The Spiritual Content Of Vedas

A portrayal of Vyasa, who classified the Vedas...

Adapted from Dr Kenneth Chandler’s Origins Of Vedic Civilisation

What is Rig Veda and the Vedic literature ?

What is the Vedic tradition really about ?

What is Vedic Cognition and How is it Passed On ?

The Rig Veda was not “created” out the human imagination, as works of poetry or literature are created. Unlike poetry or literature, the Veda is experienced and then the experience of the Veda is recited in hymns that directly express the experience of the Veda. This is called Vedic cognition. Cognition means that the Vedic rishis or seers heard what is there in the universal field of consciousness and they sang out the sounds that they heard.

This experience is what the recited sounds of the Veda express. But the hymns of the Rig Veda are not about the Veda, as if the expression were something different from the Veda itself, which they were describing. The rishis heard the Veda and saw its structure, and this sound itself is expressed in the hymns of the Rig Veda. The experience of the Rig Veda flowed through the rishis into the hymns of the Rig Veda.

The hymns of the Rig Veda sought out those rishis who were fully awake and made themselves known to them, and the rishis passed on these hymns in a long unbroken tradition that endures to the present. The Rig Veda, the most ancient hymns of the Vedic tradition, has been preserved over time by a method of memorisation and recitation, and passed over from father to son in an unbroken sequence over vast stretches of time. By two pundits chanting the hymns (and by chanting them forwards and backwards), a method of ensuring their purity was established that allowed these hymns to be passed on over thousands of years without loss. The Veda we possess today, unbelievable as it may seem, is thus an expression of the sounds heard many thousands of years ago.

It was only in relatively recent times, probably around 3000 BC, that the Veda and Vedic literature, were committed to writing. Before that Veda was an oral tradition.

There are at least 40 distinct branches of the Veda and the Vedic literature. These include, first and foremost, the Rig Veda samhita, and the Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atharva Veda. These four bodies of sound are what is meant by the Veda. In addition to the Veda, the Vedic literature includes 36 branches, all based on the Veda itself : six branches of Vedanga, six branches of Upanga, and six branches of Ayur-Veda, for example. All branches of Vedic literature are considered, like the Veda itself, uncreated or eternal structures of knowledge.

The extent of the Veda and the entire Vedic literature is vast, huge—much larger, for example, than the remaining body of literature of all of ancient Greece and Rome. There are ten volumes of the Rig Veda alone in one of the best editions available in English (the Wilson translation). There are 54 books of Kalpa, just one of six branches of the Vedangas. There are 18 books of Puranas. The Itihasa includes the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the latter printed in an English edition having 20 volumes. There are thus, for example, over a hundred volumes in just these four branches of the Veda and the Vedic literature.

Seers see this vast body of the Veda and the Vedic literature as a systematic body of literature that has a detailed, intricate structure in every part, and all systematically related in a whole. It is systematic in the sense that is not a random collection of books that were written over vast stretches of time, but it forms a complete whole, with a comprehensive organisation and structure. Each of the books of Vedic literature relates in a systematic way to all the others and each forms an essential part of the whole of Vedic literature.

The Veda itself, which is expressed in the Vedas, exists in the unmanifest field of unbounded pure consciousness, called param vyoman. This is a universal silent field of consciousness that pervades everything in the universe. Since it is all-pervading, it pervades the body and mind of every individual. It exists on the most subtle, or fine scale, of activity. It is smaller than the smallest particle of the atomic nucleus. It is on a scale smaller than the smallest quark and lepton. It is the field of consciousness in its least excited state. Everything in nature is an excitation of this field. All particles of matter and force are excited states of this one all-pervading field.

To know the Veda, which is everywhere as the most subtle foundation of the world, we have only to take our awareness from the excited states of consciousness to the least excited state of consciousness. By taking our awareness from the active, gross level of activity to the silent field of pure consciousness, we allow our individual mind to become settled and stilled to that state of wakeful silence, and in that state the mind spreads out to identify with the all-pervading field of consciousness. On that level of awareness, the entire Veda and Vedic literature can be directly experienced as the fabrics of our own consciousness. We simply dive from the surface level of activity to the silent all-pervading depth where consciousness is eternally awake and interacting within itself. This self-interaction of consciousness as its flows from unity into diversity is the Veda. It is the eternal reality at the foundation of everything that exists in the observable manifest world.

The Veda has a structure. It is structured in the form of mandalas, or circles. The structure of the Veda and the Vedic literature is a flow of knowledge, not a static, frozen structure. As the eternal consciousness flowing within itself and knowing itself, it flows and creates within itself a structure that is dynamic and flowing. This flowing structure of Veda is an eternal flow of pure knowledge of the self as it unfolds knowledge of itself. It is the flow of consciousness as it knows itself while it flows from unity to diversity. It is the flow of self-knowledge within consciousness, giving rise to the entire diversity of creation. It is the flow of the oneness of eternal pure consciousness into the many formed unity of the Veda and, from there, to the forms and phenomena of the manifest universe, the visible material world.

The first flow of knowledge of the Veda is the flow from the One into the many. The eternal oneness of pure Being or pure consciousness knows itself. And in knowing itself, it breaks itself into many. The infinite One collapses into a point, and into infinitely many points. These points of consciousness are finite, separate, isolated points of individual consciousness. But they are all ultimately points of the one infinite whole of consciousness. Each is a collapsed point of the infinite whole, and in the process of returning to wholeness, the finite points of consciousness expand back into the infinite One from which they began. This is the fundamental process of creation that is expressed in the Rig Veda and in the Vedic literature.

The Rig Veda expresses this process in sound. The Rig Veda is essentially this sequence of vibrations that manifest as the process of consciousness knowing itself. It unfolds out of the process of consciousness knowing itself. This entire process is a necessary sequence of sounds that unfold the pure knowledge of consciousness to itself. It is the eternal murmuring of consciousness to itself.

The Rig Veda does not describe the process in articulate language, using descriptive terms, the way a scientist might describe an object of nature. The vibrations of consciousness as it moves within itself create unmanifest sounds in the unmanifest field of pure consciousness, which manifest as the sound of the Veda, and these sounds within the infinite field of pure consciousness become the vibrations that manifest in the forms and phenomena of physical creation.

The basic process of consciousness knowing itself takes the form of a collapse of the infinite whole of pure consciousness into finite points of consciousness. This process of infinity collapsing to a point, and the points expanding into infinity, is the basic process that structures the Veda. It is the process by which the eternal Oneness of pure consciousness knows itself.

The Rig Veda has a marvelous structure in which each of the parts reflects the structure of the whole. Thus, for example, the First Mandala of the Rig Veda, which gives the meaning of the Veda as a whole, has 192 suktas. The Tenth Mandala has the same number of suktas, mirroring the gaps between the suktas of the First Mandala. This is not an accidental structural parallel, but an indication of the intricately interlocked structure of the Veda as a whole. This kind of structural identity is reiterated in many places throughout Vedic literature.

First Syllable,  First Verse…

The first syllable of the Rig Veda, “Ak,” could be seen as containing the whole Rig Veda within itself. It represents the collapse of the continuum of flow of infinite wholeness to its own point. The “A” sound represents flow or continuum, and the “k” sound represents the stop, or collapse of the flow. This sound is actually the process of the infinite whole of consciousness collapsing to its point values. The line however continues …

अग्निमीळे पुरोहितं यज्ञस्य देवं रत्वीजम होतारं रत्नधातमम ||

aghnimīḷe purohitaṃ yajñasya devaṃ ṛtvījam | 

hotāraṃ ratnadhātamam || 

Griffith translates it as :

I Laud Agni,

The chosen Priest,

God, minister of sacrifice,

The Hotar, lavisher of wealth.

The traslation above is purely “Adhiyajñika“, in accord with Sayana’s commentary of 14th Century AD. It interprets the Vedic rik at ritual level in terms of performance of works accompanying its utterance. It entirely misses the Ādhyātmika sense that the mantra includes at the spiritual and psychological level in terms of being, individual and universal, commonly signified with use of terms such as God, Heaven, etc. And, lastly, there is always the Ādhidaivika or naturalistic or cosmological sense the reader or hearer obtains, pertaining to phenomenal creation and its laws observed in nature.

The unstrung Adhyatmika sense is included in the syllables as herebelow :

Agnim [Arc : to illuminate + Nī : to lead]

Īle [Īḍ : to praise, to glorify]

Purohitaṃ [Pṝ : full, complete, first

+ Hu : to sacrifice, to conduct]

Yajñasya [Yaj : to exalt, to offer]

Devam [Div(u) : to shine with power]

Ṛtvijaṃ [Ṛ : to guide rightly, to steer

+ Vij : to arouse, to strengthen]

Hotāraṃ [(1) Hve : to call;

(2) Hu : to sacrifice, conduct]

Ratna [Ram : to be or make content, to please]

Dhātamaṃ [(1) Dhā: to put, to order, to set in place;

(2) Dhṛ: to hold, to sustain]

Source : http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://www.religiousforums.com/forum/hinduism-dir/143750-rigveda-mandala-1-sukta-1-mantra.html

Left unstrung, the sense which arises with utterance of syllable would fill the heart and intellect in accord with one’s own age, exposure and acquired sagacity, leaving the individual with his own meaning overall as his mind would string the parts up.

