Saturday, February 1, 2014

What have I done? (2)


(In December and January 2013-14, I was a member of an ad hoc list of some 35 people selected by Prof. Vijaya Rajiva, prominently featuring Dr. S. Kalyanaraman and Dr. NS Rajaram. Since they are public figures whose general positions can easily be verified on the internet, I do mention their names below; for other members, I will use X and Y. Soon, this list sank to a terrible level of narrow-minded chauvinism and smugness. The said doctores also made plans to get Prof. Michael Witzel’s book on global mythology, OUP 2013, which they hadn’t read but of which they applauded a review lambasting him as “racist”, banned from sale in India; and to get Harvard and OUP to somehow punish him. They also exhausted themselves in the choicest abuse of Shrikant Talageri and myself, and declared both the Aryan Invasion Theory and the Out-of-India Theory nonsense. I left this madhouse on 1 February 2014 with the following post.)



Dear all,

In spite of everybody having had his say, I have not seen any answers to my questions. Rajaram has not told us who those worthies are who accept his decipherment, after it has been laughed out of court for the past fourteen years. Much less has he apologized for his false allegations against me. Nor has he or Vijaya Rajiva or S. Kalayaraman told us why they know it all better than Yajnavalkya or Shankara in choosing to substitute censorship and repression for open debate. We have only gotten to see a very ugly face of Hindu nationalism.

Anyway, it is clear by now that this is not the forum that will get us anywhere. So, before leaving this list, I will merely set the record straight on a few matters raised here.


"The Aryan debate is over"

NS Rajaram persists in error by declaring that the Aryan debate is over, and even that it doesn't exist. For him indeed, the debate has never existed, for he has never faced an opponent. He has only preached to the uninformed (like, on his own admission, Prof. X) and the like-minded. He has misinformed gullible audiences that didn't know the subject. But he has never entered the debating arena, though he has often lambasted prominent scholars past and present in less than diplomatic terms.

This led directly to the California textbook disaster (2005-9). The California parents were mostly engineers, doctors and businessmen. Not being historians, they relied on those whom they deemed historians, people like the author of several books on the Aryan question, physicist dr. NS Rajaram. To be sure, Rajaram was not a historian either, nor an archaeologist or Sanskritist, he had no professional qualification to pass judgment on the competing theories of ancient history; no Adhikara, as people here would say. Nonetheless, his assurance that "the Aryan debate is over" and that "nobody believes in the Aryan Invasion Theory anymore" had spread through his books and become the received wisdom among common Hindus.

To be sure, I am not a diploma fetishist, and I don't want to draw any conclusion from the fact that he wasn't qualified while, for instance, I do have a PhD and two MA diplomas in History & Philology. He may have chosen to master the discipline of History at a later age and informally, but amateurs should abide by the same rules of the discipline as diploma-holders. His attitude to the very relevant discipline of Historical Linguistics, which he has always curtly dismissed as a "pseudo-science", does not indicate a willingness to learn. His conduct as an amateur-historian has certainly not contributed to a favourable attitude among real historians towards amateur interlopers.

It fell to me to warn the California Hindus that the AIT was very much alive, and that asserting otherwise would not succeed, would wake sleeping dogs and even jeopardize the other textbook edit proposals. And this is exactly what happened. If they didn't want to listen to a foreigner (since many of you here value ethnicity more than truth), there were many Indians and born Hindus who could have told them the same.

Thus, History professor Vinay Lal, admittedly a secularist, wrote in 2003: "There is, on the whole, more scholarly consensus on the issue of an Aryan migration to India than on any other subject". (The History of History, OUP, p.138) The theory may of course be wrong, as has happened so often in the history of science, but he accurately notes that it is the dominant theory, directly in conflict with Rajaram's claim. About Rajaram, he notes that Michael Witzel and Steve Farmer in their Frontline cover-story "Horseplay in Harappa" (30-9-2000) "demolish Rajaram's arguments", and in their later rejoinders "similarly savage Rajaram". Lal also cites a "devastating critique of Rajaram and his ilk" by historian Shereen Ratnagar. (p.137-138) While this doesn't decide right and wrong in this debate, it does testify to the dominance of the AIT paradigm, as well as to Rajaram's status as an international laughing-stock.

To sum up: Rajaram has misinformed his readers including the Hindu parents in California, and they have paid dearly for that. Instead of making progress, the Hindu cause has been thrown back for  many years, and all educational authorities are henceforth wary of any Hindu amendments to history and religion textbooks. This does of course not decide about the correctness of Rajaram's (originally the late Natwar Jha's) decipherment, which may still be partly or largely correct. Unfortunately, Rajaram, who has repeatedly struck a haughty pose of ignoring this and disregarding that, behaves like he has abandoned his own decipherment.



For another statement by Rajaram: "It is not worth worrying about Elst. This is not the first time he has abused colleagues, even in print. He doesn't seem to understand that abuse is not argument and self-praise is no recommendation."


No participant in the present discussion has been more abused than me. According to Rajaram, my detractors should realize that "abuse is not argument". I am unaware of any self-praise, I have merely factually and verifiably asserted that I have debated many times with the other side, while most of you have not. This contrasts with the self-praise widely indulged in by Hindu chauvinists, who earn the ridicule of the world with their claims of Hindu superiority and ancientness, all without waiting to hear the reaction of the outside world.


This, incidentally, is why it is so funny that Vijaya Rajiva "uninvitedly" diagnoses the Elst problem as follows: "The problem with Elst is that he lives in the closed very closed world of the Aryan debate. This is unhealthy." So, in other words, it is unhealthy that I live in the real world, where there are different and clashing opinions, while she and most of you live in a cosy world of mutual praise, incestuous and shielded from unhealthy interaction with other opinions.



