Friday, July 28, 2017

Geography of the Avesta

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There are two distinct theories, which deal with the origin of the Vedic people. One theory proposes the Aryan invasion or migration in India and other deals with indigenous Aryans migrating from India to the West. Though the Indian Urheimat Theory had its origin in the 18th century, it was put forth in renewed enthusiasm by scholar Koenraad Elst and has been enthusiastically promoted by Shrikant Talageri, Kalyanraman, David Frawley and NS Rajaram. It is also supported by the eminent scholars like Kazanas

We have already discussed as to how the migration involving entire society or tribe deserting its original habitat is a wrongly founded hypothesis. It is not possible that a comparatively backward society like that of the Vedics, which supposedly immigrated to India to overwhelm a culturally advanced society like that of Indus and yet did not leave any archaeological or anthropological mark. The linguistic evidences that have been produced time and again to prove the migration theories are so fragile that they do not support any PIE language theory. We have also discussed in elaborate details as to whether the Ghaggar river could have been the Vedic Saraswati on the geological and Rig Vedic grounds. We have also noted that there is not even the slightest proof to connect the Ghaggar with the mighty Rig Vedic river Saraswati. On the same grounds, the Indian homeland theory, too, collapses. There is no proof of migrating Indigenous Aryans to spread out in the Western world as well!

The Invasion theory has now been almost abandoned by the scholars because there is not even slightest evidence that can remotely prove the invading tribes subjugated the IGVC and to establish their rule, to enforce their culture and languages overwhelmed their population.

As Allchins observes in regard with the invasion theories, “The intruders would have been able to rename the rivers only if they were conquerors with the power to impose this. And, of course, the same is true of their Vedic language: since no people would bother of their own free will to learn a difficult, inflected foreign language, unless they had much to gain by this, and since the Aryan immigrants had adopted the ‘material culture and lifestyle’ of the Harappans and consequently, had little or nothing to offer to the natives, the latter would have adopted the new language only under pressure. Hence, here again we discover that the substratum thinking is invasion and conquest.

Dr Nicholas Kazanas says, true in this regards, "…But invasion is the substratum of all such theories even if words like ‘migration’ are used. There could not have been an Aryan immigration because (apart from the fact that there is no archaeological evidence for this), the results would have been quite different. Immigrants do not impose their own demands or desires on the natives of the new country: they are grateful for being accepted, for having the use of lands and rivers for farming or pasturing and for any help they receive from the natives; in time it is they who adopt the language (and perhaps the religion) of the natives. You cannot have a migration with the results of an invasion." 

Both the Alchins and Kazanas support what we have discussed in the first chapter of this book. In both cases, the scholars agree that there was no invasion in India. Applying the same logic, apparently, there could not have been migration of the indigenous Aryans from India to the West because we do not find any archeological proof to support this theory. Outgoing hoards of Indigenous Aryans, too, could not have enforced their language and culture on the natives of the Western world for the same reasons, if at all they migrated. Hence, there was no migration in India of the Vedic tribes or there could not have been any migration of the indigenous Vedic Aryans to the West! We do not find any archaeological or cultural elements resembling to those of IGVC or pre-IGVC anywhere in the West. If human beings move to another area in masses, they will naturally carry their culture along with their language. We do not find any proof to support the migration theory from either direction. 

Bryant discusses both the theories on linguistic basis and finally concludes, “… there is not likely to be more consensus in this regard among scholars in the present than there has been in the past.” 

There cannot be the consensus because both the parties to the debate have stuck to the migration theories, from either direction. Dr Nicholas Kazanas, interestingly, wants to stretch back the time of Rigveda by almost one and half millennium to adjust his theory with the preconceived time when supposedly Satlej or Yamuna was feeding into the Ghaggar channel, i.e. the pre-Harappan era.

However, unfortunately, as we have seen in the last chapters, geological surveys in the Ghaggar channels do not support his theory.  Hence, the possibility of Vedic Aryans being indigenous can also be ruled out. In response to those who keep claiming that there was Aryan Invasion or migration in India, Kenoyer remarks, “….Although the overall socioeconomic organisation changed, continuities in technology, subsistence practices, settlement organisation, and some regional symbols show that the indigenous population was not displaced by invading hordes of Indo-Aryan speaking people. For many years, the 'invasions' or 'migrations' of these Indo-Aryan-speaking Vedic/Aryan tribes explained the decline of the Indus civilisation and the sudden rise of urbanisation in the Ganga-Yamuna Valley. This was based on simplistic models of culture change and an uncritical reading of Vedic texts....” 

We must understand that all scholars do not support migrations of the Indo-Iranians from Andronovo culture. CC Lamberg-Karlovsky emphatically states, “There is absolutely no archeological evidence for any variant of the Andronovo culture either reaching or influencing the cultures of Iran or Northern India in the second millennium. Not a single artifact of identifiable Andronovo type has been recovered from the Iranian plateau, northern India or Pakistan.” 

This is in line with our argument that the migration theories including peaceful trickle down from any direction need to be abandoned in the light of the material evidence. Lamberg-Karlovsky further confirms that the BMAC (Bactria-Margiana Archeological Complex) culture that was spread in Iran and Afghanistan was independent of other cultures of those times. The skeletal remains of BAMC sites and of Harappa, too, were profoundly different showing ethnic diversity of both the people. This defeats the purpose of the Vedicist scholars who blatantly want to claim India to be Vedic Aryans homeland from where they dispersed to the west.

Having stated and quoted as above, being choiceless, we see that the both sides of the migration debate mostly agree that at some stage, Indo-Iranians were situated in present day Afghanistan from where they took different paths. It means that at the least for a few centuries, from wherever they might have come, the so-called Indo-Iranians, as migrationist scholars claim, lived together in the regions of the Iran that included modern Afghanistan. The Indigenous Vedic Aryan theory, even if no migration attached to it, is problematic because the material evidence does not prove it. The language of the Avesta and the Rig Veda are quite close to each other. So much so, J. Harmatta observes, “In Antiquity, for example, the Avesta stood so near to the Vedic Sanskrit that by making use of the phonetic correspondences between the two, we can transpose whole Avestan sentences word by word, sound by sound, into Vedic Sanksrit.”  

In my opinion, originally, the Rig Vedic dialect must have been quite closer, phonetically too, to that of the Gathas than the language we find in presently available Rig Vedic texts. The Rig Vedic language, from internal as well as external evidence, clearly appears to have gone through significant modifications before it was compiled to the present form, which made Witzel to determine Rig Veda being less archaic over old Avesta. 

However, despite the fact that the PIE language theory stands on the conjecture of single location origin and the subsequent migration, we have conclusive and irrefutable proof that there are striking similarities in the languages of the old Avesta and the Rig Veda, which is not to be found elsewhere except of few superficial resemblances. It is not a mere coincidence that the geography, too, is commonly shared by both the holy scriptures. Besides, there is no archaeological evidence available to prove that the Indo-Iranians came to their respective locations from any other place. Neither the Gatha’s, nor the Rig Veda support any other homeland. However, the linguistic closeness, striking similarities in personal names as well geographical names leaves us with no room to think but accept the fact that both the societies lived in the close proximity in that era from time unknown.

