[Advaita-l] Scholarly Article on Why Vedas are Valid

Kalyan K kalyankc.81 at gmail.com
Tue Nov 8 09:53:42 CST 2011

Namaste Vidyasankar-ji,

>The points raised here seem to wander far afield of both (a) the perceived
>to articulate the validity of the veda-s in a contemporary context, and
(b) relevance
>of the validity of the veda to advaita vedAnta in particular. So, I'm
going to try and
>keep my responses brief.

Please note that the tone for this "part of the thread", was set by my
initial post to Sri Satish-ji, and please note that the intention of my
original post to him was neither a) nor b) above (notwithstanding the title
of the thread). I am not digressing from the point, but replying to your

>My general point is that one's expectations need to be based on what one
thinks of
>"vedic religion" vis-a-vis "purANic Hinduism" and the current practice of
>Therefore, all I meant to convey was that if one wants to compare the big
>dedicated to Siva and vishNu to the lack of temples to indra, agni and
vAyu, one
>should have clear ideas of what these various versions of the religion are.

The vedas do not prohibit temples and there is no reason to not expect
temples or places of worship for the vedic gods. Since there are
practically no temples for Indra, Agni or Varuna, and also since their
worship is practically non-existent, I will say that the popular religion
of today is different from the vedic religion.

> >1. Can you say that purusha is a major rig vedic god due to purusha
> >2. Can you really say that Indra and Agni are minor vedic gods?

>Neither, and I don't claim either of the above. I don't subscribe to the
minor vs.
>major distinction among the vedic gods as commonly understood today. But
>is a topic for another completely different discussion, outside of this
list perhaps.

I am sorry but I think that denying point 1) and still claiming that Vishnu
and Shiva are major vedic gods is an inconsistent position. (please see

> But Shirdi Sai Baba was a recent historical person.

So what? He is a popular god of today. It shows that Hinduism (I do not see
why I should not use this word) admits new gods.

>In a land that just gave birth
>to the world's 7 billionth human being, popularity is easy to come by.

Mere popularity and devotional popularity are different.

>Here is a
>simple calculation to consider - every birth, every marriage and every
death in
>a Hindu household, of whichever caste/sect you want to pick, involves
>religious rituals.
>In how many of these is the name of Shirdi Sai Baba invoked?
>In how many of these are Siva, vishNu, durgA, gaNapati, lakshmI and

I do not subscribe to this calculation. Here is the reason - the popular
devotional worship and the worship in a ritualistic context are completely
different in today's scenario. The latter is a result of tradition and is
occasional, while the former is more continuous and done on a more or less
day-to-day basis and it is done less due to tradition and more due to
individual liking. The fact that the name of Saibaba is not invoked in any
ritual does not mean that Saibaba is not a popular god of today.
Ritualistic invocation is not a measure of popularity in today's context.
In fact, the Saibaba temple at Shirdi is among the most visited in India.

And given that you accept that Saibaba is worshipped by millions later in
your reply, I fail to see what point you are trying to make above.

 >Can you really compare the "popular worship" of Shirdi Sai Baba with
>the worship down the ages of the gods of Hinduism?

Yes, why not? Only difference is, it is not ages old. Even if you take the
"gods of Hinduism", it is undeniable that their worship also must have
started at some point of time. We cannot say that they were always
worshipped on the earth from t = -infinity.

>Whatever date you accept for the yajurveda, the conclusion invariably
>that a god who deserved more than a hundred names with a namaH after each
>one was definitely a popular god of that date. Whatever date you accept
for the
>Rgveda, the god who measured out the earth, the heavens and everything in
>between in three steps was clearly a popular god of that date.

Using the same logic, purusha, who was supposed to be the all this - the
past and the future, must have been immensely popular, and therefore, a
major vedic god (something that you refuse to claim above).

I will not comment on whether or not vishnu and shiva were popular gods in
the vedic age. Primarily because, without evidence, we cannot assume that
the vedas represent the popular religion of that age.

