India’s Ancient and Great Maritime History, by Stephen Knapp

(An Excerpt from Advancements of Ancient India’s Vedic Culture)

We should first take into account that ancient India, which was centered around the Indus Valley years ago, and was already well developed before 3200 BCE, stretched from Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean and points farther east and north, the largest empire in the world at the time. But its influence spread much farther than that. During its peak developments, it had organized cities, multistory brick buildings, vast irrigation networks, sewer systems, the most advanced metalwork in the world, and a maritime trade network that incorporated the use of compasses, planked ships, and trained navigators that reached parts of western Asia, Mesopotamia, Africa, and other ports far beyond their borders. 1 So they were certainly capable of ocean-going trips that could have reached even to the Americas.

Prakash Charan Prasad explains in his book, Foreign Trade and Commerce in Ancient India (p. 131): “Big ships were built. They could carry anywhere upwards from 500 men on the high seas. The Yuktialpataru classifies ships according to their sizes and shapes. The Rajavalliya says that the ship in which King Sinhaba of Bengal (ca. sixth century BCE] sent Prince Vijaya, accommodated full 700 passengers, and the ship in which Vijaya’s Pandyan bride was brought over to Lanka carried 800 passengers on board. The ship in which the Buddha in the Supparaka Bodhisat incarnation made his voyages from Bharukachha (Broach) to the ‘sea of the seven gems’ [Sri Lanka], carried 700 merchants besides himself. The Samuddha Vanija Jakarta mentions a ship that accommodated one thousand carpenters.”

Marco Polo also related how, “An Indian ship could carry crews between 100 and 300. Out of regard for passenger convenience and comfort, the ships were well furnished and decorated in gold, silver, copper, and compounds of all these substances were generally used for ornamentation and decoration.” 2

Because of the Vedic civilization’s great reach, Aurel Stein (1862-1943), a Hungarian researcher also related: “The vast extent of Indian cultural influences, from Central Asia in the North to tropical Indonesia in the South, and from the borderlands of Persia to China and Japan, has shown that ancient India was a radiating center of a civilization, which by its religious thought, its art and literature, was destined to leave its deep mark on the races wholly diverse and scattered over the greater part of Asia.” 3

In this regard, Philip Rawson, in The Art of Southeast Asia (1993, p. 7), further praises India’s gift of its civilizing affect on all other cultures. “The culture of India has been one of the world’s most powerful civilizing forces. Countries of the Far East, including China, Korea, Japan, Tibet, and Mongolia owe much of what is best in their own cultures to the inspiration of ideas imported from India. The West, too, has its own debts… No conquest or invasion, nor forced conversion [was ever] imposed.” And this is the basis for the mystery of the widespread nature of the ancient Vedic empire, which in many ways still exists today. It was this subtle spiritual dimension that spread all over the world.


As Gunnar Thompson also explains, regarding the capability of Indian ships: “Extensive maritime trade between India and the islands of Indonesia is well documented and illustrated. A 1st century Hindu manuscript, the Periplus, mentions two-mates ships with dual rudders mounted on the sides in the fashion of ancient Mediterranean vessels. The ships are portrayed in 2nd century Indian murals. Chinese chronicles of the same era describe seven-masted Hindu vessels 160 feet in length carrying 700 passengers and 1000 metric tons of merchandise. Buddhist records of a 5th century pilgrimage from Ceylon to Java report vessels large enough to carry 200 passengers.” 4

India’s ancient maritime history is referenced as far back as the early Vedic texts. This is taken from my book, Advancements of Ancient India’s Vedic Culture (pp. 143-45). As we look at other cultures, what is often left out is the advanced nature of the ancient Indian civilization. As we look over this information, it becomes clear that ancient India had the means for sailing over great expanses of water, and also had a thriving trade industry based on shipping.

The fact is that the ancient Vedic texts, such as the Rig Veda, Shatapatha Brahmana, and others refer to the undertaking of naval expeditions and travel to distant places by sea-routes that were well-known at the time. For example, the Rig Veda (1.25.7) talks of how Varuna has full knowledge of all the sea routes that were followed by ships. Then (2.48.3) we find wherein merchants would also send out ships for foreign trade. 5

Another verse (1.56.2) speaks of merchants going everywhere and frequently to every part of the sea. Another verse (7.88.3-4) relates that there was a voyage by Vasistha and Varuna in a ship skillfully fitted for the trip. Then there is a verse (1.116.3) that tells of an expedition on which Tugra, the Rishi king, sent his son Bhujya against some of his enemies in the distant islands. However, Bhujya becomes ship wrecked by a storm, with all of his followers on the ocean, “Where there is no support, or rest for the foot or hand.” From this he is rescued by the twin Ashvins in their hundred oared galley. Similarly, the Atharva Veda mentions boats which are spacious, well constructed and comfortable.

We should keep in mind that the Rig Veda is said to go back to around 3000 BCE, which means the sailing capacity for the Vedic civilization of ancient India was well under way by that time.

An assortment of other books also referred to sea voyages of the ancient mariners. Of course, we know that the epics, such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata referred to ships and sea travel, but the Puranas also had stories of sea voyages, such as in the Matsya, Varaha, and Markandeya Puranas. Other works of Classical Sanskrit included them as well, such as Raghuvamsha, Ratnavali, Dashakumaracharita, Kathasaritsagara, Panchatantra, Rajatarangini, etc.

Actually, ships have been mentioned in numerous verses through the Vedic literature, such as in the Vedas, Brahmanas, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas, and so on. For example, in the Ayodhya Kand of Valmiki’s Ramayana, you can find the description of such big ships that could hold hundreds of warriors: “Hundreds of oarsmen inspire five hundred ships carrying hundreds of ready warriors.” The conclusion is that ships have been in use since the Vedic age.

In the Ramayana, in the Kishkindha Kand, Sugriva gives directions to the Vanar leaders for going to the cities and mountains in the islands of the sea, mainly Yavadvipa (Java) and Suvarna Dvipa (Sumatra) in the quest to find Sita. The Ramayana also talks of how merchants traveled beyond the sea and would bring presents to the kings.

In the Mahabharata (Sabha Parva), Sahadeva is mentioned as going to several islands in the sea to defeat the kings. In the Karna Parva, the soldiers of the Kauravas are described as merchants, “whose ships have come to grief in the midst of the unfathomable deep.” And in the same Parva, a verse describes how the sons of Draupadi rescued their maternal uncles by supplying them with chariots, “As ship wrecked merchants are rescued by means of boats.” However, another verse therein relates how the Pandavas escaped from the destruction planned for them with the help of a ship that was secretly and especially constructed for the purpose under the orders of the kind hearted Vidura. The ship was large, and provided machinery and all kinds of weapons of war, and able to defy storms and waves.

Also, in Kautilya’s Arthashastra we find information of the complete arrangements of boats maintained by the navy and the state. It also contains information on the duties of the various personnel on a ship. For example, the Navadhyaksha is the superintendent of the ship, Niyamaka is the steerman, and Datragrahaka is the holder of the needle, or the compass. Differences in ships are also described regarding the location of the cabins and the purpose of the ship itself. 6

In the Brihat Samhita by Varahamihir of the 5th century, and in the Sanskrit text Yukti Kalpataru by Narapati Raja Bhoj of the 11th century, you can find information about an assortment of ships, sizes, and materials with which they were built, and the process of manufacturing them. For example, one quote explains, “Ships made of timbers of different classes possess different properties. Ships built of inferior wood do not last long and rot quickly. Such ships are liable to split with a slight shock.” 7 It also gives further details on how to furnish a ship for accommodating the comfort of passengers, or for transporting goods, animals, or royal artifacts. The ships of three different sizes were the Sarvamandira, Madhyamarmandira, and the Agramandira.

The Shangam works of the South Indian Tamils have numerous references to the shipping activities that went on in that region, along with the ports, articles of trade, etc. Such texts included Shilappadikaram Manimekalai, Pattinappalai, Maduraikhanji, Ahananuru, Purananuru, etc. 8

Ancient Indians traveled to various parts of the world not only for purposes of trade, but to also propagate their culture. This is how the Vedic influence spread around the world. For example, Kaundinya crossed the ocean and reached south-east Asia. From there, evidence shows that rock inscriptions in the Sun Temple at Jawayuko in the Yukatan province of Mexico mentions the arrival of the great sailor Vusulin in Shaka Samvat 854, or the year 932. In the excavations in Lothal in Gujarat, it seems that trade with countries like Egypt was carried out from that port around 2540 BCE. Then from 2350 BCE, small boats docked here, which necessitated the construction of the harbor for big ships, which was followed by the city that was built around it. 9

In the period of 984-1042 CE, the Chola kings dispatched great naval expeditions which occupied parts of Burma, Malaya and Sumatra, while suppressing the piratical activities of the Sumatra warlords.

In 1292 CE, when Marco Polo came to India, he described Indian ships as “built of fir timber, having a sheath of boards laid over the planking in every part, caulked with iron nails. The bottoms were smeared with a preparation of quicklime and hemp, pounded together and mixed with oil from a certain tree which is a better material than pitch.” He further writes: “Ships had double boards which were joined together. They were made strong with iron nails and the crevices were filled with a special kind of gum. These ships were so huge that about 300 boatmen were needed to row them. About 3000-4000 gunny bags could be loaded in each ship. They had many small rooms for people to live in. These rooms had arrangements for all kinds of comfort. Then when the bottom or the base started to get spoiled, a new layer would be added on. Sometimes, a boat would have even six layers, one on top of another.”

A fourteenth century description of an Indian ship credits it with a carrying capacity of over 700 people giving a fair idea of both ship building skills and maritime ability of seamen who could successfully man such large vessels.

Another account of the early fifteenth century describes Indian ships as being built in compartments so that even if one part was shattered, the next remained intact, thus enabling the ship to complete her voyage. This was perhaps a forerunner of the modern day subdivision of ships into watertight compartments, a concept then totally alien to the Europeans.

Another traveler named Nicolo Conti came to India in the 15th century. He wrote: “The Indian ships are much bigger than our ships. Their bases are made of three boards in such a way that they can face formidable storms. Some ships are made in such a way that if one part becomes useless, the rest of the parts can do the work.”

Another visitor to India named Bertham writes: “The wooden boards are joined in such a way that not even a drop of water can go through it. Sometimes, the masts of cotton are placed in such a way that a lot of air can be filled in. The anchors were sometimes made of heavy stones. It would take a ship eight days to come from Iran to Cape Comorin (Kanyakumari).” 10

The famous archeologist Padmashri Dr. Vishnu Shridhar Wakankar says, “I had gone to England for studies, I was told about Vasco da Gama’s diary available in a museum in which he has described how he came to India.” He writes that when his ship came near Zanzibar in Africa, he saw a ship three times bigger than the size of his ship. He took an African interpreter to meet the owner of that ship who was a Gujarati trader named Chandan who used to bring pine wood and teak from India along with spices and take back diamonds to the port of Cochin. When Vasco da Gama went to meet him, Chandan was sitting in ordinary attire, on a cot. When the trader asked Vasco where he was going, the latter said that he was going to visit India. At this, the trader said that he was going back to India the very next day and if he wanted, he could follow him. So, Vasco da Gama came to India following him. 11

Sir William Jones, in The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society–1901, relates how the Hindus, “must have been navigators in the age of Manu, because bottomry is mentioned in it. In the Ramayana, practice of bottomry is distinctly noticed.” Bottomry is the lending of insurance money for marine activities. 12

In this way, Indians excelled in the art of ship-building, and even the English found Indian models of ships far superior of their own and worth copying. The Indian vessels united elegance and utility and fine workmanship. Sir John Malcom observed: “Indian vessels are so admirably adapted to the purpose for which they are required that, notwithstanding their superior stance, Europeans were unable during an intercourse with India for two centuries, to suggest or to bring into successful practice one improvement.” 13

Mexican archeologist Rama Mena points out in his book, Mexican Archeology, that Mayan physical features are like those of India. He also mentions how Nahuatl, Zapotecan, and Mayan languages had Hindu-European affinities.

In this line of thinking, some American tribes have traditions of having ancestral homelands across the Pacific. A legend of Guatemala speaks of an ancient migration from across the Pacific to the city of Tulan. A tribe from Peru and Tucano of Columbia also relate in their traditions how ancestors sailed across the Pacific to South America. Tales of trade over the Pacific were also related to the earliest of Spanish explorers in Central America. 14

Georgia anthropologist Joseph Mahan, author of The Secret (1983), has identified intriguing similarities between the Yueh-chic tribes of India-Pakistan and the Yuchi tribe of North America’s Eastern Woodlands. The Yuchi tradition also tells of a foreign homeland from across the sea–presumably in India. 15

This information makes it clear that ancient India had the means to reach and in fact did sail to many parts of the world, including the ancient Americas, long before most countries. This is further corroborated by information in the chapter of Vedic culture in America in Proof of Vedic Culture’s Global Existence, for those of you who would like more information on this.


Further evidence shows that shipping from Bharatvarsha was a national enterprise and the country was a leader in world trade relations amongst such people as the Phoenicians, Jews, Assyrians, Greeks, and Romans in ancient times, and more recently with Egyptians, Romans, Turks, Portuguese, Dutch, and English.

The simple fact is that India’s maritime history predates the birth of Western civilization. The world’s first tidal dock is believed to have been built at Lothal around 2300 BCE during the Harappan civilization, near the present day Mangrol harbor on the Gujarat coast.

The earliest portrayal of an Indian ship is found on an Indus Valley seal from about 3000 BCE. The ship is shown being elevated at both bow and stern, with a cabin in the center. It is likely to have been a simple river boat since it is lacking a mast. Another drawing found at Mohendjodaro on a potsherd shows a boat with a single mast and two men sitting at the far end away from the mast. Another painting of the landing of Vijaya Simha in Ceylon (543 BCE) with many ships is found amongst the Ajanta caves.

That India had a vast maritime trade, even with Greece, is shown by the coins of the Trojans (98-117 CE) and Hadrians (117-138 CE) found on the eastern coast of India, near Pondicherry. This is evidence that Greek traders had to have visited and traded in the port cities of that area.

Kamlesh Kapur explains more about this in Portraits of a Nation: History of India: “Recent archeological excavations at Pattanam in Ernakulum district of Kerala by the Kerala council for Historical Research (KCHR) indicate that there was thriving naval trade around 500 B.C. According to the Director of KCHR, ‘The artifacts recovered from the excavation site suggest that Pattanam, with a hinterland port and a multicultural settlement, may have had links with the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the South China Sea rims since the Early Historic Period of South India.’ KCHR has been getting charcoal samples examined through C-14 and other modern methods to determine the age of these relics. These artifacts were from the Iron Age layer. The archeologists also recovered some parts of a wooden canoe and bollards (stakes used to secure canoes and boats) from a waterlogged area at the site.

“The radiocarbon dating from Pattanam will aid in understanding the Iron Age chronology of Kerala. So far, testing done by C-14 method to determine the ages of the charcoal samples from the lowermost sand deposits in the trenches at Pattanam suggests that their calibrated dates range from 1300 B.C. to 200 B.C. and 2500 B.C. to 100 A.D. Thus there is strong evidence that Kerala had sea trade with several countries in Western Asia and Eastern Europe from the second millennia B.C. onwards.” 16

The influence of the sea on Indian Kingdoms continued to grow with the passage of time. North-west India came under the influence of Alexander the great, who built a harbor at Patala where the Indus branches into two, just before entering the Arabian sea. His army returned to Mesopotamia in ships built in Sindh. Records show that in the period after his conquest, Chandragupta Maurya established an admiralty division under a Superintendent of ships as part of his war office, with a charter including responsibility for navigation on the seas, oceans, lakes and rivers. History records that Indian ships traded with countries as far as Java and Sumatra, and available evidence indicates that they were also trading with other countries in the Pacific, and Indian Ocean. Even before Alexander, there were references to India in Greek works and India had a flourishing trade with Rome. Roman writer Pliny speaks of Indian traders carrying away large quantity of gold from Rome, in payment for much sought exports such as precious stones, skins, clothes, spices, sandalwood, perfumes, herbs, and indigo.

The port cities included such places as Nagapattinam, Arikamedu (near Pondicherry), Udipi, Kollam, Tuticorin, Mamallapuram, Mangalore, Kannur, Thane, and others, which facilitated trade with many foreign areas, such as Indonesia, China, Arabia, Rome, and countries in Africa. Many other inland towns and cities contributed to this trade, such as Madurai, Thanjavur, Tiruchirapalli, Ellora, Melkote, Nasik, and so on, which became large centers of trade. Silk, cotton, sandalwood, woodwork, and various types of produce were the main items of trade.