My record and my lack of status


Rajaram further belittles me: “A problem with Elst is he has no standing as an academic being only a freelancer. He was lucky in having Sita Ram Goel promoting him but he never moved beyond that. He was also lionized by Hindu groups during the Ayodhya dispute where he did some useful work, though nothing fundamental like BB Lal or Harsh Narayan who went to the primary sources.” 


Yeah, people believe in status, far more than in truth. This counts for most people, but more than usual for the Hindus (and here I am deliberately generalizing): because of their Muslim- and British-inflicted inferiority complex, they crave a pat on the shoulder. So, they want status for themselves and their children, and judge others in terms of status, not of such a trifle as the truth of their opinions. So yes, I am only a freelancer, barred from any semblance of academic status. Not that this is innocent: it is the enemy who decides which persons are rewarded with status for their correct opinions, and which persons are punished with untouchability for their dissident opinions. So, Rajaram is saying that I am being punished for my stated views by the enemy, and that this is a "problem". Objectively, he is siding with the dispensers of status and non-status, viz. the secularists.


In Hindu activist circles, this can go quite far. It has always been a practice of the Sangh Parivar to invite enemies with status rather than friends without status. Thus, in 2002, when the BJP was suspected of planning the "saffronization" of education, it created a chair for Indian Studies in Oxford and nominated one of its known critics, the militantly secularist professor Sanjay Subramaniam, to show just how secularist it was. Imagine: the poster-boy for "saffronization" was a known anti-Hindu. Living in a fool's paradise, the party genuinely expected to be applauded for this act of secularism, yet none of the secularists gave up lambasting the BJP as "a threat to India's secular fabric", least of all its own nominee. But at least he had status...


I was indeed very lucky in meeting Sita Ram Goel, but he did not exactly save me from my lack of academic standing. Here, Rajaram has his chronology backwards. When I met Goel, everything was still possible, the future smiled upon me. But then, like Goel, I started arguing in print against Muslim causes, and even against Islam itself. At the time I didn't think about career prospects, but I was soon to find out that in India and in all India-related circles, all doors henceforth remained closed to me. And while I had thought that Europe remained comparatively free, the early nineties were characterized by a very fast switch to the same situation as in India, where Islam had clamped an Emergency on society. So I became a target of exclusion, but I soldiered on in spite of social and professional (and increasingly also medical) problems. This too was a situation which I have lived through, while most of you have not.


During the Ayodhya controversy, I am said to not have done any "original work". Fair enough, but I never sought to do any original work. I saw many valid arguments based on good original research, only it was not communicated well, largely because the Sangh Parivar was conditioned by its long-standing choice against opinion-building. So I took it upon myself to communicate these findings, just as Rajaram's valuable work on the Aryan question consisted mainly in putting together and communicating other people's findings, such as Seidenberg's thesis on the Indian origins of Babylonian mathematics.


But I did something more: to the extent possible and necessary, and with my then level of knowledge, I put these Ayodhya findings in the argumentative framework which they were sorely lacking. It had been made insufficiently clear just what was proven or refuted by which finding. Some Hindus are very good at harvesting all logical implications from a given fact (this especially is the strength of Shrikant Talageri), but among the aged gentlemen who had discovered or dug up the Ayodhya findings, this was lacking somewhat. So, Sita Ram Goel was asked by the Vishva Hindu Parishad to sew together the array of Ayodhya data, and being in Delhi at the time, I got to do most of this work. Just as there is a difference between a pile of car parts and a functioning car, there is a difference between a pile of data and a structured body of data geared for confrontation. A scientist ought to know that. Then, having learned the ropes of history at work, I moved on to do original work, such as my contributions in two books, seven papers in collective books and a number of articles on the Aryan question.  




Prof. X praises Vijaya Rajiva: "Well done, dear lady. Standing up at last to Elst's pontification and hectoring." I don't really mind him using loaded words for what is just criticism of misconduct. His choice of words says more about him than about me.


And more from Prof. X: "I am sure you and the others in the list remember my cousin Nikhil Bhaduri giving Elst, a few weeks ago, a dressing down that the fellow richly deserved. His ego is Himalayan; in a debate or a dialogue, he just does not show any respect for others." 


This is the first thing I hear about a "dressing down". Of course I receive a lot of denunciations in my mail-box, or what the enemy calls "hate mail". Most of it I immediately forget, including the name of the sender. This "dressing down" seems to have been in that category.


But this bluff, this crowing over a non-existent victory, fits into an existing pattern. Thus, on Rajiv Malhotra's list, a member recounted the Hindu American Foundation’s campaign to "take back yoga", i.e. to thwart attempts by Westerners to play down the Hindu origins of yoga. While it was laudable that Hindus mobilized for this cause, the "digestion" of yoga in the general society simply continued. Some time later, another member asserted the strength of the American Hindus and gave as proof: "We took back yoga." Oh really? And the biggest example is of course the Aryan debate, where some of the present list's members already dance on the AIT's corpse since at least fifteen years, whereas in the real world the AIT is quite alive, thank you.  


The professor also praises Rajaram en Kalyanaraman for discussing the Aryan issue "without using pejorative terms". You can go through the record of this very debate to see for yourself how mightily they have refrained from using "pejorative terms". And worse than just "terms", it is not merely a matter of language, but includes calls for thwarting the debate and censoring unread books.




Then the cousin himself, Mr. Y: "Now, to get back to Elst. What gets my goat about this man is his insufferable grandstanding. Dr. Rajaram has suitably dealt with this form of  vainglorious egoism. And a few others have also similarly written about this aspect of the man. Some well-wisher/s of his should advise him that it is not really kosher to run down the others in your team all the time. He seems to think he is the real McCoy, while the vast majority in his camp are completely sub-standard. This is simply not on, Elst." 


