aryan invasion - fact or fiction?

May be with time, there would be better ways to study the past, with fewer required archaeological remains... hopefully!
Yes, there is a sending a camera through a singularity wormhole I the past...

Another way is to create a space time bubble to move it along the 5th dimension. All you need is a nanotechnolgy based camera and propulsion unit. The 5th dimension is only a few millimeters wide.
Thought this might be of interest ...

Aryan invasion theory dubbed a myth

New Delhi, Nov. 23. (PTI): Former Director General (DG) of Archaeological Survey of India,
B B Lal, today dubbed the hypothesis of "Aryan Invasion of India" a myth and alleged
that it was still accepted for reasons other than historical.

"The theory that there was an Aryan invasion of India is completely wrong," Lal stressed in
a seminar here and alleged that political reasons were behind its being in textbooks.

"Do the proponents of this theory expect us to believe that urban Harappans, on being sent away to South India, shed overnight their urban characteristics and took to a Stone Age way of living?, Lal asked.

Wonder if Mahabharat produced nuclear explosions that resulted people gong back to the stone age?....
the indus seals

The year 1996-97, the fiftieth year of Indian independence, was important in more respects than one. In that year Natwar Jha published his monograph Vedic Glossary on Indus Seals containing a complete decipherment of the Indus script along with more than a hundred deciphered readings. Shortly after its publication, I began my collaboration with Jha leading to our soon to be published book The Deciphered Indus Script. In our book, we present deciphered readings of well over five hundred texts with Vedic references and explanations. Since many of the messages are repeated on different seals, they probably cover between 1500 and 2000 seals, or about half the known corpus. We have read more that are not included in our book for reasons mainly of logistics.

The main conclusion to follow from our work is that the Harappan Civilization, of which the seals are a product, belonged to the latter part of the Vedic Age. It has close connections with Vedantic works like the Sutras and the Upanishads. The style of writing reflects the short aphorisms found in Sutra works. The imagery and symbolism are strongly Vedic. The vocabulary depends heavily on the Vedic glossary Nighantu and its commentary by Yaska known as the Nirukta. The name of Yaska is found on at least two seals ‹ possibly three. There are references to Vedic kings and sages as well place names. Of particular interest are references to Plakshagra ‹ the birthplace of the Sarasvati River, and Sapta Apah or the Land of the Seven Rivers.

This means that the Rigveda must already have been quite ancient by the time of the Harappan Civilization. Since the Harappan Civilization was known to be flourishing in the 3100 _ 1900 BC period, the Rigveda must have been in existence by 4000 BC. This now receives archaeological support following R.S. Bisht¹s investigation of the great Harappan city of Dholavira. Bisht (and other archaeologists) have concluded that the Vedic Aryans of the Sarasvati heartland were the people who created the Harappan cities and the civilization associated with it. Our deciphered readings tell us the same thing.

Message of the Indus seals

I will not present the decipherment here which both Jha and I have discussed in detail at other places. I will only note that the script is a highly complex hybrid that includes (1) an alphabetical subset; (2) a large number of composite signs; and (3) numerous pictorial symbols. The language of the Harappan texts is Vedic Sanskrit, and the script itself is heavily influenced by the rules of Sanskrit grammar and phonetics. It is clear that the later Brahmi script is a derivative of the Harappan that evolved borrowing heavily from its alphabetical subset. In fact, there exist examples of writing that combine features of both. It is therefore reasonable to call the Harappan script Old Brahmi or Proto Brahmi. Its decipherment was the result of more than twenty years of research by Jha ‹ a Vedic scholar and paleographer of considerable distinction. As previously observed, Jha and I have read close to 2000 seals; for most of these we have also found references in the Vedic literature, particularly the Nighantu and the Nirukta of Yaska. With this body of material, we are now in a position to take a broad look at what these seals have to say about the people who created them. This is particularly necessary in the light of a couple of highly publicized claims over the contents of the seals made in the last few months. One linguist (Malati Shengde) has claimed that the language of the Harappans was Akkadian, a West Asiatic language. This claim, made without being able to read the writing, is not supported by our decipherment. The language of the seals is Vedic Sanskrit, with close links to Vedantic works like the Upanishads. For instance, we have found and deciphered a seal which contains the word shadagama (shat agama) ‹ a reference to the six schools Vedantic knowledge. This shows that they must already have been in existence before 2000 BC. (Most of the seals were created in the 3100 _ 1900 BC period.)
Another recent claim by a retired archaeologist (M.V. Krishna Rao) relates to the career of Sri Rama. According to Krishna Rao, the Harappan seals tell us that Rama was born not in Ayodhya, but in the present state of Haryana. He further claims that according to his study of the seals, Rama invaded Babylon and defeated and killed the famous Babylonian ruler Hammurabi whom he equates with Ravana! This account, if true, would call for a radical revision of both Indian and Babylonian history. Hammurabi is a well-known historical figure. He is known to have died in 1750 BC of natural causes and not killed in battle. His date therefore is too late to have found mention in the Harappan seals. We have no such sensational findings to report. Our fairly extensive readings indicate that the seals contain little in the way of history. To begin with, the writings on the seals are brief, with an average length of five to six characters. This makes them unsuitable for recording historical details. Whatever historical information we do find is incidental. There are occasional references to Vedic kings like Sudasa, Yadu and Puru, and to sages like Kutsa and Paila. We find also references to ancient places like Plaksagra (birthplace of the Sarasvati river), Sapta-Apah or the Land of the Seven Rivers referred to in the Vedic literature. But such Œhistorical¹ seals are few and far between; they probably do not exceed five percent of the total. Other historical information has to be inferred from indirect messages like the one about the six schools of Vedanta mentioned earlier.

References to Rama We do find references to Rama, but they are nowhere near as dramatic as his invasion of Babylonia and the killing of Hammurabi-Ravana. Seals speak of kanta-rama or ŒBeloved Rama¹, and kanta-atma-rama or ŒBeloved Soul Rama¹. One seal in particular speaks of samatvi sa ha rama meaning ŒRama treated all with equality¹. All this finds echo in the Valmiki Ramayana as Œarya sarva samashcaiva sadaiva priyadarshanah¹, or ŒArya to whom all were equal and was dear to everyone.¹

There is also a reference to Rama performing a successful fire ritual (or launching a fire missile) which again is mentioned in the Ramayana. There is another reference to Rama¹s successful crossing of the sea which again touches on the Ramayana. Of particular interest is the presence of ŒRama¹ in at least one West Asiatic seal from pre-Sargon layer in southern Mesopotamia. We know from Zoroastrian scripture that Rama was well known in ancient West Asia. The readings suggest that this goes back to a period long before 2500 BC. What is interesting in all this is that Rama is treated as an ideal man and ruler loved by everyone; nowhere have we found anything to suggest that he was regarded as divine. All this suggests that history books are in need of major revision. The Aryan invasion stands shattered, the Proto Dravidians are found to be a myth, and the cradle of civilization ‹ assuming there was such a thing ‹ is not Mesopotamia but Vedic India. Also, a version of the story of Rama existed five thousand years ago, and known both in India and West Asia. And the Sanskrit language ‹ at least the Vedic version of it ‹ is of untold antiquity; it was certainly not brought to India by invading nomads in the second millennium.

Floods and maritime activity

To return to the seals and their contents, such Œhistorical¹ seals are exceptional. A great majority of the seals are different in character and content. Often their texts can be quite mundane. We find a reference to a craftsman by name Ravi whose products last twice as long as those made by other craftsmen (dvi-ayuh). One inscription speaks of a short-tempered mother-in-law; there is even mention of relieving fever with the help of water from a saligrama (fossil stone) ‹ a remedy still followed in many Indian households. We find numerous references to rivers (apah) and Œflows¹ (retah), suggesting the existence of an extensive system of waterways. We have texts like a madra retah (flow to the Madra country), and a vatsa retah (flow to the Vatsa country) indicating their presence. The Vedic Civilization was of course largely a maritime one, as indeed was the Harappan ‹ a fact noted by David Frawley. The seals confirm it. There is recent archaeological evidence suggesting the presence of Indian cotton in Mexico and Peru dating to 2500 BC and earlier (Rajaram and Frawley 1997), which again suggests maritime activity. As noted earlier, archaeological evidence also supports the fact that the Vedic people (and the Harappans) engaged in maritime activity. References to floods are common, and can sometimes be quite vivid. There is a particularly dramatic inscription, which speaks of workers laboring all night by fire, trying to stem the floods. The readings suggest that the floods were due to the encroachment of seawater and not necessarily the rivers. These messages should be of interest to archaeologists who have noted the damage to sites due to floods and salination. The great Harappan city of Dholavira in Gujarat is a striking example.

Vedic symbolism

While historical references are rare, and many seals contain much mundane material, a substantial number of seals have messages reflecting Vedic symbolism. This symbolism can be quite profound, and one has to dig deep into the Vedic and Vedantic literature in trying to interpret them. But once understood, it helps to explain the symbolism of the images on the seals also. This can be illustrated with the help of the famous Pashupati seal, alongside its deciphered text.

