Chariots (was horse argument)

Tue Jun 16 11:02:19 UTC 1998

> From etymologies and archeological remains to texts:

the relatively realistic hymn on the horse dadhikrA (RV 4.38) testifies to an
intensive use of horse and chariots. The king to which the horse dadhikrA
belonged was a destroyer of Dasyus (ghana'm da'syubhyo). But otherwise it was
apparently mainly used in "cattle raids", in which it was extremely succesful.
The horse, fast as the wind (vAtam iva dhra'jantam) overtook chariots
(rathatu'ram). It was apparently pulling a chariot itself, e.g. 4.40.4b
dadhikrA, by now fully deified, is still said to be tied at neck, apikakSa' (?)
and mouth). It "overtook" or "remained before" the whip (4.40.4a) so the driver
was behind the horse, not sitting on it.

Interpretation: some historical, royal horse was extremely fast and helped
greatly in fights and raids. That its praise was accepted as a hymn and was
circulated and transmitted as such shows how highly valuated a fast horse and
chariot were, apparently for practical purposes. Whether the necessary
techniques for horse-keeping and chariotry were taken from somewhere or locally
innovated, they must have played a role in the succes of the important Vedic
tribe the pUrus (speaking a partly already 'creolized' but still strongly 'Indo-
European' language).

Best wishes, JH

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