In the two books, seven papers etc. mentioned above, I have hardly (and recalling from memory, never at all) criticized anyone "from my own team". But perhaps they were too tedious for Mr. Bhaduri to read. In those, I modestly accepted the burden of proof, all the different items of evidence that we are honour-bound and logic-bound to furnish to the enemy side. But I found myself interrupted by other AIT skeptics who took the "grandstanding" position that my efforts are in vain as the Aryan debate has already been won long ago. And now, I begin to wonder whether the people concerned really belong to the same team. While we are arguing against the Aryan Invasion Theory, they are declaring the Aryan debate over. While we are on the battlefield fighting, they are powdering their noses for the victory parade. Is this still the same team?


At any rate, my "hectoring" is aimed at getting Hindus out of their smugness and convincing them to do what it takes and bridge the small distance between the present situation and victory. By contrast, the smugness of the others has already proven to be really harmful for the Hindu position, costing them humiliation in the "Horseplay at Harappa" incident and defeat in the textbook cases. Clearly, Mr. Badhuri prefers defeat to victory.





Paradoxically, those who attack individuals rather than argumentative positions, prefer to attack groups rather than individuals. After all, an individual can still develop his very own opinion, which is too complicated to attack. It is easier to reduce him to his membership of a group, and then attack the group. So Mr. Y says: "Some of you Flemish types sometimes think you are in the Belgian Congo in the 1930s."


The really bad time for the Belgian Congo was when it was not Belgian yet, but King Leopold II's private property, around 1900. He defeated the Arab slave-traders and freed the black slaves, as promised to certain international stake-holders; but then exploited the natives in novel ways that were little better than slavery. His policies led to the death of over a million people, which in the British propaganda became more than ten million. Some Indians have the sepoy mentality and reproduce the British propaganda faithfully (and I predict they will indignantly maintain the propaganda version and decry my stating the facts). Anyway, we Flemish like it that Leopold is such an international hate figure: the worse for Belgium, the better for Flanders.


But this is intra-Belgian politics, of which Mr. Y understands little. I don't mind that, for the topic of Belgian politics is supremely unimportant. However, if you don't want to take the trouble of studying it, then spare us your ignorant opinions. On this topic as on many others, Rajiv Malhotra has a point when he calls his Hindu flock "under-informed but over-opinionated".


Further, the Flemish in Belgium are in exactly the same position as the Hindus in India: a numerical majority but a political minority, with many internal enemies and a hostile media both internally and internationally. These media and the outside "experts" like to pontificate about an overbearing majority, when that majority owes its lack of power precisely to its dividedness and gentleness. If you still want to denounce the Flemish, please go ahead, but then don't complain when the Hindus receive the same treatment.



Honest advice


Finally, some honest advice from Mr. Y: "Learn to give respect to others in your group. By all means, point out the flaws in their approach and prevent them from committing mistakes.  But, cut down on your hectoring. And talking down to others.  Quite often, you sound (and appear) to be a wayward rabble-rouser against Hindus and Indic movement members."

Well, my lack of civility has easily been outdone by the lack of civility evident in the discourse of some on this list, routinely shouting doctoral terms like "trash", "scumbag" or "chamcha". You people are what Arun Shourie has called the "mimophant". Like the centaur, the mimophant combines two creatures in one: the mimosa and the elephant. It is hypersensitive like the mimosa when it comes to having its own tender feelings respected by others; and it is blunt and insensitive like the elephant when it comes to respecting other people's feelings.

But OK, I admit that sometimes I have really lost patience. I apologize for those occasions. I don't think loss of temper can ever be justified. But it can nonetheless be made understandable.

I live in the real world, you people don't. I actually suffer consequences for any misbehaviour by "my team". You guys can scream that "ancient Hindus colonized the world" or that "Rama lived a million years ago", or similar nonsense, and then sleep soundly; but I see my name wholly undeservedly appear in juxtaposition with that of crackpots; I see doors closed in front of my nose. That is partly due to the enemy's lack of discrimination (not to mention his wilful attempt at "guilt by association" as a substitute for arguments), but it is also due to "my team" giving the enemy a handle for this tactic. 

I also used to believe that activists want their cause to be victorious. It was at first a surprise and then quite frustrating for me to find that you people have other priorities. At one time I practised Japanese martial arts. Part of the training was to withstand humiliation, and to just mutely accept it when the teacher gave you a "dressing down". It is at first an unpleasant surprise, but ultimately it makes you very strong. Though not in full, I have retained something of that attitude. Though I am sure that Indian Akharas function on the same principle, and Hindu self-denial cultivates a similar attitude, the Hindu warriors against the AIT turned out to be far too tender for this healthy harshness. I thought that criticism would be welcomed when it serves to improve your performance, but I had to learn that you people don't want to improve your performance, in spite of the defeats inflicted by the enemy.



Just now my inbox got enriched with a youtube video showing a talk by NS Rajaram. It is introduced thus:

"Dr. NS Rajaram talks about how Aryan Debate no longer exists now. He says, 'It's not a debate anymore'. Sharing latest research on Genetics and Human migration -- he claims that Aryan Invasion never happened in India. He shares that Africa is the original homeland of Human (homo sapient) from where humans have migrated across the world. This new Genetic research shows that how first few migrations from Africa brought Humans in India where it give rise to great Indic civilization."


Well, well. That genetics has confirmed the emergent migration story, with humans trekking from Africa to India and thence to Australia some 70.000 years ago, and a few thousand years later inland from India, is well-known. We already knew that amateur historian Rajaram has said nothing new, though his synopsis may have made a difference; here, amateur geneticist Rajaram is again offering a synopsis of others' findings. It is shared by the AIT believers, and does nothing at all to refute the AIT. To say that the genetically attested migration from India some 60,000 years ago has anything at all to do with the Indo-European or Aryan migration some 6000-5000 years ago, only shows that whoever thinks so, has not understood even the most elementary data of the Aryan debate. There was simply no Proto-Indo-European language yet 60,000 years ago.

