The Age of Vedas

The sacred books of Buddhism, Christianity and Islam have definite historical dates assigned to them. The Tripitakas are said to have been written about the time of Asoka , though the Buddha's date , according to some puranas, went further back by several centuries. The Koran, which is the word of God conveyed to the Prophet, is about 1,200 years old. The New Testament of the Bible is about 2,00 years old. Though no one can assign any definite date to the Vedas, Oreintalists are anxious to discover when they were "composed". Some of them say that it was done about 1,500 BC; other suggest that it may have about 3,000 years. Tilak fixes the date as 6,000 BC But modern Orientalists are inclined to bring the date nearer.

If the Buddha was born 2,500 years ago , and if in the Buddha's time it was not known when the Vedas came into existence, then the date of Vedas should be long anterior to this time. But the truth of the matter is that the Vedas are Anaadi and Nitya, with out beginning and with out end and eternal , like sound. They manifest themselves after each Pralaya (deluge). Pralaya and srshti (deluge and creation) alternate The Old Testament speaks of the creation of the present world. According to Hindu Scriptures, there have been many creations before, and also Pralayas. The period of each Srshti and each Pralaya spreads over aeons , infinitely beyond human calculation. The findings of geology, which traces the history of the earth to a period long before the time referred to in the Book of Genesis, confirm this view of cycles of creation and deluge. In fact, the more and the deeper the researchers of modern science, the greater the confirmation for the declarations in our Hindu scriptures. I t is futile, as it will be foolish, to discard these declarations at any time , on the ground that they do not accord with the discoveries of science known till then. For, fresh light thrown by later scientific discoveries provide startling confirmation for many of these declarations.

Orientalists also attempt to fix the date of the Vedas on the basis of certain internal evidence about the relation between the Sun and the stars, etc. The Hindu theory of cycles , however, refers to several creations an d so, the same astronomical coincidences and deviations may have occurred during the period of some past Srstis also. We do not know how many such Pralayas and Srshtis have gone before.

Another method adopted for fixing the age of the Vedas is to go by the changes in the style of Hindu scriptures, from the Rik Samhita down to the Kaavya literature. In the case of spoken languages , it has been computed that gradual mutations took place with the passage of every 200 years. For example, the Tamil language to-day is different from the Tamil of the Sangam age. It is far cry from modern English to old English. American English is different from the orthodox English in use in Britain. On this method of appraisal, it has been suggested that the Vedas should have come into existence 1,500 years ago.

It is common knowledge and experience that if a thing is in constant use, it will wear out and bear marks of such use and wear, and that a thing rarely used . the same is true of languages also. English, Tamil and Hindi have changed in from through the centuries and undergone even distortions by usage. But the language of the Vedas remains to-day the same in form and feature as it was at time out of memory. The reason for this absence of distortion or deterioration is that Vedic chanting has been so carefully guarded, as not to allow any possibility of a lapse from its pristine form. Of the innumerable Veda Saakhaas, we know now only of one out of the 21 branches of the Rig Veda, three out of the 101 branches of the Yajur Veda, two or possibly three out of 1,000 branches of the Saama Veda, and on e only out of 11 branches of Atharva Veda, one will have to devote to its learning about eight years, night and day.

There are various methods in Vedhaadhyayana (memorising the Veda mantras) which help to preserve the number an d the order of the words and letters of each Veda Mantra. There are specifications regarding the time interval (matra) for the utterance of each letter in a word; the part of the body from which each of the sounds in the word should emanate by the exhalation of the breath in an appropriate manner ; the affinities between the Swaraas in the Vedas and the Swaraas in Sangeeta (music) and the affinities of both (Veda Swaraas and Sangeeta Swaraas) to the natural Swaraas in the sounds produced by animals , birds, etc. These methods of memorising the Veda Mantras are known as Vaakya, Pada, Krama, Ghana, Jata, Swara,etc.

The Vedas are not like the sounds of common speech to undergo periodical changes by usage; on the other hand, they have been meticulously preserved as a result of being protected by definite prescriptions and indices relating to the sound measures, their nature, sequence, manner of utterance, etc., which have been preserved by oral transmission from generation to generation. The injunctions relating to the persons who should do the Adhyayana, and the Aachaaraas such persons should observe, are intended to promote this objective. To approach the study of the Vedas with out a clear knowledge of all ramifications and to adopt rough and ready methods for estimating their age will amount to proceeding on a basis which has no bearing on the subject of the study.

January 28,1958.