Krishna, a Yadava prince of the house of Vrishni, occupies a unique place in the hearts and minds of the Hindus. Until some Europeans two hundred years ago launched their study of Indian history and tradition, few Indians had questioned his historicity. But through the application of the Europeans' so-called 'scientific method', Krishna was soon reduced to the status of a myth. Colonial authority and lack of a critical spirit among educated Indians ensured that the work of these men and women of the colonial period without much knowledge of science or Indian sources escaped serious criticism. They are gone but their influence still lingers In the present book, Dr. N.S. Rajaram, a scientist as well as historian, marshals evidence from a wide range of sources ranging from archaeology and astronomy to the newly deciphered Indus seals to show that Krishna was in all probability a historical figure who lived towards the end of the Vedic Age. The result is a tour de force that gives a vivid picture of the life and times of one of the grandest personalities in history. It presents also a new approach to the study of ancient history by combining science and traditional sources.
Dr. Navaratna S. Rajaram is a mathematician, linguist and historian who after a twenty-year career as an academic and industrial researcher in the United States turned his attention to history, in which he has several notable achievements. He is the author of the acclaimed book Vedic Aryans and the Origins of Civilization (with David Frawley), now in its third edition. He collaborated with renowned Vedic scholar Dr. Natwar Jha on the decipherment of the 5000 year old Indus script leading to their joint work The Deciphered Indus Script. In May 1999, Rajaram deciphered the newly discovered sample of what has been called the "world's oldest writing," showing it to be related to the Rigveda. He has also written extensively on Indian history, philosophy and current affairs. He is one of the world's most widely read authors on these subjects.
Krishna, a Yadava prince of the house of Vrishni, occupies a unique place in the hearts and minds of the Hindus. Until Europeans two hundred years ago launched their study of Indian history and tradition, few Indians had questioned his historicity. But through the application of the Europeans' so-called 'scientific method', Krishna was soon reduced to the status of a myth used to support some religious beliefs. Colonial authority and a lack of critical spirit among Western educated Indians ensured that these `scientists', who were mostly missionaries and colonial bureaucrats without an inkling of science, escaped serious criticism. This was the situation through much of the nineteenth century. They are gone but their influence lingers.
A reaction soon set in. Several Indians mastered the critical method of Western scholars and went on to apply it to their own history and tradition, but in a more rigorous fashion and with a surer command of the primary sources. Among the leaders in this reaction - part of what has been called the 'Hindu Renaissance' -was the great Bengali scholar and nationalist Sri Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. In his book Sri Krishna Charitra written more than a century ago, he showed that Krishna was in all probability a historical figure who came towards the end of the Vedic Age.
The present volume builds on the research work of pioneers like Sri Bankima Chandra. Today, a century later, we have a wealth of new data from archaeology, ecology, ancient astronomy, prehistoric mathematics and other fields that were not available to them. We also have tools like powerful computer software that allow us to verify the astronomical statements in ancient texts like the Mahabharata. A major new source is inscriptional data from deciphered seals from the Harappan Civilization. These allow us to discover the Historical Krishna, and obtain a glimpse of the age in which he lived with a degree of confidence not possible a hundred or even fifty years ago.
In a way, Search for the Historical Krishna may be seen as part of a larger search for the origins of Indian Civilization, especially the Vedic Age. Swami Mukhyananda in his Foreword to the book has pointed out the important place of Krishna in Hindu religion and philosophy. At a different level, I see the search for Krishna as creating a path for us to find our way out of our centuries long tamas - darkness -and move into the light of knowledge that contains our past: tamaso ma jyotirgamaya - said the sage of the great Brihadaranyaka Upanishad; it is fortutious indeed that another great Upanishad, the Chandogya, should guide us with a reference to Krishna Devakiputra.
All this is part of the endlessly fascinating personality of Krishna. After nearly two centuries of myth making by alien interests and their Indian surrogates, continuing to the present, science is finally making it possible to open a window on this primeval age of the Vedas. It is entirely proper that science should be our guide, for science after all is 'Veda' - knowledge. And the search for humanity's Vedic origins must begin with the search for Krishna, the greatest sage of the greatest age - the Vedic Age. This is the story of that search.
