The mystery of the lost 'Vedic Race'

Courtesy: http://www.harekrsna.com/


My first brush with Sanskrit came when I learnt the Vishnu SahasranAma. There is something so lyrical, so charming about this sahasranAma, that I was completely engrossed. The words just roll off one’s tongue, like water rolling off a lotus petal. It was only much later that I started to look deeper into it, in an attempt to understand what each name meant. For the uninitiated, the Vishnu SahasranAma consists of 1000 names for Vishnu; and is probably the most sacred, popular stotras for the Hindus, especially the Vaishnavites. The SahasranAma is recorded in the Mahabharata – during the battle of Kurukshetra between the Pandavas and Kauravas. When Bhishma is on his deathbed, Yudhishtira asks him, “Who is that single, all pervading, divine entity, in whom one can take refuge, by worshipping such an entity, one can attain salvation?” (Of course, this is a very ‘layman’ translation’) In response, Bhishmacharya responds that the means of salvation is to recite the Vishnu SahasranAma – there being only one, Supreme Being – Maha Vishnu.

In the literal sense, the stotra consists of 1000 names (sahasra) of Maha Vishnu. I think for people like me, this itself is enough! However, each of these names can be interpreted in several different ways – in other words, it is rich, layered, and hidden with deeper meanings, which probably only the true seeker can understand. Reciting this stotra is said to bring an instant calmness in the mind, peace, prosperity. I can vouch for the instant calmness of the mind – I am sure even an atheist can achieve this. Simply because the sound of each syllable is so lyrical, so musical – that the mind focuses automatically on the sound!

Although the Vishnu SahasranAma was ‘recorded’ in the Mahabharata, it is believed that it was composed by none other than sage Veda Vyaasa himself. In any case, our scholars have estimated that the events of the Mahabharata unfolded between 8th or 9th century B.C. And that gives me goosebumps. Imagine – something that was recited in 8th century B.C. or even earlier, is still recited, in the same way even to this day, in millions of households!

Now, the Vishnu SahasranAma is a drop in the ocean, as far our Vedic ‘literature’ is concerned. We all know about the four principle Vedas – the oldest being the Rig-Veda, then, the Yajur Veda, the Sama Veda and the Atharva Veda. Then there are the Maha Puranas, the Upanishads etc. Now, if a ‘simple’ shloka like the Vishnu SahasranAma can have so many layers of interpretations, what about all the profound knowledge expounded by the principle Vedas themselves? Obviously, I am talking about knowledge which is deeply abstract, metaphysical in nature – the type of knowledge which can be received only after due preparation, both mental and physical.

That took me to the next logical question. Any knowledge is obtained based on life experiences. We keep improving and experimenting on those experiences, and we perfect the knowledge. We ‘found’ out how to make fire, and improved thereon – from rubbing two stones together to harnessing natural resources of oil and gas. Similarly, what were the exotic, profound life-experiences of a race that made it amass the knowledge that is now contained in the Vedas? That too, at such an ancient time, when other peer races where struggling with stone tools and employing rudimental tactics of agriculture? Of course, the belief is that the Vedas have no beginning. They have always existed through Time. They were revealed to our Maha Rishis, who in turn imparted the knowledge to worthy beings on earth. Assuming this theory is true; even then, such knowledge cannot be imparted to an ordinary mortal. It is akin to teaching theory of relativity to an LKG child. This knowledge had to be imparted to a group of people, who possessed extraordinary mental faculties. This deduction is an aberration to the scientific data – the ‘people’ of that time were just about getting organised into societies, discovering metals etc.

