today, we have two main narratives. These are the thought leaders in those narratives. Marija Gimbutas – she proposed the Kurgan or the Steppe hypothesis in 1950s and she said that Indo-European expansionism happened in three waves between 4000 BCE – 1500 BCE, the domestication of the horse and those kinds of things. Prof. Colin Renfrew from Cambridge in 1987, when he proposed the Anatolian hypothesis. Anatolia is in Turkey and he proposed that the invention of agriculture and its spread throughout the world was the impetus for the Indo-European languages also. That was his proposal. Today there are some people who say genetics favours the Kurgan hypothesis and even if you have notion of time, that can come into comparitive linguistics, these models are valid for only 3000 years, you cant push it bewyond 3000 years. So 6500 is too old for any kind of analysis you can do. So people favor this, but time to time you still find papers that call out the Anatolian hypothesis.
So, what is this Kurgan/Steppe hypothesis? Here we are Caspian Sea, Black sea. The people called the Yamna culture existing over here. At the same period of time 3500 BCE, you had people like the Harappa, Bhirrana, Mehrgarh, Bhimbhetka in central India, Lothal in western India, Edakkal in Kerala, all of these people existing over here. And here you have Sumeria and here you have Egypt. So its not as if its a story of civilization. Civilization existed. It is only a story of quest for the western identity. Who were the European people? Their origins are supposed to be the Yamna culture emanating from the domestication of the horse and stone idols is claimed to be the archaeological finds over there, which are trying to tie-up to a theory.
By 2500 BCE these people had spread to the west becoming the corded ware people and to the east the andronovo culture. Indus valley civilization consolidation here, the Elamites, the Sumerians, the Egyptians and so on. By 1500 BCE you see that these people have become more specialized into the Mycenian people, the Hippities, the Babylonians and so on and you find the people called the BMAC – Bactria-Margiana archaeological complex and the tail-end of this, you see, enters into Sind and into India and this is the beginning of the Aryan invasion theory for us. But what I would like to point out is that there is a huge theory behind it. So if we attempt to debunk the AIT as scientists, we must also debunk the rest of it, otherwise it will be an incomplete piece of work. So let us see, where we can take this.
By 500 BCE, the common narrative states that the Indo-Aryans are entrenched into this part of India, and the appearance of a people called the Dravidians. They appear in the context over here. So here is an example of the archaeology. This one is a burial mound from Kazakistan 500 BCE, and this one is a Kurgan burial from Urals in around 500 BCE. Here is a, 4000 years ago a chariot burial in Georgia and this one shows, for those of you who are astute and observant, you see, that these wheels dont have spokes. They are solid wheels. They dont have spokes on them. So, one more example, the corded ware; when I talked about the corded ware it refer to these pottery and you see these tryations in these pots. So when the pots are being made and they are still wet. The innovation was to tie a rope around it and those ropes would leave its marks as a decoration. So that advancement in technologies identified in the archaeological record were corded ware people.
So what I have done over here is to present to you the problem. I presented to you the Aryan invasion theory model, I have shown to you its much bigger than what we Indians are exposed to. It is the quest for the western identity and if we are to debunk AIT, we need to debunk a whole lot of other things here also. Now I go to the main part of this discussion where I want to examine the evidence using archaeogenetics.
Each of us is a walking archeo-genetic artifact. Because we contain the sum total of mutations of a lot of our ancestors from the past provided they are not eradicated from our genetic record into noise and other such thing. We still have a lot of mutations over there. So the methodology is people take maternal mitochondrial DNA field data or the Y-chromosomal field data, they do some mathematical analysis on this and finally the results, the inferences are mapped back into the real world in some kind of narrative. So we are going to examine some of these things.
We first need to pay homage to this professor because he is the one who started this whole line of thinking, Prof. Luca Cavalli-Sforza who in 1994 wrote this book ‘The history & Geography of Human Genes’. Very, very influential book that set people to work on these things. He studied the differences between the genomes of different people of the world and he said differences helped infer which people are more closely related to which other people and he studied the human evolution and the human population history. We should also recollect that the human genome was only decoded sometime within this time frame. It was very expensive to decode this in those days. The cost is falling today. Today you can go to 23 and me and other such places and $99 and get a genetic profile of who you are. in those days the tests were so expensive that only universities and a few people could do that.
I would like to talk to you about the work of Stephen Oppenheimer who in 2003 worked on the maternal mitochondrial DNA in an effort to establish who are we as a people, the homo sapiens. His story begins somewhere in 150,000 years ago but I prefer to start the story about 85,000 years ago when a group of individuals left Africa and walked along the coastal areas, Sindh, Iran-Sindh and the triangular part of India all the way to Sumatra all the way to Taiwan. So Stephen Oppenheimer states that all the non-African people of the world are related to this group of people of Africa. Two questions. What was their migration model? Why did they not head westwards? Why did they come eastwards? The migration model was never one of people saying, hey lets walk all the way to Australia. It was never one of those things. Rather the situation was that a group of people living in a place after maybe a few years after the waters are polluted or the resources have run dry or some issues are there. The whole family goes just 1 km down the road and starts a new life. So it is a generation by generation movement. It never was a continuos, focused walking, walking, walking till they find some place. Generatio by generation migration. The best model we have is the bushman society. Bushman do not have possesions. We are all tied to the land because we have a house or a flat or land or something, you have a car, your kids go to school somewhere. So we cant uproot ourselves and go to another place. We are tied over here. But ancient society they had nothing. They could easily move from one place to another, no big deal at all. They could easily do things like that. So this is the model.
Why did they not head westwards? Well, in the time frame under question, there was one more species of human living in Europe as well as upto Iran upto Chagai hills and this species is called Neanderthals. Today the Homo sapiens after generations of good nutrition, we are about 6 ft. tall, about 70 kgs and those kinds of things. But the early homo sapiens was about 4 ft. – 4.5 ft. tall maybe about 40 kgs – 50 kgs. He did not want to confront the more bigger Neanderthal. So they head along the beach and they walked on this path and Stephen Oppenheimer provides some archaeological evidence also to support such an assertion.
74,000 years ago there was a super volcano in Sumatra. It was called the Mount Toba event. It caused a 6 year nuclear winter and an instant 1000 year ice age with a dramatic population crash to less than 10,000 breeding individuals. Volcanic ash from this eruptions covered an area of India and Pakistan upto 5 meters. If you can imagine 5 meters of ash all over India and Pakistan and extincting the human race. This picture over here shows you an excavation in Jwalapuram in Andhra Pradesh where even today they find the ash layer and here is the most exciting piece of news. Under the ash layer they find human artifacts showing that humans had lived before the Toba event and then you find the ash layer and then later artifacts and so on, The researcher who works on this is Ravi Korisetta. He is the one who works in this.
65,000 years or so the ice ages have ended and warming of western Europe took place and that warming coincided with the extinction of the Neanderthal. It just disappeared from the fossil record. You dont find them. You dont find them anymore. We dont know whether they died by disease, or war or what happened, but they left a vacuum and that vacuum was filled in by the homo sapiens. Homo sapiens from this part of the world approximately Sindh and Gujarat they are the ones who apparently left and crossed the Bosphorous and moved on and became the future Europeans. Approximately 40,000 years ago groups of people from this part of India, from Sumeria, from eastern part of India and from other regions, they joined in Siberia and crossed the land bridge at that time the Bearing Strait through the north and south America who became the later native Americans. So this is the story of the ancient human migration according to the maternal mitochondrial DNA as laid out in a very early time frame 2003 by Stephen Oppenheimer.
However, I am no where close to talking about Aryans. Aryans are a much more recent invention. Till now we have talking about 70,000 years, 60,000 years and those kinds of things. So lets fast forward to 12,000 years. I would like to present a very influential paper in 2013 from the American Journal of Human Genetics. This is by Priya Moorjani and Prof. Kumaraswamy Thangaraj, these are all from CCMB in Hyderabad, a very famous institute. They took one of the largest samples of Indians from across different regions, different backgrounds and so on, to try to identify the question of who we are as a people. So their research methodology., they used a genome wide data.., not X or Y chromosome, but genome wide data. They postulated an ancentral north Indian and an anscestral south Indian population and their interest was to show how was the current populations derived from these ancient populations. What is the relationship between them and us? That is the question they set out to answer.
