Saturday, November 18, 2017

From Sibi to Siberia!

This article brings to the fore some features outside India associated with the word / name Sibi.  The article can be better understood after reading the previous two,

King Śibi, a descendant of Yayati’s son Anu left an indelible mark in later Indian history – in Buddhism and in the Indus valley that was predominantly occupied by his off-springs. The influence of his authority spread to north of Afghanistan too, by two of his sons, Kaikaya and Madra who occupied the territories in the northern regions that encompass what is today known as BMAC. Though much of it is yet to researched, one can notice an amazing connection to a farther northern region, i.e., Siberia!

The etymology of the name Siberia is still debated, but there is unanimity in the opinion that it was originally connected with a nameSibir’ or ‘Śibir’. There are written records since the 13th century by travellers of Chinese and Arab origin referring to a location called Sibir. This name was ancient but without a convincing etymology. Those who can say something about it – i.e., the indigenous people of Sibir – are very less in number today, as most of them have been eliminated centuries ago. From what little is known, they were pagan worshipers and shamanistsIt is from Sibir, the entire region came to be called as Siberia. Sibir certainly raises our curiosity for its phonetic similarity with Sibi, the king of ancient India, who lived before Rama.

When we start looking for clues for possible links with Indian Sibi, the foremost one is found in its very location.  Sibir is the region located at the confluence of two rivers – a sangama - that is sacred in Vedic culture.  The two rivers are River Irtysh and its tributary Tobol.

In Vedic culture, numbers 3, 5, and 7 are important – like 3 gunas, 5 elements and 7 sages. Sacred rivers are identified by these numbers. They either have 3 sources or flow through 3 worlds. The three worlds are heaven referring to origin in a higher location; say a mountain, earth referring to the flow on the ground and Nether world referring to ocean whose bottom is low. Number 5 and 7 are the number of streams that join the river. Such rivers are sacred in Vedic culture.

 In the above picture one can see River Tobol joined with 5 and 7 tributaries, qualifying her as 5-sistered or 7-sistered  - Sapta Tobol! If some Vedic people were around, they would have chosen this region as a divine one. Sibir is located where Tobol joins River Irtysh. River Irtysh too exhibits unique feature as one flowing through 3 worlds. Starting from Altai Mountain, Irtysh falls into the lower terrain and enters Lake Zaysan. This qualifies it to be a river of three courses. It re-emerges from the lake and flows further North West where it is joined by River Tobol.

There is one more confluence down the course of River Irtysh, where it joins River Ob. But that confluence does not exhibit the kind of features found in the confluence of Irtysh and Tobol. Therefore the choice of the confluence for founding a place by name Sibir (or originally Sibi) shows the hand of the Vedic people in locating the sacredness of a place.  

The names of tributaries of rivers Tobol and Irtysh also sound like Sanskrit words. Rivers Om and Tara are straight away from Sanskrit. Some of the tributaries of Tobol have phonetic similarity with Sanskrit. Toura (Tura?), Pychma (paschima meaning west?), Astana and Kostanay (some sthana) resemble Sanskrit words. The main river Irtysh that comes down from Altai Mountain (right hand corner in the above picture) is known as Kara Irtysh in its upper reaches, where Kara is black in the local language. This is similar to Kala in Sanskrit. After it crosses Lake Zayson it is known as White Irtysh. Such naming is common in Vedic culture.

Supporters of Aryan Invasion / Migration Theory might be tempted to use these hints to justify the origin of Vedic people from these regions. But the basic issue is why the name Sibir came here at the first place. The root of the name Sibi can only be associated with ancient India. His lineage starting from Anu, assigned to occupy the regions in the Northern direction of ancient India, it is only but logical to assume that the descendants of Sibi gradually moved towards further North and one among them found the confluence of Irtysh and Tobol to be a conducive place to lead a Vedic life they were already following.

Within the times of Sibi, two of his sons established kingdoms at Madra (Balkh) and Kekaya (north of it, perhaps north of Oxus River). Further north, Arkaim is found to house a structure with Vedic symbols. Dated variously between 4th and 2nd millennium BCE, this structure was formed in the later period compared to Sibi’s times which can be dated at the 6th millennium BCE, centuries before Rama. Arkaim offers a link of a migratory path from Kekaya to further north – to Sibir.

One can notice the same Sangama concept (Confluence of rivers) in the location of Arkaim. It is located at the confluence of two rivers called Karakanga and Utya-kanga. The name ‘Kanga’ sounds like Ganga! The name Ganga originated in India only. Only from India this name could have travelled to other places. It is because Ganga was one of the two daughters of Himavan, the other being Uma. (Valmiki Ramayana 1-35). The Himalayan connection is there for Ganga right from her origination.

Ganga’s earlier name was Jahnavi, after she passed through Sage Jahnu’s hermitage. This name is found as Jahnaavi in Rig Veda. (Sage Jahnu was not a migrant-Aryan, as he was the ancestor of Visvamitra). After she (Ganga) inundated the ashes of the sons of Sagara, she was given the name Bhagirathi, after Bhagiratha (Valmiki Ramayana 1-44). But the name even before she came down from the Himalayas was Ganga.  Looking at the etymology, the root word is ‘gam’ for going. She who keeps going or moving is Ganga! She kept moving around the coils of Siva’s hair – a reference to the coil-like passage through which she descends from the mountain. After reaching plains she kept moving behind Bhagiratha. And she keeps moving relentlessly in her course through the three worlds! So she is Ganga.

