The Indic Kings of the West

The Mahabharata mentions that of the five descendents of Yayati, two became Yavanas and the Mlecchas. This seems to remember a westward emigration. This particular migration may have occurred in a very early period in the Vedic world that spanned Jambudvipa and the trans-Himalayan region of Uttara Kuru. We have a later evidence for another westward movement to the lands ranging from Babylonia to Turkey. 

The Mitanni, who worshiped Vedic gods, were an Indic kingdom that had bonds of marriage across several generations with the Egyptian 18th dynasty to which Akhenaten belonged. The Mitanni were known to the Egyptians as the Naharin, connected to the river (nahar), very probably referring to the Euphrates. At its peak, the Mitanni empire stretched from Kirkuk (ancient Arrapkha) and the Zagros mountains in western Iran in the east, through Assyria to the Mediterranean sea in the west. Its center was in the region of the Khabur River, where its capital, Wassukkani (Vasukhani, “a mine of wealth”) was probably located. 

The first Mitanni king was Sutarna I (good sun). He was followed by Baratarna I (Paratarna, great sun), Parasuksatra (ruler with axe), Saustatar (Sauksatra, son of Suksatra, the good ruler), Paratarna II, Artadama (Rtadhaman, abiding in cosmic law), Sutarna II, Tushratta (Dasaratha), and finally Matiwazza (Mativaja, whose wealth is thought) during whose lifetime the Mitanni state appears to have become a vassal to Assyria. 

The early years of the Mitanni empire were occupied in the struggle with Egypt for control of Syria. The greatest Mitanni king was Sauksatra who reigned during the time of Tuthmose III. He was said to have looted the Assyrian palace at Ashur. Under the reign of Tuthmose IV, more friendly relations were established between the Egyptians and the Mitanni. 

The daughter of King Artadama was married to Tuthmose IV, Akhenaten’s grandfather, and the daughter of Sutarna II (Gilukhipa) was married to his father, Amenhotep III, the great builder of temples who ruled during 1390-1352 BC (“khipa” of these names is the Sanskrit ksipa, night). In his old age, Amenhotep wrote to Tushratta many times wishing to marry his daughter, Tadukhipa. It appears that by the time she arrived Amenhotep III was dead. Tadukhipa was now married to the new king Akhenaten, becoming famous as the queen Kiya (short for Khipa). 

The Egyptian kings had other wives as well. Akhenaten’s mother, Tiye, was the daughter of Yuya, who was a Mitanni married to a Nubian. It appears that Nefertiti was the daughter of Tiye’s brother Ay, who was to become king himself. The 18th dynasty had a liberal dose of Indic blood. 

But how could an Indic kingdom be so far from India, near Egypt ? A plausible scenario is that after catastrophic earthquakes dried up the Sarasvati river around 1900 BC, many groups of Indic people started moving West. We see Kassites, a somewhat shadowy aristocracy with Indic names and worshiping Surya and the Maruts, in Western Iran about 1800 BC. They captured power in Babylon in 1600 BC, which they were to rule for over 500 years. The Mitanni ruled northern Mesopotamia (including Syria) for about 300 years, starting 1600 BC, out of their capital of Vasukhani. Their warriors were called marya, which is the proper Sanskrit term for it. 

In a treaty between the Hittites and the Mitanni, Indic deities Mitra, Varuna, Indra, and Nasatya (Asvins) are invoked. A text by a Mitannian named Kikkuli uses words such as 8aika (eka, one), tera ( tri, three), panza (panca, five), satta (sapta, seven), na (nava, nine), vartana (vartana}, round). Another text has babru (babhru, brown), parita (palita, grey), and pinkara (pingala, red). Their chief festival was the celebration of visuva} (solstice) very much like in India. 

It is not only the kings who had Sanskrit names; a large number of other Sanskrit names have been unearthed in the records from the area. Documents and contract agreements in Syria mention a warrior caste that constituted the elite in the cities. The ownership of land appears to have been inalienable. Consequently, no documents on the selling of landed property are to be found in the great archives of Akkadian documents and letters discovered in Nuzi. The prohibition against selling landed property was dodged with the stratagem of “adopting” a willing buyer against an appropriate sum of money. 

Information of the mythology of the Hurrians of the Mitanni is known from related Hittite and Ugaritic myths. The king of the gods was the weather god Teshub who had violently deposed Kumarbi paralleling the killing of Vrtra by Indra. Major sanctuaries of Teshub were located at Arrapkha (modern Kirkuk) and at Halab (modern Aleppo) in Syria. Like Indra, Teshub also had a solar aspect. In the east his consort was the goddess of love and war Shaushka (Venus), and in the west the goddess Hebat (Hepat). In addition, a considerable importance was attributed to impersonal gods such as heaven and earth as well as to deities of mountains and rivers. Temple monuments of modest dimensions have been unearthed. 

The general Indic influence in the area may also be seen in the comprehensiveness of the god lists. The most “official” god list, in two Ugaritic copies and one Akkadian translation, consists of 33 items, exactly as is true of the count of Vedic gods. These gods are categorized into three classes, somewhat like the three classes of the Vedic gods, although there are difference in details. 