It will be pertinent to attempt to fix the exact location from where Mazdayasni religion emerged to understand the possible location of the Vedic tribe(s). There can be little doubt that Avestan and Rig Vedic tribes were settled in close vicinity, having not only the provincially independent, but also similar dialects because of their geographical closeness.

We must not forget here that the scholars usually connect the date of Avesta with the hypothetical movements of the so-called Aryans. Sixth century BCE date of Zoroaster that was fixed earlier based on generation calculations by the Zoroastrian priests, which was 258 years before the date of Alexander’s conquest of Persia, has now been mostly discarded. Other Greek sources indicate the date of the prophet to be 5,000 years before the Trojan War, i.e. 6,000 years BC. Based on the assumption that the PIE speakers entered Iran from Sintastha, Boyce dates the Gathas of Zoroaster as upper limit of 1,500 BCE to lowest limit of 1,100 BCE. Mary Boyce holds that, as cited by Bryant, the oldest Avestan texts do not mention the regions west of the Iran and that they do not mention urban centres as well, indicating the prehistoric period.  Boyce’s view does not help to stretch back the Avestan history. However, it proves that it is one of the oldest scripture. 

We must keep it in mind here that the scholars have heatedly discussed the dates of the Avesta and the Rig Veda and there has been no consensus on it so far. Max Muller fixed the time of the Rig Veda at 1,200 BC. However, it has been questioned, debated and played with to suit individual theories, such as that of the Avesta. Likewise, of late, the time of Gathas too has been decided almost whimsically to prove Gathas were composed long after the time of early Rig Veda. Talageri is one such scholar. It is rather noteworthy that the exercises of dating of the Gathas and the Rig Veda are mostly hypothetical, unsubstantiated by any material proof, mostly based on the hypothetical date of separation of so-called Indo-Iranians. And this is why, in absence of definitive proofs, not only Vedic, but Iranian scholars too tend to stretch back the period as much as possible…with single motive to prove remote antiquity of their respective religion/culture.

Naturally, there is disagreement over the period of both the scriptures. Most probable era of both the cultures could be contemporary with BAMC (Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex) period that ranges from 2,300 to 1,700 BCE. Some physical proof of Avestan Haoma (Rig Vedic Soma) sacrificial practices are traced with the finds of the floral remains of leaves, grains which after due analysis were proved to be the remains of Ephedra, a mild intoxicating herb.

Besides, the burial practices, fire altars, fire temples etc found at various BMAC sites are linked to the proto-Zoroastrian identity by the scholars.  Though some of the identifications are obscure to relate with Zoroastrians, we can safely conclude that the Zoroaster and his reintroduced religion prospered during sometime between middle of the BMAC phase, i.e. 1,500 till 1,300 BC among variety of the ethnicities that lived in the vast region of ancient Iran and slightly contemporaneous with the early Rig Vedic era. 

Geography of Avesta

The geography of the Avesta is not certain but various locations mentioned in the Avesta are within and outer boundaries of ancient Iran. Different scholars believe that the possible candidate for Airyanam Vaeja are either Hindukush, north of Syr Darya, north-eastern parts of Iran or Afghan highlands etc where Zoroaster was born to Pourushaspa. Some scholars find the identity of Airyanam Vaeja to be most insoluble or simply that the land being mythical having no real existence. The land is thought to be most important to locate because it is considered the place where Zoroaster was born and delivered his first sermon.

Whitney suggested in the nineteenth century that, “Respecting the region in which the Avesta had its origin we may speak with more confidence: it was doubtless Bactria and its vicinity, the northeastern portion of the immense territory occupied by the Iranian people.” 

Gherardo Gnoli  states, “If we compare the first chapter of the Vidēvdād with the passages of geographical interest that we come across mainly in the great yašts, we can conclude that the geographical area of Avesta was dominated by the Hindu Kush range at the centre, the western boundary being marked by the districts of Margiana, Areia, and Drangiana, the eastern one by the Indo-Iranian frontier regions such as Gandhāra, Bunēr, the land of the ‘Seven Rivers’, Sogdiana and, possibly, Chorasmia (which, however, is at the extreme limits) mark the boundary to the north, Sīstān and Baluchistan to the south.” 

The late Avestan scriptures describe Airyanam Vaeja as bellow:-

“The Daraja river is in Eranvej, on the bank (bar) of which was the dwelling of Pourushasp, the father of Zartosht. Zartosht, when he brought the religion, first celebrated worship and expounded in Eranvej, and Maidyok-mah received the religion from him.”  (Eranvej is transformed from Airyanam Vaeja in middle Persian texts.) 

Though the exact location of Airyanam Vaeja is not certain, the verses are indicating undoubtedly that it was the birthplace of Zarathustra and the place where he delivered his first sermon. Touting it as an original homeland or first settlement of the Indo-Iranians while on move from South Russia would be a grave mistake as there is no proof to support such a theory. The Iranians could have been settled in the same region, as they are now, for thousands of years even before the Zoroaster preached his religion. Excavations at BMAC sites clearly suggest that the region was populated since well before 6,000 BCE. Small incoming or outgoing immigration (in any region for that matter) causing some mutual interactions and influence is not ruled out. However, it would not be logical to imply that it was the homeland or temporary settlement of the PIE people while on the move because the same texts prove that it was not the homeland of the entire or some PIE’s, but mere birthplace of the Prophet.

We must also note that before Zoroaster preached his religion, historical religions to which he opposed and to which he reformed were already in existence. “3. About Ohrmazd's disclosing the religion first among mankind to Yim [Jamshed]; its non-acceptance by Yim [Jamshed] owing to attachment (asrunoih) to the religion of the ancients; and the acceptance of other things to develop, extend, and improve the world thereby. 4. About the reason of the needfulness of making the enclosure that Yim [Jamshed] made (var-i Yim kard), the command and instruction by Ohrmazd to Yim [Jamshed], the making by Yim [Jamshed] just as Ohrmazd commanded and instructed, and whatever is on the same subject.” (Nask 19: Vendidad [Jud-dew-dad] (legal) (44)).

The Nask makes it clear for us that even before Ahurmazda religion was introduced to Yim (Sk. Yama), religion of the ancients did co-exist.

If we look at the Avestan mythology, we find that Gaya Maretan was the first mortal person who became disciple of Ahur Mazda. (Farvardin Yasht, 13.87) He was succeeded by Hushang, Tahmuras and then by Yim. Later, it appears, Yim abandoned Mazda Yasni religion and became a sinner. (Gatha 32.8) This implies that various faiths such as of Daevas and phallic worshipers did exist simultaneously in Iran and neighboring regions in those times and their followers fought with each other for religious supremacy.

