Journal : Alternate History

Presentation of  evidence for Indo-European homeland continues …


Finally, we come to that aspect of linguistic studies which first led the linguists to dismiss the idea of India being the original homeland. It is what was first used to “prove” the non-Indian origin of Indo-Europeans, an impression that persists to this day even after the method is since conclusively recognised as unreliable. Let us see how and why.

Linguists reconstructed the Proto-Indo-European language on the basis of definite phonetic rules of sound-change and development, applied to words common to different Indo-European branches. Allowing for the fact that most linguists often tend to adopt a rigid and dogmatic approach to the subject (which, as we have already seen, leads them to indulge in hairsplitting, and to reject many obvious cognate forms, like Greek theos, or to only grudgingly accept some others, like Latin canis and modern Greek ikkos), and that it is often difficult to explain changes in vocabulary, which makes it necessary to be cautious in postulating original words (as has often been pointed out, as an example, all the modem Italic languages have words for “horse” derived from a Latin word caballus: eg.  Italian cavallo, French cheval, Spanish caballo, Rumanian cal; while the actual Latin word for the horse wasequus.  If Latin had been an unrecorded language, and it had been required to reconstruct it on the basis of words common to its present day descendants, the word equus would never be reconstructed), the reconstruction of the Proto-Indo-European language may generally be accepted as a reasonably valid one, with some natural limitations.

However, this reconstruction has not been treated as a purely academic exercise, but as a means of pinpointing the geographical location of the original homeland.  There have been two main methods by which the linguists have sought to use the exercise as a means of rejecting the idea of an Indian homeland. and, since their endeavours appear to have been so successful in mesmerising all and sundry and in effectively derailing all rational inquiry into the subject, it is necessary for us to examine these two methods :

A. Linguistic Paleontology.
B. Archaic Dialectology.

Linguistic Paleontology

Linguistic Paleontology is a method devised by nineteenth century linguists, by which they sought to reconstruct the geographical and socio-cultural environment of the Proto-Indo-European people on the basis of words common to different Indo-European branches.

On the basis of the few names of animals, birds and plants, and words indicating climate, common to different Indo-European branches, the linguists concluded that the Proto-Indo-Europeans lived in a cold environment, and were acquainted with a few plants / trees like barley, birch, pine and oak, and animals like horses, cattle, goats, sheep, deer, bears, wolves, dogs, foxes and otters.

The names of these plants and animals do not really pinpoint a specific area, since they are all found in a large area ranging from Europe to North India, covering almost the entire Indo-European belt.  But the linguists concluded that the evidence of these names clearly excluded India from being the location of the original homeland, since the common names did not include names of plants / trees and animals which are specifically found in India (such as the elephant, etc).

However, this argument is ill-considered, woefully inadequate and illogical. The case is that Indo-European languages outside India do not have names for plants and animals which are found in India but are not found in the areas where these languages are spoken. But so is it a fact that Indo-Aryan languages do not have names for plants and animals which are found in Indo-European areas outside India but not in India. Should we look for an explanation or jump to a conclusion ?

To re-state the observed fact, Indo-European languages generally, not always, seem to have retained Proto-Indo-European names for only those plants and animals that were also found in their new habitat. The names for plants and animals that were found in former habitats but not in the newer ones were lost in time.  This would naturally be the case : either through disuse of the terms over succeeding centuries or when natives adopted the speech from immigrant Indo-Europeans. Why would later generations retain terms that had been of no use for hundreds of years ? Or, why would people be concerned with learning terms that had no object to signify or be interested in them at all while having no idea of what they communicated ?

Therefore, as a method to reconstruct the original geographical environment of Indo-Europeans, the field of linguistic paleontology stands largely discredited today. It offers no negative evidence to exclude geographical areas like India from being the original homeland of Indo-Europeans.  As the eminent linguist Stefan Zimmer says : “The long dispute about the reliability of this ‘linguistic paleontology’ is not yet finished, but approaching its inevitable end – with a negative result, of course.”

As a matter of fact, far from disproving the Indian homeland theory, linguistic paleontological evidence actually supports the thesis. Two linguists, T. Gamkrelidze and V. Ivanov, who are support the Anatolian homeland theory, have recently examined words in the Indo-European languages which were earlier largely ignored or missed by the linguists in general. They have arrived at the conclusion that Proto-Indo-European names definitely existed for some more animals : leopard – Sanskrit pRdAku, Greek pardos, Hittite parsana ; monkey – Sanskrit kapi, Greek kepos … which they also link, with with Germanic and Celtic words like Old Norse api, Old English apa, Old High German affo, Welsh epa and Irish apa, “ape”, all with k/mute alteration.

Even more significantly, it seems that these IE languages are not without derivatives of Proto-IE terms for camel and elephant :

  1. The camel is native to West Asia and to Central Asia. There are cognate words for the camel in Tokharian *alpi, Old Church Slavonic velibadu, Baltic (Lithuanian) verbliudas, and Germanic words like Old Norse ulfaldi, Old English olfend, Old High German olbanta and Gothic ulbandus. A related word in Hittite, according to C D Buck, is ulupantas or ulpantas which appears to be used for “ox”.

The word is similar to the Greek word elephas for elephant, which is the source for all the European names for the elephant.  Buck suggests that this word is “based upon… Egyptian words… to be analysed as el-ephas, the second part, like Lat. ebur, ‘ivory’, from Egypt. Ab, ‘elephant, ivory’, but first part disputed”. He adds : “Hence also (though disputed by some) with shift to ‘camel’, Goth. ulbandus, ON ulfaldi, OE olfend, OHG olbanta……”

The Tocharian word *alpi is clearly a related to the Greek word elephas one since it contains both the elements, the “second part” of the word as well as the “disputed” first part. But the Tocharian word cannot have been inducted through the Egyption – Greek migration simply because no known theory of Indo-European origins and migrations admits of such transference. So, where was the Tocharian word borrowed from ?

While a “shift” from its original “elephant” meaning to a new “camel” meaning is very likely, this shift took place in Central Asia and not in Greece.  The cognate words for camel in Tocharian, Germanic, Slavonic and Baltic (and also Hittite, where there has been a second shift in meaning to “ox”) clearly prove that all these branches shared a sojourn in the camel lands of Central Asia.

  1. The Greek word el-ephas is exactly cognate (again, only the second part of the word) with the Rigvedic ibhas.  The word ibhas is just one of the four purely “Aryan” terms (ibhas, sRNI, hastin and vAraNa) for the elephant in the Rig Veda.  Gamkrelidze and Ivanov point out that the Latin word ebur, “ivory”, is also cognate to the Sanskrit ibhas.

We thus have the evidence of three different branches of Indo-European languages for the elephant as an animal known to the Proto-Indo-Europeans.  As the Proto-Indo-Europeans were not native to Africa, African elephants (not being domesticated) could not have been directly known to them (even as an imported animal) in any other proposed homeland, and the Asiatic elephant is not native to any area north or west of India, the implications of this evidence are loud and clear.

Incidentally, it is possible that the Egyptian word Ab for “elephant” or “ivory” is itself derived from Sanskrit ibhas.  We have it on the testimony of the Old Testament of the Bible (I Kings 22.10; II Chronicles 9.21) that apes, ivory and peacocks were imported from India… the peacocks confirm that the land referred to is India, or a transit port on the way from India… into Palestine, and doubtless the same was the case in Egypt as well.

The Hebrew word for “ape” in the above references is qoph which is derived by linguists from the Sanskrit kapi; and, likewise, Buck accepts kapi as the “probable source of gyptianqephi”. Significantly, the words for elephant in Arabic and Hebrew, fil and pil respectively, are clearly derived from the Sanskrit word pIlu for a male elephant, thereby indicating that it was the Indian elephant rather than the African one which was known in this region.

  1. An animal whose name is common to almost all the Indo-European branches is the cow (Sanskrit go, Avestan gao, German kuh, Latin bOs, Irish bo, Lettish guovs, Greek boûs, Old Church Slavonic krava, etc), for whom the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European word is *gwou.  It is clear that the cow was a very intrinsic part of the life of the Indo-Europeans, as is proved also by its dominant status in the culture, idiom and imagery of the oldest Indo-European texts, the Rigveda and the Avesta.

Significantly, different ancient civilizations (Sumerian gu, Ancient Chinese gou) appear to have borrowed the word from the Indo-Europeans.  It is, therefore, quite likely that the Proto-Indo-European homeland was a primary centre of diffusion of cattle breeding.

It may be noted in this context that recent research by scientists at the Trinity College in Dublin has revolutionised ideas about the origins of the domestication of cattle.  It was formerly believed that cattle domestication first took place in Anatolia, and then spread to the rest of the world; and the humped breeds of Indian cattle, known in the West as Zebu or Brahmin cattle, were believed to be descended from these Anatolian cattle.

However, the scientists “who examined the DNA of 13 breeds of modern cattle found that all the European and African cattle breeds shared the same genetic lineage.  But the eastern types came from an entirely different source.  By backtracking the number of mutations that must have occured, the scientists have also deduced that the two lines split more than 200,000 years ago; and since the two lines are still distinct, the simplest interpretation of the research was that there were two separate domestication events.”

Thus, India, the centre of domestication of other species of bovids, like the buffalo and the gayal, was also the centre of domestication of the eastern or humped cattle. And, to howsoever great or small an extent, this appears to strengthen the theory that India could be the more likely location of the original homeland of the Indo-European family of languages.

In corroboration, Sanskrit retains a distinctly different root word for “milk”, which appears to be older, and closer to the proto-IE ethos, than the common word for “milk” found in almost all the other branches of Indo-European languages.

Many of the other branches have related words for “milk”: German milch, Irish mlicht, Russianmoloko, etc.  And even where they appear to differ in the noun form, they share a common word for the verb “to milk”: Latin mulgere, Old High German melchan, Greek amèlgo, Old Church Slavonic mlešti, Lithuanian milZti, Albanian mjellë, Irish bligim, etc.

Only Sanskrit and Iranian stand out in not having any word related to the above.  Instead, we have Sanskrit dugdha, “milk”, derived from the root duh-, “to milk”, with related verbal forms duxtan, dušidan, “to milk” in modern Persian (though not in the Avesta).

The root duh-, found directly only in Sanskrit and only secondarily in Iranian, appears to have deeper roots in the Indo-European languages.  According to many linguists, although many others dismiss the derivation as simplistic, the Indo-European words for “daughter” (Sanskrit duhitar, Persian dukhtar, Gothic dauhtar, Lithuanian dukte, Old Church Slavonic dUšti, Greek thugater, etc.) are derived from the same root, so that the word basically means “milkmaid”, indicating that cattle-breeding was a primary occupation among the Proto-Indo-Europeans.

 … We will take up Archaic Dialectology next …

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

by Shrikant G. Talageri available @

Journal : Alternate History

Presentation of  evidence for Indo-European homeland continues …

Inter-Familial Literary, after the researched linguistic and literary evidence earlier placed.


The historico-linguistic connection between Indo-European and other language families, like Uralic and Semitic, are projected by many scholars as linguistic evidence for the origin of the Indo-European family in or around South Russia. But the evidence we have discussed fails to prove the point. A rather complex and scientific analysis of such connections forms the subject of a paper by Johanna Nichols, significantly called The Epicentre of the Indo-European Linguistic Spread, which is part of a more detailed study contained in two volumes of  Archaeology and Language, of which the particular paper under discussion constitutes Chapter 8 of the first volume.

Nichols determines the location of “the epicentre of the Indo-European linguistic spread” primarily on the basis of an examination of loan-words from Mesopotamia and the Fertile Crescent of West Asia. As she points out, loan-words from this region must have spread out via three trajectories (or routes) :

To Central Europe via the Bosporus and the Balkans, to the western steppe via the Caucasus… and eastward via Iran to western Central Asia…”

The first step in specifying a locus for the IE homeland is to narrow it down to one of these three trajectories, and that can be done by comparing areal Wanderwörter in the IE cultural vocabulary to those of other language families that can be located relative to one or another trajectory in ancient times.”

Therefore, Nichols examines loan-words from West Asia (Semitic and Sumerian) found in Indo-European and in other families like Caucasian (separately Kartvelian, Abkhaz-Circassian and Nakh-Daghestanian), and the mode and form of transmission of these loan-words into the Indo-European family, as a whole as well as into particular branches; and she combines this with the evidence of the spread of Uralic and its connections with Indo-European. After a detailed examination, her final conclusions about the locus or epicentre of the Indo-European linguistic spread are as follows :

Several kinds of evidence for the PIE locus have been presented here.  Ancient loan-words point to a locus along the desert trajectory, not particularly close to Mesopotamia and probably far out in the eastern hinterlands.  The structure of the family tree, the accumulation of genetic diversity at the western periphery of the range, the location of Tocharian and its implications for early dialect geography, the early attestation of Anatolian in Asia Minor, and the geography of the centum-satem split all point in the same direction : a locus in western central Asia.  Evidence presented in Volume II supports the same conclusion : the long-standing westward trajectories of languages point to an eastward locus, and the spread of IE along all three trajectories points to a locus well to the east of the Caspian Sea. The satem shift also spread from a locus to the south-east of the Caspian, with satem languages showing up as later entrants along all three trajectory terminals. (The satem shift is a post-PIE but very early IE development).  The locus of the IE spread was therefore somewhere in the vicinity of ancient Bactria-Sogdiana.”

This linguistic evidence thus fits in perfectly with the literary and other evidence examined by us and with the theory outlined by us. Nichols’ analysis covers three concepts :

1. The Spread Zone: “The vast interior of Eurasia is a linguistic spread zone – a genetic and typological bottleneck where many genetic lines go extinct, structural types tend to converge, a single language or language family spreads out over a broad territorial range, and one language family replaces another over a large range every few millennia…”

2. The Locus: “The locus is a smallish part of the range which functions in the same way as a dialect-geographical centre : an epicentre of sorts from which innovations spread to other regions and dialects, and a catch-point at which cultural borrowings and linguistic loan-words entered from prestigious or economically important foreign societies to spread (along with native linguistic innovations) to the distant dialects.  If an innovation arose in the vicinity of the locus, or a loan-word entered, it spread to all or most of the family; otherwise, it remained a regionalism.  Diversification of daughter dialects in a spread zone takes place far from the locus at the periphery, giving the family tree a distinctive shape with many major early branches, and creating a distinctive dialect map where genetic diversity piles up at the periphery. These principles make it possible to pinpoint the locus in space more or less accurately even for a language family as old as IE.  Here it will be shown that the locus accounting for the distribution of loan-words, internal innovations and genetic diversity within IE could only have lain well to the east of the Caspian Sea.”