The human and non-human genetic findings as presented by Premendra Priyadarshi are suggestive of migration but they still don't have a sufficiently precise time resolution, and anyway they don't speak. Some migrants impose their language while others adopt the language of the natives, and neither archaeology nor genetics can tell the difference. The AIT came about as a linguistic theory and only linguistic evidence can confirm or refute it.

Rajaram's video recording is advertised with one of his favourite phrases: "A paradigm change from the eurocentric approaches to civilization studies." Oh, well, ever since the phrase "paradigm change" saw the light of day, it has suffered a mighty inflation. Many titles of undergraduate papers and theses sport a "paradigm change". Many more are proposed to have such a title, but at the supervisor's prodding, the student climbs down from his ambitious proposal. In particular, the supervisor will generally observe that a new hypothesis within the same conceptul framework (or paradigm) is not the same thing as a change in paradigm. What the non-AIT schools propose, is a new hypothesis (or rather, a renewed hypothesis, for the Out-of-India Theory was already thought up by the much-maligned white-skinned Orientalists in the 18th century), not a new paradigm. What Rajaram hopefully wants to propose, is a new hypothesis. But what he risks proposing, I'm afraid, is indeed a new paradigm: the paradigm of fantasy replacing the paradigm of science.



What I have done


According to Rajaram, I "haven't had any new ideas in the last fifteen years". OK, let's take the millennium as the cut-off date. In 2001, Rupa published the bulky book version of my PhD thesis, and reported to me that it became a bestseller. It is not the usual RSS self-praise but not the usual RSS-bashing of the "experts" either. In that year, I also brought out the two-volume The Saffron Swastika. On the Notion of ""Hindu Fascism", the only book in the world to analyse this much-used line of discourse (except for my sequel from 2006, Return of the Swastika), both by foreign India-watchers and by the Indian secularists; and Gandhi and Godse, the analysis of the reasons for the Mahatma murder through the murderer's self-justification speech.


Outsiders all learn two facts about the Hindu movement: that one of its members killed the Mahatma, and that Guru Golwalkar declared himself a Nazi. You can hide your head in the sand all you want and declare smugly that you don't have to care about these outsiders, but the hostility against the Hindu movement is very much a fact and determines the world in which that same movement has to function. It explains why successful Indians play down their Hinduism, why Narayan Murthy finances American anti-Hindu Sheldon Pollock's Sanskrit studies instead of many more competent Hindus, why the BJP hires secularists and when in power fails to pursue a Hindu (so-called "communal") agenda, etc. So, I have taken it upon myself to give a fair account of the Gandhi murder and Nathuram Godse's speech, and to analyse (and refute) the Nazi allegation against Golwalkar. There are 7 billion people on earth, yet in both these crucial cases I am the only one to have done so.  


Admittedly, I have done the scholarly work, but the expected political consequences never materialized. In particular, my comprehensive refutation of the usual reading of the Golwalkar quote was starkly ignored by the main interested party, the RSS. Instead, the RSS chose to tell the lie that Golwalkar never wrote the book in which the quote appears (We, 1939). It published the "complete" works of Golwalkar without that book. This is plainly ridiculous: anybody can verify that he was the author of the book. The RSS already doesn't have a very truthful reputation, and here it explicitly and wilfully covered itself with a notoriety for mendaciousness. While the enemy sees through the lie and has his own channels of information, the only dupes of this lie are the RSS followers themselves. I gave the RSS a weapon for winning the Golwalkar debate, but they chose an assured and ignominious defeat. So, if I seem a little prickly at self-defeating Hindu tactics and Hindu self-deception, it is because I have repeatedly experienced such cases of high-level Hindu buffoonery.


Then came Who Is a Hindu?, about whether tribals, Buddhists etc. are Hindus, also an item with important ramifications. I zoomed in on Buddhism in my Dutch book De Donkere Zijde van het Boeddhisme ("the dark side of Buddhism"), half of which is an analysis of the relations between the Buddha and Hinduism. This is a very consequential matter, as the Buddha has become a weapon against Hinduism and most scholars assume the "Hinduism bad, Buddhism good" principle. Again, I am the only one in the world to have thematized this issue.


Ayodhya, the Case against the Temple, analyses the debating tactics in the Ayodhya controversy, gives an overview of the evidence, discusses parallel cases like Bodh Gaya, and dicusses the work of Mitsuhiro Kondo, Sanjay Subramaniam, BN Pande and others. It draws attention to an anomaly in the Ayodhya debate, viz. that the mosque party always demands pro-temple evidence but is never asked to present its own evidence. 


None of you seems to have read any of my papers on the Aryan question. That is your privilege, but it implies that you are not up-to-date on the Aryan debate, which in turn indicates that you are not serious about this debate. Increasingly, they focus on the one aspect of the debate that may yield the answer, viz. the linguistic evidence. My second book on the Aryan question, Asterisk in Bharopiyasthan, contains many relevant things which none here has refuted, of course. One of its chapters is devoted to refuting Witzel's discourse, and he also doesn't come out shining in the astronomy chapter. Still, Rajaram demolished this book in his review. Witzel-Rajaram, same struggle! 

In several other recent books, I have criticized various aspects of Islam, including the psychopathology of the Prophet; and of Christianity and secularism. I have crossed swords with Mira Kamdar, Christophe Jaffrelot, Meera Nanda, Amber Habib, MF Husain as well as his critics, DN Jha, Harbans Mukhia, Wiliam Dalrymple, Edward Said, Ramachandra Guha, Ashish Nandy, Edward Luce, Vikas Swarup, Martha Nussbaum etc. The record shows that I have not limited myself to the gullible and the already-converted.


