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.


Maju said...

The Semitic concept of God is El (directly related to Allah and the name of the Jewish God, sometimes in a controvesial plural "Elohim", in many places of the Bible).

If Abraham and Brahman have a relation, that is very possible, my guess is that probably is an IE import (IEs were in Asia Minor and Iran then and some Jewish lineages could be related to Mesopotamia or even Kurdistan by origin). If Brahman comes from PIE Br* (like "bramar" in Spanish, meaning the sound of a bull or that of the storm) and means originally indeed word or speech, as it's been suggested, my logic is that it's more directly related to the priests than to any "God". After all Abraham was a man, a prophet, and brahmans or brahmins are also priests.

Let me digress: in Egyptian mythology, the priestly god Thoth, was associated with the Moon and the tongue, while the supreme god Amon-Ra, was linked to the Sun and the Heart. The mythology of Ptah (another god, Egyptians had many) tells that he created the world with his heart and then named it with his tongue.

Instead, the Jewish myth of creation, very similar to that of Ptah in other aspects, says: "in the beginning was the verb" and also tells how their god created with words... in a priestly manner (for the Egyptian concepts) rather than a godly one.

Abraham would be al Braham: semitization of a IE term for word or holy word. And indeed the Bible and Jewish, Christian and Muslim priests always insist in words. "It's the word of God" they say at the end of each Catholic mass, for instance.

Abraham would then mean "the holy word", what a better name for the founding prophet of three religions?

Brahman would have a similar meaning, both as priestly caste and as supreme god promoted by some of that caste (AFAIK it's not really a very popular deity, right?).

The link between the two religious cores would then be to tell stories... holy stories but stories anyhow.

Manjunath said...

1. my guess is that probably is an IE import
(You mean Semitic languages imported this word from IE, right?)

2. (AFAIK it's not really a very popular deity, right?).

I feel the second point puts a constraint on the first point. Hardly anybody worship Brahma. In fact, like Siva he was later identified with Vedic deities.

By the way, my derivation of Abraham is 'from the house of creator' :-).

jhangora_ki_baal said...

Hardly anybody worship Brahma.

Therez just one Temple dedicated to Brahma {at Pushkar,Rajasthan}.

I noticed some similarities between Jewish and Hindu rituals while reading the Old Testament.Sorry did not make a note of them.

Interesting theory.

Manjunath said...

Interesting theory.

Thank you!