collection of hauma hamiddha's scattered posts

Posts tagged ‘greek’

Is Ayurveda really scientific?

This report on the downgrading of Ayurveda raises the important issue
of whether Ayurveda is really scientific. If we define Ayurveda as the
school Hindu medicine that is described in the charaka and sushruta
saMhitas then one can make a very direct textual analysis to establish
its scientific content. Even a casual reading of the sushruta
saMhita suggests that it can definitely be considered a serious
part of the Hindu scientific tradition even as Galen and Hippocrates
can be considered a legitimate part of European scientific tradition.
Ayurveda is merely a phase in the long line of development of the
Hindu medicine from the time when the Aryans were still in the Asiatic
steppes to the time of their conquest of Outer Asia. Roots of Hindu
medicine traced through the atharvan-Angirasa literature can be pushed
back to the common Indo-European period resulting in similarity with
basal Greek and Europic folk medicine. However it was only after the
Aryans had fully expanded in India that their pharmacopeia developed
to the extant seen in Sushurta’s saMhita. This continuous tradition of
Indian science shows remarkable ideas and hypothesis even in the
Atharvan period, followed by remarkable insights into physiology due
to the school of the vaisheshika sage panchashika asurAyaNa and
sulabhA. In sushurta’s treatise we can see a scientific treatment of
the following: 1) Diagnosis and description of disease and relevant
anatomy. 2) Theories of disease causation due to biological organisms
and 3) Parasite transmission. While much of this shows a remarkably
modern approach to the problems thus making ayurveda qualify as a work
of science. However like any other work of science it contained
concepts that might be falsified in the future- leading to them being
termed misconceptions. There were two devasting flaws of Ayurveda: 1)
the trihumoral theory and 2) the hypothesis of pulse diagnosis. While
this falsification of the underlying hypothesis for treatment may have
destroyed Ayurveda’s relevance it actually did not. Much of
pharmacopeia development is an emprical process and the AV and
Ayurveda excelled at this. Thus a significant part of Ayurveda’s
pharmacopeia may have relevance even today. However, I feel for
Ayurveda to re-enter the scientific mainstream it must adopt the more
modern theories of physiology and medicine and cut down the
frivolous aspects of pulse diagnosis. Hence we need to defend Ayurveda
along with the necessary ground work to revamp it and bring it back
to the mainstream. Keeping it where it froze in the 8th century AD and
insisting on the unnecessity of change may make it go extinct. Nor is
it keeping with the spirit of the great Hindu sages of yore.

The origin of Goddess Uma:central Asian contact

The Goddess Uma suddenly appears in the very late vedic period and has
a meteoric rise displacing sarasvati as the trans-functional goddess
in Indian culture. She displaces prishni as the wife of rudra by the
latest phase of the Vedic culture in India. This sudden rise of uma
and her lack of direct cognates in the rest of the IE world suggests
her foreign origin- while she absorbs the roles of prishni (taking in
the ancient PIE aspects also seen in the other IE goddess Artemis) in
large part, she also has peculiar properties: her association with the
sati myth, her association with cold mountains, her role in the care
of children. This taken with her name suggests that she is a direct
cognate of the Pan-Altaic goddess Umai and was horizontally transfered
to the Indo-Aryans via a minor early Altaic invasion of India from
central asia. The goddess Umai is very prominent in several Altaic
lineages and the syncreticism could have easily occurred through the
conflation with the Aryan prishni. Given her central role in the
shakta cult and the earlier text the kena we may profitably speculate
that in the late upanishadic period there was an invasion by turkic
tribes from Central Asia into the Indo-Aryan domains in northern
India. They brought Uma along with them and on assimilation into the
Aryan society composed the kena upanishad and founded the shakta cults

A test to this hypothesis could lie in a comparison of the earliest
shakta material with Altaic lore of their goddess Umai and
demonstration of the non-IE nature of the word Uma.

The Kena Upanishad is found in the Jaiminiya Upanishad Brahmana and
this itself is a part of the Jaiminiya Brahmana. These texts, do
infact have the earliest elements of ‘Tantric’ cult in them and
therefore Somasushama should see these texts.


The idea that Uma is of Dravidian origin has been around for long. But
I found that untenable for 3 reasons: 1) there is no evidence what soe
ever for such a deity exisiting in protodravidian mythology and the
known Dravidian etymologies are all based on tamil and not really
applicable to Gondi and others. 2) The probability of extensive direct
Dravidian-Aryan contact at the time of the Jaiminiya tradition is low
and the evidence for it is not very convincing. 3) The epithet
Haimavati and the association with a mountain goddess is not in line
with the homeland or the route taken by the Dravidian invaders.
So we are left with a very neomorphic deity standing out suddenly in
the vedic mythosphere. Contrary to a suggestion I proposed this
hypothesis only after having read the Talavakara text where the
section on Uma is rather incongrous in comparison with the rest of the
text that keeps in line with regular brAhmaNa literature (notice the
denigration of the great vedic gods vayu and agni in the talavakara
text in this part).

So we are left with the option of her origin within the IE fold or
from else where. In light of the particular displacement of sarasvati
she was likely to be foreign- hence the Altaic hypothesis.

Also note that the early spread of Altaic myths seems to have occured
elsewhere in the IE world: It appears quite clear that the greek tale
of Jason and the Argonauts has been acquired from an Altaic source
from the pre-islamic Turko-Mongol epic of the hero Koeguedey Mergen.
Of course the early Altaic hypothesis can be falsified if it can be
shown that Altaic had not undergone an spread from Mongolia at that
point in time. Though Uralic sources could still take their place in
the early period.

