Story Of Vedic Civilisation

Historical Dates From Puranic Sources

Prof. Narayan Rao

Indus Valley Civilization

From the similarity of many words of Sanskrit and other Indian languages with Latin and the relatively fair complexion of some of the upper caste Indians the early indologists liked to believe (or rather propagate the believe) that they are of the same racial stock as the Anglo Saxons and just as the Anglo-Saxons had migrated to Britain from the European mainland the ancestors of the fair complexioned upper caste Indians had migrated from Europe. This racial stock was named as Indo-Aryan and it was theorized that they had displaced or subjugated the original inhabitants of the land. The degenerate caste system of India was a handy tool to fit this hypothesis.

By the time the archeological remains of Mohenjodaro and Harappa were discovered in the late nineteenth century the biblical chronology as well as the theory of Aryan migration had been accepted as a proven fact. The discovery of these archeological remains indicated an extinct civilization which neatly fitted the theory of an earlier civilization vanquished by the invading Indo-Aryans. Thus no systematic or serious effort was made to explore the possibility that the Harappan remains could be post Mahabharata or post Vedic.

A critical examination of the Puranic chronology along with the Harappan remains clearly indicates that it belongs to the civilization that prospered during the long period of peace after the battle of Kurukshetra under the reign of the descendants of King Parikshit.


An objective and critical study of the original sources of Indian history shows that the correct chronology of ancient Indian history, confirmed by archeology, astronomical evidences and Greek history is as follows.

1. Kurukhetra battle of Mahabharata took place in the fourth millennium B.C.

2. The Harappan civilization was post-Mahabharata.

3. Lord Buddha lived in the Nineteenth century B.C.

4. Chandragupta Mourya succeeded Mahapadmananda in sixteenth century B.C.

5. Adi Shankara was born towards the end of the sixth century B.C.

6. The last Satavahana Emperor of Magadha was the contemporary of Alexander.

7. The last Satavahana Emperor Chandrabij was known to the Greeks as Xandramese

8. Chandragupta I of Gupta dynasty was known to the Greeks as Sandrocottus.

9. Samudragupta of Gupta dynasty was known to the Greeks as Sandrocyptus.

10. Sandrocyptus who married the daughter of Selucus was Samudragupta.

It is high time that the modern scholars discard the biblical chronology of Indian history and re-examine all sources in the light of modern science.

Appendix – I

Chronological Table Of Sir William Jones … from “The complete Works of Sir William Jones (in 13 volumes) Volume IV, 1807 edition, Page 47 … quoted by Pandit Kota Venkatachelam on page 19 of his book “The Plot in Indian Chronology” published in 1953.

Events                     Years before 1788 of our era …

Adam                       Menu I age I 5794               4006 BC

Noah                        Menu II 4747                      2959 BC

Deluge                                 4138                      2350 BC

Nimord                     Hiranyakasipu Age II 4006   2218 BC

Bel                           Bali 3892                           2104 BC

Rama                       Rama Age III 3817              2029 BC

Noah’s death                      3787                        1999 BC

Pradyota                            2817                        1029 BC

Buddha                     Age IV 2815                      1027 BC

Nanda                               2487                          699 BC

Balin                                 1937                          149 BC

Vikramaditya                     1844                            66 BC

Devapala                           1811                            23 BC

Christ                                1787                             1 AD

Narayanapala                    1721                            67 AD

Saka                                1709                            79 AD

Walid                               1080                           708 AD

Muhmud                             786                         1002 AD

Chengiz                              548                         1240 AD

Timur                                  391                         1397 AD

Babur                                 276                         1512 AD

Nadirshah                            49                          1739 AD

Appendix – II

Sandrocottus And Chandragupta

If Sandrocottus of Greek history is identified as Chandragupta Mourya we run into a number of difficulties which the modern historians have not yet been able to explain.

1. The name of the predecessor of Mourya Chandragupta, i.e. Nanda does not at all resemble the name Xandramese of Greek history. Similarly the name of his successor Bindusara does not resemble Sandrocyptus of Greek history.

2. The Greek accounts describe a vast empire and army under the command of Xandramese and Sandrocottus; though the Puranas state that the empire of Nanda was very extensive it is categorically stated that the kingdom of the Mouryas was rather small not including even Kalinga, the state just to the south of Magadha.

3. Greek accounts describe Palibothra as the capital of Sandrocottus. But the Puranas are specific about the fact that the capital of the Mouryas was at Giribraja. The capital was shifted to Pataliputra (Palibothra) only during the rule of the Satavahan dynasty.

4. No Indian account of Mahapadmananda or Chandragupta Mourya is complete without the description of Koutilya and Arthashastra. There is no direct or indirect reference in any Greek account to Koutilya or his Arthashastra.

5. The description of the society given in the Greek accounts does not even remotely resemble the description of the society given in Arthashastra. For example, Koutilya has given elaborate rules about slavery and punishments prescribed for those connected with it. But from the Greek accounts it appears slavery was unknown in India.

6. The Greek accounts describe Sandrocottus as a usurper who had treacherously killed King Xandramese after having won the confidence of the Queen. In contrast Chandragupta Mourya, guided by Chanakya, had overthrown the Nandas after a civil war.

7. According to the Puranas at the time of the establishment of Mourya dynasty Buddhism was spreading fast but the Greeks make no mention of Lord Buddha or Ashoka (either Ashokavardhana, or Dharmasoka).

Thus it is clear that the Sandrocottus was not Chandragupta of Mourya dynasty. If Sandrocottus is identified as Chandragupta I of Gupta dynasty the following correspondences are obtained between the Greek and Indian names.

Greek Name                                   Indian Name

Xandramese                                   Chandrabij (last Satavahan king)

Sandrocottus                                 Chandragupta (first Gupta king)

Sandrocyptus                                Samudragupta

Appendix – III

Dates Of Some Of The Important Historic Events As Mentioned In The Puranas …

Event                                                                  Year in B.C.

Kurukshetra battle of Mahabharata

and coronation of King Parikshit                            3138

End of Brihadratha dynasty (of Jarasandha)

and start of Pradyota dynasty                               2132

in Magadha (capital Giribraja)

End of Pradyota dynasty

and start of Shishunag dynasty of Magadha           1995

Birth of Lord Buddha                                            1887

Nirvana of Lord Buddha                                        1807

End of Shishunag dynasty

and cornation of Mahapadmanand                        1634

(capital Giribraja)

End of Nanda dynasty

and coronation of Chandragupta Mourya               1534

Coronation of Ashoka (Ashokavardhana)               1472

End of Mourya dynasty

and coronation of Pushyamitra Sunga                  1218

(Capital Giribraja)

End of Sunga dynasty

and start of Kanwa dynasty                                  918

(Coronation of Vasudeva)

End of Kanwa dynasty

and start of Andhra dynasty                                 833

Coronation of Shrimukha (capital Giribraja)

Birth of Adi Shankaracharya (in South India)         509

Establishment of Dwaraka Shankarcharya Pitha   491

Establishment of Kanchi Kamokoti Pitha              482

End of Andhra dynasty

with assassination of King Chandarbij

(Xandramese of Greek history)                            327

and coronation of Chandragupta

(Sandrocottus or Androcottus of Greek history)

Capital Pataliputra (Palibothra)

Coronation of Samudragupta

(Sandrocyptus of Greek history)                         320

End of Gupta dynasty

and decline of Magadha empire                           82

Establishment of the suzerainty

of Emperor Vikramaditya of Ujjain                       58

(Born in 101 B.C. and coronated in 86 B.C. at Ujjain)

over the whole of India and start of Vikram Sambat

Journal : Alternate History

Concluding Part of the series of articles on Indo-European Homeland studies…

Archaic Dialectology

The second significant aspect of the study of the proto-language, on the basis of which an Indian homeland was rejected by the linguists, was that Sanskrit, in some respects, represents a phonetically highly evolved form of the original Proto-Indo-European : thus, to quote the most common factor cited, Sanskrit is a “Satem” language and in fact, alongwith Avestan, the most highly palatalised of the Satem languages

The original Proto-Indo-European language, it is cited, was a “Kentum” language and the Satem branches evolved by a process of palatalization of original velars (k, g) into palatals (c, j) and into sibilants (s, S).  The Kentum branches thus represent an older form of Indo-European, and all the Kentum branches are found only in Europe – or so it was thought until the discovery of Tokharian in Chinese Turkestan. But this discovery was quickly sought to be absorbed into the western homeland theory by postulating an early migration of the Tokharians from the west into the east.

However, the phenomenon of palatalization, as also various other phonetic evolutions from the Indo-European original, are now accepted as innovations which took place in the heartland of the Proto-Indo-European homeland after the migrations of early branches which retained the original features.

As Winn puts it: “Linguistic innovations that take place at the core may never find their way out to peripheral areas, hence dialects spoken on the fringe tend to preserve archaic features that have long since disappeared from the mainstream.” Therefore, the fact that Sanskrit represents a phonetically evolved form of the Proto-Indo-European language, far from being a negative factor in respect of the idea of an Indian homeland, is a positive one.

In fact, there are three factors, in respect of archaisms, which add up to make a strong case for an Indian homeland :

  • 1. Various evolved phonetic features in Sanskrit, as we have seen, particularly in the matter of palatalization of original velars, definitely point towards India as the original homeland.

2. At the same time, in respect of vocabulary, Sanskrit is the most archaic or representative language in the entire Indo-European family.  As Griffith puts it in the preface to his translation of the Rig Veda, “we see the roots and shoots of the languages of Greek and Latin, of Kelt, Teuton and Slavonian… the science of comparative philology could hardly have existed without the study of Sanskrit…”

The fact that Sanskrit has retained the largest number of Proto-Indo-European words, even when its phonetic and grammatical features continued to evolve, is strong evidence of an Indian homeland : the language of a migrating group may retain many of its original phonetic or grammatical features, even when these features are lost or evolved away in the language still spoken in the original area, but it is likely to lose or replace a substantial part of its original vocabulary (though it may retain many tell-a-tale archaic words) as compared to the language still spoken back home.

Warren Cowgill, in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, points out that this was the case with most of the ancient Indo-European languages: “In prehistoric times, most branches of Indo-European were carried into territories presumably or certainly occupied by speakers of non-Indo-European languages… it is reasonable to suppose that these languages had some effect on the speech of the newcomers.  For the lexicon, this is indeed demonstrable in Hittite and Greek, at least.  It is much less clear, however, that these non-Indo-European languages affected significantly the sounds and grammar of the Indo-European languages that replaced them.”

The same was the case with the modern languages : “When Indo-European languages have been carried within historical times into areas occupied by speakers of other languages, they have generally taken over a number of loan-words… however, there has been very little effect on sounds and grammar.”

  • 3. Finally, and most significantly, we have the fact that within India itself certain isolated languages have retained archaisms already lost even in Vedic Sanskrit.  There is no way in which the presence of these languages, which definitely represent remnants of extinct branches of Indo-European other than Indo-Aryan or even the hypothetical “Indo-Iranian”, can be incorporated into any theory of migration of the Indo- Aryans from South Russia to India.

There are two such languages, one of which is now accepted by the linguists as a remnant of an extinct Kentum branch of Indo-European languages, but in respect of the other, detailed research is necessary from a point of view hitherto unsuspected :

a. The BangANI language, spoken in Garhwal region of the western Himalayas was brought into dramatic highlight by Clans Peter Zoller, a German linguist, in 1987 when he announced the discovery of the remnants of an ancient Kentum language in the older layers of this language.

Zoller pointed out that BangANI contained three historical layers : “The youngest and most extensive layer is where BangANI shares many similarities with the Indo-Aryan languages of Himachal Pradesh and Garhwal.  The second is an older layer of Sanskrit words where one can observe a strikingly large number of words that belongs to the oldest layer of Sanskrit, the Sanskrit of the Vedas.  The third and the oldest layer in BangANI is formed by words that have no connection with Sanskrit but with the Kentum branch of Indo-European languages.”

By 1989, Zoller presented a full-fledged case, which created a furore in linguistic circles.  An immediate reaction to it was a joint project to examine Zoller’s claims, led by an Indian linguist Suhnu Ram Sharma and a Dutch linguist George van Driem.  According to these scholars, “Zoller’s BangANI findings not only had far-reaching implications for our understanding of the prehistoric migrations of ancient Indo-Europeans, they also appeared to violate much of what is received knowledge in historical linguistics.” Hence : “In 1994, we conducted fieldwork in order to verify these remarkable findings.  The results of our investigation are presented here.  On the basis of these results, it is our contention that no Kentum Indo-European remnants exist in the BangANI language.”

Not only did these linguists reject Zoller’s findings, but they also leveled serious allegations regarding Zoller’s professional integrity : “In view of our findings, and in view of the manner in which Zoller presented his, the question which remains for the reader to resolve in his own mind is whether Zoller has fallen prey to the wishful etymologizing of transcriptional errors or whether he has deliberately perpetrated a hoax upon the academic community.  In other words, was the joke on Zoller, or was the joke on us ?”

The above is an example of the vicious reaction any serious scholarly study that supports the Indian homeland theory evokes among scholars inimical to the idea.

But the matter did not end there.  Zoller took up the challenge and issued a strong and detailed rejoinder to the allegations of van Driem and Sharma.  Even more significant was a detailed counter study by Anvita Abbi and Hans Hock which not only conclusively demolished their “refutation” of Zoller’s findings, and conclusively proved that BangANI does indeed contain the remnants of an extinct Kentum language, but also clearly showed that it was Suhnu Ram Sharma and George van Driem who had attempted to deliberately perpetrate a hoax on the academic community.

The long and short of it is that BangANI is now accepted by linguists all over the world as a language whose oldest layers contain remnants of an archaic Kentum language, a circumstance which is totally incongruous with any theory of Indo-Aryan immigrations into India.

b. The Sinhalese language of Sri Lanka is generally accepted as a regular, if long separated and isolated, member of the “Indo-Aryan” branch of Indo-European languages; and no linguist studying Sinhalese appears, so far, to have suggested any other status for the language.

However, apart from the fact that Sinhalese has been heavily influenced not only by Sanskrit and Pali, and by Dravidian and the near-extinct Vedda, the language contains many features which are not easily explainable on the basis of Indo-Aryan.

Wilhelm Geiger, in his study of Sinhalese, points out that the phonology of the language “is full of intricacies… We sometimes meet with a long vowel when we expect a short one and vice versa”, and further : “In morphology there are formations, chiefly in the verbal inflexion, which seem to be peculiar to Sinhalese and to have no parallels in other Indo-Aryan dialects… and I must frankly avow that I am unable to solve all the riddles arising out of the grammar of the Sinhalese language.”

However, not having any particular reason to suspect that Sinhalese could be anything but an “Indo-Aryan” language descended from Sanskrit, Geiger does not carry out any detailed research to ascertain whether or not Sinhalese is indeed in a class with the “other Indo-Aryan dialects”.  In fact, referring to an attempt by an earlier scholar, Gnana Prakasar, to connect the Sinhalese word eLi (light) with the Greek hElios (sun), Geiger rejects the suggestion as “the old practice of comparing two or more words of the most distant languages merely on the basis of similar sounds, without any consideration for chronology, phonological principles or the historical development of words and forms…”

M.W.S. de Silva, in his detailed study of Sinhalese, points out that “Indo-Aryan (or Indic) research began with an effort devoted primarily to classifying Indian languages and tracing their phonological antecedents historically back to Vedic and Classical Sanskrit… Early Sinhalese studies have followed the same tradition.” However, Sinhalese “presents a linguistic make-up which, for various reasons, distinguishes itself from the related languages in North India… there are features in Sinhalese which are not known in any other Indo-Aryan language, but these features, which make the story of Sinhalese all the more exciting, have not received much attention in the earlier studies.”

 He also points out : “Another area of uncertainty is the source of the small but high-frequency segment of the Sinhalese vocabulary, especially words for parts of human body and the like : oluva ‘head’, bella ‘neck’, kakula ‘leg’, kalava ‘thigh’, etc. which are neither Sanskritic nor Tamil in origin.  The native grammarians of the past have recognized that there are three categories of words – (a) loan-words, (b) historically derived words and (c) indigenous words… No serious enquiry has been made into these so-called indigenous words”.

 In his preface, de Silva notes that “there is a growing awareness of the significance of Sinhalese as a test case for prevailing linguistic theories; more than one linguist has commented on the oddities that Sinhalese presents and the fact… that Sinhalese is ‘unlike any language I have seen’.” He quotes Geiger : “It is extremely difficult, and perhaps impossible, to assign it a definite place among the modern Indo-Aryan dialects.”

But, it does not strike de Silva, any more than Geiger, that the reason for all this confusion among linguists could be their failure to recognize the possibility that Sinhalese is not an Indo-Aryan language at all but a descendant of another branch of Indo-European languages.

From historical point of view, “a vast body of material has been gathered together by way of lithic and other records to portray the continuous history of Sinhalese from as early as the third century BC.” in Sri Lanka, and “attempts have been made to trace the origins of the earliest Sinhalese people and their language either to the eastern parts of North India or to the western parts”.

But de Silva quotes Geiger as well as S. Paranavitana and agrees with their view that “the band of immigrants who gave their name Simhala to the composite people, their language and the island, seems to have come from north-western India… their original habitat was on the upper reaches of the Indus river… in what is now the borderland between Pakistan and Afghanistan”. He quotes Paranavitana’s summary of the evidence, and his conclusion : “All this evidence goes to establish that the original Sinhalese migrated to Gujarat from the lands of the Upper Indus, and were settled in LATa for some time before they colonised Ceylon.”

A thorough examination, with an open mind, of the vocabulary and grammar of Sinhalese, will establish that Sinhalese represents a remnant of an archaic branch of Indo-European languages.

The evidence of BangANI and Sinhalese (the one word watura itself) constitutes a strong case for an Indian homeland since it clashes sharply with any theory of Indo-Aryan migrations into India.

Basically, the confusion that we see in respect of Sinhalese studies is also found in the study of Indo-Aryan languages in general.  And the root of all this confusion is the general theory which maintains that :

a. The “Indo-Iranians” represented a branch of Indo-Europeans who separated from the other branches in distant regions and migrated to Central Asia, and shared a joint “Indo-Iranian” phase there, before separating and migrating into India and Iran respectively.

b. The “Indo-Aryans” represented that section of the “Indo-Iranians” who entered India and composed the Rigveda during the earliest period of their sojourn in the northwestern parts of India, before expanding into the rest of India and giving birth to the ancestral forms of the present-day Indo-Aryan languages.

The linguistic evidence, even apart from the archaic evidence of BangANI and Sinhalese, totally fails to fit in with this theory :

  • 1. Indo-Aryan” and Iranian do not constitute one branch, but at least two distinct branches :

Winn lists “ten ‘living branches’… Two branches, Indic (Indo-Aryan) and Iranian dominate the eastern cluster.  Because of the close links between their classical forms – Sanskrit and Avestan respectively – these languages are often grouped together as a single Indo-Iranian branch”. And he notes that these close links came about due to “a period of close contact between Indic and Iranian people (which) brought about linguistic convergence, thus making the two languages appear misleadingly similar”.

