‘Sapta- Sindu’ the Homeland of the Rigvedic Culture – Literary Evidence

Prof. Shashi Tiwari, General Secretary, WAVES-India 

There are so many questions related to Vedic people under discussion as part of Indian history, religion, mythology and civilization. The hunt for their original land has been a particularly important topic of research among Indologists and historians since Sir William Jones’s pronouncement in 1786, in Calcutta, that ‘Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Celtic and old Persian were related languages with common source.” The whole of nineteenth century was dedicated to the study of language and literature of Vedic and ancient Sanskrit texts, where the study of dates, editions and interpretations was done. The publication of two volume of Vedic Index by A.A. Macdonell and A.B. Keith in 1912 was almost the closing work in this field. Macdonell placed the Aryan entry into India at about 1500 BC. The establishment of the notion of a common Indo- European heritage, at the beginning of British rule in India, was a powerful instrument to rule Indians, so this view was highlighted in various ways. Ironically, in 1907 came archaeological evidence from Boghszkoi (east Turkey), which established the existence of the names of the Rgvedic  deities in fourteenth century BC.

In the 1920s, the ancient cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro were discovered. Tentatively a time period of 2500 -1500 BC was assigned to these cities at that time. Since the estimated date for the end of these cities coincided with the estimated date for Aryan entry into India, it was emphasized that these cities were brought to an end by Aryan invaders. Aryan invasion was sometimes called as Aryan migration. In either case Harappans were declared as Non-Aryans. Now many historians and Sanskrit scholars are refuting these theories on the basis of various categories of evidence. They think that the Homeland of Aryans was Indian continent or Aryans themselves were Harappans.  It is understood generally that Harappan civilization began at about 3300 B.C. and takes its earliest roots at Mehrgarh. Excavation has shown that this civilization possessed a writing system, as well as a social and economic system.

In my understanding, the Vedic civilization is the earliest civilization in Indian history for which we have written records.  The vast Vedic literature provides important materials to understand every aspect of the Vedic people and their views. The mantras present an extraordinary picture of culture, religion, philosophy, economics, polity, ritualistic practices and scientific knowledge of the Vedic people. It looks like such an organized and developed society based on agriculture, arts and crafts, trade and industry, education; characterized by a deep interest in nature and environment, and moved by the spiritual urge. These facts have been proven in my earlier papers written on agriculture, economics, architecture, birds, animals, food, ornaments, weapons, society and education of the Vedic people.  In the entire Vedic literature, the authors of Vedas never say a single word about their migration or invasion. Rather they indicate their stable and calm establishment in numerous places in the literature.

Evidence from within the Vedas suggests that the Vedic people were acquainted with the seven rivers, especially with the mighty river Saraswati. The description of mighty Sarasvatī  and references related to the terms Sapta-sindhavah͎ and Sapta-Sindhuṣu in Rigveda show a rich historical tradition of Vedic people in that area. The country of seven rivers is very dear to them. Saraswati is described as sapta svara (having seven sisters- 6/61/10, 8/10/9). It is said to be the mother of seven rivers (saraswat̄i saptadhī sindhumātā. -7/36/6). There is much talk and exploration of the river. She is a great river rushing down from mountains towards the ocean (ekā acetat sarasvatī  nadīnām shuchir yāti giribhya ā samudrāt -7/95/2). She is far superior to her companions (uttarā sakhibhyah -7/95/4). She surpasses all other streams by her sheer majesty (prabābadhanā rathyeva yāti  -7/95/1) and glory (pra yā mahimna mahināsu cekite -6/61/13). She is the best of rivers, best of mothers and best of goddesses (ambitame, nadītame devitame sarasvati -2/41/16).

