The Rig Veda and the Gathas-revisited

31 Aug

On 22 Apr, 2007, I posted a write- up  discussing the close relation between the Rig-Veda and the Gathas concerning the language, the locale, the names of the principal characters etc. I mentioned there in, the language of the Gathas (the older scriptures), known as Avesthan was remarkably similar to that of the Vedic Sanskrit of the Rig Veda. Further, in the Rig Veda the devas are worshipped as gods and the asuras are put down as demons, while in Zoroastrianism the treatment of these deities is reversed.   (Topic: Rig Veda and the Gathas )

As regards the similarities between the two languages:

One could find a Sanskrit equivalent for almost any Avestan word. For instance: The Avesthan : aevo pantao yo ashahe, vispe anyaesham apantam (Yasna 72.11); could be rendered in Sanskrit as : abade pantha he ashae, visha anyaesham apantham (translation: The one path is that of Asha, all others are not-paths).

Another example (left) of Avestan text from Yasna 10.6 is rendered word for word in Sanskrit on the right. Translated it means: `Mithra that strong mighty angel, most beneficent to all creatures, I will worship with libations’

The Cambridge History of India observes, “The coincidence between the Avesta and the Rig-Veda is so striking that the two languages cannot have been long separated before they arrived at their present condition.” The linguist, Professor T. Burrow of Oxford University also argued for strong similarities between language of Avesta and Vedic Sanskrit.   And, HD Griswold (in his The Religion of the Rig Veda) went  so far as to point out that each can be said to be “a commentary on the other … No scholar of the Avesta worth the designation can do without a thorough grounding in Vedic Sanskrit”.


The issues raised in the post of 22 Apr, briefly, were – when and why the terms deva/asura came to acquire different meanings in the two texts. Was this because of a conflict between the two sects? If so, when and where the” conflict “ took place?

Following that post there were a few comments and discussions in the Forum. I also looked around a few sites and read a few books on the subject because I was not totally convinced that there was a “conflict” per se. In the mean time, a friend on the Forum recommended an article entitled “Vedic Elements in the Ancient Iranian Religion of Zarathushtra “ written by Mr. Subhash Kak, a scholar from Jammu & Kashmir. The article was well written and it helped me to take a view on some, though not on all the issues raised in the post of22 Apr 2007. These efforts yielded additional information on the ancient kingdoms of Kassite s, Mittanis and Hattusa that existed sometime during 18th century B. C to 16th century B. C. in the Mesopotamian and North –West Syria regions. Based on the additional information I prepared a fresh article on the subject and hence this post.

Now, shall we resume our little talk about the Rig Veda and the Gathas?

1. I have veered to the view that the “conflict” was mostly surmised. There is no evidence pointing to any such “conflict”. I agree we may safely discard that hypothesis, at least for the present.

2. the Vedic religion, in some form, was present in the Mesopotamian region during the times of the Mitanni ,the Hittite, the Kassites (c 1750 BC) who worshiped Surya.

3. The Hurrian (1500 B C to 1270 B C) was located in the present-day western Syria , in the mountainous regions of Upper Euphrates and Tigris. The name Mitanni or Maitani first appears in the “memoirs” of a military officier who lived at the time of Amenhotep (1525 – 1504 BC). These memoirs were in connection with the Syrian wars (ca. 1480).

3.1 The ethnicity of the people of Mitanni is difficult to ascertain.The names of some Mitanni kings reveal Indo Aryan influence. They appeared to follow the Vedic religion. The ruling aristocracy was maryanni , meaning “young warrior” a derivative of the Sanskrit marya. The Mitanni warriors were called Marya, the term for warrior in Sanskrit as well.

3.2 Washukanni, or Waššukanni (also spelled Washshukanni, Wassuganni, Vasukhani, or a combination of these variants) was the capital of the kingdom of Mitanni from 1500 B C. The name is similar to the Sanskrit phrase for “a mine of wealth.” Washukanni flourished as a capital city for two centuries.

3.3 The names of the kings also point to the Indo-Aryan influence. The founder of the Kirta (1500 B c to 1490 B C). His name is also mentioned as “Krta” or with its element such as Krtadeva, Krtadhaja, and Krtadharman etc.

The names of the other Mitanni kings are also of Indo Aryan origin. For instance: Tushrata (Dasharatha–possessing ten chariots), Baratarna ( Paratarna-great sun); Biridaswa (Brihadashwa- possessing great horses); Artatama (Rtumna-devoted to the divine law, Rta); Rta-smara ( rooted in the Rta);  Sattura (Satvar – warrior); Saustatar ( Saukshatra-son of Sukshatra, the good ruler); Saumathi (Son of Sumathi); Sattawaza (he who has won seven prizes);Shuttarna (Sutarna – good sun); Sumaala ( having beautiful wreaths); Parsatatar(Parashukshatra-ruler with axe); and, Mattiwaza ( Mativaja -whose wealth is prayer) – are the Mitannian names of the kings and other males of the time.


Royal seal of Saustatar

Šattiwaza (c.1325-1280) before his accession to the throne carried a Hurrian name Kili-Teššup, like that of several of his predecessors. In his treaties, he invokes, among the many Hurrian and Mesopotamian deities, the Indo-Aryan deities Mitra, Varuna, Indra, and the Nasatyas.

