Sunday, September 3, 2017

Manusmriti...not a Hindu code!

Image result for caste system

Manusmriti is vehemently blamed for the stratification of the caste system. As I have stated in earlier chapters, here too, we can note that the scholars have been confused with Varna (class) and the caste system considering them one and the same while discussing the castes. It is, however, necessary to critically analyze the Manusmriti to understand for whom the code was intended.  

Let us begin with the early geography of the Manusmriti. The regions known to Manusmriti were Kuru, Panchal, Matsya, and Shaursena in its early times. (Manu. 2.17-2.19) Manu did not know the regions and people beyond Vindhya Mountain. It also did not know Magadha or eastern regions. Manu enumerates only the known lands where early Vedics were settled and with reverence applauds it as the region of the Brahmarshi’s. The Brahmavart, the land they had left far behind, the land where Sarasvati and Drishadvati flowed, Manu revered the most placing it at the highest rank.

The code was intended to those people who adhered to the Vedic religion which was limited to the lands situated within the boundaries of Brahmarshi Desha. Elsewhere, various tribes dwelled and ruled the territories enjoying their own culture and religious practices, to which they wholesomely addressed as Shudras. Naturally, though Manu proclaims that the code is intended for all four Varnas and intermediate ones in its very first chapter (1.2) would have intended to the people living in the region of Brahmarshi, comprising of five states and adhering to the Vedic religion. 

Manu has enacted many laws against Shudras. Manu in the first chapter considers Shudras as the fourth Varna of the Vedic system. Yet Manu states that the Shudras could be anywhere. Also, Manusmriti proclaims that 
“Let him not dwell in a country where the rulers are Sudras, nor in one which is surrounded by unrighteous men, nor in one which has become subject to heretics, nor in one swarming with men of the lowest castes.” (Manu4.61) We are aware that the pre-Vedic religion that is still flowing to us was idolatrous and mainly Tantrik in nature, to its followers Manu calls non-religious and unrighteous. In Rig Veda also we find that the enemy tribes are addressed in the same fashion. 

Now the question will arise that if there were kingdoms of the Shudras, they had their own religion to which Manu calls “heretics” how could his code be intended to them and how the Shudras could be part of the Vedic religion?

While formulating the rules as to who cannot attend the Shraddha, Manu enumerates various occupations, from cattle herders, physicians, traders, temple-priests to actor or singers, however, he does not refer them as Shudra, though all these professions were thought to be the domain of the Shudras. (Manu. 2.150-155) He could have done with the usage of single term “Shudra” instead of enumerating their various professions! If these people were not Shudras, whom Manu treated as Shudras while making his most condemnable and hostile laws, whether followed by the people or not?

Manu all the time speaks of the sacred Vedas and sacrificial fires, neither temples nor any deity that Hindus worship. His command to prohibit temple priest from attending the Shraddha does only mean that the Manu was aware that the idolatrous religion was alien to his. However, he does not mention any god like Shiva, Shakti etc. those Hindu worship the most. His instructions only mention and revere the Vedas and fire sacrifices, thus making it clear that they were intended to the followers of Vedic religion.

Manu was aware of the codes and philosophies those were non-Vedic. He denounces them and threatens of no reward after death if followed by any. (Manu. 12.95-96) It was but natural for Manu as he was advocating his Vedic religion and thus it was necessary to him to denounce all other religious codes, traditions, and philosophies those were not based on the Vedas. Important here is Manu acknowledges the existence of non-Vedic codes and philosophies. 

Most importantly, to Manu, the clans like Paundra, Aundra, Dravida, Camboja, Yavana, Shaka, Pahlava, China, Kirata, Darada, and Khasha are Shudras. (Manu. 10.44) Manu reasons, these clans reached lower positions because they violated the code and omitted the sacred rites. It is clear that Manu here includes indigenous as well foreign clans in the Shudra category, no matter what religion they belonged to. The fact remains that these clans couldn't have been part and parcel of the Vedic religion as fourth Varna and still, they are called as Shudras. Why this anomaly in Manusmriti would have arisen? 

Manusmriti did not know these clans when the code had begun its formulation. The geography of the Manusmriti was limited to five regions. The spread of the Vedic religion was so much so limited at that time that the Vedics did not know the people living elsewhere, thus referring to them wholesomely as Shudras. Later on, gradually, they not only came to know the various clans delving in the country, realized that they had their own identities; still, they went on addressing them as Shudras. Shudra, in fact, became a designation of the people those were not Vedic. It was impossible that these non-Vedics, Shudras, would have given any heed to the commands of the alien religion! And they did not as the history evidences it. 

They came to know the people like Dravida, Aundra, Paundra only after first century AD. Shakas and Kushanas were ruling the parts of the country by that time. Since there was no question of their being Vedic anytime in their history, how could they have been degraded because they violated the sacred code of the Vedics? In all this was just a boastful proclamation studded with Vedic supremacist approach to show their religion was ancient and once all belonged to it.  Even so, the fact remains this code couldn’t have been intended for them, though they were designated as Shudras.

The geography of early Vedics had shifted to Magadha region in later times. We find Magadha becoming the center of this religion from where the attempts were made to spread it by missionary practice. The opposition in form of Buddha and Mahavira arose in sixth century BC only in these parts. Elsewhere there was no slightest presence of this religion and hence there was no question of any opposition.

None of the clan of India belonged to the Vedic religion anytime and hence there was no question of their being degraded because of omission of the sacred rites or violation of the code. The Vedic religion was new to this land, however, the proclamation just was sort of an explanation that could be used as propaganda to attract non-Vedics to their fold. The Aundra, Poundras, Dravidas etc., the mighty clans of southern India, hardly had heard about this religion till first century AD. Only two inscriptions of Satvahanas indicate that this religion was known to them, but Gatha Saptashati, an anthology of this period, does not show the existence of the adherents of this religion in contemporary society! It is ridiculous to think that the instructions of Manusmriti would be ever applicable to them. The fact is these rulers seem to have hardly entertained Vedic religion in their domain. Vedics had to work hard to get the entry in every region of India and still they could not convert all to their fold because of the inherent limitations of their religion.

The historical fact is the code of Manu was completely neglected by the so-called Shudra masses as they continued to follow their independent idolatrous religion and their own code. In fact, though Manu kept on insisting the Vedic rites and sacrifices, the new converts forced many Vedics to adopt idol worship though it was not part of the Vedic religion ever. Rather idolatry was condemned and prohibited. If Manusmriti was so much so powerful to change and command entire social order, the Vedics wouldn’t have dared to commit such blasphemy that was disastrous to the core of their religious tenets. But the reality is the Vedics were forced to change the core of their religion and yet how boastfully the Vedic supremacy was proclaimed!

The fact must be understood that Manu (and his co-authors of later times) were the representatives of a religion that boasted of the supremacy of the Vedas and twice born to make feel others inferior. It cunningly tried to show all mankind been sheltered under one roof and still humiliated those who had not converted. To Manu, once everyone was Vedic and those deviated from the code and rites were fallen to the lowest rank and hence despicable. Every religion for that matter behaves in a similar way with the other. Many of Manusmriti’s instructions and explanations are imaginary, crooked, contradictory and confusing only because the writers of various times did not know how to confront new situations those arose while spreading the religion and the opposite principles that were carried in by the converts. In fact, Vedic religion got heavily polluted in this process which reflects well from the contradictory and yet stringent instructions those were inserted from time to time in the original script of Manusmriti.

In fact, if studied carefully, Manu originally is clear in his commands. He knows to whom commands are intended and to whom not. He explicitly states, “Vedas, Smritis, the custom of virtuous men and one’s own pleasures is the defined fourfold religion.” (Manu-2.12) and in the earlier verse, Manu states, “Every twice-born man, who, relying on the institutes of dialectics, treats with contempt those two sources of the law, must be cast out by the virtuous, as an atheist and a scorner of the Vedas.” (Manu-2.11) His address is to the people those faithfully adhere to the Vedic principles and revere the Vedas. All other faiths opposite to Vedic principles are despicable to Manu to which he calls heretics. We are aware that the pre-Vedic religion of India was based on Tantras to which we call today Hindu religion. The commands of Manu are more strict for the three Varnas and contemptuous and humiliating for Shudras. Every religion in a similar way has given commands against the people of opposing faith. It does not mean that the day-dreaming vicious commands would be followed by the others. 

Here we come across a serious juncture where Manu defines the Vedic religion that finds the source in the Vedas and virtuous conduct of the twice- born men. He threatens the twice-born men of being outcast if they do not respect the Vedas and the laws. Manu also might have felt an imminent threat that the people of his religion could deviate from Vedicism and embrace the religion of Shudra if not stopped by divine command! The contempt for Shudra, too, could have been the outcome of this threat.

