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The Terminology of the Vedas and European Scholars – A Book Review by Vinita Arya

Introduction

In the previous article (The Works of Pandit Gurudutt Vidyarthi – A Book Review of “The Terminology of the Vedas” – Vinita Arya see this link http://aryamantavya.in/tag/pandit-gurudutt-vidyarthi/) we saw how the late great Pandit Gurudutt Vidyarthi brilliantly yet succinctly demolished the reputation of those European scholars who claimed that they alone possess the intellectual power to correctly interpret the Sanskrit language and the Vedas.

His revelation in that tract serves as a warning to innocent readers and as a means to educate them in the three types of methods used by scholars to interpret the Vedas; namely the mythological, antiquarian and contemporary, methods (see footnote 1 at the end of this article for a summary). Pandit ji also reveals the three types of words, the yaugika, rurhi and the yoga-rurhi which should be understood when discerning the correct derivation and meaning of a Vedic word (see foot note 2). His firm preference for the last method, the contemporary method and the correct yaugika definition of Vaidik words cannot be under emphasised as in this second more detailed study of the terminology of the Vedas Pandit ji’s choice of the contemporary method and yaugik definitions are central to what he believes is the “great controversy to rage between the East and the West concerning the supremacy of the (sic) Vedic Philosophy.”

For Pandit ji the subject of the correct interpretation of Sanskrit and the Vedas is of vital importance because it involves “issues of (such) great value”, and to ignore it would be to succumb in a cowardly fashion to the increasing hegemonic global dominance of Western powers and to the frighteningly “imperfect, defective and incomplete” scholarship of their Western intellectuals. Here Pandit ji alludes to European scholars such as Professor Max Muller and Professor Monier Williams whose intellectual prowess even the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer thought was “no better than the higher class of school boys “.

This fervent call by Pandit ji for all scholars to employ “truthfulness and honest integrity” from the depths of their souls in the “righteous pursuit and discernment of the TRUTH” in order to ensure present and future world peace was a remarkably prescient one. His urgent words were written on the verge of the twentieth century, a century which saw not only the most bloodiest of world wars between the German and British orientalist powers, (ironically over whose version of Aryan supremacy was the most legitimate where previously they had been co-conspirators in misinterpreting the Vedas), but also the rise and hardening of caste divisions on the Indian political and social scene due mostly to the deliberate misinterpretations of the Vedas and Manusmriti by vested interests.

In the nineteenth century Pandit ji’s foresight to warn his fellow humans of this terrible “future world” to come if our unprejudiced and impartial Vedic scholars, who are “thorough adepts in science and philosophy” are supplanted by prejudiced scholars possessing only quasi-knowledge and who are prone “to superstition, motive, predetermination and the suppression of the truth”, seems to have largely gone unheeded by the world but in particular by the descendants of the once illustrious and dharmic people of Aryavarta.

The reason for the failure of his fellow- Indian brethren to heed his desperate advice can be accredited he maintains to them having received the highest English education and being “entirely ignorant of Sanskrit”. Their ignorance is such that they too hold like their European Professors and masters “that the Vedas are books that teach idol-worship or element worship” and that “they contain no philosophical, moral or scientific truths of any great consequence, unless they be the commonest truisms of the kitchen”.

Pandit ji doesn’t despair totally however quoting Schopenhauer again he says that; “In India, our religion (Bible) will now and never strike root; the primitive wisdom of the human race will never be pushed aside by the events of Galilee. On the contrary, Indian wisdom will flow back upon Europe, and produce a thorough change in our knowing and thinking”. These are fine words but what gives Pandit ji the confidence to predict not only the eventual failure of Christianity in India, but also in Europe from where it had originated?

It comes down to his knowledge of the works of Sayana, the great grammarian from which European scholars draw their knowledge when misinterpreting the Vedas. Pandit ji regards Sayana’s interpretations as being so diseased and unworthy of emulation that “whatsoever the value of the efforts of modern (European) scholars, their comparative philology, and their new interpretations … their so-called marvelous achievements cannot but be diseased.” He predicts that “sooner or later, the disease will develop its final symptoms and sap the foundation of the very vitality it seemed to produce. No branch of a tree can live or flourish when separated from the living stock. No interpretations of the Vedas will, in the end, ever succeed unless they are in accord with the living sense of the Vedas in the Nirukta and the Brahmanas”.

In this article therefore, some of the key examples which Pandit ji gives of such flawed diseased learning and how they are to be greatly contrasted with actual accurate interpretations of the Ved will be explained. It is sincerely hoped that the reader will be inspired by the incredible effort and depth of scholarship undertaken by Pandit ji to expose the many contradictions in the scholarship of European scholars and that he/she will in the future undertake the same effort and scholarship to take on and defeat modern “Sanskrit scholars” who are still rather worryingly determined to bring the reputation of the Vedas into shocking disrepute for their own selfish gain.

 

The Terminology of the Vedas and European Scholars – a detailed analysis

In this thirty one page piece Pandit ji focusses his criticisms on the works of two European scholars who collaborated very closely with each other throughout their professional lives; the German, Professor Max Muller and his British mentor and benefactor Professor Monier Monier-Williams. Why a strong intellectual bond and purpose between the two developed is truly worthy of another article itself however the main aim of these scholars appears to have been to distort and besmirch the reputation of the Vedas. The main reason behind their actions put succinctly was so that only Christianity, and its patron, the British Empire would flourish in India and not Vaidik Dharma and independent indigenous rule.

Pandit ji, a keen follower of Maharishi Dayanand’s liberating Vaidik mission to educate the masses, would have witnessed the usage of arguments concocted by Muller and Monier Williams by Christian missionaries in his native Punjab. These desperate men and women used such flawed Christian logic to counter the growing influence of Maharishi Dayanand, that for real Vaidik scholars like Pandit ji it became easy to call them out for it. Pandit ji however fearing for those who did not have his knowledge wrote this tract in order to warn his countrymen not to succumb naively to their fierce but deceptive proselytization.

In his second more detailed analysis of the major European Sanskrit scholars he commences his criticism by referring to Muller’s prejudiced denunciation of Schopenhauer for praising the Upanishads. Pandit ji quotes Muller as saying that the Upanishads have a “dark side” in contrast with the “bright rays of eternal truths in the Gospel”. Offering no evidence of this so-called dark side, Muller merely states that Indians ought not to study the empty idolatry and subjective worship of nature as devised by their wily priesthood but like Ram Mohan Roy of the Brahmo Samaj be “quick enough to perceive” that the true mission of their race was not to participate “in the political struggles of the world” or to expend “its energies in the exploits of war and the formation of empire” but “to concentrate all its powers for the fulfilment of the important mission reserved to it in the history of the East”. This mission he reveals is to become worthy after “gradual education in the fullness of time” to be “admitted to the truths of Christianity” which the religion of the Buddha “has served to prepare the way of Christ”.

