The Mitanni- Hittite peace treaty of c.1380 BCE is seen by Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT) proponents as an external evidence for Aryans before entering India.
In his paper “Early Indian history: Linguistic and textual parameters”, Michael Witzel (1995:15) says, “Although the internal stratification of the Vedic corpus is clear, absolute dates are difficult to establish (cf. Mylius 1970; Rau 1983). There is only external evidence, such as the Mitanni treaty of c. 1380 B.C., mentioning major Rig vedic deities (Indra, Mitra, Varuna and the Nasatyas; [Mitanni-IA is linguistically slightly older than 1400 BCE])..”
In page 29 of the same paper, he says, “Our starting point on linguistic grounds must remain the presence of a branch of Indo-Aryans in Northern Mesopotamia before c. 1380 B.C., names of whose deities - Varuna, Mitra, Indra and Nasatya (Aśvin) - have come down to us in a Mitanni-Hittite agreement.”
Witzel is banking only these four names as a proof of pre-Aryan presence outside India before the so-called Vedic Age started in India. To support this he changes the words of the treaty (& other sources) wherever possible to make it to sound like a Sanskrit word. For example he thinks that the Indo-Iranian ‘zdh’ became ‘edh’ in Vedic Sanskrit (2001:65) but turns a Nelson’s eye when it comes to the letters clinging to Mitra, Varuna etc in the treaty.
The issue of correct translation.
The names of the Vedic deities do not appear as they are in the Vedas.
In the translation of the Luckenbill (1921) (the first one to have translated the treaty by working on the earliest translation done in parts by Winckler in 1907) the names appear as follows:
the gods Mitrashshil,
the gods Uruwan- ashshil,
the god Indar,
the gods Nashatianna
The same names appear in another part of the treaty that describes a struggle between Shuttarna, son of Artatama, and Mattiuaza, son of Tushratta, for the kingship of Mitanni as follows:
the gods Mitrashshil,
the gods Arunashshil,
the god Indara,
the gods Nashatianna.
One can notice that Luckenbill uses the plural term for all the names except Indra.
What is interpreted as Varuna has a variation in the two contexts as ‘Uruwan- ashshil’ and ‘Arunashshil’. But both treaties were signed in the period of the same Mitanni king. Then is it a scribal error or were they different deities? One sounds like Varuna and the other like Aruna, meaning the Sun. This meaning is feasible given the fact that the Hittite king called himself as Sun in the treaty.
But Witzel takes them only as Mitra, Varuna, Indra and Nasatyas.
Let’s take a look at Witzel’s translation.
Transcription of cuneiform
(taken from Wikipedia article here)
One can see that he has left out the last letters of the names, but he does not take such liberties with words when it comes to using them to show that Mitanni was pre-Vedic. He used to stick to even a single letter to prove his point.
He is also silent on the plural names for Mitra and Varuna. Are there many gods of Mitra and Varuna in the Vedic culture?
Nasatyas are plural because they refer to Asvins. Indra is singular but what is his take on ‘Gods’ of Mitra and Varuna?
Another question is whether there is concurrence among scholars on the exact translation of the names. The very basic names of the treaty, namely those who signed the treaty are spelt differently by Luckenbill. He uses the name Shubbiluliuma which is Suppiluliuma for Witzel. The other name Shattiwaza of Mitanni is mentioned as Mattiuaza by Luckenbill. Since the names Mitra, Varuna etc., are crucial proofs for the presence of pre-Vedic words in that part of the world, Witzel has to first disprove the names given by Luckenbill, besides explaining why the ending letters should be deleted at all if not for serving his own purpose of making them sound like the names of Vedic deities.
Were these Gods from Mitanni or Hatti?
The strangest part of his narration on these names in his paper “‘Autochthonous Aryans? The Evidence from Old Indian and Iranian Texts” is that he keeps repeating them as Mitanni words, while they appear as Gods of Hatti in the treaty.
Hatti and Mitanni were neighbours but they did not share the same language, or we can be certain that they did not share the same Gods as seen from this and other treaties.
(In the picture Mitanni was located on the east of upper Euphrates and Hatti was to its North West. From the treaty it is known that Mt Lebanon and Euphrates formed its south eastern boundaries.)
This treaty and other treaties of these kingdoms contain references to numerous Gods. But the reference to these four Vedic gods appears only in the context of Hatti-Gods. Hatti was an over powering kingdom as per this treaty which was enforcing terms on the Mitanni king. There is no history of Hittites moving to India in the supposed period of Aryan migration. How then the Hittite Gods entered India?
Most of the Gods mentioned in the treaty have no name. They were either god or gods of some part of nature like river, mountain, sky and so on. Certain names do occur often – like the names Sin, Samash, Anu, Antum, Enbil and Ninlil. In the treaties translated by Luckenbill the last four names appear six times in comparison to Mitra et al which appear only two times. Anu et al were very popular Gods found throughout the region here. Why then they were not taken by the migrating Indo-Aryans when they entered India? Why only Mitra et al were taken by them? This part also must be clarified by Witzel.
If names like Mitra matter in deciding which way the migration had taken place, there is a name that sounds recent or post-Vedic in one of the treaties written by the grandson of Shubbiluliuma.
Mutallu, the grandson of Shubbiluliuma re-made a treaty that his father Murshili signed with – hold your breath – Rimisharma!
Sharma in Rimisharma is a common surname in India for Brahmins. It is traced to Sanskrit roots and is interpreted to mean teacher or a chanter. This name appearing in Hittite treaty as the king of Aleppo / Halab (in pic) before 1300 BCE could be interpreted as a strong proof of movement from India to Mesopotamia, if we were to follow Witzel’s logic.
Sharma being a Brahman surname, this name indicates migration of Vedic people from India. Why not we take it this way?
Moreover this name seems to have changed into Latin as ‘sermo’ and ‘sermon’ (Sharma > serma > sermo > sermon) which means discourse or talk which is what a ‘Sharma’ is supposed to do.
Isn’t this name Rimisharma a proof of migration out of India and influence on languages of Europe?
(continued in Part 2)
Luckenbil.D.D., ‘Semitic Languages and Literatures’, Volume XXXVII April 1921 Number3 https://archive.org/stream/jstor-528149/528149_djvu.txt
Witzel Michael., ‘Autochthonous Aryans? The Evidence from Old Indian and Iranian Texts’, 2001.
Witzel Michael,. “The home of the Aryans”
Zoroastrian Heritage, http://www.heritageinstitute.com/zoroastrianism/ranghaya/mitanni.htm
Zoroastrian Heritage, http://www.heritageinstitute.com/zoroastrianism/ranghaya/suppiluliuma_shattiwaza_treaty.htm
[Mailed to Witzel (firstname.lastname@example.org)]