Kazanas' rejoinder to Karen Thomson by SriniKalyanaraman

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									                          Ṛgveda 7.95.2 & Karen Thomson (B),
                        Or deliberate and learned ignorance.
                                N Kazanas, May 2011

1. The December 2010 issue of The Journal of Indo-European Studies (vol 38, nos 3
& 4) published my critique of Mrs Thomson’s article ‘A still undeciphered
text’ (JIES 2009). This critique was disseminated with some additional
comments and was placed on various websites. In the same JIES issue (Dec
2010) was KT’s (=Mrs Thomson’s) response to my critique. It is now time to
critique this “response” too, especially since it can hardly be said to be very
relevant to my paper.
     When one reads KT’s article (pp 422-429, less the bibliography), one
notices first that it is not a reply to my critique and, then, that of the eight
pages only three (and even less) in the middle actually relate at all to what I
wrote. What of the rest?... Well, the other five pages form just a parade of KT’s
permanent grievance that other sanskritists do not approach the RV as
reverentially as she does and of her love of pedantry. The essay as a whole is in
fact thoroughly dishonest. It is dishonest, further, in that she did not send it to
me long before publication and then see at least my own comments on it – as I
had done earlier sending to her my critique and then making some changes
complying with some of her wishes and thus mollifying the harsher parts of
the criticism.

2. But her paper is dishonest also because it does not meet my two direct
questions: why does she refer to some indoeuropeanists who, as she writes,
“argue that adpositions [= prepositions] were invariably placed after the word
they govern” (my emphasis) since she knows perfectly well that such a view is
utterly wrong (my §2, third paragraph; p 412 in JIES); and why she
(mis-)quotes Possehl only partially that the Sarasvati did not flow (my
emphasis) to the sea when in the next sentence Possehl wrote that the river
probably did flow to the sea 3800 BCE and before (my §5, beginning; p415
JIES) ???
     KT now replies for the first one that Delbrück, it was who said that
prepositions are “invariably postpositional” (p425) – which does not answer
my question. The answer to my question should explain why she dragged in
an indoeuropeanist who was stating an untruth. For the second one, she does
not even admit that she truncated Possehl (mis-)quoting only his sentence
that suited her intent which was to show that the Sarasvati did not flow to the
sea; and now writes this eye-piercing lie “The archaeological arguments,
however, I leave to the archaeologists”! But, of course, she ignores totally the
fact that I cited (my §5, para 1, end; p416) at least three other archaeologists
who say the river did flow to the sea and does not revise her false statement!
The correct answer, should have been “I quoted only that passage from
Possehl because it showed that the Sarasvati did not flow to the sea and so it
furnished the material support I needed for my (mis-)translation of RV 7.95-2.”
                                                                           KTB 2

But, of course, lost as they are in their speculations and theories,
mainstreamers can resort only to mendacity to maintain their pet postulates.
    With great sympathy and condescension, Mr Thomson calls me now “a
sincere man”. For reasons that follow, I cannot say the same about her. The
ease and audacity with which she distorts, misrepresents, misleads and
generally lies is revealed most palpably in her excuses about Possehl. Thus,
now she replies to my strictures as follows:
     “And as I wrote at the time, I quoted the title of Gregory Possehl’s
     1998 article ‘Did the Sarasvati ever flow to the sea?’ (2009:30),
     because it provided a convenient heading for that section. I refer
     throughout to the implications of the lack of textual scholarship
     for scholars in other fields. The archaeological arguments
     however I leave to the archaeologists.”
    From this passage it would appear that we must expect anything to
happen in Mrs Thomson’s cloud-cuckoo-land. Because what she wrote in her
2009 article is something vastly different. In fact she misrepresented Possehl’s
view in a thoroughly dishonest way. Please note:
    “Professor Possehl, drawing on the archaeological evidence, concludes
that it [= the Sarasvati river] did not [flow into the sea]”, she wrote on p 30 of
her 2009 paper.
    But on p 33 she wrote:
     “Gregory Possehl refers in passing to this verse [i.e 7-95.2] in the
     usual translation but comments that it ‘has to be treated critically,
     not literally’ (1998:348)…[W]hat the Ṛgveda tells us is not out of
     line with the evidence of archaeology, as concluded by Possehl:
     ‘Based on the presence of the Derawar Fort inland delta that was
     densely settled in Hakra wares and Mature Harappan times, along
     with the lack of physical evidence for a dry river bed between
     Derawar Fort and th Raini/Wahinda, it seems unlikely that the
     ancient Sarasvati flowed to the sea during those times. The
     absence of a river scar suggests that the same is true for later
     periods’ (1998:350 my square bracket).
    And thus, ignoring Possehl’s very next sentence, that the river probably
flowed to the sea but only early in the 4th millenium, she pretends to be
happy that archaeological evidence “as concluded by Possehl” proves her
notion that the Sarasvati did not flow to the ocean but simply from “together-
waters” somewhere up on the Himalayas!
    Here we have a double entendre of distortion and dishonesty. First of all
she disclaims any concern with archaeological arguments yet proceeds to
employ them (at least Possehl’s as she misrepresents them). But, in addition,
unlike her and other linguists, Possehl and other archaeologists usually
employ archaeological finds, facts and data, not arguments. More important,
she does not explain that Possehl’s “those times” refer to c1500-1000 BCE, i.e. the
time when the alleged Aryan invasion/immigration occurred and the RV was
composed. But, of course, at that time the Sarasvati was completely desiccated
                                                                         KTB 3

