Western Indologists – A Study in Motives: Part 1

(This is a reproduction of the monograph “Western Indologists – A Study in Motives” – by Pandit Bhagvad Datt, a research scholar. It is being presented as a 4 part series.)

Preface by Pt. Bhagavad Datt

The present monograph is an amplified English version of the first argument of chapter III of my book ‘Bharatavarsha ka Brihad Itihasa’ Vol I (published in 1951). I have under taken this task in response to persistent requests from friends and scholars who read that volume in advance proofs and also in its published form. Being hard pressed for time, I requested my friend Prof. Sadhu Ram, M.A., to prepare the English version for me. He was kind enough to comply with my request, and placed the manuscript at my disposal by the end of 1950. Further material was added to it, and the monograph assumed the present shape.

There is a widespread belief among Bharatiya scholars and the educated public that western Orientalists and indologists have been invariably actuated by purely academic interests, pursued in an objective, scientific and critical spirit. While some of them have undoubtedly approached their task in an unimpeachable manner, it is not so well-known that a vast majority of them, who have exercised tremendous influence in the world of scholarship, have been motivated by extraneous considerations, both religious and political. It is the object of this study to throw some light on this important aspect of western scholarship. I have been reluctantly driven to the painful conclusion that the bulk of what today passes as ‘scientific’, ‘objective’ and ‘critical’ research, is, in fact, vitiated by the underlying and subtle influence exercised by none too academic motives. It is of the utmost importance that our modern Bharatiya scholars bear this in mind while assessing the conclusions presented by western scholarship, particularly in the field of Bharatiya History.

It is my pleasant duty to thank two of my German friends, both of whom are eminent professors, who have given me valuable suggestions. I am grateful to Dr. Sir Gokul Chand Narang who took the trouble of going through the manuscript carefully. My thanks are also due to Pandit Vishwanath, B.A., B.T., who brought to my notice the remarks of Bankim Chandra Chatterji about Prof. A. Weber, which have been cited in this study.

I would feel happy if this monograph induces greater caution in the minds of those learned scholars and professors of our country who have been blindly relying on the testimony of Western Orientalists and indologists.

-Bhagvad Datt


Interest Of Europeans In Bharatavarsha And Its Ancient Literature:

The battle of Plassey, fought in samvat 1814, sealed the fate of Bharat. Bengal came under the dominance of the British. In samvat 1840, William Jones was appointed Chief Justice in the British Settlement of Fort William. He translated into English the celebrated play ‘Sakuntala’ of the renowned poet Kalidasa (circa 4th cent. V.S) in samvat 1846, and the ‘Code of Manu’ in 1851, the year in which he died. After him, his younger associate, Henry Thomas Colebrooke, wrote an article “On the Vedas” in samvat 1862.

In the year samvat 1875, August Wilhelm von Schlegel was appointed the first Professor of Sanskrit in the Bonn University of Germany. Friedrich Schlegel was his brother. He wrote in samvat 1865 a work entitled “Upon the Languages and Wisdom of the Hindus.1 Both the brothers evinced great love for Sanskrit. Another Sanskritist Hern Wilhelm von Humboldt became the collaborator of August Schlegel whose edition of the ‘Bhagavad Gita’ directed his attention to its study. In samvat 1884 he wrote to a friend saying:”It is perhaps the deepest and loftiest thing the world has to show.”

At that very time Arthur Schopenhauer (1854-1917 V.), a great German philosopher, happened to read the Latin translation of the Upanishads (1858-59 V.) done by a French writer Anquetil du Perron (1788-1862 V.), from the Persian translation of prince Dara Shikoh (1722 V.), named as ‘Sirre Akbar’ – the great secret. He was so impressed by their philosophy that he called them ‘the production of the highest human wisdom,’2 and considered them to contain ‘almost superhuman conceptions.’3 The study of the Upanishads was a source of great inspiration and means of comfort to his soul, and writing about it he says,’ “It is the most satisfying and elevating reading (with the exception of the original text) which is possible in the world; it has been the solace of my life and will be the solace of my death,”4 It is well-known that the book “Oupnekhat’ (Upanishad) always lay open on his table and he invariably studied it before retiring to rest. He called the opening up of Sanskrit literature “the greatest gift of our century,” and predicted that the philosophy and knowledge of the Upanishads would become the cherished faith of the West.

RESULT OF THAT INTEREST: Such writings attracted the German scholars more and more to the study of Sanskrit, and many of them began to hold Bharatiya culture in great esteem. Prof. Winternitz has described their reverence and enthusiasm in the following words:

“When Indian literature became first known in the West, people were inclined to ascribe a hoary age to every literary work hailing from India. They used to look upon India as something like the cradle of mankind, or at least of human civilization.”5

This impression was natural and spontaneous. It was based on truth and had no element of bias. The historical facts that were handed down by the sages of Bharatavarsha were based on true and unbroken traditions. Their philosophical doctrines delved deep into the source and mysteries of life and propounded principles of eternal value. When the people of the West came to know of them for the first time many unbigoted scholars were highly impressed by their marvelous accuracy and profound wisdom and being uninfluenced by any considerations of colour or creed they were generous in their acclamations. The enthusiastic applause of the honest people of Christian lands created a flutter in the devotees of Jewry and Christian missionaries, who were as ignorant of the real import of their own scriptures and traditions as those of Bharatavarsha and followed only the dictates of dogmatic Pauline Christianity which had made them intolerant of all other faiths.’6

