Most of the Aryan Trail has been deciphered using linguistic palaeontology extensively. In fact some reconstructions of the ancient past of the Indo European peoples are can't be supported explicitly by archaeological evidences. In such a scenario the different other languages that have influenced or have been influenced by the Indo European languages are very important to us. In the discussions on Aryan Trail we've seen how the IE loan words in Fino Ugric languages divulge interesting information about the early stages of the migrations of the IE peoples.
In this section we'll see how many other languages have preserved linguistic fossils of the ancient Aryan trail.
Below is the Aryan Trail that we're considering for all our discussions.
- Kalash Culture (1600 BC till date): A very unique group of Indo-Aryans in Hindukush have preserved many of the Rig Vedic and early Indo-Aryan features including language and culture. Kalash is the last place in the Aryan trail before entering into the final destination of Punjab.
- Gandhara Grave Culture (1700 - 1400 BC): Rig Vedic Culture in Punjab in Pakistan & IndiaMain Languages of Aryan Trail till 1500 BC
As it can be seen from the above diagram the Fino Ugric people stayed to the north of the locus of the early Indo European and Indo Iranian peoples. The diagram is a snapshot of the spread of the IE peoples around 1500 BC. At this point of time the Indo Aryans have already reached India, passing through the Arkaim-Sintashta, BMAC and Vakhsh-Biskent Cultures. Central Asia, the locus of the BMAC Culture, plays a very important role in the Iranian and Indic languages. In the discussions onAryan Trail we've mentioned that there are quite a few loan words in Iranian and Indic languages from Central Asia. But we don't know what language was spoken in Central Asia during that time. It's possible that multiple languages were spoken by the various peoples between Caspian Sea and Pamir but still it's likely that there was a lingua franca, which, we've reasons (discussed later) to believe, may be proto Burushaski. Now Burushaski, the language of the Burushos, is a language isolate spoken in isolated pockets of Hunza, Nagyr and Yasin, all in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.
Not very far from the BMAC, to its south along the coast of Arabian Sea, are the Indus Valley, Elamite and Sumerian settlements stretching from east to west. The Sumerian name for the southern Indus Valley settlement (Mohenjo-daro) in Sind and Baluchistan is Meluhha. To its west is an area referred to as Marhashi by the Sumerians. Further west is the Elamite settlement of Shimashki (refer to the diagram below). The languages of Meluhha and Marhashi are believed to be the same - we call it Meluhhan. The language of Shimashki is Elamite. BMAC artifacts have been found in all these places and also in the northern Indus areas (Harappa). This implies that there were trade links between these areas. Hence the languages of these areas are likely to have some common loan words between them. As the Indo Aryans were present in Central Asia for a considerable amount of time before moving into India it's likely that their language (Rig Vedic Sanskrit) would have substrates from all these older native languages from the areas around.
On linguistics terms the Rig Vedas can be categorized into three classes
- Early (1700 - 1500 BC) - Books 6, 4, 2 & 5
- Middle (1500 - 1350 BC) - Books 3, 7 & 8
- Late (1350 - 1200 BC) - Books 1 & 10
Apart from Burushaski RV has, from the earliest books, lot of substrates of a language which has similarities with the present day Munda languages. This should be the language of the northern Indus peoples with whom the Rig Vedic Aryans are likely to have lot of interaction since their early days of settlement in India. We call it a para Munda language.
RV suddenly has lot of Dravidian substrates / loan words in the books of Middle Age, especially in books 7 & 8. The books of Early Age have virtually no Dravidian substrate. This implies that the Dravidian peoples would have reached Punjab and started interacting with the Rig Vedic Aryans only around 1500 BC - the time period of the Middle Age books.
So there seems to be another language in this area - a proto Dravidian language. Many place names in Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat and Maharashtra still bear the Dravidian palli, meaning village.Palli has become wala in Punjab (Jallianwala, Gujranwala, Dogarwala), vali in Maharashtra (Borovali, Saravali) and wari/wadi in Gujarat (Chandawari, Ambawadi, Dangrawadi) & Sindh (Kadanwari, Shanhwari, Bathewari, Fatehwari, Kardewari) - p changes to v/w and l to r. This implies that Sindh, Punjab, Gujarat and Maharashtra are within the locus of the Dravidian peoples. It's highly possible that they were among the Indus peoples in Sindh during the last phase of Indus Valley civilization (1900 - 1500 BC) and migrated to Punjab in the north and Gujarat / Maharashtra in south around 1500 BC.
