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Indo-European history result of interaction of Purus with western Anus, Druhyus- 3 of 5 Rigvedic tribes: Talageri

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By Nithin Sridhar

The Aryan Question: Part 8

The Aryan question continues to remain highly controversial and multidimensional in nature. In order to unravel the nitty-gritty of the issue, NewsGram interviewed various scholars who have researched various aspects of the issue in depth.

In the Part 6 and Part 7 of this series on ‘The Aryan Question’, NewsGram carried the first and second segment of the exclusive interview of Shrikant G. Talageri, independent scholar and author of many books dealing with Aryan issue, including two books analyzing the evidence present in the Rigveda titled ‘Rigveda: A Historical Analysis’ and ‘Rigveda and Avesta: The Final Evidence

Read Part 6: Rigvedic people originally lived east of Saraswati, later expanded westwards during oldest books period

Read Part 7: Purus are original inhabitants of core Rigvedic area, Bharata sub-tribe the original Vedic Aryans

In this eighth Installment of The Aryan Question series, here is the third and final segment of the interview.

Nithin Sridhar: Many hold that Soma or Ephedra has originated from outside India possibly from Bactrian culture and use this to show that the Aryans who composed the Vedas where Soma is important came from outside. What is your view on this?

Shrikant G. Talageri: Soma did originate in Central Asia and the mountains of Afghanistan and Central Asia (but it was also found in the mountainous areas of the northernmost tips of present-day Pakistan). And it was indeed important in the Rigveda. But chilies are very important in India today, and so are potatoes: imagine what a devout Maharashtrian today would think of eating on Mondays in the month of Shravan if there had been no sabu-dana, potatoes, groundnuts and chilies to prepare his favourite “upwas” food, sabudana khichdi. All these ingredients came from America (brought by the Portuguese). Did all Indians in general or Maharashtrians in particular also come from America? In fact, how many Indians who used all these ingredients in the eighteenth century had ever even visited America, or perhaps even been aware of its existence?

In the period of the composition of the Oldest Books (6,3,7) of the Rigveda, Soma was a rare, exotic, and imported item, introduced from the northwest by the Anu and Druhyu tribes to the west of the Purus (the Vedic aryas). Its place of origin was unknown, except that it came from far away in the mountains or even the heavens, but certainly from the distant west. When the Vedic aryas (the Bharata Purus) under Sudas started their westward expansion, one of the objects of their westward movement was the quest for reaching the Soma lands. The hymn III.33, which describes Sudas’ first movements westwards across the Shutudri and Vipash, makes this very clear, as Griffith notes in the footnote to his translation of III.33.5: “according to the Scholiasts, Yaska and Sayana, the meaning of me vacase somyaya is ‘to my speech importing the Soma’; that is, the object of my address is that I may cross over and gather the Soma plant“. Later, Sudas defeats the coalition of ten Anu tribes (and their allies, remnants of the Druhyus) in the Dasharajna battle, and much later his descendants, Sahadeva and his significantly named son Somaka in the period of Book 4, carry the battle into the actual Soma lands to the north and west of the Indus river (Book 4 is the only one of the five Old Books which goes beyond the Indus). The Puru quest for Soma, therefore, in a sense, ultimately led to the second great migration westwards of Indo-European dialect-speaking Anu tribes who took the ancestral Albanian, Greek, Armenian and Iranian dialects out of India (just as the European quest for Indian spices in later times led to the discovery and colonization of the Americas and Australia).

Significantly, the names of the Soma-growing geographical areas appear only in the New Books (1,5,8-10) after the expansion of the Vedic aryas to the Indus and beyond: Sushoma, Arjika, Sharyanavat and Mujavat. The gandharvas who are repeatedly described as guarding the Soma, appear only in the New Books. The word pavamana, the most important epithet of Soma in the Rigveda, is found more than a hundred times but only in the New Books. The Soma cult suddenly reached a peak only in the Late Rigvedic Period, and so many hymns were composed during the period of the New Books (5,1,8) that they were all gathered together and made into a separate Book, the Soma Mandala (Book 9). A special family of rishis exclusively associated with Soma, the Kashyapas, came into existence in the period of the New Books (even their apri sukta is addressed to Soma while the apri suktas of all the other 9 families are addressed to Agni).

In hundreds of references throughout the Rigveda, the Soma-growing areas are regularly described as being far away, in the distant mountains, in mythical fantasy areas (guarded by fierce gandharvas, where the Soma has to be taken away by stealth or with the help of a mythical eagle, etc.) and in the heavens themselves. The Bhrigus (one of the 10 families of Vedic rishis, associated in the Rigveda with the enemy Anu tribe to the west, and in the Avesta with the Iranians) are exclusively credited in a variety of ways (directly and mythically) with the introduction of Soma to the Vedic aryas.

In short, the Vedic aryas (the Purus) did not come from some place in the west bringing Soma with them. They were inhabitants of eastern areas, and Soma was a plant to which they were introduced by the priests of the Anus who resided to their west (who in turn must themselves have been introduced to Soma by the priests of the Druhyus who resided to their north and northwest). The evidence clearly reaffirms the original total non-acquaintance of the Vedic aryas (the Purus) with the northwest and west.

NS: What is the relationship between the Rigveda and early Avestan literature, and between Rigvedic Sanskrit and Avestan. What does the comparative analysis reveal about the Aryan homeland and the Aryan migration issue?

SGT: The Rigveda and the Avesta are clearly related to each other, and they share a very large number of the common rituals, words, metres, personal name types, myths, divinities and mythical concepts which are not found in the other Indo-European languages.

According to the official theory, all this represents a common culture which developed among the Indo-Aryans and Iranians in Central Asia, after they left the Original Homeland in the west and migrated eastwards into Central Asia. They later split and separated in three directions from Central Asia, taking the elements of this common culture with them: the Indo-Aryans (who became the Vedic Aryans) migrated south-eastwards into present-day northern Pakistan (where they composed the Rigveda), the Iranians migrated southwards into Afghanistan (where they composed the Avesta), and a breakaway group of Indo-Aryans (who became the Mitanni) migrated south-westwards as far as Syria-Iraq (where they established the Mitanni kingdom and left datable records all over West Asia of their presence).

However, I have shown in my book (“The Rigveda and the Avesta – The Final Evidence“, 2008:20-49, 168-183) that this common culture of the Rigveda, the Avesta and the Mitanni is completely and totally missing in the Old Books of the Rigveda (Books 2-4,6-7). It is found in overflowing proportions in the New Books (Books 1,5,8-10), and in all post-Rigvedic Vedic and Sanskrit literature. If it represented a pre-Rigvedic culture, it should have been the opposite: it should have been found (and found abundantly) in the Old Books and should have slowly become out-dated and diluted by the time of the New Books, and much more so in later texts. This shows that the common culture developed (out of the totally different culture of the Old Books) during the Late period of the New Books in the geographical area of the Rigveda (westernmost U.P to southern and eastern Afghanistan), and that the Iranians and the Mitanni are emigrants from this area after or during this Period.

But, a) The Late Period in which the New Books were composed goes back to at least 2600 BCE, and the Middle Period (of Books 2,4) and the Early Period (of Books 6,3,7) go much further back in time, definitely well before 3000 BCE and b) the geography of the Oldest Books shows that the Vedic Aryans were located at that time to the east of the Sarasvati river, in Haryana and westernmost U.P. Moreover in that period (before 3000 BCE) and that area (east of the Sarasvati in Haryana), the Oldest Books give no indications of newness in the area or memories of having come from elsewhere or acquaintance with areas further west or (contemporaneous or earlier) presence of any (linguistically) non-“Aryan” people in the area: even the rivers in the area have linguistically “Aryan” names.

Therefore, since, by a consensus among scholars, the speakers of all the different branches of Indo-European languages were in their Original Homeland till around 3000 BCE, this means that the Original Indo-European Homeland was in India.

