About the Book
The present volume is a sequel to my Orion or Researches into the Antiquity of the Vedas, published in 1893. The estimate of Vedic antiquity then generally current amongst Vedic scholars was based on the assignment of arbitrary period of time to the different strata into which the Vedic literature is divided; and it was believed that the oldest of these strata could not, at the best, be older than 2400 B.C. In my Orion, however, I tried to show that all such estimates, besides being too modest, were vague and uncertain, and that the astronomical statements found in the Vedic literature supplied us with far more reliable data for correctly ascertaining the ages of the different periods of Vedic Literature. These astronomical statements, it was further shown, unmistakably pointed out that the Vernal equinox was in the constellation of Mrga or Orion (about 4500 B.C.) during the period of the Vedic hymns, and that it had receded to the constellation of the Krttikas, or the Pleiades (about 2500 B.C.) in the days of the Brahmans. Naturally enough from this book results were, at first, received by scholars in a skeptical sprit.
About the Author
Bal Gangadhar Tilak Born as Keshav Gangadhar Tilak 23 July 1856- 1 August 1920 (aged 64), was an Indian nationalist, teacher, social reformer and independence fighter who was the first popular leader of the Indian Independence Movement. The British colonial authorities infamously and derogatorily called the great leader as "Father of the Indian unrest". He was also conferred upon the honorary title of Lokmanya, which literally means "Accepted by the people (as their leader)". Tilak was one of the first and strongest advocates of "Swaraj" (self-rule) in Indian consciousness. His famous quote,"Swaraj is my birthright, and I shall have it !" is well- remembered in India even today.
The present volume is a sequel to my Orion or Researches into the Antiquity of the Vedas, published in 1893. The estimate of Vedic antiquity then generally current amongst Vedic scholars was based on the assignment of arbitrary period of time to the different strata into which the Vedic literature is divided; and it was believed that the oldest of these strata could not, at the best, be older than 2400 B.C In my Orion, however, I tried to show that all such estimates, besides being too modest, were vague and uncertain, and that the astronomical statements found in the Vedic literature supplied us with far more reliable data for correctly ascertaining the ages of the different periods of Vedic literature. These astronomical statements, it was further shown, unmistakably pointed out that the Vernal equinox was in the constellation of Mrga or Orion (about 4500 B.C) during the period of the Vedic hymns, and that it had receded to the constellation of the Krttikas, or the Pleiades (about 2500 B.C) in the days of the Brahmans, Naturally enough these results were, at first, received by scholars in a skeptical spirit. But my position was strengthened when it was found that Dr. Jacobi, of Bonn, had independently arrived at the same conclusion, and, soon after, scholars like Prof. Bloomfield, M. Barth, the late Dr. Bulher and others, more or less freely, acknowledged the force of my arguments. Dr. Thibaut, the late Dr. Whitney and a few others were, however, of opinion that the evidence adduced by me was not conclusive. But the subsequent discovery, by my friend the late Mr. S.B. Dixit, of a passage in the Satapatha Brahman, plainly stating that the Krttikas never swerved, in those days, from the due east i.e., the Vernal equinox, has served to dispel all lingering doubts regarding the age of the Brahmans: while another Indian astronomer, Mr. V.B. Ketkar, in a recent number of the Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, has mathematically worked out the statement in the Taittiriya Brahman (III, 1, 1, 5), that Brhaspati, or the planet Jupiter, was first discovered when confronting or nearly occulting the star Tisya, and shown that the observation was possible only at about 4650 B.C., thereby remarkably confirming my estimate of the oldest period of Vedic literature. After this, the high antiquity of the oldest Vedic period may, I think, be now taken as fairly established.
But if the age of the oldest Vedic period was thus carried back to 4500 B.C., one was still tempted to ask whether we had, in that limit, reached the Ultima Thule of the Aryan antiquity. For, as stated by Prof. Bloomfield, while noticing my Orion in his address on the occasion of the eighteenth anniversary of John Hopkin's University, "the language and literature of the Vedas is, by no means, so primitive as to place with it the real beginnings of Aryan life." "These in all probability and in all due moderation," he rightly observed, "reach back several thousands of years more," and it was, he said, therefore "needless to point out that this curtain, which seems to shut off our vision at 4500 B.C., may prove in the end a veil of thin gauze." I myself held the same view, and much of my spare time during the last ten years has been devoted to the search of evidence which would lift up this curtain and reveal to us the long vista of primitive Aryan antiquity. How I first worked on the lines followed up in Orion, how in the light of latest researches in geology and archeology bearing on the primitive history of man, I was gradually led to a different line of search, and finally how the conclusion, that the ancestors of the Vedic Rsis lived in an Arctic home in inter- Glacial times, was forced on me by the slowly accumulating mass of Vedic andAvestic evidence, is fully narrated in the book, and need not, therefore, be repeated in this place. I desire, however, to take this opportunity of gratefully acknowledging the generous sympathy shown to me at a critical time by that venerable scholar Prof. F. Max Muller, whose recent death was mourned as a personal loss by his numerous admirers throughout India. This is not the place where we may, with propriety, discuss the merits of the policy adopted by the Bombay Government in 1897. Suffice it to say that in order to put down certain public excitement, caused by its own famine and plague policy, the Government of the day deemed it prudent to prosecute some Vernacular papers in the province, and prominently amongst them the Kesari, edited by me, for writings which were held to be seditious, and I was awarded eighteenmonths' rigorous imprisonment. But political offenders in India are not treated better than ordinary convicts, and had it not been for the sympathy and interest taken by Prof. Max Muller, who knew me only as the author of Orion, and other friends, I should have been deprived of the pleasure, - then the only pleasure, - of following up my studies in these days. Prof. Max Miiller was kind enough to send me a copy of his second edition of the Rg-Veda, and the Government was pleased to allow me the use of these and other books, and also of light to read for a few hours at night. Some of the passages from the Rg- Veda, quoted in support, of the Arctic theory in the following pages, were collected during such leisure as I could get in these times. It was mainly through the efforts of Prof. Max Muller, backed by the whole. Indian press, that I was released after twelve months; and in the very first letter I wrote to Prof. Max Muller after my release, I thanked him sincerely for his disinterested kindness, and also gave him a brief summary of my new theory regarding the primitive Aryan home as disclosed by Vedic evidence. It was, of course, not to be expected that a scholar, who had worked all his life on a different line, would accept the new view at once and that too on reading a bare outline off the evidence in its support. Still it was encouraging to hear from him that though the interpretations of Vedic passages proposed by me were probable, yet my theory appeared to be