The History And Traditional Source Of The Vedas

By editor - 26.5 2020

It may be asked, how were the Vedas established? What were their origins? What is their history? How were they divided and why does it seem that there are different paths to choose from within the Vedas?

First of all there are two ways to answer these questions: one is to consider the theories presented by some of the contemporary scholars and historians in regard to when the Vedas appeared, and the second way is to consider the traditional account as presented in the Vedic literature itself.

Many modern historians held the idea that it was the Aryans who invaded India in the second millennium B.C. that were the founders of the Indian culture and Vedic traditions. They say that the Aryans came from somewhere near the southern part of Russia bringing their Vedic rituals and customs with them.

This theory, however, does not hold as much weight as it used to. For example, the culture of the Indus valley, where the Aryans are said to have invaded, flourished between 3500 and 2500 B.C. The two main cities were Harappa and Mohenjo-daro. Many finds have come from the archaeological excavations from Harappa which give evidence to suggest that many aspects of later Hinduism were already a part of the early Indus valley culture. Such things have been found as images of yogis sitting in meditation, as well as many figures of a god similar to Lord Shiva. Evidence has also been found to suggest that temple worship played a major role in daily life, which is what the Veda has prescribed as the process for attaining the greatest amount of spiritual advancement for people of that time.

Keeping in mind that the Indus valley enveloped a vast area and the cultural traits of that society continued to serve for a long time, then how could the pre-Aryan language of the Indus valley people, which is not known today, die out without leaving any trace of its existence? Maybe there actually wasn't any pre-Aryan language. And if not, if this is where the Aryan invaders were supposed to have appeared when they brought their Vedic culture with them, maybe there really wasn't any Aryan invasion, not at least the way some scholars seem to think.

Furthermore, most scholars agree that the earliest Vedic hymns seem to belong to a pre-1500 B.C. date, which means it was not necessarily invaders to had brought Vedic culture with them, since at least the oldest Vedic books, if not most of them, were already in existence by the time any invaders arrived.

Let's consider another point using nothing more than our common sense. It is generally accepted that Lord Buddha appeared about 2,500 years ago, and we know that Lord Buddha preached against the Vedas. So the Vedas had to have been existing at that time, otherwise how could he preach against them? In fact the reason why he no longer accepted the Vedas was because many of the leading Vedic followers were no longer truly following them, but were abusing them. And any student of history knows that abuse of something takes place after there is a flourishing. So if the deterioration had reached such an extreme 2,500 years ago that people embraced Buddha's teachings, then clearly such gradual degeneration had been going on for many hundreds of years. Since the Vedas were a highly developed form of philosophy, it would indicate that they must have been in existence and quite widespread several thousand years before that. Therefore we can easily understand how old the Vedas must be.

Considering the above mentioned points, it is safe to say at this time that the migration and the homes of the Vedic people, or where and when the Vedas originally appeared, can not be proved archaeologically. Furthermore, let us not forget that it was the British Sanskritists and educators in India, during the 1700 and 1800's, who first portrayed Vedic literature and culture as something barbaric, inferior and recent. They formed estimated dates on when different Vedic books were written according to such things as the contents of the books and style of writing. But it should be pointed out that even the Vedic tradition describes that once the Vedic knowledge had been divided and the different volumes were written, they were handed down to sages who became expert in the content of that portion of the Vedic knowledge who then continued to hand it down to others who formed sub branches of it. Thus it may look like the Vedas gradually evolved as if they had been influenced and changed by many authors over a long period of time, but actually that is not necessarily the case.

We also have to remember that for many years the Vedic literature was written on palm leaves and would have to be copied when they wrote out or when other copies were wanted. Down through the years as other copies were repeatedly made, certain conventional modifications of the script would have taken place making some scholars think their origin was more recent. But in the case of the Bhagavat Purana, the Sanskrit text still contained the archaic form of writing, verifying its antiquity. Nonetheless, the English scholars said the author of the Purana must have purposely used the archaic script to make people think it was older than it was. Why the English proposed this sort of theory in an attempt to disqualify its ancient origins simply shows how biased they were against the Vedic literature.

The cultural prejudice was the result of deliberate undermining with the disguised intention of asserting the superiority of their own Christian-based values and outlook, as well as the perpetuation of colonial rule. This intention actually played a prominent role in the reason why they wanted the Sanskrit texts interpreted into English and to have their Christian scripture interpreted into Sanskrit. And many of the notable professors at the time had the audacity to consider themselves to be better authorities on their questionable interpretations of the Vedas than the Indian scholars.

In any case, the attempts to belittle the Vedic literature made only a minor impact. In fact by interpreting such texts, many of the notable writers and poets in the West, as mentioned in the previous chapter (chapter two of "The secret Teachings of the Vedas), were allowed to see what lofty views of the world the Vedic literature held and were indeed very impressed and influenced by them.