Such blatant partisanship, designed to prevent the subjugated people of India from throwing off the yoke of colonialism and Christianity can be also seen in Monier Williams’ book – “Indian Wisdom”. The aim of this book Pandit ji strongly asserts “is to caricature the Vedic religion” by calling it “Brahmanism” and “to hoist up Christianity by the meritorious process of deliberate contrasts”. One such contrast concerns the differing aims of Christianity and “Brahmanism”. The Bible, Monier Williams maintains, regards man as being created in the image of God, but his nature having become corrupt through a taint, derived from the fall of Adam, the first representative man and the parent of the human race means that this taint can only be removed by “a vicarious death”.  This vicarious death must be undergone by “the second representative man – Christ – whose nature was divine and taintless, (who) voluntarily underwent a sinner‘s death, (so) that the taint of the old corrupted nature transferred to him might die also”.  Christ’s death however is not the central tenet of this religion but “that He rose again and lives eternally, (so) that He may bestow life for death and a participation in His own divine nature in place of the taint He has removed”.

Although Christianity is revealed here to be a very intricate, or rather confusing philosophy, Monier Williams still regards Christianity and not “Brahmanism” as being markedly superior to all other religions. He asserts that Christianity alone has “a personal God ever living to supply the free grace or regenerating spirit by which human nature is re-created and again made God-like”. While lowly “Brahmanism” whose various personal “Hindu gods melt away, on closer scrutiny, into a vague spiritual essence” and whose “personal manifestations of the Supreme Being ultimately merge in the Oneness of the Infinite”, is less attractive to the seeker seeking personal salvation Monier Williams maintains. So as to preempt any scepticism however towards his pompous proclamations of superiority he quickly adds after this that it is of course immaterial that European Christians themselves may have “lamentably fallen from its true standard” or that there exists in Europe “nominal adherents” who have disgraced the religion through “their inconsistencies and shortcomings”. What is however of utmost importance for the whole human race to acknowledge, is the esteemed Oxford Professor says, that it is only Christianity that has “the message of salvation intended by God to be gradually pressed upon the acceptance of all His intelligent creatures”.

Such arrogance, Pandit ji says has inevitably led these alleged scholars to become utterly blind to the truth. He laments their “entire ignorance of the laws of interpretation of Vedic terms” and that of modern philologists. Fed by Christian prejudices he views them as illiterates. An erudite person, fit to interpret the Vedas he establishes earlier on in his tract would be someone who is a complete master of the science of morals, poetry, geology and astronomy and well-versed in the philosophy of dharma, and characteristics, essential existences, yoga and Vedanta and the doctrines of logic or the science of evidence. In fact s/he would be “a master of all these and much more before he can lay claim to a rational interpretation of the Vedas”, Pandit ji in his ensuing analysis proves that he is such a master by the depth, quality and extensiveness of his research. Opening his introduction to the topic of the kind of words used in the Vedas, he refers to “the fourth section of the first chapter of Nirukta which opens with a discussion of this very subject, in which Yaska, Gargya, Shakatayana and all other Grammarians and Etymologists unanimously maintain that Vedic terms are all yaugika”. He briefly tells us before explaining the agreed rule, that there was at first a mild disagreement between the grammarians Yaska and Shakatayana with Gargya as the latter “maintains that only the rurhi terms are not yaugika”. However when that mistaken opinion has been effectively refuted by the other two it becomes accepted from then onwards that despite the fact that rurhi words emanate from yaugika roots, they are only laukika and never Vedic in nature as “all the Rishis and Munis, ancient authors and commentators without exception, regard all Vedic terms to be yaugika”.

The unhappy consequence of European scholars’ failure to respect that all Vedic terms are yaugika has been that arena of Sanskrit learning has become flooded by “their (erroneous) interpretations of the Vedas with forged or borrowed tales of mythology, with stories and anecdotes of historic or pre-historic personages”. To prove this point Pandit ji presents Dr Muir’s quite fantastical renderings of the Rig Ved mantras as evidence of this. According to Muir, the following historical personages are mentioned in the Rig Veda; the Rishis Kanvas, in 1. 47. 2; Gotamas, in 1. 71. 16.; Gritsamadas, in 2. 39. 8; Bhrigavas, in 4. 16. 23; and Vrihaduktha, in 10. 54. 6. Pandit ji being a serious student of Maharishi Dayanand and being aware that the cardinal rule for determining the legitimacy of any rendering of any Vedic mantra, is that it should lack any reference to any historical persons, geographical places, actual rivers, mountains, gods or goddesses etc. demolishes such conceits straightaway by providing the correct definitions of these words from Nighantu. “The words Kanva and Gritsa he reveals only signify learned men in general (see Nighantu iii. 13); the word Bhrigavah only signifies men of intellect (see Nighantu, v. 5). The word Gotama signifies one who praises; and Vrihaduktha is simply one whose ukthas, or knowledge of natural properties of objects, is vrihat or complete” he states. He also then goes on in two simple lines to destroy Max Muller’s assertion that the Rig Ved contains the story of a person called Shunah-shepa. Pandit ji explains frankly that Shepa according to Nirukta means contact and as it is suffixed to shunah or shvan, which means knowledge, the term shunah-shepa can then only mean one who has come into contact with knowledge i.e., a learned person but it does not mean a specific actual person.

The simplicity of Pandit ji’s answer here points to the truthfulness of his statement that all Vedic words are yaugika. Surprisingly even Max Muller agrees with him as he is quoted as saying that “every word (in the Vedas) retains something of its radical meaning; every epithet tells; every thought, in spite of the most intricate and abrupt expressions, is, if we once disentangle it, true, correct, and complete”. He also says that “names . . . are to be found in the Vedas, as it were, in a still fluid state. They never appear as appellatives, nor yet as proper names; they are organic, not yet broken or smoothed down”. However Muller, true to his Christian calling distorts this acknowledgement of the truth by claiming that words in only certain portions of the Vedas are yaugika. That is to say that they are only so in the “primitive strains” of the Vedas’ initial chhandas period. He denies that they are yaugik in what he calls the secondary, mantra period. The Vedic “hymns in the first chhandas period, according to him “contain “no very deep wisdom in their teaching” and in it only common things are taught, which are free from the flights of fancy.