It is evident from the Gathas that when Zoroaster was born, the Mazdayasni religion had already declined and he reformed it. Thus, finding provenance of any religion is almost impossible. Different faiths do emerge in various societies seeking followers but they do decline with the abandonment of faiths by the people on own accord or by force, depending on the socio- political environment. Cultural convergence and divergences is a constant process that continues in every region and society.

This means that the Iranians were never on the move but had settled in respective regions following different faiths and fought with each other for religious and political supremacy from ancient times. Some faiths survived, some did not, but the process seems to have continued over a longer period when Zoroaster became the reformer of a declined religion.

Some of the territories mentioned in Avesta have been identified as those situated within and border regions of Iran. Skajervo concludes from internal evidence that they were composed in north-eastern Iran and travelled from there to the south and southwest. 

However, even if considered that the Avesta gradually shaped up in different regions, it does not indicate the movement of the people. It merely shows how the tradition of compositions was taken up by the followers of the religion of different regions in course of the time depending on the royal patronages they received. Most of the religions have evolved and spread in this manner. Except for Airyanam Vaejo, its neighbouring regions like Sukhdho, Mouru, Bakhdhim are identified with Sogdhd (north-western Tajikistan, Samarkand), Merv & Murghab (Turkmenistan) and Balkh (North Afghanistan) respectively. Being the Prophet’s birth place, if the land was glorified to the extent of its being first region created by the Lord, we should consider it to be the faithful poetic imagination instead of taking the climatic indications mentioned in the glory of the land as the factual truth.

The King of Balkh (North Afghanistan), Vishtasp, was the first disciple of Zoroaster. (Farvardin Yasht 25.99) The legend goes that Zoroaster was killed by a Turanian in Balkh. Turia, which is enumerated as adjacent to the land of Airyanam Vaejo, is identified with Turan. In all, probabilities the Turvasas of Rig Veda could have been Turanians of the Avesta, coming from ‘far afar’ to assist them in the wars! Farvardin Yasht (9.38) mentions several wars with Turanians.

Hence, in all probabilities, although Zoroaster must be roaming in nearby regions to spread his message in his lifetime, gathering disciples and patrons, he seems to have been associated more with Balkh for a long period in his life.  Airyanam Vaeja can be a place within or from neighbouring regions of Balkh, but we cannot be so certain about which it was. Possibly, the Aryanist scholars were fascinated with the word ‘Ariya’ and therefore, they debated it over very seriously.

Considering that Zoroaster was the noblest of the noble man to the Iranians, it is no surprise that his birthplace was extolled as ‘Ariyanam Vajea’ by his followers.

Out of 16, the 10th land or regions enumerated by Zoroaster is Harahvaiti, (VENDIDAD: Fargard 1.12) which today is known after the Arabic corrupt form as Arghandab, a major tributary to Haetumant (modern day Helmand and enumerated by Zoroaster as an 11th land created by the Lord). Among the regions enumerated is Hapta Hindava (Fargard 1.18) which normally all scholars have connected with Punjab, the basin of the Indus. However, let us not forget here that ‘Sindhu’ was not always meant to be the name of river. Alternatively, the term has also been used to denote the rivers.

Rather for Hapta Hindava, observes P. O. Skajervo, “The seven rivers may have denoted the seven world-rivers, as suggested by an Avestan fragment in the Pahlavi commentary of Videvdad 1.19.”  Skajervo emphatically states further, “…it is said in the Avesta : from dawn-side river to the evening-side river, as well as a passage in the hymn of Mithra, where the two hindus ‘rivers’ and the Ranha denotes the farthest point of the earth:….”  If serious consideration is to be given to this, the identity of Sapta Sindhu or Hapta Hindava cannot always be equated with Indus region, i.e. Punjab, such as in this case.

The number seven seems to have acquired some kind of reverence for both the Avestan and Rig Vedic people. This is evidenced from the repetitive use of the term like Saptarshi (Seven Seers), Haft Keshvar (Seven Regions) etc. Hence, the identity of the Hapta Hindava or Saptasindhu (seven rivers) remains ambiguous.

However, even if considered the identification with the region of seven rivers, i.e. Indus, this just would indicate that the farthest region towards southeast of Afghanistan known to Zoroaster (or Iranians) was Indus region. The Avesta does not mention any region beyond that of Indus, nor its mighty tributaries by name. The Rig Vedic tribes, too, knew no land beyond Indus and its tributaries at the time while the Rig Veda was being composed. The river they lavishly praised was Saraswati, cognate of Harhvaiti of Vendidad, on whose bank the bulk of Rig Veda was composed and numerous fire sacrifices were performed. The Rig Veda mentions few names of the western tributaries of the Indus, unlike the Avesta, because they were closer to the Indus Valley, if not in the Indus Valley itself! Hence, their knowing the names of the western tributaries of the Indus is no surprise.

Rig Vedic geography does not mention regions of far west, beyond Parshu. (Persia or the region of Parshu tribe, which seems dominant over the time than of Airyanam, i.e. Iran.) On the other hand, the Avestan geography does not go beyond Hapta Hindava. It also does not mention anywhere what it constituted of, which in a way clearly demarcates the northern geography of Avesta and the southern geography of Rig Veda. This also settles the problem of respective geographical positions of the people following a certain faith or mixture of the faiths, like the Vedics where we find the mixture of the both Daeva and Ahura (Deva and Asura) cultures/faiths in the form of Asur Varuna-Mitra and Indra (Daeva) worship, which contradicts the Avestan faith. This is an interesting mixture of the faiths that we find in single scripture contributed by the seers hailing from different background and tribes. On the contrary, the Avesta throughout follows the Asura (Ahura) faith, placing Daevas as demons in opposition with Ahur Mazda, Indra being one of them. Similarly, it is possible that other tribes, too, followed some or other faiths apart from Daeva and Asura like of Shisnadeva (phallic God). However, let us discuss first on the other aspects related with the present issue under discussion.

We have seen the geography of Rigveda and if we compare it with the Avestan geography it will be clear to us that both the religions flourished almost simultaneously in Afghanistan and bordering regions. It would be unjust to conclude from this that in the later course of time, the Vedics did migrate to India. Rather I will show that the Vedic religion came to India via a handful of the Vedics which cannot be called demographic migration. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Image result for ancient tribes aryan migration

About 48 tribes or groups of the people have been mentioned in the Rig Veda in different contexts. Many of the tribes are identified with their respective locations whereas some yet remain unidentified as there seems no geographical continuity of those tribes because of their possible assimilation with the other tribes living in the close vicinity or their losing political or monarchical identity in course of the time. 