This search is made possible in part by new discoveries in several areas of archaeology: satellite photography, ancient mathematics, computational astronomy and others having a direct bearing on the history of the ancient world. These yield new perspectives on history and civilization. Above all, these changes reflect the benefits of following a scientific path in the study of our past. What I have presented here may be seen as the result of such an approach applied to problems of great interest to all of us. It is an illustration of what science can do for history and also of how much more remains to be done. At the same time, this scientific search is possible only because our sages have preserved our ancient tradition.
The results of such a scientific approach applied to recent findings about our past go to show that a good deal of history remains embedded in the traditional Indian literature, especially in the epics and the Puranas. No less interestingly, it is beginning to be seen that even the chronology of ancient India based on the so-called Kali Date (3102 BC) for the Mahabharata period is not lacking in scientific support, falling as it does at the beginning of what we now call the Harappan Civilization.
The Kali Age - especially its harbinger, the Mahabharata War - may be seen as marking the end of the spiritual age of the Vedas to be replaced by the material age in which we live. Its origins go back some 5000 years. The Mahabharata War stands at the threshold of this transition. Archaeology now supports this idea of transition from the spiritual to the material at the time of the Mahabharata War; it is a historic divide which saw the rise of the great material civilization of the Harappans, along with those in West Asia and Dynastic Egypt. This is where history begins according to European notions of history. This has been blindly applied to India also.
Veda Vyasa saw otherwise; to his Vedic vision, it marked the fall of humanity from spiritual grace. Yet this is what modern historians have mistakenly called the birth of civilization, though, with their Eurocentric orientation, they have placed it in lands closer to their own - like Sumeria, Egypt and even Greece. But to understand ancient history, we must go to the only people who have retained both the records and the memory of that hoary age. That takes us to India, and to the study of the people who created the great Harappan Civilization of the Indus-Sarasvati.
This leads us to a basic question relating to ancient history, including the life of Krishna: Who were the Harappans? Thanks to science, we now have the answer. They were the western people of the late Vedic Age - the period that saw the creation of the later Vedic literature; this is thanks to the work of Indian and American scholars, notably K.D. Sethna, S.R. Rao, David Frawley, A. Seidenberg, Bhagwan Singh, Shrikant Talageri and a few others. To this illustrious list must now be added name of Natwar Jha, the decipherer of the famous and difficult Indus script - surely the most important breaktrough in the study of Indian history after the discovery of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. It has been my good fortune to have known nearly all them, and collaborate with quite a few - notaly Frawley and Jha. Seidenberg is an unhappy exception. His premature death deprived me of the opportunity.
The result of this effort is a portrait of the life and times of Krishna - obtained by combining science and tradition. To highlight this point, the book also has something to say about this approach to history, to show how science applied to ancient texts can greatly enrich our knowledge of the past in wholly unexpected ways. What we are now witnessing is a dramatic shift in perspective, one that is helping to push back the origins of Indian civilization - eventually all civilization - by several thousand years. And in this search, ancient tradition is proving to be a valuable guide to the past. Science and tradition working together are helping us unlock the secrets of our past.
Historically speaking, in the Hindu religio-philosophic thought, from the early Vedic times - that is, anywhere beyond the Aditi-Punarvasu period of the Vedic Calendar, belonging to about 6000 BC - religion and philosophy have gone hand in hand. This has been established by the great Vedic scholar and savant B.G. Tilak in his epochal work Orion securely based on the Rigveda. These findings are held also by some other Vedic scholars, and, increasingly accepted by several Western scholars as well. These dates and conclusions are receiving further support from recent researches on scientific lines based on archaeology and other factors.