and the inhabitants of the sites along its banks had by and large already
emigrated eastward to the Ganngetic plains.
     However, what is inexcusable is her calculated cut of Possehl’s quote. For
immediately afterwards the archaeologist suggests “that the river once did
flow to the sea in very ancient times… (3800-3200), but even this is uncertain”.
And here Mrs Thomson displays two banes of indology – selectivity and
     As I pointed out in §5 of my 2010 paper on Karen Thomson, other
archaeologists (including British mainstreamer Bridget Allchin, expert in this
field) have no longer doubts that the Sarasvati flowed down to the ocean, and
consider the Nara Nadi river beyond the Derawar Fort to be the continuation
of the ancient Sarasvati; furthermore, the river-course (Possehl’s “scar”) has
been traced fully and accurately by satellite – running in the 4th millennium
from the Himalaya glacier-covered slopes to the Rann of Kutch; also water-
samples have been extracted from drillings all along the riverbed and found
through the tritium isotope to belong to an age earlier than 2700BCE (Mughal
1997; Flam 1999; Valdiya 2002, 2010, 2011; Sharma 2006; Danino 2010).

3. I did not expect, naturally, that KT (or, indeed, any mainstream academic)
would ever stoop to stating the simple truth. For I know well that mainstream
indologists have now developed fully the features of arrogance and mendacity,
derived from ignorance and propagated through the three banes of selectivity,
distortion and mechanical repetition. Ignorance itself appears in three very
broad types: common ignorance, from which we all suffer since we all lack
knowledge about far too many things; then, deliberate ignorance which
selects a wrong item, fact or opinion from two or more alternatives and/or
distorts an item, fact or opinion, in order to promote a larger pet theory – a
process resting on egoism; finally, learned ignorance which presupposes the
other two but uses in addition (with much vanity) a barrage of irrelevant
pedantry to cover up the distortion or wrong selection – much as a cuttlefish
squirts clouds of black ink to darken the waters and so hide its route of escape.
Mrs Thomson displays the last two types abundantly and faultlessly, as is
shown by the five-and-a-half pages of irrelevancies (English medieval
churches, Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue, Harry Potter, the three
commentators, the German School of linguistic approach etc, etc – all having
nothing to do with my critique).

