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. Puru–Anu, 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.
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