Trades of this volume could not have been conducted over the countries without appropriate navigational skills. Two Indian astronomers of repute, Aryabhatta and Varahamihira, having accurately mapped the positions of celestial bodies, developed a method of computing a ship’s position from the stars. A crude forerunner of the modern magnetic compass called Matsyayantra was being used around the fourth or fifth century CE. Between the fifth and tenth centuries CE, the Vijayanagara and Kalinga kingdoms of southern and eastern India had established their rules over Malaya, Sumatra and Western Java. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands then served as an important midway for trade between the Indian peninsula and these kingdoms, as also with China. The daily revenue from the western regions in the period 844-848 CE was estimated to be 200 maunds (eight tons) of gold.

Not only was there trade from ancient times, going to many areas of the globe, but other countries may have also been going to India. It is reported that marine archaeologists have found a stone anchor in the Gulf of Khambhat with a design similar to the ones used by Chinese and Japanese ships in the 12th-14th century CE, giving the first offshore evidence indicating India’s trade relations with the two Asian countries. The stone anchor was found during an exploration headed by two marine archaeologists, A. S. Gaur and B. K. Bhatt, from the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO). “Though there are a lot of references and Chinese pottery (found from coastal sites) indicating trade relations between the two Asian nations (China and Japan) in the past, but this anchor from the offshore region is the first evidence from Indian waters. Similar type of anchors have been found from Chinese and Japanese waters,” stated Mr. Gaur. 17

Furthermore, another recent finding that shows the ancient advancement of Indian maritime capabilities is the evidence that Indian traders may have gone to South America long before Columbus discovered America. Investigation of botanical remains from an ancient site, Tokwa at the confluence of Belan and Adwa rivers, Mirzapur District, Uttar Pradesh (UP), has brought to light the agriculture-based subsistence economy during the Neolithic culture (3rd-2nd millennium BCE). They subsisted on various cereals, supplemented by leguminous seeds. Evidence of oil-yielding crops has been documented by recovery of seeds of Linum usitatissimum and Brassica juncea. Fortuitously, an important find among the botanical remains is the seeds of South American custard apple, regarded to have been introduced by the Portuguese in the 16th century. The remains of custard apple as fruit coat and seeds have also been recorded from other sites in the Indian archaeological context, during the Kushana Period (CE 100-300) in Punjab and Early Iron Age (1300-700 BCE) in UP. The factual remains of custard apple, along with other stray finds, favor a group of specialists to support with diverse arguments the reasoning of Asian-American contacts way before the discovery of America by Columbus in 1498. 18


In the south especially there was an established navy in many coastal areas. The long coastline with many ports for trade for sending out ships and receiving traders from foreign countries necessitated a navy to protect the ships and ports from enemies. According to records, the Pallavas, Cholas, Pandyas, and the Cheras had large naval fleets of ocean bound ships because these rulers also led expeditions against other places, such as Malayasia, Bali, and Ceylon.

The decline of Indian maritime power commenced in the thirteenth century, and Indian sea power had almost disappeared when the Portuguese arrived in India. They later imposed a system of license for trade, and set upon all Asian vessels not holding permits from them.

The piratical activities of the Portuguese were challenged by the Zamorins of Calicut when Vasco da Gama, after obtaining permission to trade, refused to pay the customs levy. Two major engagements were fought during this period. First, the battle of Cochin in 1503, clearly revealed the weakness of Indian navies and indicated to the Europeans an opportunity for building a naval empire. The second engagement off Diu in 1509 gave the Portuguese mastery over Indian seas and laid the foundation of European control over Indian waters for the next 400 years.

Indian maritime interests witnessed a remarkable resurgence in the late seventeenth century, when the Siddhis of Janjira allied with the Moghuls to become a major power on the West Coast. This led the Maratha King Shivaji to create his own fleet, which was commanded by able admirals like Sidhoji Gujar and Kanhoji Angre. The Maratha Fleet along with the legendary Kanhoji Angre held sway over the entire Konkan Coast keeping the English, Dutch and Portuguese at bay. The death of Angre in 1729 left a vacuum and resulted in the decline of Maratha sea power. Despite the eclipse of Indian kingdoms with the advent of western domination, Indian shipbuilders continued to hold their own well into the nineteenth century. The Bombay Dock completed in July 1735 is in use even today. Ships displacing 800 to 1000 tons were built of teak at Daman and were superior to their British counterparts both in design and durability. This so agitated British shipbuilders on the River Thames that they protested against the use of Indian built ships to carry trade from England. Consequently, active measures were adopted to cripple the Indian shipbuilding industries. Nevertheless, many Indian ships were inducted into the Royal Navy, such as HMS Hindostan in 1795, the frigate Cornwallis in 1800, HMS Camel in 1801, and HMS Ceylon in 1808. HMS Asia carried the flag of Admiral Codrington at the battle of Navarino in 1827, the last major sea battle to be fought entirely under sail.

Two Indian built ships witnessed history in the making. The Treaty of Nanking, ceding Hong Kong to the British, was signed onboard HMS Cornwallis in 1842. The “Star Spangled Banner” national anthem of the USA was composed by Francis Scott Key onboard HMS Minden when the ship was on a visit to Baltimore. Numerous other ships were also constructed, the most famous being HMS Trincomalee, which was launched on 19 October, 1817, carrying 86 guns and displacing 1065 tons. This ship was latter renamed Foudroyant.

The period of 4000 years between Lothal and Bombay Dock, therefore, offers tangible evidence of seafaring skills the nation possessed in the days of sail. In the early seventeenth century, when British naval ships came to India, they discovered the existence of considerable shipbuilding and repair skills, as well as seafaring people. An ideal combination was thus available for supporting a fighting force in India. 19


When the westerners made contact with India, they were amazed to see their ships. Until the 17th century, European ships were a maximum of 600 tonnes. But in India, they saw such big ships as the Gogha, which was more than 1500 tonnes. The European companies started using these ships and opened many new factories to make Indian artisans manufacture ships. In 1811, Lt. Walker writes, “The ships in the British fleet had to be repaired every 12th year. But the Indian ships made of teak would function for more than 50 years without any repair.” The East India Company had a ship called Dariya Daulat which worked for 87 years without any repairs. Durable woods like rosewood, sal and teak were used for this purpose.

The French traveler Waltzer Salvins writes in his book Le Hindu, in 1811, “Hindus were in the forefront of ship-building and even today they can teach a lesson or two to the Europeans. The British, who were very apt at learning the arts, learnt a lot of things about ship building from the Hindus. There is a very good blend of beauty and utility in Indian ships and they are examples of Indian handicrafts and their patience.” Between 1736 and 1863, 300 ships were built at factories in Mumbai. Many of them were included in the Royal Fleet. Of these, the ship called Asia was 2289 tonnes and had 84 cannons. Ship building factories were set up in Hoogly, Sihat, Chittagong, Dacca, etc. In the period between 1781 to 1821, in Hoogly alone 272 ships were manufactured which together weighed 122,693 tonnes.

In this connection, Suresh Soni, in his book India’s Glorious Scientific Tradition, explains how India was deprived of its marine industry, but also from any notation in its ancient history of its ship-building ability. He writes:

“The shipping magnates of Britain could not tolerate the Indian art of ship manufacturing and they started compelling the East India Company not to use Indian ships. Investigations were frequently carried out in this regard. In 1811, Col. Walker gave statistics to prove that it was much cheaper to make Indian ships and that they were very sturdy. If only Indian ships were included in the British fleet, it would lead to great savings. This pinched the British shipbuilders and the traders. Dr. Taylor writes, ‘When the Indian ships laden with Indian goods reached the port of London, it created such a panic amongst the British traders as would not have been created, had they seen the enemy fleet of ships on the River Thames, ready for attack.’

“The workers at the London Port were among the first to make hue and cry and said that ‘all our work will be ruined and families will starve to death.’ The Board of Directors of East India Company wrote that ‘all the fear and respect that the Indian seamen had towards European behavior was lost when they saw our social life once they came here. When they return to their country, they will propagate bad things about us amongst the Asians and we will lose our superiority and the effect will be harmful.’ At this, the British Parliament set up a committee under the chairmanship of Sir Robert Peel.

“Despite disagreement amongst the members of the committee on the basis of this report, a law was passed in 1814 according to which the Indians lost the right to become British sailors and it became compulsory to employ at least three-fourth British sailors on British ships. No ship which did not have a British master was allowed to enter London Port and a rule was made that only ships made by the British in England could bring goods to England. For many reasons, there was laxity in enforcing these rules, but from 1863 they were observed strictly. Such rules which would end the ancient art of ship-building, were formulated in India also. Tax on goods brought in Indian ships was raised and efforts were made to isolate them from trade. Sir William Digby has rightly written, ‘This way, the Queen of the western world killed the Queen of the eastern oceans.’ In short, this is the story about the destruction of the Indian art of ship-building.” 20

Of course, let us not forget that not only was commerce between ancient India and other countries made through maritime capabilities, but also through land routes that extended to China, Turkistan, Persia, Babylon, and also to Egypt, Greece, and Rome, which continued to prosper.

These days, India is still very much in the ship building business, mostly in small and medium size ships. As of 2009 there were 27 major shipyards, primarily in Mumbai, Goa, Vishakhapatnam, and Cochin.


In conclusion, the fact is that the ancient Vedic civilization had a strong connection with the sea, and maritime abilities. Even in their language of Vedic Sanskrit, words such as samudra, salil, sagar, and sindhu indicated the sea or large rivers. The word sindhuka also meant sailor, which became the name Sindbad for the sailor in Arabian Nights. Also, the English word navigation actually originates from the Sanskrit word Navagati.

Further evidence has been shown, such as that presented at a 1994 conference on seafaring in Delhi where papers had been presented that shows how Indian cotton was exported to South and Central America back in 2500 BCE. Another report suggested Indian cotton reached Mexico as far back as 4000 BCE, back to the Rig Vedic period. According to Sean McGrail, a marine archeologist at Oxford University, seagoing ships called ‘clinkers’ that were thought to be of Viking origin, were known in India a good deal earlier. Thus, India’s maritime trade actually flourished many years ago, along with many other of its advancements that are hardly recognized or accounted for today. 21

This helps reveal that India’s maritime trade actually flourished more and far earlier than most people realize. This was one of the ways Vedic culture had spread to so many areas around the world. Though the talents and capabilities that came out of ancient India’s Vedic civilization have often remained unrecognized or even demeaned when discussed, nonetheless, the Vedic people were far more advanced in culture and developments then many people seem to care to admit, and it is time to recognize it for what it was.


1. Lehrburger, Carl, Secrets of Ancient America: Archaeoastronomy and the Legacy of the Phoenicians, Celts, and Other Forgotten Explorers, Bear & Company, Rochester, Vermont, 2015, p.209.

2. Kuppuram, G., India Through the Ages, pp 65..527-31.

3. Ibid., pp.527-31.

4. Thompson, Gunnar, American Discovery: Our Multicultural Heritage, Hayriver Press, Colfax, Wisconsin, 2012, p.216.

5. Rao, S. R., Shipping in Ancient India, in India’s Contribution to World Thought and Culture, Published by Vivekananda Kendra Prakashan, Chennai, 1970, p. 83.

6. Science and Technology in Ancient India, by Editorial Board of Vijnan Bharati, Mumbai, August, 2002, p. 105.

7. Ibid., pp. 108-09.

8. Ramachandran, K. S., Ancient Indian Maritime Adventures, in India’s Contribution to World Thought and Culture, Published by Vivekananda Kendra Prakashan, Chennai, 1970, p. 74.

9. Soni, Suresh, India’s Glorious Scientific Tradition, Ocean Books Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2010, p. 68.

10. Ibid., p. 72.

11. Ibid., p. 73.

12. Shah, Niranjan, Little Known Facts About Shipping Activity in Ancient India, in India Tribune, January 8, 2006.

13. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. 1) (Singhal, D. P., Red Indians or Asiomericans–Indian Settlers in Middle and South America, India’s Contribution to World Thought and Culture, Vivekananda Kendra Prakashan Trust, Chennai, India 1970, p.644.

14. Thompson, Gunnar, American Discovery: Our Multicultural Heritage, Hayriver Press, Colfax, Wisconsin, 2012, p.223.

15. Thompson, Gunnar, American Discovery: Our Multicultural Heritage, Hayriver Press, Colfax, Wisconsin, 2012, p.235.

16. Kapur, Kamlesh, Portraits of a Nation: History of India, Sterling Publishers, Private Limited, 2010, pp. 414-15.


18. http://www.ias. jan252008/ 248.pdf.


20. Soni, Suresh, India’s Glorious Scientific Tradition, Ocean Books Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2010, p. 74-75.

21. Frawley, Dr. David, and Dr. Navaratna S. Rajaram, Hidden Horizons, Unearthing 10,000 Years of Indian Culture, Swaminarayan Aksharpith, Ahmedabad, India, 2006, p. 79.

The Proto-Indo-European Language, by Stephen Knapp

There has been an attempt to explain the origins of such languages as Sanskrit, Greek and Roman for many years. This is because there has been a recognition of many similarities between them, but the exact original language which they have derived from has never been identified. So they say that it is now extinct, but they call it the Proto-Indo-European Language (PIE). This has now given way to the groupings of many other languages that are now included in what has become the “family” of 439 languages and dialects (as of 2009) of Indo-European languages. But the origin of all of them is supposed to be this non-existent Proto-Indo-European language. So how did this get started?

This whole process first began in the 16th century. In 1583, Thomas Stephens, a Jesuit missionary in Goa, wrote to his brother about the similarities that he saw between Indian and European languages, specifically Sanskrit, Greek and Latin. Not much came from this observation, and his letter was not published until the 20th century.

Shortly after this, it was Filippo Sassetti, a merchant born in Florence in 1540 who traveled to India, wrote in 1585 about the similarities between Sanskrit and Italian. Thereafter, it was Marcus Zuerius van Boxhorn, who, in 1647, noted the similarities among various Indo-European languages, which in his study included Dutch, Albanian, Greek, Latin, Persian, and German, and later Slavic, Celtic and Baltic. He was the one who started the idea that they all must have derived from a primitive and less developed but common source, a language which he called Scythian.

Next came Gaston Coeurdoux in the 1760s who made a thorough study of Sanskrit, Latin and Greek conjunctions to show a relationship between them. Then, Mikhail Lomonosov also studied the Slavic, Baltic (Kurlandic), Iranian (Medic), Finnish, Chinese, and other languages for his Russian Grammar (published in 1755).

A few years later this idea again appeared in 1786 when Sir William Jones (Sept. 28, 1746–April 27, 1794), the most noted of these comparative linguists, lectured on the similarities between Latin, Greek and Sanskrit, and later added Gothic, Celtic and Persian. He has said, “… no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which perhaps, no longer exists. There is a similar reason, though not quite so forcible, for supposing that … Gothick … had the same origin with the Sanscrit; and the old Persian might be added to the same family.” (Encyclopaedia Britannica 2009, Jones, Sir William) His conclusions and lectures inspired others to begin taking a more serious look at this.

However, it was Thomas Young in 1813 who first introduced the term Indo-European, which caught on and became the standard term in comparative linguistics, especially in the work of Franz Bopp, whose further study of other older languages gave support to this theory. It was through Franz Bopp’s Comparative Grammar in 1833 to 1852 that gave rise to the Indo-European language studies as an academic discipline.

Additional developments in this area continued with a few other noted works, such as with August Schleicher’s 1861 Compendium, Karl Brugman’s 1880s Grundriss, and then his reevaluation in Junggrammatische. Then Ferdinand de Saussure’s “laryngeal theory” became the beginning of the “modern” Indo-European studies.

Later, the division of the Indo-European languages were further divided into a Satem verses a Centum group by Peter von Bradke in his 1890 work, Concerning Method and Conclusions of Aryan (Indo-Germanic) Studies. Therein he described how the “Aryans” knew of two kinds of guttural sounds, the velar and palatal. This led von Bradke to divide the palatal series into a group as a spirant and a pure K sound, typified by the words satem and centum. From this point, the Indo-European family was further divided accordingly.


From these studies was developed the present “family” of languages that all descended from the original Proto-Indo-European language. These are then listed in an order based on when these comparative linguists estimate as the oldest. There is much study that has been given this field, but it remains inconclusive and subject to change.

In any case, the order of the present family of Indo-European languages looks something like this, in 10 main branches without going into all of the sub-sub-divisions, all descending from the mysterious and original Proto-Indo-European language:

1. Anatolian is said to be the earliest branch of languages, with isolated sources in Old Assyrian from the 19th century BCE.

2. Hellenic with isolated records in the Mycenaean Greek from 1450 to 1350 BCE. The Homeric texts are said to date from the 8th century BCE.