4. But before culling out Mrs Thomson’s latest ramblings and examining her
fresh distortions, I should state my full agreement with her remarks on añj
(p429). Indeed, I concur wholly with the additional meaning she offers ‘make
appear, manifest’. I concur also with her criticism of the Rivelex dictionary
                                                                        KTB 4

5. KT first writes condescendingly that I am “sincere man, driven by
commitment” to salvage the RV, then asserts: “he devotes at least half of his
paper to red herrings, which cast considerable dust in the eye of the reader” –
except, of course, that red herrings do not cast dust. What are these “red
herrings”? They are, as she implies, all comments that are not directly
connected with the use of the adposition ā and the ablative and with the
meaning of ándhas!
     The first two-and-a-half pages of my paper (409-411) deal with words
which she left untranslated: armaká -, mahāvailastha- and vailasthāna(ká). My
last page (418), connected with the desiccation of Sarasvati, presents
additional evidence for the RV date of composition. All in all only three out of
my eleven pages (not half the paper)! And the words armaká etc are words she
dealt with but could not decipher! While she castigates everybody for giving
wrong translations, she herself gives none for many other rigvedic words she
mentions. For armaká etc I think I give very reasonable interpretations, but KT
does not deign to comment on this – other than “red herrings” – and prefers
to remain in her own recondite realm.
     In my study ‘Indigenous Indo-Aryans & the Ṛgveda’ (2002). I admitted
flatly at the beginning that there are elements and aspects of this text that I
don’t understand. This is still true, but not the points KT criticises with an
even greater lack of understanding than mine. KT thinks of herself as an
authoritative devaśista!

6. Her statement numbered 1 on p 425 is another splendid example of
distortion – met with often in Witzel’s counter-arguments. Twist your
opponent’s words and then attack the twisted version! For I do not “insist”
that 7.95.2, as she states, “provides clear and crucial evidence” that the river
Sarasvati flowed to the sea. I merely take it as one piece of literary evidence
which happens to support and be supported by other pieces and by the
archaeologists’ view that the river did in the early fourth millennium flow
down to the sea (Allchin B, Flam, Lal, Possehl, Sharma et al: see ‘RV 7.95.2 &
Karen Thomson’ and Additional Comments §5, beginning). I did not dispute that
samudrāt in all its other occurrences in the RV means ‘from’ because I had not
examined all other occurrences and, in any event, other occurrences are not
necessarily relevant to the case we discuss. All other occurrences that I have
examined do not speak of the river Sarasvatī nor of any other river flowing
                                                                               KTB 5

from the mountains!1 So are we to assume that the rivers did not flow from the
     Such is the obfuscation in KT’s mind that she does not see how she
contradicts herself in the grossest manner. For she herself provides one
instance – and one only from the entire RV – where movement towards is
given in the dative: samudrā́ yeva (= samudrā́ ya-iva) síndhavaḥ .. irate ‘as to-the-
sea the rivers go’ (8.44.25). So, Mrs Thomson, if once only we find movement-
towards with the dative which, as is well known, forms a gross anomaly
according to all rules of grammar, why do you object to the occurrence of ā́
samudrā́ t being rendered as ‘to the-sea’, especially since this syntactical
construction is perfectly regular?
     No reason really, other than your obstinacy that you alone know Vedic
and you alone can give correct translations – even though you repeatedly shy
away from explaining many rigvedic words. And, in any case, this your own
example shows that “rivers”, three or more, that is generally, flow to the sea. If
the Vedics did not know the ocean, and if only the Indus flowed to the sea, the
poet would have said “as the river flows to the sea”.

7. Since KT ignores flagrantly what MacDonell says giving sanction to ā́
samudrā́ t ‘to the-sea’, let us look at an older authority. There was a native
grammarian called Pāṇini and he summed up beautifully and very concisely
the rules of grammar in his Aṣṭādhyāyī. 2.3.28 of Pāṇini’s Aṣṭādhyāyī says
apādāne pañcamī ‘where there is motion-away-from (apādāna) [we have (or,
apply)] the-fifth [i.e. the ablative]’. He had defined the apādāna ‘ablation,
movement-from’ in 1.4.24 dhruvam apāye ’pādānam ‘the firm when there is
ablation in movement away’ – this appears in the fifth or ablative. So, the fifth
or oblative case does not require the ā́, and I made this point in passing in §2,
fourth para (p412, bottom). But Pāṇini’s 1.4.1 says ā Kaḍārāt .. ‘until/upto
Kaḍāra = tawny’ giving ā́ + the end-limit of movement. This is confirmed by
Patañjali’s comments in Mahābhāṣya on 1.1.14 (ā udakāntāt ‘until the water-
limit’) and by Kāśika on 2.1.13 (ā Kumarebhyaḥ ‘even as far as boys).
Consequently, ā́ samudrāt is a perfectly regular construction meaning quite