Rig Ved 7.77 epitomises he believes the spontaneous utterances of the simple (foolish) minds of the chhandas period. In this mantra (or “hymn” as Muller prefers to call it) the prayer which is “addressed to (the) Dawn … has no reference to any special sacrifice, it contains no technical expressions, (and) it can hardly be called a hymn, in our sense of the word. It is simply a poem, expressing without any effort, without any display of far-fetched thought or brilliant imagery, the feelings of a man who has watched the approach of the dawn with mingled delight and awe, and who was moved to give utterance to what he felt in measured language”. The later Mantra period in contrast he maintains is full of technicalities and elaborate ceremonies although Muller provides no proof to back up his claim.

Muller’s simplistic designations and descriptions Pandit ji believes have been made out of both ignorance and petty prejudice. In his view Muller firstly has applied the laukik Sanskrit interpretation of the word chhandas meaning “spontaneity” to incorrectly signify the content and nature of the mantras. He should have in fact heeded Yaska’s instructions which say that “there is no difference in the meaning of mantra and chhandas”. All the Vedic mantras without exception according to Yaska are called both mantra and chhandas, because through its mantras “one learns the true knowledge of all existences” and because the Vedas are by their very nature chhandas that which produces “delight or which illumines everything, i.e. reveals its true nature”. These explanations derived also from Panini and the Shatpatha Brahman’s yaugika interpretation contain no references whatsoever to the “spontaneity” described by Muller in his interpretation. Furthermore Pandit ji attributes Muller’s faulty understanding of Vedic words to his adoption of Sayana and Mahidhara’s method of looking at them in only their rurhi sense. “It is clear then”, Pandit ji says that “if Max Muller had kept in view the canon of interpretation given in Nirukta that all Vedic words are yaugika, he would not have fallen into the fallacious anachronism of assigning different periods to different parts of the Vedas”.

If European scholars of Pandit ji’s time had sincerely and consistently adopted the yaugik sense of words when interpreting the Vedas then it would have indeed been a very significant step on their part. However if they had also removed their entrenched Christian prejudice towards the Vedas altogether that Pandit ji concludes would have been an equally important step. Removing Christian prejudices from their minds would mean no longer viewing the Vedas as being books of primitive times which consist of emotional savages offering vengeful or propitious prayers addressed to the forces of nature. Or, believing that the Vedas sometimes contain hymns of poetic exaltation, simply portraying the simple phenomena of nature in the personified language of mythology. It would mean finally accepting that throughout the Vedas, Darshans and Upanishads the higher truths of philosophy and monotheism which contain a firm conviction in the uniformity of nature, exist consistently (and not intermittently as Muller would have us believe).

The biggest mental stumbling block however faced by such scholars to achieving this, Pandit ji says is the Christian Holy Book; The Bible. Blind allegiance to the Bible and all the systems that depend on it has it seems rendered these European scholars, on the whole, unfit to comprehend that disinterested, neutral literature, in the form of the Vedas, Darshanas, Upanishads can exist without it being the product of political or religious revolutions or controversies. Determined to undermine the antiquity and eternal universal authority of the Vedas and Vedic literature, ingenious strategies have been employed by such shameless scholars as the English Orientalist Frederick Pincott who asserts, with no proof that “the old Brahmans were superstitious, dogmatic believers in the revelation of the Vedas. When Buddhism spread like wild fire, they thought of shielding their religion by mighty arguments and hence produced the darshana literature”.

If only these Christian scholars were to just admit, Pandit ji says that the most certain date in Indian history that of the Mahabharata war actually took place (at Pandit ji’s time of writing) about 4,900 years ago and that the Darshanas, and their compilers Jaimini, Vyasa, Patanjali, Gautama, Kanada and Kapila therefore, existed at least 4,900 years ago, centuries before even the first word of Buddhism was uttered in India and that even the great Shankara, a great commentator on the Vyasa sutras, who waged a manly war against Buddhism or Jainism, preached nearly 2,200 years, it would be a very important step in the right direction. Although as Pandit ji himself acknowledges, to do so would put the whole Biblical account of creation completely into question. It would also totally negate the ridiculous assumption adopted to save the face of the Bible that the Brahmins only began to make their faith seriously philosophical in the Darshanas “after the great shock which the spread of Buddhism gave to the old Indian form of faith”.

Removal of Christian prejudice in its totality however could not happen Pandit ji admits without the complete discrediting and discarding of the mythological commentaries of Sayana and Mahidhara. If these commentaries were nonexistent he contends “it would have been impossible for them (European scholars), from the mere grounds of comparative mythology or Sanskrit philology, to alight on such interpretations of the Vedas”. A typical example of the kind of misleading laukik and therefore non-yaugik interpretation of the Vedas of Sayana’s from which European scholars have drawn much erroneous inspiration, Pandit ji notes is a mantra from Rigved 9.96:

brahmā devānāṃ padavīḥ kavīnāṃ ṛṣirviprāṇāṃ mahiṣomṛghāṇām

śyeno ghṛdhrāṇāṃ svadhitirvanānāṃ somaḥ pavitramatyeti rebhan

Sayana translates this mantras thus; “God himself appears as Brahma among the gods, Indra, Agni, &c: He appears as a poet among the dramatists and writers of lyrics; He appears as Vashishtha, &c. among the Brahmanas ; He appears as a buffalo among quadrupeds ; He appears as an eagle among birds ; He appears as an axe in the forest ; He appears as the soma-juice purified by mantras excelling in its power of purification the sacred waters of the Ganges”.

Pandit ji tears this defective rendition of this particular Rigveda mantra completely apart. What is supposed to explain the central conscious being that enjoys all experience; the human spirit instead ends up explaining a God in non-Vedic pantheistic terms where everything is God. It panders to the popular prejudices and feelings of the time which were so superstitious “that the waters of the Ganges were regarded as sacred; incarnations were believed in and the worship of Brahma, Vasishtha and other rishis was at its acme”. Sayana’s non-scientific urban translation Pandit ji concludes does not mirror the universal and eternal sense of the Vedas but that of his own age. “His interpretation of brahma, kavi, deva, rishi, vipra, mahisha, mriga, shyena, gridhra, vana, soma, pavitra of all these words, without one exception, is purely rurhi or laukika”.