One such Adhyatmika translation would perhaps read thus :

Praise, the Prime Illuminator

Who lights up all and enlightens;

The Supreme who offers all

Whose exalted act

At first offered all in creation;

Who gloriously shines of own power

Who vests strength in each to arise;

Who rightly guides and steers all

With the call to our being

To be, to be blissful and content;

And sets each to order

In our own place.

The material or naturalistic is not attempted here for want of context.

In line with the spiritual sense offered above, the first syllable of the Rig Veda is elaborated and commented on in the first 24 richa (verses), which are further elaborated in the corresponding 24 pada (phrases) of the next eight richa, giving 192 meaning of the syllable Ak or [Arc]. These all emerge from the 24 sandhi (gaps) of the first richa. From the 192 gaps between the 192 akshara (syllables) of richa 2-9, emerge the 192 suktas of the First Mandala of the Rig Veda.

The 192 sandhi between the 192 suktas of the first Mandala give rise to the 192 suktas of the Tenth Mandala, a circular structure that precisely fills the gaps of the First Mandala. Similarly, the gaps between the nine richas of the first sukta are elaborated in Mandala 2-9 of Rig Veda, unfolding the total Rig Veda with all its ten Mandalas.

The whole of the Rig Veda has therefore a marvelous and intricately interwoven structure that is beyond the capacity of the human mind to create. It was not created, but cognised by the seers of ancient India. This is part of the reason that seers recognise the tradition and agree that the Veda and the Vedic literature is “eternal” or uncreated.

 *** See Tony Nader, The Human Physiology : Expression of Veda and the Vedic Literature,

(Vlodrop, Holland: Maharishi Vedic University Press, 2000), p. 57.

The Three-in-One Structure of Pure Knowledge

The flow of Rishi, Devata, and Chhandas in the Structure of the Veda is one other structure of the Veda that is basic to understanding the Veda. In the process of knowing itself, the infinite pure consciousness, which is eternal knows itself, creates a division within itself of knower, known, and process of knowing. This is necessary for it to know itself. It is both eternally one and yet eternally three—knower, knowing, and known—making a three-in-one structure of self-knowing consciousness.

This is another fundamental feature of pure consciousness that it is both eternally one and eternally many. From the three-fold structure of knower, known, and process of knowing, consciousness continues to reflect on itself, giving rise to many more reiterations of itself, until the one has evolved into the diversity of the entire Veda.

This threefold structure of pure knowledge, that it is one and three at the same time, seers call “the three-in-one structure of pure knowledge.” It is expressed in the Veda in the terms rishi (knower), devata (process of knowing) and chhandas (known). Every sukta of the Rig Veda has a structure of rishi, devata, and chhandas, which is announced at the beginning of the hymn. There are infinitely many values of rishi, infinitely many values of devata, and infinitely many values of chhandas. These provide the basic key to understanding the structure of the Rig Veda, as well as Sama, Atharva, and Yajur Veda.

Not only the Veda but all of Vedic literature reflects this structure of knower, knowing, and known. Each branch of the Vedic literature flows out of the mechanics of self-knowing consciousness. The Vedic literature, with its six-fold organisation, reflects the process of movement from rishi, to devata, to chhandas, and from chhandas back to devata and rishi. This process is the basic process that structures the entire Rig Veda and the entire Vedic literature. It is the process of self-knowing consciousness.

Readers are encouraged to rediscover the structure of the entire Veda and Vedic literature. This is an immense voyage of discovery into a new world of knowledge that has been lost for thousands of years. It is a journey into the fabric of our own consciousness. It is regaining lost knowledge of our own infinite Self.

English: Student learning Veda. Location: Nach...

Student learning Veda. http://parampara.in (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Spiritual Content Of Vedas

English: Student learning Veda. Location: Nach...

Student learning Veda. Location: Nachiyar Kovil, Kumbakonam, Tamilnadu. http://parampara.in (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Adapted from Dr Kenneth Chandler’s Origins Of Vedic Civilisation

What is Rig Veda and the Vedic literature ?

What is the Vedic tradition really about ?

It is as if we have been on an archeological dig on an ancient site in the Indus Valley and find a treasure room of vast extent, filled with books that are about an ancient science. As we decipher these ancient codes, we discover a body of knowledge more advanced than any science known to humanity today. Such is the excitement of the rediscovery of the Veda.

If the European scholars got the dates of the Vedic tradition and the invasion theory entirely wrong, neither did they understand anything of what was going on in the Vedic tradition. It takes direct experience to understand its transcendent revelations.

Veda means knowledge, the one structured within the inner silence of consciousness itself. It is knowledge unravelled by oneself when conscious of itself, of its own nature free of all physical-mental-intellectual terms. It exists on the reverse of how we are otherwise directed, away from ourself. The unbroken Vedic tradition yet holds the ancient, and now lost, knowledge of that conscious method of going within, like turning the sight away from objects in order to look at itself.

We too can experience the Veda deep within our own consciousness; if we do not, it because we are out of touch with the method of going within, of giving up our ‘individual’ occupation with differentiated consciousness of finite being and transiting over to our primordial, undifferentiated stillness and its infinite homogeneous depths. It is on the way that Vedic knowledge arises of its own accord in seer consciousness … of knowledge pure, of inclusive perspective to being in truth, and of human moral values at their source. With this experience, the seers know and declare that the Veda is eternal and safe forever in its transcendent realm.

The Veda is expression of the knowledge the seer passes by while transcending beyond the individual consciousness formed in gross and subtle receptacles available in the mind-body complex, or during the descent from that undifferentiated sublimity. Whilst cleansing the seer’s own mental and intellectual universe of all flaws and taints, the direct experience also retains the awareness of that oneness pervading all creation. It is not localised to individual awareness, as is confirmed by several seers contemporary, before and after; it is universal. Anyone else too can gain the same transcendental experience of the infinite, unbounded silence, and confirm the truth.

The infinite silence is not seen, as one sees an object separate from the self. It is what the seer becomes — the undifferentiated infinite. Since the Veda is structured in consciousness itself, which is not individual but universal and all-pervading, it exists within and is available to everyone. Every individual consciousness grows out of the vast ocean of universal consciousness, which is the Veda. By diving within our individual consciousness and beyond, to the infinite sea of universal consciousness, we can experience the self-interacting dynamics by which the world is created within the eternal sea of consciousness. This is to witness the mechanics of creation. Veda is this mechanics of creation.

The Vedic tradition grew out of a discovery of a way to go within consciousness and directly experience the Veda, which exists deep within it. It is only through this experience that there can be genuine knowledge of the Veda at all. It is for this reason that the seers laid out the method for everyone to go within and directly experience the silent expanse of consciousness. The method is as sacred as the Veda itself, for without it there would have been no way to verify and affirm the truth through unbroken tradition since antiquity. It has enabled humanity to access the silent, unconditioned, universal consciousness that underlies and pervades all manifest objects in the physical world.

The Vedic tradition therefore contrasts starkly with the monotheistic religions of the Book, principally Christianity and Islam. They offer no solid foundation – the method — for knowledge and understanding of their respective personal and personified God or Allah. Adherents of those religions are asked to keep faith, believe and pray; there is no tradition of exploring the fundamental inner silence of pure consciousness itself, that every human being is heir to. As a result, no one in those religions has the direct experience of that level of reality—the silent foundation of universal consciousness— which they write and speak of, exhort and preach about, but without the authority of personal evidence.

The Veda reveals the reality of consciousness through a constant stream of aligned expression, which was meant to be heard and repeated, contemplated and mediated upon, till the same essence of the revelation at source was imbibed and absorbed enough to yield its indescribable reality. The Vedic tradition carries knowledge of that spiritual method over time; amazingly, in fact, through six millennia or so. And Vedic civilisation was raised on that uniquely mystical experience, connecting the universal with the ephemeral !

The Rig Veda and the Vedic literature are a systematic expression of consciousness and the knowledge of consciousness. The Veda tells us something about our own consciousness, about our human potential to be in and to experience a universal field of consciousness that underlies all created things. The essential meaning of the Veda escaped the Western scholars. They failed to appreciate that, to people nurtured in Vedic tradition, the esoteric fulness signified in the Veda and eclectic means that seers have revealed through the ages are of immense practical import, far greater than any other method of knowledge.

