The determination of the
age in which Vedic literature started and flourished has its consequences for the Aryan
Invasion question. The oldest text, the RgVeda, is full of precise references to places
and natural phenomena in what are now Panjab and HAryana, and was unmistakably composed in
that part of India. The date at which it was composed is a firm terminus ante quem
for the entry of the Vedic Aryans into India. They may have come from abroad or they may
have been fully native, but by the time of the RgVeda, they were certainly Indians
without memory of a foreign homeland.
a rather shoddy way, Friedrich Max Müller launched the hypothesis that the RgVeda had
to be dated to about 1200 BC, and even though he later retracted it, that arbitrary guess
has become the orthodoxy. It is
forgotten too often that in his own day, other scholars rejected this extremely late date
on a variety of grounds. Maurice Winternitz based his estimate on purely philological
considerations: "We cannot explain the development of the whole of this great
literature if we assume as late a date as round about 1200 BC or 1500 BC as its
startingpoint." Isn't it refreshing to find how logical and
unprejudiced the early researchers were? You cannot credibly cram the complicated
linguistic, cultural and philosophical developments which are in evidence in Vedic
literature, into just a few centuries.
But since this argument of
plausibility can always be countered with the argument that unlikely developments are not
strictly impossible, we need a firmer basis to decide this chronological question. The
most explicit chronology would be provided by astronomical markers of time.
2. Ancient Hindu astronomy
2.1. Astronomical tables
One of the earliest estimates of the date of the Vedas was at
once among the most scientific. In 1790, the Scottish mathematician John Playfair
demonstrated that the startingdate of the astronomical observations recorded in the
tables still in use among Hindu astrologers (of which three copies had reached Europe
between 1687 and 1787) had to be 4300 BC. His
proposal was dismissed as absurd by some, but it was not refuted by any scientist.
Playfair's judicious use of astronomy was
countered by John Bentley with a Scriptural argument which we now must consider invalid.
In 1825, Bentley objected: "By his [Playfair's] attempt to uphold the
antiquity of Hindu books against absolute facts, he thereby supports all those horrid
abuses and impositions found in them, under the pretended sanction of antiquity. Nay, his
aim goes still deeper, for by the same means he endeavours to overturn the Mosaic account,
and sap the very foundation of our religion: for if we are to believe in the antiquity of
Hindu books, as he would wish us, then the Mosaic account is all a fable, or a
fiction." Bentley did not object to astronomy per se, in so far
as it could be helpful in showing up the falsehood of Brahminical scriptures. However, it
did precisely the reverse. Falsehood in this context could have meant that the Brahmins
falsely claimed high antiquity for their texts by presenting as ancient astronomical
observations recorded in Scripture what were in fact backcalculations from a much later
age. But Playfair showed that this was impossible.
planetary positions is a highly complex affair requiring knowledge of a number of physical
laws, universal constants and actual measurements of densities, diameters and distances.
Though Brahminical astronomy was remarkably sophisticated for its time, it could only
backcalculate planetary position of the presumed Vedic age with an inaccuracy margin of
at least several degrees of arc. With our modern knowledge, it is easy to determine what
the actual positions were, and what the results of backcalculations with the Brahminical
formulae would have been, e.g.:
""Aldebaran was therefore
40' before the point of the vernal equinox, according to the Indian astronomy, in the year
3102 before Christ. (...) [Modern astronomy] gives the longitude of that star 13' from the
vernal equinox, at the time of the Calyougham, agreeing, within 53', with the
determination of the Indian astronomy. This agreement is the more remarkable, that the
Brahmins, by their own rules for computing the motion of the fixed stars, could not have
assigned this place to Aldebaran for the beginning of Calyougham, had they calculated it
from a modern observation. For as they make the motion of the fixed stars too great by
more than 3'' annually, if they had calculated backward from 1491, they would have placed
the fixed stars less advanced by 4° or 5°, at their ancient epoch, than they have
actually done." So, it
turns out that the data given by the Brahmins corresponded not with the results deduced
from their formulae, but with the actual positions, and this, according to Playfair, for
nine different astronomical parameters. This is a bit much to explain away as coincidence
or sheer luck.
