2 – Indian Third Wave West: From language to thought – N.S. Rajaram

Pashupati: Harappan seal and Gundustrup cauldron in Denmark

This is the second article on Indo-European migration. Go to the first article here »

Dr. N.S. Rajaram“After the first two waves out of India to Eurasia and Europe, there was a third wave roughly 5000 years ago that carried mathematical ideas, horse training skills as well as names of deities, sacred symbols like svasti, and practices of yoga and meditation, to West Asia and Europe. This westward movement is recorded both in archaeology and in the mathematical literature of the period.” – Dr. N.S. Rajaram

Africa to India migration mapThe third wave: mathematics and beyond

In previous articles [first and second one here, third one here] I have described that the origin and spread of Indo-Europeans and their languages takes us to Africa almost a hundred thousand years ago. The most important conclusion to emerge is that all non-African humans and their languages can be traced to about a thousand or so residents of South Asia or present day India and Pakistan, perhaps 65,000 years ago. These were the primordial ancestors of Indo-Europeans who spoke primordial languages that became Indo-European tongues when they moved out of the Indian subcontinent and settled in Eurasia and Europe.

This ancient movement north and west took place in two major waves: the first about 45,000 years ago, and the next some 10,000 years ago as the last Ice Age ended. The first wave has not left any traces other than Rock Art in Europe that has some similarities to prehistoric art of India found in the Bhimbetka Caves and other places. But it did give rise to founder groups that absorbed ideas and vocabulary (Sanskritic) Bhimbetka cave paintings made around 30,000 BCEcarried by the second wave that followed. This accounts for the Sanskritic features found in Eurasian and European languages.

This was followed by a third wave 5000 years later, or roughly 3000 BCE. This movement appears to have been more western than northern and clashed with the already settled populations of Iran, Mesopotamia (Babylonia), Anatolia, the Levant and Egypt moving all the way to Europe. In the process they left traces in the form of literature, crafts and also religious and spiritual thought. In my previous article I described how Indian mathematics from the Shulbasutras made their way to Old Babylonia and Egypt before 2000 BCE, perhaps earlier. This was part of the third wave.

In this context it is worth noting that the record of a treaty between the Hittites and the Mittani, the two West Asiatic rulers Suppiluliuma and Shattiwaza, c. 1380 BCE invoke Vedic deities Indra, Mitra, Varuna and the Ashvins (Nasatya). Still more interesting is the discovery of a horse training manual dating to c. 1400 BCE includes technical terms in Sanskrit such as aika (eka, one), tera (tri, three), panza (pancha, Horse and camel (?) figures from Lasbela, Balochistanfive), satta (sapta, seven), na (nava, nine), vartana (vartana, round).

Another text has descriptions of different kinds of horses: babru(-nnu) (babhru, brown), parita(-nnu) (palita, grey), and pinkara(-nnu) (pingala, red). Their chief festival was the celebration of the solstice (vishuva) which was common in most cultures in the ancient world. But vishuva and vishuat are Sanskrit terms found in the Vedic literature. All this suggests that in addition to mathematics, the people of West Asia borrowed ideas and techniques from Indians in the millennium after 3000 BCE.

Some of this was seized upon by advocates of the Aryan invasion to claim that these Vedic names were brought to India by invaders from West Asia, but this is easily refuted by other evidence presented here including the pervasive Vedic and late Vedic (Harappan) symbolism found in the region and also Europe. We begin with the well-known Svasti symbol.

SwastikaArya, svastika and yoga

As with the word Arya, the word swastika and the associated sign have attained notoriety to the point that both are banned in several European countries including Germany, Hungary and Austria. Both are of Indian origin but perverted European minds and hands turned them into symbols of evil. Even this was mainly in the twentieth century especially under the Nazi influence. Prior to that, the swastika symbol was used in Europe and West Asia in the same spirit as in India and East Asia — as a sign of auspiciousness.

Let us first look at the word Arya (or Aryan). There is widespread belief even among Indians, assiduously encouraged by Western Indologists and their Indian followers (like Romila Thapar) that Aryan identity was very important to the Vedic people. This is far from true. In the whole of the Rig Veda, in all of its ten books containing over a thousand hymns with ten thousand mantras, the word Arya appears exactly thirty-eight times! And nowhere, not once does it refer to a race or language. If so, how is it defined?

The authoritative Amarakosha defines Arya as maha-kula, kuleena, arya, sabhya, sajjana, sadhava. Maha-kula and kuleena refer to family background, but that is not enough; it further emphasizes character and behavior — sabhya or courteous, sajjana or decent, and sadhu or gentle. So anyone can become an Arya through proper conduct. Birth, language and ancestry have nothing to do with it.

Svasti in Ghana and IranAll this was ignored by Europeans. They created the unscientific Aryan invasion theory according to which the invading Aryans were white Europeans of pure blood! The Wikepedia notes: “The Nazis claimed that the early Aryans of India, from whose Vedic tradition the swastika sprang, were the prototypical white invaders. The concept of racial purity was an ideology central to Nazism, though it is now considered unscientific.” In fact even at the time scientists, including German scientists denounced it as unscientific. But like the equally unscientific Dravidian theory the idea persisted because it met some political needs.