Which is why the Veda is preserved as expression of deep knowledge and has survived over many thousands of years in virtually perfect condition, and that it holds the secret to unlocking new knowledge and a new approach to knowledge that will enhance civilisations everywhere more than any other discovery in the history of mankind.

Veda pathashala students doing sandhya vandana...

India and the West

vedic-mantras

vedic-mantras (Photo credit: drakoheart)

The Flow of Science and Mathematics

From India to Arabia and Europe

Dr Kenneth Chandler

Origins Of Vedic Civilisation

Summary and Conclusion

The Vedic heritage of India has been grossly miscalculated, misunderstood, and under-appreciated. The light of Vedic knowledge burned brilliantly in Vedic India long before is spread into Iran, the middle-east, and Europe. It appears that Rig Vedic civilisation originated in northern India, definitely before 1,900, and probably before 3,000 BC. The Vedic tradition may have originated before 6,500 BC. Passed on from father to son in unbroken tradition of pundits who recited the Vedic verses, it is still sung by pundits in India today.

Imagine if Homeric bards were found today who could still chant the Iliad and Odyssey according to the oral tradition handed down from Homeric times! This would be heralded as a monumental event. Yet the Vedic tradition was possibly as ancient to Homer when he lived as Homer is to us today.

The Vedic tradition lives in the songs softly chanted by pundits today that may have originated ten thousand or more year ago, or even further remote in time. The Rig Veda and the Vedic literature were preserved by a tradition of chanting, with self-correcting feedback methods, always involving two pundits reciting the verses together. Other methods of self-correction were used, so the authenticity of the tradition is well preserved. The written Veda did not emerge until the Devanagri script was invented, and that was post-Indus-Saraswati civilisation.

The Vedic civilisation, far more ancient than the Greek, spread from India to Europe, via Anatolia, Thrace, and Greece, and from there into Western Europe. The direction of the flow was from India into Arabia and then to Europe. Evidence shows that the Vedic tradition entered into Europe sometime before the early fourteenth century BC. The Rig Vedic tradition and its literature almost certainly came into existence sometime long before the earliest civilisations of Mesopotamia, Sumeria, and Egypt.

These were relatively late events in the history of civilisation and probably owe their existence to the earlier civilisation of Vedic India. It is necessary to reiterate that the origins of the Vedic tradition are still obscured in the fog of time, but it is necessary to shift it much further back than Muller’s contingent of scholars put it. A more balanced view of the Vedic tradition might place it as follows :

1. Before 6,500 to around 3,000 BC—early Rig Veda to Itihasa Period.

2. 2600-1900 BC, Mature Harappa civilisation.

3. 1900-1000 BC, late Vedic and Brahmana period.

4. 500 BC, Shankara’s revival.

Because we don’t know yet how ancient the earliest verses of the Rig Veda are, we have to abstain from any dogmatic pronouncements, but we have seen reason to think that they are far more ancient than Europeans scholars previously estimated. The ancient Vedic tradition was indigenous to the land of India, possibly overlapping the Indus and Saraswati valley civilisations and extending into the Himalayas, where the tradition continued unbroken for perhaps tens of thousands of years.

The Rig Veda extols the Indus rivers in the oft repeated refrain, “Flow Indus to Indra”—a metaphor for the flow of individual awareness into unbounded universal awareness. The whole tradition, as we see in the following chapters, is about the experience of awakened consciousness, or enlightenment. The refrain, “flow Indus to Indra” is also a reference to the Indus civilisation that lived along the banks of the Indus river since 6,500 BC.

It was this awakening of consciousness that cradled the ancient Vedic civilisation of Vedic India—long before civilisation emerged in Europe. As the river of civilization flowed from India westward, one of its main tributaries was the civilisation of ancient Greece and Asia

Minor. Greek civilisation possibly resulted from the spread of techniques that passed on the enlightenment tradition from India into the Eastern Mediterranean basin.

Mesopotamian, Sumerian, and Egyptian civilizations cannot, according to traditional archeology, extend much past 3,300 BC. Recent research has suggested that the pyramids were constructed as early as 12,500 BC.

One of the great puzzles of early history is to understand why sometime around 500 BC a great awakening of knowledge occurred simultaneously in India, China, and Greece. Lao Tzu and Confucius in China, Buddha in India, and Heraclitus and Parmenides in Greece all flourished around that time. Lao Tzu as well as several early Greeks, according to legend, made a journey to India. The possibility exists that the awakening came from India, where the Vedic tradition flourished from thousands of years before.

This was also the time of a great re-awakening of the Vedic tradition in India. Shankara’s teaching of transcendental meditation in India began, according to ancient records, contrary to what is currently taught in Western scholarship, sometime in the late sixth century BC. Shankara did not live in the ninth century where he was misplaced by modern scholars unfamiliar with the Vedic tradition. Modern scholars have traditionally placed Shankara in the ninth century AD. This results from a confusion of an illustrious successor of Shankara with the original Shankara who lived about 500 BC.

Shankara” had become a title, so in the long succession of Shankaracharyas, or masters of the Shankara tradition, there were many Shankaras. It was a natural confusion but the first Shankara lived in the mid to early sixth century BC. (See Maharishi’s discussion of this in his Bhagavad Gita, A New Translation and Commentary, Livingston Manor, NY: MIU Press, 1967, p. 186.) There are historical records of the Shankarcharya tradition that link it back to the original Shankara in the sixth century BC, mentioning each of the Shankaracharayas in the long succession.

The Vedic tradition gives a much deeper meaning to the word “tradition” than has been known before. Nothing in the West approximates it. For thousands of years, the Vedic tradition expanded, and grew richer in detail, commenting on itself and expanding by knowledge of itself. Each contributor built on what the previous had done, cumulating in a systematic exposition of the structure of pure consciousness. Techniques to gain enlightenment were developed, cultivated, and passed on generation after generation. The techniques sustained the tradition and gave it substance through making the experience available.

Vedic civilisation centered around the discovery of pure consciousness and the delineation of its structure. The Rig Veda and the Vedic literature gave a monumental depiction of this structure of eternal consciousness. These remarkable works give a prior to the battle of Troy, the event that marks the mythological beginning of the early Greek literary tradition, and 3,000 years before the earliest Pre-Socratic philosophers.

For a fuller discussion of this new wave of scholarship, see David Frawley and N.S. Rajaram Vedic “Aryans” and the Origins of Civilisation: A Literary and Scientific Perspective, 1995. See also George Feuresein, Subhash Kak, and David Frawley, In Search of the Cradle of Civilization: New Light on Ancient India, 1995. Also, David Frawley, Gods, Sages Kings, (Morson Publishing, 1991). See also, N.S. Rajaram The Hindustan Times (Nov. 28, 1993).

Rajaram writes, “It is now recognised by scholars that the Aryan invasion theory of India is a myth that owes more to European politics than anything in Indian records or archaeology.”

Frawley writes. “the rationale behind the late date for the Vedic culture given by Muller was totally speculative. Max Muller, like many of the Christian scholars of his era, believed in Biblical chronology. This placed the beginning of the world at 400 BC and the flood around 2500 BC. Assuming to those two dates, it became difficult to get the Aryans in India before 1500 BC.”

See also Colin Renfrew, Professor of Archeology at Cambridge University, in his famous work, Archeology and Language: The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins, (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1988). See also Mark Kenoyer, “Indus Valley: Secrets of a Civilization” in Wisconsin, Fall 1998 and Kenneth Kennedy, “Have Aryans Been Identified in the Prehistoric Skeletal Record from South Asia” appearing in The Indo-Aryans of South Asia (Walter de Gruyter, 1995)

Kennedy writes, “Assumptions that blondism, blue-grey eyes and light skin pigmentation are physical hallmarks of either ancient Aryans or of members of Brahmin and other social groups in modern south Asia, find their origins in the improper marriage of excerpts from Vedic texts with nineteenth century Germanic nationalistic writings.”

vedic mantra

vedic mantra (Photo credit: drakoheart)


India and the West

Goblet from Navdatoli, Malwa, 1300 BCE

Goblet from Navdatoli, Malwa, 1300 BCE (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Flow of Science and Mathematics

From India to Arabia and Europe

Dr Kenneth Chandler

Origins Of Vedic Civilisation

The european scholars who postulated the aryan invasion theory were biased, unscientific—and ultimately wrong. The Rig Veda was cognised by a people indigenous to India, probably sometime long before 3,000 BC.

So we move on to the next question. How did the Vedic Civilisation of India influence the civilisations of the Middle-East, Egypt, and Europe ? Evidence from a variety of sources shows that an influence of Vedic civilisation flowed west to the continent of Europe. As we will see, science and mathematics originated in India and came to Greece centuries later. Science and mathematics were probably introduced into Europe and Egypt from India, mainly through Persia, Arabia, and Mesopotamia.