The general consensus is that the Rig-Veda could have ‘originated’ between 1700 – 1100 B.C. But then, I found an interesting piece of information – certain astronomical data have been recorded in the Yajur Veda and the Atharva Veda, which date back to 2400 B.C. The language used in these ancient Vedic texts is a very archaic form of Sanskrit. It was only in the 4th Century B.C. that Panini wrote the Ashtadhyayi, where he defined the rules for Sankrit grammar. This gave rise to the classical Sanskrit, in which all the poetry and literature took shape (e.g. Kalidasa’s works etc.) Now, let us draw a quick comparison to a peer civilization – the most popular Egyptian civilization. At a time when these guys were using circles and dots and fowls and animals as their script, the ‘Vedic race’ had a perfect language – perfect in all sense, complete in all sense. How many centuries does it take to ‘perfect’ the language of a race? And therefore, for how many centuries was this Vedic Race in existence? Yes, we all know of the Mohenjo Daro and Harappan civilizations. We also know that this civilization ‘disappeared' in 1700 B.C. due to change in climatic conditions (and not because of the fictitious Aryan invasion as popularised by some Western scholars.) But there is no evidence that shows the Mohenjo Daro/Harappan civilizations were in possession of such Sanskrit texts. However, excavations have revealed the existence of ‘Homa’ areas, thereby implying that even this civilization did follow rites and rituals prescribed in the Vedas. So in what prehistoric era did this Vedic Race actually live? And where did they live?

Similarly in the 2nd century B.C – around 150 B.C actually, Patanjali wrote his Yogasutras, which are practised all over the world even today. This treatise is not just about ‘doing’ the Yoga - mastering the asanas, as is done today. The Yogasutras deal with psychology, the abstract, metaphysical aspects of the Soul, the Brahman, the controlling of one’s impulses, self-awareness – principles of such astounding complexity and maturity, that it seems too detached from the world around at that time (and still is, if you ask me!) Again, the same question arises. What was the extraordinary environment, what were the extraordinary experiences – that enabled Patanjali? Who were these ancient Masters, who imparted such phenomenal wisdom to our ancestors – thousands of years ago? Why is there NO evidence of their physical existence?

So, on one hand, we are looking at civilizations who were using hieroglyphics for scripts, war-ravaged regions in Europe, nomads, races grappling with agricultural methods, usage of stone tools, at best, spears and bows and arrows and ‘light weight’ chariots etc. – and on the other hand, the Vedas reveal a different race, light years ahead of the rest, technologically advanced (how can one explain accurate astronomical calculations?), intellectually advanced (even if Mahabharata is a ‘myth’ as declared by some scholars, surely, it was not written by a simpleton); essentially a race that seemed to transcend physical planes of space and time.

And yet, I find it strange that there is such a dismissal and denial of these facts. Of course, a philosophy as complex as that of the Vedas could never have been accepted by the then Church – remember they tied themselves into knots over evolution theory? And most of the modern scholars try to put the entire Vedic knowledge into a very narrow framework of proof-seeking – there is no Rosetta Stone for the Rig Veda, and hence, it is difficult to correlate. And yes, it does not fit into the entire evolution theory too. On one hand, there is the Stone Age and the Bronze Age and what have you, but on the other hand, our texts talk about the Soul, the primordial Sound, and the Truth about existence. One cannot even draw a parallel! But still, even a bumbling fool like me can figure out something is not adding up. Sure, we do not have mummies and tombs and anything thrilling that way. But how can one miss out completely on the existence of such a superior race?

Where did this race come from? Where did they vanish?

The other day, I caught a program called Ancient Aliens on History Channel. They were drawing a comparison between several ancient cultures – the Mayans, the Incas, our Mohenjo Daro, Egyptian – the common thread was that all these cultures had a representation of some kind of contact with superior powers from outer space. This is represented by means of paintings, frescos etc. More often than not, it shows Beings ‘imparting’ some kind of knowledge from the skies.

Perhaps, therein is my answer - heavenwards. The only explanation (atrocious, bold and bizarre as it may sound) that I can think of for the disappearance of this Vedic Race, who left behind their astounding knowledge in ancient India – is that they were inter-galactic, they were extra terrestrial – and once their job was done on earth, they left. Vanished into thin air. There is not even a footprint for a proof. Hence the general world-wide disenchantment with the Vedic age – as far as academia is concerned, it’s some ancient text – so date it, forget it.