The correctness of our conclusion can be judged from the following observation of Heinrich Zimmer;-

“He (Schopenhauer) was the first among the Western people to speak of this in an incomparable manner- in that great cloud-burst of European-Christian atmosphere.”7

How revengeful are dogmatic Christians and Jews on those, who do not hold opinions similar to their own, is amply illustrated by the fate of Robertson Smith (1846-94 CE), the author of “The Religion of the Semites” and a professor of Hebrew in the free· Church College, Aberdeen. The punishment he got for the frank and fearless expression of his scientific researches is well recorded by Lewis Spence in the following words:-

“The heterodox character of an encyclopaedia article on the Bible led to his prosecution for heresy, of which charge, however, he was acquitted. But a further article upon ‘Hebrew Language and Literature’ in the encyclopaedia Britannica (1880) led to his removal from the professoriate of the College.”8


The ancient Jews were descendants of the Aryas. Their beliefs were the same as those of the Aryas. The Primeval Man, whom they called Adam, was Brahma, the originator of mankind. The Hebrew name is derived from ‘Atma Bhu’ one of the epithets of Brahma. In the beginning of Creation “Brahma gave names to all objects and beings”9 and so did Adam according to Jewish tradition: “and whatsoever Adam called every living creature that was the name thereof.”10 In later times the Jews forgot their ancient history and ancestry and became narrow in their outlook. They considered themselves to be the oldest of all races.11 But in 1654 CE Archbishop Usher of Ireland firmly announced that his study of Scripture had proved that creation took place in the year 4004 BCE. So, from the end of the seventeenth century, this chronology was accepted by the Europeans and they came to believe that Adam was created 4004 years before Christ.12

Hence a majority of the modem Jews and the dogmatic Christians and especially many professors of Sanskrit found it hard to reconcile themselves to the view that any race or civilization could be older than the date of Adam accepted by them. They resented the hoary antiquity ascribed by their broad-minded brother scholars to the literature and civilization of Bharatavarsha and much more to the origin of man. Referring to the deep-rooted prejudices, A.S. Sayce writes:-

“But as far as man was concerned. His history was still limited by the dates in the margin of our Bibles. Even today the old idea of his recent appearance still prevails in quarters where we should least expect to find it and so-called critical historians still occupy themselves in endeavoring to reduce the dates of his earlier history … To a generation which had been brought up to believe that in 4004 BCE or thereabout the world was being created, the idea that man himself went back to 100,000 years ago was both incredible and inconceivable.”13

Ample evidence can be adduced to prove the existence of this inveterate prejudice but the above quotation from a great anthropologist would suffice for our purpose.

The studies of Sanskrit continued and flourished in Europe, and very rapidly the opinions and judgments of scholars also became warped by the influence of the inherent prejudice fanned by the clergy. From the Vikram year 1858 to 1897 Eugene Burnouf occupied the chair of professor of Sanskrit in France. He had two German pupils, Rudolph Roth and Max Muller, who later on made a name in European Sanskrit scholarship.


  1. In this book he “derives the Indo-Germanic family from India.” See “A Literary History of India, “by R. W. Frazer, London, p.5 note 21, third impression, 1915.
  2. Quoted in “A History of Indian Literature” by M. Winternitz, English translation; Vol. I , p.20 (1972 A.D.).
  3. p.266
  4. p.267, Also see, New Indian Antiquary, Vol. 1, No.1, April 1938,p.59, article of Heinrich Zimmer. The translation is, ‘the consolation of his old age;. The original of this quotation is in Parerga et Paralipomena, Vol. I! , p. 427, 1851.
  5. Lectures in Calcutta University, August, 1923, printed in 1925, as “Some Problems of Indian Literature,” p.3
  6. Intolerance was inherent in all the Semitic faiths and was responsible for the crusades, jehads and the institution of the Inquisition. A century before the time of Schopenhauer, Voltaire also fell a victim to the wrath of the clergy. He wrote an Essay on the Morals and the Spirit of the Nations, which offended everybody because it told the truth. It spoke highly of the ancient cultures of India, China and Persia and relegated Judea and Christendom to a relatively inferior position. How could then he be forgiven for ‘so unpatriotic a revelation’? He was exiled for a second time by the French Government. (vide “The Story of Philosophy,” by Will Durant, p.241).
  7. New Indian Antiquary, April, 1938, p.67.
  8. “An Introduction to Mythology,” New York. (Date of publication not indicated in the book.)
  9. Manu-smriti, 1.21
  10. Genesis, II, 10
  11. “…. that the Jewish race is by far the oldest of all these”. Fragments of Megasthenes, p.103
  12. “Archbishop Usher’s famed chronology, which so long dominated the ideas of man.” Historians’ History of the World. Vol. I, p.626, 1908. Duncan Macnaughton in his “A scheme of Egyptian Chronology”, London, 1932 writes:- “It is strange to see that Wilkinson placed Menes (or Manu, the first King of Egypt) as low as 2320, but it is to be remembered that in 1836 English speaking scholars were still under the hypnotic influence of Usher’s Biblical Chronology. The dates printed in the Bible were regarded as sacred, and it was positively wicked to disregard them” (p-6)
  13. “Antiquary of Civilised Man” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. Vol. 60, July-December 1930.

(To be continued)