Yaska, the great author of Nirukta, contrastingly renders a faithful and accurate translation of this mantra as he attaches the yaugik and not the laukik sense of the mantra. So in the hands of Yaska, Sayana’s description of a pantheistic God drenched in superstition becomes a consistent and intelligible account of the experiences of the Atma, the human spirit. In Nirukta, xiv. 13 he says of this Rig Ved mantra;

“The external world as revealed by the senses finds its purpose and object, and, therefore, absorption, in this central being. The indriyas or the senses are called the devas, because they have their play in the ex- ternal phenomenal world, and because it is by them that the external world is revealed to us. Hence Atma, the human spirit, is the brahma devanam, the conscious entity that presents to its consciousness all that the senses reveal. Similarly, the senses are called the kavayas, because one learns by their means. The Atma, then, is padavi kavinam or the true sentient being that understands the working of the senses. Further, the Atma is rishir vipranam, the cognizor of sensations; vipra meaning the senses as the feelings excited by them pervade the whole body. The senses are also called the mrigas, for they hunt about their proper aliment in the external world. Atma is mahisho mriganam, i.e., the greatest of all the hunters. The meaning is that it is really through the power of Atma that the senses are enabled to find out their proper objects. The Atma is called shyena, as to it belongs the power of realization; and gridhras are the indriyas, for they provide the material for such realization. The Atma, then, pervades these senses. Further, this Atma, is swadhitir vananam, or the master whom all indriyas serve. Swadhiti means Atma, for the activity of Atma is all for itself, man being an end unto himself. The senses are called vana, for they serve their master, the human spirit. It is this Atma that, being pure in its nature, enjoys all”

The universality of application of Yaska’s translation which goes beyond all boundaries of time and space is attributed to its simplicity, naturalness and truthfulness of meaning in stark contrast to Sayana’s artificial translation which is a product of its degraded times. The true message of the Vedas Pandit ji strongly maintains therefore can only shine if the words of the texts of that living Vedic religion are interpreted strictly in their yaugika Vedic sense by all scholars Indian and non-Indian alike, without the distortion of later puranas and allied commentaries as these texts are but “a rotten remnant of the old philosophical living religion of the Vedas”.

Pandit ji accepts that such a change in thinking would indeed be remarkable. Judging by his experiences with such European scholars as Muller and Pincott he doesn’t hold much hope. While Muller recognizes that mythology is actually the degeneration of truth and that the ancients of India, Greece and Rome did indeed give the same object one name after the other in a yaugika fashion, he also unfortunately renders such “polynomy” as evidence of polytheism in the Vedic religion. Pincott on the other hand while admitting that modern day Sanskrit commentators are ignorant and that the Puranas are very modern productions cannot quite bring himself to discard the firm belief that the Rig Ved “abounds in mythological matter”.

Taking firstly Muller’s accusation that the Vedas are polytheistic Pandit ji devotes a considerable amount of space in the latter part of his critique to debunking this theory. He presents at the outset the lies which pious Christian missionaries and yet more pious Christian philologists propagate by quoting one of them as saying; “Monotheism is a belief in the existence of one God only, polytheism is a belief in the plurality of gods, (so) If we must employ technical terms, the religion of the Veda is polytheism, not monotheism”. The 27th hymn of the 1st Ashtaka of the Rigveda is provided as evidence of this as according to this particular Christian Sanskrit scholar it says: “veneration to the great gods, veneration to the lesser, veneration to the young, veneration to the old we worship the gods as well as we are able: may I not omit the praise of the older Divinities;” This translation leads this pious Christian to conclude that the religion of the Vedas are pantheism and polytheism combined and that “monotheism, in the strict sense of the word, is not found in Hinduism.”

Pandit ji uncovers further evidence of such bias by highlighting Muller’s laughable translation of a very famous Vedic mantras from the Yajurved. In Yajurved 13.4 it is said Hiranyagarbha samavartatagre bhutasya jatah patireka asita. Sa dadhara prithivim dyamutemam kasmai devaya havisha vidhema. “Hiryanyagarbha” is translated by Muller as “golden germ” which Pandit ji maintains has been done deliberately so that the true meaning “God in whom the whole luminous universe resides in a potential state” can be hidden. Not only does the author not want the reader to comprehend the Vedas’ monotheism here, but also Pandit ji says sardonically so that “someday, not in the very remote future, these Christians will discover that the golden germ means conceived by the Holy Ghost”. And where Muller does make some allusion to a monotheistic God in the case of the words “jatah patireka”, which Muller translates as “the one born Lord of all this”, Pandit ji being fully aware of the devices used by Christian missionaries to fool the gullible forewarns of “one of those future happy days, (when) this mantra of the Veda will be quoted as an emblematic of a prophecy in the dark distant past, of the advent of a Christ whom the ancients knew not”.

He stridently then provides three very clear proofs of monotheism in the Vedas; firstly from Yajurved 13.4 itself Pandit ji provides a very different translation than Muller;

“God existed in the beginning of creation, the only Lord of the unborn universe. He is the Eternal Bliss whom we should praise and adore”.

From Yajurved 17.19 in which it is said;

viśvataś cakṣur uta viśvato-mukho viśvato-bāhur uta viśvatas-pāt saṃ

bāhubhyāṃ dhamati sampatatrair dyāv-ābhūmī janayan deva ekaḥ

“Being all-vision, all-power, all-motion in Himself, He sustains with His power the whole universe, Himself being One alone”.

And finally Atharvaved 13.4.16-21 which states that;

na dvitiyo na tritiyash-chaturtho napyuchyate … sa esha eka eka vrideka eva

sarve asmin deva ekavrito bhavanti

“There are neither two gods, nor three, nor four…nor ten. He is one and only one and pervades the whole universe, All other things live, move and have their being in Him”.

Despite providing such a strident proofs of monotheism in the Vedas Pandit ji was nevertheless aware of the kind of elaborate theories critics could create to explain away such evidence. “Henotheism” was one such ingenious invention devised to counter a monotheistic interpretation of the Vedas. Muller who invented “henotheism” labelled Vedic Dharma as “henotheistic” because he believed that unlike polytheistic religions which “recognize the existence of various deities or names of deities (and therefore are polytheistic), they (henotheistic religions) represent each deity as independent of all the rest, as the only deity present in the mind of the worshipper at the time of his worship and prayer”. So according to Muller the Vedas could never be hymns to one God but to always to various gods, but just not all at the same time. This is because “according to the varying aspects of nature, and the varying cravings of human heart, it is sometimes Indra, the god of the blue sky, sometimes Agni, the god of fire, sometimes Varuna, the ancient god of the firmament, who are praised as supreme without any suspicion of rivalry, or any idea of subordination.” This alternating focus, in his view is why the Vedas are henotheistic and not monotheistic. Muller ends by justifying his choice of the word “henotheism” by saying that ” “this peculiar phase of religion, this worship of single gods, forms probably everywhere (in) the first stage in the growth of polytheism, and, deserves, therefore, a separate name”. Muller’s subsequent henotheistic interpretations of “agni” and “indra” quoted by Pandit ji show Muller’s shameful attempt to establish the existence of Vedic gods or devatas where it has never existed before. He calls Agni, “the lord of fire”, who when addressed by the poet, is spoken of as the first god, not inferior even to Indra. When Agni is invoked, he says Indra is forgotten; but there is no competition between the two nor any rivalry between them and other gods. This Muller says “is a most important feature in the religion of the Veda,” and proudly proclaims that before his scholarship “it has never been taken into consideration by those who have written on the history of ancient polytheism”.

