Monday, November 27, 2006

Matriliny in Andhra Pradesh

The otherday, I visited Nagarjunakonda. Some people have speculated that matrilineal system was in vogue in old Andhra society. Generally, Satavahanas, were speculated being matrilineal because of their names. Many Satavahana king names have affixes that sound like "son of (female name)". I bought a book, Nagarjunakonda, compiled by Archaeological Survey of India. The book was completely silent about any matrilineal traditions. But I found a few interesting facts in the book.

- Goutamiputra (son of Goutami), Vasishtiputra(son of Vasishti), Mathariputra(son of Mathari), Haritiputra (son of Hariti) were used multiple times and by Satavahana, Ikshvaku(looks like Sanskritization) and Abhira kings.
- But there was no correlation between mother's names of individual rulers and these titles. For example (kings belonging to Ikshvaku dynasty);
* Vasishtiputra Ehuvala Chantamula's mother's name was Bhattidevi
* Vasishtiputra Rudrapurushadatta's (Ehuvala's son) mother's name was Vammabhatta
* Haritiputra Virapurushadatta's (Ehuvala's son) mother's name was Kapanashri

From those examples we can clearly see that not only there is no connection with mother and the title but sons of the same father also do not inherit the similar titles(or first names). If we masculinise those names then we can make an interesting observation.

Vasishti -> Vasishta; Goutami-> Goutama; Hariti -> Harita; Mathari -> Mathara

And Vasishta, Goutama, Harita and Mathara were sages or law givers. These also represent Brahmin Gotra names. I think in old days it was a practice for the kings to take up the gotra of their Brahmin guru.

So these names have nothing to do with matriliny. Probably, that must be some weird way of representing their gotras as gotra represent descendancy from that particular sage.


I think my Moksha is built upon a hardcore multiregional hypothesis supporter's views. I don't think one can attain Moksha with the help of people who have not claimed that they have achieved Moksha.

Some people believe Moksha is a selfish thing. I don't know. But at least I don't want to be a big banyan tree that does not allow anything to grow underneath it.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Gods must be Neanderthal males!

In one of my previous posts, I tried to understand how the "god" concept developed. You can easily understand the origin of spirit worship because of "ghost experiences". However, god is something beyond comprehension. I do not think a person would suddenly invent god and the rest of his tribe would believe him. People are rationals unless indoctrinated from childhood.

In that post, I speculated that god concept might have been imagined by males when they lost the memory of their ancestral spirits or lost touch with their shamans. Now, I have begun to think that probably just like the spirit worship even the god worship might have been handiwork of females. And that, god must be 37000 years old.

It was Neanderthal male and Sapien female:
A recent population genetics study has found that there was "introgression"(Read the posts at : John Hawks Anthropology Weblog) between Sapiens and Neanderthals. Well, I do not know who mated whom. But I think it must be Neanderthal males and Sapien females.

The events as they unfolded:
When Homo Sapiens(henceforth, New Africans or NA) moved out of Africa, they first colonised Middle East or the present day Arab lands. Neanderthals(henceforth, Old Africans or OA) were already there. When NA moved to Middle East there were no face to face meeting between NA and OA. The OA were the first ones to sense the presence of others. Suspicious and scared of NA, OA moved into regions that could not be detected by NA. Nevertheless, there were few curious OA males.

When NA males went for hunting, one OA male met an NA female who was gathering food alone. Now we know what happened then. But once the process that helped introgression was over the OA male disappeared behind a mountain. This NA female shared her experience with her friend. To her surprise her friend too experienced it. The encounters with mystery men who could be seen alone but disappear behind mountains became regular feature with many females.

In my opinion, the result of these encounters was a new hybrid population along with the paradigm of a creature that is responsible for birth but also mysterious and generally invisible. If you notice most of the old literature talk about male gods themselves being responsible for human children. Probably, these legends were born out of NA female experience with OA males. This person, who they called god, was now created with those encounters and transferred to the next generation by the mothers. I believe, this could be the only way a distant concept like god could be spread in a population.

How did NA males respond?
Obviously, there were morphological differences in hybrid children. But I guess for some reasons all the children were females. If it's correct that female children generally resemble their mothers then probably the doubts/fear over entirely different looking newborns(probably in the case of males) would not have developed. In any case, a generation(both hybrid and NA) ready to accept the god encounters was being created in many families. Therefore, the initial male sceptics were already on their way out.

Why god encounters were cherished?
If this post is any indication then we can fairly guess why. Why for thousands of years men have tried to understand female desires? Probably, the answer lies in those encounters 37000 years ago. I think the experience of introgression is not there in the gene flow.

What about purely Soulistic societies?
I believe the coastal migration clan identified by Y-Haplogroups C and D, might have moved to other regions before any encounters could take place with their females. The regions where Y-Haplogroup C has its presence even today(like South India, Central Asia, and Siberia) might explain the continuity of spirit worship. This also explains why Middle East developed godistic societies before any other civilization.