Vedic and Indic Influences on Persian and Greek Civilisation

The Zend-Avesta of Persia took many names of deities from the Rig Veda, most notably Indra, and included Vedic deities in its pantheon. An archeological excavation in 1907 found clay tablets from early fourteenth century BC in Boghazköi, near the site of the ancient city of Troy on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean, in what is now northwest Turkey. These tablets invoke the names of four Vedic deities—Indra, Mitra, Varuna, and Nasatyau—in sealing a treaty between the Hittites and the Mitani. A Vedic influence was definitely in eastern Mediterranean prior to the Trojan war, which occurred about a century later. This site is just up the coast from the Greek city states where the Pre-Socratic philosophers of Greece sprang up about eight hundred years later.

Indications of Vedic influence in the Zend-Avesta in Persia are found earlier than 1,600 BC, and in Greece as early as 1,400 BC. But there is much evidence of a link between the early Greeks and the more ancient Vedic civilisation of India, suggesting that Vedic culture flowed west to Persia and Europe.

* * * Maurice Winternitz, A History of Vedic Literature, Vol. 1, pp. 282-283.

Many of the Greek gods and goddesses are similar to those of the Vedic people, suggesting a strong historical connection. Both Vedic Indra and the Greek Zeus, called king of the gods, were associated with the unbounded power and called by the appellation “Thunderbolt.” Saraswati and Athena, female goddesses of sacred knowledge, both had similar roles as representing wisdom and nurturers of the creative arts. The Vedic Pushan and Greek Dionysus were both associated with youth, goats, and wine. Pushan was described as “goat-born,” Bacchus “half-goat.” The tenth Mandala of the Rig Veda relates that the young god Pushan stole the cattle of Indra, herded them backwards into a cave, and hid them somewhere inside in a mountain. Homeric hymns from the ninth century BC attribute exactly the same feat to the young god Dionysus, who put false feet on the cows, pointed backwards, and then herded them into a mountain cave, so the gods could not find them.

The Katha Upanishad of the Vedic tradition relates a metaphor in which the self is the lord of the chariot, the intellect the charioteer, the body the chariot, the horses, and the senses. “He who has no understanding…” the Upanishad say, “his senses are out of control, as wicked horses are for a charioteer.” Exactly same metaphor is found in Plato’s Phaedrus, which uses the image of a chariot moving through heaven and falling to earth when the self, the charioteer, allows the horses, representing sense and appetite, to get out of control.

The Vedic practice of performing sacrificial rites also has echoes in the religious practices of Greece and Israel. In the Odyssey, Odysseus makes sacrificial offerings of a bull to the gods, and in Israel, in the Old Testament, there are many descriptions of burnt offerings of animals to the gods. These practices have their roots in more ancient Vedic rites.

Fragments from Empedocles’ book on Purification give the same definition of health that the Charaka Samhita of the Vedic tradition did more than two thousand years earlier. Heraclitus defines “health” as a balance of the fundamental elements. There is also a link between the “angirasas” of the Rig Veda, who were higher beings – intermediates between gods and men and attendants of Agni, who is often described as a messenger between heaven and earth. They personify flames of fire as messenger to heaven. This view is borne out by the etymological connection of Sanskrit “angiras” with the Greek “angelos” (messenger).

Ancient legends in Greece speak of the early Pre-Socratics as traveling to India. Thales, Pythagoras, Empedocles, Democritus, and Plato were all fabled to have made the journey (although the legends are rarely given credibility). Commentators on the early Greeks from around the first and second century passed BC on these legends. While these journeys may or may not have taken place, it is not unthinkable, for there were well established commercial routes between India and Greece along the Silk Road, protected by Persian king, as well as between ports on the Red Sea that linked Greece with India in a thriving spice trade.

Plotinus in the third century AD set out from Alexandria (a city famed for its esoteric knowledge) on an expedition to India to gain more experiential knowledge of the transcendent. The expedition never completed the journey, so that Plotinus never arrived in India, but Plotinus believed that it was the place to learn about the transcendental unity of Being. It was not ideas or concepts from India but Vedic practices which brought to the Greek awakening of early sixth century BC a unique technique of transcending to experience pure consciousness. Plato writes about a “fair word” that a physician of Thrace gave to Socrates to enable him to become immortal and gain self-knowledge.

To be continued …

The first two verses of the Purusha sukta (Suk...

The first two verses of the Purusha sukta (Suktam/Sooktam), with Sayana’s commentary. Page of Max Müller’s Rig-Veda-sanhita, the Sacred Hymns of the Brahmans (reprint, London 1974). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Story Of Vedic Civilisation

How Ancient Is The Vedic Tradition

Dr Kenneth Chandler

Origins Of Vedic Civilisation

Astronomical References in the Rig Veda and Other Evidence

Evidence from other sources known since the late nineteenth century also tends to confirm the great antiquity of the Vedic tradition. Certain Vedic texts, for example, refer to astronomical events that took place in ancient astronomical time. By calculating the astronomical dates of these events, we thus gain another source of evidence that can be used to place the Rig Veda in a calculable time-frame.

A German scholar and an Indian scholar simultaneously discovered in 1889 that the Vedic Brahmana texts describe the Pleiades coinciding with the spring equinox. Older texts describe the spring equinox as falling in the constellation Orion. From a calculation of the precision of the equinoxes, it has been shown that the spring equinox lay in Orion around 4,500 BC.

The German scholar, H. Jacobi, came to the conclusion that the Brahmanas are from a period around or older than 4,500 BC. Jacobi concludes that “the Rig Vedic period of culture lies anterior to the third pre-Christian millennium.”

Bal Gangadhar Tilak, using similar astronomical calculations, estimates the time of the Rig Veda at 6,000 BC.

More recently, Frawley has cited references in the Rig Veda to the winter solstice beginning in Aries. On this basis, he estimates that the antiquity of these verses of the Veda must go back at least to 6,500 BC. The dates Frawley gives for Vedic civilisation are :

Period 1. 6500-3100 BC, Pre-Harappan, early Rig Vedic

Period 2. 3100-1900 BC, Mature Harappan 3100-1900, period of the Four Vedas

Period 3. 1900-1000 BC, Late Harappan, late Vedic and Brahmana period.

Professor Dinesh Agrawal of Penn State University reviewed the evidence from a variety of sources and estimated the dates as follows:

Rig Vedic Age – 7000-4000 BC

End of Rig Vedic Age – 3 750 BC

End of Ramayana-Mahabharat Period – 3000 BC

Development of Saraswati-Indus Civilization – 3000-2200 BC

Decline of Indus and Saraswati Civilization – 2200-1900 BC

Period of chaos and migration – 2000-1500 BC

Period of evolution of syncretic Hindu culture – 1400-250 BC.

The Taittiriya Samhita (6.5.3) places the constellation Pleiades at the winter solstice, which correlates with astronomical events that took place in 8,500 BC at the earliest.

The Taittiriya Brahmana (3.1.2) refers to the Purvabhadrapada nakshatra as rising due east—an event that occurred no later than 10,000 BC, according to Dr. B.G. Siddharth of India’s Birla Science Institute. Since the Rig Veda is more ancient than the Brahmanas, this would put the Rig Veda before 10,000 BC.

Attempts to date the Rig Veda based on astronomical evidence have some merit, but the conclusions are hotly debated, and probably not entirely free of conjecture. Some contemporary scholars take them quite seriously as a method of dating the Rig Veda, but the evidence is inconclusive at present.

Evidence from Sthapatya Veda Architecture

Perhaps the most interesting evidence for the antiquity of the Vedic tradition comes from architectural remains of towns and cities of the ancient Indus-Saraswati civilisation. The Indus Valley Civilisation flourished, according to the most reliable current scientific estimates, between 2,600 and 1,900 BC—but there are cities, such as Mehrgarh, that date back to 6,500-7,000 BC. These dates are based on archeological field-work using standard methods that are commonly recognised in the scientific community today. Over 1600 settlements have been found in the vast Indus/Saraswati region that extended over 25,000 square miles.

The most well known cities of the Indus valley civilisation, Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, were built of kiln-fired brick and laid out on an exact north-south axis. This means that the main streets of the city ran north-south, and the entrance of the homes and public buildings faced east. The cities were also built to the west of the rivers, so that they were on land that sloped east to the river.

These facts, which may seem trivial on first glance, turn out to be highly significant. The ancient architectural system of Sthapatya Veda prescribes detailed principles of construction of homes and cities. One of the main principles of Sthapatya Veda is that cities be laid out on an exact north-south grid, with all houses facing due east. Another is that the buildings be oriented to the east with a slope to the east and any body of water on the east. Most of the cities of the Saraswati and Indus valley followed these principles exactly.