2.2. Ancient observation, modern confirmation
That Hindu astronomical lore about ancient
tuimes cannot be based on later backcalculation, was also argued by Playfair's
contemporary, the French astronomer JeanSylvain Bailly: "the motions of the stars
calculated by the Hindus before some 4500 years vary not even a single minute from the
[modern] tables of Cassini and Meyer. The Indian tables give the same annual variation of
the moon as that discovered by Tycho Brahe a variation unknown to the school of
Alexandria and also the the Arabs". Prof. N.S.
Rajaram, a mathematician who has worked for NASA, comments: "fabricating astronomical
data going back thousands of years calls for knowledge of Newton's Law of Gravitation and
the ability to solve differential equations." Failing
this advanced knowledge, the data in the Brahminical tables must be based on actual
observation. Ergo, the Sanskritspeaking Vedic seers were present in person to record
astronomical observations and preserve them for a full 6,000 years: "The observations
on which the astronomy of India is founded, were made more than three thousand years
before the Christian era. (...) Two other elements of this astronomy, the equation of the
sun's centre and the obliquity of the ecliptic (...) seem to point to a period still more
remote, and to fix the origin of this astronomy 1000 or 1200 years earlier, that is, 4300
years before the Christian era".
All this at least on the
assumption that Playfair's, Bailly's and Rajaram's claims about the Hindu astronomical
tables are correct. Disputants may start by proving them factually wrong, but should not
enter the dispute arena without a refutation of the astronomers' assertions. It is
something of a scandal that Playfair's and Bailly's findings have been lying around for
two hundred years while linguists and indologists were publishing speculations on Vedic
chronology in stark disregard for the contribution of astronomy.
2.3. The start of KaliYuga
Hindu tradition makes
mention of the conjunction of the "seven planets" (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus,
Mercury, sun and moon) and Ketu (southern lunar node, the northern node/Rahu being by
definition in the opposite location) near the fixed star Revati (Zeta Piscium) on
18 February 3102 BC. This date, at which Krishna is supposed to have breathed his last, is
conventionally the start of the socalled KaliYuga, the "age of strife", the
low point in a declining sequence of four ages. However, modern scholars have claimed that
the KaliYuga system of timereckoning was a much younger invention, not attested before
the 6th century AD.
Against this modernist
opinion, Bailly and Playfair had already shown that the position of the moon (the
fastestmoving "planet", hence the hardest to backcalculate with precision)
at the beginning of KaliYuga, 18 February 3102, as given by Hindu tradition, was
accurate to 37'. Either the Brahmins had made an incredibly lucky
guess, or they had recorded an actual observation on Kali Yuga day itself.
Richard L. Thompson claims that in Indian literature and
inscriptions, there are a number of datelines expressed in KaliYuga which are older than
the Christian era (and a fortiori older than the 6th century AD).
More importantly, Thompson argues that the Jyotishashâstras (treatises on
astronomy and, increasingly, astrology, starting in the 14th century BC with the Vedânga
Jyotisha as per its own astronomical data, but mostly from the first millennium AD)
are correct in mentioning this remarkable conjunction on that exact day, for there was
indeed a conjunction of sun, moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Ketu and
True, the conjunction was not
spectacularly exact, having an orb of 37° between the two most extreme planetary
positions. But that exactly supports the hypothesis of an actual observation as opposed to
a backcalculation. Indeed, if the Hindu astronomers were able to calculate this position
after a lapse of many centuries (when the JyotishaShâstra was written), it is unclear
what reason they would have had for picking out that particular conjunction. Surely, such
conjunctions are spectacular to those who witness one, and hence worth recording if
observed. But they are not that exceptional when considered over millennia: even closer
conjunctions of all visible planets do occur (most recently on 5 February 1962).
If the Hindu astronomers had simply been going over their astronomical tables
looking for an exceptional conjunction, they could have found more spectacular ones than
the one on 18 February 3102 BC.
3. The precession of the equinox
3.1. The slowest hand on the clock
The truly strong evidence for
a high chronology of the Vedas is the Vedic information about the position of the equinox.
The phenomenon of the "precession of the equinoxes" takes the ecliptical
constellations (also known as the sidereal Zodiac, i.e. those constellations
through which the sun passes)
slowly past the vernal equinox point, i.e. the intersection of ecliptic and equator,
rising due East on the horizon. The whole tour is made in about 25,791 years, the longest
cycle manageable for nakedeye observers. If data about the precession are properly
recorded, they provide the best and often the only clue to an absolute chronology for
If we can read the Vedic and
postVedic indications properly, they mention constellations on the equinox points which
were there from 4,000 BC for the RgVeda (Orion, as already pointed out by B.G.