As Meillet had long ago pointed out : “It remains quite clear, however, that Indic and Iranian developed from different Indo-European dialects, whose period of common development was not long enough to effect total fusion.”

The evidence of comparative mythology also disproves the common Indo-Iranian hypothesis.  Rigvedic mythology is often the only connecting link between all other different Indo-European mythologies, while Avestan mythology appears to have no links with any other Indo-European mythology other than that of the Rig Veda itself.

The “period of common development” which brought about the “close links between… Sanskrit and Avestan” was of course the “period of close contact between Indic and Iranian people” in the Late Period of the Rig Veda, for which detailed evidence has already presented earlier on in this series.

  • 2. The Iranian language shares at least one isogloss with Greek and Armenian :

It fits in with our classification of these three branches as constituting the Anu confederation of the Early Rigvedic Period. This isogloss is not shared by Sanskrit, which disproves the hypothesis that Indo-Iranian constitute a single branch of the IE family : “In three Indo-European languages, whose grouping is significant – Greek, Armenian and Iranian – the shift from s to h occured, not as in Brythonic at a relatively recent date, but before the date of the oldest texts.  Moreover, in all three, the distribution pattern is exactly the same : h develops from initial *s before a vowel, from intervocalic *s and from some occurences of *s before and after sonants; *s remains before and after a stop.”

This shift, which is universal in the three branches, is not found in Sanskrit and a majority of the Indo-Aryan languages, although a similar shift took place “at a relatively recent date” in some modem Indo-Aryan dialects of northwest and west (Gujarati, etc.) and, significantly, in Sinhalese.

Another fact, a minor one, is that Greek, Armenian and Iranian share a common development, distinct from Sanskrit, as each have “those cases in which a morphological element ends with a dental consonant and the following element begins with a t”. All the three branches show ‘st’ while “Sanskrit regularly shows tt”.

  • 3. There is one isogloss which is found only in the three branches referred to above (Greek, Armenian and Iranian) as well as in Sanskrit, and in some modern Indo-Aryan dialects of the north and north-west including Hindi, but not in the majority of modern Indo-Aryan languages : “the prohibitive negation *mE is attested only in Indo-Iranian (mA), Greek (mE) and Armenian (mI)” and is totally absent elsewhere. And this isogloss exists in Greek, Armenian and Persian irrespective of the stage of their development, ancient or modern.

But there is a difference in this respect between the ancient stage of Sanskrit and a majority of its language offshoots in the modem stage of what the linguists classify as the “Indo-Aryan” branch (except for modem Hindi spoken in western India : mat, etc.). This could be because most of the Indo-Aryan languages lost this word; but it could also be because most of the modern Indo-Aryan languages are descendants of Indo-European dialects which never had this word, and were not directly part of the common culture developed by the PUrus (the Vedic Aryans) and the Anus (Iranians, Armenians, Greeks), then located respectively in the north and north-western parts of North India, after the departure of the Druhyus.  Their ancestral dialects were what we have called the “Inner Indo-European” dialects spoken in the interior of India.

  • 4. This, it is clearly demonstrated in the development of Indo-European l in “Indo-Iranian” : “all of Indo-Iranian tended to confuse r and l …. Every IE “l” becomes “r” in Iranian.  This same occurence is to be observed in the North-west of India and consequently in the Rig Veda, which is based on idioms of the Northwest.”

So, is this an “Indo-Iranian” phenomenon ?  Apparently not : “On the other hand, initial and intervocalic “l” was present in Indic dialects of other regions.  Numerous elements of these dialects were gradually introduced into the literary language, which became fixed in Classical Sanskrit.  This explains the appearance of “l” in more recent parts of the Rig Veda and its subsequent rise in frequency.”

Meillet correctly observes that this is an instance of concordance of Iranian with Indic idioms spoken in Indo-Aryan regions closest to Iranian areas. There is clear Iranian discordance with Indic idioms common in regions further to the East. The concept of an “Indo-Iranian” branch is based on “the close links between their classical forms – Sanskrit and Avestan respectively”, which is the result of a “period of common development”.  This period of common development took place in Indian North-west region before the Iranian people migrated further west and north, and separated from the Vedic people.

But this conversion of the original Indo-European “l” into “r” is a phenomenon pertaining to this period of common development, and it is not shared by the ancient “Indo-Aryan” dialects to the east of the Rigvedic region.  These dialects in the east, therefore, represent a continuity from pre-“Indo-Iranian” phase of Indo-European, which is incompatible with any theory of an Indo-Iranian phase in Central Asia and Afghanistan before the separation of the Indo-Aryans and Iranians and consequent migration of Indo-Aryans into India.

It is also incompatible with any theory of the origin of the “Indo-Aryan” languages from the Vedic language which forms part of this joint “Indo-Iranian” phase.  Therefore, while the word “Indo-Aryan” may be used in the sense of “Aryan or Indo-European languages historically native to India”, it cannot and should not be used in the sense in which it is generally used : that is. as languages descended from the Vedic Sanskrit language which, or whose proto-form, shared a joint “Indo-Iranian” phase with Proto-Iranian.

  • 5. The theory that the Indo-Aryan languages are descended from Vedic Sanskrit is not really corroborated by linguistic factors.  Well-known scholar, S.K. Chatterji, makes the following remarks about the Old, Middle and New phases of Indo-Aryan :

The Aryan came to India, assuredly not as a single, uniform or standardised speech, but rather as a group or groups of dialects… only one of these dialects or dialect-groups has mainly been represented in the language of the Vedas – other dialects… (might) have been ultimately transformed into one or the other of the various New Indo-Aryan languages and dialects.  The mutual relationship of these Old Indo-Aryan dialects, their individual traits and number as well as location, will perhaps never be settled… The true significance of the various Prakrits as preserved in literary and other records, their origin and interrelations, and their true connection with the modern languages, forms one of the most baffling problems of Indo-Aryan linguistics… and there has been admixture among the various dialects to an extent which has completely changed their original appearance, and which makes their affiliation to forms of Middle Indo-Aryan as in our records at times rather problematical.”

Thus S.K. Chatterji unwillingly admits, though within the framework of the invasion theory, that :

a.  There were many different dialects, of which the language of the Rig Veda was only one, and that the modern Indo-Aryan languages may well be descended from these other non-Vedic dialects.

b. The relations within each chronological group : Old, Middle or New, as well as between different chronological groups among Old Indo-Aryan ( Rigvedic and Classical Sanskrit, as well as the “other” dialects or dialect groups), Middle Indo-Aryan (Prakrits) and the present-day New Indo-Aryan languages are “baffling” and “problematical” and “will perhaps never be settled”.

The problem will certainly “never be settled” if examined from the viewpoint of an Aryan invasion of India which treats the Indo-Aryan languages as descended from the languages of people who migrated into India from the north-west after an “Indo-Iranian” phase in Central Asia and an Indo-European phase in South Russia.

Our understanding harmonises however when begin to consider that Proto-Indo-European, and its earlier forms, developed in the interior of North India, in more central locations in present day states of Haryana, West Uttar Pradesh and North Rajasthan.  In ancient times, it developed as various dialects, many of which expanded into the northwest and Afghanistan.  The divisions of these dialects can be conveniently classified in Puranic terms, howsoever unpalatable it may sound to modern ears, with :

  • extreme north-west region of Indian sub-continent being home to ancestral forms of most of the European languages, as well as Hittite and Tocharian, being the Druhyu dialects;
  • the dialects further east, in north-west region of Indian sub-continent, were the ancestral forms of Iranian, as also Armenian and Greek, being the Anu dialects;
  • and the dialects in the northern parts of North India (Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and nearby areas) being the PUru dialects (including Vedic).  
  • In the interior were other dialects which represented other Puranic groups : Yadus, TurvaSas, IkSvAkus, etc.

With the emigration of the Druhyus, and later the Anus, and the Rigvedic language came to occupy a predominant position with spread of Vedic culture all over India. It then incorporated all the religious systems of the land in course of time and itself became the elite layer of an all-inclusive Pan-Indian religious system in the sub-continent. Thence began the phase of Indian history which the linguists and historians have interpreted as the “Indo-Aryan”.

The Rigvedic language heavily influenced all the other languages of India including those descended from remnants of Outer Indo-Aryan dialects (Druhyu, Anu), from Inner dialects (Yadu, TurvaSa, IkSvAku, etc), and also the Dravidian and Austric languages in the South and East.

In turn, the literary forms which developed from Rigvedic language – the Epics and Classical Sanskrit – were heavily influenced by all the other languages (Indo-European, Dravidian and Austric).  As Meillet, in a different context, puts it : “Numerous elements of these dialects were gradually introduced into the literary language which became fixed in Classical Sanskrit.”

And finally, as Chatterji correctly identifies : “there has been admixture among the various dialects to an extent which has completely changed their original appearance.”

To sum up the whole study we have of the Indo-European homeland :

  1. The evidence of archaeology completely disproves, or, at the very least, completely fails to prove, the non-Indian origin of the Indo-Europeans.
  1. The evidence of the oldest literary records ( the Rigveda and the Avesta ) proves the Indian homeland theory from three distinct angles :

a. The evidence of comparative mythology.

b. The evidence of internal chronology and geography of Rig Veda.

c. The direct evidence in the Rigveda about the emigration of identifiable Indo-European groups from India.

  1. The evidence of linguistics in some aspects is either ambiguous or neutral and, in some others, definitely confirms the evidence of the literary records that indicate India as original homeland of Proto Indo-Europeans.

It is of course natural that entrenched scholarship, both in India and in the West, will find it hard to swallow all this evidence and conclusions that inevitably and inexorably arise from it.  It would especially gall such scholars who have spent all their lives in ridiculing and rejecting the Indian homeland theory, establishing or corroborating the theory of Aryan invasion and mass migration into India.

The body of experts with western pedigree in their scholarship find it particularly hard to swallow if the convincing analyses and proof of an alternate thesis, contrary to theirs, is presented by an Indian – who they very conveniently declare and dismiss as “Indian chauvinist” or “Hindu fundamentalist”.

The following tongue-in-cheek excerpt from Antoine de Saint-ExupEry’s well known children’s storybook, The Little Prince, illustrates the situation :

“…the planet from which the little prince came is the asteroid known as B-612.  This asteroid has only once been seen through a telescope.  That was by a Turkish astronomer, in 1909.  On making his discovery, the astronomer had presented it to the International Astronomical Congress, in a great demonstration.  But he was in Turkish costume, and so nobody would believe what he said. …Fortunately, however, for the reputation of Asteroid B-612, a Turkish dictator made a law that his subjects, under pain of death, should change to European costume.  So in 1920 the astronomer gave his demonstration all over again, dressed with impressive style and elegance.  And this time everybody accepted his report.”

The attitude satirised by Saint-ExupEry in this imaginary incident is very much a part of the academe. Anyone, Indian or Western, who writes anything howsoever logical in support of the Indian homeland theory, represents the “fundamentalist” in his Turkish costume or the odd Westerner who deserves only skepticism, ridicule and summary dismissal for his misguided infatuation for the outlandish. Conversely, anyone Western or Indian, who writes anything howsoever incredible or ridiculous in opposition to the Indian homeland theory represents the “objective scholar” dressed “with impressive style and elegance” in European costume, who deserves a sympathetic hearing and due support of the scholar community.

But the case for an Indian homeland is so strong, and the case for a non-Indian homeland so weak, that despite the academic fiat to abandon the Indian homeland theory without serious examination, or with only perfunctory and determinedly skeptical examination, the academic world will untimately be compelled to accept the viability of India being the original homeland of the Indo-European family of languages.

Journal : Alternate History

The Indo-European Homeland

Presentation of evidence for Indo-European homeland continues …


Erdosy speaks of the “disciplinary divide” between linguistics and archaeology. And it is Michael Witzel whom Erdosy pits against the archaeologists whose papers are included in the volume : “Placed against Witzel’s contribution, the paper by J.Shaffer and D. Lichtenstein will illustrate the gulf still separating archaeology and linguistics.”

Witzel’s papers in this particular volume might not represent the entire linguistic evidence but, since they do take on the archaeologist’s argument, let us examine what he presents. According to Erdosy, “M.  Witzel begins by stressing the quality of linguistic (and historical) data obtainable from the Rgveda, along with the potential of a study of linguistic stratification, contact and convergence.  Next, the evidence of place-names, above all hydronomy, is scrutinised, followed by an evaluation of some of the most frequently invoked models of language change in light of this analysis.”

We have already examined Witzel’s “models of language change” by which he seeks to explain away the lack of archaeological evidence.  We will now examine “the evidence of place-names, above all hydronomy”, on the basis of which Witzel apparently contests the claims of the archaeologists and proves the Aryan invasion.

Witzel does not have much to say about place-names.  He points out that most of the place-names in England (all names ending in -don, -chester, -ton, -ham, -ey, -wick, etc., like London, Winchester, Uppington, Downham, Westrey, Lerwick, etc.) and in America (like Massachussetts, Wachussetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Chicago, etc) are remnants of older languages which were spoken in these areas. But, far from finding similar evidence in respect of India, Witzel is compelled to admit : “In South Asia, relatively few pre-Indo-Aryan place-names survive in the North; however, many more in central and southern India.  Indo-Aryan place-names are generally not very old, since the towns themselves are relatively late.”

Witzel clearly evades the issue : he refers to “relatively few pre-Indo-Aryan place names” in the North, but judiciously refrains from actually naming them or specifying their count. He insinuates that there are “many more” pre-Indo-Aryan place-names in Central and South India, but this is clearly a misleading statement : by Central India, he obviously means the Austric-language speaking areas, and by South India, he definitely means the Dravidian-language speaking areas, and perhaps other areas close to these.  So, if these areas have Austric or Dravidian place-names respectively, does it prove anything ?

And, finally, he suggests that the paucity (or rather absence) of any “pre-Indo-Aryan” place-names in the North is because the towns concerned “are relatively late” (ie. came into being after the Aryan influx).  This excuse is rather strange : the Indus people, alleged to be “pre-Indo-Aryans” did have towns and cities, but no alleged earlier place-names have survived, while the American Indians (in the U.S.A.) did not have large towns and cities, but their place-names have survived in large numbers.

Witzel goes into more detail in respect of the hydronomes (i.e. names of rivers), but the results of his investigation, and even his own comments on them, are intriguing. According to Witzel : “A better case for the early linguistic and ethnic history of South Asia can be made by investigating the names of rivers.  In Europe river-names were found to reflect the languages spoken before the influx of Indo-European speaking populations.  They are thus older than c. 4500-2500 BC (depending on the date of the spread of Indo-European languages in various parts of Europe).  It would be fascinating to gain a similar vantage point for the prehistory of South Asia.”

It is indeed fascinating.  Witzel finds to his chagrin, that “in northern India, rivers in general have early Sanskrit names from the Vedic period, and names derived from the daughter languages of Sanskrit later on.”Witzel tries to introduce the non-Aryan element into the picture : “River names in northern India are thus principally Sanskrit, with few indications of Dravidian, MuNDa or Tibeto-Burmese names.  However, Kosala, with its uncharacteristic –s– after –o– may be Tibeto-Burmese (Sanskrit rules would demand KoSala or KoSala, a corrected form that is indeed adopted in the Epics).” Likewise, “there has been an almost complete Indo-Aryanisation in northern India; this has progressed much less in southern India and in the often inaccessible parts of central India.  In the northwest there are only a few exceptions, such as the names of the rivers GangA, SutudrI and perhaps KubhA (Mayrhofer, 1956-1976).”

Thus, there are four river-names which he tries to connect with “pre-Indo-Aryan” languages.  But three of them, Kosala, SutudrI and KubhA are clearly Indo-European names (the hairsplitting about the letter –s– in Kosala is a typical “linguistic” ploy), and only GaNgA is generally accepted as a possible non-Indo-European name.

But the answer to this is given by Witzel himself : “Rivers often carry different names, sometimes more than two, along their courses.  Even in a homogenous, monolingual country, such as Japan, this can be the case as names change as soon as the river passes through a major mountain range.  In South Asia, to quote one well-known example, the BhAgIrathI and AlaknandA become the GaNgA.  This increases the probability of multiple names from various languages for one and the same river of which only one may have survived in our sources.”It may be noted that the Rig Veda itself refers to the river as both GaNgA and JahnAvI.

Witzel cannot escape the “evidence of hydronomy” as he calls it, and he tries to explain it away by suggesting that “there has been an almost complete Indo-Aryanisation” of the river-names in northern India. But his explanation rings hollow : “The Indo-Aryan influence, whether due to actual settlement, acculturation, or, if one prefers, the substitution of Indo-Aryan names for local ones, was powerful enough from early on to replace local names, in spite of the well-known conservatism of river-names. This is especially surprising in the area once occupied by the Indus civilization, where one would have expected the survival of earlier names, as has been the case in Europe and the Near East.  At the least, one would expect a palimpsest, as found in New England, with the name of the State of Massachussetts next to the Charles River, formerly called the Massachussetts River, and such new adaptations as Stony Brook, Muddy Creek, Red River, etc. next to the adaptations of Indian names such as the Mississippi and the Missouri.  The failure to preserve old hydronomes even in the Indus Valley (with a few exceptions noted above) indicates the extent of the social and political collapse experienced by the local population.”

Apart from anything else, does this last bit at all harmonize with the claim made elsewhere in the same volume to explain the lack of archaeological-anthropological evidence of any invasion, that the “Indo-Aryanisation” of the northwest was a “gradual and complex” rather than a “cataclysmic” event ?

Witzel starts out with the intention of pitting the linguistic evidence of place-names and river-names against the evidence of archaeology; and he ends up having to try and argue against, or explain away, this linguistic evidence, since it only confirms the archaeological evidence.

The long and short of the evidence of place-names and river-names is as follows :

The place-names and river-names in Europe, to this day, represent pre-Indo-European languages spoken in Europe before 2500 BC.  The same is the case with Armenia : “among the numerous personal and place-names handed down to us from Armenia up to the end of the Assyrian age, there is absolutely nothing Indo-European.” And with Greece and Anatolia : “numerous place-names… show that Indo-Europeans did not originate in Greece. The same can be said for Italy and Anatolia.”

On the other hand, northern India is the only place where place-names and river-names are Indo-European right from the period of the Rigveda (a text which Max Müller refers to as “the first word spoken by the Aryan man”) with no traces of any alleged earlier non-Indo-European names.

Witzel’s cavalier attitude towards this evidence is typically how Western scholars react to inconvenient facts in respect of the original homeland of Indo-European : he notes that the evidence is negative, finds it “surprising” that it should be so, makes an offhand effort to explain it away, and then moves on.