These early cities were planned and constructed according to exact principles that align the microcosm of human dwelling to the larger cosmos. They applied laws of nature that are set out in Sthapatya Vedic architecture. When the principles were codified into a system is open to question, but since the building and city planning were done according to Sthapatya Vedic principles, it is reasonable to conclude that Sthapatya Veda was known and practiced during the ancient period of Indus-Saraswati valley civilisations. The system called Sthapatya Veda architecture may have preceded this period, or may have been codified later, but the cities were built according to Sthapatya Vedic architecture.

Since these cities were constructed as early as 6,500 to 7,000 BC, this would suggest that Sthapatya Veda may have been known as early as that. This gives another reason to put the origins of Rig Vedic tradition even before that time. This is another bit of evidence, which is not noted in previous literature, that may establish the great antiquity of the Rig Vedic tradition.

Archeological research has shown Indus Valley civilization was an outgrowth of an earlier agrarian civilisation. Richard H. Meadow of Harvard University has shown for instance a gradual shift from the hunting of game to the raising of sheep, goats, and cattle called the humped zebu, which were apparently domesticated in the Indus valley.

* * * The city of Mehrgarh, lying to the West of the Indus river near the Bolan Pass, between ancient India and Afghanistan, was first inhabited from 6,500 BC to 7,000 BC by a largely agrarian people who cultivated barley and cattle.

* * * The Rig Veda frequently mentions barley and milk cattle, and may have come from this agrarian period that was precursor to the Indus-Saraswati valley civilisation.

Yoga in the Ancient Indus Valley

There are still other reasons to think that the ancient city of Mohenjo-daro was home to a civilisation that knew the Vedic tradition. One artifact from Mohenjo-daro is a seal with a figure of a seated deity, in lotus posture. Mark Kenoyer describes this figure as “seated in a yogic posture.” Kenoyer characterises it as a deity with three faces, his feet in a yogic posture extending beyond the throne, with seven bangles on each arm, and a pipili plant adorning his head.

Here is further evidence that the Indus valley civilisation was not pre-Vedic. Rather than being overrun by “Indo-Europeans” who composed the Rig Veda, the Indus valley was apparently intimately linked to the Vedic tradition, and its kings practiced yoga. If the practice of yoga was known at the time of Indus valley civilisation, yoga must have been practiced in India before 1,900 when the Indus Valley settlements were withered by drought.

If the Indus valley civilisations practiced Sthapatya Veda architecture and Yoga, then the Vedic tradition was well established in India during the Indus valley civilisation which flourished, archeologists think, around 2,600 BC. The Indus Valley civilisation is thus either contemporaneous with the Vedic tradition, or the Vedic tradition was its predecessor; but in no case was the vast Indus Valley civilisation, extending over 2,500 square miles and 1,600 settlements, destroyed by outside invaders. The Indus-Saraswati civilisation may have been a successor to, or late remnant of, an earlier Vedic civilisation, which built their towns and cities on Sthapatya Vedic principles in the Indus valley and introduced yoga. It was the drying up of the Saraswati in around 1900 BC that ended Indus-Saraswati civilisation, not Aryan invaders.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Story Of Vedic Civilisation

How Ancient Is The Vedic Tradition

Dr Kenneth Chandler

Origins Of Vedic Civilisation

Other Approaches to Dating the Vedic Tradition

In an article entitled, “Birth of a Civilization,” in Archeology, January/February 1998, anthropologist Mark Kenoyer sums up decades of scientific research on the archeology of India and argues that the Rig Veda verses were known on the subcontinent sometime before 1500 BC, by communities in the northwest area of the subcontinent. This is, again, a minimal date, not an attempt to fix the time of the Vedic period at 1,500 BC.

Maurice Winternitz, a German scholar and author of the two volume History of Indian Literature, extensively re-examined the evidence for Muller’s dates in 1981, a decade before the movement to push back the dates of Vedic civilisation that started in the 1990s. Winternitz estimated how long it would have taken for the vast body of Vedic literature to form and develop before the Buddhist revival in 500 BC. He considered each of the major periods of Vedic literature and estimated a bare minimal time for the incubation of each. His estimate of 1900 years put the beginning of the Vedic tradition at sometime before 2,400 BC as a bare minimum.

The vast literature of the Rig Veda, the Brahmanans, the Aranyakas, the Upanishads, the Vedangas, the Upangas, the Puranans, the Itihasa, the systems of Ayur-Veda, Winternitz argued—each a huge body of literature—required a sustained incubation period that must have taken an extended period of time. Winternitz could not imagine that this had taken place in the short span of time that had been assigned for it to happen between 1,500 BC and 500 BC when Buddha lived. This, it must be emphasised again, was Winternitz’s estimate of a minimum time, and was not meant to fix the date of the Rig Vedic beginning.

The City Under the Sea : Dwarka

Undersea exploration of an ancient city about half a mile off the coast of Gujarat in India, in 1981, lead to the discovery a city that had been submerged since 1,600 BC. The city is well established to be Dwarka, an ancient city mentioned in the Mahabharata, the great epic of the late Vedic period of Itihasa. The Mahabharata describes Dwarka as built on land reclaimed from the sea. Boulders have been found under the fortified city walls, showing that it was the result of land reclamation. The Mahabharata also mentions that Krishna warned the residents of Dwarka that the city would be reclaimed by the sea. The discovery of a seal engraved with a three-headed animal at the Dwarka site corroborates a reference made in the Mahabharata that such a seal was given to the city. Seven nearby islands described in the Mahabharata have also been discovered.

  1. Since archeological research shows that the city was submerged around 1,600 BC, this would date the Mahabharata at least before 1,600 BC. Again this is a minimum time.

  1. Pottery found at the site, inscribed with the script of the Indus valley civilisation, has been established by thermo-luminescene tests to be about 3,530 years old.

  1. The Mahabharata was written toward the end of the classical Vedic period. If we accept Winternitz’s estimates a minimum of 1,500 years lapsed from the beginning of the Vedic period to the Mahabharata, then since Dwarka was submerged by 1,600, this would set the date of the Rig Veda back to before 3,100 BC. This again marks the minimum date of the Rig Veda, and should not be construed as a fixed date.

  1. The body of literature produced by Greece and Rome from Homer to Proclus spans roughly 1,300 years. The Vedic tradition produced an even larger body of literature from the beginning of the Rig Veda to the end of the classical period; so it would probably require at least 1,300 years for the Vedic tradition to generate a larger amount of literature. If we take 1,600 BC as the minimum date of the Mahabharata, this would put the beginning of the Vedic tradition sometime before 2,900 BC. If we take Wintenitz’s estimate of at least 1,900 years, this would put the beginning of the Rig Veda before 3,500 BC.

  2. Frawley and Rajaram, as well as many others, now put the date of the Mahabharata war at about 3,000 BC (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi also gives this date in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita). If we add 1,900 years incubation time as Winternitz estimates, this would put the dates of the Rig Veda back before 4,900 BC.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Story Of Vedic Civilisation

 

How Ancient Is The Vedic Tradition

Dr Kenneth Chandler

Origins Of Vedic Civilisation

Summary : Euro-centrism and Objective Science

For years, theories of the origins of the Indo-European people were based on small bits of evidence that were used to make sweeping generalisations. The Euro-centric perspective so heavily biased the discussion that it became necessary for scientists of the later twentieth century to re-examine and re-balance the perspectives in order to remove long-standing misconceptions formed by two centuries of speculative mythmaking. When these misconceptions are eliminated by objective science, no evidence remains that the Veda tradition came to India from outside.

Now we come to our second main question, How long ago was the Veda first cognised ?

When did the Veda first come to be known in the civilisation of India ?

How far back in time does the Vedic tradition go ?

How Ancient is the Vedic Tradition ?

New Light on the Cradle of Civilization

A second myth that dies hard is that Vedic civilisation came into existence as recently as 1000 to 1200 BC. Many scholars today have come to think that these dates are ridiculously recent and that the Vedic tradition, meaning the tradition of reciting the Rig Veda and the Vedic literature, is far more ancient. Scholars of the nineteenth century, the highly venerated Max Muller for one, give dates as recently as 1,000 to 1,200 BC. These dates, like the Aryan invasion theory, are products of a Euro-centric bias. They were rooted in unsustainable religious, cultural, and ethnic assumptions that were not based on scientific evidence.

Max Muller, one of many Christian missionaries to India, was firmly committed to the Biblical account of creation. Muller accepted the date of creation given in the Bible at 4004 BC and the great flood at 1500 BC. This compelled him to date the Rig Veda much later in time than an impartial scientist would have done. Muller had to fit the entire Vedic tradition into a time-frame following the great flood, which Biblical scholars held took place in 1500 BC.