Well, they say that the ancestral north Indian and south Indian diverged from a common ancestor 60,000 years ago, co-relating very well with what Stephen Oppenheimer has been saying that ancient man came at a certain time in India. They also found that they existed side by side for an exceedingly long period of time. Until about 2000 BCE, 4000 years ago there was some event that caused a very great amount of mixing not topical mixing, not very small regional mixing but pervasive mixing of the Indian population. That took place for a period of 2000 years where they were marrying between each other and then from the turn of this current era they have been endogamous more or less endogamous. I caution you not to jump to conclusions and think that is because of the caste system and things of that nature. Because later on we will disprove that also. Just interesting to note some of these things that are present in the genetic record. That is what they are bringing on.
Their conclusion. They tried to address the question of when in the genetic record do we have any trace of central Asian genes because there is an allegation that Aryans came to India in the 1500 BCE so they must have left some genetic imprint in the current populations. So they said to find any evidence of central Asian genes they looked 2000 years back, 3000 years back, 4000 years back, 5000 years back, 6000 years back, no trace at all. They had to go all the way to 12,500 years before they found any evidence of central Asian genes in the ancestral north Indian population. A very, very powerful conclusion that says that if you think Aryans left some genetic content around 1500 BCE atleast this research says they did not find any evidence of shared ancestry between ANI and groups in west Eurasia for the past 12,500 years.
I would like to point out one more paper to you. This paper is from 2012 by Prof. Ramasamy Pichappan of the National Genographic Consortium. He studied 1680 individuals from Tamil Nadu in various castes and tribal societies and he showed that endogamy in the south, if we can think of endogamy as a proxy for the caste system, he says that endogamy is 6000 years old in southern India atleast. What does this mean? We have been told from that narrative that Aryans entrenched themselves in India in 500 BCE that is when the Dravidians appeared in the record, then they imposed their Vedic structure and caste system on the Dravidians. So any endogamy as a result of caste system must be present in the genetic record from a long time 200 BCE or 300 BCE and so on. However in southern India atleast it is 6000 years old according to this professor. It pre-dates the so-called Aryan Invasion theory by more than 2000 years.
A lot of people come and tell me ‘Dr. Vedam this is all well and good, but look at me, I am so dark, look at this guy, he is so fair, so surely we are not the same people, we are two races, we are different people’ and so on. So how do we address issues like that. It turns out that this paper in 2013 says that the light skin Allele of SLC24A5 in South Asians and Europeans shares identity by descent. In common language, what it is saying is, this mutation appeared in the genetic record approximately 30,000 years ago and this mutation is common with Europeans and South Asians. It controls the expression of Melanin, it is there in the 15 chromosome of he human body. So it basically controls expression of melanin and what kind of skin tone we will take as a result of absorbing sunlight and so on? This 30,000 year old framework also puts it perhaps in the vicinity of India where this mutation might have taken place during the early migration periods and it is mostly in the ancestral north Indian population but also in the southern Indian population and mostly also present in Europeans. That is the skin tone issue. There is some evidence for outward migration. This paper in 2013, they basically found some skeletons in Syria belonging to the Roman period. When they analysed these skeletons they found that the genetic content in those skeletons is related to northern Indian population. Very interesting piece of work over here. So it turns out that Prof. Subhash Kak talks about the drying up of the Saraswati river, and he says, that led to an outward migration. If we take that as a hypothesis, it appears that there is atleast one data point that seems to be collaborating with the said time frame.
So far I also promised that we will look at this genetic evidence that people have been talking about for the Aryan invasion theory. So in 2015 there were 3 papers that came out in Nature, in the journal Nature and caused great excitement in media because people were going around saying that these papers show the final support for the Aryan invasion theory, here in India the Tony Joseph of the who had an exuberant write-up saying the Aryan invasion theory is settled based upon these papers and so on. So this deserves closer scrutiny. What did those papers actually say and what is going on over here?
Now the works are based on R1a. R1a is from the Y chromosome and we need to understand the origins of the R1a. R1a is supposed to have appeared in the genetic record about 25,000 years ago and this researcher Peter Underhill in 2014, based on 16,000 samples from 126 population. They came to the conclusion that the mutation appeared somewhere near Iran. That is where the R1a appeared into the mutation record. Now if you are going to talk about the story of the Aryans, you cant use a mutation that is 25,000 years old. You would like to have data that is more resolution in the time frame that you are interested in. The time frame that we are interested in is around 2500 BCE to 1500 BCE. So they use a subclade Z282 and Z93 which appeared into the record, the mutation record about 6000 years ago. Now it turns out that a whole lot of research by Kivisid, Mascarenhas, Mirabel as an example when they say where did these things enter into the record. Macarenhas says it appears in the south or West Asia, this person says both South Asia and Central Asia. This person says Z93 appeared in West Asia. In other words there are a whole lot of researchers out there where there is no consensus still where did the R1a even come into the record, let alone the subclades. The consesus if we look at what the researchers are saying, even the R1a also seems to have appeared in the South Asian record and perhaps gone out from there. Nevertheless the genetic hunt continues. People continue to look at data in various ways to try and address this particular issue.
So conclusion from the genetic studies is that the results are not of primary evidence and it can only serve as supporting evidence. Why do I say this? I say this because like I told you earlier the methodology in genetics is, you first get the field data, saliva swabs, sequencing and you get the data, get all the mutations and so on. So far so good. Then next you do is mathematical analysis. Clustering and trying to get the principle component analysis or if it is ad-mixture of a problem. You do another set of operations called SQP analysis and all those kinds of things. After you have done all of these fantastic field work as well as mathematical work, you are left with a bunch of numbers. Now you are left with the unenviable position of saying, you have got two candidate numbers, let say one of them is 0.1 and the other one is 0.101. You are now in a position by saying that the difference between these two numbers provide me the resolution to make some call into something in social theory. You see, in a situation where you have to interpret the numbers and then map it back into a narrative, that is when the subjective bias enter into the process, that is where people have got to do great diligence. Is the data valid? What will happen if I take a few pieces of data out and put some other data? How sensitive are your results? Composition of your population valid? Are the numbers that you have taken that valid? Second, the methodology that you used, is that the best in class methodology? Third, the inference that you made is that correct? So many critiques can be made in the genetic papers that I have been reading.
So that is why I come finally to the statement that they are not primary evidence. It can only serve as supporting evidence. One has got to see the sensitivity of the results, the population size, the composition and assumptions. We need to be careful in attempting to align mathematical numbers alongside a narrative to avoid subjective biases that can creep into the results. Bottom line from what we have examined, there is no evidence of a genetic inflow into India following a postulated European language expansion. There is neither an Aryan gene nor a Dravidian gene. We are essentially the same.
Ok. So far I presented to you the archaeo-genetics evidence. I am going now to an entirely new area. We are talking about the archaeological evidence that we have. If you look at the archaeological artifacts found in India from 40,000 years ago, all over India, you have got artifacts of different periods of time. I don’t like these words stone age, metal age and all these kind of things, because they conjure up imaginations of a romantic era, where people were uncivilized and brutish and those kind of cartoonist images. Unfortunately I took this map from a secular source and I have to go with that terminology, but I wouldn’t have called it this. So all over India you find evidence of settlements and those kinds of things. Here is an example from 35,000 years ago in Jwalapuram rock shelter, some of the artifacts they found over there. Here, Bhimbetka 35,000 years ago, rock art and you also see in the same place a horse with a rider. Very intriguing considering all the brouhaha in Harappa and horse and those kinds of things. There are also some noises that this is a later period. This is not belonging to the same period as this. Nevertheless that is still an ancient piece of art. In Kerala, Edakkal caves 9000 years ago you have something that appears to be like writing and what is more intriguing is that there appears to be a sign that is used in Edakkal that is common with the Harappa signs. A man with a jar, that appears in Harappa, and it appears in Edakkal. So people are speculating, could there have been some kind of a connection between these two cultures.
