Sunday, February 1, 2015

Vedic knowledge - cherished abroad. neglected back home

On November 7, 2003 the UNESCO declared the oral tradition of Vedic chanting as as intangible heritage of humanity. The proclamation says " In the age of globalization and modernization when cultural diversity is under pressure, preservation of the oral tradition of Vedic chanting - a unique cultural heritage - has great significance. "

The UNESCO declaration brings international recognition to the excellence of the Vedic chanting tradition of India. Through an elaborate and  precise system of mnemonic techniques the vedic students memorize a large corpus of scriptures which involves extra ordinary effort and continued practice. This oral tradition alone has been instrumental in the humanity still having access to these invaluable scriptures.

The UNESCO also has a program called ' MEMORY  OF THE WORLD ' for protecting significant landmarks in the documentary heritage of humanity from collective amnesia. The Rigveda was inscribed in the Memory of the World Register in the year 2007.

" The Veda was the most precious gift for which the West had ever been indebted to the East." - Francois Voltaire

"In the great teaching of the Vedas, there is no touch of the sectarianism. It is of all ages, climes, and nationalities and is the royal road for the attainment of the Great Knowledge" – Henry David Thoreau

"It looks like that the writers of Vedas and Purana came from the future to deliver knowledge. The works of the Ancient Arya Sages is mind blowing. There is no doubt that Purans and Vedas are word of God." - Dr. Scott Stanford, Space Scientist, NASA,

A large number of universities abroad conduct extensive research  in vedic literature through their departments of Indology / Oriental studies. A few of them are :


Institute of Oriental Studies, Warsaw

Instytut Filologii Orientalnej, Krakow 

The Central & Eastern European Network of Indian Studies (CEENIS)


Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences,

Oriental University,

Moscow State Univerisity's Institute of Asian and African states

Oriental Centre at the Russian State Library.


Institute for the Study of Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo


International Institute of South Asian Studies, Rome

societa Indologica Luigi Pio Tessitori

The Societa Indologica , Udine 

Asiatica Association


Department of Indology, University of Zürich

Department of Oriental Languages and Civilizations, University of Lausanne


Department of Oriental Languages, Stockholm University


Department of Asian Studies, University of Copenhagen


Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages, University of Oslo

The Netherlands

Institute of Indian Studies

State University of Groningen.

International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden


The Helmuth von Glasenapp-Stiftung

Indologisches Seminar der Universität Bonn

The Department of Indology, University of Marburg

South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg


Australian National University - Asian Studies 


Asian Studies Centre, University of Manitoba

United Kingdom

Faculty of Oriental Studies, Oxford University

Department of Sanskrit, Edinburgh

Centre of South Asian Studies, Cambridge

Faculty of Oriental Studies, Cambridge

School of Oriental and African Studies, London University

Dharam Hinduja Institute of Indic Research, University of Cambridge


Indiana University, India Studies

U.C. Berkeley, Center for South Asia Studies

South Asia Regional Studies Department, University of Pennsylvania

The Oriental Institute, University of Chicago

University of Virginia, Center for South Asian Studies

Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University.

One will be surprised to read even the titles of some of these studies :

1.SMITH, Frederick M. and CARRI, S.J. 1994. “The Identity and Significance of the valmīkavapā in the Vedic Ritual”, Indo-Iranian Journal, vol. 37, no.1, 201-231.

2. ROŞU, Arion and Sergiu AL-GEORGE. 1993-1994/1998. “Pūrṇaghaṭa et le symbolisme du vase dans l’Inde”, Sergiu Al-George. Selected Papers on Indian Studies, with the collaboration of Arion Roşu, 55-67. Bucharest: Annals of the Sergiu Al-George Institute, II-III.

3. CALAND, Willem. 1900. Probe einer Uebersetzung der wichtigsten Theile des Kauśika Sūtra, Verhandelingen der Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, Nieuwe Reeks, Deel III. No. 2, Amsterdam: Johannes Müller.

