Gandhāra and the Formation of the Vedic and Zoroastrian Canons

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Gandhāra and the Formation of the Vedic and Zoroastrian Canons

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Title: Gandhāra and the Formation of the Vedic and Zoroastrian Canons
Author: Witzel, Michael E.J.
Citation: Witzel, Michael. 2011. Gandhāra and the formation of the Vedic and Zoroastrian canons. In Proceedings of the International Symposium. The Book. Romania. Europa. Etudes euro- et afro-asiatiques. 490-532. Bucharest: Biblioteca Bucureştilor.
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Abstract: After several hundred years of text composition and accumulation, from the RV down to the Upaniṣads and the oldest Sūtras, the actual process of canonization remains unclear, just as the time and place where this took place for many individual texts. While the texts of the grammarians Pāṇini and Patañjali provide some inkling of the end of the canonization process, Pāṇini’s date remains uncertain and Patañjali’s (150 BCE) is too late. However, looking at the problem both from a macro-Indian and a comparative Southwest Asian point of view provides indications of when and how canonization took place in Vedic India, and in Zoroastrian Iran. A key factor in this development was the little understood role of Gandhāra, a Persian province from c. 530-326 BCE. The known Persian insistence on collection and formation and writing down of local canons, from Egypt to Israel and Ionia, allows assuming that Gandhāra and neighboring Arachosia played a similar role for the formation of the Vedic and Avestan canons, along with the concurrent normative description of Vedic and Sanskrit grammar by Pāṇini. Mutual interaction and various forms of reactions, such as the stress on oral preservation, between Gandhāra, Arachosia (Zoroastrian canon) and Kosala-Videha area (Śākalya Ṛgveda, Baudhāyana Śrautasūtra) are indicated, and the various local responses to Persian cultural policies discussed.
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