Pandit ji rightly deduces from Muller’s pompous analysis that his sole aim in creating “henotheism” is to make Indians wrongly believe that the worship of multiple devatas was and is an essential feature of Vedic worship. By uprooting the Indian nation from its “instinctive monotheism”, Pandit ji believes, Muller hopes to make the people of India “fall down to an acquired belief in henotheism” which would further weaken its resolve to fight for self-determination and for self-realisation. He confronts Muller’s malicious disinformation strategy head on by saying that “the Vedas, the sacred books of the primitive Aryans, are the purest record of the highest form of monotheism possible to conceive. Scholars cannot long continue to misconstrue the Vedas, and ignore the laws of their interpretation”. And in proving this he quotes Yaska’s Nirukta numerous times to reject this theory. In Nirukta 1.2 it is stated that “whenever the process of an art is described, the mantra that completely describes that process is called the devata (or the index) of that process. More succinctly in Nirukta 7.1 “devata” is defined as a general term applied to those substances whose attributes are explained in a mantra. It may also denote Yaska says in Nirukta 7.4 1 a noble person: “learned men, parents, and atithis, (those guest-missionaries who have no fixed residence, but wander about from place to place benefiting the world by their religious instructions), are regarded as devatas or called by the names of devatas”. Furthermore quoting Nirukta 7.15 he says these processes, attributes, learned people all have the qualities to illuminate as Yaska says that “whatsoever or whosoever is capable of conferring some advantage upon us, capable of illuminating things, or capable of explaining them to us, and lastly, the Light of all lights, these are the fit objects to be called devatas”. And finally to dispel any notion that this illuminating quality refers to a god of illumination “agni” as professed by Muller Pandit ji cites Yajurved 23.17; which says “I present to your consideration agni which is the fruitful source of worldly enjoyments, which is capable of working as though it were a messenger, and is endowed with the property of preparing all our foods. Hear ye, and do the same”. In doing so he clearly points out that agni is only the expression of the one and only Omniscient God’s properties. It is “agni” therefore which forms the subject matter of this mantra and is its devata, and not any imaginary, mythological “god of fire”.

The devatas, or the substances, the properties which Yaska says can form the subject matter of any Vedic mantra are he explains all the things “that can form the subject of human knowledge”. He groups this infinite mass into thirty three devatas in accordance with authorities from such mantras as Yajurved 14.31 and Atharva Ved 10.22. 4-27 which state that “the Lord of all, the Ruler of the universe, the Sustainer of all, holds all things by 33 devatas”, and that “the knowers of true theology recognize the 33 devatas performing their proper organic functions, as existing in and by Him, the One and Only”. These thirty three devatas are in fact according to the Shatpatha Brahman the eight vasus, eleven rudras, twelve adityas, one indra and one prajapati. which manifest the glory of God. “The eight vasus” Pandit ji quotes directly from the Shatpatha Brahman are“1. heated cosmic bodies, 2. planets, 3. atmospheres, 4. super terrestrial spaces, 5. suns, 6. rays of ethereal space, 7. satellites, 8 stars. These are called vasus (abodes), for, the whole group of existences resides in them, viz., they are the abode of all that lives, loves, or exists. The eleven rudras are the ten pranas (nervauric forces) enlivening the human frame, and the eleventh is atma (the human spirit). These are called the rudras (from root rud to weep) because when they desert the body it becomes dead, and the relations of the dead, in consequence of this desertion, begin to weep. The twelve adityas are the twelve solar months, marking the course of time. They are called adityas as, by their cyclic motion, they produce twelve adityas are the twelve solar months, marking the course of change in all, objects, and hence the lapse of the term of existence for each object. Aditya means that which causes such a lapse. Indra is the all-pervading electricity or force. Prajapati is yajna (an active voluntary association of objects on the part of man, for the purposes of art, or association with other men for purposes of teaching or learning). It also means Pushus (the useful animals). Yajna and useful animals are called prajapati, as it is by such actions and by such animals that the world at large derives its materials of sustenance”.

The thirty three devatas enumerated above clearly pass the six tests which Pandit ji says that they must pass in order to be classified as genuine devatas. Devised by true scientists and natural philosophers these tests concern time, locality, force, human spirit, deliberate activities and vital activities. The twelve adityas, or the twelve months, satisfy the criteria of time in that its twelve solar months mark the course of time over the months and corresponding seasons which succeed each other, one after the other. The eight vasus or eight abodes fulfil the locality criteria as they enable the twelve months to exist and occur. Electricity being all pervading and therefore capable of modifying and creating effects easily passes the force test as force by its nature is the modification within matter which creates effects. Subjective knowledge possessed by the atma, the ego is the domain of the fourth test; the human spirit. Prajapati in the form of yajna and pashus (useful animals) conform to the deliberate activities part of the test, as both man and beast perform voluntary, self-conscious deliberate actions for the benefit of the world at large. Lastly, involuntary, passive modifications caused by ten of the eleven rudras known as the pranas or nervauric forces are identified as vital activities. These bodily functions are overseen by the eleventh rudra; the human spirit or the atma.

Pandit ji takes great pains to explain the correct yaugik interpretation of these devatas which form the subject matter of all mantras in the Vedas. He does this so as to disassociate them from the misleading laukik translations of European scholars such as Muller. One such mantra from Rig Veda 1.162. 1 concerns the devata – asva. This mantra is as follows:

mā no mitro varuṇo aryamāyurindra ṛbhukṣā marutaḥ parikhyan

yad vājino devajatasya sapteḥ pravakṣyāmo vidathe vīryāṇi

Muller in his ignorance translates the mantra as saying – “May Mitra, Varuna, Aryaman, Ayu, Indra, the Lord the Ribhus, and the Maruts not rebuke us, because we shall proclaim at the sacrifice the virtues of the swift horse sprung from the gods.” Here Pandit ji derides Muller’s evocation of an imaginary polytheistic pantheon of Vedic gods who are according to his translation are so unhappy at hearing the virtues of the swift horse being proclaimed at the sacrifice that they rebuke the poet of this mantra! He challenges Muller to prove the validity of his position, saying that he will not be able to as “even the most diseased conception of a savage shrinks from such a superstition as the “swift horse sprung from the gods”. Both Muller’s translations and the false “horse sacrifice” ashwamedha concept in the so called Puranas originate from what Pandit ji asserts is a total ignorance of the dialectic laws of the Vedas, “when words having a yaugika sense are taken for proper nouns, and an imaginary mythology (is) started”.

