Our knowledge of the most ancient times in India rests mainly on tradition. The Purana, the Mahabharata, and in a minor degree the Ramayana profess to give accounts from tradition about the earliest accurrences. The Rgveda contains historical allusions, of which some record contemporary persons and events, but more refer to gone times and persons and are obviously based on tradition. Almost all the information therefore comes from tradition.
The results obtained from an examination of Puranic and epic tradition as well as of the Rgveda and Vedic literature are set forth in the present book, which happens to be a pioneering work in the area by an important orientalist of the nineteenth century.
About the Author
FREDERICK EDEN PARGITER (1852-18 February, 1927) was the second son of Rev. Robert Pargiter. He studied at Taunton Grammar School and Exeter College, Oxford where he passed in 1873 with a first-class in mathematics.
Pargiter passed the Indian Civil Service examinations and embarked for India in 1875. Pargiter served in India from 1875 to 1906 becoming Under-Secretary to the Government of Bengal in 1885, District and Sessions Court Judge in 1887 and a Judge of the Calcutta High Court in 1904. Pargiter voluntarily retired in 1906 following the death of his wife and returned to the United Kingdom. He was also the Vice President of the Asiatic Society, London.
His other publications include The Markandeya-Puranam Sanskrit Text English Translation with Notes and Index of Verses. Asiatic Society (1904) and A Revenue History of the Sundarbans from 1870 to 1920 (1920) .
The views about ancient India now held by scholars are based upon an examination of the Veda and Vedic literature, to the neglect Puranic and epic tradition; that is, ancient Indian history has been fashioned out of compositions, which are purely religious and priestly, which notoriously do not deal with history, and which totally lack the historical sense. The extraordinary nature of such history may be perceived, if it were suggested that should be constructed merely out of theological literature. What would raise a smile if applied to Europe has been soberly accepted when applied to India. This contrast is full justification for a consideration of what historical tradition has to tell us, and the result obtained from an examination for Puranic and epic tradition as well as of the Rigveda and Vedic Literature are set out in the following pages.
Nothing herein has been the outcome of preconceived ideas, speculation, or haste. It began with a study of the epics and Puranas for geographical information about ancient India thirty years ago, during the translation of the Markandey Puran, in order to elucidate its geographical chapters. Geography included political divisions, and led to an examination for ancient kingdoms and so on their dynastic genealogies and traditions- subjects that were generall7y regarded as of little or no historical value, and were practically neglected. With no views about ancient India historical tradition, and a desire merely to see whether there was any substance in its, it was collected, compared, and studied, and inferences were drawn there from, revised continually with fresh material, and discarded freely if they proved untenable with is simply the scientific process of collecting and testing facts copiously before forming any opinion or theory. At length some substance and order seemed to manifest themselves, and certain results gradually took shape; and some of these have been published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society during the last fourteen years. These results developed with further study in study in various directions, especially on the religious side, and all have been revised and recast repeatedly, as their mutual relations became more complex, with fresh material from all sources.
The outcome of all these inquiries is set out here. No conclusion is put forward but what is based upon definite statements, and the authorities for every statement are cited. The results are totally different from the views now held by scholars as noticed above; yet there is nothing in them, as far as I am aware, really in-consistent with the most ancient book we possess, namely, the Rigveda, and they throw much new light thereon, and on all problems concerning ancient India. It remains however to be seen how far Professor M. Bloomfield's recent book, Rig-Veda Repetitions, which should lead to some solid chronological results, will support what tradition indicates regarding the order of rishis.
No pains have been spared to verify the references and make them complete and accurate. Unfortunately a few errors escaped notice in the proof-reading, and a considerable number of typo-graphical blemishes have crept into the finally printed page, mostly the loss of diacritical marks which have failed or broken off in the printing, such as the stroke over the capital palatal sibilant, and the long mark over capital vowels. All these are exhibited in the list of Corrigenda at the end. I trust there are none others overlooked, yet feel sure that, if there are any, whether in the text or in the map, they can be readily corrected, and will not create any doubt as to what is intended.
My sincere thanks are given to the University of Oxford and the Government of India for generous help towards lightening the cost of this book for the benefit of readers.