Such a name in Arkaim – though sounds corrupted now as Kanga could have been coined by someone connected with ancient India! But scholars who have their mind steeped into Aryan Invasion Theory keep talking about Arkaim as a place of Indo Aryan origins from where they spread to India. If true, why didn’t the invading or migrant Aryans start calling the rivers they crossed first, Sindhu and Sarasvati as Ganga, in memory of the two Kangas at Arkaim? But by the time the Aryans were supposed to have entered, Ganga was very old. The sedimentary analysis of Ganga would reveal how old she was, but she was older than Sibi’s times.

The memory of Ganga from East and that of Sibi from the west of India had been carried by the later generations of Sibi who gradually moved towards Northern parts of Europe. Arkaim and Sibir are reminders of such a movement.

PS: Musings on Sibi not yet over! There is one more article on Sibi, tracing a migration from Altai Mountain to South East Asia. Will follow next. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

What is common between Ukrainians and Cholas of South India?

This article can be best understood after reading the previous one here: Swat in Afghanisthan - the region of Rama's ancestors

Two salient features of that article relevant for the current one are

(1) King Sibi, the ancestor of Emperor Rama of Ayodhya was associated with the region of the upper reaches of River Swat in Pakistan. That region was home to wise people of those times who were engaged in Vedic rites.

(2) Among the descendants of King Sibi, the lesser known or unknown branch is that of Cholas. Taking up the name of Sibi as Sembiyan for his lineage, the first Chola who happened to be one of the sons of King Bharata (son of Dushyanta) established a dynasty after his name as Chola that came to be regarded as one of the three powerful dynasties of ancient Tamil lands.

The current article discusses a feature associated with Cholas that might help in solving the conundrum of migration or invasion from central Asia to India or vice versa.

That feature is very simple but not deciphered till now – it is the etymology of the word ‘Chola’.
‘Chola’- is not the way it is pronounced in Tamil. It comes with unique ‘zha’ of Tamil language, the retroflex phoneme. It is Choɻa. Yet another unique feature of this word is that there is no meaning attached to this word in any dictionary of Tamil. Chola refers to the king Chola, or of Chola dynasty. There is no etymology for Chola in Tamil.

Tracing the meaning of Chola.

There are two types of names as per Tamil grammar, Idukuri peyar and Kaarana peyar. The first one refers to the name that is in existence from antiquity without any particular reason behind it. The second one refers to the name that was formed with some reasoning or in other words a name that can be explained. At the outset one is tempted to identify the name ‘Chola’ as the former one (Idukuri peyar). But knowing the background of the first Chola coming from the house of Emperor Bharata, we have an option of looking at the roots of this name from Sanskrit. And it turns out this name Chola is a Kaarana peyar - having a meaning.

Outwardly the word Chola does not seem to have a meaning in Sanskrit, but the variations of this word like Choda, Chaula etc., do convey a meaning having relevance to Cholavarman.
Taking up the word Choda, its root word in Sanskrit is ‘chud’ which means ‘impel’. It makes sense when we look at the background of Cholavarman. Cholavarman was the son of Bharata according to the genealogy of Cholas found in Tiruvalangadu copper plates. But according to Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata Purana and Mahabharata it was Bhumanya who inherited the throne from Bharata, by-passing nine other sons.

Bharata originally had 9 sons from three wives, but the texts say that none of them bore resemblance to Bharata. This made their mothers worried that the king would suspect their fidelity and therefore they killed their own sons! This sounds appalling on first reading, but on further thinking this looks absurd and impossible too. For, a similar situation existed in the life of Bharata, as his birth and existence were not at all known to his father Dushyanta. However Dushyanta accepted Bharata as his son. If Bharata himself had such an odd background in which his father accepted his mother’s word about his birth, it is strange that he faced similar circumstances not once but 9 times with reference to all the 9 sons. Stranger still is to believe that the mothers themselves killed their sons. Strangest of all is the fact that our country was named after this king as Bharat!*

So there is something in this story that we are missing out. What is implied could be that none of the 9 sons were equal to or surpassing their father Bharata. More than Bharata himself, this had troubled his wives (the mothers) who could have censured their sons. Not finding any of them worthy to succeed him to the throne, Bharata did a yajna and got a worthy son (Bhumanya).

What happened to those 9 sons? As per Cholan genealogy, one of them came all the way to the southernmost part of the country and established a kingdom of his own. The driving factor was ‘Chud’ – he was ‘impelled’ to prove himself that he was a worthy son of Bharata.

The same word when written as Chuda (चूडा) – it means the crest, the top or the crown of the head or of the lineage. Chuda also means tuft of hair! Another variation, Chaula also refers to tuft of hair. The Chaula ceremony is an important ritual in Vedic culture which is about the first tonsuring ceremony of the boy child when a tuft of hair is left untouched in the head.

One can find a surprising connection between Cholas and the tuft, in the form of an adage in Tamil. It is a popular adage that says “Choliyan kudumi chumma aadaathu” – meaning the ‘Chola (Choliya) does not shake his tuft for no reason”! Thurston and Rangachari in their book on castes and tribes of India had recorded that this adage refers to vindictive nature of Choliya Brahmins. But it is understood among Tamil speakers as referring to motive-based behaviour of Choliya Brahmins. 

Thurston also says that Chanakya of Arthashastra fame was a Choliya Brahmin for he sported a top-knot. But there is no proof to connect him with Chola lands. Probably his front knot gave him that identity. Even today the Brahmins of Tamilnadu sporting a tuft at the top of the head are identified as Choliya Brahmins - the Brahmins belonging to Chola lands. The bottom-line is that Chola is associated with tuft on the head.

