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Resolving the Aryan Question: A Comprehensive Presentation of Out of India Case – V

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Resolving the Aryan Question: A Comprehensive Presentation of Out of India Case – V
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Author’s Note: This article series is an expanded version of a paper presented at ICHR conference in New Delhi, 2018 under the title ‘The Rigveda and the Aryan Theory: A Rational Perspective’.

It is clear that northern India was the Homeland of the Indo-European family of languages and that all the other branches of Indo-European languages in the world migrated from India. There was no “Aryan Invasion of India”, and the area of the Harappan (Indus Valley or Sindhu-Sarasvati) Civilization in its earliest phases was the area from which the speakers of the proto-forms of the other eleven branches (Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic, Slavic, Albanian, Greek, Anatolian, Armenian, Tocharian and Iranian) migrated westwards.

Now, the question remains: if the Vedic language, religion and culture were originally native to the area of westernmost U.P. and Haryana, and expanded westwards in the Rigvedic period itself up to southern and eastern Afghanistan, what exactly was the nature of the spread of this culture eastwards into India? Did our Classical Indian/Hindu Civilization originate from this Vedic culture, as the proponents of both the Aryan Invasion Theory and the Indigenous Aryan Theory would like to believe? Have the modern “Indo-Aryan” languages of northern India descended from the Vedic language of the Pūru (the “Indo-Aryan” of Indological and linguistic studies)? Are the elements of Indian religion that are found in post-Rigvedic texts (the Atharvaveda, the Upanishads, the Puranas and Epics, and in latter-day popular Hinduism in all parts of the country) “later developments” from this original Vedic culture? It is necessary to have a proper perspective on this point in order to understand the situation fully and correctly.

LANGUAGE:

The eleven branches of Indo-European languages outside India have descended from the languages of the Anu and Druhyu tribes to the west of the Pūru, while the Vedic language was the language of the Pūru tribes. The entire Indo-European paradigm is based on the comparative study of the eleven (presently) out-of-India branches and the Vedic language (which is treated as the twelfth branch).

However, the modern Indo-Aryan languages of North India have not descended from the Vedic language of the Pūru: they have descended from other Indo-European languages which were spoken by the tribes to the east and south of the Pūru: i.e. the Ikṣvāku, Yadu, Turvasu, and others. This is proved by various linguistic factors:

a) Prakrits and Indo-Aryan dialects in eastern India retained the r/l distinction, which is technically “pre-Indo-Iranian”, since the “Indo-Iranians” of the Rigveda-Avesta-Mitanni records had merged r/l into r.

b) The Bangani language isolated in the hills of Uttarakhand has features of Kentum language: The branches of Indo-European languages are divided into Kentum (classically Italic, Celtic, GermanicGreek and Tocharian) and Satem (classically  Baltic, Slavic, Iranian and Indo-Aryan).

c) Archaic words that are not found in Vedic/Sanskrit are preserved in Sinhalese: for example, the word watura (English water, Hittite watar).

d) Archaic features and words that are missing in Sanskrit and Iranian are also found in eastern and southern Prakrits: K.R. Norman, in his study of the variations between the OIA (Old Indo-Aryan: Vedic and Classical Sanskrit) and MIA (Middle Indo-Aryan: Prakrits), found that MIA dialects contain many forms “which are clearly of IA, or even IE, origin, but have no attested Skt equivalent, e.g. suffixes not, or only rarely, found in Skt, or those words which show a different grade of root from that found in Skt, but can be shown not to be MIA innovations, because the formation could only have evolved in a pre-MIA phonetic form, or because a direct equivalent is found in an IE language other than Skt.” (NORMAN 1995:282).