3.4 A famous treaty entered between the Hittite ruler Suppiluliuma and the Mitanni king, Mattiwaza,(Mattiraja) in about 1380 BC, at Boghazkoy, invokes not only the Babylonian gods to witness the treaty but also the deities of Vedic origin such as Mitra, Varuna, Indra and Nasatya (Ashwins). The names of these deities are in the forms that appear in the Rig-Veda (S. Konow: Aryan gods of the Mitani people, 1921).

They occur in the treaty as ila_ni Mi-it-ra-as-si-il, ila_ni A-ru-na-as-si-il In-da-ra, ila_niNa-sa-at-ti-ya-an-na. Since the form for Na_satya is quite different in the Avestan language (Naonhaithya), it is likely that the Mitannian did not speak Iranian but Indo-Aryan (E.Meyer: Sitzungsberichte der K. Preuss. Akad. Der Wissen, 1908). Of these gods, only Mitra (Mithra) is invoked in the Avesta (Indra and Nanhaithya appear in the Avesta as demons and Varuna may have survived as Ahura Mazda – Asura Mahat).This indicates that the religion of the royalty was Vedic and the Iranian influence was yet to spread to the Mitanni region.

The differences that appeared in the Rig-Vedic and Avestan terminologies must have therefore materialized at a much later stage .Some of the important changes that took place on the Iranian side, might have come about just prior to or at the time of the Zarathrustra.

3.5 As regards the language of the Hurrian kingdom, the common language Hurrian was neither Indo Aryan nor Semitic but was closer to Urartian. The Hurrians adopted the Akkadian cuneiform script for their language in about 2000 BC . It appears there were different groups and sub groups who spoke different dialects and followed different sets of deities. The royal family of Mitanni was speaking Hurrian as well.

the horse drawn chariot

3.6 Kikkuli, a master horse trainer (assussanni, the Sanskrit form of which is aśva-sana) of Mittani, was the author of a chariot – horse training manual written in the Hittite language (an extinct language of Indo European family). The text (dated c1499 B. C) is notable for the information it provides about the development of Indo European language and for its content as well. Kikkuli’s horse training text includes numerical terms such as aika (eka, one), tuwa (dwe , two), tera (tri, three), panza (pancha, five), satta (sapta, seven), Na (nava, nine), vartana (vartana, round).The terms used to denote the horses of different ages or stages of training are – saudist– “foal” or “untrained”; yuga– “young horse”; dāyuga to mean “horse in its second year of training” etc. The text employs terms such as babru (babhru, brown), parita (palita, grey), and pinkara (pingala, red) to denote colors. These terms are of Sanskrit origin.

Further, Kikkuli’s text, though in Hittite, has a few loanwords from Luwian and Hurrian languages. Whenever Kikkuli found it difficult to put across the Mitanni concepts inthe Hittite language, he switched to his own language (Hurrian) and switched back to Hittite.
Mitanni Chariot with spokes

3.7 Hence, the Indo-Aryan element of the Mitanni could be placed 1500 BCE , if not earlier.

4. Hittites is the conventional English name for an ancient people who spoke an Indo European language and who established the kingdom of Hattusa in the North Western region of Syria in 14th century B C. Hittite is the earliest attested Indo European language. The Hittites referred to their language as Nesili (or in one case, Kanesili), meaning “in the manner of (Ka) nesa.” Jay Friedman, University of California,in his paper Verbs in the Rig-Veda and Old Hittite confirms the Indo European nature of the Hittite language.
4.1 A cognate appears in a Hittite text found at Bogazköy in the name Ak/gniš, a god of devastation and annihilation. This term refers to AGNI (Sanskrit), the god of fire in ancient and traditional . In the Gathas of Zarathustra, the term atar is used to denote the concept of fire. The term atar does not appear in Rig-Veda. This points to presence of Vedic type of religion in the region .

5. kassites are the ancient people of the Middle East who established a dynasty that ruled for about 450 years, starting around 1600 BCE. Their capital was Dar Kurizgalu; about 150 km north of Babylon.The kassite spoke a language that was similar to Sumerian.

5.1 The names of some Kassite kings were of Vedic origin (for example: Shuriash = Surya, Maruttash = Marut, Inda-Bugash = Indra-Bhaga),

5.2 The fifth king among the Kassite dynasty took the name Abirattas’ (abhi-ratha ‘facing chariots (in battle)’. (T. Burrow, The Sanskrit Language , London, Faber and Faber, 1955).

5.3 The tenth king of the Kassite dynasty Agum (II) (c.1595-1545) took the throne-name Kakrime derived from Sanskrit term KAK meaning “ to enable , to help”(Sanskrit – saknoti, he is able, he is strong: Shakti,)( The American Heritage Dictionary of the English LanguageIndo-European Roots)

6. What is interesting in the case of Mitannis and Kassites is, the language of the common people was not Indo Aryan, the religion of the people did not appear to be Vedic. Yet, for some unknown reason many of the kings assumed Sanskrit – throne-names. It appears there were traces of Indo Aryan influence in the region.

The Indo-Aryans names do not appear in texts till 15th century BCE. The Mesopotamian texts of the 18th and 17th centuries BCE do not show evidence of this trend (of assuming Sanskrit-throne names). This trend, therefore, was comparatively recent.