Muller he reveals has taken the words, “mitra”, “varuna,”, “aryama”, “ayu”, “indra”, “ribhus”, “maruts” to be proper nouns and ignoring their yaugika sense he has carelessly translated them to mean the “god of the day”, “god of the investing sky”, “the god of death”, “god of the wind”, “god of the watery atmosphere”, “celestial artists” and “storm gods” respectively. If the yaugika sense was respected then Muller would have known the literal translations of these words that mitra means a friend; varuna, a man of noble qualities ; aryama, a judge or an administrator of justice; ayu, a learned man ; indra, a governor ; ribhuksha, a wise man ; marutahs, those who practically observe the laws of seasons. Regarding the word “asva” it does not only mean horse as Muller maintains but it also means the group of three forces heat, electricity and magnetism or in fact anything that can be carried through a distance. For the last point, he quotes Maharishi Dayanand’s Rig Ved bhashyam to explain that “ashva vidya” means “the science of training horses and the science of heat which pervades everywhere in the shape of electricity. The Shathpath Brahman also states clearly that ashwa like an “animal of conveyance” has “distance-carrying properties”.  Moreover the word “devajata” which Muller translates as “sprung from the gods” because the popular laukika sense of the word dev means god, is actually revealed to mean both “brilliant qualities” and “learned men”. While the word “virya” has a very dynamic actual definition of “power-generating virtues” rather than the rather flat signification of “virtues” offered by Muller in his translation. All these authorities collectively support Pandit ji’s final translation of Rig Ved 162.1 which is that “we will describe the power-generating virtues of the energetic horses endowed with brilliant properties, or the virtues of the vigorous force of heat which learned or scientific men can evoke to work for purposes of appliances (not sacrifice). Let not philanthropists, noble men, judges, learned men, rulers, wise men and practical mechanics ever disregard these properties.” When compared to Muller’s ignorant and prejudiced translation which ruthlessly sidelines the actual devata of the mantra: ashva – the forces of heat, in favour of pure fantasy, Pandit ji’s sincere and simple yaugika based interpretation allows the science in the Vedas to shine through.

The proper yaugik interpretation of words in the Vedic mantras however uncovers not only their real scientific meaning but also how and by whom the devatas, the subject matter of the mantras ought to be used by in an ethical manner. In the mantra above for example Paramatma teaches us about the forces of heat and which persons are qualified to evoke and use them. “Scientific men” we learn, study these forces, do research on them and create appliances for the benefit of human advancement. Facilitating them in these noble endeavours are the philanthropists, noble men, judges, learned men, rulers, wise men and practical mechanics, who are cautioned by God never to disregard their properties as to do so would inhibit the progress of society. Similarly in Rig Ved 162.2 (yan nirṇijā rekṇasā prāvṛtasya ratiṃ ghṛbhītāṃ mukhato nayanti, supranajo memyad viśvarūpa indrāpūṣṇoḥ priyamapyeti pāthaḥ) Pandit ji notes, God clearly states that the right to govern (to “drink the potion of strength and of power to govern”) should only be given to those “who preach that only wealth earned by righteous means should be appropriated and spent, and (to) those born of wisdom, who are well-versed in questioning others elegantly, in the science of forms and in correcting the unwise.” Like the previous mantra which concerns ashva vidya, God is clear that the right to govern “should be practiced only by those who are possessed of righteous means, are wise, and have the capacity to govern and control.” These learned men and women being suitably qualified morally and intellectually are the only ones trusted to handle the devatas, the subject matter of the Vedas, as they are themselves by their very virtuous nature, devatas, illuminating and enlightening persons. When this profound wisdom is contrasted with Max Muller’s senseless translation of the same mantra, one can only feel sorry for the naive reader who only knows and therefore only trusts the latter. Muller’s translation makes no mention of “righteous wealth”, those “men born in wisdom”, “who have an idea of all forms”, who are “able enough to put questions elegantly” and have the right to “strength” and the “power to govern”. Instead we get a mythological version which makes a mockery of the original. His version reads; “when they load before the horse, which is decked with pure gold ornaments, the offering, firmly grasped, the spotted goat bleats while walking onwards; it goes the path beloved by Indra and Pushan.” Pandit ji in analysing such a ridiculous interpretation counts nine words that have been wrongly translated by Muller and says that this all due to the yaugika sense of the words being ignored and “the rurhi or the laukika sense being everywhere forced in the translation.”

Pandit ji pithily says in the closing stages of his study, in clear censure of Muller, Pincott and their kind that “it is clear from the above quotation, that religious teachers, parents and learned men, these alone, or the like, were called devatas and no others, in Yaska’s time. Had Yaska known of any such idolatry or henotheism or devata worship, which superstitious Hindus are so fond of, and which Professor Max Muller is so intent to find in the Vedas, or had any such worship prevailed in his time, even though he himself did not share in this worship, it is impossible that he should not have made any mention of it at all, especially when speaking of the common practice among men in general”. Quite clearly judging by the analysis of European scholars of the Vedas and Sanskrit, they were either totally unaware of this fact about Yaska or too blinded by Christian prejudice to truly acknowledge and preach it.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion what is made abundantly clear in Pandit ji’s analysis is that in order to understand the dual scientific and moral purpose of the Vedic mantras one must understand the devata, the subject matter of the mantra in question. In order to understand the correct significance of the devata of any Ved mantra, Pandit ji’s implores us to ignore the misleading mythological, antiquarian and rurhi word based methods of interpretation emanating from the mischievous Sayana centred ramblings of modern European “scholars” such Muller, Monier Williams and Pincott. Rather he requests that we fully understand and embrace the interpretation of those Vedic scholars, who use the more accurate contemporary yaugik words based method of interpretation of the Vedas, and who consult the works of great grammarians like Yaska so as to reveal the true eternal universal message of God.  If we follow the latter’s analysis, then Pandit ji says there can be no doubt that we will come to see that “element worship, or nature worship, is not only foreign to the Vedas and the ages of Yaska and Panini and Vedic rishis and munis, but that idolatry and its parent mythology, at least in so far as Aryavarta is concerned, are the products of recent times”. This is a crucial point which must be heeded not only by our Christian brothers and sisters, but our staunch Puranic and atheist ones who ironically even today rely on the faulty scholarship of these non-Indian nineteenth century academics (some of whom were barely literate in Sanskrit and had never set foot in India) to prove that our ancestors engaged in everything from beef eating, soma wine drinking to caste and gender discrimination. If, such a heartfelt recognition and adoption of the real Vedic truth can be achieved by all humans everywhere, then Pandit ji says all the damage caused by European scholars and all the terrible crimes against humanity which have resulted from their attempt to conceal the liberating word of God in the Vedas can be overturned. This surely is an important prerequisite to creating the best kind of society that all humans are craving for.

