Re: Indo-European Studies

Gerold Firl (
7 Jul 1995 12:33:39 -0700

In article <3thp4e$> (Raghu Seshadri) writes:

>why is it that the authors of the veda make no mention
>of this most important part of their lives, namely,
>this long migration from half a world away ? Shouldn't
>this have been the most significant aspect of their
>history, and wouldn't their sagas give this prominence ?
>There is NO mention of any area outside India in the Veda,
>nor any mention of the Aryan trek thru those places !
>How do YOU explain this ?

Note: I'll use IE (indo-european) and aryan interchangably.

It is interesting that the rig veda makes no mention of the migration into
india, but probably shouldn't be too surprizing. Note that american indian
myths also make no mention of migrations; origins are always local, where
the "people" (i.e., the tribe) often will have emerged from the earth in
the long-ago. For illiterate cultures, long-ago is about three generations.

A lack of historical consciousness was common until recently. Thucydides,
one of the three great historians of classical greece, opened his history by
stating that nothing of significance had occurred prior to 400bc! This
should be seen as an indication of both the lack of knowledge about what
happened in the past, as well as a mark of the state of mind in which the
ancients lived; the world was very finite for them, in both time and space.
Their span of knowledge was small, a tiny bubble of space-time which they
carried around wherever they went.

IE peoples seem to have first appeared in india at roughly the same time
they appear in the middle-east; around 1500bc. They may have reached shang
china around the same time, since their characteristic two-wheeled chariots
suddenly appeared contemporaneously. The vedas were not written down until
much later, maybe 1000 years later, if I recall correctly. Even so, the
vedic hymns give a glimpse into the world-view of the primitive IE tribes
at a much earlier date, since these are sacred verses which would lose
their magic potency if mispronounced. The rig veda does not tell the
history of the aryans, except indirectly.

Also, the early aryans which moved into india were nomads. Indra was not
not just the wielder of the thunderbolt and the leveler of cities, but also
the lord of cows. The deities found in the vedas show significant influence
from the more sophisticated beliefs of the sumerian and persian culture-
areas, so these tribes had been doing a lot of travelling, for a long time.
Migration was part of life, as was conquest. This was a predatory culture,
attracted by the wealth of cities and civilization.

By the time the vedas were written, the aryans had been largely absorbed by
the native dravidian culture. Invocations of indra and agni were still used
in ritual, but the spirit of the warrior gods was no longer felt by the
people. Indra had now become the butt of jokes, and the brahmins had
asserted the power of ritual over the power of the sword. Thus the stage
was set for the next wave of invaders.

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf