These eight comments were by Richard Meadow, Martin Huld, Edwin Bryant, D.
P. Agrawal, Asko Parpola, Stefan Zimmer, J. P. Mallory, Elena Kuz’mina.
In disputing with his academic opponents, Witzel tends to get very
emotional, personal and vindictive. His responses to their academic
arguments are marked by a total lack of proportion, and he even uses
diametrically opposite arguments to dumb down different opponents to suit
immediate political needs. In particular, he will not even stop at using
tenuous and tortuous chains of association to club them with various real or
imaginary groups of fundamentalists and fascists.
Even though they gave the name ‘Gujarat’ to a state in India, to a city in
western Punjab etc., and even though they ruled large parts of Western India
along with the Pratihara dynasty. The Gurjaras speak Hindi in Uttar Pradesh,
Gujarati in Gujarat, Punjabi in Punjab and so on. The Gurjaras in India are
largely Hindus (except in Kashmir) and those in Pakistan are largely Muslim.
Another crucial difference of course is that the Polynesians have retained
memories of their voyages, but Indo-Aryan speakers have not.
Since Witzel who brings in the conquistadors for explaining the Aryanization
of northern India, one can therefore hardly blame his pet-hate LEACH 
for saying that –“ Common sense might suggest that here was a striking
example of a refutable hypothesis that had in fact been refuted.
Indo-European scholars should have scrapped all their historical
reconstructions and started again from scratch. But that is not what
happened. Vested interests and academic posts were involved. Almost without
exception the scholars in question managed to persuade themselves that
despite appearances, the theories of the philologists and the hard evidence
could be made to fit together. The trick was to think of the horse-riding
Aryans as conquerors of the cities of the Indus civilization in the same way
that the Spanish conquistadors were conquerors of the cities of Mexico and
Peru or the Israelites of the Exodus were conquerors of Jericho.”
For a summary of various views proposed by Witzel in recent years, see
section II.H in AGARWAL [2001a], available online at http://vishalagarwal.bharatvani.org/what_is_AMT_2.html
The entire article is accessible at http://vishalagarwal.bharatvani.org/What_is_AMT.html
In fact, this flip-flop by Erdosy within a span of a few pages is so obvious
that even an anonymous reviewer in October 1998 says the following at
http://www.amazon.com - “The book has some excellent articles
by the archaeologists but, on the other hand, it has a rehash of the failed
philological theories regarding the Indian linguistic area. Overall a very
uneven package where the editor raises some good questions in the beginning
but soon after lapses back to old ways of thinking.” See the URL http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/3110144476/qid=1046992911/sr=1-2/ref=sr_1_2/002-4123873-5784068?v=glance&s=books
It is strange that an intrepid internet researcher like Witzel missed this
F. B. J. Kuiper is one of Witzel’s teachers.
Apparently, Elizarenkova is the principal Vedic authority and source for
Elena Kuzmina (both are Russians) and therefore one is hardly surprised that
the latter should still subscribe to AIT-like paradigms in interpreting
Email sent in July 2001 to Steve Farmer and a few others. This email was
sent to Michael Witzel too, but he never replied.
Literary evidence exists of course, but considering that the invasionists
are so keen to deny any horse bones in Harappan sites even when they are
found, how come they are silent on this matter? If chariot-racing and their
use in battles was common amongst Vedic Aryans, then how come we see no
evidence in the archaeological record?
I could not trace the last occurrence in the 14th book of Satapatha Brahmana.
The claim that the Satapatha Brahmana is an iron age text ‘through and
through’ has been made by Witzel on various Internet lists also, but I will
let it pass here.
The Saunakiya Samhita mentions ‘dark’ to denote a dark metal at two places
-9.5.4; 11.3.7. In his translation, although Whitney glosses ‘dark metal’ as
‘doubtlessly iron’ for the latter occurrence, nothing compels us to accept
this meaning. It could very well mean bronze (knife). He does not comment on
the identity of the dark metal at 9.5.4. although the context again refers
to a knife made out of the same. It may be noted that bronze and copper
knives and blades have been found in the Harappan sites.
Meteoric iron has a higher nickel content. None of the standard works on
Archaeometallurgy of ancient India, including recent ones by Vibha TRIPATHI
, and by D. P. AGRAWAL , contain any such information which
enables to decide if these ancient iron artifacts in a bronze age context
are derived from meteoric iron or not.