Greco-Semitic cuture?

I read with interest Mr. Malhotra’s essay on the travails of Hinduism
in USA in which he uses the term Greco-Semitic to contrast the Indic
traditions. While I agree with his well worked out analysis in that
essay I think the term Greco-Semitic deserves some inspection.

Primarily it should be ackowledged that ancient Greek culture was
close to ancient Hindu culture both in terms of approach to life and
religious practice. The modern European who considers the Greco-Roman
tradition as the fount of his civilization and tries to pour the
metaphorical Greco-Roman cultural wine into a Semitic bottle resulting
a grotesque view of Greco-roman culture. In its exterme form this
results in the following images: The highly philosophical and
scientific Greek who is rational and completely divested of his pagan
context. The glorious Roman art on one side is separated from the
Roman religion which is instead associated with a blood thirsty and
decadent Roman despot. The average Indian nowadays with an increasing
sense of historical cultural isolation of bhAratavarsha views the
Greek and Roman as a barbaric foreigner more like his recent British,
French or Portuguese tormentors. As a result the underlying unity of
prehistoric and early historical Indo-European culture is dissolving
in the minds of both Indians and Europeans alike. The yavanas of
Gandhara were able to quickly identify with the Indians in the past:
Whether you read the Milinda panha or see the Garuda stambha of
Heliodorus, the deeper dialogue of the yavana and Indian thought can
be seen. So in the interaction with the modern “greco-semitic”
culture the Indian needs to strike a connection with the Greek aspect
thereof that lies beneath the patina of semitic exclusivism. The only
solution to this is a proper historical education in both India and
the Mlecchadeshas and a religious education in India. This has to
start at home, for once an entire generation becomes Hindu (or returns
to the Hindu dharma) the forces of democracy would restore the Hindu
dharma to the rashTra. Outside bhArata the return to the dharma could
also serve a more important purpose of preventing a Fiji like
situation from happening again.

> There is someting of an abused child sydnrome or deep disaffection
> when describing nature.
> thus uranus has his genitals chopped off by his son just before
> copulation with gaea. Such morbid themes of patricide rape abound in
> the literature in sharp contrast to the indian versions. I had
> earlier pointed out the differences bewtween the greek and indian
> oedipus.

There is a clear substratum effect in the case of both the Greeks and
the Indians. The above tale of theogony that you mention is of
Mediterranean origin that was horizontal transferred to the greeks
and thus cannot be traced back to PIE ancestors. A person like Wendy
Doniger may tell us that it is the Indians who supressed their sexual
urges and sanitized their literature but nothing can be farther from
the truth. In fact the cycle of father kilings is a very middle
eastern concept making rounds in the civilizations in that region in
various forms.

Finally as far as their closeness to nature goes we will have to
look at their original religious poetry: we have lost the Greek
counterparts of the Vedas. But defnitely they existed. You must take a
look at the surviving fragments called the Homeric hymns where you can
see the more pristine form of IE thought. For example the Hymn to the
Dioscuri uses terms like sons of Zeus that match with Divo napAta used
in the hymns to the ashvins.

Again we have to view the Greeks from a different perspective rather
than the one offered by the Western psychoanalysts.

> Even then we should remember that greek chroniclers of alexanders
> time were able to make some connections between hinduism and the
> greek cult of dionysius.

Most importantly all early Indian authors clearly state that the
yavanas, mlecchas, shakas and hUnas are descendents of the druhyus,
anus etc who in turn descend from yayAti along with the bhAratas. Also
we must keep in mind that the Indians easily accepted the Zoroasterian
priests in shaka/pahAlavan period and assimilated them as sauras- this
was purely out of knowledge of the cultural kinship with the
inhabitants of shAkadesha. Also note much later the parsi dastur (I
think in the 12th century) Nairyosangha translated the avesta into
vedic clearly aware of the similarities.

The greek-Indian clash of cultures was so much less traumatic for the
Indians and the Greeks as well (as compared with the clash with the
Moslem) simply because of the cultural unity. In general one may say
that all pagan cultures instinctively recognize some inherent unity
amidst themselves (note the pre-muslim turks in Afghanistan) but the
greek-Indian interactions were deeper than that.

> > The greek-Indian clash of cultures was so much less traumatic for
>Indians and the Greeks as well (as compared with the clash with the

> > Moslem) simply because of the cultural unity.
> Does this mean that the ~300 million Muslim South Asians are

It is question of definitions; My original sentence had nothing to do
with the status of South Asian Moslems or Aryans for that matter.

If you define Aryan as people with the original IE speakers of India
as direct ancestors then definitely some Moslems of India, Iran and
Pakistan had Aryan ancestors.

However, if you define Aryan in purely cultural terms: the Hindu
elite= Aryan or cultural descendents of the the vedic peoples= Aryan
then Moslems are obviously not Aryans.

The point I have repeatedly made is that the ancient pagan cultures
saw the world very differently. Only the modern Hindus preserve this
view in any significant numbers. These ancient pagan civilization did
not really have constructs like racial conciousness and the Abrahamic
concept of holy war. So the civilizational clashes, which did occur
abundantly amidst these pagan cultures, did not have a long lasting
damaging effect like that witnessed in the case of Christianity and

As a thought experiment imagine a clash between the American Native
and India colonists. Even if the latter had subdued and overrun former
you would not have seen a displacement of the native religion or

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