Muller wrote a letter to his wife, dated 1886, in which he said “The translation of the Veda will hereafter tell to a great extent on the fate of India and on the growth of millions of souls in that country. It is the root of their religion, and to show them what the root is, I feel sure, is the only way of uprooting all that has sprung from it during the last 3,000 years.” These are hardly the words of an unbiased scientist. No matter how great Muller’s scholarly reputation, we have to examine his reasons for setting the dates around 1000 to 12000 BC.

Muller recognised that the Vedic tradition had to exist before Buddha, who lived in about 500 BC and who reacted against the Vedic tradition. Muller and other Germanic scholars also noticed that the Agni Purana and other Vedic texts refer to Buddha, so they felt justified in thinking that the Vedic tradition was just a little more ancient than Buddhism, and they put the dates of the Vedic period roughly two-thirds of way between the great flood (the Biblical limit they accepted) and the time of Buddha.

* * * These dates were given by Max Muller. For a recent discussion of Muller’s projected dates, which were meant as a minimum of time, not an actual dating, see Maurice Winternitz, A History of Vedic Literature, Vol. 1, (New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1981), pp. 270-288, especially p.273.

Muller thus set the dates of the Vedic period at 1000 to 1200 BC. Muller reasoned that if Buddha rejected the Vedic tradition, the Rig Veda must have preceded him by at least several centuries, but it had to have started (in his opinion as a Bible scholar) after the great flood.

Even Muller, however, recognised that this was an estimate of a bare minimum of time that lapsed between the beginning of the Vedic tradition and the time of Buddha. However, it became commonplace for textbooks to give the dates of the Vedic tradition as 1,000 to 1200 BC, based on Muller’s minimum estimate. Soon these were known as the dates of the Rig Veda. This fixed Muller’s estimate of a bare minimum into an absolute date in the popular imagination. The mud of speculation had become sedimented into the brick of common belief.

Current evidence shows that the Veda did not began so recently in human history. The references to Buddha occur in very late additions and have no bearings on the far more ancient origins of the Vedic tradition.

Satellite Photographs and Geological Evidence :

Dates of the Saraswati River and the Rig Veda

More recent scholars, such as David Frawley, Dr. B.G. Siddharth, Dr. S.B. Roy, Professor Subhash Kak, Dr. N.R. Waradpande, and Bhagwan Singh have made a case for much more ancient dates of the Rig Veda. Also B.G. Tilak, P.C. Sengupta, Pargiter, Jagat Pati Joshi, Dikshit, K.N. Shastri, Sri Aurobindo, Hermann Jacobi, Dayananda Saraswati, among many others, have argued for its greater antiquity.

David Frawley and N.S. Rajaram, in Vedic “Aryans” and the Origins of Civilisation, put forward an interesting and compelling theory of the origins of Vedic civilisation. Drawing upon a large array of evidence from anthropology, satellite mapping, geology, historical linguistic, and literary study, they have helped discredit the old “Aryan invasion theory” to establish that the Rig Veda was of much greater antiquity than Muller had estimated.

One of the strongest bits evidence comes from satellite pictures of an ancient and dried riverbed that is now taken to be the former bed of the Saraswati river. This great river, described in the Rig Veda as a “mighty river flowing from the mountains to the sea,” has long since disappeared from the maps of modern India, until satellite pictures revealed the bed of an ancient river running from the Himalayas to the western gulf of the Indian ocean, roughly paralleling the course of the Indus, but lying to the east of the Indus.

* * * There is strong evidence that Max Muller mistakenly judged the antiquity of the Indian literature by thousands of years or more. His arbitrary and most unconvincing placement of Alexander’s visit to India to coincide with Chandragupta Maurya is widely disputed today by many scholars. According to the evidence of the Purunas, Buddha lived approximately 1,800 BC, and Chandragupta/Tekshasila (Taxila) was about 1700 BC. The university at Nalanda probably flourished around 1,400 BC.

Satellite photos and geological field studies show that the Saraswati ceased to be a perennial river and flowed only seasonally, sometime before 3,000 BC. Also, since approximately 1900 BC the Saraswati riverbed has been completely dry. This, as we will see, is a key piece of the scientific evidence to establish dates of the Rig Veda. The Saraswati was fed by melt from Himalayan glaciers, after the receding of the last ice age, about 8,000 BC. As the melting glacial waters ceased to feed the river, it changed its course, became a seasonal river, perhaps went underground, and eventually dried up in its former riverbed. Some, like Subhash Kak, hold that the change in thecourse of the river was due to an earthquake.

This event left the many settlements along the banks of the Saraswati to their fate. As the river dried, without water the agricultural settlements and villages were no longer sustainable. After this time, the towns and cities were re-located to the Indus river valley nearby and still later, after the droughts and flooding that came to the Indus and Saraswati valleys around 1,900 BC, settlers migrated further east to the Ganges river plain.

The Rig Veda mentions the Indus river quite often, and it mentions the Saraswati no less than 60 times. Its reference to the Saraswati as a “mighty river flowing from the mountains to the sea” shows that the Rig Vedic tradition must have been in existence long before 3,000 BC when the Saraswati ceased to be a “mighty river” and became a seasonal trickle. Frawley and Rajaram drew the conclusion that the Rig Veda must have been composed long before 3,000 BC.

Rajaram writes that the “Saraswati described in the Rig Veda belongs to a date long before 3,000 BC.” He concludes that, “All this shows that the Rig Veda must have been in existence no later than 3,500 BC.” He thus places the beginning of the Vedic tradition “long before 3,000 BC” and its end before 2,000 BC. The Mahabharata, the great epic of classical Sanskrit, describes the Saraswati as a seasonal river. Since the Saraswati dried up by 1900 BC, the Mahabharata would have to be dated at least before 1,900 BC. Since it was still a seasonal river in 3,000, Rajaram and Frawley put the date of the Mahabharata in 3,000 BC.

Evidence from French SPOT satellite and the Indo-French field study have changed this conception of history. By showing that the Saraswati ceased to be a mighty river long before 3,000 BC, they showed that the Rig Vedic civilisation must have begun long before the Saraswati became a seasonal trickle sometime long before 3,000 BC. If the Rig Vedic tradition began before 3,500 BC, this would date it earlier the civilizations of Egypt, Harappa, or Mesopotamia.

The next in series….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Story Of Vedic Civilisation

How Ancient Is The Vedic Tradition

Dr Kenneth Chandler

Origins Of Vedic Civilisation

Causes of the Decline of the Indus-Saraswati Civilisation

Geological and archeological evidence, it turns out, give strong evidence that a long and devastating drought followed by devastating floods led to the abandonment of the settlements along the banks of the Indus and Saraswati rivers in western India, ending an urban civilisation that had flourished, archeologists now surmise, sometime between 2,600 BC and 1,900 BC. The Indus and Saraswati valley civilisation was vast and widespread, and covered over 250,000 square miles, from north central India in the east all the way to the eastern edge of Iran in the west. There is no evidence to suggest that this vast civilization was destroyed by Indo-European Aryan invaders, but rather, it is now virtually certain that its demise came as a result of widespread climatic changes that occurred in 1,900 BC.

Recent studies by Louis Flam of H. H. Lehman College of the City University of New York have shown that the course of the Indus river changed dramatically around 1,900 BC, probably flooding many settlements along the river and disrupting the Indus valley civilisation. Jim Schaffer of Case Western University has found impressive evidence that settlers of the Indus valley migrated at this time east to the plains of the river Ganges.

Mortimer Wheeler, the anthropologists who excavated Mohenjo-Daro in the in the 1920s , one of the most well-preserved cities of the Indus Valley civilisation, brought to the project an “outside invasion theory.” He found unburied skeletons in the most recent layers of the city which led him to think that he had evidence that the civilisation was overrun by invaders from outside. More reliable recent evidence has shown that the people of the Indus valley were not victims of invasion and massacre, but that their civilisation withered as a result of various climactic changes, including prolonged droughts and extensive flooding, and possibly also earthquakes that changed the courseof the rivers.

It was not outside invaders of India who brought an end to the Indus-Saraswati civilisation, but a series of climactic changes and natural disasters. The biases of European scholarship caused them to see invaders where there were none. They existed only in the imagination of European scholars.

Historical Linguistics and Migrations of Early Civilisation

The other issue that needs to be considered is language origins. Historical linguistics appears to detect patterns of language change which some think may imply patterns of migration of early peoples, and which may therefore provide a clue to the origins of Vedic civilisation.

The original theory proposed by the early historical linguistics who considered these issues was that Vedic Sanskrit conserved the original sound system of the “proto-Indo-European” language most closely, and that Iranian and European languages underwent a systematic sound shift, creating break-away or daughter languages spoken by the people who populated India and Europe. According to this theory, Vedic Sanskrit was put at near the trunk of the proto-Indo-European language tree, if not the trunk itself.