1 KT obviously does not understand the nature of the controversy nor the different
  issues involved. She barges in thinking that her slogan “decipherment of the text
  according to me” covers every contingency and solves every problem. 7-95.2 gains
  its force from 2.14.16 which calls it nadītamā (in the vocative) ‘best river’ and
  therefore superior to the Indus which did and still does, flow into the ocean. Now,
  Sarasvati would be called nadītamā only if it also flowed into the ocean; otherwise,
  common sense could demand that Indus should be so called. Then, 6,52,6 praises
  Sarasvati as nourished by many tributaries (the Yajur Veda,Vājasaneyī Saṃhitā 34.11
  gives five!); 6.61 present it as endless, bursting banks, swift moving and roaring;
  8,21.17-18 says that Citra and lesser rulers stretch out (ta-tan-) along the Sarasvati
  and so on. 7.95.2 is only one detail in a complex picture made up of many other
  pieces. Nor does she seem to know, or care, that over 2000 (!) sites, and some
  cities, have been excavated from the Early (c 3500 BCE) and the Mature (c2700)
  Harappan adjacent to and along the Sarasvati.
                                                                           KTB 6

legitimately ‘to the ocean’ according to the native grammatical tradition and,
of course, many instances in the RV itself.
     True, we may not find again this particular collocation ā́ + samudra in the
RV; but I gave two other instances (§2, para five, p413) of ā́ + ablative which
mean motion towards an end-limit: example (b) ā́ nimrúca uṣasaḥ ‘until evening
and dawn’ and (d) ā́ gṛhibhya .. ā́ vimócanāt ‘until the houses .. until unyoking’.
And, naturally, there are more.
     But Mrs Thomson here applies the only subterfuge left to her: using
prejudiced selectivity ignores the normal usages and clamours about instances
where motion towards the sea is given with the accusative (dvitīyā) – which is
also very regular but not the issue in this discussion.
     Moreover, she disregards utterly the fact that I took her own example (RV
4.21.3) ā́ yatu índro divá ā́ pṛthivyā́ makṣū́ samudrát and rendered ‘may Indra
come (ā́ yatu) to (ā) the-earth [where I am] from the sky, swiftly from the
ocean ..’. This is a far better translation than her own “Come hither Indra from
the sky or the earth ..”). If Indra is on earth then the poet would have specified
either the actual place from which the god should come or the place where
the poet is.

8. KT’s dishonesty brings in politics and assigns (pp 424-425) to me a party!
She can’t get correctly even this aspect of the debate. The contraversy is not
between “parties”, not between rightwing and leftwing, not even between
ultra-nationalists and moderates, but between mainstreamers-invasionists
and indigenists regarding the date of the IAs’ entry into India. Of course, the
issue has been politicized and leftwingers (and Indian christians) oppose
intensely any notion of Indoaryan indigenism because indigenism upsets their
pet notions.
     Be that as it may, it is obvious that my preceding comments, MacDonell’s
observations and Pāṇini’s rules, have nothing to do with politics.

9. Another self-contradiction comes with the meaning of samudrá. She did
not offer a meaning – in her usual fashion (and I’ll examine her excuse in §10,
below). Then, she added (p427 top) that my remarks do not provide adequate
information for “historians and archaeologists” whether the rigvedic poets
knew the ocean or not. Yet she herself has on this occasion given ‘sea’ for
     The only way “historians and archaeologists” will be content, according to
her, is “deciphering the text”. That common sense and much archaeological
evidence, as I pointed out (§3-5, pp414-416), impose it on us to accept that the
rigvedic people knew the ocean, means nothing to KT; nor the discussions in
other studies as well as my own (and Mayrhofer’s) comments.
     Using once more prejudiced selectivity she distorts yet again the import
of my comments on the three other examples for samudrá that I give in §4 (pp
                                                                                 KTB 7