To return to the swastika sign, the first point to note is it is a misnomer. It is more properly called the svasti sign — derived from su + asti = svasti which means well-being. Several Western scholars including such well-known one as A.A. MacDonnell claim that it is not mentioned in the Vedas. This is pure nonsense. There is a famous mantra known as the panca svasti mantra (mantra of the five svastis) beginning svasti nah indro vriddha-shrava … that is found in all the Vedas. There is at least one Harappan seal Panca Svastithat has five svasti signs inscribed on it. Svasti signs are extremely common with Harappan artifacts like seals and jars.

Until its misuse by the Nazis, the svasti signs were used everywhere with its real meaning as an auspicious sign or harbinger of well-being. Its appearance in Europe goes back perhaps 3000 years if not earlier. It seems to have been particularly popular in the Greco-Roman world as may be seen in the examples given. Svasti signs can be found in the New World also on numerous Native American artifacts as auspicious symbols.

More interesting perhaps is the pervasiveness of yogic influence. The famous ‘Seated Yogi‘ and the Pashupati image on some Harappan seals has made its way to West Asia (Iraq) and later still to Europe as far west as Gundestrup in Denmark.

HerodotusWestward Ho

Just as we find two waves of movements of people and animals from India into Eurasia and Europe — one c. 40,000 years ago and the second about 10,000 years ago, we find at least one more movement out of India 5000 years ago or around that time, continuing for about 1000 years. While the second movement left its imprint on the languages of Eurasia and Europe in the form of Sanskritic vocabulary, this more recent movement has left traces of religious and other symbolism in West Asia and Europe.

Many West Asian dynasties and peoples are known — Kassites, Elamites, Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Hittites, Mittani, Hurrians (mentioned in the Bible) and more. All these show traces of Indian influence in religion, mathematics, vocabulary and other traits. The later Medes and Persians are almost indistinguishable from Indians to their east. For example, how many know that the name Cyrus is the Greek corruption of Kurusha? Or Darius of Dayavarsha? And Artaxerses was Arthakshetra. The word ‘satrap’ for a subordinate regional ruler is derived from Old Persian kshetra-pavana meaning protector of the region.

Many of the names became distorted because of Greek transliteration. For example, the founder of the Median Kingdom is given as Cyaxares while in the original it is Huvakshatra. Similarly his successor and son is given by Greek writers (like Herodotus) as Astyages whereas the correct original form (in Old Iranian) is Rishti Vaga.

K. D. SethnaNot merely the names but the whole of West Asian history has been seriously distorted by interpreting it in Hellenistic terms and the modern European practice of tracing everything to Greece. What is needed is a serious examination of these records from an Indian perspective which in ancient times was much closer to the Iranian. We may find many connections and be able to fill gaps in the history of both the peoples — Indians and Iranians. One example will suffice.

We have already seen how Seidenberg’s study of the Shulbasutras shed light on the Indian (Vedic) origins of Old Babylonian and Egyptian mathematics. A study by Sri Aurobindo’s disciple and eminent historian K.D. Sethna (Amal Kiran) showed that the people of the Harappan cities and those of Sumer-Akkad (Mesopotamia) had extensive trade relations. A major item of trade was cotton, called karpasa in Sanskrit. This became kapazum in Akkadian. The modern word kapda for cloth in modern languages derives from it.

Sethna also found that the region of the Harappan cities (Western India) was called Meluhha by the Akkadians. This is a corruption of Malekha, Prakrit for the Sanskrit word Mleccha. This suggests that Indians referred to the Harappan region as ‘Mleccha Desha’. (This is suggested also by the Mahabharata.) Mleccha may not have had a negative connotation then. In his book Karpasa in Prehistoric India (1978), Sethna gives a wealth of details connecting West Asia and the Harappan Civilization.

Svasti in ancient GreeceSo we have these three waves out of India: (1) The first wave out of India some 45,000 years ago seeded Eurasia and Europe with founder groups; we have no traces of their language. (2) A second wave at the end of the Ice Age c. 10,000 years ago carried Sanskritic vocabulary along with agriculture and animal husbandry to Eurasia and Europe; traces of these can be found in archaeology and languages. (3) The third wave, 5000 years ago or a bit earlier carried more sophisticated ideas like mathematics, horse training, spiritual practices like yoga and the like. Record of this is abundant, much of which remains to be explored.

So we have this progress not over 5000 years as history books tell us but over 50,000 years. – Folks, 7 April 2013


» Dr. Navaratna S. Rajaram is a mathematical scientist interested in history and philosophy of science. He is currently working on the book The Genes of Science and the Birth of History on which the article is partly based. He is Contributing Editor of FOLKS.

See also

  1. 1 – Indian Third Wave West: Fertile Cresent and Mathematics – N.S. Rajaram

  2. 3 – Indo-Europeans: Pashupati’s animals on the march – N.S. Rajaram

  3. 1 & 2 – Indo-Europeans: Their origins and the natural history of their languages – N.S. Rajaram

  4. Reclaim the Swastika

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