Knowledge of Praising

The battle of Megiddo took place on c. April 16th, 1457 BCE. In the battle, Pharaoh Thutmose III defeated an alliance of Canaanite and Mittani kingdoms. It opened a way for Thutmose to expand further northward. The importance of this battle lies in the fact that it is perhaps the first battle to have been recorded with considerable and reliable details.

The bible says that the end of the world will be in the form of Armageddon (Nothing to do with the movie). The word Armageddon is frequently used to refer to the end of times. But Armageddon does not refer to an event. It in fact refers to a place Har Megiddo, mount of Megiddo, where the battle between the Messiah and Antichrist takes place. Thus it is fitting that the place where the first battle properly described took place would be the place for the final battle as well.

The Mittani signed a treaty with the Hittites in 14th century BC. This treaty document is the first exhibit of Indo Aryan language. The treaty is drawn with the blessings of Indara (Indra), Mitras (Mitra), Nasatianna (Nasatya or Ashwins) and Uruvanass (Varuna). There is neither any evidence of Agni or Soma (The primary Gods of Rigveda) nor of Rama or Krishna, the major Gods of Modern Hinduism.

Avesta, the collection of holy texts of Zoroastrian purported to be written sometime in the middle of second millennium BCE, has some things in common with Rigveda. There is marked interchangeability between the sounds h and s in the words used in the two. Thus we have Ahura (Asura), hepta hindu (Septa Sindhu) and daha (dasa). The religious concepts are however reversed. Thus we have Ahura (Ahura Mazda) as the chief God in Avesta while the Vedic religion terms Asura as the demons. Indara (Indra) is demonic in Avesta as are the other Deavas. This could be interpreted as resulting from a religious dissension between the original group of people in the Persian-Mittani-Western end of the Indian subcontinent. One group favoring Ahura going to Persia while the other migrating towards India. The modern Parsis (Root word Persia) are the descendants of these Zoroastrians. They later migrated to India during the eastern expansion of Islamic Caliphates. Thus we see that the two branches eventually merged geographically.

The Rigveda (which means knowledge of praising (or verse)) as we know now was maintained through oral tradition till the Gupta period (4th to 6th CE) when it was written down in Brahmi script. Rigveda is believed to have been composed during the Iron Age (around 800 BCE). Rigveda is divided into 10 mandalas or family book of which the first and the tenth are the youngest and longest. Each mandala is purported to be written by a Rishi. Eg.,Maharshi Vashishta is credited with composing the seventh mandala while Vishawamitra composed mandala 3. The oral tradition of memorizing the text included techniques like padapatha and samhita. The primary deities to whom the hymns are devoted are Indra and Agni. Other Gods mentioned include Soma, Varuna, Savitr, Aditya and Ashwins among others.

The famous Gayatri Mantra is a part of third mandala of Rigveda attributed as we have seen to Vishwamitra. Gayatri in fact refers to a Sanskrit meter that contains a structure of 3 lines with 8 syllables each. Thus, theoretically there are many Gayatri mantras. The recitation starts with Om Bhur bhuvah svah, which is known as mahavyahrti (Great utterance) and is a prefix recommended by Taittiriya Aranyaka to be applied to all recitations. It is not a part of the Gayatri Mantra. Following this is the Mantra proper. The meaning of the Mantra – “May we attain the excellent glory of Savitar the God so may he simulate our prayers.” The mantra is thus dedicated to God Savitr and hence is also known as Savitri.

Mandala 10 contains hymns like Nasadiya Sukta, Hiranyagarbha Sukta and Purusha Sukta. Nasadiya Sukta (It is narrated in the opening credits of the series Discovery of India) is believed to be the earliest account of agnosticism. Hiranyagarbha Sukta (Song in the ending credits) deals with the creation of the cosmos while the Purusha Sukta is dedicated to Purusha from whose different body parts Gods (Indra and Agni from the mouth) and various Varnas appeared.

 

PS. It took me a long time to write this post. The really bad quality of writing demonstrates it amply.

Word, Holy texts and Ashrams

John 1:1 says “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and word was God.”

In most cultures word is attributed lot of power. Magic also supposedly needs incantations. The importance of spoken word may have its beginning when the prehistoric man started communicating. Communication helped the human being to hunt better and convey knowledge to others. Memory also played a very important role in ensuring human survival. The knowledge of hunting, tools, experiences were remembered and passed on to the future generations. Memory and communication ensured that the knowledge from one generation or group of people was spread wide and preserved. The prehistoric human beings would have also realized their importance and must have attributed divine source to them.

