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-}

5 comments:

Sreekumar said...

Great thinking and these are certainly not incoherent theories!

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.

A very funny observation indeed!

Manjunatha said...

My theories are always incoherent as they do not follow any scientific methodology. And for that matter I do not know what those methodologies are.

Sreekumar said...

Your theories are in many ways quite like quantum physics in that case! You are in august company.

Anonymous said...

first of all there is no Aryan race, that is already proven.

So, start thiking with Indian brain not with European slary brain

Manjunat said...

If "Indian brain" exists then so do "Aryan race". Please place your comments at relevant posts.