But then, that is the nature of the Vedas. It reveals Itself only to the true seeker.

References:

http://www.hindunet.org/hindu_history/ancient/aryan/aryan_frawley.html

http://www.fsmitha.com/time/timeline.htm

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2526/2526.txt

©Sumana Khan - 2010 

Comments

  1. This looks like an outline for your next novel. ;) It would be great if someone weaved a story around these. Perhaps you will do it - with some Indian 'Langdon.' :)

    The more I try to understand these things the more confused I become.
    When it comes to Mahabharata, no other story has fascinated me more than this. But it's always been hard for me to believe that it really happened. I believe it's written for a reason, for a greater purpose, to make us understand the philosophies of life through Gita. Not to be taken literally.

    I've heard that S. L. Bhairappa's Parva tells the story of Mahabharata in a different way - what if all the characters were lesser mortals, like us. Written with a lot of logic. A new perspective. Hope to read it sometime.

    That Nat Geo explanation is vaaary interesting indeed. Hope youtube has it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Karthik...keep at it, you will understand layer by layer.

    The novel idea seems too cool to pass on :P

    check out this link - http://www.hindunet.org/hindu_history/ancient/mahabharat/mahab_vartak.html

    And sorry...that was History Channel...not nat geo. In Youtube, do a search on Ancient Aliens...and open the History Channel links :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. you could check out https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/genographic/lan/en/atlas.html for a genetic view of human migrations.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sumana

    Very well capured... the essence...thanks!

    there are indeed layers and layers of understanding in the vedic literature...while the current modern civilizaion is engrossed in understanding and mastering the external 'science' these texts offer evidence that these people traveled inwards penetrating the layer of human mind and consciousness to discover the true bliss and joy that forms the basis and sustratum of ALL external experiences.

    When I read texts of different sages it is amazing to see the underlying consistency and strength of logic and the ability to capture it in pithy stanzas.

    Did Mahabharata really happen? Did Patanjali or Lord Krishna really exist? ....are they 'historical' characters? Do I need 'proof' that they existed?

    I dont care..after all what is history except a common set of perceptions in the collective consciousness of a group of people and in that sense I have no doubt all these characters really existed

    With the advent of modern gadget to amuse and assist the mind, our natural faculties are indeed getting weaker and weaker and so in that sense the ancient civilization is becoming slowly extinct!

    regards
    Mahesh

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Sumana,
    There is a book thats written in kannada called as "mahasamparka" which speaks about a superior alien race coming here and transpiring the whole Mahabaratha, kudos to the author, he even references purusha suktha (starting like... sahasra sheersha....)to that superior alien.
    very thought provoking entry

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Vikram - Will try to get this book...sounds too interesting! Also intrigued by the reference to the Purusha Suktha. I mean I've heard the Purusha Suktha all my life...but never thought of it as anything more than an invocation to the Supreme Being (Purusha).

    ReplyDelete
  7. I guess the answer is deep hidden in those Vedas. As they say we have four world cycles and now we are in its last phase, the Kalyug. So may be all those divine and intellectual persons were living in a cycle prior to us. And as far as science is concerned its a ever-growing and expanding disciple, may be few years in the future might give us a whole new insight into the topic.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Rachit, thanks for stopping by. You are right..it is a very valid explanation.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I enjoyed reading this post.
    I share your love for Sanskrit.
    My house reverberates with the sounds of these Shlokas every morning and evenings too.

    I love reciting some of the shorter and easier ones in my mind when I take a morning or evening walk.
    I love the lyrical beauty, the rhythm and hyming in these compositions
    I get my tongue all knotted up the first time when trying to reel off these shlokas.
    With patient repetition and practice, I have finally managed to render a few of them correctly.

    My knowledge of Sanskrit is rudimentary and I need either English or Hindi translations to understand these shlokas.

    It is my eternal regret that I opted for French in High school, instead of Sanskrit.
    I am now teaching myself Sanskrit informally, and soon plan to enroll for a formal education.
    Now that I have retired, I have the time.

