Monday, December 25, 2006

Origins of Indians: Version 6.2

Rise of Brahma:
We have already seen that rise of Vishnu is achieved by a Semitic community that became part of South Asia. The first among trinity, Brahma, is another mystery.

The Rig Vedic Brahman is mostly 'pious words' or the 'person who says pious words'(ie. Braahmana). However, this Brahma is a creator. From Wikipedia article on Brahman;

Brahman or brahma, and similar words, have various meanings, mostly related to Hinduism. In the correct Indian pronunciation, the first a is long or short as indicated, and the h is pronounced as a voiced consonant.

These words come from a Sanskrit root bŗh = " to swell, grow, enlarge", cognate with many English words such as "bulge". They all derive from the Proto-Indo-European root *bhel-, meaning "to swell" or "to grow" [1]. The Latin verb flāre = "to blow" also comes from the same root. Some, including Georges Dumézil, have said that the Latin word flāmen (= "priest") may also be cognate to brahman. A possible connection with the Semitic root br' ברא "create, opening" has also been suggested, but this is refuted by most linguists.

The Semitic root has been dismissed by the linguists. However, I believe both IE and Semitic roots are correct. Just like Gisnu in Vishnu's case, they show merging of diverse origins because of similar sounds. Since those people were not linguists we can not blame them for this. In my opinion, Brahman is an IE word with root 'brh' and Brahma is a Semitic word with root 'br'. But the Semitic root might go back to Sumerian root as many of the Semitic religious terms, traditions were a borrow from Sumerian culture. However, I have not found any proof to support that 'br' has any meaning in Sumerian. But here is my take on it.

Abraham etymology:
Many have their own etymologies for Abraham. Here I am presenting one of my own. I think the original form of Abraham was Ebraham. This we can break this word into Sumerian etymology;
E + Braham -> E + Br* -> house + creator -> A man from the house of creator...son of god (Ebraham)?

Probably, Semitic community had this concept of creator(Br*) when they moved to South Asia.

Purity and Pollution:
The enforcement of caste system in South, East and Central India can not be explained by "racism" as the time of its enforcement in these areas were almost a millennium or two after the putative migration of Aryans. Of course, in my scheme of things the caste system was the result of complex mix of different cultures.

The caste system was sustained in North-West of India and was spread in the other regions mainly because of purity and pollution concept. This is a powerful idea and difficult to get over.
Some of the things that were considered polluting;
1. food: People involved in certain kind of food productions became outcasts.
2. professions: Many professions were deemed polluting.

Then of course, we have menstrual blood concept. Anyway, we can only say, like most of the things menstrual blood was considered dirty and we see enough evidence that in Manusmriti itself. But is it the unique feature of Indian society, the feeling of dirty getting associated with the people?

The polluting menstrual blood concept is not unique to India. It has been observed among Papua New Guineans, Eastern Indonesians(probably Indian influence), and even in native American society. But what comes to close to Indian attitude towards menstrual blood is again Semitic tradition. The Niddah laws of Jewish tradition in fact deliberate on impurity caused by the touch of menstruating woman on persons, food etc... similar to Manu's laws.

Probably, Indians might have developed dirty feeling about menstrual blood on their own but I believe the laws on them were in fact an import from Semitic regions. But is that the only pollution concept we received from the Semites. As it turned out Semites had a very strong concept of purity and pollution on their own. I came across this study on the net.

Interestingly, their word for impurity is 'tameh'. In Hinduism, 'tamas' is considered darkness or very low(food or character).

Some of the points from the study;

- objects touched by unclean humans become unclean
- clean and unclean animals
- taking bath to become clean again(sometimes even offerings)

Probably, many of these had hygienic beginnings but people tend to forget the roots and develop fantastic theories. Anyway, I think I can construct a new theory to go along with the Aryan migration theory(AMT) that will explain development of India society with its peculiar features.

The Semitic Introgression Theory(SIT):
By linguistic theory it is difficult to reject AMT. However, Indian society is incomplete without taking into effect Semitic/Middle Eastern societal structures and culture. The early Rig Vedic society constituted chieftains and common men. However, later society shows four folded caste system with priests occupying the highest position. In my opinion, this was the result of Semitic influence.