The seal contains a meditating horned deity surrounded by five animals. The animals are ‹ elephant, musk deer, buffalo, tiger and rhinoceros. These five animals are often identified with the five senses, and the five associated elements ‹ fire, water, space, wind and earth (or soil). These elements that go to make up the material universe are known in the Vedic literature as panca maha-bhutas or the Five Great Elements. The reading on the seal is ishadyatah marah. Mara is the force opposed to creation ‹ one that causes the destruction of the universe. The seal message means: Mara is controlled by Ishvara. The seated deity is of course a representation of Ishvara.

Hindu cosmology holds that both creation and destruction of the universe result from the action of the Five Great Elements. So Mara, the destructive force, is also composed of the Five Great Elements. With this background, the deciphered message ishadyatah marah allows us to interpret the symbolism of the famous Pashupati seal. It expresses the profound idea, that, in every cosmic cycle, both the creation and the destruction of the universe are caused by the action of the panca maha-bhutas (Five Great Elements) under the control of Ishvara. This remarkable interpretation was decoded and brought to my notice by Jha.

We find numerous such seals with close links to the Vedic and Vedantic literature; our book includes several such interpretations. The written messages are brief in the form known as Œsutras¹ to Sanskrit scholars. These are short formula-like aphorisms made famous by such works as Panini¹s grammar, and Patanjali¹s celebrated Yogasutra. They invariably need elaboration. An example is the message ishadyatah marah just described. The seals are products of the same cultural, and, no doubt, historical milieu. Thus they confirm the earlier findings of Sethna and this writer that the Harappan Civilization overlapped with the Sutra period. This is what Frawley and I in our book have called the ŒSutra-Harappa- Sumeria equation¹. (We have also found mathematical formulas on a few seals.) All this provides a window on the Harappan world, and calls for a complete revision of Vedic history and chronology.


In summary, one may say that the deciphered seals, while they may not contain much in the way of history, they do provide a clear historical context for the Harappans by establishing a firm link between Harappan archaeology and the Vedic literature. Thanks to the deciphered seals, the Harappans, who until now had been left dangling like the legendary king Trishanku, find at last a place in history ‹ in Vedic India. The Harappans were the Vedic Harappans. The Rigveda therefore must go back well into the fifth millennium. If there was a cradle of civilization, it was Vedic India, not Sumeria. This recognition is bound to bring about a revolution in our understanding of history. (N.S. Rajaram )


Jha, N. (1996) Vedic Glossary on Indus Seals. Ganga-Kaveri Publishing House, Varanasi.
Jha, N. and N.S. Rajaram (To appear) The Deciphered Indus Script: Methodology, Readings, Interpretation.
Rajaram, N.S. (1996) ŒJha¹s Decipherment of the Indus Script¹, in the Quarterly Journal of the Mythic Society (October-December 1996).
Rajaram, N.S. and David Frawley (1997) Vedic Aryans and the Origins of Civilization: A Literary and Scientific Perspective, 2nd edition. Voice of India, New Delhi
cracking the code

Natwar Jha, a 58-year-old Vedic scholar and paleographer from West Bengal, may have found the solution to the great problem. In a slim volume of 60 pages titled Vedic Glossary on Indus Seals, Jha has provided both the key to the ancient script as well as a large number of readings. After a careful examination of his work, the American Vedic scholar Vamadeva Shastri (David Frawley) and N.S. Rajaram, both experts in the Indus civilization, believe his reading to be substantially correct. By applying Jha's methods they found they could independently read a large number of seals. The breakthrough was reported in the Indian press in November, 1997, but most scholars have yet to even hear of it, much less study Jha's book.

Is it reasonable that an unknown scholar working in a rural part of West Bengal could make such a breakthrough? At least two of the great decipherments of history--Egyptian hieroglyphics and Minoan "Linear B" script--were cracked by outside amateurs. Thomas Young, a brilliant English doctor and physicist, deciphered hieroglyphics on the famed Rosetta Stone in 1815. The Linear B script was deciphered only in 1952 by the determined amateur Michael Ventris, a British architect. Outsiders, in fact, have a decided advantage over those logically more qualified for the work, for they do not share the prejudices and misconceptions which may have taken deep root among scholars.

The first and biggest misconception corrected by Jha concerned who inhabited the Indus Valley. Most scholars believe it was a Dravidian-speaking people who were driven out of the area in 1500 bce by an invasion of Aryans from the north and west. They therefore assumed the script to be an ancient form of a Dravidian language, perhaps Tamil. All attempts to provide a Dravidian interpretation for the script have failed. But in the last ten years, a strong minority of scholars and others have challenged the Aryan Invasion theory as wrong and proposed that the people of the Indus Valley are the ancestors of people who live in India today. Accepting this point of view, Jha proceeded on the assumption the seals were in an ancient form of Sanskrit.

Jha decided to search for Vedic words on the seals. In this he was helped by an ancient work known as the Nighantu. It is a glossary of Sanskrit words compiled by the sage Yaska. Jha also found that the "Shanti Parva" of the Mahabharata (the ancient history of India) preserves an account of Yaska's search for older, "buried" glossaries--perhaps the seals--in compiling his own. From this Jha concluded that some of the seals must contain words found in Yaska's Nighantu. This conclusion was critical, for it greatly narrowed what he was looking for. The Nighantu is a late Vedic work, dealing with the words of ancillary Vedic texts. The entire Rig Veda would already have been in existence for thousands of years at the time the seals were produced.

It has long been known that there was a correspondence between the Indus script and characters in other ancient scripts of the Indian sub-continent and neighboring regions. Especially it had been demonstrated that there was some relationship between the Indus script and the most ancient forms of Brahmi, the predecessor to the Sanskrit Devanagiri script. In an amazing feat of correlation, Jha compared all of the characters from all languages and produced a concordance of similar characters and sounds. He found that letters of most of the ancient scripts were related to Indus signs.

By painstaking cross-referencing, he slowly hit upon the meaning of individual symbols, and found words from the Nighantu on the seals. After several hundred seals, he arrived at a relatively consistent system of translation that anyone can apply. Now the job is to verify and refine his work.
(Prabha Bhardwaj)

to contact dr. n. jha and to order copies of vedic glossary on indus seals write: ganga kaveri publishing house, d. 35/77, jangamawadimath, varanasi 221 001 india.
Linguistic aspects of the Aryan non-invasion theory

It is widely assumed that linguistics has provided the clinching evidence for the Aryan invasion theory (AIT) and for a non-Indian homeland of the Indo-European (IE) language family. Defenders of an "Out of India" theory (OIT) of IE expansion unwittingly confirm this impression by rejecting linguistics itself or its basic paradigms, such as the concept of IE language family. However, old linguistic props of the AIT, such as linguistic paleontology or glot_tochronology, have lost their credibility. On closer inspection, currently dominant theories turn out to be compatible with an out-of-India scenario for IE expansion. In particular, substratum data are not in conflict with an IE homeland in Haryana-Panjab. It would however be rash to claim positive linguistic proof for the OIT. As a fairly soft type of evidence, linguistic data are presently compatible with a variety of scenarios.

We have just looked into the pro and contra of some prima facie indications for an Out-of-India theory of IE expansion. Probably none of these can presently be considered as decisive evidence against the AIT. But at least it has been shown that the linguistic evidence does not necessitate the AIT. One after another, the classical proofs of a European origin have been discredited, usually by scholars who had no knowledge of or interest in an alternative Indian homeland theory. It is too early to say that linguistics has proven an Indian origin for the IE family. But we can assert with confidence that the oft invoked linguistic evidence for a European Urheimat and for an Aryan invasion of India is wanting. We have not come across linguistic data which are incompatible with the OIT. In the absence of a final judgment by linguistics, other approaches deserve to be taken more seriously, unhindered and uninhibited by fear of that large looming but in fact elusive "linguistic evidence for the AIT".

Linguistic aspects of the Aryan non-invasion theory - Dr. Koenraad ELST
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Michael Witzel wrote an article titled “A Maritime Rigveda? How not to read the Ancient Texts” (The Hindu, 25 June 2002) in response to my article “Vedic Literature and the Gulf of Cambay Discovery” that had appeared in the Open Page section of the same newspaper on 18th June 2002.

Witzel still holds to the idea that the pastoral Vedic people came to India from land-locked Central Asia around 1500 BCE and that there is nothing Vedic about the urban Harappan civilization that practiced long-distance maritime trade with the Middle East. His idea is a continuation of the line of thinking by scholars over the last two hundred years that proposed an Aryan Invasion of India to explain how the Vedas came to the subcontinent.

However, since the reputed Aryan destruction of the Harappan culture has been disproved as bad archaeology, Witzel would make the Rigveda the product of migrants from Afghanistan into the Panjab around 1500 BCE, long after the Harappan era (which ended c. 1900 BCE). This means that the Vedic people didn’t even know who the mature Harappans were and at most found long abandoned cities!