In signing off Pandit ji, stresses one last point to his readers; that while interpreting the devatas in the Vedic mantras in the correct manner our feelings towards “God the adorable”, the one true devata should always be full of profound devotion. One should always remember that God, the Supreme Soul as mentioned in Nirukta 7.4, is worshipped on account of his omnipotence. The devatas who are “but the pratyangas of this Supernal Soul” i.e. the partial manifestations of the glory of God … owe their birth and power to Him as through Him they exercise their beneficial influences by attracting properties, useful, and repelling properties, injurious”. “He alone” Yaska and Pandit ji conclude “is the All-in-All of all the devout.” We should therefore ultimately derive inspiration from such a humble final acknowledgement and tread the divine path signposted by Pandit ji and other true Vedic scholars or forever flounder in the obscurity created by Sayana, Muller, Monier-Williams, Pincott and others of their deluded ilk. The final choice to do so or not however is ours.

To read the complete version of ‘The Terminology of the Vedas and European Scholars’ by Pandit Gurudutt Vidyarthi please click on the link below and download the book ‘The Works of Pandit Gurudutt Vidyarthi’ and then go to page 69.

 

Footnotes:

  1. For a detailed understanding of what each method and each type of word entails the previous article should be read before embarking on this one. However to summarise them; the mythological method views the Vedas as being myths – “prayers from such an emotional character addressed to the forces of nature “which portray “the simple phenomena of nature in the personified language of mythology”. The antiquarian method in contrast involves the modern scholar using his modern day understanding of ancient concepts and phenomena to interpret “the books and the general literature of the period to which ancient literary records belong “. And lastly the one which Pandit ji considers to be the best; the contemporary method, which involves the modern scholar using commentaries closer in time to the exposition of the Vedas. Here he specifies the usage of commentaries such as Nirukta by Yaska and Mahabhashya of Patanjali to interpret the Vedas as to do so would be to follow the invaluable maxim that “the nearer we approximate to the literature of the period to which the Vedas belongs the greater would be our chances of the interpretations being more probable and more correct”.

 

  1. Pandit ji says in the Terminology of the Vedas that “a Yaugika word is one that has derivative meaning” i.e. which derives its meaning from its root. The word is “all connotation”, which means that an idea or feeling is invoked from that word, from the literal or primary meaning of its root and it is this connotation which determines its denotation. A rurhi word in contrast to a yaugika word has no connotative meaning “it is the name of a definite concrete object” and is determined by “an arbitrary principle” which means that its meaning is chosen at random, on a whim. This very clear demarcation between yaugika and rurhi words doesn’t exist with regards to a third class of words which can be interpreted. This class of words is called yoga-rurhi and here two words are synthetically combined into a compound denoting a third object by virtue of the combining of these two words. The relation or the interaction of phenomena are expressed in the resulting words that are created. Pandit ji gives the example here of the word kamala. “The word stands … in relation of the born to mud, the bearer, which leads the word kamala to be called pankaja as panka means mud and ja means to bear”.

HADEES : ANIMAL SACRIFICE

ANIMAL SACRIFICE

Next comes the sacrifice of the �idu�l-azhA.  The hAjji (pilgrim) could sacrifice a goat or a sheep, or a cow or a camel, �The Messenger of Allah sacrificed a cow on behalf of �Aisha� (3030).

It is permissible for seven persons to join in the sacrifice of a cow or a camel (3024-3031).  While sacrificing the camel, the hAjji should not make his camel �kneel down� but slaughter it in a standing posture and in a fettered condition �according to the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet� (3032).  Its left foreleg should be tied to its hindlegs.  Cows and goats should be sacrificed after making them lie down.

One who cannot go for hajj can send a sacrificial animal to al-Haram and earn merit thereby.  �Aisha reports: �I wove the garlands for the sacrificial animals of Allah�s Messenger with my own hands, and then he marked them, and garlanded them, and then sent them to the House, and stayed at Medina and nothing was forbidden to him which was lawful for him before� (3036).

As Muhammad�s affluence increased, the scale of his sacrifices also increased.  On his �umrah pilgrimage in the sixth year, his biographers tell us, he sacrificed seventy camels at Hodeibia.  On a similar pilgrimage the next year, he sacrificed sixty camels.  On the Farewell Pilgrimage in the tenth year, we are told by JAbir, �the total number of those sacrificial animals brought by �AlI from Yemen [where he had gone on a campaign against the Bani Nakha] and those brought by the Apostle was one hundred� (2803).  A little further on in the same hadIs we are told that Muhammad �then went to the place of sacrifice, and sacrificed sixty-three camels with his own hands.  Then he gave the remaining number to �AlI who sacrificed them. . . . He then commanded that a piece of flesh from each animal sacrificed should be put in a pot, and when it was cooked, both of them [�AlI and Muhammad] took some meat out of it and drank its soup.�

To his followers, Muhammad said: �I have sacrificed the animals here, and the whole of MinA is a place of sacrifice; so sacrifice your animals at your places� (2805).

Even Jehovah, the God of the Jews, whose Temple was a veritable slaughterhouse, had declared that He �desired mercy, and not sacrifice� (Hosea 6:6); but Muhammad�s Allah expresses no such sentiment.  Because Islam is so preponderantly Muhammadism, one of the consequences of the Prophet�s offering sacrifices is that sacrificing has become a sacred institution in Islam.  Thus we find in Islam none of that generous movement of the spirit against animal sacrifice that we find in some measure in most cultures.

author : ram swarup

HADEES : CASTING THE PEBBLES

CASTING THE PEBBLES

Another important ceremony is ramyu�r-rijAm, the casting of the pebbles.  On the tenth day, also the �Day of Sacrifice,� the pilgrim throws seven pebbles at Jamrat al-�Aqaba, also known as ShaitAnuu�l KabIr, the Great Devil.  While doing this, he chants: �In the name of God, the Almighty, I do this, and in hatred of the Devil and his shame.� Allah and Devil are somehow inseparable in certain theologies.