The main Semitic gods are Yahvah and El or (Il or al-Il, as Allah) The Rgveda mentions Yahvah in 21 different hymns. Ila is the deity for the Rgvedic Apri hymns and it represents Agni in Yajurveda (VS) 2.3, whereas Ilaa represents Earth, speech, and flow. 

The Vedic Yahvah is, as an epithet, associated with movement, activity, heaven and earth; it means the sacrificer and Agni, the chief terrestrial god. It is associated with energy like the Yahvah of the Semites. It may be compared to Shivah, an epithet for auspiciousness in the Rigveda, that later is applied regularly to Rudra. It is plausible that the Vedic Ila and Yahvah were adopted by the Semites through the mediating agency of the Mitanni. 

Greek accounts tell us that the Ugaritic believed in a cosmic egg out of which the earth emerged which is reminiscent of brahmanda of the Vedic view.How do we know that the Mitanni were Indic and not Iranian? There are several reasons, but to be brief, we shall only give three : 

1. the deities Indra, Mitra, Varuna, and Nasatya are Indian deities and not Iranian ones, because in Iran Varuna is unknown and Indra and Nasatya appear as demons; 

2. the name Vasukhani makes sense in Sanskrit as a “mine of wealth” whereas in Iranian it means “good mine” which is much less likely; 

3. satta, or sapta, for seven, rather than the Iranian word hapta, where the initial `s’ has been changed to `h’. 

Why could not the Mitanni be the descendents of a pre-Vedic people as in the Gimbutas model of the spread of the Indo-Iranian people from the Kurgan culture of the steppes of Central Asia ? They would then have had no particular affinity for Indic deities. If the pre-Vedic people in Central Asia already had Indin deities, how would these small bands of people impose their culture and language over what was perhaps the most densely populated region of the ancient world. 

Furthermore, that view does not square with our knowledge of the astronomical tradition within India. The Vedic Samhitas have very early astronomical and its geography is squarely within India. The Vedanga Jyotisa, a late Vedic text, already belongs to the middle of the second millennium BC. The earlier texts remember events within the Indic geographical area going back to the third and the fourth millennia BC. The theory of a proto-Indo-Aryan people in Iran from whom the Aryans of India descended in the second millennium BC does not work for the same reasons. 

The idea of invasion or large-scale immigration of outsiders into India displacing the original population in the middle of the second millennium BC has been rejected since it is not in accord with archaeological facts, skeletal records, and the continuity of the cultural tradition. 

The Indian textual tradition also does not permit us to accept the Gimbutas model because of the length of time required for the rise of the voluminous Indian literature. Over fifty years ago, Roger T. O’Callaghan and W.F. Albright published in Analecta Orientalia of Rome a list of 81 names (13 from the Mitanni, 23 from the Nuzi, and 45 from the Syrian documents) with Indic etymologies. Out of this list, Dumont has provided the etymology of 45 names. 

Analyzing the names, Dumont concludes that the names are clearly Indic and not Iranian. The initial s is maintained and the group s’v is represented by the similar sounding sw and not the Avestan aspo. Also, most of the names are bahuvrihi or tatpurusa compounds. 

Considering the language, it is clearly an Indic dialect because the initial v is replaced by b, while medial v becomes the semivowel w. Like Middle Indic (Prakrit) dialects, the medial pt transforms into tt, as in sapta becoming satta. Dumont stresses its relationship to Sanskrit in the characteristic patronymic names with the vrddhi-strengthening of the first syllable, like in Saumati (the son of Sumati) or Sausapti (the son of Susapti). The worship of the Vedic gods like Indra, Vayu, Svar, Soma, Rta, Vasus has already been noted. 

The fact the the Mitanni names suggest a Middle Indic dialect is supportive of the thesis that the emigration of the various groups from India took place after the early Vedic period had come to an end. Our argument actually goes beyond the presence of people in West Asia whose languages were Indic, as was the case with the Mitanni. There is evidence that Indic religion and culture had adherents even outside of groups with Indic speech.

English: Darius I the Great's inscription. Pos...

The Avesta speaks of the struggle between the worshipers of Ahura Mazda and the daevas. Zarathustra nowhere names the daevas and it is only in the later texts that Indra and the Nasatyas are so labeled. Many of the Vedic devas (such as Mitra, Bhaga, Agni, Vayu, and Indra as Vrtraghna) continue to be counted amongst the good ahuras. It appears that the triple division of deva/asura/raksasa corresponding to sattva/rajas/tamas was divided into the dichotomy deva versus asura/raksasa in India and that of deva/asura versus daeva (raksasa) in Iran. The term daeva as synonym with raksasa and distinct from deva survives in Kashmir. 

The ahura-daeva opposition in the Zoroastrian texts is expressed as one between the Mazdayasnas and the Daevayasnas. It is a conflict in which Zoroaster wished to defeat and convert the worshipers of the daeva religion. The Yasts speak of legendary heroes and kings who participated in this struggle. The wars against the Daevayasnas by Vistaspa (Yt. 5.109, 113; 9.30-31), Jamaspa (Yt. 5.68-70), and Vistaru of the Naotara family (Yt. 5.76-77) represent this ongoing conflict in the historical period. 