Based on the above discussions a plausible language map of Central Asia and Western India in 1900 BC, just before the arrival of the Indo Aryans, would be something like this.
The Meluhhan language of Sindh is still an elusive thing to us. The Indus scripts are yet to be deciphered. But Sumerian records have some words which are believed to be Meluhhan. These words have striking similarities with the present day Burushaski language. Such a connection is possible only if we assume that Burushaski or a related language was spoken in BMAC, whose connection with Indus peoples is supported by archaeology. Hence a proto Burushaski language is considered as the lingua franca of Central Asia before the arrival of the Indo Aryans.
In Sumerian records there are names of persons with Meluhha as personal names. Urkal and Urdlama are called son of Meluhha. There's also a village called Meluhha. The products of Meluhha include gis-ab-ba-me-lu-hha (abba wood from Meluhha), si-in-da (Sindh wood), gis-ha-lu-ub (haluppu wood), gis-gisimmar (shimmar/shimmal wood), etc. The word Sinda is quite interesting. Burushaski has the word sinda for river. It's possible that during the timeline we're talking about the proto Burushaski language, the lingua franca of BMAC peoples, had a similar word from which came the Skt. Sindhu, the name of the river that gave the identity to a country, religion and civilization. Monier Williams, in his Skt. dictionary, mentions the word Sindhu is of improbable origin. The shimmar of gis-gisimmar seems to be related to Skt. shalmali (a tree, shimul in bengali) which seems to be Munda and hence from the North Indus language.
Now let's move on to a little later period of time - 1700 BC. The diagram below shows the language map during this time. The Indo Aryans have arrived in BMAC and reached the north western fringes of India, may be Kalash in the Hindukush Mountains.
This is the early Rig Vedic period where the early books (6, 4, & 2) are being composed. The BMAC substrates have already appeared in Sanskrit. Similarly the Burushaski and para Munda (Northern Indus Language) substrates are also visible. The Hindukush is probably the place where retroflexion appears for the first time in Sanskrit. This may be an influence of the Burushaski spoken in the Pamir areas north of Hindukush.
Retroflexion has been always considered an Indian phenomenon that differentiates the Indo Aryan languages from the other members of the Indo European languages. The t in vrishti and the d in pinda need the tip of the tongue to be curled and touched against the top of the mouth to produce the correct sound. It's close to the t in street and the d in donkey as pronounced by an English rather than a French. Most of the European languages don't have these sounds.
Following are some probable Burushaski (Bur.) substrates in Skt.
- Skt. mesha, ram ~ Bur. mesh
- Skt. kuhu, new moon ~ Bur. kuha
- Skt. karpasa, cotton ~ Bur. gupas
- Skt. Sindhu, Indus River ~ Bur. sinda
- Skt. kilala (amrita) and kilata (cheese) ~ Bur. kilay, sweet drink ~ Tamil kilan, curd
- Skt. muja, people and also the Mujavat Mountain, the Meru Mountain ~ Mruza, the ancient self designation of theBurusho people who speak Burushaski now ~ Avestan Muza ~ Tibetan Bruza ~ Skt. Purusha, another name for Mount Meru. Muja, Muza, Purusha and Burusho all have come from the original word Mruza.
Following are some probable Munda substrates in Skt.
- Kavasha, son of a slave girl elevated to the rank of Rishi - reminiscent of absorption of local people
- kaparda, hair knot in the shape of cowrie shell
- kimshuka, name of a flower/tree
- Kikata, name of a place despised of in Rig veda. Interestingly ki in Suremian means country.
- kinash, cultivator of land, niggard
- kumara, boy
- kurira, woman's head dress
- Kurunga, name of a chieftain of Turvasha, one of the Pancha Krishti, the Five Peoples of Rig Veda.