Generally the tuft is kept at the back of the head. But Choliya Brahmins have it on top of the head. A popular depiction of a Brahmin of Chola land was that of Azhwarkkadiyaan, a character in the novel “Ponniyin Selvan”, shown with a ‘mun kudumi’ – a front- tuft! This depiction was in tune with the perception of a characteristic feature of Chola Brahmins.

Sporting a tuft is not confined to specific people such as Brahmins. Until a century ago everyone irrespective of the Varna had a tuft and so it can be assumed that the Cholan kings also kept a tuft on their head.

Painting by Ravi Varma of a road-side singer with her kids. The boy in the picture can be seen with a tuft.

The speciality about the Chola tuft is that it was kept at the crest of the head. The tuft at the top of the head seems to convey a message that Cholavarman stood as a jewel on top of the head (Chuda). The top-knot became a symbolism or a reminder of his position – who was once disregarded by his father, Bharata.

Choosing Sibi over Bharata!

It is only from the inscription we come to know that Chola was the son of Bharata. Nowhere in the history of Cholas do we come across any reference to Bharata. This is perhaps due to the unpleasant circumstances that impelled Chola to leave his parents. But the Cholas had always identified themselves as descendants of Sibi, as Sembiyans. The pigeon and hawk story of Sibi is recalled very often in Sangam Tamil poems whenever the Cholan kings are praised for their compassion for all beings. Compassion is what Cholavarman didn’t experience from his parents. It was lack of compassion that drove him out of his house. This obsession with compassion perhaps made the Cholas cling to King Sibi, known for his exemplary compassion, in the genealogical tree.

 Sibi appears in the sibling branch of Yayati’s sons. Yayati had five sons, two from Devayani of Brahmin ancestry and three from Sharmishta of Danava ancestry. Bharata, son of Dushyanta came in the lineage (direct descendants / first son) of Puru, of maternal Danava ancestry. Puru inherited the throne from Yayati. (Mahabharata 1-95)

Sibi appears in the lineage of Anu, another of Yayati’s son, once again from Danava ancestry on the mother’s side. (Vishnu Purana 4-18).  Sibi’s mother also happens to be the daughter of Yayati (the conflict of relationship may be discussed later). From this it is seen that Cholas had taken up their early ancestors from within the family of early siblings with reputed names, namely Puru and Anu. They had taken up Rama’s early ancestors also. All these patrilineal branches have sprung from a single remotest ancestor, that is, Vaivasvata Manu.

Another feature to be mentioned here is that it was Solar dynasty from Manu onwards, but Sibi and Bharata belonged to the Lunar dynasty.  The Chola who claimed himself as the son of Bharata identified himself with Solar dynasty. In modern scientific terms, there is only one branch of science that could shed light on these shifting dynasties accompanied with discrepancies in lineages. And that science is Genetics! The Cholan genealogy found in the inscriptions offers a valuable clue on how the founder Haplogroup gives rise to diversities at different time periods. Before making my musings on that let me find out the route taken by the first Chola to Tamil lands.


Looking from migratory angle, the first Chola was a migrant from North India whose ancestor Sibi was in Swat region in NE India of those times – but in present day Pakistan!

Today a place or region called Sibi exists in Pakistan but not near the origins of Swat River.

This Sibi is also connected with King Sibi as many dynasties sprang from him in later days, taking up his name. During Mahabharata times there were 20 kingdoms in the region of Indus and its tributaries of which that of Jayadratha was powerful. Jayadratha was the son-in law of the Kurus by marriage with the sister of Duryodhana. The entire region of 20 kingdoms was where the Indus Valley civilization (IVC) flourished.

Today one of the important IVC sites is located in a region called “Cholistan” – a name resembling Chola! It is situated to the east of the present day Sibi and to the south of the region where Bharata was supposed to have ruled.

The IVC location is in the dried bed of Sarasvatī in the Cholistan desert. A figurine with what appears to be a front knot of hair is found in Harappa, north of Cholistan. (Pic below). This gives rise to a view that persons with top-knot were present in this part of IVC. If it is assumed that Chuda or Choda or Chola was a special name for a people with top-knot, this figurine can be deemed as a proof of his kin living in this part of India – a case of same genetic pool in two places far away from each other - one in South Tamilnadu and another in the Indus region!

But the time period of Cholavarman was much before the date of IVC. This is ascertained from the information in the inscriptions of Tiruvalangadu copper plates on the birth of River Cauvery. This river was not in existence when Cholavarman founded his empire. It was brought later by his descendant Chitradhanvan, inspired by the Bhadiratha’s feat of bringing down River Ganga.

Cauvery River was in existence for a very long period and existed before the IVC period. The sediment analysis on the bed of River Cauvery is needed to be done to know the time period of its birth which could offer a reference-point for determining the date of Bharata and Cholavarman.
Yet another figure with the top-knot is what is called as “Vasishtha's head”, dated around 3700 BCE!

The original location where this artefact was picked up is not known, but it was got from an Indian source and is presently housed at San Francisco. The hair style looks like a gathering of the hair on top and locking it into a knot. One can see the sides of the head shaved. This gives an appearance of a tuft on top of the head. The figure is certainly not of an ascetic like Vasishtha, but of a Kshatriya. The top-knot is a special identity.

Movement outside India.

There are quite a few references in the Puranas and the Mahabharata on the movement of Yayati’s clan to North and West of India. According to Vishnu Purana (4-10), before retiring to the woods King Yayati divided his land into central, southeast, south, west and north and handed them over to his five sons. Of them Druhyu of Danava- maternal descent went to the west and Anu of the same Danava – maternal descent went to north. Sibi was a descendant of Anu’s lineage.