NS: You have been one of the foremost proponents of Out of India theory or migrations from India to outside. Can you briefly explain various literary and linguistic evidence that explain the migration? Also, explain the manner and probable dating of these migrations.

SGT: The Puranas and the Rigveda both make it clear that there were Five Tribes, mythically descended from five eponymous sons of Yayati. But it is the three northern tribal conglomerates (the Druhyus, Anus and Purus) who are crucial to our understanding of Indo-European history and migrations. They clearly shared a closer relationship to each other than to the more distant Yadus and Turvasus to their south: a) the Puranas name the first three as sons of Sharmishtha, and the last two as sons of Devayani. b) Likewise, the Rigveda, in I.108.8, names the first three together and the last two together. It may be added that the proto-Indo-European language reconstructed by linguists also takes into consideration only the languages descended from the dialects spoken by the first three tribes: Purus (as “Indo-Aryan” or Vedic), Anus (as Iranian, Armenian, Greek, Albanian) and Druhyus (as Tocharian, Anatolian, Slavic, Baltic, Germanic, Celtic, Italic).

This history begins with the Tribes located as described earlier: the Purus as the inhabitants of the Central Area (Haryana and adjacent areas of western U.P.), the Anus to their North (Kashmir, etc), the Druhyus to their West (present-day northern Pakistan), and the Yadus and Turvasus to their South-west (Rajasthan, Gujarat, western M.P.) and South-east (eastern M.P. and Chhattisgarh?) respectively. The Solar race of the Ikshvakus are placed to their East (eastern U.P, northern Bihar).

Historical events described in the Puranas led to the Druhyus slowly migrating to the northwest into Afghanistan, and later northwards into Central Asia. The Anus moved southwards and occupied most of the original Druhyu areas in present-day northern Pakistan (and the remnants of the Druhyus in those areas were probably linguistically and culturally “Anu“-ized in the course of time). The easternmost of the Anus, the various Iranian tribes, were in close contact with the Purus (the Vedic Aryans) throughout the Vedic period.

The whole process of expansions and migrations of the speakers of the different Indo-European dialects took place from some point of time before 4000 BCE to some point of time after 3000 BCE. Even after expanding northwards and westwards during this period, they were still in contact with each other and formed a contiguous band of dialects, till they started splitting from each around 3000 BCE. There were three stages:

1. The Early Dialects (Anatolian and Tocharian in that order) expanded from Afghanistan into Central Asia some time before or around 4000 BCE.

The proto-Anatolian (mainly Hittite) speakers expanded northwards into Central Asia around 4000 BCE, and remained in the western part of Central Asia (present Turkmenistan) for a very long time, perhaps till at least 2200 BCE, after which they started migrating around the shores of the Caspian Sea, and finally entered Turkey from the northwest, and later entered into the annals of recorded history with their conquest of Babylon in the 16th century BCE. However, later they merged into the local population and the Anatolian languages became extinct.

The speakers of proto-Tocharian were the second group to expand northwards into Central Asia, and they settled down in the eastern parts of Central Asia (Tajikstan, Kyrgyzstan, parts of eastern Kazakhstan, and Xinjiang) and remained there till almost 1200 AD, after which they also seem to have faded out of existence.

2. The European Dialects (proto-Italic, proto-Celtic, proto-Germanic, proto-Baltic and proto-Slavic) expanded into Central Asia from Afghanistan in a long-drawn out process stretching out from over a period of time after 4000 BCE to 3000 BCE. After this, the five dialects moved westwards and migrated all the way to Europe over a period of a few hundred years through a northern route.

3. Four of the five Last Dialects (proto-Albanian, proto-Greek, proto-Armenian and proto-Iranian) expanded into Afghanistan around 3000 BCE., shortly after the Battle of the Ten Kings or the Dasharajna battle described in the Oldest Books of the Rigveda. Not long after that, the speakers of the first three of the above started expanding into Iran, and migrated through Iran into West Asia and the Caucasus region, and finally reached as far west as southeastern Europe. The Iranians, in their wake, expanded into Afghanistan. The region of present-day northern Pakistan, into which the speakers of the Vedic dialects, the Purus, had expanded after the Dasharajna battle, remained a centre of the “Indo-Iranian“, i.e. PuruAnu, Civilization which we would today describe as the Indus Valley, Harappan, or more properly the Sindhu-Sarasvati Civilization which extended over the geographical horizon of the Rigveda, and which we see reflected in the Old-Middle Books and the New Books of the Rigveda.

Indo-European history is mainly a result of the interaction of the Purus with the Anus and Druhyus to their west. Ancient Indian history or the history of the Indian or Hindu Civilization, on the other hand, pertains mainly to the interaction of the Purus with the Yadus, Turvasus, Ikshvakus, and other peoples and tribes of the east and south (including those speaking Dravidian and Austric languages), and the Hindu religion is a grand conglomerate of all the religious systems and beliefs of all these different northern, southern and eastern tribes, peoples and communities from every corner of India, refined by the development of a complete range of philosophies of every kind.

The massive evidence for the scenario outlined above is detailed in my two books, and the case for the OIT (Out-of-India and Indian Homeland Theory) is so strong and absolute that it covers every single aspect of linguistic, archaeological, logistical and textual evidence, and cannot be seriously challenged. Every new piece of evidence which comes up, and every new argument made against it, only serves to make it stronger and more nuanced.

More in the Series:

Interview with B. B. Lal-1-No evidence for warfare or invasion; Aryan migration too is a myth

Interview with B. B. Lal-2- Vedic and Harappan are respectively literary and material facets of same civilization

Interview with Rajesh Kochhar: Rigvedic people not Harappans, Naditama Saraswati is Helmand in Afghanistan

Interview with Dr N Kazanas: Vedic Sanskrit older than Avesta, Baudhayana mentions westward migrations from India

Interview with Michel Danino: Neither Aryans migrated into north-west India, nor did Tamils migrate into South India: Michel Danino

Interview with Shrikant G. Talageri-1: Rigvedic people originally lived east of Saraswati, later expanded westwards during oldest books period

Interview with Shrikant G. Talageri-2: Purus are original inhabitants of core Rigvedic area, Bharata sub-tribe the original Vedic Aryans

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Purus are original inhabitants of core Rigvedic area, Bharata sub-tribe the original Vedic Aryans: Talageri

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Photo: Wikipedia.

By Nithin Sridhar

The Aryan Question: Part 7

The Aryan question continues to remain highly controversial and multidimensional in nature. In order to unravel the nitty-gritty of the issue, NewsGram interviewed various scholars who have researched various aspects of the issue in depth.

In the previous installment of ‘The Aryan Question’, NewsGram carried the first segment of the exclusive interview of Shrikant G. Talageri, independent scholar and author of many books dealing with Aryan issue, including two books analyzing the evidence present in the Rigveda titled ‘Rigveda: A Historical Analysis’ and ‘Rigveda and Avesta: The Final Evidence’.

Read the first segment of the interview with Shrikant G. Talageri: Rigvedic people originally lived east of Saraswati, later expanded westwards during oldest books period

In this Seventh Installment of The Aryan Question series, here is the second segment of the interview.

Interview with Shrikant G. Talageri-2

Nithin Sridhar: Various homelands have been proposed for the supposed Proto-Indo European language that is considered as the mother of Indo-European languages, including Sanskrit ranging from Central Asia and Pontic steppes to India. What is your view on this issue? Can you share regarding the process by which linguistics arrive at the supposed homeland?

Shrikant G. Talageri: There was no concept of “Aryans” anywhere in the world till around 200 years or so ago, and no such race or people were known or recorded anywhere in the world before that date. In 1583, a European traveler and scholar, Filippo Sassetti, first noticed that the languages of northern India bore an uncanny resemblance to the languages of Europe. Much later, in 1786, the colonial scholar Sir William Jones established that the languages of northern India, Iran, Central Asia and Europe are related to each other.