The Yadus, TurvaSas, Anus, Druhyus and Purus are the main tribes frequently mentioned in the Rig Veda. It is a general understanding that The Rig Vedic composition underwent under the hypothetical Puru patronage, or to be precise Puru’s branch Bharata clan (sub-branch Tritsu). Yadus and Turvasas are always mentioned together but they seem to be located at far distance from the Rig Vedic tribe, Rig Veda evidenced it thus…they were coming from far afar (RV I.36.18; VI.45.1) and from the further bank (RV V.31.8).  

However, though both tribes were located far afar, Rig Veda does not clearly mention that both the tribes lived together in close vicinity, but mentioning them together implies their close geographical proximity.  Though both the tribes have been mostly friendly with the Rig Vedic tribe, it does not indicate that the cordial alliance remained always the same. There are references in the Rig Veda that sometimes, they too, had turned foes which is apparent from verse VI.27.7; VII.18.6 and 19.8; IX.61.2. Hence, the federation of the five tribes, which is often referred as ‘Panchajana’, means that it was not case all the time. Rig Veda, though mentions ‘panchajana’ frequently, does not explicitly name the tribes. Hence, the identity of these panchajana tribes remains ambiguous.

However, as far as the identity of the both is concerned, Talageri suggests that both, Yadu and Turvasa, were certainly not the Vedic Aryans. 27 Then who were they? Were the Yadus of Rig Veda same tribe mentioned in the Mahabharata? Had it been the case there was no reason to call them Non-Vedic Aryans as they were sons of Yayati. However, Yadu and Turvasas of Rig Veda certainly are distinct tribes but located afar from the Vedic tribe.

Turvasas sometimes are mentioned as ‘Turva’ in Rig Veda (10.62.10).  In later Indian tradition, the Turvasus seems to have been disappeared except their passing mention in Satapatha Brahmana.  Though there is no certain identification of the tribe by either theorist, it seems that the Turvasas were none other than Turanians of Avesta, a historical tribe living in the region of Turan, which was always hostile to the Avestans. “The Yasht (13.143 & 144) lists the names of individuals who were the first "hearers and teachers" of Zarathushtra's teachings. …….The five nations mentioned are Airyana Vaeja (called Airyanam Dakhyunam in the Yasht) as well as four neighboring lands. These four lands neighboring Airyana Vaeja are Tuirya, Sairima, Saini and Dahi.”  From Yasht, it is clear that the Tuirya people were an ancient tribe that delved in the Turan region.

The word Turvayana occurs four times in Rig Veda as the name of the person to whom Indra helped to win against some enemy tribes. Griffith refers to Sayana and concludes that it could be the epithet of Divodasa. Likewise, some scholars think that Turanians are mentioned as Tuiryas in Avesta and may be that the Tuirya word was derived from the word Aierya in its contrast for their enmity.

However, we find from the Rig Veda that the Turvasas (Turva-Turvayana), although hostile with Iranians, were mostly on friendly terms with Vedic people.  Indra’s help to them winning some wars indicate Vedic peoples could have participated in few wars that the Turvasas fought. Max Muller asserts, “Turvasa and his descendants, who represent the Turanians, are described in the later epic poems of India as cursed and deprived of their inheritance in India.” It is but natural after the battle of ten kings, Turanians (Turvasas) would have become despised people to the Vedic folks. 

Turvasas also can be explained as ‘Tur+Vasa”, residents of ‘Tur’ region. The name ‘Turk’ also is derived from ‘Tur’, same as the term ‘Turan’ or ‘Tuirya’ of Avesta, making it clear that the Turvasas of the Rig Veda and Turanians of Avestan texts are one and the same people. Turan was the land of the modern Turks. 

To the people settled in Helmand region, Turanians alias Turvasas, positioned in Turan, would be the people coming from far afar looking at the geographical distance. Macdonell agrees that the Turvasas advanced from West to participate in the battle of ten kings,  which does mean that their location was certainly towards west of the river Parusni, where the battle took place. Avesta mentions Tuirya (Turan) being the neighbouring land of Airyana Vaeja and with whom he was hostile, implies that the Turvasus of Rig Veda, with whom they were mostly on friendly terms, in all probability were none but Turanians.

As far the Yadus, although mostly have been equated with Yadus of Mathura, it seems unlikely that they were inhibited there, though they too are said to be coming ‘from far afar’ like Turvasas and with them. Macdonnel states in this regard that, “the Turvasas and Yadus were two distinct though closely allied tribes.”  However, if Turvasas were coming from Turan, Yadus, too, must have been settled about them and not to the far opposite side like Mathura. We get an indicative proof from Rig Veda as followes:

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

Parsus are identified with Persians. In this verse, it shows that the Yadus were close to Persians too! Looking at association of Turvasas and Yadus and in above verse, the composer praising Parsus and Yadavas in same breath for the donations received from them, it would seem that the Yadus of Rig Veda were settled somewhere between Turan and the habitat of Persian tribes.

Puru Tribe

King Sudasa ousted an important tribe, the Puru, in the battle of Ten kings with the help of his chief priest Vashishtha. Sudasa is said to be belonging to the Bharata clan, a sub-tribe or the part of Puru tribe. There are many seers in the Rig Veda those are named after Puru, such as Purumeelha Angirasa, Puru Atreya, Puruhanma etc. However, it is clear that the Rig Vedic people (at the least during Sudasa clan’s reign) did not directly belong to the hypothetical Puru tribe. Rather, Puru seems to be a common name used for personal as well as for cities, towns and forts. Indra’s main epithet is ‘Purabhidya’, ‘Purandara’ that means destroyer of the cities and the forts.

We find the same tradition is Avesta as well. Zoroaster’s father’s name was Pourushaspa.  ‘Pouru’ was a prefix of the many Avestan personal names, such as Pouru-Bangha, Pouruchista, Pouru-Dhakshiti, Pouru-Jira, Pouru-Dhakhsti, and so many others. There can be possible connection between Puru of the Rig Veda and Pouru of Avesta.

Vedic Puru and Pouru of Avesta are the same, which means ‘Plenty’, ‘Many’ or ‘More’. Or the “first man”. Sometimes, it also stands for ‘ancient’ and ‘predecessors’. The word Puratan, Purva for ancient could have been derived from ‘Puru’. According to Saul Levin, the word ‘Puru’ is of the basic vocabulary, is archaic, and is parallel with ‘Pouru’ of Avesta. No wonder, the same word came to be used as ‘Purush’ for man and ‘Purandhri’ for female while becoming cognate for cities or towns where both genders lived together to whom the term ‘Poura’ was applied. We also notice the term "Puru" used in Assyrian clay tablet denoting eponym elections. This does mean that the Puru was a term that was part of the archaic vocabulary and was used in different civilizations denoting close but slightly different meanings. 