This theory has been challenged and hotly debated in recent years, most especially by computer linguists. Since the 1990s, it is now common for computer linguists to hold that Sanskrit is not so near the root of the Indo-European language tree, but a subsequent branch. A currently dominant theory is that the original Indo-European language stemmed from an Indo-European proto-language that has since been lost.

The first languages to break off from the proto-Indo-European root, according to the dominant contemporary linguistic theories, was Anatolian (the language of what is now central Turkey), followed by Celtic (a language found in nearby Thrace in northeastern Greece, and also Ireland suggesting that there was a commerce or colonisation between Ireland and early Thrace), then Greek, and then Armenian. According to these theories, the Indian and Iranian language groups are still later branches off the proto-Indo-European “root.”

The linguistic evidence appears to imply migrations of people from the Black Sea area into India, and yet there is no anthropological evidence to support either a migration into northern India, or an invasion. Evidence from skeletal remains, as we saw, as well as pottery and other artifacts, show no cultural replacement at any time in north Indian history. This makes it difficult to conclude that a people speaking a proto-Indo-European root language migrated to India from outside, resulting in a language shift to the daughter language of Sanskrit. The hard anthropological evidence just does not support such a view. How else, then, can we account for the apparently late evolution of Sanskrit from the proto-Indo-European root language ?

* * * Dr. Don Ringe and Dr. Ann Taylor, two linguists at the University of Pennsylvania, with the help of computer scientist Dr. Tandy Warnow, developed a computer algorithm to sift through the Indo-European languages and look for grammatical and phonetic similarities between them. Their work, published in 1996, has thrown up four possible family trees. “We have come up with a favorite,” says Dr. Warnow. The tree shows that the first breakaway language was Anatolian, an ancient group of languages once spoken in Turkey. Celtic was quick to follow, spawning Irish, Gaelic, Welsh and Breton. Armenian and Greek then developed from proto-Into-European. Strangely enough, one of the later branches to emerge, according to the runs of the computer programs, was Sanskrit.

It is interesting that the Celts settled in Thrace in northern Greece, just a short distance from Anatolia. Thrace was the birthplace of the Orphic mysteries which swept into Greece in the sixth century BC. Celtic is one of the earliest languages, along with Anatolian and Greek, to break off from the Indo European proto-language. The technique for self-knowledge described by Socrates were said to have come from Thrace. The Anatolians of central Turkey occupied the area near where the pre-Socratic tradition sprang up in the sixth century BC. This suggests that a technique was passed from India into the Celtic language.

Eminent computer linguists caution against drawing conclusions from computer-simulated language programs—which may reflect the assumptions of the programmers more than the branches of the linguistic tree. They caution that computer linguists tend to program in assumptions that reflect their own biases and expectations, and therefore the outcomes cannot be any more accurate than the assumptions. Computer linguistics does not necessarily mean unbiased, objective linguistics, but may, on the contrary, program in distinct biases of the linguists. If linguists start with a theory of an outside invasion, they will naturally bring those biases into their work, and it is not unthinkable that such biases have colored computer and historical linguistic theories.

It also needs to be pointed out that if a false assumption is programmed in, then anything at all can come out. Anything at all can be derived from a false assumption. If the assumption that Sanskrit is not the proto-Indo-European language root be false, then anything follows.

More on the Indo-European Proto-Language

* * * In 1990, Thomas V. Gamkrelidze and V. V. Ivanov, authors of the two volume The Indo-European Language and the Indo-Europeans, published an article in Scientific American, in which they state, “The landscape described by the reconstructed Indo-European proto-language is mountainous—as evidenced by the many words for high mountains, mountain lakes and rapid rivers flowing from mountain sources.” They note also that, “the [proto-Indo-European language] has words for animals that are alien to Europe, such as “leopard,” “snow leopard,” “lion,” “monkey” and “elephant.”” The authors suggest, on the basis of this and other linguistic evidence, that the homeland of the proto-Indo-Europeans was somewhere in the Caucasian mountains of western Asia near the Black Sea in around 4000 BC.

These same words could be used to make the case that the mountainous terrain, and more especially the elephant, monkey, and snow leopard are more commonly found in the region of northern India and the Himalayas. If the words for elephant, monkey, snow leopard, and mountains are in fact more abundant in the Indo-European proto language, this would most likely put the proto-Indo-European home somewhere in the Himalayan region of northern India, rather than in the Mountains to the east of the Black Sea. This would tend to support the hypothesis that the Indo-European proto language originated in the region of the Himalayas of northern India and Tibet, rather than in the area of central Turkey, where there are few monkeys and elephants.

At present, there is simply not enough evidence to discern the early patterns of migration and language shift that brought about the different language groups. We can say with relative certainty, however, that the Vedic people did not migrate into India from outside, so it is relatively unlikely that the Vedic language came from outside India. Thus the origins of Vedic Sanskrit remain obscure.

Many linguists stress that our “linguistic heritage, while it may tend to correspond with cultural continuity, does not imply genetic or biological descent. There is no more reason to suppose that we, as speakers of an Indo-European language, are descended biologically from the speakers of proto-Indo-European, than that the English speaking population of Nigeria is Anglo-Saxon.”17 It is necessary to be very careful in drawing conclusions about migration patterns and racial origins from linguistic evidence.

Rules of Language Transformation

A main tool of historical linguistics is the set of rules of sound and grammatical transformation governing the language change. One language evolves into another due to cultural or geographic separations of peoples due to migrations or other cultural displacements, such as conquest. Using the rules of historical linguistics, it appears to be possible to discern patterns of change and to determine which language has shifted into the other.

* * * Thomas V. Gamkrelidze and V. V. Ivanov, “Family Tree of the Indo-European Languages,” Scientific American, March, 1990, argue that more “recent evidence now places the probable origin of the Indo-European language in western Asia.” They hypothesize that the proto-Indo-Europeans originated sometime around 4,000 BC in the region around the Black Sea.

* * * Radio-carbon dating of skeletal remains of the “Kennikut man” found in the late 1990s in the Columbia river gorge on the west coast of north America shows that caucasoidal men inhabited Oregon more than ten thousand years ago. Some words of the Klamath Indians of that region of Oregon are also of apparent Indo-European origin. The Klamath word which means “to blow” is “pniw” and may be linked to the Greek “pneu” which means breath or to blow, and ultimately to the Sanskrit “prana” which means breath. Linguists assume this was mere accident before the discovery of Caucasoid remains in the area. This would suggest that a migration into the Americas took place 10,000 years ago or more—and the immigrants brought with them an Indo-European language, putting the dates of the proto-European root at before 10,000 BC. The Rig Veda civilisation, like the American Indians, had a bow and arrow technology. Rig Vedic civilisation can be placed in time as more advanced than the Indian culture of 10,000 years ago.

One of the rules of historical linguistics is the softening of consonants over time. Thus, for example, the “v” in the Sanskrit “Veda,” meaning knowledge, is transformed into the softer English “w” in “wit,” “witten,” “wisdom” and the German “wissen,” which also means knowledge, and derives from the more ancient Sanskrit root. The Sanskrit “deva” is transformed into the softer Latin “deus,” Greek “theos,” Lithuanian “dewas,” Irish “dia,” and Old Prussian “diews.”

Using such transformation rules, linguists attempt to reconstruct which languages are earlier and which broke off later in the transmutation of language. Historical linguists assume that these rules are constant over time and that they apply to early transformations as well as later ones.

If we assume that the basic rules of language transformations are constant and do not mutate over time, then these conclusions follow. But could there have been sound shifts in the opposite direction at much earlier times in history ? Perhaps different laws applied at the time when Vedic Sanskrit changed from and to other languages.

Consider that there are also changes in the reverse direction. For example, the “g” in the Sanskrit “go,” (meaning cow) is transformed into the harder consonant “k,” to make the German word “kuh” for cow. The English word “cow,” pronounced with a hard “k,” is a harder, guttural form than the “g” in the Sanskrit “go.”

Also, in the case of the Vedic tradition, we have a people who were highly conscious of language and sound and the rules of sound transformation, even from the early Vedanga period. The Vedangas give elaborate theories of sound and its relation to meaning. Ancient Sanskrit grammar has its own rules for the transformation of consonants, internal rules for change, codified in ancient texts on phonology and grammar (Nirukta and Vakaran), both of which express elaborate theories of sound. Such self-reflective theories at an early date may have influenced the direction of language shift and may be anomalous to the rules applied in later linguistic theory.

Other hypotheses may explain why Vedic Sanskrit appears to not be the proto-Indo-European root language. One might propose, for example, that an early form of Sanskrit arose in northern India, and that some north Indian peoples migrated west to the Black Sea area, where their language mutated into Anatolian, Armenian, Celtic, and Greek. Then language change within Vedic Sanskrit, due to self-reflective grammatical theories, have mutated this earlier form of Sanskrit in a direction contrary to the typical rules of linguistic transformation.