The twice-born are just three Varnas and the Shudra is not covered in this command because they are not Vedics, because they are not twice-born. They had their temples and priests and several professions to conduct for livelihood as is evident from the second chapter of Manusmriti. They are not expected to respect the Vedas, instead, they are forbidden. In fact, there are Vedic Brahmins those perform the sacrifices for the Shudras on fees.  Manusmriti verse 3.178  proclaims that “The giver (of a Sraddha) loses the reward, due for such a non-sacrificial gift, for as many Brahmanas as a (guest) who sacrifices for Sudras may touch (during the meal) with his limbs.”
And at other hand, we find the instructions like-

1.    God said the duty of a Shudra is to serve the upper Varnas faithfully with devotion and without grumbling. (Manu 1-91)

2.    Let the first part of a Brahman’s name denote something auspicious, a Kshatriya’s be connected with power, and a Vaishyas with wealth but a Shudra’s express something contemptible. (Manu II.31)

3.   Shudra who insults a twice born man with gross invectives shall have his tongue cut out; for he is of low origin. (Manu VIII. 270.)

4. Shudra is unfit of receive education. The upper Varnas should not impart education or give advice to a Shudra. It is not necessary that the Shudra should know the laws and codes and hence need not be taught. Violators will go to as amrita hell. (Manu IV-78 to 81)

We come across so many such humiliating and infuriating inhuman commands against the Shudras in Manusmriti. Is Manu confused while dictating these commands? No. He is not confused. The confused lot is of the scholars who have failed to understand the true essence of the Manusmriti.  They did not give attention to the following facts:

1.          Manu admits there were Shudras Kings and the Vedic priests those performed sacrifices for them, how they were expected to serve the twice-born with devotion and without grumbling? How Manu could demand their names should be contemptible? If Shudras were well in the financial position to pay the handsome fees to the Vedic priests for conducting the sacrifices, what about the commands of Manu that prohibits Shudras from accumulation of the wealth? 

2.          They did not give attention to the changing geography and the vast time span  Manusmriti covers, which begins in Kuru-Panchal at about 1000 BC and ends in Magadha region in Gupta era. The additions and contradictions created by later authors to suit their time show the journey of the Vedic religion that was gone through several adjustments, modifications, and contractions. Still, there was not sanity on part of the scholars not to understand that the code written in certain region couldn't have been applicable to all the regions of the country. 

3.          It is evident from Manusmriti that those all who did not belong to the Vedic religion were Shudras to them, no matter even if they were foreigners, ruling dynasties or indigenous clans! Manu also was aware that the Shudras had temples and temple priests as a part of their religion, however, the fact remained neglected. Though the Shudras were designated with fourth Varna, as a class, they couldnt have been part of the Vedic religion. The fact is Vedic religion always was three-fold religion and the fourth class always stood opposite to it with its own distinct religion and faiths. The fact should have been noticed that only twice-born were the Vedics and not Shudras!

4.          There is no evidence to show that the Shudras were factually prohibited from education. There is no evidence to show that the republics and Mahajanpadas of that time belonged to the Vedic religion. Inscriptions, Numismatics and literary evidence go against the very notion that there was ever a Vedic Age prior to the Gupta period. 

5.          From historical data, beginning from Pradyota of seventh century BC till medieval era, we do not find any Vedic rulers excepting a few dynasties like Shunga and Kanvas. If we peep into the prehistory, that mostly is written in mythological and propagandist form, though we come across many so-called Vedic monarchs, the stories associated with them hardly can prove their being real Vedic. For example, Kurus and Satvatas do not seem to have any Vedic background though they are portrayed as Kshatriyas in the final recension of Mahabharata. The stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata have been used to propagate Vedic religion by heavy interpolations. However, the social values those appear even in the final versions of both the epics clearly show underneath their non-Vedic origin. 

6. Looking at above few indicative points, writing such hostile commands to regulate a majority society and its obeying them without raising any protest not only sounds ridiculous but doesn’t stand on the historical grounds as well. 

It is clear that the Manusmriti was being written during this vast span of the time and one after another command against Shudras was being added while regulating their religion, still, we do not find non-Vedic society giving any heed to it! Then the question will arise why the authors of the Manusmriti took so much so pains to invent hostile commands against the Shudras? Who were they?

From close scrutiny of the Manusmriti, it clearly appears that the commands against Shudras were intended only to the people those were in personal service of the twice-born. They could be taken into the service on wages, bought out or gifted to them by the patrons of the Vedic religion. Being their close presence the Vedics feared not only pollution to their sacred rites and habits but most importantly the fear of intermingling and creation of the mixed Varnas.  Initially, they didn’t mind the children born to Shudra woman but later on opposite too became a routine and hence they tried to prohibit such adulterous practices between twice-born and Shudras by formulating harsh laws and threats of social degradation of the children. However, Mr. Vi. Ka. Rajwade states such efforts proved worthless as inter-varna adultery and marriages did not stop. (Ref. Radhamadhavavilasachampu, Preface) This is evident from the fact that though the children born out of such relationships were assigned with various low castes like Ugra, Ambashtha, Suta, Magadha, Vaideha, Parashava etc. they were not in practical existence. Panini do not mention any of such caste born out of inter-varna relationships. We can trace no caste in India by these names though the general assumption is that the caste system is very ancient and rigid since the beginning.

It only does mean that though the Smriti tried its best to maintain original structure of their religion pure and unadulterated, they failed in doing so. 

Making harsh laws, at the least on paper, against the menial class that was dependent for subsistence on the twice-born were easy. Being scattered and already pauper they wouldn’t revolt. At the most, they could leave the service and find other ways for survival. However, we do not find any instance of real execution of such commands. What we have are few imaginary stories those are nothing but the fine example of the exaggerations those were used to create moral fear among this class.

It is important to note that Panini classifies the Shudras in two categories, i.e. “Anirvasit” and “Nirvasit” (Ashtadhyayi, 2 : 4-10) Anirvasit means the Shudras those were taken into the private services of the Vedics and Nirvasit means the Shudras those were not related to the Vedic community in any way. This categorization of Panini throws the clear light on the enigmatic question, for whom the code was really intended? The code was intended for the Anirvasit Shudras those were in the services of the Vedic people. Those who were Nirvasit Shudras had nothing to do with the code and the history supports this being a fact.

Also, Manu sometimes uses the term Arya to refer twice-born and Anarya for Shudras. (Manu: 10. 66-68, 73) This distinction clearly indicates towards the religious differences between the both. The religion of the Aryas and Anaryas couldn’t be one and the same. The religion of twice-born Vedic and the Shudras couldn’t be the same. The ritualistic practices of the Shudras are clearly mentioned by Manu. They used to go to the temples and had their own priests whereas the Vedics conducted fire sacrifices and upheld supremacy of the Vedic doctrine.  There was nothing in common between them except for they had to employ some people from the Shudra community as the Vedics were too less in number and needed people to work for them.

However, it seems from the annals of the history that the term “Shudra” which originally was the name of a clan, stuck to those all who were delving in this subcontinent. Even the foreign rulers of later times also were designated as Shudras. To Vedics, those all, who were not part of the Vedic religion were Shudras. The code was intended only to those Shudras who were in their personal service. Whether or not the Anirvasit Shudras remained in the existence, the term did not vanish. The grave misunderstanding among scholars popped up that the code was intended for all the Shudras. None went back in the social and political history to check whether it really ever was practiced or accepted by the people.

Manusmriti, in fact, is overrated in regards to the caste system. It has created undue havoc and center of the hatred in the Hindu society. The code was intended to regulate Vedic religion and not of the Hindus. The scholars did further damage by treating caste and Varna one and the same when it was never a fact. Manu too uses the term Jati in the tenth chapter, though in a different sense, while elaborating on the status of the children begotten by inter-Varna marriages. Manu clearly means their status by using the term Jati and not the professions upon which the present caste system is based. The present rigid and immobile Jati system of Hindu society does not find its origin in remote past. Jatis are not the product of Varna system as is believed by some.

Varna and Jati are two distinct social systems belonging to different two religions. The scholars have failed to understand the Hindu religion does not at all find its source in Vedas and Smritis. It has independent tradition and religious practices and philosophies, Manu too evidences this. The scholars heavily have neglected various dictates of the Manusmriti those go contrary to their postulations. They have forgotten that the certain words are used in the different sense in different societies. Manusmriti is a work of many authors of different times and all the while the authors knew very well to whom their commands were intended. These are the scholars who failed to understand this and thus couldn’t solve the riddle of the caste system.

We can safely conclude that the Manusmriti was intended to regulate only the Vedic religion. The commands those appear against Shudras were limited to the people those were non-Vedic and in service of the Vedic people. Rest of the people, those were designated as Shudras by the Vedics, in fact, belonged to the various clans and preserved their identity by their clan name and occupations. The donation inscriptions of the Satvahana era evidences this fact that the people of those times too preferred to identify themselves by their profession. Rather the term Shudra is absent wherever the people have given their own identifications.  The scholars should have noticed this bare fact that the Vedic and Hindu religion are two distinct entities and they shouldn’t have mixed the both!



 The usage of the term Shudra for all those were not adherents of the Vedic religion, which otherwise is absent from entire Rig Veda, clearly indicates that the Vedic religion was alien to the subcontinent. The term Shudra was not a new invention. It was the name of a tribe and yet scholars failed to understand why this term was made applicable to all the tribes those delved in the country from ancient times. They did not attempt to draw a map of the advances of the Vedic religion in the country and its timeline. Had they done so, a crucial problem would have been solved.   
  