Though the demise of the Aryan Invasion Theory/Destruction of Harappa was a major retreat for the idea of Aryan intrusion, it did not get Witzel to question the underlying idea itself. Witzel has taken it all in stride, forgetting how wrong the previous theory was, and still accepting most of the scholarship that came out of it as valid. He has replaced the Aryan invasion with an Aryan migration, but he often portrays this migration as potentially violent, with the Aryans using superior horses and chariots as their main means of movement and territorial expansion. So the difference between this and the old invasion scenario is largely semantic. Some scholars of the Aryan Migration Theory have gone so far to suggest that it was only a small group of people who actually migrated, perhaps only a special elite. This is another side-tracking to avoid the fact that there is no evidence for any real migrations at the time.

This theory requires that the early Rigvedic peoples had no worthwhile knowledge of the ocean or of maritime trade. It reduces them to a nomadic land-based people who had never even seen the sea. But there is a major problem confronting this theory. The Rigveda alone has more than 150 references to samudra, the common Sanskrit term for ocean, weaving it into its cosmology and the functions of almost every main God that it has. Witzel tries to explain away this problem by arguing that practically all the occurrences of the word samudra in the Rigveda refer to something other than a real terrestrial ocean. In other words he redefines samudra as something other than the sea.

Witzel’s theory also requires ignoring the Sarasvati river, clearly referred to in the Rigveda as a major, exalted river. The Sarasvati was the main river of Harappan civilization and mainly dried up around 1900 BCE, contributing significantly to the civilization’s end. Witzel has to do considerable theatrics to ignore the numerous references to Sarasvati in the Rigveda and in other Vedic texts as the oldest and most sacred river of the Vedic people, in order to ‘prove’ his theory that the Aryans arrived from Central Asia a long time after the collapse of the Harappan civilization. Witzel shows a particularly strong tendency to place everything possible in the ‘night-time sky’, and does so even with the river Sarasvati – a claim which has been criticized by Talageri [2001], available online at

Outdated Philologists

Witzel suggests that I am ‘unwilling to access’ or am ‘unaware’ of numerous philological writings that investigate the meaning of Rigvedic ‘samudra’ using the principles of philology. He arrays a list of authors, whose works were published from 1800’s up to recent times, to prove his position.

It is important to read the Vedic texts directly and not change meaning of obvious terms like ocean, river or fire, particularly terms that occur frequently in the text. A philological interpretation of texts, in order to reconstruct ancient cultures, cannot ignore the common sense meaning of words. Samudra is said to mean ocean in the oldest level of Vedic interpretation we have through such texts as Brihaddevata of Shaunaka and Nighantu and Nirukta of Yaska. Nowhere do we find a statement in the Vedas like “we have just discovered the sea”. Rather the ocean is there all along as a primary symbol permeating the entire text.

A philological interpretation of texts can also not ignore information derived from other areas of scholarship – such as archaeology, genetics, anthropology, history, zoology and so on. Outdated secondary works that Witzel emphasizes more or less assumed the validity of an Aryan invasion, must be adjusted relative to the growing evidence to the contrary. As newer data emerge, and have been emerging for more than 50 years now, the paradigms that we apply to interpret the Vedic texts philologically must also change.

Regarding Witzel’s authorities C. Lassen [1847] and Heinrich Lueders [1951-1959, actually he died in 1940’s], the less said the better. These scholars lived in an age when the Aryan invasion and the subjugation of ‘black skinned, snub nosed indigenous Indians’ by ‘fair, blonde Aryans on horse chariots from land-locked Central Asia’ was taken for granted, and all data in the Rigveda and other texts was interpreted and retrofitted accordingly. In fact, Witzel himself concedes, that even his latest authority, Konrad Klaus [1989], was unaware of the Sarasvati paradigm till recently. Now, this is not something to be proud of. Does it not indicate, that Klaus et al were living in their own sequestered world of arcane, obsolete interpretations of old scholars? Of Christian Lassen, it was said as early as 1890 [Oldenberg 1890:27] that “the sagacity of philological thought is wanting in him”. Need we say more?

Witzel had stated earlier in an Internet forum that even Kuiper was totally ignorant of the Sarasvati paradigm, and of the Aryan origin controversy as such, till recently. An ignorance of current archaeological and other data, can lead to a gross misinterpretation of the texts when the principles of philology are applied to them. Witzel has seems to have fallen into the same trap. These scholars first assume that the pastoral, nomadic Aryans invaded India (the current, more politically correct terms in lieu of ‘invasion’ are ‘migration’ and ‘acculturation’) from a land-locked Central Asia. Then, they interpret textual data according to this assumption. And finally, they use the results of their own interpretations and assumptions to ‘prove’ the advent of Aryans into India around 1500 BC, and that the Rigveda is a ‘land-locked’ text. My point is that literature composed between the period of German romanticism to the years of Nazi rule in Germany should be taken with a pinch of salt, and not relied upon uncritically, excessively and dogmatically as Witzel does. But, those who want to see Central Asian pastoral nomads in the Rigveda or in other Vedic texts will certainly see them therein. In fact, Witzel even ‘discovered’ actual literary evidence for the migration of Aryans into India in a late Vedic passage, a claim that was refuted [Agarwal 2000a, see online at ].

Witzel’s reference to “Kuiper 1983” is rather strange and unclear, because in his webpage at, he lists two publications of Kuiper for the year 1983. If Witzel means the book “Ancient Indian Cosmogony” containing a collection of Kuiper’s writings, then we cannot fathom what Witzel really wants to say. A word index at the end of the book lists only two occurrences of ‘samudra’ in the entire book. Kuiper himself says clearly in that book (p.75) that he will not summarize the view of Lueders at all. In his other publications (e.g. “The Heavenly Bucket”, 1972), Kuiper too criticizes Lueders here and there. And anyone can read the writings of Konrad Klaus himself to discern the special-pleading he indulges in to transform the ‘samudra’ to a confluence of Panjab streams or the far away heavens in the sky. Klaus himself relies excessively on the writings of old scholars (as a look at the bibliographies appended to his three publications will show), leading to erroneous conclusions.

Rigveda and Samudra: The Ocean or Just a Lucky Guess

Witzel seems to be unaware that dozens of authors have indeed said exactly what I have explained in detail on the Vedic peoples’ acquaintance with the ocean in my earlier publications [e.g. Frawley 1991, 2001b]. For instance, Witzel’s friend B.R. Sharma [1967], whose Samaveda edition is now under publication in the Harvard Oriental Series, concludes that Vedic Aryans possessed knowledge of ship-building and marine trade. Writing several decades ago, Alfred Hillebrandt had also conceded that a great many occurrences of the word ‘samudra’ in the Rigveda clearly denote the ocean [S. R. Sarma 1981]. Davane [1982] analyzes the 150 occurrences of ‘samudra’ and its related words in the Rigveda and concludes that the original and the most frequent meaning of this word in the text is ‘terrestrial ocean’. All other meanings are metaphorical/derived or are later developments, according to him. A few other references can be found cited in the Vedic Index of Keith and Macdonell. And many other publications stressing the same paradigm have come out after the Vedic Index was published in 1912.

The references mentioned by me above are merely illustrative of the voluminous literature that concludes that ‘samudra’ in Rigveda primarily means the terrestrial ocean and not a ‘pond’ or a ‘lake’ or a ‘confluence of rivers’ or an ‘atmospheric water body’, thus contradicting the literature cited by Witzel. The reader will note therefore, that Witzel tends to cite his sources selectively, showing a preference for antiquated publications in German (his mother tongue). He ignores literature that runs counter to his pet theories.

Witzel has himself conceded in his publications, that the Rigveda is primarily a document of the Puru-Bharatas, who were located more in the northern interior of India, their Sarasvati homeland. There were other Vedic tribes, mentioned in the Rigveda in the passing, and some of these tribes were more closely associated with the ocean (like the Turvashas and Yadus). I have elaborated upon this theme in my recent book “Rigveda and the History of India” [Frawley 2001b], which Witzel does not seem to have read so far. Yet the fact that the Vedic people were centered in the interior of India does not bar them from having knowledge of the sea, particularly in a region dominated by great rivers, with ease of river travel to the sea. In the Rigveda itself the Purus, the Vedic people, are said to dwell on both banks of the Sarasvati (verse 7.96.2), a river known to them to reach the sea (verse 7.95.2).

Witzel admits three meanings of samudra – mythical terrestrial oceans (imagined by the Vedic peoples before ever seeing the real ocean), confluences of rivers or terminal lakes where they drain their waters, and finally, the ‘heavenly ocean’. He leaves little or no scope for the possibility that the Rigveda actually refers to a ‘real’, and not a ‘mythical’ terrestrial ocean. Let us now examine the text of Rigveda directly.

Rigveda 1.130.5 says that “Indra has freed the floods to run their free course, like chariots, to the samudra.” A natural meaning of ‘samudra’ here would not be confluence or a terminal lake, but the ocean. Similar are the passages Rigveda 1.32.2 (“waters flowed down to the ‘samudra’”); 1.190.7 (“as rivers eddying under banks flow towards the ‘samudra’); 1.71.7 (“as the seven mighty rivers seek the ‘samudra’). Rigveda 7.33.8 says that all rivers flow into the samudra but are unable to fill it – this remark cannot apply to the lower Indus, which overflows its banks in the rainy season because of copious water supply from its tributaries.