What is not clear is, how these “traces of Indo Aryan influence“ came into being? When and why they faded away?

Ruins of Mittani palace

7. Mr. Kak in his paper makes a number of points:
( )

a) Following the collapse of the Sarasvati – river based economy around1900 BC, groups of Indians might have moved West and that might explain the presence of the Indic Kassites and the Mitanni in West Asia .

b) The old Vedic religion survived for a fairly long time in corners of Iran. The evidence of its survival comes from the daiva-inscription of Khshayarshan (Xerxes) (486-465 BC).

c) The ruling groups-Kassite and Mitanni – represented a minority in a population that spoke deferent languages. They, however, remained connected to their Vedic traditions. They were neighbors to the pre-Zoroastrian Vedic Iran . In addition, there were other Vedic religion groups in the intermediate region ofIran which itself consisted of several ethnic groups.

d) As per the Mitanni documents , the pre-Zorastrian religon in Iran included Varuna. Since Mitra and Varuna are partners in the Vedas, the omission of Varuna from the Zoroastrian lists indicates that Zarathushtra might be from the borderlands of the Vedic world where the Vedic system was not fully in place.

e) The pre-Zoroastrian religion of is clearly Vedic. Zarathushtra’s innovation lay in his emphasis on the dichotomy of good and bad The Zoroastrian innovations did not change the basic Vedic character of the culture in Iran. The worship ritual remained unchanged, as was the case with basic conceptions related to divinity and the place of man.

I also believe that Zarathushtra did not try to overthrow belief in the older Iranian religion, he did however, place Ahura Mazda at the centre of a kingdom of justice that promised immortality and bliss. He attempted to reform ancient Iranian religion on the basis of the then existing social and economic values

8. Now, let us come to the question of why the same set of deities came to be viewed differently and why there was division. This concerns mainly the asuras/ahuras versus the devas/daevas debate.

In the older texts, that is, in the Rig Veda and the Avesta, these differences are not quitesharp.In the Rig Veda, the asuras were the “older Gods”, a class of deities without negative connotations,who presided over the moral and social phenomena of the primeval universe; while devas the “younger gods” presided over nature and the environment. In the Vedic account of creation, some of the “older gods”(asuras) went over to join the ranks of the “younger gods” (devas). The remaining asuras were exiled to the nether world. While this distinction between asuras and asuras-who-became-devas is preserved in the texts of the Rig Veda, the later texts employ the term asura to represent allnon-devas or those opposed to devas.

In Zoroaster’s Gathas, where the battle between good and evil is a distinguishing characteristic of the religion ,the daevas are the “wrong gods”, the followers of whom need to be brought back to the path of the ‘good religion’

9. It is not clear what led to the rivalry between two groups and how rival groups perceived the same set of deities differently.It is possible that at some common point of time, the ancestors of both branches worshiped the same set of deities. Later, it is possible; each group supported its chosen set of deities, leading to rivalry between the two groups. The differences that appeared in the Rig-Vedic and Avestan terminologies must have materialized a long time after the demise of the Mittani and other kingdoms. Some of the important changes that took place on the Iranian side, might have come about just prior to or at the time of the Zarathrustra.

It is likely that the rivalry had its roots in the division of theIndic and Iranian branches of Proto-Indo-Iranian culture. However,the differences persist even today; while their causes have disappeared long ago, and even have been forgotten.

10. Mr. Kak states that the Vedic and the Zarathushtrian systems are much less deferent than is generally believed. He mentions the Kashmiri system which recognizes a three-way division consisting devas, asuras, and daevas. He also brings in the argument of three gunas –Satva, Rajas and Tamas- of Indian thought. I am familiar with the “Gunas” concept; But not as well as to comment on Mr. Kak’s argument.

11. I do believe that the Rig Veda and the Gathas have to be studied together to gain a fuller understanding of either of the texts. Parallel research on the Gathas and on the Vedic, religion prior to Zarathushtra will therefore be useful for better appreciation of the Zoroastrian and the Vedic texts.


H.G. Rawlinson in his Book Intercourse between India and the Western World from the Earliest Times to the fall of Rome(Cambridge University Press, Cambridge – 1926) writes :

From prehistoric times, three great trade-routes have connected India with the West. The easiest, and probably the oldest of these, was the Persian Gulf route, running from the mouth of the Indus to the Euphrates, and up the Euphrates to where the road branches off to Antioch and the Levantine ports. Then there was the overland route, from the Indian passes to Balkh, and from Balkh either by river, down the Oxus to the Caspian, and from the Caspian to the Euxine, or entirely by land, by the caravan road which skirts the Karmanian Desert to the north, passes through the Caspian Gates, and reaches Antioch by way of Hekatompylos and Ktesiphon.

Lastly, there is the  circuitous sea route, down the Persian and Arabian coasts to Aden, up the Red Sea to Suez,  and from Suez to Egypt on the one hand and Tyre and Sidon on the other. It must not be supposed, of course, that merchandise travelled from India to Europe direct. It changed hands at great emporia like Balkli, Aden or Palmyra, and was often, no doubt, bartered many times on the way. This accounts for the vagueness and inaccuracy of the accounts of India which filtered through to the West in early times. A story is always vastly changed in passing through many hands.