Thus we see that the two main class of Hindu scriptures are Sruti (“Hearing, Listening”) and Smriti (“That which is remembered”). Sruti is believed to be direct revelation by divine being which was then translated by Rishis into something that can be understood by humans. Non-Sruti text falls under Smriti. Smriti is not believed to be of divine origin but instead is memories of wisdom passed on by the sages.

The main components of Sruti are Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Mukhya Upanishads.

The word for knowledge in Latin is Scientia from which the word Science takes root. The Sanskrit word Veda also means knowledge. The four Vedas are also known as Samhitas. Vedas are Apaurusheyatva, which implies that Vedas are not authored by anyone. The four Vedas are Rigveda, Yajurveda, Sama-veda and Atharva-veda.

Brahmanas are commentaries on Vedas. Each Brahmana is linked to one of the four Vedas.

Aranayakas too are commentaries on Vedas. Aranyakas means “of the wilderness”. The commentaries contained in Aranyakas were supposed to be so dangerous that they had to be studied in the forest. I wonder what was so dangerous?

Upanishads are philosophical texts. I don’t know how exactly the Brahmanas, Aranayakas and Upanishads differ from each other. There are over 200 Upanishads with the earliest few termed as Mukhya Upanishad and believed to be part of Sruti. Dara Dhikoh, the Mughal prince and son of Shah Jahan translated almost 50 Upanishads into Persian. The question, had Dara Shikoh not been defeated by Aurangzeb, the history of the subcontinent would have turned out to be very different is a contender for another blog post.

The presence of so many commentaries gives a picture that ancient India had the tradition of sages sitting and commenting and discussing the holy texts. Contrary opinions also got included in these commentaries. Mahabharata and Ramayana imply that the royal princes were sent for education to the sages where they learned the art of ruling and martial arts. The sages are portrayed as teaching all these arts to the Princes. It is very difficult for a single sage to be competent in intellectual pursuits as well as the more physical aspects of warfare. I believe that what is termed as the “Ashram” of the sages were more like colleges or schools that contained various “Gurus”/teachers adept in various arts. Thus you have a Guru who is an expert in swordplay while another expert in archery. These Ashrams were named after their principal Guru and thus the teaching of all the arts gets attributed to him. The pattern of these Ashrams may have been adapted in the later universities of Nalanda and Takshashila. How true my conclusions are, I will never know.

Aryan Invasion or not?

Despite saying that I will not write on the topic, I am noting down whatever interesting I could find on the topic after a cursory search.

Out of India theory

Aryan Invasion Theory

In the middle 18th century, many leading European thinkers believed that most of the European languages had Sanskrit as their origin.

Development of historical linguistics concluded that Sanskrit was one of the daughter languages among many other.

Kazanas, an Indo-European scholar published an article in the reputed, peer reviewed journal, the journal of Indo-European studies supporting the OIT point of view.

The editor of the journal believed that any referee would not agree with the conclusions and hence it was necessary to waive the peer review to give a “sense of fair play”. The article was followed by nine highly critical reviews.

Rigveda consists of many hymns praising the river Saraswati implying that Saraswati was a mighty river at the time of compilation of Rigveda. Saraswati had dried up during the late Harappan period. Thus the Vedas may have been compiled 4000BC when Saraswati was still strong, thus implying that Aryans were in India much before the Indus Valley Civilization.

 

Rigveda does not mention silver, sword, rice, constellations which apparently the Indus Valley Civilization knew about. Thus implying an origin of RV much before IVC.

The absence of the material could be because the RV was written earlier and in western parts. The later Samhitas and Brahmanas mention these things implying that once the Aryans came into contact with IVC, these things got into the literature too.

 

The linguistic center of gravity theory states that the place of origin of a language group has the most diversity. This diversity is found in Central Eastern Europe. Thus implying the origin of Indo-European language group there and not in India.

 

Indic languages shows influence of Dravidian languages while none of the European languages show that. If the origin of Indo-European language was in India then the European languages should also have shown these influences.

The absence of any mention of places outside India or of any invasion legends points to Aryans being from India.

Ramayana, Mahabharata could be considered as invasion legends. Though these legends are not mentioned in Rigveda.

The absence of any escape or liberation or migration legends akin to the exodus in Bible or Hijra in Islam points that there was no migration.

 

 

Romila Thapar and A L Basham both believe that Out of India theory is not a plausible explanation and that if not an invasion, a migration of Aryans did indeed take place.

 

There is a distinct lack of credible research online on the subject. The websites appear to be obviously biased and hence their claims needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. The subject has reached a point where no consensus among historians will be reached due to the nationalistic and religious sentiments involved. I am leaving the topic here. Perhaps in the future once I get a clearer understanding, I will return to it.