Tilak) through around 3100 BC for the AtharvaVeda and the core
Mahabharata (Aldebaran) down to 2,300 BC for the Sutras and the Shatapatha Brahmana
Other references to the
constellational position of the solstices or of solar and lunar positions at the beginning
of the monsoon confirm this chronology. Thus, the Kaushitaki Brahmana puts the winter
solstice at the new moon of the sidereal month of Magha (i.e. the Mahashivaratri
festival), which now falls 70 days later: this points to a date in the first half of the
3rd millennium BC. The same precessional movement of the twelve months of the Hindu
calendar (which are tied to the constellations) visavis the meterological seasons, is
what allowed Hermann Jacobi to fix the date of the RgVeda to the 5th4th millennium BC.
Indeed, the regular references to the full moon's position in a
constellation at the time of the beginning of the monsoon, which nearly coincides with the
summer solstice, provide a secure and unambiguous chronology through the millennial Vedic
It is not only the Vedic age which
is moved a number of centuries deeper into the past, when comparing the astronomical
indications with the conventional chronology. Even the Gupta age (and implicitly the
earlier ages of the Buddha, the Mauryas etc.) could be affected. Indeed, the famous
playwright and poet Kalidasa, supposed to have worked at the Gupta court in about 400 AD,
wrote that the monsoon rains started at the start of the sidereal month of Ashadha; this
timing of the monsoon was accurate in the last centuries BC. This
implicit astronomybased chronology of Kalidasa, about 5 centuries higher than the
conventional one, tallies well with the traditional "high" chronology of the
Buddha, whom Chinese Buddhist tradition dates to ca. 1100 BC, and the implicit Puranic
chronology even to ca. 1700 BC.
3.2. Some difficulties
These indications about the
precessional phases may be unreliable insofar as their exact meaning is not unambiguous.
To say that a constellation "never swerves from the East" (as is said of the
Pleiades in the Shatapatha Brahmana 2:1:2:3) seems to mean that it contains the spring
equinox, implying that it is on the equator, which intersects the horizon due East. But
this might seem insufficiently explicit for the modern reader who is used to a precise and
separate technical terminology for such matters. But then, the modern reader will have to
accept that technical terminology in Vedic days mostly consisted in fixed metaphorical
uses of common terms. This is not all that primitive, for the same thing will be found
when the etymology of modern technical terms is analyzed, e.g. a telescope is a
Greek "farseer", oxygen is "acidproducer", a cylinder
is a "roller". The only difference is that we can use the vocabulary of foreign
classical languages to borrow from, while Sanskrit was its known classical reservoir of
Another factor of uncertainty is
that the equinox moves very slowly (1° in nearly 71 years), so that any inexactness in
the Vedic indications and any ambiguity in the constellations' boundaries makes a
difference of centuries. This occasional inexactness might possibly be enough to
neutralize the above shift in Kalidasa's date but not to account for a shift of
millennia (each millennium corresponding to about 14 degrees of arc) needed to move the
Vedic age from the preHarappan to the postHarappan period, from 4000 BC as calculated
by the astronomers to 1200 BC as surmised by Friedrich Max Müller.
On the other hand, it is
encouraging to note that the astronomical evidence is entirely free of contradictions.
There would be a real problem if the astronomical indications had put the Upanishads
earlier than the RgVeda, or Kalidasa earlier than the Brahmanas, but that is not
the case: the astronomical evidence is consistent. Inconsistency would prove the
predictable objection of AIT defenders that these astronomical references are but poetical
fabulation without any scientific contents. However, the facts are just the opposite. To
the extent that there are astronomical indications in the Vedas, these form a
consistent set of data detailing an absolute chronology for Vedic literature in full
agreement with the known relative chronology of the different texts of this literature.
This way, they completely contradict the hypothesis that the Vedas were composed after an
invasion in about 1500 BC. Not one of the dozens of astronomical data in Vedic literature
confirms the AIT chronology.
3.3. Regulus at summer solstice
the Shulba Sutra appended to Baudhayana's Shrauta Sutra, mathematical
instructions are given for the construction of Vedic altars. One of its remarkable
contributions is the theorem usually ascribed to Pythagoras, first for the special case of
a square (the form in which it was discovered), then for the general case of the
rectangle: "The diagonal of the rectangle produces the combined surface which the
length and the breadth produce separately." This and other instances of advanced
mathematics presented by Baudhayana have been shown by the American mathematician A.
