Why did the Indians not record history correctly?

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tornada

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Mar 2013
15,388
India
Agree, that's why I specialised on ancient rather than medieval in fact. Its just more interesting. Honestly though when it comes to India, I find the late antiquity/medieval stuff more interesting just because of the literature.

I think with the Puranas we have to be careful in making it explicit that even if we can't use them as direct historical documents, they're still valuable for historians. Like I said, most of the breakthroughs in Indian history now will be in using non standard sources anyway, moving more into the Prakrits etc.

Yes, FYROM want to be called Macedonia. Which on the face of it isn't that bad - Macedonia was the name of the Roman/Byzantine province/thema and for most of the middle ages was multi-ethnic and Slavophonic. Though most Greeks go insane when you mention that. HOWEVER, they're trying to extend their history back onto Hellenised people like Philip and Alexander and massively distort history as part of the bargain. Which is not cool.
yeah i read about it. Seems like a bit like the flame wars we Indians and Pakistanis have on the IVC :)
 
Feb 2013
599
"India probably has more historical texts than X, Y, or Z"

This is called a fallacy from supposition, you feel it to be true therefore you hypothesise without evidence. Its a silly assertion. Nor is it likely true. You are indeed being unfair both to Indian sources and Historians. I agree with Tornada.

A phenomenal amount of work has been done, especially in the last 30 years or so. On the Brahmanas and indeed elsewhere. The problem isn't that Sanskrit literature is under studied, though that may be the case in India itself, the problem is that post Sanskrit literature is often understudied. Due to the nature of early British-Indian interactions, a disproportionate amount of weighting is given to the Sanskrit texts. Pali and Prakritic sources have only recently started to come into their own.

Also despite being somewhat central-right in my politics, I certainly don't see a left leaning in native Indian historiography. I see a lot of solid work being labelled as left or marxist willy willy and then thrust aside. It is worrying that you can't find basic introductions like Thapar's easily.

Also no way are Greek sources as unreliable as the Indian stuff, again this shows a lack of acquaintance, sorry.

@Tornada again. I don't know, I get the impression that the Indians did have various local historical traditions...but I don't think they were ever that bothered. Most of the stuff we have tends to focus on linguistics - not only grammar but also semantics, or mathematics. Dynastic narratives aren't the same as history don't forget.

The question isn't why didn't the Indians but more, why did the Greeks develop something so odd in attempting history. Why did the Chinese do something similar. Its not the normal course of events.

As for India, time will tell, there shan't be any Indian Herodotoses I don't think. What will happen is more and more inscriptional evidence shall come to light and scholars will move onto lower register Sanskrit stuff - like college dramas, satires etc and non Sanskritic sources and develop a comprehensive social history and mine that for details.

The problem is, there isn't the manpower. People don't want to get involved. I don't blame them.
Why not post some links to studies in the last 30 years. That would be useful and speak louder than any opinion. We might learn something new.
 
Feb 2013
599
I still do not understand as to how mythological events be recorded as history.
If something is dated to 800 BC or 300 AD you read between the lines.

Almost all history is gleaned from understanding the society which wrote the work. So we have a good idea of India in 800BC and 300 AD because a lot of written work survives. And all periods in between 800 BC and 300 AD as well.

Not what is written in the work as history. But what is inferred.
 
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Mar 2013
1,048
Breakdancing on the Moon.
Why not post some links to studies in the last 30 years. That would be useful and speak louder than any opinion. We might learn something new.
Define "links"? I can give you titles of books, your job to find them, since I doubt you'll much that's not utter shite online. I only like rigorously peer reviewed material. Even something like translations, you can't find good ones online, hence why you get people posting stuff about "blond Indra", because they're relying on Griffith's rather than pay for a copy of Doniger's or wait for Jamison's...

Now, there is a series called "A History of Indian Literature" edited in several volumes under the care of Jan Goda. Volume one deals with the Samhitas and Brahmanas. Its older than thirty years, 1975, but is an excellent, thorough, introduction with a myriad of studies quoted on each and every page that can keep one going for a year or so if you want to get through all of volume one part one. Part two is the ritual sutras, quite in depth but not what we're after here. The series itself is quite good btw and goes from the Vedic age through to Medieval. Most university libraries ought to have them.

That's a good starting point, you can easily find studies like Elizarenkova's studies on the language and style of the Vedas from there.
 
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tornada

Ad Honoris
Mar 2013
15,388
India
Define "links"? I can give you titles of books, your job to find them, since I doubt you'll much that's not utter shite online. I only like rigorously peer reviewed material. Even something like translations, you can't find good ones online, hence why you get people posting stuff about "blond Indra", because they're relying on Griffith's rather than pay for a copy of Doniger's or wait for Jamison's...