Trade between the Indus valley and the Euphrates is, no doubt, very ancient. The earliest trace of this intercourse is probably to be found in the cuneiform inscriptions of the Llittite kings of Mitanni in Kappadokia, belonging to the fourteenth or fifteenth century B.C. These kings bore Aryan names, and worshiped the Vedic gods, Indra, Mitra, Varuna, and the Asvins, whom they call by their Vedic title Nasatya . They were evidently closely connected, though we cannot yet precisely determine how, with the Aryans of the Vedic Age, who were at that time dwelling in the Punjab.

It has been claimed that the word ‘Sindhu’, found in the library of Assurbanipal (668-626 B.C.), is used in the sense of ” Indian cotton,” and the word is said to be much older, belonging in reality to the Akkadian tongue, where it is expressed by ideographs meaning “vegetable cloth ’’ Assurbanipal is known to have been a great cultivator, and to have sent for Indian plants, including the “wool-bearing trees” of India.

At any rate, we know that the cotton trade of western India is of great antiquity The Indians, when the Greeks first came into contact with them, were dressed in “wool grown on trees” In the Rig Veda, Night and Dawn are compared to ” two female weavers.”

We may perhaps trace to this source the Greek, the Arabic ‘satin’ (a covering), and the Hebrew ‘sadin’. Similarly the Hebrew ‘karpas’ and the Greek Kap-aaos are identical with the Sanskrit ‘karpasa’. Logs of Indian teak have been found in the temple of the Moon at Mugheir (the “Ur of the Chaldees”) and inthe palace of Nebuchadnezzar, both belonging to the sixth century B c , and we know that the trade in teak, ebony, sandalwood and black wood, between Barygaza and the Euphrates, was still flourishing in the second century AD 6 In the swampy country at the mouth of the Euphrates, nothing but the cypress grows well.

please also check A Kassite / Mitanni Kudurru Boundary Stone

Mitanni - World History Encyclopedia

Source :

All images are from Internet


Posted by on August 31, 2012 in History, Indian Philosophy


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12 responses to “The Rig Veda and the Gathas-revisited

  1. sreenivasaraos

    March 21, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    dear srinivasrao,

    i must say a very well researched and a thought provoking article. but i think kak has not kept in mind certain aspects of historical & archaeological evidences. it must be understood that river sarasvati disappeared around 4500bc. this river started from har ki doon in uttranchal, ran along the course of modern day ghaghar. it had two major tributaries i.e. river satluj and river yamuna. but you should know that it was not the origional saraswati. the origional saraswati , as per some indologists was river hemland of afghanistan( alp gan sthan–the vedic name)–which even today has a tributary called, ganga. you should also know that rigveda has river sarasvati mentioned 60 times while ganga is only once. it is believed the aryans used to carry the geographic names forward to new locations. there are a number of examples. ayodhya exists in thailand, too. some indian scholars maintain that ramayana was enacted in afghanistan. anyway that is another point. we got to first pinpoint the year of ocurence of mahabharta. most indian scholars insist that it took place around 3100bc. there is another thought which saya that it was around 1950 bc. all western historians and archaeologists insist around 1050 bc and ramayana around 1800-1900 bc. if we correctly date these epics we would we able to know the date of arrival of aryans or otherwise.thanks. regards.


    • sreenivasaraos

      March 21, 2015 at 6:15 pm

      dear kushwaha

      thank you for your comments.

      you said many things in one breath. i will try to digest them in time.

      let me give a background of this post.

      i earlier posted “rig veda and the gathas”.it is still there on sulekha .you may like to view that.
      the issue discussed was “was there a conflict between vedic and avesthan groups? why did they come to view the same set of deties differently?”

      there was some discussion. thereafter , i did some tthinking and tried to look at the issue differently.
      then i wrote the “re visited ” understanding is , there was no conflict/war between two groups and what was at play was the reformist tendency in persia. zarathustra did not change the basic structure , rituals , practices of the then vedic religion in persia. he put ahur mazda at the center of the scheme of things and laid significant stress on the forces of good and evil.

      in this process , i tried to see the mitanni kingdoms , which pre dated zarathustra and said the vedic dieties were respected even in 1300 bc and what happened in persia was a much later development.

      i used mr.kak’s writing to say that following the collapse of the saraswathi civilization the vedic people moved west and that perhaps expains a group of vedic kings in mesopotamia.

      the other issues you raised are too broad . i think we have to discuss them separately.

      thank you for comments.

      please keep in touch.


      (incidentally , did you read my post the miracle that is india. pl let me know.)

  2. sreenivasaraos

    March 21, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    dear srinivasa rao,

    yours is a very informative analysis of a higly debated subject. your views seem to be quite feasible.
    regarding the doubt you have:

    9. “it is not clear what led to the rivalry between two groups and how rival groups perceived the same set of deities differently. it is possible that at some common point of time, the ancestors of both branches worshiped the same set of deities. later, it is possible; each group supported its chosen set of deities, leading to rivalry between the two groups. ”

    i have read somewhere that the first group of immigrants were proud about their fair skin and considered superior race. some married local women and the generations became dark skinned or brown skinned. so there was rivalry as to who was superior. the later vedic people invented many rituals of sacrifice and superiority was claimed on the ritualism rather than colour of skin. one development was yajur veda composition with high stress on rituals.

    so the earlier people were called asuras by the later people calling themselves devas and vice-versa. those old groups who remained in iran the reverse connotation remained.

    this is just an idea. may have to look deeepr.

