View Full Version : The Vedic People: Indo-European Homeland: Steppes North of the Black and Caspian Seas

Saturday, August 7th, 2010, 09:06 AM
Indo-European Homeland: Steppes north of the Black and Caspian Seas

The Indo-European homeland must be the horse-land, the Indo-Iranian habitat the Soma-land. The proto-Indo-European speakers emerged as a pre-historical entity in the steppes north of the Black and Caspian Seas with the domestication of the wild horse. - Rajesh Kochhar, The Vedic People

The Vedic People, Their History and Geography by Rajesh Kochhar; Orient Longman, Hyderabad, 2000; pages xiv + 259, Rs.425.

Where was the Rgveda composed and when? Were the Rgvedic people and the Harappans the same? Was India their original home?

In The Vedic People, RAJESH KOCHHAR seeks answers to these questions of ancient Indian history, arguing in a new line of thinking that the Rgveda was composed in south Afghanistan and synthesising data from a variety of fields - archaeology, history, linguistics and literature, even genetics.


A first-rate theory predicts; a second-rate theory forbids; and a third-rate theory explains after the event. Aleksander Isaakovich Kitaigordskii

THE Rgveda is a literary document of the metal age, here assigned the time bracket c.1700-900 B.C.. It was the handiwork of a people who did not have a tradition of writing. Consequently, a direct comparison of its contents with archaeological evidence is not possible. While discussing the question of the geographical location and chronology of the Rgvedic people, our aim is to narrow down the number of permissible theories by seeking to make them consistent with data from a wide variety of fields including linguistics and literature, natural history, archaeology, history of technology, geomorphology and astronomy.

On the linguistic front, the important facts are as follows: (i) The modern languages spoken in the subcontinent fall into two groups: Dravidian and Sanskrit. (ii) There are extremely close ties of language, culture, mythology and rituals between the Rgvedic and Avestan Aryans. (iii) Neither the Avesta itself nor its later commentaries make any statement that would suggest a connection with the Indian subcontinent. (iv) There is a close affinity between Sanskrit and many European languages, which extends to ancient rituals and mythology as well. (v) The Finno Ugric languages contain a number of Indo-European, and more particularly Indo-Iranian, loanwords. The Indo-Europeans must therefore have lived in the physical neighbourhood of the Finno Ugric speakers.

Natural history imposes the following two constraints: (vi) The Aryans, more accurately the proto-Indo-Europeans, domesticated the horse. (vii) The Rgvedic and Avestan Aryans, but not the other Indo-Europeans, built a cult around the Soma plant, which has been identified with the alkaloid-yielding varieties of Ephedra. Therefore, the proto-Indo-European habitat must coincide with the natural habitat of the horse, and the joint Indo-Iranian habitat with the natural habitat of the alkalodial Ephedra. In any case, the Indo-Iranian habitat should be homogenous enough to permit the use of the same plant as Soma/Haoma. In other words,the Indo-European homeland must be the horse-land, the Indo- Iranian habitat the Soma-land.

The compelling archaeological facts are as follows: (viii) The Rgvedic divinities Mitra, Varuna, Indra and Nasatyas (Asvins) were known in 1400 B.C.. This information comes not from India or Iran but from west Asia. (ix) The Greater Indus Valley civilisation shows a cultural continuity that extended from c. 7000 to 2000 B.C., comprising the Baluchistan tradition and the early and mature Harappan phases. In the subsequent period, two intrusive elements appeared; the first in c. 2000 B.C. leading to the formation of the late Harappan phase, and the second leading to a new culture in c. 850 B.C. called the PGW culture. (x) Throughout the archaeological history of India, there is a time progression from west to east: the western sites are always older than the eastern sites. Thus the Indus sites are older than the Ghaggar sites. Later, the Mahabharata-named (PGW) sites are older (and more westerly) than the Ramayana-named (NBPW) sites.

While no single piece of evidence by itself can provide the clinching argument, an examination of the evidence, in totality, leads to the conclusion that India is not the original home of the Rgvedic people. The picture that emerges is as follows: The proto-Indo-European speakers emerged as a pre-historical entity in the steppes north of the Black and Caspian Seas with the domestication of the wild horse. By the time they started dispersing, the Indo-Europeans were already familiar with metal and were not only riding horses but also using wheeled vehicles. The undifferentiated Indo-Iranian-speaking groups moved southwards from the Eurasian steppes in c. 2000 B.C. and spread over central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan up to River Indus. The merger of the non-Rgvedic Indic speakers with the post-urban Harappans led to the establishment for the various late Harappan cultural phases, including the important Cemetery H culture in Punjab.

In c. 1700 B.C., another group of Indic speakers settled in south Afghanistan and took to the composition of the Rgvedic hymns in the region between the Helmand and the Arghandab. The description of the Sarasvati and the Sarayu in the Rgveda, and even sutra literature, fits the Afghan rivers Helmand and Hari-rud better than any river in India. In c. 1400 B.C., the Rgvedic people moved eastwards to the middle Indus. Eventually, they absorbed the Cemetery H people to found the painted Grey Ware culture in c. 850 B.C. in Punjab and on the upper Ghaggar.

The Vedic people remained to the west of the Yamuna-Ganga doab until c. 850 B.C.. The large-scale settlement of the Gangetic Plain took place only when the use of iron became widespread and, perhaps, when population increased. During their migrations, the Indo-Aryans, carried with them not only their poetry and religious beliefs, but also place and river names which they selectively reused.

