Prof. Sondekoppa Srikanta Sastri (Part 5)

During a conversation with S R Ramaswamy, he mentioned to me that in the 1940s, K M Munshi had asked Sastri to write about the Aryans in the first volume of The History and Culture of the Indian People. Sastri asked, “I can definitely write it but do you have the courage to publish it?” It turns out that a great nationalist of the stature of Munshi too didn’t have the guts to publish the entire essay and printed a paltry two-page summary of Sastri’s writing in the first volume.

If that was the condition in the 1940s and ’50s with regard to disagreeing with the dubious Aryan Invasion Theory, things were no different in the ’60s and ’70s as can be evidenced from the following. D Javaregowda, who was a student of Sastri, was the Vice-Chancellor of University of Mysore in 1973 and in his Foreword to Śrīkaṇṭhikā, the Festschrift volume presented to Sastri, he writes, “One may reverentially disagree with the views expressed by him, as, for example, on the original home of the Aryans, the Aryan Civilization... but nobody disputes his intellectual abilities or sincerity of purpose.” The strange fact of a former student of Sastri who occupied the high office of Vice-Chancellor deemed it important to record his dissent with Sastri’s research on the Aryans in a felicitation volume gives us an idea of the sort of mental slavery present in academia even after independence. It appears that India had become independent only politically.

Way back in 1944, Sastri wrote a monograph titled Proto-Indic Religion showing the connection between the Sindhu-Sarasvati civilization and the Vedas. When he examined the Indus script, which typically has 3 or 4 syllables, with reference to the Ṛgveda, which has meters like Anuṣṭup, Triṣṭup, Jagatī, etc. he realized that it wouldn’t match because even the shortest metre in the Vedas—Gāyatrī—has eight syllables in a line. The Yajurveda consist of long prose passages while the Sāmaveda is typically a musically-rendered Ṛgveda-mantra and the Indus script has no marks to indicate the udātta-anudātta-svarita; so it couldn’t be Sāmaveda. Howeverm Atharaveda, which is known for its incantations and magic spells coincides with the Indus seals, which Sastri opines are akin to amulets.

Sastri was one of the earliest historians to clearly state that there was never an Aryan invasion or migration and that India was always the homeland of the Aryans. Although people like Vivekananda, Aurobindo, and Ganganatha Jha had alluded to it, Sastri clearly showed it with evidence. And long before V S Agarwala, he suggested that Harappa was likely the Vedic Hariyūpīyā (Ṛg-veda-saṃhitā 2.27.4).

In his paper titled ‘The Aryans’ that came out in 1947, Sastri gives the following major findings.

1. Vedic and Classical Sanskrit literature is unanimously silent as to an extra Indian home. The Ṛg-Veda shows no knowledge of any country beyond the Hindu Kush. The proto-Indic civilization represents a cosmopolitan culture developed primarily from Vedic sources.

2. There is no element in the Ṛgvedic culture that can be traced to a non-Indian source. The Aryan culture as depicted in the Vedas has very few points of resemblance to the Nordic European cultures.

3. The consistent and unanimous evidence of Vedic literature proves that the original habitat of the Vedic Aryans was primarily Brahmāvarta (Eastern Punjab) and Brahmarṣi-deśa (Gaṅgā-Yamunā doab)[1].

4. The Indo-Aryan languages in Europe represent a considerably late phase of Vedic Sanskrit, modified by a different physical and ethnological environment. No extra-Indian origin of the Dravidian languages can be traced and it can be demonstrated that the Dravidian languages developed from the Aryan Paiśācī dialects.

5. A balanced and informed estimate of the Vedic culture shows that the Indo-Aryans of the Vedas were a very highly advanced people far superior in all essential elements of civilisation to the warrior folk of Europe.

6. The Indo-Hatti, the Mitanni, the Iranians and other Aryan people represent the west-ward migrations of the Indo-Aryans as early as 3000 BC, if not earlier.

7. The river Sarasvatī is known to the Vedic Aryans as having once joined the sea. The Nadī-stuti of the tenth maṇḍala of the Ṛgveda mentions the rivers Gaṅgā etc. from east to the west.

8. The astronomical evidence of the Vedic literature is fairly consistent and accurate pointing to the beginning of Vedic civilization in about 10,000 BC.[2]

It will be valuable for all students of Indian history to commence their studies by accepting the aforementioned conclusions prima facie. It is definitely better to start with the findings of a great historian rather than starting with a blank slate or even worse, starting off with the erroneous and dangerous views of the Marxists and missionaries masquerading as historical truths.

It is remarkable that Sastri could deduce all that he did with the meagre data available to him. In fact, he had suggested that more excavations must be conducted in places like Kurukshetra and it was he who had seeded the idea of excavating Lothal in his student S R Rao.

If only Sastri had all the data that is available now – he would have written the last word on this subject!

It is also valuable for the student of history to look at the manner in which Sastri determined a certain time period in history. It was based on solid epigraphic and archaeological evidence and in addition to that, evidence from contemporary literature as well as astronomical evidence (based on movement of stars and planetary positions). Anyone who reads his academic papers will immediately realize this tendency of Sastri to give multifaceted evidence that made his claim almost irrefutable.

Sometimes, for a sentence or a claim that would be printed in two lines, Sastri had tens of pages’ worth evidence in the background.

To be concluded…

 

References

1. A Votary of Truth – A documentary on Prof. S Srikanta Sastri

2. Ramaswamy, S R. A Tapestry of Pen-portraits. Bangalore: Prekshaa Pratishtana, 2020. ‘S Srikanta Sastri’ adapted into English by Hari Ravikumar, pp. 198–220

3. Śrīkaṇṭhayāna: The Collected Writings of Dr. S Śrīkaṇṭha Śāstrī. 2 Volumes. Eds. Sastry, T V Venkatachala and Narasimhamurthy, P N. Bangalore: Mythic Society, 2016

4. ŚrīkaṇṭhikāDr. S Srikantha Sastri Felicitation Volume. Mysore: Geetha Book House, 1973 (on behalf of Dr. S Srikantha Sastri Felicitation Committee)

5. www.srikanta-sastri.org/

 

Acknowledgements

It is my pleasant duty to acknowledge the help and support of Nadoja Dr. S R Ramaswamy, Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh, and Jayasimha K R. I have greatly benefited from the excellent website about Srikanta Sastri maintained by his family members (www.srikanta-sastri.org/). My thanks are also due, to the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs and Prekshaa Pratishtana.

 

Footnotes

[1] This is also called Āryāvarta.

[2] Śrīkaṇṭhayāna, Vol. 1

Author(s)

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Hari is a writer, translator, editor, violinist, and designer with a deep interest in Vedanta, education pedagogy design, literature, and films. He has (co-)written/translated and (co-)edited 25+ books, mostly related to Indian culture and philosophy. He serves on the advisory board of a few educational institutions.

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