However, I will say this much - Using your same logic, Indra, Agni and
Varuna were far more popular in the vedic age since they are invoked more
times than Vishnu or Shiva. More than a quarter of hymns in the Rig veda
samhita are dedicated to Indra. And about a fifth of them are dedicated to
Agni. Agni is the very first word in the first hymn of the rig
veda.Certainly, these gods must have been more popular in the vedic age (by
your logic).

>These gods are
>still the popular gods of today too. That is the only point I wish to
make. All
>other historical, sociological, anthropological, psychoanalytic or any
other kind
>of notion about the numerous gods is a matter of personal opinion, and of
>there are millions, so there is really nothing to privilege any one
opinion over
>the others.

That they were the popular gods of yesterday is also an opinion.

>Harappa, Mohenjodaro, Indus Valley, Vedic Aryans, non-Vedic Aryans,
>Dravidians, popular public, elite few - none of these is really relevant
to a
>philosophical statement of the validity of the veda.

It may not be relevant to your parallel discussion under this thread with
other members of this list. But it is certainly relevant to my first post
in this thread which I wrote to Sri Satish-ji. When in doubt about the
relevance, please refer to that post, since you were merely responding to

>They are all grist for the
>mill of other kinds of scholarship maybe, but may I point out that you are
>relying on a false dichotomy of what it means to be popular and what it
>means to be elitist? Popular among whom? Elitist with respect to whom?

Please note that "elitist" and "elite" are different. I never used the
former word.

When I say popular, I take the whole population as the basis. There is a
possibility (which I specifically mentioned as such by usage of the word
perhaps) that vedas could have been restricted to an "elite" few - elite in
the sense that they were more educated (especially in sanskrit - the
language of the gods) and in positions of power. I am just trying to be
very careful here and not trying to make any links without evidence.

>On the one hand, you want to go by the methodology of counting the number
>of hymns addressed to a god, which would make indra THE popular Rgvedic
>god. On the other hand, in order to make sense of why indra never got to be
>popularly worshipped through the ages like vishNu or Siva, you then want to
>confine his popularity to the elite few by saying that the veda itself was
>to an elite few.

Please try to read again what I have written. I said explicitly that I made
a mistake by assuming that the "vedic religion" and the "popular religion
of the vedic age" are the same.

vedic religion  = religion as in the vedas
popular religion of the vedic age = popular religion in the time when the
vedas were composed (could be different from vedic religion)

I never tried to make sense of why Indra lost his status. Yes, I still say
that Indra is THE most popular "vedic god" (popular within the context of
the vedic people, who may not necessarily represent the entire population
at that time). To avoid confusion, I used the word "maor vedic god". I said
that even though Siva and Vishnu are not the major vedic gods, they could
still have been very popular outside the vedic fold (even during the vedic

>If so, vishNu as urukrama and Siva as rudra in the veda were
>also limited to the same elite few.

Not necessarily. See above.

> It follows that these elite few who supposedly
>considered upendra and rudra considered to be minor in the time of the
>and yajurveda somehow elevated them and downgraded their own major gods
>like indra, agni and vAyu over time. Why? Which people in the history of
>ancient world has behaved that way, unless they were conquered by an alien
>group of people who forced other gods upon them?

My reply does not necessarily lead to the above conclusion. But the
question as to how Indra etc. lost their position is still a valid one and
there are multiple theories to explain this. Notwithstanding which theory
you might adopt, it is an undeniable fact that Indra and Agni were far more
important in the rig vedic age as compared to other gods (within the vedic

>No hindsight involved here at all. In all the texts available, indra or
>are never equated with the yajna the way vishNu is. In all the texts
>no long litany of names is addressed to indra or agni or vAyu or varuNa,
>to rudra.

Certainly, I see no reason why the equation with yajna or a long litany of
names is supposed to suddenly make Indra or Agni's position in the rig veda
as secondary, especially when the former gods are celebrated in a handful
of hymns (6 and 5 respectively) while the Indra and Agni are celebrated in
289 and 218 hymns in the rig veda (1028 hymns).