Photo: satark.wordpress.com
Photo: satark.wordpress.com

All this (and the subsequent detailed studies by scholars) led to three logical conclusions: (1) All these languages belong to one Language Family [Originally this was called the Aryan language family, but today this is called the Indo-European language family, with 12 branches: from the west, Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Slavic, Baltic, Albanian, Greek, Armenian, Iranian and Indo-Aryan, and two extinct branches Anatolian and Tocharian]. (2) All these languages originated from 12 dialects of one hypothetical ancient ancestral language, which is called “Proto-Indo-European”. (3) This Proto-Indo-European language was originally spoken in a small area, which may be called the Original Proto-Indo-European Homeland, and the different dialects spread to their historical habitats (from Sri Lanka and Assam in the east to Iceland and Ireland in the west) by the migrations of the Aryan or Indo-European language speakers.

At first, it was believed that Vedic Sanskrit was itself the ancient ancestral language and India the homeland, but certain factors made them abandon that theory:

  1. The discovery (after detailed linguistic analyses) that Vedic Sanskrit was not the original ancestral language and that Vedic itself had evolved considerably from the original proto-language (which was artificially reconstructed from a comparison of all the available Indo-European languages). [For the record, let me emphasize that they are right on this one point, however unpalatable it may be to “Hindu sentiments”].
  2. The (completely wrong, as we have seen) analysis of Rigvedic geography and history which made the scholars believe that the Vedic texts depict an expansion from the northwest into the rest of northern India.
  3. The fact that large parts of India were populated by speakers of non-Indo-European languages: the Dravidian languages in the south and the Austric (Kol-Munda) languages in east-central India, which were interpreted as remnants of “pre-Aryan” languages of India.
  4. A (simplistic) prejudice that the Original Homeland should necessarily be located somewhere in a central area within the Indo-European speech-area (stretching from Sri Lanka and Assam in the east to Iceland and Ireland in the west).

Therefore, although other locations such as Anatolia have also been proposed by some scholars, the mainstream theory is that the Indo-European Homeland was in South Russia (the Pontic-Caspian steppes). All data have been sought to be forcibly fitted into this theory, and in the process, a majority of historical, logistical, textual, archaeological, and linguistic facts and factors have been firmly swept under the carpet in order to promote this theory. On the basis of this purely hypothetical and utterly unsubstantiable proposition, we have the theory of “Aryans” coming into India from “outside” as a dominant factor in Indian history and politics.

On the other hand, I have proved in my books that the Indian homeland history outlined by me fulfills every single criterion and answers every single objection.

NS: You have argued in your books that Vedic Aryans specifically belonged to the Bharata Clan of the Puru Dynasty. Can you shed more light on this and how you arrived at this conclusion. Please also briefly share about various clans and groups of people mentioned in the Rigveda and their geographical location.

SGT: According to the Puranas all the peoples of ancient India are descendants of a mythical Manu Vaivasvata and his ten sons. But the hypothetical descendants of only two of these “sons” play a prominent role in Puranic history: the Aikshvakus (the “Solar race”, descendants of Ikshvaku) and the Ailas (the “Lunar race”, descendants of Ila/Sudyumna). The Ailas, more prominent, are divided into Five Tribes: the Yadu, Turvasu, Druhyu, Anu and Puru.

Shrikant G. Talageri. Photo: Youtube
Shrikant G. Talageri. Photo: Youtube

According to the AIT (Aryan Invasion Theory), all the above (real or hypothetical) tribes and peoples are descendants of the Vedic Aryans who invaded or immigrated into India around 1500 BCE and composed the Vedas, and Vedic Sanskrit (with perhaps some vaguely proposed “other” Vedic dialects unrepresented in the records) is the ancestral form of all Indo-Aryan languages.

The Indian writers and thinkers who oppose the AIT also believe that Vedic Culture was the ancestral culture of all Indians and Vedic Sanskrit the ancestor of all Indo-Aryan (or even of all Indian!) languages. Therefore, in effect, they also accept that the Vedic Aryans were the ancestors of all the above tribes and peoples, or, to put it in another way, that all the above tribes and peoples constituted sections among the Vedic Aryans.

If we do not get our perspective clear on this point, we will be completely handicapped in effectively countering the AIT. Let us look at the facts: the geographical area of the Rigveda extends from westernmost U.P. and adjoining parts of Uttarakhand in the east to southern and eastern Afghanistan in the west. Strictly speaking, in present-day political-geographical terms, this includes the whole of northern Pakistan, adjoining areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan, but, within present-day India, only the state of Haryana with adjoining peripheral areas of western U.P and Uttarakhand. If we accept this, then who are the people who were living in the rest of present-day northern India (outside Haryana and its peripheral areas) during the age of composition of the Rigveda? The AIT supporters have their “answer” to this: those people were the original “non-Aryan” (Dravidian, Austric, or whatever) indigenous people of India, who were also the earlier inhabitants of the Rigvedic area (Haryana and west) before the Aryan invaders took over that area from them! But (without resorting to escapist tactics like ignoring the actual data in the Rigveda and deciding that the area of the Rigveda was “the whole of India”) the AIT opponents do not have any logical answer to this question.

But the Puranas give the answer. The descriptions in the Puranas about the locations of the Five Aila tribes in northern India clearly place the Purus as the inhabitants of the Central Area (Haryana and adjacent areas of western U.P.), the Anus to their North (Kashmir, etc.), the Druhyus to their West (present-day northern Pakistan), and the Yadus and Turvasus to their South-West (Rajasthan, Gujarat, western M.P.) and South-East (eastern M.P. and Chhattisgarh?) respectively. The Solar race of the Ikshvakus are placed to their East (eastern U.P, northern Bihar).

This clearly shows that the Purus were the inhabitants of the core Rigvedic area of the Oldest Books (6, 3, 7): Haryana and adjacent areas, and they, and in particular their sub-tribe the Bharatas, were the “Vedic Aryans”. Their neighboring tribes and people in all directions were also other non-Vedic (i.e. non-Puru) but “Aryan” or Indo-European language speaking tribes. The Puru expansions described in the Puranas explain all the known historical phenomena associated with the “Aryans”: the expansion of Puru kingdoms eastwards explains the phenomenon which Western scholars interpreted as an “Aryan movement from west to east” (the area of the Rigveda extends eastwards to Haryana and westernmost U.P., the area of the Yajurveda covers the whole of U.P., and the area of the Atharvaveda extends eastwards up to Bengal), and their expansion westwards described in the Puranas and the Rigveda explains the migration of Indo-European language speakers from the Anu and Druhyu tribes (whose dialects later developed into the other 11 branches of Indo-European languages) from India.

But the direct evidence comes from within the Rigveda itself, where the other (non-Puru) tribes are clearly not part of the “We” of the Rigveda: The word Ikshvaku occurs only once (in X.60.4) as an epithet of the Sun. The Five Tribes are repeatedly referred to in the Rigveda, and all five named together in I.108.8. But the Yadus and Turvasus (Turvashas in the Rigveda) are every time mentioned together (as one mentions two distant peoples), and they occur mostly in references to two specific historical incidents which describe them as living “far away” and having to cross several rivers to reach the Vedic area, and they sometimes figure as allies and sometimes as enemies. The Druhyus and Anus everywhere (in the few non-geographical references to them) figure as enemies.