Unfortunately, BROCKINGTON  does not look at this issue in detail.
I do not want to get into the controversy regarding identification of
yavanas with Greeks. Even though the equation has become an Indological
dogma, there is really no firm evidence to prove that the yavanas in
the Mahabharata, Ashtadhyayi and the Gautama Dharmasutra are indeed Greeks.
For a contra view, I refer the reader to SHRAVA .
See section III.1.b) at http://www.voi.org/general_inbox/talageri/ejvs/part3.html
In fact, many Iranists like Mary Boyce argue that the Avestan cult of the
river goddess Anahita (linked with Sarasvati-Harahvaiti by Indologists such
as H. Lommel) is actually derived from Mesopotamian antecedents. A detailed
discussion on this matter is beyond the scope of my critique.
Witzel argues that the word occurs with variant spellings in Apastamba
Srautasutra, Bharadvaja Siksa and Taittiriya Brahmana and that these
spelling variations are ‘proof’ of the word’s foreign origin. The argument
is curious and not sustainable.
The text says that the distance from Plaksa Prasrvana to Vinasana
is ‘44 asvinas’, which, according to one calculation, could be 880
miles. Other interpretations of ‘asvina’ would still yield a length of
several hundred miles for the river.
It may be noted that the advancement of sand-dunes towards Sirsa and Hissar
districts of Haryana is a fairly recent phenomenon and happened just a few
centuries ago. The Thar desert extended over a much smaller area in Harappan
or in Vedic times.
I have used the recent translation by RANADE . Similar passages occur
also in Asvalayana Srautasutra, Sankhayana Srautasutra etc.
The confluence itself corresponds to the Harappan site of Kalibangan in
Rajasthan. Clearly then, Vinasana was most probably in Ganganagar district
of Rajasthan or in Bahawalpur area of Pakistan even at the time of the late
Latyayana Srautasutra. This fact itself upsets the entire late chronology
assigned to sutra texts by mainstream Indology.
Variants of this name are Chitang, Chutang etc.
The extremely pedantic nature of Witzel/Klaus arguments can be judged from
the needless hairsplitting they do in examining Rgvedic passages that say
that the Satlaj, Beas rush towards the ocean (as in RV 3.33), or the
frequently occurring Rggvedic clause ‘as all the rivers rush towards the
ocean’. These scholars argue that the tributaries of Indus and Ganga do not
really meet the ocean directly but fall into these two rivers, therefore the
word samudra in all such passages should mean either the confluence
of the tributaries with Indus/Ganga (or with each other) or it should mean
the lower broad reaches of Ganga and Indus! The clause ‘all rivers meet the
ocean’, is however a commonplace expression in Indian languages, and is also
used in various scriptural contexts (such as Prasna Upanishad VI – “As all
rivers meet the ocean loosing their name and form”). In all these cases the
word ‘samudra’ uniformly means ocean, even though we know quite well
that Yamuna, Satlaj, Ravi, Beas and many other rivers do not meet the ocean
directly but via Indus and Ganga. It is only the heavily conditioned mind of
scholars burdened with AIT-related notions, that interprets the Vedic texts
in such a tortuous manner and non-obvious manner.
Witzel should of course be well-aware that the ordinary reader of JIES is
neither aware of this newspaper debate, nor about the online articles
written by Kazanas and Frawley. So Witzel is willing to gamble, and keeps
mum about these articles.
And also perhaps much of Satlaj waters. Note that rivers do not necessary
change their paths completely at one time. They may first get braided, with
different channels flowing in different directions. In fact, in later
literature, Rgvedic Sutudri is called Shatudri – meaning a river with 100
flows. This indicates that as the river emerged from the Himalayas, its
course split up into numerous channels. Even down to historical times,
Satlaj has flowed in several parallel channels simultaneously. Therefore,
Satlaj may have transferred just enough water to Sarasvati for it to flow up
to Bahawalpur, with the remaining water flowing via different channels
towards the Beas.