3. Indo-Iranian branch, descending from the Proto-Indo-Iranian back to the third millennium BCE. From this appeared Iranian, attested from around 1000 BCE in the form of Avestan. Indo-Aryan, or now what is called the Indic languages, attested to the late 15th to early 14th century BCE in Mitanni texts which showed traces of the Indo-Aryan language. The Rig Veda is said to preserve the oral tradition, and current scholars feel dates from the middle of the second millennium BCE in the form of Vedic Sanskrit. Classical Sanskrit is said to have appeared with the Sanskrit grammarian Pannini.

4. Italic, which now includes Latin and any descendants, attested to have been found from the 7th century BCE.

5. Celtic, from the Proto-Celtic, with the Tartessian from the 8th century BCE.

6. Germanic from the Proto-Germanic, dating from the runic inscriptions from near the 2nd century CE, with the Gothic texts from near the 4th century CE.

7. Armenian, from the 5th century CE.

8. Tocharian, attested to the 6th to 9th century CE, in two dialects (Turfian and Kuchean).

9. Balto-Slavic. Slavic from Proto-Slavic, attested to have evidence from the 9th century CE; and Baltic, attested to the 14th century CE.

10. Albanian, attested to the 14th century CE.

The Satem division includes the Italic, Anatolian, Tocharian, Celtic, Germanic, and Hellenic languages, while the Centum group includes the Slavic, Indo-Iranian, Baltic, Armenian, and Albanian. The premise for what constitutes a language to be a member of this Indo-European family is that they must be recognized as having genetic relationships, or show evidence that makes it presumed they are stemming from a common ancestor, known as the Proto-Indo-European language. This may include innovations among various languages that suggest a common ancestor that had split off from other Indo-European groups.

Traveling from West to East, the language families appear across the globe in the following way:

Celtic, with languages spoken in the British Isles, in Spain, and across southern Europe to central Turkey; Germanic, with languages spoken in England and throughout Scandinavia & central Europe to Crimea; Italic, with languages spoken in Italy and, later, throughout the Roman Empire including modern-day Portugal, Spain, France, and Romania; Balto-Slavic, with Baltic languages spoken in Latvia & Lithuania, and Slavic throughout eastern Europe plus Belarus & the Ukraine & Russia; Balkan (exceptional, as discussed below), with languages spoken mostly in the Balkans and far western Turkey; Hellenic, spoken in Greece and the Aegean Islands and, later, in other areas conquered by Alexander (but mostly around the Mediterranean); Anatolian, with languages spoken in Anatolia, a.k.a. Asia Minor, i.e. modern Turkey; Armenian, spoken in Armenia and nearby areas including eastern Turkey; Indo-Iranian, with languages spoken from India through Pakistan and Afghanistan to Iran and Kurdish areas of Iraq and Turkey; Tocharian, spoken in the Tarim Basin of Xinjiang, in far western China.

The languages with the largest number of speakers in these Indo-European groupings are Spanish, English, Hindi, Portuguese, Bengali, Russian, German, Marathi, French, Italian, Punjabi, and Urdu.


It is calculated that by 2500 BCE to 2000 BCE, the breakup from the Proto-Indo-European language into its first attested descendant languages and dialects was in effect, and had begun to be divided into the branches described above. The Proto-Indo-European language is accepted as the common ancestor of all Indo-European languages, which is estimated to have been spoken around 5000 to 3000 BCE in areas of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. And this language had to have been spoken by a people now called the Proto-Indo-Europeans. But who were they and where were they located?

Let us remember, that this Proto-Indo-European language has not been identified. It is not an actual language but merely a hypothetical reconstruction of a language that is presumed to be the ancestor of modern Indo-European languages. It also has been accepted by linguists to have disappeared before it became a written language, which gives room for so many variables in trying to identify this language. So the idea of finding the location of the people who spoke this language will depend mostly on educated guesswork.

It has been speculated that the original Indo-European people, and speakers of the original Proto-Indo-European language were a people called the Kurgan. They were supposed to have lived northwest of the Caucasus mountains, north of the Caspian Sea, as early as the 5th millennium BCE. These were a developed people, who had domesticated cattle and horses, farmed the land, used gold and silver, had counting skills, worshiped multiple gods, believed in life after death, and so on. (This is from The Beginning of the Bronze Age in Europe and the Indo-Europeans, by Marija Gimbutas, 1973. And Empires of the Silk Road, by Christopher I. Beckwith.)

Then, around 3000 BCE, these people abandoned their homeland and migrated in different directions, some of whom found themselves in Greece by 2000 BCE and in India by 1500 BCE.

Other scholars say that these people lived in the vicinity of the Pontic Steppe, north of the Black Sea and east to the Caspian, where a people called the Scythians lived. However, before the invention of any writing system, the Proto-Indo-European language is supposed to have died out. Then as these people spread out, so did the languages that came from this Proto-Indo-European language.

So to further the development of this idea of the spread of this Proto-Indo-European language, it is said that people from this original West Asia location migrated in different directions, developing new languages as they traveled. Therefore, the hypothesis is that the central cause and beginning of all written language started here. The speakers of Proto-Celtic moved west. The Germanic tribes followed the Celts but moved farther north. The Italic people traveled south, arriving in the Italic peninsula around the 2nd millennium BCE. The Hellenic family moved to Greece. Those that developed the Proto-Indo-Iranian languages moved east and south from the PIE ancestral homeland. And the Indic tribes split even further towards India where they developed Sanskrit.

To help support this theory, it is suggested that the language of the Rig Veda, though most archaic, was no longer understood by the masses by the time Panini composed the grammar for Sanskrit around 400 BCE. This became what is known as Classical Sanskrit, which superceded the older Vedic Sanskrit, which was the language of the Vedas, Brahmanas and Upanishads. Classical Sanskrit differed from Vedic Sanskrit in points of vocabulary, grammar and syntax.

However, contrary to this hypothesis of how the Indo-European languages spread out from the Causasus Mountains area, we can still see that the Lithuanian people on the far northern reaches of Eastern Europe on the Baltic Sea, still hold much Sanskrit in their language. That is a long way from India. This gives credence to the idea that Sanskrit was far more prominent, pervasive and influential than this theory of how the Indo-European languages spread out suggests.


The fact is that the pre-Classical form of Sanskrit, also known as Vedic Sanskrit, represents an oral tradition that goes back many thousands of years. According to tradition, the written form of Sanskrit was a development of only around 3000 BCE or earlier. This was done by the sages who could foresee the lack of memory the people of the future would have, which would necessitate why the Vedic texts would need to be in a written form. It was and is a most sophisticated language, which means that it had to have been in existence for many hundreds or thousands of years before we see it’s written form, first appearing in the Rig Veda. It is nonetheless accepted that the language of the Rig Veda is one of the oldest attestations of any Indo-Iranian language, and one of the earliest attested members of the Indo-European languages. For it to still exist quite clearly in the Lithuanian language, and to see similarities of its words in so many other languages, could it be that the Proto-Indo-European language they are looking for is actually Sanskrit? Let us remember that it was only Sir William Jones who said Greek, Sanskrit and Roman languages must come from a different common source, and Thomas Young in 1813 who first introduced the term Indo-European, and linguists have been running with that ever since.

The fact is that when we talk about how a central group of people who spoke the Proto-Indo-European language and who came out of the area of the Caucasus mountains, it is quite similar to what became known as the Aryan Invasion Theory, wherein the idea was presented that Aryans invaded India from the same region and then started their Vedic culture. This theory has since crumbled like a house of cards with more evidence that shows this never happened this way, but that the Vedic Aryans were indeed the indigenous people of the Indus and Sarasvati regions, from which their culture spread out in all directions. [See my Ebook, The Aryan Invasion Theory: The Final Nail in its Coffin, for more information on this, at]

Sanskrit itself was not thought of as a second language, but as a refined manner of speaking, especially in regard to the Vedic texts when used in rituals. Thus, Sanskrit was for the higher classes of society and an educational attainment, similar as it still is today. In this way, Sanskrit existed along with the different Prakrits or vernaculars, even as it does today in India, and gradually developed into Indic dialects and eventually into contemporary modern Indo-Aryan languages.

Over the centuries the Prakrits underwent language change to a degree in which the vernaculars and Sanskrit ceased to be comparable, but had to be learned as a separate language. Thus, the dialects and Prakrits became separate languages, though outgrowths of the main popular language. This is much like we find in India today wherein many of the popular languages are but outgrowths of, and hold many similarities to, Sanskrit. This is likely to be the same way with Latin or even Greek and other languages we find over the world today, which still hold many similarities with what was once their linguistic roots. Therefore, Sanskrit is likely to be the closest link to, or is indeed that Proto-Indo-European language for which they are looking.


However, regardless of the areas in which the PIE is said to have developed, or in what time in history, not everyone agrees with these theories. As Jagat Motwani, Ph.D. declares in his research on the age of Sanskrit: “With substantial historical evidences, it has been proved that none but India (Aryavarta or Bharat) is the original home of the Aryans and their language Sanskrit. ‘Arya’ and ‘Swastika’ have their origin in Sanskrit. Swastika has been found among several peoples in Europe. Swastika has been found also among native Indians in Americas whose ancestors might have gone there from India about 10,000 years back. On the basis of the age of Swastika, it has also been established that the age of Sanskrit is over 10,000 years.” 1 This, of course, is much earlier than the idea of some scholars that PIE was spoken between 5000 to 3000 BCE, as previously mentioned.

Renfrew also writes that Trubetskoy severely criticized the dangerous assumptions which led to this idea of the Proto-Indo-European language: “The homeland, the race and the culture of supposed Proto-Indo-European population has been discussed, a population which may possibly never have existed.” 2

Jagat Motwani explains another important point in the frailty of thinking about how there is a parent language, now disappeared, called the Proto-Indo-European language: “If Jones had thought about the age of Sanskrit in comparison to that of Latin or Greek–age difference of about 1000 years–he would have not postulated such thesis that Sanskrit, Latin and Greek had lived together as daughters of the PIE [Proto-Indo-European language], under the same roof. Sanskrit is much older than Latin and Greek, at least by one thousand years. Moreover, the birth place of Sanskrit (India) was thousands of miles away from Italy and Greece. Even fifty mile distance causes dialectic difference.” 3

Motwani goes on to say that Karl Menninger also questioned the righteousness of the PIE as a language: “If all these languages are sisters, they must have a common ancestor, an original language from which they have developed. But we know of no people that spoke or wrote such a mother language, nor have we any direct evidence or written documents concerning it.” 4

Motwani goes on to question: “It is hard to understand why and how such a concept of the IE [Indo-European] languages and their invisible mother PIE has been theorized and has been endorsed by celebrated linguists like Sir William Jones. Leave the question of any PIE documents, but even her name and home address are not known.” 5

Victor Stevenson also explains in his book Words: The Evolution of Western Languages, that many European languages evolved from Sanskrit: Evidence that the languages of Europe had, with a few exceptions, evolved in stages from a common source, was found neither in Greece nor Rome, nor any where in Europe, but in an ancient and distant language, the Classical Sanskrit of India. Enshrined and unchanged for more than 2,000 years in the ritual speech of its scholars, it was shown to possess massive similarities to Greek and Latin. Only one conclusion could be drawn; all three had come from a common source.” 6


Regardless of how advanced modern society has become, we still have not invented a language more elaborate and developed than Sanskrit. After so many years, where is there a language that has superceded the sophistication of Sanskrit? Therefore, even though linguists may say that whatever the parent language of Sanskrit and Greek and Latin may be, it is now deceased, disappeared into oblivion, and no one knows what that language was, I say something different. I say that the language they are looking for is right in front of them, and that is Sanskrit itself. Though I am not saying that Sanskrit is the mother of all languages in the world, still Sanskrit was the preeminent and most developed of early languages from which came many others, such as Greek and Latin, or the seeds of other languages. Regardless of the fact that according to Vedic tradition Sanskrit is considered the vocal manifestation of the Shabda-brahman, or the spiritual vibration from which the Vedic texts sprang forth, or in which the Supreme Reality is found, Sanskrit is indeed that language that provided the source of many of the languages we still highly regard to this day.


1. Motwani, Jagat K., Ph.D., None But India (Bharat), iUniverse, Inc., Bloomington, Indiana, 2010, p.142.

2. Renfrew, Colin, Archaeology & Language: The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins, New York, Cambridge University Press, 1987, p.108-9.

3. Motwani, Jagat K., Ph.D. None But India (Bharat), iUniverse, Inc., Bloomington, Indiana, 2010, p.155.

4. Menninger, Karl, Number Words and Number Symbols: A Cultural History of Numbers, New York, Dover Publications, 1969, p.101.

5. Motwani, Jagat K., Ph.D. None But India (Bharat), iUniverse, Inc., Bloomington, Indiana, 2010, p.157.

6. Stevenson, Victor, Words: The Evolution of Western Languages, New York, Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1983, p.10.

Importance of Bhagavad-gita in This Day and Age, by Stephen Knapp

Most everyone at some point hears about the Bhagavad-gita, but do they know what it really contains, or how profound and deep is the knowledge that it provides?

Besides being the classic Eastern text that it is, and the summary of most Upanishadic information, it is the core of the deepest levels of spiritual knowledge. It is also like a handbook for life. Just as when you purchase an appliance of some kind, like a refrigerator, television or computer, you get a manual that teaches you how to use it. So in the same way, if God created this world and put us here, doesn’t it seem that He should also tell us what is the purpose of this life and how to use it accordingly? The Bhagavad-gita is such an instruction manual for anyone. It provides the basic answers that most people have about life, and the universal spiritual truths that can be used by anyone, anywhere, and at any time in history. In this way it is timeless.

So let me explain a little of its importance and why we should take it seriously. I will not go into all of the details of what the Bhagavad-gita teaches, but I will provide a quick overview and summary of each chapter to give you an idea of the information you can discover and the benefits if you read it.

Of course, we know it was spoken on the battlefield at Kurukshetra as the forces prepared for war, a war meant to uphold the Dharmic principles against those who were bereft of them and before things became more evil then they already were, so there was little time in which to speak the Bhagavad-gita. Therefore, it was a brief conversation between Arjuna and Lord Krishna.

So, once the scene is set in the first chapter, from the second chapter it begins to explain some of the highest spiritual realizations known to humanity. It begins to explain exactly who and what we really are as spiritual beings. Without this knowledge in a person’s life, the Vedic literature says that humans are little better than polished animals.

The reason for this conclusion is that the human life is especially meant for spiritual inquiry because in no other species of life here on earth does the living being have the faculty, such as the intelligence and the means to understand spiritual knowledge. Otherwise, this implies that there is little difference in the purpose of life between humans and animals who are mostly interested in merely eating, sleeping, mating, and defending what they think is theirs.

However, human life is not merely the means to acquire knowledge from the teachings and explanations of others, but it also offers the facility to realize it within oneself by practice. It is a matter of uplifting one’s consciousness so that one can perceive the higher dimensions that exist all around us. This is more than merely accepting something on faith alone, but it is a matter of attaining direct perception of what the Vedic literature discusses.

So, from the second chapter of the Bhagavad-gita, we begin to learn our real identity as the soul within these bodies. The Bhagavad-gita explains the size and nature of the soul, and how it is completely transcendental or beyond the body itself. It is beyond time and beyond the effects of the three dimensional world. It is beyond the limitations of the body and mind.

This teaches us many things. It shows that regardless of our physical limitations, we can rise above them because, spiritually, we are already above them. We simply have to realize that. What does it mean to realize it? It means to directly perceive that truth, to see it as plain as day. And then live according to that realization. This teaches us that regardless of our situation, socially or physically or economically, we can rise to higher levels of existence, both in this world and in the next.

This teaches us that no matter what kind of pressures we may feel from our classmates at school, or what good or bad biases that may come from our fellow workers, or what kind of labels they put on us, or how much they may purposefully demean or criticize us, or even how great we think we are, we can be grounded, fixed in understanding who and what we really are as a spiritual being inside the limited material body. That is how we should see ourselves. And then we can be confident that regardless of what others may say, we know who we are and can go through life fixed in perceiving our real identity and our purpose in this life and what really is our higher potential. As an old saying points out, it is better to see yourself truly than to care how others see you.

When you are spiritually grounded, it is no longer necessary to always try to convince others of your self-worth, or of your social status, or of trying to make it into the right clique or group of people. We become convinced of who we are. We work in our own way to provide a contribution to society, to make something of ourselves that has meaning, beyond the typical superficialities and meaningless and worldly gossip that occupy the minds of most youth and adults today. We know that as long as we keep working in our own way, both intellectually and spiritually, attaining the skills that will enable us to do something significant, that our time will come when we can make a mark on this world in our own sphere of influence, which may continue to expand from there.