And later on, in his second paper included in the volume, he actually refers complacently to the whole matter : “in view of the discussion of hydronomy and place-names in the previous paper, it is also interesting that the Indo-Aryans could not, apparently, pronounce local names.But, like it or not, the evidence of place-names and river-names is a very important factor in locating the Indo-European homeland in any particular area.  And India alone, meets the criteria to test any hypothesis in this regard.  

We shall next present the “Literary Evidence” …

through the next few posts in the series !

Please refer and links therein for previous adaptations from the most brilliant, insightful analysis ever undertaken …

by Shrikant G. Talageri available @

Journal : Alternate History

It doesn’t surprise that experts aren’t able to spot the facts, at first or in a 100 years. What amazes is their stubborn refusal to keep their minds open to admit research and evidence pointing to another set of consistent facts.

In a previous tranca, , we left off with the promise of taking up the evidence in the Rig Veda in order to arrive at the true picture of facts about Proto-Aryan homeland, whence the Indo-Iranian and Indo-Aryan streams supposedly branched off some 4000 – 6000 years ago.

And in the one before, , a detailed intervention was presented on ” Horses And The Aryan Debate ” … a much ado for nothing, as it is, but a cornerstone in the Aryan Invasion hypothesis perpetuated by scholars and historians with European pedigree.

We now take up the evidence in Rig Veda adapted from the most brilliant, insightful analysis ever undertaken  by Shrikant G. Talageri available @



The Aryan invasion theory of India is a myth that owes more to European politics than anything in Indian records or archaeology.”


Gnoli points out that the Avesta reflects “an historical situation in which Iranian elements exist side by side with … Aryan or Proto-Indoaryan (elements)”. Turning to the Rigveda, it is natural to expect to find the same situation reflected there as well.  And if that is so, it must also be likely that the Iranians have a specific historical identity in Vedic terms. 

The historical identity of the Vedic Aryans themselves, as we have seen, is quite specific : this identity does not embrace all the tribes and peoples named in the Rig Veda, but is confined to the PUrus (and particularly the Bharatas among them) who are alone called Aryas in the Rig Veda. 

All the other people, i.e. all non-PUrus, are called DAsas in the Rigveda.  While it is natural to infer that the term DAsa was a general term for all non-PUrus as well as a specific term for the particular non-PUrus who existed “side by side” with the PUrus (i.e. for the Iranians), there must also have been a specific tribal name for these particular non-PUrus. 

The Rigveda (in agreement with the PurANas) classifies the PUrus as one of the five tribes: namely, the Yadus, TurvaSas, Druhyus, Anus, PUrus (I.108.8). Prima facie, the Iranians must be identifiable with one of the remaining four. Of the four, all sources locate the Yadus and TurvaSas together in the interior of India, and the Druhyus are located outside the frontiers of India.  The most likely candidates are therefore the Anus who are located “side by side” with the PUrus in all geographical descriptions (and, incidentally, even in the enumeration of the names of the five tribes in I.108.8). 

An examination of the evidence demonstrates beyond the shadow of any doubt that the ancient Indian tribes of the Anus are identical with the ancient Iranians: 

1. As we have already seen, the Indo-Aryan-Iranian conflict very definitely had an ANgiras-BhRgu dimension to it, with ANgiras being the priests of the Indo-Aryans and BhRgus of the Iranians : a situation reflected in the traditions of both the peoples. 

This situation is also reflected in the Rig Veda where the dominant priests of the text, and the particular or exclusive priests of the Bharatas (the Vedic Aryans), are the Angiras : all the generations before SudAs have BharadvAj as their priests (which, perhaps, explains the etymology of the name Bharad-vAja); SudAs himself has the Kutsas also as his priests (besides the new families of priests : the ViSvAmitras and the VasiSThas); and SudAs’s descendants Sahadeva and Somaka have the Kutsas and the VAmadevas as their priests. 

The BhRgus are clearly not the priests of the Bharatas, and, equally clearly, they are associated with a particular other tribe : the Anus. The names Anu and BhRgu are used interchangeably in Rig Veda : compare V.31.4 with IV.16.20, and VII.18.14 with VII.18.6. Griffith also recognizes the connection in his footnote to V.31.4, when he notes : “Anus : probably meaning BhRgus who belonged to that tribe.” 

2. The Rig Veda and the Avesta, as we saw, are united in testifying to the fact that the Punjab (Sapta-Sindhu or Hapta-HAndu) was not a homeland of the Vedic Aryans, but was a homeland of the Iranians. The PurANas as well as the Rig Veda testify to the fact that the Punjab was a homeland of the Anus : 

Pargiter notes the Puranic description of the spread of the Anus from the east and their occupation of the whole of the Punjab : “One branch headed by USInara established separate kingdoms on the eastern border of the Punjab, namely those of the Yaudheyas, AmbaSThas, NavarASTra and the city KRmilA; and his famous son Sivi originated the Sivis [footnote : called Sivas in Rig Veda VII.18.7] in Sivapura, and extending his conquests westwards, founded through his four sons the kingdoms of the VRSadarbhas, Madras (or Madrakas), Kekayas (or Kaikeyas), and SuvIras (or SauvIras), thus occupying the whole of the Punjab except the north-west corner.” 

In Rig Veda, the Anus are repeatedly identified with the ParuSNI river, the central river of the Punjab, as the PUrus are identified with the SarasvatI : in the Battle Of Ten Kings, the Anus are clearly the people of the ParuSNI area and beyond.  Likewise, another hymn which refers to the ParuSNI (VIII.74.15) also refers to the Anus (VIII.74.4). 

Michael Witzel remarks about the locations of “the Yadu-TurvaSa and the Anu-Druhyu”, that “the Anu may be tied to the ParusNSI, the Druhyu to the northwest and the Yadu with the YamunA”. 

3. The name Anu or Anava for the Iranians appears to have survived even in later times : the country and the people in the very heart of Avestan land, to the immediate north of the HAmUn-i Hilmand, was known as the Anauon or Anauoi as late as Greek times (cf. Stathmoi Parthikoi, 16, of Isidore of Charax). 

4. The names of Anu tribes in the Rig Veda and the PurANas can be clearly identified with the names of the most prominent tribes among latter-day Iranians. The Battle Of Ten Kings (described in three hymns in the Rigveda, VII.18, 33, 83) was between SudAs on the one hand, and a confederation of ten tribes from among the Anus and Druhyus on the other, which took place on the ParuSNI i.e. in Anu territory; hence, logically, most of the tribes were Anus. 

Of these ten tribes, the following six, named in just two verses, may be noted : 
a. PRthus or PArthavas (VII.83.1) : Parthians. 
b. ParSus or ParSavas (VII .83.1) : Persians. 
c. Pakthas (VII.18.7) : Pakhtoons. 
d. BhalAnas (VII.18.7) : Baluchis. 
e. Sivas (VII.18.7) : Khivas. 
f. ViSANins (VII.18.7) : Pishachas (Dards).

Three more tribes, named in adjacent verses, may be noted separately :

a. BhRgus (VII.18.6) : Phrygians. 

b. Simyus (VII. 18.5) : Sarmatians (Avesta = Sairimas). 

c. Alinas (VII.18.7) : Alans. 

A major Iranian tribe which is not named in the Rig Veda, but appears as a prominent Anu tribe in the PurANas and epics is the Madras : Medes (Madai). 

Significantly, the Anu king who leads the confederation of Anu tribes against SudAs, and is named in VII.18.12, is common among Zoroastrians even today : KavaSa. Furthermore, this king is also called Kavi CAyamAna four verses earlier (in VII.18.8). This is significant because an ancestor of this king, AbhyAvartin CAyamAna, is identified in VI.27.8 as a PArthava (Parthian).  At the same time, Kavi is the title of the kings of the most important dynasty in Avestan and Zoroastrian history, the KavyAn or Kayanian dynasty.  In later times, it is the Parthian kings who were the loudest and most persistent in their claims to being descendants of the Kayanians. 

If the full name of this king is interpreted as Kavi KavaSa of the line of CAyamAnas, he can be identified with Kavi KavAta, the founder of the pre-Avestan dynasty of KavyAn or Kayanian kings, whose most prominent descendant was Kavi ViStAspa. Incidentally, other descendants of Kavi KavaSa may be the Kekayas or Kaikayas, one of the two most prominent Anu tribes of the PurANas and later Indian tradition (the other being the Madras), who are located in western Punjab, and whose name bears such a close resemblance to the names of the Kayanian kings. 

5. The DAsas of the Rig Veda are opposed to the Aryas : since the word Arya refers to PUrus in general and the Bharatas in particular, the word DAsa should logically refer to non-PUrus in general and the Anus (or Iranians) in particular. 

The word DAsa is found in 54 hymns (63 verses) and in an overwhelming majority of these references, it refers either to human enemies of the Vedic Aryans, or to atmospheric demons killed by Indra : in most of the cases, it is difficult to know which of the two is being referred to, and in some of them perhaps both are being simultaneously referred to.  In any case, since these references are usually non-specific, it makes no material difference to our historical analysis. 

There are eight verses which refer to both Arya and Dasa enemies; and in this case it is certain that human enemies are being referred to.  As we have already seen in an earlier chapter, these verses (VI.22.10; 33.3; 60.6; VII.83.1; X.38.3; 69.6; 83.1; 102.3) help us to confirm the identity of Aryas of the Rig Veda.  However, they offer no additional clue in respect of DAsas. 

But finally, there are three verses which stand out from the rest : they contain references which are friendly towards the Dasas :

a. In VIII.5.31, the ASvins are depicted as accepting the offerings of the DAsas. 

b. In VIII.46.32, the patrons are referred to as DAsas. 

c. In VIII.51.9, Indra is described as belonging to both Aryas and DAsas. 

Given the nature and the period of MaNDala VIII, and the fact that all these three hymns are dAnastutis (hymns in praise of donors), it is clear that the friendly references have to do with the identity of the patrons in these hymns. A special feature of these dAnastutis is that, while everywhere else in the Rig Veda we find patrons gifting cattle, horses and buffaloes, these particular patrons gift camels (uSTra) : at least, the first two do so (VIII.5.37; 46.22, 31), and it is very likely that the third one does so too (this dAnastuti does not mention the specific gifts received, and merely calls upon Indra to shower wealth on the patron). 

There is a fourth patron too in another dAnastuti in the same MaNDala (VIII.6.48) who also gifts camels. Outside of these three hymns, camel is referred to only once in the Rig Veda, in a late upa-maNDala of MaNDala I (I.138.2), where it is mentioned in a simile. 

Now, as to the identity of the patrons in these four hymns:

a. In VIII.5, the patron is KaSu. 
b. In VIII.6, the patrons include Tirindira ParSava. 
c. In VIII.46, the patrons include PRthuSravas son of KanIta. 

d. In VIII.51, the patron (whose gifts are not specified) is RuSama PavIru. 

In two of these cases, as we can see, the identity is self-evident: one patron is called a ParSava (Persian) and another has PRthu (Parthian) in his name. But, here is what the Western scholars themselves have to say : according to Michael Witzel, “there are, in the opinion of some scholars (Hoffman, 1975) some Iranian names in Rgveda (KaSu, KanIta, etc.).” More specifically : “An Iranian connection is also clear when camels appear (8.5. 37-39) together with the Iranian name KaSu ‘small’ (Hoffman 1975) or with the suspicious name Tirindira and the ParSu (8.6.46)” 

Griffith also notes the Iranian connection in his footnote to VIII.6.46: “From ParSu, from Tirindira : ‘from Tirindira the son of ParSu’ – Wilson.  Both names are Iranian (cf. Tiridates, Persa).  See Weber’s ‘Episches in Vedischen Ritual’, pp.36-38, (Sitzungsberichte der K.P. Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1891, XXXVIII).” 

The only patron whose identity is not specifically named as Iranian by the scholars is RuSama PavIru.  However, the RuSamas are identified by M.L. Bhargava as a tribe of the extreme northwest, from the Soma lands of SuSomA and ArjIkIyA.  This clearly places them in the territory of the Iranians. 

In sum, the Iranians are fully identifiable with the Anus, the particular DAsas (non-PUrus) of the Rig Veda.



The evidence of Rig Veda and the Avesta makes it clear that Iranians, in the earliest period, were restricted to a small area in the east, and the vast area which they occupied in later historical times was the result of a series of migrations and expansions. 

The early migrations of the Iranians follow a clear trail : from Kashmir to the Punjab; from the Punjab to southern and eastern Afghanistan; from southern and eastern Afghanistan to the whole of Afghanistan and southern Central Asia; and finally, in later times, over a vast area spread out at least as far west as western Iran and as far north as northern Central Asia and the northern Caucasus. 

The early history of the Iranians may be divided into the following periods :

The details may be examined under the following heads :

A. The Pre-Rigvedic Period. 
B. The Early Period of the Rigveda. 
C. The Middle period of the Rigveda. 
D. The Late Period of the Rigveda.


IV.A. The Pre-Rigvedic Period

In the pre-Rigvedic period, the Iranians were inhabitants of Kashmir. 




Iranian Geographical Area


Pre-Rigvedic Period



Early Rigvedic Period

Pre-Avestan Period



Middle Rigvedic Period

Period of GAthAs and early YaSts

Punjab, south and east Afghanistan


Late Rigvedic Period

Proper Avestan Period

Punjab, Afghanistan, southern Central Asia


In the Avesta, this period is remembered as a remote period of prehistory, enshrined in the myth of Airyana VaEjah, the land of severe winters. This period is not remembered at all in the Rigveda, since the Rigveda is a PUru book and is not concerned with the prehistory of the Anus.  Hence, in the case of this period at least, one must turn to the PurANas, which have a broader perspective. 

In the PurANas, this period is remembered in the description of the original geographical distribution of the five AiLa or Lunar tribes.  According to this description, the PUrus were located in the centre (i.e. Haryana-Uttar Pradesh) and the other four tribes, in relation to them, were located as follows : 

– the Anus to their north (i.e. Kashmir),

– the Druhyus to their west (i.e. Punjab),

– the Yadus to their south-west (i.e. Rajasthan and western Madhya Pradesh, perhaps
extending as far south as Gujarat and Maharashtra), and

– the TurvaSas to their south-east (to the east of the Yadus).  

To the northeast of the PUrus were the tribes of the IkSvAku or Solar race. 

The PurANas also relate a series of historical events which changed the original geographic locations of at least two of the five tribes : The Druhyus, inhabitants of the Punjab, started conquering eastwards and southwards, and their conquests seem to have brought them into conflict with all the other tribes and peoples : the Anus, PUrus, Yadus, TurvaSas, and even the IkSvAkus. 

The result was a more or less concerted opposition by the different tribes, which led to the Druhyus being driven out not only from the eastern areas occupied by them, but even from the Punjab, and into the northwest and beyond.  The place vacated by them was occupied by the Anus. 

This is important here only because it accounts for the fact that the Anus came to occupy the area to the west of the PUrus (i.e. the Punjab), while the Druhyus were pushed further off into the northwest beyond the Anus.


IV.B. The Early Period of the Rigveda

In the Early Period of the Rigveda, the Iranians were inhabitants of the Punjab. In the Avesta, this period is remembered as a period of prehistory, enshrined in the myth of the “Vara” or enclosure which Ahura Mazda asks Yima, the king of Airyana VaEjah, to build as a defence against the severe winters about to befall the land : clearly a metaphorical myth of migration from a severely cold land to a more congenial one.

The “Vara” would appear to be a mythicization of the areas in eastern Punjab occupied by the Iranians after their migration southwards from Kashmir : these areas would have been bordered on the east by the KurukSetra region, which is referred to in the Rig Veda as Vara A PRthivyA (the best place on earth) or NAbhA PRthivyA (the navel or centre of the earth).  The Avestan “Vara”, later taken to mean “enclosure”, but originally merely the first word of the phrase Vara A PrthivyA, is also thought of as a kind of Paradise occupying a central position on earth and was, on this basis, identified by Tilak with the North Polar region.

The Avestan concept of a six-month long day and a six-month long night in the Vara is probably an indication of the special and sacred position of the Vara in Avestan mythology : in later Indian tradition, a six-month long period represents the day and night of the Gods; and the KurukSetra region is known as BrahmAvarta (the land of BrahmA or the Land of the Gods) as distinct from AryAvarta (the Land of the Aryas) to its east. The KurukSetra region was thus the common sacred land of the Iranians to its west (the Anus in the Punjab) and the Vedic Aryans to its east (the PUrus in Uttar Pradesh). 

The hostilities and conflicts which led to migrations of the Iranians from Punjab is perhaps symbolised as “excessive heat” caused by Angra Mainyu to drive them out of Hapta-HAndu … in the Rig Veda (VII.6.3) the Dasyus were chased westwards by Agni. 

The memories of the eastern land in the Avesta are not, however, restricted only to the myth of the Vara : we find a very significant reference in the very first verse of the ZamyAd YaSt (Yt.19.1), the most geographically descriptive YaSt in the Avesta. Darmetester translates the verse as follows : “The first mountain that rose up out of the earth, O Spitama ZarathuStra ! was the Haraiti Barez.  That mountain stretches all along the shores of the land washed by waters towards the east.  The second mountain was Mount ZeredhO outside Mount Manusha; this mountain too stretches all along the shores of the land washed by waters towards the east.”82 In his footnote to the word “outside”, which precedes Mount Manusha in his translation, the author notes that the phrase pArentarem aredhO which he translates as “outside” is of doubtful meaning and probably means “beyond”. 

The Manusha of Yt.19.1 (which no one has been able to identify to this day) is certainly the MAnuSa of the Rigveda : 

a. The Avestan description specifically states that Manusha is located in the east

b. The name is identified, even by the Western scholars, as a name alien to the Iranian ethos and connected with the Indo-Aryan ethos : The Cambridge History of Iran, in its reference to the word Manusha, as it occurs in the name of an Avestan hero ManuSCithra, points out that it “means ‘from the race of Manu’, and refers to the ancient mythical figure, Manu, son of Vivasvat, who was regarded in India as the first man and father of the human race.  He has no place in Iranian tradition, where his role is played by Yima, and later GayOmard.  It appears, though, that we have a derivative of his name in Manusha (Yasht 19.1), the name of a mountain…” 

c. The scholars translate the Avestan reference as “Mount Manusha”. However, the reference not only does not call Manusha a mountain, but the context makes it clear that it is definitely not one : the verse clearly states that it is referring to only two mountains, Haraiti Barez and ZeredhO, and Manusha is named only in order to point out the direction of Mount ZeredhO.  Haraiti Barez and ZeredhO are the first two in a list of mountains named in the following verses of the YaSt and Manusha, if it had also been the name of a mountain, would have figured in the list as such in its own right.  The words pArentarem aredhO precede the word Manusha; and while pArentarem means “beyond”, the word aredhO (whose meaning is not known) probably refers to a river or body of water : a similar word occurs in the name of the Avestan goddess of waters : aredvI- sUrA anAhitA. 

