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’.
VII. Appendix 2: The Evidence of Animal and Plant Names
In the linguistic debate on the subject of the Proto-Indo-European Homeland, the discussion of flora and fauna holds a special position. As Mallory and Adams put it: “generally, those concerned with locating the Indo-European homeland through its lexicon tend to employ the evidence of its reconstructed fauna […] and flora” (MALLORY-ADAMS:2006:131).
We will examine the different aspects of this evidence as follows:
A. Temperate vs. Tropical Flora and Fauna
B. Eastern vs. Western Flora and Fauna Within the Rigveda and Vedic texts
C. PIE Flora and Fauna of the North-west and Beyond
D. The Evidence of Soma
E. The Evidence of Honey
F. The Evidence of Wine and Aurochs
G. The Evidence of the Horse
H. The Evidence of the Cow
[It must be noted that all this evidence is given in full detail in my article “The Elephant and the Proto-Indo-European Homeland“. Here we only see a short basic summary of the evidence – as short as possible].
A. Temperate vs. Tropical Flora and Fauna:
Temperate Flora and Fauna:
It is generally argued that the evidence of the animal and plant names shows a homeland in the Steppe areas far outside India, since the different IE branches have common names for animals and trees of the “temperate” regions but not of tropical or semi-tropical areas like India.
Michael Witzel, for example, tells us: “Generally, the PIE plants and animals are those of the temperate climate” (WITZEL 2005:372), and that in the Rigveda “words such as those for ‘wolf’ and ‘snow’ rather indicate linguistic memories of a colder climate” (WITZEL 2005:373).
Witzel further argues that “we do not find any typical Old Indian words beyond South Asia, neither in the closely related Old Iranian, nor in Eastern or Western IE […] In an OIT scenario, one would expect ‘emigrant’ Indian words such as those for lion, tiger, elephant, leopard, lotus, bamboo, or some local Indian trees, even if some of them would have been preserved, not for the original item, but for a similar one (e.g. English [red] squirrel > North American [gray] squirrel)” (WITZEL 2005:364-365). He reiterates this argument later: “the search for Indian plant names in the west, such as lotus, bamboo, Indian trees (aśvattha, bilva, jambu, etc.), comes up with nothing. Such names are simply not to be found, also not in a new meaning” (WITZEL 2005:373).
This is in total disregard of the fact that most languages generally only preserve the names for animals and trees found in their territory and not for those found in other territories. In short, no Indo-Aryan language has a name for an animal or plant found in the Steppes of South Russia and not found in India, and, to paraphrase Witzel above: “the search for Steppe plant names in India also comes up with nothing. Such names are simply not to be found, also not in a new meaning“.
About the wolf and snow: the fact is that the wolf is as much a native of the major part of India as of Steppe areas with cold climates. When Rudyard Kipling wrote the Jungle Book, featuring a boy called Mowgli raised in the jungle by wolves, he was talking about an Indian boy raised in an Indian jungle by Indian wolves: although Kipling actually was from Britain, the wolves in his story did not represent “linguistic memories” of British wolves.
And “snow” is found in India as much as in the western areas. As per the Encyclopaedia Britannica, India has “the largest area, outside of the Polar regions, under permanent ice and snow“: the Himalayas. And snow is not a “linguistic memory” of the past in the Rigveda: it is mentioned in the Rigveda only once or twice in the New Books, after the Vedic Aryans expanded westwards past the Punjab into Afghanistan and the northwestern Himalayas from their Haryana homeland: The word hima, in 10 verses in the Rigveda (I.34.1; 64.14; 116.8; 119.6; II.33.2; V.54.15; VI.48.8; VIII.73.3; X.37.10; 68.10), means “winter” (and winter is also not a “linguistic memory”: it is a season occuring in every corner of India, and eg. the derived Marathi word for “winter” is hivāḷā. Further, far from depicting “memories” of a cold climate, in 4 of the references, the verses talk about the Indian winter offering relief from the burning heat of the Indian summer. Notably the only reference in the three Oldest Books, VI.48.8 above, is in a Redacted Hymn), and it is only in a very late reference in X.121.4 (a reference to the snow-covered mountains of the Himalayas or the northwest) that it means “snow“, and in another reference in a New Book, in VIII.32.26, it could possibly refer to a weapon made of ice.
Note the multiple fraud in Witzel’s argument:
1. Witzel argues that the absence of names of Indian flora and fauna in IE languages outside India disproves an Indian Homeland (which, as we will see presently, is not strictly factual since names for many typical Indian animals like the elephant, tiger leopard, lion, ape, etc. are found outside India). But he clearly knows why the logic behind his argument (even if it is accepted as factual) is fake, since, shortly afterwards, he rejects the counter-argument that the names of “most of the IE plants and animals are not found in India” by arguing that this is because their names “have simply not been used any longer and have died out” (WITZEL 2005:374). So clearly, to paraphrase his own words, if “most of the Indian plants and animals are not found in Iran or Europe” it is only because their names “have simply not been used any longer and have died out“!
2. To compound his fake argument with a lie, he further argues that “The hypothetical emigrants from the subcontinent would have taken with them a host of ‘Indian’ words ― as the gypsies (Roma, Sinti) indeed have done.” (WITZEL 2005:364-365). But he does not give the gypsy (Roma, Sinti) words for typical Indian flora and fauna (demanded by him for the languages of Europe and Iran) “such as lotus, bamboo, Indian trees (aśvattha, bilva, jambu, etc.)” or “such as those for lion, tiger, elephant, leopard, lotus, bamboo, or some local Indian trees, even if some of them would have been preserved, not for the original item, but for a similar one“, since he is aware that in actual fact these names are “simply not to be found, also not in a new meaning” in these languages as well! Instead, clearly fully conscious of the fact that he is lying, he tries to substantiate his claim with ludicrous examples: “The Gypsies, after all, have kept a large IA vocabulary alive, over the past 1000 years or so, during their wanderings all over the Near East, North Africa and Europe (e.g. phral ‘brother’, pani ‘water’, karal ‘he does’)” (WITZEL 2005:366)! The gypsies migrated from deeper inside India just over a thousand years ago, and their language, Romany, is an Indo-Aryan language. If even Romany does not preserve these words, isn’t it fraudulent to insist as an argument that languages from the other 11 branches of IE languages, migrating thousands of years ago from the outer northwestern parts of India, should have preserved those words?
Therefore, generally, it would not be possible to locate the Indo-European homeland on the basis of an analysis of names of fauna and flora, since each group of speakers of Indo-European languages would only preserve names for animals and plants found in their actual historical habitats and not for those found in some ancient long-forgotten homeland.
Indo-Aryan has common IE names for animals and plants of the temperate areas (the wolf, bear, lynx, fox/jackal, deer/elk, bull, cow, hare, squirrel, otter, beaver, mouse, duck/swan, dog, cat, horse, bull/cow, goat, sheep, pig, etc.) because all these animals are found in India, or, where they (and their names) are not found within India, they are found in areas to the immediate north-west of India within the Indian cultural sphere, which, in any OIT scenario, would form a part of the secondary homeland which the other branches would have to inhabit and pass through in their movement out from India.
Note also the following: Dyens talks about “some clues regarding where the Proto-Indo-European languages had been spoken: the Indo-European languages and words for certain flora and fauna (bears and beech trees are well-known examples). By plotting on a map the natural environment of these diagnostic flora and fauna, philologists established that the Indo-European Homeland was a fairly primitive place in the temperate zone” (DYENS 1988:4).
In the particular example quoted above, for example, the reference to “bears and beech trees” as being typical examples of the flora and fauna which establish the Homeland in the “temperate zone” illustrates the circularity and fraud behind the arguments:
1. Beech trees are found only in Europe, and the so-called PIE word for the beech tree is also found only in Europe! The cognate words for “beech”, from the reconstructed PIE form *bhaHk’o-, are found only in the five European branches (Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic, Slavic), and even among them, the Baltic and Slavic forms seem to be borrowed from Germanic (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:534). Greek and Albanian have different words for “beech”, and the forms which seem to be derived from *bhaHk’o– mean “oak”. The word is totally missing in all the Asiatic branches: Anatolian, Tocharian, Armenian, Iranian and Indo-Aryan. And yet, a “beech argument” is being discussed since over a century, claiming that a common proto-form for “beech” proves a “temperate zone” European Homeland!
2. Bears are treated as indicators of a “temperate zone” Homeland in the Steppes. In actual fact:
a) There are eight species of bear in the world. Three of them are restricted to places outside the historical IE areas: ursus americanus (the American black bear, to North America), tremarctos ornatus (the spectacled bear, to South America) and ailuropoda melanoleuca (the panda bear, to Tibet and China – actually to the north of India). A fourth species, ursus maritimus (the polar bear) is restricted to the arctic areas, but this does include Scandinavia. One species, ursus arctos (the old world brown bear) is found all over the historical IE world (including Europe, the Steppes of South Russia, Anatolia, and India). The three other bears, ursus thibetanus (the Himalayan black bear), helarctos malayanus (the Malayan sun bear), and melursus ursinus (the sloth bear) are all found in parts of India: the third, in fact, only in India (and Sri Lanka). So India has four species of bears, and the “temperate zone” Steppe region has only one!
b) Further, the common PIE root *h2ṛetk– from which the common words for bear are derived (PIE *h2ṛtkos-, Vedic ṛkṣa-, Avestan arəšə-, Greek arktos, Latin ursus, Old Irish art, Armenian ar, Hittite hartagga) “is otherwise seen only in Skt. rakṣas- ‘destruction, damage, night demon’” (MALLORY-ADAMS 2006:138) but nowhere in the other eleven branches!
Tropical, Semi-Tropical or Indian Flora and Fauna:
But ironically, and unfortunately for all these polemicists, there are certain animals in the reconstructed names of Proto-Indo-European fauna which are found in India but not in the Steppes, and which point unmistakably to an Indian rather than a South Russian Steppe (or even Anatolian) homeland: the tiger, lion, leopard, ape and elephant. Discussions on the reconstructed fauna and its implications usually ignore these names, or argue against them:
The tiger: *wy(H)āghras, is found in three branches: Indo-Aryan vyāghra-, Iranian (Persian) babr, and Armenian vagr (borrowed into the non-Indo-European Caucasian Georgian language as vigr).
The lion: *sinĝhos, is found in two branches: Indo-Aryan siṁha-, and Armenian inj (with a transfer of name to the leopard).
The leopard: *perd, is found in four branches: Indo-Aryan pṛdāku, Greek pardos/pardalis, Iranian Persian fars-, and Anatolian (Hittite) paršana.
The monkey: *qhe/oph, is found in four branches: with the initial *qhe in Indo-Aryan kapí– and Greek kēpos, and without it in Germanic (e.g. Old Icelandic) api and Slavic (e.g. Old Russian) opica.
And most important of all:
The elephant: *leHbho-nth– or *ḷHbho-nth– is found directly in at least four branches: Indo-Aryan íbha-, Greek eléphas (Mycenean Greek erepa), Italic (Latin) ebur, and Hittite laḫpa– (all with alternate meaning, or a word transfer to, “ivory”). With a transfer of meaning to “camel”, it is found in two more branches: Germanic (e.g. Gothic) ulbandus, and Slavic (e.g. Old Church Slavic) velibodŭ.
These reconstructed PIE animal names go against the establishment theory that the environment depicted by the reconstructed PIE fauna is that of the cold or temperate areas of the north. Hence most AIT supporters (including the staunch but racist-casteist Hindus) fraudulently ignore these names in their discussions and wax eloquent on the reconstructed names of animals (and trees) found in the temperate areas, but also found in India!
But most important of all is the name of the elephant:
1. The word is found distributed over the entire spectrum of Indo-European languages: it is found (a) in both Asia and Europe, (b) in both the south-easternmost branch (Indo-Aryan) as well as the north-westernmost one (Germanic), (c) in all the oldest recorded Indo-European languages: in “the earliest attested Indo-European languages, i.e. Hittite, Mycenaean Greek and Indo-Aryan” (MALLORY-ADAMS 2006:99), as well as in the oldest attested European branch languages in every part of Europe: the south (Latin), north (Gothic), and east (Old Church Slavic).
As per Mallory and Adams, the criterion for determining a word to be definitely Proto-Indo-European is “if there are cognates between Anatolian and any [one] other Indo-European language“, to which they add: “This rule will not please everyone, but it will be applied here” (MALLORY-ADAMS 2006:109-110): here there are cognates for the elephant in Anatolian (Hittite) and five other branches!
2. Unlike the other animals named above, the elephant is found in only one of the historical Indo-European habitats: that of Indo-Aryan. There are two distinct species of elephants: the Indian elephant (elaphas maximus), found in India and in areas to its east (i.e. southeast Asia), and the African elephant (loxodonta africana), found in sub-Saharan Africa, in both cases far from the historical habitats of all the other branches of IE languages other than Indo-Aryan.
The above facts about the PIE elephant, in conjunction with the names of the four other animals named above (and see later the evidence of other animal names), constitute clinching evidence for the Indian homeland theory as opposed to the Steppe (South Russian) homeland theory; but it is testimony to the motivated nature of the discussion on the subject of the PIE homeland that the evidence of the elephant in the Rigveda is just “the elephant in the living room” for most scholars, who write as if they don’t know it exists.