Bhirrana, Rakhigarh, all of us know, in Haryana up to 10,000 years ago, now we have found excavations and artifacts. Ketavaram, Andhra Pradesh, 8000 years ago, Ramachandrapuram, Telangana, 12,000 years ago… This is the paper from ASI in 2008 that talks about all the artifacts found in Bhirrana and the various periodisations that they have made. Calendar year before present. About 2750 years all the way to 9550 years when they found incised pottery and other things. I put these things, two seals from Mohenjadaro – Seal number 420 and seal number 430. This is the work of Prof. Abhyankar and it is reported in the bulletin of the Astronomical society of India, 1993. He says these two seals appear to show evidence of astronomical encoding in these things. He calls out these four figurines over here at the sides of the Shiva kind of Pashupati kind of symbol over here and he says these represent the equinoxes and solstices the four cardinal positions. Four cardinal positions of astronomy are the two solstices and the equinoxal position; so there are four of them. So, he says that these represent this. What does that mean? Typically when a solstice occurs it might be in a certain constellation. Remember the rashis are represented by animals and so on. So it would only be true for a period of time because of a phenomenon called precession. I’ll talk about that later on.
So these are animal figurines, he points out could be the rashis around that time, constellations around that time and he brings in the idea that this seal 430, 3000 years ago shows this kind of a scenario. The other seal shows a very rare planetary alignment, these standing seven figurines show planetary alignment, these standing seven figurines in 3102 BCE, and I’ll point out this one also a little later on. Very intriguing. This appears to show a continuity of thought. A continuity of thought from Harappan times into the Vedic times if you can call it that. Today we are led to think was that Harappa was there and then Vedic period came and so on and so forth. But these two seals appear to show a continuity of thought.
This is from a paper in Episodes in March 2003 from the National Institute of Ocean Technology in Chennai, India. So, they took a ship off the west coast of India and Dwaraka and equipped it with sonar and decided to map the ocean floor with sonar. So they found a 9 km long feature, 40 meters below the sea level which they expect as the remnants of a city wall or a fortification and those kind of things. What is more exciting is they dredged up a piece of wood which they were able to send it to the National Geophysical Research Institute in Hyderabad as well as the Institute of Earth Sciences in Hanover, Germany and they came back with carbon dating of 8500 years to 9300 years before present as a date of this artifact, showing very great antiquity for this artifact at least.
In recent times we have been told about the story of Keezhadi. Keezhadi has got an exciting story behind it. Archeologists had wanted to dig in Madurai. However, Madurai is like any other Indian city; settled, very expensive land, no place to obtain land for archaeology and so on. So he uses intuition and said that in ancient Madurai if the supply chains coming in, where were the highways and where is one day’s worth journey from outside of Madurai? That is where a camp might have been. Well, he went to Keezhadi and said, that’s where it might have been and he struck gold over there. Because he found an urban settlement right there in Keezhadi. Outstanding methods used by this archaeologist. And they found several artifacts over there. However, the real story is not there. The real story is, in this new site and that came out saying that they excavated up to 4.5 meters depth at Keezhadi.
However they sent samples from 2 meter depth to Florida, USA for carbon dating and they came back with a date of around 300 BCE, everybody was happy. They were happy because it fits into the common narrative beautifully and nobody questioned this. However, I scratched my head and said what on earth is this? ASI reported 4.5 meters depth of excavation and if you think that the top layer is 2017 then 2 meters down by their own carbon dating is 2200 years. Therefore every meter in depth should correspond to 1100 years by a liners scaling which means 4.5 meters should correspond to approximately 5000 years before present i.e 3000 BCE. So why would ASI only report the middle layer result? Why would they not say we found a range of artifacts from the bottom most layer to 3000 BCE to around 500 BCE? that would have been a much more honest representation of what was found. Well it is not very surprising to think what’s going on because you see in October 2017 the Tamil Nadu government took over the Keezhadi excavations and also the archaeologists involved in the Keezhadi project was transferred out of there. So there is clearly an attempt to control the narrative coming out of Keezhadi. If people were to come out saying that Keezhadi is 3000 years old, sorry 3000 BCE, then they are in an uncomfortable position to try and explain what are we teaching our school children? Why are our school children still learning that 500 BCE is when Dravidians appeared in the record, and Vedic structure was imposed on them. So any urban settlement in south is only 300 BCE and older, they have to explain that. I believe they have taken the easy way out. I honestly hope that I am mistaken. But this is a very strong piece of date jumping out at us.
The glass factories of Arikamedu. Arikamedu is one of the most well kept secrets of Puducherry. If you go to Pondicherry and ask a rickshaw driver, please take me to Arikamedu, he’ll scratch his head. He’ll have no idea. But I was lucky to find a local living there and he happened to know where it was, and so we took off in his car and after searching for sometime. There are no roads to go there. You have to cross some fields and so on. We were able to go to Arikamedu. There is a picture of me over there. This is mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea. Periplus of the Erythrean Sea is a port sailors document that says where are the trading ports for Roman sailors? In that it finds a mention. They traded in muslin and glass beads. Mortimer Wheeler, he was the first guy to excavate over here. He dated it to 100 BCE to 100 current era. He did this because he found a bust of Augustus Ceaser there and when he found a bust of Ceaser he said 30 CE. So lets put the date to 100 BCE to a 100 CE, that was the way he dated it.
Vimala Begley was one of the archaeologists from 1989-1992 and she said the date must be 200 BCE to 700 current era. Now all over the Indo-Pacific you find glass beads. If you Google for Indo-Pacific glass beads you’ll find enormous numbers of papers out there. These glass beads have been found in Japan, Koreas, China, Bali, Indonesia all of these places and they all bear the chemical signature of the factories in Arikamedu. In other words the metallurgy, sorry, the minerals used in making the silica and other things bear the signature of Arikamedu. So that’s one. So these have been dated upto 300 BCE and so on. So that gives us the cause to wonder whether it is older than what they are telling us? Well, I found this diary by Vimala Begley and she says that trench seven yielded the oldest artifact uncovered back to the 2 century BCE. We had to stop working because we were under the water table and even a large pump could not keep the water out. In other words it was not the terminus of finding artifacts that is 200 BCE, but rather a technological issue that did not allow them to go deeper. So today the ASI has covered it up once again with mud and all this. So behind me there is a wall, you see a coconut grove growing, it is under the coconut grove that Arikamedu’s remains are. You cant see that today.
If you look at the map of our, of India with places named in the epics, this map is from Jeejit Ravi. You find that all over India you find instances of habitation, the epics are deeply tied to the geography of the land. Unfortunately epics are ignored as history and the text book narratives. This is what we are teaching our children. We teach our children that here we had Harappa and commenced about 5700 years ago and declined 3.6 thousand years ago. An empty lands over here. So you can see the irony of what we have seen just in a very few slides over here and what we teach our children. It is very, very unfortunate.
So the Aryan invasion theory…, The genetic evidence shows great antiquity of the Indian people. All non-African people are descended from, if we can call it Indian stock, because there is no identity as India in those days. Anyway we’ll call it that, that geographical region Indian stock. No evidence of genes from Central Asia from at least 12,500 years ago, evidence of differentiation more than 6000 years old in Tamil Nadu. So there is no invasion. I didn’t talk about this, but climate change, collapse of IVC. Archaeology shows ancient artifacts that predated the so-called invasion period, whether you look in north India, western India, southern India or central India, every place we find evidence of a great antiquity.
So, the question is if invading Aryans are supposed to have destroyed the Indus valley civilization. If there is no AIT, then what caused the collapse? Very obvious question to ask. This paper from Nature 2014 says that a 200 year drought doomed the Indus valley civilization. And if you dig deeper, you will find several such events in the past where 8.2 kilo-year event, 300 year dry event, 5.9 kilo-year event is intense drought, 4.2 kiloyear is 100 year severe drought event which caused the colllapse of Mesopotamia. Migration of IVC and Subash Kak also points out the drying up of the Saraswati which terminated finally in 3.9 thousand years ago.
One more thing to think about in the Indian context. We are told that the Aryans came, impressed the southern Indians, the Dravidians to go to the south, imposed the caste system on them and the Vedic social structures caused oppression of the Dravidian people and caused widespread poverty. That is the narrative, that many have internalized. So we want to find out what caused poverty in India? I would like to point out 2 works, this is Angus Madison who is a historical economist in Netherlands. He studied the economies of the world from the turn of the current era. One all the way to 2003, he shows that the Indian GDP as a percentage of the world GDP, India had one of the highest percentages, around 33% of the share of the world GDP. Followed by China around 25% or so and western Europe was all the way down here about 15 % or so. India went through a period of decline during through the invasion periods, the Muslims periods and so on reaching a bottom over here and rising somewhat at this inflection point which corresponds to the colonialists coming to India 1700 current era.