Admittedly, I could have done more. Thus, if I had had a position like Prof. X, with a high and secure income, with status and prestige, with a talking and publishing platform, I could have done more. Or if I was born with a golden spoon in my mouth, like the grandson of the Mysore Maharaja's last Diwan (Prime Minister), I could have done more. But then again, I have been fortunate in many ways, and I just owed it to my good fortune to give my best. So: “Regrets, I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention.” I admit to some shortcomings, but I also claim the merit of my limited writings, which exist in cold print. 


So, you may continue to throw mud at me. But I trust that through all this mud, an inconvenient fact will shine through: I have done only this much, but at least I have done it. You may try to give a dirty twist to it by calling it "insufferable grandstanding" or, even worse, "white skin". But when all is said and done, a simple fact remains standing: I did it, you did not.  





Vijaya Rajiva wants to know why I say that "Indian astronomy" is borrowed from the Greeks. Though she piles on each other all manner of purely imaginary motives attributed to me, I will very briefly answer her -- because the subject can indeed be settled very briefly.


As NS Rajaram has rightly observed, Seidenberg traces Babylonian mathematics and astronomy to Indian models. He suggests the Kassite dynasty (18th-16th century) as the channel of transmission, as the Kassite language has an Indo-Aryan substrate. This is eminently reasonable. Thus, Babylonian astronomy  divided the ecliptic in 18, yet by the first millennium it had adopted a division in 12, the same as existed in Vedic culture, where a nightly division into 28 lunar houses was complemented by a daily division of the ecliptic in 12 half-seasons (Madhu, Madhava etc.), and where the rishi Dirghatamas introduced the first-ever division of the circle into 12 and 360. Till today, the division into 360 is explained in textbooks as a Babylonian invention, but the earliest mention is Indian.


While in Babylon, the division into 12 was filled up with the symbols now known as the 12 signs. These were taken over by the Greeks (already before Alexander's conquest of Babylon, see Euctemon's Athenian calendar in the 5th century BC) who communicated them to India. Contrary to what I earlier thought, these are not attested in Vedic literature. They appear in an interpolated part of the Ramayana, viz. Rama's horoscope, which is an ideal horoscope fitting the ideal man. It dates from the final editing, when the Hellenistic zodiac had become known.


The adoption of Hellenistic astronomy and astrology in India dates from 2000 years after the Kassite regime in Babylon. Confusing those two, such as by claiming that the one phenomenon refutes the other (as numerous Hindus do, including Vijaya Rajiva) shows a defective sense of time-depth. Orientalists have berated Hindu civilization for its defective history, and I try to paint a more positive picture of Hindu historiography; but these Hindus insist that, indeed, Hindus may tell stories set in the past but are allergic to real history.


Evidence of the Hellenistic origin of Hindu (now sold as "Vedic") astrology is manifold. Many texts refer to Mediterranean names, like the Yavana-jataka, Romaka-shastra and Paulisha-shastra. Or they refer to branches and terms of Hellenistic astrology, like Hora-shastra (after what is still called horary astrology), drekkana (from dekanos) etc. The names of the twelve signs were originally Sanskrit transcriptions of the Greek names (Varahamihira) before becoming Sanskrit translations of the Greek names. Some techniques of Hindu astrology, even techniques now lost in European astrology and thus distinctive of Hindu astrology, can be traced back to Hellenistic techniques existing in the 3rd century BC, such as the "harmonic horoscopes" (navamsha, dvadashamsha) or the "planetary periods". Aside from those, there are also truly distinctive techniques of Hindu astrology, either developed in the course of ca. seventeen centuries of Hindu horoscopy, or borrowed from the internal but different tradition of Vedic astrology.


Hindus use the term "Vedic astrology" wrongly by applying it to Hellenistic astrology, but there was indeed a pre-Hellenistic Vedic astrology, though not an individual birth-based horoscopy. The rishis employed the 28 lunar houses (also used in China and Arabia), which later became 27 to accomodate the 12-part Babylonian-Hellenistic Zodiac. These houses were used to determine good times for a ritual, the founding stone of a house, or a wedding. The auspicious times for marriage are its most important remnant in modern India.


As for the precession, I am willing to consider whatever arguments Vamadeva Shastri is offering in his new edition of the Vedic Aryans book. Until then, I abide by the version of all scientists the world over, viz. that its discovery was due to Hipparchus in ca. 150 BC. If you have proof for an older date, you can become famous overnight. Leave out all the baggage of the Aryan debate etc., just write a paper purely on the precession and prove your point: knowledge of the precession long predated Hipparchus, the Vedic rishis already had it. I wouldn't ask any better: firstly because I sympathize with the Vedic cause, secondly because by temperament I tend to applaud reversals in received opinion. If you don't want to do that, just smugly keep on claiming a theory for which you don't want to publish the evidence, I have no reason to believe you have proof for this revolutionary revision of history.


On several forums I have already explained this Hellenistic element in Hindu astrology. I hope it has convinced some third parties, but the reaction among my Hindu traditionalist interlocutors was usually: "Colonial!", "Trash!", "Conspiracy!", the typical chauvinist cackling. Well, I won't stay around for your reaction. Please scrap my name from the addressee list.


Kind regards, and goodbye,



Dr. Koenraad Elst




Rohit Dhakras said...