However, the fact is the term Shudra have created an inferiority complex in the Hindu society. Without even knowing that the term Shudra finds no etymology in any language still it has cast an evil spell over the society, so much so that the many communities have been jumped in a rat race to get connected with the some or other higher Varna, to attain higher social status, no matter whether Vedic religious authorities accept it or not! Albeit, they will not because Hindus are not Vedic!

The caste system is not like a pyramid as is believed. The Vedic religion is a three fold pyramid whereas the Shudras (Hindu) stand independently with their own traditions, religion and independent social order. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sarasvati in the later Vedic literature...


 Image result for saraswati river

Though the River Sarasvati has highly been praised in Rigveda, we find very confusing references to it in later Vedic literature and heavily corrupted Vedicized literature, making it hard to believe whether they are speaking of the real Sarasvati or talking about the poetic remembrance of the River which was left far behind and hence became invisible.  The various clarifications that try to explain why the Holy River was disappeared all of sudden indicate the fact that they are fabricated mythical accounts. In any case, the river wouldn’t have disappeared all of sudden. It would have been a gradual process continued for at the least couple of hundred years, but we do not find such information or even indication in the Vedic literature.

 Along with Sarasvati, Sarayu and Indus are the great rivers (Mahanadi) to the Vedic seers those have praised them with great affectionate devotion. However, in later Vedic texts, we find a mention that this river became invisible at the place named Vinasana in Kurukshetra. (Panchavimsha Brahman 25.10.6 & Jaiminiya Brahman 4.26).

Yajurveda explicitly states that the five rivers in Punjab are five streams of the Sarasvati. (34.11) Here, Yajurveda does not indicate that the Sarasvati was an independent river.

Mahabharata tells us a different story. It says Sarasvati originated in the Himalayas at Plaksavana, a place located at the north of Vinasana from where one could reach by horse-ride within 40 days. Also, Tandya Brahmana states that conducting Sarasvata session between these two places, Vinasana and Plaksavana, is highly beneficial. (Tandya Brahmana 25.10.12)

Mahabharata further states that at Vinasana Sarasvati disappeared and at Chamasodbheda it reappeared where many other rivers joined her. (Vanaparva 130.4-5)

Puranas provide us another contradictory account. They state that the Sarasvati originated in the Himalayas and while flowing through Kurukshetra it disappeared in the deserts of Rajasthan and reappeared at Mount Abu and met with the sea at Prabhas Teertha. Mahabharata too, while elaborating Balarama’s pilgrimage from Prabhas Teertha to Plaksavana in the Himalayas mentions many holy centers located at the Bank of Sarasvati. (Shalyaparva 35-54)

From Puranas we get three distinct rivers those are named as Sarasvati. One is the river in Kurukshetra, second being the Pushkar-Sarasvati and third being a river that meets the sea at Prabhasa. (Vamana and Padma Purana). All the stories surrounding Sarasvati are so fictional that it makes us difficult to believe it was a real river intended while creating these myths.

However, Manusmriti gives us an entirely different account of the River Sarasvati. Manusmriti 2.17 and 2.19 gives us the following description.

17. That land, created by the gods, which lies between the two divine rivers Sarasvati and Drishadvati, they (sages) call Brahmavarta.

19. Kurukshetra, the place ruled by Kurus, the land ruled by Panchala and Surasenaka is the land where Brahmarshies lived and is called Brahmarshi Desha.
  
Another popular myth in floating is the Sarasvati River turned eastward and disappeared underground which confluences invisibly with Ganga-Yamuna at Prayaga. 

Presently there are two small rivers in Gujrath and Saurashtra regions those are called Sarasvati.

One may get confused with the variety of the accounts those are flowing to us from various texts and myths. They are filled with all mythical elements like curses of the seers.

Presently, the general assumption is that the Ghaggar is the lost river Sarasvati. However, it doesn’t originate in the Himalayas.From Mahabharata account, too, it does not seem likely that the River originated in the Himalayas as one could reach its source, Plaksavana, within forty days by horse ride. The geological proofs those so far has been surfaced indicate that the Ghaggar took several hundred years to dry up because of the climatic changes and other geological events like tectonic shifts. However, we do not find any of such hint in the holiest and most adorable river's account.

The Mahabharata reached to present form in 3rd to 4th AD. Most of the locations of the pilgrimage centers that are elaborated in Mahabharata do not exist which promotes to a thought that these descriptions only could have been fictional. Also, the place in Mahabharata, where Balarama narrates the story of his pilgrimage is clearly artificially created. Panchavimsha Brahmana and  Jaiminiya Brahmana are the works of a late era as compared to Satapatha or Aitareya Brahmana. By that time most probably the memories of the real Sarasvati river were already faded and an attempt was being made to find the disappearance of its becoming invisible.

Adiparva of Mahabharata (3. 144) gives different geography of the Kurukshetra. It informs that the Kurukshetra is situated on the banks of Ikshumati river where Takshaka and Ashvasena used to line up. Various accounts those appear in Mahabharata are not only confusing and contradictory but sometimes it appears that some scenes have been created out of sheer imagination just to anyhow accomodate the Sarasvati River which does not help us to ascertain any geography of the River Sarasvati intended to the composers of Mahabharata.

The places named Vinasana and Plaksavana are totally absent from the bank of any dried up river of northwest India and Pakistan.

The account of Manusmriti is more interesting, most possibly close to the reality, because the second chapter of it clearly seems to have written during a very early era when Vedic religion was in an attempt to be codified.

The Manusmriti do not know any regions of North India by name except for Kuru, Panchal, Matsya, and Surasenaka. Manusmriti declares, elsewhere reside only Shudras. Known geography to them does not go beyond Vindhya Mountains. Only Kuru, Panchal etc. regions are called the region of the Brahmarshis.

But the region which is enumerated first, the Brahmavarta, created by the Gods which is located between the Drishadvati and Sarasvati River.

This shows that the regions intended by Manusmriti are located at two distinct places.

The rivers flowing through the Brahmavarta are Sarasvati and Drishadvati. This forms original Brahmavarta, not the present place which is touted being Brahmavarta.

The Kuru, Panchal and other enumerated regions together form the land of Brahmarshies, but Manusmriti explicitly tells us that the Sarasvati and Drishadvati do not flow through these regions.

If considered the Ghaggar River is the Sarasvati, then it creates serious anomaly because Ghaggar flows through the Kurukshetra, but certainly not through the Panchal or Surasenaka.

Balarama’s account in Mahabharata doesn’t indicate that the river was located anywhere close to Kurukshetra where Mahabharata war was being viciously fought. Prabhas Teertha also is not at all related to the present or ancient course of the Ghaggar-Hakra River.

Rigveda states that there are three great rivers (Mahanadi) Sarayu, Indus and Sarasvati. Sarayu is identified with a river in Afghanistan named Haroyu, present Harirud. Sarasvati also was known as Harahvaiti in Afghanistan. Drishadvati river, though remains unidentified, could be Khash river that flows parallel to Helmand that forms a kind of delta. This region, however, according to Manusmriti, is the land created by the Gods.

Manusmriti, in a way, preserves the memory of the land where Vedas were composed and once upon a time Vedic tribes flourished.

It should be noted that the meaning of ‘Brahma’ in Vedic Sanskrit is Mantra (verses), hence it could have been called ‘Brahmavarta’ because there Vedic verses were composed.

The lands enumerated after Brahmavata is the land of Brahmarshis, the seers those had mastered the Vedic verses. And this land is of Kuru, Panchala, Matsya and Surasenakas.

Hence, the rest of mythical stories about Sarasvati and its disappearance are contradictory and clearly fictional. The fact is the Holy River Sarasvati had really disappeared from the eyes of the later Vedics. However, the memories those were preserved were faded away in later course of the time. Gradually Sarasvati was given a divine sanctity by accepting her in the form of goddess of wisdom.


Had it been a real river flowing through North India, no matter whether it dries out, the name of the river would have remained unchanged because it is the Vedic religion that has been dominant in India for long time. There is no indication that the Ghaggar was ever alternatively called Sarasvati. In any case Ghaggar is not corruption of Sarasvati. The disappearance of the mighty and praiseworthy mother-like river to the Vedics of the past owed to the fact that the handful of the staunch supporters of the religion had to vacate their earlier habitat and gradually created myths surrounding her disappearance. Ghaggar is not a remnant of the Sarasvati though some try to imagine so out of their attempts to force their beloved theories. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Geography of The Battle of Ten Kings


dasarajna5


After the mythical war of Indra with Vrutra, the most celebrated war that appears in Rig Veda is battle of ten kings, which was fought on the banks of the river Parusni. Hypothetically, it is considered that his camp was on the eastern side of the Parusni whereas his enemies, such as Shivas, Anu, Drahyu, Parshu, Pakht, Bhalanas, Puru etc., had gathered towards the western side of the river.

Parshus are identified with Persian people whereas Pakhtas are identified with present Pakhtun tribe. Shivas may be the people from the IGVC. Bhalanas are identified with the people living in Bolan Pass region or Baluchistan. Anu tribe is identified with Parthians. Except for a few unidentified tribes, it clearly seems that the rest of the tribes inhabited the present day Afghanistan, Iran and its bordering regions. If we have a look at the geographical location of the Parusni (thought to be present Ravi), to wage a war with King Sudasa, the enemy tribes would have to travel for longer distances, about 500 miles, even had to cross the vastness of Sindhu river to reach the banks of the Parusni. In addition, even if considered that the Tritsus were settled by Parusni, present Ravi, it is quite unlikely that Sudasa could have initiated such a serious enmity amongst the far away tribes those could have dared to travel such a vast distance to wage a devastating war against Sudasa. This makes identification of Parusni with Ravi improbable for the geography does not fit the overall scenario.