The core region between Sarasvati and Drisadvati rivers was called vara aprithivya (the earth’s best place) and nabha prithivya (the navel of the earth).  It also has been known as ‘Kurukshetra’ (the land of the Kuru people). Manusmriti called it ‘Brahmavarta’ (the divine land). According to mantras, Vedic people feel affection for this area because their civilization began and flourished there in the Saraswati basin since 5000 to 4000 BC. This was the homeland of Vedic Aryan people. Broadly it was the sapta sindu region where Sarasvati was Main River. According to two mantras there were three sets of seven rivers (i.e. twenty one rivers)- trih͎ sapta sasrā nadyo mahir (10/64/9) and pra sapta sapta tredh̄a hi  (10/75/1). The Vajasaneyi-samhitā  (34.11) talks about of five rivers joining the Sarasvati. So we see that the descriptions vary slightly due to the symbolic poetry of Vedic Seers. The important point though, is their fascination regarding the sapta-sindhu area and the river Sarasvati.  The Aitareya and Shatapatha Brahamanas repeatedly mention that Sarasvati either got fanned out in deserts or dried up. Later on, the drying up of Sarasvati led to migrations of people towards the northwest or westward of the Sarasvati river system .This is the opinion of many scholars today.

Atharvaveda’s Bhumi sukta depicts the picture of Indian land. It has six seasons (12/1/36 ), colorful soil, sea, rivers,  mountains, and glorious description of ancestors. In the Rigveda we find names of only three seasons – vasant, grishma and sharad (RV 10/90/6) but they are indicative of winter and rain. These seasons are familiar to Northern India.

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The principal food of the Ṛgvedic Aryans consisted of barley-flour and its various preparations, rice and other cereals, fruits, honey, clarified butter (ghee), curd and other preparations of milk. The sowing, ripening, and ploughing of Yava is mentioned in the Ṛgvedic verses. Etymologically, barley was called Yava because its grain, though one, has two distinctly marked parts, which are still not separated. Specimens of barley, unearthed from the ruins of Mohenjodaron shows its use in that region even in the Ṛgvedic age. It is certain that barley and some other grains were cultivated in Ṛgvedic times. Barley was offered to gods. In their prayers, Vedic people are found asking gods for this grain. In the Atharvaveda it is called one of the two immortal sons of heaven, i.e. barley and rice (AV.8/7/20). These two were the staple crops that were cultivated by the Ṛgvedic Āryans, one in winter or spring and the other during the rainy season. It may be that, as the climate of Punjab was extremely cold in the Ṛgvedic times, the cultivation of barley was more convenient and yielded bumper crops rather than that of rice. Moreover ‘Vrīhi’ – meaning rice – is frequently referred to in the later Vedic works. Dhānya, Dhānā are other words denoting grains in general. It is but natural that for agriculture and cultivation a stable society and lifestyle is needed. Thus seasons, grains and agriculture prove the homeland of Aryans as the region of seven rivers near Punjab.

It is important to note that Salt (Lavan͎a) is not mentioned in the Rigveda, but is frequently mentioned later. Keith and Macdonell has observed that, “it is somewhat surprising, if the regions then occupied by the Indians were the Punjab and the Indus valley, where salt abounds, (that it is not mentioned) it is however, quite possible that a necessary commodity might happen to be passed over without literary mention in a region, where it is very common”. It is sure Āryans knew it because in a Ṛgvedic mantra they talk about thirst (Trishn͎ā) between waters of ocean ( RV 7/89/4).