This theory can explain in a self-consistent manner geographical references in the various literary texts of the region. It is also consistent with the available linguistic and archaeological data. However, if it is to stand the test of time, it requires a more rigorous and extensive archaeological back-up. In particular, archaeological and chronological data are needed from the region between the Helmand and the Arghandab and from the banks of the Hari-rud. One thing, though, appears certain. If the cultures excavated so far are anything to go by, then no matter what culture is finally associated with the Rgveda, its material content is unlikely to prepare one for the intellectual content of the Rgveda.

We have given a number of reasons why the old Ghaggar could not have been the Rgvedic Sarasvati. Even if the Ghaggar received the waters of the Satluj and the Yamuna in the past, in its upper course it would still remain a rainwater stream flowing through low hills, unlike the swift, mighty, mountainous river that the Rgvedic Sarasvati is. Many geologists believe that the Yamuna has been flowing in its present channel for at least the last 20,000 years. Also, the Rgveda mentions Satluj (Sutudri) as a member of the Indus river system, implying that the Ghaggar was no longer being fed by the Himalayan snows. A careful hydrological study of the Ghaggar river system and its neighbourhood is needed to accurately determine the various epochs in its eventful history. At what point of time was the Ghaggar transformed from a powerful river - which no doubt it once was - into an ephemeral or barely perennial river? Furthermore, when and how did it reach the pitiable state it is in today?

* * *

The oft-quoted date of 3102 B.C. for the Bharata battle is not mentioned or implied in the Puranas but arises from a misappropriation of Aryabhata's astronomical work. We have argued in favour of c. 900 B.C. as the period of the Bharata battle and shown it to be consistent with the archaeological and Vedic evidence. Interestingly, if we take the Puranic genealogical tables at face value, the earliest Puranic chieftains must have lived in the Eurasian steppes.

The bedrock of this work is the archaeological constraint that large-scale settlement of the Ganga Plain took place only in the Iron Age, after c. 900 B.C.. Since the bulk of the Rgveda is by all accounts older than 900 B.C., the Rgvedic Aryans must have been confined to the region west of the Ganga, no matter where they came from. This means that even if Rgvedic Sarasvati is identified with the old Ghaggar (and we have argued that it should not be), the present-day Sarju cannot be the Rgvedic Sarayu. The present-day Gomati, to the west of the Sarju, is already believed to be a later river.

The history of humans is the story of their migrations. This is because we can meaningfully talk of the original home of our species: "all modern human populations are descended from a single ancestral population that emerged in one place at some time between about 150 Kyr (150,000 years) and 100 Kyr (100,000 years) ago. The fossil evidence, thin as it is, suggests that this place of origin was somewhere in Africa". Surely, the spread was far greater than would have been dictated by the simple material needs of hunters and food gatherers. This suggests that physical compulsions might not have been the only reason behind migrations. A spirit of adventure and desire to see the world might have propelled human groups to move away, leaving behind their co-linguists.

No matter whether migrations were induced by want or restlessness, it seems that, generally, the older settlers did not feel surprised at the arrival of new migrants, and the two very soon established new equations. If the migrants arrived at a time when the host culture was going strong, they simply joined the mainstream. If, on the other hand, the destination presented a political, economic or cultural vacuum, the newcomers filled this. To take a modern analogy, ancient cultures were not like a reserved railway compartment, where the passengers defend their positions against new arrivals. They were more like an unreserved compartment, where new arrivals, whether welcome or not, are expected and accommodated.

* * *

According to the picture presented here, the Rgvedic people are distinct from the founders of the Harappan tradition. There have been some attempts to show that the two were in fact one and the same people. If this assertion is to be considered as established, it must be shown that the mature Harappan phase is entirely consistent with the Rgvedic descriptions. This has not been done so far.

We have argued that the composition of the Rgveda was taken up in south Afghanistan a few centuries after the demise of the mature Harappan phase. The later parts of the Rgveda as well as the later Vedic texts were however composed in India. Under the circumstances, some correspondence between the later Vedic texts and the late Harappan cultural phases is to be expected. There is however not a shred of evidence to show that the Mehrgarhians, early-phase Harappans, and mature-phase Harappans had any cultural trait in common with the Rgvedic and Avestan people.

Most of the influential work on the interpretation of the Vedic and Avestan texts were carried out at a time when hard-core scientific data was not available to constrain or confront the literary hypotheses. Now that such data is available and being regularly augmented, one must re-examine what so far has generally been taken as received wisdom on the subject. Academic explanations should be continually reappraised. In scientific interpretation, there is no last word.

Rajesh Kochhar is an astrophysicist. He is currently Director, National Institute of Science, Technology aand Development Studies (NISTADS), New Delhi. He was awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship in 1995 and was a Fulbright Visiting Lecturer at the Chicago Academy of Sciences, U.S..


Rigvedic Soma Plant

http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:S3xeyMLD7LgJ:rajeshkochhar.com/data/publications/RgvedicSomaPlant.pdf+vedic+people+By+Raj esh+Kochhar&hl=en&gl=au&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESg-uQ9CN5mcFiETTujSSEAYEM5_Bd7Lhe2lExWVOXch Shqk5UPQRk6uGB8JqLKzT6kiGAzoUQbu6XLMgFqB jnjlsrG36ZcQ1ftU6OFjbDgTbfpmKzJHnlkRh53Q Y24v3retxSGr&sig=AHIEtbTKFdAgoyVC5_6iy_g9Oz0uOLFUFQ

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011, 01:17 AM
This is an area of some interest to me and I thank you for posting this information.

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011, 10:09 AM
This is an area of some interest to me and I thank you for posting this information.

Yes, same here, thanks for this post.