First, let us turn to the possible cause of the war. It is assumed by the scholars that the rivalry between seer Vishwamitra and Vasishtha was the major cause of this war. It is believed that Sudasa removed Vishwamitra from the post of chief priest. Hence, an anguished Vishwamitra left Sudasa to gather forces against him. However, to our surprise, we do not find any support to this assumption in Rig Veda as there is no mention of such event taking place. In all probabilities, the war was fought over religious issues as Rig Veda describes enemy as ‘ayajju’, non-sacrificers or over the political supremacy issue. 

For waging war against a far away enemy, travelling from Persia, Parthia, Nooristan, Pakhtunistan, Balochistan etc., crossing the expanse of Indus and other rivers such as Jhelum, Chenab in itself is a wild thinking. In the first place, how Vishwamitra could gather forces, located in different and distant regions? If at all, he did so as some scholars tend to think, did he do that just to avenge his previous patron only because he had been fired? This is an unsupported assertion of the scholars that Vishwamitra was in any way responsible for the battle, as the Rig Veda does not speak of any such event.

Considering that even if the battle was related with religious hegemonic conflicts, how would such conflicts usurp with a tribe that is located at the distance of more than 500 miles? There cannot be any political reason as well to have any rhyme or reason to make enmity with a distant tribal king. This fact alone confirms that the present Ravi was not Parusni on whose bank the devastating war took place. 

After the defeat of enemies, what is the scenario? Defeated tribes were not annihilated.  According to Rig Veda, the number of people who died in the war is 6,666. Though the figure could be speculative or exaggerated, the survivors of the war must have travelled back to their homeland after paying huge tributes.

The Rig Veda (7.33) mentions that Tritsus under Sudasa received tribute from defeated kings like Ajas, Sigrus and Yaksus. RV 7.18.13 informs us that Indra destroyed the seven fortifications of the enemy and gave treasures of Anu to Sudasa. This verse indicates that Anus after defeat could travel back to their capital and Sudasa chased them from Parusni to the Anu settlements in Parthia with an aide of Indra, destroyed their fortifications and recovered tributes from Anu’s sons. This again would be a wild guess made only to support the superficial theories! For coming to the war and chasing the defeated enemy up to his capital, one needs to be in a traversable vicinity of the enemy. Hence, Parusni cannot be equated with Ravi because pre and post war scenario does not allow this to happen in all probabilities.

The migrationists have complicated this simple issue for their want of establishing migration of the Aryans from either direction. “Out of India Theory” (AIT) supporters, such as Talageri, boldly infer the westward expansion of the Vedic Aryans from the east after this war, whereas the AIT or AMT (Aryan Invasion and Aryan Migration Theory) theorists from same incident conclude the eastward expansion of the Indo-European tribes. Since the basis of both the theories is wrong, they are using available proof conveniently without giving enough attention to the bare facts that whatsoever was the reason of the war, on whose banks, the war took place, that Parusni could not have been Ravi of Punjab!

Ravi name derives from the original river name Iravati. It is not at all derived from Parusni. We do not know for certain which river was intended by Vedic people. However, due to lack of such an identification, we are left with no choice but to accept the fact that the river in question, Parusni, could have been any river that was located in the traversable distance of the enemy location in the vicinity of Hemand river.

Religious or socio-economical or political conflicts take place normally with the people living in neighbouring regions. Wars for political supremacy are not new. Since the locations of the other tribes such as Parshu, Pakhta, Bhalanas, etc. are almost undisputed, it would be wise to assume that the location of Tritsu tribe was, too, just about them. The upper side of the Helmand possibly is the most likely identification of the location of Tritsu tribe. The Parusni river could be one of the tributaries of Helmand or Aranghab on whose bank, the enemy could gather from different directions to wage the war.

Victorious kings and people do not abandon their habitat. Nor did the defeated as we find from the retaining the respective lands of the defeated tribes, like of Anus. Talageri’s suggestion that after this victory, Sudasa moved westwards of Ravi becomes ridiculous on this account. 

The essence of the war is the Tritsu tribe under Sudasa, after victory over all participant tribes, must have been attained fame in the known world of those times. Rather, after the victory in this and subsequent battles, Sudasa must have emerged as a hero of those times. The Rig Vedic compositions and the fire sacrifices must have attained respect and attraction among the neighbouring world to which he had patronised like his ancestors. The glory must have travelled as a word of mouth to even the distant world to interest them in Sudas and his religion. Sudasa, too, must have taken efforts to spread his religion, as most of the patrons or prophets do.

Zarathustra, too, spread his religion with the assistance of royal patronages. The Vedic religion must have stood opposite to the Persian faith after the battle, as Parshu was another tribe to meet with the defeat. This event could have blocked the Avestan spread to the south and south-east as an opposing faith stood strong to prohibit such entry. Hence, it clearly seems from the annals of the history that the Avestan faith spread westwards while Rig Vedic faith spread eastwards, albeit after some lapse of the time.

The divergence of Vedic faith from Asur Varuna to Daeva Indra could have possible roots in the transitional phase that Vedic tradition met with after this most celebrated war. In a way, the war became a real landmark in the Vedic religious history that divided two faiths distinctly. Vedic shift was from common Asura (Ahura) worship to Daeva (Deva) worship through the distinct fire sacrificial practices.

Whitney, too, seems to be surprised from this sudden shift. He states that, “This most interesting side of the ancient Indian religion exhibits itself in the Vedic hymns as already fading into oblivion; the process of degradation of Varuna, its principal representative, which has later striped him off his majestic attributes, and converted him into a mere god of ocean, is commenced; Indra on the one hand, is rising to a position of greater prominence and honor above him…..” 

From Rig Vedic accounts, we understand that the clan of Sudasa, Tritsus, could not retain the same glorious position afterwards and in course of the time, declined so much so that the new contributors to Rig Veda were forced to accept patronage from the people for whom they had nourished hatred in previous times. Tritsus were erased from the pages of the history, as we find no references to them in later Vedic tradition that re-flourished in India.

To sum up, Tritsu tribe resided in the vicinity of Avestan Harahvaiti (Sk. Sarasvati) where most of the Rig Veda was composed. After the decline of the Tritsu clan, new enthusiastic patrons and disciples took up the Rig Vedic tradition, may be because of political reasons or because of its disintegration. It should not come as a surprise when we find Pijvana Sudasa being condemned as a Shudra in Manusmriti because the later events that took place in Afghanistan after the war must have brought further calamities on the Vedic religion. Tritsu clan is absent from all other later Vedic literature. It is possible that the shift of the geography of the Vedic religion was an effect of it. We will see in the next chapter how this process of shifting could have taken place. 

Notes: 

1. Raj Pruthi states in this regards that “The Rig-veda represents the battle have been fought on the banks of Parushni. This location of the conflict, however, seems to be most difficult, if not quite impossible, if we consider the territories occupied by the different members of the confederacy at the period, according to traditional history. The Durhyus were occupying Gandhara at the time, and it is difficult to see how they could be interested in or affected by the conflicts of people far away from them. The Turvasas, as already stated, did not exist at that time and if they did exist, as suggested by Pargiter, it is difficult to comprehend how they marched off over 500 miles from the Karusha country to participate in the exploits of a remote king.” (‘Vedic Civilization’ by Raj Pruthi, Pub. Discovery Publishing House, 2004, p. 85)

The information that above paragraph provides and the questions it poses, strengthens our case that the identification of Parushni with Ravi is not correct.  Rather, coming to Ravi would be far distant for the Perians, Parthians, Turanians than that of other tribes. Hence the Parushni must have been any river of southern or central Afghanistan.

2. Parusni: There is no unanimity about the identification of the river Parusni. This river in Rig Veda is also called Mahanadi. (RV 8.74.15). Pischel suggests the word “Parus” is derived from the flocks of wool, not from bends of river, as understood by Nirukta or from the reeds as Roth suggests. Hopkins had suggested that the Yamuna could be another name of the Parusni whereas Geldner suggests that the Parusni is mere a tributary to Yamuna. Actually, as Pischel suggests that wool (urna) is connected with Parusni river, hence  “Parus”, flocks “Urna” Wool would mean flocks of the wool. (Vedic Index of Names and Subjects, Volume 1”, By Arthur Anthony Macdonell & Arthur Berriedale Keith, Indian edition, pub. Motilal Banarasidas Publishers Pvt. Ltd.,1995, p. 499-500.) Pischel suggests, Parusni was named from richness of its sheep and as Gandhara ewes were famous, this would indicate that in all probabilities this was a river from Gandhara region. (Ibid, p.41.)

If this is the case, the river could be associated the people where sheep rearing for wool was a major business of the people residing across its banks. The place, again could have been in Helmand Basin or Swat valley. Equating this river with Ravi may not be correct. 



