<SiteLock

Riddle No. 2: The Origin of the Vedas - The Brahminic Explanation Or an Exercise in the Art of Circumlocution

 

(From 'Religious Riddles' in Part I of the book 'Riddles in Hinduism' by Babasaheb Dr. B. R. Ambedkar)

There is hardly any Hindu who does not regard the Vedas as the most sacred Book of his religion. And yet ask any Hindu what is the origin of the Vedas and it would be difficult to find one who can give a clear and a definite answer to the simple question. Of course, if the question was addressed to a Vedic Brahmin he would say that the Vedas are Sanatan. But this is no answer to the question. For first of all what does the word Sanatan mean?

The best explanation of the word Sanatan is to be found in the commentary by Kulluka Bhatt on Chapter I Shlokas 22-23 of the Manu Smriti. This is how Kulluka Bhatt defines the word Sanatan1.

"The word Sanatana he says, means 'eternally pre-existing'. The doctrine of the superhuman origin of the Vedas is maintained by Manu. The same Vedas which (existed) in the previous mundane era (Kalpa) were preserved in the memory of the omniscient Brahma, who was one with the supreme spirits. It was those same Vedas that, in the beginning of the present Kalpa, he drew forth from Agni, Vayu and Surya; and this dogma, which is founded upon the Veda, is not to be questioned, for the Veda says, 'the Rig-Veda comes from Agni, the Yajur-Veda from Vayu, and the Sama-Veda from Surya." To understand the explanation by Kulluka Bhatt it is necessary to explain what Kalpa means.

A Kalpa is a reckoning of time adopted by the Vedic Brahmins. The Brahmanic reckoning of time divides time into (1) Varsha, (2) Yuga, (3) Mahayuga, (4) Manvantara and (5) Kalpa.

Varsha is easy enough to understand. It corresponds to the term year.

On what exactly is the period of time covered by the term Yuga, there is no unanimity.

A Mahayuga is a period covered by a group of four Yugas: (1) Krita Yuga, (2) Treta Yuga, (3) Dwapar Yuga and (4) Kali Yuga. The four Yugas follow one another in a cycle, when the period of the first Yuga is spent it is followed by the second and so on in the order given. When the cycle is complete, one Mahayuga is completed and a new Mahayuga opens. Every Mahayuga begins with the Krita Yuga and ends with Kali Yuga.

There is no uncertainty as to the time relation of a Mahayuga and a Kalpa. 71 Mahayugas make one Kalpa. There is however some uncertainty as to the time relation between Mahayuga and Manvantara. A Manvantara is equal to 71 Mahayugas "and something more". What exact period of time that 'something more' means, the Brahmins have not been able to state categorically. Consequently the time relation between Manvantara and Kalpa is uncertain.

But this does not matter very much for our present purposes. For the present it is enough to confine our attention to Kalpa.

The idea underlying 'Kalpa' is closely connected with the creation and dissolution of the Universe. The creation of the world is called Srashti. The dissolution of the universe is called Pralaya. The time between Srashti and Pralaya is called Kalpa. The idea of the origin of the Vedas is thus more intimately connected with the idea of Kalpa.

According to this scheme of things, what is supposed to happen is that when a Kalpa begins creation begins. With the beginning of the creation there comes into being a new series of Vedas. What Kulluka Bhatt wants to convey is that though in a sense every new Kalpa has a new series of Vedas, the same old Vedas are reproduced by Brahma from his memory. That is why he says the Vedas are Sanatan i.e., eternally pre-existing.

What Kulluka Bhatt says is that the Vedas are reproduced from memory. The real question is who made them and not who reproduced them. Even if one accepts the theory of reproduction at the beginning of each Kalpa the question still remains who made the Vedas when the First Kalpa began. The Vedas could not have come into being ex-nihilo. They must have a beginning though they may have no end. Why don't the Brahmins say so openly? Why this circumlocution?

~

[1] Muir Sanskrit Texts Vol. III. p. 6.

~~~

Please read 'Riddle No. 1: The difficulty of knowing why one is a Hindu' here.

 

[Courtesy: Ambedkar.org]

Other Related Articles

The OBC case of ‘House Negro’ and ‘Field Negro’
Sunday, 11 April 2021
  Anand Kshirsagar There was a time in the American antebellum South like Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Alabama, and South Carolina where economic, social, political, cultural, and religious... Read More...
Moral Right to Labour
Wednesday, 07 April 2021
Pralay Nagrale The recent mobilization of the Valmiki community all over India was important in fighting for justice for the 19 year old girl of Bulgaddhi village of district Hathras, because till... Read More...
Ram Van Gaman Path: Who are you to decide our vision for development?
Monday, 05 April 2021
Bodhi Ramteke What could be the priorities for any poorest state, where literacy rate is low, malnutrition level is high, having no proper educational & health infrastructure and other endless... Read More...
Myth of Brahmin Merit: Refutation of Superiority
Sunday, 21 March 2021
  Pranav Jeevan P We have been hearing arguments that try to justify the superiority and monopoly of Brahmins and savarnas in the fields of education and governance based on genetics. Their... Read More...
Is Government against Tribal development?
Monday, 15 March 2021
  Bodhi Ramteke In the caste based social system of the country, tribals are also a big exploited class. In 70 years of independence, their constitutional needs do not seems to have been met. I... Read More...

Recent Popular Articles

The Ruling Caste's changing priorities and the Farmer Unrest
Tuesday, 08 December 2020
  Anshul Kumar “History shows that the Brahmin has always had other classes as his allies to whom he was ready to accord the status of a governing class provided they were prepared to work... Read More...
How to write anti-caste solidarity texts
Monday, 02 November 2020
Dr. Murali Shanmugavelan Ensure that “Dalit” appears as a prefix whenever the victim is mentioned. The phrase “Dalit victim” helps your readers understand the difference between Dalits and... Read More...
How to look 'Dalit' in the Savarna imagination
Wednesday, 04 November 2020
  Bobby Kunhu  When I first watched the classic 1972 Luis Bunuel comedy, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeouise, in 1994 or 95, I could not have imagined that it was possible to adapt the... Read More...
So you want to ally with the Dalit Rights Movement?
Tuesday, 20 October 2020
  Shivani Waldekar On 25th May 2020, George Floyd, an unarmed Black man was murdered in police custody in Minneapolis, USA. A video showing a white police officer kneeling on his neck for almost... Read More...
The Karnataka anti-cow slaughter bill is against the poor
Tuesday, 15 December 2020
Dr. Sylvia Karpagam "If India's politicians had any connect with land and farming, they would understand the organic relationship farmers have with livestock, milk, manure and killing of cows. It is... Read More...