    This article was so good to read, that I would like to share it with a special target group.
    I am a member of an Iyer on line community forum with about 4500 members, mostly senior ctizens like me spread all over the world.
    We keep in touch, entertain each other, share info through a yahoo group e mail list.
    Do you mind if I reproduce this article in our email list , with due credit to you?
    There is a potential additional readership of 4500 persons specially interested in subjects like these.
    Be aware that there are several learned members here and in case there is an error in your writeup they will be quick to point it out.
    Let me know and I will do the needful.
    Regards
    GV

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. GVjee...my Sanskrit is only limited to the Sahasranama! It is so heartening to know you plan to continue your studies in the subject. I have tremendous respect for people who never stop learning!

      Please do go ahead and share the write-up (and really...no need to ask me at all)! I would love to hear different perspectives, since my own view on this is so narrow and dim.

      Delete
  10. Thanks for your consent.
    I have just posted the following message on two forums where I am a member.
    I believe this post will be interest to most members.
    Possibly some of them will post comments here directly.
    In case I receive any feedback at my email address, I will post them here in this comment box, as I don't have your email address.
    Regards
    GV
    =============
    Friends,

    Recently I happened to stumble upon the blog of a young lady.
    I don't know her personally, but she is probably in her thirties.
    Her writings appealed to me.
    While she writes on a variety of subjects, two particular posts caught my attention and I think they are appropriate to share with other members in our forum.

    I am glad to see writers from the younger generation still interested in subjects that most associate only with people of our generation.

    Here is a sample of her writing which I am reproducing here with her permission, in the belief that most of you will enjoy reading this as much as I did.

    I am reproducing the text of the blog here for your convenience.

    In case you wish to see the original post the link is

    http://kaapizone.blogspot.in/2010/09/mystery-of-lost-vedic-race.html

    If after reading this you have the appetite for more, you could also check out her latest post on Sita.
    I am not reproducing the text but the link is
    http://kaapizone.blogspot.in/2012/05/being-sita.html

    Happy reading
    Regards
    GV

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. extremely kind of you GVjee...thank you:)

      Delete
  11. America's First Hindu Think Tank Now Established

    The Center for the Study
    of Dharma and Civilization
    http://www.dharmacivilization.com

    After more than a decade of discussions, planning and organizing, the very first credible and professionally led Hindu think tank in America has now been formally established to serve the Hindu community.

    The Center for the Study of Dharma and Civilization (CSDC) is the very first academic think tank of the Sanatana Dharma tradition ever created in American history. Established by Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya in May of 2012, the CSDC brings together several of the most prominent Hindu scholars in America with the singular purpose of academically affirming the preeminence of the philosophy, practice and culture of Sanatana Dharma in the intellectual realm.

    The Board of Advisors for this first ever Hindu think tank includes:

    Dr. David Frawley, Professor Subhash Kak, Professor Ramdas Lamb, Professor Ramesh Rao, Professor Parmender Mehta, and Professor Daniel Wilkins.

    Our goal is to reveal to the world the unique Vedic perspective on all of the most important philosophical, social, religious, political and cultural issues of the day. We will offer comparative analyses of the Dharma world-view versus every other world-view of prominence in the 21st century, thus establishing Sanatana Dharma as the philosophical system par excellence designed to solve the many crises and confusions that our world is facing today.

    Seeking Paper Submissions

    We are seeking papers to publish on our website, and that may eventually be published in printed form.

    We are exclusively interested in papers that firmly contrast any civilizational aspect of Sanatana Dharma with any juxtaposing aspect of a non-Dharmic belief system, theological stance, philosophy, ideology, or idea. The goal of your paper must be to demonstratively establish the preeminence of Sanatana Dharma over the non-Dharmic philosophical proposition you are comparing it to. We are not interested in purely historical, hagiographical, philological, or needlessly abstract papers – but only papers that directly interface Sanatana Dharma with modernity in a polemically engaged manner.