So we may be popular in school or not, or recognized in our career or not, but by our spiritual knowledge, as provided in the Bhagavad-gita, and by the confidence it gives us, we work to always become better, more uplifted, more refined, and more realized than we are, always making ourselves into a better person. Then we can help ourselves and others in more effective ways. This is just some of what the second chapter of the Bhagavad-gita can provide if we look into it carefully and understand who we really are and what is our greater potential.

As we proceed through the Bhagavad-gita, in Chapter Three, Lord Krishna discusses Karma-yoga, the knowledge of how every action creates an opposite and equal reaction. Fifty years ago in this country of the USA, hardly anyone spoke of karma, unless they were students of yoga or Eastern philosophy. Now everyone talks of karma, it is a part of the vocabulary, whether they really understand it or not. But the point is, where do you think that came from? How do you think they started to know about karma, or yoga for that matter, except for the fact that the teachings of the East and yoga, which are centered around the Bhagavad-gita, continued to spread throughout the West.

Similarly, considering all the knowledge that the Bhagavad-gita has within it, do you think that you will learn such things in the colleges or university courses? Hardly. You have to go beyond that. You have to take separate or alternative studies, like in studying the Bhagavad-gita or other Vedic texts, or listening to those who know about it. Then you can also begin to learn the basic laws of the universe as outlined in the Bhagavad-gita, as in the laws of karma. Otherwise, how will you begin to understand that your present circumstances and tendencies may be carry-overs from a previous existence? Or even from many previous existences that we have experienced. You only begin to understand these things by studying the Bhagavad-gita, the teachings of which are also expanded in the Upanishads, and then even more elaborated in the Puranas and other Vedic texts and commentaries.

In Chapter Four, called Transcendental Knowledge, it is explained to Arjuna how this knowledge was given down through the parampara, or disciplic succession. Lord Krishna explains the purpose and the transcendental nature of His appearance in this world. Also how to perform one’s actions so they are spiritual activities, which can then enable a person to reach the spiritual abode.

In Chapter Five, Karma-yoga, Action in Krishna Consciousness, it is explained how to perform one’s actions in the right consciousness of bhakti-yoga, and the way to focus on the natural, self-sufficient happiness within.

In Chapter Six, Sankhya-yoga, we find the instructions on how to conquer the mind to attain the natural inner happiness–beyond the senses–and become established in self-realization, the perception of one’s real identity. And then to see all else, all things around you with a steady mind, free from desires and possessiveness.

Then Lord Krishna gives instructions on how to practice yoga and meditation so that we can eventually perceive the spiritual dimension all around us, of which we are a part. Then we can enter and experience boundless transcendental joy and bliss, free from maya or illusion, and in touch with the Supreme Consciousness. Then such a person can see God everywhere and every being in God. Thus, he is never lost.

In Chapter Seven, Knowledge of the Absolute, we have the instructions on how to know God, and how to see that everything rests and depends on God, like pearls strung on a thread. Also, how to recognize the power of God in all the powerful aspects of nature. Thus, we become aware of God and His potencies in all things around us until we reach the abode of God.

Chapter Eight, Attaining the Supreme. This chapter gives more specific information about the ways of material nature, how to get free of it, and how our consciousness at the time of death, developed by our thoughts, words and deeds, determines our next life, our next destination. Therefore, if we are remembering God, Krishna, then we can attain Him. So the instructions include how to think of Lord Krishna and attain Him through devotional yoga. Also, there are instructions in how to understand the higher and eternal nature, beyond all matter, which is the ultimate destination of us all.

In Chapter Nine, The Most Confidential Knowledge, Lord Krishna gives advice that this spiritual knowledge is the king of all knowledge, the most secret of all secrets, and by following it we can attain direct perception of the self by realization. Lord Krishna goes on to explain how everything is working under Him, but fools will never be able to recognize this. But by engaging in devotional yoga, the mind becomes spiritualized enough to understand God as He is by realization, far beyond any mental speculation. Lord Krishna goes on to explain that He is impartial to all, but becomes a friend to those who offer loving service. By engaging in this process systematically, you can reach the highest abode.

In Chapter Ten, The Opulence of the Absolute, we find explanations on how everything, all spiritual and material worlds, emanate from the Absolute Truth–God. Those who know this engage in devotional yoga to God, and with that love, Lord Krishna gives them the understanding by which they can come to Him.

Then Lord Krishna tells Arjuna how He is situated in all the powers and powerful things throughout the universe, whether it is the radiant sun, the tranquil moon, the water of the ocean, the transcendental Om, the chanting of the holy names as in japa meditation, and in the immovable Himalayas, and much more. But it is only with a single fragment of His energy does Lord Krishna pervade and support this entire universe. This leads to…

Chapter Eleven, The Universal Form. It is in this chapter wherein Lord Krishna shows Arjuna, by giving Arjuna divine eyes, how He is spread throughout the entire universe by His energies and expansions. Some of what Arjuna sees is beautiful beyond compare, and other things that he sees in this universal form are terrible and frightening. Some are hundreds of thousands of multicolored divine forms, as well as demigods, planets, past and future events, and a splendor so bright it would equal hundreds of thousands of suns. Both birth and death could be seen within this amazing universal form that spread in all directions, both near and far throughout the universe.

This made Arjuna humble, who then requested Krishna to relieve him of this view and show him His four-armed form, and then again His more familiar and lovable two-armed form.

Now Arjuna was convinced that Lord Krishna was the Supreme and everything both within and beyond this material manifestation, as well as the father and creator of this material manifestation.

Then in Chapter Twelve, Devotional Service, Lord Krishna explains the ultimate goal of life, and the essence of how to practice bhakti-yoga, focusing especially on how to serve and fix our mind and intelligence on the Supreme as Lord Krishna in all our activities and undertakings.

Then we have Chapter Thirteen, Nature, The Enjoyer, and Consciousness. This explains how the body is the center of the field of material activities, and how we should understand the body as the vehicle in which both the soul and Supersoul–Paramatma–reside. Also, that the body is not our real identity, but we should see through the body to recognize the living being within. The soul is beyond the body and illuminates the body by consciousness. This is the symptom of the soul within. Now we merely have to spiritualize our consciousness to directly perceive the soul, and then see the difference between the body and soul.

The field of activities also includes the five elements, ego, intelligence, the senses, mind, and various emotions that project from the mind, along with all moving and non-moving things. Aside from all this, Lord Krishna explains the characteristics of His expansion as the Supersoul and how to perceive Him within.

In Chapter Fourteen, The Three Modes of Material Nature, Lord Krishna describes the three modes or gunas and their characteristics as goodness (sattva), passion (rajas) and ignorance (tamas), and the nature of those according to how they are situated in each of these modes of nature. This also determines if one is progressing upward while acting in the mode of goodness, or simply maintaining while in the mode of passion, or regressing downward in ignorance or darkness. This analysis will also reveal the condition of one’s next birth. As explained in verses 14 and 15 in this chapter: “When one dies in the mode of goodness, he attains the pure higher planets. When one dies in the mode of passion, he takes birth among those engaged in fruitive activities; and when he dies in the mode of ignorance, he takes birth in the animal kingdom.”

So the goal is to know how to act in order to rise above these three modes, which Lord Krishna clearly explains as being the process of devotional yoga.

Chapter Fifteen, The Yoga of the Supreme Person. Here Lord Krishna emphasizes how to engage in that yoga process which can elevate you to rise above all material inebriates and limitations, and material happiness and distress, in order to reach the spiritual abode.

Even though the living beings are all parts of the Lord, they are struggling very hard with the mind and the mental interpretations of our experiences within this material field of activities and the way we see ourselves in this world. Furthermore, until these conceptions are purified, they are carried from one body to the next, one life to the next, just as air carries aromas. One who is spiritually ignorant cannot understand how this takes place. But the progressing transcendentalist can clearly see all of this. Krishna also explains that one who knows Him as the Supreme Being knows everything and engages in devotional yoga to Him, and his endeavors will know perfection.

Chapter Sixteen, The Divine and Demoniac Natures. Here Lord Krishna makes it clear how to recognize the Divine qualities and actions, as well as the demoniac, both of which are in ourselves and in those around us. It is only the divine qualities that are conducive to spiritual progress and liberation, whereas the demoniac actions and qualities will keep you bound in material existence for many lifetimes. So the next step is to associate with those of a divine nature and develop such qualities in ourselves, and avoid the demoniac. The demoniac can never approach God nor the spiritual world, but reach progressively lower forms of existence.

Chapter Seventeen, The Divisions of Faith. In this chapter Lord Krishna explains that there are different kinds of faith and religions depending on what level of the modes of material nature are displayed by the living being, such as goodness, passion or ignorance. Therefore, some religions will be more materialistic, based on ego, or the bodily identification and attachment and pride, while others will be more spiritual. So there is a difference between various religions, as explained in this chapter. They are not all the same, which sometimes people like to say. Lord Krishna describes the difference herein in a way we can clearly see the varieties and categories to which they belong. It is up to us to study this carefully to understand this.

So as we go along in our study of these chapters, we begin to see a pattern or repetition in these teachings. There is much knowledge on various aspects of life and spiritual understanding, but time and again Lord Krishna expresses that it is He who is the Supreme Being, the creator of the universe, and it is He who should be the center of our worship and meditation. Furthermore, all of this knowledge is meant to raise our consciousness so we can return to the spiritual world. That is what this is for. Lord Krishna repeats this in several chapters herein. This is not some kind of philosophy to contemplate, but it is an action plan for the benefit of humanity so we can directly attain a spiritual vision and perceive the spiritual reality all around us, up to the point in which we can enter that spiritual domain, which is our real home. The material world is temporary and can never give the joy we are seeking. This is why Lord Krishna is explaining all of this, to motivate us to act according to His directions and attain the realm of eternal happiness and bliss, which is our eternal and constitutional nature. And He summarizes this in the final chapter of Bhagavad-gita.

Chapter Eighteen, The Conclusion, The Perfection of Renunciation, or Yoga of Renunciation for Moksha–Liberation from Material Existence. Herein Lord Krishna explains the way to become spiritually perfect through the proper means of renunciation or detachment from activities, but also how to continue with prescribed duties. Yet, out of all we may do or practice, Lord Krishna finally concludes with the instructions on the ultimate way of perfecting one’s spiritual life and realize the highest truth, which is by performing devotional service, bhakti-yoga, and in this way rekindle one’s relationship with God and then reach the eternal and imperishable spiritual abode.

In this way, a person can cross over all obstacles of conditional life by Lord Krishna’s grace. Otherwise, a person will remain lost in the whirlpool of material existence. By surrendering unto Him, and then by His grace you can attain peace and the supreme abode. Lord Krishna then concludes that this is the most confidential of all knowledge given for your benefit. He instructs that if you think of Him, become His devotee, worship Him, just surrender unto Him, then you will be free from all sinful reactions and come to Him without fail.

It is further concluded that anyone who studies this conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna worships Lord Krishna with his or her intelligence. And simply by listening with faith to this conversation a person becomes free from sinful reaction and at least attains the planets of the pious.

So these are the basic instructions that are related in the Bhagavad-gita, and some of the benefits of studying it. So, in this way, a person can acquire proper direction in life, a deeper realization of one’s true identity, and attain a level of self-confidence and peace by inward reflection and realization that can never be reached through ordinary, materialistic studies or endeavors. Furthermore, these can be applied to assist us in all aspects of life to help bring us to our higher potential in everything we do, materially or spiritually. This is the power and the importance of the Bhagavad-gita and the instructions of Lord Krishna found within it.

Thank you very much,

Jai Sri Krishna.

Sanskrit: Its Importance to Language. by Stephen Knapp

There has always been a controversy regarding whether Sanskrit was the original language, as some feel, or whether there was what has been called a Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language that was the start of all other languages, which is now said to have disappeared. So let us take a look at this.

First of all let us face the fact that Sanskrit is the language that composes what has been recognized as the earliest texts on the planet, such as the Rig Veda and the other Vedas. Secondly, it is also known that it was an oral tradition long before it became a written language. This was because the great sage Vysadeva, who compiled the main portions of the Vedic literature, could foretell that the memory of mankind would soon be greatly reduced, compared to what it had been. So there would be a need for the texts to be in written form. Thirdly, the sophistication of the language, its grammar, syntax, and so on, was highly developed. So it had to have been in existence for some time, long before most other languages, or even any other language that appeared later on, all of which were far less developed than Sanskrit. So, how could there have been a Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language that was the basis of forming Sanskrit that had to have been almost as sophisticated as Sanskrit that is said to no longer exist?


        So how did the idea come about that there must be a Proto-Indo-European language that was the origin of Sanskrit, Greek and Latin?

It all started when certain researchers started to see similarities between the main languages, such as Sanskrit, Greek and Latin. Presently, there are 439 languages and dialects, of which half is considered belonging to the Indo-Aryan subbranch. Twelve languages and their derivatives are considered to be Indo-European, including Spanish, English, Portuguese, Russian, German, French, Italian, Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, and Urdu. And most of the languages in India are known derivatives of Sanskrit.

It was as early as 1583 when Thomas Stephens, an English Jesuit missionary in Goa started to recognize similarities between Sanskrit, Greek and Latin. Then in 1585, Filippo Sassetti, an Italian merchant who had traveled to India, also wrote about various similarities. Next was the Dutch scholar Marcus Zuerius van Boxhorn, in 1647, who noted the similarities among these languages, including Dutch, Albanian, Greek, Latin, Persian, Slavic, Celtic and Baltic languages. He was the one who first proposed that they must all derive from a common source language, which he called Scythian. Then in the late 1760s Gaston Coeurdoux made observations of the same type, with a study of Sanskrit, Latin and Greek. There were others who had done the same thing. However, none of these men aroused much notice in their research.

It was in 1786 when Sir William Jones started giving talks about the similarities between Sanskrit, Greek and Latin, along with Celtic, Gothic and Persian languages, and suggested that there was a relationship between them. That is when people started to take notice.

It was in 1813 when Thomas Young first coined the phrase “Indo-European” to describe this relationship and family of languages, which then became the standard “scientific” term. Then it was Franz Bopp who produced a study of these languages, called Comparative Grammar between 1833 and 1852, that seemed to verify this relational theory. This was the beginning of the Indo-European studies as part of an academic curriculum. This went further to August Schleicher’s Compendium in 1861, and then Karl Brugmann’s Grundriss in the 1880s. From there it went further into what can be called modern Indo-European studies.

We could explain how various languages are considered part of a family or group and subgroups, or branches and subbranches, through genetic identification, or what can be called shared innovations, or their structure and phonology, or what is called their evolutionary history. But we won’t indulge in all this analysis.

In any case, we now have the “Indo-European Family” of languages, which is a study of the commonalities of numerous languages, rather than the attempt to try to understand what was the original or “Proto-Indo-European” language, or the seed from which all other languages began, starting with Sanskrit, Greek and Latin. So this is the difference when you begin talking about Indo-European language: Are you talking about the “family,” in which case you could certainly be talking about many languages, or are you talking about what could be the original, or at least the search for the original seed language of all others? In the latter case, such a language still has not yet been identified, and maybe never will.


        So if there was to be a Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language, which means the seed language of all others, it had to come from somewhere. So where and what people developed it, and how did it spread?

It was speculated that the original Indo-European people go back to 5000 BCE. These were later called the Kurgan people, who lived northwest of the Caucasus and north of the Caspian Sea. These were considered to be semi-nomadic people. The word kurgan actually means “barrow” or “artificial mound” in Turkic and Russian. The Kurgan hypothesis was first formulated in the 1950s by Marija Gimbutas. In any case, it was figured that these people abandoned their homeland and started to migrate in different directions, taking their language with them, some arriving in Greece by 2000 BCE, and others to India in 1500 BCE. From there, the languages started to morph into varieties into what we find today as Greek, Sanskrit and Latin. This is known as the Kurgan Hypothesis, which basically means it is all speculation, or more diplomatically called a “model.”

Another theory is that the Proto-Indo-European language was spoken by a people who lived about 6000 years ago in the vicinity of the Pontic Steppe, north of the Black Sea and east to the Caspian, near where the Scythians were supposed to have lived. It is then suggested that this PIE language faded away before there was the invention of a writing system, and then the Indo-Europeans expanded from the homeland, thus causing the evolution of the language into various dialects and incomprehensible daughter languages. These languages also evolved, giving birth to each of their own family of languages.

We also have the Anatolian Hypothesis. This theory, proposed by archaeologist Colin Renfrew at Cambridge University in 1987, holds that the Indo-European languages were spread not by marauding horsemen from the Caucuses but with the expansion of agriculture from Anatolia between 8000 and 9500 years ago. Radiocarbon analysis of the earliest Neolithic sites across Europe provides a fairly detailed chronology of agricultural dispersal. This archaeological evidence indicates that agriculture spread from Anatolia, arriving in Greece at some time during the seventh millennium BCE and reaching as far as the British Isles by 5500 years ago.