Whether Puru was a tribal name, or just an archaic epithet, or vocative case used for the men may be a question here. MacDonell asserts, “In several passages of the Rigveda, the Purus as a people seem to be meant.”  He further adds that from Rig Veda we note sudden disappearance of the Purus.  However, certainly, from Rig Veda, it appears that the name was variably used as a tribal name, epithet and prefix of the personal names. Given due consideration to this, Puru from the lineage of Mahabharata cannot be equated with either the Puru of Rig Veda or Pouru of Avesta. Surprisingly, Satapatha Brahmana explains Purus as Raksasas and Asuras. It only is in Mahabharata, Puru revives as a name of the son of Yayati and Sharmishtha. 

In Rig Veda, though, Puru, as a tribe, is allied with Rig Vedic tribe sometimes but were chief adversaries during the battle of ten kings in which they were vanquished by Sudasa.  Purus (if at all it was a tribe’s name) seems to be in the close vicinity of the Sudasa’s region. Traditionally, it is thought that the Puru tribe was later branched in many tribes, such as Bharat, Tritsu, Kushik etc, is not justifiable for Sudasa of the Tritsu clan cannot belong to Bharata or Puru tribe, because in all probabilities they were generic words, not tribal identities.

Pakhta are identified with the Pakhtun tribe that still delves at Pakhtunistan and Bhalanas at Baluchistan or nearer to the Bolan Pass. Pakhtas find mention in the history of Herodotus as ‘Pactiyans’ informing us that they were located on the eastern frontier of Achaemenid Arachosia Satrapy from as early as 1st millennium BCE. The present location of the Pakhtuns and Balochis, too, is as same as it was in the Rig Vedic times showing no displacement or migration for any reason. This also would indicate that there could not have been any reason for Vedic people to migrate in any direction too.

The Shivas in all probability were the people living in the vicinity of the Indus, along western tributaries. While name of the tribe appearing clearly as ‘Shiva’ in the Rig Veda, hardly any attempt has been made by any scholar to relate with the IGVC where abundant proof has been found of Shiva worship. Rather, we find utter silence on the identification of this tribe or group of people when the scholars have taken so much of efforts to identify miscellaneous tribes. The Visanin tribe, though not identified so far, but since the term means ‘person wearing horned headdress’, Tarkateertha Laxmanshastri Joshi identifies them with the people of IGVC where the deity images of horned headdresses are found. 

Alina is other tribe to which Talageri wants to identify with Hellenes when renowned scholars identify it with the people of Nuristan, a province of Afghanistan or north-east of Kafiristan based on the accounts of the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang of seventh century AD. This tribe was also amongst ten tribes those had assembled against Sudasa in the battle of ten kings. The tribe finds mention only once in Rig Veda 7.18.7. It is pertinent to note here that the Kafirs were following ancient Hindu paganism till they were vanquished by Abdur Rahman in 19th century.

There is no ambiguity over the identification that the Parthavas are Parthians whereas Parsu were the Persians. Though, the identity of Druhyus is disputed, there is almost an agreement that they belonged to Gandhar region. Gandhari (And as Gandharvas) tribe, too, is mentioned in the Rig Veda. However, its geography is not mentioned. The Gandhari tribe must have been settled in Gandhara region of present Kandahar, as Sanskrit G changes to K in Gandhari language, along with the Druhyus who later either merged with Gandhara people or lost prominence and their identity in the course of time. Druhyus also were one among the ten tribes that had assembled against Sudasa in the battle of ten kings, whereas the Gandhari tribe seems to be neutral.

Historically, the Gandhar kingdom was located in the Swat (RV Suvastu) and Kabul (RV Kubha) river valleys. The capital was Purushpur (modern Peshavar), derived from the word ‘Puru’, it seems this city’s name must have travelled to us from the oldest Vedic and Avestan tradition.

The Bharata tribe, too, is another enigma. Though it has been attempted to relate this tribe with Sudasas (Tritsus) and Purus, the name Bharata does not appear in the Rig Veda as a name of any particular tribe whose existence can be shown independently. Bharata is mentioned in the Rig Veda in about 15 verses, but in at least four verses, the name Bharata appears as a synonym of Agni , at one place of Maruts and at some times of gods. At some places, the Bharatas are mentioned as insignificant, such as in RV 7.33.6. However, from Rig Veda, it seems that the term ‘Bharata’mostly is a generic term, like Puru, not specifically the name of any tribe. The seer Vishwamitra is said to be among sons of Bharata, the third Mandala of Rig Veda is attributed to Vishwamitra and hence, it often is called Bharata book. The geography of Bharatas, as per Rig Veda, was on Saraswati, Apaya and Drasadvati. (RV 3.23.4) Devasravas and and Devavata are mentioned in this hymn as Bharata chieftains, which may indicate that there could have been multiple tribes those identified themselves as Bharatas.  

The word Bharata is derived from root ‘bhru’, which means to provide for, to be maintained, cherished or one who protects. From this root ‘Bhrata’ (Brother), Bhartru, and so the Bharata words have been evolved, all mean the same. Hence, in this respect, like Arya, Bharata could have been the epithet to be addressed for friendly tribes including self, claiming as descendants of some mythical Bharata.  The name ‘Bharata’ for the country thus seems to have been derived from root ‘Bhru’ to mean the land that provides is more logical than to relate it with the mythological kings of that name.

Anus, mostly mentioned together with the Druhyus is another tribe mentioned in the Rig Veda, especially, as enemies who participated in the battle of ten kings against Sudasa. Talageri wants to identify Anus with Iranians. The identification is based on his assumption that the Bhrigus were their priests and since Bhrigus are meant to be Atharvans of Avesta, the Anus must be the Avestan Iranians. The identification is incorrect as Athravans of Avesta have nothing to do with the Atharvans of the Rig Veda or Atharvaveda, which we will see in detail in the next chapter. However, Rig Veda evidences that the Kavi Cayamana, Anu King, a participant in the battle of ten kings, was of Parthian origin. (RV 7.18.8) Abhyavartin Cayamana, although not certain whether a descendant of Kavi Cayamana or ancestor, also is mentioned in Rig Veda (6.27.8) as “Parthavanam” (Parthian) in a friendly manner. The original verse goes like this;

The verse clearly indicates the Parthian origin of the Anu tribe that delved in the norther part of the ancient Iran. They certainly not were Iranians themselves as Iran was never the name of the tribe but region.

Druhyus (and in all probabilities the Anus, too,) are always, even in later Indian tradition, are associated with the North-West, i.e. Gandhar or beyond. Anu could be the personal name of the King of the Druhyus as suggested by Edward Washburn Hopkins. In the same way, he suggests as well that, the Turvasa could be the name of Chieftain of the Yadus. However, this does not appear to be the case. The identification of the Druhyus with Druids has also been not accepted by the scholars.

However, Rig Veda clearly indicates Parthian origin of the Anu tribe. Parthia, in Avesta, is mentioned as ‘Parthava’, was located towards north-western Iran, bordered by the Karakuram desert. Anu Tribe in all probabilities was settled in this region. Since Anus and Druhyus are mentioned always together, it does not mean that they were the same but were distinct tribes who were settled along traversable distance from the Rig Vedic tribes.