The desperate attempts of the scholars to stonewall the evidence of the elephant, and the untenability of those attempts, have been dealt with in full detail in my article “The Elephant and the Proto-Indo-European Homeland“, and in the same article I have also detailed the extreme antiquity and prevalence of the elephant culture in the hymns of the Rigveda.
The elephant is found in the Rigveda, in both the Old and New Books, already with three distinct names: íbha-, vāraṇá, and hastín. [Later on there are many more: gaja, mātaṅga, kuñjara, dantī, nāga, karī, etc. In the Rigveda itself, Griffith and Wilson translate two more words as “elephant”: apsah in VIII.45.56 and sṛṇí in X.106.6].
It is clearly a very familiar animal fully integral to the traditional culture and environment of the Vedic people: IV.16.14 compares Indra’s might to that of a mighty elephant, and at least three verses (I.64.7; 140.2; VIII.33.8) refer to a wild elephant crashing its way through the forests and bushes: in the third reference the elephant is “rushing on this way and that way, mad with heat” (GRIFFITH). X.40.4 refers to hunters following two wild elephants. I.84.17 refers to household elephants as part of the possessions of a wealthy householder, IV.4.1 refers to royal elephants as part of the entourage of a mighty king, and IX.57.3 refers to a ceremonial elephant being decked up by the people. VI.20.8 refers to battle elephants, or, at least to elephants in the course of the description of a battle.
The importance of elephants and ivory in the Rigvedic culture and economy (see the above article “The Elephant and the Proto-Indo-European Homeland” for details) encompasses other Rigvedic words like tugra, bhujyu, ibhya, vetasu, daśoṇi, ṛbhu, etc.
Most significantly, the etymology of the common name for elephant/ivory speaks volumes: the reconstructed PIE form is *lebh/*ḷbhonth-. This is the Sanskrit root √ṛabh-/√labh-.
In an Indian homeland hypothesis, the elephant would be a very important animal not just from around the period of the separation and migration of the Indo-European dialects, but from long before that. The word would therefore not be just an old Rigvedic word (as its distribution in the texts shows it to be) but a very much pre-Rigvedic (and pre-PIE) word. That this is so is proved by the fact that the word ibha– has no known etymological derivation: Pāṇini does not give the etymological derivation of the word, and its meaning is given in his Uṇādi-Sūtra-s (which lists words not derived by him from verbal roots) as hastī “elephant”. Usually this would be taken (in an AIT scenario) as a word borrowed by incoming “Aryan invaders” from some local language, but in this case (apart from the fact that it has cognates in other IE branches) the word is not found in any non-IE Indian language.
Therefore, in this case, the only option is that ibha– is that rare type of Vedic word: a word so old that it has already undergone a process of Prakritization in the Rigveda. The logical pre-Prakritization form of ibha– would be *ṛbha-. As the more regularly settled meaning of *ṛbha– was “tusk, ivory” (as it is in Hittite laḫpa-, Latin ebur, Myc. Greek erepa, and one of the two meanings of Greek elephas and Rigvedic ibha-, the other meaning being “elephant” itself) the suffix in Greek elephantas and the Germanic words (ulbandus-, etc., and the related Slavic words) would be explained by the suffix –vanta: *ṛbha–vanta would be “tusker”.
In the Rigveda, we have a related word: ṛbhu-, which refers to a race of semi-divine artisans (identified etymologically and mythologically with the elf of Germanic mythology and folklore). As per Macdonell, the word ṛbhu– comes “from the root rabh, to grasp, thus means ‘handy’, ‘dexterous’” (MACDONELL 1897:133). The root (due to r/l alternation in the Vedic language) has two forms in the Rigveda, √rabh and √labh, both meaning the same thing: √rabh: “to take hold of, grasp, clasp, embrace” (MONIER-WILLIAMS 1899:867) and √labh: “to take, seize, catch” (MONIER-WILLIAMS 1899:896). [A regular epithet of the ṛbhu-s is su-hastah “deft-handed” (IV.33.8; 35.3,9; V.42.12; VII.35.12; X.66.10)].
The word ibha– ~ *ṛbha– is thus also derived from the root √rabh,√labh: in this case, we have an advantage over Pāṇini as we also have the modern comparative evidence of the word as found in other IE languages. This not only explains the Vedic etymology of the word ibha-, it also explains the PIE etymology: i.e. the l-element in the Greek and Hittite versions (and the reconstructed PIE form *lebh-). [Note that ibha, also derived from the meaning “handy, dexterous”, thus actually has the same sense as the later word hastin. This is ironic since the very transparent descriptive etymology of hastin has often been used as a rather pedestrian argument for it being a “new” word coined by “invading Aryans” for a “new” animal encountered by them in India].
The ancient importance of ivory-trading in India explains the dual meaning of ibha– in the Rigveda: ibha– “elephant/ivory” (*ṛbha– from √rabh,√labh), ibhya “rich” (rabhya, labhya): the root √labh is, in later times, regularly associated with profit, wealth and riches, and the Goddess of wealth, Lakṣmī, is regularly depicted surrounded by elephants (and even bears the names lābha–lakṣmī and gaja–lakṣmī).
The word ṛbhu is likewise “said […] also of property or wealth, RV.iv,37,5; viii,93,34” (MONIER-WILLIAMS 1899:226), and is translated as “wealth” in the two verses (IV.37.5; VIII.93.34) by, e.g., Wilson and Griffith.
In short, the elephant alone by itself constitutes absolutely conclusive evidence for the OIT or Indian Homeland Theory.
B. Eastern vs. Western Flora and Fauna Within the Rigveda and Vedic texts:
A look at some important Rigvedic fauna of the Old Books vis-a-vis the New Books is very enlightening:
First of all, take the following eastern animals which are native to the eastern interior areas of India but not native to the north-west (i.e. Afghanistan and beyond): the elephant (ibha-, vāraṇa, hastin), the Indian bison (gaura), the peacock (mayūra), the buffalo (mahiṣa) and the spotted deer or chital (pṛṣatī/pṛṣadaśva).
References to these eastern or Indian animals are found in every single book and period of the Rigveda. :
1. Old Hymns in Old Books 2,3,4,6,7: 16 Hymns, 17 verses.
2. Redacted Hymns in Books 2,3,4,6,7: 2 Hymns, 3 verses.
3. New Hymns in New Books 1,5,8,9,10: 56 Hymns, 63 verses.
VI.8.4; 17.11; 20.8.
VII.40.3; 44.5; 69.6; 98.1.
IV.4.1; 16.14; 18.11; 21.8.
II.22.1; 34.3,4; 36.2.
V.42.15; 55.6; 57.3; 58.6; 60.2; 78.2.
I.16.5; 37.2; 39.6; 64.7,8; 84.17; 85.4,5; 87.4; 89.7; 95.9; 121.2; 140.2; 141.3; 186.8; 191.14.
VIII.1.25; 4.3; 7.28; 12.8; 33.8; 35.7; 45.24; 69.15; 77.10; 87.1,4.
IX.33.1; 57.3; 69.3; 73.2; 82.3; 86.25,40; 87.7; 92.6; 95.4; 96.6,18,19; 97.41,57; 113.3.
X.5.2; 8.1; 28.10; 40.4; 45.3; 49.4; 51.6; 54.4; 60.3; 65.8; 106.2; 128.8; 140.6; 189.2.
There are the western animals found only to the north-west of India (Kashmir and areas to its west, the NWFP and Afghanistan), at least in the context of Rigvedic geography (for that matter, wild mountain goats are found in the eastern Himalayas, and the Nilgiri Tahr is found as far south as in the Nilgiri hills of Tamilnadu; and wild boars are also found in the south and east): the mountain goat (chāga), the sheep (meṣa) and lamb (urā), the Bactrian camel (uṣṭra), the Afghan horse (mathra), and the wild boar (varāha). Most of the names of these north-western animals, unlike the names of the eastern animals that we just saw above, are found in the Avesta as well: maēša (sheep), ura (lamb), uštra (camel) and varāza (boar).
The western animals are found mentioned only in the New Books – and are even missing in the oldest of these, the Family Book 5 – and therefore clearly represent animals of the north-west which were unfamiliar to the Vedic Aryans until they moved out into the north-west from their original areas in the east:
1. Old Hymns in Old Books 2,3,4,6,7: 0 Hymns, 0 verses.
2. Redacted Hymns in Books 2,3,4,6,7: 0 Hymns, 0 verses.
3. New Hymns in New Books 1,5,8,9,10: 33 Hymns, 35 verses.
I. 29.5; 43.6; 51.1; 52.1; 61.7; 88.5; 114.5; 116.16; 117.17,18; 121.11; 138.2; 162.3.
VIII. 2.40; 5.37; 6.48; 34.3; 46.22,23; 56.3; 66.8; 77.10; 85.7; 97.12.
IX. 8.5; 86.47; 97.7; 107.11.
X. 27.17; 28.4; 67.7; 86.4; 91.14; 99.6; 106.5.
As we go deeper into the matter, the western domesticated ass (gardabha, rāsabha) and the boar (sūkara) are found as follows – only in the Redacted Hymns and New Books, but missing in the Old Books [Note Avestan hūkara, Tocharian kercapo. The Avestan name for the ass (xara) is found only later in the Sutras (khara)]:
I. 34.9; 116.2; 162.21;
While sheep were not familiar to the Vedic Aryans in the east, they were acquainted with wool which was imported from the west, alongwith soma which was filtered through it. The acquaintance increased as they expanded westwards. The following is the distribution of the regular PIE word ávi-, with the meaning “sheep”, in the Rigveda, the word ávi-, and its derived words ávya-, ávyaya-, and avyáya-, all signifying “woollen filters” (for filtering the Soma juice), and the regular PIE word for “wool” (with cognates in most of the IE branches), ūrṇa-/ūrṇā-.
The words are missing in the Old Hymns in the three Oldest Books 6,3,7, and found only in the Middle old Books 4,2, the Redacted Hymns, and the New Books:
IV. 2.5; 22.2.
V. 5.4; 52.9; 61.5.
I. 126.7; I.135.6.
VIII. 2.2; 56.3; 97.2.
IX. 6.1,5; 7.6; 12.4; 13.1,6; 16.6,8; 20.1; 28.1; 36.4; 37.3; 38.1; 45.5; 49.4; 50.2,3; 52.2; 61.17; 62.8; 63.10,19; 64.5,25; 66.9,11,28; 67.4,5,20; 68.7; 69.34,9; 70.7,8; 74.9; 75.4; 78.1; 82.1; 85.5; 86.3,8,11,13,25,31,34,48; 91.1,2; 92.4; 96.13; 97.3,4,12,16,19,31,40,56; 98.2,3; 99.5; 100.4; 101.16; 103.2,3; 106.10,11; 107.2,10,17,22,68; 108.5; 109.7,16; 110.10.
X. 18.10; 26.6; 75.8; 90.10.
OTHER INDIAN FAUNA:
Meanwhile, it may be noted there are many other purely native Indo-Aryan (i.e. IE) names for many purely, though not exclusively eastern, Indian animals in the Rigveda:
śiṁśumāra (Gangetic or river dolphin)
These are found distributed all over the Rigveda:
I. 64.8; 95.5; 116.18; 174.3.
III. 2.11; 9.4; 26.5.
V. 74.4; 83.3.
IX. 89.3; 97.28.
X. 28.4,10; 67.9; 73.3; 95.15.
There are also some animal names which are not found within the hymns of the Rigveda, but appear only in or as personal names of particular persons rather than in references to the animals themselves (though they refer to the animals themselves in the Yajurveda and Atharvaveda):
Other such Indian animals with purely Indo-Aryan names, which do not appear in any reference in the Rigveda, are mentioned in the Yajurveda and Atharvaveda:
jatū (bat), etc.
Note: it is not intended to provide here a list of all animals named in the Rigveda: this would include the names for many of the animals common to India as well as Europe: the wolf, bear, lynx, fox/jackal, deer/elk, bull, cow, hare, squirrel, mouse, duck/swan, dog, cat, horse, mule, bull/cow, snake, fishes, various birds and insects, etc., some of which can have multiple names in the Rigveda and the other Samhitas (e.g “deer”/ “antelope”: ruru, eṇi, ṛśya, hariṇa, etc.). Generally, we will only discuss animal names relevant to the AIT/OIT debate. But the following Indo-Aryan names of some birds, in the Rigveda (where specified) or at least in the Yajurveda and Atharvaveda, may be noted:
cakravāka (brahminy duck. II.39.3)
ulūka (owl, VII.104.22; X.165.4)
kapota (pigeon, I.30.4; X.165.1-5)
cāṣa (wagtail, X.97.13)
śyena/suparṇa (eagle, multiple references)
gṛdhra (vulture, many references)
śuka (parrot), etc.
PLANTS AND TREES:
In spite of all the talk about “temperate” plants and trees in the PIE vocabulary, the Rigveda does not contain the name of a single reconstructed, or otherwise, western plant or tree. In fact, it refers to a great many eastern plants and trees, native to India and extremely important to this day in Indian religion or commerce, with purely Indo-Aryan names.