Renfrew maintains that the linguistic argument for the Kurgan theory is based on only limited evidence for a few enigmatic early Indo-European word forms. He points out that parallel semantic shifts or widespread borrowing can produce similar word forms across different languages without requiring that an ancestral term was present in a proto-language. Renfrew also challenges the idea that Kurgan social structure and technology was sufficiently advanced to allow them to conquer whole continents in a time when even small cities did not exist. Far more credible, he argues, is that Proto-Indo-Europeans spread with the expansion of agriculture – a scenario that is also thought to have occurred across the Pacific, Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

So, as we can see, most of these ideas are but speculations that remain ever-changing, or, to put it plainly, inconclusive. Nonetheless, some people think that the original language has indeed already been identified, and has been around for thousands of years, if not longer, which is Sanskrit, which is the oldest of all sophisticated languages and from which all other major languages are but derivatives. Whatever factors for a Proto-Indo-European language the scholars are looking for can be found in Sanskrit. No other language has been identified to be older, or more influential in terms of texts written in Sanskrit, or how many other languages can be found that relate to it. So let us take a closer look at this.


        As we can see, the above theories are all hypothesis, or speculations which have not and cannot decisively identify who were the original bearers of the primeval language, or what that language really was. Even if these are considered the general consensus in academia, these theories are still too full of discrepancies to be taken seriously when analyzed in detail.

However, we can offer other evidence that should be considered. Of course, we acknowledge the idea that there had to have been many kinds of minor languages scattered across the globe, but we also propose the idea that there was one major sophisticated language that had great influence around the world, and which spread in various forms throughout many civilizations, and which is the prime factor for the similarities that we find in many languages today.

The problem with PIE is that they feel it was never a written language but only the seed for those languages that later did become written languages. So there is no and never will be any direct evidence for it. But they try to find words that can be identified as remnants of the Proto-Indo-European language. This is where all of the speculations begin.

So, why is this important? Remember, it is a biased interpretation of this Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language issue that has helped continue the idea of the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT). This is the idea, another hypothesis, that holds the premise that the Vedic Aryans came out of the Caucasus Mountain area only after they had already developed their language and writing, thus bringing with them the Vedic culture and the early Vedas to the Indus-Sarasvati region of India. This promotes the view that India was not the homeland of the real Vedic culture, and that it was brought to them by outsiders, who some call invaders, who were more advanced. This has perpetuated a false history of India and its Vedic traditions for many years, ever since Max Muller came up with this theory, and this is what must be corrected. That is why there is also a need to correct this Proto-Indo-European issue. [For more information on the Aryan Invasion Theory, please see my article and Ebook entitled: The Aryan Invasion Theory: The Final Nail in its Coffin on my website at]


        There has always been questions about where the original script came from, and how did it originate. However, in this regard, famous archeologist and specialist in scripts, A. B. Walawalkar and scribe L. S. Wakankar have, through their research proved that the Indian script originated in India itself and said that on the basis of phonetics, the tradition of writing was present even in the Vedic times. 1

The name Sanskrit actually refers to a language brought to formal perfection, aside from the common languages at the time, like Prakrit. The form of Sanskrit that has been used for the last 2500 years or more is commonly known as Classical Sanskrit, which had been established by the ancient grammarians. Most scholars accept that it was finalized by Panini in the 5th century BCE. That is what became the standard for correct Sanskrit with such comprehensive authority that little has changed it down to the present day. However, even Panini mentions at least ten grammarians who preceded him. So he can not be the earliest of grammarians as some propose, which indicates that Sanskrit had been in use many years before him.

Kamlesh Kapur provides further insight into Sanskrit writing in her book Portraits of a Nation: History of India: “Sanskrit language is composed of 50 sounds and letters in its alphabet. It has 11,000 roots from which to make words. The English language has 500,000 words. Sanskrit language has 1700 Dhatu (root verbs), 80 Upasargas (suffixes, prefixes), and 20 Pratyaya (declensions). It is believed that Sanskrit has roughly 74,000,000 words. In fact, using these rules and by adding prefixes and suffixes, Sanskrit can provide an infinite number of words whose meaning is completely determined by the grammatical process.

“Several languages spoken and written today in India have been derivatives of Sanskrit. Bengali, Gurumukhi, Gujarati, Marathi, Oriya and Hindi have been derived from Sanskrit. Languages of the South have been influenced by Sanskrit. Recently, Washoe County of Nevada (USA) proclaimed January 12, 2008 as Sanskrit Day. The proclamation says that, “As Hinduism expands in the West, it is important that to understand Hinduism, one should have a working knowledge of Sanskrit.’” 2

However, India also has a strong tradition in its Vedic culture that describes the possible or at least customary origin of its script. There are a few examples of this. One is that the text known as Yaju Taittariya Samhita tells the story of how the devas faced the problem that since sound vanishes once the words are spoken, what method could be applied to give it shape? So, they went to Indra and said, “Vachanvya kurvit,” which means “grant sound a shape.” Then Indra said that he would have to take the help of Vayu, the wind god. The other gods agreed and Indra gave a shape to sound in the form of the knowledge of writing or script. This is famous as Indra vayavya vyaakaran, or the grammar pertaining to the aerial Indra. 3

Another example gives credit to Lord Shiva. This one describes that with the death of various sages, particular branches of Vedic knowledge started disappearing. So, with a prayer to save them, great sages like Sanaka went to Shiva in the south Indian place of Chidambaram. Hearing their prayers, Lord Shiva strummed his damru instrument nine and then five more times during the interval of his cosmic dance. Thus, fourteen sources of sound were born. These came to be known as the Maheshwar Sutra. 4

Another story from the Vedic tradition is that when the great Vedavyas was thinking of writing the Mahabharata, he faced the problem of who would write it. To solve this problem he thought of Ganesh. When Ganesh came, Vedavyas said, “You be the writer of the Bharat Granth.” Ganesh agreed only if Vedavyas would not pause or stop, and Vedavyas agreed as long as Ganesh would not write anything unless he understood the meaning of everything that Vedavyas dictated. This was supposed to have happened shortly after the beginning of the age of Kali-yuga, which is accepted to be in the year 3102 BCE. So there had to have been the knowledge of the Sanskrit script at that time, as well as the oral tradition that went back many thousands of years before this.

Nonetheless, the archeologist Balawalkarji studied the scripts of the ancient coins and proved that it was mainly the Maheshwari script which was the Vedic script. According to him, it was only later that the Brahmi and the Nagari script developed from this. This is important as some people propose that Sanskrit came out of the preceding Brahmi script, which is not the case.


        No doubt one of the greatest contributions from Vedic culture is the script and language of Sanskrit. Sanskrit is the language of ancient India and of Vedic philosophy and its civilization. It is a perfect language, which also invokes the spiritual vibration of which it speaks. It is a refined language, but also most self-protective in the way it manages to maintain the original meaning that it presents, as long as a person properly understands Sanskrit grammar and syntax. In other words, when translated according to the rules of the Sanskrit language, you cannot take the interpretation far outside its firsthand intention without giving up all of the rules of Sanskrit.

A. L. Basham, former professor of Asian Civilization in the Australian national University, Canberra, writes in his book The Wonder That Was India (page 390): “One of ancient India’s greatest achievements is her remarkable alphabet, commencing with the vowels and followed by the consonants, all classified very scientifically according to their mode of production, in sharp contrast to the haphazard and inadequate Roman alphabet, which has developed organically for three millennia. It was only on the discovery of Sanskrit by the West that a science of phonetics arose in Europe.”

Basham goes on to say (page 509): “It will be seen that this alphabet is methodical and scientific, its elements classified first into vowels and consonants, and then, within each section, according to the manner in which the sound is formed. The gutturals are formed by the construction of the throat at the back of the tongue, the palatals by pressing the tongue flat against the palate, the retro-flexes by turning up the tip of the tongue to touch the hard palate, the dentals by touching the upper teeth with the tongue, and the labials by pursuing the lips.”

Furthermore, Sanskrit or remnants of it can be found in so many other languages around the world, that a person can begin to say that it may have been the original language that the world first new. In almost all languages, like Greek, French, English, Arabic, Urdu, Persian, Indian, Mayan, Slavic, Russian, and the Sanskrit derivatives like Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, or Malayalam, Sanskrit words are found everywhere. Either Sanskrit-speaking people carried them all over the world, or Sanskrit was the one world or main language, traces of which linger in all languages around the planet.

This is one of the reasons, however, why some people have felt that Sanskrit was one of several ancient languages that descended from another common ancestor. One of those people was the English poet, Jurist and scholar, Sir William Jones, who, in 1783, was appointed a justice of the High Court of Bengal. He began to study Sanskrit and wrote and published his high impression of Sanskrit. In 1786, while delivering his third lecture, Sir William Jones made the following statement which aroused the curiosity of many scholars and finally led to the emergence of comparative linguistics. Noticing the similarities between Sanskrit and the Classical Languages of Europe such as Greek and Latin, he delivered: “The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar, than could not possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source which, perhaps, no longer exists; there is a similar reason, though not quite so forcible, for supposing that both the Gothic and the Celt, though blended with a very different idiom, had the same origin with the Sanskrit; and the old Persian might be added to the same family…” 24

Sir William Jones in Asiatic Researches, (Vol. I, p. 423) also asserted the means by which the similarities in many languages, especially of the Indo-European group, is supplied by Sanskrit: “Deonagri [devanagari] is the original source whence the alphabets of Western Asia were derived.”

Mr. Pococke also relates: “The Greek language is a derivative from the Sanskrit.” 5 The learned Dr. Pritchard also says: “The affinity between the Greek language and the old Parsi and Sanskrit is certain and essential. The use of cognate idioms proves the nations who used them to have descended from one stock. That the religion of the Greeks emanated from an Eastern source no one will deny. We must therefore suppose the religion as well as the language of Greece to have been derived in great part immediately from the East.” 6

In this way, the idea started that there was a previous language that was the seed of the others, namely Sanskrit, Greek and Latin. They named this imaginary ancestor as Proto-Indo-European, or Proto-Indo-Germanic language. However, they have failed to find this imaginary language for the last 150 years. Plus, they will never find it because there was no such language. Nonetheless, not everyone agreed with this idea that Sanskrit was merely a part of a Proto-Indo-European language.

For example, even the British scholar Thomas Maurice, editor of the seven volumes of Indian Antiquities, mentions in Volume IV that Halhead, the first European Sanskrit scholar, “seems to hint that it (Sanskrit) was the original language of the earth. All Western scholars who readily apply their mind to the problem will find themselves concurring with Halhead that Sanskrit is the oldest language and that it was spoken all over the world. Other world languages are shattered and twisted bits of Sanskrit.”

The Great Sanskrit scholar Franz Bopp wrote in his Edinborough Review (Volume 33, page 43): “At one time Sanskrit was the one language spoken all over the world.”

As the study and interest in Sanskrit grew, there were many scholars and researchers who gave praise to it. In 1777, the French astronomer Bailly figured that the earliest humans had to have been located on the banks of the Ganges. Bailly also once stated, “The Brahmans are the teachers of Pythagoras, the instructors of Greece, and through her the whole of Europe.” 7

Voltaire also opined, “In short, Sir, I am convinced that everything–astronomy, astrology, metempsychosis, etc.–comes to us from the banks of the Ganges.” 8

The French naturalist and traveler Pierre de Sonnerat (1782) also believed all knowledge came from India, which he considered the cradle of the human race. 9

Then in 1807, Schelling, a metaphysician who was well-known in his day, wondered “what is Europe really but a sterile trunk which owes everything to Oriental grafts.” 10

In 1808, Friedrich von Schlegel argued that “the Northwest of India must be considered the central point from which all of these nations had their origin.” 11 Schlegel, who also helped popularize German interest in Sanskrit, in his study of comparative grammar came to the conclusion that “the Indian language is older, the other younger and derived from it.”

In 1845, Eichhoff boldly proclaimed that “all Europeans come from the Orient. This truth, which is confirmed by the evidence of physiology and linguistics, no longer needs special proof.” 12 And this, I might add, is before genetics confirmed the same thing.

In 1828, Vans Kennedy related, “Sanscrit itself is the primitive language from which the Greek, Latin, and the mother of the Teutonic dialects were originally derived.” 13

Then in 1855, Lord A. Curzon, the British governor-general of India and later chancellor of Oxford, was fully convinced that “the race of India branched out and multiplied into that of the great Indo-European family…. The Aryans, at a period as yet undetermined, advanced toward and invaded the countries to the west and north-west of India, conquered the various tribes who occupied the land.” 14

Michelet was another that had the opinion that the Vedas “were undoubtedly the first monument of the world”,15 and that India “emanated a torrent of light and the flow of reason and Right.” 16

Plus, Godfrey Higgins, in his book The Celtic Druids (page 61), writes: “There are many objections to the derivation of the Latin from the Greek. Latin exhibits many terms in a more rude form than Greek. Latin was derived from Sanskrit.”

The roots of many languages are found in Sanskrit, which some called the mother of all languages, distinguished from the rest by its longevity, stability of form over the many millennia, and showed the status of a sacred language. The fact is that the farther back in time we trace the European languages, the more they begin to resemble Sanskrit. The farther we go back in time, the more we see that European and Vedic culture coalesce.

Sri Aurobindo observed that Sanskrit is “one of the most magnificent, the most perfect and wonderfully sufficient literary instruments developed by human mind… at once majestic and sweet and flexible, strong and clearly formed and full and vibrant and subtle…” 17

We can see many Sanskrit words in other languages, or continuations of them in Lithuanian, Russian, or English. In fact, there are many words in Lithuanian that are related to or a part of Sanskrit. I have already spent a chapter or two of my book Proof of Vedic Culture’s Global Existence comparing Sanskrit with numerous English words, so we will not go into it here.

One of the reasons why remnants of Sanskrit appear in places around the world, since Sanskrit was the language of early India, or Bharatvarsha, was that people of the region spread or migrated to other parts of the world. Then they named oceans, rivers, mountains, and regions with Sanskrit names. Anybody can see this if they are simply a little educated in it. For example, we can see it in names like Indonesia, Indochina, West Indies, etc., or in other places we have Afghanistan, Baluchastan, Turkasthan, Kurdisthan, Kazaksthan, and Uzbekisthan, all which show the Sanskrit based sthan, and which gives a hint of the past influence of the global Vedic tradition. Looking further, there are also many Sanskrit names in the countries of the Far East and South Pacific.

Unfortunately, the similarities in languages were used to help support the Aryan Invasion Theory, the idea that Sanskrit and the Vedic culture came into ancient India from outside. But more than anything, it was not that Sanskrit traveled into India, but that it traveled west and was then adopted to varying degrees by others, thus giving way to what had been called the Proto-Indo-European language that was supposed to have pre-dated Sanskrit. Of course, this has yet to be proved, and the idea came about mostly because of the Euro-centric way of looking at things. With new evidence that has come out, we can conclude that there was a westward movement or migration of people out of India that brought Sanskrit with them, which was absorbed into the existing languages of several central and west Asian regions.

With the advanced nature of the Sanskrit language and alphabet, some feel that, like the traditional source of the Vedas, Sanskrit was given by Divinity to humanity. It could not have been developed by the slow process of a human agency. After all, in the time period in which Sanskrit appeared, mankind was considered by some to be barbarians. But how could such a people, if that is what they were, develop such a refined language like Sanskrit? For such a language to appear, it would have to come from an equally refined and advanced civilization. Otherwise, why, after thousands of years of our advanced scientific civilization, have we not seen a better or more sophisticated language?

To help substantiate this, we can relate the following quote which appeared in the 1985 spring issue of AI (Artificial Intelligence) magazine, written by NASA researcher Rick Briggs: “In the past 20 years, much time, effort, and money have been expended on designing an unambiguous representation of natural languages to make them accessible to computer processing. These efforts have centered around creating schemata designed to parallel logical relations expressed by the syntax and semantics of natural languages, which are clearly cumbersome and ambiguous in their function as vehicles for the transmission of logical data. Understandably, there is a widespread belief that natural languages are unsuitable for the transmission of many ideas that artificial languages can render with great precision and mathematical rigor. But this dichotomy, which has served as a premise underlying much work in the areas of linguistics and artificial intelligence, is a false one.

“There is at least one language, Sanskrit, which for the duration of almost 1000 years was a loving spoken language with a considerable literature of its own. Besides works of literary value, there was a long philosophical and grammatical tradition that has continued to exist with undiminished vigor until the present century. Among the accomplishments of the grammarians can be reckoned a method for paraphrasing Sanskrit in a manner that is identical not only in essence but in form with current work in Artificial Intelligence.”

