Sunday, March 6, 2011

Peoples of Rig Veda

To know about the Rig Vedic peoples the best way is to refer to some verses from Rig Veda.

RV BookHymn VerseDescriptionTopic
620 Indra kills Dhuni, Chumuri. Conflict with natives
430 Indra kills Kulitara's son Shambara on lofty mountains. He crushed 100,000 Varcins, like the felly (pradhi) of the wheel of a chariotConflict with Munda natives
430 Arna, Citraratha, both Arya people killed by Indra on the other side of SarayuConflict among Aryan peoples
419 Indra breaks the mountains and the frees the obstructed rivers. The rivers run like mothers running towards their children. [It's similar to killing Vala and releasing the cow & of breaking the dams (of the Indus people ??) and releasing the river]

Vala Myth
214 Indra subdues Kutsa, Atithigva & Ayu [Not all non-Aryan Kings]Conflict among Aryan peoples
212 Shambara (Munda) is discovered on the 40th autumn in his mountain hideouts. [Implicates fightings in mountains, most likely the Hindukush]Conflict with Munda natives
214 Indra destroys Shambara's 100 ancient or distant (purvi) castles (pura) with his thunderbold (ashman)Conflict with Munda natives
214 Indra killed Dhribhika, Urana, Arbuda, Shushna, Pipru, Namuci, Rudhikra. [Pipru may be IA, but the rest names seem to be non-IA]Conflict with natives
353 Kushika (probably Munda) among Aryan offerersNatives treated as elites
353 What is the use of cattle in Kikata? They don't pour ashira (mixture of milk and soma), they don't heat vessels for preparing soma. Let Indra bring the wealth of Pramaganda, King of Kikata. [Kikata and Pramaganda both Munda names]

Conflict with Munda natives
84632Dasa Balbutha and Taruksha (Munda) have made a gift of 100 camels to the sage. [Implies Dasas and Munda peoples are not always enemies - point to amalgamation of various peoples]Dasa treated as elite
8129Like rays of Sun Indra consumes Arshasana (Iranian Ersan)Conflict with Iranian tribes
8322The strong (ugra) Indra kills the Dasas Sribinda (Munda), Anarshani (Iranian Ersan), Pipru (Aryan name), Ahishuva and set free the waters. [Iranian, Munda and Aryan peoples seen as enemies]Conflict with Iranian tribes
8537Kashu (Avestan Kasu) gives 100 camels (ushtra) and 10000 cows to the priestIranian peoples treated as elites
8646Parshu (Persian Parsa) & Tirindira (Tiridates) give 100000 giftsIranian peoples treated as elites
1112 Ashvini helped Karkandhu, Shryata, Vishpala. [All Munda names]Aryan - non Aryan amalgamation
1538Indra kills Parnaya, Karanja [Both para Munda names]Conflict with Munda natives
The above verses are arranged chronologically in the probable order they might have been composed. We can divide the ten Rig Vedas into the following three classes
  1. Old - Books 6, 4, 2 & 5 (1700 - 1500 BC)
  2. Middle - Books 3, 7, 8 & 9 (1500 - 1350 BC)
  3. Late - Books 1 & 10 (1350 - 1200 BC)
We've seen the following in the discussions about Aryan Trail, the Languages of Aryan Trail, and the Battle of Ten Kings:
  1. The Dasa (Daha) and Pani (Parnoi) peoples of BMAC were Aryan peoples who arrived in Central Asia around 1900 BC. They stayed in tripur style forts fortified by three walls.
  2. Around 1700 BC a second group of Aryans arrived in Central Asia. They were the Rig Vedic peoples who later composed Rig Veda.
  3. The Rig Vedic Aryans first fought with the Dasas and later entered into a truce. Asura, the gods of the Dasa peoples are first considered demons and then promoted to the ranks of Aryan Gods. There are instances where Dasa Kings (like Balbutha) are referred as offerers in the prayers.
  4. The Aryans entered India in two waves. The first wave was around 1700 BC, probably the Dasa peoples. The second wave was around 1500 BC - the Rig Vedic Aryans. At least one of these peoples entered India through the Hindukush Mountains, passing through the Kalash valleys in Chitral and traveling along Kabul and Panjkora rivers. It's likely that on their way they fought with the native tribal peoples. Many of the peoples with whom they fought in the mountains seem to have Munda names like Shambara and Kulitara. It's possible that the local people of north Indus areas spoke a para Munda language and the Indo Aryans confronted them first in the mountains of Hindukush. The confrontation with Shambar is mentioned number of times throughout Rig Veda.
  5. Like the amalgamation with the Dasa peoples, there are also instances of friendship with the Munda peoples. Kushika and Taruksha, both Munda names, are listed as Aryan offerers in rituals. The Rig Vedic doctor twins Ashvini Kumars are said to have helped Karkandhu, Shryata and Vishpala - all Munda names.
  6. There's multiple reference to the 'Five Peoples', Panca Jana or Panca Krishti or Panca Kshiti - Yadu, Turvasha, Anu, Druhyu and Puru. Krishti originally meant cultivable ground, then an inhabited land, next its inhabitants and lastly any race of men. The wordkrishti is derived from the Sanskrit root krish which means 'to plough' or 'to make furrows on the ground with plows'. The designation Panca Krishti literally means 'Five Furrows' - or the tribes dwelling between the five furrows or divisions of the earth. The five divisions of the earth are most likely the four directions, East, West, North and South and the fifth one the region in the center.
  7. The Battle of Ten Kings is a sort of civil war between the various tribes. King Sudas of the Tritsu tribe and a descendant of the legendary King Bharata is fighting against ten other tribes - Bhrigu, Druhyu, Turvasha, Paktha, Bhalanas, Alina, Vishanin, Shiva, Anu and Puru. Many of the kings of these tribes seem to have Munda names like Kavasha and Shimyu. The Bhrigu lineage still exists among Hindus. The Paktha may be the Pakhtun or Pashtun peoples of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Bhalanas peoples should be related to the Bolan Pass in Pakistan. The present day Puris may be the Rig Vedic Puru.
  8. There are a number of peoples with Iranian sounding names - Kashu (Avestan Kasu), Kanita (Scythian Kanites), Tirindira (Trinidates), Parshu (Old Persian Parsa), Anarshani (Iranian Ershan) - that appear suddenly in the Book 8. There's also a surge of Dravidian words in this book. It's mentioned in the Language of Aryan Trail that the Dravidian peoples moved to Sindh from eastern Iran during the last phase of Indus Valley civilization (~1900 BC or earlier). These Iranian sounding tribes may be the Dravidian peoples - the pre Iranian inhabitants of east Iran.