But the Purus are found referred to throughout the Rigveda in the first-person sense. They are the “We” of the Rigveda: in IV.38.1 and VI.20.10, the Purus are directly identified with the first person plural pronoun. All the Vedic Gods are identified as the Gods of the Purus: Agni is described as being like a “fountain” to the Purus (X.4.1), a “priest” who drives away the sins of the Purus (I.129.5), the Hero who is worshipped by the Purus (I.59.6), the protector of the sacrifices of the Purus (V.17.1), and the destroyer of enemy castles for the Purus (VII.5.3). Mitra and Varuṇa are described as affording special aid in battle and war to the Purus, in the form of powerful allies and steeds (IV.38.1,3; 39.2). Indra is described as the God to whom the Purus sacrifice in order to gain new favors (VI.20.10) and for whom the Purus shed Soma (VIII.64.10). Indra gives freedom to the Purus by slaying their enemies (IV.21.10), helps the Purus in battle (VII.19.3), and breaks down enemy castles for the Purus (I.63.7; 130.7; 131.4). He even addresses the Purus, and asks them to sacrifice to him alone, promising in return his friendship, protection and generosity (X.48.5), in a manner reminiscent of the Biblical God’s “covenant” with the “People of the Book”, the Jews. In VIII.10.5, the Ashvins are asked to leave the other four tribes (the Druhyus, Anus, Yadus and Turvasus, who are specifically named) and come to “us”.

The area of the Sarasvati river was the heartland of the Vedic Aryans. It was so important that it is the only river to have three whole hymns (apart from references in 52 other verses) in its praise: VI.61; VII.95 and 96. Sarasvati is also one of the three Great Goddesses praised in the apri suktas (family hymns) of all the ten families of composers of the Ṛigveda. As per the evidence of the Rigveda, the Sarasvati was a purely Puru river, running through Puru territory, with Purus dwelling on both sides of the river: “the Purus dwell, Beauteous One, on thy two grassy banks” (VII.96.2).

Photo: ennapadambhagavati.blogspot.com
Genealogical chart from Puranas. Photo: ennapadambhagavati.blogspot.com

The identity of the Purus with the Vedic Aryans is so unmistakable, that the line between “Puru” and “man” is almost non-existent in the Rigveda: Griffith, for example, sees fit to directly translate the word Puru as “man” in at least five verses: I.129.5; 131.4; IV.21.10; V.171.1 and X.4.1. In one verse (VIII.64.10), the Rigveda itself identifies the Purus with “mankind”: “Purave […] manave jane”. The Rigveda actually coins a word purusha (descendant of Puru), on the analogy of the word manuṣa (descendant of Manu), for “man”. In his footnote to I.59.2, Griffith notes: “Puru’s sons: men in general, Puru being regarded as their progenitor“, and again, in his footnote to X.48.5, Griffith notes: “Ye Purus: ‘O men’ – Wilson“, and likewise in his footnotes to VII.5.3 and X.4.1.

The identity of the Purus with the Vedic Aryans is impossible to miss: Prof. Michael Witzel points out that it is “the Puru, to whom (and to the Bharata) the Ṛigveda really belongs” (WITZEL 2005b:313), and affirms that the Rigveda was “composed primarily by the Purus and Bharatas” (WITZEL 1995b:328), and even that the Bharatas were “a subtribe” (WITZEL 1995b:339) of the Purus. Southworth even identifies the Vedic Aryans linguistically and archaeologically with the Purus.

The only two unfriendly references to Purus, in this case clearly to sections of non-Bharata Purus who entered into conflict with the Bharata clan or sub-tribe, who are the Vedic Aryans proper of the Rigveda, are in VII.8.4 which talks about “Bharata’s Agni” conquering the (other) Purus, and VII.18.3 which talks about conquering “in sacrifice” the scornful Purus (who failed to come to the aid of the Bharatas in the Battle of the Ten Kings). The Bharatas are undoubtedly the unqualified heroes of the hymns in the Family Books 2-7 (all but one of the references to the Bharatas appear only in the Family Books: I.96.3; II.7.1,5; 36.2; III.23.2; 33.11,12; 53.12,24; IV.25.4; V.11.1; 54.14; VI.16.19,45; VII.8.4; 33.6): in many of these verses even the Gods are referred to as Bharatas: Agni in I.96.3, II.7.1,5; IV.25.4 and VI.16.19, and the Maruts in II.36.2. In other verses, Agni is described as belonging to the Bharatas: III.23.2; V.11.1; VI.16.45 and VII.8.4. There is not a single reference even faintly hostile to them.

Significantly: 1. Bharati, the deity of the Bharata subtribe of the Purus is one of the three Great Goddesses (like Sarasvati) praised in the family hymns of all the ten families of composers in the Rigveda. 2. Of those ten families of composers, while nine are priestly families, the tenth is a family exclusively consisting of composers from the royal dynasty of the Bharata subtribe, whose apri sukta is X.70.

Most significant of all is the use of the word arya (which everyone acknowledges as the word by which the Vedic people referred to themselves) in the Rigveda in the sense of “belonging to our community/tribe”. It is used only in reference to Bharata kings like Sudas and Divodasa, never in reference to non-Puru kings. Non-Puru patrons (mainly of the Atri and Kanva rishis) are never called arya. Even when non-Puru kings like Mandhata, Purukutsa and Trasadasyu are praised to the skies (Trasadasyu is even called a “demi-god” or “ardha-deva” in IV.42.8-9), it is only because of the help rendered by them to the Purus (referred to in I.63.7; IV.38.1, VI.20.10; VII.19.3), and they are never called arya. And the Rigveda even clearly specifies that arya means Puru, in I.59.2 (vis-a-vis I.59.6) and VII.5.6 (vis-a-vis VII.5.3).

The word arya is found in 34 hymns, of which 28 are composed by composers belong to the Bharata family and the two families directly affiliated to them, the Angirases and Vasishthas, and 2 more by the Vishvamitras who were also affiliated to the Bharata king Sudas before being supplanted by the Vasishthas. One more within the Family Books is by the Gritsamadas (note that the Gritsamadas are descended from an Angiras rishi). Only 3 hymns are by rishis not affiliated to the Bharatas, and the references to aryas in those three hymns are interesting:

One hymn (IX.63) is by a composer from the most neutral and apolitical family of rishis in the Rigveda, the Kashyapas, and the word arya is used twice in the hymn in the only cases in the Rigveda where it has a purely abstract rather than personal or tribal meaning. The other two hymns are by Kanvas, who (alongwith the Atris) are politically active rishis not affiliated solely to the Vedic Aryans (Bharatas and Purus) but closely associated with other tribes as well. In one (VIII.51.9), the composer expresses neutrality between aryas and dasas, and in the other he refers to the Bharata king Divodasa as arya.

Most interesting of all a) 9 (IV.30, VI.22,33,60, VII.83, X.38,69,83,102) of the above 34 hymns refer to aryas as enemies (8 of them jointly to to arya and dasa enemies)! All the nine hymns are by Bharatas or the two families of rishis closely affiliated to them, the Angirases and Vasishthas. b) Further, 7 more hymns (I.100,111, IV.4, VI.19,25,44, X.69) refer to jami (kinsmen) and ajami (non-kinsmen) enemies, all 7 being composed by Bharatas and Angirases. c) And one more (X.133), by a Bharata composer, refers to sanabhi (kinsmen) and nishtya (non-kinsmen) enemies.

This has no logical explanation in AIT interpretation except to say that the Aryans must “also have fought amongst themselves”. But the explanation is clear: it is Bharata Purus as the Vedic aryas fighting against non-Bharata Purus as the enemy aryas. Finally, the Rigveda tells us in the Vishvamitra hymn III.53 (which records the ashvamedha performed by Sudas on the eastern banks of the Sarasvati, after which he is described as expanding his kingdom in all directions) that the Bharatas, when they set out to do battle, do not differentiate between those who are close to them (i.e. kinsmen) and those who are distant from them (non-kinsmen).

As per the AIT, the “Aryans” or “Proto-Indo-European” language speakers who migrated to different parts of the world and produced major civilizations (Indian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Hittite, Mitanni… ) everywhere, were a faceless, nameless, identity-less people in their unknown Original Homeland, and although they resided together in that Homeland at a point of time (around 3000 BCE or so) when the other major civilizations of the world (Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Chinese) were leaving us coherent archaeological and literary records, these “Aryans” left us no records at all of their history in their Homeland. However, as we saw, that is completely wrong. The core of that history is recorded in the Rigveda and the Puranas, and the “Aryans” in their Original Homeland had names and identities

NS: The supposed wars between Devas and Dasyus in the Rigveda have often been interpreted as Aryan-Dravidian racial wars. What is your view on this?