Vishnu Purana (4-18) says that Sibi had 4 sons, VrishadarbhaSuviraKaikeya, and Madra. Of them the names Kaikeya and Madra are self-revealing. Kaikeya must have founded Kekaya country that was further north of Balkh while Madra could be identified with Balkh region – the regions that AIT promoters identify with invading or migrating Aryans. The fact of the matter is that these territories were first occupied and developed by the sons of King Sibi, belonging to the indigenous Indian breed!

Now the question arises what happened to those who moved to Balkh and Kekaya? Was there any further movement towards north, that is, to central and north Europe? The tradition of keeping top-knot answers this question.

Top-knot as a mark of identity.

If top-knot is an identity of the Cholas, the same is the identity of the Ukrainians! The traditional hair-cut of Ukrainians (known as Cossacks) was to leave out a tuft of hair on top of the head and have the rest of the head shaved. The tuft was treated as a mark of noble dynasty and self-identity. The amazing similarity with the Indian version is that the Ukrainian word for this top-knot is Chub – closely resembling the Sanskrit root ‘Chud’ for Choda or Chuda which means tuft or crest of the head. In the Ukrainian language also, the same meaning exists for Chub - as ‘crest’!

Ukrainian man with Chub (tuft).

The top-knot is also known as khokhol, but used as derogatory word by those ill-disposed towards Ukrainians who kept top-knot. Those having the khokhol are referred to as khokhly. This name seems to resemble kukkuta, a Sanskrit word for hen or rooster. Kukkuta bird has a crest similar to chub, the tuft on top of the head. In fact the crest of the hen or cock is known as Chuda in Sanskrit. Any crest is a Chuda. Perhaps seeing the similarity with hen’s crest, people had ridiculed them, by referring to the ‘chuda’ of the hen. This kind of references are possible only if the early Ukrainians had used the Sanskrit word (Chuda) or its corrupt form (Chub) for the tuft.

(This picture is for explanatory purpose. There is no slur intended)

Another striking similarity is with the Tamil word for hen. Hen is known as ‘Koɻi’ in Tamil. Khokhol resembles Koɻi or its corrupt form Koli.

The importance attached to this Chub (tuft) is such that many Ukrainian surnames are derived from this word. The origins of this tradition among Ukranians are not known, nor do they know the concept behind this tradition. At the most they remember it as a mark of identity – much like the Cholia Brahmins, who are identified by their top-knot.  

The concept behind the tuft is well marked in the Vedic culture. In the Vedic tradition, any boy on reaching the 3rd year must undergo the ‘Chaula’ ritual in which the first shaving of the head is done keeping a small lock of hair untouched. And the tuft will remain throughout one’s life. There are many meanings attached to it. One among them is associated with the offer of oblations to departed ancestors – which is done by the water dripping down from the tuft after a bath. At the most sublime level, it stands for the qualities needed to know the Supreme Brahman.

The location of the tuft in the head and the strands had varied between sects, but they are based on some ideology. For the Chola, its location on the crest comes with a symbolism as explained in the beginning of this article. The Ukrainian tuft also seems to imply a symbolism. However, the continuing presence of rituals and the meanings attached to the tuft in the Vedic culture seem to be a precursor to and also antiquated than the Ukrainian tradition.

A likely cause for the presence of this tradition with a similar root-name at two places, one in India / South India and another in Ukraine could have happened with the movement of people of the same stock between these two places. The missing link is provided by Sibi’s descendants who moved further north of India into Central and north Europe.  

From Sibi’s region to Ukraine.

The name Ukrajina for Ukraine sounds like ugra-jina  -both Sanskrit words, where Jina refers to the old or wise that is usually associated with Jaina or Buddha. Sibi was an exalted person – though associated with Buddha later. His region had the mountain called Bodhibhavana – the likely name for Hindukush Mountain. His descendants on their northward migration might have taken up that name and image while being fierce or even noble (ugra has several meanings including these two) in their incursions to newer locations.

 What genetic studies say...

So far we have discussed two issues:

(1) The similarity in top-knot among Ukrainians and Chola or South Indian sects with some presence in the Indus region as well.

(2) The diversification of a people in India from parental clans into sub-sub clans over a long period of time. This can be articulated as follows:

Cholavarman known for a specific identity of sporting a top-knot had his immediate ancestry somewhere in the northern region of Indus-Sarasvatī regions, which can be dated based on a research on the time of origin of River Cauvery in South India. Let us name this ancestry as (a)

There is a possibility of a sub-clan of him (Chola) settled down in the Indus- Sarasvatī region during the Harappan phase. This is (b)

A branch of his (Chola) ancestral sub-clan had existed near Swat valley and further moved to Balkh (Bactria) and Kekaya (BMAC). From there it had spread out to the north – to Central and North Europe. This is (c)

Yet all of them had their paternal origins in Manu that had its presence in North East India in Ayodhya! This is (d)

The relationship between all these (a,b,c,d) can be expressed in the language of genetics. All these pertain to Y-chromosome. All these can be arranged in time scale as follows:

(d) is the founder parent Haplogroup {Manu}

(a) is the first division from (d) from which (a1) deviated  {Chola moved out}.

(c) is a division from (d) that appeared after (a) but before (a1). (c) moved out of India in the northern direction possibly creating further diversifications. {Sibi’s descendants}

(b) could be a sub clan of (d) and / or (a1) with further diversifications. {The location is in  IVC}.

