IVC on Indology list

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Thu Dec 30 23:05:43 EST 2004

The perceptive reader will have noticed that my last post on ochre was 
not a reply to M. Kapstein, but to the general Indus/ ochre thread. 
Aoplogies: I should have cut out his reply.  om, shaantih.


However, now  I see that my related, earlier msg had not gone through 
due to formatting problems, thus repeated here:

A few notes on D. Anderson's message, below:
On Dec 21, 2004, at 7:50 PM, Dean Anderson wrote:

> >>....There are unmistakable connections
> between the Harappans and later Indic systems that are almost
> universally accepted by the most mainstream of scholars.

"some connections" would be the keyword. Their nature and extent is 
very much in question.

> > A few examples: the Harappan weight system is still used i. 
> ...Kalibangan was ploughed in distinct way... designs of carts, boats, 
> clothing styles.... women of wearing red ochre in the part of their 
> hair; ... veneration of the pipal and banyan trees, etc.

Certainly. But not that all of this is part of the everyday, village, 
"small tradition" --
of Pan-(North?) India.  Many of these items are indeed found in the 
Rgveda, as (should have been) well-known since Kuiper's seminal paper 
of 1955:  Kuiper, F.B.J. (1955) “Rigvedic loan-words,” in O. Spies 
(ed.) Studia Indologica. Festschrift für Willibald Kirfel zur 
Vollendung seines 70. Lebensjahres, Bonn: Orientalisches Seminar.

He found non-IE/non-IA loan words only in the areas of nature, 
agriculture, music/dance, folk religion -- but nothing of the 
(supposed/imagined) high level Indus religion/astronomy/town planning 
-- and what not.  But then, what do you expect from post-Mature Indus 
village & small town shamans/priests?

> More speculative, but still widely accepted, are the
> identification among Harappan remains of proto-Ziva, Pazupati (or
> MahiSa); the Mother Goddess/Durga; the seven rishis/krittikas;
> nakSatras, yoga asanas, etc. These are generally, but not universally,
> considered to be part of a Dravidian substratum that mixed with 
> Aryanism
> to give rise to later Indic/Vedic/Hindu thoughts and practices.

"less widely accepted" indeed. All of them have been disputed by 
competent scholars.  This is the field of popular papers/books (and 
some rather inventive/speculating colleagues who print their 
speculations as facts).

To show *direct* links between  Mature Indus and Vedic data is much 
harder. Some of these  features are too general. (The proto-Ziva may  
just be a stone age Eurasian hunter deity, see the Celtic, SE European 
inspired Gundestrup vessel with "Ziva" = cernunnos 'the horned one', 
and others in Eurasia and N.America). Others (medieval Hinduism) are 
divided in space & time by xxx miles/years

Of course, I am constantly on the lookout for serious links and 
possibilities. The scenario would be, as above: acculturation between 
village/small town post Indus people and speakers of IA, especially in 
the non-IA (river names!)  Satlej-Kuruksetra area, where the late 
Harappans indeed moved to.

For example, Kuiper thought that the RV Rsi Agastya and Kavasa have 
Drav. names. Plus his 'Munda'  poets: "A bilingual poet" (his last 
paper of 2000): jarbhari turphari... which was made fun of by medieval 
Buddhist: the Veda has no meaning...

There are some serious possibilities, such as Indus influence on the 
Vedic form of the IE/Eurasian horse sacrifice (see Possehl & 
undersigned) but the evidence is weak. More on these topics to follow 
in due time.

As for a Dravidian substratum, that also is under discussion. Since the 
Brahuis in Baluchistan have been ruled out, for decades (Elfenbein), as 
remnants of the Indus population (they arrived from C. India in the 2nd 
mill. CE only!), your next Dravidians would be in C. India.

The early RV does *not* have Dravidian loan words (EJVS 1999) but some 
300 from other languages; the Drav. words  come in only during the 
middle and late RV periods. The (by and large) unanswered question is : 
from where and how?

According to Southworth (Seventies) the old Drav. vocabulary is 
pre-agricultural; we can now add that they have Sumerian loans (Blazek 
& Boisson 1991) for that. All not very conducive for a scenario of 
Drav. speakers as bearers of the Indus civ. -- that must have been 
populated, anyhow,  by a NUMBER of peoples/languages (EJVS 1999)

In sum, another though popular myth (as we also stress in our EJVS 11-2 

> Regarding some of the other lists, unfortunately they usually have a
> rather low signal-to-noise ratio and one is often forced to wade 
> through
> pages of uniformed speculation by those who have not taken the time to
> do the most basic research. This, combined with the highly emotional
> attacks (sadly prevalent among mainstream academics as well as
> traditionalists) has tended to drive most professional Indologists away

oM/tathaa.  (cause & effect!)

> Having said that, however, there some very valuable and well-informed
> opinions on those sites.

By Whom? And where?
Please let us know !

Michael Witzel
Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies, Harvard University
1 Bow Street , Cambridge MA 02138
1-617-495 3295           Fax: 496 8571
direct line:       496 2990

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list