The Gandhari tribe also is frequently mentioned in Rig Veda (also as Gandharva sometimes) is related with Gandhara region. The region must have acquired the name after this tribe because it could have been become powerful and had expanded its horizons in later times. Also, boundaries of the Gandhara of those times are not certain. It could have been name of the entire Helmand Valley, thus accommodating various tribes in that region, as we have discussed earlier in this chapter.


Another tribe or the name of the people mentioned in the Rig Veda is of Panis. The references to the Panis are quite hostile. Still, we find in the Rig Veda that Vedic people were happy to accept gifts from the Panis in later times. (RV 6.45.31-32) Though it has been attempted to identify Panis with expert traders Phoenicians or Parni tribe, recorded by Strabo as living in east Iranian region. However, the Panis could be the name of the people who lived in IGVC. 

Panis, as mentioned in the Rig Veda, were expert merchants and farmers producing massive food grains and used to store surplus produce. (RV 1.130.1, 2.31.3, 3.2.7) They were immensely rich, both the male and female used to wear variety of golden ornaments. (RV 1.44.1) The hatred for their richness and trade appears so many times in Rig Veda, such as in RV. 6.51.14, 6.53.5. Rig Veda describes them as opponents of sacrifices, without faith on Yajnyas, of nasal or rude speech, Godless and deceitful. (RV 7.6.3)  However, though, the Rig Vedic seers harboured a grudge against Panis, there is no instance of war between them.

Panis mean traders (Vani) in later Indian tradition, too, as Yaska has defined in Nirukta. Sayana, too, confirms this etymology.  In a way, Rig Vedic description can be related to the mercantile community of the IGVC.

It should not come as a surprise as the Panis were traders and as the profession demanded, they must have been travelling with their merchandise across the regions crossing the settlements of Vedic tribes. The few finds of IGVC seals and ivory in BMAC sites confirms the IGVC trade with BMAC. On the decline of Sudasa’s Tritsu Clan, later Rig Vedic seers had to accept gifts from the Panis, which is evident from the RV 6.45. 31-32, where the Rig Vedic seer is praising a Pani named Bubu for his graciousness.

Tritsu, a tribe that prospered under Sudasa and it seems most of the Rig Veda shaped up in this tribe’s patronage, lived on the banks of the Sarasvati River, i.e. Helmand. Although there is no certainty in the identifications, about ten kings of his dynasty find mention in various contexts. Talageri designates them the Puru lineage, which seems to be improbable for all the listed kings. The scholars have attempted to connect Sudasa with the Bharatas who are said to be a branch of the Purus, as we have seen above, it does not seem to be the case.

Earlier, we have seen that the Puru and Bharata was mostly a generic term or epithet, addressing Sudasa or his predecessors with these alternate epithets does not make Sudasa a part of the tribe. Rather in Indian ancient tradition, the name Puru and Bharata are clearly personal names, unrelated to any tribe. Like others, in the hymn 7.18 Sudasa’s, the ‘Tritsu’ clan has been mentioned in the episode of battle of ten kings, showing its independent identity.

It appears from the Rig Vedic accounts that the Tritsus were very powerful for some time in the Rig Vedic era, under which most of the Vedic tradition, too, shaped up. However, the tribe seems to have lost its prominence and independent political existence later. Hence, there is no mention of this tribe in the later tradition.  It is very much possible that the shifting of Vedic religion to northwest India from Helmand valley and fall of Tritsu clan has some kind of relationship. The Rig Vedic tradition, too, in all probability was taken up by other tribal kings which seem obvious from the Danastutis. (Donor praises). In fact, Manusmriti seems hostile towards the King Susdasa who was once celebrated hero of the Vedic people. This shift of respect is surprising. 

We will discuss the Battle of Ten Kings and its location in the next chapter. However, we should make a note of the fact that all the tribes mentioned in Rig Veda belong to the lands of ancient Iran and neighboring north-western border areas on the Indian subcontinent. Only in late Vedic literature, we find mentions of the tribes like Kuru, Panchala, Matsya, Shudra etc. those delved here from ancient times, which also suggests the shift of the geography of the Vedic people. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Geography of the Rigveda!

Image result for indus river system

While we can be certain enough to locate Avestan geography at north-east and some southern part of the present day Afghanistan, the Rig Vedic geography needs to be precisely set. Let us first see what the regions, tribes and rivers Rig Veda mentions to understand the geography of Rig Veda. 


1.      We find following rivers mentioned in the Rig Veda:

a.       Rasa : ( RV I. 112.12., VIII.72.13., V.41.15; 53.9., IX.41.6,  X.75.6; 108.1, 2; 121.4.) – Frequesntly mentioned river after Saraswati and Sindhu, Rasa, finds its mention in the Avesta as Ranha/Rangha. Ranha is the 16th land created by Ahur Mazda that constituted of the people having no chiefs. (Fargard 1.19). The Rig Veda lauds her as, “Duly to each one hath my laud been offered. Strong be Varutri with her powers to succour. May the great Mother Rasa here befriend us, straight-handed, with the princes, striving forward.” (RV 5.41.15) and “Wherewith ye made Rasa swell full with water-floods, and urged to victory the car without a horse; Where with Trisoka drove forth his recovered cows,-Come hither unto us, O Asvins, with those aids.” (RV 1.112.12.)

From order of the enumeration of the 16 lands created by Ahur Mazda, some scholars think Ranha (Rasa) was close to Airyanam Vaejo, hence it could have been a river/land from the western side. The corrupt form of the Rangha was ‘Arang’ in later times. ‘Encyclopedia Iranica’ explains, Arang or alternatively used as Arvand – Rud, (Rud for river) renders Avestan Ranha, which is cognate with the Scythian name Rhâ (Rahā) transmitted by Ptolemy and with Old Indic Rasā.  Arvand-rud was the name designated by the Persians in middle Persian texts to the river Tigris. The previous identifications of Ranha with such as Oxus or Amu Darya have already been discarded. 

Hence, the scholars admit that it only could be the Tigris river from East Mesopotamia. Fereshteh Davaran also equates the river with Arang, also known as Tigris. 

The Rig Veda, at times, mentions Rasa together with Krumu (Kurram) and Kubha (Kabul) (RV 5.53.9). On this basis, some scholars think that it could be connected with Indus, or it could be any mountainous river in the vicinity of Kabul and Kurram river. However, we cannot neglect the fact that the references to the Ranha in Avesta rather are of mythological forms. Witzel also treats the river as mythical.

The Avesta describes the river as “….over the falls (River) Ranha, over the source of the (River) Ranha, over the border of this earth, over the middle of this earth, over wherever of the earth.” (Yasht 12) The description albeit sounds like mythical, but later text Bundahisn (21.1) describes the Arang (Tigris) river almost in the same fashion and as it being location of the lofty deities and abode of mythical Kar fish.

