Florentine merchant Filippo Sassetti travelled to the Indian subcontinent, and was among the first European observers to study the ancient Indian language, Sanskrit. Writing in 1585, he noted some word similarities between Sanskrit and Italian, e.g. deva/dio, “God”, sarpa/serpe, “snake”,sapta/sette, “seven”, ashta/otto, “eight”, nava/nove, “nine”. This observation is today credited to have foreshadowed the later discovery of the Indo-European language family.

The Literary Evidence :

We have already examined the evidence in the Rig Ved which proves that the original Indo-Iranian habitat was in India and that the Iranians migrated westward and north-westward from India.

We will now examine further literary evidence regarding the location of the original Indo-European homeland in India, under the following heads :

A. Tribes and Priests.

B. The Three Priestly Classes.

C. The Anu-Druhyu Migrations.

Tribes and Priests :

The political history of the Vedic period involves various segregate communities who fall within its contemporary ambit. They are the five major tribal groups mentioned in Rig Ved : Yadus, Turvasas, Anus, Druhyus and Purus. The Trksis are not included because they are referred to as people beyond the Vedic Aryan realm.

It is emphasized however that the Rig Ved hymns are composed under the patronage of Purus, who alone among the five named above are Aryas or Aryans, as is meant in the text. Only the Purus are addressed as “Arya” in the Rig Ved. The other four may or may not have been of the same racial stock but, to the Rig Vedic people and the composers of Rig Ved hymns, they are considered and termed as non-Aryans or “an-Arya”.

This brings us to the second division of people, of those whom the Rig Ved hymns include in mention and references : with Aryas – the Purus – on one part, and the other part comprising of Yadus, Turvasas, Anus and Druhyus.

But there are two distinct words by which the Rig Ved refers to these others :

a. Dasas

b. Dasyus

It is necessary to understand the distinction between the two words.

The word Dasa is found in 54 hymns (63 verses) :

I. 32.11; 92.8; 103.3; 104.2; 158.5; 174.7;

II. 11.2, 4; 12.4; 13.8; 20.6, 7;

III. 12.6; 34.1;

IV. 18.9; 28.4; 30.14, 15, 21; 32.10;

V. 30.5, 7-9; 33.4; 34.6;

VI. 20.6, 10; 22.10; 25.2; 26.5; 33.3; 47.21; 60.6;

VII. 19.2; 83.1; 86.7; 99.4;

VIII. 5.31; 24.27; 32.2; 40.6; 46.32; 51.9; 56.3, 70.10, 96.18;

X. 22.8; 23.2; 38.3; 49.6, 7; 54.1; 62.10; 69.6; 73.7; 83.1; 86.19; 99.6; 102.3; 120.2; 138.3; 148.2.

The word Dasyu is found in 65 hymns (80 verses) :

I 33.4, 7, 9; 36.18; 51.5, 6, 8; 53.4; 59.6; 63.4; 78.4; 100.18; 101.5; 103.3, 4; 104.5; 117.3, 21; 175.3.

II 11.18, 19; 12.10; 13.9: 15.9; 20.8;

III. 29.9; 34.6, 9; 49.2

IV. 16.9, 10, 12; 28.3, 4; 38.1;

V. 4.6; 7.10; 14.4; 29.10; 30.9; 31.5, 7; 70.3;

VI. 14.3; 16.15; 18.3; 23.2; 24.8; 29.6; 31.4; 45.24;

VII. 5.6; 6.3; 19.4;

VIII. 6.14; 14.14; 39.8; 50.8; 70.11; 76.11; 77.3; 98.6;

IX. 41.2; 47.2; 88.4; 92.5;

X. 22.8; 47.4; 48.2; 49.3; 55.8; 73.5; 83.3, 6; 95.7; 99.7, 8; 105.7, 11; 170.2.

There are two distinct aspects that differentiates the Dasas and Dasyus :

1. The term Dasa clearly refers to other tribes (ie. non-Puru tribes)

W hile the term Dasyu refers to their priestly classes (ie. non-Vedic priestly classes).

[This is apart from the fact that both the terms are freely used to refer to the atmospheric demons as much as to human enemies to whom they basically refer.]

a. According to IV. 28.4, the Dasyus are a section among the Dasas.

b. The Dasyus are referred to in terms which clearly show that the cause of hostility is religious in nature :

Ayajña (worshipless): VII.6.3.

Ayajvan (worshipless): I.33.4; VIII.70.11.

Avrat (riteless): I.51.8; 175.3; VI.14.3; IX.41.2.

Akarma (riteless): X.22.8.

Adev (godless): VIII.70.11.

Asraddha (faithless): VII.6.3.

Amanyaman (faithless): I.33.9; 11.22.10.

Anyavrat (followers of different rites): VIII.70.11; X.22.8.

Abrahma (prayerless): IV.16.9.

Not one of these abusive terms are used even once in reference to Dasas.

c. The family-wise pattern of references to them also shows that the Dasyus are priestly rivals while the Dasas are secular rivals.

The Dasyus are referred to by all the nine priestly families of Rishis, but never by the non-priestly family of Rishis (the Bharat's).

The Dasas are referred to by the Bharat's (X.69.6; 102.3) also but not by the most purely ritualistic family of Rishi's, the Kashyap's, nor in the purely ritualistic of Mandalas, the Mandala IX.

d. The Dasyus, being priestly entities, do not figure as powerful persons or persons to be feared, but the Dasas, being secular entities (tribes, tribal warriors, kings, etc.) do figure as powerful persons or persons to be feared:

In three references (VIII.5.31; 46.32; 51.9), the Dasas are rich patrons.

In seven references, the Dasas are powerful enemies from whose fury and powerful weapons the composers ask the Gods for protection (I.104.2; VIII.24.27; X.22.8; 54.1; 69.6; 102.3) or from whom the Gods rescue the Rishis (I.158.5).

In three others, the word Dasa refers to powerful atmospheric demons who hold the celestial waters in their thrall (I.32.11; V.30.5; VIII.96.18).

In contrast, Dasyus never figure as rich or powerful enemies. They are depicted as sly enemies who incite others into acts of boldness (VI.24.8).

e. While both Dasas and Dasyus are referred to as enemies of the Aryas, it is only the Dasas, and never the Dasyus, who are sometimes bracketed together with the Aryas.

Seven verses refer to both Aryas and Dasas as enemies (VI.22.10; 33.3; 60.6; VII.83.1; X.38.3; 69.6; 83.1; 102.3) and one verse refers to both Aryas and Dasas together in friendly terms (VIII.51.9).

This is because both, the word Dasa and the word Arya, refer to broad secular or tribal entities, while the word Dasyu refers to priestly entities : thus, one would generally say “both Christians and Muslims”, or “both padres and mullahs”, but not “both Christians and mullahs” or “both Muslims and padres”.

2. The second difference is in the degree of hostility towards the two.

The Dasyus are clearly regarded with uncompromising hostility, while that towards the Dasas is relatively mild and tempered.

a. The word Dasyu has a purely hostile connotation even when it occurs in the name or title of heroes :

Trasadasyu = “tormentor of the Dasyus”.

Dasyavevrka = “a wolf towards the Dasyus”.

On the other hand, the word Dasa has an etymological meaning beyond the identity of the Dasas. When it occurs in the name or title of a hero, it has a benevolent connotation.

Divodasa = “light of Heaven” or “slave of Heaven”.

b. All the 80 verses which refer to Dasyus are uncompromisingly hostile.

On the other hand, of the 63 verses which refer to Dasas, 3 are friendly references (VIII.5.31; 46.32; 51.9); and in one more, the word means “slave” in a benevolent sense (VII.86.7: “slave-like, may I do service to the Bounteous”, ie. to Varuna).

c. Of the 80 verses which refer to Dasyus, 76 verses talk of direct, violent, physical action against them, ie. they talk of killing, subduing or driving away the Dasyus. On the other hand, of the 63 verses which refer to Dasas, only 38 talk of such direct physical action against them.

The importance of this analysis is that it brings to the fore two basic points about the rivalries and hostilities in the Rig Vedic period :

a. The rivalries or hostilities were on two levels: the secular level and the priestly level.

b. The rivalries on the priestly level were more sharp and uncompromising.

Hence, any analysis of the political history of the Rig Vedic period must pay at least as much attention, if not more, to the priestly categories as to secular or tribal categories.

The Three Priestly Classes :

The basic tribal spectrum of the Rig Ved includes the five tribal groupings of Yadus, Turvasas, Anus, Druhyus and Purus, and of these the Purus alone represent the Vedic Aryans, while the other four represent the Others.

But among these four it is clear that the Yadus and Turvasas represent more distant tribes (they are mostly referred to in tandem, and are also referred to as residing far away from the Vedic Aryans), while the Anus and Druhyus fall into a closer cultural spectrum with the Purus.

a. In the Puran's, the Yadus and Turvasas are classified together as descendants of sons of DevayanI, and the Anus, Druhyus and Purus are classified together as descendants of sons of Sharmistha.

b. The geographical descriptions of the five tribes, as described in the Purans, place the Yadus and Turvasas together in the more southern parts (of northern India), and the Anus, Druhyus and Purus together in the more northern parts.

c. The Rig Ved itself, where it refers to the five tribes together (I.108.8) refers to the Yadus and the Turvasas in one breath, and the Druhyus, Anus and Purus in another: “yad Indragni Yadusu Turvasesu, yad Druhyusu Anusu Purusu sthah”.

But, the Purus represent the various branches of the Vedic Aryans, and the Anus represent various branches of Iranians. It is clear, therefore, that the Druhyus represent the third entity in this cultural spectrum, and that it is mainly the Druhyus who will take us beyond the Indo-Iranian arena onto the wider Indo-European context; and appropriately, while the Purus are located in the heartland of North India (U.P.-Delhi-Haryana) and the Anus in the northwest (Punjab), the Druhyus are located beyond the Indian frontiers, in Afghanistan and beyond.

The priestly categories, as we have seen, play a more important role in the rivalries and hostilities in the Rig Vedic period than the secular categories. In the earliest period, the only two families of Rishis, from among the families who figure as composers in the Rig Ved, were the Angiras and the Bhrigus, who were the priests of Purus and Anus respectively. Logically, there must have been a priestly class among the Druhyus as well, but no such priestly class figures among the composers of Rig Vedic hymns.

The explanation for this is simple : the Druhyus were a rival and non-Puru (Dasa) tribe, hence their priests do not figure as composers in the Rig ved. Of course, the Bhrigu's, who were also the priests of a rival and non-Puru tribe, do figure as composers in the Rig ved, but that is because a section of Bhrigu's (after Jamadagni) aligned themselves with Vedic Aryans and joined the Vedic mainstream where, in fact, they later superseded all the other priestly families in importance, and became the dominant priests of Vedic tradition.

But since the Druhyus figure in the Rig ved, the name of their priestly class must also be found in the text, even if not as the name of a family of composers. Since no such name appears, it seems logical that the name Druhyu itself must originally have been the name of this third priestly class : since priestly categories were more important for the composers of the Rig ved than the secular categories; and since the tribes for whom the Druhyus functioned as priests were an amorphous lot located far out on the frontiers of India and beyond, the name of the priestly classes became a general appellation for the tribes themselves.

Therefore, there were three tribal groupings with their three priestly classes :

Purus – Angiras.

Anus – Bhrigu's and Atharvan's.

Druhyus – Druhyus.

This trinary situation tallies with the Indo-European situation : outside of the Vedic and Iranian cultures, the only other priestly class of a similar kind is found among the Celts and the related Italics. While the Italics called their priests by the general name flamen (cognate to Sanskrit brahman, “priest”), the priests of the Celts were called Drui (genitive Druad, hence Druids).

Shan M.M. Winn notes that “India, Rome, Ireland and Iran” are the “areas in which priesthoods are known to have been significant”; and he describes this phenomenon as follows: “Long after the dispersion of Indo-Europeans, we find a priestly class in Britain in the west, in Italy to the South, and in India and Iran to the east. Though these cultures are geographically distant from one another… they have striking similarities in priestly ritual, and even in religious terminology. For example, taboos pertaining to the Roman flamen (priest) closely correspond to the taboos observed by the Brahmans, the priests of India.” Like the Indian priesthood, the curriculum of the “Celtic Druids … involved years of instruction and memorization of innumerable verses, as the sacred tradition was an oral one”.

