Paul K. Manansala
kabalen at MAIL.JPS.NET
Thu May 7 18:05:52 UTC 1998
Georg von Simson <g.v.simson at EAST.UIO.NO>
> Paul K. Manansala asks me:
> >Could you explain this high position of the horse in other
> >Indo-European cultures. Preferably not Scythian ones as there has
> >always been some argument over whether the Scythians were truly IE.
> >What part did the horse play in Greek or Persian culture?
> See the article "Horses" by Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty, in The Encyclopedia
> of Religion (Ed. Mircea Eliade). Vol. 6 (New York, 1987), p. 463-468.
> I cannot quote the whole article; let me just quote the following (p. 463):
> "Ancient Indo-European Horse Sacrifices: With the Greeks and the Vedic
> Indians, and later with the Romans, the horse truly came into its own as a
> religious symbol, one that pervades both myth and ritual. Rituals involving
> horses, more particularly rituals that involve the killing of a white
> stallion, are attested throughout the Indo-European world."
> In the following she mentions ancient Norse, Greek, Roman, Persian and
> Celtic ritual and mythological traditions which confirm her statement. See
> also the Bibliography added to her article for further references.
One could find notices like this in many culture. For example, both
the Chinese and Japanese cultures place the horse fairly prominently
in their cultures. However, neither was a nomadic horse
culture. I'm no expert in IE mythology, but I don't recall the horse
as a particularly important symbol in the Greek, Roman, Persian or
Celtic mythology I've read. We do encounter the symbol, but not in
the same sense as in Mongol or Turkic legend, where the horse was
central to life itself.
> >>Therefore - even if some horse-bones
> >> should be found in the Indus culture - the horse does not seem to have
> >> played any prominent role in the minds of its people. This makes a very
> >> strong contrast to Vedic culture as reflected in the Rgveda.
> >But all we know about the Vedic culture comes from translations of
> >the Rgveda. We don't have similar translations of the Indus texts.
> >There are very fewt examples of horse iconography in the period of a few
> >centuries after the fall of the IVC. Horses turn up in the early
> >Sunga works, but certainly nothing on the scale of Scythian culture.
> >But most importantly there is nothing even slightly suggestive of a
> >nomadic horse culture at any archaeological sites. No signs of
> >Kurgan or related cultures.
> >The only suggestions we have is that horses were introduced into
> >India gradually. And that they played a minimal role in the material
> But there can be no doubt that they played a major role on the ideological
> level with the early Indo-Aryans
It played a role maybe in the Rgveda, but not such a major role.
. You have still to convince me that they
> played a similar role in the Indus culture. As long as we cannot read the
> Indus texts, you may assume anything about their contents, of course. But
> does not the absence of the horse among the animals of the figurative
> tradition of that culture mean anything to you?
There may have been horse figures among the IVC. However, my point
there is no evidence of a horse culture entering India. There is
some evidence of domesticated horses entering India, and horses do
appear in the Rgveda. However, I'm at a lost to how anyone could
derive anything remotely similar to Kurgan or Scythian culture from
reading the Vedas. These latter people lived on mare's milk and horseback.
Paul Kekai Manansala
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