Dr. Elst even in so short an article you have brought out the defects of the "Hindu" side so effectively:

1. If they didn't want to listen to a foreigner (since many of you here value ethnicity more than truth)
2. This contrasts with the self-praise widely indulged in by Hindu chauvinists, who earn the ridicule of the world with their claims of Hindu superiority and ancientness, all without waiting to hear the reaction of the outside world
3. Yeah, people believe in status, far more than in truth. This counts for most people, but more than usual for the Hindus (and here I am deliberately generalizing): because of their Muslim- and British-inflicted inferiority complex, they crave a pat on the shoulder
4. It has always been a practice of the Sangh Parivar to invite enemies with status rather than friends without status
5. But this bluff, this crowing over a non-existent victory, fits into an existing pattern
6. While we are on the battlefield fighting, they are powdering their noses for the victory parade
7. On this topic as on many others, Rajiv Malhotra has a point when he calls his Hindu flock "under-informed but over-opinionated".
8. I also used to believe that activists want their cause to be victorious. It was at first a surprise and then quite frustrating for me to find that you people have other priorities
9. I had to learn that you people don't want to improve your performance, in spite of the defeats inflicted by the enemy.
10. I gave the RSS a weapon for winning the Golwalkar debate, but they chose an assured and ignominious defeat
11. but these Hindus insist that, indeed, Hindus may tell stories set in the past but are allergic to real history.

Being born a Maharashtrian Brahmin I do come into contact with the Sangh Parivar types regularly. And am I astonished by their ignorance, smugness and efusal to face issues squarely!
Sometimes one despairs if this "Hindu" civilization is worth saving - are these fools really the inheritors of Shankara, Buddha or a Abhinavgupta?

I only hope that you have your spirits intact because your scholarship is sorely needed. And I hope at least that the situation in Europe improves so that others will not suffer the way you have done in your career...

Rohit Dhakras said...

But, Dr. Elst, I must also write about some bright spots - although very rare indeed. Just last Sunday we had a book review in our local Marathi newspaper on a book on Lord Macaulay. The book squarely deals with the real Macaulay instead of what has become of him in the Sanghist circles. An guess what - the author duo of the book have extensively looked and quoted your own article on Macaulay. There are indeed some good, original writers on Islam, 1857 etc. like Sheshrao More in Marathi.
The point, of course, is not that they quote your articles but that they are willing to read widely rather than just write history based on received wisdom from the secularist press.
Things do trickle down sometimes. Perhaps, there may yet be some small hope...

American said...


Every field of thought, sociology and religions in particular, suffer a spectrum of characters. Christianity has its under-informed, over-opinionated revisionists, Islam has its under-informed, over-opinionated revisionists, and so do others.

From slavery, to relentless violence against Huguenots and others, to untouchability of Cagots in France, to burning of women at stake for being heretics - Christianity has seen violence and persecution of enormous proportions. Islam has perpetuated historic violence, destruction, enslavement, systematic persecution of dhimmis. The Al-Azhar scholars (ulamas) - who claim to be the experts of Islamic learning - are many times more over-opinionated than what you describe; for example, in their view whether female circumcision (female genital mutilation) is settled as required under Sharia and the revealed law of god (read their fatwas from 1953 to 1998; over 90% of Egyptian/Somali/Yemeni/etc women are Type I, II or III circumcised). On other issues, these scholars of Islam are as set and 100% confident. The Al-Azhar scholars view superiority of Islam as "obviously settled."

In other words, there is a tail end to every religion and to the population distribution of views/behaviors. This tail though does not define the truth, nor should it alone define perceptions. There is beauty and ugliness everywhere, in every field of human knowledge. There is under-informed and over-opinionated people in every religion, every sub-field of sociology-anthropology-hermeneutics-etc, and elsewhere.

From Galileo to Kepler, the high priests of religion have always tormented the real scholars. Perhaps the real scholars should spend more time in the liberating search of facts and the peaceful beauty of truth, than parading themselves in the halls of those priests.

There is a need for scholarship on Hinduism, there is a need to separate the wheat from the chaff, to reduce the dearth of information on Hinduism, to correct very bad translations of primary Sanskrit sources, to reveal what is spurious nonsense inserted in its classics and what is real. There is a need to separate opinions from information, from commentary on commentaries to scholarship on real sources. Those few who remain on the long road of steady and proper scholarship, will help the cause of truth, understanding and peace.

Shrivathsa B said...

I stand shoulder to shoulder with Mr. Elst in his pursuit of truth. Dr. Elst, your work has been of great importance to the revival of the spirit of questioning and reasoning as it existed in sanAtana dharma. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Vraja Dev said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vraja Dev said...

I think that Dr. Elst is upset and rightly so, but at the same time you don't need to lower your own standards. For example, you make it seem as if NS Rajaram was being literal in his saying the "aryan debate is over." The context was about the proponents of the dominant AIT theory not wanting to enter a debate; not that there is no debate worth having, he was making a point about being frustrated with "the other side." He said: "they will not let it go, simply because there are too many people involved." That is clearly not supporting the idea that he thinks the debate is literally over. He is using a rhetorical flourish in saying the debate is over, i.e. I think the conclusive evidence is in, yet the other side refuses to budge or even consider another angle due to prejudice and the politics of academia.

Most of academia is comprised of knee-jerk liberals who are too consumed in their own lives to care to research or take seriously people and their pet theories which appear to them to be religiously motivated. Plus, most academic don't like to engage in a debate that is so politically sensitive to their careers, i.e. they fear to rock the boat. Rajaram was using that context--not that the debate is over because they won--the debate is over by default because the other side won't fight, and when they do they don't fight fairly, i.e. dismissing the other side as religiously motivated or nationalistic--and therefore unworthy of being opponents in their rarefied air.

Other than that, the Hindus shouldn't be attacking you for your criticism. The critic who is on your side is better for your game than the one who says you are doing just fine. How many non-Hindu academics are supporting their cause anyways? Don't be so thin skinned.

kuta-stho vijitendriyah
yukta ity ucyate yogi

sadhusv api ca papesu
sama-buddhir visisyate

sarva-bhuta-stham atmanam
sarva-bhutani catmani
iksate yoga-yuktatma
sarvatra sama-darsanah

yo mam pasyati sarvatra
sarvam ca mayi pasyati
tasyaham na pranasyami
sa ca me na pranasyati

Koenraad Elst said...