In Vendidad, the Zoroastrians are encouraged to take possession of the lands, waters, and harvests of the daeva worshipers (Vd. 19.26). Elsewhere (Vd. 7.36-40), it is recommended that the art of medicine should be first tried on the daeva-worshipers and if they survive then it should be attempted on the Mazdayasnians. 

Although the Zoroastrian heresy triumphed in Iran and the great Persian kings of the middle of first millennium BC followed the religion of Ahura Mazda, the daeva worshipers survived, especially in the West, in the Mesopotamian religion. 

The devas as well as daevas survived for a pretty long time in corners of Iran. The evidence of the survival of the devas comes from the daiva- inscription of Xerxes (ruled 486-465 BC). The revolt by the daeva worshipers in West Iran is directly referred to : 

Proclaims Xerxes the King : When I became king, there is among thesecountries one which was in rebellion. Afterwards Ahuramazda bore me aid. By the favor of Ahuramazda I smote that country and put it down in its place. 

And among these countries there was a place where previously daiva were worshiped. Afterwards, by the favor of Ahuramazda I destroyed that sanctuary of daiva, and I made proclamation: ‘The daiva shall not be worshiped!’ Where previously the daiva were worshiped, there I worshipedAhuramazda at the proper time and in the proper manner. And there was other business that had been done ill. That I made good. That which I did, all did by the favor of Ahuramazda. Ahuramazda bore me aid until I completed the work.  

The analysis of early Persian history has shown that the Mazandaran, the region south of the Caspian sea and the Alburz mountain range, remained for long a centre of daeva worship. There were also the successors to the deva worshipers of the Mitanni kingdom. 

It has been suggested that the Xerxes inscription refers to the suppression of these people. Burrow takes the daeva worshiping people to be proto-Indoaryans and sees them as the remnants of a population that stretched from West Asia to India. The Iranians coming down from the northeast drove a wedge between this belt, leading to the eventual assimilation of the western daeva worshipers in the course of centuries. 

Irrespective of what the original movement of the Indo-Aryans was before the fourth or fifth millennium BC, it is clear that since their Indian branch recognizes the geography of only their region, it is either necessary to push back the proto-Indoaryan phase to the fourth or the fifth millennium BC or to postulate their movement out of India as is suggested in the Puranas.

 

Concluding Remarks

The material from the Mahabharata and the Puranas provides us many tangled hints. Given the extensive nature of the king-lists and the teacher-lists it is impossible that the origin of the Mahabharata-Purana tradition could be brought down to the beginning of the second millennium BC as espoused by the proponents of the theories of Aryan invasion and migration. The Mahabharata War occurs at the 94th generation in these lists, and even if one were to assign just 20 years for each generation and assume that the lists were exhaustive, one would have to account for nearly 2,000 years before the War which, even in the most conservative dating for the War, takes us square into the beginnings of the Integration Era of the SS Tradition. 

The Epic and Puranic evidence on the geographical situation supports the notion of the shifting of the centre of the Vedic world from the Sarasvati to the Ganga region in early second millennium BC. O.P. Bharadwaj’s excellent study of the Vedic Sarasvati using textual evidence12 supports the theory that the Rgveda is to be dated about 3000 BC and the Mahabharata War must have occurred about that time. 

The Mahabharata clearly belongs to a heroic age, prior to the rise of the complexity of urban life. The weapons used are mythical or clubs. The narrative of chariots could be a later gloss added in the first millennium BC. The pre-urban core events of the Epic would fit the 3137 BC date much better than the 1924 BC. But this would suggest that the Puranic tradition at a later time conflated earlier events with the destructive earthquakes of 1924 BC and remembered the later event accurately using the centennial Saptarsi calendar. 

The Indic kings of West Asia are descendents of Vedic people who moved West after the catastrophe of 1924 BC.

Visnu with his consorts Laksmi and Sarasvati (...

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

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    Oct 07, 2014 @ 13:44:28

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  2. suranya
    Jul 04, 2014 @ 23:37:06

    I have read about the Mitanni and Indic connections in various books and I would like to share some points here.
    1. I have read that the princess who wanted to marry the Egyptian Pharaoh and wrote letters in a different story. I have heard that after akhenaten’s mysterious death either nefertiti or one of her daughters referring to themselves as ” Royals of Egypt” wrote a letter to mitanni stating they lacked a king and wanted to marry him, when the prince came he was killed by horemheb’s army before reaching the capital as horemheb wanted tut to be the king. thus relations soared between Nefertiti’s maternal country and egypt.
    2. In the treaty you mentioned along with vedic gods there were mention of egyptian and greek gods as well. It was a rule then to mention gods of all the countries they had trade relation with for any treaty so that no god felt offended.
    3. although not related I would like to mention the rig vedas describing Ganges as flowing from the West to the East. this proves the Rig vedic rivers n places donot represent same named places in present days.
    Sorry for such a long comment sir 🙂

    Reply

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