Dating Sanskrit Literature, Vedas through Puranas (Linda Hess, Winter 2004)

Compiled by Linda Hess

Here is the collection of responses to my query. Each number represents a different persons contribution. I have abbreviated Prof. Witzels substantial discussion since you all received it, and am including only his references. Thanks to everyone!

1. Edwin Bryant’s The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Cuture, Oxford. 2001. Ch. 12, “The date of the Veda,” ” gives a very good and up to date overview of the issues.”

2. Ludo Rocher’s The Puranas and John Brockington’s The Sanskrit Epics both discuss problems and methods of dating.

3. M. Witzel, “Tracing the Vedic Dialects” in Dialectes dans la literatures indo-aryenes. Ed. by C. Caillat – there is a section at the beginning of this long article ( 100 + pages) that discusses chronologies both traditional and linguistic.

4. Olivelle [in intro to The Upanisads] gives a (relative) chronology of the Upanishads. See also Witzel’s “Tracing the Vedic Dialects” (1989), “On the Localisation of Vedic Texts and Schools” (1987), and “The Development of the Vedic Canon and Schools: The Social and Political Milieu” (1997). The latter two are available in .pdf from his homepage. [see below, message from Witzel, for url]

5. Jamison’s and Witzel’s “Vedic Hinduism” (.pdf from homepage), but it is concerned less with dating than with describing the texts and their relations.

6. An excellent discussion of the relations of these texts and possible dates can be found in Majumdar’s The Vedic Age (1951). (See esp. Ghosh’s essay on Vedic Literature, pp. 229 ff).

7. From Michael Witzel As for the Vedas,

* there is a summary on the INDOLOGY list (Liverpool): (go to “important position papers”…. then scroll down to bottom for the Veda item)

* A few more items can be added now; science progresses: EJVS 7-3 (May 2001): 18. [From the written Mitanni documents (N.Iraq/N.Syria)]:

Michael Witzel, Linguistic Evidence for Cultural Exchange in Prehistoric Western Central Asia. Sino-Platonic Papers 129, forthc.. (last section)

To sum it all up: earliest Vedic texts after 1600/1350 BCE but before 1000 BCE. The dating may still change a little, according to future discoveries in archaeology, especially in the archaeologically little known Bactria-Sistan/Gandhara corridor.