On another level, the ancients and rishis called Sanskrit the language of the gods, or devevani or devabhasha. The script was called devanagari, the script of the gods. And the fact is, the most spiritual of Vedic literature is in Sanskrit. In the Rig Veda, Sanskrit has been called vacho aggram, or the earliest language. It is no doubt the main language used by the great rishis or sages to disseminate the knowledge of enlightenment that had been received by them ever since the time of the universal creation. Sanskrit was able to invoke the spiritual energy of which it speaks, and the vibration for propelling the consciousness to the higher realms it depicts. The great epics and codes of knowledge are all in Sanskrit. Even the great acharyas, like Shankar, Ramanuja, Madhva, Nimbarka, Vallabha, and other poets and philosophers wrote in Sanskrit. Sanskrit stood for at least three millennia, if not much longer, as the carrier of Vedic thought before its dominance gradually gave way to the vernacular dialects that eventually evolved from it as the modern languages of Hindi, Gujarati, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and so on.

There are officially 25 languages in India, along with 33 different languages and 2000 some dialects that are known to be used. In this regard Will Durant relates in Our Oriental Heritage (p. 406): “The Sanskrit of the Vedas and the epics has already earmarks of a classical and literary tongue, used only by scholars and priests; the very word Sanskrit means ‘prepared, pure, perfect, sacred.’ The language of the people in the Vedic age was not one but many; each tribe had its own Aryan dialect. India has never had one language.”


        The grammar of Sanskrit is also known to be without comparison. Sir William Wilson Hunter wrote in The Indian Empire: “The grammar of Panini stands supreme among the grammars of the world, alike for its precision of statement and for its thorough analysis of the roots of the language and of the formative principles of words. By applying an algebraical terminology, it attains a sharp succinctness unrivaled in brevity. It arranges in logical harmony the whole phenomenon which the Sanskrit language presents and stands forth as one of the most splendid achievements of human invention and industry. So elaborate is the structure that doubts have arisen whether its innumerable rules of formation and phonetic change, its polysyllabic derivatives, its ten conjugations with its multiform aorist and long array of tenses could even have been the spoken language of a people.” 19

Though we give much credit to Panini for being one of the first if not the first grammarian of Sanskrit, we should still remember that in his writings, Panini himself mentions at least 10 grammarians who preceded him. 18

Mrs. Manning also relates: “Sanskrit grammar is evidently far superior to the kind of grammar which for the most part has contented grammarians in Europe.” 20

Mr. Elphinstone agrees in the same way: “His (Panini’s) works and those of his successors have established a system of grammar, the most complete that ever was employed in arranging elements of humans speech.” 21

Professor Sir Monier Williams says: “The grammar of Panini is one of the most remarkable literary works that the world has ever seen, and no other country can produce any grammatical system at all comparable to it, ether for originality or plan or analytical subtlety. . . His Sastras are a perfect miracle of condensation.” 22

Furthermore, it is known that Sanskrit was a vocal tradition long before it was put into written form. This tends to show that Sanskrit had been existing for many years before Panini, and that Panini may have also existed at a much earlier time period than many people think.

The fact that Panini listed previous philologists indicates that there had to have been a fully existing language of Sanskrit in ancient India long before he formed his book on Sanskrit grammar. Otherwise, the complex literature could not have been passed down to future generations to continue in such a flawless manner in an oral tradition. Panini did not develop Sanskrit but only compiled the rules of Sanskrit.

Dr. Cardona, a Professor of Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, a known Panini grammarian, places Panini in the 6th century BCE, but believes that Panini could have been much earlier. In this regard, Count Bjornstjerna, even with what early evidence he could uncover, writes in his Theogony of Hindoos that Hindus possessed written texts of religion before 2800 BCE. So it is likely that it could have been long before then.

Another bit of evidence in this regard is the presence of words of Vedic Sanskrit in Syria as early as 2200 BCE. This has the effect of pushing back the period of when the Vedic hymns were composed to beyond 3000 BCE. Thus, the whole theory of a Aryan invasion into India near 2000 BCE falls flat and is contrary to the evidence found in the Middle East. 25

The earliest of glossaries on Vedic words goes back to the Nighantu, written by the ancient etymologist Yaska. Yaska explained that he compiled this based on previous glossaries, the most important of which was the Nighantuka-Padakhyana, which is attributed to Kashyapa Prajapati. Yaksa himself described at least twelve previous etymologists before him. As listed in his Nirukta, it includes Aupamanyava (Nirukta 1.1), Audambarayana (1.1), Varshayayani (1.2), Gargya (1.3), Shakatayana (1.3), Agrayana (1.9), Shakapuni (2.8), Aurnavabha (2.26), Taitiki (4.3), Sthaulastivi (7.14), Kraustuki (8.2), and Kathakya (8.5). So his own commentary, the Nirukta, is based on a long tradition of Vedic Sanskrit, and was a compilation and codification of the etymological knowledge that went all the way back to the pre-historic time of Kashyapa Muni.

Obviously, Sanskrit was the earliest of developed languages, and no country but ancient India, and no language except Sanskrit can boast of a possession so ancient or venerable. No people but the Vedic Aryans, followers of Vedic Dharma, can show such a sacred heirloom in its history, so high in its grandeur and glory when compared with other languages. The Vedas and Vedic literature, such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata, serve as a beacon of divine light for the onward progress for humanity.


        Sanskrit is the foundation of Vedic literature, which is the basis of the Vedic philosophy. The Vedic literature is a complete library for understanding life, the purpose of the creation, how the cosmos manifested, and what is the spiritual identity of the individual soul, Supersoul, and Supreme Being; plus, the relationship between them, and the pathways for directly realizing and perceiving these. This is what is called Sanatana-dharma, the eternal duty of life and the eternal state of being, meaning complete harmony and balance that we should all reach. This is the main purpose of the human form of life according to the Vedic system.

The original compositions of many of the Vedic hymns were given credit to the early sages or seers, such as Brigu, Angirasa, Marichi, Atri, Vashistha and his brother Agastya, and Vishvamitra. It was Brigu, Angirasa, Marichi, and Atri from whom came the seven rishis (Saptarishis) who became the main lineages or gotras that we refer to today. These consist of: Jamadagni from Bhrigu; Bharadvaja from Angirasa; Gautama from Angirasa; Kashyapa; Vashistha from Marichi; Agastya from Marichi; Atri; and Vishvamitra from Atri. It is said that Bhrigu and his descendants lived in the western part of the Asian subcontinent and Vashistha and Vishvamitra lived in the Sarasvati region. Later, the great sage Vedavyasa compiled it all into written form. (A detailed analysis of the Vedic literature and its numerous books has been provided in a previous book of mine called The Heart of Hinduism and in my E-book called A Complete Review of Vedic Literature. So I will not included that elaboration here.)

The point to remember is that the Vedic literature held universal spiritual knowledge. Even the Puranas, which are considered to be the interplanetary histories and elaborations of the spiritual knowledge of the Vedic samhitas, such as the Rig, Sama, Atharva, and Yajur Vedas, are said to be universal in nature. In other words, they were not exclusive to the region of India.

One little story that can help point this out is how, with the use of the Vedic knowledge, the source of the Nile River was found. The British explorer John Hanning Speke, who in 1862 discovered the Nile in Lake Victoria, acknowledged that the Egyptians themselves did not have any idea of where the Nile’s source was located. However, it was from British Lt. Colonel Wilford’s description of the Hindus’ intimate awareness with ancient Egypt that led Speke to Ripon Falls, at the edge of Lake Victoria. This was outlined in Wilford’s essay on Egypt from the Puranas, called Ancient Book of the Hindus’ Asiatic Researches (Vol. III, 1792). What was also most helpful was that Lieutenant Speke constructed a map based on the information from the Puranas, as described in his book, Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile (1863). He explained, “All our previous information concerning the hydrography of these regions originated with the ancient Hindus who told it to the priests of the Nile; and all these busy Egyptian geographers who disseminated their knowledge with a view to be famous for their long-sightedness, in solving the mystery which enshrouded the source of their holy river, were so many hypothetical humbugs. The Hindu traders had a firm basis to stand upon through their intercourse with the Abyssinians.”

Thus, the map coursed the river through Kushadvipa, from a great lake in Chandristhan, “Country of the Moon,” while it gave the correct position in relation to the Zanzibar islands. Speke wrote that some Hindu Pundits knew the Nile as Nila and Kaali. The word Nile means blue and Kali means dark, which were appropriate descriptions of the Nile River. Their names are mentioned in some Puranas, including the Bhavishya. This went against the idea of that time because Lake Victoria was unknown then.

Sir Richard Burton, the leader of the Nile expedition had identified Lake Tangyanika as the source. Speke, however, following the advice of a Benares Pundit insisted that the real source was a much larger lake that lay to the north. By following this advice, Speke was able to discover Lake Victoria and the source of the Nile. The Pundit also told him that the real source were the twin peaks known as Somagiri. Soma in Sanskrit indicates the moon, and giri means hill or mountain. Thus, Somagiri indicated the fabled Mountains of the Moon in Central Africa.

The wonderful inventive genius and high level of consciousness of the Vedic Aryans enabled them to produce or utilize a language which contributed materially in the creation of a literature that remains unparalleled for richness, sublimity and range. The particular beauty inherent in the language of such intellectual powers were greatly enhanced by the scientific upbringing that had developed into what is now such a model of perfection that it was known as devanagari, or the language of the gods.

Professor Monier Williams was also highly impressed with the Ramayana. He had written: “Ramayana is undoubtedly one of the greatest treasures in Sanskrit literature.” However, later he went into more detail on his appreciation for it: “There is not in the whole range of Sanskrit literature a more charming poem than the Ramayana. The classical purity, clearness and simplicity of its style, the exquisite touches of true poetic feeling with which it abounds, its graphic descriptions of heroic incidents, nature’s grandest scenes, the deep acquaintance it displays with the conflicting workings and most refined emotions of the human heart, all entitle it to rank among the most beautiful compositions that have appeared at any period or in any country. It is like a spacious and delightful garden, here and there allowed to run wild, but teeming with fruits and flowers, watered by perennial streams, and even its most tangled jungle intersected with delightful pathways. The character of Rama is nobly portrayed… ” 23

The Mahabharata also was not in want of its western admirers, even from years ago, such as Dr. F. A. Hassler of America, in his letter to P. C. Roy, dated July 21, 1888, which was published in P. C. Roy’s English translation of the Mahabharata: “In all my experience in life, I have not found a work that has interested me as much as that noble production of the wise, and I do not hesitate to say, inspired men of ancient India. In fact I have studied it more than any other work for a long time past, and have made at least 1,000 notes which I have arranged in alphabetical order for the purpose of study. The Mahabharata has opened to me, as it were, a new world, and I have been surprised beyond measure at the wisdom, truth, knowledge, and love of the right which I have found displayed in its pages. Not only so, but I have found many of the truths which my own heart has taught me in regard to the Supreme Being and His creations set forth in beautiful, clear language.”

The early American ethnologist, Jeremiah Curtin, who also had written to Baba P. C. Roy about his edition of the Mahabharata, also had deep appreciation for what he found within it. He relates in his letter, which appeared in Part XXX of the book: “I have just finished reading carefully from beginning to end, 24 numbers of your translation of the Mahabharata, and can honestly say that I have never obtained more pleasure from reading any book in my life. The Mahabharata will open the eyes of the world to the true character and intellectual rank of the Aryans of India. You are certainly doing a great work… The Mahabharata is a real mine of wealth not entirely unknown, I suppose, at present to any man outside your country, but which will be known in time and valued in all civilized lands for the reason that it contains information of the highest import to all men who seek to know in singleness of heart, the history of our race upon the earth, and the relations of man with the Infinite Power above us, around us and in us.”


What all of this shows is, as Dr. Vishnu Kant Verma explains, is that to this day, the Proto-Indo-European language, meaning that original language from which all others developed, such as Greek and Latin, has not been identified. What has been shown is that Sanskrit is the most ancient and developed of all sophisticated languages. What has also been shown is that many languages are but offshoots of Sanskrit, and the most likely to be the central language of the Indo-European family. One reason for this is also due to the Indo-Aryan migrations to Asia Minor, the Middle East and into Greece and Europe. (Verma, Dr. Vishnu Kant, Indo-Aryan Colonization of Greece and Middle-East, Pratibha Prakashan, Delhi, 2001, p.51)

This also shows the power of Sanskrit and what it has retained through the years, and how it is certainly one of the most powerful and original if not the seed of all other languages. This also illustrates that it is not a matter of proselytizing, but only a matter of sharing the Vedic knowledge and wisdom with others that will attract numerous people to find that the deeper levels of spirituality that they are looking for is already existing and waiting for them within the texts of the Vedic literature.

[Most of this is taken from a chapter from Advancements of Ancient India’s Vedic Culture by Stephen Knapp]


1. Suresh Soni, India’s Glorious Scientific Tradition, Ocean Books Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2010, p. 199.

2. Kamlesh Kapur, Portraits of a Nations: History of India, Sterling Publishers, Private Limited, 2010, p. 401.

3. Suresh Soni, India’s Glorious Scientific Tradition, Ocean Books Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2010, p. 199.

4. Ibid., p. 200.

5. Pococke, India in Greece, p. 18.

6. Pritchard, Dr. Pritchard’s Physical History of Man, Vol. I, p. 502.

7. Jean-Sylvan Bailly, Lettres sur l’origine des sciences et sur celle des peuples de l’Asie, Paris, Freres Bebure, 1777, p. 51.

8. Ibid., 1777, p. 4.

9. Pierre Sonnerat, Voyages aux Indes Orientales et la Chine, Paris, 1782.

10. L. Poliakov, The Aryan Myth, Sussex University Press, London, 1971, p. 11.

11. Friedrich von Schlegel, Uber die Sprache und die Weisheit der Indier, Amsterdam Studies in the Theory and Hindistory of Linguistic Science, Amsterdam, Benjamins, 1977, p. 505

12. E. W. Eichhoff, Vergleichung der Sprachen von Europa und Indien, Schrey, Leipzig, 1845.

13. Vans Kennedy, Researches into the Origin and Affinity of the Principal Languages of Asia and Europe, Longman, London, 1828, p. 196.

14. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 16, 172-173.

15. J. Michelet, Bible de l’humanite, Paris, Chamerot, 1864, p. 26.

16. Ibid., p. 485.

17. Pride of India: A Glimpse into India’s Scientific Heritage, Samskriti Bharati, New Delhi, 2006, p. 130.

18. Nicholas Kazanas, Indo-Aryan Origins and Other Vedic Issues, by Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, 2009, p. 199.

19. Imperial Gazetteer of India, Art, “India”, p. 214.

20. Ancient and Medieval India, Vol. I, p. 381.

21. Elphinstone’s History of India, p. 146.

22. Monier Williams, Indian Wisdom, p. 172.

23. Indian Epic Poetry, p. 12.

24. Jones, Collected Works, Volume III, 34-5, quoted by Vepa, Kosla, The South Asia File: A Colonial Paradigm of Indian History Altering the Mindset of the Indic People, Indic Studies Foundation, Pleasanton, California, 2008, p.54.

25. Verma, Dr. Vishnu Kant, Indo-Aryan Colonization of Greece and Middle-East, Pratibha Prakashan, Delhi, 2001, p.130.

26. Ibid., p

[This article can be found at]

The Traditional Source of Vedic Literature

The Traditional Source


Of Vedic Literature

By Stephen Knapp

              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 from which to choose 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 historians have held the idea that it was the Aryans who invaded India in the second millennium B.C. and were the founders of the Indian culture and Vedic traditions. They said that the Aryans came from somewhere near the southern part of Russia and brought their Vedic rituals and customs with them.

              This theory, however, does not hold as much weight as it used to amongst modern historians for various reasons. 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 archeological 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 Vedas prescribe as the process for attaining the greatest amount of spiritual advancement for people of that time. Evidence also shows that fire worship played an important role, and fire was a representation of Vishnu. And traditionally constructed fire altars have been found that were made according to the descriptions in the ancient Brahmana texts.

              Another point is that the Indus valley enveloped a vast area and the cultural traits of that society continued to survive for a long time, so 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 was not 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, it is to be concluded that there really was not any Aryan invasion, not at least the way some scholars seem to think. It is more likely that the Vedic Aryans were already there.

              Furthermore, most scholars agree that the earliest Vedic hymns seem to belong to a pre-1500 B.C. date. Some researchers, however, feel that parts of the Rig-veda date back to several thousand years earlier than 1500 B.C. This means it was not necessarily invaders who had brought Vedic culture with them, since at least the oldest Vedic books, if not most of them, had already been in existence by the time any invaders arrived.