The Prakrits and consequently the modern Indo-Aryan (or NIA or New Indo-Aryan) languages of northern India, and in fact the rich Sanskrit lexicons, contain large numbers of words that have been classified by the Prakrit grammarians as deśī (local) words distinct from tatsama (directly borrowed Vedic or Sanskrit) words and tadbhava (derived or evolved from Vedic or Sanskrit) words. Linguists and Indologists have tried hard to prove these words to be borrowings from Dravidian and Austric, but failed; and have ultimately had to brand them hypothetically as “non-Aryan” words of unknown origin, probably borrowed from some unknown, unrecorded, unidentifiable and completely extinct “non-Aryan” languages that must have been spoken in northern India before the “arrival” of the “Aryans”. Most of these words are the common words in the modern Indo-Aryan languages of northern India. These “new” words include, for example, ghoṭaka (horse), kukkura (dog), prastara (stone), pānīya (water), etc. for the original Vedic/Sanskrit words aśva (horse), śvan (dog), aśman (stone), uda-/āpah (water), etc.

However, these are not “non-Aryan” words, but words from the Inner Indo-European languages spoken to the east and south of the Vedic Pūru area: for some of these words “a direct equivalent is found in an IE language other than Skt” as Norman puts it above, but most of them are not found in the other IE languages either. This is because although they are IE words, they are often derived from different roots found in the speech of the eastern or Inner Indo-Europeans (the Ikṣvāku, Yadu, Turvasu, etc.) but not found in the speech of the DruhyuAnuPūru tribal cluster of the north and northwest whose twelve descendant branches have been used in the comparative studies on the basis of which the “PIE” language has been reconstructed. These words entered the Sanskrit language in the post-Rigvedic stage, but words like rātri (night) are examples of such eastern Indo-European words that started entering the Vedic language even towards the end of the Rigvedic period itself. In fact, even the rare Dravidian word started entering the Vedic language towards the end of the Rigvedic period, e.g. kāṇá (one-eyed/cross-eyed) from Dravidian kaṇ (eye) in X.155.1, and the root √pūj (VIII.17.12) from Dravidian (flower), indicating interaction between the Vedic people and the people of the South. In later times, there was a massive influx of Inner Indo-European words, and even many Dravidian and Austric words, in the pan-Indian Sanskrit lexicons: e.g. heramba (buffalo) from Dravidian yerumai (buffalo).

The great linguist S.K Chatterji, although he puts it in terms of the AIT in which he was an unquestioning believer, puts it as follows:

MIA and NIA languages are not, strictly speaking, derived from the language of the Rigveda or from Classical Sanskrit” (CHATTERJI 1926:36).

“[…] these Aryans of the eastern tracts seem to be different from the Midland or Vedic Aryans in many respects – in religious observances, in many practices, in dialect” (CHATTERJI 1926:40).

“[…] these Aryans were distinct from those other Aryans of the West among whom the Vedic culture grew up, distinct in dialect, in religion and in practices” (CHATTERJI 1926:45).

I had put the situation as follows in my first book: “The earliest form of Indo-European speech (proto-proto-Indo-European) was spoken in the interior of India, and in late prehistoric times, it spread out as far north and west as Kashmir and Afghanistan” (TALAGERI 1993:229). It developed into different dialects or languages, of which the outermost ones (i.e. the dialects of the Druhyu and Anu) “spread out of India into Europe, West Asia and Chinese Turkestan […] The modern Indo-Aryan languages are not descendants of the Rigvedic dialects [i.e. the Pūru dialects], but of other dialects which were contemporaneous with the Rigvedic dialects [i.e. the dialects of the Ikṣvāku, Yadu, Turvasu, etc.], but which belonged to a different section of Indo-European speech (the Inner Indo-European section) […] The Vedic dialects remained the vehicles of the Vedic literature that followed the Rigvcda; but soon the ‘Classical Sanskrit’ language was artificially created by the ancient Indian grammarians (Panini was preceded by hundreds of other linguists and grammarians, many of whom are named by him in his Ashtadhyayi) in order to achieve a refined via-medium between the Vedic language and the Inner Indo-European dialects (which had developed conjointly with the Dravidian languages over the course of millenniums, and were therefore structurally different from Vedic, and also had their own roots and words). Later, the ‘Prakrits’ (which were also not fully natural forms of speech, but which successively approximated, to a greater and greater degree, the Inner dialects) came into vogue. Finally, the Inner dialects came into their own in the form of the ‘New Indo-Aryan’ languages, as heavily Sanskritised as the Dravidian languages. During the course of the millenniums, up to the present day, the various ‘Indo-Aryan’ […] dialects and languages influenced each other in innumerable ways, too complicated to be analysed here” (TALAGERI 1993:230).