Vedic seers and sages, with deep insight and comprehensive outlook, sought to discover the Ultimate Reality behind all the ever changing variegated phenomenal manifestation called the `universe'; in this their goal was to help human life and activities in the world to be conducted meaningfully in the context of that background Reality which permeates and informs all existence. They arrived at 'That One Supreme Reality' (tad-ekam) through different stages of enquiry, open discussions, and deep inward concentration accompanied by meditation. They designated IT as `Brahman' (The Spiritual Infinite) and decided that IT-Brahman is of the nature of Universal Consiousness (Prajnanam Brahma).
Brahman, though noumenally* trans-personal, and yet on the phenomenal plane gives rise to and informs all entities and beings as their Inner-Self (Pratyag-Atman), endowing them with empirical individuality and functional reality. Hence, for the Vedic seers, the manifested universe was not a mere meaningless, isolated, independently existing material phenomenon of disparate objects and beings, but an interconnected and vibrant living reality assuming all entities and beings, whether appearing phenomenally as inanimate or animate, as non-human, human, or divine- or as material or spiritual.
In religious life, therefore, that 'Supreme Spiritual Infinite (Brahman)' was conceived for the facility of adoration and worship of people at different stages of development, and with varied aptitudes and tastes, in various philosophico-mythical divine forms as a connecting link between the inner Spiritual Reality in Man (Atman or soul) and the Infinite Spiritual Reality (Brahman) behind the universe to enable people to realize their unity or union (Yoga) with that reality- each in their own way. Of course, there were also methods of impersonal approach to realize their identity with the Supreme reality directly. But that was a difficult path that only a few could traverse- like climbing to the top of a steep and high mountain directly. The vast majority seek to realize the Highest Truth by the easy, gradual, zig-zag course.
The Supreme Reality, the source of all phenomenon, being Universal Consciousness, IT can certainly reach out to them according to their approach, as stated in the Gita IV. 11 (ye yatha mam prapadyante tam tathaiva bhajamyaham; mama vartma'anuvartante manushyah partha sarvashah).
Search for the Historical Krishna
Dr. Rajaram has written his Search for the Historical Krishna to counter the views expressed by Western scholars (and their Indian followers) that the Krishna legend is all myth without any historical basis; and that the Mahabharata is not of old origin but only a collection of the writings of different authors at different periods; and the Puranas are are also of the same category -mythological in nature and without any historical value - and are all of very recent origin.
In the light of the above views, first of all, to establish the antiquity of the Vedas and the Mahabharata, Dr. Rajaram has given in a Prologue, as a background to his work on the life of Sri Krishna, the results of recent independent researches as against the prejudiced views of old theories. He has tried to sort out the genuine historical events connected with Sri Krishna, based mostly on the Mahabharata, aided by the works of the ancient dramatist Bhasa, and a few other relevant works where necessary, and given an interesting account establishing that Sri Krishna was a great historical figure who shone on the stage of ancient India, and made his mark in life and left his impress on every aspect of Hindu life and thought. The date of the Mahabharata War and the historicity of Krishna have an important bearing on the chronological formulation of Indian history.
There is originality in the presentation and interpretations of Dr. Rajaram, though there may be some differences of opinion on some points here and there. However, it is hoped that his pioneering effort will be pursued by other scholars to reinforce the line of thought presented by him in this work, which was inspired by the work of the great patriot-scholar Sri Bankim Chandra Chatterjee's Sri Krishna Charitra in Bengali published in 1892.
In his work, Bankim Chandra had adopted a highly critical method of research to unearth the life and activities of the great historical Krishna, who has left a deep and lasting impression on the national mind for scores of centuries. He also critically analyzed the views of Western scholars and showed their hollowness and deliberate attempts at perversion giving up the straightforward meaning and views. Further researches and deeper study of the vast literary records in India in the true spirit may fill up the gaps if any in this work of Dr. Rajaram, and with the help of archaeology, astronomy and other relevant sciences, the chronology and history of ancient India may be firmly established.
This work of Dr. Rajaram deserves to be welcomed by a wide circle of readers interested in Indian history and culture, as a pioneering effort in the context of new researches in these topics.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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