-Evidence from Population genetics:
The Haplogroups J2a and G2 show very uneven distribution in South India(Sengupta et al. 2006). None of the other haplogroups show any caste specific clustering or in fact show somewhat deep ancestry of majority caste population. However, J2a and to lesser extent G2 shows a marked difference here. Both these haplogroups show Indus valley, Middle East and Mediterranean distribution. But their distribution into India is not very deep like H,R1a1,R2. However, interestingly, the communities with predominant J2b and L1 have very low J2a among them(and G2 almost non-existent). And Brahmins with high J2a and G2 (though total frequency of both do not exceed beyond 20-25% ) have very few J2b among them. This leads us to a very interesting observation about the original urheimat of Dravidians around 3500 BP. In my opinion, it can not go beyond Indus valley(probably, southern region, Sindh). If they had come somewhere beyond the subcontinent to South India that would not explain uneven distribution of the haplogroups and also lack of region specific Haplogroups.

In case of Semitic community, that influenced South Asia, even that can not be far away from Indus valley. Probably, around Eastern Iran where Haplogroup E3b clan yet to reach around that time. Of course, my interest would be on Marhashi, variously known as Barahshe or even Purushum. Was Purusha Sukta written by people form Purushum?

-What about Semitic society?
Okay. If Semitic society had so many features that were responsible for purity and pollution of Indian caste system, why then Semitic society did not become a caste society.

The only Semitic society that kept the oldest traditions is that of Jews. However, I believe had Jews continued to live in their homeland even they would have developed a caste society. Because of their tough conditions and their life in societies that did not have such strong notions about polluting things, their society escaped from caste system. In my opinion, they did show some characteristics of caste system. According to the article that I have quoted above;

However, even before AD 66, the Dead Sea Sectarians can view the gentiles as by nature ritually impure, and perhaps the biggest problem is the exclusion of gentiles from the inner part of the Temple complex, as attested by Josephus, who has been confirmed by the discovery of parts of the inscriptions which threatened death to gentiles who crossed the barrier
Well, disallowing temple entry is a very common feature of caste society. However, the precedence to this feature we find only in a Semitic society with typical impurity concepts. I believe it was Semitic introgression into Indian minds that gave this idea of debarring "impure" people (just like non-Jew Gentiles) from entering the temples.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Origins of Indians: Version 6.1

The downfall of supreme Rig Vedic god Indra is a rather intriguing feature of Vedic society. The question is whether the rise of other gods represent a natural change within a society or outside influence. If we observe that the position of trinity continued to be the same till date, probably, tells us initial outside influence and later closed society.

Rise of Shiva:
Probably, Shiva's rise is not mystery. This shows influence of Eastern regions and probably Indus valley. But I am not sure about Indus valley. Shiva's robe is animal skin. Which society was still wearing animal skin? Here, I am assuming a society which is already wearing clothes made of yarn would never envisage a new god with animal skin. The god with animal skin could be from a society that is worshipping that deity from its animal skin covering days so that even after transition to yarn clothes the god's depiction has retained the original form. If you observe Tulu/Malayalee spirits they still have leaf covering eventhough the population has made transition to cotton yarn covering long back. This is taken as a proof for tribal origin of spirit worship. Extending the same logic, we can say that Shiva worship dates to a society that was still wearing animal skin covering. Indo-Aryans were certianly not that society. I did a search and find in an online Rig Veda text for weavers, cotton, garment etc... I am not sure if it was cottoned in the early Rig Veda period but it could certainly be woolen clothes. The weavers were already part of Proto-IE society. So I believe processing of wool and spinning and weaving could have been part of Indo-Aryan pastoralists. Some of the hymns that talk about clothes;

Who is your mightiest, Heroes, when, O shakers of the earth and heaven,
Ye shake them like a garment's hem(book 1, hymn 37.6 Maruts)

I am just guessing here that garment with hem that shakes violently can not be animal skin.