Seidenberg to be the origin of similar mathematical techniques and "discoveries"
in Greece and Babylonia, some of which have been securely dated to 1700 BC. So, 1700 BC
was a terminus post quem for Baudhayana's mathematics, which would reasonably be
dated to the later part of the Harappan period which ended in ca. 1900 BC.
However, Seidenberg was told by the
indologists that these Sutras, or any Vedic text for that matter, were definitely written
later than 1700 BC. But mathematical data cannot be manipulated just like that, and
Seidenberg remained convinced of his case: "Whatever the difficulty there may be
[concerning chronology], it is small in comparison with the difficulty of deriving the
Vedic ritual application of the theorem from Babylonia. (The reverse derivation is
easy)... the application involves geometric algebra, and there is no evidence of geometric
algebra from Babylonia. And the geometry of Babylonia is already secondary whereas in
India it is primary." To
satisfy the indologists, he said that the Shulba Sutra had conserved an older tradition,
and that it is from this one that the Babylonians had learned their mathematics:
"Hence we do not hesitate to place the Vedic (...) rituals, or more exactly, rituals
exactly like them, far back of 1700 BC. (...) elements of geometry found in Egypt and
Babylonia stem from a ritual system of the kind described in the Sulvasutras".
This is then one of those
"entities multiplied beyond necessity": a ritual, annex altar, annex
mathematical theory, which is exactly like the Vedic ritual, annex altar, annex
mathematical theory, only it is not the Vedic ritual but a thousand or so years older. Let
us simplify matters and assume that it was Baudhayana himself who devised his mathematical
theories "far back of 1700 BC". Is there a way to find independent confirmation
of this suspicion. Yes, there is: the precession of the equinoxes.
In their Index of Vedic Names,
A.A. MacDonell and A.B. Keith cite the opinion of several philologists about a reference
to a solstice in Magha in the Baudhayana Shrauta Sutra (as well as in the
Kaushitaki Brahmana 19:3), to which the Shulba Sutra is an appendix. Magha is the asterism
around the star Regulus, but the name is used for an entire month (names of months are
typically the name of the most prominent one of the two or three asterisms/nakshatras
which make up that onetwelfth of the ecliptic), spatially equivalent to a zone of about
30° around that star, so any deduction here must take a fair degree of imprecision into
account. The 18th and 19thcentury philologists cited disagree about whether a Magha
solstice was in 1181 BC or in 1391 BC. The authors themselves consider it "only fair
to allow a thousand years for possible errors", and settle for a date between 800 BC
and 600 BC, "quite in harmony with the probable date of the Brahmana
However, it is very easy to calculate that Regulus, currently at
almost exactly 60° from the solstitial axis, was on that axis about 60 x 71 years ago,
i.e. in the 23rd century BC. Though we must indeed allow for an inexactitude of up to
15°, equivalent to about 1100 years, the Magha solstice described is much more likely to
have been in 2200 BC than in 1100 BC (with Keith's and MacDonell's 600 BC being already
quite beyond the pale). It may have taken place even before the 23rd century BC: maybe
only the asterism around Regulus had reached the solstitial axis but not yet the star
itself. Most likely, then, this reference to a Magha solstice confirms that the Brahmana
and Sutra literature including the Baudhayana Shrauta Sutra (annex Shulba) dates to the
late 3rd millennium BC, at the height of the Harappan civilization. In that case,
Seidenberg's reconstruction of the development and transmission of mathematical
knowledge and the astronomical references in the literature confirm each other in placing
Baudhayana's (postVedic!) work in the later part of the Harappan period.
3.4. One Veda can hide another
At this point, the only
defence for the AIT can consist in a wholesale rejection of the astronomical evidence.
This can be done in a crude way, e.g. by simply ignoring the astronomical evidence, as is
done in most explicitations of the AIT. A slightly subtler approach is to explain it away,
as is done by Romila Thapar, who affirms her belief in "the generally accepted
chronology that the RigVedic hymns were composed over a period extending from about 1500
to 1000 BC". When "references to what have been interpreted as configurations of
stars have been used to suggest dates of about 4000 BC for these hymns", she raises
the objection that "planetary positions could have been observed in earlier times and
such observations been handed down as part of an oral tradition", so that they
"do not constitute proof of the chronology of the Vedic hymns".