I have listed many more such passages in my books “Gods, Sages and Kings” (1991) and “Rigveda and the History of India” (2001b). Note the Apppendix at the end of this rejoinder for this information.

I do not propose that the word ‘samudra’ in the Rigveda always means an earthly sea, as it develops the poetic image of the sea on many levels. In contrast, Witzel seems to deny that all but a few passages in the Rigveda denote something other than a real terrestrial ocean and that the term has no original foundation in a real earthly ocean. The implication of his theory is that ‘samudra’ became applied to a real earthly ocean only at a later time when the Vedic people finally contacted the sea, i.e., long after most of the Rigveda was composed. It seems to credit the Vedic people with imagining the ocean before ever seeing it!

The term samudra is a common term for ocean in Sanskrit going back to the Rigveda, the same way as agni is a common term for fire or apas is a common term for water. Yet Witzel would have us believe that samudra in the Rigveda, which is mentioned over a hundred and fifty times in the text and is frequently referred to along with ships (nava, e.g. Rigveda 1.25.7; 7.88.3), does not mean the ocean! Similarly, he claims that Varuna, who is the lord of samudra (and of waters in general) in the Rigveda, cannot be the lord of the ocean as he is in later Hindu thought, because samudra cannot mean ocean there! Witzel wants to ignore what the inheritor Sanskritic Hindu tradition has to say about its own sources. But at the same time, does not hesitate to rely on the English, Old Norse, Greek and equivalents of the word ‘samudra’ - even though these European languages are much more distant in space and time from the Rigveda.

Witzel mentions that the Vedic samudra is often the ocean of the air (antariksha) and therefore cannot be construed as a terrestrial ocean. He seems unaware of one of the most common rules of Vedic interpretation going back to the Brihaddevata of Shaunaka (and even earlier). Vedic deities have three forms relative to the three worlds of the earth, atmosphere and heaven. Agni or fire, for example, has an atmospheric form as lightning (vidyut) and a heavenly form as the sun (Surya). So too, the Vedic ocean or samudra has atmospheric and heavenly forms. One cannot use this symbolism to prove that the Vedic never saw a real terrestrial ocean more than they never saw an earthly fire!

Such a metaphor of the sky as an ocean is common among many maritime peoples. It does not disprove that they knew of the ocean but only that it was the basis of their world-view. That is why all the main Vedic Gods of Indra, Agni, Soma and Surya have oceanic symbolisms. The Vedic fire and the sun are often said to dwell in the waters, which are a universal symbolism for the Vedic people. No one would imagine the atmosphere as like the ocean, or a universe of various seas, if they had no acquaintance with the ocean. Many people image the atmosphere or heaven as an ocean. This reflects a knowledge of the ocean, not an ignorance of it. Even English words like sea can refer to a large body of water, not necessarily the ocean. This does not prove ignorance of a real ocean.

One wonders how Witzel himself would translate such common Vedic statements as 'samudrayeva sindhava' meaning 'as rivers to the sea.' Perhaps he has Vedic rivers only flowing into the atmosphere or accumulating their waters in a bottomless ‘confluence’ that never gets full, and from where the rivers do not flow any further! Or perhaps, the Vedic people thought that the Yamuna, the Sindhu and all other rivers just drained their waters in a terminal, inland lake!

Even Griffith, one of the nineteenth century colonial scholars who tried to foster this idea that samudra does not mean sea or ocean nevertheless often translates the term as ocean or sea in his version of the Rigveda. Any other rendering of the term would be cumbersome and do violence to the text in most of the occurrences.

The Rigveda (RV 7.49) speaks of the waters, the eldest of which is the ocean (samudra jyestha), mentioning waters that are heavenly, that flow, that are dug and are spontaneous, whose goal is the sea (verse 2), in which King Varuna dwells (verse 4). Clearly the Vedic people knew the difference between the earthy and heavenly waters. Note even Griffith’s translation of this short hymn.

“1. Forth from the middle of the flood, the Waters – their chief the Sea -- flow cleansing, never sleeping.
Indra, the Bull, the Thunderer, dug their channels: her let those Waters, Goddesses, protect me.
2. Waters which come from heaven, or those that wander dug form the earth, or flowing free by nature,
Bright, purifying, speeding to the Ocean, here let those Waters, Goddesses, protect me.
3. Those amid whom Varuna the Sovran, he who discriminates men’s truth and falsehood –
Distilling meath, the bright, the purifying, here let those Waters, Goddesses, protect me.
4. They from whom Varuna the king, and soma, and all the Deities drink strength and vigour,
They into whom Vaisvanara Agni entered, here let those Waters, Goddesses, protect me.”

I give this translation from Griffith merely to show the general reader how the word ‘samudra’ fits the meaning ‘ocean’ naturally in most of the contexts in the Rigveda. There are other better translations available in various languages, but most of them are inaccessible to the ordinary reader.

Witzel argues that if the Vedic Aryans traded by sea, they would mention features like the tide, and the saltiness of the sea. Such arguments are rather spurious, because the Rigveda is not a manual of trade or commerce. It is a religious text intimately connected with ritual liturgy. The Rigveda doesn’t mention the salt at all, even relative to Salt range in the Panjab, in which region Witzel would put the Vedic people. However, the Rigveda does mention in a hymn to Varuna, the lord of samudra, how the rishi Vasishta was struck with thirst in the middle of the waters (RV 7.89.4), suggesting the inability to drink the salty water of the sea.

And in reality, many Rigvedic mantras do mention the waviness of the ocean (RV 4.58.1,11) and their back and forth movement experienced while in a ship on the sea. For instance, Rigveda 7.88.3 mentions this, although Witzel would again suggest that Vasistha’s vessel is riding over the crests of waves in the sky here! But even if one were to assume a celestial ocean here and in other instances (such as Bhujyu’s vessel), as does Oettinger (1988) cited by Witzel, the fact remains that such a simile would be meaningless in a culture which does not have any familiarity with oceanic waves. Oettinger bases his judgment on parallels in Yasht 5 of middle Avesta, a text that itself might have adapted the Rigvedic legend to suit its own locale.

Witzel objects to calling Vasistha as a descendant of the ‘sea god’ Varuna and says that he is born in a pot far inland. Rigveda 7.33.11 however mentions that Vasishtha is the son of Mitra and Varuna and that their seed was placed on a lotus leaf by the Visvedevas. This is a far cry from Witzel’s claim that Vasistha was born ‘far inland’.He is also born along with the rishi Agastya who is commonly associated with the ocean in all the stories about him.

The Rigveda 5.55.5 mentions that the Maruts, the storm devatas, blow over the ocean, lifting moisture and causing rain. The Rigvedic mantras mention how Soma, (the moon) stirs the ocean with the winds (Rigveda 9.84.4). This does refer to the waves and ebbing of the ocean. The swelling of the samudra has been referred to, for e.g. Rigveda 1.8.7 says that the belly of Indra swells with Soma, just as the samudra swells. Note that the word ‘Soma’ also means ‘moon’ and a play of words can be inferred here. Witzel however wants to deny it just because the rivers are also said to swell by receiving melt waters. The reader will also note that although the volume of Indian rivers fluctuates a lot from season to season, the volume of the ‘samudra’ fluctuates or ebbs (‘swells’) only because of the phenomenon of tide! Therefore, Witzel’s dismissal of mention of tides in the Rigveda is quite illogical, and based on pre-conceived dogmatic notions of a ‘land-locked Rigveda’.

Witzel argues that “the Rigvedic poetic diction concerning the samudra is exactly as that used for the rivers: swelling, spreading, growing (at snow melt in spring).” This statement is inaccurate, because actual flow data [Misra 1970:151] of the Panjab rivers shows that they carry most of their waters in the Monsoon season (July to September) – or in other words, they swell/spread/grow the most a few months after Spring.

Witzel also reasons that the Rigvedic peoples could not have known real terrestial oceans because their oceans are mythical, being located above, below, at the two ends of the world and so on. He gives parallels from other cultures to show that such a belief in mythical oceans is fairly pervasive all over the world. However, ¾ examples that he gives actually belong to peoples who lived close to the oceans – Greeks, Mesopotamians, Pauranic Indians! We might add that just because the Puranas speak also of numerous mythical mountains and rivers, it does not mean that compilers/authors of these texts were ignorant of real rivers and mountains! Similarly, if the Rigveda speaks of mythical oceans sometimes, it does not imply at all that the composers of the text were ignorant of real oceans. As for the fourth example of Avesta given by Witzel, it needs to be noted the imagery of the ‘hendu’ in that text is much less pervasive than that of ‘sindhu’ or of ‘samudra’ in the Rigveda. Hence, the two cases are not comparable at all. In short, Witzel’s examples prove the opposite of what he is trying to say, and support what I have proposed in my own article.