We found description of ornaments and jewellery in Ṛgveda, almost similar to what we found in Harappan excavations. In both descriptions people used them to decorate head, ears, neck, finger, chest, hands, waist and legs, These decorative items were made of metal,  mud or stone; such as  man͎i grīva, nis͎ka, khādi,sraj, rukma, hiranyavartani etcGenerally it is said that Rigvedic people were living in mud houses in villages. We found that houses and building materials were not unknown to them. In one Mantra worshipper says to Varuna that ‘he does not want to live in a house made of clay’.- Mo shu varuna mrinmayam griham rajan naham gamam (7/89/10). Instead he askes to Parjanya Deva to give ‘tridhatu Sharnam (7/101/2 ) i.e. ‘three  storied dwelling’ according to H H Wilson and ‘Tribhumika house’ according to Sayana. Ayasi Puh (7/95/1) i.e. ‘Fort of iron’ is used for metaphor. Ishttikas meaning bricks are described variously in Brahamana texts. Dvara for door, and chardi for terrace are in common use in the Rigveda. Two ‘Shaala’ sukas  in Atharvaveda describe about bigger and systematic house. This shows that Vedic people liked clean and strong houses for living. Study of Ṛgvedic birds, animals and plants are also relevant in this context to decide about the place and period of Vedic culture. Undoubtedly these too indicate their Indian origin.

Vedic civilization, as reflected in the Ṛgveda, is seen developing gradually in all aspects in the later Vedic texts. Keeping in mind the scientific principles of development of any civilization, it would be appropriate to think of the early period of Vedic civilization as 5000 to 4000 BC. Its later period may be assigned during Harappan period.  Further, other categories of evidence, incorporated with literary evidences, may provide advanced chronological findings of our ancient times.

 

 

 

 

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Ganesh/Janus, and the Lost Hindu/Vedic Secrets of Christmas and New Year’s Eve (Part-II)

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Continued from part-I

On a more subtle level of understanding, why would Janus/Ganesh be worshipped as the old year leaves and the new one begins? What is a year? It is time. Then who is old man time? Time is Saturn, whom the Greeks called Chronos, hence the word chronology. It is well known in India that Saturn, who in Sanskrit is called Shani, is the Lord of time and also the placer of obstructions or impediments. In time, things that once served us become rigid or fossilized and then become obstructions on our path. We then need to throw them out and make some new resolutions. We need to remember to be child-like again, like a baby, worship the baby with an elephant’s head, Ganesh/Janus, to remove the obstacles and give us a fresh start so we can make more progress.

In the extreme, the poor man’s method of forgetting the past has been alcohol, so we see it is used and often abused in ringing in the New Year. The wearing of masks to celebrate New Years is related to our removing the layers of not self that may have accumulated over the year. It is related to the masks or faces that Janus/Ganesh presents to us, asking the question: “Who are you really? Then why do we celebrate Janus/Ganesh in the aftermath of the Winter Solstice? What is the meaning of the longest night of the year and it’s opposite the Summer Solstice, the longest day? The ancient thinkers called those two days the gates of the year. If you include the Autumnal and Vernal Equinox in March and September, you can see Janus/Ganesh Quadrafons, the four headed Ganesh. But the two gates in June and December are the most famous.

In India it is believed that the two solstices divide the year into two parts, the time from December to June when the days are increasing and the days from June to December when the nights are increasing. From this perspective, the two solstices are “gateways” to the realms of dark and light. The two times of year are called in Sanskrit the Uttarayana and the Dakshinayana, or the Northern way and Southern way. It appears that the “yana” of Sanskrit is the same as the “Jana” of Latin. The other name for these two times of year is Devayana and Pitriyana.

The Devayana or realm of light, is the place where the Angels or Devas, the Divine helpers reside. In the material world you could call this place Heaven. It is closer to God or Brahman the Divine light. The apex of Devayana is Brahmaloka, the golden planet of the Creator. This path leads back to the eternal, spiritual and transcendental realm. The gate to the realms of Light opens the day of the Winter Solstice and remains open until the night of the Summer Solstice. At that moment the Dakshinayana or dark gate opens. The path into darkness is called Pitriyana or the path of the ancestors. The implication is that one’s ancestors are often still bound in darkness resulting from previous actions that have produced negative consequences. As a result, they still reside in Pitriloka or in material places within the darkness of matter.

