The author of this book, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, became most famous as one of the earliest builders of the nationalist movement in India. After joining the Indian National Congress in his youth, Tilak dedicated himself to the cause of the nation with the avowed object of throwing off the British yoke. Tilak devoted himself entirely to the cause of national awakening. Tilak was among first militant leaders who attacked the British rule and demanded independence for India. He was a firebrand revolutionary and his principle was militancy, not political mendicancy. In fact, Tilak was universally recognized by the British as “the Father of Indian Unrest.” He was the first Indian leader who moved the Indian independence cause from the closed rooms of the intellectuals to the ordinary people of India. His slogan, “Swaraj (self-rule) is my birthright and I shall have it” were the fiery words with which he roused a sleeping nation to action, making Indian people aware of their plight under a foreign rule.

Eventually Tilak was jailed by the British for his “seditious” writings. This imprisonment did not dampen Tilak’s enthusiasm and the fire of patriotism kindled by him began to burn more and more fiercely. By that time he was the unquestioned leader of the Indians — the uncrowned king. Thus he was known as the Tilak Maharaj and his many admirers also named him Lokamanya, which means “admired by the people.”

Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak died in 1920 and was replaced by Mahatma Gandhi as the leader of India’s freedom struggle. When Tilak passed away, Gandhi said in his honor: “He used his steel-like will power for the country. His life is an open book. The Lokamanya is the Architect of New India. Future generations will remember Tilak with reverence, as the man who lived and died for their sake.” One of Tilak’s important concepts utilized later on by Mahatma Gandhi was the boycott of foreign goods and the use of the term “Swadeshi,” meaning “of our country” or “self reliance.”

But it’s important to note that Lokamanya Tilak was not just a revolutionary, he was a great scholar as well. Besides his radical political activities, Tilak was very much interested in Indian history and culture. Because he was an Indian nationalist, Tilak was particularly interested in the ancient sacred literature — The Vedas — as the earliest document of the Aryan Hindus and the oldest writings in the history of mankind. Tilak had the advantage over most other scholars because of his perfect mastery of the language of the Vedas, and the encyclopedic knowledge of them.

So, while in prison, Tilak immersed himself in Vedic study. In 1903 he published his major statement concerning the age and original location of the birth of the Vedic Aryan civilization. Tilak propounded the theory of the Arctic home of the Aryans, meaning that the Aryans originated in the Arctic region, and later, on the journey south, divided into two branches. One branch went to Europe, while the other branch came to India... This great book, The Arctic Home in the Vedas, is a priceless work on Vedic history, mythology, and astronomy.

In the book there are many references to various Vedic texts, written in Sanskrit. The ancient Sanskrit language utilizes a special sign alphabet called Devanagari, which means “as used in the city of the Gods.” This alphabet can be learnt, but it takes a long time to learn it. That is why a transliteration alphabet was created, which uses easy-to-read Latin script and it is not necessary to know any Devanagari signs. However, as Sanskrit has 20 more letters than Latin script, it was necessary to create 20 new characters — at least — with diacritical marks (hyphens, dots, etc.) For scholarly work Devanagari has generally been preferred for the transcription and reproduction of whole texts and lengthy excerpts. However, references to individual words and names in texts composed in European languages are usually represented using Latin transliteration.

There are several transliteration systems for writing Sanskrit using Latin script, but the most commonly used system is IAST (International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration), which has been the academic standard since 1912. The IAST allows a lossless transliteration of Devanagari, and as such represents not only the phonemes of Sanskrit, but allows essentially phonetic transcription.

Unfortunately, the scheme of diacritics that is used in this system cannot be displayed yet by default on a web page. This is a problem for those who wish to present Sanskrit terms in the most accurate way. The ability to see various font faces depends entirely on the fonts installed on the computer that is being used to view these pages. The major browsers will render the selected font face onto the web page only if that particular font face is a font already installed on your computer system. “Microsoft Sans Serif” and “Tahoma” are standard fonts common to all Microsoft Windows-based computers. The newer versions of these two fonts each display 30 out of the 31 standard Sanskrit diacritic Unicode characters correctly, but the older versions only display 10 out of 31. If none of these fonts are installed on your computer, then all of the Sanskrit diacritic characters will be displayed as empty “boxes”...

Therefore, I made these two and a few other Unicode fonts available as free downloads right here, on this page:

VU Arial Plus
VU Times Plus
Georgia Ref Plus
Microsoft Sans Serif Plus

Sanskrit 2003

That said, this is definitely still on the cutting edge, and you may need to tweak your browser settings to get the full character set. And there are some features which are buggy in particular browsers, although support seems to be getting better in newer versions; having an up-to-date version of your operating system also helps.

The most common problem is that even when you download and install some of these fonts you still sometimes see only little “boxes” instead of special characters. This is because you also have to tell your browser that you want to view Unicode content using that font.

First of all, I strongly recommend that if you have an older browser, you should obtain the most recent version. If you are using AOL or another ISP which has a bundled browser, you may wish to get the most recent version of Internet Explorer and use it for browsing Unicode content; the bundled browsers are notoriously bad, particularly when it comes to cutting-edge features such as Unicode.

Here’s how to get Unicode working in Internet Explorer using the “Microsoft Sans Serif” font. The procedure is very similar for other browsers.

First of all you need to download the font and install it. Let’s assume you have downloaded and installed the Microsoft Sans Serif font. Start Internet Explorer and go into Tools | Internet Options and select the Fonts dialog.

On the Web Page Font, “Microsoft Sans Serif” should show up in the scrolling listbox, if you downloaded it and installed it correctly. Select it.

Unless you do this, some Unicode characters may not show up. If you don’t designate a full Unicode font as your default Web Page Font, you will still only have whatever minimal Unicode support is built into your operating system.

As for Devanagari characters, you definitely won’t be able to see anything without installing the Sanskrit2003 font.

I have, however, made this e-book available also as a PDF download file which shows all the proper Sanskrit transliteration and, yes, even Devanagari for those readers who don’t want to bother themselves with downloading and installing special fonts.

I hope you will find this truly great book not only interesting but perhaps also useful for your own Vedic studies.


For the purpose of quoting: Bâl Gangâdhar Tilak, The Arctic Home in the Vedas; Being Also a New Key to the Interpretation of Many Vedic Texts and Legends (Poona City: Tilak Bros., 1956)