Author: K. S. Valdiya

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Dr KS Valdia is an expert in the field of geology and his ability to connect the narrations in the Puranas and epics to various geological phenomena is remarkable. His mapping of the nine Varshas mentioned in the Puranas to India and the Central Asian countries is commandable. He equates Ilavrta, the central Varsha surrounding the Meru, with Tajikistan. This identifiecation is much better than some older analysis by others who equated it with North Pole etc. However he has not taken into consideration the possibility of shifting of place-names as people migrate from one place to another. Mahabharata mentions about a 'teerth' (pilgrim place) called Ilaspada in the region of Kurukshetra bounded by Sarasvati and Drishadvati. It also mentions several wars between Devas and Asuras occurring in Kurukshetra along the banks of Sarasvati. Devas, Asuras, Gandharvas and other tribes were mentioned as living on the banks of Sarasvati. Thus Sarasvati and Kurukshetra seems to be one of the 'original' region of dispersal of the Devas and Asuras. Ilavrta in Tajikistan could be a 'later' settlement of the tribes of Devas and Asuras. The 'original Ilavrta' could as well be same as Kurukshetra, which was also called Brahmavrta, hailed as the central region or the region of great importance. There are also references in Mahabharata and Puranas that the people settled on the banks of Sarasvati, in Kurukshetra and on the Himalayas after a Great Flood migrating from near the seashore (eg:- Manu's Flood and his coming to the Himalayas leaving behind his Dravida kingdom in the south that lied along the sea shore). Thus the direction of movement indicated is from the sea-shore / south / Dravida to the high mountains / north / Himalayas and not vice versa. (This matches well with the general migration of humans from Africa to the rest of the world.) There, however, can occur later minor migrations to and fro from Himalayas to Sarasvati and back after this primary migration.

Second, it is hard to subscribe to Dr KS Valdias view, equating the Asuras with the tribals and aboriginals. A better equation would be with the Ahuras mentioned in Zoroastrian / Iranian Avesta. The Asuras / Ahuras were never described as living away from the city-center or in the outskirts, rather they were as elite as the Devas and technologically as sound as the Devas. Besides in Rig Veda the apellation Asura is used to describe the individuals which the Puranas identify with Devas, such as Varuna and even Indra. Similarly we cannot equate the Rakshasas with tribals or aboriginals because Rakshas Ravana's Lanka is described as the most sophisticated city rivalling Ayodhya. How can people living in such sophisticated cities governing territories as far as Godavari (through Khara and Dushana) be aboriginals? Mahabharata also has many references were Kshatriya rulers were considered as Rakshasas, such as Kalmashapada.

A person is considered as a Rakshasa based on his conduct, not solely based on his genetic make up. Similarly the Puranas (authored later to Rig Veda) describe some kings and their people as Asuras because of their ideological opposition to Devas and Deva worshippers. Avestan texts like Vendidad is full of their hatred towards Devas / Daevas and they are rightfully and hatefully called by the Puranic authors as Asuras.

I am also peprlexed by the stress Dr KS Valdiya gives to the date of Kurukshetra war at 1478 BCE and his rejection of the traditional date of 3138 BCE and the dates arrived using astronomical / planetariam software studies close to it at 3067 BCE (Achar, Sadananda), 3143 BCE (Holey) etc where as he mentions about archeological evidience in the form of Harappan style settlements in Haryana and Western UP that can be dated close to 3000 BCE.

The identification of Rishyamuka mountain could have been a little more to the south especially since the names like Dantewada in southern Chattisgad indicate that Dandakaranya extended further southward. There is also a strong tradition locating Kishkindha with Hampi on the banks of Tungabhadra (Pampa) river and the lake Dr KS Valdiya missed to find in his chosen location of Rishyamuka is also there in Hampi.

Finally, thoguh it is possible that a 'small core' of the Puranas were authored before Mahabharata (as attested by some dialogs in the Puranas attributed to Vyasa's father Parasara, such as in Vishnu Purana), the bulk of the Puranas is post-Mahabharata material as it contain narrations which describe Gautama Buddha, the Nanda dynasty, Chandragupta Maurya etc. Some other Purana such as Bhavishya Purana even contains narrations hinting on Islamic conquest of India. So the view that the Puranas were authord a little before Mahabharata is somewhat farfetched. Probably Parasara and Vyasa laid the foundation work for the 18 Puranas, such as the narration of Krishna's life upto his stay in Mathura, but it got expanded and reworked by numerous other contributers spanning many centuries and probably it continued till 10th century CE. Even in the case of Mahabharata, only its core 'Jaya' of 8000 verses can be considered as the work of 'original Vyasa' and the rest of Mahabharata evolved taking atleast 2 or 3 centuries if not more.

Apart from these issues, I find the book to be highly informative. He has strengthened the case of identification of Vedic Sarasvati with the Haryana-Rajastan paleo river system, which hold great significance to the question of the Indo-European Homeland. Dr KS Valdiya is an authority in the 'geodynamics' (geology) domain and in the 'geography' domain he has offered many insightful information not found in any other book to the reader. However the 'people' part of his anaysis remains unsatisfactory.

satyameva jayate nānṛtaṁ, satyena panthā vitato devayānaḥ, yenākramantyṛṣayo hyāptakāmā, yatra tat satyasya paramaṁ nidhānam - Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.6

Truth alone triumphs; not falsehood. Through truth the divine path is spread out by which the sages whose desires have been completely fulfilled, reach where that supreme treasure of Truth resides.

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