4. BOLLING, G.M. and Julius von NEGELEIN (ed.) 1909-1910. The Pariśiṣṭas of the Atharvaveda. Vol. 1 & 2. Leipzig: Otto Harrassowitz.

5. Fushimi, Makoto, “An addition to A Vedic Concordance from Baudh¯ayana Srautas¯ ´ utra,” EJVS 14-1, 2007, 1–168.

6, WITZEL, Michael “A Prosopography of the Śaunakīya Atharvaveda families of Gujarat as seen in their late medieval and early modern manuscripts,” in: The Vedas in Indian Culture and History. Ed. by Joel Brereton. London [u.a.] (im Druck).

7.Philip T. Nicholson, The Soma Code, Part I:  Luminous Visions in the Rig Veda. The Soma Code, Part II:  Soma's Birth, Purification, and Transmutation into Indra. 

8. Seidenberg, A. - Squares and Oblongs in the Veda,

9. Frits Staal, Universiy of California, - Vedic Geometry & the History of Science

10. Kim Plofker - How to interpret astronomical references in Vedic texts?

click here to get an idea of how intensive some of these researches are

While this is the scenario abroad, the story is quite different and pathetic back home.

Vedic gurukuls have suffered absolute neglect and apathy in the hands of the past governments. The only government aid provided to gurukuls is through Maharshi Sandipani Rashtriya Veda Vidya Pratishtan, Ujjain set up in 1987. But with very limited resources at their disposal and the bane of Indian bureaucracy, the benefits are far from satisfactory.

Section 80(G) of the Income Tax act provides tax benefits to donors to  Charitable Institutions. Vedic Gurukuls do not get this benefit as they are branded as religious. The whole world recognizes Vedas as a heritage of humanity and non sectarian, but for us they are of 'Hindus'.

As per the interpretation of  Section 2(15) of the IT act by Hon'ble Apex court in Sole Trustee, Loka Shikshana Trust v. CIT [1975] 101 ITR 234 (SC)  they don't even qualify to be educational institutions.

The irony is quite visible as you see  - " In CIT vs Social Service Centre (2001 250 ITR 39), the Andhra Pradesh High Court held that the donation to a church or construction of a church is not a purpose which is not of general public utility, meaning thereby that it cannot be considered to be a religious act concerning Christians. " Meaning that donation to a church is not of religious nature.

There have been occasions where IT appellate tribunals have taken favorable views such as -

“We find that firstly Vedas could not be termed as religious books as it belongs to the whole mankind. Vedas means 'wisdom', 'knowledge' or 'vision'. Vedas incorporate knowledge on Ayurveda, Vastu Sastra and knowledge relating to all aspects of life. Vedas could not be termed as for propagation of Hinduism. There is no definite period when in fact, the Vedas came into existence and who wrote them. Vedas are for the benefit of mankind in general and handed down from generation to generation from the times immemorial and may be from the period prior to evolution of civilization. It is undisputedly the most comprehensive and universal of all ancient scriptures”  -  THE INCOME TAX APPELLATE TRIBUNAL HYDERABAD BENCH 'A', ITA No.1059/Hyd/10

But, since they have no binding on decisions of other courts / forums there is no benefit.

There are a large number of gurukuls where the guru and a few students live under the same roof and vedas are taught. The funds available to some of them are in some cases not even Rs.5,000/- a month. The guru is forced to take up paurohitya to take care of himself, his family and the students. Donors are difficult to find as they have no tax benefits and also these small set ups do not have access to them.

It is high time the government woke up and took the following steps.

1. Make changes in the IT act so that vedic education is also qualified as regular education and the gurukuls  get the benefit of 80 (G) certificate.

2. Declare Vedic tradition as national heritage in line with the the proclamation of UNESCO so that corporates can make donations as CSR as per Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013

वेदो रक्षति रक्षितः