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Chronology of the Rig Veda


Image result for rig vedic people


We find that various scholars have tried to decide the chronological order of compositions of hymns of Rig Veda. The efforts became necessary because what we have in hand today does not follow its original chronology, but a version that is edited, rearranged and divided in 10 books (Mandalas) as per the needs of the later editors. However, the normal agreement is the six family books (2 to 7) are the oldest core of the Rig Veda whereas other books are considered to be middle and younger books.

If we look at the Rig Vedic compositions, we will find that every book can again be classified as old, middle and younger independently, because they, too, are not composed at one go, but several generations have contributed to them.

Even the hymns are edited to suit the purpose of the editor to bring the final version in most possible orderly manner. Hence, many hymns are credited to several seers. It also becomes difficult to determine whether all the verses of the hymns were composed at once or was the creation of different times. We find many Rig Vedic hymns consist of verses without any chronological order while recording the events, making it difficult to understand its real historical order. 

We also have discussed in this chapter that the composition of the Rig Veda, as evident from Danastuti, was not accomplished under single patronage. Also, we have discussed how the seer families belonged to different clans/ tribes and followed different faiths and traditions before joining the Rig Vedic stream. Although the Vedic religion and its ritualistic nature remained fire centric, new deities and mythologies of different sources kept on adding to the bulk of Rig Veda. Because of this, we can state that the Rig Veda in a way represents its cosmopolitan nature.

However, we do not know for certain, which could be the first seer family that founded the Rig Vedic faith. We also do not know which the earliest hymn is and who composed it. The Rig Vedic mythologies about their prominent seers, their supposed family members and descendants is so much so shrouded with the obscure and inconsistent legends, that we cannot be so sure whether the lineage of seer families is real or fabricated by the seers of later times to claim their divine and acclaimed bloodline.

We know the names of the seer/s of the hymns from the Anukramanis, which is quite a late text. From Anukramanis (Katyayanas being oldest but its assigned date is about 500 BC to 300 BC) we come to know names of the seers who composed the hymns, its metre and deity or deities to whom it is addressed. But it is doubtful whether it is historically correct in its totality. 

Michael Witzel opines on ‘The Anukramanis’, while criticizing Talageri’s book, ‘The Rigveda. A historical analysis’, (Aditya Prakashan 2000), “As suggested earlier, in his ‘analysis’ of the RV, Talageri depends heavily on the Anukramanis -- late- and post-Vedic lists of RV poets (many of them clearly fictional), deities, and meters. These lists are closely related to other later and traditional sources, including the Puranas…… Talageri not only seems oblivious of these facts, but is unaware as well that competing versions of the AnukramaÍīs exist. Indeed, he makes the startling claim at the beginning of his book (p. 7) that “the Anukramanis were part and parcel of the Rigvedic text from the most ancient times" -- claiming further that these lists must lie at the grounds of any serious analysis of the text. Amateurish errors like this are compounded by the fact that the version of these lists that Talageri (unknowingly) depends on -- an early medieval redaction of late-Vedic Katyayana's Sarvånukramani.” (‘The Incredible Wanderlust of the Rgvedic Tribes Exposed by S.Talageri”, p. 2)

Rather, such fabrications are not new in the Vedic tradition. The authorships of many scriptures of later times are attributed to mythical figures to provide them sanctity and authenticity. Hence, the division of the family books and non-family books, too, may not be as correct as generally thought about.

From the history of both the religions, we can conclude that, even if we cannot definitely decide on which scripture is older, however, with some degree of certainty, we can say that both the traditions are almost contemporaneous.

From accounts of the wars, it may appear that the main enemies of the Zoroastrians were Turvasas (Turanians) and not Rig Vedic tribe of early times. There certainly are traces of the sense of rivalry between the Avestan and Vedic tradition, which seems to have encouraged Rig Vedic seers to record victories of Turvasas over Zarathustra’s patron tribe, no matter whether in single verses. Turvasas in the later course of the time turned up to be enemies along with Yadus and others to engage Sudasa, Rig Vedic patron of that time, in the battle to prove him victorious.  However, we have no clue as to what happened to his clan in the later course of the time. However, it appears that the Vedic tradition of later times have defamed Sudasa so much so that they degraded him to "Shudra" (Non-Vedic) status. Manusmriti evidences this fact. We have indications to affirmatively state that the aftermath of the Battle of the Ten Kings turned out sour to the Vedics to force some to abandon their habitat.

From the wars those took place during the lifetime of Zarathustra, we have discussed above; we certainly can state that battle of ten kings took place in later times, could possibly be after a couple of centuries later. In the passage of almost 300 to 500 years, that took to compose the extant Rig Veda, we cannot expect that the first patron royal family, too, continued its dominance to support the religion over such vast span on time. From Avesta, we clearly see that after fall of Vishtaspa’s dynasty, the Avestan tradition was shifted elsewhere by the followers for want of patrons. Rig Vedic seers, too, from the Danastutis, appear to have receiving patronage and gifts from other, even once enemy, tribes.

 I especially use the term ‘Vedic Tribe’, not Puru or Bharata or Tritsu in particular because it clearly appears the from Rig Vedic accounts that the composition of the Rig Veda did not complete in the so-called Aryan society or under the sole patronage of the hypothetical Puru tribe or its hypothetical offshoot tribes.  There was no ‘Aryan’ society as such. Puru, Bharata or Tritsu tribe does not show its prolonged continuation of reign in any region for that matter. The seer families do not show any way that they belonged to any single tribe and uniformly, but over generations, composed Rig Veda. It can be assumed that the many seers were contemporary. However, it is clear from Rig Veda itself that they belonged to different locations and tribes. We can see that the Bhrigus and Vishvamitra, though might not have physically participated in the famous battle of ten kings, certainly were not part of the Sudasa’s tribe. We find, in this battle, Purus too had fought against Sudasa. There can be listed many instances like this, those only makes it clear that the Rig Vedic compositions were multi-centered and among, sometimes, rival tribes and simultaneous. It seems that in later course, the extant corpus of the Rig Veda was gathered and rearranged and this is why we can find even compositions of the rival seer families belonging to different clans too are incorporated in the Rig Veda. What I want to suggest here the work of the Rig Veda is not the product of single homogeneous society and culture. It shows that in instance of Kanvas, ethnicities too differed. In all, Rig Veda is not at all propriety of a single tribe, but product of several tribes and of different times. The Danastuti hymns too are important indicator of this fact. Traditionally attributing the works of Rig Veda to hypothetical Bharata or Puru clan or their hypothetical offshoots may not be correct. Hence, from “Vedic tribe/s” we are not indicating a single society, which was responsible for this monumental work, but the tribe/s those kept on patronizing from time to time the Rig Vedic compositions and religion. 

Also, we must note here that when a religion spreads elsewhere, it is because of the faithful preachers. It doesn’t at all mean that the entire populace belonging to that particular religion has moved deserting their original habitat. We also can clearly see from the history that the people have abandoned the previous faiths to adopt new ones. Buddhism spread in nearby countries by this missionary process only. It will be insane to claim that the entire Indian Buddhist population had migrated to Sri Lanka, Tibet, China and other countries to enforce Buddhism upon them.

Most importantly, many a times, religions do die at the place of its origin but prosper elsewhere! Buddhism again is a fine example for this. It could not sustain its existence and influence in the country of its origin for a long time. Rather, it almost had become extinct until Dr. BR Ambedkar resurrected it.

This, too, seems to have happened with Rig Vedic, fire-sacrifice oriented, religion. It could not survive in the land of its origin but was destined to receive patronage and followers from northwest India to begin with. We will see who were their first patrons and how this religion got spread by conversions in the Indian subcontinent. 

The mythologies of Brahmana literature mostly are associated with the era of cultural conflicts between Asuric and Deva faiths when Rig Vedic religion was gradually shaping up in ancient Iran. Applying these myths in Indian historical or mythical context has already proved fatal. We need to carefully segregate the Vedic mythological elements from Indian mythology to know what our original roots were. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Common personalities in Rigveda and Avesta!


Image result for rigveda avesta personalities
In fact, what we have at hand to discuss overwhelmingly the IE linguistics is the scriptures of Vedic and Avestic religions. We find close similarities, in ritualistic practices as well as the language of both the religions. However, the dissimilarities on both the grounds, too, are not negligible. The common understanding among migrationist scholars has been that the Indo-Iranians were a major branch of the Indo-European language family. The two wave theory of Burrow , which is supported by Parpola, suggests that the first wave of the Indo-Aryans dispersed to Anatolia and India about 1500 BC and the later, by around 800 BC, the wave came to be called as ‘Iranian wave’. Indian Vedicist scholars like Talageri has another suggestion. According to him, Iranians (Anu tribe) and Vedic Aryans (Bharata/Puru tribe) migrated from India towards Iran and that Avesta began to be composed after the time of middle Rig Vedic era. Hodivala postulates that both the scriptures are contemporary, dating back to 2,500 BC. J Harmatta suggests that at the end of second phase, proto-Indians had left for the south-east. She further states that “…On the basis of what has been said, it becomes clear that the migrations of the Proto-Indo-Iranians may have taken place in at least three successive periods and that they were of very different character.”
In short, there is no agreement among the scholars of the past or present about the original homeland of the so-called PIE speakers, their exact time of the dispersals, the exact phases or waves they decided to migrate, its reasons and on when and where the Avesta and the Rig Veda were composed. The hypotheses merely are based on the imagined migrations from either direction. Almost all scholars have devised their theories to adjust supposed timelines and that, too, seems to be from the imaginary date of domestication of the horses, i.e. 3,500 BC, to explain migrational directions of the so called PIE people. We have seen in the last chapter that there could not have been such a case, i.e., existence of PIE language speaking, closely-knit community and spread of their proto-language because of their subsequent migrations.