RELIGION AND CULTURE:

In India, as in the rest of the world, religion was originally a tribal affair. Tribes in every corner of India, as of the inhabited world of the time, were followers of different tribal religions. As in other parts of the world, the rise of organized and urbanized civilization led to the development of one particular kind of organized religion among the different tribes and people spread out over a certain area. In India, this area was the North and Northwest, covering particularly the present day northern Pakistan, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and the western parts of U.P. This area covered many different tribes, notably the conglomerates of tribes known to traditional Indian history as the Druhyu, Anu and Pūru.

The religion which developed in this area concentrated on worship of the elements (the sun, moon, clouds, rain, sky, earth, rivers, etc.) and worshipped the Gods perceived in these elements through sacrifices offered through the medium of fire and through the medium of sounds couched in the form of hymns. This religion is found in the Rigveda (the religious book of the Pūru), the Zend Avesta (the religious book of the main groups among the Anu who migrated westwards into Afghanistan), and in the religious practices of the ancient European priests, mainly the Celtic Druids (emigrants to Europe from among the Druhyu); and in fact the revival by a section of Lithuanians of their ancient religion, which they call darna, also consists of these same two elements: fire rituals and the chanting of hymns. Evolved versions of the root Vedic nature-myths with more developed mythologies are found in the other European religions (Greek, Teutonic, Slavic, Lithuanian, etc.).

 In India, after the emigration of the Anu and Druhyu tribes, the religion of the Pūru, because of its highly organized and systematically developed priesthood and rituals, spread over the rest of the country along with Vedic culture. As the religions of the different tribes all over the country converged into the increasingly diluted Pūru religion, the original Pūru (Vedic) rituals and myths increasingly came to occupy the position of a nominal upper layer in a new multi-layered and multi-faceted religion which was rapidly becoming the common pan-Indian religion of the sub-continent. When this pan-Indian religion and culture came to be known as Hindu is a matter of irrelevant dispute. That it is known as Hindu is an indisputable fact.

But there was a big difference in the spread of Hinduism all over India and the spread of Abrahamic religions all over the world. Unlike these Abrahamic religions, which demonised the Gods, beliefs and rituals of the religions which they sought to uproot, destroy and supplant, Hinduism accepted and internalised the Gods, beliefs and rituals of the tribal religions which converged into it. The result is that today the most popular Hindu deities in every single part of India are originally local tribal Gods: whether Ayyappa of Kerala, Murugan of Tamilnadu, Balaji of Andhra, Vitthala of Karnataka (Vithoba of Maharashtra), Khandoba of Maharashtra, Jagannatha of Orissa, etc., etc., or the myriad forms of the Mother Goddess, with thousands of names, in every nook and corner of India. Further, every single local (originally tribal) God and Goddess is revered by every Hindu in every corner of India, in the form of the kuladevata, the grihadevata or the gramadevata. In time, of course, myths were formed nominally associating many of these deities with one or the other of the main Gods and Goddesses of Puranic Hinduism as their manifestations, these Puranic Gods themselves being additions from different parts of India to the Hindu pantheon (or originally Vedic Gods like Vishnu and Rudra with basic characteristics adopted from the other local and tribal deities). But these associations were not an imposition “from above”, they were the result of popular local myth-making and part of the consolidation of the national popularization of the local deities: the deities retained their local names, forms, rituals and customs, and became all-India deities, objects of pilgrimages from distant areas.

But it is not only in respect of “Gods” and “Goddesses” that Hinduism freely and respectfully adopted from local tribes and religions, even the most basic concepts of the Hindu religion are originally elements adopted from the tribal and local religions from every part of India. The original Pūru (Vedic) layer of religion which forms the pan-Indian umbrella of Hinduism was originally more or less the religion depicted in the Rigveda: the worship of Indra, Varuna, Mitra, Agni, Soma, the Maruts and Ashvins, and other specifically Vedic deities (including Vishnu and Rudra, who later become the most important Puranic Gods), and the main religious rituals were the Agni rituals (homa, yajña, etc.) and the Soma rituals. The Soma rituals are completely defunct today (in fact, even the exact identity of Soma is debated and disputed), the Agni rituals are still performed, but only during major ceremonies (birth, death, weddings, ritual inaugurations of houses, etc.) and on other major occasions, and the major Vedic Gods are minor figures of Puranic stories.   

