Sarasvati (texts & arch.II)

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Sun May 24 14:32:52 UTC 1998

On Sat, 23 May 1998, Sn. Subrahmanya wrote:

> At 12:40 PM 5/22/98 -0400, Michael Witze wrote:
> >Part II:
> >RV 3 and 10 have the smaller Sarasvati of today. RV 3 and 7 are
> >contemporary (king Sudas). RV 7.95.2 thus is anormal, with its great
> >Sarasvati. How to explain that?

> You say that 7.95.2 is old and then proced to connect its supposed
> author to Iranian ideas. If Vasishta came from across the Indus,
> why connect him all the way to Iran?.

Precisely because he professes un-Indian, Iranian ideas: I mentioned some
of them last time:  ....  Last time, I forgot his special relation with
Varuna in RV 7 86-88. A much more personal relationship of the poet and a
god (Varuna) than most of the RV. reminds of Zoroaster again (and Varuna =
"Asura Medha", has often been thought to have been the model for Zor's
Ahura Mazda)

> You also tend to presume that the Iranian ideas were probably contemporary
> to Rgvedic times!!. This need not be, we just dont know.
> The Iranian ideas could be from a later date.

No. There are indications of Iranian words in the RV, such as in RV 8.
Both languages and religions are very close. After several weeks in either
'country" you could understand the local language easily, but maybe not
speak it grammatically correctly. All of this is well known.

The Old Iranian of the older Avesta (Zarathustra's Gatha-s) is
linguistically hardly younger than the RV. Absolute dating has not been
established, though. But there are a few tantalizing hints (the YOUNG
Avestan name of Bactria in the Atharvaveda, for ex.)

> Also, what you have suggested is only a *possibility* as you say and does
> not conclusively prove that the 'mountain to the sea' Sarasvati  is
> deifferent from the Indian Sarasvati river. Infact it neither proves
> nor disproves anything.

Of corse not. But I had to point out that *something* is going on in
Vasistha's hymns: the proof passage for the "great Saravati".  His
Sarasvati line does not fit the contemporary one of Visvamitra in 3.33!!!

That still as to be explained.

> ---------------------------------------------------------------------

> Exactly, there is continuity of cultural traits in the SIVC from before and
> after the "supposed migration of Aryans". Also:
> 1. We dont know what the actual religion of SIVC people was.

But we can see enough from their seals and tablets. They do not fit
*Rgvedic* religion.  A deity wrestling with 2 lions? A deity killing a
buffalo?  A deity wrestling a buffao? etc.   Not in RV

> 2. We dont really know much about the culture of the Aryans either.
We know a great deal, from the RV and the Avesta. Their family system,
tribal system, their material cultue, their animals, their (little)
agriculture, their deities, their rituals, their poetics, their language,

>    There is zilch archeological/textual evidence of migration
>    from central asia into India.

That has changed wit the finds in Bactria-Margiana and Baluchistan.
Now their is a *trail*, see Hiebert in Erdosy, Indo_Aryans of Ancient
South Asia, 1995. Plus the Gandhara grave culture, plus Swat.  All
starting about 1880/1700 BC., and after the destruction of the Bactrian
horizon about 2100 BC.

> 3. The little that we do know about religion is just what
>    we have from the Rgveda

Not little. We can more or less reconstruct their Soma, Animal, Pravargya,
Horse and Fire rituals right from the Rv. Plus a lot of mythology. Add the
Avesta with very similar data.

> 4. We also know that there is a cultural continuity in the SIVC.

yes, but at what level? - The great Indus cities, their script and long
their distance overland trade disappeared... All cultural traits continue
at much reduced scale. But, in the post_Indus age we also have NEW items:
cremation and burial in urns (as described in the Vedic texts) replaced
burial of bodies in the ground. Already Vats in c.  1930 has pointed out
the curious birds (with minute human bodies inside!) painted on Cemetary H
cremation urns, -- which fits Vedic ideas about movement of souls after
death...  But the *style* of these paintings (thus artisans, lower level,
small tradition) continues, is in Indus style. The ideas are new -- and
fit Vedic texts. This is little discussed in arch. these days.
Archaeoogists would have to read Vedictexts --- and therefore my
cooperation with R. Meadow...

> So how can one postulate a migration ???

The texts themselves speak of it many times, even in RV;  and the RV
remembers places and tribes in Afghanistan, Iran and even beyond: The
Rasaa = Avestan Ranghaa = Scythian *Rahaa (written Rhaa in Greek), where
it designates ... the Volga.

> The only evidence that is claimed to show a migration into India
> is the so called "Linguistic evidence".

Yes, and that is powerful evidence which has not been disproved by
anyone so far. S.S. Misra has tried, recently, but that is a very long and
"interesting" chapter...

> --------------------------------------------------------------------
> >does the RV.  But a "pre-Indus RV" of the Aryan homeland theory cannot
> >have copper since it was not used .. yet.
> >(To be clear, not to be misunderstood again. *Incidentally*, copper and
> >even <meteroic> iron have always been used, for example there is  an
> >"exotic" copper bead in a neolithic Mehrgarh grave (c. 6500 BC). )

> There is evidence of wide usage (not just minimal)
> of copper in "Pre-Harappan times" as well.

Copper (mined, smelted, worked on) does not go back to,  say, 5000 BC.

> this is far from true. The excavators have told us that the pre-Harappan
> levels of Kalibangan have yielded a rich variety of 56 copper objects
> which included...."

I would have to see exactly which kind of copper objects... I mentioend
the bead at Mehrgarh at an even much earlier date. But this does not mean
copper smelting + regular usage....

Michael Witzel                       witzel at
my direct line (also for messages) :  617- 496 2990

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