Besides linguistics, normally the stress of the scholars has been to consider Rig Veda being elder than Avesta, presuming the language of the Rig Veda being more archaic. But what is the proof to decide which language is archaic? If the language of Rig Veda is carefully studied, it appears that notwithstanding the claim that the Vedas have been preserved as it were from the date of its first composition, the Rig Veda has gone through substantial linguistic modifications.

Witzel explains that the old Avesta of Zarathushtra is more archaic than the Rig Veda simply because the Iranian lacks the many innovations that characterise the language of Veda. This does not at all mean that the date of Avesta is anterior to the Rig Veda. Rather, we will see in due course that both the scriptures, in their originality, were contemporary though the language and arrangement of the Rig Veda was modified, with new additions, to ssuitnew environments in far later times. 

Therefore, the myth that the Rig Veda has faithfully been preserved by oral tradition for generations, till it was committed to writing, needs a rethinking. The compositions of Rig Vedic hymns, too, continued for centuries before it was finally codified. We do not know for sure when exactly it was first codified and committed to writing. The dates are very vague and often have no more credence than being mere guesswork that extends for several centuries to millenniums. It does not conclusively occur that the Vedas were written in South India for first time in the second half of the 14th century AD. Even if we suppose the moderate period of Rig Vedic compositions from 1,500 to 1,000 BC, and that of it’s being reduced to written form after lapse of about 1,000-1,500 years without any change, it certainly remains a myth that needs serious reconsideration.

On the contrary, the facts with Avesta are altogether different. There is proof of its being written and later translated to Pahlavi to avoid any violent destruction. KE Edulji states that the first report of the written Avestan text comes from the Middle Persian language (Pahlavi) writer Arda Viraf, in his book, the Arda Viraf Nameh (3rd or 4th century CE). In it, as he writes that the Persian Achaemenian kings (c. 600 - 300 BCE) commissioned the commitment of the Avesta to writing on hides and deposited the texts in the royal library at Ishtakhr. "...the entire Avesta and Zand, written on hides with gold ink, were deposited in the archives at Stakhar Papakan (Ishtakhr, near Persepolis and Shiraz in Pars province)." Masudi gives the number of hides as 12,000.

“This written version of Avesta would have been available for others to read and Martin Haug states that Hermippus, the philosopher of Smyrna (ca. 250 BCE), "…is reported by Pliny (Historia Naturalis XXX., 1) to have made very laborious investigation into all Zoroastrian books, which were said to comprise two million verses, and to have stated the contents of each book separately." Regrettably, Hermippus' work has since been lost.” 

The mention of ‘two million verses’ is nothing but exaggeration. However, Pliny (AD 23-79) certainly was aware about the existence of written texts of Avesta. It seems that the Avesta was translated in other languages like Arabic, Pahlavi, too, using various scripts including cuneiform. We do not find such attempts or contemporary records about the existence of Rig Veda in the written form. Indeed, we do not find Vedas being known to the western or eastern world, simply because there is no explicit mention of it in any record or later epigraphs. Megasthanese (3rd Century BC), too, does not mention the existence of Vedas, though he describes social structure of that time at great length. 

Oral tradition was not unknown to the Avestans. However, we see the difference between the language of Gathas and later works which can be classified as early, middle and younger. The language of the Rig Veda cannot be classified this way because it has undergone substantial phonetic, syntactical and morphological modifications over the course of time after its original composition. However, such stages of chronological development in the language are almost absent, barring the instances of later interpolations, making one wonder that whether such modifications were done sometime later at once to make it more intelligible to contemporary generations? No language can remain uniform for such a vast span of the time as the Rig Vedic language does. 

However, leaving above enigmas aside for a while, let us investigate both the scriptures on account of whether the historical events and characters find place in both the books and determine whether the people following distinct religious practices knew each other or not!

ZARATHUSTRA: Various attempts have been made to locate the name of the prophet in Rig Veda. Although the name ‘Jarutha’ appears thrice in the bulk of the Rig Veda, some scholars seem inclined to reject the identification. However, let us not forget here that Zarathustra is spelled differently in other languages, such as ‘Zoroaster’ in Greek. The other Iranian versions spell the same as Zarathrost, Zaradust or Zaradrust etc. In Sanskrit, Zarathushtra is spelled as Jarathuśtra (in Neriyosangh’s Sanskrit translation of the Avesta). The etymology of the name given is Zarath (old) +Ustra (camel) or Zarath (driving or moving) + Ustra (Camel). Similarly, the word Zarath denotes the priest or singer.  

Let us not forget here that the phoneme Z finds loss in Vedic language, turns to J, Zarath will thus come to be spelled as Jarath. With phonetic changes, while shortening the name Zarathustra, the name can come to be spelled as Jarutha in Vedic dialect. Another supportive information we get as, “The name Jarutha is derived by Sayana from Vgr, to 'sing, saying; it means one who makes loud sound. ... form in its own way simply copied it from Vedic, for the Avestan Gen. form of hartr would, on the analogy of datr, be zarthro or *zarithro.” 

Let us have a look at the Rig Vedic verses where Jarutha is mentioned and in what context.
“Burn up all malice with those flames, O Agni, wherewith of old thou burntest up Jarutha, And drive away in silence pain and sickness.” (RV 7.1.7 Trans. By Griffith)

“Vasistha, when enkindling thee, O Agni, hath slain Jarutha. Give us wealth in plenty. Sing praise in choral song, O Jātavedas. Ye Gods, preserve us evermore with blessings.” (RV 7.9.6 Trans. By Griffith)

“Agni rejoiced the car of him who praised him, and from the waters, burnt away Jarutha. Agni saved Atri in the fiery cave and made Nrmedha rich with troops of children.” (RV 10.80.3, Trans. By Griffith.)

However, Macdonell defines Jarutha to denote a demon that was slain by Agni. He also referees to the Griffith and Ludwig those see in him (Jarutha), a foe slain in the battle in which Vasishtha was the priest. Hodivala after examining all the three verses states, “From the third passage, it is clear that Jarutha must have been some demon who lived in waters.” However, Hodivala examines further to conclude that Zarathustra is mentioned in the Rig Veda as ‘Dasyu’ because he was frequently called as ‘Dakhyuma’ (equivalent to Rig Vedic Dasyu) and wherever, the word is used in plural form, i.e. Dasyus, it is addressed to his followers.

Let us examine the verses mentioned above to find what they mean. All the three verses laud the deed of Agni for killing ‘Jarutha’ in fire. There is no mention anywhere in Rig Veda that Jarutha denotes a demon or foe. Rather, it seems odd to find mention of Jarutha’s thrice to describing only event of his death in the fire. 

Some scholars have associated Jarutha of Rig Veda with Zarathushtra of Avesta. Indian scholar PR Deshmukh states, “…From the above Richa we learn that Jarutha was killed by Vashishthas by crossing water…..The word Jarutha means a priest…..Jarutha may be a short form of Zartustra.”

Apart from above two references, Jackson has given detailed accounts of Zarathushtra’s death gathered from various sources; some are listed briefly as below:

1.         Early Greek tradition says that Zoroaster was perished by lightning or a flame from heaven. Latin tradition states that an angry star emitted a stream of fire in vengeance for his conjuring up the stars and burnt him to ashes.

2.         Gregory of Tours (A.D. 538-593) records etymology of Zoroaster as ‘living star’ stating that the Persians worshipped him as a God because he was consumed by fire from heaven.

3.         Chronicon Alexandrinum (A.D.629) states that while praying to the Orion, he was slain by a heavenly shaft and that his ashes were carefully kept by the Persians.

4.         Suidas of Tenth century A.D. briefly records the prophet’s death by fire from heaven.

5.         Orosius (A.D. 5th Century) informs that Ninus conquered Zoroaster and killed him in the battle.

6.         Iranian tradition informs that the prophet died at the age of 77 years and 40 days and ascribes the death it to a Turanian named Bratrokresh. The name of the murderer occurs several times in the Avestan scriptures.

7.         Datistan – I- Dinik, 72.8, states that among the most heinous sinners “one was Tur – e- Bratarvaksh, the Karap and heterodox wizard, by whom best of the man (i.e. Jharatusht) was put to death.” The similar account is given by Bundahishn naming the above cited assassin.

8.         Dinkard III, chap. 343 lists the best and worst of men, naming Yam as the best of kings, and Zardušt as the best of priests, and Tūr ī Brātrōkrēš, the karb “who made the body of Zardušt perish,” as the worst of heretics. (Karb stands for Old Avestan Karapan, despised priests of the enemy. The assassin in question in all probabilities was a priest-warrior.)