After noting, in some detail, the similarities in their priestly systems, rituals, religious and legal terminology, Winn concludes that the “Celts, Romans and Indo-Iranians shared a religious heritage dating to an early Indo-European period…”

While the three priesthoods flourished only in these areas, they must originally have been the priests of all the branches of Indo-Europeans in early Indo-European period. Though they themselves did not survive elsewhere, the names of the three priesthoods did survive in different ways.

An examination of these words helps us to classify the various Indo-European branches into three groups :

1. PURUS : Indo-Aryan :

In the Rig ved, hymn VII.18, the Dasarajna battle hymn, refers to the enemy confederation once in secular (tribal) terms as “Anus and Druhyus” (VII.18.14), and once in what is clearly priestly terms as “Bhrigu's and Druhyus” (VII.18.6: the only reference in the whole of the Rig ved which directly refers to the Bhrigu's as enemies). Once, it may be noted, it also refers to the kings of the two tribal groupings as “Kavas and the Druhyu” (VII. 1.8.12. Thus, even here, the general appellation “Druhyu” is used instead of the specific name of the king of the Druhyus).

The words Druh / Drugh / Drogha occur throughout the Rig ved in the sense of “demon” or “enemy”.

(The word Bhrigu, for obvious reasons, does not suffer the same fate.)

2. ANUS : Iranian, Thraco-Phrygian, Hellenic :

a. Iranian : In the Avesta, in Fargard 19 of the Vendidad, it is an Angra (Angiras) and a Druj (Druhyu) who try to tempt Zarathushtra away from the path of Ahura Mazda.

The priests of the Iranians were the Athravans (Atharvanas = Bhrigu's), and the words Angra and Druj occur throughout the Avesta as epithets for the demon enemies of Ahura Mazda and Zarathushtra.

b. Thraco-Phrygian : While the Armenians, the only surviving members of this branch, have not retained any tradition about any of these priestly classes, it is significant that one of the most prominent groups belonging to this branch were known as the Phryge (Bhrigu).

c. Hellenic : The fire-priests of the Greeks were known as the Phleguai (Bhrigu).

What is more, Greek mythology retains memories of both the other priestly classes, though not in a hostile sense, as the names of mythical beings : Angelos (Angiras) or divine messengers, and Dryad (Druhyu) or tree-nymphs.

3. DRUHYUS : Baltic and Slavonic, Italic and Celtic, Germanic :

a. Baltic and Slavonic :

The word Druhyu occurs in the languages of these two branches in exactly the opposite sense of the Vedic Druh / Drugh / Drogha and the Iranian Druj. In Baltic (eg. Lithuanan Draugas) and Slavonic (eg. Russian Drug) the word means “friend”.

b. Italic and Celtic :

While the Italic people did not retain the name of the priestly class (and called their priests flamen = Brahman), the Celtic priests, as we have seen, were called the Drui (genitive Druad, hence Druid).

A significant factor, showing that the Celtic priests must have separated from the other priestly classes before the priestly hostilities became intense, is that the Bhrigu's appear to be indirectly remembered in Celtic mythology in a friendly sense.

The Larousse Encyclopaedia of Mythology notes : “whereas the Celtic Gods were specifically Celtic… the goddesses were restatements of an age-old theme”. And two of the three Great Goddesses of the Celts were named Anu and Brigit (Anu and Bhrigu?). And while all the Goddesses in general were associated with fertility cults, “Brigit, however, had additional functions as a tutelary deity of learning, culture and skills”.

The main activity of the Drui, as already stated, was to undergo “years of instruction and the memorization of innumerable verses, as the sacred tradition was an oral one”. The fact that the Goddess of learning was named Brigit would appear to suggest that the Drui remembered the ancient Bhrigu's in a mythical sense, as the persons who originally introduced various priestly rituals among them (a debt which is also remembered by the Angiras in the Madaalas of the Early Period of the Rig Ved.

The Bhrigu's, by joint testimony of Vedic and Celtic mythology, would thus appear to have been the oldest or most dominant and innovative of the three priestly classes.

c. Germanic: The word Druhyu occurs in the Germanic branch as well. However the meaning (although the words are cognate to the Russian Drug and Lithuanian Draugas) is more militant : Gothic driugan, “do military service” and ga-drauhts, “soldier”; and Old Norse (Icelandic) drOtt, Old English dryht and Old German truht, all meaning “multitude, people, army”.

The meanings of the word Druhyu as it occurs in the Celtic branch (“priest”), the Germanic branch (“soldier”, etc. or “people”) and the Baltic-Slavonic branches (“friend”) clearly correspond with the word in the Rig ved and Avesta, where Druhyu / Druh / Drugh / Drogha and Druj represent enemy priests, soldiers or people.

Thus, to sum up :

1. Puru (priests Angiras) : Indo-Aryan.

2. Anu (priests Bhrigu's /Atharvan's) : Iranian, Thraco-Phrygian, Hellenic.

3. Druhyu (priests Druhyus): Celtic-Italic, Baltic-Slavonic, Germanic.

The Anu-Druhyu Migrations :

The evidence of the Rig Ved, and Indian tradition, clearly shows that the Anus and Druhyus were Indian tribes. If they were also the ancestors of the Indo-European branches outside India, as is indicated by the evidence of the names of their priestly classes, then it is clear that the Rig Ved and Indian tradition should retain memories of the migrations of these two groups from India.

Significantly, this is exactly the case: the Rig Ved and the Purans, between them, record two great historical events which led to the emigration of precisely these two tribes from India :

1. The first historical emigration recorded is that of the Druhyus. This emigration is recorded in the Purans, and it is so historically and geographically specific that no honest, student of the Puranic tradition has been able to ignore either this event or its implications for Indo-European history (even without arriving at the equation Purus = Vedic Aryans).

The Purans (Vayu 99.11-12; Brahmand III.74.11-12; Matsya 48.9; Vishnu IV.17.5; Bhagavat IX.23.15-16) record: Pracetasah putra-Satam rajanah sarva eva te, mleccha-rastradhipah sarve hyudIcIm diSam asritah.

As Pargiter points out : “Indian tradition knows nothing of any Aila or Aryan invasion of India from Afghanistan, nor of any gradual advance from thence eastwards.” On the contrary, “Indian tradition distinctly asserts that there was an Aila outflow of the Druhyus through the northwest into the countries beyond where they founded various kingdoms.”

P.L. Bhargav also notes this reference to the Druhyu emigration: “Five Purans add that Pracetas’ descendants spread out into the mleccha countries to the north beyond India and founded kingdoms there. ”This incident is considered to be the earliest prominent historical event in traditional memory.

The Druhyus, inhabitants of the Punjab, started conquering eastwards and southwards, and their conquest brought them into conflict with all the other tribes and people : the Anus, Purus, Yadus, Turvasas and even the Iksvakus.

This led to a concerted opposition by the other tribes against the Druhyus. AD Pusalker records : “As a result of the successful campaigns of Sasabindu, Yuvanasva, Mandharti and Sibi, the Druhyus were pushed back from Rajputana and were cornered into the northwestern portion of the Punjab. Mandhatri killed their king Angara and the Druhyu settlements in the Punjab came to be known as Gandhar after the name of one of Angara’s successors. After a time, being overpopulated, the Druhyus crossed the borders of India and founded many principalities in the Mleccha territories in the north, and probably carried the Aryan culture beyond the frontiers of India.”

This first historical emigration represents an outflow of the Druhyus into the areas to the north of Afghanistan (ie. into Central Asia and beyond).

2. The second historical emigration recorded is that of the Anus and the residual Druhyus, which took place after the Dasarajna battle in the Early Period of the Rig Ved.

As we have already seen in our chapter on the Indo-Iranian homeland, the hymns record the names of ten tribes (from among the two main tribal groupings of Anus and Druhyus) who took part in the confederacy against Sudas.

Six of these are clearly purely Iranian people :

a. Prthus or Parthavas (VII.83.1): Parthians.

b. Parsus or Parsavas (VII.83.1): Persians.

c. Pakthas (VII.18.7): Pakhtoons.

d. Bhalanas (VII.18.7): Baluchis.

e. Sivas (VII.18.7): Khivas.

f. Visanins (VII.18.7): Pishachas (Dards).

One more Anu tribe, not named in the Rig Ved, is that of the Madras : Medes.

All these Iranian people are found in later historical times in the historical Iranian areas proper : Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia. Two of the other tribes named in the hymns are Iranian people who are found in later historical times on the northwestern periphery of the Iranian areas, ie. in the Caucasus area :

a. Simyus (VII.18.5) : Sarmatians (Avesta = Sairimas).

b. Alinas (VII.18.7) : Alans.

And the name of one more tribe is clearly the name of another branch of Indo-Europeans … non-Iranians, but closely associated with the Iranians … found in later historical times in the area to the west of the Iranians, ie. in Anatolia or Turkey : the Bhrigu's (VII.18.6) – Phrygians.

Significantly, the names of the two tribes found on the northwestern periphery of the Iranian area are also identifiable with the names of two other branches of Indo-Europeans, found to the west of Anatolia or Turkey.

a. Simyus (VII.18.5) : Sirmios (ancient Albanians).

b. Alinas (VII.18.7) : Hellenes (ancient Greeks).

The Dasarajna (battle of Ten Kings) hymns record the emigration of these tribes westward from the Punjab after their defeat in the battle.

Taken together, the two emigrations provide us with a very logical and plausible scenario of the expansions and migrations of the Indo-European family of languages from an original homeland in India :

1. The two tribal groupings of Anus and Druhyus were located more or less in the Punjab and Afghanistan respectively after the Druhyu versus non-Druhyu wars in the earliest pre-Rigvedic period.

2. The first series of migrations, of the Druhyus, took place shortly afterwards, with major sections of Druhyus migrating northwards from Afghanistan into Central Asia in different waves. From Central Asia many Druhyu tribes, in the course of time, migrated westwards, reaching as far as western Europe.

These migrations must have included the ancestors of the following branches (which are not mentioned in the Dasarajna battle hymns) :

a. Hittite.

b. Tocharian.

c. Italic.

d. Celtic.

e. Germanic.

f. Baltic.

g. Slavonic.

3. The second series of migrations of Anus and Druhyus, took place much later, in the Early Period of the Rig Ved, with various tribes migrating westwards from the Punjab into Afghanistan, many later on migrating further westwards as far as West Asia and southwestern Europe.

These migrations must have included the ancestors of the following branches (which are mentioned in the Dasarajna battle hymns) :

a. Iranian.

b. Thraco-Phrygian (Armenian).

c. Illyrian (Albanian).

d. Hellenic.

The whole process gives a clear picture of the ebb-and-flow of migratory movements, where remnants of migrating groups, which remain behind, get slowly absorbed into the linguistic and cultural mainstream of the other groups among whom they continue to live, retaining only, at the most, their separate names and distinctive identities :

1. The Druhyus, by and large, spread out northwards from northwestern Punjab and Afghanistan into Central Asia (and beyond) in the first Great Migration. A few sections of them, who remained behind, retained their distinctive names and identities (as Druhyus), but were linguistically and culturally absorbed into the Anu mainstream.

2. The Anus (including the remnants of the Druhyus), by and large, spread out westwards from the Punjab into Afghanistan in the second Great Migration after the Dasarajna battle. A few sections of them, who remained behind, retained their distinctive names and identities (as Anus), but linguistically and culturally, they were absorbed into the Puru mainstream and they remained on the northwestern periphery of the Indo-Aryan cultural world as the Madras (remnants of the Madas or Medes), Kekayas, etc.

3. Further migrations took place from among the Anus in Afghanistan, with non-Iranian Anu groups, such as the Bhrigu's (Phryges, Thraco-Phrygians), Alinas (Hellenes, Greeks) and Simyus (Sirmios, Illyrians or Albanians) migrating westwards from Afghanistan, as far as Anatolia and south-eastern Europe. A few sections of these non-Iranian Anus who remained behind, retained their distinctive names and identities but, linguistically and culturally, they were absorbed into the Iranian mainstream, and could be found on the north-western periphery of the Iranian cultural world among Armenians (who, though greatly influenced by the Iranian, retained much of their original language), the Alans (remnant of the Hellenes or Greeks) and Sarmations (remnant of the Sirmios or Albanians).