As I have already stated, the idea that humans were created by gods could be attributed to only those encounters. Otherwise, the idea of creation would find answers in genitals as that had been the case in many societies.

Further reading:
Parva, a novel in Kannada, by S. L. Bhairappa

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Hart's caste system - I

George L. Hart's study "Early Evidence for caste in South India" basically tells us that ground work for various levels of caste society had already been done in South Indian society before Brahmins sanctified it. According to him, these divisions were basically the result of auspicious and inauspicious religious strains present in the society. The people mostly into inauspicious rituals became later day untouchables. However, kings patronized them but they remained poor. But kings were not part of that segment but their dependence on these people was some kind of philosophical inevitability. Later Brahmins provided a very logical alternative to kings and other segments of the society which was readily accepted. But I found the study left out many aspects.

Jain influence:
How strong was the Jain influence in the literature? I suppose some of the Tamil classics were written by Jains. How much Jain worldview might have influenced Dravidian upper classes?

Another tradition caught my eye was tonsuring head of widows. This tradition was supposedly followed by Dravidian upper classes and now observed among few Brahmin communities. This hairy issue continues to perplex me. I have read that having hair on the body was considered unclean by Malayalees. In fact, "hairy person" was some kind of abuse or criticism in old days. That anthropologist(G S Ghurye?) speculated that since dark skinned people do not have much bodily hair any growth might have been considered unwanted. Imitating the other Malayalees even Brahmins started shaving off their body hair. Well, I am not sure about metrosexual nature of Dravidians but whenever I hear plucking every hair from the body that reminds me of Jains. After all, hair plucking must be a pan-Indian phenomenon (probably, in South-West gradient).

Where are the shamans?
Along with Jains, the article hardly talks about shamanism. As I see it the conflict was between Shamanic tradition and Godistic tradition in old Tamil society. However, there are no mentions of shamans(Paatri in Tulu society, B(V)elichappad or Komaram in Malayali society. Though, most of the article considered them as oracle, I would rather call them as shamans as they hardly make use of any oracle bones but only get possessed by spirits) in that study. Too much emphasis on spirit possession by communities that later became untouchable. Whereas, the shamans could be from any caste in Tulu/Malayali societies. Probably, Tamil society had hardly remained Dravidian in true cultural sense by first century CE. I wonder since when uncle-niece marriages became part of Tamil society. This tradition shows a major shift from matrilineal society to patrilineal society. Uncle-niece marriages would have been impossible in matrilineal societies as both belong to the same family. I would expect the taboo against this would been present for certain period in societies that made a recent transition from matrilineality to patrilineality. I believe there was a strong non-Dravidian(cultural) influence on Tamils(along with Kannadigas and Telugus) since pre-historic times of South India. For this reason, I find the word "pole" (the erstwhile untouchables were called Holeya in Kannada/Tulu and Pulayar in Tamil) intriguing. It seems pole in old Kannada meant menstrual blood.

The unclean menstrual blood concept:
As I have already discussed the concept of linga-yoni could have been developed in Shamanic societies, while Godistic society was basically incompatible with that. But one can observe that linga-yoni concept was not part of original Shamanic society of Tulu tribes and mostly part of Eastern regions.

I consider, the unclean menstrual blood and glorification of semen could be envisaged only in linga-yoni societies. I do not find any foundations in purely Shamanic societies for such a tradition. Which society developed this concept?

If we observe some of the communities with origins in Eastern region (Bengal/Orissa/Andhra), we see a curious belief of impurity of birth. In some communities the pregnant woman has to move away from the family and live in a solitary confinement until she gives birth and must come back on her own. I believe this tradition is the peak of any yoni related concepts. Roma, a gypsy community in Europe/Central Asia had this tradition and as I have already pointed out they were basically from Eastern Indian regions.

So, if birth was impure for old Eastern Indian communities(predominantly Y-haplogroups H and R2 clans), what about menstrual blood? I think it is not possible to generalize South Indian cultural ethos by looking at old Tamil society. The linguists have already observed this in the case of Tamil and Proto-Dravidian coalesce.

...and the Pallavas:
Hart elaborately explains conflicts between auspicious and inauspicious traditions and how the dominance of inauspicious traditions left the country divided into smaller principalities with constant warfare. According to him, solution offered by the Brahmins would have helped to unite the country(with an example of Guptas in North India...what about Rajputs... anyway, there could be other explanations). But the problem is the kings who first saw this advantage were Pallavas.

I would have accepted all those logical reasons given by Hart, if Pallavas made a transition from inauspicious traditions to auspicious traditions. But, as I see it, that is hardly the case. Pallavas were part of auspicious traditions.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ghostism and Godism - I

This post is the outcome of a discussion at Quetzalcoatl anthropology forum. It is difficult to say if other member/s understood my points or I understood their points. But once in a while during the discussion one of the more learned members of forum would assure me that my point had merits. Therefore, I think, the whole discussion was not pointless and I can expand it to include many other aspects and as my wont make it completely incoherent.