    • sreenivasaraos

      March 21, 2015 at 6:16 pm

      dear mr. narayan

      thank you for your comments.

      no. i have not heard or read anywhere suggesting that the conflict , if did take place, was along racial lines. i do not subscribe to it either

      as you may have noticed from my post :

      in the older texts, that is, in the rig veda and the avesta, these differences are not the rig veda, theasuraswere the “older gods”, a class of deities without negative connotations,who presided over the moral and social phenomena of the primeval universe; while devas the “younger gods” presided over nature and the environment. in the vedic account of creation, some of the “older gods”(asuras) went over to join the ranks of the “younger gods” (devas). the remaining asuras were exiled to the nether world. while this distinction between asuras and asuras-who-became-devas is preserved in the texts of the rig veda, the later texts employ the term asura to represent allnon-devas or those opposed todevas.

      the rigid classification that came about was a later development.

      zarathushtra did not try to overthrow belief in the older iranian9 vedic) religion, he did however, place ahura mazda at the centre of a kingdom of justice that promised immortality and bliss. he attempted to reform ancient iranian religion on the basis of the then existing social and economic values. the zoroastrian innovations did not change the basic vedic character of the culture in iran . the worship ritual remained unchanged, as was the case with basic conceptions related to divinity and the place of man.


  3. sreenivasaraos

    March 21, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    dear vikram ,

    thank you for digging out an old and a forgotten blog.i look forward to your comments. by the way , i had sometime back written on brighu the priest of the asuras and the son of varuna.he was connected with the developments in the west of the saraswathi. he was the rival of angirasa the priest of the devas. i had misplaced the write-up.your comment reminded me of that note. let me see if i can find it and post it. it may add a little more to the present blog

    the bali – vamana episode is at times explained in the context of brighu- angirasa rivalry. bali (aka indrasena) the son of virochana and the grandson of prahlada was an asura. shukra the son of brighu was his preceptor. baii in the linage of the brighus ruled and controlled vast area called brighu desha or brighu kakshya – the domain of the brighu (brighu kaccha – baruch) that covered the west, the north-west and the south west of the indus. he performed a sacrifice on the southern banks of the narmada situated in brighu kakshya. vamana represents the arrival of angirasas into the kingdom of mahabali. vamana the son of sage kasyapa, in the linage of the angirasa, initially asked the king for a small land for their settlement and the king consented to his request despite warning of his priest the bhargava shukra who seemed to be aware of the designs of the angirasas. the kashyapas, starting from their small settlement, spread throughout the kingdom of mahabali and overthrew him from his kingship. the story of vamana, perhaps, signifies the transfer of power from the asura kings and their brighu priests to the devas and their angirasa priests.

    the brighus were resettled by bhargava rama (in the linage of the brighus) along the western coast and what is now kerala. the resettled brighus carried to their lands the legend of their beloved king mahabali and also the krishna cult.

    even after that, there was still a sizable presence of the asuras- yadus – brighus in the narmada and godavari region. it is said that lavana, a yadu and a disciple of the brighus controlled that region .lavana it is said was related to ravana who perhaps was also a yadu; a militant yadu just as kamsa of mathura in the later era. the followers of lavana (including ravana’s sister) roamed freely in the region. it was from this area that ravana abducted sita.

    [to put things in perspective, briefly,: brighu was the son of varuna ( he wasbhrigu varuni). varuna was the protector of rta the cosmic order and the lord of water principle. the brighus were close to life on seas and rivers. the vast stretch of the mouths of the mighty sarawathi as it branched into number of rivulets as it joined the occasion was the domain of the brighus. it is where they resided and flourished. that is the reason that the present day baruch was known as brighu-kakshya. later they expanded into the western coast and to sri lanka too. on the west they migrated up to iran. brighus were expert physicians, architects, and artists. they were also well versed in metallurgy and astrology. for these reasons they were a very proud people, hot tempered. they loved freedom and independence. they valued freethinking more than the rules. they were the people who brought fire worship and soma into the centre of yajna. there is a frequent reference to their having extracted fire from out of water ( i do not fully understand this. since you are scientist: does it mean anything?). brighus (particularly shukra son of brighu) were the teachers of yadus, anus etc. many of whom were at times classified as asuras. brighus valued wealth and pleasures of life and were therefore labeled materialistic. the panis, the men of trade and commerce in the narmada regions who figure in the vedas too were brighus. atharva veda the main text of the brighus is followed mainly in the west and south western regions of india.

    angirasa were mainly in the foothill regions of the himalayas. the most prominent among the angirasas was brihaspathi, the guru of the devas. the sages that followed in this tradition were bharadwaja, atri, vamadeva and others. they were the priests of the purus who figure mainly in rig veda; and purus are the aryans and the heroes of rig veda. the angirasas were more closely associated with mountains, hills, dales, vast open spaces. they were more attuned to contemplation and pursuit of knowledge (than wealth and pleasure).they adopted the yajna and soma practices from the brighus. the angirasas are described as sons the dawn, givers and singers of the hymn, eternal youths and heroes who wrest the sun, the cows, the horses and all treasures from the grasp of the sons of darkness. the angirasas are heroes and fighters of that battle, gosu yodhaah, ‘fighters for the cows or rays’. they are masters of the rik who articulate their thoughts, svaadhibhir rkvabhih (vi.32.2); they are the sons of heaven, heroes who speak the truth, and think straight. devas, the gods were angirasas. indra is also described as becoming an angirasa or as becoming possessed of the angirasa quality. ‘may he become most angirasa with the angirasas, being the bull with bulls, the friend with friends’. even the buddha is referred, several times, in the vinya pitaka as angirasa. further, gautama was called the buddha, after his lifetime, as the buddha; kasyapa was the adi-buddha.