SGT: The wars are not supposed to have been between Devas and Dasyus, but between Aryas and Dasas/Dasyus (later mythologized as wars between Devas and Asuras, or Gods and Demons). These are interpreted as racial wars between Aryans and Dravidians.

However, “Aryan” and “Dravidian” are linguistic terms and can only be used in that sense. Can you, for example, claim that the enemies of Rama in the Ramayana were Chinese? Obviously not, because Ravana, Vibheeshana, Kumbhakarna, Indrajit, etc. are not Chinese-language names. But they are not Dravidian-language names or Austric-language names either. They are purely Sanskrit or “Aryan” (Indo-European) names. Yet many so-called scholars blatantly brand the battle in the Ramayana as a war between “Aryan” Rama and “Dravidian” Ravana. The same is the case with the Rigveda. Not a single enemy (or friend for that matter) with a Dravidian, Austric, Sino-Tibetan, Semitic, Andamanese, Burushaski, Red Indian, African or Australian-aboriginal or any other demonstrably “non-Aryan” name is found in the Rigveda. All the names are either undeniably or arguably “Aryan”. So how can anyone claiming to be a serious scholar or writer claim to find “Aryan-Dravidian” wars recorded in the Rigveda? That so many of them do shows the intellectual level of their arguments.

In ancient India the word arya (whatever its ultimate etymology) was originally used in the sense of “belonging to our community/tribe”. The Rigveda, since it was a book composed by Purus, refers to the Purus (including enemy Purus) as arya, and to all non-Purus (even friendly ones) as dasa. Each of the other tribes (Anus, Druhyus, Ikshvakus,Yadus, etc.) referred to people from their own tribe as arya, and if religious texts of that period composed by them had survived, the Yadu texts, for example, would have referred to Yadus but not to Purus, as arya, and likewise with the others. The Iranians, in their texts and inscriptions also described themselves as airya, although to the Rigveda the Iranians were not arya but dasa.

In fact, while all non-Purus were dasas in the Rigveda, the particular dasas of the Rigveda were the proto-Iranians: this was recognized long ago by Dr Ambedkar, who in his essay “Who were the Shudras“, clearly states about dasa that “there is no evidence to show that the term is used in a racial sense indicative of a non-Aryan people” and that “it was the word of abuse used by the Indo-Aryans for the Indo-Iranians“.

The Iranians, as members of the Anu tribes to the immediate west, were the non-Purus geographically closest to the Purus (the Yadus and Turvasus were far to the south, the Ikshvakus far to their east, and the Druhyus were beyond the Anus), and they were the particular non-Puru dasas of the Rigveda. As most scholars have recognized, the conflicts between the Vedic people and the proto-Iranians were responsible for the term asura (originally meaning God as in Iranian Ahura and Teutonic Aesir) becoming a word for “demon” in India and daeva a word for “demon” in Iranian.

The direct proof is there in the Rigveda: there are only 3 hymns in the Rigveda where the dasas are not referred to in hostile terms, but in fact in friendly terms, and in 2 of these hymns the patrons (named in the hymns) have been identified by western scholars as having proto-Iranian names: Kashu Chaidya in VIII.5 and Prthushravas Kanita in VIII.46. (The patron in the third hymn VIII.51, Rushama Paviru may also likewise have been a proto-Iranian).

(To be Continued)

More in the Series:

Interview with B. B. Lal-1-No evidence for warfare or invasion; Aryan migration too is a myth

Interview with B. B. Lal-2- Vedic and Harappan are respectively literary and material facets of same civilization

Interview with Rajesh Kochhar: Rigvedic people not Harappans, Naditama Saraswati is Helmand in Afghanistan

Interview with Dr N Kazanas: Vedic Sanskrit older than Avesta, Baudhayana mentions westward migrations from India

Interview with Michel Danino: Neither Aryans migrated into north-west India, nor did Tamils migrate into South India: Michel Danino

Interview with Shrikant G. Talageri-1: Rigvedic people originally lived east of Saraswati, later expanded westwards during oldest books period

 

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Rigvedic people originally lived east of Saraswati, later expanded westwards during oldest books period: Talageri

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Saraswati
Photo: Wikepedia

By Nithin Sridhar

The Aryan Question: Part 6

The Aryan question continues to remain highly controversial and multidimensional in nature. In order to unravel the nitty-gritty of the issue, NewsGram interviewed various scholars who have researched various aspects of the issue in depth.

In this ‘Sixth installment’ of ‘The Aryan Question’, NewsGram brings an exclusive interview of Shrikant G. Talageri, independent scholar and author of many books dealing with Aryan issue, including two books analyzing the evidence present in the Rigveda titled ‘Rigveda: A Historical Analysis’ and ‘Rigveda and Avesta: The Final Evidence’.

Interview with Shrikant G. Talageri- 1

Nithin Sridhar: Different scholars have dated Rigveda to different time periods ranging from 1200 BC to 3000 BC. What period do you assign to Rigveda? Can you also share some important material evidence within Rigveda that helps one to determine the period of its composition.

Shrikant G. Talageri: The period generally accepted by a consensus of scholars is 1500-1200 BCE.

However, I have proven with irrefutable evidence that the Rigveda, which consists of 10 Mandalas or Books, was composed over three Periods: Early, Middle and Late. The Late Period of the Rigvedic composition began somewhere in the middle of the 3rd Millennium BCE. The New Books (1, 5, 8-10) of the Rigveda were composed in a cultural period which began somewhere around 2500 BCE or so. In fact, in your earlier interview with Prof. BB Lal, he has postulated a Stage IV of archaeological sites associated with the Harappan civilization, whose peak period was from 2600-2000 BCE. This clearly represents the peak period of the New Books of the Rigveda.

The Middle Period (the period of the Middle-Old Books 2, 4) clearly goes well beyond this, and the Early Period (the period of the Oldest Books 6, 3, 7) even further back. I will not speculate on the exact dates of these periods, but they will clearly go very much further back into the past beyond 2600 BCE. Prof. B.B.Lal (in your above interview) locates Stage I of this culture (which may be the period of the Oldest Books, or more likely the pre-Rigvedic period) in Haryana in the 6th-5th millennia BCE.

All the logical dates in the Aryan debate have been fixed on the basis of certain chronological markers. Thus the western scholars accept that the Rigveda was completed by 1200 BCE because the Rigveda cannot be pushed to a date later than 1200 BCE on the basis of a chronological marker: the Iron Age in India was established by 1200 BCE, and the Rigveda is a pre-Iron Age text. The dispersal of the various Aryan language branches from the Original Aryan Homeland (wherever it was located) cannot be pushed to a date much earlier than 3000 BCE on the basis of many chronological markers (as for example the invention of the wheeled cart). Similarly I have shown in my books that the Old Books of the Rigveda (Books 2-4, 6-7) go back far beyond the period of the New Books of the Rigveda, which commenced somewhere around 2500 BCE (or 2600 BCE) on the basis of chronological markers like the vast common Rigvedic-Avestan-Mitanni vocabulary (datable on the basis of the Mitanni records), the invention of spoked wheels, and the domestication of camels and donkeys.

NS: Scholars have often arranged various Mandalas of Rigveda in a chronological order. What is the basis of such a classification? What is the relevance of such classification in answering the Aryan question?

Talageri
Shrikant G. Talageri. Photo: www.ovguide.com

SGT: The Rigveda has 10 Mandalas or Books. The Tenth Mandala (Book 10) is accepted as the very latest in style, content and language. However, the main division of the Rigveda universally accepted by scholars is a division between the Family Books (2-7) which are earlier, and the Non-Family Books (1, 8-10) which are later.

In addition, all scholars from Oldenberg to Proferes have accepted that among the Family Books, Book 5 is different from the other Family Books and falls in the same category as the Non-Family Books in most ways. So the official classification is: Old Books: 2, 3, 4, 6, 7. New Books: 1, 5, 8, 9, 10.

