In the present sorry state in which the nation finds itself it has to learn about its own heritage like the Vedas from the findings of Western soholars called "orientalists" and from Indians conducting research on the same lines as they. I concede that European scholars have made a very valuable study of the Vedas. We must be thankful to them for their work. Some of them like Max Muller conducted research out of their esteem for our scriptures. They took great pains to gather the old texts and published volume after volume incorporating their findings.
Two hundred years ago Sir William Jones, who was a judge of the Calcutta high court, started the Asiatic Society. The number of books this institution has published on Vedic subjects should arose our wonder. With the help of the East India Company, Sir William published the Rgveda with the commentry of Sayana and also a number of other Hindu works. Apart from Englishmen, indologists from France, Germany and Russia have also done outstanding work here. "The discovery of the Vedas of the Hindus is more significant than Columbus's discovery of America, " thus exclaimed some indologists exulting in their findings.
These foreigners discovered Vedic and Vedantic texts from various parts of the country. They translated the dharma-, grhya- and srauta - sutras. The Kundalini Tantra gained importance only after Arthur Avalon had written extensively on it. A number of Westerns have contributed studies of other aspects of our culture also. It was because of the Protection of Ancient Monuments Act that came into force during the viceroyalty of Lord Curzon that our temples and other monuments were saved from vandals. Fergusson took photographs of our artistic treasures (sculptures) and made them known to the world. Men like Cunningham, Sir John Marshall and Mortimer -Wheeler did notable work in Indian archaelogy. It was because of the labours of Mackenizie who gathered manuscripts from various parts of India that we come to know about many of our sastras. The department of epigraphy was started during British rule.
We suffered in many ways at the hands of the British but it was during their time that some good was also done. But this good was not unmixed and had undesirable elements in it. The intention of many of those who called themselves orientalists or indologists was not above reproach. They wanted to reconstruct the history of India on the basis of their study of the Vedas and, in the course of this, they concocted the Aryan- Dravidian theory of races and sowed the seeds of hatred among the people. Purporting to be rationalists they wrongly interpreted, in an allergorical manner, what cannot be comprehended by our senses. In commenting on the Vedas they took the view that the sages were primitive men. Though some of them pretended to be impartial, their hidden intention in conducting research into our religious texts was to propagate Christianity and show Hinduism in a poor light.
A number of Westerners saw the similarity between Sanskrit and their own languages and devoted themselves to comparative philology.
We may applaud European indologists for their research work, for making our sastras known to a wider world and for the hard work they put in. But they were hardly in sympathy with our view of the Vedas. What is the purpose of these scriptures? By chanting them, by filling the world with their sound and by the performance of rites like sacrifices, the good of mankind is ensured. This view the Western indologists rejected. They tried to understand on a purely intellectual plane what is beyond the comprehension of the human mind. And with this limited understanding of theirs they printed big tomes on the Vedas to be preserved in the libraries. Our scriptures are meant to be a living reality of our speech and action. Instead of putting them to such noble use, to consign them to the libraries, in the form of books, is like keeping living animals in the museum instead of in the zoo.
For a general background, please see here