After that what he sees is a rapid decline in the fortunes of India, the same time at which western Europe went up. Also United States went up with slavery and other such thing. You can also see this. Now this is not incidental to our talk. This is more than incidental. This downfall correlating with this shows a transference of wealth from India into western Europe caused widespread poverty. I would like to point out the work by Will Durant, he has written an excellent book called ‘Case for India’. So I strongly urge everybody in this audience to get this from Google, its a free book, and try to read it.
He came to India around 1930 and he was not sympathetic to the British cause. He was an American. So he came and saw what the British had done and he was horrified and he wrote this powerful book, ‘The Case for India’. So he shows, he tells what we already know, Robert Clive who traded money for guns and favor, East India Company, forcing Indians to sell cheap, buy exorbitantly. Extracted hundreds of millions of dollars, Indians were taxed at two times the people in England and three times in Scotland. All the costs of British conquests, developments and administration in India was charged to Indians, including the first World war, second world war, all the French battles that they had, everything was charged to Indians.
The British incurred a debt for Indians of 35 million in 1792. I believe these, the dollar figure is as of 1930, when Will Durant wrote this book. By 1860, it would become 500 million dollars by 1929 when Will Durant left India it was 3.5 billion dollars. After that was second world war and so on. So, this figure had doubled or tripled by the time the British left India. So this is the debt that the British left India with. So one of, any of us have got any doubts about what caused poverty in India. These two graphs very powerfully show us what happened to India in the recent times in the last 300 years or so.
So I am now going to the second part of my talk. How ancient is the Indian civilization as part of ‘the untold story of India’. So I am going to be using archaeoastronomy as my key tool to study this. Now archaeoastronomy research is, what they do is, they look for instances of astronomical observations in our ancient texts and they try to see when was such an observation true and they use some tools and modern planetarium software and mathematics and so on into it.
Before I do that I need to talk to you about precession. So our earth is tilted at an axis of 23° or so and it is pointing the northern hemisphere, the axis is rotation appears to point to a position in the sky and it is pointing at something called the Polaris. It spins from the west to east, once in 24 hours. But in addition to the spin it is also doing something else. If you have played with a top as a child, you know the top, you tie a rope and you do that and the top spins very, very fast. You can visualize that sometimes when the top is spinning very very fast, it has got a slow wobble, can you visualize that? A fast spin, a slow wobble. So our earth is doing that. Our earth has got a fast spin is 24 hours, the slow wobble is a 25,500 year cycle. So as a consequence of that today we are pointing at Polaris, this is our Dhruva today, in 3000 BCE we were pointing at Trugan and about 14,000 years from now, we will be pointing at Abhijit or the star called Vega, and that will be our Pole star. This is just a consequence of precession. This is a very important phenomenon for us to understand when we talk about Indian astronomy. Because this is what will help us to date events in Indian astronomy.
We need to first set the stage, The Indian astronomical model. The model was one of nakshatra-s and raasi. Our ancient Indians they divided the sky into several segments of 30 1/3° segments. They started from the eastern horizon said ‘let me divide the first 30 1/3° into the first nakshatra, the second 30 1/3° as the second nakshatra, the third and the fourth all the way to the western horizon’. But they didn’t stop there. If this was night sky they knew there was a day sky. They divided that portion, also, of the sky into 30 1/3° degree segments and they formed 27 of them. These are the 27 nakshatras. If you multiply 27 by 30 1/3 you will get 360°. Full 360°.
Now it is not enough to divide it into nakshatras. You must also be able to recognize them tomorrow. So what they did was the first 30 1/3, they said ‘what is the brightest star in that segment of the sky?’. That brightest star for example might have been Aldebaran. Aldebaran is the Arabic name. The Indian name is Rohini. So they said because Rohini is there, I am going to call it Rohini nakshatra. The next segment maybe the brightest star was Spika. Spika is the star which in India we call Chitra – Chitra nakshatra. Next we have perhaps Zeta Piscean. Zeta Piscean is Revati nakshatra. So this way every nakshatra was identified by the principle brightest stars present in that segment of the sky and identified accordingly.
So those are the 27 nakshatras that you see in this outer circle over here. They straddle the month, what you see over here is the nakshatra Chitra and below there is the Chaitra masa. So when the full moon appears over the Chitra nakshatra that month is the Chaitra month. That is how ancient Indians observed months and so on. Similarly for Falguni the Falguna masa, Magha and other ones. They also divided the sky in 30° segments called the raasi and these are all the familiar raasi-s that we know.
So, here is the listing of all the nakshatra-s in two of our ancient books the Vedanga Jyotishya and the Surya Siddhanta. Vedanga Jyotishya is conservatively dated to 1400 BCE because of the phenomena contained there. So that has got a listing of all the nakshatra-s. And these are those nakshatra-s. Surya Siddhanta is conservatively dated to 700 BCE or 400 current era. Take your pick, there is a lot of controversy over there. And they too contain a list of nakshatra-s which seem to match each other. And here are the principle stars. Kritika is Eta Tauri, Rohini is Alpha Tauri, Mrigashira is Landa Orionis and so on, all the way to Revati Zita Piscean and so on.
How did Indians date, how can we use Indian astronomy and do dating? As an example if somebody says Rama was born in the Chaitra masa, it means the full moon was in Chitra nakshatra. Let me go back to this picture over here. If the full moon is here, that means that, 180° away the sun would have been here. So the sun is in Ashwini. So just by one statement that Rama was born in Chaitra masa, two data points jump out at me. The full moon was in Chitra nakshatra, the Sun was in Ashwini nakshatra. You see what I am saying. So that is one way of talking about things.
Another example, varsha ritu began in ashada masa. If somebody says that, varsha ritu means rainy season. It means the full moon was in ashada nakshatra and the Sun was in Punarvasu nakshatra 180° away. At present, however, in India rainy season happens when the Sun is in the Mriga nakshatra. So there are two nakshatra difference between the time when this was written and today. Now, we know that this happened because of precesssion. Some writer when he was writing rainy season happened in ashada nakshatra. So he notes that, however, today because of precession that I talked to you about, we are no longer in that constellation.., things have moved on. The precession rate we can compute at 960 years/nakshatra. Therefore approximately 2000 years ago that statement was true. The statement was Kalidasa’s Meghadoota. That is how today we will be able to take any ancient observation and by studying its impact, and studying the picture as of today, we’ll be able to predict what was the precession effect between the time that was valid and today. That is how we date some of the events.
Here is a graphic that I put to understand the night sky with Indian lens. This is the day I started giving talks in this series. This is November 30 in Bangalore, this is the eastern horizon, sorry the east, north and west. The ground is over here. So this is all the night side and this is all the day side. So whenever ancient Indians talked about nakshatra, it was always in relation to when the moon appears in the eastern horizon, whether it is the full moon, half moon, quarter moon or even new moon. When it appears over the eastern horizon what section of the sky was it in? That defines the nakshatra for the day. Ok? So whenever the moon appears in the eastern horizon, what nakshatra is it in? So here in this case, I am not sure if you can read it on November 30 the moon appears in the eastern horizon approximately at 3’o clock in the afternoon, 15 hours and it appears in the Revati nakshatra, so that day the nakshatra was Revati because of that phenomenon.
I would like to point out to you the Pole star over here. I would like to point out to you Abhijit. Abhijit is over here and these circles that you are seeing over here, these are projections of the earth’s latitudes and longitudes on the sky. Ok? Earth’s latitudes and longitudes projected to the sky become celestial co-ordinates. So this one here corresponds to the celestial North pole. This is now the latitudes right, 90°, 80°, 70°, 60, 50, 40, 30, 20,10 and 0. Zero refers to the celestial equator. On the day of the equinox the Sun would be exactly on the celestial equator. The remaining time the Sun would appear to go northwards upto 23.2° and go six months southward -23.3° crossing the equinox. These are the cardinal positions that our ancient Indians knew about and whenever they commemorated any event like starting of a temple, some grant or some auspicious thing they would start it on such an auspicious day and they’ll note when the solstice was here it was in Kritika nakshatra or it was in revati nakshatra and those kinds of things. Today we can quote those statements to see when was it true?