Practically, every single basic feature of Hinduism today was adopted from the religious beliefs and rituals of the other, originally tribal, religious traditions of the people from every single corner of India as they all converged into Hinduism. To begin with, Idol-worship which is absolutely the central feature of Hinduism and which includes (a) the worship of the lingam, “rude blocks of stone” with eyes painted on them, or roughly or finely carved or cast images of stone, metal or some other material, (b) treating the idols as living beings (bathing, dressing and feeding them, putting them to sleep, etc.), (c) performing puja by offering flowers, water and fruits, bananas and coconuts, clothes and ornaments to the idols, (d) performing aarti by waving lights and incense before the idols, (e) performing music and dance before the idols, (e) partaking of prasad of food offered to the idols, (f) having impressive idol-temples with pillared halls, elaborate carvings and sculptures, sacred tanks and bathing ghats, temple festivals with palanquins and chariots, etc. (g) applying ash, sandal-paste, turmeric, vermillion, etc. on the forehead as a mark of the idols, etc. This entire system in all its variations was adopted from the various practices of the people of eastern, central and southern India, along with the Gods and idols themselves.

All the basic philosophical concepts of mainstream Hinduism are likewise adopted from the tribal and local populations of different parts of India: the concept of rebirth and transmigration of souls, the concept of auspicious moments based on the panchanga and the tithis, the worship of particular trees and plants, animals, birds and reptiles, the worship of particular forests, groves, mountains and rivers, the worship of ancestors in elaborate ceremonies, etc., etc.

The spread of this Vedic religion (ultimately Vedic only in name) from an original Pūru centre in Haryana to all over India can in no way be treated as an invasion, any more than the spread in later times (after 600 BCE) of Buddhism and Jainism from an original Ikṣvāku centre in Bihar to all over India (and in the case of Buddhism, all over Asia at one time).

And all these features in Hinduism are not “new” or “later” developments from (or in) an original Rigvedic kind of religion, as is generally assumed. For example, it is believed that the philosophical culture of the Upanishads is a “later” development from the Vedic religion: the karma kāṇḍa of the Rigveda developing into the upāsana kāṇḍa of the Upanishads, etc. But actually, this culture of philosophical speculation and religious organization was clearly a feature of the Ikṣvāku culture of the east (just as the Vedic type religion of hymns and fire rituals was a feature of the PūruAnuDruhyu culture of the North and Northwest, the Harappan area). Here we find the development of the Upanishadic philosophies (many of the speculative philosophical discussions in the Upanishads take place in the eastern court of the Ikṣvāku king Janaka), of the Buddhist, Jain, Vratya and Charvaka religions and philosophes, of the concept of Vegetarianism as a virtue, etc. Further east of the Ikṣvāku culture was the home of Tantric customs and religious practices. To the South, as already pointed out, was the home of the elaborate systems of Idol-worship and Temple Culture which are the central feature of Hinduism all over India today.

All these (and many, many more) different aspects of the Pan-Indian Hindu Religion and Culture, and of Classical Indian/Hindu Civilization, may appear to be “new entrants” into an “original Rigvedic culture” if looked at from the point of view of their chronology of appearance in the Sanskrit texts as Indian civilization consolidated itself. But that would be like treating the areas of America and Australia as “new areas” looked at from the point of view of their chronology of appearance in European references. All these religious systems are probably as old as the Vedic/Harappan culture itself: it is not mere myth which makes the Jains talk about long lineages of Tirthankaras preceding Mahavir, or the Buddhists refer to the many previous incarnations of the Buddha.

The Pan-Indian Hindu Religion and Culture, and Classical Indian/Hindu Civilization, are indeed prime examples of the popular slogan “Unity in Diversity”. It is time that Indian historians learnt to accept this holistic and rational perspective of looking at Indian history rather than treating Indian history as a “development” from the Vedic/Harappan culture, or alternately as a conflict between the Vedic and other cultures that   are components of the Indian/Hindu ethos.

