Opinion on Veda

Max Muller records an interesting incident. Freidrich Rosen was a noted German scholar, one of the pioneers of western students who turned to Vedic studies in the early years of the last century. It appears one day when he was busy in the British Museum copying out the hymns of the Rig Veda, Raja Rammohan Roy—the leading light of the Indian Renaissance—came in and was surprised, disagreeably, at the work Rosen was engaged in. He admonished the scholar not to waste any time on the Vedas and advised him to take to the Upanishads instead. We do not know if Rosen swallowed the advice at all obviously not. For he was still engaged in the Veda at the time of his death and his edition of the First Book of the Rig Veda with Latin translation did appear later. The incident is noteworthy for the light it sheds on the mental attitude of the cultured and educated Indians of the time towards the Veda. The outlook of the educated section of our countrymen as regards the Vedic hymns has undergone little change even after more than a century today. And this is no wonder. For they have but dutifully followed all along in the footsteps of the European professors who have, as a class, studied and regarded the Vedas, more as specimens of antiquarian and philological interest than as records of any sustaining value. To them the Vedas are study-worthy not for anything intrinsically significant but for the side-lights they throw on the social and other conditions of their times. By themselves the Vedic hymns are ‘singularly deficient in simplicity, natural pathos or sublimity’, they have ‘no sublime poetry as in Isaiah or Job or the Psalms of David’. They are primitive chants where ‘cows and bullocks are praised in most extravagant expressions’ as among the ‘Dinkas and Kaffirs in Africa whose present form of economics must be fairly in agreement with that of the Vedic Aryan’. Even such a famous scholar as Oldenburg must needs note that here is ‘the grossly flattering garrulousness of an imagination which loves the bright and the garish’, while Winterneitz records, with approval evidently, that Leopold Von Schroder finds similarity between some of these hymnal chants and ‘notes written down by insane persons which have been preserved by psychiatrists’.

Not all from the West, however, have reacted in the manner noted above. Some have brought to bear a more sympathetic and closer understanding on their studies of the Veda and have confessed to a remarkable widening of the vistas of their higher mental horizons after their study of these Books. There is Brunnhofer, for instance, who is constrained to exclaim: ‘The Veda is like the lark’s morning trill of humanity awakening to the consciousness of its greatness.’