2017-02-17 SICON02 S6 Mimamsa critique of Pollock’s History Theory

Swadeshi Indology Conference 2

Speaker: Shrinivas Tilak

Professor Sheldon Pollock asserts that by declaring the Vedas ‘authorless’ and ‘timeless,’ the Purva Mimamsa thinkers deprived Indic intellectual, literary, and ritual texts of the sense of time and temporality. He calls this process ‘Vedicization,’ and holds it responsible for absence of history in ancient India (Pollock 1989). This paper disputes Prof. Pollock’s assertion by arguing that ‘history,’ as it is understood in the West, is subsumed in the broader, inclusive category of itihāsa (deemed to be the ‘fifth Veda’) in India, which acts as a storehouse of the past for what must be remembered, i.e., values (purusharthas) that guide fulfillment of the four ends of life (dharma, artha, kama, and moksha). The status of itihasa as the ‘fifth Veda’ is next discussed with reference to the Mantra Ramayana of Nilakantha Chaturdhara (Ca. 1700), which insists that the Rigveda refers to Vişņu as saguņa brahman; i.e., as Shriram, an avatara of Vishnu.
Select references
Bhattacharya, Sibesh.2010. Understanding Itihasa. Shimla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study.
Hossain, Purba. 2016. Moksha, Mimamsa and Yuga: Does philosophy account for the supposed absence of history in early India? https://www.academia.edu/8688401; accessed on Sept 23, 2016.
Mantrarāmāyaņa [of Nīlakaņţha Caturdhara]. 1998. Edited with Hindi translation by Dr Prabhunath Dwivedi. Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh Sanskrit Samsthanam. https://archive.org/details/MantraRam…, accessed on August 21, 2016.
Pollock, Sheldon. 1989. Mīmāṃsā and the Problem of History in Traditional India. Journal of the American Oriental Society, 109(4): 603–610.

Inaugural Session
17-19th Feb, 2017
IGNCA, New Delhi


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