Other Probable Early Dynasties and Kingdoms of India

1700 - 1500 BC
There are references to various dynasties and kings in many ancient literatures. Not everything can be historically correct. But still from the various references in Epics, Vedas, Puranas it can be roughly said that one important dynasty (or tribe of confederation of tribes) - might be the mythical Sun Dynasty - ruled over India between 1700 and 1500 BC. Rama, the main character of Ramayana, belonging to this dynasty might have ruled over the Kosala kingdom around 1500 BC.

Another important dynasty, ruling over western part of Indian subcontinent - precisely the regions of the early Aryan settlement in India, might have been that of the mythological King Bharata who would have ruled over Northern India sometime around 1600 BC. Bharata is seen as the first king to consolidate a major part of the Indian subcontinent. Such effort for consolidation was not uncommon around 1500 BC, the period when the earliest pieces of Rig Veda were being composed. It was a very natural instinct for the tribes and the kings to indulge into continuous warfares among themselves. Hence the instance of the earliest consolidation around 1600 BC under a victorious king or tribe doesn't seem to be unlikely, even though the name of the king or the tribe can be debatable.

The Bharata dynasty might have ruled between 1700 & 1500 BC, contemporaneous to the Sun dynasty of the east (Kosala).

1500 - 1300 BC
The Puru dynasty, a descendant of the Bharata dynasty, might have ruled between 1500 and 1400 BC, followed by the Kuru dynasty (to which belonged the cousins Pandavas and Kauravas of Mahabharata) between 1400 and 1300 BC. With the Mahabharata war attributed to sometime in 14th century BC, the kings mentioned in Mahabharata would have ruled around 1300 BC.

Another important kingdom or confederation in the east could be Magadha (Kikata, mentioned in Rig Veda), coming to prominence around 1400 BC. The Magadhan King Jarasandha is mentioned in Mahabharata as a party to the war. So it can be assumed that he would have also ruled sometime around 1300 BC, the period of the Mahabharata War.

1300 - 1100 BC
The Pandavas consolidated their rule after the victory in the Mahabharata war and their dynasty, same as the Kuru dynasty would have ruled between 1300 and 1100 BC. The Kuru King Parikshita is mentioned in Atharva Veda, dated sometime around 1100 BC. Much later, the Kings of Taxila - Ambhi and Porus (who fought against Alexander) in 4th century BC were also referred to as the descendants of the Pandava dynasty. The present day people with last name Puri are believed to be descendants of the Purus.

The map below shows the probable kingdoms that might have existed during the time which forms the backdrop for the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata.

India as depicted in Ramayana, Mahabharata

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