According to the Avesta, the Ranha denote the farthest point of the earth. It is quite likely that the list in Videvdad 1 intended to cover the entire known world, including its mythical limits, states P.O. Skjaervo.  Rig Vedic geography being in the close vicinity of the Avestans, it is no wonder that the farthest but a mighty, not well known but from the information either flowed to them from wanderers or was visited by some or other travellers from which Vedic society did describe her in mystical awe.

Like Avesta, Rig Veda, too, describes the river as distant and mystic or mythical. “On every side, O Soma, flow round us with thy protecting stream, As Rasa flows around the world.” (RV 9.41.6) and “WHAT wish of Sarama hath brought her hither? The path leads far away to distant places. What charge hast thou for us? Where turns thy journey? How hast thou made thy way o'er Rasa's Waters.” (10.108.1). The Rig Vedic descriptions are not dissimilar to the Avestan descriptions of the river Ranha, suggesting it mighty but a distant and mythical river.  In later Indian mythologies, ‘Rasa’ came to be termed as the underworld, i.e. Rasatal. The above deliberation confirms that the Vedic and Avestans are talking about the same river. It was distant to their known horizon and yet had mystified them to make her mentions in their sacred texts. This also confirms that the River Tigris is the Rasa/Ranha, which was a distant river to them.

b.      Sarayu: (RV X.64.9, IV.30.18.,V.53.9): Sarayu river is identified with Avestan Horoiiyu (alternately called as Harayu or Hari-rud). Hari-rud originates from the Baba mountain range, part of the Hindukush mountain range. In western Afghanistan, it flows to the south of Herat. The river especially mentioned in Rig Veda is in context with slaying of Arna and Chitraratha at the hands of Indra on its bank. (RV IV.30.18).

c.       Gomati: (RV X.75.6., VIII.24.30.): Rig Vedic Gomati is identified with the Gomal (Gumal) river of the Afghanistan and Pakistan, originating at Ghazni to confluence with Indus near Dera Ismail Khan.

d.      Kubha: (RV V.53.9, X.75.6.): Kubha is identified with the Kabul river. It originates in the Sangalakh range of the Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan. This river, too, is a western tributary of Indus river.

e.       Krumu: (RV V.53.9, X.75.6): Krumu is identified with the Kurram river of Afghanistan that, too, confluences with Indus.

f.         Arjikiya: (RV VIII.7.29; 64.11, X.65.23): Originating in Afghanistan, Arjikiya has been identified with river Haro which joins Indus in Pakistan. There have also been suggestions that Arjikiya be identified with Arghastan of Afghanistan.

g.      Suvastu: (RV VIII.19.37): Identified with the river Swat that originates from Hindu Kush mountains to form a confluence with Kabul river. The Lower Swat Valley consists of many archaeological sites.

h.      YavyAvatI (RV VI.27.6): Witzel identifies this river with the Zhob river of the northern Baluchistan, whereas Talageri identifies this river with Hariyupia. Without going in to the identification debate, a fact should be noted that Zhob river is a tributary of the Gomal river of Afghanistan which is unanimously identified with Gomati river of the Rig Veda. The present name Zhob of the river originates from the Zhob city situated on her banks or alternatively has acquired the name from the Zab river of the Iraq. The name is Iranian in its origin and etymologically identical to those of the Little Zab and Great Zab rivers in Iraq and the Pamirs. 

The hymn in which Yavyavati is mentioned while enumerating the victories with aid of Indra does not indicate its either being closer or farther. Abhyavartin Caymana mentioned in the same hymn, destroying the enemy Varshikha, who belonged to Anu tribe as per some scholars. There is no dispute over the fact that Caymana of Rig Veda indeed was an Iranian character. Looking at the description mentioned above, the Zhob (Baluchistan) seems to be the most logical identification of Yavyavati, and if not, then, it could be any river that cannot be identified as other suggestions, too, are equally ambiguous.

i. Trstama: This river has been identified with the Gilgit river. This river originates from Hindu Kush and confluences with Indus at the high altitude of about 10,000 feet.

j. Kusava: Though the identification of the Kusava is disputed, many scholars identify the Kusava river with Kunar, which also is western tributary of the Indus, originating in Afghanistan.

k. The Rig Vedic river names of the other tributaries of the Indus are identified as under:

Susoma  - Sohan
GaurI – Panjikora
Vitasta – Jhelam
Asikni – Chenab
Parusni – Ravi
Vipas – Beas
Sutudri – Satlej

Let us note that the Rig Veda mentions Sutudri and Vipas as far away rivers, which the seer of the hymn seems to have traversed by wagon. “List quickly, Sisters, to the bard who cometh to you from far away with car and wagon. Bow lowly down; be easy to be traversed stay, Rivers, with your floods below our axles”. (RV 3.33.9). The geographical fact remains that the Vipas and Satlej rivers would be far away from the Helmand basin to reach, but certainly, not to the people living in the vicinity of Ghaggar.

However, identification of Vitasta, Asikni and Parusni remains ambiguous.  The identification is mainly based on the Nadistuti hymns in which these rivers, too, have been enumerated. Vipas becoming Beas or Sutudri becoming Satlej in course of the time is but plausible but Vitasta to Jhelam or Asikni to Chenab or Parusni to Ravi name changes, no matter how in corrupt forms, seems to be unlikely. Historically, the name Ravi has been derived from the river name Iravati, but there is no supportive proof that the Iravati also was called as Parusni in ancient times. 

Though 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. Hence Parushni rather can be a name of some Afghanistan River. 

Hence, the identification of these three Rig Vedic Rivers remains undecided. Most likely, these rivers could be eastern minor tributaries of the Indus or the tributaries of Helmand itself.

j. Sindhu: Sindhu is mentioned several times in the Rig Veda.  Sindhu is generic word for the river or riverines. Hence, at every place, Sindhu does not denote to the Sindhu river. However, in Nadisukta, it appears that the Sindhu river has received more prominence over even Saraswati. Rather, it has occupied a prominent position. As we have seen above that the ‘Sapta Sindhava’ also can mean any group of seven rivers and that could be identified with any river system, not necessarily with the river system of the Indus river. To be exact, the rivers in the Indus system are far more than what the word Sapta Sindhava (seven rivers) indicates. However, instead of entering into the debate over the identity of Sapta Sindhava, let us accept that the identification is correct and it was but natural for Rig Vedic tribes to know them since it was the nearest largest river from the place they were settled. Hence, knowing the river and its western tributaries comes as no surprise.

k. Ganga and Yamuna: The name Ganga appears in the Rig Veda only twice, though Whitney opines that only once the name is addressed undoubtedly to the Ganga river. Talageri is mistaken where he thinks the other name appearance is a reference to Ganga river. The verse (RV. 6.45.31) in question talks about the ‘Gangyaah’ (son of Ganga, not river), Bubu, from whom the Rig Vedic seer had received gifts. The river Ganga is believed to have been mentioned with her another name Jahnavi. ( I.116.19) 

However, Griffith translates the verse (1.116.19) as follows: “Ye, bringing wealth with the rule, and life with offspring, the life rich in noble heroes; O Nasatyas, accordant came with strength to Jahnu's children who offered you thrice every day your portion.” Shrikant Talageri does not accept this translation, though there is no reason why he should not. He harps that the Rig Vedic seers intend to name Ganga with its alternative name in this verse and not as the ‘Janhus children’. However, there is no dispute that the river Ganga could have been mentioned in the Rig Veda as the farthermost known river like far west river Rasa (Tigris).

