If you have a goat in the fight

Linguists have always tried to push the Aryans into India through the Khyber/Bolan passes and since this whole story is imaginary they had to distort original Sanskrit texts. One such distortion was done by a famous Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard University and when this distortion was pointed out to the esteemed professor, the reaction was not very academic like.

Professor Witzel and I happened to participate in a seminar organized by UMASS, Dartmouth in June 2006. When I referred, during the course of my presentation, to this wrong translation by the learned Professor, he, instead of providing evidence in support of his own stand, shot at me by saying that I did not know the difference between Vedic and Classical Sanskrit. Should that be the level of an academic debate? (Anyway, he had to be told that I had the privilege of obtaining in 1943 my Master’s Degree in Sanskrit (with the Vedas included), with a First Class First, from a first class university of India, namely Allahabad.)[Let not the 19th century paradigms continue to haunt us!]

This looks very civil, compared to what happened at the recent Princeton Theological Seminary conference on the Talpiot Tomb. The conference was held to discuss the possibility that a tomb in Jerusalem which held ossuaries belonging to Joseph, Mary,  Mariamne, Jesus, son of Jospeh, and Judah, son of Jesus would belong to the Jesus family of the Bible fame. Here is one scene from the conference.

During the opening session, Professor Kloner shouted down Professor James Charlesworth from the audience. I was sitting behind Professor Kloner and heard his colleagues advise him that screaming at Professor Charlesworth would not do his reputation any good. Subsequently, Professor Kloner decided to direct his invective at me. Filmmakers are fair game. At one point, Professor Kloner jumped on the stage and, as reported by the Jerusalem Post, shouted “liar” at me, as I attempted to ask a question from the audience. Later he thought better of it and again jumped up on the stage and publicly apologized. But after Ruth Gat’s statement, he verbally and physically attacked me at the closing reception in front of television cameras as they rolled. I said nothing to him, but I watched in shock as his wife wrestled with him so as to prevent any further physical assault. Is this scholarship?[Simcha Jacobovici Responds to His Critics]

The Jewish carpenter would have been amused by all this.

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3 thoughts on “If you have a goat in the fight

  1. There’s a different kind of refutation going on in another places – by picking what you please you can prop up an icon while still ignoring the person’s message in its entirety. Ambedkar is the darling of present day “radical progressives”. His “Annihilation of Caste” is required reading at every seminar that features eminences such as Vijay Prashad/Kancha Illiah/Balmurali Natrajan. But what about Ambedkar’s later work “Pakistan or the Partition of India” (from Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches, Vol. 8)? http://tinyurl.com/3yqchg
    How do you reconcile his strident utterances in that paper with the icon you have conjured of him? Simple. If you are Dr.Frances Pritchett, Professor of Modern Indic Language (though you teach Urdu only) your spin thusly
    Needless to say, Dr. Ambedkar’s opinions about many matters discussed in the text were then, and are now, controversial. In addition, some of the historical accounts on which he relied for factual information have now been rendered obsolete by later, and better-grounded, research. (For example, Chapter IV would surely have been quite different if Dr. Ambedkar had had access to more complex studies like that of Romila Thapar on Mahmud Ghaznavi, or Richard Eaton on temple destruction.)
    Dr.Pritchett also offers a course on “Indian Civilization” details as here http://tinyurl.com/yrvc4x
    Isn’t it interesting that that such a diverse history with many intellectual streams, languages, social groups etc., can be packaged and reduced to a 3-credit undergrad course delivered by an Urdu tutor? It is true that Classics departments in Western Universities don’t discuss mere Latin and Greek, but use that knowledge to delve into the culture of the times, its philosophy, rhetoric and oratory, and even histories of the period. Why is then the utter lack of rigor, depth, formalism excused when it comes to the study of India? In the case of US history a Nash can write “Red, White, and Black” without a deep knowledge of Native American cultures, because of the period he covers – ~300 years – and the process he studies – the interaction of the three communities post Puritan expansion. OTOH we have our Romila Thapars, Jhas and Shrimalis who know no Indian language and have no exposure whatsoever to the Indian letters and its arts holding forth on vast timescales unchallenged. How disappointing.

  2. JK,
    >>Linguists have always tried to push the Aryans into India through the Khyber/Bolan passes and since this whole story is imaginary they had to distort original Sanskrit texts
    I am curious to know your views on Iravatham Mahadevan’s thesis on the origins of Indus Valley civilisation.
    Mahadevan is hardly an ideologue/rabble rouser type. His views on the linguistic basis for identifying Indus valley civilisation as Dravidian and not Aryan are given in briefly in this article
    He doesn’t rather try and place Aryans as the outsiders, but points out the insiders (!) weren’t Aryans. No speculation on where they came from – so he doesnt openly subscribe to AIT/AMT.
    I would be glad to see a post on this issue from you 🙂

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