The rivers also obviously flow, which the Rigveda constantly refers to. The Vedic term samudra is never said to flow but rather to receive all the rivers, which is but quite natural. I quote two passages as an example –

samudram na sindhavah – Rigveda 6.36.3
samudraayeva sindhavah – Rigveda 8.44.25

Verses like Rigveda 1.56.2 and 4.55.6 say that those who seek fortune go to the ‘samudra’, the natural sense of which indicates maritime trade. Note also passages like Rigveda 1.47.6 (rayim samudraad uta vaa divaspari), wherein the devatas are asked for wealth from the heaven as well as from the ‘samudra’, which should be translated as the ‘ocean’.

Witzel says that the verse Rigveda 1.47.6 does not mention King ‘sudas’, as I have stated. This is debatable, because the first word of the verse is ‘sudase’, which I take as meaning for Sudas, following Sayanacharya. The term Sudas only appears in the Rigveda as the name of the king. Even if one were to split the word into ‘Su+dase’, following a few old German scholars like Karl F. Geldner (he died in 1929, and was therefore quite ignorant of the Harappan culture as such), whose commentary Witzel appears to have followed, the central idea of the oceans, distinct from the atmospheric heavens, being a source of riches still stays intact. Even B. R. Sharma (1967) has argued that the mantra in question does refer to maritime trade. Note also that the Vasishta, who was the purohit of Sudas in the Rigveda, speaks of a samrat or great emperor (RV VII.6.1) who receives wealth from the heavenly and earthly oceans (RV VII.6.7 aa samudraad avaraad aa parasmaad, agnir dade diva aa prthivyaah), which echoes this same verse about Sudas.

Witzel would place the Vedic people in Panjab around 1500 BC as migrants from Afghanistan, which requires that they cross the six or seven rivers of the Panjab, yet still have them regard Panjab rivers as samudra or their 'sea'. He fails to explain why the Aryan migrants would not follow the westernmost river (the Indus) all the way to its confluence with the ocean, before fording and crossing all the 6 rivers of Punjab, and then the seventh – the Sarasvati. The migrants could not have failed to note that such rivers do flow south beyond their confluence. Even Keith and Macdonell (Vedic Index, vol. II, page 432) argue that the Vedic Aryans had to know the ocean if they knew the Indus river.

Witzel ignores the great mass of oceanic symbolism that pervades the Rigveda and all of its deities. Instead he tries to emphasize some technicalities, that the Vedic plant avakaa (misnamed by him as Blyxa actandra, correct spelling of the second word being octandra) used in connection with the ocean is a sweet water plant, but is referred to by the Yajurvedic texts as “the avakaa plant of the samudra” (Madhyandina Samhita XVII.4). This simplistic argument tends to overlook the significance of avakaa in Vedic ritual under consideration. Yajurveda XVII.4 enjoins tying a bamboo shoot (darbha in other texts of the Yajurveda), a frog and avakaa to a bamboo pole by the side of the altar during a rite connected with the mahaagnichayana. According to Shatapatha Brahmana, these three represent three types of water (oceanic, terrestrial, and heavenly), a fact noted by Gonda [1985:61-62]. In the Samhita passage then, the avakaa grass might then be taken to represent the ‘oceanic waters’ quite easily. Although avakaa grows in estuarine, deltaic and marshy areas, it symbolizes waters in general [S. S. Sarma 1989:28-29]. Therefore its use in this particular rite, in conjunction with the bamboo shoot/darbha (considered a sacred grass with great purifying properties – from the heavens, so to speak) and the frog (a dweller of ponds) only reinforces the idea that it symbolizes the oceanic waters here. In fact, Kumkum Roy [1993] classifies avakaa as one of the few ‘South Indian’ plants used in Vedic rituals, which only reiterates that the ‘samudra’ in YV XVII.4 should perhaps be translated better as ‘ocean’ rather than as ‘lake’ even though the plant might grow in sweet water.

The real reason beyond his statements on samudra in the article is that the maritime nature of Vedic culture refutes his interpretation of the Rig Veda as a product of recent migrants from land-locked Central Asia. In this regard Witzel, like a fossil in time, is just carrying on nineteenth century European scholarship, ignoring the new evidence of the Sarasvati river, the many more Harappan sites and the much greater continuity for Indian civilization that has been discovered since.

Taittiriya Yajurveda and Geography

Witzel accuses me of misplacing the Taittiriya Sakha of the Yajurveda geographically. He seems to have misunderstood me. I did not place the Taittiriya Sakha only in the south, but simply noted its southern connections (that is not unique to its branch of the Vedas). The Taittiriya contains many references to Kurus, Panchalas, Kurukshetra and other northern regions as well. Clearly the Sarasvati-Drishadvati region was the central Yajurvedic land but the culture extended far beyond this and was well aware of the sea. In fact the Dharmasutra of Baudhayana, belonging to the Taittiriya Sakha, also mentions the dakshinapatha. Witzel’s own understanding of Vedic sakhas has been called into question [Agarwal 2000b, see online at]. In fact, Talageri [2000, see chapter 9 online at] has shown that Witzel has muddled up even the basic information contained in the text of the Rigveda.

Horse, Aryans and Harappans

Witzel also dismisses the presence of horse bones in the Mature Harappan period. In his recent and earlier articles, Witzel has quoted his friend and colleague Richard Meadow’s publications selectively to ‘prove’ that it was the Aryans who first brought the horse to India. This is untrue, and horse bones have been excavated and have been identified as such by competent archaeologists, zoologists and zoo-archaeologists. None of Meadow’s publications cited by him seem to indicate that Meadow has reviewed more than a fraction of the relevant literature describing horse bones at Harappan sites.

Horse bones have been reported as early as the 5th millennium BC at Mahagara and Koldihwa [Sharif and Thapar 1992:151] in Uttar Pradesh. The C-14 dates of these sites were at first doubted, but retests have only established that the earlier dates of 5th millennium BC were correct [Chakrabarti 1999:104-105]. Coming to the Mature Harappan period, horse bones have been found at several sites such as Kuntasi [Dhavalikar 1995: 116-117], Malvan [Allchin and Joshi 1995: 95], Shikarpur [P. K. Thomas et al 1995] etc. They have also been reported conclusively at Hallur in Karnataka, at levels dated securely at 1500-1700 BC. If the Aryans were just entering Baluchistan and NWFP at that time, Karnataka becomes too south a place for horse remains to surface so early!

The sum total of the evidence has led even the conservative archaeologists such as F. R. Allchin and B. Allchin [1995: 177] to conclude the Indus valley culture knew the horse, although it was a rare animal there, and was possessed only by the elite. And nothing in the Rigveda, an elitist text itself, contradicts this. The horse has always been a rare animal in India, unattested in numerous historical sites, and absent even today in most villages. Now I hope Witzel does not say that the Allchins, P. K. Thomas, Dhavalikar etc., are all Hindu nationalists.

In addition to horse bones, terracotta figurines of horse are reported from Rakhigarhi, Lothal, Banawali and numerous other sites and many archaeologists have acknowledged this. The horse is intimately linked to the ‘spoked wheel chariot’. Although this vehicle is not attested archaeologically till as late as 3rd century BC, we now have representations of spoked wheel in terracotta from Banawali, Kalibangan, Rakhigarhi etc. [LAL 2002]. It must be pointed out moreover that the excavator of Kunal reports a pottery-sherd depicting a spoked-wheel, canopied ‘chariot’ from pre-Harappan levels! And this is just the tip of the iceberg, considering that not even 5% of the Harappan sites have been excavated.

In an earlier article, Witzel had said that the horse bones were found from layers that were ‘eroded’. When Dr. Nagaswamy questioned him ( for proof of this remark, Witzel mentioned ‘Meadow 1998’ in a follow up article. In reality, Meadow (1998) does not explicitly mention this ‘eroded layers’ theory in his article in connection with horse bones. Moreover, Meadow restricts his discussion only to supposed horse findings that are reported in the book of B. P. Sahu [1988]. Now, this book does not cover any of the recent horse remain findings that I have listed above. Sahu was obviously not aware of the publications of Dhavalikar, Thomas et al and Joshi, which appeared after 1988. Therefore, Witzel’s reference to Meadow’s papers does not amount to much, and indicates an excessive indirect reliance on old literature. This is another instance showing how Witzel misuses and distorts even the references he cites selectively, to suit his own pet theories.

In any case, we cannot expect much objectivity from Meadow himself, who has, in a foreword to a book published in 1998 [Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization by Jonathan Mark Kenoyer], characterized literature emerging from South Asia as tainted by ‘flights of fancy’. That such prejudices can be displayed by Meadow and Witzel so brazenly in our times is quite disturbing.

Witzel mentions the discovery of horse bones at Pirak and in Swat as evidence of arrival of the Aryans around 1700 BCE. However, the excavator Jarrige [1997] himself has dismissed this possibility in his archaeological report on Pirak. The archaeological data cannot be interpreted to read an arrival or Aryans who then set a chain reaction of Aryanization of the whole of Pakistan and India. And in Swat, what we see are horse burials (besides a few other depictions on pottery) – not characteristic of Vedic culture. The horses also show signs of bit wear – indicating that they were ridden. In the Rigveda, there are very few indications that the horses were ridden, their overwhelming use is for pulling chariots. And most of these chariots belong to the gods dwelling in the heavens. So should we now question the presence of real chariots with the Vedic peoples? In any case, the evidence or Pirak etc., cited by Witzel to ‘prove’ the source of Aryanization of north India is rejected by most scholars like the archaeologist Chakrabarti [1999:201] and Indo-Europeanists like Robert Mallory, although for different reasons.

The clear absence of a trail of horse bones from Central Asia into India around the second millennium BC clearly irks Witzel because he claims that archaeologists have not examined a large area from Western Punjab to Eastern Iran for that particular time. This is a half-truth. I suggest that he should read the works of Indian (e.g. Dilip Chakrabarti) and Pakistani (e.g., Rafique Mughal) archaeologists more closely. There have been several excavations in northeastern Iran, in the Helmand valley in Afghanistan and adjoining areas in Iran, in the Oxus basin and also in Western Punjab. The gap extends largely over the tribal areas of NWFP and a few adjoining areas in Afghanistan and in Pakistan. What we find then is that the horse is not attested archaeologically even in the Bactria and Margiana Archaeological Complex (or in its successor cultures), which is supposedly the launching pad for horse possessing Aryans and for Iranians!

In fact, land surveys by the Pakistani archaeologist Rafique Mughal in west Panjab have indicated that no archaeological remains are found even between Ravi and Indus for the Mature Harappan period except for a cluster in the Sheikhupura district, and then there is the site of Harappa on the Ravi of course. The entire doabs between Indus and Jhelum, between Jhelum and Chenab and between Chenab and Ravi, are practically devoid of Harappan (let alone ‘Aryan’) remains, and no horse bones from the second millennium BC are reported in published literature in this entire region. The trail of horse bones clearly does not exist, although Witzel wants to imagine it. The river Ravi then, acts as a kind of divider between Mature Harappan, and extra-Harappan cultures (if we ignore a few outliers). This corresponds perhaps to the fact that even in the Rigveda, Sudas defeats his numerous enemies on the Parushni river (later called the Iravati, and then the Ravi) in the momentous Dasarajna battle.

Witzel and Sarasvati

Witzel also dismisses the Sarasvati paradigm, following Klaus and other scholars who are blissfully ignorant of the latest discoveries and researches in this area. If Witzel wants to be in a state of denial, then that is his problem. I merely suffice it to say here that western archaeologists, e.g. the Allchins, J. M. Kenoyer, Gregory Possehl, Jane MacIntosh, and most Indian/Pakistani archaeologists (Mughal, Lal, S. P. Gupta, V. N. Mishra etc.) accept the identification of the Vedic Sarasvati with the Ghaggar-Hakra valley which runs through Haryana, Rajasthan, and Pakistan’s desert of Cholistan. Witzel’s refusal to acknowledge the same is therefore revisionist, and a minority view, to say the least.

It is also fairly well established that the river diminished considerably in extent and almost dried up in the period 1900 – 1500 BC. It is therefore inconceivable that the Vedic Rishis, arriving around 1500 BC, would eulogize a dried up rivulet more eloquently then numerous large steams of Punjab in the vicinity. To see a criticism of a similar earlier attempt by Witzel to place the Sarasvati in the night sky, in Arachosia – anywhere but in Western India, see section III.1.b in Talageri (2001) at Within India, the sole vociferous opponents of the Saraswati paradigm are hardcore communists like Irfan Habib, whose views have been countered quite effectively by B. B. Lal [2002].

The net result of Witzel’s theory is that he brings the Vedic people into the Sarasvati region (Kurukshetra) in the post-Harappan era after the Sarasvati river dried up and its many cities were already long abandoned. He fails to explain why the Vedic people would make the Sarasvati, the ‘easternmost’ Panjab river, then devoid of water, as their central and immemorial homeland, describing this river that flowed west of the Yamuna (RV 10.75.6) as a great river pure in its course from the mountains to the sea (RV 7.95.2)! In fact, even Zimmer who otherwise believed in the ‘land-locked Rigveda’ theory, conceded that an actual ocean is meant by samudra in this particular verse (Vedic Index, vol. II, p. 432) at least. Now let us try to see what Witzel’s meanings of the word ‘samudra’ make out of Rigveda 7.95.2 -

Pure in her course from mountains to the terminal lake, alone of streams Sarasvati hath listened. Or
Pure in her course from mountains to the atmospheric ocean, alone of streams Sarasvati hath listened. Or
Pure in her course from mountains to the confluence, alone of streams Sarasvati hath listened.

The reader will note that all the above translations are somewhat odd, if not outright absurd. The full force of the phrase ‘from mountains to samudra’ manifests when when take the word to mean ‘ocean’.

Urban Harappa and Rural/Pastoral Vedic Peoples

Witzel also makes much of the ‘urban’ character of the Harappan culture. Such a nomenclature is uncritical. Any settlement that is planned and has brick dwellings does not automatically become a ‘city’. Of the 2000 or so sites of the civilization, hardly a dozen could perhaps be classified as cities. In recent years, scholars like Leshnik and Possehl have actually stressed on the predominantly rural, and heavily pastoral character of the Harappan culture. Witzel’s paradigms therefore, are antiquated.

On the other hand, Witzel fails to see any urban side to the Rigveda that would connect it with a semi-urban culture like the Harappan. However, the term pur for city (a term that obviously means city in Greek thought, i.e. Pura = Polis) is common throughout the text. Both the Vedic people and their enemies have a hundred cities, i.e., several (satapura, e.g. Rigveda 6.48.8; RV 2.14.6, RV 4.27.1). The Rigvedic sage Agastya, later at least associated with the south of India and the ocean, refers to the Vedic city or pur as “wide, broad and extensive (prthvii bahulaa na urvi, 1.189.2).

Witzel argues that the non-mention of ‘great baths’ or ‘large buildings’ in the Rigveda rules out a Vedic-Harappan relationship. However, the importance of water bathing is a common Rigvedic theme. Rigvedic water hymns like Rigveda 10.9 and mantras such as Rigveda 10.75.6 (already prescribed for utterance during ablutions in the Taittiriya Aranyaka) are used for ritual bathing in temple tanks and sacred rivers even today. Such ritual bathing as found in the Rigveda is not a likely habit for nomads coming from arid regions! The reader will note that bathing tanks are not characteristic of the Harappan culture as well. Of the dozens of Harappan sites excavated, only Mohenjo-daro has a ‘Great Bath’ that might be associated with some ritual bathing. So why should the Rigveda mention ‘great baths’? Besides, in the Rigveda, there are also references to temples or structures with a thousand pillars (sahasra-sthuna – Rigveda 2.41.5) or a thousand doors (sahasra-dvara e.g. Rigveda 7.88.5), mainly with regard to Varuna, the lord of Samudra. Therefore, Witzel’s argument is spurious.

It may be mentioned here that there is a genre of secondary literature by the German scholar Wilhelm Rau and others, that denies such clear-cut urban connotations to words like the ‘pur’. An examination of this class of literature is beyond the scope of the present essay. For these brand of scholars, ‘samudra’ is anything but the ocean, ‘pur’ is just a temporary structure of straw, mud and stone, ‘ratha’ is always a chariot with two spoked wheels, and ‘sukha’ is only a good chariot axle-hole. And since chariot racing was a joyous pastime of the Vedic Aryans, the word ‘sukha’ for a ‘good axle-hole’ changed its meaning later to denote ‘happiness’ in general! Following them, Witzel cannot countenance the natural contextual interpretations of words like ‘samudra’ (now corroborated by archaeology). This explains his dig at the volume edited by G. C. Pande (1999), a monumental work encompassing the scholarship of more than two-dozen scholars specializing in various disciplines of study. In this volume, R. S. Bisht, Director of the Archaeological Survey of India, and also a Sanskritist, has written an article that quotes the Rigveda and other old Vedic texts hundreds of times to explain the points of convergence between Harappan culture and the Rigveda.

Witzel would like to relegate all these references to large buildings etc., to the realm of imagination that had no counterpart in the actual world of the Vedic people. In an internet discussion recently, he even claimed that the Vedic Aryans did not themselves possess any large pillared halls, but mentioned them in the Rigveda because they had remembered seeing them in the Helmand basin of Afghanistan while migrating to India! Whatever evidence does not agree with Witzel, he conveniently ignores under whatever pretext he can invent. This reminds one of the proverb – “Whatever be the facts, the conclusions will always be the same.”

Witzel also unnecessarily objects to the use of the word ‘king’ for the chieftains of Rigveda. However, he has himself used phrases like ‘battle of 10 kings’ for ‘dasarajna’ battle in the Rigveda in his publications (e.g. Witzel 1995). All translators of the Rigveda, including Karl Geldner (who uses the German word ‘konig’) translate ‘rajan’ as ‘king’. Witzel’s criticism is therefore partisan, and hypocritical. The Rigveda also commonly mentions a great king or emperor, samrat (RV 7.6.1, RV 7.82.2), again connected to the sea and to Varuna. It should be noted that some scholars [e.g., Ratnagar 1991] who have studied the probable political structure in the Mature Harappan Civilization have suggested a strong possibility that it was a veritable empire.