In the Vedas it is said that a yogi who leaves their body during the time from the Summer Solstice to the Winter Solstice cannot achieve liberation and must take birth again. Conversely, those who leave their body during the time from the Winter Solstice to the Summer Solstice can achieve liberation by going out through the Deva gate. In the Mahabharata there is a well known story that the great warrior Grandfather Bhisma lay for days on a bed of arrows waiting for the Winter Solstice gate to open before he would leave his body. He had been given the power to leave his body at will and so waited for the Northern gate to open and then ascended to the Deva realm.

These then, are the two gates that Janus/Ganesh is looking at and guarding with his two heads. The two heads in their original form of Janus Geminius also conceal a further mystery. That form was a male and female face wearing a single crown. This form of Ganesh is often depicted in the spiritual art of India. The male and female are Shiva and Parvati, who are Father and Mother God as well as Father and Mother Nature. Shiva is also called Mahadeva or the Greatest of the Divines and Yogesvara or the Supreme Yogi. He is the ruler of the Devayana path. Parvati or Durga is the Mother matter and place of birth of all beings. She is Mother Nature and the keeper of the dark material energy, the Womb of Life. Thus she is the ruler of the Pitriyana path, of birth and our ancestral relations. It is those relationships that we celebrate during the festivities of the Winter Solstice/Christmas.

According to the Vedic knowledge, the two Persons of the Divine are an inseparable couple who love each other endlessly and are perpetually embraced. Like the yin/yang symbol of the Taoist philosophy, Shiva and Parvati, the light and dark of this world are elaborately intertwined. In India, their conjoined form is depicted in many ways. In one of these, they share one half of each other’s body. That form, called Ardineshvara shows the upper quarter of Shiva on the left with the upper quarter of Parvati on the right. On the lower quarter, Parvati’s leg is on the left, beneath Shiva’s torso and his leg is the quarter on the right beneath Parvati’s upper body. They are shown as dancing together, becoming each other and yet retaining their distinctive identity and individuality. They have two heads with one crown.

Often this cosmic form is depicted with Ganesh’s face on the front, between the faces of Shiva and Parvati. In that way he represents the transitions or gateways between the various states within matter, light and dark, past and future, birth and death. In other words, he is worshipped first at the beginning of every new thing or phase of being. He is Janus/Ganesh, the Lord of transitions or progress as we move through time which presents itself as a series of portals or new opportunities which requires us to move on and forward from what we were in the past. In our New Year current celebration, we say good-bye to the old man (the same Saturn Janus gave shelter to) of the previous year and usher in the baby of progressive possibility through Ganesh/Janus. That Janus gave shelter to Saturn is due to his being the remover of obstacles and whereas Shani (Saturn) is the placer of them. In fact, both Shani and Ganesh are angels (Devas) according to the philosophy of Hinduism but they have different functions.

At another level, Ganesh is depicted in the Yoga Philosophy as the deity in charge of the first chakra of the seven chakras that are depicted within our body’s energy system. That chakra is called Muladhara and is related to the earth element. The earth element passes in through our mouth while carrying the light or life force (in our Northern gate) and then, after giving us life, passes out through the Southern gate (our anus). This is Ani again or the annual circle of living. The year cycle is replicated in our body as the two gates of our cycle of life. In the cosmic body it is the same. In India it is said that the cosmos is actually a great person or form of God, called the Jagat Purusha or Cosmic Person. We are the microcosm and He/She the Jagat Purusha are the macrocosm. On January 1st, Ganesh/Janus guards the gate or transition from the first chakra where we begin as a baby on the earth, toward our ascent through the six chakras until we ascend to Heaven at Midsummer Night’s Eve, the Summer Solstice. The seventh chakra is the 7th Heaven, where Mahadeva and Mother Parvati live surrounded by all the Devas and holding their favorite child Janus/Ganesha.