Don't worry, I can handle criticism. If it was criticism that was hurled at me, I would not have had to write this piece. The advice not to be so thin-skinned pretends that the other side was merely practising legitimate criticism; that is not the case at all.

And pretending that the AIT side is the one that is refusing the debate, is simply untrue. To an extent it is ignoring the AIT-skeptic side, but that is partly due to the gross misconduct by Rajaram c.s. And yes, there is censorship by Steve Farmer of dissident viewpoint, the AIT side is not entirely innocent. But top philologists Michael Witzel and Hans Hock have condescended to offer contentswise arguments against both Shrikant Talageri and myself (which we in turn have replied to). Orally I have discussed this issue with many more professionals.

Most of this debate has been on textual and linguistic aspects, but these are dismissed by Kalyanaraman and Rajaram as "pseudo-science". It is the "insufferable" arrogance and haughtiness of this corner of the Hindu spectrum of opinion that has made many Westerners and Indian established professors disregard the debate and determined the face of the whole Aryan debate.

Vraja Dev said...

Koenraad, the "thin skinned" comment was not aimed at you, it was aimed at your critics.

Also, it was not long ago when you described your treatment by academics not even allowing you to post a reply on OIT on a yahoo group. That is the dominant mood, and like I said, when they do give a little effort to debate they do so with the attitude that they are protecting a "secular" vs. a religious/nationalist motivation, and therefore they don't take the arguments seriously as having scientific credibility, and therefore they then engage in nothing more than trying to prop up the AIT rather than seek the truth of it in the first place.

Their attitude is one of the scientist among tribal natives speaking down to savages, so to speak. That was seen clearly in the California textbook case, where something as innocuous and unimportant to the world outside of Hinduism was so vilified by arrogant academics--partly due to a superiority complex and also a desire to humiliate the heathens into submission.

It's no wonder many Hindus are fed up and have changed tactics. Imagine if Christians in Europe tried to force the stories of the Bible into history classes? That is how those involved in the academic world see this debate, and therefore they will not take it seriously until some incontrovertible physical proof is provided. As long as there is any shred of hope of propping up the AIT they will cling to it, besides for secular reasons, their reputations are at stake as well.

Maybe it's good to ignore them and go about the work and let the results speak for themselves. There is no need to prove anything about the origin of Vedic civilization being in Bharatavarsha, Vedic civilization is still Vedic civilization wherever it first appeared in this world. It's the knowledge it provides, not the physical locale, which is the only important thing. That knowledge tells us that this world and all that is going on is not by accident; not the result of chaos; not the result of a chance combination of atoms; nor due to the desires and actions of humanity. All is one, one is all. There are no earthly origins for Vedic civilization, or any other for that matter. All this has happened before and all this will happen again. It's only the starting place to eternity, for your trip Across the Universe

Gururaj BN said...

Apart from Dr.Rajaram's fiasco of Hose Play at Harappa, there is another book by him on "In search of Historical Krishna". The book contains neither history, nor search. It is a reiteration of Mahabharata story passed off as research work. His work on Saraswati Culture is also equally frivolous. "As I have already explained elsewhere..." is the burden of song in that book with no reference to any sources. It is a wonder that such a person finds himself amidst scholars and abuses someone who has sincerely helped Hindus defend themselves against the intellectual onslaught of leftists and minority communalists. When I emailed my views about his two books to Dr.Rajaram, he condescended to thank me, without rejecting any of my criticisms. Such pseudo scholars, especially untrained in the discipline of history and indology have done more harm to India's cultural cause than its antagonists.

Koenraad Elst said...

Thanks Vraja Dev, whom I seem to have misunderstood, and thanks BN Gururaj. The practical conclusion from this is to have as little as possible to do with these will-o'-the-wisps and just gather and present evidence for the OIT. A change of "paradigm" is just around the corner, it merely remains to be achieved.

desicontrarian said...

The ethnicity lovers may work against you, but a champion gladiator like you can cope with that. I see you as a coach, who earns resentment by some team members. Some of them may even resent being weeded out or marginalized. Rajivji has had similar attacks by Radha Rajan and Sandhya Jain. Apparently he is not from the puNya bhUmi, so he has no status! This is a further refinement of ethnic pride!

May I suggest that you should stoop to conquer?

ysv_rao said...

Do these silly fellows even realize that

1) You are not attributing the ENTIRE corpus of Vedic astrology to Hellenistic origins' but just acknowledging their contributions

2) I forget in which Upanishad but it states that if weren't for their knowledge of geometry and astronomy the Greeks would remain barbarians
The very same texts attributes various constellations and a good deal of geometric design of some fire altars to the Greeks.
Clearly our seers were nowhere are chauvinistic and close minded as we are

Bhuvan said...

Remain Sthir Pragya sir, as the Geeta have a lot of love and respect in this country.

Tejaswininimburia said...