In the Rigveda we have:
śiṁśapa (dalbergia sissoo, the sissoo or shisham or North Indian rosewood tree)
khadira (acacia catechu, the heartwood tree)
śalmalī (salmalia malabaricum, the silk-cotton tree)
kiṁṣuka, parṇa (butea monosperma, the flame-of-the forest)
śimbala (again salmalia malabaricum, the silk-cotton tree)
vibhīdaka (terminalia bellerica, the belleric myrobalan or behra)
araṭva (terminalia arjuna, the arjuna tree)
aśvattha, pippala (ficus religiosa, the sacred fig tree, the peepal)
urvāruka (cucumis sativus, the cucumber)
vetasa (calamus rotang or rattan/cane, used in cane furniture)
darbha, muñja, śarya, sairya, kuśara, vairiṇa (Indian grasses).
These above are found in the Rigveda as follows:
I. 135.8; 164.20; 191.3.
VII. 50.3; 59.12; 86.6.
X. 85.20; 97.5.
The Yajurveda and Atharvaveda mention many more important Indian plants and trees with purely Indo-Aryan names:
ikṣu (saccharum officinale, the sugarcane plant)
bilva (aegle marmelos, the bael fruit plant)
nyagrodha (ficus benghalensis, the banyan tree)
śamī (prosopis cineraria, the shami tree)
plakṣa (ficus infectora, the white fig tree)
pippalī (piper longum, long pepper, an important spice).
Not to mention a very long list of Indian medicinal herbs mentioned in the Atharvaveda, clearly representing an ancient heritage of a long period of local medicinal traditions. In short, the flora and fauna of the eastern interior of India form the heart of the Rigveda (and this is amplified by the data in the subsequent Samhitas: the Yajurveda and Atharvaveda), while the flora and fauna of the northwest make only a very late appearance on the Rigvedic horizon.
Incidentally, the Vedic Aryans, according to the Rigveda, used Indian timbers in the manufacture of different parts of the chariot: śiṁśapa (dalbergia sissoo, the sissoo or shisham or North Indian rosewood tree), khadira (acacia catechu, the heartwood tree), śalmalī (salmalia malabaricum, the silk-cotton tree) and kiṁṣuka (butea monosperma, the flame-of-the forest). On the other hand, in the case of the “Egyptian war chariot“, Tarr points out that “the timbers in question were not of Egyptian origin but ‘came from the north’. […] The timbers used were holm-oak for the axle and the spokes, elm for the pole, ash for the felloes, the chassis and the dashboard, hornbeam for the yoke and birch bark for wrapping and for joining the spokes with the felloes and the hub […] The wooden material of the Egyptian chariots came from the Caucasus” (TARR 1969:74).
C. PIE Flora and Fauna of the North-west and Beyond:
Al this brings into focus the utter disconnect between the data analyzed above and the case which has been presented by western Indologists all these years (or rather for the last more than a century): the refrain about the reconstructed PIE flora and fauna depicting a “temperate zone” area, on the grounds that the reconstructed list includes only “temperate zone” flora and fauna and not tropical ones or peculiarly Indian ones, has been a recurring argument in spite of the fact that even many prominent western Indologists and scholars from the earliest days, who basically accepted the AIT, rejected it as illogical and plain stupid (Weber 1857, Keith 1933, Dolgopolsky 1987, etc). As they reasonably pointed out, any people travelling from one particular area to a new and distant one would naturally (over the course of centuries) forget about the flora and fauna of their original area if those were not present in the new area. The point is that the reconstructed flora and fauna considered by the Indologists are found in both India and Europe, so it cannot in itself indicate that the movement was from India to Europe or from Europe to India.
But Witzel further argues that many of these “temperate zone” words, in spite of not being typical of the Rigvedic area, are found in post-Rigvedic Sanskrit, and some more (though missing in Sanskrit) are found in Iranian. So he argues that such words “rather indicate linguistic memories of a colder climate than an export of words, such as that for the high altitude Kashmirian birch tree, to Iran, Central Asia and Europe” (WITZEL 2005:373). His point is that many of the common PIE words represent things which are not typical “for the Panjab or the Indian plains” (i.e. the Vedic area), and they are found not just in European languages but even in Iranian languages, so they cannot have been taken there by westward migrating people from inside the Vedic area. According to him, it fits in with the AIT in which the “incoming Indo-Iranians” retained European or Steppe words till the borders of India and the Indo-Aryans alone lost them after entering India.
But the main trouble with Witzel is that he is, all the time, answering an OIT theory which would make the Vedic/Sanskrit language, of “the Panjab or the Indian plains“, the ancestor of all the IE languages of the world. But that (linguistically extremely unsound) theory is not our theory, and nor does it accord with the recorded data. The recorded data shows that the Vedic Aryans, living in Haryana and further east, spoke a Pūru dialect (Vedic) of that area; while the speakers of the ancestral forms of the other IE branches spoke various Anu and Druhyu languages and dialects which were spoken in areas further west and northwest, and had words (many of them in common with each other) for northwestern flora and fauna (and doubtless many other items of vocabulary) peculiar to their areas but missing in Vedic.
The proof for this, in fact, is that many of these words are missing in the Rigveda or its earlier parts, and only entered the Vedic language (or subsequent Sanskrit) as the Vedic Indo-Aryans expanded northwestwards. More western words along the same trajectory, in areas in which the Indo-Aryans never expanded (or expanded only superficially) may reasonably be found in many other IE branches (including Iranian) but not found at all in either Vedic, later Sanskrit or the still later Indian languages.
The chronology of appearance or occurrence of the names of flora and fauna follows a distinct pattern:
1. Flora and fauna peculiar to the interior of India (elephant, chital/spotted deer, Indian bison, buffalo, peacock, lion, brahminy duck, arjuna tree, silk-cotton tree) are found right from the Old Books (6,3,7,4,2). These flora and fauna would not be very likely to be found among the Anu and Druhyu of the northwest to begin with, and would certainly stand very little chance of being retained by the (Anu and Druhyu) languages and dialects after centuries of migrations and settlement in distant areas where these flora and fauna are totally unknown: note that even the Indo-Aryan Gypsy/Sinti/Romany lost the words for these flora and fauna within a thousand years.
2. Peculiarly “common Indo-Iranian” words for northwestern flora and fauna appear later only in the New Books (5,1,8,9,10), or even later: Vedic meṣa (sheep), urā (lamb), uṣṭra (camel), varāha (boar) and sūkara (pig), kaśyapa (turtle), khara (ass), jahāka (hedgehog) = Avestan maēša, ura, uštra, varāza, hūkara, kassiapa, xara, dužuka, etc. These words represent the common northwestern vocabulary of the New Books (or later) and the Avesta (or Iranian in general).
3. The much flaunted “temperate zone” PIE words for flora and fauna of the northwest only appear in the Rigveda in the New Books (5,1,8,9,10), or even later:
a) As we saw, “old” PIE words like ávi– and ūrṇa-/ ūrṇā-, with cognates in most other IE branches, are missing in the three Oldest Books and appear only in the New Books or, at best, first appear only in Book 4 which represents the westernmost thrust of Indo-Aryan expansion during the period of Sudās’ descendants Sahadeva and Somaka and the battle “beyond the Sarayu” (IV.30.18) in Afghanistan.
b) Witzel refers to the wolf and ice as “linguistic memories of a colder climate“. As we already saw earlier, wolves are found over most of India, so this is an extremely stupid statement. As for ice (and snow): ice and snow appear in the Rigveda only in the New Books.
c) The word bhūrja for “birch”, which Witzel refers to, is missing in the Rigveda, and appears for the first time in the Yajurveda. Significantly, the name is well represented in the Dardic, Nuristani and Iranian languages of the extreme north and northwest: “in the Dardic languages of mountainous northwestern India we have Phalura brhuǰ, Dameli brūš, Gawar-Bati bluz ‘birch’ (Mayrhofer 1963:11.514-15); Waigali bruǰ ‘birch’ (Morgenstierne 1954:238), Khotanese Saka braṁja ‘birch’, bruṁjə ‘birchbark’, Wakhi (Pamir Iranian) furz, Sanglechi barež, Shugni baruǰ ‘birch’, Os. bærz/bærzæ ‘birch’, Pashto barǰ ‘birchbark band’, Tajik burz, burs ‘juniper’ (with semantic transfer)” (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:531-532). Again and again, we have this evidence of northwestern words entering the Rigveda in its later parts (or in later Sanskrit texts) as the Vedic Indo-Aryans expanded northwestwards.
4. The Avesta has a vocabulary starting from the period of the New Books of the Rigveda (as we have seen in detail in my earlier blog article “The Recorded History of the Indo-European Migrations – Part 2, The chronology and geography of the Rigveda“). But the Avesta represents an even later chronological stage than the New Books, since by the time of composition of the Avesta the proto-Iranians have moved out into Afghanistan and are in contact with more western areas and with more western IE words: i.e. with Anu words developed in common with the other Anu groups (Greek, Armenian, Albanian to the west) and even local words developed in common with, or adopted from, the Druhyu groups (Slavic, Baltic, Germanic, Celtic, Italic, to the north). The development of common Iranian-Druhyu words (missing in Indo-Aryan) took place in the snowy mountainous regions of Afghanistan and Central Asia, and some of the words clearly reflect this situation:
Av. bərəz– “hill, mountain” with cognates in Slavic, Germanic and Celtic.
Av. snaēzaiti “snows” (verb) with cognates in Germanic, Celtic and Italic (and also Greek).
Av. aēxa “frost, ice” with cognates in Slavic, Baltic and Germanic.
Oss. tajyn “thaw, melt” (verb) with cognates in Slavic, Germanic, Celtic and Italic (and also Greek and Armenian).
Av. udra “otter” with cognates in Slavic, Baltic and Germanic.
Av. bawra-/bawri– “beaver” with cognates in Slavic, Baltic, Germanic, Celtic and Italic.
Oss. wyzyn “hedgehog” with cognates in Slavic, Baltic and Germanic (and also Greek and Armenian).
Oss. læsæg “salmon” with cognates in Slavic, Baltic and Germanic (and also Armenian).
Av. θβərəsa– “boar” with cognates in Celtic.
Av. pərəsa– “piglet” with cognates in Slavic, Baltic, Germanic, Celtic and Italic.
Pehl. wabz– “wasp” with cognates in Slavic, Baltic, Germanic, Celtic and Italic.
Av. staora– “steer” with cognates in Germanic.
[Witzel repeatedly cites the name of the non-Indian beaver (Old English bebr, beofor, Latin fiber, Lithuanian bēbrus, Russian bobr, bebr, and Avestan baβri) with the name of the Indian mongoose (Sanskrit babhru) as evidence for the AIT (WITZEL 2005:374). But the common non-Indian word, in the OIT scenario, developed in the region of Afghanistan and Central Asia, among the European dialects and proto-Iranian. And there is no case for any movement of the name into India: the word babhru occurs in the Rigveda, and in Mitanni IA, but as a name for a particular horse-colour. In the east, the colour word (in much later Sanskrit) was separately used as a name for the mongoose, but this cannot be as part of an Aryan movement into India in an AIT scenario, because in that case, the Aryans would have remembered the Rigvedic word babhru (which, seeing that it is also found in the Mitanni IA language, supposed, in the AIT scenario, to have separated from Vedic in Central Asia itself before the separation of the proto-Iranians, makes the meaning quite old and consistent) rather than a long-forgotten non-Indian use of the word for a beaver-like animal in a distant land before an immigration already forgotten even in the Rigveda. And, as Gamkrelidze points out, after a short discussion: “It is notable that the Indo-Iranian languages are split by this isogloss: Sanskrit shows the more archaic situation, while Avestan displays the innovation” (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:448).]
That the mountainous region of Afghanistan and Central Asia was a central part of the PIE Homeland is indicated in detail by Gamkrelidze and Ivanov (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:525-531), who point out the primary position of the oak tree, oak forests, high mountain oaks struck by lightning and the presence of a tempestuous “all-powerful thunder-deity who bore the name of the mountain oak” (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:529) in the reconstructed environment of the PIE Homeland. They actually place the Homeland much further west, in Anatolia to be exact, but they point out that the landscape indicated by the data stretches over the area “including the Transcaucasus, Iran and Afghanistan” (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:529). The oak tree is of great importance in this reconstructed environment: Gamkrelidze examines the oak tree first among the common PIE trees, and points out that the reconstructed common PIE form (*t’e/orw-, *t’re/ou-) for “tree/wood” (Skt. dru-/ druma-/ dāru-/ taru-) has cognates in eight branches (Anatolian, Tocharian, Baltic, Slavic, Germanic, Indo–Aryan, Iranian, Greek), but in three historically diverse branches (Celtic, Albanian and Greek) the name for “oak” is derived from this reconstructed form (Greek has both the words, “tree” as well as “oak”, derived from the same proto-form). The Armenian and Italic branches preserve the word for “wood” in the adjective “hard” as applied to wood, thus the word originally meant “tree/wood” in all the branches, but is specifically applied to the oak in three branches.
[Note: the original word for “tree” (*t’e/orw-, *t’re/ou-) remained “tree/wood” in nine of the twelve IE branches. In three other branches, the meaning became “oak”, one of them being Celtic. The same root gave birth to the word Dru-hyu, the Rigvedic/Puranic name of the speakers of the five European branches – Slavic, Baltic, Germanic, Celtic and Italic – in “the mountainous region inhabited by these ancient Indo-European tribes” in Afghanistan and Central Asia, as well as to the connected word dru-i/dru-id, the name of the priestly classes of these tribes (still retained by the Celts in Ireland)].