This would imply that
accurate astronomical data were indeed made from the 5th millennium onwards, and that they
were preserved for more than two thousand years, an unparalleled feat in oral traditions.
If such a feat is not an indication of literacy and of written records, at the least it
supposes a mnemotechnical device capable of preserving information orally, and the one
that was available then was verse. So, some poems with the memoryaiding devices of
verse, rhythm and tone must have been composed when the information was available
firsthand, i.e. close to the time of the actual observation, and those hymns would of
course be the Vedic hymns themselves. Otherwise, one has to postulate that the Vedic hymns
were composed by borrowing the contents of an earlier tradition of verse, composed at the
time when the equinox was observed to be in Orion.
In other words, the RgVeda contains
literal (though unacknowledged) quotations from another hymns collection composed 2,500
years earlier. This is as good as asserting that Shakespeare's works were not written by
Shakespeare, but by someone else whose name was also Shakespeare. However, the point to
remember is that even Romila Thapar does not deny that somebody's actual observation of
these celestial phenomena was the source of their description in the Vedas.
It is not good enough for those
who don't like this evidence, to object that they are not convinced by these astronomical
indications of high antiquity, on the plea that their meaning might be somewhat unclear to
us. It is clear enough and undeniable that the Vedic seers took care to mention certain
astronomical positions and phenomena. A convincing refutation would therefore require an
alternative but consistent (philogically as well as astronomically sound) interpretation
of the existing astronomical indications which brings Vedic literature down to a much
later age. But so far, such a reading of those text passages doesn't seem to exist. In no
case is there astronomical information which puts the Vedas at as late a date as
"generally accepted" by Prof. Thapar and others. 4. Additional astronomical indications
4.1. The Saptarshi cycle
Apart from the hard
evidence, there are a few elements in Hindu astronomical tradition which would not count
as evidence all by themselves, but which may gain a new significance when studied in the
company of the more solid elements already considered. We will mention four of them: the
Saptarshi cycle, the Vedic description of a particular eclipse, Kabbala-like numerical
games in Vedic texts and ritual, and the surprising presence of the Zodiac.
A lesser-known Hindu system of
time-reckoning is the Saptarshi cycle of 3600 years. My suspicion is that Saptarshi,
"the seven sages", sometimes referring to the seven stars of the panhandle in
Ursa Maior, in this case means "the seven planets" (later replaced with Navagraha,
"the nine planets", including the two Lunar nodes); that the Saptarshi cycle was
conceived as the period between two conjunctions of all the seven planets; and that 3600
years was but a conventional and arbitrary approximation of that ideal cycle. At any rate,
by the Christian age we find writers who take this concept of a 3600-year cycle literally,
and it is hard to either prove or refute that this may have been a much older tradition.
The medieval Kashmiri historian
Kalhana claimed that the previous cycle had started in 3076 BC, and the present one in AD
525. J.E. Mitchiner has suggested that the beginning of the Saptarshi reckoning was one
more cycle earlier, in 6676 BC. This
would roughly coincide with the start of the Puranic dynastic list reported by Greco-Roman
authors as starting in 6776 BC.
Indeed, the Puranic
king-list as known to Greek visitors of Candragupta's court in the 4th century BC or to
later Greco-Roman India-watchers, started in 6776 BC. Pliny wrote that the Indians date
their first king to "6,451 years and 3 months" before Alexander the Great (d.
323 BC), while Arrian puts "Dionysus" as head of the dynastic list at 6,042 +
300 + 120 = 6,462 years before Sandrokottos (Chandragupta), to whom a Greek embassy was
sent in 314 BC. Both indications add up to a date, give or take a year, of 6776 BC. This
would, according to the implicit chronology of Puranic tradition, be the time of Manu's
enthronement, Manu being the Aryan patriarch who established his kingdom in North India
after having survived the Flood. One of Manu's heirs was Ila, ancestress of Yayati, whose
five sons became the patriarchs of the "five peoples" who form the ethnic
horizon of the Vedas, one of them being Puru; in Puru's tribe, then, one Bharata started
the Bharata clan to which most of the Vedic seers belonged.
