Book Review: A Journey Into The Rig Veda With The Rivers As Signposts
This book offers a solid framework to understand and explore Rig Veda and the twin epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata from the perspectives of history, geography and chronology.
Rivers of Rgveda: A Geographic Exploration. Jijith Nadumuri Ravi. Notion Press. 2022. Pages 362. Rs 485.
Rivers of Rgveda: A Geographic Exploration by Jijith Nadumuri Ravi is a great book in more ways than one. Meticulously researched and well written, this book offers a solid framework to understand and explore Rig Veda and the twin epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata from the perspectives of history, geography and chronology, as the three are very much interrelated.
Around the year 2000, I had come across the AncientVoice Wiki website created by Jijith, a treasure trove for all things related to Mahabharata and was enthralled by it. The website has been much enhanced to include more texts now.
A few years later, I had felt a thrill reading the path breaking book The Rigveda: Historical analysis of Shrikant Talageri (2000), impressed by its original research, insights and refreshing perspectives that had the power to act as the last nail in the coffin of the already crumbling Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT). Through this book, Jijith has taken the research to the next level, building a comprehensive, convincing and compelling narrative.
To choose rivers as the signposts for this exploration is very thoughtful and aesthetically appealing too. The subject is a specialised one, demanding a certain amount of background in Indology and the Rig Vedic text. But the book is written in such a way that even a beginner with keen interest can get into the core part of it.
The book is organised in three parts. Chapters 1 to 8 give a general introduction to the relevant components of Rig Vedic text — composer poets, their patrons, devatas, rivers and regions mentioned. Chapters 9 to 33 dive deeply into each river and record all the inferences that we can get. Chapters 34 to 36 give the final summary of the findings.
The book follows a methodical and systematic approach, which we hardly see in the books on subjects related to Indology or Vedic studies, as they are largely written by academicians and scholars from the humanities or literature background. Jijith, being a scientist and engineer, has brought in a kind of rigour that has further enhanced the appeal of the book.
Readers new to the subject would find many unknown and amusing things. Like, the 10 Mandalas (chapters) of the Rig Veda were composed in a certain chronological order, in different time and space as the rishis and the clans moved around. Samanathu a.k.a Santhanu of the Mahabharata is mentioned in the 10th Mandala of Rig Veda, so is the heroic Rama, son of Dasaratha, making them contemporaries. Sarayu (with a long ‘u’) of the Ramayana was perhaps named so by the migrating Ikshvaku clans in memory of Sarayu (with a short ‘u’), a name that was used for the rivers like Sarasvati and some of its tributaries.
Rig Veda is not just hymns to Indra and Agni, or mystical and puzzling verses, but also contains records of events like Dasarajna battle and Varshagira battle. These are just some glimpses to evoke interest in the lay readers. The book has a lot more. Normally, when such things are mentioned, a discerning reader would start suspecting it to be a crackpot theory, based on vague word jugglery or wanton association of totally unrelated names, places and events. However in this book, every inference and every case is backed by primary sources and logical arguments. The attempt to corroborate these findings with Harappan chronology, archaeological findings and the astronomical dating that proposes 1793 BCE for the Kurukshetra war sounds very credible.
I can already visualise criticism and opposition for such a book from different quarters. First, the academic Indologists adamantly and religiously uphold Aryan Invasion Theory, despite strong evidence against it from multiple fields. They would tend to dismiss this book through their usual tactics, like labelling the author or dumbly associating it with “Hindu nationalism”. They must realise that their stranglehold on this field is over.
Second, some members of the astronomical dating school proposing very old dates for Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Vedas based on very unilateral reading of the texts without caring about corroborative evidence may oppose this work, as it goes against their pet theories. It can’t be helped, and they must be open enough to calibrate their research in the light of more credible research.
Third, the neo-conservative religiously orthodox section among the traditional Hindus who view the very exercise of analysing the Vedic, Itihasic texts in this manner as some kind of “blasphemy”, as it goes against the belief that Vedas are “eternal” and “not made by human”. They unnecessarily waste their energy criticising it. But the matured among them must realise that Vedic, Itihasic and Puranic texts with so much data about names, places, events do contain multiple layers of history bound by time and space, along with great spiritual and philosophical truth that are not bound by time and space. If that temporal-spatial data is not properly studied and analysed by Dharmic and staunch Hindus like Jijith, it always gets used by the enemies of Hindu civilisation to create distorted and false narratives about Hindu Dharma. So, in the right Dharmic spirit, they should not denounce such research in the name of “Dharma”. The author himself makes this point at the start.
The book can certainly stand up to all such criticism and prove its worth as a valuable reference and source material for further research. This book has kindled great interest about the other two upcoming books on related topics which the author has promised. My best wishes to him.
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