5. But there is another reconstructed word (*pherkhou-) meaning “oak/oak forest/forest/mountain forest” (but never “wood”): the word means “oak” in Italic, Celtic and Indo-Aryan (Skt. parkaṭī-, actually a name of the white fig tree, but Punjabi pargāi refers to the holly oak, quercus ilex), and the word has a transferred meaning to “fir/pine/tree/forest” in Germanic: the Germanic, e.g. English, word for “forest” is itself derived from this word. The reconstructed PIE word is derived from the root *pheru– “cliff/mountain/rock” (found in Sanskrit and Hittite) from which we also get the Sanskrit parvata– “mountain”. The name of a common PIE thunder-god is derived from the same two words (with a suffix, as *pherkhou/n– and *pheru/n-): Indo-Aryan (Vedic) Parjanya, Baltic Perkūnas, Slavic Perun, Germanic Fjǫrgyn (mother of the thunder-god Thor). As Gamkrelidze points out: “The connection between the Proto-Indo-European thunder-god *pher(kho)u-n- and terms for ‘mountain oak, ‘oak forest on mountain-top’, ‘mountain’, ‘cliff’, *pher(kho)u-, can be explained if we assume the ancient mythological pattern of lightning striking great oaks on mountain-tops. This view must reflect some recurrent feature of the mountainous region inhabited by the ancient Indo-European tribes” (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:528).
So does all this prove that the Rigveda contains “linguistic memories” of “the mountainous region inhabited by the ancient Indo-European tribes” in Afghanistan and Central Asia, or much further beyond? On the contrary:
1. The oak, by any name, is totally missing in the Rigveda and in fact in any Vedic text. The word parkaṭī-, when it does appear in much later Classical Sanskrit texts, means the Indian white fig tree, ficus infectora, already mentioned in the Atharvaveda with the name plakṣa-. The name is however found in Punjab in much later times as pargāī, one of the many names of a species of oak tree, the holly oak (quercus ilex), a tree native to the Mediterranean, and therefore clearly a name imported at a very late date from the west.
2. There are clearly two “thunder-gods” in the Rigveda: Indra and Parjanya. The name Indra has its origin in the word indu– “drop”, and therefore he is a thunder-god associated with the actual rain-drops, and (apart from the fact that he is basically restricted to the Indo-Aryan branch) is clearly a god of the monsoon region of Haryana and its interior areas. The name Parjanya (apart from the fact that it has equivalents in three other European branches) has its origins, as we saw, in the oak-forests of the north-western mountains.
Indologists and AIT scholars, with their inverted logic, classify Parjanya as the original PIE and therefore also Vedic thunder-god because he is found in Slavic, Baltic and Germanic mythology as well, and Indra as a “new” thunder-god who increasingly replaced the original PIE thunder-god in India. The facts, however, indicate the opposite picture:
a) Indra is the most important deity in the Rigveda, and has over 250 hymns addressed to him or glorifying him (out of a total of 1028 hymns in the Rigveda). Parjanya has only 3 hymns addressed to him or glorifying him. Even more significantly, while Indra is present in every part of the text, old and new, and is mentioned (by this name alone, not counting his other numerous special epithets) 2415 times in 538 hymns, Parjanya is mentioned only 36 times in the following 25 hymns:
Old Books (6,3,7,4,2):
VI.49.6; 50.12; 52,6,16; 75.15.
VII.35.10; 101.5; 102.1,2; 103.1.
New Books (5,1,8,9,10):
V.53.6; 63.4,6; 83.1-5,9.
VIII.6.1; 21.8; 102.5.
IX.2.9; 22.2; 82.3; 113.3.
X.65.9; 66.6,10; 98.1,8; 169.2.
It will be seen that all the references except one (VII.35.10) are in New Books or in Redacted Hymns (underlined), and include the notoriously late hymns towards the end of Books 4,6 and 7 (there being no reference to Parjanya at all in Books 2 and 3). The sole exception (VII.35.10) is clearly just a case of a late added name in a long list of deities in a Viśvedeva (“all-gods”) hymn.
This proves that Parjanya is a deity of the northwest who entered the Rigveda in the period of the New Books, as the Vedic Indo-Aryans expanded northwestwards into the mountainous areas from the monsoon area in Haryana and east. As the deity is found only in Slavic, Baltic and Germanic, it also confirms the presence of (at least the remnants of) the ancestral Slavic, Baltic and Germanic dialects in Central Asia during the period of the New Books of the Rigveda.
b) Further, while Indra is otherwise found only in Indo-Aryan (and, by opposition, as a demon in the rival Iranian tradition recorded in the Avesta), he is also represented in Hittite mythology in the name of the goddess Inara who helps the (unnamed) rain god to kill the Great Serpent who was interfering with the rainfall. Hittite (Anatolian) was linguistically the first IE branch to separate from the other branches in any hypothetical Homeland; and the presence of Inara in Hittite mythology confirms either the greater antiquity of Indra (to Parjanya), or the presence of the proto-Hittites in Central Asia at the time of the north-westward expansion of the Vedic Aryans, or both.
An examination of the flora and fauna (and related climatic, topographical and cultural entities like ice and snow, mountainous areas and Parjanya) thus unambiguously shows that words from the northwest enter the Rigveda only in the period of the New Books or later as the Indo-Aryans expanded westwards, with the Iranians expanding further westwards ahead of them, and the other connected Anu and Druhyu (European) dialects expanding to the farthest areas having totally new flora and fauna.
D. The Evidence of Soma:
The Soma rituals were an important part of the Rigveda as well as of Iranian religion. The Soma plant was probably a species of ephedra found in the extreme northwestern parts of the Himalayas extending westwards to Central Asia and beyond. Species of ephedra found further eastwards (in the Himalayas) were not capable of yielding the kind of juice described in the Rigveda. Hence, according to the Indologists, the fact that the ritual use of Soma formed such an integral part of the Rigvedic religion (and that this feature is shared with the Iranians) proves that the Vedic Aryans entered India from the northwest, bringing the Soma plant and cult with them.
However, the evidence in the Rigveda shows that:
1. The Soma plant and its rituals were an extraneous cult originally introduced to the Vedic Aryans and their priests in the east in very early times by the Bhṛgu, priests of the Anu Iranians from the Soma-growing areas to their northwest.
2. The actual Soma-growing areas were distant and unknown to the Vedic Aryans in the Old Books of the Rigveda, and became known to them only later after they expanded westwards.
3. The expansion of the Vedic Aryans (and, by a chain of events, the dispersal of the Indo-Europeans) into the west and northwest was a direct consequence of their quest for Soma.
1. The special priests of the Vedic Aryans (i.e. of the Bharatas) were the Aṅgiras, Vasiṣṭha and Viśvāmitra. These priests, however, are not specially associated with the Soma plant and ritual. The priests very specially associated with Soma are the Kaśyapa and Bhṛgu., both of whom are associated directly with the Anu tribes or their original area (Kashmir and the northwest)
The Kaśyapa are very closely associated with Soma: over 70 % of the verses composed by them are dedicated to Soma Pavamāna, and the āprī-sūkta of the Kaśyapa family is the only āprī-sūkta dedicated to Soma (all the other nine āprī-sūkta-s are dedicated to Agni). But while the Kaśyapas are exclusive Soma priests, the fact is that they entered the Rigveda at a late stage: they became exclusive Soma priests in the period following the expansion of the Vedic Aryans into the Soma-growing areas.
As we have repeatedly seen, the Bhṛgu, except for one branch consisting of Jamadagni and his descendants, are associated with the proto-Iranians living to the north and northwest of the Vedic people. The identification of the Bhṛgu with Soma is deeper, older and more significant: it is clear that the use of the Soma plant originated among the Bhṛgu, and it is they who introduced the plant and its rituals to the Vedic Aryans and their priests:
a. The word Soma, which occurs thousands of times in the hymns of the Rigveda, is found in the name of only one composer ṛṣi: Somāhuti Bhārgava.
b. The word pavamāna, which occurs more than a hundred times in the Soma Pavamāna Maṇḍala (Book 9), is found only once outside Book 9: in VIII.101.14 attributed to Jamadagni Bhārgava.
c. Both the Rigveda and the Avesta are unanimous in identifying Bhṛgu priests as the earliest preparers of Soma: as Macdonell puts it: “The RV and the Avesta even agree in the names of ancient preparers of Soma; Vivasvat and Trita Aptya on the one hand, and Vivanhvant, Athwya and Thrita on the other” (MACDONELL 1897:114). According to the Avesta, the first preparer of Soma was Vīuuaŋvhaṇt (Vivasvat), the second was Āθβiia (Aptya) and the third was Θrita (Trita). Vivasvat in the Rigveda is the name of the father of two persons: Yama and Manu. In the Avesta also, Vīuuaŋvhaṇt is the father of Yima. Both Vivasvat and Yama Vaivasvata are identified in the Rigveda as Bhṛgu (see the references to the Bhṛgu group of ṛṣis in TALAGERI 2000:31-32), and Manu Vaivasvata is identified in the anukramaṇī-s of VIII.29 with Kaśyapa. Trita Āptya is not clearly identified with any family in the Rigveda, but it is significant that he is described by the Gṛtsamadas (Kevala Bhṛgu) in II.11-19 as belonging to “our party” (Griffith’s translation).
d. Almost all the hymns to Soma in Book 9 are composed by ṛṣis belonging to the Middle and Late Periods of the Rigveda (though there are fictitious ascriptions to older composers in the “saptaṛṣi” hymns); however the hymns attributed to the Bhṛgu include twelve hymns which are ascribed (even if possibly composed or redacted by their descendants) to remote ancestral Bhṛgus of the pre-Rigvedic period, who are already ancient and mythical even in the oldest Books: Vena Bhārgava (IX.85), Uśanā Kāvya (IX.87-89) and Kavī Bhārgava (IX.47-49, 75-79). The oldest Soma hymns in the Rigveda therefore appear to be composed exclusively by Bhṛgu.
e. The Rigveda clearly indicates that it was the Bhṛgu who introduced Soma to the Vedic Aryans, and to their Gods and priests. According to at least three references (I.116.12; 117.22; 119.9), the location or abode of Soma was a secret; and this secret was revealed to the Aśvins by Dadhyanc, an ancient Bhṛgu ṛṣi, already mythical in the Rigveda, and older than even Kavi Bhārgava and Uśanā Kāvya. Dadhyanc is the son of Atharvaṇa, and grandson of the eponymous Bhṛgu.
f. Even the symbolism inherent in the eagle who brought Soma to the Vedic Aryans probably represents this role of the Bhṛgu: according to Macdonell, “the term eagle is connected with Agni Vaidyuta or lightning (TB 3, 10, 51; cp. 12.12)” (MACDONELL 1897:112) and likewise, “BERGAIGNE thinks there can hardly be a doubt that bhṛgu was originally a name of fire, while KUHN and BARTH agree in the opinion that the form of fire it represents is lightning” (MACDONELL 1897:140) (see also Griffith’s footnote to IV.7.4).
2. Soma is regarded as growing in distant areas: this area is so distant that it is constantly identified with the heavens (IV.26.6; 27.3, 4; VIII.100.8; IX.63.27; 66.30; 77.2; 86.24, etc.):
a. The only specific thing known about the place of origin of Soma is that it grows on mountains (I.93.6; III.48.2; V.43.4; 85.2; IX.18.1; 62.4; 85.10; 95.4; 98.9, etc.). Nothing more specific is mentioned in the Family Books (2-7).
b. The area of Soma is clearly not part of the Vedic area (nor is there even the slightest hint anywhere in the Rigveda that it ever was): it is constantly referred to as being far away (IV.26.6; IX.68.6; X.11.4; 144.4). This area is also known as the “dwelling of Tvaṣṭṛ” (IV.18.3); and this is what the scholars have to say about Tvaṣṭṛ: “Tvaṣṭṛ is one of the obscurest members of the Vedic pantheon. The obscurity of the concept is explained [….] (by) HILLEBRANDT (who) thinks Tvaṣṭṛ was derived from a mythical circle outside the range of the Vedic tribes” (MACDONELL 1897:117).
c. Soma is mythically (and repeatedly) reported to be brought by an eagle to the Vedic people, and even to their Gods, from its distant place of origin:
IV.18.13; 26.4-7; 27.3, 4.
IX.68.6; 77.2; 86.24; 87.6.
X.11.4; 99.8; 144.4, 5.
That this place of origin is alien to the Vedic people is clear from the fact that this eagle is reported to have to hurry (IV.26.5) to escape the guardians of Soma, who are described as attacking the eagle (IV.27.3) to prevent it from taking the Soma away.
“Tvaṣṭṛ is especially the guardian of Soma, which is called ‘the mead of Tvaṣṭṛ’ (I.117.22)” (MACDONELL 1897:116), and Indra is described as conquering Tvaṣṭṛin order to obtain the Soma.