The literary evidence of Rig Ved thus provides us with a very logical and plausible scenario of the schedule and process of migrations of various Indo-European branches from India.

At this point, we may recall the archaeological evidence in respect of Europe, already noted by us. As we have seen, the Corded Ware culture (Kurgan Wave # 3) expanded from the east into northern and central Europe, and the “territory inhabited by the Corded Ware/Battle Axe culture, after its expansion, qualifies it to be the ancestor of Western or European language branches : Germanic, Baltic, Slavic, Celtic and Italic”.

The origins of the Kurgan culture have been traced as far east as Turkmenistan in 4500 BC. This fits in perfectly with our theory that the seven branches of Indo-Europeans, not specifically mentioned in the Dasarajna hymns, migrated northwards into Central Asia during the first Great Migration. Five of these, the five European branches mentioned above, later migrated westwards into Europe while the other two, Hittite and Tocharian, remained behind in parts of Central Asia till the Hittites, at a much later date, migrated southwestwards into Anatolia.

These two branches that remained behind in Central Asia, possibly retained contact with Indo-Aryans and the Iranians further south. The fact that Hittite mythology is the only mythology outside the Indo-Iranian cultural world which mentions Indra (as Inar) may be evidence of that connect. Even more significant, from the viewpoint of literary evidence, is the fact that Indian tradition remembers two important people located to the north of the Himalayas who are called the Uttar Kurus and the Uttar Madras : “The Uttar Kurus along with the Uttar Madras are located beyond the Himalayas. Though regarded as mythical in the epic and later literature, the Uttar Kurus still appear as a historical community in the Aitareya Brahman (VII.23).”

It is possible that the Uttarkurus and the Uttarmadras were the Tocharian (Uttar Kuru = Tokhri) and Hittite branch of Indo-Europeans located to the north of the Himalayas. The scenario we have reconstructed from the literary evidence in the Rig ved fits in perfectly with the linguistic scenario of the migration schedule of the various Indo-European branches, as reconstructed by the linguists from the evidence of isoglosses, which we will now be examining.

The Evidence of Linguistic Isoglosses :

A linguistic isogloss is a linguistic feature found in some branches of the family, and not in the others. Their study is of great help to linguists in chalking out the likely migration schedule of the various Indo-European branches from their original homeland.

This feature may, of course, be either an original feature of the Proto-Indo-European language that has been lost in some of the daughter branches but retained in others, or a linguistic innovation not found in the parent language and developed only in some of the daughter branches. But this feature is useful in establishing early historico-geographical links between branches which share the same isogloss.

We will examine the evidence of the isoglosses as follows :

A. The Isoglosses

B. The Homeland Indicated by the Isoglosses

The Isoglosses :

There are, as Winn points out, “ten ‘living branches’… Two branches, Indic (Indo-Aryan) and Iranian, dominate the eastern cluster. Because of the close links between their classical forms – Sanskrit and Avestan respectively – these languages are often grouped together as a single Indo-Iranian branch.”But Meillet.

Besides these ten living branches, there are two extinct branches : Anatolian (Hittite) and Tocharian.

Of these twelve branches, one branch, Illyrian (Albanian), is of little use in this study of isoglosses : “Albanian… has undergone so many influences that it is difficult to be certain of its relationships to the other Indo-European languages.”

An examination of the isoglosses which cover the other eleven branches (living and extinct) gives a more or less clear picture of the schedule of migrations of the different Indo-European branches from the original homeland.

Whatever the dispute about the exact order in which the different branches migrated away from the homeland, the linguists are generally agreed on two important points :

1. Anatolian (Hittite) was the first branch to leave the homeland : “The Anatolian languages, of which Hittite is the best known, display many archaic features that distinguish them from other Indo-European languages. They apparently represent an earlier stage of Indo-European, and are regarded by many as the first group to break away from the proto-language.”

2. Four branches, Indic, Iranian, Hellenic (Greek) and Thraco-Phrygian (Armenian) were the last branches remaining behind in the original homeland after the other branches had dispersed : “After the dispersals of the early PIE dialects,… there were still those who remained… Among them were the ancestors of the Greeks and Indo-Iranians.

“Greek and Sanskrit share many complex grammatical features; this is why many earlier linguists were misled into regarding them as examples of the most archaic stage of Proto-Indo-European. However, the similarities between the two languages are now regarded as innovations that took place during a late period of PIE, which we call stage III. One of these Indo-Greek innovations was also shared by Armenian and all these (three) languages, it seems, existed in an area of mutual interaction.”

Thus we get : “Greek Armenian, Phrygian, Thracian and Indo-Iranian. These languages may represent a comparatively late form of Indo-European, including linguistic innovations not present in earlier stages. In particular, Greek and Indic share a number of distinctive grammatical features……”

The following are some of the innovations shared only by Indic, Iranian, Greek and Armenian (Thraco-Phrygian) … features which distinguish them from the other branches, especially the living ones :

a. “The prohibitive negation *me is attested only in Indo-Iranian (ma), Greek (me) and Armenian (mi); elsewhere, it is totally lacking… and there is no difference in this respect between the ancient and modern stages of Greek, Armenian or Persian” or, for that matter, sections of Indic (e.g. the prohibitive negation mat in Hindi).

b. “In the formation of the Perfect also, there is a clear ‘distinction’ between Indo-Iranian and Armenian and Greek, on the one hand, and all the other languages, on the other.”

c. The “Indo-European voiceless aspirated stops are completely attested only in Indo-Iranian and Armenian… Greek… clearly preserves two of the three voiceless aspirated stops whose existence is established by the correspondence of Indo-Iranian and Armenian.” All the other branches show “complete fusion” of these voiceless aspirated stops.

d. “The suffix *-tero-, *-toro-, *-tro- serves in bell Indo-European languages to mark the opposition of two qualities, but only in two languages, Greek and Indo-Iranian, is the use of the suffix extended to include the formation of secondary adjectival comparatives… This development, by its very difference, points to the significance of the Greek and Indo-Iranian convergence… Armenian, which has a completely new formation, is not instructive in this regard.” But, “Latin, Irish, Germanic, Lithuanian and Slavic, on the other hand, borrow their secondary comparative from the original primary type.”

e. “The augment is attested only in Indo-Iranian, Armenian and Greek; it is found nowhere else.” And it is “significant that the augment is not found in any of the other Indo-European languages… The total absence of the augment in even the earliest texts, and in all the dialects of Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic and Slavic, is characteristic.”

Hence, “the manner in which Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic and Slavic eliminated the imperfect, and came to express the preterite, presupposes an original Indo-European absence of the augment throughout this group of languages. We thus have grounds for positing two distinct Indo-European dialect groups.”

f. The division of the Indo-European branches into two distinct groups is confirmed by what Meillet calls the Vocabulary of the Northwest : “There is quite a large group of words that appear in the dialects of the North and West (Slavic, Baltic, Germanic, Celtic and Italic) but are not found in the others (Indic, Iranian, Armenian and Greek)… their occurrence in the dialects of the North and West would indicate a cultural development peculiar to the peoples who spread these dialects.”

While Anatolian (Hittite) was “the first group to break away from the proto-language”, and Indic, Iranian, Armenian and Greek were “those who remained” after “the dispersals of the early PIE dialects”, the other branches share isoglosses which can help in placing them between these two extremes :

1. “Hittite, the first to separate itself, shares many isoglosses with Germanic and Tocharian.”

2. “Celtic, Italic, Hittite, Tocharian and (probably) Phrygian share an interesting isogloss : the use of ‘r’ to indicate the passive forms of verbs. This feature… does not occur in any other Indo-European language.”

3. Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic and Slavonic constitute one distinct group, in contra-distinction to the other distinct group consisting of Indic, Iranian, Armenian and Greek.

However, within themselves, these five branches link together as follows :

a. Italic and Celtic :

“Comparative linguists have long been aware of the links between Italic and Celtic, which share a number of archaic features. These links suggest that the two branches developed together.” Among other things: “Vocabulary is identical in parts; this is true of some very important words, particularly prepositions and preverbs.”

b. Baltic and Slavonic :

“The general resemblance of Baltic and Slavic is so apparent that no-one challenges the notion of a period of common development… Baltic and Slavic are the descendants of almost identical Indo-European dialects. No important isogloss divides Baltic from Slavic… the vocabularies of Slavic and Baltic show numerous cognates – more precisely, cognates that are found nowhere else or cognates that in Baltic and Slavic have a form different from their form in other languages.”

c. Italic, Celtic and Germanic :

“The Germanic, Celtic and Italic idioms present… certain common innovational tendencies.” But, Italic apparently separated from the other two earlier: “Germanic, Celtic and Italic underwent similar influences. After the Italic-Celtic period, Italic ceased undergoing these influences and underwent others… Germanic and Celtic, remaining in adjacent regions, developed in part along parallel lines.”

d. Germanic, Baltic and Slavonic :

“Because Germanic shares certain important features with Baltic and Slavic, we may speculate that the history of the three groups is linked in some way.”

To go into more precise detail… “The difference between a dative plural with *-bh-, eg. Skr.-bhyah, Av. -byO, Lat. -bus, O.Osc. -fs, O.Ir.-ib, Gr. -fi(n), and one with *-m-, eg. Goth. -m, O.Lith. -mus, Ol.Sl. -mU, is one of the first things to have drawn attention to the problem of Indo-European dialectology. Since it has been established, principally by A. Leskien, that there was no unity of Germanic, Baltic and Slavic postdating the period of Indo-European unity, the very striking similarity of Germanic, Baltic and Slavic which we observe here cannot… be explained except by a dialectical variation within common Indo-European.” It is, therefore, clear “that these three languages arose from Indo-European dialects exhibiting certain common features.”

To sum up, we get two distinct groups of branches :

Group A: Hittite, Tocharian, Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic, Slavonic.

Group B: Indic, Iranian, Thraco-Phrygian (Armenian), Hellenic (Greek).

No major isogloss cuts across the dividing line between the two groups to suggest any alternative grouping : the phenomenon of palatalization appears to do so, but it is now recognized as “a late phenomenon” which took place in “a post-PIE era in which whatever unity that once existed had broken down and most of the dialect groups had dispersed”, and we will examine the importance of this phenomenon later on.

Other similarities between languages or branches which lie on opposite sides of the above dividing line are recognizable as phenomena which took place after the concerned branches had reached their historical habitats, and do not therefore throw any light on the location of the original homeland or the migration-schedule of the branches.

The following are two examples of such similarities :

1. The Phrygian language appears to share the “r-isogloss” which is found only in the Hittite, Tocharian, Italic and Celtic branches. However :

a. The Phrygian language is known only from fragments, and many of the linguistic features attributed to it are speculative. About the “r-isogloss”, it may be noted, Winn points out that it is shared by “Celtic, Italic, Hittite, Tocharian and (probably) Phrygian”.

b. Armenian, the only living member of the Thraco-Phrygian branch, does not share the “r-isogloss”, and nor did the ancient Thracian language.

c. The seeming presence of this isogloss in Phrygian is clearly due to the influence of Hittite, with which it shared its historical habitat : “Phrygian later replaced Hittite as the dominant language of Central Anatolia.”

2. Greek and Italic alone share the change of Proto-Indo-European voiced aspirated stops (bh, dh, gh) into voiceless aspirated stops (ph, th, kh). Sanskrit is the only language to have retained the original voiced aspirated stops, while all the other branches, except Greek and Italic, converted them into unaspirated stops (b, d, g).

But this similarity between Greek and Italic is because “when Indo-European languages were brought to Mediterranean people unfamiliar with voiced aspirated stops, this element brought about the process of unvoicing”, and this change took place in the two branches “both independently and along parallel lines”. Hence, this is not an isogloss linking the two branches.

Therefore, it is clear that the two groups represent two distinct divisions of the Indo-European family.