>And as far as I am concerned, the "early vedic" and "late vedic"
>distinction is completely irrelevant to any view that anyone wants to take
>about the validity of the veda as religious scripture or as a pramANa in a
>philosophical sense. If one wants to accept the veda as an authority,
early vs.
>late is of no consequence. If one wants to reject the authority of the
veda, a
>chronology argument is perhaps the weakest thing one could come up
>with, as a reason to reject the veda as a whole

Please note that the question of the validity of veda is not the point of
my post.

>Since when did a historical understanding of the Rgveda became crucial to
a need
>to articulate the validity of the veda for philosophical, religious,
ritual and spiritual
>purposes in today's world. And since when did the "later vedic literature"
>irrelevant to the "early vedic literature" if one does want to take a
historical position
>one way or the other? No matter what angle one approaches the Rgveda from,
>is the height of intellectual hubris to reject the "late vedic

Please see above. Please refer to my original post and your first reply to
see how this conversation started. Validity or otherwise of the vedas is
not the point of my post.

>Count away, but factor it with the attitude expressed towards each god and
>with what is the relationship between the god and humans.

The inherent advantage of counting is that it also reflects the importance
of each god. Certainly, if vedic people had dedicated a quarter of the rig
veda to Indra, they considered him as most important to their world view.
 Note: The Rig veda is not an epic.

>It is well-known how? If his importance has already "reduced drastically"
>whatever position he had earlier, why is it that the mahAbhArata abounds
>descriptions of his svarga? I would suggest that you read the epic and its
>references to indra without ANY preconceptions and evaluate these

I will humbly claim that I read the epic.

As to the question of Indra's importance reducing drastically, this is
correct and can be seen relative to the primary position he occupied "as a
god" in the rig veda. The Mahabharata, has the concept of "vishnu
(especially) and shiva as supreme gods" in the background. This can be more
or less continuously seen in the epic. The relative importance of Indra
(not his importance as a character in the epic, but his status) is
certainly decreased as compared to vishnu and shiva.

Since you have also read the epic - please note that in the critical
edition (translated by J.A.B. van Buitenen). it is NOT Krishna who saves
Draupadi when she is about to be humiliated in the Kuru rajya sabha (though
in a different context Draupadi calls Krishna as her savior, even in the
critical edition). I think it is supposed to be Dharma or her own chastity
(I do not remember exactly) that saves Draupadi.

I give the above incident as one example of how the status of a god can
increase with time.

>A lot of water has flown down the ganga between the epic period and today.
>You miss my point. I am not asking you to judge the importance of indra to
>the Rgveda based on the mahAbhArata.

Ok, your point taken. Though I am not sure I understood its relevance.

> Here we go again with "popular religion" and "elite few".

I wish you were a bit less condescending, though that is really up to you.
I already explained above about "popular religion" and "elite few" (very
different from elitism)

>Yes, the veda has
>nothing to say about a Shirdi Sai Baba who lived less than 200 years ago
>is today worshipped by millions.
>But the veda, unlike other scriptures, does
>NOT prohibit the rise of a Shirdi Sai Baba to such popular status too. And
>temples that are built today, with an idol of Shirdi Sai Baba at the
>the veda (at least some portion of it) is always recited. Where should one
>draw the line between esteem and popularity?

Are you suggesting that Shirdi Sai is very popular but not held in high
esteem? I am sorry but otherwise, what is the relevance of the last

>Ultimately, coming back to this list's focus and a perceived contemporary
>need to set out the religious and philosophical validity of the veda, how
>any of the above matter?

I already answered this. My post is not about the validity of the veda. I
followed the discussion on the validity of the veda that you were having
with other member, and though I do not find some of the points convincing,
I chose not to join the discussion, since you ultimately equated it with an
axiomatic truth (with which I agree). Either accept the axiom or leave it.
Pardon me if I read you incorrectly.


More information about the Advaita-l mailing list