In his footnote to 1.43.8, Griffith refers to “the people of the hills who interfere with the gathering of the Soma plant which is to be sought there“.
d. The Family Books are generally ignorant about the exact details of the Soma-growing areas. Whatever specific information is there is in the non-family New Books (1,8,9,10): The prime Soma-growing areas are identified in VIII.64.11 as the areas near the Suṣomā and Arjīkīyā rivers (the Sohān and Hāro), northeastern tributaries of the Indus, in the extreme north of the Punjab and northwest of Kashmir, and near Śaryaṇāvān (a lake in the vicinity of these two rivers). In VIII.7.29, the reference is to the Suṣoma and Arjīka (in the masculine gender, signifying mountains; while the rivers of these names are in the feminine gender), clearly the mountains which gave rise to the two aforesaid rivers, and again Śaryaṇāvān, which also appears in X.35.2 as a mountainous area, perhaps referring to the mountains surrounding the lake of the same name.
In another place (X.34.1), the best Soma is said to be growing on the Mūjavat mountains: the Mūjavat tribes are identified (Atharvaveda V-XXII-5, 7, 8, 14) with the Gandhārī, i.e. in adjacent parts of Afghanistan.
That Gandhārī (northern Afghanistan) in the Rigveda is associated with Soma is clear from the specific role assigned in the Rigveda to the Gandharva or gandharva (mythical beings associated in the Rigveda with that region). In the words of Macdonell: “Gandharva is, moreover, in the RV often associated (chiefly in the ninth book) with Soma. He guards the place of Soma and protects the races of the gods (9.83.4; cp. 1.22.14). Observing all the forms of Soma, he stands on the vault of heaven (9.85.12). Together with Parjanya and the daughters of the sun, the Gandharvas cherish Soma (9.113.3). Through Gandharva’s mouth the gods drink their drought (AV.7.73.3). The MS (3.8.10) states that the Gandharvas kept the Soma for the gods [….] It is probably as a jealous guardian of Soma that Gandharva in the RV appears as a hostile being, who is pierced by Indra in the regions of air (8.66.5) or whom Indra is invoked to overcome (8.1.11) [….] Soma is further said to have dwelt among the Gandharvas [….]” (MACDONELL 1897:136-137).
All these names are found mentioned only in the non-family New Books (1,8,9,10), with a single reference (to gandharva) in Book 3 in a Redacted Hymn described in the Aitareya Brahmana (VI.18) as a late interpolated hymn in Book 3:
I.22.14; 84.14; 126.7; 163.2.
VIII.1.11; 6.39; 7.29; 64.11; 77.5.
IX.65.22,23; 83.4; 85.12; 113.1-3.
X.10.4; 11.2; 34.1; 35.2; 75.5; 85.40,41; 123.4,7; 136.6; 139.4-6; 177.2.
e. While Soma was well known to the Vedic Aryans as a product of the distant north-western areas, imported through the Anu and other people further northwest, its use became more widespread and ritually important only in the period of the New Books, so much so that a whole separate book (Book 9) was compiled to accommodate the hymns composed for it. However, with the passage of time (i.e. in post-Vedic times), the importance of the Soma ritual was slowly lost in Indian religion as the focus shifted eastwards and new rituals and philosophies of more eastern people supplanted the Soma ritual. However, the importance of the Soma plant and ritual continued in its original territories and among its original adherents: the ephedra plant is known as haoma/homa (or derived words) in the Iranian languages (Persian, Pashto, Baluchi, as well as most of the Dardic and Nuristani languages of the extreme north/northwest) and as soma-lata even in parts of the Indian Himalayas (including in Nepal), and is used to this day in Zoroastrian ritual.
3. The expansion of the Vedic Aryans into the west and northwest was a direct consequence of their quest for Soma:
The westward movement commenced with the crossing of the Śutudrī and Vipāś by Viśvāmitra and the Bharatas under Sudās, described in hymn III.33; and the fifth verse of the hymn clarifies both the direction and purpose of this crossing.
Griffith translates III.33.5 (in which Viśvāmitra addresses the rivers) as: “Linger a little at my friendly bidding; rest, Holy Ones, a moment in your journey“; but he clarifies in his footnote: “At my friendly bidding: according to the Scholiasts, Yāska and Sāyaṇa, the meaning of me vācase somyāya is ‘to my speech importing the Soma’; that is, the object of my address is that I may cross over and gather the Soma-plant“.
This crossing, and the successful foray into the northwest, appears to have whetted the appetite of Sudās and the Bharatas for conquest and expansion: shortly afterwards, the Viśvāmitras perform a horse ceremony for Sudās, described in III.53.11: “Come forward Kuśika-s, and be attentive; let loose Sudās’ horses to win him riches. East, west, and north, let the king slay the foeman, then at earth’s choicest place [vara ā pṛthivyā = Kurukṣetra] perform his worship” (GRIFFITH).
While some expansion took place towards the east as well (Kīkaṭa in III.53.14), the main thrust of the expansion is clearly towards the west and northwest: the first major battle in this long drawn out western war is the dāśarājña on the Paruṣṇī, and the final one in southern Afghanistan beyond the Sarayu.
While Sudās was still the leader of the Bharatas in the battle on the Paruṣṇī, the battle beyond the Sarayu appears to have taken place under the leadership of his remote descendant Sahadeva in the Middle Period of the Rigveda.
Sahadeva’s son (referred to by his priest Vāmadeva in IV.15.7-10), who also appears to have been a participant in the above battle beyond the Sarayu, may have been named Soma–ka in commemoration of earlier conquests of the Soma-growing areas of eastern Afghanistan by his father Sahadeva.
The evidence in the Rigveda thus clearly shows that the Soma plant and rituals were initially brought to the Vedic Aryans from the Soma-growing areas of the northwest by the Bhṛgu, priests of the Anus (the proto-Iranians) from those areas, and the Vedic Aryans themselves became acquainted with the actual Soma-growing areas only in the period of the New Books after they expanded into those areas.
E. The Evidence of Honey:
Honey occupies a very important place in the Rigveda, and the word has cognates in every language, showing it was a central part of PIE culture and religion in any assumed Homeland. According to many scholars, honey and beekeeping developed in Egypt and the Mediterranean area and spread as far east as Iran. Therefore, the important position of honey in the reconstructed PIE culture shows that the PIEs lived somewhere near this beekeeping region, or passed through this area in prehistoric times. Parpola, for example, tells us (quoting another scholar Hadjú) that the honey bee “was unknown in Asia until very recent times, with the exception of Asia Minor, Syria, Persia, Afghanistan, Tibet and China [….] On the other hand, the bee is found west of the Urals in eastern Europe” (PARPOLA 2005:112). He further informs us: “Apis mellifera is native to the region comprising Africa, Arabia and the Near East up to Iran, and Europe up to the Urals in the east and to southern Sweden and Estonia in the north; its spread further north was limited by arctic cold, while its spread to the east was limited by mountains, deserts and other barriers. Another important limiting factor was that the cool, temperate deciduous forests of Europe extend only as far east as the Urals and do not grow in Siberia (see later). The distribution of Apis mellifera was confined to this area until c. AD 1600, when it started being transported to other regions” (PARPOLA 2005:112).
Gamkrelidze, likewise, tells us: “there can be no doubt that beekeeping and the word for ‘bee’ are Proto-Indo-European, in view of the word for ‘honey’ in Indo-European, the developed beekeeping economy among the Indo-Europeans, and the religious significance of the bee in all the ancient Indo-European traditions” (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:516-517), and traces this to the Mediterranean area: “It is in the Mediterranean area that the transition from primitive beekeeping to more evolved types first takes place. Here we find the second stage, sylvestrian beekeeping, where bees are kept in the forest, in specially carved hollows in trees or in hollow logs set up in forest apiaries; we also find the third stage, domestic apiculture, where domestic bees are kept in manufactured hives near the homeland” (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:522). Finally, he tells us about the word for “honey”: “The word entered East Asia together with honey and beekeeping, brought in by Indo-European tribes who migrated eastwards” (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:524).
However, here are the actual facts and evidence:
1. The Wikipedia entry on “Honey Bee” tells us: “Honey bees appear to have their centre of origin in South and Southeast Asia (including the Phillipines), as all the extant species except Apis mellifera are native to that region. Notably, living representatives of the earliest lineages to diverge (Apis florea and Apis andreniformes) have their center of origin there“.
The scholars discussing the evidence tell us about the geographical range of the western bee, Apis mellifera, about “the transition from primitive beekeeping to more evolved types” involving this species in Egypt and the Mediterranean area, and about the importance of honey in the PIE branches, and conclude that the different branches of PIEs took these “evolved types” of beekeeping from the Mediterranean to their historical areas. However:
a. There is absolutely no evidence that the honey central to early PIE culture, or Vedic culture, was the honey from Apis mellifera. After telling us all about the history of Mediterranean beekeeping, Parpola discreetly tells us: “Another species of cavity-nesting honey bee, Apis cerana, is native to Asia east and south of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Korea and Japan” (PARPOLA 2005:123). The largest honey bees are the Species of Apis dorsata found in India and further east.
b. These eastern honey bees have been a source of honey in India from ancient times, and honey gathering is an ancient traditional occupation even in the remotest tribal and hill areas in the interior of the country: ancient Mesolithic rock paintings dated 8000-6000 BCE in Bhimbetka and Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh depict honey gathering: “The collection of honey is depicted in three paintings at Pachmarhi and one at Bhimbetka. A painting in the Jambudwip shelter at Pachmarhi shows a man driving out bees and a woman approaching the beehive with a pot. Both are standing on ladders. In a second Pachmarhi painting at Imlikhoh shelter a woman is driving away the bees. In a third painting at Sonbhadra shelter two men climbing a scaffold are surrounded by bees. The painting at Bhimbetka shows a man touching a beehive with a round-ended stick. The man holds a basket on his back and appears to be suspended by a rope. There are three men below him, including one standing on the shoulders of another man” (MATHPAL 1985:182). These rock paintings represent the oldest representation of honey gathering in the whole of Asia, and are only comparable to similar rock paintings of similar age in Spain and Australia.
2. The linguistic evidence in fact disproves any connection of the PIE honey culture (as distinct from the honey culture of certain specific historical IE branches, as we will see) with the domestic apiculture developed in Egypt and the Mediterranean area:
a. While there is a common PIE word for “honey”, there is no common PIE word for “bee”, “bee-hive”, “beeswax” and “beekeeping/apiculture”, all of which would have been expected in a culture which practiced evolved domestic apiculture.
This is also the case regarding the evidence from the Rigveda, which is the oldest IE language record in existence: honey (madhu-, sāragha-) is important right from the Oldest Books of the Rigveda, the Old Books pre-date the New Books, and the culture of the New Books represents a period centuries older than the period of the first appearance of the Mitanni Indo-Aryans (as well as the Hittites) in West Asia in the first half of the second millennium BCE. But the Rigveda has only a few references to bees (called makṣ/makṣikā), and none whatsoever to bee-hives, beeswax or anything which would indicate the existence of any evolved forms of beekeeping/apiculture.
b. The actual linguistic evidence of the PIE words for honey is even more devastating: the common reconstructed PIE word for “honey” is *medhu-. It is found with two distinct meanings: firstly “honey”, and secondly “mead/wine/any intoxicating drink” from the primitive practice of making mead from honey. It is found with both the meanings in five branches: Indo-Aryan, Iranian, Tocharian, Slavic and Baltic. It is found with only the secondary meaning “mead/wine/any intoxicating drink” in three branches: Greek, Germanic and Celtic, where a new PIE formation *melith– has replaced the primary word *medhu– as the word for “honey”. In the remaining four branches, Anatolian (Hittite), Armenian, Albanian and Italic, the word *medhu– is completely lost, but even here, *melith– only signifies “honey”, and there are new words for “mead/wine/any intoxicating drink”.
This evidence is startling: the branches having only the word *medhu– include the Early branch Tocharian, the European branches Slavic and Baltic, and the Last branches Indo–Aryan and Iranian. The branches having only the word *melith– include the Early branch Anatolian, the European branch Italic, and the Last branches Armenian and Albanian. In short, this isogloss cuts across all the different chronological groups of IE branches. So what is the common factor?
The answer is very clear: it is an east-west division:
i) All the five more eastern branches from each of the three groups (Early, European and Last), i.e. Tocharian, Slavic, Baltic, Indo–Aryan and Iranian, have retained the original word *medhu– and have not acquired the new word *melith-.
ii) All the other seven more western branches from the three groups have acquired the new word *melith-: of these, of the five of them closest to the Egyptian and Mediterranean world, four (Anatolian, Armenian, Albanian and Italic) have completely lost the original word *medhu-, and one (the more archaic Greek) has retained the word *medhu– for “mead/wine/any intoxicating drink” while replacing it with the new word *melith– for “honey” due to the strong influence of the beekeeping culture of the Egyptian-Mediterranean region.
iii) Likewise, the remaining two western branches (Germanic and Celtic), at a little distance from the direct influence of Egypt and the Mediterranean, have also retained the word *medhu– for “mead/wine/any intoxicating drink” while replacing it with the new word *melith– for “honey”.
iv) At the same time, all the five European branches (Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic, Slavic) have borrowed the word for “bee” (reconstructed *bhe(i)-) from the Egyptian word bj.t. Three branches further south-east, Greek, Armenian and Albanian, derive words for “bee” from the borrowed word *melith-, honey. “The Hittite word for ‘bee’ is unknown; texts use the Sumerogram NIM.LÀL.” (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:516, fn.81), so the Hittite word could have been something similar. So only the three eastern branches (Indo–Aryan, Iranian and Tocharian) definitely do not derive their words for “bee” directly from the Egyptian form or from the word *melith-.