The Homeland Indicated by the Isoglosses

The pattern of isoglosses shows the following order of migration of the branches of Group A :

1. Hittite

2. Tocharian

3. Italic-Celtic

4. Germanic

5. Baltic-Slavonic

Some of these branches share certain isoglosses among themselves that represent innovations which they must have developed in common after their departure from the original homeland, since the remaining branches (Indic, Iranian, Armenian and Greek) do not share these isoglosses.

This clearly indicates the presence of a secondary homeland, outside the exit-point from the original homeland, which must have functioned as an area of settlement and common development for the migrating branches.

The only homeland theory which fits in with the evidence of the isoglosses is the Indian homeland theory :

The exit-point for the migrating branches was Afghanistan, and these branches migrated towards the north from Afghanistan into Central Asia, which clearly functioned as the secondary homeland for emigrating branches.

As Winn points out : “Evidence from isoglosses… shows that the dispersal cannot be traced to one particular event; rather it seems to have occured in bursts or stages.”

Hittite was the first to emigrate from Afghanistan into Central Asia, followed by Tocharian.

Italic-Celtic represented the next stage of emigration. The four branches developed the “r-isogloss” in common.

Germanic was the next branch to enter the secondary homeland, and it developed some isoglosses in common with Hittite and Tocharian.

The Baltic-Slavonic movement apparently represented the last major emigration. And its sojourn in the secondary homeland was apparently not long enough for it to develop any isoglosses in common with Hittite or Tocharian.

The five branches (Italic, Celtic, Germanic, Baltic and Slavonic, in that order) later moved further off, north-westwards, into the area to the north of the Caspian Sea, and subsequently formed part of the Kurgan III migrations into Europe. The Slavonic and Baltic branches settled down in the eastern parts of Europe, while the other three proceeded further into Europe. Later, the Italic branch moved towards the south, while the Germanic and Celtic branches moved to the north and west.

Meanwhile the other branches barring Indic… the Greek, Armenian and Iranian, as also perhaps the one branch (Illyrian or Albanian) which we have not taken into consideration so far, migrated westwards from India by a different and southern route.

Scholars now generally accept the evidence of the isoglosses so far as it concerns the schedule of migrations of the different Indo-European branches from the original homeland or the inter-relationships between different branches. However, when it comes to determining the actual location of the original homeland, on the basis of this evidence, they abandon their objective approach and try to make it appear as if the evidence fits in with the particular homeland theory advocated by them, even when it is as clear as daylight that they are trying to fit a round peg into a square hole.

The homeland theory generally advocated by the scholars is the South Russian homeland theory. Shan M.M. Winn advocates the “Pontic-Caspian area” within this region as the particular location of the homeland.

An examination shows that the South Russian homeland theory (“Pontic-Caspian” or otherwise) is totally incompatible with the evidence of the isoglosses :

1. To begin with, it is clear that we have two distinct groups of branches, which we have already classified as Group A and Group B.

As per the evidence of the isoglosses, the branches in Group A are the branches which migrated away from the original homeland, and those in Group B are the branches which remained behind in the homeland after the other branches had departed.

At the same time, all the branches in Group A are found to the north of the Eurasian mountain chain (except for Hittite in Anatolia, but this branch is known to have migrated into Anatolia from the north-east), while all the branches in Group B are found to the south of the Eurasian mountain chain (the northernmost, Greek, is known to have migrated into southeastern Europe from the south-east).

The logical corollary should have been that the original homeland is also to the south of the Eurasian mountain chain, and that it is located in the historical habitat of one of the branches in Group B.

However, the scholars regularly advocate homeland theories which place the homeland in the area of one or the other of the branches in Group A.

2. The branches in Group A developed certain isoglosses in common after they had migrated away from the homeland. As we have pointed out, this makes it likely that there was a secondary homeland where they must have developed these isoglosses.

However, any homeland theory which locates the homeland in a central area, like South Russia or any area around it, makes the location of this secondary homeland a problem : the Tocharian branch is historically located well to the east of South Russia, the Hittite branch is located well to the south of South Russia, and the Germanic and Italic-Celtic branches are located well to the west of South Russia. It is difficult to think of a way in which all these branches could have moved together in one direction from South Russia before parting from each other and moving off in totally opposite directions.

It is perhaps to avoid this problem that Winn suggests that the isoglosses shared in common by these branches are not innovations developed by these branches in common, but archaic features which have been retained by otherwise separately migrating branches.

In respect of the r-isogloss, for example, Winn puts it as follows : “Celtic, Italic, Hittite, Tocharian, and (probably) Phrygian share an interesting isogloss : the use of ‘r’ to indicate the passive forms of verbs. This feature, which does not occur in any other Indo-European language, is probably an example of the ‘archaism of the fringe’ phenomenon. When a language is spread over a large territory, speakers at the fringe of that territory are likely to be detached from what goes on at the core. Linguistic innovations that take place at the core may never find their way out to peripheral areas; hence dialects spoken on the fringe tend to preserve archaic features that have long since disappeared from the mainstream… Tocharian… was so remote from the center that it could hardly have taken part in any innovations.”

However, it is more logical to treat this isogloss as an innovation developed in common by a few branches after their departure from the homeland, than to postulate that all the other otherwise disparate branches eliminated an original “use of ‘r’ to indicate the passive forms of verbs”.

3. What is indeed an example of the “archaism of the fringe” phenomenon is the phenomenon of palatalization.

Winn describes it as follows :

“Palatalization must have been a late phenomenon; that is, we date it to a post-PIE era, in which whatever unity that once existed had now broken down, and most of the dialect groups had dispersed : looking at the geographical distribution of this isogloss, we may note its absence from the peripheral languages : Germanic (at the northwest limit of Indo-European language distribution); Celtic (western limit); Italic, Greek and Hittite (southern limit); and Tocharian (eastern limit). It is the languages at the center that have changed. Here, at the core, a trend towards palatalization started; then gradually spread outward. It never reached far enough to have any effect on the outlying languages.”

Note that Winn calls it a “post-PIE era, in which whatever unity that once existed had now broken down, and most of the dialect groups had dispersed”, and that he locates every single other branch (except Indic and Iranian), including Greek, in its historical habitat. He does not specifically name Baltic-Slavonic and Armenian, but it is understood that they are also located in their historical habitats, since he implies that they are “the languages at the centre” (I.e. languages in and around South Russia, which is anyway the historical habitat of these branches).

Indic and Iranian alone are not located by him in their historical habitats, since that would clearly characterize them as the most “peripheral” or “outlying” branches of all, being located at the extreme southern as well as extreme eastern limit of the Indo-European language distribution. And this would completely upset his pretty picture of an evolving “center” with archaic “outlying languages”, since the most outlying of the branches would turn out to be the most palatalized of them all. Hence Winn, without being explicit but implicit in his argument, locates all the other branches, including Greek, in their historical habitats with only the Indic and Iranian branches well outside their historical habitats and still in South Russia, and keeps his fingers crossed over the possibility of the anomaly being noticed.

Here we see, once again, how the manipulation required to locate the Indo-European homeland in South Russia compels the scholars, again and again, to postulate weird and unnatural schedules of migrations which make the Indo-Iranians the last to leave South Russia, and which locate them in South Russia long after all the other branches, including Greek, are already settled in their historical habitats : a picture which clashes sharply with, among other things, the extremely representative nature of the Rigvedic language and mythology, the purely Indian geographical milieu of the Rig Ved and the movement depicted in it from east to west, and the evidence of the names of places and rivers in northern India right from the period of Rig Ved itself.

The “late phenomenon” of a “trend towards palatalization” which started “at the core” and “then gradually -spread outward” … and “never reached far enough to have any effect on the outlying languages” … can be explained naturally only on the basis of the Indian homeland theory : the trend started in the “core area”, in north and northwest India, and spread outwards as far as the innermost of the branches in Group A : Baltic and Slavonic, but not as far as the outermost of the branches in Group B : Greek.

Incidentally, here is how Meillet depicts the interrelationships between the various extant branches … he does not include Hittite and Tocharian in the picture, but it is clear that they will fall in the same group as Germanic, Celtic and Italic.

While the north-south axis clearly divides the non-palatalized branches in the west from the palatalized branches in the east, where we must locate the “core” area where palatalization started, the northeast-southwest axes neatly divides the branches into the three tribal groupings testified by Indian literary records.

4. More than anything else, the one aspect of the evidence of isoglosses that disproves the South Russian theory is the close relationship between Indic or Indo-Iranian and the Greek, which is not satisfactorily explained by any homeland theory other than the Indian homeland theory.

In dismissing Colin Renfrew’s Anatolian homeland theory, Winn cites this as the single most important factor in disproving the theory : “All the migrations postulated by Renfrew ultimately stem from a single catalyst : the crossing of Anatolian farmers into Greece… For all practical purposes, Renfrew’s hypothesis disregards Tocharian and Indo-Iranian.”

Supporters of Renfrew’s theory, Winn points out, “have tried to render the Indo-Iranian problem moot. They argue that the Indo-Iranian branch was somehow divided from the main body of Proto-Indo-European before the colonists brought agriculture to the Balkans. Greek and Indic are thus separated by millenniums of linguistic change – despite the close grammatical correspondences between them (as we saw, these correspondences probably represent shared innovations from the last stage of PIE).”

Winn’s very valid argument against the Anatolian theory is just as applicable to the South Russian homeland theory, or any other theory which seeks to bring Indic and Iranian into their historical habitats through Central Asia : this involves an extremely long period of separation from Greek which does not fit into the evidence of the isoglosses that shows that Indic and Greek have many “shared innovations from the last stage of PIE”.

Archaeology, for one, completely rules out any links between the alleged Proto-Indo-Iranians located by these scholars in Central Asia, and the Greeks. Winn tries to identify the Andronovo culture which “covers much of the Central Asian steppe east of the Ural river and Caspian Sea”, with the “Proto-Indo-Iranians” during their alleged sojourn in Central Asia.

However, not only does he admit that “it is still a hazardous task to connect (this) archaeological evidence of Indo-Iranians in the Central Asian steppe with the appearance of Iranian (Aryan) and Indic (Indo-Aryan) tribes in Iran, Afghanistan and India,” but he also accepts that these so-called Proto-Indo-Iranians in Central Asia have “no links with… south-eastern Europe”, I.e. with the Greeks.

It is only the Indian homeland theory which fits in with the evidence of the isoglosses.

It may be noted again that :

a. The evidence of the isoglosses suggests that the Indic, Iranian, Armenian and Greek branches, as well as the Albanian branch, were the last to remain behind in the original homeland after the departure of the other branches.

b. These (naturally, barring Indic) are also the same branches which show connections with the Bhrigu's / Atharvan's, while those which departed show connections with the Druhyus.

c. Again, all these branches form a long belt to the south of the Eurasian mountain chain, while the other (departed) branches are found to its north.

d. And, finally, these are the only branches which are actually recorded in the Dasarajna hymns as being present in the Punjab area during the time of Sudas.


Indo-Iranian and Indo-Aryan streams supposedly branched off some 4000 – 6000 years ago.


The historical identity of the Iranians :

“The Aryan invasion theory of India is a myth that owes more to European politics than anything in Indian records or archaeology.”

Gnoli points out that the Avesta reflects “an historical situation in which Iranian elements exist side by side with … Aryan or Proto-Indoaryan (elements)”. Turning to the Rig ved, it is natural to expect to find the same situation reflected there as well. And if that is so, it must also be likely that the Iranians have a specific historical identity in Vedic terms.

The historical identity of the Vedic Aryans themselves, as we have seen, is quite specific : this identity does not embrace all the tribes and peoples named in the Rig Ved, but is confined to the Purus (and particularly the Bharat's among them) who are alone called Aryas in the Rig Ved.

All the other people, i.e. all non-Purus, are called Dasas in the Rig ved. While it is natural to infer that the term Dasa was a general term for all non-Purus as well as a specific term for the particular non-Purus who existed “side by side” with the Purus (i.e. for the Iranians), there must also have been a specific tribal name for these particular non-Purus.