The specific location is “in the vicinity of Bactria-Sogdiana”.

The central Eurasian spread zone, as described in Volume II, was part of a standing pattern whereby languages were drawn into the spread zone, spread westward, and were eventually succeeded by the next spreading family.  The dispersal for each entering family occurred after entry into the spread zone. The point of dispersal for each family is the locus of its proto-homeland, and this locus eventually is engulfed by the next entering language.  Hence in a spread zone the locus cannot, by definition, be the point of present greatest diversity (except possibly for the most recent family to enter the spread zone).  On the contrary, the locus is one of the earliest points to be overtaken by the next spread.”

Further, “the Caspian Sea divides westward spreads into steppe versus desert trajectories quite close to the locus and hence quite early in the spread.”

3. The Original Homeland: “Central Eurasia is a linguistic bottleneck, spread zone, and extinction chamber, but its languages had to come from somewhere.  The locus of the IE spread is a theoretical point representing a linguistic epicentre, not a literal place of ethnic or linguistic origin, so the ultimate origin of PIE need not be in the same place as the locus.  There are several linguistically plausible possibilities for the origin of Pre-PIE.  It could have spread eastward from the Black Sea steppe (as proposed by Mallory 1989 and by Anthony 1991, 1995), so that the locus formed only after this spread but still very early in the history of disintegrating PIE… It could have come into the spread zone from the east as Mongolian, Turkic, and probably Indo-Iranian did.  Or it could have been a language of the early urban oases of southern central Asia.”

This linguistic evidence affirms all conditions that would locate the original Indo-European homeland in India, an exit-point in Afghanistan, and two streams of westward emigration or expansion. But Nichols does not advocate such a conclusion. She does propose or accepts the following :

a. The Pre-PIE language could have come from any direction (east or west), or could have been native to south Central Asia (Bactria-Sogdiana) itself… since the linguistic data only accounts for the later part of the movement, and not the earlier one.

b. The later part of the movement, as indicated by linguistic data, is in the opposite direction… that is, away from India.

c. The literary evidence, as we have seen, provides the evidence for the earlier part of the movement.

Nichols’ analysis of the linguistic data, moreover, produces a picture which is more natural and more compatible with what may be called “linguistic migration theory” :

As defined by Dyen (1956), a homeland is a continuous area and a migration is any movement causing that area to become non-continuous (while a movement that simply changes its shape or area is an expansion or expansive intrusion). The linguistic population of the homeland is a set of intermediate proto-languages, the first-order daughters of the original proto-language (in Dyen’s terms, a chain of coordinate languages).  The homeland is the same as (or overlaps) the area of the largest chain of such co-ordinates, i.e. the area where the greatest number of highest-level branches occur. Homelands are to be reconstructed in such a way as to minimize the number of migrations, and the number of migrating daughter branches, as are required to get from them to attested distributions (Dyen 1956: 613).”

The theories which place the original homeland in South Russia postulate a great number of separate emigrations of individual branches in different directions : Hittite and Tocharian would be the earliest emigrants in two different and opposite directions, and Indo-Iranian, Armenian and Greek would be the last emigrants, again, in three different and opposite directions.

But the picture produced by the evidence analysed by Nichols differs : “no major migrations are required to explain the distribution of IE languages at any stage in their history up to the colonial period of the last few centuries.  All movements of languages or more precisely all viable movements – that is, all movements that produced natural speech communities that lasted for generations and branched into dialects – were expansions, and all geographically isolated languages (e.g.  Tocharian, Ossetic in the Caucasus, ancestral Armenian, perhaps ancestral Anatolian) appear to be remnants of formerly continuous distributions.  They were stranded by subsequent expansions of other language families, chiefly Turkic in historical times.”

Let it be repeated : Nichols does not support the Indian homeland theory. That makes her analytical testimony all the more credible when her propositions admit of no better fit than an Indian homeland theory for proto Indo-Europeans. Nichols suggests that there was a point of time during the expansion of the Indo-Europeans when “ancestral Proto-Indo-Aryan was spreading into northern India,” and that “the Indo-Iranian distribution is the result of a later, post-PIE spread”.

The evidence primarily shows two things :

a. “The long-standing westward trajectories of languages point to an eastward locus, and the spread of IE along all these trajectories point to a locus well to the east of the Caspian Sea.”

b. “The locus of the IE spread was therefore somewhere in the vicinity of ancient Bactria-Sogdiana.”

The evidence shows “westward trajectories of languages” from a locus “in the vicinity of ancient Bactria-Sogdiana,” it does not show eastward or southward trajectories of languages from this locus. Nichols’ conclusion that Indo-European languages found to the west of Bactria Sogdiana were due to expansions from Bactria-Sogdiana is based on linguistic evidence, but her conclusion that the Indo-European languages found to the south and east of Bactria-Sogdiana were also the result of expansions from Bactria-Sogdiana is not based on linguistic evidence premised by her.

Also, perhaps, Nichols has no particular reason to believe that India could be the original homeland and, hence, finds no reason to go much further than is absolutely necessary while challenging established notions : as it is, she is conscious that the locus indicated by the linguistic evidence “is unlike any other proposed homeland” and therefore avoids suggesting anything more provocative than that.

We now know though that the Indian homeland theory fits in perfectly with Nichols’ conclusions : that the homeland lay along the easternmost of the three trajectories… the one which led “eastward via Iran to western central Asia,” she says. Obviosly, this same trajectory also leads to India; but such an extension would have been going too far, it seems.

While Nichols’ detailed linguistic analysis brings into focus the location of the original homeland as indicated by geographical relationship of Indo-European with certain western families of languages, other scholars have also noted the relationship of IE with certain eastern families : we refer in particular to two studies conducted respectively by Tsung-tung Chang, in respect of the Chinese language, and Isidore Dyen, in respect of the Austronesian family of languages.

The Chinese Language 

Tsung-tung Chang, a scholar of Chinese / Taiwanese origin, studied the relationship between the vocabulary of Old Chinese, as reconstructed by Bernard Karlgren (Grammata Serica, 1940, etc.), and the etymological roots of Proto-Indo-European vocabulary, as reconstructed by Julius Pokorny (Indogermanisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch, 1959), and has shown that there was a strong Indo-European influence on the formative vocabulary of Old Chinese.

He provides a long list of words common to Indo-European and Old Chinese, and adds: “In the last four years, I have traced out about 1500 cognate words, which would constitute roughly two-thirds of the basic vocabulary in Old Chinese.  The common words are to be found in all spheres of life including kinship, animals, plants, hydrography, landscape, parts of the body, actions, emotional expression, politics and religion, and even function words such as pronouns and prepositions, as partly shown in the lists of this paper.”

This Indo-European influence on Old Chinese, according to Chang, took place at the time of the founding of the first Chinese empire in about 2400 BC.  He calls this the “Chinese Empire established by Indo-European conquerors” and identifies Huang-ti or “Yellow Emperor”, the traditional Chinese founder of the first empire, as an Indo-European, suggesting that his name should actually be interpreted as “blond heavenly god”.

About Huang-ti, Chang tells us that he was a nomadic king who “ordered roads to be built, and was perpetually on the move with treks of carriages.  At night he slept in a barricade of wagons.  He had no interest in walled towns… All of this indicates his origin from a stock-breeding tribe in Inner Mongolia.  With introduction of horse- or oxen-pulled wagons, transport and traffic in northern China was revolutionized.  Only on this new technical basis did the founding of a state with central government become feasible and functional.”

Chang deduces : “Huang-ti is mentioned also as the founder of Chinese language in the Li-Chi (Book of Rites).  In the Chapter 23 chi-fa (Rules of Sacrifices),… we read : ‘Huang-ti gave hundreds of things their right names, in order to illumine the people about the common goods……’ ” In this way : “The aboriginal people had thus to learn new foreign words from the emperors.  Probably thereby the Proto-Indo-European vocabulary became dominant in Old Chinese.”

What Tsung attempts to do to Chinese civilization is more or less what invasionist scholars have tried to do to Indian civilization, and we can take his insistence that the first Chinese civilization was established by “Indo-European conquerors” with a fistful of salt.  The more natural explanation for similarity in vocabulary is simply that there was mutual influence between the Old Chinese and certain Indo-European branches that were located in Central Asia in the third millennium BC or slightly earlier.

Basically, that is what his own hypothesis also actually suggests.  According to Tsung: “Among Indo-European dialects, Germanic languages seem to have been mostly akin to Old Chinese… Germanic preserved the largest number of cognate words also to be found in Chinese… Germanic and Chinese belong to the group of so-called centum languages… The initial /h/ in Germanic corresponds mostly to /h/ and /H/ in Old Chinese…. Chinese and Northern Germanic languages are poor in grammatical categories such as case, gender, number, tense, mood, etc…”

It is unlikely that this relationship between Germanic and Old Chinese developed in Europe, nor does Tsung himself makes such a claim.  He accepts that “Indo-Europeans had coexisted for thousands of years in Central Asia… (before) they emigrated into Europe”.

The influence on the Chinese language probably, according to Tsung, spread to other related languages later on : “Sino-Thai common vocabulary, too, bristles with Indo-European stems.  In my opinion, these southern tribes were once the aborigines of Northern China, who migrated to the south… Nevertheless they could not escape the influence of Chinese languages and civilization.”

How far Tsung’s hypothesis will find acceptance is not clear.  It is, however, a scholarly work by a Western academician (albeit one of Taiwanese origin) established in Germany, and it is being seriously studied in the West.

Such as it is, it constitutes further linguistic support for the theory that Central Asia was the secondary homeland for various Indo-European branches on their route from India to Europe.

The Austronesian Family of Languages 

Isidore Dyen, in his paper, The Case of the Austronesian Languages, presented at the 3rd Indo-European Conference at the University of Pennsylvania in 1966, has made out a case showing the similarities between many basic words reconstructed in the Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Austronesian languages. They include such basic words as the very first four numerals, many of the personal pronouns, the words for “water” and “land”, etc.  And Dyen points out that “the number of comparisons could be increased at least slightly, perhaps even substantially, without a severe loss of quality”.

Dyen is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a supporter of the Indian homeland theory; and in fact such a theory does not strike him even after he notes these similarities. He simply admits that the distribution of the two families and their respective homelands, as understood by him, do not explain the situation.  In his own words: “The hypothesis to be dealt with is not favoured by considerations of the distribution of the two families… The probable homelands of the respective families appear to be very distant; that of the Indo-European is probably in Europe, whereas that of the Austronesian is no farther west than the longitude of the Malay Peninsula in any reasonable hypothesis, and has been placed considerably farther east in at least one hypothesis.  The hypothesis suggested by linguistic evidence is not thus facilitated by a single homeland hypothesis.”

To restate, Dyen feels that the Indo-European homeland is “probably in Europe” and the Austronesian homeland “no farther west than the longitude of the Malay Peninsula”, and hence he finds that the “linguistic evidence is not… facilitated by a single homeland hypothesis”. But, apart from the Indian homeland theory for the Indo-European family of languages, which Dyen does not consider, there is also an Indian homeland theory for the ultimate origin of the Austronesian family of languages : S.K. Chatterji, an invasionist scholar, suggests that “India was the centre from which the Austric race spread into the lands and islands of the east and Pacific”, and that “the Austric speech… in its original form (as the ultimate source of both the Austro-Asiatic and Austronesian branches)… could very well have been characterised within India”.

Therefore the linguistic evidence is “facilitated by a single homeland hypothesis” in the prehistoric past : the Indian homeland hypothesis. Linguistic evidence as it is, in respect of connections between Indo-European and other families in the Proto-Indo-European period, all point towards an Indian homeland for the Indo-European family of languages.



With plenty of linguistic evidence indicating that the Indo-European family of languages originated in India, we will examine the linguistic “evidence” which the linguists usually employ to dismiss the Indian homeland theory and in the name of which archaeologists are classified together with “Hindu fundamentalists”.  Entire schools of scholars are mesmerised into treating the external (to India) homeland and the Aryan invasion of India as linguistically established facts.

There are two main fields of linguistic study which have contributed to this misrepresentation of the linguistic situation :

a. The study of the so-called non-Aryan substrata in Indo-Aryan languages.

b. The study of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language, society and culture.

Let us examine the first. According to many linguists, the Indo-Aryan languages contain a large number of non-Aryan words, as well as grammatical and syntactical features, which appear to be Dravidian, or occasionally Austric – words and features which are missing in Indo-European languages outside India. The feature, it is construed, shows that the Indo-Aryan languages were intruders into an area (North India) formerly occupied by speakers of Dravidian and Austric languages who, in course of time, adopted the Indo-Aryan speech forms.  A special aspect of this argument is that names of Indian animals and plants, in Indo-Aryan languages, are alleged to be adopted from non-Aryan (Dravidian or Austric) population, thereby showing that the original Indo-Aryan speakers were not acquainted with the flora and fauna of India.

Closer analysis of these claims however lead us to following arguments against them :

  1. In respect of the grammatical and syntactical features common to Indo-Aryan and Dravidian, most of these features are also found in different Indo-European branches or languages outside India. That makes such features common and likely consequences of internal developments. 

The modern Indo-Aryan languages do not necessarily represent a change from an originally Vedic like structure, since these modem Indo-Aryan languages are not, as is popularly believed, descendants of the Vedic language. They are derived of other Indo-European dialects that we understand as Inner-Indo-European, whose grammatical and syntactical features may have been different from that of dialects in north-west and northern-most India, the region which sustained both the Vedic and the parent of non-Vedic Indo-European languages. These inner IE dialects are similar to the other non-Indo-European families within India since pre-Vedic times (Dravidian, Austric).

  1. The linguists classify words as non-Aryan not because they are recognizable loan-words from Dravidian or Austric (I.e. words which have a clear etymology that is Dravidian or Austric alone, not Indo-European or Sanskrit), but simply because they are words for which, in their subjective opinion, the Indo-European or Sanskrit etymologies are “not satisfactory”.

In most cases, these words or equivalent forms are not even found in the Dravidian or Austric languages. But the scholars divine the “possibility of non-Aryan speeches (other than Dravidian, Kol and later Tibeto-Burman), speeches now extinct, being present in India”, and regard those supposedly extinct dialects as having been the source for these words. It speaks of a predisposition to brand these words as “non-Aryan”, by hook or crook, to fit a favoured notion.