              Let us consider another point, using nothing more than our common sense. It is generally accepted that Lord Buddha appeared about 2,500 or more 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 have preached 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 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.

              Furthermore, let us not forget that it was the British Sanskritists and educators in India, during the 1700 and 1800s, who first portrayed Vedic literature and culture as something barbaric, inferior, and recent. They formed estimated dates on when the 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 after the Vedic knowledge was divided and the different volumes were written, they were handed down to sages who became expert in the content of that portion of Vedic knowledge who then continued to hand it down to others who formed subbranches 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 wore 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 Bhagavata Purana, the Sanskrit text still contains 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. The fact that 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.

              This 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 translated into English and to have their Christian scripture translated into Sanskrit. And many of the notable professors at the time had the audacity to consider themselves to be better authorities on their questionable translations of the Vedas than the Indian scholars.

              In any case, the attempt to belittle the Vedic literature made only a minor impact. In fact, by translating such texts, many of the notable writers and poets in the West, as mentioned in the previous chapter, 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 an extremely narrow-minded way of looking at things. Many Vedic authorities and self-realized 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.

* * *

              According to Vedic tradition, when the Supreme Lord created this material world, His transcendental energy pervaded every corner of it. This spiritual energy was the pure vibration, shabda-brahma, in which the Supreme Himself can be found. It is explained that first there was the subtle vibration of spiritual sound, the eternal and spiritual vibration called the shabda-brahman. This appeared from the sky of the heart of the most elevated Lord Brahma. His mind was perfectly calm and fixed in spiritual understanding. It is possible to perceive this subtle vibration when all external hearing is halted. Through the worship of this subtle form of the Vedas, mystics can cleanse their hearts of all faults and impurities caused by the association of various material substances and actions. Thus they can attain liberation from further cycles of birth and death. (Bhag.12.6.37-38)

              It is from that spiritual sound vibration that arose the omkara [Om] composed of three sounds. These three sounds are A, U, and M. These uphold the three aspects of material existence, the three modes of material nature, the three Vedas, namely Rig, Yajur and Sama, and the three planetary systems of Bhur, Bhuvar and Svar, as well as the three functional platforms of consciousness called waking, sleep and deep sleep. This omkara has unseen potencies and will arise in one’s heart when it is completely purified. It is the representation of the Absolute Truth in all three features, namely as the Supreme Personality, the Paramatma or Supersoul in the heart, and as the impersonal Brahman. Omkara is nonmaterial and imperceptible, and is heard by the Supersoul without the use of material ears or senses. The entire expanse of genuine Vedic sound is an expansion of omkara. It is the direct designation of the self-originating Absolute Truth, and is the internal essence and eternal seed of all Vedic hymns. (Bhag.12.6.39-42)

              The spiritually elevated Gosvamis of Vrindavana have explained that in AUM the letter “A” refers to the Supreme Person, Bhagavan Krishna, who is the master of all living entities of the material and spiritual planets and is the source from which everything emanates. The letter “U” indicates the energy of the Supreme, and “M” indicates the innumerable living entities. Therefore, omkara (om or AUM) is the resting place of everything, or, in other words, all potencies are invested within this holy vibration. As further explained in the Caitanya-caritamrita:

              “The Vedic sound vibration omkara, the principal word in the Vedic literature, is the basis of all Vedic vibrations. Therefore one should accept omkara as the sound representation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the reservoir of the cosmic manifestation.” (Cc.Adi-lila, 7.128)

              Krishna also explains: “I am the father of this universe, the mother, the support and the grandsire. I am the object of knowledge, the purifier and the syllable om. I am also the Rig-veda, Sama-veda and the Yajur-veda.” (Bg.9.17)

              Further confirmation is found in the Yajur-veda, (Chapter 31, verse 7): “From that Absolute God unto Whom people make every kind of sacrifice, were created the Rig-veda, the Sama-veda. From Him were created the Atharva-veda and also the Yajur-veda.”

              These verses indicate that the pure Absolute Truth and the pure spiritual sound vibration are nondifferent and that the Vedas are the expansions of that Absolute Truth. By understanding Vedic knowledge, one can understand the Absolute. Therefore, the end result of all spiritual realizations, based on the authority of the Vedas, is to understand that Supreme Personality.

              It is said that originally the pranava or om mantra expanded into the sacred gayatri mantra (om bhur bhuvah svah tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dimahi dhiyo yo nah pracodayat). The gayatri was then expanded into the following four central verses of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, called Catuh-sloki which are as follows:

              “Prior to this cosmic creation, only I exist, and nothing else, either gross, subtle, or primordial. After creation, only I exist in everything, and after annihilation, only I remain eternally.

              “What appears to be truth without Me is certainly My illusory energy, for nothing can exist without Me. It is like a reflection of real light in the shadows, for in the light there are neither shadows nor reflections.

              “As the material elements enter the bodies of all living beings and yet remain outside them all, I exist within all material creations and yet am not within them.

              “A person interested in transcendental knowledge must therefore always directly and indirectly inquire about it to know the all-pervading truth.” (Bhag.2.9.33-36)

              These Catuh-sloki verses were taught by the Supreme Lord Vishnu to Brahma at the time of creation, and all other Vedic literature was expanded from them. The Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana) is considered to be the complete expansion of these four verses.

              From this we can now begin to see how incorrect the assumption is of some scholars who think the Vedas were written by ordinary men over a length of time which displays the gradual evolutionary changes in man’s religious thinking. The fact of the matter is that the Vedic knowledge was given by the Supreme in order for us to understand this world, who we are, and our relationship with the Absolute Reality and how to work according to that relationship. Sri Krishna says in the Bhagavatam: “As the unlimited, unchanging and omnipotent Personality of Godhead dwelling within all living beings, I personally establish the Vedic sound vibration in the form of omkara within all living entities. It is thus perceived subtly, just like a single strand of fiber on a lotus stalk.” (Bhag.11.21.37)

              What this means is that since we are all spiritual in nature, our constitutional position is to be full of eternal knowledge and bliss. The purpose of the Vedic literature is to reawaken that knowledge within us. Our spiritual position is of a very subtle nature and we cannot force our entry into the understanding of this knowledge simply by the deliberate manipulation of intelligence or logic. As pointed out earlier, one must practice the Vedic system to get the full results. By this process, one develops the power to perceive that which exists on the spiritual platform. Otherwise, how can one become qualified for understanding the higher principles of spiritual self-realization?

               The next few verses clearly indicate that the shabda-brahma exists in the Absolute Truth before creation, during the creation, and after the annihilation of the material worlds. Therefore, the source for all kinds of knowledge stems back to the Vedas.

              “Just as a spider brings forth from its heart its web and emits it through its mouth, the Supreme Personality of Godhead manifests Himself as the reverberating primeval vital air, comprising all sacred Vedic meters and full of transcendental pleasure. Thus, the Lord, from the ethereal sky of His heart, creates the great and limitless Vedic sound by the agency of His mind, which conceives of variegated sounds such as the sparsas (Sanskrit consonants). The Vedic sound branches out in thousands of directions, adorned with the different letters expanded from the syllable om: the consonants, vowels, sibilants, and semivowels. The Veda is elaborated by many verbal varieties, expressed in different meters, each having four more syllables than the previous one. Ultimately, the Lord again withdraws His manifestation of Vedic sound within Himself.” (Bhag.11.21.38-40)

              Since the Vedas are a manifestation of the Absolute Truth and exist eternally, the Manu-samhita (the first law book for human civilization) explains that all other doctrines or philosophies not based on Vedic knowledge are impermanent. They exist for short times in history while they undergo constant transformations because of mankind’s ever-changing attitudes of likes and dislikes. We can especially see this happening today in many religions where people want changes to be made in the basic precepts. Eventually, all that is left as the years go by is simply a watered down hodgepodge with no potency. Therefore, the Manu-samhita says: “All those traditions (Smriti) and all those despicable systems of philosophy, which are not based on the Veda, produce no reward after death; for they are declared to be founded on darkness. All those doctrines differing from the Veda, which spring up and (soon) perish, are worthless and false, because they are of modern date.” (The Laws of Manu, Chapter 12, verses 95-96)

              “Of modern date” means that it is recent, emerging within the last couple of thousand years, or arising from someone’s imagination who gives something completely new or makes up a doctrine that combines a number of different traditions. Thus, it is a philosophy of questionable benefit for the people in general. It is what is called a cheating process, though it may be in the name of religion. It may have some flowery language and basic moralistic principles or wisdom in its scripture, but it is nothing that will give people tangible results on the spiritual level. At best, all you will have is a group of people, whether a small community or several nations, who are temporarily united in their blind faith and who work together for a cause they may consider noble, but which produces no truly beneficial or transcendental outcome.



              If the Vedas are eternal and were manifest from the Supreme, then how were they first compiled into written form?

              This is how it is explained. After the creation of the universal elements, Brahma was born from Lord Vishnu, the incarnation of God who directly manifests the material ingredients. Brahma is the first living entity in the universe and helps engineer the part of the creation which includes all the different forms of humans, vegetation, insects, aquatics, planetary systems, etc.

              When Brahma was first generated, he was not sure what this material world was or who he was. There was no one else to enlighten him; so, he thought about it for a long time and tried to search out the cause of his existence but came to no conclusion. This is the same result that people will come to if they try to understand this universe and who they are simply by observing things through their senses. By analyzing the world with the mind and senses, they are bound to make many mistakes in their perception of things. Even with instruments like telescopes or microscopes, mistakes will be there because such machines are simply extensions of the same faulty senses. Therefore, retiring from his searching and mental speculation, Brahma engaged in deep meditation by controlling the mind and concentrating on the Supreme Cause.

              By Brahma’s meditation and practice of penance for many years, the Supreme Lord Vishnu became satisfied with him and from within Brahma’s heart there awakened all transcendental knowledge and creative power. From his spiritual realizations, Brahma manifested the gayatri mantra. He also manifested the four primary Vedas. This is confirmed in the Vishnu Purana as well as the Vayu, Linga, Kurma, Padma, Markandaya, and Bhagavata Puranas.

              Lord Vishnu taught this Vedic knowledge to Brahma and Brahma in turn taught this knowledge to other great sages who became manifest, including Narada Muni, who also taught it to others. This is where the oral tradition began, and how the Vedic knowledge was spoken from one person to another for thousands of years before it was written and compiled into the original samhitas. The Vedas were taught to the great saints and mystics who had such mental capabilities that they could memorize anything by hearing it once. This should not be considered too unusual because even today there are those who have memorized large amounts of scripture. For thousands of years the Vedas were carefully handed down in this way. This is further elaborated in the Bhagavatam:

              “Out of the aforesaid (AUM or om mantra) the almighty Brahma (the creator born from Lord Vishnu) evolved the alphabet, comprising Antahsthas (semi-vowels), Usmas (aspirants), Swaras (vowels), Sparsas (sibilants) and the short, long, and prolated measures of sound. With this alphabet Brahma gave expression through his mouth to the four Vedas along with the om and Vyahritis (mystical names of the three planetary systems, Bhuh, Bhuvah and Svaha) with the intention of pointing out the duties of the four priests (officiating at a sacrifice, namely Adhwaryu, Udgata, Hota, and Brahmana). He then taught them to his (mind born) sons (Marichi and others) who were brahmana sages and expert in reciting the Vedas. The latter in their turn proved to be the promulgators of righteousness and taught the Vedas to their sons (Kasyapa and others). Received from generation to generation in the course of the four yugas by the pupils of the various sages–pupils who observed the vow of (lifelong) celibacy [in order to retain the Vedas in their memory]–the Vedas were later divided by great seers at the end of the Dvapara age, starting with Srila Vyasadeva. Perceiving the men in the age of Kali-yuga to be short-lived, deficient in energy and dull-witted due to the action of time (in the form of unrighteousness prevailing in it) the brahmana seers rearranged the Vedas as directed by the immortal Lord residing in their heart. [Thus, what was an oral tradition was compiled into written form.]

              “Then in the twenty-eighth Dvapara-yuga, in this present age of Vaivasvata Manu, the leaders of the universe, starting with Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva, requested the Supreme Lord to save the principles of religion. That Supreme Lord, exhibiting a divine spark of a portion of His plenary portion [Vishnu], then appeared in the womb of Satyavati, wife of the sage Parashara Muni. As the son of Parashara, Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa, in the same manner that the Vedas had been arranged by Him in former ages, divided the one Veda into four distinct Vedic books, known as the Rig, Atharva, Yajur and Sama Vedas. This Vyasa was the Deity of Lord Narayana, for who else could have composed the Mahabharata?” (Bhag.12.6.48-51)

              In the lists of the main avataras of the Lord, the seventeenth incarnation is cited as Srila Vyasadeva, who appeared as the son of Parashara Muni and his wife Satyavati. His mission was to divide the one Veda into various branches and sub-branches so the people who are less intelligent can more easily understand them. (Bhag.1.3.21 & 2.7.36) He then composed the more important Vedic texts, culminating in his own commentary of the Vedic writing in the form of the Srimad-Bhagavatam. In this way, the one Veda became the four main samhitas, namely the Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva Vedas. Then came the Brahmana texts, the Vedanta Sutras, the Mahabharata, and then the Puranas, of which Vyasadeva considered the Bhagavata Purana the most important and complete.

              It is also explained that the Bhagavata Purana is the literary incarnation of God, which is meant for the ultimate good of all people, and is all-blissful and all-perfect. Sri Vyasadeva offered it to his son after extracting the cream of all Vedic literature. This Bhagavata Purana is as brilliant as the sun, and has arisen just after the departure of Lord Krishna to His own abode. Persons who have lost their vision due to the dense darkness of this age of Kali can get light from this Purana. (Bhag.1.3.40-43)

              To explain further about Srila Vyasadeva, Jiva Gosvami quotes the Vishnu Purana (3.4.2-5) in his Tattva-sandarbha (16.2) that a different empowered jiva soul takes the position of Vyasadeva in each incarnation as a shaktyavesha-avatara. However, in this particular divya-yuga, or cycle of the four ages, Lord Narayana Himself appears as Srila Krishna-Dvaipayana Vyasa to divide the Vedic literature into various branches, and is not simply an empowered living entity.

              This is the basic story of how the Vedas appeared and were then divided. However, Srimad-Bhagavatam also explains: “In Satya-yuga, the first millennium, all the Vedic mantras were included in one mantra–pranava (om), the root of all Vedic mantras. In other words, the Atharva-veda alone [some say the Yajur-veda, the point being there was originally only one all-inclusive Veda] alone was the source of all Vedic knowledge. The Supreme Personality of Godhead Narayana (an expansion of Krishna) was the only worshipable Deity; there was no recommendation for worship of the demigods. Fire was one only, and the only order of life in human society was known as hamsa [the swanlike sages who were all spiritually self-realized].” (Bhag.9.14.48)

              This indicates that originally there was no need for expanding the Vedic literature because everyone was self-realized. In Satya-yuga, the age of purity and peace, everyone knew the ultimate goal of life and they were not confused about this as people are today. There was only one Veda (which was unwritten until Vyasadeva compiled the Vedic literature at the end of the Dvapara-yuga), one mantra, one process of spiritual self-realization, and one form of worship. But as time passed and unrighteousness began to spread, things changed and there was a need for further elaboration of Vedic knowledge. Other processes of self-realization were also presented to accommodate the various levels of consciousness of the people. Thus, the primary purpose of the Vedas, which was the worship of the Supreme Lord for material liberation, changed and began focusing on the worship of demigods for the attainment of various material rewards through the performance of detailed rituals, as can especially be seen from the verses in the Rig and Sama Vedas.

              To explain further, in Satya-yuga, which lasts 1,728,000 years, people live a very long time and the process for self-realization is meditating on Narayana. In the next age, Treta-yuga, which lasts 1,296,000 years, the spiritual tendency of the people declined by twenty-five percent, and the process for self-realization was the performance of ritualistic sacrifice, which the early Vedas fully describe. In the next age, Dvapara-yuga, which lasts 864,000 years, people engaged in opulent temple worship as the prescribed process for spiritual self-realization, but the religious inclination of people again declined by another twenty-five percent. In the present age of Kali-yuga, which lasts 432,000 years and started 5,000 years ago, people are all short-lived and exhibit almost no interest in self-realization or spiritual topics. For this reason, the Vedas were expanded and put into written form so that less intelligent people could more easily understand them. This is confirmed in the Bhagavatam in its description of the different incarnations of God who appear in this world:

              “Thereafter, in the seventeenth incarnation of Godhead, Sri Vyasadeva appeared in the womb of Satyavati through Parasara Muni, and he divided the one Veda into several branches and subbranches, seeing that the people in general were less intelligent.” (Bhag.1.3.21)

              Here we also find that Vyasadeva was in fact an incarnation of the Supreme who appeared with the purpose of establishing the Vedas in writing. The Vedas had previously been passed down through an oral tradition, but now there was a need for them to be written. How exactly Vyasadeva divided the Vedas is nicely told in Srimad-Bhagavatam in the following story:

              “Once upon a time he (Vyasadeva), as the sun rose, took his morning ablution in the waters of the Sarasvati and sat alone to concentrate. The great sage saw anomalies in the duties of the millennium. This happens on the earth in different ages, due to the unseen forces in the course of time. The great sage, who was fully equipped with knowledge, could see, through his transcendental vision, the deterioration of everything material, due to the influence of the age [of Kali]. He could see also that the faithless people in general would be reduced in duration of life and would be impatient due to lack of goodness. Thus he contemplated for the welfare of men in all statuses of life.” (Bhag.1.4.15-18)

              Srila Vyasadeva could see that in the future men would be very short-lived, quarrelsome, impatient, easily angered, and their memory would be very inefficient. So, there was now the need to put the Vedic sound vibration into writing. Otherwise, people would never be able to remember it as they had in the past, what to speak of studying and understanding it.