The first (i.e. oldest version of) Rigveda consisted of the (presently-numbered) Books 2-7. Then Books 1 and 8 were added on either side of the Family Books. Later Book 9, and much later Book 10 were added. The scholars have also identified some hymns in each of the Family Books which were redacted (modified) at the time of addition of Books 1 and 8, and these may be called the Redacted Hymns.

The Family Books are distinguished from the Non-Family Books in two main ways: 1. Each book generally belongs to one (out of a total of ten) families of rishis, while the Non-Family Books are more mixed and general. 2. The hymns are arranged in a specific order: first according to deity (first Agni, then Indra, etc.), then within each deity according to number of verses in the hymns (e.g. 13, 11, 9, 8, etc), then within the same number of verses according to the meter (jagati and trishtubh followed by anushtubh and gayatri, etc.). The Non-Family Books however, do not follow this order; and within the Family Books the Redacted Hymns also violate this order.

The New Books (Book 5 and the Non-Family Books) are distinguished from the Old Family Books in their language. They contain many new words and grammatical forms which a) are not found in the Old Books except sometimes in the Redacted Hymns, b) are not found in the Indo-European (Aryan) languages of Europe, c) but are commonly and abundantly found in all (post-Rigvedic) Vedic and Sanskrit texts and in the later Classical Sanskrit language.

This classification into Old Books (2, 3, 4, 6, 7) and New Books (1, 5, 8, 9, 10) is absolutely vital to the analysis of Vedic and ancient Indian history and to the solution of the Aryan problem.

NS: You have proposed your own chronological classification of Rigvedic Mandalas based on Anukramanis (Indices) which is quite different from the conventional classification. Can you elaborate more regarding Anukramanis, your methodology of classification and how it differs from the conventional classification? Please shed some light on what made you to propose this alternate classification and its implications on the Aryan issue.

SGT: My classification is not at all different from the conventional classification. As I pointed out above, this conventional classification is absolutely vital to our analysis, and without it we would never be able to analyze the history of the Rigveda.

But we know the fickle and politically oriented nature of the so-called “academic” scholarship. Facts which have been universally accepted and forcefully reiterated by them for centuries can suddenly be totally and suddenly rejected when it becomes politically inconvenient to them, and it is as if all the voluminous academic evidence of centuries never existed (as in Orwell’s “1984”!).

Three examples will suffice: 1. All academic references to the Ayodhya structure for centuries accepted that the mosque stood on a demolished Hindu (Ram) temple, but the moment the Ayodhya movement began, the very idea became (in all academic and media circles worldwide) a baseless, fraudulent invention of Hindu fanatics. 2. The Sarasvati of the Rigveda was identified in all academic studies and references since centuries as the Ghaggar-Hakra river. But the moment the full implications of this identification became clear during the Aryan debate in the 1990s, all these academicians have taken the opposite stand and started denying this identification (even when they themselves may have personally reiterated it before) and claiming it as a new politically motivated identification. 3. Prof. BB Lal was acclaimed all over the academic world as the most eminent living Indian archaeologist. But the moment he rejected the AIT, he is now being systematically vilified as an “RSS archaeologist” or “Hindutva archaeologist”. Likewise, AIT proponent ‘scholars’ have now started trying to squirm their way out of accepting the implications of their own conventional classification because I have shown that it conclusively and irrefutably proves the Indian Homeland Theory or OIT.

Therefore, what I have done in my books is: I have proved the conventional classification to be absolutely correct with so much additional evidence that it is academically impossible to now reject it. In fact, I have presented a more detailed version within the conventional classification which is useful in deeper historical analysis: Oldest Family Books (6,3,7, in that chronological order), Middle-Old Family Books (2,4), New Family Book (5), New Non-Family Books (1,8,9,10).

rigveda historical analysisThis detailed classification has been established based on the following mass of evidence (given in my 2000 book “The Rigveda – A Historical Analysis“, my 2008 book “The Rigveda and the Avesta – The Final Evidence“, and E.W.Hopkins’ 1896 articles “Numerical Formulae in the Veda” and “Pragathikani” in the “Journal of the American Oriental Society” Vols. 16 and 17 respectively):

  1. An analysis of the (ancestor-descendant) relationships between the composers of the hymns.
  2. An analysis of the references within the hymns to earlier or contemporaneous composers and to kings and other (non-composer) Rṣis.
  3. An analysis of the (adherence to ‘purity’ of the) family identity of the composers of the individual books.
  4. An analysis of the system of ascriptions of hymns to composers.
  5. An analysis of a large category of personal name types shared in common by the Rigveda with the Avesta and the Mitanni.
  6. An analysis of another category of personal names shared by the Rigveda with the Avesta.
  7. An analysis of the geographical names and terms in the Rigveda.
  8. An analysis of other important and historically significant words.
  9. An analysis of the meters used in the composition of the hymns of the Rigveda.
  10. An analysis of the sacred numerical formulae in the Rigveda.
  11. A detailed and path-breaking analysis by Hopkins of several large and important categories of words in the Rigveda.

The conventional classification alone is enough to prove the Indian Homeland Theory or OIT. My more detailed classification only helps to fill in blank spaces and give a deeper and more detailed picture.

NS: Can you shed light on the geographic area of the Rigvedic people based on the details found in Rigveda? Can you briefly elaborate on this?

SGT: The geographical area of the New Books (1, 5, 8-10) is the same as the geographical area of the Rigveda as a whole. It stretches from westernmost U.P, Uttarakhand, and Haryana, in the east to southern and eastern Afghanistan in the west. As Prof. BB Lal has pointed out in his earlier interview, this is also the area of the Harappan Civilization.

But the geographical area of the Oldest Books (6, 3, and 7 in that order) is completely different. That is, it covers only the eastern parts of the Rigvedic area. These three oldest books mention the eastern rivers Ganga/Jahnavi, Yamuna, Drishadvati/Hariyupiya/Yavyavati, Apaya, Sarasvati, Shutudri, Vipash, Parushni, Asikni, but they do not mention the western rivers Marudhvrdha, Vitasta, Arjikiya, Sushoma, Sindhu and its western tributaries Trishtama, Susartu, Anitabha, Rasa, Shveti, Shvetyavari, Kubha, Krumu, Gomati, Sarayu, Mehatnu, Prayiyu, Vayiyu, Suvastu, Gauri, Kushava, all of which are mentioned in the New Books. They mention the eastern place names Kikata, Ilaspada, but they do not mention the western place names Saptasindhava, Gandhari, both of which are mentioned in the New Books. They mention the eastern lake Manusha, but they do not mention the western lake Sharyanavat(i) and the western mountains Mujavat, Sushom and Arjik, all of which are mentioned in the New Books. They mention eastern animals like the buffalo, the gaur (Indian bison), the elephant, the peacock and the spotted deer, but they do not mention western animals (whose names are found in common with the Avesta) like the ushtra, varaha, mathra, chhaga, vrishni, ura and mesha, all of which are mentioned in the New Books.

These Oldest Books (6, 3, 7) show complete ignorance of western areas, but easy familiarity with and emotional attachment to the eastern areas. The Oldest Book of all (Book 6) knows only the areas to the east of the Sarasvati. In VI.45.31 the long bushes on the banks of the Ganga figure in a simile (showing their long acquaintance and easy familiarity with the topography and flora of the Ganga area), and the second oldest book (Book 3) refers in III.58.6 to the area of the Jahnavi (Ganga) as the “ancient homeland” of the Gods. The Sarasvati is deified in three whole hymns, VI.61, VII.95-96, and in 52 other verses in these Oldest Books. III.23.3-4 remembers the establishment of a perpetual sacred fire by Devavata, a far ancestor of the Rigvedic king Sudas, at Ilaspada on the eastern banks of the Sarasvati.