Now, there is a series called "A History of Indian Literature" edited in several volumes under the care of Jan Goda. Volume one deals with the Samhitas and Brahmanas. Its older than thirty years, 1975, but is an excellent, thorough, introduction with a myriad of studies quoted on each and every page that can keep one going for a year or so if you want to get through all of volume one part one. Part two is the ritual sutras, quite in depth but not what we're after here. The series itself is quite good btw and goes from the Vedic age through to Medieval. Most university libraries ought to have them.

That's a good starting point, you can easily find studies like Elizarenkova's studies on the language and style of the Vedas from there.
University Libraries have them, but are usually not willing to lend them, since they don't stock multiple copies. And really important texts like these often require you to show credentials to access them. librarians are petrified that people will tear pages and stuff from these sorts of texts.
 

tornada

Ad Honoris
Mar 2013
15,388
India
It's really heartening to see this thread evolve into a meaningful discussion, despite it's rocky start
 
Mar 2013
1,048
Breakdancing on the Moon.
Can you maybe photocopy them? or get a pass as a visitor or scan them? I don't know its hard to find decent material online, particularly book length studies. Someone has been posting links to PDF books from the ASI thing, which are good and interesting but out of date. Though at least they're legal.

Some out of date books are good enough though. Here is a link to a text of the RgVeda with Sayana's medieval commentary: Internet Archive Search: Rg Veda with Sayana's Commentary

Sayana being one of the most important scholars of the Veda, who even anticipated certain findings in modern philology. Even though its, again, not necessarily modern its an important text for the development of the subject and for intellectual history.

Also certain websites put up articles by scholars, I'll keep looking to see what I can remember. It would be interesting if we could put compile an Historium E-Bibliography for this subject.
 
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tornada

Ad Honoris
Mar 2013
15,388
India
Can you maybe photocopy them? or get a pass as a visitor or scan them? I don't know its hard to find decent material online, particularly book length studies. Someone has been posting links to PDF books from the ASI thing, which are good and interesting but out of date. Though at least they're legal.

Some out of date books are good enough though. Here is a link to a text of the RgVeda with Sayana's medieval commentary: Internet Archive Search: Rg Veda with Sayana's Commentary

Sayana being one of the most important scholars of the Veda, who even anticipated certain findings in modern philology. Even though its, again, not necessarily modern its an important text for the development of the subject and for intellectual history.

Also certain websites put up articles by scholars, I'll keep looking to see what I can remember. It would be interesting if we could put compile an Historium E-Bibliography for this subject.
Nope sorry. Delhi University recently became very strict on these sorts of copyright violations. The Publishers have become very nasty, and i'm not willing to risk a criminal case just to help an argument. The publishing houses have already filed several dozen criminal cases against people for possessing photocopies of the original texts as opposed to the real copies. Hate to think what they'd do if someone notices i've uploaded their work. You can read about it in the news. they've had a small photocopier shop owner arrested without so much as a warning. The near weekly trips to the court alone are enough to beggar the poor fellow, and the publishers thought they could send a strong message to frighten of people. There's a real battle raging here in DU against the publishers. The students are helping the photocopier fight his case for free, and the publishers file new criminal complaints every day. Most do not get prosecuted, but its still a hassle.
 
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Feb 2013
599
Thanks WF.

Frankly I am not a serious scholar of history definitely not to warrant going to libraries. In any case libraries in new Delhi I have access to don't really stock the kind of books you mention.

I have also stopped buying books because no space at home and no time to read.

If I have to buy books or spend money to access papers i would rather do it in my own subject rather than history which is far removed.

That means I read online whatever I can. So by links I mean exactly like ASI digitised books or similar material. I wonder if authors in historical studies are in the habit of making their papers available online like in some other subjects. I will explore the iis digital library as well.

So yes by link I mean a link to a serious paper or chapter or book. I routinely read the google excerpts from books even if some pages are not available. What is readable serves as a good guide to the subject, enough for my amateur interest.

Your idea of a historum bibliography is great. With links to more modern papers on ancient indian history because one sorely needs this resource. Is there something like medline or pubmed available for history?

By the way WF are you a serious scholar in history or is it just a hobby?
 
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Mar 2013
1,048
Breakdancing on the Moon.
Scholars do occasionally, just dispersed through the internet. The problem is that Indologists are getting rarer :(

There's also this: http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~witzel/vedica.pdf which is a PDF available online by Witzel and Jamison on Vedic hinduism, though from what I call the overall book was never published.

It's been a while since I read it, I roughly remember liking some of it, disagreeing with other aspects. I'm not happy to think of a "cut off" point for Vedic religion, nor vedic religioN rather than religions. There's also problems, to my mind, with Witzel arguing that the Vedas act as tape-recorders to past ages. I think at best they're radio transmissions and we're not on quite the same frequency.
 
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