     (a) Agni receives treasures ā́ samudrād ávarād ā párasmād ‘from the lower
ocean [on earth] and the upper one [in the sky] – RV 7.6.7. Here, clearly the
ocean is one in the singular in each case – lower, and upper – as is clear in
rigvedic cosmology: it cannot be a river-confluence.
     (b) yā́ ápo divyā́ utá vā sravanti, khanítrimā utā vā vayāḥ svayaṃjāh;
samudrā́ rthā yḥā́ śúcayaḥ pāvakā́ [ḥ] etc: ‘The waters that are heavenly, or flow in
channels, or arise spontaneously, [and] are clean and purifying, have as their
goal the samudrá’ etc – 7.49.2.
     (c) 1.116.4 says that Asvins saving Bhujiu from drowning carried him for
three nights and three days ‘to the distant dry-shore of the watery ocean’
samudrásya dhánvan árdrasya pāré. Here too there can be no doubt whatever
that it is one single watermass/ocean.
     Well, our impartial non-political scholar, blatantly ignores examples (a)
and (c) and with her characteristic prejudiced selectivity picks on (b) which
can admittedly give some grounds for objection and be taken as plural. Thus
from her supercilious seat high up in cloud-cuckoo-land she informs her
readers “Whether you interpret it as singular, plural or dual is up to you and in
the current political context, the argument you are trying to urge” (p427)2.
But, Mrs Thomson, you have the two other examples which are clearer than
crystal and both give singular ‘one ocean’! What kind of scholarship do you
use in ignoring them? Only small-mindedness would do this in the context of
the other two examples. That someone purporting to be objective and
scholarly should resort to such a fraudulent act (i.e. ignore two clear citations
and focus on one only) indicates malice and viciousness. It is moreover
deliberate ignorance and deception.
     However, her impartial stance is only a pose. If she had bothered to read
7.4.9 she would have seen that stanza 2 is an explanatory extension of stanza 1
where ‘Waters, the bright goddesses’ flow never-resting and being
samudrájyeṣṭhā ‘having the samudrá ocean oldest, highest, superior, chief or
best’. I suppose KT would protest that here also samudrá is plural or dual
according to one’s politics (!) but it won’t wash because we can’t have one
separate watermass, being jyeṣtḥa- for every individual goddess. There are not
that many samudras!

10. I suspect that KT’s protestations of her own impartiality, non-commitment
and objectivity are mere facades for her constant effort, ever since she first
approached me, to assert her own superiority. She claims that she left
samudrá untranslated because she did not wish to have her “grammatical
argument obscured by the political imbroglio” (p426); but this sounds utterly
naïve and, of course, hollow. Somebody who is truly apolitical (or without
“agenda”) and is concerned only with the true meaning of the text proceeds to
2. How can the dual (=two samudras) fit here? Are we to suppose, according to our
    ‘politics’, that all these different and separate types of waters have only two goals,
    two destinations? Surely, the realities of the material world and reason compel us
    to reject this. Either we have several, or one that stands for several – as when we
    say the ocean, i.e. every ocean, is much more extensive than a gulf.
                                                                         KTB 8

give the true meaning of the text undeterred by other considerations and
arguments of any kind. She would not indulge in irrelevant name-throwing
and would not retreat from attempting to interpret even once-occurring
      What is the “grammatical argument”?
      It is obvious that she messed it up in her previous paper by dragging in
indoeuropeanists who would (wrongly, as she knows) have the prepositions in
a postpositional place invariably. And she ought to know that there is very
little that is invariable in the rigvedic poetry. We saw in a ready at hand
example earlier that movement-towards was expressed not by the usual
accusative nor ā́ + abl, but by the dative (§6, second para, above)!
      Then, what is invariable about a neuter Plural nominative that is found as
kármāṇi kármā and kárma, also similarly for jánma, dhárma, nā́ ma, śarma, etc
(MacDonell 1910: 209-210)?
      If, as archaeologists, geologists and hydologists aver, that Sarasvati did
flow to the ocean, and if ā́ + abl can and frequently does mean motion-to, why
shouldn’t ā́ samudrā́ t be rendered ‘to the ocean’?
      Of what use is such a defective “grammatical argument”? ….