Footnote: Incidentally, searching for “Harappan-type” cities in the East and South is also a little presumptuous: the culture of the other people in the other parts of India, e.g. the culture of the Ikṣvāku of eastern U.P. and Bihar, or the cultures of areas further South, would naturally be different from the PūruAnuDruhyu or Harappan culture of the North and Northwest, even if equally old, and their archaeological sites and material artifacts would be different from the Harappan ones.

Additional section, from another blog article with some modification, added to V. The Nature of the Spread of the Vedic Religion in India on 29/3/2020:

As we saw, the Vedic culture and religion in the Vedic days, before the Hindu religion welded the entire nation into one all-encompassing bond, was distinct from the culture of the east and the south. Were these different aspects of our Hindu religion and culture, then, totally unknown to each other at that time, or even hostile to each other in some way as Hindu-hating leftist ideologues like to insist? They cannot have been totally unknown to each other at a time when even the cultures of West Asia were in contact with the Vedic-Harappan culture: Harappan ships travelled not only to the ports of the Gulf, but probably into the Mediterranean Sea as well (see my blog article “The Elephant and the Proto-Indo-European Homeland“).

Is there any evidence of Vedic-Dravidian contacts in the Vedic period? As we will see now, there definitely were such contacts.

Are there any Dravidian words at all in the Rigveda? Seeing the geographical location of the Harappan civilization and the known geographical location of the Dravidian languages in the South, it would be rather difficult to see how such interaction could take place in those remote times. The presence of the Brahui language in Baluchistan was originally the most prominent factor cited in claiming that the Harappan area was originally inhabited by Dravidian speaking people, but now it has been accepted that the Brahui language actually migrated to Baluchistan from the South comparatively recently. As Witzel points out, “its presence has now been explained by a late migration that took place within this millennium (Elfenbeim 1987)” (WITZEL 2000a:§1). Likewise, Southworth, even while urging a Dravidian presence in the Harappan areas, admits that, “Hock (1975:87-8), among others, has noted that the current locations of Brahui, Kurux and Malto may be recent” (SOUTHWORTH 1995:272, fn22).

But there are two words in the Rigveda which, however unpalatable it may be to Sanskrit-centric opponents of the AIT, are very definitely linguistically Dravidian words:

1. The verbal root pūj– “to revere, worship, respect, honour (usually an idol, with flowers)”, derived from the Dravidian, e.g. Tamil -, “flower”, representing a form of worship totally unknown to the Vedic culture, and representing the religion of the South.

2. The word kāṇa, “one-eyed” or “cross-eyed”, very clearly derived from the Dravidian, e.g. Tamil kaṇ, “eye”.

It is true that civilization and culture developed differently in different parts of the country, and the Rigvedic culture of the northwest in its initial stages (i.e. in the Old Books, restricted to Haryana and its immediate environs) need not necessarily show elements from other parts of India. But what about in the period of the Mature Harappan = New Rigvedic civilization with its far-reaching trade contacts and relations?

Twelve years ago, in my 2008 book “The Rigveda and the Avesta – The Final Evidence“, I noted the situation as follows: “let us accept that there may be some adstrate words of Dravidian or Austric origin in ‘Indo-Aryan’ ― perhaps we protested a bit too much in our earlier books due to the implications sought to be drawn from such alleged ‘non-Indo-Aryan’ words in Classical or even Vedic Sanskrit. The word kāṇa ‘one-eyed’, in the RV, for example, is obviously derived from the Dravidian word kaṇ ‘eye’. Other not implausible suggestions include the words daṇḍa and kuṭa“. (p.292).

As a matter of fact, an examination of the actual Rigvedic data shows us that the Rigvedic culture did include some Dravidian elements. These elements were not residual elements of an original Dravidian Harappan civilization invaded and taken over by invading “Aryans”, as often suggested. They were new elements imported from the Dravidian South. This is proved by the fact that:

1. They are not found in the Old Books, and the geographical names in the Old Books show that Dravidian speaking people never lived in the Harappan area before or during that period.