The Rig ved (in agreement with the Purans) classifies the Purus as one of the five tribes: namely, the Yadus, Turvasas, Druhyus, Anus, Purus (I.108.8). Prima facie, the Iranians must be identifiable with one of the remaining four. Of the four, all sources locate the Yadus and Turvasas together in the interior of India, and the Druhyus are located outside the frontiers of India. The most likely candidates are therefore the Anus who are located “side by side” with the Purus in all geographical descriptions (and, incidentally, even in the enumeration of the names of the five tribes in I.108.8).

An examination of the evidence demonstrates beyond the shadow of any doubt that the ancient Indian tribes of the Anus are identical with the ancient Iranians :

1. As we have already seen, the Indo-Aryan-Iranian conflict very definitely had an Angiras-Bhrigu dimension to it, with Angiras being the priests of the Indo-Aryans and Bhrigu's of the Iranians : a situation reflected in the traditions of both the peoples.

This situation is also reflected in the Rig Ved where the dominant priests of the text, and the particular or exclusive priests of the Bharat's (the Vedic Aryans), are the Angiras : All the generations before Sudas have Bharadwaj as their priests (which, perhaps, explains the etymology of the name Bharad-vaja); Sudas himself has the Kutsas also as his priests (besides the new families of priests : the Vishvamitra and the Vashishth); and Sudas’s descendants Sahadev and Somak have the Kutsas and the Vamadev's as their priests.

The Bhrigu's are clearly not the priests of the Bharat's, and, equally clearly, they are associated with a particular other tribe : The Anus. The names Anu and Bhrigu are used interchangeably in Rig Ved : compare V.31.4 with IV.16.20, and VII.18.14 with VII.18.6. Griffith also recognizes the connection in his footnote to V.31.4, when he notes : “Anus : probably meaning Bhrigu's who belonged to that tribe.”

2. The Rig Ved and the Avesta, as we saw, are united in testifying to the fact that the Punjab (Sapta-Sindhu or Hapta-Handu) was not a homeland of the Vedic Aryans, but was a homeland of the Iranians. The Purans as well as the Rig Ved testify to the fact that the Punjab was a homeland of the Anus.

Pargiter notes the Puranic description of the spread of the Anus from the east and their occupation of the whole of the Punjab : “One branch headed by Udinara established separate kingdoms on the eastern border of the Punjab, namely those of the Yaudheyas, Ambasthas, Navarastra and the city Krmila; and his famous son Sivi originated the Sivis [footnote : called Sivas in Rig Ved VII.18.7] in Sivapura, and extending his conquests westwards, founded through his four sons the kingdoms of the Vrsadarbhas, Madras (or Madrakas), Kekayas (or Kaikeyas), and Suviras (or Sauviras), thus occupying the whole of the Punjab except the north-west corner.”

In Rig Ved, the Anus are repeatedly identified with the Parusni river, the central river of the Punjab, as the Purus are identified with the SarasvatI : in the Battle Of Ten Kings, the Anus are clearly the people of the Parusni area and beyond. Likewise, another hymn which refers to the Parusni (VIII.74.15) also refers to the Anus (VIII.74.4).

Michael Witzel remarks about the locations of “the Yadu-Turvasa and the Anu-Druhyu”, that “the Anu may be tied to the Parusnsi, the Druhyu to the northwest and the Yadu with the Yamuna”.

3. The name Anu or Anava for the Iranians appears to have survived even in later times : the country and the people in the very heart of Avestan land, to the immediate north of the Hamun-i Hilmand, was known as the Anauon or Anauoi as late as Greek times (cf. Stathmoi Parthikoi, 16, of Isidore of Charax).

4. The names of Anu tribes in the Rig Ved and the Purans can be clearly identified with the names of the most prominent tribes among latter-day Iranians. The Battle Of Ten Kings (described in three hymns in the Rig Ved, VII.18, 33, 83) was between Sudas on the one hand, and a confederation of ten tribes from among the Anus and Druhyus on the other, which took place on the Parusni i.e. in Anu territory; hence, logically, most of the tribes were Anus.

Of these ten tribes, the following six, named in just two verses, may be noted :

a. Prthus or Parthavas (VII.83.1) : Parthians

b. Parsus or Parsavas (VII .83.1) : Persians

c. Pakthas (VII.18.7) : Pakhtoons

d. Bhalanas (VII.18.7) : Baluchis

e. Sivas (VII.18.7) : Khivas

f. Visanins (VII.18.7) : Pishachas (Dards)

Three more tribes, named in adjacent verses, may be noted separately :

a. Bhrigu's (VII.18.6) : Phrygians.

b. Simyus (VII. 18.5) : Sarmatians (Avesta = Sairimas).

c. Alinas (VII.18.7) : Alans.

A major Iranian tribe which is not named in the Rig Ved, but appears as a prominent Anu tribe in the Purans and epics is the Madras : Medes (Madai).

Significantly, the Anu king who leads the confederation of Anu tribes against Sudas, and is named in VII.18.12, is common among Zoroastrians even today : Kavasa. Furthermore, this king is also called Kavi Cayaman four verses earlier (in VII.18.8). This is significant because an ancestor of this king, Abhyavartin Cayaman, is identified in VI.27.8 as a Parthav (Parthian). At the same time, Kavi is the title of the kings of the most important dynasty in Avestan and Zoroastrian history, the Kavyan or Kayanian dynasty. In later times, it is the Parthian kings who were the loudest and most persistent in their claims to being descendants of the Kayanians.

If the full name of this king is interpreted as Kavi Kavasa of the line of Cayamanas, he can be identified with Kavi Kavata, the founder of the pre-Avestan dynasty of Kavyan or Kayanian kings, whose most prominent descendant was Kavi Vistaspa. Incidentally, other descendants of Kavi Kavasa may be the Kekayas or Kaikayas, one of the two most prominent Anu tribes of the Purans and later Indian tradition (the other being the Madras), who are located in western Punjab, and whose name bears such a close resemblance to the names of the Kayanian kings.

5. The Dasas of the Rig Ved are opposed to the Aryas : since the word Arya refers to Purus in general and the Bharat's in particular, the word Dasa should logically refer to non-Purus in general and the Anus (or Iranians) in particular.

The word Dasa is found in 54 hymns (63 verses) and in an overwhelming majority of these references, it refers either to human enemies of the Vedic Aryans, or to atmospheric demons killed by Indra : in most of the cases, it is difficult to know which of the two is being referred to, and in some of them perhaps both are being simultaneously referred to. In any case, since these references are usually non-specific, it makes no material difference to our historical analysis.

There are eight verses which refer to both Arya and Dasa enemies; and in this case it is certain that human enemies are being referred to. As we have already seen in an earlier chapter, these verses (VI.22.10; 33.3; 60.6; VII.83.1; X.38.3; 69.6; 83.1; 102.3) help us to confirm the identity of Aryas of the Rig Ved. However, they offer no additional clue in respect of Dasas.

But finally, there are three verses which stand out from the rest : they contain references which are friendly towards the Dasas :

a. In VIII.5.31, the Asvins are depicted as accepting the offerings of the Dasas

b. In VIII.46.32, the patrons are referred to as Dasas

c. In VIII.51.9, Indra is described as belonging to both Aryas and Dasas

Given the nature and the period of Mandala VIII, and the fact that all these three hymns are danastutis (hymns in praise of donors), it is clear that the friendly references have to do with the identity of the patrons in these hymns. A special feature of these danastutis is that, while everywhere else in the Rig Ved we find patrons gifting cattle, horses and buffaloes, these particular patrons gift camels (ustra) : at least, the first two do so (VIII.5.37; 46.22, 31), and it is very likely that the third one does so too (this danastuti does not mention the specific gifts received, and merely calls upon Indra to shower wealth on the patron).

There is a fourth patron too in another danastuti in the same Mandala (VIII.6.48) who also gifts camels. Outside of these three hymns, camel is referred to only once in the Rig Ved, in a late upa-Mandala of Mandala I (I.138.2), where it is mentioned in a simile.

Now, as to the identity of the patrons in these four hymns :

a. In VIII.5, the patron is Kasu

b. In VIII.6, the patrons include Tirindira Parsava

c. In VIII.46, the patrons include Prthusravas son of KanIta

d. In VIII.51, the patron (whose gifts are not specified) is Rusama PavIru

In two of these cases, as we can see, the identity is self-evident: one patron is called a Parsava (Persian) and another has Prthu (Parthian) in his name. But, here is what the Western scholars themselves have to say : according to Michael Witzel, “there are, in the opinion of some scholars (Hoffman, 1975) some Iranian names in Rig Ved (Kasu, KanIta, etc.).” More specifically : “An Iranian connection is also clear when camels appear (8.5. 37-39) together with the Iranian name Kasu ‘small’ (Hoffman 1975) or with the suspicious name Tirindira and the Parsu (8.6.46)”

Griffith also notes the Iranian connection in his footnote to VIII.6.46: “From Parsu, from Tirindira : ‘from Tirindira the son of Parsu’ – Wilson. Both names are Iranian (cf. Tiridates, Persa). See Weber’s ‘Episches in Vedischen Ritual’, pp.36-38, (Sitzungsberichte der K.P. Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1891, XXXVIII).”

The only patron whose identity is not specifically named as Iranian by the scholars is Rusama Paviru. However, the Rusamas are identified by M.L. Bhargav as a tribe of the extreme northwest, from the Soma lands of Susoma and Arjikiya. This clearly places them in the territory of the Iranians.

In sum, the Iranians are fully identifiable with the Anus, the particular Dasas (non-Purus) of the Rig Ved.

The Iranian Migrations :

The evidence of Rig Ved and the Avesta makes it clear that Iranians, in the earliest period, were restricted to a small area in the east, and the vast area which they occupied in later historical times was the result of a series of migrations and expansions.

The early migrations of the Iranians follow a clear trail : from Kashmir to the Punjab; from the Punjab to southern and eastern Afghanistan; from southern and eastern Afghanistan to the whole of Afghanistan and southern Central Asia; and finally, in later times, over a vast area spread out at least as far west as western Iran and as far north as northern Central Asia and the northern Caucasus.

The early history of the Iranians may be divided into the following periods :

The details may be examined under the following heads :

A. The Pre-Rigvedic Period

B. The Early Period of the Rig ved

C. The Middle period of the Rig ved

D. The Late Period of the Rig ved.

A. The Pre-Rigvedic Period :

In the pre-Rigvedic period, the Iranians were inhabitants of Kashmir.



Iranian Geographical Area

Pre-Rigvedic Period


Early Rigvedic Period

Pre-Avestan Period


Middle Rigvedic Period

Period of Gathas and early Yasts

Punjab, south and east Afghanistan

Late Rigvedic Period

Proper Avestan Period

Punjab, Afghanistan, Southern Central Asia

In the Avesta, this period is remembered as a remote period of prehistory, enshrined in the myth of Airyana Vaejah, the land of severe winters. This period is not remembered at all in the Rig ved, since the Rig ved is a Puru book and is not concerned with the prehistory of the Anus. Hence, in the case of this period at least, one must turn to the Purans, which have a broader perspective.

In the Purans, this period is remembered in the description of the original geographical distribution of the five Aila or Lunar tribes (chandra Vanshi). According to this description, the Purus were located in the centre (i.e. Haryana-Uttar Pradesh) and the other four tribes, in relation to them, were located as follows :

– The Anus to their north (i.e. Kashmir),

– The Druhyus to their west (i.e. Punjab),

– The Yadus to their south-west (i.e. Rajasthan and western Madhya Pradesh, perhaps extending as far south as Gujarat and Maharashtra), and

– The Turvasas to their south-east (to the east of the Yadus)

To the northeast of the Purus were the tribes of the Ikshvaku or Solar race (surya vanshi).

The Purans also relate a series of historical events which changed the original geographic locations of at least two of the five tribes : The Druhyus, inhabitants of the Punjab, started conquering eastwards and southwards, and their conquests seem to have brought them into conflict with all the other tribes and peoples : the Anus, Purus, Yadus, Turvasas, and even the Ikshvaku.

The result was a more or less concerted opposition by the different tribes, which led to the Druhyus being driven out not only from the eastern areas occupied by them, but even from the Punjab, and into the northwest and beyond. The place vacated by them was occupied by the Anus.