And the name MAnuSa as the name of a place associated with a body of water occurs in the Rig Veda, as we have already seen : III.23.4 specifically describes this place as being located between the SarasvatI and DRSadvatI rivers in the Vara A PRthivyA (i.e. KurukSetra), which is literally a “land washed by waters towards the east” of the Iranian area. The Manusha in the Avestan reference (Yt.19.1) clearly represents a residual memory of the earlier eastern homeland. 

Information in the Rig Veda about the events in the Early Period is more specific, since this period represents contemporary events in the Early MaNDalas while it represents prehistory in the Avesta. In the earlier part of the Early Period, there appears to have been some degree of bonhomie between the PUrus (Vedic Aryans) and Anus (Iranians) when they shared a common religious heritage in the region stretching out on both sides of KurukSetra. MaNDala VI, in fact, records an alliance between the Bharatas (led by SRnjaya) and the Anus (led by AbhyAvartin CAyamAna) against the Yadus and TurvaSas who were attacking KurukSetra (HariyUpIyA = DRSadvatI) from the south (VI.27). 

However, in the course of time, relations deteriorated, and MaNDala VI itself later identifies the Anus as droghas (enemies or fiends) in VI.62.9. The hostilities reached a climax during the time of SudAs, in the Battle Of Ten Kings. This battle is crucial to our understanding of early Indo-Iranian history : 

  1. The evidence of the hymns shows that in this period all the major Iranian groups were settled in the Punjab, including those found in later times in geographically furthest areas from the Punjab : the Phrygians (later in Turkey), the Alans (later in the northern Caucasus), and the Khivas (later in Chorasmia), not to mention the major peoples of latter-day Afghanistan (Pakhtoons) and Iran (Persians, Parthians, Medes). 

2. The hymns clearly record that this battle saw the defeat of the Anus, the conquest of their territories by SudAs (VII.18.13), and the commencement of their migration westwards. 

It may also be noted that the Spitama line of priests also appears to be referred to in the Battle Of Ten Kings hymns, in the form of a special figure of speech which has not been understood by the scholars so far : In VII.33.9, 12, VasiSTha is referred to as wearing the vestments spun by Yama and brought to him by Apsaras. 

Yama is identified with the BhRgus and the Iranians; and the Apsaras are mythical beings closely identified with the Gandharvas, who represent the western region of GandhArI or southeastern Afghanistan. 

The references in VII.33.9, 12 are the only references to Yama or to the Apsaras in the whole of the Early and Middle MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas i.e. in MaNDalas VI, III, VII, IV, II, and the early and middle upa-maNDalas of MaNDala I, except for one other reference to Yama in I.83.5, which also emphasises his BhRgu identity by naming him with other ancient BhRgus like AtharvaNa and USanA. 

VasiSTha wearing the vestments spun by Yama, who represents the BhRgus, who are his enemies in the battle, can be understood only in the sense of a figure of speech indicating victory over his enemies. Therefore, this must also be the meaning of the only other reference in these hymns, to the vestments of the VasiSThas or the Trtsus : they are twice referred to as wearing what Griffith translates as “white robes” (VII.33.1; 83.8). The word Svityanca, which occurs only in these two verses in the whole of Rig Veda, clearly has some unique connotation different from the commonplace meaning of “white”. On the lines of the references to vestments spun by Yama, it is clear that the word Svityanca refers to the identity of the enemies : to the Spitamas, the particular priests of the enemies of SudAs and VasiSTha. 

To sum up : In the Early Period of the Rig Veda, the Iranians were inhabitants of the Punjab, and it is only towards the end of this period, in the time of SudAs, that they started on their migration westwards.


IV.C. The Middle Period of the Rigveda

In the Middle Period of the Rigveda, the Iranians were settled in Afghanistan. From the viewpoint of Indo-Iranian relations, this period can be divided into two parts: 

The earlier part of this period (MaNDala IV and the middle upa-maNDalas) represents a continuation and culmination of the Indo-Iranian hostilities which commenced in the Early Period.  Unlike the Early Period, however, this period is contemporaneous with the period of composition of the earliest parts of the Avesta (the GAthAs and the earliest core of the YaSts) and hence the events of this period are contemporary events for the composers of the Early Avesta, and have a central place in the text.  To the Rigveda, however, these events are more peripheral, unlike the earlier events in the Punjab at the time of SudAs. 

The later part of this period (MaNDala II) is a period of peace in which the two peoples (the Vedic Aryans in the east and the Iranians in Afghanistan) developed their religions, and the hostilities slowly cooled down and became mythical and terminological memories. 

The major historical event of this period is the great battle which took place in Afghanistan between a section of Vedic Aryans led by RjrASva and the descendants of SudAs, on the one hand, and the Iranians (led by ZarathuStra and ViStAspa) on the other. 

In the Rig Veda, the correspondences with the early Avestan period of ZarathuStra are all found in the hymns of the early part of the Middle Period : 

1. The leader of the Iranians in the battle was Kavi ViStAspa, the patron of ZarathuStra (mentioned by ZarathuStra in his GAthAs: Y.28.7; 46.16; 51.16; 53.2). In the Rigveda, IStASva (ViStAspa) is mentioned in I.122.13, attributed to KakSIvAn Dairghatamas AuSija : kimiStASva iSTaraSmireta ISAnAsastaruSa Rnjate nRn. Griffith translates it vaguely as “What can he do whose steeds and reins are choicest ?  These, the all potent, urge brave men to conquest”.  And, in his footnotes, he opines that “the whole hymn, as Wilson observes, ‘is very elliptical and obscure’ and much of it is at present unintelligible”. 

But S.K. Hodiwala84 points out that SAyaNa translates it as follows: “What can ISTASva, IStaraSmi, or any other princes do against those who enjoy the protection of Mitra and VaruNa ?”, and Wilson, while following this translation, notes that “the construction is obscure and the names, which are said to be those of Rajas, are new and unusual”. 

A second Avestan hero, whose name may be noted here, is ThraEtaona. In the Rigveda, Traitana (ThraEtaona) is referred to as being killed by the grace of Indra in I.158.5, attributed to DIrghatamas, the father of KakSIvAn. 

2. The VArSAgira battle (referred to in hymn I.100) is identified by many Zoroastrian scholars as a battle between the Iranians and Indo-Aryans at the time of ZarathuStra.  The hymn (in I.100.17) names five persons as being the main protagonists in the battle : 

a. The leader of the VArSAgiras is RjrASva.  He is identified by most scholars with the Arejataspa or ArjAspa who is referred to in the Avesta as the main enemy of ViStAspa and his brothers (AbAn YaSt, Yt.5.109, 113; and GOs YaSt, Yt.9.30). Later Iranian tradition (as in the ShAhname) goes so far as to hold ZarathuStra himself to have been killed by ArjAspa. 

b. Sahadeva is one of the four companions of RjrASva in the battle.  He is correctly identified by S.K. Hodiwala85 with Hushdiv, remembered in the ShAhname (Chapter 462) as one of the main enemies of ViStAspa in the battle who led ArjAspa’s troops from the rear.  Although not mentioned in the Avesta, Hushdiv is a natural development of HazadaEva, which would be the exact Avestan equivalent of the Vedic name Sahadeva. 

c. The other three companions of RjrASva in the battle are AmbarISa, BhayamAna and SurAdhas. S.K. Hodiwala points out that “in the Cama Memorial Volume, E. Sheheriarji quotes RV I.100.17 …. (and) tries to identify the other persons mentioned in the said Rigvedic verse by showing that the names of certain persons known to be connected with ArjAspa in the Avesta bear the same meanings as the names of the persons in the said verse.  Thus he says that AmbarISa is identical with Bidarfsha (= Av.  Vidarafshnik) brother of ArjAspa, since both the names mean ‘one with beautiful garments’.  Similarly, BhayamAna = Vandaremaini, father of ArjAspa, both meaning ‘the fearless one’; also SurAdhas = Humayaka, brother of ArjAspa, as both the words mean ‘one with much wealth’…” 

Hodiwala, of course, discounts the above identifications by conceding that “the identification of persons in two different languages from the meanings of their names, which are quite different in sound, can have but little weight”.87However, Hodiwala88 correctly identifies Humayaka, ArjAspa’s comrade in the Avesta (AbAn YaSt, Yt.5.113) with Somaka, the son of Sahadeva (IV.15.7-10). S.K. Hodiwala thus identifies Humayaka of the Avesta with the Rigvedic Somaka (IV.15.7-10) while E. Sheheriarji identifies him with the Rigvedic SurAdhas (I.100.17). 

Incidentally, there is a strong likelihood that the SurAdhas of I.100.17 is the same as the Somaka of IV.15.7-10. The distribution of the word SurAdhas in the Rigveda (everywhere else, outside I.100.17, the word is an epithet meaning “bountiful”) suggests that the word may have originally been coined by ViSvAmitra as an epithet for his patron SudAs, perhaps on the basis of the similarity in sound between the two words, SudAs and SurAdhas, and later the word was also applied to his descendants :

The word SurAdhas is found only twice in the Early MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas, in III.33.12; 53.12, and these are the only two hymns in MaNDala III which deal with ViSvAmitra’s relationship with SudAs. 

In the Middle MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas, the word is found in I.100.17 as the name of a companion of RjrASva and Sahadeva; and elsewhere it is found in IV.2.4; 5.4; 17.8 (all three in MaNDala IV, which is connected with Somaka). 

It is found many times in the Late MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas as a general term meaning “bountiful”: I.23.6; VIII.14.12; 46.24; 49.1; 50.1; 65.12; 68.6; X.143.4. In I.100.17, therefore, it is probably an epithet, rather than the name of one of RjrASva’s companions; and as Sahadeva is already named separately as one of the companions, the epithet must be used here for his son Somaka, another participant in the battle. 

3. The VArSAgira battle clearly has historical links with the earlier Battle Of Ten Kings : 

a. The protagonists in the battle include Sahadeva and his son Somaka, both descendants of SudAs, the protagonist in the DASarAjña battle. 

b. This battle hymn contains the only reference (in I.100.18) in the whole of Rig Veda, outside the Battle Of Ten Kings hymns (VII.18.5), to the Simyus, who figure as enemies in both the references.

c. The word Svitnyebhi occurs in this hymn (I.100.18) in reference to the protagonists of the hymns, in the same sense as the word Svityanca occurs in the Battle Of Ten Kings hymns (VII.33.1; 83.8). Incidentally, the only other occurrence of the word Svitnya in the whole of the Rig Veda is in VIII.46.31, in reference to the cows gifted by the camel-donor, PRthuSravas KAnIta, identified by the scholars as an Iranian. 

And it is clear that this battle is between the Vedic Aryans and the Iranians :

i) As we have seen, it has historical links with the earlier Battle Of Ten Kings, which was between these same two communities.

ii) As we have also seen, the main protagonists on either side are mentioned in both the Rig Veda and the Avesta.

iii) The geography of the river names in the Rig Veda shows a westward thrust from the time of SudAs, which culminates beyond the Indus in the middle upa-maNDalas and MaNDala IV.

iv) The battle in the Avesta took place in southern Afghanistan : Gnoli points out that the Hilmand delta region is “the scene of the struggle between WiStAsp and ArjAsp”.89In the Rigveda, the battle is referred to as taking place “beyond the Sarayu” (Siritoi) (IV.30.18), placing it squarely in southern Afghanistan. 

4. The reference to the battle “beyond the Sarayu” in IV.30.18 refers to ArNa and Citraratha, “both Aryas”, who were killed in the battle by the grace of Indra. 

There are eight other verses in the Rigveda (VI.22.10; 33.3; 60.6; VII.83.1; X.38.3; 69.6; 83.1; 102.3) which refer to Arya enemies; but in all those cases, the references are general references to both Arya and DAsa enemies, and no specific persons identifiable as Aryas are named as such.  In this unique reference (IV.30.18) however, we find two specific individuals named as Arya enemies. 

By the logic of the situation, these two persons should then be two prominent Vedic Aryans (PUrus) who had aligned with the enemy Iranians (Anus) in this battle. That the followers of ZarathuStra must have included some Vedic Aryans is accepted by the scholars : Gnoli points out that “there is no evidence for thinking that the Zoroastrian message was meant for the Iranians alone.  On the-contrary, history suggests that the exact opposite is likely, and there are also indisputable facts … which show clearly that Zoroaster’s teaching was addressed, earlier on at least, to all men … whether they were Iranians or not, Proto Indo-Aryans or otherwise…” 

The Cambridge History of Iran, as we have seen, refers to ManuSCithra, later ManUchIhr or Minocher, the common Parsee name popularly shortened to Minoo, and notes that his name “means ‘from the race of Manu’, and refers to the ancient mythical figure, Manu, son of Vivasvat, who was regarded in India as the first man and founder of the human race.  He has no place in Iranian tradition, where his role is played by Yima and later GayOmard.” 

The reference goes on to add that the word Manusha is found in only one other place in the Avesta : in YaSt 19.1 as “the name of a mountain”. In later Pahlavi texts, the word is found only in two contexts: firstly in the genealogies of ManUchIhr and LuhrAsp, and secondly in the identification of the Manusha of Yt.19.1 as the birthplace of ManUchIhr.

ManuSCithra was therefore clearly a Vedic Aryan born in the KurukSetra region.  And the reason he is held high in Zoroastrian tradition is also clear : as The Cambridge History of Iran notes : “In the Avesta, ManUchIhr is called Airyana, ‘helper of the Aryans’…” 

In short, ManuSCithra was a Vedic Aryan who aligned with the Iranians in the great battle ; and if ManuS is his epithet (indicating his Indo-Aryan identity) and Cithra is his name, he is clearly the Citraratha of IV.30.18. 

5. The main priestly enemies of the Iranians are the Angras (ANgiras) who are condemned throughout the Avesta right down from the GAthAs of ZarathuStra. Significantly, the Avesta does not refer to any of the other Rigvedic families : neither the ViSvAmitras and VasiSThas of the Early Period, the GRtsamadas and KaSyapas of the later Middle Period, the Atris, KaNvas and Bharatas of the Late Period, nor the Agastyas. And, of the three branches of ANgiras, it does not refer even once to the BharadvAjas.  The Avesta, however, does refer to the two other branches of ANgirases, the Usijs (AuSijas) and Gaotemas (Gautamas), both of which originated in and dominated the early Middle Period and in whose hymns alone we find references to the conflict with the Zoroastrians : 

a. The Usijs (AuSijas) are mentioned by ZarathuStra himself in the GAthAs (Y. 44.20) where they are identified with the Karapans, a derogatory word used in the GAthAs in reference to enemy priests.


b. NAdhyAongha Gaotema (NodhAs Gautama) is mentioned in the early YaSts (FarvardIn YaSt, Yt.13.16) as a priest defeated by ZarathuStra in debate.  While many scholars ignore or reject the identification of the word NAdhyAongha with NodhAs, the identity of the second word as the name of an enemy priest, Gaotema, is not disputed by anyone. 

In sum : any analysis of the Rig Veda and Avesta will make it clear that the main enemies of the Iranians in the Avesta, at least at the time of ZarathuStra, were the “Indo-Aryans” i.e. the Vedic Aryans or Purus. 

In later Indian tradition, the Iranians became the asuras or demons of Indian mythology, who ceased to bear even the faintest resemblance to the original Iranian prototypes.  Likewise, the angras and other enemies of the time of ZarathuStra were so mythologised in later Iranian traditions in the Pahlavi texts and in the very much later ShAhname, and even in later parts of the Avesta itself, that they ceased to be identifiable with the original Indo-Aryan prototypes. Hence, later interpretations of the Avestan words (e.g. the identification of the tUiryas or Turanians with latter-day peoples like the Turks, etc.) are untenable in any study of the Zoroastrian period. 

The Avesta does not appear to refer to the PUrus or Bharatas by those names, but then it is not necessary that they do so : the Rigv Veda refers to the Iranians as the Anus (a term which does not appear in the Avesta); and although SudAs and his descendants are Bharatas, the Battle Of Ten Kings hymns refer to them as TRtsus, and the VArSAgira hymn refers to them as VArSAgiras.  The Iranians must have had their own names for Indo-Aryans in the Avesta.  And it is not necessary that the names or epithets used by the Iranians for the Indo-Aryans should be found in the Rig Veda. 

However, we can speculate as follows :

 a. The word TUrvayANa occurs four times in the Rig Veda, and in two of the verses it refers to the person for whom Indra conquered all the tribes from east to west i.e. Kutsa-Ayu-Atithigva.  

About TUrvayANa, Griffith notes in his footnote to VI.18.13 : “According to SAyaNa, tUrvAyANa, ‘quickly going’ is an epithet of DivodAsa.” If this is correct, then it is possible that this may have been a general epithet of the Bharata kings, descendants of DivodAsa, particularly in conflict situations; and the Avestan word tUirya for the enemies of the Iranians may be derived from this word as a contrast to the word airya.  It may be noted that according to Skjærvø. the “evidence is too tenuous to allow any conclusions as to who the Turas were or at what time the conflict took place”. 

b. ZarathuStra refers in his GAthAs (Y.32.12-14) to “grAhma” as the most powerful and persistent of his enemies. Though not exactly cognate, a similar word in the Rigveda, grAma, refers to the warrior troops of the Bharatas in III.33.11, where the reference is to the armies under SudAs and ViSvAmitra crossing the SutudrI and VipAS on their westward expedition; and in I.100.10 it refers to the troops of the VArSAgiras.  

These are the only two occurrence of this word in the MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas of the Early Period and the early part of the Middle Period. The word  grAma  occurs  once in the hymns of the later Middle Period, in II.12.7, in its new and subsequent meaning of a “village”. It occurs many times in the Late MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas (I.44.10; 114.1; V.54.8; X.27.19; 62.11; 90.8; 107.5; 127.5, 146.10 149.4) always meaning “village” (except in I. 44.10, where it means “battle”, like the later word saMgrAma

While the early part of the Middle Period of the Rig Veda represents a continuation and culmination of the Indo-Iranian conflicts of the Early Period, the later part (MaNDala II and corresponding parts of the upa-maNDalas) is a period of peace in which the two people develop their religions and cultures in their respective areas.  MaNDala II does not refer to any river other than the sacred SarasvatI. 

The first signs of a thaw taking place in Indo-Iranian relations, in this period, are the appearance in the Rig Veda of an Avestan personality, Thrita, who is counted among the important persons (Yt.13.113), and is primarily associated with the Haoma (Soma) ritual (Y.9.10) and with medicines (Vd.20). 

