A Brief Rant About A Curious Academic Omission

RARGH! I’m writing two [abstracts for] academic conference papers atm that are about, effectively, the continuity of some pretty important stuff from the Vedic era to the current day. Namely, i) Goddess elements (and Shakta theology specifically); and ii) one of Rudra’s retinues that’s pointedly all-female, very well armed, and metaphysically powerful.

And, like, I started out doing this thinking I was being a bit ‘cheap’ and surely it was retreading ground that had already been done over and over with the only ‘added value’ I’d be bringing being the comparative Indo-European theology angle I’d be adding …

… except this morning I’m doing a bit of research looking over papers in the relevant area, and papers keep talking about the institutions in question as being these post-Vedic things that just kinda .. show up in the mid-1st millennium AD (i.e. almost 2,000 years after the stuff I’m talking about).

And effectively are the result of incorporation / ‘assimilation’ / ‘Brahminizing’ (or something) of non-Arya elements. Allegedly. With, in one of these cases, the earliest occurrence for a sort of proto-expression of things being the Mahabharat.

Except here’s the thing. While I don’t dispute that the specific forms some of these pieces are talking about are things that show up most prominently in Puranic texts that we can date to the post-Vedic era … it’s just absolutely bewildering that all of these assertions about the typologies themselves being of similar relative recency are just so uncritically repeated over and over in the academic literature.


Because if you actually go off and look at the relevant texts in question [and here, by ‘relevant text’ I mean the Vedic Shruti, not the tawdry academic orthodoxy] – a very different picture emerges.

We find direct mention for that retinue of Rudra that’s comprised of those very scary, very powerful female figures. Which identifiably is what then occurs in these later forms that these papers are talking about – not as something novel nor ‘foreign’ in ultimate origination .. but right there, in the Vedas Themselves and millennia before they’re “supposed” to be.

Why hasn’t this been noticed?

Well, because people aren’t looking for it.

Why aren’t they looking for it?

Because they don’t know it’s there.

You see how this gets hella circular hella quickly.

In part, I think, it’s because if you just go with Western translations .. they often just translate the relevant nouns in the Sri Rudram in a .. rather ‘neutral’ sense as just being armed groups. And who is going to notice yet another group of warriors in amidst the mighty Retinues of Rudra in that text.

Whereas a lot of Indian translations actually emphasize that the gender of the words is female … and Sayana’s commentary actually pointedly draws out the coterminity with what we find there viz. .. well .. those Shaktis that accompany Rudra in the later scripture.

The other verse that’s particularly, pointedly relevant here is an AV one – and there, it’s a lot more difficult to miss that yeah, there’s a female retinue of Rudra on parade here. It’s just the actual significance and meaning of this going beyond some rather scarily ‘wild-haired’ women turning up amidst Ravens and Wolves … has been missed.

Except, of course, by some endogenous-to-Hindusphere commentary which perceives this occurrence as it is.

Something which we can, handily, confirm via the judicious use of comparative Indo-European theology [waves], which demonstrates that no, no it’s not a case of us here in the Hindusphere attempting to artificially and anachronistically ‘project backwards’ more recent beliefs …

… but rather, something that has, indeed, ‘been there all along’ – even if recorded and perceived a bit differently when speaking about the relevant institution across time and space throughout the Indo-European sphere.

Anyway, the point of all of this is .. I was feeling a bit inadequate in terms of what I felt I’d be adding to proceedings with my work, because I felt like surely incredibly obvious directly stated points in the Shruti would not be so ‘foreign’ to the seeming academic consensus upon the mat(t)er, rendering my contributions effectively superfluous.

And then I went off and checked what Academia was actually saying to itself on these elements (or, apparently, not saying to itself … ) …

… and I’m once again bewildered at how we seem to keep winding up back at this point.

Wherein elements that aren’t just confined to a line or two of archaic scripture in a millennia-ancient liturgical language – but rather are right there in clear sight across an incredible expanse running right the way from India to Iceland, and consistently co-expressed in their irreducible, immutable essence across near four thousand years of textual and living practice alike …

… are somehow so incredibly well hidden that people who’ve attained very advanced qualifications talking to each other about the subjects in question haven’t seemingly made the connections.

But yes, they’re also there in the scriptural canon that these guys are supposed to be analyzing in depth and in detail (at least, that’s what I assume people writing academically about Hinduism spend at least some of their time doing in order to do so … ), and it’s just … bizarre to see it just blatantly not there, these elements and understandings, when perusing the academic literature.

Perhaps I have some ‘necessary’ contribution to make to all of this, in amidst the people with the PhDs and Masters and so forth, after all 😛

One thought on “A Brief Rant About A Curious Academic Omission

  1. Pingback: A Brief Rant About A Curious Academic Omission – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

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