This is important here only because it accounts for the fact that the Anus came to occupy the area to the west of the Purus (i.e. the Punjab), while the Druhyus were pushed further off into the northwest beyond the Anus.

B. The Early Period of the Rig ved :

In the Early Period of the Rig ved, the Iranians were inhabitants of the Punjab. In the Avesta, this period is remembered as a period of prehistory, enshrined in the myth of the “Vara” or enclosure which Ahura Mazda asks Yima, the king of Airyana Vaejah, to build as a defense against the severe winters about to befall the land : clearly a metaphorical myth of migration from a severely cold land to a more congenial one.

The “Vara” would appear to be a mythicization of the areas in eastern Punjab occupied by the Iranians after their migration southwards from Kashmir : these areas would have been bordered on the east by the Kurukshetra region, which is referred to in the Rig Ved as Vara A Prthivya (the best place on earth) or Nabha Prthivya (the navel or centre of the earth). The Avestan “Vara”, later taken to mean “enclosure”, but originally merely the first word of the phrase Vara A Prthivya, is also thought of as a kind of Paradise occupying a central position on earth and was, on this basis, identified by Tilak with the North Polar region.

The Avestan concept of a six-month long day and a six-month long night in the Vara is probably an indication of the special and sacred position of the Vara in Avestan mythology : in later Indian tradition, a six-month long period represents the day and night of the Gods; and the Kurukshetra region is known as Brahmavarta (the land of Brahma or the Land of the Gods) as distinct from Aryavart (the Land of the Aryas) to its east. The Kurukshetra region was thus the common sacred land of the Iranians to its west (the Anus in the Punjab) and the Vedic Aryans to its east (the Purus in Uttar Pradesh).

The hostilities and conflicts which led to migrations of the Iranians from Punjab is perhaps symbolised as “excessive heat” caused by Angra Mainyu to drive them out of Hapta-Handu … in the Rig Ved (VII.6.3) the Dasyus were chased westwards by Agni.

The memories of the eastern land in the Avesta are not, however, restricted only to the myth of the Vara : we find a very significant reference in the very first verse of the Zamyad Yasht (Yt.19.1), the most geographically descriptive Yasht in the Avesta. Darmetester translates the verse as follows : “The first mountain that rose up out of the earth, O Spitama Zarathustra ! was the Haraiti Barez. That mountain stretches all along the shores of the land washed by waters towards the east. The second mountain was Mount Zeredho outside Mount Manusha; this mountain too stretches all along the shores of the land washed by waters towards the east.”82 In his footnote to the word “outside”, which precedes Mount Manusha in his translation, the author notes that the phrase parentarem aredho which he translates as “outside” is of doubtful meaning and probably means “beyond”.

The Manusha of Yt.19.1 (which no one has been able to identify to this day) is certainly the Manusa of the Rig ved :

a. The Avestan description specifically states that Manusha is located in the east.

b. The name is identified, even by the Western scholars, as a name alien to the Iranian ethos and connected with the Indo-Aryan ethos : The Cambridge History of Iran, in its reference to the word Manusha, as it occurs in the name of an Avestan hero Manuscithra, points out that it “means ‘from the race of Manu’, and refers to the ancient mythical figure, Manu, son of Vivasvat, who was regarded in India as the first man and father of the human race. He has no place in Iranian tradition, where his role is played by Yima, and later Gayomard. It appears, though, that we have a derivative of his name in Manusha (Yasht 19.1), the name of a mountain…”.

c. The scholars translate the Avestan reference as “Mount Manusha”. However, the reference not only does not call Manusha a mountain, but the context makes it clear that it is definitely not one : the verse clearly states that it is referring to only two mountains, Haraiti Barez and Zeredho, and Manusha is named only in order to point out the direction of Mount Zeredho. Haraiti Barez and Zeredho are the first two in a list of mountains named in the following verses of the Yasht and Manusha, if it had also been the name of a mountain, would have figured in the list as such in its own right. The words parentarem aredho precede the word Manusha; and while parentarem means “beyond”, the word aredha (whose meaning is not known) probably refers to a river or body of water : a similar word occurs in the name of the Avestan goddess of waters : aredvI- sura anahita.

And the name Manusa as the name of a place associated with a body of water occurs in the Rig Ved, as we have already seen : III.23.4 specifically describes this place as being located between the SarasvatI and DrsadvatI rivers in the Vara A Prthivya (i.e. Kurukshetra), which is literally a “land washed by waters towards the east” of the Iranian area. The Manusha in the Avestan reference (Yt.19.1) clearly represents a residual memory of the earlier eastern homeland.

Information in the Rig Ved about the events in the Early Period is more specific, since this period represents contemporary events in the Early Mandalas while it represents prehistory in the Avesta. In the earlier part of the Early Period, there appears to have been some degree of bonhomie between the Purus (Vedic Aryans) and Anus (Iranians) when they shared a common religious heritage in the region stretching out on both sides of Kurukshetra. Mandala VI, in fact, records an alliance between the Bharatas (led by Srnjaya) and the Anus (led by Abhyavartin Cayamana) against the Yadus and Turvasas who were attacking Kurukshetra (HariyupIya = DrsadvatI) from the south (VI.27).

However, in the course of time, relations deteriorated, and Mandala VI itself later identifies the Anus as droghas (enemies or fiends {demon or evil sprit}) in VI.62.9. The hostilities reached a climax during the time of Sudas, in the Battle Of Ten Kings. This battle is crucial to our understanding of early Indo-Iranian history :

1. The evidence of the hymns shows that in this period all the major Iranian groups were settled in the Punjab, including those found in later times in geographically furthest areas from the Punjab : the Phrygians (later in Turkey), the Alans (later in the northern Caucasus), and the Khivas (later in Chorasmia), not to mention the major peoples of latter-day Afghanistan (Pakhtoons) and Iran (Persians, Parthians, Medes).

2. The hymns clearly record that this battle saw the defeat of the Anus, the conquest of their territories by Sudas (VII.18.13), and the commencement of their migration westwards.

It may also be noted that the Spitama line of priests also appears to be referred to in the Battle Of Ten Kings hymns, in the form of a special figure of speech which has not been understood by the scholars so far : In VII.33.9, 12, Vashishth is referred to as wearing the vestments spun by Yama and brought to him by Apsaras.

Yama is identified with the Bhrigu's and the Iranians; and the Apsaras are mythical beings closely identified with the Gandharvas, who represent the western region of Gandhar or southeastern Afghanistan.

The references in VII.33.9, 12 are the only references to Yama or to the Apsaras in the whole of the Early and Middle Mandalas and upa-Mandalas i.e. in Mandalas VI, III, VII, IV, II, and the early and middle upa-Mandalas of Mandala I, except for one other reference to Yama in I.83.5, which also emphasises his Bhrigu identity by naming him with other ancient Bhrigu's like Atharvan and Usana.

Vashishth wearing the vestments spun by Yama, who represents the Bhrigu's, who are his enemies in the battle, can be understood only in the sense of a figure of speech indicating victory over his enemies. Therefore, this must also be the meaning of the only other reference in these hymns, to the vestments of the Vashishth's or the Trtsus : they are twice referred to as wearing what Griffith translates as “white robes” (VII.33.1; 83.8). The word Svityanca, which occurs only in these two verses in the whole of Rig Ved, clearly has some unique connotation different from the commonplace meaning of “white”. On the lines of the references to vestments spun by Yama, it is clear that the word Svityanca refers to the identity of the enemies : to the Spitamas, the particular priests of the enemies of Sudas and Vashishth.

To sum up : In the Early Period of the Rig Ved, the Iranians were inhabitants of the Punjab, and it is only towards the end of this period, in the time of Sudas, that they started on their migration westwards.

C. The Middle Period of the Rig ved :

In the Middle Period of the Rig ved, the Iranians were settled in Afghanistan. From the viewpoint of Indo-Iranian relations, this period can be divided into two parts :

The earlier part of this period (Mandala IV and the middle upa-Mandalas) represents a continuation and culmination of the Indo-Iranian hostilities which commenced in the Early Period. Unlike the Early Period, however, this period is contemporaneous with the period of composition of the earliest parts of the Avesta (the Gathas and the earliest core of the Yasht's) and hence the events of this period are contemporary events for the composers of the Early Avesta, and have a central place in the text. To the Rig ved, however, these events are more peripheral, unlike the earlier events in the Punjab at the time of Sudas.

The later part of this period (Mandala II) is a period of peace in which the two peoples (the Vedic Aryans in the east and the Iranians in Afghanistan) developed their religions, and the hostilities slowly cooled down and became mythical and terminological memories.

The major historical event of this period is the great battle which took place in Afghanistan between a section of Vedic Aryans led by Rjrasva and the descendants of Sudas, on the one hand, and the Iranians (led by Zarathustra and Vistaspa) on the other.

In the Rig Ved, the correspondences with the early Avestan period of Zarathustra are all found in the hymns of the early part of the Middle Period :

1. The leader of the Iranians in the battle was Kavi Vistaspa, the patron of Zarathustra (mentioned by Zarathustra in his Gatha's: Y.28.7; 46.16; 51.16; 53.2). In the Rig ved, Istasva (Vistaspa) is mentioned in I.122.13, attributed to KaksIvan Dairghatamas Ausija : kimistasva istarasmireta Isanasastarusa Rnjate nrn. Griffith translates it vaguely as “What can he do whose steeds and reins are choicest ? These, the all potent, urge brave men to conquest”. And, in his footnotes, he opines that “the whole hymn, as Wilson observes, ‘is very elliptical and obscure’ and much of it is at present unintelligible”.

But S.K. Hodiwala points out that Sayana translates it as follows: “What can Istasva, Istarasmi, or any other princes do against those who enjoy the protection of Mitra and Varuna?”, and Wilson, while following this translation, notes that “the construction is obscure and the names, which are said to be those of Rajas, are new and unusual”.

A second Avestan hero, whose name may be noted here, is Thraetaona. In the Rig ved, Traitana (Thraetaona) is referred to as being killed by the grace of Indra in I.158.5, attributed to Dirghatamas, the father of Kaksivan.

2. The Varshagira battle (referred to in hymn I.100) is identified by many Zoroastrian scholars as a battle between the Iranians and Indo-Aryans at the time of Zarathustra. The hymn (in I.100.17) names five persons as being the main protagonists in the battle :

a. The leader of the Varshagira is Rjrasva. He is identified by most scholars with the Arejataspa or Arjaspa who is referred to in the Avesta as the main enemy of Vistaspa and his brothers (Aban Yasht, Yt.5.109, 113; and GOs Yasht, Yt.9.30). Later Iranian tradition (as in the Shahname) goes so far as to hold Zarathustra himself to have been killed by Arjaspa.

b. Sahadev is one of the four companions of Rjrasva in the battle. He is correctly identified by S.K. Hodiwala with Hushdiv, remembered in the Shahname (Chapter 462) as one of the main enemies of Vistaspa in the battle who led Arjaspa’s troops from the rear. Although not mentioned in the Avesta, Hushdiv is a natural development of Hazadaeva, which would be the exact Avestan equivalent of the Vedic name Sahdev.

c. The other three companions of Rjrasva in the battle are Ambarisa, Bhayamana and Suradhas. S.K. Hodiwala points out that “in the Cama Memorial Volume, E. Sheheriarji quotes RV I.100.17 …. (and) tries to identify the other persons mentioned in the said Rigvedic verse by showing that the names of certain persons known to be connected with Arjaspa in the Avesta bear the same meanings as the names of the persons in the said verse. Thus he says that Ambarisa is identical with Bidarfsha (= Av. Vidarafshnik) brother of Arjaspa, since both the names mean ‘one with beautiful garments’. Similarly, Bhayamana = Vandaremaini, father of Arjaspa, both meaning ‘the fearless one’; also Suradhas = Humayaka, brother of Arjaspa, as both the words mean ‘one with much wealth’…”.

Hodiwala, of course, discounts the above identifications by conceding that “the identification of persons in two different languages from the meanings of their names, which are quite different in sound, can have but little weight”. However, Hodiwala correctly identifies Humayak, Arjaspa’s comrade in the Avesta (Aban Yasht, Yt.5.113) with Somaka, the son of Sahdev (IV.15.7-10). S.K. Hodiwala thus identifies Humayaka of the Avesta with the Rigvedic Somaka (IV.15.7-10) while E. Sheheriarji identifies him with the Rigvedic Suradhas (I.100.17).