Thrita (Rigvedic Trita) is a post-Zoroastrian figure : he is not mentioned in the GAthAs, nor is he mentioned even once in the MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas of the Early Period and early Middle Period (MaNDalas VI, III, VII, IV, and the early and middle upa-maNDalas). He first appears in the hymns of the later Middle Period, i.e. in MaNDala II (II.11.19, 20; 31.6; 34.10, 14), and he is clearly a contemporary figure here : Verse II.11.19, even in the context of a hostile reference to Dasyus, i.e. enemy priests in general, asks Indra to ensure the friendship of Trita (Griffith translates the verse as a reference to “Trita of our party”), and the next verse refers to Trita offering libations of Soma. 

Trita appears in all the MaNDalas of the Late Period as a mythical personality. The later part of the Middle Period is thus a transitional period between the earlier period of Indo-Iranian conflicts, and the later period of general peace and religious development.


IV.D. The Late Period of the Rig Veda

In the Late Period of the Rig Veda, the Iranians were now spread out over the whole of Afghanistan and southern Central Asia, and were still present in northwestern Punjab.  The late VendidAd, as we have already seen, delineates this area in its description of the sixteen Iranian lands.

This period represents a new era in Indo-Iranian relations, where the Vedic Aryans and the Iranians, in their respective areas, developed their religions independently of each other and yet influencing each other, the hostilities of the past rapidly turning into mythical and terminological memories : 

1. The BhRgus, as we have seen, are now completely accepted into the Vedic mainstream in MaNDala VIII, with their old hymns being included in the MaNDala and references to them acquiring a friendly, respectful, and contemporary air. 

2. Iranian kings of the northwestern Punjab (KaSu, PRthuSravas KAnIta, Tirindira ParSava, RuSama), now become patrons of Vedic RSis. 

3. Geographical names of the northwest now start appearing in the Rig Veda, and most of these are names which are also found in the Avesta. 

a. SuSoma/SuSomA, ArjIka/ArjIkIyA, SaryaNAvat and MUjavat, the four northwestern areas associated with Soma (I.84.14 in the middle upa-maNDalas; all the rest in the hymns of the Late Period: VIII.6.39; 7.29; 64.11; IX.65.22, 23; 113.1, 2; X.34.1; 75.5). Of these MUjavat is found in the Avesta: MuZA, Yt.8.125. 

b. GandhArI and the Gandharvas (III.38.6, a late interpolated hymn, as we have already seen; all the rest in the hymns of the Late Period: 1.22.14; 126.7; 163.2; VIII.1.11; 77.5; IX.83.4; 85.12; 86.36; 113.3; X.10.4; 11.2; 80.6. 85.40, 41; 123.4, 7-8;. 136.6; 139.4-6; 177.2). Gandarewa is found in the Avesta: Yt.5.38. 

c. RasA (IV.43.6 in the Middle Period at the westernmost point of the westward thrust; all the rest in the hymns of the Late Period: I.112.12; V.41.15; 53.9; VIII.72.13; IX.41.6; X.75.6; 108.1, 2; 121.4). RaNhA is found in the Avesta: Vd.1.19. 

d. Sapta Sindhu (Sapta SindhUn in the Middle Period: II.12.3, 12; IV.28.1; and later as well: I.32.12; 35.8; X.67.12; crystallizing into Sapta Sindhava only in the Late Period: VIII.54.4; 69.12; 96.1; IX.66.6; X.43.3). Hapta HAndu is found in the Avesta: Vd.1.18. 

4. Certain animals and persons common to the Rig Veda and the Avesta appear, or become common, only in the hymns of the Late Period :

a. The camel uSTra (Avestan uStra, found in the name of ZarathuStra himself) appears only in 1.138.2; VIII.5.37; 6.48; 46.22, 31. 

b. The word varAha as a name for the boar (Avestan varAza) appears only in I.61.7; 88.5; 114.5; 121.11; VIII.77.10; IX.97.7; X.28.4; 67.7; 86.4; 99.6. 

c. Yima (Vedic Yama), first man of the Avesta, is accepted into the Rig Veda only in the latest period (although he is mentioned once, in special circumstances, in VII.33.9, 12; and once, alongwith other ancient BhRgus like AtharvaNa and USanA KAvya, in I.83.5), when the BhRgus gain in importance:

I. 38.5; 116.2; 163.2; 
X. 10.7, 9, 13; 12.6; 13.4; 14.1-5, 7-15; 15.8;  
    16.9; 17.1; 21.5; 51.3; 53.2; 58.1; 60.10; 64.3;  
    92.11; 97.16; 123.6; 135.1, 7; 154.4, 5; 165.4. 

d. The Avestan hero associated with Soma and medicines, Thrita (Vedic : Trita) becomes a popular mythical figure in the Rig Veda in the Late Period.  After his first appearance in the Rig Veda in MaNDala II (II.11.19, 20; 31.6; 34.10, 14), he now appears frequently in the Late MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas:

I.    52.5; 105.9, 17; 163.2, 3; 187.1; 
V.   9.5; 41.4, 10; 54.2; 86.1; 
VIII. 7.24; 12.16; 41.6; 47.13-16; 52.1; 
IX.   32.2; 34.4; 37.4; 38.2; 86.20; 95.4; 102.2, 3; 
X.    8.7, 8; 46.3, 6; 48.2; 64.3; 99.6; 115.4. 

ThraEtaona (Faridun of later texts) is an earlier Avestan hero associated with the Indo-Iranian conflicts and already demonised in the Rig Veda (I.158.5). Hence, features associated with him in the Avesta are transferred to Trita in the Rig Veda : ThraEtaona’s father Athwya is transformed in the Rig Veda into Aptya, a patronymic of Trita (I.105.9; V.41.1; VIII.12.16; 15.17; 47.13, 14; X.8.8; 120.6). 

ThraEtaona, in Avestan mythology, is mainly associated with the killing of the three-headed dragon, Azhi Dahaka; just as Indra, in Rigvedic mythology, is mainly associated with the killing of the dragon Ahi VRtra (hence his common epithet VRtrahan, found in every single MaNDala of the Rigveda, which also becomes VRtraghna in the khila-sUktas and later SaMhitAs). 

The Late Period sees a partial exchange of dragon-killers between the Vedic Aryans and the Iranians: while ThraEtaona is demonised in the Rig Veda, his dragon-killing feat is transferred to Trita (X.87.8, where Trita kills the three-headed dragon TriSiras), who consequently also appears as a partner of Indra in the killing of VRtra (VIII.7.24) or even as a killer of VRtra in his own right (I.187.1). 

Likewise, while Indra is demonised in the Avesta, his epithet is adopted in the late Avestan texts as the name of a special God of Victory, Verethraghna (Yt.1.27; 2.5, 10; 10.70, 80; 14 whole; Vd.19.125; and in the Vispered and Khordah Avesta.  Verethraghna is the BehrAm of later texts). 

Scholars examining the Rig Veda and the Avesta cannot help noticing that the late parts of the Rig Veda represent a period of increasing contact and mutual influence between the Vedic Aryans and Iranians. Michael Witzel clearly sees MaNDala VIII as representing a period when the Vedic Aryans seem to be entering into a new environment, the environment of the northwest : “Book 8 concentrates on the whole of the west : cf. camels, mathra horses, wool, sheep.  It frequently mentions the Sindhu, but also the Seven Streams, mountains and snow.”94 This MaNDala “lists numerous tribes that are unknown to other books”.95 In this MaNDala, “camels appear (8.5.37-39) together with the Iranian name KaSu, ‘small’ (Hoffman 1975) or with the suspicious name Tirindra and the ParSu (8.6.46). The combination of camels (8.46.21, 31), Mathra horses (8.46.23) and wool, sheep and dogs (8.56.3) is also suggestive : the borderlands (including GandhAra) have been famous for wool and sheep, while dogs are treated well in Zoroastrian Iran but not in South Asia.” 

In fact, the period of MaNDala VIII is the period of composition of the major part of the Avesta.  That is, to the original GAthAs and the core of the early YaSts, which belong to the Middle Period of the Rigveda, were now added the rest of the Yasna (other than the GAthAs) and YaSts (late YaSts, as well as post-Zoroastrian additions to the early YaSts), and the VendidAd. A very eminent Zoroastrian scholar, J.C. Tavadia, had noted in 1950 : “Not only in grammatical structure and vocabulary, but also in literary form, in certain metres like the TriSTubh and in a way GAyatrI, there is resemblance between the Avesta and the Rgveda.  The fact is usually mentioned in good manuals.  But there is a peculiarity about these points of resemblance which is not so commonly known : It is the eighth MaNDala which bears the most striking similarity to the Avesta. There and there only (and of course partly in the related first MaNDala) do some common words like uSTra and the strophic structure called pragAtha occur. … Further research in this direction is sure to be fruitful.” 

That this correlation between the Avesta as a whole and MaNDala VIII, is really a correlation between the period of the Avesta proper and the period of the later parts of the Rig Veda, is not acknowledged by either Witzel or Tavadia, since neither of them admit that MaNDala VIII is chronologically a late part of the Rig Veda. 

But the following conclusions of another eminent and recent scholar may be noted.  According to Helmut Humbach : “It must be emphasised that the process of polarisation of relations between the Ahuras and the DaEvas is already complete in the GAthAs, whereas, in the Rig Veda, the reverse process of polarisation between the Devas and the Asuras, which does not begin before the later parts of the Rig Veda, develops as it were before our very eyes, and is not completed until the later Vedic period.  Thus, it is not at all likely that the origins of the polarisation are to be sought in the prehistorical, the Proto-Aryan period.  More likely, ZarathuStra’s reform was the result of interdependent developments, when Irano-Indian contacts still persisted at the dawn of history.  With their Ahura-DaEva ideology, the Mazdayasnians, guided by their prophet, deliberately dissociated themselves from the Deva-Asura concept which was being developed, or had been developed in India, and probably also in the adjacent Iranian-speaking countries… All this suggests a synchrony between the later Vedic period and ZarathuStra’s reform in Iran.” 

Thus, it is clear that the bulk of the Avesta is contemporaneous with the Late Period of the Rig Veda, while the earliest part of the Avesta (consisting of the GAthAs and the core of the early YaSts) is contemporaneous with the Middle Period. 

In sum, the cold, hard facts lead inescapably to only one logical conclusion about the location of the Indo-Iranian homeland : 

1. The concept of a common Indo-Iranian habitat is based solely on the fact of a common Indo-Iranian culture reconstructed from linguistic, religious and cultural elements common to the Rig Veda and the Avesta. 

2. The period of development of this common Indo-Iranian culture is not, as Humbach aptly puts it, “the prehistorical, the Proto-Aryan period”, but “the later Vedic period”. 

3. The location of this common Indo-Iranian habitat must therefore be traced from the records of “the later Vedic period” available jointly within the hymns of the Rig Veda and the Avesta. 

4. The records of “the later Vedic period” show that the Vedic Aryans and the Iranians were located in an area stretching from (and including) Uttar Pradesh in the east to (and including) southern and eastern Afghanistan in the west. 

This is the area which represents the common “Indo-Iranian homeland”. 

The scholars, however, are not accustomed to deriving conclusions from facts; it is their practice to arrive at conclusions beforehand … the conclusion, in this particular case, being based on an extraneous and highly debatable linguistic theory about the location of the original Indo-European homeland … and to twist or ignore all facts which are not in accord with this predetermined conclusion. 

The three scholars in question : Witzel, Tavadia and Humbach, in varied measure and in different ways, note the facts as they are but they do not take these facts to their logical conclusion about Indo-Iranian geography and prehistory : all three scholars firmly believe in the theory that, in “the prehistorical, the Proto-Aryan period”, the Indo-Iranians were settled in Central Asia whence they migrated to Iran and India. 

This can and has lead to a ludicrously topsy-turvy perspective, as will be evident, for example, from the following observations by Humbach on the subject : 

Humbach clearly states that the facts suggest a synchrony between “the later Vedic period and ZarathuStra’s reform”, and that the GAthAs of ZarathuStra were therefore composed at a time when “the Deva-Asura concept was being developed, or had been developed, in India”.99 In short, Humbach concludes that the GAthAs, one of the oldest parts of the Avesta, were composed at a point of time when the Indo-Aryans were settled, and had already been settled for some time, in India. 

But, when identifying the Hapta HAndu in the list of sixteen Iranian lands named in the VendidAd list, he chooses to identify it with the “upper course of the Oxus River”.100 Now there is no earthly reason why Hapta HAndu should be identified with the upper course of the Oxus rather than with the plains of the Punjab (as very correctly done, for example, by Darmetester, Gnoli, etc.), and this identification was mooted by scholars who sought to identify the sixteen lands on the basis of the theory that the lands named in the list refer to a period when the (Indo-)Iranians were still in Central Asia, and the Indo-Aryans had not yet migrated southeastwards as far as the Punjab.  In short, Humbach concludes that the VendidAd, a late part of the Avesta, was composed at a point of time when the Indo-Aryans had not yet reached the Punjab in their journey into India. 

The incongruity between the two conclusions is striking.

Clearly, the theory, that the Indo-Iranians were in Central Asia in any “prehistorical, Proto-Aryan period”, is not conducive to any logical understanding of the Rig-Veda or the Avesta, or of Indo-Iranian history. 

The facts show a different picture from the one assumed by these scholars : 

1. The development of the common Indo-Iranian culture, reconstructed from linguistic, religious, and cultural elements in the Rig Veda and the Avesta, took place in the “later Vedic period”. 

2. Therefore, details about the geographical situation in “the prehistorical, the Proto-Aryan period” must be looked for in the “earlier Vedic period”, i.e. in the hymns of the Early Period of the Rig Veda. 

3. The evidence of the hymns of the Early Period of the Rig Veda, as we have already seen, locates the Indo-Iranians further east : i.e. in the area from (and including) Uttar Pradesh in the east to (and including) the Punjab in the west. 

It is not, therefore, Central Asia, but India, which is the original area from which the Iranians migrated to their later historical habitats. 

Journal : Alternate History

In a previous tranca, , we left off with the promise of taking up the evidence in the Avesta in order to arrive at the true picture of facts about Proto-Aryan homeland, whence the Indo-Iranian and Indo-Aryan streams supposedly branched some 4000 – 6000 years ago.

And in the last one, , a detailed intervention was presented on ” Horses And The Aryan Debate ” … a much ado for nothing, as it is, but a cornerstone in the Aryan Invasion hypothesis perpetuated by scholars and historians with European pedigree.

Adapted From The Most Brilliant, Insightful Analysis Ever

by Shrikant G. Talageri


II  The Avesta Evidence … as per Western scholars

” The early form of Avestan is so similar to Vedic Sanskrit that the main difference between them is the alphabet in which they are written, and the shift of s to h in Avestan.”

Scientists, historians, and archaeologists can tend to have tunnel vision when it comes to their respective fields, and will too quickly dismiss as ridiculous anything other than what is accepted within academia. I only wonder what marvels we may miss if politics and power becomes more important than the truth.”

The official theory about Indo-Iranians is that they migrated into Central Asia from the West, from their original Indo-European homeland in South Russia, and then split into two : the Iranians moving southwestwards into Iran, and the Indo-Aryans moving southeastwards into India.

According to another version, now generally discarded by the scholars, but which still forms the basis for off-hand remarks and assumptions, the Indo-Iranians first migrated into the Caucasus region, from where they moved southwards into western Iran.  From there, they moved eastwards, with the Indo-Aryans separating from the Iranians somewhere in eastern Iran and continuing eastwards into India.

It will therefore be necessary to examine what exactly are the facts and the evidence about the early history of Indo-Iranians, as per general consensus among Western scholars.

This is all the more important because an examination shows that there is a sharp contradiction between the facts of the case, as presented and admitted, and the conclusions they reached on the basis of those facts.

The Iranians are historically known to have been in three contiguous areas : Central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan.  But which of these was historically their earliest habitat ?

Michael Witzel, a western scholar with intimate understanding, dismisses the theory of India being the original homeland of Indo-Europeans. But even he is compelled to admit that “it is not entirely clear where the combined Indo-Iranians lived together before they left for Iran and India, when they went on their separate ways… by what routes and in what order”.13

Witzel’s take is typical of how most scholars in west, or with western scholarship, opine : There’s no evidence of where the proto Indo-Iranians lived but, of course, it cannot have been either India or Iran itself. That foregone conclusion requires no evidence !

There is thus an in-built bias in favour of proto Indo-Iranian movement into Iran and India from Central Asia, however much shorn of evidence the proposition is. Even the theory which locates the original Indo-European homeland in South Russia is readily accepted, making Central Asia a convenient stopping point on their way to Iran and India.

However another scholar, P. Oktor Skjærvø, in his paper published in the same volume as Witzel’s papers, gives us a summary of evidence that does exist on the subject.  According to him: “Evidence either for the history of the Iranian tribes, or their languages, from the period following the separation of the Indian and Iranian tribes down to the early 1st millennium BC is sadly lacking.  There are no written sources, and archaeologists are still working to fill out the picture.”14

Thus, there is neither literary nor archaeological evidence for Iranians before the early first millennium BC. And when literary evidence does turn up, what does it indicate ?

The earliest mention of Iranians in historical sources is, paradoxically, of those settled on the Iranian plateau, not those still in Central Asia, their ancestral homeland.  ‘Persians’ are first mentioned in the 9th Century BC Assyrian annals :

On one campaign, in 835 BC, Shalmaneser (858-824 BC) is said to have received tributes from 27 kings of Parsuwas;

The Medes are mentioned under Tiglath-Pileser III (744-727 BC);

At the battle of Halulê on the Tigris in 691 BC, the Assyrian king Sennacherib (704-681 BC) faced an army of troops from Elam, Parsumas, Anzan, and others; and

In the Vassal Treaties of Esarhaddon (680-669 BC), and elsewhere, numerous ‘kings’ of the Medes are mentioned (see also, for example, Boyce 1975-82: 5-13). …

There are no literary sources for Iranians in Central Asia before the Old Persian inscriptions (Darius’s Bisotun inscription, 521-519 BC, ed. Schmitt) and Herodotus’ Histories(ca. 470 BC). These show that by the mid-Ist millennium BC tribes called Sakas (by the Persians) and Scythians (by the Greeks) were spread throughout Central Asia, from the westernmost edges (north and northwest of Black Sea) to its easternmost borders.”15

Thus, while Witzel indicates his bias towards Central Asia as the earliest habitat of the Iranians while admitting to absence of specific data to that effect, Skjærvø indicates the same bias while admitting to specific data to the opposite effect.

The sum of specifically date-able inscriptional evidence for the presence of Iranians is therefore 835 BC in the case of Iran and 521 BC in the case of Central Asia.  This may not be clinching evidence (indicating that Iranians were not present in these areas before these dates), but, such as it is, this is the evidence.

There is, however, an older source of evidence : the Avesta.