Their expansion westwards is fully documented. III.53 records an Ashvamedha performed by Sudas on the eastern banks of the Sarasvati, after which he is described as expanding his kingdom in all directions. III.33 describes Sudas’ expansionist conquests westwards in which he, with his armies, crosses the two easternmost rivers of the Punjab, the Shutudri and the Vipash. VII.18 (also 19,33 and 83) describes the subsequent Dasharajna battle (the Battle of the Ten Kings) on the banks of the third easternmost river of the Punjab, the Parushni, in which Sudas, moving in from the east, battles and subsequently defeats a coalition of ten Anu tribes who are fighting from the west (and who are therefore referred to, in VII.5.3, as the people of the Asikni, the fourth easternmost river of the Punjab).

Therefore, the detailed data in the Rigveda makes it clear that the area of the Rigvedic people originally lay to the east of the Sarasvati river of Haryana, and that they started expanding westwards during the period of the Oldest Books (6,3,7), but had still not expanded even up to the Indus river by the end of this period. That expansion took place later during the period of the composition of the Middle-Old Books (specifically book 4, since Book 2 is a curiously data-less book restricted only to the Sarasvati area).

(To be continued)

More in the Series:

Interview with B. B. Lal-1-No evidence for warfare or invasion; Aryan migration too is a myth

Interview with B. B. Lal-2- Vedic and Harappan are respectively literary and material facets of same civilization

Interview with Rajesh Kochhar: Rigvedic people not Harappans, Naditama Saraswati is Helmand in Afghanistan

Interview with Dr N Kazanas: Vedic Sanskrit older than Avesta, Baudhayana mentions westward migrations from India

Interview with Michel Danino: Neither Aryans migrated into north-west India, nor did Tamils migrate into South India: Michel Danino

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Neither Aryans migrated into north-west India, nor did Tamils migrate into South India: Michel Danino

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Photo: indusvalleyproject.wordpress.com

By Nithin Sridhar

The Aryan Question: Part 5

The Aryan question continues to remain highly controversial and multidimensional in nature. In order to unravel the nitty-gritty of the issue, NewsGram interviewed various scholars who have researched various aspects of the issue in depth.

In this ‘fifth installment’ of ‘The Aryan Question’, NewsGram brings an exclusive interview of Michel Danino, independent scholar, educationist, and guest professor at IIT Gandhinagar, who has authored books and papers on the issue, including The Lost River: On The Trail of the Sarasvati (Penguin India, 2010). He is also a member of the Indian Council of Historical Research.

Interview with Michel Danino

Nithin Sridhar: You have been researching the origins of River Sarasvati for many years. Can you share with us why River Sarasvati is so important for understanding ancient Indian history? What is its relevance in the debate on the Aryan issue?

Michel Danino: The Sarasvati River is important at two levels. One, as a river, since it is praised as such in the Rig-Veda, India’s oldest text; it is clear that a number of the Rig-Vedic hymns were composed in the region where the river flowed. It was part of the Vedic landscape, just like Sindhu (the Indus) or its tributaries; together they formed the Saptasidhava (the “seven rivers”). However, the Sarasvati is the only one of those rivers that disappeared, hence the search not only for the river’s location but for the causes of its disappearance. Secondly, the river was so revered that it was turned into a goddess with the additional symbolic meaning of inspiration, then speech, therefore, knowledge, therefore, education, the arts, etc. Sarasvati is thus an important symbol in Indian culture.

Michel Danino
Michel Danino

If the river’s identification has become controversial, it is only since the 1980s, when it became clear from the archaeological evidence that the river dried up in its central basin around 1900 BCE. In that case, how could Aryans supposedly arriving about 400 years later describe the river as of “mighty waters”, flowing “unbroken” “from the mountain to the sea”? There is a chronological impossibility. The Rig-Veda was composed while the river was in full flow, and on the basis of current archaeological evidence, this would take us before 2600 BCE (when the river first broke up near what is today the international border in western Rajasthan). Of course, proponents of the Aryan invasion/migration theory will not accept this.

NS: You have identified the River Sarasvati mentioned in the Vedas with the dried bed of the Ghaggar-Hakra River. Can you briefly explain the evidence that has helped you to arrive at this identity? What bearing does this identification have on the whole debate surrounding Aryan migration?

M Danino: The Sarasvati’s identification with the dry bed of the Ghaggar-Hakra of Haryana, Punjab, northern Rajasthan and the Cholistan is not mine at all. It was first made by the French geographer Louis Vivien de Saint-Martin way back in 1855! It was soon endorsed by almost all European Indologists (such as HH Wilson, F Max Müller, Marc Aurel Stein, Louis Renou), geographers and geologists (such as RD Oldham), and later archaeologists (Stuart Piggott, Mortimer Wheeler, and Aurel Stein again, not to speak of recent ones like RAllchin or GL Possehl and numerous Indian archaeologists). Today’s critics of this identification conceal this longstanding consensus as they dishonestly want to create an impression that the identification is a recent “Hindutva” theory. It is no such thing.

The reasons for the identification are very simple: 1) In its tenth and final mandala, the Rig-Veda has a hymn “in praise of rivers” (the famous Nadistuti Sukta) which lists Sarasvati between the Yamuna and the Sutlej; 2) later literature, from the Brahmanas to the Mahabharata not only confirms the river’s location but records its gradual retreat; 3) there is in Haryana a small “Sarsuti”, a tributary to the Ghaggar, and also an old tradition that the Sarasvati’s source is nearby in the Shivalik Hills. These are precisely the points that the nineteenth-century scholars used to reach their conclusion.

Also Read: Interview with Dr N Kazanas: Vedic Sanskrit older than Avesta, Baudhayana mentions westward migrations from India

NS: Some Aryan migration proponents argue that the Rigveda refers to two different Sarasvati rivers. They identify the one referred to as “Naditama” in older portions of Rigveda with Helmand in Afghanistan, and the Sarasvati mentioned in Nadisukta and other later portions of Rigveda with the Ghaggar. Another argument forwarded to support Helmand hypothesis is that ‘Samudra’ refers to ‘lake’ and not ‘ocean’. What is your view on this?

M Danino: The linguistic argument that the Helmand had an ancient Avestan name, “Harahvaiti”, which is cognate with “Sarasvati”, proves nothing, since we might just as well turn it around and propose that this is evidence of a migration out of India. Or, if we get a little less obsessed with migrations, we could see it as a sign of cultural interaction. In any case, there is nothing to show that the Rig-Veda refers to one river in its older hymns and to another in the Nadistuti Sukta — this is an artificial device imposed on the text to get away from the chronological implications I referred to above. The absurdity becomes clear if you consider that the Ghaggar had long dried up by the time (1500 to 1200 BCE) the Aryans are supposed to have reached it: why should they transfer the name “Sarasvati”, a river they extolled, to what had by then become a puny seasonal stream?

As regards “Samudra”, the word can indeed be used in principle for any sizeable water body, but in many passages, it clearly refers to the ocean. Thus the legend of Bhujyu, rescued from a storm in the “billowy Samudra” by the Ashvins. There are many mentions of seven rivers meeting the Samudra, of waves, ships, storms, etc. In fact, HH Wilson plainly stated in 1866 that the Rig-Veda’s hymns were “familiar with the ocean and its phenomena”; Max Müller agreed, writing in 1882 that “the word Samudra shows in by far the larger number of passages the clear meaning of ocean.” It is silly to deny this simply to portray Aryans as freshly arrived from landlocked Afghanistan!

Ghaggar river flowing in Haryana. Photo: www.niticentral.com
Ghaggar river flowing in Haryana. Photo: www.niticentral.com

NS: Can you briefly explain the salient features of the Indus-Sarasvati civilization? Also, share about the time period, urbanization, and the eventual decline of it.