    You can submit papers online at: http://dharmacivilization.com/submissions/

    We Need Your Help

    The CSDC is currently operating on a limited budget. We will need further funding for larger office space rental, internet development and maintenance, possible fellowships for scholars who we would want to employ full-time, development of multimedia production capacity, etc. If you would like to donate to this important cause, please do so by visiting: http://dharmacivilization.com/donate/

    Aum Tat Sat

    ReplyDelete
  12. Indian Vedic contribution is a reservoir of Vibrant Information and
    > Harmonious Creativity. May the womb of nature embrace all with
    > tranquil blessings from this day forward? Let this attract one's
    > attention affecting them positively. It is a sanctuary of the self a
    > creative venue which serves as an enduring expression of lightness,
    > where a peaceful atmosphere with sunlight flows and serene atmosphere
    > prevail.
    >
    > In the storm of life we struggle through myriads of stimuli of
    > pressure, stress, and multi problems that seek for a solution and
    > answer. We are so suppressed by the routine of this every life style
    > that most of us seem helpless. However, if we look closely to ancient
    > techniques we shall discover the magnificent way to understand and
    > realize the ones around us and mostly ourselves. If only we could stop
    > for a moment and allow this to happen. May all beings be happy (Loka
    > Samastha Sukhino Bhavanthu) is the essence of Indian philosophy?

    ReplyDelete
  13. I am copying and pasting below a comment received from one of our members in the community forum that I belong to, for your reference.
    Regards
    GV
    ==============

    In this blog the author makes one major error. She says that the vedic
    civilisation has disappeared! NO! We are the Vedic race!

    You can say that it has degenerated, reduced in following or diluted.
    But it is totally wrong to say that it has disappeared. The further
    argument that it may be because of some extra terrestrial intelligence
    is also equally unacceptable and a figment of wild childish imagination.

    The proof that the vedic civilisation still exists is all the people in
    India. We all still follow the religion outlined by Vedas. The same Veda
    mantras are chanted today without any error or change- this is because
    of the many ways used in preserving the Vedas like chanting it in many
    detailed variations up to Gana pata. The sandya vandana mantra and
    Gayatri should be the same as that used many thousands of years ago.

    Even sophisticated yagyas, offerings in fire, starting from Ganapathi
    homa to Vajpayee yagya is practiced in many parts of India- may be a
    reduced version of the original. The science of constructing temples
    -agama sastra- is intact and is used for constructing new temples.

    Our philosophy itself outlines ways of ordinary people becoming a
    stitapagya, a superman who should be capable of grasping more Vedas. May
    be the environment got disturbed and such people are few and far
    between. It has nothing to do with extra terrestrials.

    The Upanishads are well studied and we have so many exponents of the
    philosophies outlined there. Just because there is a distortion and
    decay in our hoary traditions due to many historical events like the
    Muslim and British invasion, poverty of the people, increase in
    population etc., we cannot conclude that every thing is finished- pack
    up and go to Christianity or Islam or look at the sky for more aliens to
    come and save us.

    V.Muralidharan.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think I've mentioned anywhere that our traditions are 'finished'. In fact, I've mentioned that it is amazing we STILL follow the same traditions, recite the same shlokas as was done thousands of years ago. The commenter has not only missed the point completely but has also misinterpreted that I've said the traditions have been disappeared because of aliens 0_O

      Delete
  14. Hi Sumana, You have written this so well. It's such a diverse and difficult topic for me to comprehend with so many perspectives - history, religion, languages, mythology. My husband is very interested in this subject and I am going to share this post with him. Will share his feedback!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree...this is an extremely abstract topic. I was merely thinking aloud. I am glad you found it interesting - and yes, I will look forward to your husband's comments :)

      Delete
  15. Loved,loved, loved your post. Is there any blog (that you're aware of) that I can read to reconcile my beliefs in feminism and equity with my interest in Hindu scriptures? In short a blog written on Hindu scriptures but without gendered, sexist interpretations?