Incidentally, there is a strong likelihood that the Suradhas of I.100.17 is the same as the Somaka of IV.15.7-10. The distribution of the word Suradhas in the Rig ved (everywhere else, outside I.100.17, the word is an epithet meaning “bountiful”) suggests that the word may have originally been coined by Vishvamitra as an epithet for his patron Sudas, perhaps on the basis of the similarity in sound between the two words, Sudas and Suradhas, and later the word was also applied to his descendants :

The word Suradhas is found only twice in the Early Mandalas and upa-Mandalas, in III.33.12; 53.12, and these are the only two hymns in Mandala III which deal with Vishvamitra's relationship with Sudas.

In the Middle Mandalas and upa-Mandalas, the word is found in I.100.17 as the name of a companion of Rjrasva and Sahadev; and elsewhere it is found in IV.2.4; 5.4; 17.8 (all three in Mandala IV, which is connected with Somak).

It is found many times in the Late Mandalas and upa-Mandalas as a general term meaning “bountiful”: I.23.6; VIII.14.12; 46.24; 49.1; 50.1; 65.12; 68.6; X.143.4. In I.100.17, therefore, it is probably an epithet, rather than the name of one of Rjrasva’s companions; and as Sahdev is already named separately as one of the companions, the epithet must be used here for his son Somak, another participant in the battle.

3. The Varshagira battle clearly has historical links with the earlier Battle Of Ten Kings :

a. The protagonists in the battle include Sahdev and his son Somaka, both descendants of Sudas, the protagonist in the Dashraj battle.

b. This battle hymn contains the only reference (in I.100.18) in the whole of Rig Ved, outside the Battle Of Ten Kings hymns (VII.18.5), to the Simyus, who figure as enemies in both the references.

c. The word Svitnyebhi occurs in this hymn (I.100.18) in reference to the protagonists of the hymns, in the same sense as the word Svityanca occurs in the Battle Of Ten Kings hymns (VII.33.1; 83.8). Incidentally, the only other occurrence of the word Svitnya in the whole of the Rig Ved is in VIII.46.31, in reference to the cows gifted by the camel-donor, Prthuaravas KnIta, identified by the scholars as an Iranian.

And it is clear that this battle is between the Vedic Aryans and the Iranians :

i) As we have seen, it has historical links with the earlier Battle Of Ten Kings, which was between these same two communities.

ii) As we have also seen, the main protagonists on either side are mentioned in both the Rig Ved and the Avesta.

iii) The geography of the river names in the Rig Ved shows a westward thrust from the time of Sudas, which culminates beyond the Indus in the middle upa-Mandalas and Mandala IV.

iv) The battle in the Avesta took place in southern Afghanistan : Gnoli points out that the Hilmand delta region is “the scene of the struggle between Vistasp and Arjasp”. In the Rig ved, the battle is referred to as taking place “beyond the Sarayu” (Siritoi) (IV.30.18), placing it squarely in southern Afghanistan.

4. The reference to the battle “beyond the Sarayu” in IV.30.18 refers to Arna and Citraratha, “both Aryas”, who were killed in the battle by the grace of Indra.

There are eight other verses in the Rig ved (VI.22.10; 33.3; 60.6; VII.83.1; X.38.3; 69.6; 83.1; 102.3) which refer to Arya enemies; but in all those cases, the references are general references to both Arya and Dasa enemies, and no specific persons identifiable as Aryas are named as such. In this unique reference (IV.30.18) however, we find two specific individuals named as Arya enemies.

By the logic of the situation, these two persons should then be two prominent Vedic Aryans (Purus) who had aligned with the enemy Iranians (Anus) in this battle. That the followers of Zarathustra must have included some Vedic Aryans is accepted by the scholars : Gnoli points out that “there is no evidence for thinking that the Zoroastrian message was meant for the Iranians alone. On the-contrary, history suggests that the exact opposite is likely, and there are also indisputable facts … which show clearly that Zoroaster’s teaching was addressed, earlier on at least, to all men … whether they were Iranians or not, Proto Indo-Aryans or otherwise”.

The Cambridge History of Iran, as we have seen, refers to Manuscithra, later ManuchIhr or Minocher, the common Parsee name popularly shortened to Minoo, and notes that his name “means ‘from the race of Manu", and refers to the ancient mythical figure, Manu, son of Vivasvat, who was regarded in India as the first man and founder of the human race. He has no place in Iranian tradition, where his role is played by Yima and later GayOmard.”

The reference goes on to add that the word Manusha is found in only one other place in the Avesta : in Yasht 19.1 as “the name of a mountain”. In later Pahlavi texts, the word is found only in two contexts: firstly in the genealogies of ManuchIhr and Luhrasp, and secondly in the identification of the Manusha of Yt.19.1 as the birthplace of ManuchIhr.

Manuscithra was therefore clearly a Vedic Aryan born in the Kurukshetra region. And the reason he is held high in Zoroastrian tradition is also clear : as The Cambridge History of Iran notes : “In the Avesta, ManuchIhr is called Airyana, ‘helper of the Aryans’…”

In short, Manuscithra was a Vedic Aryan who aligned with the Iranians in the great battle ; and if Manus is his epithet (indicating his Indo-Aryan identity) and Cithra is his name, he is clearly the Citraratha of IV.30.18.

5. The main priestly enemies of the Iranians are the Angras (Angiras) who are condemned throughout the Avesta right down from the Gathas of Zarathustra. Significantly, the Avesta does not refer to any of the other Rigvedic families : neither the Vishwamitra's and Vashishth's of the Early Period, the Grtsamadas and Kasyapas of the later Middle Period, the Atris, Kanvas and Bharat's of the Late Period, nor the Agastyas. And, of the three branches of Angiras, it does not refer even once to the Bharadwaj's. The Avesta, however, does refer to the two other branches of Angirases (angiras), the Usijs (Ausijas) and Gaotemas (Gautamas (Rishi Gautam)), both of which originated in and dominated the early Middle Period and in whose hymns alone we find references to the conflict with the Zoroastrians.

a. The Usijs (Ausijas) are mentioned by Zarathustra himself in the Gathas (Y. 44.20) where they are identified with the Karapans, a derogatory word used in the Gathas in reference to enemy priests.

b. Nadhyaongha Gaotema (Nodhas Gautama) is mentioned in the early Yasht's (FarvardIn Yasht, Yt.13.16) as a priest defeated by Zarathustra in debate. While many scholars ignore or reject the identification of the word Nadhyaongha with Nodhas, the identity of the second word as the name of an enemy priest, Gaotema (Rishi Gautam), is not disputed by anyone.

In sum : any analysis of the Rig Ved and Avesta will make it clear that the main enemies of the Iranians in the Avesta, at least at the time of Zarathustra, were the “Indo-Aryans” i.e. the Vedic Aryans or Purus.

In later Indian tradition, the Iranians became the asuras or demons of Indian mythology, who ceased to bear even the faintest resemblance to the original Iranian prototypes. Likewise, the angiras and other enemies of the time of Zarathustra were so mythologised in later Iranian traditions in the Pahlavi texts and in the very much later Shahname, and even in later parts of the Avesta itself, that they ceased to be identifiable with the original Indo-Aryan prototypes. Hence, later interpretations of the Avestan words (e.g. the identification of the tuiryas or Turanians with latter-day peoples like the Turks, etc.) are untenable in any study of the Zoroastrian period.

The Avesta does not appear to refer to the Purus or Bharat's by those names, but then it is not necessary that they do so : the Rig Ved refers to the Iranians as the Anus (a term which does not appear in the Avesta); and although Sudas and his descendants are Bharat's, the Battle Of Ten Kings hymns refer to them as Trtsus, and the Varshagira hymn refers to them as Varshagiras. The Iranians must have had their own names for Indo-Aryans in the Avesta. And it is not necessary that the names or epithets used by the Iranians for the Indo-Aryans should be found in the Rig Ved.

However, we can speculate as follows :

a. The word Turvayana occurs four times in the Rig Ved, and in two of the verses it refers to the person for whom Indra conquered all the tribes from east to west i.e. Kutsa - Ayu - Atithigva.

About Turvayana, Griffith notes in his footnote to VI.18.13 : “According to Sayana, turvayana, ‘quickly going’ is an epithet of Divodas.” If this is correct, then it is possible that this may have been a general epithet of the Bharat kings, descendants of Divodas, particularly in conflict situations; and the Avestan word tuirya for the enemies of the Iranians may be derived from this word as a contrast to the word airya. It may be noted that according to Skjærvø. the “evidence is too tenuous to allow any conclusions as to who the Turas were or at what time the conflict took place”.

b. Zarathustra refers in his Gathas (Y.32.12-14) to “grahma” as the most powerful and persistent of his enemies. Though not exactly cognate, a similar word in the Rig ved, grama, refers to the warrior troops of the Bharat's in III.33.11, where the reference is to the armies under Sudas and Vishvamitra crossing the Sutudri and Vipas on their westward expedition; and in I.100.10 it refers to the troops of the Varsagiras.

These are the only two occurrence of this word in the Mandalas and upa-Mandalas of the Early Period and the early part of the Middle Period. The word grama occurs once in the hymns of the later Middle Period, in II.12.7, in its new and subsequent meaning of a “village”. It occurs many times in the Late Mandalas and upa-Mandalas (I.44.10; 114.1; V.54.8; X.27.19; 62.11; 90.8; 107.5; 127.5, 146.10 149.4) always meaning “village” (except in I. 44.10, where it means “battle”, like the later word samgram.

While the early part of the Middle Period of the Rig Ved represents a continuation and culmination of the Indo-Iranian conflicts of the Early Period, the later part (Mandala II and corresponding parts of the upa-Mandalas) is a period of peace in which the two people develop their religions and cultures in their respective areas. Mandala II does not refer to any river other than the sacred SarasvatI.

The first signs of a thaw taking place in Indo-Iranian relations, in this period, are the appearance in the Rig Ved of an Avestan personality, Thrita, who is counted among the important persons (Yt.13.113), and is primarily associated with the Haoma (Soma) ritual (Y.9.10) and with medicines (Vd.20).

Thrita (Rigvedic Trita) is a post-Zoroastrian figure :


He is not mentioned in the Gathas, nor is he mentioned even once in the Mandalas and upa-Mandalas of the Early Period and early Middle Period (Mandalas VI, III, VII, IV, and the early and middle upa-Mandalas). He first appears in the hymns of the later Middle Period, i.e. in Mandala II (II.11.19, 20; 31.6; 34.10, 14), and he is clearly a contemporary figure here : Verse II.11.19, even in the context of a hostile reference to Dasyus, i.e. enemy priests in general, asks Indra to ensure the friendship of Trita (Griffith translates the verse as a reference to “Trita of our party”), and the next verse refers to Trita offering libations of Soma.

Trita appears in all the Mandalas of the Late Period as a mythical personality. The later part of the Middle Period is thus a transitional period between the earlier period of Indo-Iranian conflicts, and the later period of general peace and religious development.

D. The Late Period of the Rig Ved :

In the Late Period of the Rig Ved, the Iranians were now spread out over the whole of Afghanistan and Southern Central Asia, and were still present in northwestern Punjab. The late Vendidad, as we have already seen, delineates this area in its description of the sixteen Iranian lands.

This period represents a new era in Indo-Iranian relations, where the Vedic Aryans and the Iranians, in their respective areas, developed their religions independently of each other and yet influencing each other, the hostilities of the past rapidly turning into mythical and terminological memories :

1. The Bhrigu's, as we have seen, are now completely accepted into the Vedic mainstream in Mandala VIII, with their old hymns being included in the Mandala and references to them acquiring a friendly, respectful, and contemporary air.

2. Iranian kings of the northwestern Punjab (Kasu, Prthusravas Kanita, Tirindira Parsava, Rusama), now become patrons of Vedic Rishi's.