Looking for the available genetic studies, Y-Haplogroup R1a1 is found to be present in India (including Pakistan and Afghanistan) particularly in the Indo-Gangetic plain and in Eastern Europe around Poland and Ukraine! Interestingly it is present in high frequencies among Iyengar Brahmins of (31%) of South India (Sengupta et al 2006). It is present high among Ukrainians (44%) from a total of 6 haplogroups detected there (Kahrkov V N et al 2004). In another research its frequency (R1a1) was found to be 50% among the Ukrainians (Battaglia et al 2009)

A clinching revelation of the ancestral location of this Haplogroup comes from the research of Sharma et al (2009). It says,

“...observation of R1a1* in different tribal population groups, existence of Y-haplogroup R1a* in ancestors and extended phylogenetic analyses of the pooled dataset of 530 Indians, 224 Pakistanis and 276 Central Asians and Eurasians bearing the R1a1* haplogroup supported the autochthonous origin of R1a1 lineage in India and a tribal link to Indian Brahmins.”

The ancestral haplogroups are R, R1 and R1a are scanty, meaning they are mostly gone.
What this means to the dispersal of people like Chola and Sibi that we discussed in the beginning?

Y-Haplogroup R1a1 are sub-sub clans of Manu?

The founder person of Indian masses was Manu whose presence started at the beginning of Holocene. He entered River Sarasvati through a flood in the ocean. This is possible only through Arabian Sea. This at one stroke makes the AIT irrelevant as the Vedic rishis did not come through mountain passes but through waters – Varuna-Mitra and aided by Indra (rains). This puts Manu’s previous abode in the west coast of India or south of it. In other words the pre-Holocene presence of this Haplogroup was very much in South India.

  • The false idea spread by AIT theorists is that the invading Aryans became the Brahmins who dominated others by segregating them into castes lower to them in status. The above genetic study demolishes this theory. The finding that Brahmins were indigenous to India and they were founders of other castes is in tandem with how varnas were recognised and castes developed.

  • The differences in the attitudes and attributes of people were recognised and segregated as varnas. These differences exist in nature and by nature. Even among the own sons of Manu, few were ascetically inclined (Brahmins), one was a Vaisya and others were Kshatriyas. That is, those with the same Haplogroup from the same gene pool can be anyone among Brahmins, Vaisyas and Kshatriyas. If one understands this, there won’t be any difficulty in understanding the genetic finding on Brahmins having links with the other castes (identified by occupation and / or mix-up of varnas).

  • At times the Brahmins (and other varnas too) become a separate caste owing to a reason of going away from the traditional vocation or on becoming a vratya (व्रात्य). A Tamil Sangam poem says that a Brahmin not engaged in doing Yajna, takes up the job of shell-cutting. Castes were identified based on the profession. The Shell-cutting Brahmin would no longer be recognised as a Brahmin but by a caste name. Genetically both the Brahmin ancestor and shell-cutting descendant would be seen coming from a same gene pool.

  • In Mahabharata (3-82), sage Pulastya identifies a place in Kashmir somewhere to the east of Vitasta (Jhelum River) where Brahmins originated for the first time. This place is the sacred lake called Devika, where Lord Maheswara is worshiped. What this could mean is that the stratification and sanctification of varnas was done at this place of Maheswara by the sages of Manu’s times.

  • The founder groups namely R, R1 and R1a were in India only but mostly extinct. This could refer Manu and the early people. There is a wide geographical gap between the later formed R1a1, in Eastern Europe and India. This is reflective of the location of the people (Cholas, Ukrainians etc) identified with a common cultural trait as explained above.  The best brief of this can be read here. Salient features from this is reproduced below:

‘Most published discussions of R1a origins are actually about the origins of the R1a1a (R-M17 or R-M198) sub-clade, which is both numerically dominant, and the most studied part of R1a. Data so far collected indicates that there two widely separated areas of high frequency, one in South Asia, around Indo-Gangetic Plain, and the other in Eastern Europe, around Poland and Ukraine. The historical and prehistoric possible reasons for this are the subject of on-going discussion and attention amongst population geneticists and genetic genealogists, and are considered to be of potential interest to linguists and archaeologists also’.

The sad part of the last sentence of the above quote is that they have failed to recognise the history of India known from the internal sources right from southern tip of India to northern Devika Lake or from an age old tradition of the much ignored tuft at the crest of the head!  


Sengupta et al (2006)

Not to be missed:

*  Bharata: In the narration of Bharata getting accepted by Dushyanta as his son, on the word of Shakuntala, a verse explanatory of his name runs as follows: "The mother is only the receptacle; it is the father by whom a son is begotten. Cherish thy son, Dushyanta; treat not Sakuntala with disrespect. Sons, who are born from the paternal loins, rescue their progenitors from the infernal regions. Thou art the parent of this boy; Sakuntala has spoken truth." From the expression cherish, Bharaswa, the prince was called Bharata (Vishnu Purana 4-19)

On the one side Shakunthala had spoken the truth, on the other Dushyanta accepted it and decided to ‘cherish’ the child. Bharas (भरस्) is the root word meaning ‘cherished’. Therefore the child came to be known as Bharata.

Like how Dushyanta cherished this son, our country is cherished by the Vedic culture. Like father by whom the son is begotten, the Vedic culture has begotten us and is cherishing us.

Therefore this country is known as Bharata.

For Vedic culture to cherish us there is one requirement fulfilled by us -we have to be truthful – to ourselves, to this land and to the cherisher, the Vedic culture!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Swat in Afghanistan – the region of Rama’s ancestors!

It is everybody’s knowledge that Rama belonged to the Ikshvaku race who ruled from Ayodhya located in north east India. But a reading of Valmiki Ramayana reveals that someone identified as Rama’s ancestors once lived in North West India, long before Rama’s times in a region that bears close resemblance to Swat region of Afghanistan. Fortunately, no proponent of Aryan Invasion Theory cares to read Ramayana of Valmiki or else they would have interpreted this as a proof of incoming Aryans who later spread to East India to found a kingdom at Ayodhya!

