Western historians overwhelmingly tend to deny the remote antiquity of Hinduism. Their motives are spurred from a confusion of current opinion and politics and bigotry. These historians base their writings on the commonly accepted chronology of Max Muller, who dates the Rig Veda as 1000 BC. Prominent historian Klaus K. Klostermaier states, 'The chronology provided by Max Muller and accepted uncritically by most western scholars is based on very shaky ground indeed.'
Whilst Max Muller has to his credit certainly unearthed a fund of Vedic culture for the world, he has also admitted his purpose of undermining Hinduism. Addressing his wife he wrote in 1886, 'The translation of the Veda will hereafter tell to a great extent on the fate of India and on the growth of millions of souls in that country. It is the root of their religion, and to show them what the root is, I feel sure, is the only way of uprooting all that has sprung from it during the last 3,000 years.'
When Max Muller was criticized for his late dating of the Rig Veda, 1000 BC, he was apologetic, ''I need hardly say that I agree with almost every word of my critics. I have dwelt on the entirely hypothetical character of the dates I ventured to assign to the first three periods of Vedic literature. All I have claimed for them has been that they are minimum dates.''
Many scholars of both East and West today through precise scientific techniques are redating the history of ancient India. One extremely accurate method is the dating of scriptural references by their relationship to the known precession of the equinoxes. The chronology arrived at is then checked against carbon 14 dating, the discovery of Indus Valley cities, the finding of Shri Krishna's Dwarka and the finding of the Saraswasti River, a prominent landmark of the Vedic writings.
How Old Are Temples?
A large group of Western scholars, followed by submitting Indian scholars claim that temples came into being in ancient India around 100 B.C. Their assumptions and conclusions are founded on shaky evidence and sometimes outright falsity.
The whole argument in short revolves around the dating of the Rig Veda. The Rig Veda contains many references to images and the 'houses' of images. If the Rig Veda is authentically dated the beginnings of image worship and temple building in Vedic India can be reasonably fixed.
The astronomical evidence proves that the earliest Rig Vedic compositions date from at least the sixth millennium B.C. K.C. Verma points out that Lokmanya Tilak and Hermann Jacobi, ''established that the Vedic period commences in 4500 B.C., and that the bulk of the hymns of the Rig Veda were composed between 3500 B.C. and 2500 B.C. when the vernal equinox was in the Orion (4500-3500 B.C.) and later receded (3500-2500 B.C.) to Rohini; the Krittika period during which the existing Brahmanas and Upanishads were composed extended from 2500-800 B.C. They have been supported on independent grounds by P.C. Sengupta, (in his) Ancient Indian Chronology, 1947.'' He adds, 'No one, to the best of my knowledge, has so far been able to refute the arguments advanced by these scholars.'
In the same book Sengupta has also shown that the solar eclipse in the Rig Veda. V 40.5-9 took place on July 26, 3928 BC and the beginnings of the Brahmana literature he traces to 3500 B.C.
Some scholars have tried to brand the astronomical statements given in the Vedic literature as fabrications based on astronomical back calculations. This would mean that the ancient Indians deliberately doctored their hymns to fool future astronomers! The very idea is ludicrous.
John Playfair, astronomer, physicist and mathematician, in the Edinburgh Review, shows that the Indian Zodiac originated in 4300 B.C. and rejects any idea of Rig Vedic astronomical statements as being fabrications.
Vedic scholar David Frawley basing his calculations on astronomical references in the Rig Veda takes the creation of the Rig Vedic hymns even further back. '...the original story of Surya Savitri, the Sun Goddess, in the Rig Veda reflects the Ashwini era of the winter solstice, and thereby a date of at least 6000 B.C. when the winter solstice was in Aries, possibly as early as 7000 B.C when the solstice first entered Ashwini.'
Frawley sums up his discussion, 'With such astronomical references in all Vedic texts, on what grounds can we deny them? If the Rig Veda uses the same terms as later astronomy, we cannot say they are wrong or referred to something else because it does not agree with our theories. Our theories may be wrong but the stars are not. According to the stars then I would give these dates for Vedic texts:
1. Proto-Rig Vedic : before 6000 B.C.
2. Early-Rig Vedic : 6000-4000 B.C.
3. Later Rig Vedic/Four Veda period : 4000-2000 B.C.
4. Transitional : 2000-1000 B.C.
Thus a rapidly growing body of scholars now refute earlier dates for the Rig Veda.
In fact, some scholars doubt the existence of images and their use in the Rig Veda. Bodwing however writes, 'The existence of images in Vedic times has been proved by Dr. Bollensen in the cases of a painted image of Rudra, of Varuna, with a golden coat of mail in the distinction drawn between the Mruts and their images of God having the form of men.'' He continues, 'From the appellation of the Gods as deva-naras (God-humans)... we may conclude that the Indians did not merely in imagination assign human forms to their Gods but also represented them in a sensible manner.'
The Shatpath Brahmana which has been dated 3500 BC contains the following dialogue. A question is asked: ''Why should an image made of clay be used in sacrifices?'' The answer: 'If the image is made of wood it will catch fire during the sacrifice. If it is of stone it will split. If made of metal it will become hot and burn things around it...'
Such references abound in Vedic literature and point to an established mode of image worship. David Frawley argues, 'Certainly many great artists and craftsmen are mentioned in the Rig Veda, like the Ribhus, working in gold, bronze, stone, and wood. This shows that the craftsmanship to do such work (image making) existed... the Rig Veda does not uncommonly, mention houses of worship and places of public assembly (sabha, samiti). ''Vashishta, the most well known of the Vedic sages, enters the vast mansion, the thousand-doored house of the God Varuna (Rig Veda VII. 88.5)...'' Other hymns to Mitra and Varuna indicate a temple of a thousand pillars made of bronze or gold (Rig Veda II. 41.5./V.62.6-8) Later Hindu temples were often made in the form of chariots (rathas). As the chariot is very prominent in Vedic texts, perhaps even in these it may have referred to temples of that form.' He further says, 'To whatever the degree they have been used, temples and icons were not outside the mentality of the Vedic religion... along with the cities...'
Assuming that the Rig Vedic dating mentioned here is as suggested by current scholarship, image worship and temple construction will have been most probably the first in the history of the world.
Vedic Man worshipped the God he saw in nature and sang hymns, preserved in the Rig Veda, in His Glory