I would like to talk to you about the start of Kaliyuga. People at this point wonder what on earth am I doing, why am I talking about Kaliyuga? Well, it turns out that Kaliyuga is an absolute marker for all the Indian calendars. So, for example Aryabhatta gives his age with respect to Kaliyuga. Many temple epigraphy talk about their age with respect to Kaliyuga. Badami, for example, is another place. So, Surya Siddhanta says, Kaliyuga was the rare planet conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury, Sun and Moon in the Revati nakshatra. It turns out that this date was 18 February 3102 BCE. I simulated this in the Planetarim software and what you see is Revati nakshatra is over here, this is the sun, Chandra moon, Shukra Venus, Jupiter Guru and here you see Mars Mangala deva is over here, and I cant read from here, I think it is Budhan and this is Shani. So you see Merury and Shani. All of these things are clustered. It is spread over a few nakshatras but the least and the greatest at this point. They seem to be clustered in the Revati nakshatra. So this is only possible for one time in the last 25,000 years because of precession and that date corresponds to February 18, 3102 BCE.
There appears to be an ancient observation encoded in the Mahabharat in this particular reference. A dialogue between Indra and Skanda, contesting against Abhijit, Vega the nakshatra, Kritika Pleiades went to vana, the summer solstice to heat up the summer. Then the star Abhijit slipped down in the sky. This caused a lot of angst in people because they said that stars don’t slip down the sky. Here is an example of an Indian text taking flights of fantasy, maybe they are high on Soma, or whatever, and they have done these kinds of works; stars don’t slip in the sky.
Then Prof. Vartak came along and said – ‘Wait a minute, wait a minute, it is actually an encoding of an astronomical phenomenon’. He said that more than 15,000 years ago Abhijit was the Pole star. Some, somebody in the Indian context remembers the time when Abhijit was the Pole star and the cultural memory is being passed on from generation to generation until such time the Mahabharata was written down and they noticed that, at that time Abhijit was no longer the Pole star, it is away from the pole, from 90° it was at 40° almost. It has slipped down in the sky. So it is an amazing instance that we remember an incident that happened 15,000 years ago approximately. Next Kritika was at the summer solstice approximately 24,000 years ago. So bottom line of these two is that rishis have been observing the skies for almost 24,000 years.
Here I have shown a graphic where 14,000 years ago, Abhijit was over here. You remember in my earlier slide I showed it was somewhere here 40° or so, but now it is over here 90°. Shatapata Brahmana has got a statement that Kritika never swerves from the east. April 15 2982 BCE is the only date it would have been possible. This is the prescriptive statement done by sage Yajnavalkya who tried to say how do you construct a Vedic altar, how do you find the east direction? In order to tell the Vedic practitioner the east direction is under Kritika. So come out when it is still dark, do your ritual bath, see where Kritika is and the Sun will appear soon over there so align your Vedic altar along Kritika for maximum auspiciousness and do your ritual, that is what he meant.
Unfortunately Kritika is on the celestial equator only on this day when it is true east, on every other day it is far away, so that date corresponds to this particular one. I have an entire paper coming up on this one, because I am using this to date Sushruta. You can use this phenomenon to date Susruta, and I’ll be doing that soon. Taittriya Samhita refers to Kritika in the winter solstice and this corresponds to the date of 28921 BCE. One more instance of Agastya on the extreme south. Now, Prof. Abhyankar drew this particular graph. Agastya is the star called Canopus. Canopus is the star in the southern hemisphere. India is in the northern hemisphere, because we are to the north of the equator. Right. So we are northern hemisphere. Normally we would not be able to see Canopus from India. But because precession has dipped in a certain direction it has given us a view of that portion of the sky. Ok? That is the interpretation.
So Prof. Abhyankar drew a map of when would Canopus have been visible in India? This is 10,000 BCE all the way going to 10,000 current era. He says the visibility started here in Kanyakumari approximately 10,000 BCE, in Madras approximately 8500 BCE, in Vindhyas about 5000 BCE, in New Delhi around 3000 BCE. We are somewhere here now, maximum visibility all over India. We can see Canopus. However, there is also a disappearing cycle. It will disappear because of precession approximately 10,000 years from now, it wont even be visible from Kanyakumari. So he interprets that if Agastya was the first to cross the Vindhyas and see Canopus the date should be 5200 BCE. However, I caution that data may not be true because we also have a Puranic story that Agastya drank up the ocean because he wanted the Devatas to come and kill the demons who lived under the ocean. So that could be an allegory for the last glacial maximum which happened approximately 12,000 years ago, 10,000 BCE when most of the water was locked up in ice and you could have seen coastal areas far beyond today’s coastal areas.
So if Agasthya went to coastal India, Kanyakumari that date should actually correspond to 10,000 BCE and not 5200 BCE. Just an example of how archaeoastronomy can sometimes throw up instances when multiple interpretations can be there.
There is a phenomenon called the Rohini Shakata Bheda. Very, very intersting. Rohini is a star called Aldebaran, It appears in the Brishya nakshatra. There is a triangle that is formed, sorry Brishya raasi forms a triangle over here. This phenomenon is recounted in all these books – Surya Siddhanta, Brihat Samhita, Maha Bhaskariya, Khanda Katakaya everybody, in this chapter, sloka they refer to this. What they say is, for example, the Bruhat Samhita says, when Saturn, Mars or a comet cuts the vein of Rohini “what shall I say, alas for the whole world will perish being plunged in the ocean of misery”. This is the phenomena they said. In other words cataclysm could happen if Mars, Mars coming in over here, were to cut this triangle. In TIFR these researchers tried to see when would Mars cut this triangle, when would it be possible? They found these dates – 5000 BCE, 9000 BCE and so on, and they attempted to make an interpretation of it. They tried to correlate it with the minimum of the ice age, the last glacial minimum, when most of the ice would have melted, water levels would have gone up, coastal civilizations would have been flooded and maybe that cataclysmic event was remembered along with Mars also cutting this particular triangle of Rohini, remembered in this manner. Very interesting phenomenon.
Conclusion from astronomy evidence, many instances of interested can be dated with the astronomical observations encoded in the texts. Date of Kaliyuga reveals a Vedic concept in place in India much earlier that alleged Aryan migrations. Dates preserved in the Brahmanas and Upanishads reveal great antiquity. Observation of Abhijit shows very ancient knowledge of star positions including Rohini Shakata Bheda. There is evidence of great antiquity of Indians and this is backed by archaeological finds.
Just 10 years ago, I couldn’t have made statements like without looking like a fool, because people will say this is archaeology, nothing is there. But now, in Bhirrana now, we have gone up to about 8000 BCE, 9000 BCE. So right now archaeology has matured to a point, where these dates are no longer fantastic. They are within the range of archaeology. Unfortunately this evidence is ignored in today’s scholarship due to the Euro-centric idea that Indian astronomy borrowed from the Greeks after 300 BCE and to align it with proto-Indo-European narratives. What we talked about earlier. In other works, I critiqued the works by David Pengri and by Sadenberg and other Euro-centric scholars who tried to use reconstructed ideas of Babylonian mathematics, Greek mathematics and based on the current diary constructions they tried to make a claim that those ideas came into India. I critiqued some of these things and shown that that is not the case at all.
So, I come to the third part of my talk. How old is the Indian civilization? Sorry end of the second part, investigation of genetics shows a very ancient people, living continuously in India since 85,000 years ago. Investigations in archaeology now shows artifacts from at least 10,000 years ago. Investigations in astronomical observations shows artifacts from 24,000 years ago. All of these things are now adding up to an untold story that we are a very ancient people that we have not been diligent with ourselves in talking about this.
Now there is an allegation of inflow of knowledge from Greeks and Babylons. So I posed the question; what did the Indians know, before we go these allegations itself. We know our traditional kanowledge sources, Sruti – that which is heard, Vedas, Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, Upanishads which are mantras, sense, prayers, commentaries and hymns, rituals, philosophy and so on. Smriti – that which is remembered, the six vedangas (grammar, meter, astronomy, rituals), Ithihasas, texts on dharma, artha, kama, moksha, Puranas, poetic works, commentaries on srutis, sutras and sastras of various schools of philosophy, the nibandhas, politics, medicine, culture and art, Jain and Buddhist works and so on.