She, like a dancer, puts her broidered garments on: as a cow yields her udder so she bares her breast.(book 1, hymn 92.4 Dawn)

Is it not true embriodery can be done only on yarn clothes?Or that symbolizes higher level of processing?

Like rival wives on every side enclosing ribs oppress me sore. O Satakratu, biting cares devour me, singer of thy praise, as rats devour the weaver's threads. Mark this my woe, ye Earth and Heaven.(book 1, hymn 105.8 Visvedevas)

This hymn is a clear proof that the early Rig Vedic society did wear yarn clothes.

Since Aryans entered India with woven clothes, I believe even human form of Shiva can not be the hadiwork of them.

However, it is tough to understand Indus valley influence. I believe cotton weaving was already practiced by 2200 BCE. However, considering their local origins they most likely made a transition from leaf covering/animal skin covering to cotton clothing. So it won't be a surprise if they continued to worship their gods in tribal forms.

If Shiva is an outside influence from Indus valley or Eastern regions to Vedic religion what about Vishnu?

Rise of Vishnu:
Though Shiva's non-Vedic credentials are obvious. Vishnu is not so clear cut. Vishnu was a minor god in the early Rig Veda.

We need to have little background of Western Asian(Middle Eastern) religions now. The sun was supreme god in most of the societies there(including Egypt). In early Sumerian society sun or Utu was a minor god. However, later Semitic Akkadian society he came to occupy the highest place. In Persian society, where the Aryan migration in the form of Iranian speakers supposed to be much more benign than India(as they did not have Shudras and Asprishyas) and where Aryans assimilated with the earlier societies, sun god became prominent in the form of Mithra. However, Ahur Mazda is rather tricky. From Wikipedia article on the origins of Ahura Mazda;

Although Ahura Mazda is accepted to be the conceptual equivalent of a proto-Indo-Iranian divinity, the details are a matter of speculation and debate. Scholarly consensus identifies a connection to the prototypical *vouruna and *mitra, but whether Ahura Mazda is one of these two, or both together, or even a superior of the two has not been conclusively established.

One view (Kuiper) is that the proto-Indo-Iranian divinity is the nameless "Father Ahura", that is, Varuna of the Rigveda. In this view, Zoroastrian mazda is the equivalent of the Vedic medhira, described in Rigveda 8.6.10 as the "(revealed) insight into the cosmic order" that Varuna grants his devotees. Kuiper also suggested that Ahura Mazda could also be an Iranian development of the dvandvah expression *mitra-*vouruna, with *mitra being the otherwise nameless 'Lord' (Ahura) and *vouruna being mazda/medhira as noted above. In this constellation, Ahura Mazda is then a compound divinity in which the favorable characteristics of *mitra negate the unfavorable qualities of *vouruna.

If as speculated Ahura Mazda is related to Varuna/Mitra, two solar deities, then probably that shows the native priestly class identifying their supreme god among Aryan pantheon and elevating it to higher position. I guess "god of thunder" was the supreme god of Proto-IE people.
From Indian perspective where the local gods/spirits became subordinate or lower form of Brahmanical gods in South India, I can say that had it been Aryan priests then local sun gods would have remained subordinate of greater Aryan gods even in Persian society. And I think something similar happened to Vishnu.

Indeed, Vishnu was identified with light and even sun. But why not elevate Surya, the sun god, directly. Or just like Persian why not elevate solar deities like Varuna/Mitra instead. Here, we can observe the foreign hand or foreigners who were already part of South Asia in elevating Vishnu.From Wikipedia article on the etymology of Vishnu;

Regarding the suffix, Manfred Mayrhofer (Indo-Aryan etymological dictionary, 1996, II.566f.) proposes that the nasal is analogous to jiṣṇu "victorious". Mayrhofer further suggests that the name goes back to an already Indo-Iranian *višnu, and was replaced by rašnu in Zoroastrian Iran.(See update)
And about Rig Veda reference;
His distinguishing characteristic in the Vedas is his association with Light, or even his identification with the Sun.