11. Finally, but only in note 2, Mrs Thomson comes to her point no 2 - the
meaning of ándhasī (RV 7.96.2). Here too with consistency at distortion, she
shoots off a misshapen version of what I wrote and leaves, yet again, the word
untranslated in this context: ubhé yát te mahinā́ śubhra ándhasī-adhikṣiyánti
pūrávah. She had translated as “ Since through your might, O bright one [i.e.
Sarasvati], The Pūrus inhabit both ándhasī ” (my square bracket). It is obvious
that only the word ándhasī, dual of ándhas, is to be elucidated. KT does agree
that the verse addresses Sarasvatī and that the tribe of the Pūrus inhabit both
of Sarasvatī’s ándhasī as shown by the enclitic te which refers to the river. So
we agree that here we have a historical reference in that at least the Pūrus
inhabit Sarasvatī’s both ándhasī. What then are ándhasī?
      In her point 2 she writes: “He [=Kazanas] argues that ándhas in 7.96.2 must
mean ‘grassy bank of a river’, although he agrees that it cannot possibly mean
that in any other of its 100 or so occurrences” (p425).
      But I wrote nothing of the sort. In fact I was extremely careful in my
statements to avoid precisely such counter-attacks. KT’s version of my words
is a very subtle distortion. This is what I wrote directly on ándhas (p417).
       “Of course ándhas is well attested in the sense of ‘darkness (and
       blindness)’; also ‘bush, grass, plant, stalk (esp 1.28.7) and (soma-)
       juice’ …
       Common sense and the diction with the dual concord ubhé …
       ándhasī compels us to dismiss all notions except the ‘two banks’ ….
                                                                              KTB 9

     True, ándhas as ‘bank’ is not attested anywhere. But why should
     this matter? Are we to abandon the reality of the material world
     and our common sense for the sake of philological pedantry?

     The ‘pedantry’ is KT’s, and she maintains a stiff and utterly silent upper
lip regarding common sense and the realities of the material world - and, of
course, gives no alternative translation, as usual!

12. I then buttressed my rendering by a reference to 8.21.17-18 and the poetic
figure of synecdoche. She says nothing about synecdoche but lampoons my
reference to 8.21.17-18.
     First, my own reference. It was given wrongly as 8.22.17-18, instead of 21!
Pouncing on this typo she exclaims triumphantly “if he [=Kazanas] had
[checked the text] he could …. have corrected the reference”. Wow! One
would think that even KT could see that this has nothing to do with checking
the text. I personally neither type nor use the computer. My secretary does,
and, in this case, she obviously hit the key with 2 instead of that with 1 which
happens to be adjacent. But KT turns this molehill of a typo into a mountain
of negligence and non-scholarship.
     KT exhibits the same pettiness of mind and meanness in, again, subtly but
surely distorting my words. She takes exception to my utterly free summary
of the meaning of the verses as if I was actually translating. I wrote
laconically: “king Citra and lesser kings rājaká - dwell along the Sarasvatī (-
along its banks obviously)”. Surely even Mrs Thomson can see that this is a
free summary rendering. Oh, no! She writes:-
      “There is no verb in the lines he is citing. Not only are the river
      banks supplied (“obviously” according to Kazanas), but also the
      verb “dwell” and the justification for supplying it are
      questionable” (Note 2: p427).
In other words, according to her understanding of this stanza, Citra and the
lesser kings did not dwell along the banks (= the adjacent fertile fields) but in
the deserts and on the mountain ridges of Sarasvatī. Perhaps she imagines
they lived miles away or underneath or they floated, flew, fought, danced,
disported and dived above and into the river!3
     Before I proceed with 8.21-17-18 let me ask this prose-prone pedant how
she would translate, e.g. ví me kárṇā patayato ví cákṣur (6.9.6). The ears and the
verb are in the dual as per rules of grammar. But what of the cákṣus ‘eye, one’?
Rigvedic poetry flows on in great freedom despite grammatical, accentual,
prosodical and other rules. Not so our modern prosaic tongues. So here we