  1. Most of the non-Aryan (Dravidian or Austric) etymological derivations postulated by linguists for particular words are challenged or refuted by other linguists, who give clear Indo-European or Sanskrit etymological derivations for the same words.

There is no consistency or consensus about these linguistic assertions, beyond the favoured dogma that there must be non-Aryan words in the Indo-Aryan languages.

  1. Many of the ‘scholarly’ derivations from Dravidian or Austric are basically impossible, since these words contain phonetic characteristics which are inconsistent with those of the alleged source languages. 

Thus words original to the Dravidian languages could not start with an initial cerebral or liquid (T, D, r, l), did not contain aspirate sounds (h, kh, gh, ch, jh, Th, Dh, th, dh, ph, bh) and sibilants (s, S), could not start with initial voiced stops (g, j, D, d, b) or have intervocalic voiceless obstruents (k, c, T, t, p), and did not contain obstruents with liquids (kr, pi, pr, tr, etc).  And yet, the linguists regularly postulate a Dravidian origin for large numbers of words which contain these phonetic characteristics.

  1. In case of names of Indian plants and animals, the majority of them have been given Sanskrit etymologies, not only by ancient Sanskrit grammarians and etymologists but even by modern Western Sanskritists, like Sir Monier-Williams. 

Linguists who are predisposed to reject these etymologies, without establishing alternates indisputable ones, cannot be taken seriously.

  1. Names of plants and animals which appear to have no clear or credible Indo-European or Sanskrit etymologies cannot be automatically treated as non-Aryan words, purely on that ground alone unless they have clear and indisputable Dravidian or Austric etymologies, since the situation is identical in the case of words which are very clearly and definitely inherited Indo-European words.

Thus, Carl D. Buck points out : “In the inherited names of animals there is little to be said about their semantic nature for, in most of them, the root-connection is wholly obscure.” Likewise, in the few inherited names of plants common to various Indo-European branches, Buck points to the same condition : “the root connections are mostly obscure”. Specifically, even a universal Indo-European word like *kuon (dog) has a “root connection much disputed and dubious”; and the equally universal word *ekwo (horse) has a “root connection wholly obscure”.

Therefore, unless it is to be assumed that the Proto-Indo-Europeans were totally unacquainted with any plants and animals at all, it must be accepted that the names of plants and animals in any language need not necessarily be derivable from the etymological roots of that language : these names are more likely to have been “at first colloquial or even slang words” which subsequently were included in the standard vocabulary.

  1. When the names of certain plants or animals in the Indo-Aryan languages are demonstrably Dravidian or Austric, this will be because the plants or animals concerned are native to those parts of India where Dravidian or Austric languages are spoken.  Thus the Sanskrit word ela is certainly derived from the Dravidian word yela, since the plant concerned (cardamom) is native to Kerala, located in Dravidian speaking area.  The South Indian plant was borrowed, along with its name, by people of North India.

In such cases, it need not even be necessary that the plant must not be found in the area of the borrowers.  If a plant, which is native to both North and South India, was first cultivated and popularised in the South, then it is possible that the South Indian name would stick to the cultivated plant, even in the North.  Thus, the tea plant is native to both China and India (Assam, etc.), and the cultivated varieties of tea today include both Chinese tea and Assamese tea.  But China was the first to cultivate and popularise the beverage, and even today, the plant is known everywhere, including in India (and Assam) by its Chinese names (cA/cAy, tea).

To summarise, the Dravidian or Austric name for a plant in Indo-Aryan languages is due to the geographical origin or historical cultivation of the plant in Dravidian or Austric area, and not because the original Indo-Aryan speakers came from outside into an originally Dravidian or Austric India.

  1. The names of plants and animals which are native to North India are of Indo-European or Sanskrit origin even in the Dravidian languages of South India and the Austric languages of eastern India.  Thus, the words for camel (Sanskrit uSTra), lion (Sanskrit siMha) and rhinoceros (Sanskrit khaDgI or gaNDa) are derived from purely Indo-European roots : the word uSTra, in fact, is found in Iranian (uStra).

The Dravidian words for camel (Tamil-Malayalam oTTagam, Kannada-Telugu oNTe, TodaoTTe, Brahui huch, etc.), for lion (Tamil cingam, Telugu siMhamu, Kannada siMha, etc.) and rhinoceros (Tamil kANDAmirugam, Telugu, khaDga-mRgamu, Kannada khaDgamRga are all derived from their Sanskrit parent.  Similarly, with Austric words for camel (Santali Ut, Khasi ut) and lion (Santali sinho, Sora sinam-kidan, etc.).

This Sanskrit etymology of words in Dravidian and Austric would clearly not have been possible if the northwestern areas, to which the camel, lion and (at least in Indus Valley period) the rhinoceros were native, had originally been Dravidian or Austric, or of any other non-Aryan language, before the alleged advent of the Indo-Aryans.

  1. In addition, it must be noted that the linguists often reject the Sanskrit or Indo-European origins of words in Indo-Aryan languages, and correspondences between Indo-Aryan words and words in other Indo-European branches, on flimsiest of grounds : even a single vowel or consonant in a word is sufficient for them to brand the word as probably or definitely non-Aryan when, according to them, the word is not how it should have been as per the strict and regular rules of Sanskrit or Indo-European derivations.

Thus, the connection between Vedic VaruNa, Greek Ouranos and Teutonic Woden is rejected despite the close similarity of the names being backed by correspondence in the mythical nature and characteristics of the three Gods, because scholars deemed the derivations as irregular.  Likewise, the connection between Vedic PaNi/VaNi, Greek Pan and Teutonic Vanir will also be rejected on similar flimsy grounds, although the three are definitely cognate names.

On the other hand, linguists connecting Indo-Aryan words with Dravidian or Austric words have no compunction about linguistic regularity or accuracy : thus T. Burrow (cf. ‘Some-Dravidian Words in Sanskrit’ in Transactions of the Philological Society-1945, London, 1946) derives Sanskrit paN (to negotiate, bargain) and paNa (wager) from “Tamil puNai, to tie, bond, pledge, security, surety, and to Kannada poNe, bond, bail…” etc.  If these are Dravidian words in Sanskrit, it could be as well surmised that the related Greek Pan and Teutonic Vanir are also Dravidian words in these languages.

It is not only in respect of Indo-Aryan words that the linguists indulge in such hairsplitting : even in respect of the Greek word theós (God), instead of accepting that the word is an irregular derivation from Indo-European *deiwos, the linguists insist that theós is unrelated to *deiwos, and try to suggest alternate etymologies for it, e.g.  “from *thesós (cf. théspharos, ‘spoken by god, ordained’), where the root connection is much disputed and remains dubious. Some linguists go further : “Mr. Hopkins… rejects all the proposed etymologies and suggests that… théos itself is a loan-word from pre-Greek sources.” However, while this kind of hairsplitting is occasional in respect of Greek, it is a regular scholarly pursuit in respect of Indo-Aryan languages.

We have seen how Michael Witzel, while admitting to the fact that rivers in North India have Sanskrit names from the earliest recorded Rigvedic period itself, tries to suggest that at least three river names, KubhA, SutudrI and KoSala, are non-Aryan, on grounds of the suggested Sanskrit etymologies being irregular. But this kind of argument is basically untenable : while there can be no doubt that there is such a thing as regular derivations according to definite phonetic rules of etymology and phonetic change, there can be irregular derivations too, since human speech in its historical evolution has not evolved strictly according to rules.  Thus, the Latin word canis (dog) is definitely derived from Indo-European *kuon : according to Buck, the “phonetic development is peculiar, but connection not to be questioned”. Likewise, the modern Greek ikkos (horse) is definitely derived from Indo-European *ekwo, although, as Buck points out, “with some unexplained phonetic features”.

Hence, it is clear that linguists seeking to reject Indo-European correspondence or Sanskrit etymologies of Indo-Aryan words on grounds of irregular phonetic features are not being strictly honest, and their opinions cannot be entirely trusted.

Beyond the brief summary of our main arguments, an examination of writings of various linguists who have written on this subject shows that logic and objectivity played no part in production of their long lists of “non-Aryan” words constituting the “substratum” in Indo-Aryan languages. In such lists, It is observed that any word in Sanskrit or modern Indo-Aryan languages that appears to be similar in sound to a Dravidian word, with even a vaguely similar meaning, automatically represents a Dravidian word adopted by Indo-Aryan, even when it has a clear Sanskrit etymology, and even while the word or a similar word is found in other Indo-European languages outside India as well.

An examination or comparative study of the works of these linguists has been undertaken by an American scholar, Edwin F. Bryant, in his paper Linguistic Substrata and the Indigenous Aryan Debate, later presented at the October 1996 Michigan-Laussane International Seminar on Aryan and Non-Aryan in South Asia with the title : Evidence, Interpretation and Ideology. Bryant is currently on the faculty of the Department of History, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA.

Bryant finds that “all these linguists are operating on the assumption, based on other criteria, that the Aryans ‘must have’ invaded India where there could not have been a ‘linguistic vacuum’”, and that, beyond this shared predisposition, there is no consensus among them on any specific point.  His examination of the works of several linguists shows “that they are not internally consistent, since the opinions of the principal linguists in this area have differed quite considerably.  This problematizes the value of this method as a significant determinant in the Indo-Aryan debate…”.

The extent to which these linguists (all of whom are otherwise in agreement in the belief that the Indo-Aryans are immigrants into India from an original homeland in South Russia) differ in the matter is made clear by Bryant :

  1. About the grammatical and syntactical features common to both Dravidian and Indo-Aryan, Robert Caldwell (1856) was the first to draw attention to many of them; but he rejected the idea that these features constituted originally Dravidian grammatical and syntactical elements (which surfaced in Indo-Aryan as a substratum) : “whatever the ethnological evidence of their identity may be supposed to exist… when we view the question philologically, and with reference to the evidence furnished by their languages alone, the hypothesis of their identity does not appear to me to have been established.”

But, a hundred years later, M.B. Emeneau (1956) drew up a whole list of such grammatical and syntactical features, and added to them in his later studies (1969, 1974).  F.B.J. Kuiper (1967) and Massca (1976) also added to the list.  These linguists concluded that these features were definitely evidence of a Dravidian substratum.

However, H. Hock (1975, 1984) strongly rejected the idea that these features are due to a Dravidian substratum.  He pointed out that most of these features actually have parallels in other Indo-European languages outside India, and therefore they were more likely to be internal developments in Indo-Aryan.  Since then, several other linguists, all otherwise staunch believers in the Aryan invasion theory, have rejected the idea that these features are Dravidian features.

F.B.J Kuiper (1974), a staunch protagonist of the substratum theory, admits that “we cannot compare the syntax of the Rig Veda with contemporaneous Dravidian texts.  The oldest Dravidian texts that we know are those of old Tamil.  They probably date from about the second century AD and are, accordingly, at least a thousand years later than the Rig Veda.”

M.B. Emeneau himself, although he sticks to the claim that a Dravidian substratum explains the situation better, admits (1980) that it is not as easy as that : “Is the whole Indo-Aryan history one of self-development, and the complex Dravidian development triggered by Indo-Aryan, perhaps even New Indo-Aryan, influence ? Or, in the case of Kurukh, borrowed from New Indo-Aryan ?… no easy solution is yet at hand.”

  1. F.B.J. Kuiper (1991) produced a list of 380 words from the Rig Veda, constituting four percent of the Rigvedic vocabulary, which he claimed were of non-Aryan (primarily Dravidian) origin.  Earlier linguists were more cautious in the matter of Rigvedic vocabulary.  M.B. Emeneau (1980), for example, hoped that the linguists would agree at least on one word mayUra, as a borrowing from Dravidian : “I can only hope that the evidence for mayuura as a RV borrowing from Dr. is convincing to scholars in general.”

But P. Thieme (1994) examined and rejected Kuiper’s list in toto, gave Indo-Aryan or Sanskrit etymologies for most of these words, and characterized Kuiper’s exercise as an example of misplaced “zeal for hunting up Dravidian loans in Sanskrit”.  In general, Thieme sharply rejects the tendency to force Dravidian or Austric etymologies onto Indo-Aryan words and insists (1992) that “if a word can be explained easily from material extant in Sanskrit itself, there is little chance for such a hypothesis”.

Rahul Peter Das (a believer in the Aryan invasion theory), likewise rejects (1994) Kuiper’s list, and emphasises that there is “not a single case in which a communis opinio has been found confirming the foreign origin of a Rgvedic (and probably Vedic in general) word”.

Therefore, it is clear that claims regarding Dravidian loan-words in Vedic Sanskrit are totally baseless.

  1. So far as the modern Indo-Aryan languages are concerned, also, the untenability of the whole exercise of hunting down non-Aryan words in Indo-Aryan can be illustrated by an examination of a detailed study conducted by Massica (1991), who examined a complete list of names of plants and agricultural terms in Hindi. Incidently, Massica is a staunch believer in the Aryan invasion theory and, in fact, concludes that his study confirms the AIT theory,

Massica’s study found that only 4.5% of the words have Austric etymologies, and 7.6% of the words have Dravidian etymologies, and, even here, “a significant portion of the suggested Dravidian and Austroasiatic etymologies is uncertain”.  When we consider that the few words with proven Austric or a Dravidian etymology probably refer to plants and agricultural processes native to South India or Eastern India, Massica’s study clearly contradicts his conclusions.

Massica, however, classifies 55% of the words as non-Aryan but of “unknown origin” in respect of words other than Dravidian and Austric, and other than non-Indian names for non-Indian plants,

It is words of this kind which have led linguists to postulate extinct indigenous families of non-Aryan, non-Dravidian and non-Austric languages in ancient India, which have disappeared without a trace but which constitute the main non-Aryan substrata in Indo-Aryan.  T. Burrow notes that even the most liberal Dravidian and Austric etymologising may not serve in explaining words which (in his opinion) are non-Aryan, since “it may very well turn out that the number of such words which cannot be explained will outnumber those which can be.  This is the impression one gets, for example, from the field of plant names, since so far only a minority of this section of the non-Aryan words has been explained from these two linguistic families.”

However, although the linguists are compelled to resort to these stratagems, they are not very comfortable with them.  Emeneau (1980), for example, admits : “it hardly seems useful to take into account the possibilities of another language, or language family, totally lost to the record, as the source” for the supposedly non-Aryan words.

Massica himself, although he brands the words as non-Aryan on the ground that there are no acceptable Sanskrit etymologies, admits that “it is not a requirement that the word be connected with a root, of course : there are many native words in Sanskrit as in all languages that cannot be analysed”.