“After it leaves the hills the river is never called Sutlej by the people
and it has changed its course more than once in historical times. The
history of those changes can be traced with considerable probability and
detail. In the time of Arrian, the Sutlej found an independent outlet into
the Rann of Kutch. In the year A.D. 1000 it was a tributary of the Hakra,
and flowed in the Eastern Nara. Thence the former bed can be traced back
through Bahawalpur and Bikaner into the Sirsa tahsil of Hissar, until it is
lost near Tohana. From Tohana to Rupar this old bed cannot be traced; but it
is known that the Sutlej took a southerly course at Rupar, instead of
turning west, as now, to join the Beas. Thus the Sutlej or the Hakra – for
both streams flowed in the same bed - is probably the lost river of the
Indian desert, whose waters made the sands of Bikaner and Sind a smiling
garden. By 1245 the Sutlej had taken a more northerly course, the Hakra had
dried up and a great migration took place of the people of the desert - as
it thus became – to the Indus valley. The course then taken by the Sutlej
was apparently a continuation of the present course of the Ghaggar. About
1593 the Sutlej left the Ghaggar and went north once more. The Beas came
south to meet it, and the two flowed in the same channel under various names
– Macchuwah, Hariani, Dand, Nurni, Nili and Gharah. Then the Sutlej once
more returned to its old course and rejoined the Ghaggar. It was only in
1796 that the Sutlej again left the Ghaggar and finally joined the Beas.”
Page 179 of the Imperial Gazetteer.
In EJVS 7.3, Witzel makes the totally absurd suggestion that Marudvrdha in
Rgveda 10.75.5 could mean Beas.
The American journal Archaeology [September/October 2001:13]
summarizes the results of BAMSHAD et al and says -
“DNA does tell tales, according to researchers who studied from
the genetic data of 250 unrelated men from the eight social castes of
southern India. Y-chromosome analysis, which identifies the genetic material
passed along the paternal line, reveals that members of the upper castes are
more genetically similar to Europeans, while lower caste members share more
genetic similarities with Asians. The study, by researchers from the
University of Utah, Louisiana State University, and Andhra University,
India, confirms literary and archaeological evidence for a Vedic invasion of
the subcontinent from the northwest between 3,5000 and 3,000 years ago. This
“new” population is generally considered to have occupied higher positions
within India’s caste system.”
Next to the news item is an uncharacteristically fierce looking,
semi-naked Brahmin with a very ferocious look in his eyes. The caption next
to the picture reads – “The blood of this Brahmin priest may hold evidence
of a Vedic invasion”. (!)
There is a view however, proposed by Marxist historian D D Kosambi, and
accepted by a few other scholars, that the Aryans co-opted with indigenous
priest-hood, that became the Brahmana caste, while the invading Aryans
themselves became the Ksatriyas, Vaisyas (and also supplied some Brahmanical
genes). I think that the study by Bamshad et al is just too ‘quickie’
to be of any academic use.
Gange ca yamune caiva godavari sarasvati….
The title of this subsection derives from the title of a post on this issue
left by Steve Farmer on the Indian Civilization list, of which Witzel is
also a member. See also the webpage in the following footnote.
See http://www.safarmer.com/sethna/pseudochariot.html . Farmer had earlier
made similar sarcastic remarks on this issue on the Indology (Liverpool)
Listserv. In this discussion list, Witzel was also a prolific writer and had
teamed up with Farmer in ridiculing and criticizing Rajaram, Sethna etc.,
culminating in their article in the Marxist biweekly ‘Frontline’.
Some remarks from Farmer’s webpage – “What is 'perfectly evident' to Sethna
is dubious at best -- and that's being generous -- to anyone who bothers to
check out the evidence, with which Sethna plays fast and loose…If confronted
with this evidence, Sethna could potentially argue that the Harappan artists
were incompetent and incapable of drawing round wheels. This would let him
'save his text,' to use the scholastic phrase for this sort of hermeneutics,
but it would be a tough argument to support given the high level of
artisanship seen elsewhere on Indus inscriptions. In any event, Sethna
doesn't use this argument, but is satisfied with letting the reader think
that the 'wheels' are perfectly round -- not showing the original evidence,
which tells a different story. Hunter's diagram of the same seal from the
1930s isn't nearly as regular as Sethna's. To put it bluntly: Sethna's
'wheels' aren't round -- as is immediately evident when we look at the
originals of his imaginary 'chariot,' which he transforms in his neat little
diagram. I propose that Sethna's 'chariot' exists only in a world where it
can be pulled by Rajaram's Harappan 'horses.' No other animal could get the
Ironically, Lal has been threatened with physical violence by a section of
Hindu orthodoxy for upholding the fact that there is no archaeological
evidence that the Hindu holy city of Ayodhya was settled before 700 BC. This
runs counter to the Hindu belief that makes Ayodhya one of the oldest cities
in India. Lal maintains that he cannot deviate from what his digging spade
tells him, because he is a professional archaeologist. Recently, there has
been a great controversy over the a site ‘Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhumi’ in
the town. Again, Lal gave his archaeologist’s opinion that the site was
initially occupied by a Hindu Hindu temple which was replaced by a mosque.
