Sarasvati (texts & arch.II)

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Wed May 27 12:22:10 UTC 1998

On Sun, 24 May 1998, Paul K. Manansala wrote:

> Isn't Vasistha connected with Eastern India in later literature?
> Some intereresting facts about Vasistha:
> 1. He promoted cow worship (among beef-eaters?).
> 2. He raised tens sons on King Sudas' wife (among patriarchal
>     peoples?)
> 3. In later literature he is the priest of Danavas and Daityas.

PRECISELY:  in later literature. The Epics and the Puranas are
re-formulations and re-interpretations, with a lot of changes made, of the
Vedic texts.  Vasistha as been promoted "to the Heavens" in such texts,
while in the RV he is a newcomer, without Angirasa background etc.

Or do you also doubt that the Epics/Puranas are *late* texts compared to
the Vedas?
(Love to see the proof!)

> > 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. B

> But the Avesta is in neighboring Iran several centuries after the
> proposed "invasion".  If the Avestan language is younger, then using
> the standard  presumption we should suggest a migration from east to
> west.

How do you know that? Standard presumption? There simply is no means so
far to date any Avesta texts independently from the Near Eastern sources
and from correpondensces with the Vedas, see O Skjaervo in the Erdosy
Volume 1995. (We would love to have a Chinese ambassador at that time in
Bactria. Unfortunately, he came 1000 years too late!).

Avestan is often MORE archaic than the frequently INNOVATIVE Rgvedic.

The last sentence gives away your suppositions. -- On reading any Avesta
section in the original you would see that it does not contain anything
(linguistically) that could have come out of India. No Indian words, no
Indian ideas, no Harappan items etc.

> Is there a religion of the Rgveda?  Or do these simply reflect a
> particular type of hymn to certain deities.  Besides we should not be
> comparing the Rgveda or Avesta only to IVC seals. Is there anything
> in Iran or Central Asian remotely more "Vedic" in nature?

Of course, there is a RV religion: many books have been written about it.
-- It differs somewhat from Iranian one (even neglecting the reform of
Zoroaster), and it differs somewhat from post-Rgvedic religion. Some
intra-RV regional and clan-wise distinctions in belief and ritual can also
be seen. But it stands out clearly against the other types of "Arya"
religion mantioned just now.

> > >    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.
> >>
> Highly questionable.  We have to question the "Aryan" identification
> here.  A lot of presumptions used to back up other presumptions.
> "Highly questionable" does not do it. This is a scholarly list (so we
> hope) , not politics. Some examples are necessary. Let's have
discussionon the arch. cultures mentioned above... But then,the horse, or
rather Dadhyanc will raise its ugly horse head again...

> Well, soma is a particularly interesting subject. Didn't it come from
> the Himalayas (Mt. Mujavant).

Yes, and from the high Iranian Mountains (Yasna 9). Apparently in the way
you go and collect your Peyotl, send out somebody or trade it from the
local people (whom you then beat up in the process, according to the
post-RV ritual).

> > 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.
> All very questionable.  Maybe we should discuss each passage that
> supposedly speaks of migration.  How in the world can you be sure
> that Rasaa is the Volga?

All? - The Rasaa /Rangha/ Rha is indeed a special case which is in need of
a *long* discussion. The above note on Rasaa is primarily linguistic.  But
it can be sustained. We can have a discussion of that.

> Mass migrations are not usually forgotten by people.  We should not
> have to thread together tidbits if the Vedic peoples really did
> migrate from all the way from the Volga.  All of this should be very
> clearly spelled out.

"Are not usually forgotten" -- a sweeping statement. We need details. - As
I said, I have supplied such data in Erdosy 1995. No need to repeat myself
again.  My fingers are tired by now.  And Parpola has done so for 2
decades or so.

I suggest to read his papers and then come back.

Michael Witzel                       witzel at

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