- kulaya, nest
- karambha, a food
- Kushika, name of a lineage of poets
- Kulitara, name of a chieftain of enemy
- sharvari, night
- shalmali, tree
- shakunta / shakuntaka, bird. Also related is Kunti, a tribal name
- Shambara, name of a chieftain of enemy
- Srinjaya, King
- Sribinda, demon. Related is Vindhya Mountains, may be from the same root *bind
- Rivers Ganga, Gandaki & place names Magadha, Gandhar - all may have come from Munda *gad/gand
- Shatadru (Sutlej) River - old name Shutudri may have come from she-tu-da, tu means float in Munda
- Vipasha (Beas) River - old name Vipash may have come from Munda vipaz/vibal. There's a Vibali River of indefinite origin in RV. The name Vishpala may also be related
There is no direct Meluhhan substrate in Sanskrit. But the Skt. mlechchha (or even mridhra) meaning out-caste, may be a derivative of meluhha. The reason why it means out-caste is also understandable - the same reason why Finnish orja, derived from arya, means slave.
Now let's consider the etymology of two words: langala meaning sickle and godhuma meaning wheat in Skt.
The words meaning sickle or 'to reap' in various languages seem to be similar. It's niggal in Sumerian, nigal in Afro-Asiatic (Egyptian), nankal in Proto Dravidian, nakel in Proto Munda, nahel in Santal (a Munda language spoken by some tribes in eastern India), ankal in Khmer and tengala in Malay.
Referring to the diagram below it's not unlikely that the languages of Sumerian, Egyptian, Hittite, BMAC and Indus Valley would have many loan words related to agriculture, plants and animals because these are the terms that are transmitted through trade and commerce. The Dravidian peoples of Sindh would have taken the word nankal from the Meluhhans (south Indus). The Aryans, few centuries later, took the word langal from the north Indus peoples who spoke a para Munda language. The Khmer and Munda are both members of the same Austroasiatic language family that might have originated in India. How and when the Khmer peoples reached present day Cambodia and Vietnam are not clear.
Language Map of Asia: 1900 BC
Similarly, the words for wheat are similar across various languages - Hittite kant, Old Egyptian xnd, BMAC gantum, Dravidian godi, Avestan gantuma, Persian gandum and Rig Vedic godhuma. The Avestan, Persian and Sanskrit words have surely come from BMAC. The Dravidian godi might have come from Meluhhan.
Tracking the etymologies of words like these are classic examples of how linguistic palaeontology can help us reconstruct some obscure ancient past which otherwise hasn't left much in 'pots and pans', that's archaeology.
Next we fast forward another two centuries and we're in 1500 BC - middle Rig Vedic Age. Here suddenly we see a surge of words of Dravidian origin.
- Skt. phala, fruit ~ Tamil (Tam.) palu
- Skt. pinda, dympling ~ Tam. pinti, flour
- Skt. mayura, peacock ~ Tam. mayil [The Proto Munda *mara is related]
- Skt. danda, stick ~ Telegu danda [The Santal (one of the Munda languages) danta is related]
- Skt. ulukhala, mortar ~ Tam. ulukkai
- Skt. path, read ~ Tam. patu, sing
- Skt. nagara, city ~ Tam. nakar
- Skt. kuta, hammer
- Skt. kunda, vessel ~ Tam. kuttam
In general the Aryans picked mostly names of places (Gandhar, Kikata), rivers (Sindhu, Vipash, Shutudri) and peoples (Shambar, Pramaganda, Kulitara) and words of local plants (shalmali), animals and large number of agricultural terms (phala, ulukhala, langal) from local languages and retained only a few from PIE vocabulary for agriculture like krish, sa(sow), sita (furrow) and sira (plough). This is quite natural for immigrating peoples like the Aryans.
As seen in the Aryan Trail the Aryans entered India in two waves. It's not unlikely that the Rig Vedic Aryans of the second wave would be little averse to the newer Dravidian peoples and the older Aryans of the first wave. Eventually they pushed both of them to the periphery of their settlement.
The following diagram depicts a probable scenario in India around 1000 BC where the Rig Vedic Aryans are settled in the Gangetic plains and the older Aryans along with the Dravidian peoples pushed to Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, Maratha, Dravida, Utkal (Orissa) and Vanga (Bengal). There are good linguistic evidences in favor of such an scenario.
The peripheral IA languages (Punjabi, Sindhi, Gujarati, Marathi, Oriya and Bengali) are the ones that have more Dravidian influence than Hindi. Incidentally Hindi is spoken precisely in the area shown in the diagram as the locus of the Aryans since the Late Rig Vedic period.
- dhamma dharmakamma karmaPukkusathi Pushkalavati.