The reference to this place and its association with the ancestors of Rama is found in the context of the route taken by the messengers of Ayodhya to Kekaya to bring back Bharata upon the death of Dasaratha (Valmiki Ramayana 2-68). Ramayana mentions the places and rivers crossed by them en route along with the importance wherever applicable. The names are as they existed during Rama’s times and are not the same today. There are exceptions like the name Hastinapura which helps us in digging out unknown information, thereby giving us better understanding of the past history related to them.

For example when we read in Valmiki Ramayana that the messengers crossed the Ganga River at Hastinapura, we understand that Hastinapura was established before Rama’s times. But the general perception is to link Hastinapura with Mahabharata. Looking for cross references, we come across the genealogy of Puru’s dynasty in which Hasti is mentioned as having established Hastinapura (Mahabharata 1-95). Hasti was the great grandson of Bharata, son of Dushyanta. Hasti’s father, Suhotra was the grandson of Bharata while his mother Suvarna came from the house of Ikshvakus! So Hasti had matrilineal connection with Ikshvakus of Ayodhya who could have had a say in the way Hasti planned his endeavours, one of them being the establishment of the city of Hastinapura. The specific reference to Hastinapura in the route could well be due to this familiarity and connection with Ikshvakus.

This place is found today on the old bed of Ganges. Hasti built it in on the banks of Ganges and during Rama’s times it was on the banks of Ganges. Today the Ganges has shifted course and Hastinapura can be seen on two sides of the old route of Ganges.

The archaeological works done in this place so far (by B.B. Lal) had different aims, but not much was done to ascertain the antiquity of the dried bed of Ganges that runs for considerable distance.  Such works could help in establishing the time period of Hasti and Bharata or Dushyanta. Today there is more talk on Jain connection to this place, but its original and early history is only of Vedic culture having connection with both Bharata’s and Ikshvaku’s dynasties.

The route taken by the messengers further on also is familiar to us. After crossing Hastinapura, they crossed Kuru Jangala and Panchala kingdom, observing the rivers and lakes. That means, they had crossed the five rivers of the Indus and proceeded further west. Then they crossed Sharadanda (शरदण्डा) river after which they crossed a region of a sacred tree Satyopayaachana (सत्योपयाचन), that fulfilled people’s prayers. Here it is mentioned that they performed circumambulation of the tree. This is proof of the antiquity of the practice circumambulation of sacred places (of Pradakshina) going back to times before Ramayana.

Ikshumati River.

 After Satyopayaachana, the messengers reached a city called Kulinga. From there they reached a village called Abhikaalam (अभिकालम्). There they crossed a sacred river called Ikshumati. This river was flowing down from a mountain called “Bodibhavana” (बोधिभवना). This place was associated with the father and grandfather – of who? Obviously of the Ikshvakus!

The word used is “pitR^ipaitaamahiim” (पितृपैतामहीम्). The father mentioned here could not be Dasaratha (Rama’s father), and it could not refer to the father of Dasaratha as well because in the Ikshvaku dynasty the eldest sons ruled from Ayodhya. This is reiterated at quite a few places in Ramayana itself. Therefore the reference to pitR^ipaitaamahiim is not about the direct ancestral lineage of Rama (or Dasaratha) but of others coming in the lineage of siblings or step brothers sometime before Dasaratha.

To get inkling on whom they could be, we have to first identify this region where Ikshumati flows down from the mountain of Bodhibhavana. Valmiki Ramayana records Ikshumati in another context also. After Sita’s marriage with Rama was finalised, Janaka, (Sita’s father) sent messengers to his younger brother Kushadhvaja to inform him of the marriage. This brother was the king of a city called Saankaasya that was surrounded by Ikshumati River like a moat (Valmiki Ramayana 1.70.2 &3). If it is assumed that the text on ancestors (pitR^ipaitaamahiim) referred to the Sita’s ancestors, (father’s brother is almost like father), it is refuted that there is no mention of his city, Saankaasya in that context. And also there is no mention of conveying the sad demise of Dasaratha to him, as naturally expected if they were to cross his country.

To resolve this, one can point out a difference in the description in the two contexts.  Kushadvaja’s kingdom was like an island surrounded by the waters of Ikshumati whereas the region of ‘pitR^ipaitaamahiim’ was close to the location where the river flows down from the mountain (Bodhibhavana). Island formations in a river happen downstream when the river meanders its way through land-obstructions. In view of this we can assume that the location in the course of Ikshumati near where it descends was the not the place of Kushadvaja.

(The kingdom of Kushdvaja in such a faraway place from Mithila ruled by his eldest brother Janaka, can be cited as a proof of spread of Vedic people from Indian mainland to west and not vice versa. Usually the eldest in the dynasty bequeathed the throne. His younger siblings had to look for newer places to enjoy exclusive rights and freedom as a monarch. In most cases they had started their own dynasty in the new places).

We can safely assume that the reference is indeed to someone in the lineage of Rama coming in sibling-branches. And they must have made a mark for themselves in some remarkable way that it got mentioned by Valmiki.