Why I pointed out all these things is to show a matrix of ideas, a bedrock within which the Indian learning existed. There is a very, very strong ecosystem of learning in India and my colleague Sahana has also brought out this book, that talks about ancient Indian universities starting from forest universities to brick and mortar universities to other universities. All these things point out to us that we had a very strong ecosystem of formal learning as well as informal learning. I don’t have a slide on informal learning but all over India we know the artisans had enormous knowledge of their systems, whether it was metallurgy, whether it was architecture, whether it was anything else, any other kind of works, artisans also had great amount of knowledge in addition to the formal knowledge sources.
Here’s an example, what did the Indians know? I just put down some schools and gurus and one-line descriptions. The nyaya school, one line description – all knowledge is not intrinsically valid. Most knowledge is not valid unless proven and truth exists whether we human beings know it or not. Greatest exponent is Rishi Akshapada Gautama. Yoga we know yama, niyama, asana, pranayama and so on. Patanjali codified these things. Vaiseshika works on perception and inference and Kanada is the famous rishi who did that. Samkhya which works in systematic and enumeration and rational examination of Kapila. Purva Mimamsa which requires reflection, consideration, profound thought, investigation, examination and discussion, Jaimini is one of the rishis. The Uttara Mimamsa /Vedanta there are up to ten schools now with Advaita and other such things.
I’d like to point out these things to tell people who say that it is the Britishers who brought in a very formal way and rational way of thinking after their own discovery of the age of reason, age of rationalism and these kind of things. They are the first people who brought us the scientific way of thinking and I say ‘whoa! wait a minute. Have you even looked at some of the Indic systems that existed?’. Even today as a scientist when I work, I do a systematic enumeration of all the facts known in the case. I put down everything that is known, then deep reflection, consideration, profound thought and investigation, rational examination. Then I come to a conclusion on what is this all about. So even today we subconsciously use methods of our Rishis, even though we might not know it. And we rarely attribute it to our own Indic knowledge systems. We appear to be very quick to grant the westerners that they brought a rational way of thinking to the sub continent, whereas this is very endemic to our systems.
I dont think I want to talk about this. Too much talk over here. Some ancient texts. We had the Vedas and Upanishads, vedanga Jyotishya which is an appendix to the Rig Veda, authored by Lagada. The dating hinges on the phenomenon described therein. Winter solstice position suggests 1400 BCE. However, Michel Witzel the Sanskrit professor from Harvard, he says final centuries of BCE, hinting that it copied earlier Harappan and Babylonian data.
This had me flabbergasted because here we had somebody who said he knew how to interpret Harappan data. We should find out what script the Harappans used and how they decoded that and how they wrote the Vedanga Jyotishya based upon that.
So this is the way the goal posts are changed. Whenever there is any kind of indication of antiquity that cannot be contested, they come about these convoluted ways of talking where they copied from these things and so on.
Surya Siddhanta show the Vedic, sorry, show traces of Vedanga Jyotishya. These the texts is lost, the Vasishtha Siddhanta, Paitamaha Siddhanta, Romaka and Pulisya Siddhanta. Varahamihara who wrote commentaries on that says that the calculations had become obsolete even in his own time. That shows how ancient those things were. Why did they become obsolete? Because of precession, because of precession some of the calculations they made were no longer valid. Nakshatras were not where they were supposed to be. So Varahamihira said he could not use those things. Then you have works by Bhaskara I and Bhaskara II and others.
Some selected discoveries. Rigvedic calendar 360 days, 12×30, but average is 365 days over 6 years because of correction month. Jyotishya Vedanga records astronomical data 4000 BCE. Sage Yajnavalkya 3000 BCE, propounded the heliocentric model. Satapata Brahmana, he measured the distance from earth to sun, earth to moon at 108 times diameter of the Sun and Earth. Modern figures are these. Surya Siddhanta has got lot of complex astronomical and time measurements. 2000 years ago Indians proposed stars were like the sun, but further away. Aryabhatta had something that looked like a partial heliocentric model. He knew that the shadows of the earth, shadows of the moon because of the sun shining on it. He also had formulas to compute the length of the shadows and if an eclipse will happen and all those kinds of things. Varahamihira said the same force that holds object to the earth also holds celestial bodies in its place. Brahmagupta calculated earth’s circumference at 36,000 km. Bhaskara II calculated Precession of Equinox at 25461 years. The same Precession that I have been talking about. Bhaskara II put it down to 25441 years. Very, very accurate figure that has not bettered upon until European science around 19 century. Sayana who is the minister, the prime minister in Vijayanagara, he in his commentary on the Rig Veda computed the speed of light. Subash Kak shows that his 2202 yoganas and ½ nimisha translates to this figure, very modern figure.
Surya Siddhanta. Amazing book, you can download this from Google and read it. It contains chapters on astronomy, time cycles and planetary diameters. Yup, you heard me right. It talks about planetary diameters. Not only were the ancient Indians observing these planets as blobs of light moving in the sky, but they also knew those blobs of light have got a diameter, a physical dimension associated with it. And they were able to compute it. So Surya Siddanta lists Mercury at not in miles obviously, these are modern interpretations 3008 miles. The true figure is so much. Saturn at 73,882 miles this is a true figure. Mars at 3772 miles this is a true figure Venus and Jupiter, they made some mistakes in getting those things.
Now you may wonder how on earth did they do that? Whether it is 700 BCE or 480 current era. How on earth did they do that? They didn’t have telescopes. How did they do that? Well it turns out that they used Trignometric ideas. One idea if you have the half moon directly overhead of you, you know that the illuminated face of the moon comes 180° away from the sun. You know that if this distance from you to the moon is 1 then the angel is 1/7 of a degree. Then this is 400 a right angled triangle property. Using these ideas and using ideas that everybody has done integration in high school knows about. If you did Reman integration, you know that you had to draw a lot of lines over there in your graph paper and summing the area under the curve, the lines help you to get a better and better figure. Similarly the ancient Indians in order to compute tithi, they needed to compute tithi, when a particular tithi would pass and so on and as accurately as possible. So they would divide the nakshatra from one to other by finer lines of resolution which will allow them to map the movement of heavenly bodies in a much finer way. So by making use of how quickly the bodies are moving and by using Trignometric ideas they were able to estimate this planetary diameters. That is the ingenuity of our anscestors that we need to connect to. This is lost in the popular discourse completely. We have no idea. We dont even talk about these things.
A collection of some of our greats, Brahmagupta who studied the works of Aryabhatta, Latadeva, Varahamihira and others. He wrote the Brahmasputa Siddhanta and Khanda Katkaya transmitted by the Arabs. I’ll show that later. Solutions of linear and quadratic equations and the rules for zero operations, positive and negative numbers. Trignometric tables and in Astronomy he said that Moon is closer to the Earth than the Sun. And he solved this equation which is a very famous equation in literature. More than in this time frame he had the complete solution to the set of equations which the westerners refer to as the Pell’s equation. And even greats like Oiler and others were clueless on how to solve this and eventually after about a 100 years of trying Europe was able to solve this 1000 years after Brahmagupta had already solved it.
Bhaskara-I who wrote these works. Zero, positional arithmetic, approximation for sine. There is a very famous approximation that Sin x can be represented by this kind of expression. Very, very famous. Even today we use this and he is the one who invented that. Bhaskara II lived in Bijapur, Bijapur northern Karnataka and he went to Ujjain and became the Head of Department of Astronomy over there. An instance of people moving across the country and working in different places. He wrote Siddhanta Shiromani and he appears to have also got the elements of differential calculus. He computed precession like I told you. This statement he made. “At the highest point the instantaneous speed is zero”. This is an assertion of the Calculus of variation, where at the highest point the rate of change is zero. That is a property I use even today for living in optimization and fields like that. So I owe it all to this very famous scientist. One of my most famous favorite scientists from ancient India – Bhaskara II.
Madhava of Sangamagrama (Trissur), all these expressions that you see, this infinite series are attribute to him. So he is the one who invented this and much, much more. Founder of Kerala school of Astronomy and Mathematics. Infinite series, Calculus, Trignometry. Iterative solution of nonlinear equations, something I do for a living even today, originated with him. We typically think Newton is the one who talked about iterative solution for nonlinear equations. But it turns out that he was the one who did these things. George Joseph Geevarghese, professor and he says that Madhava’s math was transmitted to Europe a century before Newton by the Church and these are some of the alumni of the school.