It so happens that in 6776 BC (and
still in 6676 BC), the oceans were still in the process of recovering the ground they lost
during the Ice Age, when the sea level was for thousands of years nearly a hundred metres
below the present level. The importance of the Glaciation, which peaked ca. 16,000 years
ago, in the reconstruction of Eurasian migration histories can hardly be overestimated.
The Channel between Britain and France, with sea bottom at ca. 40 metres, was a walkway
until it was inundated again in ca. 6500 BC, when the sea was already more than halfway
back to its normal (or at least its present) level. This means that for centuries before
and for some more centuries after that time, the sea level was progressively rising. Since
large populations had settled in the coastal areas vacated by the receding sea at the
beginning of the Ice Age, the progressive melting of the ice-caps led to the progressive
flooding of ever higher-situated population centres, for several millennia until perhaps
One can imagine what would
happen if today the sea level would rise a mere 10 metres: densely populated countries
like the Netherlands and Bangladesh would get largely submerged, along with major cities
like New York and Mumbai, and at least a quarter of the world population would have to
move. But that was, for several millennia, the human condition: one after another,
low-lying villages had to be abandoned to the rising sea. It must have seemed like a law
of nature to them that the sea was forever rising, forcing men to seek higher habitats.
And this process was probably continuous only when looked at from a distance, the reality
being more like periods of stable sea levels followed by sudden jumps, catastrophes when
considered on the scale of a human lifetime. Most probably, that is the origin of the
Flood story. The Puranas describe Manu as the leader of mankind
after the Flood, and if we apply a realistic average length to the rulerships of the kings
mentioned in the Puranic dynastic lists, Manu must have lived in the 7th millennium BC,
the time of the rising waters, warranting the suspicion that the Flood story is related to
historical events at the end of the Ice Age.
The myth of
Atlantis and other submerged continents probably has a similar origin. The Tamils have a
tradition of a submerged land to India's south, of which the Maledives and Sri Lanka are
remaining hilltops: Tamilakam or, in the parlance of the Madras-based Theosophical
Society, Lemuria. The city in which their poets' academy or Sangam (recorded
in the early Christian era, but claimed to be ten thousand years old) was established, was
said to have been moved thrice because of the rising waters. Though it is hard to see how
poets working at the turn of the Christian era could have a memory of events five
millennia older, one cannot dismiss as pure fable a story which tallies neatly with the
known geological facts of the rising sea level at the end of the Ice Age.
And if such memory was possible,
the existence of a system of time-reckoning going back that far, is not impossible either.
But we must admit that for the time being, this is merely "not impossible".
However, even if we let the Saptarshi cycle start only in 3076 BC, unrelated to Manu and
the Flood, this is still hard to reconcile with the theory of an Aryan invasion in the 2nd
4.2. A remarkable eclipse
For another chronological
marker, Rg-Veda 5:40:5-9 describes a solar eclipse. From the description, one can deduce a
number of conditions determining the times at which it could have taken place: it was at
that site a central, non-total exclipse, which took place in the afternoon on the
Kurukshetra meridian, on a given day after the summer solstice, at least in the reading of
P.C. Sengupta. Only one date satisfies all conditions, which he calculated as 26 July 3928
BC. We have to add, however, that this calculation stands or falls
with the accuracy of the unusual translation of the word brahma as
"solstice". This reading is supported by later scriptural references to the same
event, Shankhayana Aranyaka 1:2,18 and Jaiminiya Brahmana 2:404-410. N.S.
Rajaram has identified an even more explicit use of brahma in the sense of
"solstice": in Rg-Veda 10:85:35, where brahma is associated with the
division of the solar cycle in two halves.
Moreover, the astronomical interpretation (e.g. by B.G. Tilak) of
Rg-Veda 10:61:5-8, where brahma is the equinox and the fruit of the union between a divine
father and daughter, i.e. the two adjoining constellations Mrgashira/Orion and
Rohini/Aldebaran, if not more abstractly the intersection of two related celestial
circles, may be cited in support: equinox is not the same as solstice, but
it is at least one of the cardinal directions, a purely astronomical rather than a
religious concept; the common meaning of brahma would then be "cardinal
direction". The division of the ecliptic in 4 parts of 90° by the solstice axis and
the equinox axis is already obliquely referred to in RV 1:155:6, so the concept of
"cardinal direction" was certainly understood. Still, this construction remains
sufficiently strange to be a reasonable ground for skepticism. On the other hand, it is up
to the skeptics to come up with a convincing alternative translation which fits the