Bloch and Thieme emphasize the point that the names of plants need not be analysable from etymological roots, since most of them will be slang or colloquial words derived from the “low culture” vernaculars of the same language.

  1. It is in Classical Sanskrit word-lists that we find many words which can be, or have been, assigned Dravidian or Austric origins.  This has led the linguists to emphasise a theory first mooted by Burrow (1968), according to which there was a very small number of Dravidian and Austric words (or none at all) in the Rig Veda, which grew in the later Vedic literature, reached a peak in the Epics, PurANas and the Classical Sanskrit word-lists, and finally dwindled in the Prakrits and even more so in the modern Indo-Aryan languages.  This situation, according to Burrow, depicts a scenario where the Aryan immigrants into India were new arrivals at the time of composition of the hymns, and hence hardly any indigenous words had infiltrated into the vocabulary of the Rig Veda.  As the process of bilingualism developed (involving both the local inhabitants of the North preserving some of their original non-Aryan vocabulary as they adopted the Aryan speech-forms, as well as post-first-generation Aryans inheriting non-Aryan words as they merged with the local people), the number of such words increased in the language of the Epics and PurANas, and the Classical Sanskrit word-lists.  Finally, when there were no more bilingual speakers left in the North, since everyone had adopted the Aryan speech-forms, the appearance of non-Aryan words in the Indo-Aryan languages ceased; hence, the modem Indoaryan languages have few such words.

However, Caldwell (1856), who was the first to produce lists of words “probably” borrowed by Sanskrit from Dravidian, rejected this substratum theory.  He noted that the words did not include the essential aspects of vocabulary (such as actions, pronouns, body parts, etc.), and consisted almost exclusively of words “remote from ordinary use”, and hence concluded that the Dravidian languages could not possibly have been spoken in North India at the time of the alleged Aryan invasion.

Bloch (1929), who rejected the substratum theory completely, pointed out that the Dravidian languages of the South, even at the level of common speech, contain a massive amount of borrowed Sanskrit vocabulary covering every aspect of life.  But this is not explained as an Aryan substratum in South India.  The natural explanation for these borrowings is that a relatively small number of Sanskrit-speaking individuals were responsible for them. 

Likewise, the Dravidian words in Sanskrit were reverse borrowings, being introductions of Dravidian words into literary Sanskrit by similar Sanskrit-speaking individuals from the South.  Such words were only part of the Classical Sanskrit lexicon, and few of them percolated to Indo-Aryan vernaculars.  Thus, even popular Sanskrit words like nIra (water, Tamil nIr), mIna(fish, Tamil mIn), heramba (buffalo, Tamil erumai), etc. are not used in the modem Indo-Aryan languages, which use instead derivatives of the Sanskrit words pAnIyam, matsya and mahiSa respectively. 

Such words, as Bloch points out, were artificial and temporary introductions into literary Sanskrit, most of which either died out completely, or remained purely literary words that did not become a part of naturally spoken Indoaryan speech (although it is likely that some of them became so popular that they replaced or accompanied original Sanskrit words and percolated down into modern Indo-Aryan).

Massica, in his later study (1991) already referred to, also notes that Dravidian words in Sanskrit are not found in present-day Indo-Aryan languages like Hindi.  Clearly, these words do not represent a Dravidian substratum in Sanskrit but a process of artificial adoption of vocabulary from regional speech-forms, both Aryan and non-Aryan.

  1. Many linguists question the idea that there could be a Dravidian or Austric substratum in Indo-Ayan languages of North India, even on grounds of likely geographical distribution of these two families in ancient times.  In respect of the Austric languages, even a staunch supporter of the non-Aryan substratum theory like Burrow (1968) admits that the possibility of an Austric substratum is remote since “the evidence as it is so far established would suggest that these languages in ancient times as well as now were situated only in eastern India”.  Massica (1979) and Southworth (1979) also reiterate this point.

R.P. Das (1994) points out that there is “not a single bit of uncontroversial evidence on the actual spread of Dravidian and Austro-Asiatic in prehistoric times, so that any statement on Dravidian and Austric in Rgvedic times is nothing but speculation”.

  1. In fact, when words are similar in both Indoaryan and Dravidian, it is more natural to conclude that the Indoaryan words are the original ones.  According to Thieme, “all the Dravidian languages known to us fairly bristle with loans from Sanskrit and the Aryan vernaculars.  Dravidian literature in South India came into existence under the impulse and influence of Sanskrit literature and speech.  Wherever there is a correspondence in the vocabularies of Sanskrit and Dravidian, there is a presumption, to be removed only by specific argument, that Sanskrit has been the lender, Dravidian the borrower.”

While Thieme is, of course, an opponent of the substratum theory, even so staunch a supporter of the substratum theory as Emeneau (1980) admits that it is “always possible, eg. to counter a suggestion of borrowing from one of the indigenous language families by suggesting that there has been borrowing in the other direction”.

7. Ultimately, therefore, the whole question of a Dravidian, or non-Aryan, substratum in the Indoaryan languages is a matter of dogma rather than scientific study.

R.P. Das (1994), for example, points out that there is little linguistic logic involved in the debate about the Dravidian or Austric origins of Indoaryan words: “Many of the arguments for (or against) such foreign origin are often not the results of impartial and thorough research, but rather of (often wistful) statements of faith.”

Bloch (1929), likewise, had earlier dismissed the Dravidian derivations which many linguists sought to force on Sanskrit words, as being not “self-evident” but “a matter of probability and to a certain extent of faith”.

While both Das and Bloch are opponents of the substratum theory (though believers in the Aryan invasion theory in general), Emeneau (1980), a staunch supporter of the substratum theory, himself admits that these derivations are “in fact all merely ‘suggestions’.  Unfortunately, all areal etymologies are in the last analysis unprovable, are ‘acts of faith’.”

The “faith” in all these cases is the faith in the external (to India) origin of the Indoaryans (and Indo-Europeans), which Emeneau (1980) describes as “our linguistic doctrine which has been held now for more than a century and a half”.

Hence, after his examination of the claims and counterclaims of the linguists, Bryant reaches the logical conclusion that “the theory of Aryan migrations must be established without doubton other grounds for research into pre-Aryan linguistic substrata to become meaningful.  However, the ‘evidence’ of a linguistic substratum in Indo-Aryan, in and of itself, due to its inconclusive nature, cannot be presented in isolation as decisive proof in support of the theory of Aryan invasions or migrations into the Indian subcontinent.”

*  *  *

We shall next present “Proto Linguistic Study” …

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

by Shrikant G. Talageri available @


Journal : Alternate History

 Presentation of evidence for Indo-European homeland continues …

after the researched linguistic evidence earlier placed before you.

Florentine merchant Filippo Sassetti travelled to the Indian subcontinent, and was among the first European observers to study the ancient Indian language, Sanskrit. Writing in 1585, he noted some word similarities between Sanskrit and Italian, e.g. deva/dio, “God”, sarpa/serpe, “snake”,sapta/sette, “seven”, ashta/otto, “eight”, nava/nove, “nine”. This observation is today credited to have foreshadowed the later discovery of the Indo-European language family.



We have already examined the evidence in the Rig Veda which proves that the original Indo-Iranian habitat was in India and that the Iranians migrated westward and north-westward from India. 

We will now examine further literary evidence regarding the location of the original Indo-European homeland in India, under the following heads : 

A. Tribes and Priests.
B. The Three Priestly Classes.
C. The Anu-Druhyu Migrations.


Tribes and Priests

The political history of the Vedic period involves various segregate communities who fall within its contemporary ambit. They are the five major tribal groups mentioned in Rig Veda : Yadus, TurvaSas, Anus, Druhyus and Purus. Tthe TRkSis are not included because they are referred to as people beyond the Vedic Aryan realm. 

It is emphasised however that the Rig Veda hymns are composed under the patronage of Purus, who alone among the five named above are Aryas or Aryans, as is meant in the text. Only the PUrus are addressed as “Arya” in the Rig Veda. The other four may or may not have been of the same racial stock but, to the Rigvedic people and the composers of Rig Veda hymns, they are considered and termed as non-Aryans or “an-Arya”. 

This brings us to the second division of people, of those whom the Rig Veda hymns include in mention and references : with Aryas – the Purus – on one part, and the other part comprising of Yadus, TurvaSas, Anus and Druhyus, 

But there are two distinct words by which the Rig Veda refers to these others :

a. DAsas 

b. Dasyus 

It is necessary to understand the distinction between the two words. 

The word DAsa is found in 54 hymns (63 verses) :

I.   32.11; 92.8; 103.3; 104.2; 158.5; 174.7; 

II.  11.2, 4; 12.4; 13.8; 20.6, 7; 

III.  12.6; 34.1; 

IV.  18.9; 28.4; 30.14, 15, 21; 32.10; 

V.  30.5, 7-9; 33.4; 34.6; 

VI.  20.6, 10; 22.10; 25.2; 26.5; 33.3;  47.21; 60.6; 

VII.  19.2; 83.1; 86.7; 99.4; 

VIII.  5.31; 24.27; 32.2; 40.6; 46.32; 51.9;  56.3, 70.10, 96.18; 

X.  22.8; 23.2; 38.3; 49.6, 7; 54.1; 62.10; 69.6;
73.7; 83.1; 86.19; 99.6; 102.3; 120.2;  138.3; 148.2.


The word Dasyu is found in 65 hymns (80 verses) :

I   33.4, 7, 9; 36.18; 51.5, 6, 8; 53.4; 59.6;
63.4; 78.4; 100.18; 101.5; 103.3, 4; 104.5;
117.3, 21; 175.3. 

II 11.18, 19; 12.10; 13.9: 15.9; 20.8;
III. 29.9; 34.6, 9; 49.2
IV. 16.9, 10, 12; 28.3, 4; 38.1;
V. 4.6; 7.10; 14.4; 29.10; 30.9; 31.5, 7; 70.3;
VI. 14.3; 16.15; 18.3; 23.2; 24.8; 29.6; 31.4; 45.24;
VII. 5.6; 6.3; 19.4;
VIII. 6.14; 14.14; 39.8; 50.8; 70.11; 76.11; 77.3;  98.6;
IX. 41.2; 47.2; 88.4; 92.5;
X. 22.8; 47.4; 48.2; 49.3; 55.8; 73.5; 83.3, 6;
95.7; 99.7, 8; 105.7, 11; 170.2.

There are two distinct aspects that differentiates the DAsas and Dasyus : 

  1. The term DAsa clearly refers to other tribes (ie. non-PUru tribes)

while the term Dasyu refers to their priestly classes (ie. non-Vedic priestly classes).

[This is apart from the fact that both the terms are freely used to refer to the atmospheric demons as much as to human enemies to whom they basically refer.]

a.  According to IV. 28.4, the Dasyus are a section among the DAsas.

b.  The Dasyus are referred to in terms which clearly show

      that the cause of hostility is religious in nature : 

ayajña (worshipless): VII.6.3.
ayajvan (worshipless): I.33.4; VIII.70.11.
avrata (riteless): I.51.8; 175.3; VI.14.3; IX.41.2.
akarmA (riteless): X.22.8.
adeva (godless): VIII.70.11.
aSraddha (faithless): VII.6.3.
amanyamAna (faithless): I.33.9; 11.22.10.
anyavrata (followers of different rites): VIII.70.11; X.22.8.
abrahma (prayerless): IV.16.9.

Not one of these abusive terms are used even once in reference to Dasas. 

c.  The family-wise pattern of references to them also shows

that the Dasyus are priestly rivals while the DAsas are secular rivals.

The Dasyus are referred to by all the nine priestly families of RSis,

but never by the non-priestly family of RSis (the Bharatas).

The DAsas are referred to by the Bharatas (X.69.6; 102.3) also but not by the most purely ritualistic family of RSis, the KaSyapas, nor in the purely ritualistic of MaNDalas, the MaNDala IX. 

d.  The Dasyus, being priestly entities, do not figure as powerful persons or persons to be feared, but the DAsas, being secular entities (tribes, tribal warriors, kings, etc.) do figure as powerful persons or persons to be feared:

In three references (VIII.5.31; 46.32; 51.9), the DAsas are rich patrons.

In seven references, the DAsas are powerful enemies from whose fury and powerful weapons the composers ask the Gods for protection (I.104.2; VIII.24.27; X.22.8; 54.1; 69.6; 102.3) or from whom the Gods rescue the RSis (I.158.5).

In three others, the word DAsa refers to powerful atmospheric demons who hold the celestial waters in their thrall (I.32.11; V.30.5; VIII.96.18).

In contrast, Dasyus never figure as rich or powerful enemies. They are depicted as sly enemies who incite others into acts of boldness (VI.24.8). 

e. While both DAsas and Dasyus are referred to as enemies of the Aryas, it is only the DAsas, and never the Dasyus, who are sometimes bracketed together with the Aryas.

Seven verses refer to both Aryas and DAsas as enemies (VI.22.10; 33.3; 60.6; VII.83.1; X.38.3; 69.6; 83.1; 102.3) and one verse refers to both Aryas and DAsas together in friendly terms (VIII.51.9).

This is because both, the word DAsa and the word Arya, refer to broad secular or tribal entities, while the word Dasyu refers to priestly entities : thus, one would generally say “both Christians and Muslims”, or “both padres and mullahs”, but not “both Christians and mullahs” or “both Muslims and padres”. 

2. The second difference is in the degree of hostility towards the two. 

     The Dasyus are clearly regarded with uncompromising hostility,

     while that towards the DAsas is relatively mild and tempered :

a.  The word Dasyu has a purely hostile connotation even when it occurs in the name or title of heroes :

Trasadasyu = “tormentor of the Dasyus”.
DasyavevRka = “a wolf towards the Dasyus”. 

On the other hand, the word DAsa has an etymological meaning beyond the identity of the DAsas.  When it occurs in the name or title of a hero, it has a benevolent connotation :

DivodAsa = “light of Heaven” or “slave of Heaven”. 

b.  All the 80 verses which refer to Dasyus are uncompromisingly hostile.

On the other hand, of the 63 verses which refer to DAsas, 3 are friendly references (VIII.5.31; 46.32; 51.9); and in one more, the word means “slave” in a benevolent sense (VII.86.7: “slave-like, may I do service to the Bounteous”, ie. to VaruNa). 

c.  Of the 80 verses which refer to Dasyus, 76 verses talk of direct, violent, physical action against them, ie. they talk of killing, subduing or driving away the Dasyus. On the other hand, of the 63 verses which refer to DAsas, only 38 talk of such direct physical action against them. 