So I have come now to the next part of my talk. I think it is the final part. The allegation that India was the receiving end of Greek and Babylonian knowledge. So I would like to address the question did Indian knowledge flow out of India or into India? And my assertion is that it is an out of India untold story. Before I do that I need to talk about the routes for knowledge transfer. People say ok knowledge went, but how did it go? And this is one of the routes, the Silk route also included India. And one of the most famous works of Indian medicine called the Bover manuscript, Bover manuscript contained the Bela samhita part of Punarvasu Atriya’s works of Charaka Samhita. All of those things are found in Kashgar. Kashgar is in the Xinjiang province and they found Bover manuscript there, somewhere in the 18 century or so. That is an instance of Indic knowledge finding itself on a trade route, which means that Indic knowledge is also trade routes from all the way from China, Mediterranean and Europe.
Another route for knowledge transfer was trade. The Periplus of the Eritrean sea talks about in the first century all these ports in the western coast of India and the eastern coast of India from where ships could land, take goods and go through Red sea on to Mediterranean lands and so on, was another route for knowledge transmission. It doesn’t mean that it started in the first century, it is just that this map is dated to first century.
Let me go from that to the third route for knowledge transfer. After the Macedonian Alexander came to the frontiers of India, he left behind several Indo-Greek kingdoms and the Seleucid empire was one of them that formed the buffer between the Mauryans and the Greek parts and that also formed a conduit where Indic knowledge to transfer from this point to another.
I would like to show you knowledge outflows from India in everytime period. Pre-Pythagoras – 2000 BCE – 500 BCE, Pythagoras – 500 BCE, Post Alexandar – 300 BCE, Buddhists and the Hindu outflows and the Muslim period : Abbasid, Delhi Sultanate, Mughal periods as well as colonial period upto present times. I’d like to show in every period of time Indic knowledge went out of India and seeded the corpus of knowledge in the rest of the world.
This is the map of the world from approximately 1300 BCE and what you see is in Africa you have a lot of simple people, hunter gatherers and nomadic people and so on and all of Siberia, Russia you have simple people, same thing with Europe you have simple cultures living there, Iran pastoral people, Australia and elsewhere. So only in China you have the Chiang civilization. I don’t like these words Dravidian and Aryan, but unfortunately again the secular source, so I was forced to take this. I like to call them Indian civilization which existed here. Over here in Greece you had the Greek civilization and you had a little bit of activity in Sumeria and that it is exploded over here, the Hittites. The Hittities were where today’s Turkey is and they are actually called the Hutti people, Anglicization of that is Hittities. The Hutti people are known to have a city called Purushottama, city of man, so very Indic knowledge sitting over there and.. let me go back by one..
The Mittanis who lived in this part of the world, they were known to be Sanskritic people who invoked the Vedic Gods Indra, Varuna, Ashwinis in their peace treaties with the Pharaohs. In other words, in the name of Indra, in the name of Varuna, I promise not to attack you, those kind of peace treaties they had with the Egyptian Pharaohs. Then you had the Kassaites, the Babylonians who lived here at the tail end of this place in Dilmun. You see Dilmun over here? It is approximately where Bahrain is, where even today they found Indus valley seals and Lothal and other places, showing contact from those days itself in those parts of the world. So Indic thought was prevalent in this area of the world, in this area of the world and this area of the world.
We should not go looking for an actual artifact or a record saying these things. So to reconstruct this past we are going to look for echos of Indian thought in these very, very early periods of time when we cannot physically be expected to get direct evidence. That is what we are applying as a methodology over here. So in another talk, I talk about the knowledge of medical exchange, in my talk on Antiquity of Indian Medical Systems on IR channel, I explain these things in great detail and show what thought existed here, here, here and here, that shows reflections of Ayurvedic knowledge. Unfortunately I can’t include that also in today’s talk, that’s too detailed over here.
Pythagoras who lived in this time frame, these gentlemen who are all westerns, Albert Burki and A. N. Marlow and G. R. S. Mead, each of them says that Pythagoras went to India where he learnt his philosophies, knowledge and other things. These are not Indic people saying this. These are western sources saying these things. So Pythagoras was the gentleman who came a suggestion that he learnt in southern India and I postulated the question, could that have been Kanchipuram? Kanchipuram today we are told was the capital of the Pallavas. So perhaps entered a record from then, but it’s far more ancient than that. Far more ancient than the Pallavas, so could he have learnt at Kanchipura?
When Pythagoras went back to Greece he was called a madman because he had become a vegetarian. They said he only ate nuts, fruits, corn and these kind of things and people said something crazy about this guy, not eating meat. He also started a gurukulam style of school where he was the teacher-in-charge and the bachelor students his closest pupils were readied to get revealed his wisdom around him, and in the outer circle were the outer students on the way coming to, coming in this inner circle. This gurukulam style of teaching was inherited by his successor Socrates, Plato as well as Aristotle. All of them followed the same gurukulam style of teaching. Finally he also believed in transmigration of the soul. Here is a paper that talks about the doctrine of transmigration from the Royal Asiatic Society. So he believed in reincarnation. So very clearly there is a very strong element of Indic thought in Pythagoras works.
You need to ask a question why did Pythagoras even come to India? How did he know that India was a source of knowledge? If we go even further beyond Pythagorean time frame, we look at the similarities in the Greek stories and the Indian Puranic stories. There is enormous, enormous overlap in these two stories, hinting at a much more ancient contact. And the contact in fact goes back to the Mycenaean period. The Mycenaean period was the time when the Greeks had contact with the Mittanis. The Mittanis and other populations and they learnt their knowledge the Hittites and others, that’s where the knowledge transmissions happened.
I’d like to talk to you about Kanada. Kanada conservatively dated to 600 BCE and Democritus who lived in this time frame. Kanada was an exponent of the Vaiseshika sutra. He said to understand Brahman you should understand the natural world. He said 9 classes of reality and infinity. Creation is made up of atoms. Atman pervades all material. 7 classes of experience, substance, quality, activity, generality, particularity, inherence, non-existence. Traits of substances colors, tastes, smells and so on. In other words to understand the physical world, he said there is deeper philosophy, in order to understand the source of Vidya and Avidya. That was his goal.
What is vidya and what is avidya in the context of Brahman? The study of avidya is also vidya. So here was his attempt at studying the world which is vidya over here. Democritus on this side who was called the father of modern science. He is known to have travelled to Asia and India and Ethiopia and returned with something called natural philosophy. He said creation is made up of atoms of different types that degenerate. Two types of knowing, legitimate with intellect and illegitimate with sense objects. Does this sound familiar to Vedanta to anybody in this audience. So this is what he said. Earth is a sphere, universe made up of atoms in chaos colliding to make a bigger world. Very, very interesting connections how Democritus has internalised Vedantic knowledge.
Post-Alexander 330 BCE we talked about Seleucid empire, we talked about these things in this time frame. Heliodorus Pillar, proof of Krishna worship. We know that Alexander ordered the translations of astronomical works in Persia and Mesopotamia for Aristotle and this was transmitted to Hipparchus via the library at Alexandria which was set up for transmission of Indic knowledge and others from the east to the west.
I would like to talk about Hipparchus and Trigonometry. Before that Surya Siddhanta contains chord tables. Aryabhatta composed, there should be only one ‘t’ over here, I apologize, it is a mistake, composed sign tables in 3.5° segments the Gian sine and cosine. Pingala and Chandasastra in 400 BCE worked on combinatronics and binomials. Vriddhigarga 500 BCE, he proposed precession of Equinox. He said 1° for 100 years the same thing I said 25,500 years. Vriddhigarga had proposed it as 36,000 years. So very strong schools of propositional logic among Jains, Sanskrit scholars and Vedanta and this knowledge transmission route is via Aristotle and Alexandria. Hipparchus who lived between 190 and 120 BCE worked on chord tables in 7.5° segments. He proposed the same rate of precession as Vriddhigarag as 36,000 years. Plutarch shows that Hipparchus was able to do something called enumerative combinotrix which Pingala had already done a long time ago. Same thing as Pingala’s work. This propositional logic is in stoicism and stoicism is an offshoot of Plato. It is rooted in thoughts of Vedanta, Brahman and so on. So once again you see echos of Indic thought in Hipparchus. The western position is that Hipparchus thought his astronomy, sorry, trignometry to the Indians. So Aryabhatta learn this Trigonometry from the works of Hipparchus. That is the statement.