I have already stated that in the later Akkadian society sun god, Shamash, occupied the highest position. One of his non-Akkadian but derived from Sumerian name was 'Gisnu', which again means 'the light' just like Vishnu's association in the early Rig Vedic period. Also, consider the nasal analogous between Vishnu and Jisnu(I don't know what nasal analogous means just hope that they sound similar when pronounced). In my opinion, a society in India that held sun god in the highest position with a strong connection to Western Asian(Semitic) tradition influenced the Vedic society. We have to notice that Western Asian societies led by priest-kings were highly developed than nomadic early Rig Vedic society led by chieftains.

We can make another interesting observation here. Vishnu is always depicted in sleeping postion; his bed being a snake. I believe this was some kind of pun with the name Gisnu. Gisnu or Gisna in Sumerian also means bed. Somebody with a great sense of humour added both light and bed together and we have Visnu in a permanently sleeping position. I must say, his wife Lakshmi pressing his legs has nothing to with her duties or lower level of woman. I think that was done to provide some blood circulation to his feet as Vishnu hardly used his legs.

Update: I think jisnu, visnu comparison from that reference is not correct. The Sumerian Gisnu and Visnu comparison could be due to similar meanings associated with those terms. However, I think Visnu could have been eulogised as jisnu(=victorious). From this dictionary;

1 jiSNu mfn. ( %{ji} Pa1n2. 3-2 , 139) victorious , triumphant , winning RV. AV. VS. &c. ; (with acc.) vanquishing , conquering , excelling Bhartr2. i , 5 Vop. v , 26 ; (ifc.) winning , conquering MBh. vi , xiii ; m. the sun L. ; Vishn2u L. ; Indra L. ; Arjuna (son of Pa1n2d2u) MBh. BhP. i ; N. of a man Ra1jat. vi , 155 ; of a son of Manu Bhautya Hariv. 495 ; `" of Brahma-gupta's father "' see %{-ja} ; of a Vasu W. ; cf. %{parA-}

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Origins of Indians: Version 6.0

All these lineages pre-historic. Aborigine lineages are more than 20000 years old. Only major clans are given.

Male lineages(Y-Haplogroup):
Aboriginal Indians: C, C5, F, G, H,H1,H2, R,R2, J1
Aryans: R1a1
Dravidians: J2, L1, L3
Munda*: O

Female lineages(mtDNA):
Aboriginal Indians: South Asian specific M subclades, U2i, U7, W
Aryans: H?, U2e?
Dravidians: J2?, N1a? U4? (none of these observed among Dravidian speakers till now, but I am waiting for studies on Tulu speakers)
Munda: F

Munda here includes both Austro-Asiatic and Sino-Tibetan tribes of North East.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Hart's caste system - II

In my previous post, I have discussed how Hart's study of Tamil society does not take into consideration many aspects. Here I am going to dissect some of arguments in the study.

Menstrual blood or pole:
According to Hart, auspicious and in-auspicious traditions are defining paradigm of Tamil society. Therefore, the name of the untouchable caste in South India, Holeya(Kn) or Pulayan(Tam), is derived from a word pole which meant menstrual blood or pollution due to menstrual blood. As South Indians held menstrual blood inauspicious because it was uncontrolled just like spirits of Holeyas.

But I would like to know if the meaning menstrual blood is primary or later day derivative. If you check various branches of Dravidian languages this word is attested as menstrual blood only in SD-I, rest all have (ND(Brahui), SD-II(Telugu)) the present meaning of unclean or dirty. Curiously, pole meaning menstrual blood is not attested even in Tamil(part of SD-I).

According to Hart, most of the Southern languages have some equivalent for Tamil pulayan to designate outcaste. Well, "most" is a very ambiguous word. Anyway, Telugu does not have any equivalent for this word for a man of lower caste. And Telugus make up one third of Dravidian speakers in India (more than Tamils).