              “He (Vyasadeva) saw that the sacrifices mentioned in the Vedas were means by which people’s occupations could be purified. And to simplify the process he divided the one Veda into four, in order to expand them among men. The four divisions of the original sources of knowledge (the Vedas) were made separately. But the historical facts and authentic stories mentioned in the Puranas are called the fifth Veda.” (Bhag.1.4.19-20)

              How the one Veda was divided into four is explained more fully in the following quote from the Vishnu Purana: There was but one Veda (in the oral tradition), the Yajur Veda. The first Veda in four parts consisted of 100,000 stanzas, in which there were ten kinds of sacrificial rituals. Dividing it into four parts, Vyasa instituted the sacrificial rite that is administered by four kinds of priests, in which it is the duty of the Adhvaryu priests to recite the prayers (Yajush, or direct the ceremony); of the Hotri priests to repeat the hymns (Richas); of the Udgatri to chant other hymns (Sama); and of the Brahmana priests to pronounce the formula called Atharva. Then the great Muni, having collected together the hymns called the Richas complied the Rig Veda. With the prayers and directions termed the Yajushas he formed the Yajur Veda. With those called the Sama, he formed the Sama Veda. And with the Atharvas he composed the rules of all the ceremonies suited to kings, and the function of the Brahmana agreeably to practice in the Atharva Veda. This was the original tree of the Vedas, having been divided by him into four principal stems, soon branched out into an extensive forest of knowledge. (Vishnu Purana, Book Three, Chapter Four)

              Once these were divided into the four basic samhitas, Vyasadeva called forth four of his disciples and first taught Paila Rishi the Rig Veda, calling it Bahvricha. He taught Vaishampayana Rishi the Yajur mantras, called Nigada. He taught the Sama Veda mantras, called Chandoga-samhita, to Jaimini, and the Atharva Veda to Sumantu. (Bhag.12.6.53 andVishnu Purana, Book Three, Chapter Four)

              The Srimad-Bhagavatam continues: “After the Vedas were divided into four divisions, Paila Rishi became the professor of the Rig-veda, Jaimini the professor of the Sama-veda, and Vaisampayana alone became glorified by the Yajur-veda. The Sumantu Muni Angira, who was very devotedly engaged, was entrusted with Atharva-veda. And my (Suta Gosvami’s) father, Romaharsana, was entrusted with historical records [the Puranas]. All these learned scholars, in their turn, rendered their entrusted Vedas unto their many disciples, grand-disciples, and great grand-disciples, and thus the respective branches of the followers of the Vedas came into being. Thus, the great sage Vyasadeva, who is very kind to the ignorant masses, edited the Vedas so they might be assimilated by less intellectual men.” (Bhag.1.4.21-24)

              How these were divided and carried forth is further explained in the Vishnu Purana and Srimad-Bhagavatam. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam this is explained by Suta Gosvami, while in the Vishnu Purana Parashara explains how the Vedic literature was first divided by his son, Srila Vyasadeva, as follows:



              In dividing the four original Veda samhitas, Paila divided his samhita into two parts and taught them to Indrapramiti and Bashkala. Bashkala divided his collection into four more parts and spoke them to his disciples Bodhya, Yajnavalkya, Parashara and Agnimitra. Indrapramiti taught his collection to his son, the learned mystic Mandukeya, whose disciple Devamritra took it and passed the divisions of the Rig Veda to Saubhari and others in successive generations. Then the son of Mandukeya, Shakalya (also called Vedamitra), divided his own collection into five, and gave one subdivision each to Vatsya, Mudgala, Shaliya, Gokhalya and Shishira. The sage Jatukarnya (Sakapurni) was also a disciple of Shakalya. After dividing the samhita he received into three parts, he added a Vedic glossary (Nirukta), which became a fourth part. He taught one of these parts to each of his disciples, who were Balaka, another Paila, Jabala and Viraja (also called Krauncha and Vaitalaki, and the fourth, Niruktakrit, who had the glossary) (Bhag.12.6.54-58 & Vishnu Purana, Book Three, Chapter Four)

              The son of Bashkala, Bashkali, brought together three collections of mantras from all the branches of the Rig Veda, called the Valakhilya-samhita, and gave it to his disciples, Valayani, Bhajya and Kashara (also called Kalayani, Gargya and Kathajava). In this way, these various samhitas of the Rig Veda were maintained through the disciplic successions of these saintly brahmanas. It is said that simply by hearing of this distribution of the Vedic hymns one will be freed from all sins. (Bhag.12.6.59-60)



              Of the tree of the Yajur-veda, there are 27 branches, which Vaishampayana, the pupil of Vyasa, compiled and taught to as many disciples. The disciples of Vaishampayana became the authorities of the Yajur Veda. They were known as the Charvakas for following strict vows to free their guru from the sin of killing a brahmana. However, one of his disciples, Yajnavalkya, who had been known for his piety, made a demeaning comment about the other disciples, boasting that he could perform a powerful penance. Vaishampayana became angry and told him to leave the place, and give back everything he had learned. Yajnavalkya then spit out the mantras of the Yajur Veda and went away. The other disciples, looking greedily upon these Yajur hymns, are said to have taken forms like partridges and picked them up. That is why these divisions became known as the Taittiriya-samhita, the hymns collected by partridges [tittirah, which is also known as those who read what was said or repeated–Tittiri]. (Bhag.12.6.61-65)

              Yajnavalkya then wanted to find new Yajur hymns not known even by his own guru. So he performed intense worship to the sun. Pleased by the worship, the sun-god appeared and took the form of a horse and gave Yajnavalkya the Ayatayama (unstudied) mantras that had been previously unknown to human society. From these countless hundreds of mantras of the Yajur Veda, the powerful sage compiled fifteen new branches of Vedic literature, which became known as Vajasaneyi-samhitah because they were produced from [or with the use of] the hairs of the horse. They were thereafter accepted by the followers of Kanva, Madhyandina and other rishis. Fifteen additional branches sprang from Kanva and other pupils of Yajnavalkya. (Bhag.12.6.66-74) [The Vayu Purana mentions the fifteen teachers of these schools as Kanva, Vaidheya, Shalin, Madhyandina, Sapeyin, Vidagdha, Uddalin, Tamrayani, Vatsya, Galava, Shaisiri, Atavya, Parna, Virana, and Samparayana. These were the founders of what developed into over 101 branches of the Vajasaneyi or White Yajur Veda.]



              Jaimini Rishi spoke different parts of the Sama Veda to his son, Sumantu, and to Sumantu’s son, Sutvan. Another disciple of Jaimini, Sukarma (Sumantu’s son according to the Vishnu Purana), divided the tree of the Sama Veda into 1000 samhitas (the Sahasra-samhita). Then Sukarman’s disciples, Hiranyanabha, Paushyanji and Avantya, took charge of the Sama mantras. The five hundred disciples of Paushyanji and Avantya became known as the northern singers of the Sama Veda (later some became known as the eastern singers) and started an equal number of schools. Then Laugakshi, Mangali, Kulya, Kushida and Kukshi, five other disciples of Paushyanji, received one hundred samhitas each. The disciple of Hiranyanabha, Krita, spoke 24 samhitas to as many of his own disciples, who started numerous other branches. The remaining samhitas were given to the sage Avantya. (Bhag.12.6.75-79)



              Sumantu Rishi, authorized in the knowledge of the Atharva Veda, taught his samhita to his disciple Kabandha, who taught it to Pathya and Vedadarsha (some say Devadarsha). Vedadarsha had Shauklayani, Brahmabali, Modosha and Pippalayani (or Pippalada) as disciples, while Kumuda, Shunaka (or Shaunaka) and Jajali were disciples of Pathya. All of them learned the Atharva Veda. Shunaka’s disciples, Babhru and Saindhavayana, studied the two divisions of Shunaka’s Atharva Veda, from which sprang the Saindhava and Munjakeshas schools. Saindhavayana’s disciple Savarna, along with the disciples of other great sages, also studied this version of the Atharva Veda. Additional authorities of the Atharva Veda included Nakshatrakalpa, Shantikalpa, Kashyapa, Angirasa and others. (Bhag.12.7.1-4)

              As the Vishnu Purana further explains, the principal subjects of difference in the Atharva-veda are the five Kalpas or ceremonials: the Nakshatra Kalpa or rules for worshiping the planets; the Vaitana Kalpa, rules for oblations; the Samhita Kalpa, or rules for sacrificial rituals; the Angirasa Kalpa, or incantations and prayers for the destruction of foes; and the Santi Kalpa, or prayers for averting evil.



              When Vyasadeva was dividing the Vedas he had also taken Suta, who was also named Romaharshana Suta, as his pupil in historical and legendary traditions. (Vishnu Purana, Book Three, Chapter Six) This would become the basis of the Puranic literature. This was also the Romaharshana Suta who was killed by Lord Balarama at Naimisaranaya for having been too disrespectful. This was at the time when there was a great assembly of thousands of saints and sages who had gathered for a powerful ritual and to discuss the Puranic literature and the means for giving spiritual welfare to the people in the approaching age of Kali-yuga. Then Romaharshana’s son, Ugrashrava Suta, was installed to oversee the great assembly and who became known as Suta Gosvami who recited the Srimad-Bhagavatam at that famous meeting.

               Later, Trayyaruni, Kashyapa, Savarni, Akritavrana, Vaishampayana and Harita (also listed as Sumati, Kashyapa, Savarni, Akritavrana, Samshapayana, Agnivarchas, and Mitraya in the Vishnu Purana) became the six masters of the Puranas. Each of them studied one of the six anthologies of the Puranas under Romaharshana. Suta Gosvami became the disciple of these six authorities and thoroughly learned all their presentations of Puranic wisdom. Romaharshana divided the Puranas into four basic compilations. [Kashyapa, Savarni and Akritavrana composed three fundamental samhitas, and Romaharshana compiled a fourth, called Romaharshanika. The substance of these four compilations is said to be collected into the Vishnu Purana.] The sage Kashyapa and Suta Gosvami, along with Savarni and Akritavrana, a disciple of Rama, learned these four divisions. (Bhag.12.7.5-7) This is why Suta Gosvami was so qualified to recite the edition of the Srimad-Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana) to the sages at Naimsaranya 5,000 years ago that we all study today.

              These Puranas have been divided into 18 major Puranas and 18 secondary Puranas. The major Puranas are listed as: Brahma, Padma, Vishnu, Shiva, Linga, Garuda, Narada, Bhagavata, Agni, Skanda, Bhavishya, Brahma-vaivarta, Markandeya, Vamana, Varaha, Matsya, Kurma, and Brahmananda Puranas. (Bhag.12.7.23-24)

              Lord Krishna explains that just as when sticks of kindling wood are vigorously rubbed together to produce heat and then a spark of fire, after which ghee is added so the fire blazes, similarly, He becomes manifest in the sound vibration of the Vedas. (Bhag.11.12.18)

              Let me also add that among the Vedic histories the Ramayana was another epic book, written by the sage Valmiki, which related the story of Lord Ramachandra and His wife Sita. This has remained a text of major importance in the Vedic library.



              “Out of compassion, the great sage thought it was wise that this would enable men to achieve the ultimate goal of life. Thus, he compiled the great historical narration called the Mahabharata for women, laborers, and friends of the twice-born (unqualified brahmanas). O twice-born brahmana, still his mind was not satisfied, although he engaged himself in working for the total welfare of all people. Thus, the sage, being dissatisfied at heart, at once began to reflect, because he knew the essence of religion, and he said within himself: ‘I have, under strict disciplinary vows, unpretentiously worshiped the Vedas, the spiritual master, and the altar of sacrifice. I have also abided by the rulings and have shown the import of disciplic succession through the explanation of the Mahabharata, by which even women, laymen, and others can see the path of religion. I am feeling incomplete, though I myself am fully equipped with everything required by the Vedas. This may be because I did not specifically point out the devotional service of the Lord, which is dear both to perfect beings and to the infallible Lord.’” (Bhag.1.4.25-31)

              Even though Vyasadeva had worked for the welfare of all by writing and expanding the Vedic literature, still he felt dissatisfied. This is a great lesson. Naturally, we all desire freedom from the problems that material life causes us, but only by engaging in direct spiritual activities does the spiritual living entity, the soul within these temporary material bodies, begin to feel any real relief or happiness. How to do this by engaging in service or bhakti-yoga to the Supreme Being is what the Vedas are meant to establish, and because this had not yet been prominently presented in the literature Vyasadeva had written, such as the four Vedas, the Upanishads, and Vedanta-sutras, he was still feeling dissatisfied. Now he was trying to understand the cause of his dissatisfaction.

              In all the literature compiled by Vyasadeva, there were many descriptions of the temporary universe, prayers to the demigods, the process for attaining material necessities, information about the soul, the Brahman, the Supersoul, and the process of yoga for attaining spiritual realizations. There was also information about the Supreme Lord Bhagavan, Krishna. But the detailed descriptions of God, His form, His incarnations, His names, activities, potencies, and energies, and how He is the source of everything, including the ever-increasing spiritual bliss which we are always seeking, had not yet been fully described.

              While questioning his unexpected dissatisfaction, Vyasadeva was at that very moment greeted by the sage Narada Muni, who had just arrived at Vyasadeva’s cottage. Acting as Vyasadeva’s spiritual master, as described in Srimad-Bhagavatam (Canto One, Chapters Five and Six), Narada Muni instructed him in the cause of his problem. He said that Vyasa had not actually broadcast the sublime and spotless glories of the Supreme Personality. Therefore, Narada Muni encouraged Vyasadeva to write and describe the eternal spiritual truths in a more direct manner:

              “O Vyasadeva, your vision is completely perfect. Your good fame is spotless. You are firm in vow and satisfied in truthfulness. And thus you can think of the pastimes of the Lord in trance for the liberation of the people in general from all material bondage. The Supreme Lord is unlimited. Only a very expert personality retired from the activities of material happiness, deserves to understand this knowledge of spiritual values. Therefore, those who are not so well situated, due to material attachment, should be shown the way of transcendental realization, by Your Goodness, through descriptions of the transcendental activities of the Supreme Lord. Persons who are actually intelligent and philosophically inclined should endeavor only for that purposeful end which is [spiritual and] not obtainable even by wandering from the topmost planet down to the lowest.

              “The Supreme Lord is Himself this cosmos, and still He is aloof from it. From Him only has this cosmic manifestation emanated, in Him it rests, and unto Him it enters after annihilation. Your good self knows all about this. You yourself can know the Supersoul Personality of Godhead because you are present as the plenary portion of the Lord. Although you are birthless, you have appeared on this earth for the well-being of all people. Please, therefore, describe the transcendental pastimes of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, more vividly.”

              After Narada Muni took leave of Vyasadeva, Vyasa, in his own ashrama, on the bank of the River Sarasvati, sat down to meditate. He fixed his mind, perfectly engaging it by linking it in devotional service (bhakti-yoga) without any tinge of materialism, and thus he saw the Absolute Personality of Godhead along with His external energy, which was under full control. Then the learned Vyasadeva compiled the topmost fruit of the tree of Vedic knowledge, the Srimad-Bhagavatam [Bhagavata Purana], which is in relation to the Supreme Truth, as well as being Vyasadeva’s own commentary on all the other Vedic writings.

              In this way, the different levels of Vedic literature came into being. This includes the four primary Vedas, namely the Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva-vedas, the Upanishads, the Vedanta-sutras, the Mahabharata, the Puranas, and finally, as related in the above story, the Bhagavata Purana. Within this literature and their many supplementary books on health, architecture, music, etc., are contained the essential spiritual teachings, the material sciences, and the processes for attaining transcendental realizations.