This ceremony celebrates an ancient event when the Devil successively met Adam, Abraham, and Ishmael, and was driven away by the simple method which Gabriel taught them of throwing seven small pebbles.  The three pillars at MinA represent the three occasions when this happened; therefore, the pilgrim casts seven stones at each of the three pillars.

There are several ahAdIs on the merits of throwing pebbles, on their size and number, and on the best time for throwing them.  The pebbles should be small- �I saw Allah�s Apostle throwing stones like pelting of small pebbles� (2979).  The best time for throwing them is after sunrise on the Day of Sacrifice- �Allah�s Messenger flung pebbles at Jamra on the Day of Nahr after sunrise, and after that-on the 11th, 12th and 13th of Dhu�l-Hijja -when the sun had declined� (2980).  Their number should be odd.  �Odd number of stones are to be used for cleaning the private parts after answering the call of nature, and the casting of pebbles at the Jamrat is to be done by odd numbers (seven), and the number of circuits around al-SafA and al-Marwa is also odd (seven), and the number of circuits around the Ka�ba is also odd (seven),� says the Prophet (2982).

author : ram swarup

HADEES : CIRCUMAMBULATION AND KISSING

CIRCUMAMBULATION AND KISSING

After a man has put on the pilgrim�s robe, two seamless wrappers, he should not shave or pare his nails.  He should now proceed toward Mecca singing the pilgrim�s song, �Talbiyah, Labbaika!  AllAhumma!� (�I stand up for thy service, O Allah�).  After arriving in Mecca, he performs ablutions in the Masjidu�l HarAm and kisses the Black Stone (al-hajaru�l-aswad), then makes seven circuits round the Ka�ba (tawAf).  Muhammad himself circumambulated �on the back of his riding camel . . . so that people should see him, and he should be conspicuous� (2919).  For the same reason, he touched the Corner (Black Stone) with a stick.  �I saw Allah�s Messenger circumambulating the House, and touching the Corner with a stick that he had with him, and then kissing the stick,� reports AbU Tufail (2921).

The practice of kissing the Stone is idolatrous.  �Umar said: �By Allah, I know that you are a stone and if I were not to see Allah�s Messenger kissing you, I would not have kissed you� (2912).  Following the lead of Christian theologians who distinguish between veneratio and adoratio, Muslim scholars argue that the Ka�ba and the Black Stone are objects of veneration and not of worship.

Another important rite is that the pilgrim runs from the top of Mount as-SafA to the summit of Mount al-Marwah, the two �Signs of Allah,� according to the QurAn (2:158).  Muhammad says that �Allah does not complete the Hajj of a person or his �Umra if he does not observe Sa�i [i.e., run between al-SafA and al-Marwa]� (2923).

Each time the pilgrim is on the top of these mounts, he recites the following: �There is no deity but Allah. . . . He hath performed His promise, and hath aided His servant [Muhammad] and bath put to flight the hosts of infidels by Himself alone.� Muhammad never relaxes.  At every turn, he instills an unrelenting enmity toward the infidels.

HADEES : HUNTING

HUNTING

Hunting too is forbidden to a muhrim (one in a state of ihrAm).  Somebody once presented Muhammad with the flesh of a wild ass, but he declined it, saying: �If we were not in a state of IhrAm, we would have accepted it from you� (2704).  But if the animal is killed by a non-muhrim, its flesh is acceptable to a muhrim.  The leg of a wild ass killed by a non-muhrim Companion was presented to Muhammad.  �The Messenger of Allah took it and ate it� (2714).

Though hunting of a sort is forbidden to a muhrim, this does not make him a Jain or a Vaishnava.  �Four are the vicious beasts� he should still kill: �kite, crow, rat and voracious dog.� But �what about a snake?� somebody asks.  Muhammad replies: �Let it be killed with disgrace� (2717).
author : ram swarup

hadees : THE STATE OF IHRAM

THE STATE OF IHRAM

The �Book of Pilgrimage� deals with the pilgrim�s attire and with the place where he puts on the garments of a pilgrim, entering into the state of ihrAm (�prohibiting�), in which he is forbidden to do certain things till he has completed his worship at Mecca.

For his dress, he is forbidden to �put on a shirt or a turban, or trouser or cap� (2647).  The use of perfume is disallowed during the state of ihrAm, but not before and after.  �I applied perfume to the Messenger of Allah as he became free from IhrAm and as he entered upon it,� says �Aisha (2683).  �The best of perfume,� she adds in another hadIs (2685).

author : ram swarup

hadees : AN IDOLATROUS IDEA

AN IDOLATROUS IDEA

Considered from the viewpoint of Muslim theology, the whole idea of pilgrimage to Mecca and the Ka�ba is close to being idolatrous.  But it has great social and political importance for Islam.  Even the very first Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca under the leadership of Muhammad was perhaps more of a political demonstration and a military expedition than a religious congregation.

In the sixth year of the Hijra, Muhammad started out for Mecca to perform the �umrah ceremony (the lesser pilgrimage), the very first after coming to Medina.  He headed a pilgrim force of fifteen hundred men, partially armed.  In order to swell the number, he had appealed to the desert Arabs to join him, but their response was lukewarm, for no booty was promised and they thought, as the QurAn puts it, that �the Apostle and the believers would never return to their families� (48:12).

Even so, fifteen hundred was an impressive number, and anyone could see that this was hardly a band of pilgrims.  The Meccans had to enter into a treaty with Muhammad, called the Treaty of Hodeibia.  Muhammad regarded this as a victory for himself, and a victory it turned out to be.  Two years later, by a kind of delayed action, Mecca succumbed.  In this year of victory, pilgrimage, or hajj, was declared one of the five fundamentals of Islam.

Two years later, in March A.D. 632, Muhammad undertook another pilgrimage; it turned out to be his last and is celebrated in the Muslim annals as the �Farewell Pilgrimage of the Apostle.� Great preparations were made for the occasion.  It was meant to be more than an assembly of believers.  It was to be a demonstration of the power of Muhammad.  �Messengers were sent to all parts of Arabia inviting people to join him in this great Pilgrimage.�

After the fall of Mecca, Muhammad�s power was unrivaled, and the Bedouin tribes understood that this summons was more than an invitation to a pilgrimage of the type they had formerly performed on their own, at their own convenience and for their own gods.  It was also, they knew, a call to submission.  Thus, unlike the last time, their response on this occasion was great.  �As the caravan moved on, the number of participants swelled,� until, according to some of the narrators, it reached more than 130,000 (SahIh Muslim, p. 612). Everyone was in a hurry to jump on the bandwagon.

author : ram swarup