There are of course, many more such mysteries and whole volumes in the Vedas, related to Ganesh, Shiva, Parvati and their relation to our lives, the cosmos and beyond. This article has just been one small exploration into the origins of the Hindu/Vedic origins of world culture that have become shrouded in the mists of time. Many of our now unconscious rituals and actions and most of our speech and ideas have their origin in the great cultures that preceded us. Rome was one of those cultures and India which preceded Rome and Greece is a rich storehouse of ancient wisdom that is still relevant today.

Fortunately for us, the culture of India is still intact, so a study of the world in the light of its teachings and history can reveal the roots and depth of meaning behind many of our now forgotten beliefs and customs. May Janus/Ganesh make the way straight before you, remove the obstacles to your progressive unfoldment and open the gate to your Divine aspirations. May you pass safely through the solstice gate and find no obstacles as you cross the threshold of the New Year.

Om Gam Ganapataye Om Namaha.

May Lord Ganesh bless you with success.

– Mr.Jeffrey Armstrong (Kavindra Rishi), Founder of VASA, Canada, USA

Concept of Peace in Hinduism

– Prof. Shashi Tiwari, General Secretary, WAVES-India

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Prof. Tiwari is an eminent Vedic and Sanskrit scholar. Authored 27 books and honored with 15 academic awards including the most prestigious ‘Rastrapati Samman , 2015’. She is Former Professor of Sanskrit, Maitreyi College, University of Delhi

The religion that has come to be known as Hinduism is certainly the oldest and the most varied of all the great religions of the world. Hinduism calls itself the Sanatana Dharma, the eternal faith, because it is based not upon the teachings of a single preceptor, or on any one text but on the collective wisdom and inspiration of great seers and sages from the very dawn of Indian civilization. A variety of beliefs, customs, rites and philosophies have merged here from time to time. According to Hindu thought, Dharma is the first of the four goals because it is the most comprehensive and is valid throughout the life of a human being. It implies not only the religious and philosophical framework but a total world-view, including the scheme of right conduct under various circumstances. Hinduism seeks to look after the welfare of the entire humanity. Peace and non-violence are the virtues broadly accepted in Hinduism in the ancient texts and practice.

In Sanskrit the term shanti is used for peace. The word’s literary meaning is peaceful, non-violent, calm or undisturbed. It denotes abstention from mental and physical violence and disturbances. It is a virtue under which some sentiment is to be removed from the mind instead of generating some sentiment in the mind. It is to bring the refusal of violent feelings from mind and violent activities from the life.

The principles of peace are described variously in Hinduism. The Vedic rishis were spiritualists. They instructed a philosophy of non-difference of self and others. Hindu religion believes in the existence of God (Ishvar) everywhere, as an all-pervasive, self-effulgent energy and consciousness. This basic belief creates the attitude of sublime tolerance and acceptance toward others. All living beings are same and are from the same God so there should be a sense of equality and one should not harm or hurt others. For a peaceful coexistence, the Vedas visualize the key principles of synthesis and balance. The concept of shanti is established on these principles. Peace as a highest human value is interlinked with other values such as with truth, nonviolence, purity, friendliness, forgiveness, tolerance, and. Peaceful attitude is regarded the foundation of all morality.

Shri Krishna became Shantiduta i.e. messenger of peace in Mahabharata to teach the lesson of peace to the enemy, but finally supported Arjun to fight against the wicked enemy. So shanti can exist with the absence of non-violence too. In fact peace is to be performed on three levels – mind, speech, and action (manasa, vaca, karmana). Collective peace or wellbeing does not refer only to humanity, because animals and plants also come under its vision. It goes even further and stresses the well-being of all in the famous Shanti-Mantra of Yajurveda (36.17). Accordingly, shanti is a state of equilibrium which is needed for the proper existence of all and everyone in this universe.

(Presented at the meeting of Heavenly Culture World Peace Restoration of Light (HWPL), Seoul, Korea in association with World Alliance of Religions Peace Dialogue (WARP) at India International Centre, New Delhi, Sep. 1, 2015)