2. They are found as incidental elements in the New Books, in a period which shows massive overseas trade contacts even with foreign places like Mesopotamia (two Babylonian words: bekanāṭa, money-lender to traders, in VIII.66.10, and manā, a unit of measure which is still used to this day, in VIII.78.2.), and which is the period preceding the Avestan and Mitanni eras: the common elements with the Avesta and the Mitanni are abundantly found in the same texts and hymns which show these incidental Dravidian elements.

3. The Indian traditions and linguistics unambiguously and very clearly connect the people associated with these elements—actually Rigvedic rishis of Dravidian identity—with the South. And, these people are not inimical to the Rigvedic culture but a part of it.

There seem to be at least two distinct streams of originally Dravidian speaking rishis:

1. As we saw, the Rigveda contains two important words – very important and common in later Sanskrit as well as in modern Indo-Aryan, but found only once each in the Rigveda – of undoubtedly Dravidian origin. These are:

a) The verbal root pūj-.

b) The word kāṇa.

These two words are found (both in the New Books) as follows:

a) pūj– in VIII.17.12, attributed to Irimbiṭhi Kāṇva,

b) kāṇa in X.155.1, attributed to Śirimbiṭha Bhāradvāja.

It cannot be a coincidence that both the words are composed by two different rishis with such strikingly similar, unusual and non-Indo-Aryan names. The rishi-ascriptions in book 10 are very often garbled. In my 2000 book “The Rigveda – A historical Analysis”, pp.25-26, I had written: “Maṇḍala X is a very late Maṇḍala and stands out from the other nine Maṇḍalas in many respects. One of these is the general ambiguity in the ascriptions of the hymns to their composers. In respect of 44 hymns, and 2 other verses, it is virtually impossible to even identify the family of the composer“. It is clear that the composer of X.155 is the same as the composer of VIII.17, i.e. Irimbiṭhi Kāṇva.

The name is clearly Dravidian. In fact, we still have a place in Kerala named Irimbiḷiyam: it is not impossible that this, or a nearby area, is the home-area of this Rigvedic composer – more than 4000 years old! Note that there are two more words in the same hymn, VIII.17, which have also been identified as Dravidian:

a) –khaṇḍ– in VIII.17.12,

b) kuṇḍa in VIII.17.13,

and, to crown it all, the word muni, found only five times in the whole of the Rigveda (thrice in one hymn in Book 10), and referring to holy men from the non-Vedic areas of the East and South within India, is also found in the next verse: in VIII.17.14. That we should have so many indications in three consecutive verses is incredible and extremely significant.

Very clearly, this rishi Irimbiṭhi is a person from the Dravidian South who, like members of different religious orders in present-day India who are found in parts of India other than their area of origin, migrated to the busy cosmopolitan Mature Harappan = New Rigvedic civilization area from the South and subsequently became a Rigvedic rishi.

2. But Indian tradition has one more, and a very important, rishi who is unanimously and resoundingly associated, in the traditions of both the North and the South, with the South: Agastya. Puranic and Epic tradition tells us that Agastya migrated to the South and settled down there. But here is what Wikipedia has to say:

Agastya was a revered Vedic sage of Hinduism.[2][3] In the Indian tradition, he is a noted recluse and an influential scholar in diverse languages of the Indian subcontinent. He and his wife Lopamudra are the celebrated authors of hymns 1.165 to 1.191 in the Sanskrit text Rigveda and other Vedic literature.[3][4][5]

Agastya appears in numerous itihasas and puranas including the major Ramayana and Mahabharata.[5][6] He is one of the seven or eight most revered rishis in the Vedic texts,[7] and is revered as one of the Tamil Siddhar in the Shaivism tradition, who invented an early grammar of the Tamil language, Agattiyam, playing a pioneering role in the development of Tampraparniyan medicine and spirituality at Saiva centres in proto-era Sri Lanka and South India. He is also revered in the Puranic literature of Shaktism and Vaishnavism.[8] He is one of the Indian sages found in ancient sculpture and reliefs in Hindu temples of South Asia, and Southeast Asia such as in the early medieval era Shaiva temples on Java Indonesia. He is the principal figure and Guru in the ancient Javanese language text Agastyaparva, whose 11th century version survives.[9][10]

Agastya is traditionally attributed to be the author of many Sanskrit texts such as the Agastya Gita found in Varaha Purana, Agastya Samhita found embedded in Skanda Purana, and the Dvaidha-Nirnaya Tantra text.[5] He is also referred to as Mana, Kalasaja, Kumbhaja, Kumbhayoni and Maitravaruni after his mythical origins.