Apart from Greek and Latin, Pahlavi-Parsi tradition is unanimous that the Zoroaster perished at the hands of Tur-i- Bratrokresh. Shahname, too, confirms the account of the assassination of the Prophet by Turanian raiders, led by Arjaspa, at the fire-temple.

“During the ritual service, Hyaona insurgents stabbed the 77-year-old Zarathushtra, slew his priests and burned the Avesta.” Thus states Mary Snodgrass. (Hyaona was the part of Turanian clan which was led by Zarathushtra’s staunch enemy Arjaspa.)

What we learn from above is Zarathustra’s death was not natural. Most of the accounts agree that he was killed in the fire or he along with his priests was killed and later burnt in a fire temple, while he was praying. The assassin was a Turanian named Bratrokresh, may be a General, leading Turanian raiding party to Balkh. The news of the killing of the prophet must have spread across the adjoining regions adding imaginary details to it for they could not have possibly known the exact account of the Prophet’s death. Hence, some traditions, such as Greek, attributed the death to the ‘fire’ from heaven. Let us not forget here that the Greeks knew Zarathushtra as magician and astrologer or even a sorcerer.

However, Zoroastrians did not commemorate martyrdom of their Prophet because in all probability, the old tradition was more interested in his life and teachings than his physical death.

Now, if we reread the Rig Vedic verses, we easily can correlate them with the other legends associated with the Zarathushtra’s death in fire, in all probability, an outcome of a war with Turanians to whom we have identified with Turvasas of Rig Veda, who were sometimes friendly with Rig Vedic tribe. It just cannot be a coincidence that most of the accounts in relation with Zarathushtra’s death approximately match with the Rig Vedic verses.

Turanians, too, were friendly with Zarathushtra in the beginning which is evidenced by Zarathushtra himself in the Gathas as under:

“Since through righteousness, the powerful children and grandchildren of the Turanian Fryana have risen to promote their world through serenity with zeal, Wise God has united them with good mind, in order to teach them what concerns their help.” (Gathas: 11-12)

It just shows that the inter-tribal and inter-faith relationship bonds were not permanent. Turvasas had fought against Sudasa in Battle of Ten Kings though many a times they have shown intimate friendly relations with Vedics.

However, we cannot of course, attribute the death to Vasishtha, as no Rig Vedic verse suggests that the assassination of Zarathushtra was committed by Vasishtha. In the verses composed by him, he attributes the death to ‘Agni’, fire. In fact, in the verse RV 7.9.6, he seems to be rejoicing the death of enemy Jarutha. Looking at the rivalry between Rig Vedic and Avestan people, becoming Vasishtha overjoyous and reflecting it in the verses composed by him (or his family members) can be understood. Vasishtha seems to have recorded the incident in the peculiar Vedic style. The verse 10.80.3 seems to be of far later times which have added confusing element of Atri in it.

As Hodivala’s inference that Zarathushtra is mentioned in Rig Veda as Dasyu is thus undoubtedly correct as during Zarathustra’s life time, for sake of the rivalry, Vedic seers must have called him not by his personal name but contemptuous form of his epithet, Dasyu (Dakhyuma). There is other proof, too, to confirm beyond doubt that Zarathushtra was contemporaneous to the Rig Vedic seers which we will confirm further in the present chapter. To sum up conclusively, in all, Jarutha of Rig Veda can be none other than Zarathushtra of Avesta.

Vishtaspa: The first disciple of Zarathushtra after revelation was the king of Balkh (Greek version Bactria) Vishtaspa, a.k.a. Kavi Vishtaspa. Vishtaspa became the first disciple of Zarathustra who not only patronised the resurrected religion but fought many wars for it. The legends go that Vishtaspa built many fire temples in his kingdom. Prior to adapting Mazdayasni religion, he must be adherent of one of other religions which existed and was practiced in those times. From Avestan accounts, it seems that though the Turanians helped Zarathustra to reach Vishtaspas royal court, turned out to be foes as Vishtaspa abandoned old faith and became a disciple of Zarathushtra.

 In the Rig Veda, he is mentioned as ‘Istasva’ (1.122.13). Hodiwala notes that, as a rule the V followed by a vowel drop the V in Vedic language. Following this principle, and Sayanas translation, Hodivala translates the verse as:

“The despicable Vishtaspa of the family of Vishtarashma (=Gushtaham), (and) these conquering chiefs harass the people.” The next verse, according to Hodivala, makes it clear that he was a wealthy prince or king whose wealth was sought by the composers of the hymn i.e. Kakshivan, Dairghatamas Ausijya etc. Talageri, too, agrees with the identification of Vishtaspa with Rig Vedic Istasva. 

Since Rig Vedic seers in all probability knew the patron of Zarathushtra, it makes obvious that they knew Zarathushtra as well!

Pashotan: The youngest son of Vishtaspa, also known as Chitro-mino ((because he was living in the vicinity of the River Chitru-mian-rud) according to Bundehishn Ch. 29 and Dadestan. 

On verification of Bundehishn (ch. 29, verse 6), it seems Chitro-Mino is spelled as ‘Chatru-man-icha’ in Pahlavi. The verse while informing the Peshotan, son of Vishtaspa tells us that Chatru-man-icha was his other name. 

The Rig Veda verse 4.30.17 states, “Arna and Citraratha, both Aryas, though, Indra slewest swift, on yonder side of Sarayu.” (Trans. Griffith) From this stanza, we get account of a war on the banks of river Sarayu (identified with Haroyu/Hari-rud) in which Arna and Chitraratha were killed. Chitraratha seems to be clearly corrupt Sanskrit form of Chitra-mino or Chatru-man-icha. 

Although, the identity of Arna remains uncertain, according to Hodivala, he could be brother of Vishtaspa. The verse makes it clear that both the slain enemies were Aryas and that Arna was someone of high rank, if not brother of Vishtaspa. The account of this war, Hodivala informs, is confirmed by Shahname. 

Hence, the identity of Peshotan is thus clear that he was contemporary to Rig Veda and that he was at enemy side of not the Vedic people, but Turvasas and Yadus, which is clear from the verses describing the event, i.e. “So sapient Indra, Lord of Might, brought Turvasa and Yadu, those Who feared the flood, in safel o'er” (RV 4.30.16 )

“Arna and Citraratha, both Aryas, though, Indra slewest swift, on yonder side of Sarayu.” (RV 4.30.17)

Both the verses clearly show that Turvasas and Yadus crossed the flooded river with the assistance or blessings of Indra to the side where Chitraratha and Arna were slain in the war. The Avestan account, too, supports this as sworn enemies of the Vishtaspa were Turanians alias Turvasas and not the Rig Vedic tribe.

Also, it proves our hypothesis that the Yadus of Rig Veda couldn’t have been Yadus of Mathura, because to become friendly tribes and have common enemies and friends, they must be located in the close vicinity.

Baetas: Also known as Jamaspa Baetas, son-in-law of Zarathushtra (Yast 13.127) a master of Astrology of those times. Rig Veda mentions Baetas as Vetasu in relation with a skirmish in the following verse.

“The crafty Vetasu, the swift Dasni, and Tugra speedily with all his servants, Hath Indra, gladdening with strong assistance, forced near as it were to glorify the Mother.” (RV 6.20.8, Trans. Griffith)
Hodivala suggests from previous and later verse of the above of Rig Veda that the Vetasu (Baetas) was defeated by Rjrasva (Arjaspa). Though, Tugra remains unidentifiable, it certainly is an Iranian name. The term ‘Dasni’ applied for Vetasu is either for his 10 servants or he being possessor of 10 magical powers (crafty) or is addressed to 10 sons of Vistaspa those who participated in this war. 

Arjaspa (Alternatively spelled as Arejat-aspa): He was chief of one of a Tribe Hyaona, delving in Turan or its bordering region to Balkh (Bactria). He was a sworn enemy of Vishtaspa after his conversion to Zoroastrian faith. Arjaspa fought many wars against Vishtaspa and killed many of his family members. Middle Persian text Ayādgār ī Zarērān (66, 67, 112, 113) states that Arjaspa was captured later, was mutilated and then was released. Shahnama informs us that Arjapa had managed to flee after his capture.

Arjaspa of Avesta is identified by many scholars as Rjrasva of Rig Veda. Rjrasva seems to be a close ally of Vedic people whose victories has been rejoiced and memorised by Rig Veda. First, the name of both persons, though spelled slightly different, mean one and the same i.e. one who has swift horses. Second, many of the battles those involve Rjrasva are also recorded in the Avestan texts. Also, his allies and close relations, too, find mention in both the texts.

Rig Vedas major mention of Rjrasva is about Varsagira battle which Rig Veda recounts as:

 “The red and tawny mare, blaze-marked, high standing, celestial who, to bring Rjrasva riches, / Drew at the pole the chariot yoked with stallions, joyous, among the hosts of men was noted. “(RV 1.100.16)

“The Varsagiras unto thee, O Indra, the Mighty One, sing forth this laud to please thee, Rjrasva with his fellows, Ambarisa, Suradhas, Sahadeva, Bhayamana.” (RV 1.100.17, Trans. Griffith)
Apart from the identity of protagonist of this war Rjrasva, names of his companions, too, have been identified. Sahadeva is identified with Hushdiv who is mentioned by Shahnama as assisting Rjrasva from the rear in the war. Hodivala states that Avesta mentions Humayuka (RV Somaka) instead of Hushdiv, i.e. Sahadeva.