3. If she took the trouble to consult some of the archaeologists I cite, she would have
     seen that 2000 or so sites have so far been excavated adjacent to this river, not
     close enough to suffer flood-damage when the river got swollen by heavy rainfall
     but not so far as to have difficulty in drawing from its water.
                                                                            KTB 10

must intervene and turn ‘two ears’ into ‘hearing’ or turn the ‘one eye’ into
‘two eyes’. I suppose KT will say that here our intervention is justified?
    But what of RV 8.91.6 concerning the young woman Apālā? She says: asaú
ca yā́́ na urvárā ā́d imā́ ṃ tanváṃ máma; átho tatásya yác chíraḥ sárvā tā́ romaśā́
kṛddhi. She is praying to Indra to make (krddhi) hairy (romaśā́ -) all these, her
father’s head, her own figure (below the belly: st 5) and their urvarā ‘wide-
spaced field’. For a literal-minded person, yes, this rendering will do, but
immediately common sense enters and says the field is to be made fertile
growing crops (barley or vegetables). And a proper English translation would
supply the deficiency or elucidate the off-putting image of a “hairy field”! But
the rigvedins thought it good within their own framework knowing that
poetry implies and suggests using connotation, ellipsis, metonymy, hyperbole
and all the other devices that make it so much richer and alluring than prose,
plodding along streamlined syntax and delimited meaning in its effort to
convey precise mundane information.4

13. I wonder how our prose-prone pedant would translate the passage
8.21.17-18. She doesn’t – yet again – give a rendering of her own because, I
suspect, she fears lest she gets accused of indulging in what she criticises
others for doing. The text here says: cítra íd rājā́ rājakā́ id anyaké yaká sárasvatim
ánu: parjánya iva tatánad dhi vṛstyā́ sahásram ayútā dádat: ‘Citra alone (id) king
kinglings indeed (id) who others along (ánu) the Sarasvatī; like Parjanya with
rain shall one extend (tatánat: Perfect subjunctive, ‘should one have extended’)
should give (dádat: Present subjunctive) a thousand without limit (ayútā), or
ten thousand’ (ayútā). This is the literal prosaic rendering. If the kinglings,
minor chiefs, were not in line one, the task would have been fairly easy with
rājā Citra as the subject and the verb tatánat in the second line. Obviously
Citra as overlord extended his influence, dominion along the river giving gifts,
presumably, like Parjanya, the god who gives rain. So the second verse is fairly
obvious. But so is the first verse, in fact: Citra alone is king (= overlord) [and]
kinglings (= minor rulers) indeed [are] those others along (ánu) the Sarasvatī’.
But perhaps KT would not have them along the [banks of the] Sarasvatī but
miles away on the mountains or waterless expanses. Surely if these kingdoms
are along the river or the overlord extends himself, his dominion or his
influence along the river, all these people dwell there – along the river and, of
course, the fertile banks?
     Where else Mrs Thomson, please?!

14. Back to the ubhé ándhasī. Here again she exhibits dishonesty in her
inconsistency between her declared belief that the RV is “great poetry” on the

4. Another pet notion of KT’s is that soma is an abstract noun and not the plant or
   liquid used in the sacrificial ritual. But, apart from other occasions, this hymn,
   states clearly that Apālā finds soma on the way (stanza 1) and “chews” it for Indra
   “Drink this which is tooth pressed (jámbha sutam)” she exclaims (stanza 2)! See
   note 5, below, also.
                                                                          KTB 11