Ptolemy is also supposed to be one of the sources for Aryabhatta’s work and in this book by Robert Newton, he says that every observation of Ptolemy was allegedly fabricated. He alleges that Ptolemy was liar and a plagiarist and he suggests that the Trigonometric tables calculated by him were actually done by Eratosthenes of Egypt. So we need to understand who this Eratosthenes is? Eratosthenes is this person who is a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, poet, music theorist and his day job was he was a chief librarian at Alexandria. He had a lot of time on his hands to read manuscripts from India and learn a lot about India and what’s going on. So library at Alexandria, well before that, he worked on the circumference of the earth, tilt of earth’s axis, distance from earth to sun, measure of the diameter of the sun, diameter of the earth, same thing Yajnavalkya had done in 3000 BCE, same thing. He worked on Stoicism of Plato. This library was destroyed by Julius Ceaser in 40 BCE and then by the Pope when Europe became Christian in 341 current era to stamp out all of Pagan works. Destroyed by the Muslims in 690 CE current era and this library essentially facilitated sourcing knowledge from the east and transmitting it to the west.
From that I would like to move on to the Abbasid empire. The Abbasid era is from 700 CE to 1000 CE. So they ruled a great empire all the way from Sind, through the northern part of Africa, Arabia and so on up to Spain. So in Spain, you had Muslim Spain and you had Christian Spain that is the division of Spain at that time. Al-Fazari is known to have translated Brahmagupta’s Brahmasputa Siddhanta and Khanda Katakaya in Arabic which was brought by pandits from Sind to Baghdad. They called it Sind Hind and Arakan. Manka or Kanka, an Indian physician in the court of Haroon Al-Rashid, he translated Sushruta Samhita to Persian used by Avicenna. His medical texts were the foundation of European medicine. Abid Allah ibn Ali, he translated Charaka Samhita to Arabic and Persian and this was transmitted from Baghdad all the way upto Spain. Al Kindi was a very famous Arabic scientist and he translated Greek and Indian works and wrote many works on mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, music and philosophy.
We know that in this time frame, 1000 – 1700 enormous transfers of scientific works, maths, medicine, astronomy, chemistry, toxicology were done. We know about Al Birouni, Al Birouni accompanied Gazni. He came with a recommendation letter to the Sultan of Baghdad, who identified him as a scholar and told Gazni, when you are going to Hindustan to raid over there, please take him along because he is a scholar, he will copy down the textbooks and all those kinds of things. So he knew Persian, Arabic. He learnt Sanskrit in India. He knew Greek and Hebrew, he was in an enviable position of having read the Greek works and encountered Indian works. So he was able to do comparative analysis on these things too. He wrote Kitab Tarik Al Hind, translated many works, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Pancatantra. Sultan Firuz ibn Tughlaq has been known to plundered Nagarkot and acquired a library on 1300 books in Sanskrit translated to Persian. Zain ul Abedin from Kashmir had a bilateral translation department. Not only did he translate Sanskrit to Persian, but he also translated Persian to Sanskrit for the first time in Indic thought you have evidence of outside knowledge coming into India over here. There is no other record in any other period of time where knowledge came from outside India to there. It was here in this time frame when he had a bilateral translation, some works came in. Akbar did the same, Dara Shikoh the unfortunate brother of Aurangazeb, he had Persian translations of Upanishads, 50 works, the Europeans got the taste of the Upanishads after Plato and other works through Dara Shikoh’s translations.
I would like to talk to you about transmission of this knowledge to Medieval Europe. In Toledo, if you remember there was a Christian Spain and Muslim Spain. Muslim Spain Cordoba was the capital; in the Christian side Toledo. At Toledo there was a monastery whose only job was to translate texts from Arabic into Latin. So Gerard of Cremona is the name that has come to us from the past. He translated 87 Arabic works from Latin. Math, astronomy and medicine. And Constantine the African, he is a Christian monk in Italy who translated Arabic medical works. Here I have shown a small graphic. This graphic shows Indic knowledge that first went to the Greeks and Romans. Most of it was destroyed in Byzantine kingdom by the Christian rulers who did not want Pagan knowledge to exist over there. So it died over there. However some of that knowledge existed in Islamic lands, Arabian lands before they became Islam also in Lebanon, Syria and all these kinds of places. Muslims inherited these works along with knowledge that was destructively obtained from India and they were consolidators they consolidated all of the information and it was injected into Europe into Latin by this translation school that I talked about. Also there were travelers in every period of time including colonial people who directly took Indic knowledge to Europe and all of this knowledge today has come back to us bereft of any citations, and repackaged with obviously much more refined knowledge systems and so on. Unfortunately we have lost track of where did this knowledge come from? And we are left in awe of the western civilization which could have built such an enormous edifice of knowledge without acknowledging that they stood on the shoulders of your ancestors to understand and how to take it from there to the next point on.
Here’s an example of transmission of knowledge in 1200s to 1300s Marco Polo, Jordanus Catalani and all these people. This book you can download in Google. It shows you transmission of some Indic knowledge in this period of time. 1400s Europeans Niccoloc Da Conti very famous because he visited Vijayanagara and found eye witness accounts to how Vijayanagara was at that period of time. His works were very influential in 15 century cartography. Afanasy Niktin of Russia, Vasco da Gama are these were visitors. This book over here, India in the 15 century, he talks about voyages to India, knowledge transmissions. 1500s the Portuguese had come relatively with armies 13 ships of 1500 men and so on. There were several visitors some of them not visitors, conquerors and other such things. Some of them for example were Portuguese scientists. Pedro Nunes, this De Castro, he was the fourth Viceroy to India. So these are scientists also who came to India and studied Indian works, translated them and took it back with them. This Frieze or statue in Lisbon shows these prominent people of the Portuguese society who are looking outward to the ocean because that is where they got their knowledge from, from India. So this monument that is there in Lisbon, I think Sahana you took this picture when you went over there shows this fact, even today.
Now when Europe finally got its acts together, got the Knights and the soldiers and the Pope’s blessings and everything, they finally went and reconquered Spain. They went through a period of Inquisition, when they were stamping out the Moorish influence. The Muslim influence in Spain. At that time any Muslim knowledge was seen as seeking knowledge from Satan inviting savage retribution. Until that period of time the nobility of Europe would send their eldest sons to Muslim Spain to learn at the feet of the Moors. Because the Moors had got better knowledge than us so they would go there and learn. But from then on it was the Inquisition period. In Renaissance European scholars hid their sources and passed off Greek and Indic works as original knowledge. All of a sudden you had people coming out of dark ages and disease and illiteracy and the oppression of the Church and coming out and saying I invented this and I invented that and so on. And we barely questioned the veracity of these claims. However this is what was going on over there. So European works in astronomy, math, medicine was greatly predated by Indian and Greek works however they ignored citations to Indian sources, therefore I call them plagiarizing.
In colonial period you had a gold rush literally by every colonial occupier. Missionaries were at the head of leading the collection and translation. The Dutch in Tranquebar. Bartholomaus Ziegenberg for example, I picked up this book in the French Institute of Pondicherry. It is just a book on the number of books copied by this gentleman, Ziegenberg, just a bibliography. A 200 page book of bibliography of all the books he had collected. Portugese in Goa, Father Xavier French in Tamil Nadu collected an enormous numbers of work. They have the greatest collection of Shaiva Siddhanta manuals under their control now, which they took when they arrived in, rather conquered Tamil Nadu. The British collected works all over India and we have information of that too.
So with that I know I have taken a long time in this talk. But this is my closing remarks over here. I hope I have established evidence for an untold story of ancient India. I hope I have shown you there was no Aryan invasion or migration of or to India. Indian civilization as cultural memory going back to 24,000 years. Indians produced knowledge within many fields, enormous knowledge transfers from India in every time period. We have examined the evidence from genetics, astronomy, archaeology, literary sources as well as knowledge transfers to come to our conclusions.
Thank you very much. You have been a very patient audience. Thank you.