Overnight, he was dubbed as a Hindu fundamentalist by Indian Marxist and
Islamist circles, precisely the groups that also uphold AIT and its
euphemistic versions for political reasons. If Lal and Kazanas draw support
from Hindu fundamentalists as Witzel insinuates, the he himself perhaps
draws support from Indian communists/Marxists, Islamists and Christian
missionaries by the same yardstick.
See the relevant section at at http://www.bharatvani.org/general_inbox/talageri/ejvs/part3.html
for details. Witzel knows very well that the general readership of JIES
would be ignorant of TALAGERI , and so hopes that his gamble of
omitting the mention of his opponent’s reply will pay off.
See also TALAGERI [2001: Section IV.6] available online at, http://www.bharatvani.org/general_inbox/talageri/ejvs/part4.html,
where he has clearly shown why Witzel’s objection is not applicable.
Now it turns out that in Spring 2003, Witzel taught a course titled ‘Indian
Studies 117’ in which a revised version of this paper [WITZEL 1995a] is
required reading. The revised version was available online at http://www.courses.fas.harvard.edu/~indst117/Source_materials/Historical_Evidence_from_Vedic_Texts/RgvedicPeriod
but is no longer accessible to public. On page 51 of this version, Witzel
adds the following revision after ‘unsuspicious hymn (even though in a trca
section)’ – [i.e., a ‘hymn’ later on pulled together out of trca fragments
of unknown age]. One wonders what is so ‘unsuspicious’ about RV VI.45 if it
is composite, and has fragments of unknown date attached to it? Clearly,
this addition is a result of afterthought subsequent to discussions with
A ‘tentative’ draft of the paper, dated 17 February 2000, is available
online at http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~witzel/IndusLang.pdf It will be
published eventually as ‘Early linguistic data and the Indus
civilization. In: J. Kenoyer (ed.) Proceedings of the conference on
the Indus civilization, Madison 1998’ according to Witzel’s CV available
online at http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~witzel/mwbib.htm
In fact, Witzel’s own understanding of the Aitareya Brahmana is
questionable. See section IV.12 in TALAGERI  available online at
In fact, the issue immediately previous to the one in which Witzel/Farmer’s
first article appeared, carried a cover story by the communist editor N.
Ram, in which he narrated his experiences from a recent trip to Tibet. The
story termed the Dalai Lama as obscurantist, and hailed the Chinese rule in
Tibet, which according the magazine, was a sheer blessing to the Tibetan
people, and the best thing that could have happened to them. At least on one
occasion, N. Ram has been greeted in the US by Tibetan protestors holding
placards when he has come to address conferences here in the past.
For Frontline’s Marxist and Communist affiliations, refer also Koenraad
Elst’s article “The Politics of the Aryan Invasion Debate” (2003)
available online at http://koenraadelst.bharatvani.org/articles/AryanpoliticsJIES.html
With Witzel’s permission of course, as revealed by his collaborator Steve
Farmer on the IndianCivilization yahoogroup.
SAHMAT = Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust. It is named after a Safdar Hashmi, a
young Communist leader of India who was murdered by political opponents
several years ago.
See the on-line article ‘CPI(M), SAHMAT left Homeless’, in The Hindu,
06 February 2002, http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/2002/02/06/stories/2002020606000100.htm
Thapar, Jha and Sharma are quoted Marxist historians in the entry 'Hinduism'
of 'A Dictionary of The Marxist Thought' (Tom BOTTOMORE et al, 1983,
Harvard University Press, p. 204). Ronald INDEN, in his Imagining India
[1990:pp. 154-156, 197] clearly refers to Thapar as a Marxist historian.
According to Witzel’s characterizations, Inden and Bottomore would also be
‘Right Wing Hindu Fundamentalists’!
11 August 2003 (Add reference to WITZEL 2000)
Copyright: Vishal Agarwal