one hand, and on the other her inability to appreciate poetic figures like
ellipsis, metonymy or synecdoche. Consider Shakespeare’s lines (Sonnet 2) -
      When forty winters shall besiege thy brow
      And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field ….
The ‘winters’ here are not winters but ‘years’. This is synecdoche (a form of
metonymy) when the part is used for the whole. Elsewhere in Shakespeare
the word occurs some 70 times with the sense of the cold season itself – but
not here. The imagery is breath-taking. The prose-version is ‘When you are
old with wrinkles’! Similarly in the RV 7.96.2, ‘both grasses’ ubhé ándhasī is
being used for the two banks and nothing else in the reality of the material
world or in common sense would fit.
     Now, KT cited in full (2009: 39) stanza 6.61.4 where the last line is mā́ tvát
kṣétrāṇi-áraṇāni ganma translating ‘Let us not go away from you to foreign
(áraṇa-) fields’ which is fine. But surely the collocation of “you” (tvát, Abl
singular without ā́!) and “fields” (kṣétrāṇi) indicates that the Bharadvāja family
(the ṛṣis of the 6th maṇḍala) lived in fields adjacent to and not far from the
river. These fields are said in line three of this stanza to be in sakhyā́
‘friendship’ and veśíyā ‘neighbourliness, dependent proximity of fields’. Surely
these fields close to the river are the two ándhasī on either side! Where else
would people live in proximity to the river?
     Yes, I would stick to the “bushy banks” and would dare anybody to give a
better translation. Mrs Thomson should get down from her pontifical
preeminence and stop criticising all and sundry without giving her own
sensible translation. She would have the right to criticise only if she has a
better and, of course, quite realistic rendering to offer. To say, as she does,
that because ándhas is not used in this sense elsewhere and therefore cannot
possibly have metaphorically the sense here is ludicrous. After all, she knows
that the word means both ‘plant, grass’ and ‘darkness’ without any apparent
connection between the two meanings. Would she translate ‘both darknesses’
or ‘both plants/stems’? So if she has nothing to offer she ought to stop
criticising and keep reverend silence.

15. I wrote in §1 that KT’s suggestion that añj- means also ‘make appear,
manifest’ finds me in agreement. However, we note that a lexeme or a dhātu
need not have just one meaning. We saw earlier that ándhas means both
‘darkness (blindness)’ and ‘bush, grass, plant’. Similarly añj- can mean
‘ointment, anointing’ and the like. The Dhātupātḥa gives: añj-ū vyakti-
mrakṣaṇa-kānti-gatiṣu covering ‘manifestation’ with vyakti, also ‘anointing’
mrakṣaṇa ‘beauty’ kānti and ‘movement’ gati. We today may not find all these
meanings, but doubtless we don’t have all the texts and usages that were
available to the grammarians of those very ancient times. To insist on only
one meaning simply because the other(s) are not very evident (or because it
suits one’s pet theory) is useless obstinacy. Rigidity is never helpful for
                                                                          KTB 12

     There are many interesting cases. For instance, the word keśa ‘hair’ is not
found in the RV. Are we then to say that it did not exist or was not in
circulation? It would be stupid. For in the RV are found keśa-vant ‘having hair’
and keśin ‘hairy one’. So caution and elasticity are needed at all times.
     Mrs Thomson suggests frequently and forcibly that she alone attempts to
approach in a new objective way the rigvedic diction and syntax and that
other scholars are entrapped in the Sāyaṇa or ritualistic interpretation.
Understandably she does not know that in India Swami Dayananda Saravati in
the late 19th and Shri Aurobindo in the early 20th centuries rejected in large
part Sāyaṇa and ritualistic interpretations to explore new avenues of meaning;
but she should know that Roth in the 19th cent and then Grassmann,
MacDonell and others stopped relying on Sāyaṇa and turned to comparative
philology and other means of ascertaining more correct denotations for the
rigvedic diction. KT is very wrong here also in ignoring her debt to all these
     Moreover, the actual original text of the RV hardly suffers – as KT thinks –
whether it is the “restored” version of Holland and Van Nooten or that of
devout Hinduists. The hymns, apart from any symbolism (as obviously in 6.9)
have a dimension that no amount of mere academic learning will ever
penetrate. In one hymn it is said: ápama sómam amṛ́ tā abhūma; áganma jyótir
ávidāma devā́ n ‘We drank/ingested soma, we became immortal; we went to the
light, we found (got-to-know?) the gods’. Only when the scholar reaches a
closely similar state, will he/she render correctly the import of the RV.5
     Here I take my leave of Karen Thomson for good. Much else could be said
but enough is enough. One cannot hold a useful dialogue with so dishonest an
interlocutor. But one hopes that she will continue, with less arrogance,
grumbling and criticism, her good work in re-examining ambiguous words and
phrases in the RV and will not shy away from giving better interpretations.

5. Here too the poet states explicitly that “we drank soma” not that we contemplated
   some “abstraction”! See note 4, above.
                                                                         KTB 13


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              2010 The Making of India: Geodynamic Evolution Noida, Macmillan
              2002 Sarasvati the River that Disappeared Hyderabad, Universities

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