Nadistuti hymn mentions Yamuna along with Ganga. Yamuna finds its mention in three verses. (RV V.52.17, VII.18.19, X.75.5). Most of the migrationist scholars tend to believe that the verses mentioning Ganga and Yamuna were compositions by the invading Vedic Aryans later on when they had almost settled in the Gangetic basin. Yamuna name derives from Yama (AV Yim), a celebrated deity from Rig Veda as well Avesta. The one important mention of Yamuna in Rig Veda is that Sudasa defeated Bheda on her banks immediately after his victory in battle of the ten kings. However, Griffith translates this verse 7.18 19 as: “Yamuna and the Trtsus aided Indra. There he stripped Bheda bare of all his treasures. The Ajas and the Sigrus and the Yaksus brought in to him as tribute heads of horses.” The original Sanskrit verse is –

“āvadindra yamunā ttsavaśca prātra bheda sarvatātāmuāyat |
ajāsaśca śighravo yak
avaśca bali śīrāi jabhruraśvyāni ||” RV  7.18.19. 

Though the translation is correct, it does not indicate Yamuna here being the river. Rather in the same book, hymn 7.33.3 in which the same incident of Bheda’s defeat is described which reads as-

 “even nu ka sindhumebhistatāreven nu ka bhedamebhirjaghāna | even nu ka dāśarājñe sudāsa prāvadindro brahmaā vo vasiṣṭ || |”

In this verse, the word Sindhu is used instead of Yamuna. Griffith translates here Sindhu as “river”, being it synonym for rivers as well. Again, in verse 7.83.4, the same episode is memorised but no mention of any river appears in it. In verse 5.52.17 (The mighty ones, the seven times seven, have singly given me hundred gifts. / I have obtained on Yamuna famed wealth in kine and wealth in steeds.) Yamuna is mentioned but is equally ambiguous and in all probabilities could not possibly be Yamuna of India. Here we find interesting juncture where there are three verses about the war. In one of them, ‘Yamuna’ is mentioned but not her banks or flow indicating its being river. In the second, the word Sindhu appears instead of Yamuna along with the reference to her banks, but it is not clear whether it is the Sindhu river or just any river. In the third, no river is mentioned. In another verse, the word Yamuna appears but its geography is not clear. Nor it is clear that whether it is addressed to any river or not.

So the question arises on whose banks Sudasa conquered Bheda?  It creates a serious anomaly in absence of definitive proof that the Yamuna mentioned in the verse 7.18.19 is intended as the present Yamuna river or just as name of some ambiguous female deity? Whether Sindhu mentioned in the verse 7.33.3 is just for the river or does it clearly intends to indicate the Sindhu river? Even if the Parusni is equated with Ravi, the distance between Ravi and Yamuna does not allow for war maneuver because it is not less than 300 to 400 miles full of mountainous terrains! Therefore, in all probability, the Sudasas victory over Bheda, unless this was a mythological war, did not take place at the present river Yamuna. It could have been any river of the same name or the Sindhu river itself! 

There is no dispute amongst scholars that the Nadisukta is (Tenth Mandala) a work of later times whereas the seventh Mandala is considered being among oldest. The mention of Ganga and Yamuna together in the verse 10.75.5 only can be said with some certainty that it was the river names those flowed through India, which earlier might just have been known as the farthest rivers from their location. The mention in Nadisukta hymn, since it is considered to be a late composition when the late Vedic tradition had travelled to India.

However, it be noted here that the word ‘Ganga’, like Sindhu, also is a generic word for the river. In Indo-Chinese languages, too, similar words like Khang, Kijang or Jong are used for the rivers. The word Ganga could possibly have been derived from Austric and thus have no Vedic Sanskrit origin. Hence, we can assume that the Vedics did not name the Ganga but the name pre-existed when the Vedic tradition had travelled to India. The map will show the respective geographical positions of the tributaries of the Indus river.

Saraswati: As we have seen in the previous chapters that the Ghaggar cannot be the Rig Vedic river on any account, we have no alternative but to accept the Harahvaiti (Sk. Saraswati, now known as Aranghab), a major tributary to the river Helmand (Avestan name Haetumant, Sk. Setumant) as the Rig Vedic Sarasvati. Besides, the fact to be noted is that the most of the rivers mentioned in Rig Veda are of Afghan origin. Helmand, too, would have carried the same name as Harhvaiti along with Haetumant, which means ‘dammed’. The meaning of Saraswati is ‘full of ponds’.

Rajesh Kochhar supports our deliberation. He states that, “There is an uncanny similarity between the Rigvedic description of Saraswati and Avestan description of Helmand. Rigveda (Rv 6.61.8) talks of Saraswati 'whose limitless unbroken flood, swift moving with a rapid rush, comes onward with tempestuous roar', while Yasht (10.67) refers to 'the bountiful, glorious Hetumant swelling its white waves rolling down its copious floods'. This suggests that the same river is meant in both the cases. If we identify nadittama Saraswati with the Helmand, we can consistently account for all its attributes.” 

We have seen all important rivers mentioned in the Rig Veda. With this, we get the clue that all rivers, except Ganga-Yamuna and Rasa which are farthermost known regions/rivers to the Vedic people, all other rivers are within the close vicinity of Aranghab or Helmand river. For example, Rangha alias Tigris is located towards the farther west of Afghanistan i.e. Mesopotamia. Ganga-Yamuna are the probable farthest eastern rivers known to the Vedics, but not to the Avestans. This was because settlements of the Avestans were towards the north of the Afghanistan whereas the Vedics were settled towards south of Afghanistan. Under such circumstances, the knowledge of these rivers is not a surprise!

Frequently referred rivers of Rig Veda are not Ganga, Yamuna, or even the eastern tributaries of the Indus, but the Afghan origin rivers and western tributaries to the Indus. We will further see that the most of the events recorded by Rig Veda also took place on the western side of the Indus. This clearly indicates that the location of Vedics being closer to them and that the Vedics were settled close by the river Helmand that is the central part of western and eastern rivers frequently mentioned in the Rig Veda. Many unidentifiable names of the rivers could be related to the tributaries of Helmand.