As Skjærvø puts it, “the only sources for the early (pre-Achaemenid) history of the eastern Iranian peoples are the Avesta, the Old Persian inscriptions, and Herodotus. … In view of the dearth of historical sources, it is of paramount importance that one should evaluate the evidence of the Avesta, the holy book of the Zoroastrians, parts of which at least antedates the Old Persian inscriptions by several centuries.”16

The Avesta is the oldest valid source for earliest history and geography of the Iranians, and Skjærvø therefore examines the “internal evidence of the Avestan texts” in respect of geographical names, about which he says : “Very few geographical names appear to be inherited from Indo-Iranian times.  For instance, OPers. Haraiva-, Av. (acc.) HarOiium, and OPers. HarauvatI, Av. HaraxvaitI- … both of which are located in historical times in southern Afghanistan (Herat and Kandahar), corresponding to the two Vedic rivers Sarayu and SarasvatI.  These correspondences are interesting, but tell us nothing about the early geography of the Indo-Iranian tribes.”17

Interesting, but nothing…” Indeed. But why nothing, when the evidence is admitted ? Because it does not accord with the “Theory” already accepted.  Hence, Skjærvø concludes, it was interesting, whatever that means, but nothing !

There’s more : “Two Young Avestan texts contain lists of countries known to their authors, Yast 10 and Videvdad Chapter 1. The two lists differ considerably in terms of composition and are therefore most probably independent of one another. Both lists contain only countries in northeastern Iran.”18  Skjærvø clarifies on the same page that when he says “northeastern Iran”, he means “Central Asia, Afghanistan and north-eastern modem Iran”.19All these places are “located to the east of the Caspian Ocean, with the possible exception of Raga”.20  But, again, he clarifies later that this is only if Raga is identified with “Median Raga … modern Ray, south of Tehran. In the Videvdad, however, it is listed between the Helmand river and Caxra (assumed to be modern Carx near Ghazna in southeast Afghanistan) and is therefore most probably different from Median Raga and modern Ray.”21

While Skjærvø accepts that western Iran was unknown to the early Iranians, he deliberately omits to mention the Hapta-Handu or the Punjab in his list of names “inherited from Indo-Iranian times” … of the period common to both Rigveda and the Avesta. The name of this important area is known to the Avesta and finds mention in it !

Skjærvø does mention the Hapta-Handu when he details the list of names given in the Videvdad; but he merely translates it as “the Seven Rivers”,22 pointedly avoids mentioning anywhere that this refers to the Punjab, and generally treats it as just another piece of information which is “interesting” but “tells us nothing” about anything, since it runs counter to the Theory.

What the scholars deemed “nothing” are facts that are very revealing of Iranian geography :

  1. Pre-Avestan Period : Punjab, southern Afghanistan.
  2. Avestan Periods : Punjab, Afghanistan, Central Asia, north-east Iran.
  3. Post-Avestan Period : Afghanistan, Central Asia, Iran.

To deviate slightly from the evidence of the Western scholars, we may compare this with the following picture of Rig Vedic geography derived by us in this book on the basis of the evidence in the Rigveda :

1. Pre-Rigvedic Period : Haryana and areas east.

2. Early Rigvedic Period : Haryana and areas east, eastern and central Punjab.

3. Middle Rigvedic Period : Haryana and areas east, Punjab.

4. Late Rigvedic Period : Haryana and areas east, Punjab, southern Afghanistan.

The habitat origin and direction of movement of the Rig Vedic and Avestan people over time could be combined in tally and stated without hesitation :

  1. Originally, the Vedic Aryans were in Haryana and areas to the east, while the Iranians were in Punjab and southern Afghanistan. The two regions are in close proximity.
  1. Towards the end of the Early Period of Rigveda, the Vedic Aryans had started moving westwards and penetrating into the Punjab, entering into direct conflict with the Iranians.
  1. In the Middle and Late Periods of the Rigveda, the Vedic Aryans were now together with the Iranians in Punjab and southern Afghanistan, and the Iranians had also spread out further north and west.

The Western scholars, P. Oktor Skjærvø and Michael Witzel, did not fail to spot the facts but denied their importance and hence the information about this movement from east to west. The relative chronology suggested by the two scholars themselves is clearly revealing : movement of Indo-Aryans from the heart of the subcontinental plains towards the north-west.

Skjærvø admits that the earliest evidence for the Iranians is 835 BC in the case of Iran, and 521 BC in the case of Central Asia. In respect of the Avesta, which is the earliest source for the Iranians (and whose earliest geographical names pertain to southern Afghanistan and the Punjab), Skjærvø notes that “the most common estimates range between 1000-600 BC”.23However, he opines that “the … ‘early date’ for the older Avesta would be the 14th-11th centuries BC, close to the middle of the second millennium … and the extreme ‘late date’ to be 8th-7th centuries BC”.24

[ This playing around with “common,” “early” and “late” estimates reminds one more of statistical projections – optimistic, expected and pessimistic – than reasoned history ! ]

In respect of the Rigveda, Witzel himself goes far beyond these dates.  As he puts it : “Since the SarasvatI, which dries up progressively after the mid 2nd millennium BC (Erdosy 1989), is still described as a mighty river in the Rigveda, the earliest hymns in the latter must have been composed by C.1500 BC”25

He repeats this point in respect of a specific historical incident : the SarasvatI is “prominent in Book 7 : it flows from the mountains to the sea (7.95.2) – which would put the battle of 10 kings prior to 1500 BC or so, due to the now well-documented dessication of the SarasvatI (Yash Pal et al, 1984)”.26

Witzel states that “the earliest hymns” in the Rigveda “must have been composed by 1500 BC”.  But the specific incident he quotes suggests that, by his reckoning, even very late hymns were already in existence by 1500 BC : the hymn he quotes is VII.95. According to him, elsewhere, Mandala VII is “the latest of the family books”27; even within this Mandala, hymn 95 must, by his reckoning, be “a comparatively late hymn”28, which is how he describes hymn 96, a companion hymn.

The historical incident he refers to, which he places far earlier than Skjærvø’s earliest dating for the earliest parts of the Avesta (whose earliest references are to areas in southern Afghanistan and the Punjab), is Sudas’ Battle of The Ten Kings fought on the Parusni (modern River Ravi) in central Punjab.

This battle was, moreover, preceded by other battles fought by Sudas.  Sudas’s priest in the Battle of The Ten Kings was Vasishta. Vasishta’s predecessor was Vishvamitra, under whose priesthood Sudas had fought a battle considerably to the east of the Punjab, with the Kikatas of Bihar.

Witzel, of course, refuses to accept the location of Mata in Bihar.  But, even so, he places Kikata at least as far east of the Punjab as the area to “the south of Kurukshetra, in eastern Rajasthan or western Madhya Pradesh.”29

In sum, the facts and the evidence of the Indo-Iranian case, as detailed by the Western scholars themselves, notwithstandingthecontrary “conclusions” reached by them, show beyond any doubt that the only area of Indo-Iranian contact was in the Punjab-Haryana region and southern and eastern Afghanistan.

To get a final and complete perspective on the geography of the Avesta, let us examine what perhaps the most eminent Western scholar on the subject, Gherardo Gnoli, has to say.  Gnoli is not a scholar who is out to challenge the standard version of an Indo-Iranian movement from Central Asia into Iran and India, and, indeed, he probably does not even doubt that version.

But the geographical facts of the Avesta, as set out by Gnoli in great detail in his book Zoroaster’s Time and Homeland, show very clearly that the oldest regions known to the Iranians were Afghanistan and areas to its east.  They also show, and he says so specifically in no uncertain terms, that areas to the west, and also to the north, were either totally unknown to the Iranians, or else they were areas newly known to them and did not form a part of their traditional ethos.  Any references to migrations, in his analysis, are always to migrations from east to west or from south to north.

The Avesta, incidentally, contains five groups of texts :

1. The Yasna (Y), containing 72 chapters divided into two groups:
a. The Gathas of Zarathushtra (Y.28-34, 43-51, 53).
b. The Yasna (proper) (Y.1-27, 35-42, 52, 54-72). 

2. The Yashts (Yt.), 24 in number. 

3. The Videvdat or Vendidad (Vd), containing 22 chapters. 

4. The Visprat or Vispered

5. The Khordah Avesta or Lesser Avesta, containing the SIrozas, Nyishish, Afrin, etc.

Only the first three, because of their size, antiquity and nature, are of importance in any historical study : of these, the Gathas and some of the Yashts form the chronologically oldest portions.  In terms of language, the dialect of the Gathas and some of the other chapters of the Yasna, i.e. Y.19-21, 27, 3541, 54, called Gathic, is older than the Zend dialect of the rest of the Avesta.

We will examine the geography of the Avesta, as detailed by Gnoli as follows:

A. The West and the East.
B. The North and the South.
C. The Punjab.

A. The West and the East

Gnoli repeatedly stresses “the fact that Avestan geography, particularly the list in Vd. I, is confined to the east,”30 and points out that this list is “remarkably important in reconstructing the early history of Zoroastrianism”.31Elsewhere, he again refers to “the entirely eastern character of the countries listed in the first chapter of the Vendidad, including Zoroastrian Raya, and the historical and geographical importance of that list”.32

The horizon of the Avesta, Gnoli notes, “is according to Burrow, wholly eastern and therefore certainly earlier than the westward migrations of the Iranian tribes.”33In great detail, he rejects theories which seek to connect up some of the places named in the Avesta (such as Airyana Vaejah and Raya) with areas in the west, and concludes that this attempt to transpose the geography of the Avesta from Afghanistan to western Iran “was doubtless due to different attempts made by the most powerful religious centres of western Iran and the influential order of the Magi to appropriate the traditions of Zoroastrianism that had flourished in the eastern territories of the plateau in far-off times. Without a doubt, the identification of Raya with Adurbadagan, more or less parallel with its identification with Ray, should be fitted into the vaster picture of the late location of Airyana Vaejah in Adarbayjan.”34

The crucial geographical list of sixteen Iranian lands, in the first chapter of the Vendidad, is fully identified : “From the second to the sixteenth country, we have quite a compact and consistent picture.  The order goes roughly from north to south and then towards the east: Sogdiana (Gava), Margiana (Mourv), Bactria (Bax?I, Nisaya between Margiana and Bactria, Areia (Haroiva), Kabulistan (Vaekarata), the GaznI region (Urva), Xnanta, Arachosia (HaraxvaitI), Drangiana (Haetumant), a territory between Zamin-davar and Qal‘at-i-Gilzay (Raya), the Lugar valley (Caxra), Buner (Varana), Pañjab (Hapta Handu), Ranha … between the Kabul and the Kurram, in the region where it seems likely the Vedic river Rasa flowed.”35

Gnoli notes that India is very much a part of the geographical picture: “With Varana and Ranha, as of course with Hapta Handu, which comes between them in the Vd. I list, we find ourselves straight away in Indian territory, or, at any rate, in territory that, from the very earliest times, was certainly deeply permeated by Indo-Aryans or Proto Indo-Aryans.”36

Although the scholars are careful to include “northeastern modem Iran” in their descriptions, the areas covered by the Vendidad list only touch the easternmost borders of Iran : but they cover the whole of Afghanistan, the northern half of present-day Pakistan (NWFP, Punjab), and the southern parts of Central Asia to the north of Afghanistan, and, again, in the east, they enter the northwestern borders of present-day (post-1947) India.

Gnoli identifies fifteen of the sixteen Iranian lands named in the Vendidad list.  But he feels that “the first of the countries created by Ahura Mazda, Airyana Vaejah, should be left out” of the discussion, since “this country is characterized, in the Vd. I context, by an advanced state of mythicization”.37

While this is a possibility, that Airyana Vaejah is a mythical land and a purely imaginary Paradise, there is another alternate possibility : the other fifteen lands, from Gava (Sogdiana) to Ranha (the region between the Kabul and Kurrum rivers in the NWFP) are clearly named in geographical order proceeding from north to south, turning east, and again proceeding northwards.

That the list of names leads back to the starting point is clear also from the fact that the accompanying list of the evil counter-creations of Angra Mainyu, in the sixteen lands created by Ahura Mazda, starts with “severe winter” in the first land, Airyana Vaejah, moves through a variety of other evils (including various sinful proclivities, obnoxious insects, evil spirits and physical ailments), and comes back again to “severe winter” in the sixteenth land, Ranha.

A logical conclusion would be that the first land, Airyana Vaejah, lies close to the sixteenth land (Ranha). The lands to the north (VarAna), west (VaEkArAta, Caxra, UrvA), and south (Hapta-HAndu) of RaNhA are named, so Airyana Vaejah must be in Kashmir to the east of Ranha.  Ranha itself leads Gnoli “to think of an eastern mountainous area, Indian or Indo-Iranian, hit by intense cold in winter”.38

In sum, the geography of the Avesta almost totally excludes present-day Iran and areas to its north and west, and consists exclusively of Afghanistan and areas to its north and east, including parts of Rigvedic India.

Indo-Iranian.Southern Russia

B. The North and the South

The geographical horizon of the Avesta (excluding for the moment the Punjab in the east) extends from Central Asia in the north to the borders of Baluchistan in the south.

This region, from north to south, can be divided as follows: 

1. Northern Central Asia (XvAirizAm).

2. Southern Central Asia (Gava, Mourv, Bax?I, Nisaya), including the northern parts of Afghanistan to the north of the HindUkuS.

3. Central Afghanistan (HarOiva, VaEkArAta, UrvA, XnAnta, Caxra) to the south of the HindUkuS

4. Southern Afghanistan (HaraxvaitI, HaEtumant, RaYa) to the borders of Baluchistan in the south. 

Let us examine the position of each of these four areas in the geography of the Avesta :

  1. The Avesta does not know any area to the north or west of the Aral Sea.  The northern-most area, the only place in northern Central Asia, named in the Avesta is Chorasmia or Khwarizm, to the south of the Aral Sea. The compulsion to demonstrate an Iranian (and consequently Indo-Iranian) migration from the north into Afghanistan has led many scholars to identify Chorasmia with Airyana Vaejah, and to trace the origins of both Zoroastrianism and (Indo-)Iranians to this area.However, Gnoli points out that Chorasmia “is mentioned only once”39 in the whole of the Avesta.  Moreover, it is not mentioned among the sixteen lands created by Ahura Mazda and listed in the first chapter of the Vendidad.  It is mentioned among the lands named in the Mihr Yasht (Yt.10.14) in a description of the God Mi?ra standing on the mountains and surveying the lands to his south and north.

    Gnoli emphasizes the significance of this distinction: “the countries in Vd.I and Yt.X are of a quite different nature : the aim of the first list is evidently to give a fairly complete description of the space occupied by the Aryan tribes in a remote period in their history.”40 Clearly, Chorasmia is not part of this space. As a matter of fact, Chorasmia is named as “practically the very furthest horizon reached by Mi?ra’s gaze”41 and Gnoli suggests that “the inclusion of the name of Chorasmia in this Yasht … could in fact be a mention or an interpolation whose purpose, conscious or unconscious, was to continue in a south-north direction the list of lands over which Mi?ra’s gaze passed, indicating a country on the outskirts such as Chorasmia, which must have been very little known at the time the Yasht was composed”.42

    The suggestion that the inclusion of Chorasmia in the Yasht is an interpolation is based on a solid linguistic fact : the name, XvAirizAm, as it occurs in the reference, is “in a late, clearly Middle Persian nominal form”.43Hence Gnoli rejects as “groundless” any theory which attempts “to show that AiryanAm VaEjO in the VendidAd is equivalent to XvAirizAm in the Mihr YaSt44, and which tries to reconstruct “from a comparison of the geographical data in the Mihr YaSt and the ZamyAd YaSt the route followed by the Iranian tribes in their migration southwards, or the expansion in the same direction of the Zoroastrian community”.45

    As a matter of fact, even though it contradicts the Theory, there have been a great many scholars who have claimed a movement in the opposite direction in the case of Chorasmia: “It has been said that the Chorasmians moved from the south (territory immediately to the east of Parthians and Hyrcanians) towards the north (to XwArizm).”46The scholars who make this claim suggest that “the probable ancient seat of the Chorasmians was a country with both mountainous areas and plains, much further south than XIva, whereas the oasis of XIva was a more recent seat which they may have moved to precisely in consequence of the growing power of the Achaemenians by which, as Herodotus says, they were deprived of a considerable part of their land”.47

While Gnoli does not agree with the late chronology suggested for this south-to-north movement, and gives evidence to show that “Chorasmia corresponded more or less to historical XwArizm even before Darius I’s reign (521-486 BC)”48, he nevertheless agrees with the suggested direction of migration, which is, moreover, backed by the opinion of archaeologists :

As a matter of fact, we are able to reconstruct a south-north migration of the Chorasmians on a smaller scale only, as it is a well known fact that the delta of the Oxus moved in the same direction between the end of the second millennium and the 6th century BC and ended up flowing into the Aral Sea.”49 Therefore, “we cannot rule out the possibility that the Chorasmians, as pointed out, moved in this same direction and that at the beginning of the Achaemenian empire there were still settlements of them further south.  At all events, this is the explanation that archaeologists give for the proto-historic settlement of Chorasmia, without taking into account precise ethnic identifications.”50

In short, far from being the early homeland from which the (Indo-)Iranians migrated southwards, “XwArizm … appears upon an unprejudiced examination, as a remote, outlying province which never played a really central part in the political and cultural history of Iran before the Middle Ages”.51And the region was so unknown that there was, among the Iranians, “absence of any sure knowledge of the very existence of the Aral Sea as a separate body of water with a name of its own, even as late as the time of Alexander”.52

2. The countries in southern Central Asia and northern Afghanistan (Sogdiana, Margiana and Bactria), particularly southern Bactria or Balkh which falls in northern Afghanistan, are very much a part of Iranian territory as per the evidence of the Avesta. However, this evidence also makes it clear that these territories were, in the words of Gnoli, “peripheral”, and the traditions to this effect persisted as late as the period of the Macedonian conquest of these areas.

As Gnoli puts it: “in the denomination of Ariana, which became known to the Greeks after the Macedonian conquest of the eastern territories of the old Persian empire, there was obviously reflected a tradition that located the Aryan region in the central-southern part of eastern Iran, roughly from the HindUkuS southwards, and that considered some of the Medes and the Persians in the west and some of the Bactrians and Sogdians in the north as further extensions of those people who were henceforth known by the name of Ariani.  And this, to tell the truth, fits nicely into the picture we have been trying to piece so far.  Here too, as in the passages of the Avesta we have studied from the Mihr YaSt and the ZamyAd YaSt, the geographical horizon is central-eastern and southeastern; the northern lands are also completely peripheral, and Chorasmia, which is present only in the very peculiar position of which we have spoken in the Mihr YaSt, is not included.”53 (Note: by “eastern Iran”, Gnoli refers to Afghanistan, which forms the eastern part of the Iranian plateau.)