The verse of Yast in the regard goes like this:

'He begged her of a boon, saying: "Grant me this, O good, most beneficent Ardvi Sura Anahita! That I may overcome Pesho-Changha the corpse-burier, Humayaka the worshipper of the Daevas, and the wicked Arejat-aspa, in the battles of this world.’ (Aban yast, 5.113)

Here, the verse suggests the above prayer was made before the war. Hence, in all probabilities, he did not know who would be the participants of the war but seems to have mentioned those who were expected.

Another participant in the war that Rig Veda mentions is Ambarisha, to whom Hodivala identifies, but little doubtfully, with Avestan Vidarafshnik, brother of Arjaspa as both the names mean one and the same, ‘one with beautiful garments’. Bhayamana is identified with Vandaremaini, father of Arjaspa, because both the terms mean ‘the fearless one’. Varsagira, since the term is applied to all the family members of Rjrasva, it is possible that it was Rjrasva’s family name.

Although Talageri seems satisfied with the identifications for his need to push his theory, he forgets Somaka and Sahadeva do not at all belong to the race of Sudasa for there is no corroborative proof.
Let us see the verses of Yast those seem to have been composed prior to the war.

“5.108. 'Unto her did the tall Kavi Vishtaspa offer up a sacrifice behind Lake Frazdanava, with a hundred male horses, a thousand oxen, ten thousand lambs.

5.109. 'He begged of her a boon, saying: "Grant me this, O good, most beneficent Ardvi Sura Anahita! that I may overcome Tathravant, of the bad law, and Peshana, the worshipper of the Daevas and the wicked Arejat-aspa, in the battles of this world!"

5.113. 'He begged of her a boon, saying: "Grant me this, O good, most beneficent Ardvi Sura Anahita! that I may overcome Pesho-Changha the corpse-burier, Humayaka the worshipper of the Daevas, and the wicked Arejat-aspa, in the battles of this world.

5.116. 'Unto her did Arejat-aspa and Vandaremaini offer up a sacrifice by the sea Vouru-Kasha, with a hundred male horses, a thousand oxen, ten thousand lambs.”

For the sake of readers’ convenience, I have put names in questions in bold letters. It is quite clear that these are prayers and offerings prior to the expected war. The enemies are condemned because they are following Deva faith. Humayuka (Somaka) and Vandaremaini (Bhaymana) in the above verses have not been distinguished from the race of Arjaspa (Rjrasva). Though the Hushdiv (Sahadeva) is mentioned in Shahnama, he, too, does not show that the Hushdiv belonged to different tribes other than of Arjaspa.

Even if the fact is proven from the Rig Vedic and Avestan accounts that the war and the participants of it were historical, it nowhere suggests the war included any tribe other than of Arjaspa (Rjrasva). The actual conflicts on religious issues that Avesta mentions mostly were between Turanians and Zoroastrians. The Avesta is clear on the fact that Turanians were Deva worshipers and hence, were wicked.

Most importantly, what we clearly see from the above is that the Somaka alias Humayuka and Hushdiv alias Sahadeva were not the descendants of King Sudasa as some scholars like Talageri likes to believe they were! In the list of Puru kings, he includes Somaka and Sahadeva as descendants of Sudasa and places Varsagiras battle after the battle of ten kings.However, Rjrasva, the main protagonist of the war, is not named in the bloodline of Sudasa at all because he did not have that origin! Looking at these facts, Aban Yast proves beyond doubt that the people mentioned as an enemy belonged to the family of Arjaspa and none of the Sudasa’s descendants or contemporaries led the war.

Most probably, Talageri is associating Somaka and Sahadeva with Sudasa dynasty on a guess that since the Seer Vamadeva in Danastutis (RV 4.15.7-10) mention Somaka as son of Sahadeva and that in the same hymn are mentioned Devavata and his son Srinjaya, it must formed a bloodline. However, the purpose of the hymn should be noted. The hymn is composed in praise for the gifts received by Vamadeva for his performing sacrifices or prayers for ailing prince Somaka. While praising the donor prince Somaka, Vamadeva also is recounting Devavata and his son Srinjaya in relation with a myth that the “He who is kindled eastward for Sñjaya, Devāvata's son,…” (RV 4.15.4). The hymn does not intend in any way to show that Somaka and Sahadeva were descendants of Sudasa or were related any way with Srinjaya and Devavata, which makes Talageri’s claim baseless.

Hodivala is hesitant while identifying Ambarisha with Vidarafshnic and Bhayamana with Vandaremaini on account of, although the meaning of both the words is same but quite different in sound. However, looking at his confirmation of identification of Humayuka with Somaka to which Talageri, too, agrees, in my opinion there is no need of hesitation in confirming identity of Ambarisha and Bhayamana as well because it just cannot be coincident that the names bear same meaning and that since there is no confusion of Arjaspa being Rjrasva and Humayuka being Somaka, the other participants mentioned in Aban Yast and Rig Veda, too, must be identical, mentioned in translated form in Rig Veda with sound change but maintaining same meaning!

Rig Veda mentions this Varsagiras war in just two verses (1.100.16-17)  jumping to the other victories of Rjrasva over Dasyus like Shimyu and others mentioning them just here and there vaguely confirms our deliberation that Zarathushtra was more concerned about hostile Turanians than Rig Vedic people. This we have to take very seriously as Avesta does not mention at all any Rig Vedic king or their faiths as being a serious threat to his religion. Avestan accounts too treat Arjaspa (Rjrasva) as the main enemy of Vishtaspa and Zoroaster.  

The identification of Rig Vedic seer Nodhas Gautama with Nadhyaongha Gaotema who is mentioned in Farvardin Yast (Yt. 13.16), as a priest, who was defeated by Zarathustra in debate, makes our conclusion stronger that early Avesta and Rig Veda were contemporary. This is the only instance where we find mention of Rig Vedic seer in Avesta.

We must not forget here that the early Rig Vedic faith involved ‘Asura’ as a Supreme Lord in the form of Asura Varuna though in later course of the time, for reasons, became Deva oriented. We have seen in the earlier chapter that this shift has occurred after the battle of ten kings which involved Sudasa himself and not before that! Though, the Asura orientation was clear in both the religions the religious practices and philosophies significantly differed. RigVedic tribe/s settled down in the southern part of Afghanistan, the enmity between the both, it seems, arose later, although, the hatred must have been brewing since the beginning. The defeat of Nodhas Gautama was in a debate, not in the war, may confirm the above fact.

We also have seen that the real enmity was between Turanians and Avestans. The assassination of the Zarathustra is attributed to a Turanian while Rig Vedic Vasishtha seems to be just happily mentioning the prophet’s death in the fire.

After the death of Zarathustra and decline of the clan of Vishtaspa and Turanians, Vedics seems to have got the space to declare their supremacy. Sudasa rightly achieved that through the victory in the battle of ten kings!

Turanians, as we have identified with Turvasas, were occasionally friendly with Rig Vedic tribe/s. The friendliness between both the tribes must have been normal during the period of Varsagiras war. However, the war is summed up in only two verses in the Rig Veda, mostly because, Vedics did not participate it at all! The despicable mention of Zarathustra’s patron Istasva (Vishtaspa) in Rig Veda (1.122.13) must have occurred for their friendship with Turvasas, (Turanians) who had enmity with Vishtaspa and his faith. Here we may arrive at the conclusion that the Battle of Ten Kings is a far later incidence in Rig Vedic history and not as early as some scholars like to think. 

Why Turvasas could only be Turanians of Avesta? The facts as stated in this chapter no way can indicate otherwise. Turvasa as a tribe is only mentioned whenever Turvasas along with Yadus had waged the wars along with the Vedics with common enemies. Rather in the battle of ten kings, Yadu-Turvasas have fought against King Sudasa. We have seen all other tribes are identified with the people living in either North-west part of India or Southern and northern Afghanistan and Iran. As for Yadus, though identity is not clear, one verse of Rig Veda informs us:

 “A hundred thousand have I gained from Parsu, from Tirindira,
And presents of the Yadavas.” (RV 8.6.46)


Parsus are undisputedly identified with Persians. The name Tirindira, too, is of Persian origin.  Yadus are mentioned together with Persians in the above verse. From this verse, we find that Yadus and Persian tribes, too, were occasional donors of Rig Vedic seers, although, they may not be patrons of it. Most of the times, Yadus have been mentioned together with Turvasas in Rig Veda clearly stating ‘coming from afar’. It could be an indicator to find the location of Yadus in North Afghanistan or Iran, exactly which, may not be determined conclusively. The battle we have discussed, recorded by Aban Yast and Rig Veda, was between Turanians and Zoroastrians and not between Rig Vedic tribe and Zoroastrians, as is believed by some.

Looking at these important personalities finding the place in both the holy scriptures indicate at the fact that both the religions were contemporary and emerged in the common geography. Age of the Rigveda is almost as same as the age of the Avesta. The occasional rivalry and friendship are well depicted in both the scriptures. It seems that the later events after Zoroastrian religion becoming powerful the Vedic religion was routed out from the land of Afghanistan and these memories are well preserved in the form of Deva-Asura wars in the Vedic literature.