M Danino: It was the first urban civilization of the Indian subcontinent. After a few millennia of slow and gradual developments, by 2600 BCE cities came up over much of the Northwest. They did not boast pyramids, imposing temples or colossal statues, but displayed planning to an unprecedented degree in the Bronze Age; Mohenjo-daro also had a remarkable drainage system. Harappans were primarily manufacturers, craftsmen and traders (of course agriculturists too). The cities appear wealthy enough, though not ostentatiously so. It is now clear that by 1900 BCE (a little earlier or later depending on the region) the whole civilization disintegrated and cities were either abandoned or reverted to semi-rural settlements. The current consensus is that climatic and environmental changes (including the drying up of the Sarasvati at about the same time) played a major role in this.

NS: Contrary to the assertions of AMT proponents that Indus civilization was a non-Vedic, non-Aryan civilization, you have argued that there is continuity between Indus civilization and the later Vedic civilization in the Gangetic plains. Can you shed more light on this? What similarities can be observed between the two civilizations?

M Danino: I never speak of “Vedic civilization”, only of “Vedic culture”, and there is no proof that it is “later” — that is no more than an opinion, albeit the dominant one. What I have done is to add my bit to the body of evidence of numerous bridges and commonalities between Harappan and Vedic cultures, many of which have been pointed out for decades, and to the enormous Harappan legacy to the Gangetic civilization of the first millennium BCE. For instance, fire altars are unmistakable at sites like Kalibangan, Lothal and Banawali; Harappan figurines point to some practice of yoga and meditation; Harappan units of weight and length, as well as auspicious proportions, survive, as do several important symbols, concepts of iconography and craft techniques. And much more. The so-called break between the two cultures is, again, an artificial device imposed by the Aryan scenario.

Also Read: Interview with B. B. Lal-1-No evidence for warfare or invasion; Aryan migration too is a myth

NS: The absence of horses and chariots in Harappan sites has been pointed out as being definite evidence of the Indus civilization being Non-Aryan, Non-Vedic civilization. You have extensively written refuting it. Can you summarize your observations?

Horse figurine from Mohenjo-daro. Photo: http://archaeologyonline.net
Horse figurine from Mohenjo-daro. Photo: http://archaeologyonline.net

M Danino: This is a poorly constructed argument as it misrepresents the evidence at every step. Very briefly, it is incorrect to state that the horse was unknown to Harappans: horse bones or teeth have been identified at over a dozen sites (even at a couple of pre-Harappan sites) by the best archaeozoologists so that even conservative archaeologists like Piggott or Wheeler accepted the animal’s presence. The argument also incorrectly implies that with the supposed coming of the Aryans, evidence of the horse should become widespread — quite the contrary, relics of the animal remain few and far between. The horse is also rarely depicted in art until the Mauryan Empire. Finally, 25 years ago, the respected British anthropologist Edmund Leach protested at the misreading of the Rig-Veda that would have a Vedic society full of horses; he pointed out that the animal was, on the contrary, used as a “prestige animal” that would rather point to its rarity. In fact, a century ago, Sri Aurobindo had warned that just as ‘go’ in the Rig-Veda means both a cow and light, ‘ashva’ refers both to the horse and to speed or energy, and many passages were misread by taking the word at its literal meaning. Of course, our Aryan proponents have no use for such nuanced points and continue to bludgeon their “no horse” argument.

NS: The presence of speakers of Brahui (which belongs to Dravidian family of languages) in Balochistan has been used to point out that Dravidian speakers were in North-West India and after the influx of Aryan speakers, they migrated into South India. What is your view on this?

M Danino: One more methodologically flawed argument. Way back in the 1920s, the French linguist Jules Bloch demonstrated that Brahui reached Baluchistan recently, perhaps at the time of the Islamic invasions and probably from central India. This thesis was more recently endorsed by the noted linguist Murray Emeneau, and still more recently by H.H. Hock. Finally, the linguist and mathematician Josef Elfenbein confirmed it using a different approach. It is completely illegitimate to see the language as a “relic” from the Harappan times; the argument, still misused today to establish that the authors of the Indus Valley civilization were “Dravidians,” has no linguistic validity.

NS: Do we find any archaeological pieces of evidence in South India or any literary pieces of evidence in old Tamil Sangam literature that speak about a migration of Dravidians into South India or the interaction between Aryan and Dravidian speakers?

M Danino: There are no references to a northern origin of Tamil speakers in the Sangam literature and no animosity against northern Indians. On the other hand, its earliest layers are already quite familiar with the Vedas and important themes of Hindu mythology, for example, Ganga or the Himalayas are objects of reverence. As regards the archaeological record, just as it has failed in the North to document the supposed arrival of the so-called Aryans, it is completely silent in the South about a migration from the north. Archaeology has no need and no use for the invisible Aryans, which is why most archaeologists have quietly shown them the door.

Also Read: Interview with B. B. Lal-2- Vedic and Harappan are respectively literary and material facets of same civilization

NS: The invasion/migration theory was first hypothesized to explain the commonalities between Sanskrit and certain European languages. In the case of non-invasion, non-migration scenario, how would these commonalities be explained?

M Danino: There are quite a few alternative scenarios, which surprisingly have received very little attention. “Surprisingly” because the failure to trace Aryans — let us now call them Indo-European speakers, a better term anyway — in north India is repeated in central Asia and also Europe; bioanthropology (the study of skeletal remains) and most recent genetic studies have also failed to discern the arrival of a new people in the 2nd millennium BCE.

Alternative linguistic models include (1) models of language propagation that do not require population movement but only contact (such models have been in place since the 19th century); (2) models of a “broad homeland” for Indo-European languages, in which they evolved by convergence rather than divergence from a proto-language (which, in this case, need not have existed at all); (3) models that do accept such a proto-language but put it at a much more remote period, 7000 BCE or beyond, which allows time for more complex interactions; (4) Out-of-India models, in which the proto-language originated from the subcontinent. Let us also note that a few professional linguists go further: “The very idea of an ‘Indo-European’ language family on which Indology is based is scientifically indefensible. IE linguists ignore vast amounts of data that do not fit with their classification. Sanskrit shares some features with Greek and Latin but it also shares equally important features with Afro-Asiatic. Indology as a discipline can be useful if it frees itself from the yoke of IEL [Indo-European linguistics]” (A. & R. McMahon, 2005). Clearly we are far from a linguistic consensus.

NS: Can you briefly summarize the protohistory of India, in the light of currently available archaeological, literary, linguistic, and genetic evidence?

M Danino: We should honestly acknowledge that current data remains insufficient for a complete picture; for instance, only about 10% of the Mature (or urban) Harappan settlements have been excavated. However, there is no reason to assume a discontinuity between the Harappan or Indus civilization and the later Gangetic civilization, as the Aryan model demands: cultural and biological continuities between the two are now numerous and well-documented. The archaeological continuity goes back to 7000 BCE or so at Mehrgarh (Baluchistan) and possibly Bhirrana in Haryana (though much more work needs to be done there).

The literary evidence is more difficult. Since the Rig-Veda does not mention rice, cotton, bricks, cities or ruins, and refers to the Sarasvati as flowing “from the mountain to the sea”, some scholars have been tempted to place its most ancient hymns at a period prior to the Mature Harappan phase (2600-1900 BCE), that is, about 3000 BCE or earlier. That is also what scholars like Tilak and Jacobi had suggested (going back to 4000 BCE, in fact) on astronomical grounds, and we have more such astronomical arguments by now. Of course, the mainstream view remains that the Rig-Veda cannot be older than 1500 BCE, but it has no convincing replies to the many paradoxes that this late date raises.

More in the Series:

Interview with B. B. Lal-1-No evidence for warfare or invasion; Aryan migration too is a myth

Interview with B. B. Lal-2- Vedic and Harappan are respectively literary and material facets of same civilization

Interview with Rajesh Kochhar: Rigvedic people not Harappans, Naditama Saraswati is Helmand in Afghanistan

Interview with Dr N Kazanas: Vedic Sanskrit older than Avesta, Baudhayana mentions westward migrations from India