The importance of this analysis is that it brings to the fore two basic points about the rivalries and hostilities in the Rigvedic period :

a. The rivalries or hostilities were on two levels: the secular level and the priestly level.

b. The rivalries on the priestly level were more sharp and uncompromising.

Hence, any analysis of the political history of the Rigvedic period must pay at least as much attention, if not more, to the priestly categories as to secular or tribal categories.

The Three Priestly Classes

The basic tribal spectrum of the Rigveda includes the five tribal groupings of Yadus, TurvaSas, Anus, Druhyus and PUrus, and of these the PUrus alone represent the Vedic Aryans, while the other four represent the Others

But among these four it is clear that the Yadus and TurvaSas represent more distant tribes (they are mostly referred to in tandem, and are also referred to as residing far away from the Vedic Aryans), while the Anus and Druhyus fall into a closer cultural spectrum with the Purus : 

a.  In the PurANas, the Yadus and TurvaSas are classified together as descendants of sons of DevayAnI, and the Anus, Druhyus and PUrus are classified together as descendants of sons of SarmiSThA. 

b.  The geographical descriptions of the five tribes, as described in the PurANas, place the Yadus and TurvaSas together in the more southern parts (of northern India), and the Anus, Druhyus and PUrus together in the more northern parts. 

c.  The Rigveda itself, where it refers to the five tribes together (I.108.8) refers to the Yadus and the TurvaSas in one breath, and the Druhyus, Anus and PUrus in another: “yad IndrAgni YaduSu TurvaSeSu, yad DruhyuSu AnuSu PUruSu sthaH”

But, the PUrus represent the various branches of the Vedic Aryans, and the Anus represent various branches of Iranians.  It is clear, therefore, that the Druhyus represent the third entity in this cultural spectrum, and that it is mainly the Druhyus who will take us beyond the Indo-Iranian arena onto the wider Indo-European context; and appropriately, while the PUrus are located in the heartland of North India (U.P.-Delhi-Haryana) and the Anus in the northwest (Punjab), the Druhyus are located beyond the Indian frontiers, in Afghanistan and beyond. 

The priestly categories, as we have seen, play a more important role in the rivalries and hostilities in the Rigvedic period than the secular categories. In the earliest period, the only two families of Rsis, from among the families who figure as composers in the Rig Veda, were the ANgiras and the BhRgus, who were the priests of PUrus and Anus respectively.  Logically, there must have been a priestly class among the Druhyus as well, but no such priestly class figures among the composers of Rigvedic hymns. 

The explanation for this is simple : the Druhyus were a rival and non-PUru (DAsa) tribe, hence their priests do not figure as composers in the Rigveda.  Of course, the BhRgus, who were also the priests of a rival and non-PUru tribe, do figure as composers in the Rigveda, but that is because a section of BhRgus (after Jamadagni) aligned themselves with Vedic Aryans and joined the Vedic mainstream where, in fact, they later superseded all the other priestly families in importance, and became the dominant priests of Vedic tradition. 

But since the Druhyus figure in the Rigveda, the name of their priestly class must also be found in the text, even if not as the name of a family of composers. Since no such name appears, it seems logical that the name Druhyu itself must originally have been the name of this third priestly class : since priestly categories were more important for the composers of the Rigveda than the secular categories; and since the tribes for whom the Druhyus functioned as priests were an amorphous lot located far out on the frontiers of India and beyond, the name of the priestly classes became a general appellation for the tribes themselves. 

Therefore, there were three tribal groupings with their three priestly classes:

PUrus  –  Angiras.
Anus  – BhRgus and AtharvaNas.
Druhyus – Druhyus.

This trinary situation tallies with the Indo-European situation : outside of the Vedic and Iranian cultures, the only other priestly class of a similar kind is found among the Celts and the related Italics.  While the Italics called their priests by the general name flAmen (cognate to Sanskrit brAhmaNa, “priest”), the priests of the Celts were called Drui (genitive Druad, hence Druids). 

Shan M.M. Winn notes that “India, Rome, Ireland and Iran” are the “areas in which priesthoods are known to have been significant”; and he describes this phenomenon as follows: “Long after the dispersion of Indo-Europeans, we find a priestly class in Britain in the west, in Italy to the South, and in India and Iran to the east.  Though these cultures are geographically distant from one another… they have striking similarities in priestly ritual, and even in religious terminology.  For example, taboos pertaining to the Roman flAmen (priest) closely correspond to the taboos observed by the Brahmans, the priests of India.” Like the Indian priesthood, the curriculum of the “Celtic Druids … involved years of instruction and memorization of innumerable verses, as the sacred tradition was an oral one”. 

After noting, in some detail, the similarities in their priestly systems, rituals, religious and legal terminology, Winn concludes that the “Celts, Romans and Indo-Iranians shared a religious heritage dating to an early Indo-European period…” 

While the three priesthoods flourished only in these areas, they must originally have been the priests of all the branches of Indo-Europeans in early Indo-European period.  Though they themselves did not survive elsewhere, the names of the three priesthoods did survive in different ways.  An examination of these words helps us to classify the various Indo-European branches into three groups : 

1. PURUS : Indo-Aryan.

In the Rigveda, hymn VII.18, the DASarAjña battle hymn, refers to the enemy confederation once in secular (tribal) terms as “Anus and Druhyus” (VII.18.14), and once in what is clearly priestly terms as “BhRgus and Druhyus” (VII.18.6: the only reference in the whole of the Rigveda which directly refers to the BhRgus as enemies).  Once, it may be noted, it also refers to the kings of the two tribal groupings as “KavaSa and the Druhyu” (VII. 1.8.12. Thus, even here, the general appellation “Druhyu” is used instead of the specific name of the king of the Druhyus). 

The words Druh/Drugh/Drogha occur throughout the Rigveda in the sense of “demon” or “enemy”. (The word BhRgu, for obvious reasons, does not suffer the same fate.) 

2. ANUS : Iranian, Thraco-Phrygian, Hellenic.

a.  Iranian : In the Avesta, in Fargard 19 of the VendidAd, it is an Angra (ANgiras) and a Druj (Druhyu) who try to tempt Zarathushtra away from the path of Ahura Mazda. 

The priests of the Iranians were the Athravans (AtharvaNas = BhRgus), and the words  Angra and  Druj occur throughout the Avesta as epithets for the demon enemies of Ahura Mazda and Zarathushtra. 

b.  Thraco-Phrygian : While the Armenians, the only surviving members of this branch, have not retained any tradition about any of these priestly classes, it is significant that one of the most prominent groups belonging to this branch were known as the Phryge (BhRgu). 

c.  Hellenic : The fire-.priests of the Greeks were known as the Phleguai (BhRgu).

What is more, Greek mythology retains memories of both the other priestly classes, though not in a hostile sense, as the names of mythical beings : Angelos (ANgiras) or divine messengers, and Dryad (Druhyu) or tree-nymphs. 

3. DRUHYUS: Baltic and Slavonic, Italic and Celtic, Germanic.

a.  Baltic and Slavonic: The word Druhyu occurs in the languages of these two branches in exactly the opposite sense of the Vedic Druh / Drugh / Drogha and the Iranian Druj. In Baltic (eg.  Lithuanan  Draugas) and Slavonic (eg. Russian Drug) the word means “friend”. 

b. Italic and Celtic: While the Italic people did not retain the name of the priestly class (and called their priests flAmen = BrAhmaNa), the Celtic priests, as we have seen, were called the Drui (genitive Druad, hence Druid). 

A significant factor, showing that the Celtic priests must have separated from the other priestly classes before the priestly hostilities became intense, is that the BhRgus appear to be indirectly remembered in Celtic mythology in a friendly sense

The Larousse Encyclopaedia of Mythology notes : “whereas the Celtic Gods were specifically Celtic… the goddesses were restatements of an age-old theme”. And two of the three Great Goddesses of the Celts were named Anu and Brigit (Anu and BhRgu?).  And while all the Goddesses in general were associated with fertility cults, “Brigit, however, had additional functions as a tutelary deity of learning, culture and skills”. 

The main activity of the Drui, as already stated, was to undergo “years of instruction and the memorization of innumerable verses, as the sacred tradition was an oral one”. The fact that the Goddess of learning was named Brigit would appear to suggest that the Drui remembered the ancient BhRgus in a mythical sense, as the persons who originally introduced various priestly rituals among them (a debt which is also remembered by the ANgiras in the MaNDalas of the Early Period of the Rig Veda.

The BhRgus, by joint testimony of Vedic and Celtic mythology, would thus appear to have been the oldest or most dominant and innovative of the three priestly classes.

c.  Germanic: The word Druhyu occurs in the Germanic branch as well.  However the meaning (although the words are cognate to the Russian Drug and Lithuanian Draugas) is more militant : Gothic driugan, “do military service” and ga-drauhts, “soldier”; and Old Norse (Icelandic) drOtt, Old English dryht and Old German truht, all meaning “multitude, people, army”. 

The meanings of the word Druhyu as it occurs in the Celtic branch (“priest”), the Germanic branch (“soldier”, etc. or “people”) and the Baltic-Slavonic branches (“friend”) clearly correspond with the word in the Rigveda and Avesta, where Druhyu / Druh / Drugh / Drogha and Druj represent enemy priests, soldiers or people. 

Thus, to sum up :

1. PUru (priests Angiras) : Indo-Aryan. 

2. Anu (priests BhRgus/AtharvaNas) : Iranian, Thraco-Phrygian, Hellenic. 

3. Druhyu (priests Druhyus): Celtic-Italic, Baltic-Slavonic, Germanic.

The Anu-Druhyu Migrations

The evidence of the Rig Veda, and Indian tradition, clearly shows that the Anus and Druhyus were Indian tribes. If they were also the ancestors of the Indo-European branches outside India, as is indicated by the evidence of the names of their priestly classes, then it is clear that the Rig Veda and Indian tradition should retain memories of the migrations of these two groups from India. 

Significantly, this is exactly the case: the Rig Veda and the PurANas, between them, record two great historical events which led to the emigration of precisely these two tribes from India : 

1. The first historical emigration recorded is that of the Druhyus.  This emigration is recorded in the PurANas, and it is so historically and geographically specific that no honest, student of the Puranic tradition has been able to ignore either this event or its implications for Indo-European history (even without arriving at the equation PUrus = Vedic Aryans). 

The PurANas (VAyu 99.11-12; BrahmANDa III.74.11-12; Matsya 48.9; ViSNu IV.17.5; BhAgavata IX.23.15-16) record: PracetasaH putra-Satam rAjAnAH sarva eva te, mleccha-rASTrAdhipAH sarve hyudIcIm diSam AsritAH.

As Pargiter points out : “Indian tradition knows nothing of any Aila or Aryan invasion of India from Afghanistan, nor of any gradual advance from thence eastwards.” On the contrary, “Indian tradition distinctly asserts that there was an Aila outflow of the Druhyus through the northwest into the countries beyond where they founded various kingdoms.” 

P.L. Bhargava also notes this reference to the Druhyu emigration: “Five PurANas add that Pracetas’ descendants spread out into the mleccha countries to the north beyond India and founded kingdoms there.”This incident is considered to be the earliest prominent historical event in traditional memory. The Druhyus, inhabitants of the Punjab, started conquering eastwards and southwards, and their conquest brought them into conflict with all the other tribes and people : the Anus, PUrus, Yadus.  TurvaSas, and even the IkSvAkus. 

This led to a concerted opposition by the other tribes against the Druhyus. AD Pusalker records : “As a result of the successful campaigns of SaSabindu, YuvanASva, MAndhAtRI and Sibi, the Druhyus were pushed back from RAjputAna and were cornered into the northwestern portion of the Punjab.  MAndhAtRI killed their king ANgAra, and the Druhyu settlements in the Punjab came to be known as GAndhAra after the name of one of ANgAra’s successors.  After a time, being overpopulated, the Druhyus crossed the borders of India and founded many principalities in the Mleccha territories in the north, and probably carried the Aryan culture beyond the frontiers of India.” 

This first historical emigration represents an outflow of the Druhyus into the areas to the north of Afghanistan (ie. into Central Asia and beyond). 

2. The second historical emigration recorded is that of the Anus and the residual Druhyus, which took place after the DASarAjña battle in the Early Period of the Rig Veda. 

As we have already seen in our chapter on the Indo-Iranian homeland, the hymns record the names of ten tribes (from among the two main tribal groupings of Anus and Druhyus) who took part in the confederacy against SudAs. Six of these are clearly purely Iranian people :

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). 

One more Anu tribe, not named in the Rig Veda, is that of the Madras : Medes. 

All these Iranian people are found in later historical times in the historical Iranian areas proper : Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia. Two of the other tribes named in the hymns are Iranian people who are found in later historical times on the northwestern periphery of the Iranian areas, ie. in the Caucasus area :

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

b.  Alinas (VII.18.7) : Alans.

And the name of one more tribe is clearly the name of another branch of Indo-Europeans … non-Iranians, but closely associated with the Iranians … found in later historical times in the area to the west of the Iranians, ie. in Anatolia or Turkey : the BhRgus (VII.18.6) – Phrygians. 

Significantly, the names of the two tribes found on the northwestern periphery of the Iranian area are also identifiable with the names of two other branches of Indo-Europeans, found to the west of Anatolia or Turkey.

a. Simyus (VII.18.5) : Sirmios (ancient Albanians).
b. Alinas (VII.18.7) : Hellenes (ancient Greeks). 

The DASarAjña battle ( of Ten Kings ) hymns record the emigration of these tribes westward from the Punjab after their defeat in the battle. 

Taken together, the two emigrations provide us with a very logical and plausible scenario of the expansions and migrations of the Indo-European family of languages from an original homeland in India : 

  1. The two tribal groupings of Anus and Druhyus were located more or less in the Punjab and Afghanistan respectively after the Druhyu versus non-Druhyu wars in the earliest pre-Rigvedic period. 
  1. The first series of migrations, of the Druhyus, took place shortly afterwards, with major sections of Druhyus migrating northwards from Afghanistan into Central Asia in different waves.  From Central Asia many Druhyu tribes, in the course of time, migrated westwards, reaching as far as western Europe. 

These migrations must have included the ancestors of the following branches (which are not mentioned in the DASarAjña battle hymns) :

a. Hittite. 

b. Tocharian. 

c. Italic. 

d. Celtic. 

e. Germanic. 

f. Baltic. 

g. Slavonic. 

3. The second series of migrations of Anus and Druhyus, took place much later, in the Early Period of the Rig Veda, with various tribes migrating westwards from the Punjab into Afghanistan, many later on migrating further westwards as far as West Asia and southwestern Europe.