Aryan Genes – Race and Genetics

Witzel declares enthusiastically that 'the study of male genes (Y chromosome) is now beginning to detail the ancient movements of groups and tribes'. How this could prove or disprove the movement of Aryans into India is unclear. There is no 'Aryan gene', and genes do not speak themselves. In fact, the geneticists seem to be much less sure than Witzel himself on this matter. Some Y-chromosome studies clearly suggest that the 'European' populations separated from the Indian populations perhaps as early as 9000 BC. Other studies seem to indicate that north Indians are genetically closer to Europeans (where the latter are defined as all peoples west of the Indus!) than south Indians. And yet, another study indicates that the genetic distance between Indians and East Europeans is much smaller than between the latter and other Europeans - bringing into question the validity of the use of the word 'European' (from the genetic perspective). In his publications, Witzel writes openly that the Aryan elites looked like modern day Kashmiris/Afghans/Iranians [Witzel 1997:page xxii]. This is just a euphemistic way of repeating the century old paradigm of fair Aryans swooping down on dark indigenous Indians, and casting their pure genes into Dravidian wombs.

We must be wary of using genetic studies rashly to draw inferences in a manner Witzel does. Recently, even the JNU scholars Romila Thapar and Shireen Ratnagar, who otherwise support versions of the Aryan migration theory, have voiced concern at the use of genetic studies in searching Aryans. In this regard, they are correct because not long ago, racial genetics/eugenics were used in Nazi Germany with disastrous consequences. In any case, all genetic studies, whether mtDNA or Y-chromosomal, clearly indicate that Indians of all castes, religions and tribes form a genetically closely clustered population, distinct from other populations of the world. Indians do show an exchange of genes with other surrounding populations, as is natural, but we still cannot date these phenomenon precisely by genetics as of yet. In the last three thousand years of Indian history, we know that the Shakas, Hunas, Kushanas and so many other peoples from Central Asia have invaded India and have settled down in this land. Genetics cannot yet distinguish between ‘Aryan’ genes, and other ‘Central Asian genes’ such as the ‘Shaka’ gene!

Vedic and Harappan Fauna

Cattle studies, in contrast suggest an out of India migration in the relevant time frame. Humped cattle that are native to the Indian subcontinent first start appearing paintings and carvings/stone reliefs in the Middle East around 1700 BC. Strangely, this is the time around which the Aryans are supposed to have entered India from the North West. That the invading Aryans and indigenous Indian cattle moved in opposite directions at the same time would be a rather silly proposition. In addition, cattle genetic studies clearly show ingress of genes from Bos indicus, the Indian cattle, into the Middle Eastern Breeds, although the period of gene transfer is not known. On the contrary, we do not see much ingress of Central Asian cattle genes into the Indian subcontinent. So in this case at least, cattle genetics disproves Witzel’s Aryan invasion/migration/acculturation theories. For further information, see my essay at

The Rigveda mentions many Indian animals like the water buffalo (mahisha), which is said to be the main animal sacred to Soma (Rigveda 9.96.6), which does occur commonly on Harappan seals. The humped Brahma bull (Vrisha, Vrishabha) – another common Harappan depiction, is the main animal of Indra, the foremost of the Rigvedic devatas. Elephants, decorated for procession are also mentioned. All these are native to India – not necessarily to other parts of Eurasia. Camels first find mention in later parts of Rigveda. Archaeological evidence also indicates that they started appearing in the Indian subcontinent towards the end of the Harappan culture. If the Vedic peoples were migrants from Central Asia, where the camel originated and was first domesticated, the very oldest sections of the Rigveda should have mentioned it. Earlier, it was thought that the Rigveda mentions ‘foreign’ animals such as beavers. Now archaeological evidence shows the presence of beavers in Harappan sites (e.g. Amri) and in other locations (e.g. in Kashmir valley) linked to the Harappan area, in the time frame of that culture. The beaver is extinct in India today, and is not attested since the middle of the second millennium BCE in the archaeological record. Instances can be multiplied easily to show how the flora and fauna of the Rigveda is that of India, and not of Central Asia. A detailed discussion of the topic is beyond the scope of this brief rejoinder.

Kalibangan and its ‘Sacred’ Tandoors!

The most negationist item in Witzel's thesis however, is the denial of the presence of fire altars in the Harappan sites. Practically all archaeologists now accept the presence of the fire cult in that culture, contradicting 100's of older studies that distinguished the 'non-iconic, fire worship based' cult of the Vedic Aryans from the 'iconic, mother goddess based' Harappan religion. The archaeological data on Harappan fire altars has mounted so much in recent years that even skeptics now acknowledge that the Harappans had ritual fire altars [e.g., McIntosh 2002]. Witzel then is clearly in a state of denial here, and refuses to come to terms with archaeological evidence that runs counter to his cherished Indological dogmas. Even in his publication EJVS 7.3, which Witzel refers to here so often, he has used very limited and selective data to conclude that the fire altars at Harappan sites were all tandoors!

Closing Remarks

As new and fresh evidence comes up via archaeological excavations, linguists and philologists must make efforts to study it seriously, rather than remain engrossed in their armchair, ivory tower speculations that are dependent on antiquated secondary works. The attitude displayed by Michael Witzel, a professor at the Harvard University, is not at all conducive to an objective, academic, dispassionate analysis of historical and archaeological data. It must be painful for some scholars to note that the emerging evidence from archaeology and other disciplines is shaking the world of Indology, that has been built over the last 150 years mainly on linguistic speculation based on an overemphasis on European sources.

Witzel also has a penchant for character assassination in his writings. He doesn’t simply deal with the ideas presented against his but likes to ridicule people who might find spiritual value in Vedic teachings or some deeper truth to the Vedic view of the world. That one can find a spiritual value in a tradition and still provide helpful information relative to its history is accepted relative to Christianity and other religions. The fact that Witzel demeans people with a Hindu background or belief from writing on the Vedas, is prejudice, not scholarship. I don’t believe he has ever quoted someone with a Hindu background as having any real positive contribution on ancient Indian studies at all. In fact, one can argue that someone who is aware of the deeper spiritual meaning of the Vedic symbols can add new insight to the historical or cultural implications of the text, whose prime focus was always religious.

Today there is a new Vedic scholarship that understands the Vedic connection with Indian civilization and honors Vedic spirituality. This is the Vedic scholarship of the future as we move into a new planetary age that recognizes our spiritual heritage as a species, which India as a civilization has preserved through such great teachings as the Vedas. The interested reader can perhaps read the details in my recent book “Hinduism and the Clash of Civilizations” (2000a).

reply to witzel
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The “Aryan Invasion on India Theory” is relegating fast into the oblivion i.e. to a place where it always rightly belonged. The proponents of this theory could never present any single evidence or any instance citing the Aryan invasion from outside of India.

This theory is based on the false assumption that as Englishmen invaded India and prior to that the West Asians and Alexander invaded India, so it must be that some other people also would have invaded India earlier than that. Now which are those people who can be fitted best in this pseudo paradigm of the history? Obviously Aryans are most suitable as they are supposed to have arrived from North West direction and also because they are generally understood as being so-called ‘Superior Peoples’.

So this theory is able to create a false notion of the ‘Superior Peoples’ invading India from the North West direction since eternity as a ritual and that there is nothing specially wrong with this phenomenon. Thus with this theory, various brands of religious and economical expansionism automatically stand justified.

With Regards...
Problem with the so-called Aryan invasion on India Theory is that if we get impressed with it and probe further, then we find that Dravidians too attacked India at least twice from the same North Western direction.

Naturally the so-called Dravidians would have invaded against the native Australoid peoples of India. With this we have to further understand that Australoid peoples could have invaded the Apes, Elephants and Rhinos of India.

This theory creates a mockery of the understanding of the “Cradle of the World Civilizations”.

With Regards...
Originally posted by Rajesh Mishra
With this we have to further understand that Australoid peoples could have invaded the Apes, Elephants and Rhinos of India.

:D :D
Originally posted by Rajesh Mishra
This theory creates a mockery of the understanding of the “Cradle of the World Civilizations”.

Is that why we still have a Flat-Earth society that could not stand being mockeried upon? :D :D
Aryan has never been depicted as any race. Aryan was considered only as a noble virtue and never a race. At the maximum, Aryan can be a desirable practice. In fact the very thought of the Aryan Race or Aryan Nation arrived into the minds of the Neo Scientists, who were eager to search for the new vistas and utilization of science in any possible way. Incidentally they had seen more than normally expected similarities between Indians and Europeans. So in shear terms, the Race “Aryan” is a misnomer.

As the Aryans never existed before, after or during the Third Reich, so they coming to India from Europe may not have a chance. There is no supportive archeological or scriptural proof to substantiate it.