Balkh or southern Bactria does play a prominent role in later Iranian and Zoroastrian tradition “which would have ViStAspa linked with Balx and SIstAn”54 (i.e. with both the northern-most and southern-most parts of Afghanistan). However, referring to “the tradition that links Kavi ViStAspa with Bactria”, Gnoli notes that “the explanation of ViStAspa being Bactrian and not Drangian is a feeble one”.55He attributes the tradition to “the period of Bactrian hegemony which Djakonov dates between 650 and 540 BC”, during which “the old … tradition of Kavi ViStAspa, who was originally linked with Drangiana, could have taken on, so to speak, a new, Bactrian guise”.56

The Avesta itself is clear in identifying ViStAspa with the southern regions only.

In sum, the more northern regions of Sogdiana and Margiana were “completely peripheral”, and, in the words of Gnoli, “we may consider that the northernmost regions where Zoroaster carried out his work were Bactria and Areia”.57

  1. When we come to the areas to the south of the HindUkuS, we are clearly in the mainland of the Avestan territory. Gnoli repeatedly stresses throughout his book that the airyo-Sayana or Land of the Aryans described in the Avesta refers to “the vast region that stretches southward from the HindUkuS,”58 that is, “from the southern slopes of the great mountain chains towards the valleys of the rivers that flow south, like the Hilmand…”59 In this respect he notes that “there is a substantial uniformity in the geographical horizon between Yt.XIX and Yt.X … and the same can be said for Vd.I … these Avestan texts which contain in different forms, and for different purposes, items of information that are useful for historical geography give a fairly uniform picture : eastern Iran, with a certain prevalence of the countries reaching upto the southern slopes of the HindUkuS.”60

Likewise, in later Greek tradition, ArianE “is the Greek name which doubtless reflects an older Iranian tradition that designated with an equivalent form the regions of eastern Iran lying mostly south, and not north, of the HindUkuS.  It is clear how important this information is in our research as a whole.”61

Again, it must be noted that Gnoli uses the term “eastern Iran” to designate Afghanistan, which forms the eastern part of the Iranian plateau.

  1. But it is the southern part of this “vast region that stretches southward from the HindUkuS,” which clearly constitutes the very core and heart of the Avesta: SIstAn or Drangiana, the region of HaEtumant (Hilmand) and the HAmUn-i Hilmand basin which forms its western boundary (separating Afghanistan from present-day Iran).

Gnoli notes that “the Hilmand region and the HAmUn-i Hilmand are beyond all doubt the most minutely described countries in Avestan geography.  The ZamyAd YaSt, as we have seen, names the Kasaoya, i.e. the HAmUn-i Hilmand, Usi?am mountain, the KUh-i XwAja, the HaEtumant, the Hilmand, and the rivers XvAstrA, HvaspA, Frada?A, XvarAnahvaitI, UStavaitI, Urva?a, ?rAzi, ZarAnumaiti, which have a number of parallels both in the Pahlavi texts, and especially in the list in the TArIx-i SIstAn.  Elsewhere, in the AbAn YaSt, there is mention of Lake FrazdAnu, the Gawd-i Zira.”62

He notes the significance of “the identification of the VourukaSa in Yt.XIX with the HAmUn-i Hilmand … of the NAydAg with the SilA, the branch connecting the HAmUn to the Gawd-i Zira, of the FrazdAnu with the Gawd-i Zira … and above all, the peculiar relationship pointed out by Markwart, between VaNuhI DAityA and the HaEtumant…”63

Gnoli points out that “a large part of the mythical and legendary heritage can be easily located in the land watered by the great SIstanic river and especially in the HamUn”64, including the “important place that Yima/ JamSId, too, has in the SIstanic traditions in the guise of the beneficient author of a great land reclamation in the Hilmand delta”.65ViStAspa is identified with Drangiana, ZarathuStra with RaYa to its northeast.  But, “the part played by the Hilmand delta region in Zoroastrian eschatology … (is) important not only and not so much for the location of a number of figures and events of the traditional inheritance – we can also call to mind DaSt-i HAmOn, the scene of the struggle between WiStAsp and ArjAsp – as for the eschatology itself.  The natural seat of the XvarAnah – of the Kavis and of the XvarAnah that is called axvarAta – and of the glory of the Aryan peoples, past, present and future, the waters of the Kasaoya also receive the implantation of the seed of Zara?uStra, giving birth to the three saoSyant- fraSO- CarAtar-”.66

This region is subject to “a process of spiritualization of Avestan geography … in the famous celebration of the Hilmand in the ZamyAd YaSt…”67, and “this pre-eminent position of SIstAn in Iranian religious history and especially in the Zoroastrian tradition is a very archaic one that most likely marks the first stages of the new religion … the sacredness of the HAmUn-i Hilmand goes back to pre-Zoroastrian times…”68

Clearly, the position of the four areas, from north to south, into which the geographical horizon of the Avesta can be divided, shows the older and more important regions to be the more southern ones; and any movement indicated is from the south to the north.

Before turning to the Punjab, one more crucial aspect of Avestan geography must be noted. According to Gnoli: “the importance of cattle in various aspects of the Gathic doctrine can be taken as certain.  This importance can be explained as a reflection in religious practice and myth of a socioeconomic set-up in which cattle-raising was a basic factor.”69Therefore, in identifying the original milieu of the Iranians, since “none of the countries belonging to present-day Iran or Afghanistan was recognised as being a land where men could live by cattle-raising, the conclusion was reached once again that the land must be Chorasmia, and Oxus the river of Airyana VaEjah”.70

However, this conclusion was reached “on the basis of evidence that turned out to be unreliable, perhaps because it was supplied too hastily”.  As a matter of fact, a “recent study … and, in general, the results obtained by the Italian Archaeological Mission in SIstAn, with regard to the proto-historic period as well, have given ample proof that SIstAn, especially the HAmUn-i Hilmand region, is a land where cattle-raising was widely practised.  And it still is today, though a mere shadow of what it once was, by that part of the population settled in the swampy areas, that are called by the very name of GAwdAr. 

From the bronze age to the Achaemenian period, from Sahr-i Suxta to Dahana-i-GulAmAn, the archaeological evidence of cattle-raising speaks for itself: a study of zoomorphic sculpture in proto-historic SIstAn, documented by about 1500 figurines that can be dated between 3200 and 2000 BC leads us to attribute a special ideological importance to cattle in the Sahr-i Suxta culture, and this is fully justified by the place this animal has in the settlement’s economy and food supply throughout the time of its existence.”71

We may now turn to the Punjab, an area in which there can be no doubt whatsoever about cattle-raising always having been an important occupation.

C. The Punjab

The easternmost regions named in the Avesta cover a large part of present-day Pakistan, and include western Kashmir and the Indian Punjab: VarAna, RaNhA and Hapta-HAndu, and, as we have suggested, Airyana VaEjah itself.

Gnoli’s descriptions of Avestan geography, whether or not such is his intention, indicate that the Iranians ultimately originated either in southern Afghanistan itself or in areas further east.  Neither of these possibilities is suggested, or even hinted at, by Gnoli, since, as we have pointed out, Gnoli is not out to challenge the standard version of Indo-European history, nor perhaps does he even doubt that version.

However, his analysis and description of Avestan geography clearly suggest that the antecedents of the Iranians lie further east :

  1. Gnoli repeatedly stresses the fact that the evidence of the Avesta must be understood in the background of a close presence of Indo-Aryans (or Proto Indo-Aryans, as he prefers to call them) in the areas to the east of the Iranian area : “With VarAna and RaNhA, as of course with Hapta-HAndu, which comes between them in the Vd.I list, we find ourselves straightaway in Indian territory or, at any rate, in territory that, from the very earliest times, was certainly deeply permeated by Indo-Aryans or Proto Indo-Aryans.”72

In the Avestan descriptions of VarAna (in the VendidAd), Gnoli sees “a country, where the ‘Airyas’ (Iranians) were not rulers and where there was probably a hegemony of Indo-Aryan or proto Indo-Aryan peoples.”73

Gnoli is also clear about the broader aspects of a historico-geographical study of the Avesta: “This research will in fact help to reconstruct, in all its manifold parts, a historical situation in which Iranian elements exist side by side with others that are not necessarily non-Aryan (i.e. not necessarily non-Indo-European) but also, which is more probable, Aryan or Proto Indo-Aryan.”74

The point of all this is as follows: Gnoli’s analysis, alongwith specific statements made by him in his conclusions with regard to the evidence, makes it clear that the areas to the west (i.e. Iran) were as yet totally unknown to the Avesta; and areas to the north, beyond the “completely peripheral” areas of Margiana and Sogdiana, were also (apart from an interpolated reference to Chorasmia in the Mihr YaSt) totally unknown.

On the other hand, the areas to the east were certainly occupied by the Indo-Aryans : the eastern areas known to the Avesta were already areas in which Iranians existed “side by side” with Indo-Aryans, and “where there was probably a hegemony” of Indo-Aryans.  Logically, therefore, areas even further east must have been full-fledged Indo-Aryan areas. The earlier, or “Indo-Iranian”, ethos of the Iranians cannot therefore, on the evidence of the Avesta at any rate, be located towards the west or the north, but must be located towards the east.

  1. Gnoli, as we saw, describes the eastern areas as “Indian territory”, which is quite correct. However, he goes on to modify this description as “at any rate … territory that, from the very earliest times was certainly deeply permeated by Indo-Aryans or Proto Indo-Aryans”.75

Here Gnoli falls into an error into which all analysts of Iranian or Vedic geography inevitably fall : he blindly assumes that the Sapta-Sindhu or Punjab is the home of the Vedic Aryans. This assumption, however, is supported neither by evidence in Rig Veda nor by that in the Avesta : The evidence in Rigveda shows that the home of the Vedic Aryans lay to the east of the Punjab, and the Sapta-Sindhu became familiar to them only after the period of SudAs’ conquests westwards; the evidence in Avesta shows that the home of the Iranians at least included the Punjab, long before most of the present-day land known as “Iran” became even known to them.

The point of all this is as follows: Gnoli’s analysis shows that most of the historical Iranian areas (even present-day Iran and northern Central Asia, let alone the distant areas to the west of the Caspian Sea) were not part of the Iranian homeland in Avestan times. On the other hand, an area which has not been an Iranian area in any known historical period, the Punjab, was a part of the Iranian homeland in Avestan times. So any comparison of Avestan geography with latter-day and present Iranian geography shows Iranian migration only in the northward and westward directions from points as far east as the Punjab.

The Avesta can give us no further information on this subject. But, as Gnoli himself puts it, “Vedic-Avestan comparison is of considerable importance for the reconstruction of the ‘Proto Indo-Aryan’ and early Iranian historical and geographical milieu.”76

Hence, we must now turn to the Rig Veda.


Journal : Alternate History


by Michel Danino

(Published in the Journal of Indian History and Culture of the C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar Institute of Indological Research, Chennai, September 2006, No.13, pp. 33-59.)


The presence or absence of the horse in the Indus-Sarasvati civilization has been a bone of contention for decades, especially in the context of the Aryan invasion Theory. The argument is familiar : the Rig-Veda uses the word ashva over 200 times, ergo the Vedic society must have been full of horses, ergo the Harappan civilization, from which the noble animal is conspicuously absent, must be pre – Vedic and non-Aryan. The horse must therefore have been brought into India around 1500 BCE by the invading Aryans, who used its speed to crushing advantage in order to subdue the native, ox-driven populations.

This line of reasoning is regarded as so evident and foolproof that it is taken to be the final word on the issue; as a result, we find it confidently repeated in reference books and history texts dealing with India’s pre-history.

However, on closer view, there are serious flaws at every step of the argument — and indeed several underlying it. I will first examine the physical evidence of the horse from various Harappan sites, both in terms of skeletal remains and depictions, before turning to problems of methodology that have compounded the confusion. in particular, the double-edged use of negative evidence and the persisting colonial misreading of the Rig-Veda.

Physical remains of the horse in Indus-Sarasvati sites

Our first surprise is that contrary to conventional assertions, quite a few archaeologists have reported horse remains from India’s prehistoric sites. A. Ghosh’s respected and authoritative Encyclopaedia of Indian Archaeology mentions without fuss : 

In India the … true horse is reported from the Neolithic levels at Kodekal [dist. Gulbarga of Karnataka] and Hallur [dist. Raichur of Karnataka], the late-Harappa levels at Mohenjo-daro (Sewell and Guha, 1931), Ropar, Harappa, Lothal and numerous other sites. … Recently bones of Equus caballus have also been reported from the proto-Harappa site of Malvan in Gujarat.

Mortimer Wheeler, a flamboyant proponent of the Aryan invasion theory if ever there was one, admitted long ago that “it is likely enough that camel, horse and ass were in fact a familiar feature of the Indus caravan.” The well- known archaeologist B. B. Lal refers to a number of horse teeth and bones reported from Kalibangan, Ropar, Malvan and Lothal. Another senior archaeologist, S. P. Gupta, adds further details on those finds, including early ones. In the case of Lothal, the archaeozoologist Bhola Nath certified the identification of a tooth; he also made similar observations regarding bones from Mohenjo-daro and Harappa.

Fig. 1: Horse bones from Surkotada (in Katchchh)

A. K. Sharma’s well-known identification of horse remains (Fig. 1) at Surkotada (in Kutch) was endorsed by the late Hungarian archaeozoologist Sándor Bökönyi, an internationally respected authority in the field; in 1991, taking care to distinguish them from those of the local wild ass (khur), he confirmed several of them to be “remnants of true horses,” and what is more, domesticated horses. In his 1993 report to the Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India, Bökönyi made no bones about the whole issue : 

Through a thorough study of the equid remains of the prehistoric settlement of Surkotada, Kutch, excavated under the direction of Dr. J. P. Joshi, I can state the following : The occurrence of true horse (Equus caballus L.) was evidenced by the enamel pattern of the upper and lower cheek and teeth and by the size and form of incisors and phalanges (toe bones). Since no wild horses lived in India in post-Pleistocene times, the domestic nature of the Surkotada horses is undoubtful. This is also supported by an inter- maxilla fragment whose incisor tooth shows clear signs of crib biting, a bad habit only existing among domestic horses which are not extensively used for war.

Quite in tune with the findings at Surkotada and Lothal, P. K. Thomas, P. P. Joglekar et al., experts from the Deccan College on faunal remains, reported horse bones from the nearby Harappan site of Shikarpur “in the Mature Harappan period,” and from Kuntasi (at the boundary between Kutch and Saurashtra).

To the Neolithic sites mentioned by A. Ghosh, we must add Koldihwa (in the Belan valley of Allahabad district), where G. R. Sharma et al. identified horse fossils.1 Contemporary with the Harappan period, the culture of the Chambal valley (in Madhya Pradesh) was explored by the respected archaeologist M. K. Dhavalikar, with layers dated between 2450 and 2000 BCE. 

His observations are remarkable :

The most interesting is the discovery of bones of horse from the Kayatha levels and a terracotta figurine of a mare. It is the domesticate species (Equus caballus), which takes back the antiquity of the steed in India to the latter half of the third millennium BC. The presence of horse at Kayatha in all the chalcolithic levels assumes great significance in the light of the controversy about the horse. 

Let us stress that just as at Surkotada, the horse at Kayatha was domesticated. 

In the face of so many reports from so many sites by so many experts, a blanket denial of the animal’s physical presence in pre-1500 BCE India passes one’s comprehension. Are we to believe that all identifications of horse remains by experts are wrong and misleading ? Have scholars rejecting such evidence personally crosschecked even 10% of it ? Have they, too, expressed similar doubts about the identification of other animal remains found in the same sites and conditions ? 

Richard Meadow and Ajita Patel did challenge Sándor Bökönyi’s report to the Archaeological Survey.13 Bökönyi however stuck to his views (although he passed away before he could give his final response), and Meadow and Patel concluded their long plea with the rather weak statement that “… in the end that [Bökönyi’s identification of horse remains at Surkotada] may be a matter of emphasis and opinion.” What makes their eagerness to convince Bökönyi to change his mind suspect is that they never challenged Indian experts such as A. K. Sharma, P. K. Thomas or P. P. Joglekar; it was only when Bökönyi endorsed findings on the “Harappan horse” that they got alarmed. Since then, amusingly, their inconclusive paper has been quoted by several Marxist historians as the last word on the nonexistence of the horse in the Indus – Sarasvati civilization. Even more ironically, when invasionists attempt to trace the introduction of the horse into Europe, they turn to the same Bökönyi ! His expertise was never in question in Europe, but is unacceptable in India.

The old argument that so-called horse remains invariably belong to species of wild ass such as the onager (Equus hemionus onager), the khur (Equus hemionus khur), or the plain ass (Equus asinus) is unacceptable, firstly because it is sweeping in nature and produces little or no evidence; secondly because, in several cases, experts have simultaneously reported remains of the wild ass from the very same sites, which implies some ability to distinguish between those species.

Another frequent and sweeping objection is that the dates of the disputed horse remains are not firmly established and might be much more recent. But Jagat Pati Joshi’s excavation report, for instance, makes it clear that,

At Surkotada from all the three periods quite a good number of bones of horse (Equus Caballus Linn) … have been recovered. The parts recovered are very distinctive bones: first, second and third phalanges and few vertebrae fragments.

The first of Surkotada’s “three periods” coincides with the mature stage of the Harappan civilization, which rules out the possibility of the horse having been introduced by Aryans around 1500 BCE. Moreover, we have the case of Mahagara (near Allahabad), where horse bones were not only identified by G. R. Sharma et al., but “six sample absolute carbon 14 tests have given dates ranging from 2265 B.C.E. to 1480 B.C.E.” The case of Hallur, mentioned by A. Ghosh above, is even more striking : the excavation (in the late 1960s) brought out horse remains that were dated between 1500 and 1300 BCE, in other words, about the time Aryans are pictured to have galloped down the Khyber pass, some 2,000 km north of Hallur. Even at a fierce Aryan pace, the animal could hardly have reached Karnataka by that time. When K. R. Alur, an archaeo-zoologist as well as a veterinarian, published his report on the animal remains from the site, he received anxious queries, even protests : there had to be some error regarding those horse bones. A fresh excavation was eventually undertaken some twenty years later — which brought to light more horse bones, and more consternation. Alur saw no reason to alter his original report, and wrote that his critics’ opinion “cannot either deny or alter the find of a scientific fact that the horse was present at Hallur before the (presumed) period of Aryan invasion.” The claim that horse finds are undated is therefore disingenuous.

Finally, S. P. Gupta offers a sensible reply to the further objection that horse remains, if at all they are accepted, rarely account for more than 2% of the total animal remains at any site. Pointing out that the same holds true of the camel and elephant (animals undeniably present in Harappan sites), he explains that this low proportion is “simply because these animals are not likely to have been as regularly eaten as cattle, sheep and goats as well as fish whose bones are abundantly found at all Indus-Saraswati settlements.”