Computer simulated models of language change may be simply wrong or misleading. In other words, the transformation “rules” of historical linguistics may not apply to changes as early as Vedic Sanskrit. Or they may reflect more the racial and cultural biases of the programmers. Rather than assume a migration from the Black Sea area into India, which is not supported by anthropological evidence, we must simply acknowledge that we do not have enough knowledge to discern the early patterns of migration of the people who wrote the Vedic literature.

The simplest hypothesis to account for the data may be that Vedic Sanskrit is itself is the mother tongue of the proto-Indo-European peoples.

The next in series….  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Story Of Vedic Civilisation

How Ancient Is The Vedic Tradition

Dr Kenneth Chandler

Origins Of Vedic Civilisation

To many European scholars of the nineteenth century (characterised more by their Euro-centrism than by scientific attitudes towards peoples of other cultures), the idea that the family of European languages family could have originated in India was unthinkable. It was just not culturally acceptable to think that the roots of European language and culture could be traced to darker-skinned peoples indigenous to India. So European thinkers began to speculate about a pre-historic “proto-Indo-European” race who had migrated from somewhere in Western Asia, perhaps around the Black Sea, Eastern Europe, or Russia, to settle in India and in Europe. This, as we will see, was a purely racial and cultural bias, with no basis in archeological fact.

Many European scholars immediately bought in to the “Indo-European hypothesis,” which was the stimulus to develop the discipline of historical linguistics. European scholars like Max Muller, Thomas Young, Joseph de Goubinau, Dwight Witney, Sir Mortimer Wheeler, A.L. Basham, George Cox, and John Fiske all adopted the theory of Indo-European origins. They commonly proposed that a people speaking “proto-Indo-European” came from somewhere in central or Western Asia or southeastern Europe, invaded India from the northwest, overran the local culture, and settled in the north of India.

These Indo-Europeans were said to be “Aryans” in race and language, which meant primarily fair-haired and light-skinned people. By the twentieth century they were conceived, mainly by German scholars, as a blue-eyed, blond race that was the stock of the Germanic people—all nicely fitting the cultural-political-racial agendas of Western Europe—and Nazi Germany in particular.

In spite of the large number of scholars of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century who believed the invasion theory, it turns out, as we see below, that there is almost no shred of evidence to support it. It is one of the great myths formed by European scholars to support their bias that outside invaders created early Indian civilisation. Anthropologist today find all evidence points to an origin of the Vedic tradition that is indigenous to northern India.

Scientific Archeology : The End of the Invasion Theory

In the 1990s, a new wave of scientific evidence, coming partly from satellite photos, geological study, archeological digs, and other anthropological finds began to seriously discredit the old myth. Once the rubble of false assumptions was cleared away, a far more simple scientific picture of the origins of ancient north Indian civilization began to emerge.

* * * Professor Colin Renfrew, professor of archeology at Cambridge University, in his Archeology and Language: The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins, (1988) gives evidence for Indo-Europeans in India as early as 6,000 BC. He comments : As far as I can see there is nothing in the Hymns of the Rigveda which demonstrates that the Vedic-speaking population were intrusive to the area : this comes rather from a historical assumption about the ‘coming’ of the Indo-Europeans.

* * * Professor Schaffer at Case Western University writes in “Migration, Philology and South Asian Archaeology” that there was an indigenous development of civilization in India going back to at least 6000 BC. He proposes that the Harappan or Indus Valley urban culture (2600-1900 BC) centered around the Saraswati river described in the Rig Veda and states that the Indus Valley culture came to an end, not because of outside invaders, but due to environmental changes, most important of which was the drying up of the Saraswati river.

Schaffer holds that the movement of populations away from the Saraswati to the Ganges after the Saraswati dried up in about 1900 BC, is reflected in the change from the Saraswati-based literature of the Rig Veda to the Ganges-based literature of the Itihasa and Puranic texts. He also states that the Aryan invasion theory reflects a colonial and Euro-centric perspective that is quite out of date. He concludes : We reject most strongly the simplistic historical interpretations… that continue to be imposed on south Asian culture history…Surely, as south Asian studies approach the twenty-first century, it is time to describe emerging data objectively rather than perpetuate interpretations without regard to the data archaeologists have worked so hard to reveal.

Anthropologist Brian Hemphill of Vanderbilt University has been studying the human remains of the northern Indian subcontinent for years. He states categorically that his analysis shows no indication of population replacement or large-scale migration.

Archaeologist Mark Kenoyer, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and co-director of the Harappa Archeological Research project, holds that the invasion theory is completely unsupported by archeological, linguistic, or literary evidence. He writes in an article on the Indus valley civilisation : Colin Renfrew, Professor of Archeology at Cambridge University, in his famous work, Archeology and Language : The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins, (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1988) Renfrew also sees evidence that the Indo-Europeans were in Greece as early as 6,000 BC. If previous scholars were wrong about the origin of the Indus people, they also missed the boat when it came to explaining their downfall, which they attributed to an invasion by Indo-Aryan speaking Vedic tribes from the northwest. Archeological evidence simply does not support the thesis of an outside invasion.

Kenoyer argues, “it’s likely that the rivers dried up and shifted their courses, altering trade routes and undermining the economy.” Kenoyer holds that the Indus valley script can be traced to at least 3,300 BC—making it as old or older than the oldest Sumerian written records.

Archaeologist Kenneth Kennedy writes that no Aryan skeletons have been found in the Indus valley that differ from the skeletons of indigenous ethnic groups. All prehistoric human remains recovered from the Indian subcontinent are phenotypically identifiable as south Asians. Furthermore their biological continuity with living peoples of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the border regions is well established across time and space.

Scientific archeology, it is now safe to say, no longer gives the invasion theory a grain of credibility. It has lost its supporters among serious scientists. Also, as professor Renfrew argues, there is no internal evidence from the ancient Vedic literature that Vedic civilisation originated outside India. The verses of the Rig Veda, the most ancient songs of Vedic tradition, detail many aspects of daily life of the people. There is no hint in this vast literature of a migration or of a history that lies in a homeland beyond the mountains of northern India. All evidence from archeology, anthropology, and Vedic literature indicate that Vedic civilisation was indigenous to northern India. Geological data now explains the demise of the Indus and Saraswati valley civilisations in terms of climactic change, bringing an end to the outside invasion theory.

The next in series….  

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.

 

THE LITERARY EVIDENCE

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. 

 

THE EVIDENCE OF LINGUISTIC ISOGLOSSES

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 https://vamadevananda.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/journal-alternate-history-7/ and links therein for previous adaptations from the most brilliant, insightful analysis ever undertaken …

by Shrikant G. Talageri available @ http://www.voiceofdharma.org/books/rig/index.htm

 

Journal : Alternate History

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

In a previous tranca, https://vamadevananda.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/alternate-history-6/ , we left off with the promise of taking up the evidence in the Rig Veda in order to arrive at the true picture of facts about Proto-Aryan homeland, whence the Indo-Iranian and Indo-Aryan streams supposedly branched off some 4000 – 6000 years ago.

And in the one before, https://vamadevananda.wordpress.com/2012/11/12/alternate-history-5/ , a detailed intervention was presented on ” Horses And The Aryan Debate ” … a much ado for nothing, as it is, but a cornerstone in the Aryan Invasion hypothesis perpetuated by scholars and historians with European pedigree.

We now take up the evidence in Rig Veda adapted from the most brilliant, insightful analysis ever undertaken  by Shrikant G. Talageri available @ http://www.voiceofdharma.org/books/rig/index.htm

 

III THE HISTORICAL IDENTITY OF THE IRANIANS 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a. BhRgus (VII.18.6) : Phrygians. 

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

c. Alinas (VII.18.7) : Alans. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

IV  THE IRANIAN MIGRATIONS 

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

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

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

The details may be examined under the following heads :

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

 

IV.A. The Pre-Rigvedic Period

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

Period

Rigveda

Avesta

Iranian Geographical Area

1

Pre-Rigvedic Period

Kashmir

2

Early Rigvedic Period

Pre-Avestan Period

Punjab

3

Middle Rigvedic Period

Period of GAthAs and early YaSts

Punjab, south and east Afghanistan

4

Late Rigvedic Period

Proper Avestan Period

Punjab, Afghanistan, southern Central Asia

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

IV.B. The Early Period of the Rigveda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

IV.C. The Middle Period of the Rigveda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

However, we can speculate as follows :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

IV.D. The Late Period of the Rig Veda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The incongruity between the two conclusions is striking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright

All rights to material on this blog site is reserved.
Copyrights rest with either with the owner / author of this site or with those whose ownership / authorship is acknowledged.
Please do not copy, quote, print or publish without permission.
%d bloggers like this: