Sunday, December 22, 2013

Is Vedic astrology derived from Greek astrology? (Part 21) (From Pandyans to Etruscans and Pandions)

This is in continuation of the article tracing the connection between ancient Tamil Pandyans known as Tirayans to pre-Hellenistic Greece. The previous article in this series can be read HERE

In the previous article, we linked the eye on the forehead of the Cyclops to the Shiva cult and from there traced their origins to Kaikkola, an ancient warrior class who were associated with Skanda or Kumara, the son of Shiva. {Different sub-sects  of Kaikkola exist in Tamilnadu today}. This Skanda alias Kumara was the king of the Pandyan dynasty in whose times Tamil language was for the first time refined with grammar and a written script.  He was known as “Ugra Kumara” and known for having subdued the ocean (1) His mother was Meenakshi who was wedded to Sundaresa (Shiva). Most of the first Tamil Sangam compositions were on him only, hailing his escapades which are same as what is now known as the myths of God Skanda aka Subrahmanya. These works are lost now but its contents are known from references found in other later day Tamil works.   

The important feature of relevance to this article is that the painting of the third eye on the forehead is known to have existed in ancient Tamil lands. The available reference pertains to description of Goddess Durga worshiped by hunter communities of the Pandyan lands. Whenever the community experienced hardships, they used to choose a young girl from among their clan, decorated her like Durga (called as “KoRRavai”)  and worshiped her as Mahishasura-mardhini, the one who killed Mahisha, the buffalo.

(click on the image to enlarge)

One of the decorative features of this girl was that an eye was painted on her forehead (2).

This girl was praised as Goddess Kumari among other names such as Amari, Gowri, Samari, Shooli, Neeli and KiLai (KiLai is the younger sister of Vishnu who is believed to have been born as Meenakshi of the Pandyan dynasty. The temple of Meenakshi at Madurai traces its origins to this Meenakshi who lived in the submerged Madurai of the First Tamil Sangam). The tradition of Kumari of Nepal who is also decorated with the third eye in her forehead is of recent origin, an adaptation of the pre-existing tradition found in South Indian Pandyan lands. 
Nepalese Kumari

The source of this practice in hunter community in Pandyan land is found in Silappadhikaram which was written 2000 years ago. Their location was near the Western Ghats. One of the main occupations of these hunters was stealing cattle and distributing them to the people in their hamlet. At the end of each stealing expedition, this Goddess who killed buffalo – Mahisha was worshiped with sacrifices.

It was an accepted practice in olden days for the hunting community located in the periphery of kingdoms to take care of the people of the periphery regions. One of the sources of income in times of distress is to steal the cattle in other man’s land. Those who lost life in such expeditions were worshiped as Hero stones. The guiding deity for them was Durga (Mahishasutra mardhini). Buffalo was the sacrificed animal. This practice was seen throughout the Western Ghats. The Mangs of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan were engaged in these activities which were considered as heroic about 2000 years ago – as we see in Silappadhikaram. Due to the ease with which they slaughtered buffalos and cleared the left-overs, they were called whenever dead buffaloes were to be removed. During the time of British rule, they were identified as stealing castes and were degraded. But there existed a time for very many years in the past when this life style was treated as an accepted one. 

The main features of those who lived in Pandyan lands were worship of Durga, stealing, hunting and leading an easy life with booze and their women. 

Looking into further antiquity, I would say that worship of Durga existed 1000s of years ago in the sunken parts of Kumari lands which I would call as Shaka Dweepa, because there comes a description of a place called Durga-shaila in Sanjaya’s description of Shaka dweepa in Mahabharata (3) . The location is near the Equator.  In chapter 6 of Bheeshma parva, the circular Sudharshana Dweepa of which Bharata varsha is a part, is described. On the two sides of Sudharshana Dweepa, Naga Dweepa and Kasyapa Dweepa are found as ears of a hare. The Naga dweepa is Shaka dweepa as per the description of Shaka dweepa given in Chapter 11 of Bheeshma parva. It was the habitable Sundaland in olden days but now looks fragmented due to submergence. The Kasyapa Dweepa is the region around Caspian Sea and includes Scandinavia that looks like the ear of the hare. 

The Shaka Dweepa is mentioned as Naga Dweepa in chapter 6 where the description is that of the ears of the hare. 

The Ninety Degree ridge of which Andaman and Nicobar Islands are the peaks above the sea level goes further into Indian mainland where Nagaland is located.

The underwater ridge called as The Ninety East Ridge  experiences a number of earthquakes according to scientists.  From the description in Valmiki Ramayana of the southern region and Mahabharata of Saka Dweepa, it is deduced that many peaks of this ridge were once above the sea level (4). The name Naga Dweepa to this part of the world as mentioned in Mahabharata indicates that there were many caves in this ridge connecting different parts of the ridge. The presence of place-names like Nagercoil and Nagapattinam  in the coasts of Tamilnadu in the direction of this ridge confirm an early land map of scattered islands on this ridge occupied by people. 

In Chapter 11 of Bheeshma Parva of Mahabharata, detailed description of Shaka Dweepa is given which concur with the locations on the Ninety East Ridge and Sundaland together. 

Coming to the topic of this narration, Durga shaila was located to the south of Equator (5). There was the mountain of Raivataka in which the star Revathi (ζ Piscium) was fixated. This is the region near the Equator. 

This star has an important place in Vedic society as the Yajna of  Athirathram is done when Sun is moving through the Revathi star. Sun’s transit in this star coupled with this yajna induces plenty of rainfall. 

Mount Syama was located just to the north of Raivataka. Syama means black. Mahabharata explains that the people living here were black in colour. To the south of Raivataka was Durga shaila. Durga shaila means ‘mountain fort’ or ‘hill fort’.  By this name, it is known that a fort was built on this hill (a peak of the Ninety East Ridge) and that it must have been very famous as to have lent its name to the mountain even before the Mahabharata times (about 5000 years ago). 

One must remember that all these are parts of Shaka Dweepa whose presiding deity was none other than  Lord Shiva. This Dweepa had 7 varshas (countries) -something similar to the way Tamil texts explain the 2nd Sangam age as having 7 regions each of which were divided into 7 sub-parts. Of interest to us is the name of the varsha of Raivataka (the country where Raivataka mountain is situated). It is Kaumara! This name is connected with Kumara (Skanda), Kumari (the oft talked Kumari Khandam) and Kaumari – one of the Sapta Matas  (seven mothers) who is also a personification of Goddess Durga.

According to Mayamatham, Kaumari must be depicted as having a cock and a spear and is mounted on a peacock. (6) All these three are also associated with Kumara aka Skanda aka Karthikeya aka Subrahmanya.  All these are being told here because we will see them all in pre-Hellenistic Greece of Tiryns and Etruria! And we see them in Bharatavarsha (India) too. 
The worship of Durga must have started in Durga shaila and from Durga shaila in an undated past, the worship of Durga could have come to Tamil lands among the Hunter community and then spread throughout India. Read here for my detailed article on this topic. The location of Durga Shaila in the Indian Ocean makes the tradition of painting a third eye a common practice among early Pandyans who occupied Indian Ocean habitat. Shiva as the presiding deity of this region justifies the tradition of painting an eye in the forehead. I would even wonder whether the practice of wearing sindoor or Tilak originally sprang from the idea of the third eye of Shiva, the Presiding deity of Saka Dweepa and got modified later. Even Sita was wearing Tilak on her forehead (7)

The image of Parvathy, (another name for Durga, the consort of Shiva, when she is identified as the daughter of the mountain of Himalayas) found in Uttar Pradesh during Gupta dynasty also sports a third eye on her forehead.

The description of a single eye on the forehead of Cyclopes sounds similar to these Hindu traditions. Interesting information is that similar tradition is found among Etruscans too. The Etruscan origins date back to 1000 BC in pre-Hellenistic Greece and their name as Tyrrhēni sounds similar to Tirayan! Their cultural dominance was so profound that the adjoining sea was known as Tyrrhenian Sea.

The following figurine is from Etruscans.

This is similar to Kumari of Nepal and the description of the girl decorated as Durga in Silappadhikaram. For a comparison let us see another image of Kumari of Nepal.

The Etruscan image has the horns and ears of a buffalo! The Silappadhikaram description of decorating a young girl with a third eye on her forehead says that she is personified as Mahishasura mardhini – the slayer of the Mahisha, the buffalo. In Nepal too, buffalos are sacrificed for this deity. The Etruscan image with the buffalo horns and ears indicate the presence of the same tradition or a continuity of a tradition by a community that was displaced from its original home in the Indian Ocean.

The Tirayan Pandyans were dislocated from the Indian Ocean habitat around 1500 BC. If a group of them had gone to these Mediterranean regions, they must have carried their culture with them. Etruria is the name of the region where they were located. Eyittriya (எயிற்றியர்) is the name of the females of the hunter community who conducted the Kumari worship in Tamil Pandyan lands. The males were known as Eyinar (எயினர்). Look at the resemblance in the names!

Silappadhikaram which has a full chapter describing this worship says that they were ancient tribes. The speciality of this tribe is that they used to count the number of heads they had cut of their enemies rather than allowing their enemies to count their heads – meaning to say that they could not be easily defeated by others but they always succeeded in defeating their enemies by cutting their heads. The girl from such a community that comes from ancient times was chosen as Kumari /  Durga, so says Silappadhikaram (7)

The Etruscans also were known for fierce battles and cutting the opponents heads. The Gorgon motif which is a prominent feature of the Etruscan images is similar to the head of Kali. In Part 3 of this series, a note was made on this.

The Kali face with a Tilak on the forehead.

Durga shaila means hill fort. The Etruscan and Tiryn forts were all hill forts. There was no big advantage from these hills as they were only a few meters high.

Etruscan walled town, Civita di Bagnoregio.

The Durga Shaila connection is seen in these constructions. Durga shaila was surrounded by water as it was constructed on a peak of the Ninety East Ridge. The people living in that ridge would have certainly opted for constructing high on a peak and surrounded by walls. The same concept must have been running in their minds if the people from that habitat had shifted to surface region. They had looked out for hillocks or raised lands and set up their habitats and forts. In India too, the Kumari worshiping and buffalo sacrificing people had finally settled down in the Ghats

Many aspects of Etruscan life bear resemblance to early Tamil’s life. Early Tamils living in Indian Ocean were tormented by Sea God, Varuna as they faced sea-floods. Therefore the main festival was Varuna festival called as “Munneer vizhavu” (முந்நீர் விழவு ). There is mention of this in a Sangam text that talks about the festival at a place where river PahruLi joined the sea. (9)This river existed in the 2nd Sangam age and was submerged in the last sea-flood (around 1500 BC). (It is because Varuna caused hardships, he was considered as an Ashura). The image of Varuna is as follows in Vedic pantheon. He is mounted on Makara.

Similar looking image is found in Etruscan art too. The animal is supposed to be dolphin.

The man or boy in this painting is blowing a pipe. Generally Etruscans were known to have liked music and used musical instruments. The Mangs of India who sacrificed buffalos were also good at music. 

Mang musicians with pipes and drums (1919 pic)

The kind of music and dance that accompanied the sacrifice of the goat in Etruscan was similar to how it was described in Tamil texts – which are associated with Skanda cult called as “VElan veRiyaattam” (வேலன் வெறியாட்டம் ). 

In the above Etruscan image, the person on our left is playing a drum. This is similar to “PaRai” – by name ‘Thudi-p-paRai’ (துடிப் பறை) which was popular in Skanda cult for inducing an effect and even trance.  Like this there are many similarities. My purpose here is not to go into those details but to show that a pre-Hellenistic cult that existed and influenced Greek Thought later was connected with Tamils who followed Vedic culture. They took the ideas of this culture from Indian Ocean region to Greece.

The third eye on the forehead of Cyclopes was an idea associated with Shiva and Durga cult. The region in the Indian Ocean was protected by Lord Shiva whose weapon as axe (மழு). The Etruscan kings used axe as their symbol of power and used it to establish righteousness. 

According to Mahabharata, Shanthi Parva, Danda neeti or the Justice system was first given by Brahma to none other than Shiva, the presiding deity of Shaka Dweepa. (10).  Danda Neeti of Shiva was the oldest Dharma sastra of the Vedic culture. Manu neeti came much later. The axe of Shiva is the symbol of his rule. In Vedic lore only two personalities are associated with the axe. One is Shiva and another is Parashurama. The association of axe with Etruscan rulers as a show of rulership and justice lends further credence to the links with early Tamils (Pandyans) whose family deity was Shiva.

This Shiva transformed into Zeus and his consort as Hera. Hera was mounted on a peacock, a bird not found and not known in Greece. Earlier in this article we saw that Kaumari was mounted on a peacock. Along with Zeus and Hera a whole lot of deities of the Vedic pantheon were remembered vaguely by that community and passed on down the generations. That is how the Greeks got hold of the Gods that resemble Vedic Gods. Ares, the son of Zeus and Hera signifying Mars was but the remembered version of Skanda or Kumara who was identified with Mars and Mesha (Aries). When there is such great scope for pre-Hellenistic culture spanning from 1500 BC to 600 BC to have derived their roots from Vedic system followed by Sangam age Tamils, there is absolutely no point in the claim of our opponents that Vedic society borrowed the idea of Mesha from Greeks.

These Etruscans were not at all same as the Greeks. The genetic studies show them as strangers to that part of the world. They and those who occupied Tiryns were sea farers and were even thought to be sea pirates. All this fits with Eyittriya communities under the rulership of Tirayan Pandyans.

The following is the statue of an Etruscan person who bears no resemblance to Greek features.

It must also be told here that kings by name "Pandion" have ruled Greece! The name Pandion is new to them. There is no way to link that name with any Greek derivative. But the fact is that there existed a king – considered as a Hero- by name Pandion. There were 2 Pandions as Pandion I and Pandion II. There was a temple for Pandion in Tiryns and Tiryns is the oldest hill fort site of this culture that coincides with the period of last deluge in Pandyan habitat in the Indian Ocean, namely 1500 BC. What explanation our opponents have for this Pandions?  Who were they? Why were known as Pandions?  There is more to tell from Tamil connection to Greeks than the other way round.
More in the next post.



1.     Four sources in Tamil literature and Sinnamanur plate inscriptions. The literary sources are (1)ThiruviLaiyaadal puranam by Thiruvaalavayudaiyaar (6th viruttham in 21 st chapter)

(2)Silappadhikaaram (11-17-20)

(3) NaLa venbha (chapter on Swayamvaram -137)

(4) Villi Bharatham by Perum dEvanaar(18th verse in the chapter on the 15th day of war).

2.     நுதல் கிழித்து விழித்த இமையா நாட்டத்து” (Silappadhikaram 12- 55)

3.     Mahabharata – 6-11

4.     Valmiki Ramayana 4-41

5.     Mahabharata -6-11

6.     Mayamatham Chapter 36 – 220 to 222

7.     Valmiki Ramayana 5-40-5

8.     இட்டுத் தலையெண்ணும் எயினர் அல்லது
சுட்டுத் தலை போகாத் தொல்குடிக் குமரியை” Silappadhikaram – 12 – 21& 22

9.     Purananuru – 9

10.            Mahabharata – Shanti Parva chapter 58 onwards.


Unknown said...

Would it possible for you to compile all this remarkable information in one PDF file for the readers retention, perusal and/or distribution to other like minded people who may not be aware of your site? Thank you for your wonderful work. It is very much appreciated.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

I will be posting all these articles as a single file in scribd which can be downloaded. I would also segregate the articles topic-wise, say Etruscan connection, Tamil connection etc and post them as scribd documents. If any other way is there to make them available on net, kindly let me know. People are free to share with others, with due acknowledgements.

Raghu said...

Reads like a suspense thriller! I eagerly look forward to read more.

Maddy said...

In India we use Moon sign whereas in other parts of the world Sun sign is used.Is it anyway related to Matriarchy that might have prevailed in those times that we use Moon sign.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

@ Maddy,

It is a misconception to say that Indians / Vedic astrology follows Moon sign astrology. The Moon sign astrology that we see in magazines was promoted only in the last few decades after print magazines came into being. To increase the circulation, some magazines wanted to introduce the astrological prediction columns like the ones that is there in western astrology as Sun sign predictions. Initially no astrologer came forward to do that because it is fooling people. But later people gave in and introduced this based on gochara phalan. The original gochara indications must take into account lapta, vedha, ashtaka varga points in natal horoscope and the bhava positions from lagna and their lord in gochara and the running dasa bhukthi of each native. So what we are reading as moon sign astrology is much short of what vedic astrology actually is capable of doing.

The sun sign astrology of the West is actually not a prediction but are hints at behavioral tendencies that one gets into due to combined effect of both sun and the moon. The distance between the sun and the moon on a given week in relation to the sun sign of a person is given in sun sign astrology. Actually this interpretation is also there in Vedic astrology when we analyse gochara and fix time for Muhurtha. As such sun sign astrology is only a limb of many factors for fixing time for variety of purposes.

These two have no connection to patriarchy or matriarchy.