All in all, the case for the horse’s physical presence in the Indus-Sarasvati civilization is quite overwhelming, and is bound to be further strengthened by evidence yet to come out of thousands of unexplored sites. Archaeologist A. K. Sharma’s conclusion, in a paper that surveyed the “horse evidence” and his own experiences in this regard, is worth quoting :

It is really strange that no notice was taken by archaeologists of these vital findings, and the oft-repeated theory that the true domesticated horse was not known to the Harappans continues to be harped upon, coolly ignoring these findings to help our so-called veteran historians and archaeologists of Wheeler’s generation to formulate and propagate their theory of ‘Aryan invasion of India on horse-back’….

Depictions of the horse and the spoked wheel

The Harappans certainly built much of their religious symbols around animals, depicting many of them on their seals and tablets, in terracotta figurines, or as pottery motifs. While it is true that the horse does not appear on the Harappan seals (except if we were to accept the conjecture by S. R. Rao and a few other scholars that the composite animal represented on thousands of seals as a unicorn actually has a horse’s head), it has been hastily claimed that the animal is never depicted at all.

A horse figurine did emerge at Mohenjo-daro (Fig. 2), which drew the following comment from E. J. H. Mackay, one of the early excavators at the site:

Perhaps the most interesting of the model animals is one that I personally take to represent a horse. I do not think we need be particularly surprised if it should be proved that the horse existed thus early at Mohenjo-daro.27 


Fig. 2: Horse figurine from Mohenjo-daro.

Wheeler himself accepted it as such. Another figurine was reported by Stuart Piggot from Periano Ghundai, and several at Lothal, some of them with a fairly clear evocation of the horse. The horse also appears on some pottery, for instance at pre-Harappan levels of Kunal (Haryana), among other animals, according to the excavator R. S. Bisht et al. Another figurine was found at Balu, with what looks like a saddle. Dhavalikar, quoted above, mentioned “a terracotta figurine of a mare” in the Chambal valley. Finally, the horse is depicted in rock art (for instance at Bhimbetka or Morhana Pahar in the Narmada valley), but unfortunately, we have very few absolute dates for rock art in India. 

It is not just the horse that invasionist scholars sought to erase from pre- 1500 BC India: they also asserted that the spoked wheel came to India only with the Aryans.32 “The first appearance of [the invading Aryans’] thundering chariots must have stricken the local population with a terror …” writes Michael Witzel in a grandiloquent echo of nineteenth-century racial theories.33 The spoked wheel was thus seen as a crucial element in the speed game, compared to the slow bullock-driven solid-wheeled Harappan cart — until it turned out that Harappans did have spoked wheels, after all. Fig. 5 shows a few terracotta wheels from Banawali and Rakhigarhi where the spokes are clearly visible in relief or painted.34 More such wheels have been found at Kuntasi,35 Lothal, and Bhirrana36 (in Haryana). 


Fig. 5: Terracotta wheels from Banawali and Rakhigarhi

All this material illustrates the danger of “negative evidence”: it takes very little to make it irrelevant.

Methodological issues

Raw evidence apart, the appearance of the horse in the Indian subcontinent is, in reality, a complex issue, and by treating it crudely, the conventional theory suffers from serious methodological flaws. Let us briefly highlight a few of them.

1. Physical remains and depictions of the horse in India after 1500 BC

The invasionist school posits that the horse was introduced into India by the “Aryans” around 1500 BC. One would therefore expect a marked increase in remains and depictions of the animal after that fateful event (or non-event). Yet — and this is one of the best kept secrets of Indian prehistory — nothing of the sort happens.

Looking only at the early historical layers, Taxila, Hastinapur or Atranjikhera (Uttar Pradesh) have indeed yielded bones of both the true horse and the domestic ass (strangely, the distinction between the two is no longer disputed here!), but at other sites, such as Nashik, Nagda (Madhya Pradesh), Sarnath, Arikamedu (Tamil Nadu), Brahmagiri (Karnataka), Nagarjunakonda (Andhra Pradesh), no remains of either animal have turned up. There are also sites like Jaugada (Orissa) or Maski (Karnataka) where the ass has been found, but not the horse. Finally, data available from sites that do come up with horse remains show no significant increase in the overall percentage of horse bones or teeth compared to Harappan sites such as Surkotada.

If, therefore, the low amount of evidence for the horse in the Indus- Sarasvati civilization is taken as proof that that civilization is pre-Vedic, we must extend the same logic to the whole of pre-Mauryan India ! It is clear that the horse was as rare or as common an animal before and after 1500 BC — “rare” is probably the correct statement for both.

As regards “post-invasion” depictions of the horse, they are also no more frequent than in Harappan sites : barring a few figurines at Pirak, Hastinapura and Atranjikhera, we find no striking representations of the animal, while we would have expected the aggressive “Aryans” to pay rich tributes to their instrument of conquest, which, invasionists tell us, the Rig-Veda glorifies so much. And yet, “the first deliberate and conscious attempt of shaping a horse in durable material like stone was witnessed in the art of the Mauryas in India,” writes historian T. K. Biswas. Another historian, Jayanti Rath, commenting on the animals depicted on early Indian coins, remarks: “The animal world of the punch-marked coins consists of elephant, bull, lion. dog, cat, deer, camel, rhinoceros, rabbit, frog, fish, turtle, ghariyal (fish eater crocodile), scorpion and snake. Among the birds, peacock is very popular. The lion and horse symbols appear to have acquired greater popularity in 3rd century B.C.”

All in all, an eerie equine silence pervades pre-Mauryan India.

2. Physical remains and depictions of the horse outside India

It helps to take a look at a few regions outside India. In contemporary Bactria, for instance, the horse is well documented through depictions in grave goods, yet no horse bones have been found. “This again underscores the point that lack of horse bones does not equal the absence of horse,” writes U.S. Indologist Edwin Bryant.

In the case of the horse in America, where its spread is fairly well known, Elizabeth Wing points out… Once safely landed in the New World, they are reported to have prospered along with cattle in the grazing lands, free of competitors and predators. Horse remains, however, are seldom encountered in the archaeological sites. This may be a function of patterns of disposal, in which remains of beasts of burden which were not usually consumed would not be incorporated in food or butchering refuse remains.

This fits with the picture we have formed of the horse in the Indus- Sarasvati civilization, and with S. P. Gupta’s similar observation on the non- consumption of horse meat. Clearly, invasionists have sought to put too much weight on the rarity of horse remains in the third millennium.

3. Introduction of the horse = Aryan invasion ?

Another non sequitur is that since the true horse was undoubtedly introduced into India at some time, and probably from Central Asia, it can only have been introduced by invading Aryans.

As we have seen, the horse’s introduction must have taken place right from Mature Harappan times, if not earlier; but let us assume for the sake of argument that it only happened, as invasionist scholars assert without the least evidence, in Late Harappan times. Even if it were so, how would it establish that the horse came as a result of an invasion or a migration, when other possibilities are equally valid, or more so if we look at the evolution of the region ?

Bryant, again, puts it crisply :

In the absence of irrefutable linguistic evidence, there is no reason to feel compelled to believe that the introduction of the horse into the subcontinent is indicative of the introduction of new peoples any more than the introduction of any other innovatory items of material culture (such as camels, sorghum, rice, lapis lazuli, or anything else) is representative of new human migratory influxes.

In other words, at whatever epoch, the horse could have been introduced as an item of trade — and we do know that Harappans had extensive trade contacts with a wide region, from Mesopotamia all the way to northern Afghanistan and possibly parts of Turkmenistan. This is indeed the stand of archaeologists like Jean-François Jarrige or Jonathan M. Kenoyer. The latter, for instance, notes that the adoption of the horse or the camel reflects “changes [that] were made by the indigenous [Late Harappan] inhabitants, and were not the result of a new people streaming into the region. The horse and camel would indicate connections with Central Asia.”

Whatever the date of the horse’s introduction into the subcontinent might be, there is no ground to assume a “violent” introduction through a war-like conquest.

4. The problem of depiction

Regardless of the issue of physical remains, invasionists have persisted, understandably so, in stressing the nagging non-depiction of the horse on Indus seals (conveniently glossing over the figurines mentioned earlier). However, S. P. Gupta points out that the camel, “wolf, cat, deer, Nilgai, fowl, jackal are rarely or never found in [Harappan] art but their presence has been attested by bones.” We can add the camel and the lion, which were certainly present in some regions of the Harappan civilization yet were never depicted. The scholar K. D. Sethna pertinently asks, “As there are no depictions of the cow, in contrast to the pictures of the bull, which are abundant, should we conclude that Harappa and Mohenjo-daro had only bulls ?” Sethna goes further; he makes the opposite point that the mythical unicorn is found on numerous seals, and asks, “Was the unicorn a common animal of the proto-historic Indus Valley ?” Clearly, animal representations, or their absence, have cultural reasons: the Indus seals were not intended to be zoological handbooks. Until we have a deeper understanding of Harappan culture, we can only conjecture about its iconography.

5. Is the Vedic horse the true horse ?

Invasionists are usually unaware that they begin by making an important assumption: they take it for granted that the Vedic horse is the true horse, Equus caballus L. Although this might appear self-evident, it is not. In fact, as some scholars have pointed out, the Rig-Veda describes the horse as having 34 ribs; so does a passage in the Shatapatha Brahmana.48 However, the true horse generally has two pairs of 18 ribs, i.e. 36 and not 34.

This suggests that the horse referred to in the Rig-Veda may have been a different species, such as the smaller and stockier Siwalik or Przewalski horses, which often (not always) had 34 ribs. The scholar Paul Manansala, who stressed this point, concluded: “So the horse of India, including that of the asvamedha sacrifice in what is regarded as the oldest part of the Rgveda, is a distinct variety native to southeastern Asia.”

The question is far from solved, as experts in the field do not always see eye to eye, but it also cannot be wished away.

6. Meaning of ashva in the Rig-Veda

We now come to a more fundamental point. After the nineteenth-century European Sanskritists, most scholars have taken it for granted that Vedic society should be full of horses because of the frequent occurrence of ashva in the Rig- Veda. This conclusion is flawed on two grounds.

First, because the language of the Rig-Veda is a symbolic one that constantly operates at different levels. Else, how could we explain powerful images with no possible ritualistic or “animist” explanation, such as a lower and an upper ocean, a “wave of honey” rising from the ocean, rivers of ghee rising in the “ocean of the heart,” a “well of honey” hidden under the rock, a divine fire born of waters, present in the stone, or compared to a child that gave birth to its own mothers, an “eighth sun, hidden in darkness,” and dozens more ? A purely materialistic or ritualistic reading of the Rig-Veda is bound to fail us at every step, and is unjustified when other mythologies, from the Babylonian to the Egyptian and the Greek, have long been explored at deeper figurative and symbolic levels. It is strange how most scholars, hypnotized by colonial misinterpretations, have failed to follow the Rig-Veda’s own clue: “Secret words that reveal their meaning [only] to the seer.”

So let us turn to one such “seer.” As early as 1912, a decade before the discovery of the Indus-Sarasvati civilization, and thus long before our “Harappan horse” controversy, Sri Aurobindo in his study of the Rig-Veda and the Upanishads found that The word ashva must originally have implied strength or speed or both before it came to be applied to a horse.

More specifically… The cow and horse, go and ashva, are constantly associated. Usha, the Dawn, is described as gomati ashvavati; Dawn gives to the sacrificer horses and cows. As applied to the physical dawn gomati means accompanied by or bringing the rays of light and is an image of the dawn of illumination in the human mind. Therefore ashvavati also cannot refer merely to the physical steed; it must have a psychological significance as well. A study of the Vedic horse led me to the conclusion that go and ashva represent the two companion ideas of Light and Energy, Consciousness and Force….

For the ritualist the word go means simply a physical cow and nothing else, just as its companion word, ashva, means simply a physical horse…. When the Rishi prays to the Dawn, gomad viravad dhehi ratnam uso ashvavat, the ritualistic commentator sees in the invocation only an entreaty for “pleasant wealth to which are attached cows, men (or sons) and horses”. If on the other hand these words are symbolic, the sense will run, “Confirm in us a state of bliss full of light, of conquering energy and of force of vitality.”

In other words, Sri Aurobindo rejects a mechanical equation ashva = horse.

The constant association of the Vedic horse with waters and the ocean, from the Rig-Veda to the Puranic myth of the churning of the ocean, confirms that we are not dealing here with an ordinary animal, as does the depiction of the Ashvins as birds. Within this framework, the ashvamedha sacrifice also deserves a new treatment, which the Indologist Subhash Kak has recently outlined very cogently.

Sri Aurobindo’s stand received indirect support from a wholly different angle, that of the late anthropologist Edmund Leach, who warned against the picture of a horse-rich Rig-Vedic society :

The prominent place given to horses and chariots in the Rig Veda can tell us virtually nothing that might distinguish any real society for which the Rig Veda might provide a partial cosmology. If anything, it suggests that in real society (as opposed to its mythological counterpart), horses and chariots were a rarity, ownership of which was a mark of aristocratic or kingly distinction.

Thus the place of the horse in the Rig-Veda needs to be reassessed from a decolonized standpoint, with a fresh look at the Vedic message and experience. If Sri Aurobindo and Leach are both right, then the word ashva refers only occasionally to the actual animal, and its rarity is well reflected in the modest amount of physical remains and depictions. Indeed, even in today’s India, despite having been imported into India for many centuries, the horse remains a relatively rare animal, invisible in most villages.

At this point, a valid objection could be raised: if the horse did exist in the Indus-Sarasvati civilization, and if one wishes to equate this civilization with Vedic culture, the latter at least makes a symbolic use of the animal; why is the horse therefore not depicted more often as a symbol in Harappan art, for instance on the Indus seals ? The answer I propose is simple : even if the Rig- Veda is contemporary with, or older than, the mature Indus-Sarasvati civilization, we need not expect Harappan art to be a pure reflection of Vedic concepts. The Veda represents the very specific quest of a few rishis, who are unlikely to have lived in the middle of the Harappan towns. Although Vedic concepts and symbols are visible in Harappan culture, the latter is a popular culture; in the same way, the culture of today’s Indian village need not exactly reflect Chennai’s music and dance sabhas. Between Kalibangan’s peasant sacrificing a goat for good rains and the rishi in quest of Tat ekam, That One, there is a substantial difference, even if they ultimately share the same worldview.

Only a more subtle approach to Harappan and Vedic cultures can throw light on their apparent differences.

7. Is ashva only Aryan ?

One more unstated assumption of invasionists, who trust that their readers will not go and check the original text, is that ashva, in the Rig-Veda, is a purely Aryan animal. But is that what the text actually says ? No doubt, most of the references place ashva, whatever the word means in the Rishis’ mind, squarely on the side of the Aryan gods and their human helpers. But it turns out that there are a few revealing exceptions, when Dasyus and Panis also possess ashvas.

For instance, Indra-Soma, by means of the truth (eva satyam), shatters the stable where Dasyus were holding “horses and cows” (ashvyam goh). In another hymn, Indra’s human helpers find the Pani’s “horses and cattle”: “The Angiras gained the whole enjoyment of the Pani, its herds of the cows and the horses.”

The most striking passage is from the famous dialogue between the divine hound Sarama, Indra’s intransigent emissary, and the Panis, after she has discovered their faraway den, where they jealously hoard their “treasures.” Sarama boldly declares Indra’s intention to seize these treasures, but the Panis are unimpressed and threaten to fight back; they taunt her: “O Sarama, see the treasure deep in the mountain, it is full of cows and horses and treasures (gobhir ashvebhir vasubhir nyrsah). The Panis guard it watchfully. You have come in vain to a rich dwelling.” Every verse makes it clear that all these treasures, horses included, belong to the Panis; at no point does Sarama complain that these are stolen goods: “I come in search of your great treasures,” she declares at first, and the Panis would not be insolent enough to taunt her with goods seized from the Aryans; yet Sarama considers that Indra is fully entitled to them.

Now, if we followed the same colonial reading that invasionists impose on the Vedas, we would be forced to acknowledge that the Dasyus and Panis also had horses of their own — which of course negates the whole idea of the animal having been introduced by the Aryans. It does look as if this Vedic landscape is getting a little too crowded with horses, rather like a cheap Hollywood western.

To understand the Dasyus’ and Panis’ “horses,” we need to return to the Vedic symbolism proposed by Sri Aurobindo : the demons do possess lights (cows) and energies or powers (horses), but, as misers, keep them for themselves, neither for the gods nor for man. In the Vedic view, this is a transgression of the cosmic law. The duty of the rishi, helped by the gods, is to reconquer those “treasures” and put them to their true purpose; only then will the cosmic order be reestablished. This is certainly more interesting than the tribal clashes of a barbaric and primitive age. In fact, the Rig-Veda itself makes its symbolism clear again and again, if only we can learn to read it with an open mind. In the last verse of the dialogue between Sarama and the Panis, for instance, the narrator concludes, “Go away, you Panis ! Let out the cows which, hidden, infringe the Order !” This “order” is ritam, the true cosmic law. It is infringed not because the Panis hide a few cows and horses inside a cave, but because they misuse their lights and powers and do not offer them up as a sacrifice. That is why Indra is entitled to their treasures — not because he is a greedy tribal leader out to expand his territory and wealth; and that is why he can shatter the demons’ dens only “by means of the truth.”

Had it not been for the Aryan invasion Theory, the Rig-Veda would have long ago been the object of interpretations on a level with that accorded to Greek or Egyptian mythology, instead of being constricted to a literalist reading.


That the invasionist scholars should have skirted such important issues, as regards both findings and methodology, does little to inspire confidence. Clearly, the whole question of the Vedic and Harappan horse has been treated simplistically. To sum up :

1. Several species of Equus, including the true horse, existed in the Indus- Sarasvati civilization, probably in small numbers. Some of them may have entered India over a much longer time span than is usually granted, in the course of the Indus-Sarasvati civilization’s interactions with neighbouring areas, but certainly not through any Aryan invasion or migration, which in any case has already been rejected by archaeological, anthropological, genetic, literary and cultural evidence.

2. This process continued with a gradual but slight increase after the end of the mature phase of the Indus-Sarasvati civilization right up to early historical times. There was no epoch exhibiting a sudden, first-time introduction of the animal.

3. The Rig-Veda has been misread; it tells us strictly nothing about a sizeable horse population, and rather suggests its rarity. The animal was important in symbolic, not quantitative terms.

4. The Rig-Veda also tells us nothing about conquering Aryans hurtling down from Afghanistan in their horse-drawn “thundering” chariots and crushing indigenous tribal populations; it is high time we abandoned once and for all those perverse fancies of nineteenth-century scholars, even if some of their peers hang on to such myths even today.

The hypothesis I have put forward is testable : if correct, we should expect further excavations of Harappan sites to come up with more horse remains and depictions, although nothing on the scale that the Aryan invasion Theory wrongly expects of a Vedic society — and has failed to document in post-Harappan India.