Kekaya, part of Vedic Bharat

Let us look at the adjacent regions to identify this place. After crossing this place, the next location was Bahlika (बाह्लीका) kingdom that is known as Balkh region in Afghanistan. Also known as Bactria, this region is now in the focus of adherents of Aryan Invasion Theory who are pushing forth an idea that this was the previous stop for the Aryans before they entered India! But Ramayana reveals that one has go beyond this region to reach Kekaya kingdom, the paternal home of Kaikeyi! And Kekaya was not outside the map of Vedic people as we hear about six sages in Chandogya Upanishad going over to Kekaya to meet its ruler Asvapati to learn from him the concept of Vaisvanara Brahman. Incidentally Asvapati is the name of Bharata’s grandfather (Kaikeyi’s father) in Valmiki Ramayana. It is possible to assume that both are the same. This puts the period of the six sages (one among them was the well known Uddalaka Aruni) and Ramayana on the same time scale.

No wonder this place has remnants of Vedic culture but to attribute it to someone coming from the steppes is without basis whereas Ramayana and Chandogya Upanishad stand as evidence of spread of Vedic culture from within India to this place. Vedic culture had existed up to Kekaya and not beyond as AIT proponents themselves could not show any proof of it beyond this region.

With the information above we can zero in on the location of Rama’s ancestors as falling in between River Sindhu and its tributaries in the east and Balkh (Bactria) in the west. A major river in this region is River Swat! There are similarities in the names of places with Ramayana description.

According to Ramayana, after Kulinga one reaches a village called ‘Abhikaalam’ (अभिकालम्) where one crosses River Ikshumati. Checking this with Swat River, there is a place called Kalam (pronunciation not known) where one crosses Swat River. Ramayana says that Ikshumati flows down the mountain called Bodhibhavana and passes through a village, Abhikaalam. But Abhikaalam is not in plains as the messengers passed through a place called “Vishnu Padam” (विष्णोः पदम्) after Abhikaalam. Generally the place where a river touches down the plain is known as Vishnu padam (Vishnu’s feet). So Abhikaalam must be in a higher region. The location of Kalam is also in higher region, in the upper reaches of Swat valley. With Islamic invasion, most names have been changed. Somehow the mountain valley name retains the Sanskrit name as ‘Mahodanda’

Original name of Hindu Kush.

Swat River emerges from the Hindu Kush Mountains and passes through Mahodanda valley. Ramayana has named Bodhibhavana as the mountain from which Ikshumati flows down. Whether this was the old and original name of Hindu Kush needs to be probed with local legends and ancient chronicles of this region. However the presence of Buddhism in this region in later days is reminiscent of the presence of a knowledgeable and yogic community in this region since Ramayana times or even before.

The name Mahodanda (valley) resonates with the name of a river that the messengers crossed before reaching this place. It was River ‘Sharadanada’ (शरदण्डा). Sharadanda refers to stalk of a plant that grows in water. Mahodanda refers to tall or big, stick like trees. The region of Mahodanda valley is covered with dense forest of pine trees which fulfils this description.

Pine trees on the banks of Mahodanda lake.

With the valley’s name still being Mahodanda, it is possible that the original name of the mountain even during Ramayana times was Mahodanda. But it acquired the name Bodhibhavana, due to presence of learned people. Ramayana does mention about Brahmins well versed in Vedas living there. Such a place noted for Vedic rituals and learned ones patronised by ancestors of Rama is yet another proof of a migration from North east India to this region and not from outside of India to this place.

The King of Swat region

A famous Vedic king was associated with Swat region. He was none other than King Sibi (Sivi) who offered his flesh to a hawk to save a pigeon. In his book, ‘Ancient Geography of India’, Cunningham quotes Hwen Thsang that “the legend of ‘the hawk and the pigeon’ in which Buddha, to save a pigeon tears his own flesh and offers to hawk” occurred in the region of Swat. He also quotes Fa-Hian as saying “that Buddha was then a king named Shi-pi-ka or Sivika”. The name, Bodhibhavana during Ramayana times reinforces the presence of ascetics and others immersed in Knowledge and salvation in this region of Swat.

Sibi was originally a king of Vedic culture, born to Madhavi, the daughter of King Yayati. His father was Usinara. In an amazing correlation, Swat River that starts at Kalam is joined by two rivers one of them known by name ‘Ushu’! The phonetic similarity with Usinara cannot be ignored.

Mahabharata recounts this legend of King Sibi at many places (MB:3:196, 3;207, 13:32, 13:67 &14:90). At one place he is said to be the king of Kasi (Mahabharata 13-32). But as with siblings and cousins, Sibi must have sought a place for himself away from ancestral roots and had chosen the region at the commencement of Swat, then known as Ikshumati! His descendants occupied the entire region of River Sindhu in due course taking up various names as Sivi, Saibya, Sauvira and so on. The lesser known name is ‘Sembiya’ which the Cholas of Tamil lands held for themselves. It is from the genealogy of Cholas, we come to know that Sibi was an ancestor of Rama!

Sibi as ancestor of Rama and Cholas.

The genealogy of Cholas is found in the copper plates of Thiruvalangadu. It traces the origin of Cholas from the Solar dynasty of the Ikshvakus and continued with the same names of Rama’s genealogy till Mandhata. After Mandhata a divergence comes. In Rama’s genealogy, Susandhi takes over the reign from him. (Valmiki Ramayana 1.70.26). In Chola’s genealogy, Muchukunda’s name appears after Mandhata and continues with Vallabha, Prithulaksha and others till Bharata. Cholavarma, one of the sons of Bharata founded the Chola race in the Chola country.

Only the eldest son came to the Ikshvaku throne. This explains why the genealogy diverged after Mandhata. Sibi came in the lineage of Muchukunda, the sibling to the king of Ayodhya.

The Cholas were proud of their lineage from Sibi and called themselves as ‘Sembiyan’ – a derivative from Sibi. This was mentioned at several places in Sangam literature and to name a few in Puram 37 and 39. The information not known to outside world is that Rama also was considered as an ancestor of the Cholas.