    I am struggling to understand what it means to be a Hindu woman. Can I call myself a Hindu without compromising my beliefs in gender equity?
    Is the claptrap that has been shoved down our throats the only thing the scriptures ordained? A woman's dharma is unconditional service and duty to her husband. Her life begins with marriage and ends the day she is widowed.

    Did our Vedic ancestors leave anything that is not the usual misogynistic rubbish thrown at women in the name of "Hindu beliefs"?

    Thanks a lot for that wonderful post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. S.S - in my opinion, almost all the principle religions of the world (or rather the way they are practised) have taken extraordinary measures to put women down. Hence all the holy texts, interpretation of the holy texts, performing religious rites - everything is exclusively a man's domain.

      But you ask an interesting question - what it means to be a Hindu woman? In fact, i dont think anyone has a proper answer as to 'what it means to be a Hindu?' - apart from the superficial connotations of 'hinduism is a way of life' (as envisaged by a man perhaps?) :)

      But coming back to your question - the deeper you dig into the core of Hinduism - and i don't just mean the homas and the poojas and our Gods - I mean the absolute core - the hindu view of the cosmos and the soul - you will see that it is gender neutral. It is all about a HUMAN's inner journey. Be it Dvaita or Advaita philosophies - the essence is how YOU want to evolve spiritually. It is irrespective of being a man or a woman.

      From that perspective I would say don't fall into the trappings of the outer symbolic framework of 'being a hindu'. Enjoy your own journey into your self; interpret our philosophy in your own way. Because whatever literature you find, it ALREADY is an interpretaion, and it will carry author bias. At the end of the day, religion is just that - your own discovery of what you believe (or don't believe) is 'god' and 'soul'

      Did I make sense?

      Delete
  16. You made a lot of sense Moonbeam and it was beautifully written. I have a love-hate relationship with my Hindu heritage.

    Just the other day, I discovered that my family's geneology did not include any daughters because only male children are considered legitimate progeny. So my father apparently has only one child -- my brother.

    All mention of the daughters of the family was obliterated according to "Hindu" custom. An uncle who has two daughters was listed as being childless in the geneological chart.

    When I encounter traditions like these, all I feel for Hinduism is white-hot hatred. Then, when I hear the Gayatri Mantra or the Bhaja Govindam, I reconsider. I am moved by their beauty and profundity and it is then that I ask myself the quetion that I asked you.

    I'm going to follow your approach and try to access the spiritual core of this bafflingly complex and contradictory "religion".

    ReplyDelete
  17. I stumbled upon this site while researching on Vishnu Sahasranama. Well written article. Sanathana Dharma is not easy to comprehend. It requires constant sadhana to even have a distant peep into it. But the efforts will never be wasted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by, Hari. I agree with your view :)

      Delete
  18. Wow!!! I see many of the topics close to my heart being discussed by you in your Blog. Wish we could meet in person. :). Yes, it's a very interesting and valid point you have raised, about how & where the characters, authors of such complex texts and as well the presence of such a structured language fit into the 'generally-accepted' Darwinian theory of evolution. I too share the same wonder. That would be a very, very fascinating study in itself. In one of the discourses I heard, it was mentioned that the people who existed in the age of Mahabharatha or Ramayana were no ordinary mortals. For example, how else could Gandhaari bear 100 sons and 1 daughter within a short period of time!!! And how could Draupadi and Drishtadyumna be born of fire and how could Sita go back home to the Earth or even go through the agni parikshe coming out unscathed or Karna be born with gold kavacha & karNakunDala? The lifespan of these beings also stretched beyond 100 years easily. Many of them were known for their special powers. How can these being exist along with Neanderthals or did they? Million Dollar question. Maybe if you take up this study you have a ready volunteer in me. :) Vishnu Sahasranaama is my all time favourite chants. Can never get enough of it. Though in certain places I stumble (the tongue twisting gets too much for me), I cannot help but feel a great sense of joy during chanting. The way the names are sequenced is just amazing. The sthothra is elegant, musical, exquisite, structured and of course, divine!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. you are a doppelganger Hima! Are you sure we did not grow up together? :)

      Delete

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