Sarasvati (texts & arch 1)

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Mon May 25 13:39:42 UTC 1998

Now here we have an interesting bag of related and non-related items.
But even then, large gaps in a comprehensive theory.

Since this would become too long I divide this post into three parts and
hope my fingers won't fall off in the meantime.
So one point after another:

On Sun, 24 May 1998, Sn. Subrahmanya wrote:

> Micheal Witzel wrote:
> >The RV does not know of iron : ayas is *NOT* iron but
> >copper(/bronze)."

> Let me reiterate ..I did not bring up iron at all...but there is
> definitely wide usage of COPPER (again NOT iron!) in pre-Harappan
> levels.

Yes, but I had to, as iron is important for the low limit of the RV..
And, as I said, copper mining & smelting for its upper limit. It is
impossible at 5000 BC, a favorite date for a "pre-Harappan RV". Or when do
YOU want to put it?

> What about the "fire altars" in SIVC with the animal remains?.

Interesting point. Unfortunately it does not work, either.

First of all, the so-called fire altars have small steles or "pillars"
inside them, which *no* Vedic fire altar has, -- but which even today
normal kitchen fire places in the area do have indeed. Take a look at
Cholistan etc., fire places.

Second, the so-called Vedic 7 fire places in the early and later stages of
the Harappan site of Kalibangan (2200 BC., Lal 1984, see Allchin 1982,
B.B. Lal 1997 for photos) and similarly at Lothal. Some of these fire
places are in a domestic and some in a public context: the Kalibangan ones
are seven (actually preserved only 4 or 5!) fire places, on a raised
platform facing a brick wall;  a well and bath pavements nearby suggest
ceremonial(?) bathing.  Some, including Allchin (1982), S.  P. Gupta
(1996)  regard them as similar to or identical with the seven dhishnya
hearths of the (*post-Rgvedic*)  'classical' Srauta ritual.

However, none of this, including the brick-built bathing places, fits any
Vedic ritual, neither that of the RV nor of the later Srauta ritual.  The
RV only knows of 1-3 fires, and in Srauta ritual we find the three fires
arranged in a typical, irregularly *triangular* fashion.

The seven dhishnya fire altars of the complicated post-Rgvedic Soma ritual
are additional fires, placed east of the three main fires on the trapezoid
Mahavedi platform. None of these features, however, is met with at

It also does not fit the Vedic evidence that animal bones are found in
some of the supposed fire altars.

The Indus finds, therefore, do not represent Vedic ritual but local
Harappan kitchen practices. Not every fire place is sacred and not all
bones in fire places are offerings. What you want to see is what you get.

> And also isnt it interesting that Parpola uses the vedic myths to
> explain the iconography on the SIVC seals, but switching to
> dravidian just for the script ? So how can you be sure that
> the vedic myths are representative of true Aryan religion ?

The first point has nothing to do with my argument but only with Parpola's
suppositions and working hypotheses and methods. The decipherment has not
been universally accepted, just like any other one of the 50-odd ones
proposed (Possehl, Indus Age, The Writing System, Philadelphia 1996,
discusses some 50 'decipherments', 33 in detail. They mutually disagree
with each other.  The interpretation of the famous "Siva" seal provides
the best examples for that.

Your second sentence is an oxymoron. We know of the ancient-most Aryans
(Indo-Aryans, to be correct) from the RV, where they call *themselves*
arya,aarya (-- but not their enemies). The Vedic language is "aarya vaac"
(Kaus.Br.) and the RV talks almost exclusively about Aryan religion, is
used for the all-important Aryan rituals of Aryan society of the time.

Whatever else was around in the Panjab at the time is hardly noticed or it
is denigrated as anarya, dasyu etc. -- So, is it the "true Aryan religion"
that is either not mentioned or denigrated in the text of people who
expressively call themselves aarya??? (similar for ancient Iran)

Incidentally what is "not true Aryan religion"? How does one know?

Michael Witzel                                   witzel at

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