Though there is no direct mention of the name as Rama (so also with Sibi, as that name was never mentioned in the verses but only through an allusion to the legend of hawk and the pigeon), the reference to him is found mentioned along with Sibi. Rama’s name was indicated by the reference to the destruction of Ravana’s city, signified as “thoongeyil” - the fortress that was hanging from the sky - a reference to its location on a mountain touching the clouds. It appeared as though Ravana’s city was hanging down from the clouds. Allusion to Rama as the destroyer of “thoongeyil” is mentioned in Purananuru -39, Siripaanaattru-padai – 79-82, Pazhamozhi- 49, Silappadhikaram – 29- 16 -4/5, Manimegalai- 1-4, Kalingatthu-p-paraNi – Raja- 17, Raja raja Chozhan vula – 13, Vikrama Chozhan vula 8-9.

With the Tamil chronicles establishing Rama along with Sibi in the same lineage, the verse in Ramayana on ancestors of Rama in the city watered by river Ikshumati could only be an allusion to Sibi.  

Was Swat, the Vedic River Suvāstu?

It was from Cunningham’s records, we come to know that Swat was earlier known as ‘Su-po-fa-su-tu. The phonetic similarity with Suvastu makes people think that Swat was the river mentioned in Rig Veda as Suvāstu (RV 8-19-37). This name appears only once in the entire corpus of Rig Veda and in the hymn on Agni. It is Su-vaastu meaning a good place for dwelling. This meaning suits well with Swat having excellent environs. But this name does not appear in Valmiki Ramayana.

So we expand our search and look for the name in “Kurma Chakra”, the division of lands of ancient Bharat (Vedic India) in Brihat Samhita authored by Varahamihira. The countries of Northern division of Bharat have some surprises for us. This northern division of Bharat contains

Kekaya, Vasati, Yamuna, Bhogaprastha, Arjunaayana, Agnidhara, Adarsh, AntadvIpi, Trigarta,  Turagaanana, Shvamukha, Keshadhara, Cipita, Nasika, Daaseraka, Vaatadhana, Sharadhana,  Taxila, Pushkalavata, Kailaavata, Kantahdhana, Ambaraavata, Madraka, Malava,  Paurava, Kachhaara, Dandapingalaka, Maanahala, Hunas, Kohala, ShItaka, Mandavya and Bhutapura.

These names were as they were in use 2000 years ago. The names highlighted in red are recognisable and are mostly found in Afghanistan and North West Pakistan. Kekaya, the maternal home of Kaikeyi tops the list given by Varahamihira. It is followed by Vasati – a name very close to Suvastu in meaning. Both refer to good dwelling conditions. Agnidhara reminds one of the Rig Vedic hymn in praise of Agni which ends up with a reference to Suvastu.  Sharadhana seems to be a corrupt form of Sharadanda, a river the messengers had crossed. Arjunaayana fits well with the description of Mahabharata on Arjuna’s military expedition to the northern territories before Rajasuya yajna.

Cipita could actually be a corrupt form of Sibi or Sivi, for both Mahabharata (6-9) and Vishnu Purana (2-3) record a sequence of rivers starting with Siva (corrupt form of Sivi) followed by Viravati, Vastu and Suvastu.

Viramatsya was a region that Bharat crossed on his return journey. (He took a different route). All these seem to convey that rivers by name Sivi, Vasati and Suvastu existed in the region North West of India- in today’s Pakistan.

A concurrence for this hypothesis comes from the names Taxila and Pushkalavata. These cities were established by Bharata for his sons, after Rama ascended the throne. These places are in between Bahlika and Panchala. The identification of these locations and the potential in them for habitation could have been noticed by Bharata only during his trips to Kekaya, his maternal home land. This is once again a proof of expansion of cities and Vedic culture from Indian mainland to outside and in this context by the one who was from a long established lineage of north east India.

Swat being occupied by the ancestors of Rama (Sibi and his progeny), it is logical to expect Bharata to have made visits to that place in his numerous trips to maternal grandfather’s house or his own sons’ cities. It seems even Rama had visited that region once during his regime. There is a place called “Ram Takht” in the Swat region which is situated on top of Mount Elum at a height of 9200 feet. Ram Takht means ‘Rama’s throne’! It is believed that Rama visited this place during exile. This is not true as per Valimiki Ramayana.

However it is probable that Rama visited this region of ‘‘pitR^ipaitaamahiim’ (ancestors) sometime during his reign or possibly when Bharat founded the cities of Taxila and Pushkalavata. The sacredness attached to this place, held next only to Amarnath reinforces a historical event of Rama having visited Swat region and scaled the mountain as a mark of ascending the throne to establish the rule of Ikshvakus in this part of ancient Bharat.  

Rama’s throne. (Pic courtesy: )

Mount Elum where Ram Takht is situated. 

In the final analysis, we found the name Ikshumati not appearing anywhere outside Valmiki Ramayana. Etymologically Ikshumati is connected with Ikshvaku – wherein Ikshu means sugarcane. One interpretation could be that the river having water as sweet as sugarcane came to be named as Ikshumati. Another can be linked with Ikshvakus whose branch, in their capacity as the first explorers of this region named the river after their parent dynasty when they made this region their dwelling place.

The agreeable environment and comforts provided by the river, coming upper most in the minds of the dwellers resulted in them naming it as ‘Su-vaastu’ – a name that entered the Rig Vedic hymn. Isn’t this a proof of antiquity of Ramayana, proceeding the time of composition of this Rig Vedic hymn?