The Vedic Fathers of Geology, Part 2
BY: SUN STAFF
Nicholas Roerich (1933)
Nov 21, 2011 CANADA (SUN) A serial presentation on Vedic discoveries in Geology, from the book by Narayan Bhavanrao Pavgee.
The query would naturally arise that if the Vedic Aryans had wide acquaintance with the elements of Geology, what is the reason of the paucity, if not the total absence of any Indian Geological Literature worth the name? But, it is not necessary to go far in search of the same, for, during foreign roads and desultory incursions, the unsympathetic Invaders had consigned to the flames, and reduced to ashes, immense libraries in various parts of India.
The scenes of devastations, massacres and plunders, which lasted through ages have only served to revive the memory of the past. In short, after almost every city and capital was stormed and repeatedly sacked by barbarous foes, ruthless enemies, and exasperated plunderers, nearly all that was sacred in religion, everything that was devoted to science, and whatever was but wonderfully remarkable in art, was destroyed without compunction and without remorse.
It is, therefore, too much to expect that the literature of the country should not have suffered irretrievable loss, by the wholesale destruction of valuable productions of men of genius, of genuine scientific works, and of useful arts and industry. Hence, evidently, the dearth and absence of Vedic or Past Vedic Geological literature.
With these requisite preliminary observations, I shall proceed to investigate the subject in hand. Before, however, dealing with the Vedic Literature, which abounds in allusions to a variety of distinct geological formations of different periods, I shall briefly refer to the Code of Manu, the Puranas, and the Mahabharata, as they contain fragmentary details of, and garbed allusions to, geological rocks.
Going back first to the times of Mann, the great Hindu Lawgiver, it will be perceived how he has described the primary formations of our Planet. For, he says, that all this was at first, in a chaotic state. The Heavens then created waters, and the Earth became enveloped therein. Subsequently, life was produced in it, and it gave rise to a variety of seeds or progressive vitality.
As to the age of Manu, it appears that he flourished some three thousand years ago, or one thousand years before the Christian era, and yet his Code of Laws, even at the present day, governs mankind, counting over twenty-three crores, and coining under the appellation of Hindu from the Himalayas to the Cape Comorin, and the frontiers of Cabul to the Brahmaputra. Mr. John D. Mayne in his preface to the Hindu Law and Usage has described the Code of Manu as follows:
"Hindu Law has the oldest pedigree of any known system of jurisprudence, and even now it shows no signs of decrepitude. At this day it governs races of men, extending from Cashmere to Cape Comorin, who agree in nothing else except their submission to it." (Hindu Law and Usage, 1st Edition, p. IX)
Now, reviewing the text of Manu from the Geological standpoint, it will be seen that it affords us but meagre data, in regard to the Geological conceptions of our ancestors.
The Puranas also, it seems, had but a dim vision and not very dear idea of the early geological formations, as apparently they were not in touch with the geological investigations of the Vedic times. For, the Bhagavata Purana has stated to say, that the Earth in the form of an egg, was, at first, all enveloped in water, which, in course of ages having produced vitality, was the source of innumerable life-types.
In the Vayu Purina, however, a brighter vista is seen, and we find mentioned therein that the Earth was at first but a mass of intense heat, which, having in time cooled down, was merged in and replaced by water; wherein after lapse of epochs, was produced vital creative energy.
In the Agni Purana and Vishnu Purana, moreover, references appear to have been made to the progressive development of vital gradation, viz. from the Paleozoic fish and the Mesozoic tortoise and the reptile, to the Tertiary mammalia, at last evolving Man the Crowning piece of creation.
Now, in respect of the antiquity of some of these Puranas, Colebrooke, the great Oriental scholar says, "Itihasa and Puranas are anterior to Yyasa," (Vide his Miscellaneous Essays, Vol. I., p. 11). Vyasa was the celebrated author of the Mahabharata and the Paranas, and the half-brother to Bhishma, the reputed Commander-in-chief of the forces of Kauravas in the Great War, which seems to have taken place some five thousand years ago. For, says Dr. Bhandarkar,
"It thus appears, that in the latter part of the sixth century, the war which forms the theme of the Mahabharata was considered to have taken place, about four thousand years before." (Antiquity of Mahabharata, Journal, Bombay Royal Asiatic Society. No. XXVIII. Vol. X 18-71-72).
Turning to the Mahabharata, we find in the latter frequent allusions made to the successive vital gradations, which distinctly show knowledge of, and acquaintance with, the various geological life-types of different epochs, ranging from the Vindhyan or Pre-Cambrian period of the Palaeozoic vitality to the Miocene Era of the Cainozoic or Tertiary times.
Thus, it seems that during all these times, viz. after the Vedic period, our ancestors had apparently neglected to cultivate the science of Geology. They, therefore, could not be in touch with geological facts and details; while want of research, coupled with incomplete investigations and ignorance of facts only served to yield very meagre results in respect of the science.
The Upanishads, however, throw quite a flood of light on the geological discoveries of the times. While the knowledge which the Rishis of the Rig-Veda period  show in respect of the subject is simply incredible, especially when we take into consideration the fact that the Rishis belonged  to the Tertiary period. I shall, therefore, endeavour to give to the reader some idea of the geological theories then in progress, or rather of a few stray-thoughts and notions, which were at the time upper-most in the minds of the hoary Bards of the Vedic period, as they apparently seem to be but remnants of some scientific treatise, or of an exhaustive discussion on the subject, at the time.
 It may not be out of place here to remark that the Rig-Vedic period was evidently a part and parcel of the Tertiary Era, as we shall endeavour to prove in the next chapter; and the latest discoveries and researches enable us to carry the antiquity of Man to this Epoch, by establishing the fact that he had existed even in the Tertiary Era.
 In respect of this, Mr. Tilak says as follows: "The subject matter of these hymns (of Rig-Veda ) is inter-glacial though its origin is still lost in geological antiquity. (The Arctic Home in the Vedas, p. 457). And again he says, the ancestors of the Vedic Rishis lived near the North Pole in times before the last Glacial Epoch." (The Arctic Home in the Vedas, p. 464)
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