Reader asks -“Is Shatapatha Brahmana as old as 16,000 Years?”

A reader wrote….

“This is my speculation. Read your Mahabharata book (also Ramayana.. but this is from Mahabharata book). In chapter 5, you talk of Krittika rising due to east sometime around 14000 BCE. Your blog on criticism of Prof. Pingree was good too. And that brings me to my question. Since Krittika’s were rising due east both around 3000 BCE and 14000 BCE, how do we know for sure that Shatapatha brahmana is written in 3000 BCE and not 14000 BCE? I also read Witzel’s EJVS where Achar and Witzel both talk of Shatapatha Brahmana. My knowledge is limited…but IMHO, Achar confused me more than enlightened me.. and Witzel is pure nuts!”

My Response….

Let’s ignore references to EJVS, Achar or Witzel. In any case, they will confuse seekers more than enlighten them. Also, they are not required to answer the question reader has posed.

I want this reader (and all other readers) to carefully read and comprehend the points I enumerate below,and in that very sequence.

(1) Shatapatha Brahmana is a ‘Smriti’ literature, which means additions, edits or updates would take place from time  to time.

(2) This means any specific time (e.g. 3000 BCE) estimated based on astronomy or other evidence from the text, simply  points to a time when either an addition, edit or update was made to the document.  It does not mean that  that was the time when document was first composed, although that could be the case however we will never know in the absence of additional (and independent evidence).

(3) I want to thank this reader.

His question forced me to dig more on Shatapatha Brahmana.  Sage Yajanyavalkya refers to his editing (compiling/updating) of Shatapatha Brahamana in his conversation with King Janaka ( Mahabharata Shanti Parva, Adhyaya 316-318, GP edition).

Sage Yajnyavalkya refers to his making some additions to it, but even he is not claiming himself to be original composer of Shatapatha Brahmana.

Bhishma refers to this Yajnayvalkya-Janak samvad during Bhishma’s conversations with Yudhishthira after the Mahabharata War.  This means Yajnyavalkya had completed his editing (compiling/updating) of Shatapatha Brahmana before the Mahabharata War and thus before 5561 BCE.

(4) This tells us that, at a minimum, Shatapatha Brahmana existed from (and prior to) 5561 BCE.

(5) However, the reference of “Krittika rising due East” can be referring to either 3000 BCE or 14000 BCE.  In fact, one should not ignore the possibility of this Krittka reference from even further antiquity (in principle and in theory) since “Krittika rising due EAST” is indeed a phenomena  that repeats.  The last two recent instances were during 3000 BCE and 14000 BCE.

(6)  Of course, other evidence for existence and/or composition of Yajurveda (since Shatapatha is a commentary on Yajurveda.  this is my limited understanding anyway) can help us in narrowing down upper limit (in antiquity) on composition of Shatapatha Brahmana.


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