[Note 1: Incidentally, as in the case of the Indo-Iranian words in Finno-Ugric languages, the academic scholars apply a kind of brazen anti-logic in their pronouncements. Gamkrelidze tells us that the PIE word *medhu– is derived from the Semitic word *mVtķ “sweet”: “In contrast to the native Indo-European word for bee honey, *meli(th)-, the Semitic loan *medhu- began to be used in Indo-European to mean ‘sweet intoxicating beverage‘” (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:771). As we saw:
1. The word that he claims to be a “Semitic loan” is found for both “honey” and “intoxicating beverage” in the five branches (Indo–Aryan, Iranian, Tocharian, Baltic and Slavic) whose early historical habitats were completely out of the area of Semitic influence, while out of the five branches (Italic, Albanian, Greek, Armenian and Hittite) totally within the area of Semitic influence, this “Semitic loan” is completely missing in four of them, and is found (for “intoxicating beverage”) in only one (Greek). Simultaneously, the word he claims to be a “native Indo-European word” is totally missing in the first group of five branches which were out of the area of Semitic influence, but found only in the other seven branches which were within the sphere of Semitic influence!
2. Further, in the history of bees, honey and mankind, the early primitive stages of honey gathering had an equal place for honey and mead (the intoxicating beverage prepared from honey). It was only with the evolution of domestic apiculture on a major scale that honey became an important commercial product and the manufacture of mead eventually became insignificant or even non-existent. The word *medhu-, meaning both “honey” and “mead”, found in the five branches historically spoken in areas far from the influence of the Semitic areas of domestic apiculture, clearly represents the “native Indo-European word“. The word *melith-, meaning only “honey”, found only in that sense in the seven branches historically influenced by Semitic apiculture, in four of which (spoken right in Semitic territory or in its immediate border areas) any cognate word for “intoxicating beverage” has been completely lost, clearly represents the “Semitic loan“. That “honey + mead” was the original position, and “only honey” the new position induced by Semitic influence, is proved by the fact that the westernmost Iranian language Ossetic, deep in the sphere of influence of Semitic domestic apiculture, retained the word *medhu– and did not acquire the word *melith-, but, nevertheless: “The Ossetic reflex of *medhu-, Oss.myd, means only ‘honey‘” (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:520,fn 84).]
[Note 2: The PIE word *medhu– was also historically borrowed into ancient Chinese (from Tocharian) and into the Finno-Ugric languages (from Indo-Aryan migrants)]
That the western branches alone reflect the influence of this Egyptian-Mediterranean-West Asian beekeeping culture proves one very fundamental principle in IE migrations: migrations of branches took place from the east to the west, hence important words from the central areas (the West-Asia-Anatolia-Caucasus region) and languages (Semitic, Caucasian) are found in the western branches (which passed across the longitudes of these central areas or settled down there), but are missing in the branches to the east of the central areas (since these eastern branches, being in the east from the beginning, never crossed these central areas during their formative stages).
We will now immediately see two more instances of the validity of this principle:
F. The Evidence of Wine and Aurochs:
Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, in their bid to claim proto-Semitic influence on PIE in its early stages, list seventeen potential “loanwords” from Semitic. Mallory and Adams (pointing out the limited dialectal distribution of many of these words in the IE branches) reduce the list to four: “The more significant Semitic-Indo-European comparisons are Proto-Indo-European *medhu– ‘honey’: Proto-Semitic *mVtk– ‘sweet’; Proto-Indo-European *tauros ‘wild bull, aurochs’: Proto-Semitic *ṯawr ‘bull, ox’; Proto-Indo-European *septṁ ‘seven’: Proto-Semitic *sab’atum; and Proto-Indo-European *wóinom ‘wine: Proto-Semitic *wayn ‘wine’” (MALLORY-ADAMS 2006:82-83).
Two of these comparisons clearly represent coincidental similarities. We have already dealt with the comparison between “Proto-Indo-European *medhu– ‘honey’: Proto-Semitic *mVtk– ‘sweet’“. The second one, “Proto-Indo-European *septṁ ‘seven’: Proto-Semitic *sab’atum” is equally untenable: that either of the two families should have borrowed the word for “seven” from the other is incomprehensible. Especially when those advocating this “comparison” would reject a much more credible comparison of the very first four numerals in Proto-Indo-European (*sem, *dwōu/*dwai, *tri and *qwetwor: note Tocharian sas/se ‘one’, Romanian patru ‘four’, Welsh pedwar ‘four’) and Proto-Austronesian (*esa, *dewha, *telu and *pati/*epati: note Malay sa/satu ‘one’, dua ‘two’, tiga ‘three’, epat ‘four’) as far-fetched or coincidental.
But the other two words certainly offer very fair instances of Semitic words borrowed into Indo-European languages. But into Proto-Indo-European in its formative stages in its Homeland? Let us see the facts of the case:
The Proto-Semitic word *ṯawr ‘bull, ox’ is represented in all the major Semitic languages: Akkadian šȗru, Ugaritic ṯr, Hebrew šȏr, Syriac tawrā, Arabic ṯawr, South Arabic ṯwr.
In Indo-European, it is found in Italic (Latin taurus), Celtic (Gaulish tarvos, Irish tarb), Germanic (Old Icelandic ƥjórr), Baltic (Lithuanian taũras), Slavic (Old Slavic turǔ), Albanian (tarok) and Greek (taȗros). The Hittite word for “bull” is not known since it is represented by a Sumerian ideogram whose Hittite reading is not known (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:483), and Armenian has borrowed a Caucasian form (tsul) for bull. In short, here we again have a distinct case of the Semitic influence being found only in the western branches: this Semitic loan for “bull” or “aurochs” is completely missing in the three eastern branches Indo–Aryan, Iranian and Tocharian. Again it illustrates the phenomenon of migration of IE branches from east to west.
The evidence of the words for “wine” is even more devastating for the AIT. The word is either a “Semitic loan” word, or “an ancient Near Eastern migratory word” (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:559) found in both in the Semitic (*wayn-, Akkadian īnu, Ugaritic yn, Hebrew yayin, Hamitic Egyptian wnš) and South Caucasian (*ɣwino– “wine”, Georgian ɣwino, Mingrelian ɣwin-, Laz ɣ(w)in, Svan ɣwinel, and *wenaq– “vineyard”, Old Georgian venaq, Mingrelian-Laz binex– Svan wenäq) languages. Gamkrelidze also refers to “the considerable development of viticulture and wine-making in the Transcaucasus” (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:560 fn 64), even as he suggests that the PIEs could also have originally developed this word in the West Asian-Transcaucasus region.
Whether an original Semitic or Caucasian word, or an original development in PIE, the geography of the word is undoubtedly the West Asian-Transcaucasus region. And again:
1. The word is completely missing in the three eastern branches Indo–Aryan, Iranian and Tocharian, but is found in all the other nine western branches.
2. Furthermore, the word for wine is found in the nine western branches in three grades (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:557-558): *wi(o)no– with zero grade vocalism, *weino– with e-grade vocalism, and *woino– with o-grade vocalism, exactly corresponding to the three chronological groups of IE branches:
a. The Early branch which migrated to the west, Anatolian, has words derived from *wi(o)no-: Hittite wiyana-, Luwian winiyant, Hieratic Luwian wiana-.
b. The five European branches have words derived from *weino-: Italic (Latin uīnum), Celtic (Old Irish fīn, Welsh gwin), Germanic (German wine, English wine), Baltic (Lithuanian vynas, Latvian vĩns), Slavic (Russian vino, Polish wino).
c. The three Last branches which migrated to the west have words derived from *woino-: Greek (Mycenaean Greek wo-no, Homeric Greek oȋnos), Albanian (vēnë), Armenian (gini).
Different forms of the word were adopted into the three different groups of IE branches as they migrated westwards, while the branches which remained in the east remained unaffected.
G. The Evidence of the Horse:
And now we come to that animal which most advocates of the Steppe Homeland (with no justification whatsoever, as we will see) think is the clinching weapon in their arsenal: the horse. There have been so many absurd allegations, claims and theories from both sides on this issue that we must first note what is actually factual in the matter. There are basically only three indisputable facts:
1. The horse is known to the PIEs, and cognate words are found for the horse in almost every single branch: PIE *ekhwos, Anatolian (Hieratic Luwian) á-sù-wa, Tocharian yuk/yakwe, Indo-Aryan (Vedic) áśva, Iranian (Avestan) aspa-, Armenian ēš “donkey”, Greek (Mycenaean) iqo, (Homeric) híppos, Germanic (Old English) eoh, (Gothic) aihwa, Celtic (Old Irish) ech, (Gaulish) epo-, Italic (Latin) equus and Baltic (Lithuanian) ešva. Ironically, it is missing only in the one branch actually spoken in the Steppes, Slavic, and the Albanian word has also not survived in the records. But this proves that the horse was very well known to the PIEs in their Homeland, before 3000 BCE, when different branches started dispersing from that Homeland.
2. The horse was known to the Vedic people throughout the period of composition of the text.
3. The horse is not native to India, but is native to a large area spread out over northern Eurasia from the Steppes of South Russia in the west to Central Asia in the east.
The first two facts are not generally disputed, but the third one is disputed by opponents of the AIT, some of whom suggest that the horse referred to in the Rigveda is not the northern horse of the Steppes, but an indigenous species: notably the Siwalik horse equus siwalensis, a sturdy species of horse indigenous to a large part of northern India in ancient times, but believed to have become extinct around 8000 BCE or so. The fact that the Rigveda I.162.18 and the Shatapatha Brahmana 13.5 describe the horse being sacrificed as having 34 ribs (when the true horse has 36 ribs, but some varieties of the Siwalik horse are supposed to have had 34 ribs) is taken as added evidence of the presence of the Siwalik horse in India in Vedic times, the lack of fossil evidence being explained as irrelevant since (as we will see) fossil evidence of the true horse is also absent in India during later periods when, and in areas where, it is known that they were abundantly present. Further, it is possible that the word *ekhwos originally referred to any equid species in general (including the onager or hemione, one of the fastest mammals known, a wild ass abundantly present in ancient north India and still native to arid regions in Kutch and Ladakh), as indeed the word “equid” as used today does. Also, sometimes in the Rigveda, the word áśva is sometimes used for mounted animals other than the horse which are used as vehicles for riding: in IV.37.4, the phrase “fat áśva” may be a reference to an elephant, and, in many verses, the phrase “spotted áśva“, as vehicles of the Maruts are accepted as definitely referring to spotted deer: I.87.4; 89.7; 186.8; II.34.4; III.26.6; V.42.15; VII.40.3 (although, of course, this could also be a poetical transfer of a word originally meaning “horse” to the spotted deer). However, we will leave aside all these interesting arguments (although the references to 34 ribs certainly warrant an explanation) and only concentrate on the evidence as pertaining to the true horse “of the Steppes” which was not native to India.
From the three facts regarding horses noted above, the supporters of the AIT draw the following conclusion: the horse was not present or known in India before the arrival of the “Aryans”, since no bones of the horse have been found in the Harappan sites and there is no representation of the horse in the Harappan seals. Hence the Harappan civilization must be “non-Aryan”, and it was the “Aryans” who brought the horse into India from their Homeland in the Steppes of South Russia. Hock, for example, puts it as follows: “While disagreeing on minor details, those familiar with Indo-European linguistic paleontology and with the archeological evidence in Eurasia agree that the use of the domesticated horse spread out of the steppes of the Ukraine, and so did the horse-drawn two-wheeled battle chariot, as well as the great significance of the horse in early Indo-European culture and religion. Indo-Europeanists and specialists in general Eurasian archeology are therefore convinced, too, that these features spread into India along with the migration of Indo-Aryan speakers.” (HOCK 1999a:12-13).
This conclusion represents one of the most fraudulent propositions in the whole “Aryan” debate:
1. The horse was not present in India, but it was present in Central Asia to the north of Afghanistan since the earliest times. As of date, the evidence of the first fully domesticated horses in the world, more than a thousand years earlier than formerly believed, comes from the Botai culture in Kazakhstan: by 3500 BCE, the Botai culture was a fully horse breeding culture where horses were bred, milked, and ridden (examination of the teeth and jaw-bones found on the sites have confirmed that bridles and bits were being used).
