Yaroslav V. Vassilkov yavass at YV1041.SPB.EDU
Sun Jun 28 08:10:53 UTC 1998

Dear colleagues,
        in my previous message on the subject (may be a bit too emotional
because of my fear that D.V.N.Sarma's puraa.nic quotation and
the suggested approach to it will trigger a new fruitless discussion on
the "pan-Vedic religion" and the "out of India" exodus of mankind) I forgot
to mention one important point. Under its xenophobic colouring and possible
political motivation, the puraa.nic account of "excommunication" may have
some historical basis.
  The historicity of the Puraa.nas, i.e., the way in which they reflect
history, is very close, if not identical, to the epic historicity. And the
latter is of a very special type. It never reflects/describes particular
events of real history, but often reflects/describes in the most generalised
and idealised way the typical, long-termed historical situations (as, for
example, a situation of some centuries-long ethnic or religious conflict).
Well known example: there was no particular battle in the mountains
with the "Saracenes", which is glorified in the Old French "Song of Roland",
but its description absorbed the features of many real battles and the song
itself reflects, we may say, the centuries of political confrontation on the
southern borders of France between Christians and Muslims, Frenchmen - and Arabs and
even Basques.
       If we look at the puraa.nic story from the point of view of Epic
historicity, we shall see that it can not be based on any particular real
historical fact (such as real "excommunication" of the degraded Aryan tribes
by VasiSTha). But it seems most probable that this "excommunication" account
eventually describes - in a very generalised way - the historical fact of
gradual de-aryanisation or de-brahmanisation of the North-West (Sind and Punjab)
in the Late Vedic period. We know that the people of the Rgveda knew Punjab very
well and for a long time stayed there: but since the Zatapatha Br. the region
is constantly characterised in the texts as inhabited by barbarians, as an
impure land. Probably, when the main bulk of Aryan tribes moved southwards,
down the Ga.ngaa valley, the pre-Aryan (Late Harappan) cultural substratum
raised again (the Kar.naparvan of the Mbh calles the barbarious tribes of the
NW in their totality the "Arattans" - and there are good chances, I believe,
that "Aratta" was the name which the IVC people themselves called their
country). On the other hand, since VII-VI centuries BC we can see the growth
of Iranian
influence in the NW (both from Achemenian Empire and early Saka tribes). Then
the Yavanas came... No wonder that even such NW tribe as Madras, in Vedic time
considered Aryan and orthodox, in the Kar.naparvan are called mlecchas. Of course,
many Aryan ga.nas/sa.mghas (or "k.satriyan oligarchies") of the NW from the
very beginning could be alien to Vedic/Brahmanic orthodoxy.
        So, the puraa.nic "excommunication" account has some real
historical basis which is formed probably by the long process of
"barbarisation" of the NW region since the Late Vedic period.
        Too many words. Sorry.

                                        Yaroslav Vassilkov

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