The Western Indologists are adopting multi standards for AIT. First of all let them decide: whether Celts/Iberians/Norse occupied Europe earlier than IA or not? What about Druids whose rituals but for human sacrifice resembles South Indian Brahmins or not-- worship of trees as Sthala Vriksha/ Hollowian Rituals exactly falling Mahalaya ancestor worship defined priestly class or not? Did the Aryans have similar custom? If not it is better to say Druids came to south instead of AIT? Why is the ambient attitude of westerners in denouncing Hittites? If Hittites were barbarians why should Ramses married Hittite princess? The European prehistoric races are all well versed in metallurgy/production. In what way they were inferior to Semitic/Egyptian tribes? Do they wantonly despite prehistoric races to sustain AIT?The Greeks/Romans never wore stitched garments. Roman and Greek numerals are not repetitive If the Greeks/Romans are so advanced in science why can't Roman numerals and their system of mathematics is not taught now? Just because all the knowledge is in Greek/Roman they cannot be considered superior to Hittites or Celts. Greek learnt city life only from Persians.The AIT suffers from so many incongruities: Why do all Aryan Gods--Indra/Varuna/Yama/Vishnu/Manmatha are all black? Why do all Aryan Gods are youthful without moustache/beard? If the Celts/Iberians burnt the dead why do Hittites bury the dead? Did the IA burn or bury the dead?The Hittites used hieroglyphics/cuneiform without gender for words. When where and why IA switch over to gender for words? Why did not follow Hittites? Did Vedic language become full fledged when it entered Iran or afterwards? Or is it only after seeing DADYUS they began to recite structured poems? Why had not they encountered anybody before arriving at Afghanistan? Coming to South India does South India project homogeneity? No. In Tamilnadu 40% of population is of Telugu origin Is Tamilnadu fully Dravidian? If so what about people before Vijayanagar empire? After collapse of Chola empire the social life was completely disrupted. The Thirukadaiyur inscriptions tells about large scale migration to Gangetic plains from Cauvery basin. The North Indians are generally dominating but not imperialistic. It was Chalukyas/Rashtrakutas/Cholas who devastated North and Central India. Let the Oncologists cite a single incidence of migration from North. The Northerners were completely ignorant of region beyond Vijayawada to Tondi. They did not know land route to Srilanka They would either board Broach Orv Tamralipti. Even Kalidasa did not know Pallavas/Chalukyas. That is from Kalidasa to Harsha shipwreck of Ceylonese princess is a favorite them which also became one of the reasons for Arab attack on Sind See how Alberuni is completely ignorant of South India He places Pampa and Kishkinta 100km away from Rameswaram which itself suggests the present edition belongs to 15thcentury AD. THE NORTHERNERS normally adopted geography of Greek mariners. Pandiya-Tabropane is linked in view of pearl culture. Kerala is a geographical name that abounds in coconuts.The South Indian population including Brahmins can never be said to have continuous legacy since the evolution of present population can not go beyond Vijayanagar Empire. Still a controversy is going on in Srilanka whether the whole population is of recent origin ordained by Dutch.Western Indologists fearing backlash of reemergence of Papacy and native culture of Norse indulge in smear campaign despising their forefathers as the cruelest brutal savages for which they are using AIT

Tejaswininimburia said...

The Aryan theory is based on backward integration. How does it all start? Sir William Jones raised this issue in 1790AD. It remained lull. Then Maxmuler after seventy five years introduced this followed by Dr.Caldwell who coined the word Dravidians. Maxmuler and Caldwell missed one important thing. Both did not get authority from North India but relied completely on South India. Maxmuler completely relied on Sayana's classification into ten Mandalas. Sayana belonged to 1330 AD who was the brother of Madhava the disciple of Sage Vidhyaranya/Vidhyatheertha. Then backward journey comes. This was corroborated with Ibn Batuta/Alberuni/Hieun Tsangh/Fabien. Then comes another interesting theory. It was only because of Aihole inscription of Pulakedin I that Aryabhatta's reference to birth of Kaliyuga was deciphered. Then the vast Sanskrit literature between Bhasa in First century BC to Epics in Sixth century AD. Here comes intellectual dishonesty. They could not go beyond First century BC then adopted Prakrit/Pali then Buddhist literature then Janapadas/Darius from there Satapada Brahmana etc., Can any scientific tempered person accept this kind of analysis? Indian history starts only from Darius I. There was no reference to India in Herodotus or Bible or any Middle East literature. From Darius I and a century before Babylonians first saw elephant corp. Apart from India it was seen only in Ethiopia. Then strangely Hides was taken to mean Hindies-- India where Indies was taken as Ethiopia. Unfortunately African elephants cannot be domesticated. This also happens to Asokan edicts referring --KODA/PADA/KETHALA twisting as Chola/Pandiya/Kerala. If Pada was Pandiya why cant Koda mean Kondiya? The funniest part is Aryans entered Afghanistan 2500 BC but Persia has to wait for 1700 years to adopt Vedic names--Cyrus-Kuru Darius--Turvasu by which time Aryans stopped using Kuru/Turvasu! Another strange fact is that Aryans stopped speaking in Sanskrit/perform yagyas and became docile and dormant Janapadas! Even though Panini wrote grammar for whom it was written? The first literature is in Prakrit-- Gunadya's Brihatkatha-- that too a Jain Hero!The first drama written was by Bhasa that too Udayana! The surprising factor was Sanskrit got its birth only due to Rudradaman and Kadambas who had matrimonial alliance with Guptas. The first drama on Ramayana was by Pravarasena-- Sethu Bhandha followed by Shakthi Badra's Ashcharya Choodamani. Prakrit as peoples language was a weak and naive argument. That means Brahmins became dormant till Bhasa. If that be the case there need not be any reformation by Mahavira/Buddha. But the fact is that only Jainism was flourishing till Satavahanas rose in Deccan. Initially Jains did not accept fourfold but only threefold omitting Brahmins. Further till Satavahanas arrived but for Sungas no North Indian kings performed sacrifice and up to emergence of Sishunagas there were only Jain janapadas. All the Deccan and even Tamil kings proud themselves as performers of sacrifices. There was no Aryan invasion but Middle East invasion through sea into South India and the performance of grand sacrifices were introduced by Satavahanas. The Rig Veda can never provide history.Unlike Bible/Koran i Rig Veda is irrelevant if there is no application. The Vedic hymns did not form independent hymns but were codified by Grihyasutras. It is stupid to go into history/meaning since only Bodayana/Asvalayana etc.,can explain the significance.It is just like saying Marx belonged to India since there are so many organizations in India using Marx when Marxism disappeared in the rest of word. Indian history cannot go beyond Satavahana