But, even closer to home, strong evidence has been found that horses were domesticated, or at least tamed and kept amidst human settlements at even earlier dates, in Uzbekistan to the north of Afghanistan: see LASOTA-MOSKALEWSKA 2009 (A Problem of the Earliest Horse Domestication. Data from the Neolithic Camp Ayakagytma ‘The Site’, Uzbekistan, Central Asia. pp. 14-21 in Archaeologia Baltica Volume 11, Klaipeda University, Lithuania, 2009). The team of archaeologists and archaeozoologists who scientifically examined the material on the site, some 130 km. north of Bukhara city, point out that there are “two clearly separated phases: an Early Neolithic, 14c dated to ca 8000-7400 cal. BP, and Middle Neolith one, 14c dated to ca 6000-5000 cal. BP” (with a 1500 year gap caused by flooding at the site), and there is “a rich collection of animal remains, connected directly with the Neolithic settlements. Among the bone and tooth fragments, the horse remains played a very important role. Already in the earliest horizons a share of the pieces identified as belonging to the Equidae family reached 30.0-40.0 % (Table 1). In comparison with other Eurasian Neolithic sites, such numbers are rather unique” (LASOTA-MOSKALEWSKA 2009:14-15). On the basis of various factors: “the extremely high share of the Equidae remains, sometimes exceeding 40% [….] the height in withers [….] the width of the sole surfaces measured on the basis of the hoof prints [which] indicate that the animal who left them was much larger than an average wild individual, but fit well to the size of horses domesticated for a long time [….] [and] the presence [along with the horse remains on the site] of the other fully domesticated species of mammals: cattle, sheep/goat,pig and dog [….] leads us to the more than probable conclusion that the horse was domesticated since the very beginnings of the Central Asian lowlands Neolithic, which is dated to a turn of the ninth and eighth millennium cal. BP. At the same time, it would be the earliest date for horse domestication that we have today” (LASOTA-MOSKALEWSKA 2009:19-20).
So, the horse did not come with invading “Aryans” who left the Steppes of South Russia around 3000 BCE. Horses, whether fully domesticated, or in various stages of semi-domestication, were already abundantly present in human settlements to the immediate north of Afghanistan as far back as 6000 BCE.
Further, the Indian Homeland was not confined to the interiors of India. The recorded evidence shows us that by pre-Rigvedic times, the Indo-European groups, the Druhyu and Anu, had already spread out from the interior of India into the areas of Central Asia to the north of Afghanistan. The period of the Old Books of the Rigveda goes back beyond 3000 BCE, and by that time, Central Asia was already home to the proto-Anatolians, the proto-Tocharians and the vanguard of the proto-European Druhyu groups. The horse-domesticating, or at least horse-rich, areas of Central Asia were already part of the heartland of the Druhyu who formed the northern continuum of the expanded Druhyu–Anu–Pūru Homeland in 3000 BCE. Therefore, the development or adoption of a common PIE name for the horse, one of the most magnificent animals of the time (whether in the wild or in domestication) was natural and inevitable.
2. The claim that horses were unknown since horse bones are not found in the Harappan sites is also a blatant lie. Horse bones have been found in Indus sites and further in the interior of India in periods prior to the alleged “Aryan invasion of India” after 1500 BCE. As Bryant points out: “The report claiming the earliest date for the domesticated horse in India, ca. 4500 B.C.E., comes from a find from Bagor, Rajasthan, at the base of the Aravalli Hills (Ghosh 1989a, 4). In Rana Ghundai, Baluchistan, excavated by E. J. Ross, equine teeth were reported from a pre-Harappan level (Guha and Chatterjee 1946, 315–316). Interestingly, equine bones have been reported from Mahagara, near Allahabad, where six sample absolute carbon 14 tests have given dates ranging from 2265 B.C.E. to 1480 B.C.E. (Sharma et al. 1980, 220–221). Even more significantly, horse bones from the Neolithic site Hallur in Karnataka (1500–1300 B.C.E.) have also been identified by the archaeozoologist K. R. Alur (1971, 123). […….] In the Indus Valley and its environs, Sewell and Guha, as early as 1931, had reported the existence of the true horse, Equus caballus Linn from Mohenjo-Daro itself, and Bholanath (1963) reported the same from Harappa, Ropar, and Lothal. Even Mortimer Wheeler identified a horse figurine and accepted that “it is likely enough that camel, horse and ass were in fact all a familiar feature of the Indus caravan” (92). Another early evidence of the horse in the Indus Valley was reported by Mackay, in 1938, who identified a clay model of the animal at Mohenjo-Daro. Piggott (1952, 126, 130) reports a horse figurine from Periano Ghundai in the Indus Valley, dated somewhere between Early Dynastic and Akkadian times. Bones from Harappa, previously thought to have belonged to the domestic ass, have been reportedly critically re-examined and attributed to a small horse (Sharma 1992–93, 31). Additional evidence of the horse in the form of bones, teeth, or figurines has been reported in other Indus sites such as Kalibangan (Sharma 1992–93, 31); Lothal (Rao 1979), Surkotada (Sharma 1974), and Malvan (Sharma 1992–93, 32). Other later sites include the Swat Valley (Stacul 1969); Gumla (Sankalia 1974, 330); Pirak (Jarrige 1985); Kuntasi (Sharma 1995, 24); and Rangpur (Rao 1979, 219).” (BRYANT 2001:169-170). Also, horse bones (Dhawalikar), as well as a terracotta figurine of a horse, have been found at Kayatha in the Chambal Valley in Madhya Pradesh in all the chalcolithic levels, dated 2450-2000 BCE. Also, there is a very distinctive horse figure in a “chess set” found at Lothal. Further, one of the finds (the one in Surkotada in the Kutch region of Gujarat) has been certified by the topmost horse specialist archaeologist of the time: “the material involved had been excavated in Surkotada in 1974 by J. P Joshi, and A. K. Sharma subsequently reported the identification of horse bones from all levels of this site (circa 2100–1700 B.C.E.). In addition to bones from Equus asinus and Equus hemionus khur, Sharma reported the existence of incisor and molar teeth, various phalanges, and other bones from Equus caballus Linn (Sharma 1974, 76) [….] Twenty years later, at the podium during the inauguration of the Indian Archaeological Society’s annual meeting, it was announced that Sandor Bökönyi, a Hungarian archaeologist and one of the world’s leading horse specialists, who happened to be passing through Delhi after a conference, had verified that the bones were, indeed, of the domesticated Equus caballus: “The occurrence of true horse (Equus caballus L.) was evidenced by the enamel pattern of the upper and lower cheek and teeth and by the size and form of incisors and phalanges. Since no wild horses lived in India in post-pleistocene times, the domestic nature of the Surkotada horses is undoubtful” (reproduced in Gupta 1993b, 162; and Lal 1997, 285)” (BRYANT 2001:170-171).
The AIT scholars resort to any one of two tactics: complete silence, or flat denial. Hock tries a middle path, and admits: “The question whether the archeological evidence supports the view that domesticated horses were a feature of the Harappan civilization is still being debated; see the summary of arguments in CHENGAPPA, 1998″, but continues on to: “Significantly, however, to my knowledge no archeological evidence from Harappan India has been presented that would indicate anything comparable to the cultural and religious significance of the horse or the important role of the horse-drawn two-wheeled chariot which can be observed in the traditions of the early Indo-European peoples, including the Vedic āryas. On balance, then, the ‘equine’ evidence at this point is more compatible with migration into India than with outward migration” (HOCK 1999a:12-13).
But, according to the AIT (and Hock himself), the horse and the “horse-drawn two-wheeled battle chariot” came from the Steppes of Ukraine and South Russia with the “Aryans”, who settled down for a long period in the BMAC area in Central Asia for a period of time where they developed the common “Indo-Iranian” culture and borrowed local “BMAC” words, and then moved into the Punjab after 1500 BCE where they composed the Rigveda by 1200 BCE, and then moved further eastwards into the Gangetic plains where they composed the Yajurveda, and then later spread out all over northern India. Is any of this scenario supported by “archeological evidence [….] that would indicate anything comparable to the cultural and religious significance of the horse or the important role of the horse-drawn two-wheeled chariot which can be observed in the traditions of the early Indo-European peoples, including the Vedic āryas“?
a. No archaeologist has yet been able to produce any archaeological trail of horse bones (or chariots) from the Ukraine to the BMAC, from the BMAC to the Punjab, and from the Punjab to the other eastern parts of northern India, in sequence with the accepted areas and time-frames of the AIT.
b. Bryant notes: “Another observation that needs to be pointed out is that a number of scholars are prepared to consider that the Bactria Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC), which will be discussed in the next chapter, is an Indo-Aryan culture. The horse has been evidenced in this culture in the form of representations in grave goods. However, no horse bones have been found despite the availability of a large number of animal bones. This again underscores the point that lack of horse bones does not equal the absence of horse. Nor, at least in the opinion of those who subscribe to the Indo-Aryan identification of the BMAC, does this lack equal the absence of Indo-Aryans. Therefore, anyone prepared to associate the BMAC culture with the Indo-Aryans cannot then turn around and reject such an identification for the Indus Valley on the grounds of lack of horse bones in the latter” (BRYANT 2001:173-174). [The BMAC culture had horses, of course, and they were “Aryans”: not “Aryans” on their way to India, but Anu and Druhyu who had earlier emigrated from India to the northwest].
c. Not a single specimen of the Vedic chariot (which Hock tells us was brought all the way from the Ukrainian Steppes by the “Aryans”) has yet been discovered by any archaeologist anywhere in India in their time-frames and areas. The earliest stone carvings depicting the chariot are found from the Mauryan period, after 350 BCE.
d. In fact, the occurence of horse bones in the Punjab and Haryana from 1500 BCE till at least 500 BCE is almost nil. Any stray finds reported (for example a sole reported finding of horse bones in Bhagwanpura/Bhagpur in northeastern Haryana around 1000 BCE) certainly cannot “indicate anything comparable to the cultural and religious significance of the horse or the important role of the horse-drawn two-wheeled chariot which can be observed in the traditions of the early Indo-European peoples, including the Vedic āryas“, and does not represent any notable change in the situation after 1200 BCE. Further, note that the earliest horse bone findings accepted by the AIT naysayers are in the southern (Kutch) and eastern (northeast Haryana) corners of northwest India: any “Aryan horse bones” in the stretch from the BMAC area to the Greater Punjab area seem to be invisible.
Note also what the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, Vol. 9, p.348, has to say in the course of a description of Indian archaeology: “Curiously, however, it is precisely in those regions that used iron, and were associated with the horse, that the Indo-Aryan languages did not spread. Even today, these are the regions of the Dravidian language group”.
Witzel, for example, even while claiming that “linguistic and textual studies confirm the presence of an outside, Indo-Aryan speaking element, whose language and spiritual culture has definitely been introduced, along with the horse and the spoked wheel chariot, via the BMAC area into northwestern South Asia”, immediately admits that: “However, much of present-day Archaeology denies that. [….] So far, clear archaeological evidence has just not been found” (WITZEL 2000a:§15).
Therefore, unless one is willing to accept that no such people as the “Vedic Aryans”, and no such things as the Vedic chariot and Vedic horse, ever existed, it must be accepted that the whole set of arguments concerning (the alleged absence of) horse bones in the Harappan civilization are fake, fraudulent and irrelevant. Insisting on the “Aryan” presence in the BMAC and the Punjab areas in the concerned periods in spite of the absence of horse bones, and denying their presence in the Harappan areas and period on the grounds of (the alleged) absence of horse bones amounts to extreme special pleading.
3. The Linguistic evidence clearly completely disproves any idea that the horse was unknown to the non-Indo-European language speaking people of India before “Aryans” brought it all the way from the Ukrainian Steppes and introduced it to them. The evidence shows that the horse, whether as a magnificent exotic wild beast from beyond the northwest or as an already domesticated animal, was individually and separately known to the “non-Aryans” of India: as I pointed out in my first book: “Sanskrit has many words for the horse: aśva, arvant or arvvā, haya, vājin, sapti, turanga, kilvī, pracelaka and ghoṭaka, to name the most prominent among them. And yet, the Dravidian languages show no trace of having borrowed any of these words; they have their own words kudirai, parī and mā […] The Santali and Mundari languages, however, have preserved the original Kol-Munda word sādom. Not only has no linguist ever claimed that the Dravidian and Kol-Munda words for ‘horse’ are borrowed from ‘Aryan’ words, but in fact some linguists have even sought to establish that Sanskrit ghoṭaka, from which all modern Indo-Aryan words are derived, is borrowed from the Kol-Munda languages!” (TALAGERI 1993:160).
The above point is “echoed” by none other than Michael Witzel: “Dravidian and Indo-Aryan (IE) words for domesticated animals are quite different from each other, for example, Drav. DEDR 500 Tam. ivuḷi, Brah. (h)ullī, 1711 Tam. kutirai, etc. DEDR 3963 Tam. pari ‘runner’, 4870 Tam. mā ‘animal’ (horse, elephant), Tel. māvu ‘horse’, cf. Nahali māv ‘horse’ […]; they have no relation with IA aśva ‘horse’ and various words for ‘runner’ (arvant, vājin, etc.).” Further, he adds: “Obviously, use of horses is not linked to speakers of an IA language” (WITZEL 2000a: §15). So, clearly, horses were not introduced to the “non-Aryans” of India by “invading Aryans”.
In an article in an Indian newspaper, as part of a political media campaign in 2002, Witzel, however, alleges that the words in the “non-Aryan” languages of India are borrowed from different West Asian, and even Chinese, sources. He naturally does not explain the mode by which those words landed into these “non-Aryan” Indian languages and became so central to them. But, in any case, it still means that the horse was known to the non-Indo-European language speakers of India by means other than through an introduction by “Aryans”.
4. The literary evidence in the Rigveda clearly shows that the horse was a well-known and respected animal right from the period of the Old Books. Naturally, this exotic, rare and much-prized animal from the (then) areas of the Anu and Druhyu in Central Asia could not possibly have been unknown to the Vedic Aryans in 3000 BCE: but the horse clearly became commoner and more important only with the invention of the spoked wheels in the period of the New Books:
a. The word ara– for “spoke” is found only in the New Books (5,1,8,9,10):
I.32.15; 141.9; 164.11,12,13,48.
b. Likewise, names with aśva and ratha appear only within the New Books:
V.27.4,5,6; 33.9; 36.6; 52.1; 61.5,10; 79.2.