Non existent Aryans can not be forefathers of Hindus or anybody else. Hindu itself is a not any indigenous name. The people of India living at the banks of Sindhu river, were considered by the outsiders as Sindhus >> Hindus.

As Vedas highly extol the Aryan virtues, so they both seem to be intrinsically interconnected. Sanskrit is the language of Vedas, but not necessarily of all the so-called Aryans. Sanskrit was considered to be limited as only the sacred and secret language of the Priestly/Religious Peoples and Scriptures. In spite of being well read and well spread at certain times, It was never an overall people’s language. The languages of peoples at India were Brahmi, Dravida, Pali, Prakrit, Gondvi and Santhali etc at different times and places.

Things were centered around the Veda’s and all its supporters, critics and opponents were considered within its purview. Instead of any so-called Aryan or Hindu Religion, it was the Vedic Dharma.

So neither Aryan, nor Hindu, who were those people? We will have to consider the locus standi of Dravidians and their relationship with reference to the so-called Aryan Invasion on India.

With Regards...
As Vedas highly extol the Aryan virtues....

Does that mean there was a group that represented these virtues as opposed to non-Aryan virtues and differentiated as such? And if Vedas were intrinsically connected to Aryan groups, whatever happened to the non-Aryans that are out of bounds to Veda and related framework?

Was there a relationship between the local Sindhu culture and the Europeans or perhaps the Chinese through Kazakhstan, Afghanistan etc?

Just because there was no scriptural or documented information available does not mean, the culture remained isolated for thousands of years especially for the nomads!
Some people consider the so-called Aryans to be the cradle of civilization or the missing link between the African mankind and the modern civilization. They think in the terms of Aryans moving from Arctic and Europe to South Russia and then ending at India. Others think that Aryans originated at India and spread to Russia and Europe. Both may find it difficult to complete the picture as their reasoning are unable to explain the advent of Sumeru, Egyptian and Amerindians cultures. Perhaps, they may be trying to read the Indo-European languages from right to left.

It seems that of all the humanity, Africans and then the Mongols have the strongest genetics due to their originality or sustained exposure to an extreme consistent environment for large periods. They too had their cultures, but their spheres of influence although big are rather localized.

I feel that there have to be some other people (not the race), who can be traced back as to be the cradle of the civilization. These people had to be with flexible genetic qualities and better adaptability for different environments. In spite of their civilized growth, they are not supposed to do away with the right side of their brain functions. They have to be originally of the dark color, but capable of easily transgressing to the lighter colors as per the need of the changing environments. As such their colors may have to be sometimes brown or red.

In my opinion, the Dravids and similar people are that missing link. In the ancient scriptures, we find the all round Dravidian presence. The ancient Aryan people and the Gods belong to the Dravid group (with Aryan virtues), who held their sway in and around Mount Himalayas and Gangatic Plain. Many of the important Gods are Black, Blue or Red in colors along with White Gods. The Dravid people are associated with Tibet, Sindhu_Saraswati rivers and Vedas. Many of these people living in the colder zones during the ice ages, developed the fair colors, blue eyes and blonde hairs, due to the cold environment and lower amount of UV radiation existing then.

Malayali people are among Dravids in South India, then there is Malaya in SE Asia and Madagascar people are originally called Malagasi. All are far away but on similar latitudes.

There is an Elam (Nation) region in Persia with Dravid like language. Many ancient cities of Sumeru, Assyria and Middle East have Dravid like names. The Brahmi script is considered similar to the Egyptian. Scientists are still in a fix to decide which is earlier. Pulasti people were the Dravids in Sri Lanka and are in Central India. Philistines are the Pulasati or Pelset people.

Many Dravids, Gonds and Baluchis have red skin similar to Red Indians. Australoid like people are their offshoots suitable for deep forest dwellings. Also the ancients priests of the Celtic people were called Druids, it weirdly sounds like Dravids.

What can we say, when we find that the Vedic/Aryan scriptures themselves say that their ‘First Man’ of the present age at the start of the last SataYuga was a Dravidian King “Vaivaswat Manu”.

With Regards...

Great post. Thank you. Seems like you have more than a passing interest towards the origin of Indian people. I wonder if it would be possible to go back in time through archeology and infer any decent theories pre-veda days, specifically between the origin of veda and written text of veda since 'sruti' was used to pass information form generation to generation with perhaps dilution in thoughts.

My speculation is that one of these days we may discover that there was an advanced technological society (call it Atlantis or whatever). When that was the case could be open for debate. One thing for sure, the planet has gone through 5 extinction level events as per scientists. May be a few survived over tens of thousands of years....
aryan/dravidian race

There are only four primary races, namely, Caucasian, the Mangolian, the Australians and the Negroid. Both the Aryans and Dravidians are related branches of the Caucasian race generally placed in the same Mediterranean sub-branch. The difference between the so-called Aryans of the north and the Dravidians of the south or other communities of Indian subcontinent is not a racial type. Biologically all are the same Caucasian type, only when closer to the equator the skin gets darker, and under the influence of constant heat the bodily frame tends to get a little smaller. And these differences can not be the basis of two altogether different races. Similar differences one can observe even more distinctly among the people of pure Caucasian white race of Europe. Caucasian can be of any color ranging from pure white to almost pure black, with every shade of brown in between. Similarly, the Mongolian race is not yellow. Many Chinese have skin whiter than many so-called Caucasians.

Further, a recent landmark global study in population genetics by a team of internationally reputed scientists over 50 years (The History and Geography of Human Genes, by Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Paolo Menozzi and Alberto Piazza, Princeton University Press) reveals that the people habitated in the Indian subcontinent and nearby including Europe, all belong to one single race of Caucasion type. According to this study, there is essentially, and has been no difference racially between north Indians and the so-called Dravidian South Indians. The racial composition has remained almost the same for millennia. This study also confirms that there is no race called as an Aryan race.

Demise of Aryan Invasion/Race Theory-Part 1
Respected kmguru: Thanx.

Both Aryans and Dravids may be religious and warrior factions respectively of the same ancient 20000 -30000 years or more olden vedic system. This system was spiritually headed by Mainland India, Srilanka was it's warrior part and Atlantis at now sunken Indonesian Islands was it's materialistic and scientific extension. In those day i.e. before the withdrawal of Ice age, Sri Lanka would have been connected to India by land.

As Aryans and Dravids, both were strictly disciplined fractions of the same ancient vedic system for the common objectives, hence searching for any basic contradictions between the two may be utterly futile. And inspite of so much research by the so-called western oriented scholars, none has been conclusively found yet.

It is really very strange that inspite of so many apparent differences, the Dravids and Aryas in reality do not have much differences from within. This can be possible only due to the inherent genetic bondages that are intact since antiquity.

As India was the cradle of world civilization even before the advent of CroMagnyon man, so the question of Aryas or Dravids coming to India from outside does not arise. These people already had normal global contacts. But more than that these people migrated enmasse to outside at least at two or three occasions. Firstly they migrated after destruction of Atlantis culture. Secondly they migrated after Ram_Ravan war. Thirdly they migrated after Mahabharata war. However the first and second migrations may be contemporary to each other.

So we find Dravid and Aryans have Global presence. Apart from Iran, they had strong presence in Iraq. Some big old Iraqi/ Sumeru cities Ur, Nipur and Niniveh sound like sanskrit or some South Indian cities like SriVottuv_ur, Mangl_ur etc. Tiru_Saligram (City of Sri Vishnu) or Yerru_Shaligram has phonetically converted into Yeru_Shalam. Bahubali_ur has converted to Babylore, Babul, Babel then Babylone. Sounds like conversion of Banglore to some futuristic Banglone.

Does not the ancient Greek philosophy sounds like something emanating from the mouths of Krishna or Rishi Shukadev.

Any scientific evidences that are presented as proofs of Aryans or Dravids once or twice coming to India from outside, may really pertain to their coming back home, albeit they themselves would have lost their ancient linkages and memories of India. The ensuing wars if any shall be construed as natural outcome of old_Imperialism.

There are reasons for apprehension that ancient vedic seers were scientifically equally developed as the modern science and may be even more. They genetically improvised the White Aryan people, the Red Dravidians, the Yellow Mongols and the Dark Australoids for optimum possible efficiency management for different type of tasks. By looking into essence of Indian philosophy or their original deeds, we can easily surmise that their real intentions were for the scientific benefit of the whole humanity and not for any hegemonic designs or some petty caste politics. All that differences have been created by advent of Kaliyug, jihad, British Empire, Hitler so on and so forth.

Or these genetic changes could have been intentionally or naturally brought about by living in different climates and different regions for long times.

In nutshell Aryans may be the Vedic Warrior_Philosophers and the Dravids may be the Vedic Philosopher_Warriors, and let what ever it mean in the present context, they are practically one and same.

As the Dravidians are basically Red Like Red Indians so question arises that why they now appear to be darker in color?? Reason is simple that look out for those British’s, who still live in Deep South India. Within one year, they start looking like north Indians and within ten years they start looking like south Indians. So the clue lies in climate and it's corresponding effect with passage of time...

With Regards...