    asura referred to a virtuous leader in the early stages of rig veda. they were the old gods. asun-ranthi asuraha – one who bestows wealth in life. the conflict between the two traditions was symbolized, in the puranas, by the battles between the devas and asuras. the asuras are vanquished; lakshmi of the sea, daughter of brighu (hence bhargavi) is married to indra (vishnu). (perhaps ramayana too was an extension of deva-asura conflict). both the conflicting groups came from the same parentage .both were the children of kashyapa parajapathi and were two segments of the same society. it was not a clash between two diverse cultures. there was a constant shift between the two classifications..asuras turned into devas and at times devas turned into asuras. the brighu-angirasa and deva – asura deserves a fuller treatment. it is enough here. besides please check my old and forgotten blog rig veda and the gathas –revisited] .the brighu and gathas connection is another long story.]

    you frequently mention about the influence of the south in the harappa region. that perhaps has something to do with a theory of migration, but of another kind. the theme of great floods and relocation into the upper regions occurs in the old texts repeatedly. it is said the sub continent was earlier called ila- vritta and extended to regions south of kanya kumari. some stretches of the land were submerged in the sea. the sangam texts too mention the floods talk of the lost lands and ilam or ilavar.

    the shatapatha brahmana (i.8.1) describes the flood, and the matysa-avatar of vishnu, who rescues the seer manu and his daughter ila. brihadaranyaka upanishad (vi.4.28) calls ila as ‘maitravaruni’ meaning ‘daughter of mitra (sun, vasivasvata) and varuna (waters or floods)’. the puranas confirm this. manu in bhagavata purana (viii.24.13) is a king called satyavrata from the dravida desha who sailed north to avoid the floods. manu in the vedas too is vaivasvata (solar manu), who has the daughter ila.

    the sage agastya very popular in south indian kingdoms was described as a brother of sage vasistha. agastya and vasistha were the sons of mitra and varuna. their surname name was therefore maitravaruni –like ahasthya maithravaruni. the puranas described them as born out of water. they belonged to the brighu clan and technically asuras (so too was krishna of the yadus).

    this argument tries to shows that ila and her ancient land, lay to the south, and the vedic-manu tradition of the aryas was rescued from there, before it flourished on the banks of the saraswati.

    there is also a talk of another migration at a later era. this time it is the migration of the brighus – the yadus from the saraswathi and narmada regions to far south and sri lanka. harappan port cities like lothal or dholavira in gujarat and kutch are in many ways connected with sri lanka.

    i wish i could post a detailed one on brighu_ angirasa and deva _ asura. that surely deserves to be talked at leisure. but, because of my uncertain health, i am posting this in a hurry; have to catch a flight back to india. i hope this rambling comment rekindles your interest to probe further. please keep talking.

    with warm regards

    • sreenivasaraos

      March 21, 2015 at 6:19 pm

      dear sir,

      thank you very much for the very crisp and detailed knowledge which you have imparted here. even though being trained as a career scientist, im sure that very few can parallel the abilities of our rhishis.

      in fact the very fundamental of the computer science, which is called as turing test today is nothing but the panni’s grammar. many people think that the material consisted in vedas are just metaphors. but technology beyond time and comprehension is called as miracle is my firm belief.

      the graphic details of the human anatomy given in garuda purana, viz. the number of bones, internal organs, etc. are more accurate than the oriental sciences. but somehow we have lost that treasure trove somewhere.

      when most of the scientists are debating whether or not there is physical life in any other planets, yogavasista gives a graphic details of this. in one of the conversations between vasista and rama, the guru brings about the innner details of the different life forms.

      mathematical equations are not inventions. they are exactly the ones which describe the way in which the nature behaves. they were rediscovered when someone was able to understand them by reason and logic.

      please keep posting and lets continue this interaction.

      kind regards

  4. sreenivasaraos

    March 21, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    Sreenivasarao Sb,

    Vedas talk about the Rivers Sindhu and Saraswati. Researchers say that Vedic people are rural [pastoral] and were probably using a precursor [unrefined] language of Sanskrit [a refined Indo European language]. We know the Harappan civilization thrived on the banks of Rivers Sindhu and Saraswati. But Harappans are Urbanites and probably were Dravidians [as indicated by burial system and talis found there etc.]. Agriculture started there between 10000 to 8000 BC. Harappa disappeared around 2000 to 1900 BC. It is evident that people from different parts [Europe, Iran, Central Asia, Egypt and Arabs whom we may call Aryans] of the world were living and participating in the development of Harappan culture. If different people live together in one region for around 6000 years inter mingling is obvious.

    I suggest from your comment that Bhrigus [Asuras] are the Urbanites [Knowing civil, metallurgical and mechanical engineering along with Agriculture and irrigation], Agirasas [Suras or Devas] are pastoral [having cows, horses and to some extant nomadic knowing the polar region] and both having the same Indo Aryan origin/influence.

    If we go by my suggestion the puzzle of Harappa stands resolved. The original urbanite Harappans are lead by Bhrigus [Asuras] who were defeated by Angirasas [Suras or Devas] over long periods causing the ultimate destruction of Harappan culture during 1900 BC by the defeat of Ravanasura who might be the last priest king [a Brahmin ruler]. It is apparent that the positions of Priest [Brahman] and the King [Rajanya or Rajan] were separated after the fall of Ravana [ref. Purusha suktam of Rig Veda].

    Harappan culture could not be revived [though tried for revival for 200 years] and the people migrated to the Present day Sri Lanka [via sea route], Kerala [along the river Godavari via Tamil Nadu], and Iran, Syria, Iraq and some towards the banks of Ganga River [the Mahabharata period starts around 1700 BC].

    Sir, is my argument consistent?

    Sir, I pray for your health.


    DMR Sekhar.

  5. sreenivasaraos

    March 21, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    Dear Sreenivasa rao sir

    Thanks for reviving discussions on this blog from 6-yrs ago! I must have missed it in ’07.
    It mentions my lineage (Angeerasa-Brihaspati-Bharadwaja) quite a bit, thanks for same- I’m learning a lot.

    My father used to also mention “Ashvalayana Sutra” in conjunction with my/our “Pravara” during morning prayer time. What does that “Sutra” signify? Is it some specific ritual practice?

    Suresh Rao

    • sreenivasaraos

      March 21, 2015 at 6:24 pm

      Dear Shri Suresh Rao, Thank you for the response and providing me an opportunity to re-visit Sulekha as also to talk about Sutras.

      The Sutras in the Vedic context have a special importance and associations of its own. The term, here, does not mean highly compressed indicators/ pointers to passages in Vedic or Upanishad texts, nor does it mean a discourse as in the Buddhist texts.

      There are six Angas or explanatory limbs, to the Vedas: the Shiksha and Vyakarana of Panini;the Chhandasi of Pingalacharya; the Nirukta of Yaska; the Jyotisha of Garga ; and the Kalpas (Srauta, Grihya, Dharma and Sulba) belonging to the authorship of various Rishis.

      In the last stage of the Vedic period and also during the period immediately following it, there came into being a distinct type of literature known as Sutras which treated a large number of subjects connected with the Vedas. The Sutra period is estimated by western scholars as between 800 and 200 BCE. The Indian scholars assign a greater antiquity.

      Kalpa sutras which are based in Smrti tradition deal with the rules and methods of performing Yajnas. The subject matter of the Kalpa Sutras is generally divided into three or four divisions: Srauta, Grihya and Dharma. And when it is divided into four divisions the Sulbha sutra which deals with the measurement and construction of the altar (yajna vedi), chitis (mounds) and Kamya agnis (fire places) are rendered separately. Sulbha sutras are the oldest geometrical treaties which represent in coded form the much older and traditional Indian mathematics. The root ‘sulb’ means to measure or to mete out.

      To put it simply: Kalpa is the method of ritual. The Srauta Sutras which explain the ritual of Yajnas belong to Kalpa. The Srauta is a manual for the benefit of a class of priests designated Hotri or Hotar who invoke gods and perform Yajnas. The Sulba Sutras describe the measurements which are necessary for laying out the sacrificial areas. The Grihya Sutras concern with domestic life (the ceremonies from Garbhaadhaana to Upanayana,, the duties of the three casts (Traivarnika) as Brahmachari and Grihastha, the duties of a teacher, of a pupil, the marriage customs, the Panchamahaayajna, funeral ceremonies and so many other things that are to be performed by a Grihastha etc ). And, the Dharma Sutras which deal with ethics, customs and laws, also belong to Kalpa.

      Among the Kalpa Sutras, the Asvalayana, Sankhyana and the Sambhavya belong to the Rig-Veda. The Mashaka, Latyayana, Drahyayana, Gobhila and Khadirai belong to the Sama-Veda. The Katyayana and Paraskarai belong to the Sukla Yajur-Veda. The Apastamba, Hiranyakesi, Bodhayana, Bharadvja, Manava, Vaikhanasa and the Kathaka belong to the Krishna Yajur-Veda. The Vaitana and the Kaushika belong to the Atharva-Veda.

      As regards Asvalayana, there is an interesting story. Asvalayana was the disciple of Sage Saunaka. He is dated by western scholars prior to 5th century BCE. The pupil learnt everything that his teacher taught him on the texts related with Rig-Veda: Sakala Samhita, Bhaskala Samhita , 21 Brahmanas and other supplementary texts. Thereafter, Asvalayana prepared a compendium of his own based on what he learnt. The teacher was so mightily impressed by his pupil’s work that he destroyed his own text and instructed the other students of his Vedic Shakha to follow, hereafter, the compendium, the Sutra of Asvalayana. It is said; Asvalayana ‘s works are spread over 12 Adhyayas of Srauta Sutra, 4 Adhyayas of Grihya Sutra, 22 chapters on Dharma Sutras and the 4th Kanda (chapter ) of Aitareya Aranyaka .