I.36.18; 100.16,17; 112.10,15; 116.6,16; 117.17,18; 122.7,13.
VIII.1.30,32; 9.10; 23.16,23,24; 24.14,22,23,28,29; 26.9,11; 35.19,20,21; 36.7; 37.7; 38.8; 46.21,33; 68.15,16.
X.49.6; 60.5; 61.21.
c. And also in the names of composers of only the following hymns:
V.47, 52-61, 81-82.
VIII.14-15, 23-26, 35-38, 46.
The Bhṛgu ṛṣi, Dadhyañc, who introduced the secrets of the northwest to Indra, is supposed to have the head of a horse (I.116.12; 117.22; 119.9), and the Bhṛgu (IV.16.20) and the Anu (V.31.4) are credited with inventing the chariot for Indra. This may show the direction of movement of innovations concerning the horse and the chariot (but obviously it does not show the movements of the Vedic Aryans themselves).
The horse, though not native to India, was definitely known to the PIEs in their homeland, but this fits in perfectly well with the Indian Homeland scenario recorded in the Indian texts.
H. The Evidence of the Cow:
Finally, we come to that animal which is most central to the Indo-European ethos: much more central than the horse: i.e. the cow. In spite of all the rhetoric about “Aryans” and their horses, it is the cow which is central to the identity of the “pastoral Aryans”, but, unlike the other flora and fauna discussed so far, the cow rarely seems to form a central point of discussion in faunal debates on the location of the Homeland (by advocates of the South Russian Steppes theory), for obvious reasons, as we will see. The cow/bull/cattle is probably the only animal (other than the dog, domesticated from prehistoric times) which has a form of the reconstructed PIE name in every single branch: PIE *gwṓus, Indo-Aryan Skt. gáuh, Iranian Av. gāuš, Armenian kov, Greek boûs, Albanian ka, Anatolian Hier.Luw. wawa-, Tocharian keu, Italic Latin bōs, Celtic Old Irish bō, Germanic German kuh, Baltic Lithuanian guovs, Slavic OCS govedo.
Gamkrelidze, an advocate of the Anatolian Homeland theory, points out that “the economic function of the cow as a dairy animal can be reconstructed for a period of great antiquity” (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:485), and further that “The presence of cows and bulls among domestic animals goes back to an ancient period well before the domestication of the wild horse. Evidence of domesticated bulls and cows is found by the beginning of the Neolithic” (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:489). But then follows some deliberate misdirection to fit in with his Anatolian Homeland theory. Gamkrelidze tells us: “There are two major centers of cattle domestication in Eurasia: a European zone where the ancestral wild cow was the huge European bison (Bos Primigenius Boj.), and a western Asian area where the ancestral wild cows were distinct species [….] the western Asian area is considered the center of first domestication of wild cattle” (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:489-490). He repeatedly proceeds to refer to these as “the two centers of domestication” (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:490). Then, he adds the clincher: “Indo-European dialects preserve words from a common base *thauro-, – originally ‘wild cow, wild bull’ in Indo-European – a Near Eastern migratory term, which shows that the speakers of these dialects were acquainted with the wild cows found specifically in the Near East” (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:491).
The above contains many glaring misrepresentations, which will become clear when we see the actual facts, all of which point unanimously to an Indian Homeland:
1. There are indeed “two centers of domestication” of the cow (i.e. of domestic cattle), and they are not the subject of any controversy. The wikipedia article on “Cattle” unambiguously tells us: “Archeozoological and genetic data indicate that cattle were first domesticated from wild aurochs (Bos primigenius) approximately 10,500 years ago. There were two major areas of domestication: one in the area that is now Turkey, giving rise to the taurine line, and a second in the area that is now Pakistan, resulting in the indicine line [….] European cattle are largely descended from the taurine lineage“. All other academic sources regularly point out that “the Indus Valley Civilization” was one of the two centers of domestication of cattle. [So much for the glaring difference between the “urban Harappans” and “pastoral Aryans”].
2. The Rigveda is an extremely cow-centered text. Not only is the cow mentioned many more times than any other animal (including the horse), but the word go-/gau– in the Rigveda is replete with many naturalistic and mystic meanings (where it represents the rays of the sun, the earth, the stars, and many other more mystic things not within the scope of this article) showing it to be a central feature of the Rigvedic religion and socio-economic environment. But even more linguistically important is that the Sanskrit language contains every single common IE word associated with cows and cattle, except, significantly, the “Near Eastern migratory term” borrowed from Semitic referred to by Gamkrelidze (the implications of the absence of which, in the three eastern branches, definitely shows that “the speakers of these dialects were not acquainted with the wild cows found specifically in the Near East” (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:491 paraphrased) as already discussed earlier).
Mallory tells us there are three different words for “cow” in the IE languages, *gwṓus, *h1eĝh, and *wokéha-. The first, as we saw, is found in all the twelve branches. As for the other words for cow, bull, cattle, they are found in Indo-Aryan + different other branches:
a. *h1eĝh “cow”: Skt. ahī-, Armenian ezn, Celtic (Old Irish) ag.
b. *wokéha– “cow”: Skt. vaśā-, Italic (Latin) vacca.
c. *phekhu– “livestock”: Skt. paśu-, Iranian (Avestan) pasu-, Italic (Latin) pecū, Germanic (Old English) feoh, Baltic (Lithuanian) pēkus.
d. *uk(w)sēn “ox”: Skt. ukṣan-, Iranian (Avestan) uxšan, Tocharian okso, Germanic (English) ox, Celtic (Old Irish) oss.
e. *wṛs-en “bull”: Skt. vṛṣṇí-, Iranian (Avestan) varəšna-.
f. *usr– “cow/bull”: Skt. usra/usrā, Germanic ūro (from ūrochso).
g. *domhoyos “young bull”: Skt. damya-, Celtic (Old Irish) dam, Albanian dem, Greek damálēs.
This last is particularly significant. Gamkrelidze points out the following: “that speakers of Proto-Indo-European were among those who domesticated wild cattle is also shown by the presence in Indo-European of another term for ‘bull’, derived from the verb *t’emH- ‘tame, subdue: bridle: force’: OIr dam ‘bull’, Ved. damya- ‘young bull to be tamed’, Alb. dem ‘young bull’, (Mayrhofer 1963:II.35), Gr. damálēs, ‘young bull to be tamed’, damálē ‘heifer’” (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:491). The weight of the evidence, however, shows that this “taming” took place in the area of the Vedic people in the Indus-Sarasvati area, and not in West Asia as Gamkrelidze tries to suggest.
Further, the following two words also illustrate the developed role of dairying in the PIE world: a) Skt. goṣṭhá– and Celtiberian (an extinct Celtic language spoken in Spain) boustom, “cattle-shed”; and b) a common PIE word for “udder”: Skt. ūdhar-, Greek oŭthar, Latin ūber, Germanic (English) udder. Again, Indo-Aryan is the common factor.
3. The Vedic Indo–Aryan and Iranian branches, with their earliest recorded history located in northwestern India, have preserved the original verb “to milk”: Ved. duh-/dugh– and Iranian dox-. This verb is lost in all the other branches, but the fact that this is the original verb is proved by the occurrence of the root in a very basic family relationship name indicative of the centrality of the dairying culture in the PIE world: “The dialect words for ‘daughter’ are an important set that go back to this root: Skt. duhitár– ‘daughter’, Avest. dugədar, Arm. dustr, Gk. thugátēr [….] Engl. daughter, OPruss. duckti, Russ. doč’, Toch B. tkácer” (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:486, fn.41). The word has long been believed to signify “milkmaid”, indicating that milking the cow was an important part of the duties of the daughter of the house in a typical PIE household. The Vedic Indo-Aryan branch also derives its basic word for “milk” from this root: dugdhá-.
Iranian, however, uses two other words: Avestan xšvīd– (modern Persian šīr) and Avestan paēman, (modern Persian pīnū, “sour milk”). Both these words have their counterparts in Vedic: kṣīr– and payas-, both also meaning “milk”. The words have counterparts in other branches as well (Albanian hirrë “whey”, Baltic Lithuanian svíestas “butter”, píenas “milk”). Another Vedic word ghṛta “cream, butter, ghee” is found as gert “milk” in Celtic Irish. And Vedic dádhi (gen. dadhnás) “yogurt/curds, sour milk” is found as dadan “milk” in Baltic Old Prussian and djathë “cheese” in Albanian.
However, there is another very widespread word for the verb “to milk”, found in eight branches: PIE *melk’-, Tocharian mālklune, Celtic Irish bligim, Italic (Latin) mulgeō, Germanic (English) to milk, Baltic (Lithuanian) mélžti, Slavic (Old Russian) mlĕsti, Greek amélgo, Albanian mjel. Four of them also derive the noun “milk” from this root: Tocharian malke/malkwer, Celtic Old Irish melg/mlicht/blicht, Germanic (English) milk, Slavic (OCS) mlĕko, (Russian) moloko. From this circumstance, Gamkrelidze treats this root as the original word for “milk”, and writes: “It is noteworthy that Indo-Iranian replaces both the original verb ‘milk’, *melk’-, and the original noun ‘milk’. This may have had to do with specific details of the evolution of dairying among the cattle-breeding Indo-Iranian tribes after their separation from the other Indo-European tribes” (GAMKRELIDZE 1995:486). But the idea that this was the original word is disproved by the fact that:
a) It is totally missing in the Indo–Aryan (apart from the Iranian) branch which retains every major common word associated with cattle-breeding and dairying, and which is situated in the heart of one of the two primary centres of cattle-domestication in the world (as Gamkrelidze puts it: “In Sanskrit and Old Iranian we already find a highly developed terminology associated with the dairying function of cows” GAMKRELIDZE 1995:485, fn.35), and it would be strange that they should completely have forgotten the original word for “milking/milk” (if it were *melk’-).
b) It is also totally missing in the first-to-emigrate Anatolian (Hittite) branch.
c) The Indian root duh-, which is also the root for the word for “daughter” (as the “milkmaid” in the typical pastoral PIE family), proves to be older and more primitive and deep-rooted.
So, clearly, PIE *melk’– is a new word developed among the PIEs in their secondary Homeland in and around Central Asia after they migrated out from the northwest.
There is also another word for “milk” found in Greek gála– (gen. gálaktos), Italic (Latin) lac (gen. lactis), both meaning “milk” (note: the word galaxy “the milky way”), and Hittite galattar “a pleasant-tasting plant juice” (note Greek gála– is also “plant sap”, as is Latin lac herbārum). This is another word which may have developed separately in Central Asia. [Pure speculation: could it be connected with Sanskrit go-rasa “milk” from go– “cow” and rasa “plant sap/juice”?]
4. Most significantly of all, we now have genetic evidence from cattle conclusively proving the OIT: recent scientific genetic studies of cattle have confirmed that the Indian humped zebu cattle, domesticated in the Harappan area since thousands of years, suddenly started appearing in West Asia as well as Central Asia around 2200 BCE, and by 2000 BCE there was largescale mixing of the Indian zebu cattle, bos indicus, with the genetically distinct western species of cattle, bos taurus, in West Asia. Thus we have three very distinct animal species native to India – the elephant, the peacock and the domesticated Indian zebu cattle – appearing in West Asia exactly coinciding with the presence and activities of the Mitanni in West Asia at the time, thus confirming that the Mitanni people were migrants from India to West Asia around 2200 BCE.
The most clinching evidence of all: the species of cattle found in India till modern times have absolutely no admixture with bos taurus of West Asia, which was also the cattle which spread to the Steppe areas and Europe. India had only purely zebu cattle, bos indicus, till modern times.
If we are to accept the AIT theory of “pastoral Aryans” from the Steppes migrating into India after 2000 BCE, we must accept the impossible proposition that the “pastoral Aryans” migrated into India after a journey of over a thousand years from the Steppes, without bringing a single bovine animal with them, and yet brought with them the most complete pastoral vocabulary and culture among all the Indo-European branches – or they slaughtered and ate up every single one of their bulls and cows as soon as they entered India, leaving not a single animal to mix with the local Harappan cattle which immediately became the animal of the immigrants!
Genetics can show the movements and migrations of groups of people or species of animals, though it cannot tell us which languages they spoke (assuming here that the cattle from different areas also speak different languages: they do emit distinctly different sounds). The genetic evidence of the DNA of cattle species shows that western cattle bos taurus never entered India in ancient times. But Indian cattle bos indicus did move into Central Asia as well as West Asia by the second half of the third millennium BCE, in the first stages of the migration of Indo-Europeans from an Indian Homeland into their other historical areas, until the emigrants reached areas where bos taurus were abundant and progressively mixed with or replaced the bos indicus taken by these emigrants.
In any case, to sum up, a comparison of the flora and fauna in Indo–Aryan with the flora and fauna in PIE and the various Indo–European branches points towards India as the original Homeland, and shows a changing landscape of flora and fauna as the IE branches migrated north-westwards into Afghanistan and Central Asia and then further westwards and north-westwards into their historical areas. The elephant symbolizes the original Indian ethos of the PIE environment.
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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.”