So where did the Vedas come from? Though modern historians may offer their many changing theories about how the Vedas were compiled and where they originated, we can see that this is their attempt to find an oversimplified key to understanding Vedic thought, or to even discredit the value of the Vedas. But they must admit that they are still unsure of their theories and lack detailed evidence for many of their opinions. In fact most historians today feel that any accurately recorded history only goes back to around 600 B.C., and prior to this period all events and stories related in the scriptures are simply imaginary myths and legends. This reflects and extremely narrow-minded way of looking at things. Many Vedic authorities and self-realised sages in the past have accepted the stories, as found in the Mahabharata and Puranas, to be factual, and have also attained lofty states of consciousness by following the Vedic instructions for spiritual perfection. Therefore, the best way to understand the history of how the Vedas were formed is to simply let the Vedic literature speak for itself." (Stephen Knapp. 1986. The Secret Teachings of the Vedas. Chapter three, p. 28-30.)

Origin of the Western subversive agenda in India

It was February 1835, a time when the British were striving to take control of the whole of India. Lord Macaulay, a historian and a politician, made a historical speech in the British Parliament, commonly referred to as The Minutes, which struck a blow at the centuries old system of Indian education. His words were to this effect:

"It will hardly be disputed, I suppose, that the department of literature in which the Eastern writers stand highest is poetry. And I certainly never met with any orientalist who ventured to maintain that the Arabic and Sanscrit poetry could be compared to that of the great European nations. But when we pass from works of imagination to works in which facts are recorded and general principles investigated, the superiority of the Europeans becomes absolutely immeasurable. It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanscrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgments used at preparatory schools in England."

"How then stands the case? We have to educate a people who cannot at present be educated by means of their mother-tongue. We must teach them some foreign language. The claims of our own language it is hardly necessary to recapitulate. It stands pre-eminent even among the languages of the West." (...)

"To sum up what I have said. I think it clear that we are not fettered by the Act of Parliament of 1813, that we are not fettered by any pledge expressed or implied, that we are free to employ our funds as we choose, that we ought to employ them in teaching what is best worth knowing, that English is better worth knowing than Sanscrit or Arabic, that the natives are desirous to be taught English, and are not desirous to be taught Sanscrit or Arabic, that neither as the languages of law nor as the languages of religion have the Sanscrit and Arabic any peculiar claim to our encouragement, that it is possible to make natives of this country thoroughly good English scholars, and that to this end our efforts ought to be directed.

"In one point I fully agree with the gentlemen to whose general views I am opposed. I feel with them that it is impossible for us, with our limited means, to attempt to educate the body of the people. We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, -a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect. To that class we may leave it to refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population."


1 In this book he 'derives the Indo-Germanic family from India'. See 'A Literary History of India', by R.W. Frazer, London, p. 5, note 2, third impression, 1915.

2 Quoted in 'A History of Indian Literature' by M. Winternitz, English translation, Vol. I., p. 20 (1927 A.D.).

3 Ibid. p. 266.

4 Ibid. p. 267. Also see, New Indian Antiquity, Vol. 1, No. 1. April 1938. p. 59, article of Heinrich Zimmer. The translation is, 'the consolation of his old age.' The original of this quotation is in Parerga et Paralipomena, Vol. II, p. 427, 1851.

5 Lectures in Calcutta University, August, 1923, printed in 1925 at as 'Some Problems of Indian Literature,' p. 3.

6 Intolerance was inherent in all the Semitic faiths and was responsible for the crusades, jihads, and the institution of the inquisition.

A century before the time of Schopenhauer, Voltaire also fell a victim to the wrath of the clergy. He wrote an essay on the Morals and the Spirit of the Nations, which offended everybody because it told the truth. It spoke highly of the ancient cultures of India, China and Persia and relegated Judea and Christendom to a relatively inferior position. How could then he be forgiven for 'so unpatriotic a revelation'? He was exiled for a second time by the French Government. (vide 'The Story of Philosophy', by Will Durant, p. 241.)

7 New Indian Antiquary, April 1938, p. 67.

8 'An Introduction to Mythology,' New York. (Date of publication not indicated in the book.)

9 Manu-smriti, I.21.

10 Genesis, II.10.

11 "...that the Jewish race is by far the oldest of all these" Fragments of Megasthenes, p. 103.

12 "Archbishop Usher's famed chronology, which so long dominated the ideas of man..." Historians' History of the World, Vol. I, p. 626, 1908. Duncan Macnaughton in his "A Scheme of Egyptian Chronology', London, 1932, writes:

"It is strange to see that Wilkinson place Menes (or Manu the first King of Egypt) as low as 2320, but it is to be remembered that in 1836 English-speaking scholars were still under the hypnotic influence of Usher's Biblical Chronology. The dates printed in the Bible were regards as sacred, and it was positively wicked to disregard them." (p. 6.)

13 'Antiquity of Civilized Man,' Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. 60, July-December, 1930.

14 'Sanskrit-English Dictionary' by Sir M. Monier-Williams, Preface, p. IX, 1899.

15 "Eminent Orientalists," Madras, p. 72.

16 English translation published in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1847.

17 A treatise on etymology and semantics.

18 It would be interesting here to point out that in the introduction of his edition of Nirukta, Roth has given a wrong interpretation of a passage of Aitareya Brahmana, which has invited a derisive comment from Goldstucker (cf. Panini, p. 198).