Description of the terms:
Soulism is belief in the supernatural to which we can connect. These supernaturals are called spirits. The founders of this institution were females who could see their ancestor ghosts and sometimes get possessed by them. In the later times mostly men became shamans who go into trance and get possessed by spirits.

Godism is belief in the supernatural to which we can not connect. These supernatural are called gods. The founders of this institution were males who lost the memory of the ancestors who became spirits. Probably, these are the men who lost from the tribe with shamans. In this belief an oracle might resemble a shaman but I don't think he gets possessed by gods in public and deliver the message. Also, oracle uses some other materials to read and deliver gods' message which is not shamanism. Therefore, oracle must not be equated with a shaman. Here the people who hold the knowledge of worship are called priests.

However, human society includes one more institution that was relatively uninfluenced by supernatural but wondered about human creation. The final conclusion of this group was emergence of linga-yoni or yin-yang.

The incompatible institutions:
I believe all these three groups had independent origins. When they met there were many frictions and also many anomalies to accommodate. Consider Vedic people for example;
Vedic people were basically a pure godistic community. They did not have spirit and linga-yoni concepts. Therefore, you can find RigVeda making mockery of phallus worshippers. Also, Krishna commenting that people who worship ghosts will become ghosts eventually.

When Shamanic society encountered Godistic society the gods became just like spirits. You can observe many Hindu gods being worshipped as spirits in Tulu region.

However, I do not have any examples of linga-yoni society meeting Shamanic society. When linga-yoni did come to pure Shamanic society of South India; it came as a part ofGodistic society. This makes me think may be linga-yoni concept in fact was part of Shamanic society or grew in Shamanic societies. But probably few Shamanic societies developed it.

The creation question:
As we have already seen the question of creation need not to have an answer in god. A linga-yoni duo can satisfy it. However, because of gods the answer took different form in godistic societies. There was a greater need for explaining the concept of gods and a new range of myths were created in those societies. What about Shamanic societies?

Curiously, the pure Shamanic societies never faced this situation as their ancestors were always kept alive in the form of spirits. People were just descendants of those ancestors. It was difficult to imagine a supreme ghost like a supreme god as Shamans can not connect to that supreme ghost. I have already mentioned that many of the spirits in Tulu regions come in brother-sister pair. The present day myths talk about origins of all spirits from Shiva. The original story connected to many of these spirits have been lost. In my opinion, this brother-sister pair were also husband and wife and the ancestor of the tribes. Curiously, a tribe named Koragas have brother-sister pair spirits called Koraga and Korati(though now propitiated by all the communities).

Probably, Nuwa-Fuxi, Adam-Eve and Mari-Sugaar pairs were initially brother-sister spirits like Koraga and Korati.

Priests versus Shamans:
I do not think shamans could have commanded the respect that the priests had in the past. I think the fundamental difference between them was the kind of background from which initial shamans and priests came. I believe shamans came from poor, malnourished families where it could have been natural to see the ghosts or get possessed by the ghosts. Therefore, their position might not be exulted in any society. However, priests could have been elites who in the absense of shamans had to invent gods in the place of spirits. The priests generally had very uneasy relationship with shamans. The priests were always exorcists or sorcerers to drive away the evil spirits. But what if a shamans and priests come together? I think this happened in India.

Advaita and Dvaita:
Curiously, the biggest proponents of these two schools of thought came from predominantly Shamanic societies. Shankara, proponent of Advaita, was from Malayala region and Madhva, proponent of Dvaita, from Tulu region. These two schools of thought exemplify the anomalies when the fundamentals of Soulism meets fundamentals of Godism.

Shankara said both soul and god are the same. By saying he in fact broke away from god's concept which is a supernatural that can not be connected by a human. Shankara in his actions remained Godistic in his philosophy became Shamanic. However, Madhva wanted to maintain the status-quo and said soul and god are different. But could not get over the concept of soul, an abstraction of spirit.

The development of Education and Soulism and Godism:
Here, I think Godism moves ahead of Soulism. The invention of supernatural that humans can not connect needed higher level imagination to explain the things. And also the need to preserve these explanations. This was not required in Shamanic societies. Also, priests tend to be from the elites(could be rulers too) this education (oral or written) became mainstream. Even if there was any kind of literate tradition in Shamanic society it would not have become mainstream as elites of those societies were never shamans.

Indus Valley Civilization:
Some people(Michael Witzel, Steve Farmer) have speculated that Indus valley civilization was illiterate. I do not think we can judge that. In my opinion, we can be only sure that it was Shamanic and not Godistic. The kingdoms west of this civilization in fact had highly developed literate society even before this civilization started taking complete form. However, we have to also see that those were generally Godistic societies. Some of those kingdoms were ruled by priest-kings. The literature was mostly about gods/goddesses and rulers.

Because IVC was Shamanic and hence not ruled by priest-kings, we can safely say that kind of literature /artifacts/ artistic creations found in Godistic societies can not be expected in IVC. However, that does not mean everyone was illiterate. There could have been few people with their secular literature on construction/ astronomy etc. But education was not mainstream and hence the preservation never became a mainstream effort.