These migrations must have included the ancestors of the following branches (which are mentioned in the DASrAjña battle hymns):

a. Iranian.
b. Thraco-Phrygian (Armenian).
c. Illyrian (Albanian).
d. Hellenic. 

The whole process gives a clear picture of the ebb-and-flow of migratory movements, where remnants of migrating groups, which remain behind, get slowly absorbed into the linguistic and cultural mainstream of the other groups among whom they continue to live, retaining only, at the most, their separate names and distinctive identities : 

1. The Druhyus, by and large, spread out northwards from northwestern Punjab and Afghanistan into Central Asia (and beyond) in the first Great Migration. A few sections of them, who remained behind, retained their distinctive names and identities (as Druhyus), but were linguistically and culturally absorbed into the Anu mainstream. 

2. The Anus (including the remnants of the Druhyus), by and large, spread out westwards from the Punjab into Afghanistan in the second Great Migration after the DASarAjña battle. A few sections of them, who remained behind, retained their distinctive names and identities (as Anus), but linguistically and culturally, they were absorbed into the PUru mainstream and they remained on the northwestern periphery of the Indo-Aryan cultural world as the Madras (remnants of the Madas or Medes), Kekayas, etc. 

3. Further migrations took place from among the Anus in Afghanistan, with non-Iranian Anu groups, such as the BhRgus (Phryges, Thraco-Phrygians), Alinas (Hellenes, Greeks) and Simyus (Sirmios, Illyrians or Albanians) migrating westwards from Afghanistan, as far as Anatolia and south-eastern Europe. A few sections of these non-Iranian Anus who remained behind, retained their distinctive names and identities but, linguistically and culturally, they were absorbed into the Iranian mainstream, and could be found on the north-western periphery of the Iranian cultural world among Armenians (who, though greatly influenced by the Iranian, retained much of their original language), the Alans (remnant of the Hellenes or Greeks) and Sarmations (remnant of the Sirmios or Albanians). 

The literary evidence of Rig Veda thus provides us with a very logical and plausible scenario of the schedule and process of migrations of various Indo-European branches from India. 

At this point, we may recall the archaeological evidence in respect of Europe, already noted by us.  As we have seen, the Corded Ware culture (Kurgan Wave # 3) expanded from the east into northern and central Europe, and the “territory inhabited by the Corded Ware/Battle Axe culture, after its expansion, qualifies it to be the ancestor of Western or European language branches : Germanic, Baltic, Slavic, Celtic and Italic”. 

The origins of the Kurgan culture have been traced as far east as Turkmenistan in 4500 BC. This fits in perfectly with our theory that the seven branches of Indo-Europeans, not specifically mentioned in the DASarAjña hymns, migrated northwards into Central Asia during the first Great Migration.  Five of these, the five European branches mentioned above, later migrated westwards into Europe while the other two, Hittite and Tocharian, remained behind in parts of Central Asia till the Hittites, at a much later date, migrated southwestwards into Anatolia. 

These two branches that remained behind in Central Asia, possibly retained contact with Indo-Aryans and the Iranians further south. The fact that Hittite mythology is the only mythology outside the Indo-Iranian cultural world which mentions Indra (as Inar) may be evidence of that connect. Even more significant, from the viewpoint of literary evidence, is the fact that Indian tradition remembers two important people located to the north of the Himalayas who are called the Uttara Kurus and the Uttara Madras : “The Uttara Kurus along with the Uttara Madras are located beyond the HimAlayas.  Though regarded as mythical in the epic and later literature, the Uttara Kurus still appear as a historical community in the Aitareya BrAhmaNa (VII.23).” 

It is possible that the Uttarakurus and the Uttaramadras were the Tocharian (Uttara Kuru = Tokhri) and Hittite branch of Indo-Europeans located to the north of the Himalayas. The scenario we have reconstructed from the literary evidence in the Rigveda fits in perfectly with the linguistic scenario of the migration schedule of the various Indo-European branches, as reconstructed by the linguists from the evidence of isoglosses, which we will now be examining. 



A linguistic isogloss is a linguistic feature found in some branches of the family, and not in the others. Their study is of great help to linguists in chalking out the likely migration schedule of the various Indo-European branches from their original homeland.

This feature may, of course, be either an original feature of the Proto-Indo-European language that has been lost in some of the daughter branches but retained in others, or a linguistic innovation not found in the parent language and developed only in some of the daughter branches. But this feature is useful in establishing early historico-geographical links between branches which share the same isogloss. We will examine the evidence of the isoglosses as follows : 

A. The Isoglosses …
B. The Homeland Indicated by the Isoglosses …

The Isoglosses

There are, as Winn points out, “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.”But Meillet notes : “It remains quite clear, however, that Indic and Iranian evolved from different Indo-European dialects whose period of common development was not long enough to effect total fusion.” 

Besides these ten living branches, there are two extinct branches : Anatolian (Hittite) and Tocharian. 

Of these twelve branches, one branch, Illyrian (Albanian), is of little use in this study of isoglosses : “Albanian… has undergone so many influences that it is difficult to be certain of its relationships to the other Indo-European languages.” 

An examination of the isoglosses which cover the other eleven branches (living and extinct) gives a more or less clear picture of the schedule of migrations of the different Indo-European branches from the original homeland. 

Whatever the dispute about the exact order in which the different branches migrated away from the homeland, the linguists are generally agreed on two important points : 

  1. Anatolian (Hittite) was the first branch to leave the homeland : “The Anatolian languages, of which Hittite is the best known, display many archaic features that distinguish them from other Indo-European languages.  They apparently represent an earlier stage of Indo-European, and are regarded by many as the first group to break away from the proto-language.” 
  1. Four branches, Indic, Iranian, Hellenic (Greek) and Thraco-Phrygian (Armenian) were the last branches remaining behind in the original homeland after the other branches had dispersed : “After the dispersals of the early PIE dialects,… there were still those who remained… Among them were the ancestors of the Greeks and Indo-Iranians… 

Greek and Sanskrit share many complex grammatical features; this is why many earlier linguists were misled into regarding them as examples of the most archaic stage of Proto-Indo-European. However, the similarities between the two languages are now regarded as innovations that took place during a late period of PIE, which we call stage III.  One of these Indo-Greek innovations was also shared by Armenian and all these (three) languages, it seems, existed in an area of mutual interaction.” 

Thus we get : “Greek Armenian, Phrygian, Thracian and Indo-Iranian.  These languages may represent a comparatively late form of Indo-European, including linguistic innovations not present in earlier stages.  In particular, Greek and Indic share a number of distinctive grammatical features……”

The following are some of the innovations shared only by Indic, Iranian, Greek and Armenian (Thraco-Phrygian) … features which distinguish them from the other branches, especially the living ones : 

a. “The prohibitive negation *mE is attested only in Indo-Iranian (mA), Greek (mE) and Armenian (mi); elsewhere, it is totally lacking… and there is no difference in this respect between the ancient and modern stages of Greek, Armenian or Persian” or, for that matter, sections of Indic (e.g. the prohibitive negation mat in Hindi). 

b. “In the formation of the Perfect also, there is a clear ‘distinction’ between Indo-Iranian and Armenian and Greek, on the one hand, and all the other languages, on the other.” 

c. The “Indo-European voiceless aspirated stops are completely attested only in Indo-Iranian and Armenian… Greek… clearly preserves two of the three voiceless aspirated stops whose existence is established by the correspondence of Indo-Iranian and Armenian.” All the other branches show “complete fusion” of these voiceless aspirated stops. 

d. “The suffix *-tero-, *-toro-, *-tro- serves in bell Indo-European languages to mark the opposition of two qualities, but only in two languages, Greek and Indo-Iranian, is the use of the suffix extended to include the formation of secondary adjectival comparatives… This development, by its very difference, points to the significance of the Greek and Indo-Iranian convergence… Armenian, which has a completely new formation, is not instructive in this regard.” But, “Latin, Irish, Germanic, Lithuanian and Slavic, on the other hand, borrow their secondary comparative from the original primary type.” 

e. “The augment is attested only in Indo-Iranian, Armenian and Greek; it is found nowhere else.” And it is “significant that the augment is not found in any of the other Indo-European languages… The total absence of the augment in even the earliest texts, and in all the dialects of Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic and Slavic, is characteristic.”

Hence, “the manner in which Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic and Slavic eliminated the imperfect, and came to express the preterite, presupposes an original Indo-European absence of the augment throughout this group of languages.  We thus have grounds for positing two distinct Indo-European dialect groups.” 

f. The division of the Indo-European branches into two distinct groups is confirmed by what Meillet calls the Vocabulary of the Northwest : “There is quite a large group of words that appear in the dialects of the North and West (Slavic, Baltic, Germanic, Celtic and Italic) but are not found in the others (Indic, Iranian, Armenian and Greek)… their occurrence in the dialects of the North and West would indicate a cultural development peculiar to the peoples who spread these dialects.” 

While Anatolian (Hittite) was “the first group to break away from the proto-language”, and Indic, Iranian, Armenian and Greek were “those who remained” after “the dispersals of the early PIE dialects”, the other branches share isoglosses which can help in placing them between these two extremes : 

  1. Hittite, the first to separate itself, shares many isoglosses with Germanic and Tocharian.” 
  1. Celtic, Italic, Hittite, Tocharian and (probably) Phrygian share an interesting isogloss : the use of ‘r’ to indicate the passive forms of verbs.  This feature… does not occur in any other Indo-European language.” 
  1. Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic and Slavonic constitute one distinct group, in contra-distinction to the other distinct group consisting of Indic, Iranian, Armenian and Greek. 

However, within themselves, these five branches link together as follows :

a. Italic and Celtic : “Comparative linguists have long been aware of the links between Italic and Celtic, which share a number of archaic features.  These links suggest that the two branches developed together.” Among other things: “Vocabulary is identical in parts; this is true of some very important words, particularly prepositions and preverbs.”

b. Baltic and Slavonic : “The general resemblance of Baltic and Slavic is so apparent that no-one challenges the notion of a period of common development… Baltic and Slavic are the descendants of almost identical Indo-European dialects.  No important isogloss divides Baltic from Slavic… the vocabularies of Slavic and Baltic show numerous cognates – more precisely, cognates that are found nowhere else or cognates that in Baltic and Slavic have a form different from their form in other languages.”

c. Italic, Celtic and Germanic : “The Germanic, Celtic and Italic idioms present… certain common innovational tendencies.” But, Italic apparently separated from the other two earlier: “Germanic, Celtic and Italic underwent similar influences.  After the Italic-Celtic period, Italic ceased undergoing these influences and underwent others… Germanic and Celtic, remaining in adjacent regions, developed in part along parallel lines.”

d. Germanic, Baltic and Slavonic : “Because Germanic shares certain important features with Baltic and Slavic, we may speculate that the history of the three groups is linked in some way.” 

To go into more precise detail… “The difference between a dative plural with *-bh-, eg.  Skr.-bhyah, Av. -byO, Lat. -bus, O.Osc. -fs, O.Ir.-ib, Gr. -fi(n), and one with *-m-, eg.  Goth. -m, O.Lith. -mus, Ol.Sl. -mU, is one of the first things to have drawn attention to the problem of Indo-European dialectology.  Since it has been established, principally by A. Leskien, that there was no unity of Germanic, Baltic and Slavic postdating the period of Indo-European unity, the very striking similarity of Germanic, Baltic and Slavic which we observe here cannot… be explained except by a dialectical variation within common Indo-European.” It is, therefore, clear “that these three languages arose from Indo-European dialects exhibiting certain common features.” 

To sum up, we get two distinct groups of branches :

Group A: Hittite, Tocharian, Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic, Slavonic.

Group B: Indic, Iranian, Thraco-Phrygian (Armenian), Hellenic (Greek). 

No major isogloss cuts across the dividing line between the two groups to suggest any alternative grouping : the phenomenon of palatalization appears to do so, but it is now recognized as “a late phenomenon” which took place in “a post-PIE era in which whatever unity that once existed had broken down and most of the dialect groups had dispersed”, and we will examine the importance of this phenomenon later on. 

Other similarities between languages or branches which lie on opposite sides of the above dividing line are recognizable as phenomena which took place after the concerned branches had reached their historical habitats, and do not therefore throw any light on the location of the original homeland or the migration-schedule of the branches. 

The following are two examples of such similarities :  

  1. The Phrygian language appears to share the “r-isogloss” which is found only in the Hittite, Tocharian, Italic and Celtic branches.  However : 

a. The Phrygian language is known only from fragments, and many of the linguistic features attributed to it are speculative.  About the “r-isogloss”, it may be noted, Winn points out that it is shared by “Celtic, Italic, Hittite, Tocharian and (probably) Phrygian”.

b. Armenian, the only living member of the Thraco-Phrygian branch, does not share the “r-isogloss”, and nor did the ancient Thracian language.

c. The seeming presence of this isogloss in Phrygian is clearly due to the influence of Hittite, with which it shared its historical habitat : “Phrygian later replaced Hittite as the dominant language of Central Anatolia.” 

  1. Greek and Italic alone share the change of Proto-Indo-European voiced aspirated stops (bh, dh, gh) into voiceless aspirated stops (ph, th, kh).  Sanskrit is the only language to have retained the original voiced aspirated stops, while all the other branches, except Greek and Italic, converted them into unaspirated stops (b, d, g). 

But this similarity between Greek and Italic is because “when Indo-European languages were brought to Mediterranean people unfamiliar with voiced aspirated stops, this element brought about the process of unvoicing”, and this change took place in the two branches “both independently and along parallel lines”. Hence, this is not an isogloss linking the two branches. 

Therefore, it is clear that the two groups represent two distinct divisions of the Indo-European family.

The Homeland Indicated by the Isoglosses

The pattern of isoglosses shows the following order of migration of the branches of Group A:

1. Hittite.
2. Tocharian.
3. Italic-Celtic.
4. Germanic.
5. Baltic-Slavonic.

Some of these branches share certain isoglosses among themselves that represent innovations which they must have developed in common after their departure from the original homeland, since the remaining branches (Indic, Iranian, Armenian and Greek) do not share these isoglosses. 

This clearly indicates the presence of a secondary homeland, outside the exit-point from the original homeland, which must have functioned as an area of settlement and common development for the migrating branches. 

The only homeland theory which fits in with the evidence of the isoglosses is the Indian homeland theory : 

The exit-point for the migrating branches was Afghanistan, and these branches migrated towards the north from Afghanistan into Central Asia, which clearly functioned as the secondary homeland for emigrating branches. 

As Winn points out : “Evidence from isoglosses… shows that the dispersal cannot be traced to one particular event; rather it seems to have occured in bursts or stages.” 

Hittite was the first to emigrate from Afghanistan into Central Asia, followed by Tocharian. 

Italic-Celtic represented the next stage of emigration. The four branches developed the “r-isogloss” in common. 

Germanic was the next branch to enter the secondary homeland, and it developed some isoglosses in common with Hittite and Tocharian.

The Baltic-Slavonic movement apparently represented the last major emigration.  And its sojourn in the secondary homeland was apparently not long enough for it to develop any isoglosses in common with Hittite or Tocharian. 

The five branches (Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic and Slavonic, in that order) later moved further off, north-westwards, into the area to the north of the Caspian Sea, and subsequently formed part of the Kurgan III migrations into Europe.  The Slavonic and Baltic branches settled down in the eastern parts of Europe, while the other three proceeded further into Europe.  Later, the Italic branch moved towards the south, while the Germanic and Celtic branches moved to the north and west. 

Meanwhile the other branches barring Indic… the Greek, Armenian and Iranian, as also perhaps the one branch (Illyrian or Albanian) which we have not taken into consideration so far, migrated westwards from India by a different and southern route.

Scholars now generally accept the evidence of the isoglosses so far as it concerns the schedule of migrations of the different Indo-European branches from the original homeland or the inter-relationships between different branches.  However, when it comes to determining the actual location of the original homeland, on the basis of this evidence, they abandon their objective approach and try to make it appear as if the evidence fits in with the particular homeland theory advocated by them, even when it is as clear as daylight that they are trying to fit a round peg into a square hole.

The homeland theory generally advocated by the scholars is the South Russian homeland theory.  Shan M.M. Winn advocates the “Pontic-Caspian area” within this region as the particular location of the homeland. 

An examination shows that the South Russian homeland theory (“Pontic-Caspian” or otherwise) is totally incompatible with the evidence of the isoglosses :

  1. To begin with, it is clear that we have two distinct groups of branches, which we have already classified as Group A and Group B. 

As per the evidence of the isoglosses, the branches in Group A are the branches which migrated away from the original homeland, and those in Group B are the branches which remained behind in the homeland after the other branches had departed. 

At the same time, all the branches in Group A are found to the north of the Eurasian mountain chain (except for Hittite in Anatolia, but this branch is known to have migrated into Anatolia from the north-east), while all the branches in Group B are found to the south of the Eurasian mountain chain (the northernmost, Greek, is known to have migrated into southeastern Europe from the south-east). 

The logical corollary should have been that the original homeland is also to the south of the Eurasian mountain chain, and that it is located in the historical habitat of one of the branches in Group B. 

However, the scholars regularly advocate homeland theories which place the homeland in the area of one or the other of the branches in Group A. 

  1. The branches in Group A developed certain isoglosses in common after they had migrated away from the homeland.  As we have pointed out, this makes it likely that there was a secondary homeland where they must have developed these isoglosses. 

However, any homeland theory which locates the homeland in a central area, like South Russia or any area around it, makes the location of this secondary homeland a problem : the Tocharian branch is historically located well to the east of South Russia, the Hittite branch is located well to the south of South Russia, and the Germanic and Italic-Celtic branches are located well to the west of South Russia.  It is difficult to think of a way in which all these branches could have moved together in one direction from South Russia before parting from each other and moving off in totally opposite directions. 

It is perhaps to avoid this problem that Winn suggests that the isoglosses shared in common by these branches are not innovations developed by these branches in common, but archaic features which have been retained by otherwise separately migrating branches. 

In respect of the r-isogloss, for example, Winn puts it as follows : “Celtic, Italic, Hittite, Tocharian, and (probably) Phrygian share an interesting isogloss : the use of ‘r’ to indicate the passive forms of verbs.  This feature, which does not occur in any other Indo-European language, is probably an example of the ‘archaism of the fringe’ phenomenon.  When a language is spread over a large territory, speakers at the fringe of that territory are likely to be detached from what goes on at the core.  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… Tocharian… was so remote from the center that it could hardly have taken part in any innovations.” 

However, it is more logical to treat this isogloss as an innovation developed in common by a few branches after their departure from the homeland, than to postulate that all the other otherwise disparate branches eliminated an original “use of ‘r’ to indicate the passive forms of verbs”. 

  1. What is indeed an example of the “archaism of the fringe” phenomenon is the phenomenon of palatalization. 

Winn describes it as follows : “Palatalization must have been a late phenomenon; that is, we date it to a post-PIE era, in which whatever unity that once existed had now broken down, and most of the dialect groups had dispersed : looking at the geographical distribution of this isogloss, we may note its absence from the peripheral languages : Germanic (at the northwest limit of Indo-European language distribution); Celtic (western limit); Italic, Greek and Hittite (southern limit); and Tocharian (eastern limit).  It is the languages at the center that have changed.  Here, at the core, a trend towards palatalization started; then gradually spread outward.  It never reached far enough to have any effect on the outlying languages.” 

Note that Winn calls it a “post-PIE era, in which whatever unity that once existed had now broken down, and most of the dialect groups had dispersed”, and that he locates every single other branch (except Indic and Iranian), including Greek, in its historical habitat.  He does not specifically name Baltic-Slavonic and Armenian, but it is understood that they are also located in their historical habitats, since he implies that they are “the languages at the centre” (I.e. languages in and around South Russia, which is anyway the historical habitat of these branches). 

Indic and Iranian alone are not located by him in their historical habitats, since that would clearly characterize them as the most “peripheral” or “outlying” branches of all, being located at the extreme southern as well as extreme eastern limit of the Indo-European language distribution.  And this would completely upset his pretty picture of an evolving “center” with archaic “outlying languages”, since the most outlying of the branches would turn out to be the most palatalized of them all.  Hence Winn, without being explicit but implicit in his argument, locates all the other branches, including Greek, in their historical habitats with only the Indic and Iranian branches well outside their historical habitats and still in South Russia, and keeps his fingers crossed over the possibility of the anomaly being noticed. 

Here we see, once again, how the manipulation required to locate the Indo-European homeland in South Russia compels the scholars, again and again, to postulate weird and unnatural schedules of migrations which make the Indo-Iranians the last to leave South Russia, and which locate them in South Russia long after all the other branches, including Greek, are already settled in their historical habitats : a picture which clashes sharply with, among other things, the extremely representative nature of the Rigvedic language and mythology, the purely Indian geographical milieu of the Rig Veda and the movement depicted in it from east to west, and the evidence of the names of places and rivers in northern India right from the period of Rig Veda itself. 

The “late phenomenon” of a “trend towards palatalization” which started “at the core” and “then gradually -spread outward” … and “never reached far enough to have any effect on the outlying languages” … can be explained naturally only on the basis of the Indian homeland theory : the trend started in the “core area”, in north and northwest India, and spread outwards as far as the innermost of the branches in Group A : Baltic and Slavonic, but not as far as the outermost of the branches in Group B : Greek. 

Incidentally, here is how Meillet depicts the interrelationships between the various extant branches … he does not include Hittite and Tocharian in the picture, but it is clear that they will fall in the same group as Germanic, Celtic and Italic … 

While the north-south axis clearly divides the non-palatalized branches in the west from the palatalized branches in the east, where we must locate the “core” area where palatalization started, the northeast-southwest axes neatly divides the branches into the three tribal groupings testified by Indian literary records, (click on links).

Click Here

Click Here 

  1. More than anything else, the one aspect of the evidence of isoglosses that disproves the South Russian theory is the close relationship between Indic or Indo-Iranian and the Greek, which is not satisfactorily explained by any homeland theory other than the Indian homeland theory. 

In dismissing Colin Renfrew’s Anatolian homeland theory, Winn cites this as the single most important factor in disproving the theory : “All the migrations postulated by Renfrew ultimately stem from a single catalyst : the crossing of Anatolian farmers into Greece… For all practical purposes, Renfrew’s hypothesis disregards Tocharian and Indo-Iranian.” 

Supporters of Renfrew’s theory, Winn points out, “have tried to render the Indo-Iranian problem moot. They argue that the Indo-Iranian branch was somehow divided from the main body of Proto-Indo-European before the colonists brought agriculture to the Balkans.  Greek and Indic are thus separated by millenniums of linguistic change – despite the close grammatical correspondences between them (as we saw, these correspondences probably represent shared innovations from the last stage of PIE).” 

Winn’s very valid argument against the Anatolian theory is just as applicable to the South Russian homeland theory, or any other theory which seeks to bring Indic and Iranian into their historical habitats through Central Asia : this involves an extremely long period of separation from Greek which does not fit into the evidence of the isoglosses that shows that Indic and Greek have many “shared innovations from the last stage of PIE”. 

Archaeology, for one, completely rules out any links between the alleged Proto-Indo-Iranians located by these scholars in Central Asia, and the Greeks. Winn tries to identify the Andronovo culture which “covers much of the Central Asian steppe east of the Ural river and Caspian Sea”, with the “Proto-Indo-Iranians” during their alleged sojourn in Central Asia. 

However, not only does he admit that “it is still a hazardous task to connect (this) archaeological evidence of Indo-Iranians in the Central Asian steppe with the appearance of Iranian (Aryan) and Indic (Indo-Aryan) tribes in Iran, Afghanistan and India,” but he also accepts that these so-called Proto-Indo-Iranians in Central Asia have “no links with… south-eastern Europe”, I.e. with the Greeks. 

It is only the Indian homeland theory which fits in with the evidence of the isoglosses. 

It may be noted again that :

a. The evidence of the isoglosses suggests that the Indic, Iranian, Armenian and Greek branches, as well as the Albanian branch, were the last to remain behind in the original homeland after the departure of the other branches.

b. These (naturally, barring Indic) are also the same branches which show connections with the BhRgus/ AtharvaNas, while those which departed show connections with the Druhyus.

c. Again, all these branches form a long belt to the south of the Eurasian mountain chain, while the other (departed) branches are found to its north.

d. And, finally, these are the only branches which are actually recorded in the DASarAjña hymns as being present in the Punjab area during the time of SudAs.

 *  *  *

We shall next present the “Inter-Familial Literary Evidence” …

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

by Shrikant G. Talageri available @


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

The Indo-European Homeland


The discredited Aryan Invasion hypothesis (AIT), which we observed about in much detail in previous “Alternate History” blog posts, was essentially motivated by a concern for loss of European primacy in world heritage, linguistic and cultural. The next few tranche in this series shall deal with alternate facts in that regard.

We discussed the curious case of Victor H Mair to underscore the present academic environment, monopolised as it is by the backers of AIT though without a shred of evidence … which makes it well nigh impossible for any scholar, Indian or Western, to gain acceptance of facts pointing to an Indian homeland of Proto Indo-Europeans, The strong tide of prejudice in Western academic circles tests his ardour, and the deeply entrenched leftist lobby in India’s academe renders the task of establishing the truth steeply uphill.

The primary foundation of the widely held belief regarding Indo-European homeland is derived from the purported ‘science’ of LINGUISTICS… that is said to have proved conclusively their original location in and around South Russia; and, equally without doubt, that their homeland could not have been located in India. This belief, rests as it does on misinterpretation of Rigvedic history, is so indelibly etched in scholar community, who examine the problem, that it appears to overshadow and nullify the value of all other evidence to the contrary.

We will examine the case of Indo-European homeland in the light of facts in following areas :

I.    Archaeology and Linguistics.
II.  The Literary Evidence.
III. The Evidence of Linguistic Isoglosses.
IV. Inter-Familial Linguistics.
V.  Indo-Aryan Linguistic Substrata.
VI. Proto-Linguistic Studies.  


The archaeological evidence has always been against the theory that there was an Aryan influx into India in the second millennium BC, an influx so significant that it was able to completely transform the linguistic character and ethos of almost the entire country.

Well known historian, D.D. Kosambi, admits : “Archaeologically, this period is still blank… There is no special Aryan pottery… no particular Aryan or Indo-Aryan technique identified by the archaeologists even at the close of the second millennium.” But the eminent historian still waxes eloquently in support of the Aryan invasion Theory.

This is in sharp contrast to the situation so far as Europe is concerned. Shan M.M. Winn, for example, points out that “a ‘common European horizon’ developed after 3000 BC, at about the time of the Pit Grave expansion (Kurgan Wave #3). Because of the particular style of ceramics produced, it is usually known as the Corded Ware horizon. However, some authors call it the Battle Axe culture because stone battle axes were frequently placed in burials… The expansion of the Corded Ware cultural variants throughout central, eastern and northern Europe has been construed as the most likely scenario for the origin and dispersal of PIE (Proto-Indo-European) language and culture.”

After a detailed description of this archaeological phenomenon, Winn notes: “Only one conclusion seems reasonably certain : the territory inhabited by the Corded Ware / Battle Axe culture, after its expansions, geographically qualifies it to be the ancestor of the Western or European language branches : Germanic, Baltic, Slavic, Celtic and Italic.”

However, this archaeological phenomenon “does not… explain the presence of Indo-Europeans in Asia, Greece and Anatolia”.This Corded Ware/Battle Axe culture represented the third wave of “the Pit Grave expansion (Kurgan Wave #3)” in the westward direction.  Winn suggests that “an eastern expansion from the Caspian Steppe also occured at this time”, connects the Tocharians with “the culture… known as Afanasievo… located in the Altai region… across the expanse of the Central Asian steppe to its ragged eastern boundary”, and links the Indo-Iranians with the Andronovo culture which “covers much of the Central Asian steppe east of the Ural river and Caspian Sea”.

However, he admits that these identifications are purely hypothetical, and that, even in hypothesis and assuming the Andronovo culture to be Indo-Iranian, “it is still a hazardous task to connect the archaeological evidence… in the Central Asian steppe with the appearance of Iranian (Aryan) and Indic (Indo-Aryan) tribes in Iran, Afghanistan and India”.

He consequently describes Indo-Iranian, archaeologically, as an “Indo-European branch which all homeland theories we have reviewed so far have failed to explain”.The archaeological evidence for any Indo-European (Aryan) influx into India is missing in every respect :

a. There is no archaeological link with any other Indo European culture outside India.

b. There is no archaeological trail leading from outside into India.

c. There is no internal evidence in respect of any notable change in the anthropological or material-cultural situation in the northwestern parts of India, in the second millennium BC, which could be attributed to an Aryan influx.