19 American Or. Soc. Proc., Oct., 1867.

20 Life and Letters of Max Muller, Vol. I, Ch. IX, p. 171.

21 History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, p. 32, 1860.

22 'Chips from a German Workshop', second edition, 1866, p. 27.

23 'India, What can it teach us', Lecture IV, p. 118, 1882.

24 "Chips from a German Workshop", Genesis and the Zend Avesta, p. 147.

25 Ibid. The Modern Parsis, p. 180. To write about an unconscious approach of an anterior to the doctrines of a posterior faith can only become a person of 'scientific' mind like that of Max Muller. How repugnant to a biased Christian mind is the idea of Christianity borrowing anything from another ancient religion even when the similarity is so striking! And these very so-called unbiased pedagogues have not hesitated to attribute to Bharatiya literature a Greek borrowing on the flimsiest excuse, i.e., where the similarity is not at all obvious but is strained.

26 Cf quotation from Winternitz after 3rd para from the beginning of this chapter. Probably Winternitz refers to Jacolliot.

27 A clear indication of Anglo-Muslim alliance worked out by the English bureaucrats and later evident in a work like the Cambridge History of India and a hoard of other works.

It is also evident in the works of the French author Garcin de Tassy, Les Anteurs Hindoustanis et leurs ouvrages 2nd., Paris 1868 and Histoire de la literature Hindoustainic, 3 vols, 2nd ed., Paris 1870-71.

28 'The History of Sanskrit Literature' Popular ed. 1914, p. 189, footnote; of also p. 300, foot-note.

29 He also wrote an article, 'Die Bhagavad Gita' in Samvat 1926.

30 'India, Old and New', New York, 1902, p. 146. Also cf. his Religions of India, p. 429, Boston, 1895.

31 An English translation from Bengali version.

32 'Paninian. His Place in Sanskrit Literature'. Allahabad Edition, p. 200, 1914.

33 Ibid. p. 200.

34 Ibid. p. 195.

35 Ibid. p. 197.

36 Ibid. p. 203.

37 Ibid. p. 203.

38 Ibid. pp. 204-205.

39 Modern India and the Indians, by M. Williams, third ed. 1879, p. 261.

40 Ibid. p. 262.

41 Indian Wisdom, p. 143.

42 The Christian Intelligence, Calcutta, March 1870, p. 79.

43 A.F.R.H. quoted in 'The Arya Samaj' by Lajpat Rai, 1932, p. 42.

44 Some Problems of Indian Literature, Calcutta 1925, p. 61.

45 History of Indian Literature, p. 79, 1927.

46 A History of Science, 4th edition, p. 8. Cambridge University Press, 1948.

47 Ripley's 'Believe it or Not', Part I., p. 14, 26th edition Pocket-books Inc. New York.

48 Vide 'Ethics of India' by E.W. Hopkins, Preface, pp. x and xi, New Haven, 1924.

49 Manu, II. 20.

50 Monier Williams himself writes of his meeting: 'Dayananda Saraswati,... I made his acquaintance at Bombay in 1876, and was much struck by his fine countenance and figure. There I heard him preach an eloquent discourse on the religious development of the Aryan race. He began by repeating a hymn to Varuna (IV. 16) preceded by the syllable Om - prolating the vowel in deep sonorous tones'. Brahmanism and Hinduism. M. Williams, 4th ed. 1891, p. 529.

'In one of my interviews with him, I asked him for his definition of religion. He replied in Sanskrit: Religion (Dharm) is a true and just, views (nyayah) (logic) and the abandonment of all prejudice and partiality (pasupatasahityam) - that is to say, it is an impartial inquiry into the truth by means of the senses and two other instruments of knowledge (praman), reason and revelation.' Ibid. (p. 530).

51 History of Pre-Musulman India, Vol. II, Vedic India, Part I. 1937 A.D., p. 145.

52 All India Oriental Conference, December 1941, Part II., p. 64, printed in 1946.

53 'The Cradle of Indian History', p. 3, Adyar Library, Madras, 1947.

54 J.A.H.R.S., Vol. XX, p. 187.

55 Cf A.L. Basham: 'Few European scholars would agree with professor Altekar (p. 19) that the Rigveda dates from 2500 B.C.' (J.R.A.S., 1950. A.d., parts 3-4, p. 202.)


Of course, neither colonialism nor missionary evangelisations were unitary projects in any simple sense (Thomas 1994). However, affinities in goal and purpose fostered a synergy that was to enhance the expansionist capabilities of both. Colonialism is essentially concerned with the establishment and consolidation of control over subject populations through their transformation (Comaroff and Comaroff 1992:235). The aims of evangelical mission were similar. Certain kinds of people needed to be converted from a flawed system of belief to another perfect one if they were to achieve salvation. (Maia Green, Priests, Witches and Power: Popular Christianity after Mission in Southern Tanzania, Cambridge University Press)

When the missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the missionaries had the Bible. They taught us to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible. (Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's first elected Prime Minister 1963-1964 and President 1964-1978)

Missionary when in minority is as gentle as a lamb, when in equality is as clever as a fox, and when in the majority is as fierce as a tiger.