      A group or a community of people who study a particular Shakha in its entirety (Samhita + Brahmana + Aranyaka + Kalpasutra + any additional texts) and perform its ritual constitute a ‘charana’. For instance, those who study the Taittiriya Samhita/Brahmana/Aranyaka together with the Kalpasutra of Apastamba say – “I follow the Apastamba charana’.

      Similarly, those who follow the Kalpasutra (Shrautasutra + Grhyasutra) of Asvalayana are of Asvalayana –charana. Of the 21 0r 27 Shakhas of Rig-Veda Asvalayana is one of the Shakhas.

      For more on Asvalayana Grihya Sutra, please check the link

      Thank you for asking


  6. sreenivasaraos

    March 21, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    Dear Rao,
    I found this extremely interesting and appealing to the mind.. Fixing a time frame for any event in prehistoric times becomes extremely difficult – irrespective of time they are created the universal messages that are available to us in Vedas and other ancient scriptures is amazing , awesome to say the least.
    Thank you Sir for enlightening us. God bless.


    • sreenivasaraos

      March 21, 2015 at 6:30 pm

      Dear Shri Ravi, Good Morning. I am happy and amused that a seven year old, long forgotten blog is getting some attention.

      Yes as you said: “Fixing a time frame for any event in prehistoric times becomes extremely difficult”. But, amidst these uncertainties there seems to be a reference point. That is, the drying up of the legendary River Sarasvathi. During the long interval of time between the age Rig-Veda which sings in ecstasy the glory of the mighty Sarasvathi and the great war of Mahabharata when the old and weak Sarasvathi was drying up and crawling in patches many waves of migrations took place towards the lands lying to the West and East of Indus valley. The migrations of the Vedic tribes towards the Sumerian regions might have taken place during centuries when Sarasvathi was weakening.

      Let me elaborate a bit.

      The Sarasvathi is praised highly in the Rig-Veda as the best of all rivers, the best mother and the best goddess (ámbitame nádītame dévitame sárasvati). During the heydays of Rig-Veda the Sarasvathi was, obviously, a full flowing mighty river which kept alive and sustained a whole civilization; and, supported inland and marine trade and travel. It is likely; the river flowed in strength, possibly, up to and beyond the little Rann

      But, by the time of the Mahabharata, the Sarasvathi had grown much weaker. Let’s look at the references to the Sarasvathi in the Mahabharata.

      — Sarasvathi was to the north of kurukshetra where the war took place. (3.81.115),

      – During the Mahabharata period the river Sarasvathi was drying up; and, she is described as a “disappearing river”.

      – In Vana parva, the Sage Lomasha remarks that the Sarasvathi goes underground at Vinasana and remerges at Chamshodbheda. (Section cxxx of KM Ganguly’s translation).

      –in Bhishma parva, Sanjay the narrator of the war informs Dhritarashtra the blind king “as regards the Sarasvathi, in some parts (of her course) she becomes visible and in some parts not so”. (Section VI)

      — Balarama, Krishna’s brother, sent on tour (or detour) during the war and visited a number of holy places. During his tour, Balarama visited Vinasana, the place where the Sarasvathi disappears in the desert. He remarked Sarasvathi was drying up and at certain places one could wade through it (Mbh. 3.80.118; 9.36.1; 3.130.4).

      – Mahabharata also states that the Sarasvathi, after having disappeared in the desert, reappears in some places. (Mbh. 3.80.118).

      – Mahabharata also states Sarasvathi disappears in the sands at Vinasana and not into the sea.

      It is therefore apparent that at the time of Mahabharata the Sarasvathi was growing weaker but she was still there, ebbing away rather intermittently.

      A Geological Survey paper produced on the basis of water-table fluctuations and radiocarbon estimates states that for a full 2000 years (between 6000 and 4000 BCE), Sarasvathi flowed as a great river before it was obliterated in a short span of geological time through a combination of destructive natural events. It is estimated that the Sarasvathi dried up during a period of few centuries between 2000 and 1800 BCE; and, valley was abandoned during this period. [Please check for details:

      Based on these, the scholars surmise that the Rig-Veda was composed when the Sarasvathi was in full-low say, at least, before 3000 BCE; and, the Mahabharata event-period was around 2500 to 2000 BCE.

      The westward movement of the Indian warrior kings and establishment of their kingdoms of Mitanni and others (in regions of the present-day Syria) is estimated to have taken place around 1800 BCE when the once-mighty Sarasvathi was waning. That again is a broad estimate.

      Thanks for the observation.


  7. sreenivasaraos

    March 21, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    I have these 2 questions may be you can write a new blog on this.

    1 ) If Saraswathi is in full flow in Rig Veda times – it only proves Vedic times were much before Maha Bharat times. What other internal evidences ( I mean texts) or any other factors that fix Rig Veda times to 6000 to 4000 BC. ?

    2 ) Is the language of Vedas is different Sanskrit ? It was only carried on by verbal chants for many thousand years. Is special study required to decipher them. Can they be written in modern Sanskrit which is already very old.

    Languages evolve and grammar follows as in the case of Tamil. The very ancient texts available in Tamil belong to 3rd Sangam period – fully developed great poetic language in written texts in palm leaves produced around 500 BC to 100 AD. But they do mention about earlier Sangam periods 1 and 2 destroyed by the sea.

    Regards, NKR


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