3. Geographical names of the northwest now start appearing in the Rig Ved, and most of these are names which are also found in the Avesta.

a. Susoma / Susoma, Arjika / ArjIkiya, Saryanavat and Mujavat, the four northwestern areas associated with Soma (I.84.14 in the middle upa-Mandalas; all the rest in the hymns of the Late Period: VIII.6.39; 7.29; 64.11; IX.65.22, 23; 113.1, 2; X.34.1; 75.5). Of these Mujavat is found in the Avesta: Muza, Yt.8.125.

b. Gandhari and the Gandharv's (III.38.6, a late interpolated hymn, as we have already seen; all the rest in the hymns of the Late Period: 1.22.14; 126.7; 163.2; VIII.1.11; 77.5; IX.83.4; 85.12; 86.36; 113.3; X.10.4; 11.2; 80.6. 85.40, 41; 123.4, 7-8;. 136.6; 139.4-6; 177.2). Gandarewa is found in the Avesta: Yt.5.38.

c. Rasa (IV.43.6 in the Middle Period at the westernmost point of the westward thrust; all the rest in the hymns of the Late Period: I.112.12; V.41.15; 53.9; VIII.72.13; IX.41.6; X.75.6; 108.1, 2; 121.4). Ranha is found in the Avesta: Vd.1.19.

d. Sapta Sindhu (Sapta Sindhun in the Middle Period: II.12.3, 12; IV.28.1; and later as well: I.32.12; 35.8; X.67.12; crystallizing into Sapta Sindhava only in the Late Period: VIII.54.4; 69.12; 96.1; IX.66.6; X.43.3). Hapta Handu is found in the Avesta: Vd.1.18.

4. Certain animals and persons common to the Rig Ved and the Avesta appear, or become common, only in the hymns of the Late Period :

a. The camel ustra (Avestan ustra, found in the name of Zarathustra himself) appears only in 1.138.2; VIII.5.37; 6.48; 46.22, 31.

b. The word varaha as a name for the boar (Avestan varaza) appears only in I.61.7; 88.5; 114.5; 121.11; VIII.77.10; IX.97.7; X.28.4; 67.7; 86.4; 99.6.

c. Yima (Vedic Yam), first man of the Avesta, is accepted into the Rig Ved only in the latest period (although he is mentioned once, in special circumstances, in VII.33.9, 12; and once, along with other ancient Bhrigu's like Atharvan and Usana Kavya, in I.83.5), when the Bhrigu's gain in importance:

I. 38.5; 116.2; 163.2;

X. 10.7, 9, 13; 12.6; 13.4; 14.1-5, 7-15; 15.8; 16.9; 17.1; 21.5; 51.3; 53.2; 58.1; 60.10; 64.3; 92.11; 97.16; 123.6; 135.1, 7; 154.4, 5; 165.4.

d. The Avestan hero associated with Soma and medicines, Thrita (Vedic : Trita) becomes a popular mythical figure in the Rig Ved in the Late Period. After his first appearance in the Rig Ved in Mandala II (II.11.19, 20; 31.6; 34.10, 14), he now appears frequently in the Late Mandalas and upa-Mandals :

I. 52.5; 105.9, 17; 163.2, 3; 187.1;

V. 9.5; 41.4, 10; 54.2; 86.1;

VIII. 7.24; 12.16; 41.6; 47.13-16; 52.1;

IX. 32.2; 34.4; 37.4; 38.2; 86.20; 95.4; 102.2, 3;

X. 8.7, 8; 46.3, 6; 48.2; 64.3; 99.6; 115.4.

Thraetaona (Faridun of later texts) is an earlier Avestan hero associated with the Indo-Iranian conflicts and already demonised in the Rig Ved (I.158.5). Hence, features associated with him in the Avesta are transferred to Trita in the Rig Ved : Thraetaona’s father Athwya is transformed in the Rig Ved into Aptya, a patronymic of Trita (I.105.9; V.41.1; VIII.12.16; 15.17; 47.13, 14; X.8.8; 120.6).

Thraetaona, in Avestan mythology, is mainly associated with the killing of the three-headed dragon, Azhi Dahaka; just as Indra, in Rigvedic mythology, is mainly associated with the killing of the dragon Ahi Vrtra (hence his common epithet Vrtrahan, found in every single Mandala of the Rig ved, which also becomes Vrtraghna in the khila-ssktas and later Samhita's).

The Late Period sees a partial exchange of dragon-killers between the Vedic Aryans and the Iranians: while Thraetaona is demonised in the Rig Ved, his dragon-killing feat is transferred to Trita (X.87.8, where Trita kills the three-headed dragon Trisiras), who consequently also appears as a partner of Indra in the killing of Vrtra (VIII.7.24) or even as a killer of VRtra in his own right (I.187.1).

Likewise, while Indra is demonised in the Avesta, his epithet (an adjective or phrase expressing a quality or attribute regarded as characteristic of the person or thing mentioned) is adopted in the late Avestan texts as the name of a special God of Victory, Verethraghna (Yt.1.27; 2.5, 10; 10.70, 80; 14 whole; Vd.19.125; and in the Vispered and Khordah Avesta. Verethraghna is the Behram of later texts).

Scholars examining the Rig Ved and the Avesta cannot help noticing that the late parts of the Rig Ved represent a period of increasing contact and mutual influence between the Vedic Aryans and Iranians. Michael Witzel clearly sees Mandala VIII as representing a period when the Vedic Aryans seem to be entering into a new environment, the environment of the northwest : “Book 8 concentrates on the whole of the west : cf. camels, mathra horses, wool, sheep. It frequently mentions the Sindhu, but also the Seven Streams, mountains and snow.” This Mandala “lists numerous tribes that are unknown to other books”. In this Mandala, “camels appear (8.5.37-39) together with the Iranian name Kasu, ‘small’ (Hoffman 1975) or with the suspicious name Tirindra and the Parsu (8.6.46). The combination of camels (8.46.21, 31), Mathra horses (8.46.23) and wool, sheep and dogs (8.56.3) is also suggestive : the borderlands (including Gandhar) have been famous for wool and sheep, while dogs are treated well in Zoroastrian Iran but not in South Asia.”

In fact, the period of Mandala VIII is the period of composition of the major part of the Avesta. That is, to the original Gatha's and the core of the early Yasht's, which belong to the Middle Period of the Rig ved, were now added the rest of the Yasna (other than the Gathas) and Yasht's (late Yasht's, as well as post-Zoroastrian additions to the early Yasht's), and the Vendidad. A very eminent Zoroastrian scholar, J.C. Tavadia, had noted in 1950 :

“Not only in grammatical structure and vocabulary, but also in literary form, in certain metres like the Tristubh and in a way Gayatri, there is resemblance between the Avesta and the Rig Ved. The fact is usually mentioned in good manuals. But there is a peculiarity about these points of resemblance which is not so commonly known : It is the eighth Mandala which bears the most striking similarity to the Avesta. There and there only (and of course partly in the related first Mandala) do some common words like ustra and the strophic structure called pragatha occur. … Further research in this direction is sure to be fruitful.”

That this correlation between the Avesta as a whole and Mandala VIII, is really a correlation between the period of the Avesta proper and the period of the later parts of the Rig Ved, is not acknowledged by either Witzel or Tavadia, since neither of them admit that Mandala VIII is chronologically a late part of the Rig Ved.

But the following conclusions of another eminent and recent scholar may be noted. According to Helmut Humbach : “It must be emphasised that the process of polarisation of relations between the Ahuras and the Daevas (devas) is already complete in the Gatha's, whereas, in the Rig Ved, the reverse process of polarisation between the Devas and the Asur's, which does not begin before the later parts of the Rig Ved, develops as it were before our very eyes, and is not completed until the later Vedic period. Thus, it is not at all likely that the origins of the polarisation are to be sought in the prehistorical, the Proto-Aryan period. More likely, Zarathustra’s reform was the result of interdependent developments, when Irano-Indian contacts still persisted at the dawn of history. With their Ahura-Daeva ideology, the Mazdayasnians, guided by their prophet, deliberately dissociated themselves from the Deva-Asur concept which was being developed, or had been developed in India, and probably also in the adjacent Iranian-speaking countries… All this suggests a synchrony between the later Vedic period and Zarathustra’s reform in Iran.”

Thus, it is clear that the bulk of the Avesta is contemporaneous with the Late Period of the Rig Ved, while the earliest part of the Avesta (consisting of the Gatha's and the core of the early Yasht's) is contemporaneous with the Middle Period.

In sum, the cold, hard facts lead inescapably to only one logical conclusion about the location of the Indo-Iranian homeland :

1. The concept of a common Indo-Iranian habitat is based solely on the fact of a common Indo-Iranian culture reconstructed from linguistic, religious and cultural elements common to the Rig Ved and the Avesta.

2. The period of development of this common Indo-Iranian culture is not, as Humbach aptly puts it, “the prehistorical, the Proto-Aryan period”, but “the later Vedic period”.

3. The location of this common Indo-Iranian habitat must therefore be traced from the records of “the later Vedic period” available jointly within the hymns of the Rig Ved and the Avesta.

4. The records of “the later Vedic period” show that the Vedic Aryans and the Iranians were located in an area stretching from (and including) Uttar Pradesh in the east to (and including) southern and eastern Afghanistan in the west.

This is the area which represents the common “Indo-Iranian homeland”.

The scholars, however, are not accustomed to deriving conclusions from facts; it is their practice to arrive at conclusions beforehand … the conclusion, in this particular case, being based on an extraneous and highly debatable linguistic theory about the location of the original Indo-European homeland … and to twist or ignore all facts which are not in accord with this predetermined conclusion.

The three scholars in question : Witzel, Tavadia and Humbach, in varied measure and in different ways, note the facts as they are but they do not take these facts to their logical conclusion about Indo-Iranian geography and prehistory : all three scholars firmly believe in the theory that, in “the prehistorical, the Proto-Aryan period”, the Indo-Iranians were settled in Central Asia whence they migrated to Iran and India.

This can and has lead to a ludicrously topsy-turvy perspective, as will be evident, for example, from the following observations by Humbach on the subject :

Humbach clearly states that the facts suggest a synchrony between “the later Vedic period and Zarathustra’s reform”, and that the Gatha's of Zarathustra were therefore composed at a time when “the Deva-Asura concept was being developed, or had been developed, in India”.99 In short, Humbach concludes that the Gatha's, one of the oldest parts of the Avesta, were composed at a point of time when the Indo-Aryans were settled, and had already been settled for some time, in India.

But, when identifying the Hapta Handu in the list of sixteen Iranian lands named in the Vendidad list, he chooses to identify it with the “upper course of the Oxus River”. Now there is no earthly reason why Hapta HAndu should be identified with the upper course of the Oxus rather than with the plains of the Punjab (as very correctly done, for example, by Darmetester, Gnoli, etc.), and this identification was mooted by scholars who sought to identify the sixteen lands on the basis of the theory that the lands named in the list refer to a period when the (Indo-)Iranians were still in Central Asia, and the Indo-Aryans had not yet migrated southeastwards as far as the Punjab. In short, Humbach concludes that the Vendidad, a late part of the Avesta, was composed at a point of time when the Indo-Aryans had not yet reached the Punjab in their journey into India.

The incongruity between the two conclusions is striking.

Clearly, the theory, that the Indo-Iranians were in Central Asia in any “prehistorical, Proto-Aryan period”, is not conducive to any logical understanding of the Rig-Ved or the Avesta, or of Indo-Iranian history.

The facts show a different picture from the one assumed by these scholars :

1. The development of the common Indo-Iranian culture, reconstructed from linguistic, religious, and cultural elements in the Rig Ved and the Avesta, took place in the “later Vedic period”.

2. Therefore, details about the geographical situation in “the prehistorical, the Proto-Aryan period” must be looked for in the “earlier Vedic period”, i.e. in the hymns of the Early Period of the Rig Ved.

3. The evidence of the hymns of the Early Period of the Rig Ved, as we have already seen, locates the Indo-Iranians further east : i.e. in the area from (and including) Uttar Pradesh in the east to (and including) the Punjab in the west.

It is not, therefore, Central Asia, but India, which is the original area from which the Iranians migrated to their later historical habitats.