In fact, the situation is so clear that a majority of archaeologists, both in India and in the West, today summarily reject the idea that there was any Aryan influx into India from outside in the second millennium BC.  They, in fact, go so far as to reject even the very validity of ‘Linguistics’ itself as an academic discipline, which could be qualified to have any say in the matter.

This has created quite a piquant situation in Western academic circles.  In his preface to a published volume (1995) of the papers presented during a conference on Archaeological and Linguistic Approaches to Ethnicity in Ancient South Asia, held in Toronto on 4th-6th October 1991, George Erdosy notes that the Aryan invasion theory “has recently been challenged by archaeologists who – along with linguists – are best qualified to evaluate its validity.  Lack of convincing material (or osteological) traces left behind by the incoming Indo-Aryan speakers, the possibility of explaining cultural change without reference to external factors and – above all – an altered world view (Shaffer 1984) have all contributed to a questioning of assumptions long taken for granted and buttressed by the accumulated weight of two centuries of scholarship.”

However, Erdosy points out, the perspective offered by archaeology, “that of material culture… is in direct conflict with the findings of the other discipline claiming a key to the solution of the ‘Aryan problem’, linguistics… In the face of such conflict, it may be difficult to find avenues of cooperation, yet a satisfactory resolution of the puzzles set by the distribution of Indo-Aryan languages in South Asia demands it. The present volume aims for the first step in that direction, by removing mutual misconceptions regarding the subject matter, aims, methods and limitations of linguistics and archaeology which have greatly contributed to the confusion currently surrounding ‘Aryans’.  Given the debates raging on these issues within as well as between the two disciplines, a guide to the range of contemporary opinion should be particularly valuable for anyone wishing to bridge the disciplinary divide… indeed, the volume neatly encapsulates the relationship between two disciplines intimately involved in a study of the past.”

The archaeologists and anthropologists whose papers feature in the volume include : Jim G. Shaffer and Diane A. Lichtenstein, who “stress the indigenous development of South Asian civilization from the Neolithic onwards, and downplay the role of language in the formation of (pre-modern) ethnic identities”; J. Mark Kenoyer, who “stresses that the cultural history of South Asia in the 2nd millennium BC may be explained without reference to external agents”; and Kenneth A.R. Kennedy, who concludes “that while discontinuities in physical types have certainly been found in South Asia, they are dated to the 5th/4th and to the 1st millennium BC respectively, too early and too late to have any connection with ‘Aryans’.”

Erdosy and Michael Witzel (a co-editor of the volume) seek to counter the archaeologists in two ways :

1. By dismissing the negative archaeological evidence.
2. By stressing the alleged linguistic evidence.

We will examine their efforts under the following heads :

A. The Archaeological Evidence.
B. The Linguistic Evidence.


According to Erdosy, “archaeology offers only one perspective, that of material culture”. This limit renders the archaeologists unable to understand the basis of the linguistic theory.

Erdosy stresses that the theory of the spread of the Indo-European languages cannot be dispensed with : “The membership of Indic dialects in the Indo-European family, based not only on lexical but structural criteria, their particularly close relationship to the Iranian branch, and continuing satisfaction with a family-tree model to express these links (Baldi, 1988) all support migrations as the principal (albeit not sole) means of language dispersal.”

But, according to him, the archaeologists fail to understand the nature of these migrations : they think that these migrations are alleged to be mass migrations which led to cataclysmic invasions, all of which would indeed have left behind archaeological evidence.

But, these “images of mass migration… (which) originated with 19th century linguists… exist today principally in the minds of archaeologists and polemicists”. Likewise, “the concept of cataclysmic invasions, for which there is little evidence indeed… are principally held by archaeologists nowadays, not by linguists who postulate more gradual and complex phenomena”.

It is this failure to realize that the “outmoded models of language change” popular among 19th Century linguists have now been replaced by more refined linguistic models, that leads to “overreactions to them (by denying the validity of any migrationist model) by both archaeologists and Hindu fundamentalists”. Thus, in one stroke, Erdosy attributes the opposition of archaeologists to linguistic theory to their ignorance of the subject and clubs them together with “polemicists” and “Hindu fundamentalists” in one broad category of ignoramuses.

But, it is not as easy to dismiss the views of the archaeologists as it is to dismiss those of “Hindu fundamentalists”. It must be noted that the opposition of archaeologists is to the specific aspect of the Aryan theory which states that there was an Aryan influx into India in the second millennium BC, and not to the general theory that the Indo-European language family (whose existence they do not dispute) must have spread through migrations of its speakers : obviously the languages could not have spread through air as pollen does !

But Erdosy puts it as if the archaeologists are irrationally opposed to the very idea of “the membership of the Indic dialects in Indo-European family” or to the “family-tree model”.  It is as if a scientist were to reject the prescriptions of a quack doctor, and the quack doctor were to retaliate by accusing the scientist of rejecting the very science of medicine itself.

The linguists’ answer to the total lack of archaeological evidence of any Aryan influx into India in the second millennium BC, is to “postulate more gradual and complex phenomena”. But, apart from the fact that this sounds very sophisticated and scientific, not to mention superior and patronising, what does the phrase really mean ?  What “gradual and complex phenomena” could account for linguistic transformation of an entire subcontinent without leaving any perceptible archaeological traces behind ?

And it is not just linguistic transformation.  Witzel admits that while “there have been cases where dominant languages succeeded in replacing (almost) all the local languages… what is relatively rare is the adoption of complete systems of belief, mythology and language… yet in South Asia we are dealing precisely with the absorption of not only new languages but also an entire complex of material and spiritual culture ranging from chariotry and horsemanship to Indo-Iranian poetry whose complicated conventions are still used in the Rig Veda.  The old Indo-Iranian religion… was also adopted, along with the Indo-European systems of ancestor worship.”

In keeping with a pattern which will be familiar to anyone studying the writings of supporters of the Aryan invasion theory, such unnatural or anomalous phenomena do not make these scholars rethink their theory; it only makes them try to think of ways to maintain their theory in the face of inconvenient facts. Let’s see how …

Witzel suggests an explanation which he hopes will explain away the lack of archaeological-anthropological evidence. According to him, the original Indic racial stock had settled down in Central Asia, and had “even before their immigration into South Asia, completely ‘Aryanised’ a local population, for example, in the highly developed Turkmenian-Bactrian area… involving both their language and culture.  This is only imaginable as the result of the complete acculturation of both groups… the local Bactrians would have appeared as a typically ‘Vedic’ people with a Vedic civilization.”

Witzel explains that these new “Vedic people” (the Bactrians) later on… moved into the Panjab, Aryanising and assimilating the local population.By the time they reached the Subcontinent… they may have had the typical somatic characteristics of the ancient population of the Turanian/Iranian/Afghan areas, and may not have looked very different from the modem inhabitants of the Indo-Iranian Borderlands.  Their genetic impact would have been negligible, and… would have been ‘lost’ in a few generations in the much larger gene pool of the Indus people.  One should not, therefore, be surprised that ‘Aryan bones’ have not been found so far.”

Witzel, like other scholars who present similar scenarios, is suggesting that the Aryans who migrated into India were not the original Indo-Aryans settled in Central Asia or Southern Russia; they were groups of people native to the areas further south-east, who were “completely Aryanised” in “language and culture”, and that they were so few in number that “their genetic impact would have been negligible” and “would have been ‘lost’ in a few generations in the much larger gene pool of the Indus people”.

The scholars thus try to explain away the lack of archaeological-anthropological evidence by postulating a fantastic scenario which is totally incompatible with the one piece of solid evidence which is available to us today : THE RIG VEDA.

The Rig Veda represents a language, religion and culture, which is the most archaic in the Indo-European world.  As Griffith puts it in his preface to his translation : “As in its original language, we see the roots and shoots of the languages of Greek and Latin, of Celt, Teuton and Slavonian, so the deities, the myths and the religious beliefs and practices of the Veda throw a flood of light upon the religions of all European countries before the introduction of Christianity.  As the science of comparative philology could hardly have existed without the study of Sanskrit, so the comparative history of the religions of the world would have been impossible without the study of the Veda.”

Vedic mythology represents the most primitive form of Indo-European mythology : as MacDonell puts it, the Vedic Gods “are nearer to the physical phenomena which they represent, than the gods of any other Indo-European mythology”. Vedic mythology not only bears links with every single other Indo-European mythology, but is often the only link between any two of them.

Does it appear that the Rig Veda could be the end-product of a long process of migration in which the Indo-Aryans not only lost contact with the other Indo-European branches countless generations earlier in extremely distant regions, and then migrated over long periods through different areas, and finally settled down for so long a period in the area of composition of the Rigveda that even Witzel admits that “in contrast to its close relatives in Iran (Avestan, Old Persian), Vedic Sanskrit is already an Indian language”; but in which the people who composed the Rigveda were in fact not the original Indo-Aryans at all, but a completely new set of people who bore no racial connections at all with the original Indo-Aryans, and were merely the last in a long line of racial groups in a “gradual and complex” process in which the Vedic language and culture was passed from one completely different racial group to another completely different racial-cultural group like a baton in an “Aryanising” relay race from South Russia to India ? !

Clearly, the explanation offered by Witzel is totally inadequate, and untenable as an argument against the negative archaeological evidence.

We shall next present the “Linguistic 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

The Indo-European Homeland

The discredited Aryan Invasion hypothesis (AIT), which we observed about in much detail in previous “Alternate History” blog posts, was essentially motivated by a concern for loss of European primacy in world heritage, linguistic and cultural. The next few tranche in this series shall deal with alternate facts in that regard.

We have seen the evidence of the oldest literary records of Indo-European family of languages : the Rig Veda and the Avesta. They clearly, unambiguously reveal a split of Proto-Aryans into Indo-Aryans, who stayed on in the Indian subcontinent, and Indo-Iranians, who moved from their homeland in in Kashmir to Punjab and Southern Afghanistan, and from there on to west and northwest.

The hypothesised route of Aryan ‘invasion’ through Central Asia and Afghanistan is in fact the route along which the Indo-Iranian branch of Proto-Aryans migrated to Iran and Asia Minor and northwards to Russian regions of Central Asia.

This deals a body-blow to the very roots of AIT, which dogmatically places the original Indo-European homeland in the region northwest of Central Asia, that is in and around South Russia. It clearly points instead to the likelihood that the Indo-European family of languages originated in the Indian subcontinent.

Expectedly, scholars and historians are not convinced by the facts of the case that rule out their pet theory. But more, their reaction to any research, especially by an Indian, takes on rabid expressions aimed at the messenger, from declaration of suspicion to branding him as a fundamentalist or a chauvinistic nationalist. The message then remains unattended for the light of another day !

 The Curious Case Of Victor H. Mair

The fraudulent hypothesis presented by a Western scholar, Victor H. Mair, is a glaring case cultural bias and deep seated prejudice. In a compilation of papers presented at International Conference on Bronze Age and Iron Age held at University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archeology through April 19-21 in 1996, edited by himself, Mair prefaces his presentation with a sharp diatribe against “extremists, chauvinists, and other types of deranged and possibly dangerous persons” in oblique reference to those who locate the Indo-European homeland in highly improbable, if not utterly impossible places as the Arctic, along the Indus Valley, or in Tarim Basin in China. Mair calls them “nationalists and racists of various stripes; kooks and crazies who attribute the rise of Indo-Europeans to extraterritorial visitations.”

At the same time, Mair places himself in a beatific light by announcing that he himself is impelled to carry out “the search for Indo-Europeans and their homeland”, and to “pursue it with enthusiasm”, because : “I perceive such an inquiry to be (1) intrinsically compelling, (2) innately worthwhile, (3) historically significant, (4) humanistically important, (5) devoid of political content, (6) scientifically solvable, and (7) intellectually satisfying”, He, of course, dismisses scholars of a lesser breed with the pompous announcement : “If other people want to distort or pervert the search for their own purposes, that is their problem.”

Mair proceeds to present his thesis in a quasi-humorous vein, likening the spreading Indo-European family to a spreading amoeba. And he presents his final conclusions about the schedule of migrations and expansions of the Indo-European family in the form of a series of nine maps, supposed to represent the situations in 4200 BC, 3700 BC, 3200 BC, 3000 BC, 2500 BC, 2000 BC, 1500 BC, 1000 BC, and 100 BC respectively.

We are concerned here only with his depiction of the Indian geographical area in these maps : incredible as it will seem to any scholar who is even generally acquainted with the facts of the Indo-Iranian case, Mair’s map for 1500 BC shows the undifferentiated Indo-Iranians still located in the north and west of the Caspian Sea !

Which western academic scholar in his right sense, with least concern for academic credentials, will accept such a depiction of the Indo-Iranians in 1500 BC as being honest, based on known facts ? A blatantly mischievous distortion, to say the least ! But Mair, with his trademark pompousity, sweepingly claims that his maps “are intended isochronously to take into account the following types of evidence : linguistic, historical, archaeological, technological, cultural, ethnological, geographical, climatological, chronological and genetic-morpho-metric – roughly in the order of precision with which I am able to control the data, from greatest to least. I have also endeavoured to take into consideration types of data which subsume or bridge two or more basic categories of evidence (e.g. glotto-chronology, dendrochronology, and linguistic paleontology).”

An examination of the maps, on the whole and not just in respect of the Indo-Iranians, shows that Mair would be hard put to explain how his arbitrarily and whimsically drawn-out schedule of migrations and expansions fulfils any one of the above academic criteria, let alone all of them.

Mair claims to be interested in “the search for the Indo-Europeans and their homeland” for a variety of noble reasons but it is clear that his “search” is as far from his intentions as it could be, since his answer – South Russia – is pre-determined. And he lets out that his own “personal preference” would have been to locate the core of the homeland “in Southern Germany, northern Austria, and the western part of what is now the Czech Republic”, i.e. in Hitler’s home ground ! and all those who advocate any other solution automatically fall, in his opinion, in the same category as “kooks and crazies who attribute the rise of Indo-Europeans to extra-territorial visitations”.

Mair is a Western bumpkin masquerading as a scholar editor, working out a history to suit his personal preferences. By what he presents, Mair deserves his own epithets : “extremist, chauvinist… deranged and possibly dangerous person” and seems doubly dangerous, being without the conscientious which is the hallmark of a true scholar. He is deliberately dishonest in going along with the promoted thesis in existing academic environment monopolised by historians with Western pedigree, with whom he well connects, and grants respectability to most blatant fiction while condemning genuine research and shunning fact-based conclusions.

We shall present the “alternate facts” in such an environment, dear Reader …

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 @


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