Even more to the point: “The etymological origin of Agastya has several theories. One theory states that the root […] is derived from a flowering tree called Agati gandiflora, which is endemic to the Indian subcontinent and is called Akatti in Tamil. This theory suggests that Agati evolved into Agastih, and favors Dravidian origins of the Vedic sage“.

He is a “non-Aryan Dravidian whose ideas influenced the north […] In Southern sources and the North Indian Devi-Bhagavata Purana, his ashram is based in Tamil Nadu, variously placed in Tirunelveli, Pothiyal hills, or Thanjavur“.

Therefore, despite later legends taking him from the North to the South, historically he was clearly a Dravidian sage from the South who, or rather whose descendants, migrated northwards and became an important part of the Rigvedic priesthood, being recognized as a separate and independent family of Rigvedic rishis:

a) Tradition shows him to be different from the other Vedic rishis, more of a recluse and a forest-dweller, who prefers to stay away from the glamour and lucre of urban settings and royal patronage.

b) He is totally absent from the major part of the Rigveda, and his descendants have hymns only in the New Books (mainly in book 1, where most of the Dravidian words are found). But the tradition not only outside the Rigveda but even within the Rigveda (VII.33.10) consistently portrays him as an ancient Rishi contemporaneous to Vasiṣṭha with whom he is sought to be connected in this verse.

c) The only reference to him, outside the New books 1 and 8 (I.117.11; 170.3; 179.6; 180.8; 184.5; VIII.5.26), is an incidental one in a Redacted Hymn, probably redacted by a descendant, in VII.33.10. And, this hymn has a Dravidian word daṇḍa in the next verse VII.33.11.

3. The arrival of the Irimbiṭhas and Agastyas into the Rigvedic area in the Mature Harappan period seems to have brought in a small stream of Dravidian words, the stream which became a small flood in later post-Vedic Classical Sanskrit.

The following is a list of other words allegedly of Dravidian origin found in the Rigveda: vaila, kiyāmbu, vriś, cal-, bila, lip-, kaṭuka, kuṇḍṛṇācī (?), piṇḍa, mukha, kuṭa, kūṭa, khala, ulūkhala, kāṇuka, sīra, naḍa/naḷa, kulpha, ukha, kuṇāru, kulāya, lāṅgala. They are found only in the New Rigveda and in the Redacted Hymns, except for the occurrence of mukha in IV.39.6, kulāya in VII.50.1, and kulpha in VII.50.2. But note that Arnold (whom Hock cites as an expert on these matters) has classified both these hymns IV.39 and VII.50 also as Redacted Hymns on metrical grounds: So, we do not find a single one of these Dravidian words in the Old Rigveda! The references (other than those already mentioned above: VII.33.10; IV.39 and VII.50) are found as follows:

Redacted Hymns:

VI. 15.10; 47.23; 75.15.

III. 30.8.

IV. 57.4.

New Rigveda:

I11.5; 28.1,6; 29.6; 32.11; 33.1,3,3; 46.4; 97.6,7; 144.5; 162.2,13,15,19; 164.8; 174.10; 191.1,3,4.

VIII. 1.33; 43.10; 77.4.

X. 16.13; 48.7; 81.3; 85.34; 90.11; 97.6; 102.4. Remember, these Dravidian rishis and words are found in the New Books before 2000BCE, and long before the first appearance of the Mitannis in Syria-Iraq and the Indo-European Iranians (Persians, Parthians, Medians) in Iran, and nearly two millenniums before the Tamil Sangam Era! So, the Vedic-Dravidian relationship is an old and friendly one.

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Shrikant Talageri

Shrikant Talageri is a scholar and acclaimed author of The Rigveda: A Historical Analysis, the seminal work on the Aryan Invasion debate. His latest work is "Rigveda And Avesta The Final Evidence."