HRD Ministry set to spark another controversy; proposes rewriting Vedic chronology

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HRD Minister Smriti Irani
HRD Minister Smriti Irani

Adding to its seemingly endless tale of controversial moves, the Smriti Irani led HRD Ministry has now expressed the will to rewrite Vedic chronology. The proposal comes after a series of disputed decisions involving the ministry, like the ban on the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle in IIT-Chennai, the implementation of the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) and the Central Universities Act in Central and State Universities, across the country.

The HRD Ministry, in collaboration with the Maharshi Sandipani Rashtriya Veda Vidya Pratisthan, Ujjain, and the Sanskrit Deptarment of Delhi University looks forward to organizing a three-day seminar in the month of August, to initiate a fresh debate on the issue of Vedic chronology. Representatives of Arya Samaj and Sanathan Dharma are also likely to participate in the event.

A matter of much debate and deliberation, the original date of the first of the Vedas, that is, the Rig Veda, has been the subject of various researches and theories. Eminent Sanskrit scholar of the period of the nationalist movement, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and the German scholar Felix Jacoby have observed that the Rig Vedic period dates back to 8000 BC whereas according to the Max Muller theory, it can be taken back to the 2000 BC.

In opposition to these claims, a section of right-wing Sanskrit scholars and historians want to rearrange the Vedic calendar to establish that the roots of Hinduism and the Rig Vedic period precede the Indus Valley Civilization. “Theories of Tilak and Jacoby are based on archaeological and astronomical facts. But the Marxists have gone all out to establish that Indus Valley civilisation is older than Rig Vedic era. The fact that Aryans came to the plains of India and pushed the Dravadians southwards is also not true. Much before the Indus Valley civilisation the plains of India had a flourishing culture of its own, which can be established through the Rig Vedic texts. The history needs correction and chronology needs to be fixed,” said Professor Ramesh Bhardwaj, Head of the Sanskrit Department in Delhi University.

Responding to questions on why the Sanskrit Department is spearheading an initiative that should find its just place with historians, Bhardwaj added, “Reading Indian culture is an important aspect to Sanskrit studies. But our dates do not match with the main stream dates established by the historians”.

Professor Roop Kishore Shastri of Maharshi Sandipani Rashtriya Veda Vidya Pratishthan explained, the Indian historians do not completely agree with Muller’s theory. We keep organising debates from time to time over discussion on Vedas and correcting the chronology is an important task at hand”.

The matter becomes more controversial in the wake of “right-wing” historian  Y Sudershan Rao’s appointment as the Chair Person of the Indian Council for Historical Research  (ICHR), which, coupled with other moves of the HRD Ministry, like sanctioning the RSS ideologue Dinanath Batra’s books to be taught in government run primary schools in Gujarat, have been dubbed by critics as attempts to “saffronise” education by the BJP government.

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