The Telugu equivalent caste for Kannada Holeya or Tamil Pulayan is called "Mala". I am not sure of the etymology of Mala. So let us take an indirect way and try to understand the terms for the people declared unclean or untouchable. We can consider two meanings from Hart's pole and general meaning of pole;
1. The people with uncontrolled traditions therefore word meaning polluting menstrual blood which is also uncontrolled.
2. The people are unclean therefore the word for unclean

If we consider the first meaing then we have to find menstrual blood meaning for mala. I have not found that. But the second meaning is very close if we take the word mala is in fact a borrow from Indo-Aryan language. The IE root mel* means unclean, dirty(malina in Sanskrit). The mala could be an exact equivalent word for Dravidian pole in Indo-Aryan. If mala is indeed an Indo-Aryan word then we can be sure that a big chunk of Indo-Aryanized population from East(predominantly Y-Haplogroup H, and Y-Haplogroup R2) have already become part of Dravidian peoples since the dawn of their civilization. Therefore, ritualistic impurity and consequently untouchable status of people in South Indian society need not be autochthonous to South Indian society.

Now let us consider the unclean menstrual blood itself. I have already said that could never be part of pure Dravidian society as it never developed concepts like linga and yoni. So the best way is to understand old North Indian and East Indian attitudes towards menstrual blood.

Excerpts from Manusmriti:

A Kandala, a village pig, a cock, a dog, a menstruating woman, and a eunuch must not look at the Brahmanas while they eat.

For the wisdom, the energy, the strength, the sight, and the vitality of a man who approaches a woman covered with menstrual excretions, utterly perish.

Let him not sleep alone in a deserted dwelling; let him not wake (a superior) who is sleeping; let him not converse with a menstruating woman; nor let him go to a sacrifice, if he is not chosen (to be officiating priest).

Let him never eat (food given) by intoxicated, angry, or sick (men), nor that in which hair or insects are found, nor what has been touched intentionally with the foot,

Nor that at which the slayer of a learned Brahmana has looked, nor that which has been touched by a menstruating woman, nor that which has been pecked at by birds or touched by a dog,

(A woman) is purified on a miscarriage in as many (days and) nights as months (elapsed after conception), and a menstruating female becomes pure by bathing after the menstrual secretion has ceased (to flow).

When he has touched a Kandala, a menstruating woman, an outcast, a woman in childbed, a corpse, or one who has touched a (corpse), he becomes pure by bathing.

By earth and water is purified what ought to be made pure, a river by its current, a woman whose thoughts have been impure by the menstrual secretion, a Brahmana by abandoning the world (samnyasa).

I shall stop it here. From the look of it every attribute that make menstrual blood inauspicious could be found in Manu's laws. Therefore, unclean menstrual blood is secondary meaning to pole. Probably, after the migrations of Indo-Aryan peoples to South India who became Dravidians(and who could be Austro-Asiatic, Burushaski , Caucasian speakers before becoming Indo-Aryan speakers).

Warriors and auspicious power:
This is quite interesting to me. The othreday I was watching a documentary on Qin Shi Huang, First Emperor, who unified China in 221 BCE. The emperor (or his Shamans) had to take care of spirits of dead enemy soldiers from being harmful after their successful attacks. A typical Soulistic society must show this characteristic. The spirits that are harmful are that of your enemies. But in South Indian society more than the spirits of dead enemies(if at all they do), it was the spirits of dead native soldiers that were dangerous. According to Hart, warriors were themselves source of power and they were not harmed by spirits of enemy soldiers. But spirits of these warriors by themselves dangerous to the natives and had to be propitiated. No wonder with this kind of logic the soulistic society made room to godistic society whereas China even with those inauspicious spirits remained unified and was never really a godistic or auspicious society.

Funnily, Holeyas in Tulu society were soldiers at least till 15th century(Afterwards none of the local Tulu communities participated in warfare. The region came under direct control of Kannada rulers during this period who did not trust the natives and settled Marathis there for soldiering). According to some records, they(Holeyas) were even generals during 3rd-4th century. Later the army chiefs were mostly Bunts and sometimes Billavas. However, every community be it Billava, Bunt or Holeya had to send a person from each household whenever there was a war. I wonder how a Holeya in Tulu region who at once was a source of power(as a warrior) and also a receptor of a power(because he was Hart's Pole derived Holeya) fit into this whole auspicious-inauspicious scheme.