When journeying back into the past, from recent times to the ancient, one would find history gradually transforms into legend; and legend into myth. This is especially true for a country as complicated and diverse, as India. Thus, the ancient histories of its people, the Hindus (a Broad term that includes all the people of the Indus River, the Sindhu), are also shrouded in myth and legend.
Hindu Histories, a fictional narrative complete with dates, hymns, and genealogies, is an attempt to throw light on those remote periods of the past. The basis of the work is in the assumption that Hindu myths are poetic (hyperbolic) forms of ancient social and political realities. The work builds on this assumption and moves on two inter wined paths. The first interprets the said myths and reveals them to be actual events that transpired in those times. The second explores the role of Vedic Sages (founders, if you will, of ancient Hinduism ) as influential philosophers and reformers, who in their quests to create a World-family, lay, in the book, the foundations of the Vedic Period to come.
Nipun shukla is a business analyst by profession and works for the Georgia-Pacific Corporation, a well – known paper products company. He is based in Atlanta, USA, and spends his spare time in his hobbies, Ancient history, myth and the historicity of myth are his chief interests.
Shukla also has a keen interest in the study of languages especially those of Indo-European origins.
He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
It was not too difficult for me to see that although these events may have really occurred, they would have surely not happened exactly the same way as described. The metaphorical and language of myths and the element of miracles that they always contained were just too fantastic to be real. The conclusion was that these things were an effective medium to impart values and virtues to young children (children younger than myself) but could, in no way, represent the histories involved.
So, as I continued wondering how mythology could be fit into history, and as I came into contact with the works of those who have been an inspiration for this book (mentioned towards the end of the introduction). I saw their interpretations and used their methods of interpreting myths to decode those that most intrigued me. As a result, I found myself beings able to read between the lines and go behind those veils of chimera. I Was able to see absolutely rational real-life events, complete with the social, political and economic conditions that probably existed at the time, emerge out of those abstruse myths.
To me then, it became clear that all myths, whether Indian or other, were poems and that it was important to look beyond the poetic expressions to get to the truth and the history behind the myths. It also seemed logical to conclude that if myths had only been stories that depended on the fancies of the authors, not many would worship the legends therein or cause the institutionalization of the characters and virtues mentioned therein.
It was not until recently that I decided to write something that tries first, to interpret those mythical events and then assigns times and places to them. I wanted to make history, spanning across many hundred of years, complete with maps, illustrations, genealogies and speculative dates for the various tales. That is, the work would try to construct the ancient histories of the Hindus, and by that is meant, broadly, the people of India who are the people of the river Indus, the sindhu, which are shrouded in myth and legend.
The first thing I did was to take a look at accepted facts
Archaeological discoveries in the early twentieth century pushed back the history of India by at least a thousand years. The Indus Valley Civilization, which was at its peak near about 2500BCE, became the most ancient chapter in books of Indian History. The Indus script has not been satisfactorily deciphered till today and very little is known about the founders of the great cities of the civilization. Some claim the civilization to be indo-European,’ Aryan’, while others claim that the ‘Aryans’ either destroyed it or took it over from its original ‘Dravidian’ or ‘Munda’ inhabitants. Yet there are noted historians who have rejected the ‘Aryan Invasion Theory’ and suggested that the Indo-Europeans-‘Aryans’ came much later. And yet there are still others that see a simultaneous influence of both ‘Aryan’ and ‘Dravidian’ culture. Recently the subject has received tremendous academic interest and fortunately, or unfortunately, political interest as well.
The next age of ancient Indian history is the Vedic age-the age of the branch of Indo-Europeans that came towards India, Who have also been given the given the controversial and possibly spurious title,’ Aryans’. A brief introduction of the ‘Aryan Problem ‘ is in order here.
European scholars, historians and philosophers of 18th and 19th centuries, a period of the first intimate contact between the Orient and the Occident, were struck with the similarities between languages of the East, and those of Europe. They found Sanskrit, the mother of most Indian languages, ancient Persian, Latin, Greek, ancient Germanic, Celtic, Slavic, Batlic etc. to have not merely the same grammatical structure, but also similar vocabulary and nomenclature. Further they also found similarities in ancient myths, culture and religion. It was concluded, quite reasonably, that the two peoples had a common ancient past, with possibly, a common language and common religion . A search began to find the common homeland of these people where from they migrated to their present lands. And for this, literature was to provide insights. Among the ancient literature o all these countries, in India, was found the oldest. These were the Sanskrit Vedas, and more properly the Rgveda, a collection of hymns in praise of various deities. The hymns were attributed to various Sages and Kings who called themselves ‘Aryan problem’. This word began to mean different things to different people. The vast majority thought it to be a race of tall and fair nobles that destroyed the citadels of the Indus valley civilization when they came from their ‘original European homelands’ towards India. The word became an inspiration to those with a disposition to racism. There were others, however, who though Arya / Aryan to be way of life and the ‘Aryans’ themselves, to be a people of noble character not necessarily, birth. And There were still others who believed that these ‘Aryans’ originated in India and migrated west wards.
Amidst all this confusion, the Hittite culture of Turkey of 1500BCE had records of treaties made under the supervision of gods named Indara and Uruvna (Vedic Indra and Varuna). Central Asia and the Steppes were now decided to be the original homeland of the ‘Aryan’, Which had become a term interchangeable with ‘Indo-Europeans’.
Till today, the location of an Indo-European homeland remains a mystery. While the Hittites of 1500BCE give cause to believe that it was near Europe, the Vedas, that do not possess any memory of the ‘original homelands’ of their authors, give cause to believe that it was near India (in the land of the Sapta-Sindhu, the Seven Induses).
A very brief note of the latest developments should be made.
Recent studies reveal that the Indus Valley Civilization did not end abruptly but that there was a smooth transition of that civilization to the Gangetic Valley Civilization of the Vedic Age. This claim is supported by elements of the Indus Valley that seemed to have passed on to the Vedic Age.
There has also been the discovery of a lost river parallel to the Sindhu, claimed to be the Sarasvati (The Ghaggar-Hakra bed) and its two tributaries, which, it is said, with the five tributaries of Sindhu made the Sapta Sindhu of the Vedas. Some historical enthusiasts have renamed the Indus Valley civilization as the Sarasvati-Sindhu civilization.
There is however an overwhelming evidence to suggest that the civilization was not ‘Aryan’, or properly, Vedic. The Munda peoples / Dravidians of the balochi Brahui language have been said as the original inhabitants.
The region of the Oxus, in Central Asia has been also recently suggested as the possible original homelands of the Aryans.
Having said all this, in the general view, the ‘Aryan Problem’ still persists and the nature of the original inhabitants of the Indus Valley Civilization will remain a matter of speculation, until the ‘Rosetta Stone’ of the Indus script has been found and it has then been deciphered conclusively (unambiguously).
Having collected all these facts, the writing of the books was begun. As mentioned earlier, the book sought to paint a picture of the India of very ancient times, even before the Vedic period. Now certain assumptions had to be made to address all the uncertainties of that remote period and a list of them is mentioned here.
It is assumed that the Indus Civilization and even the later Vedic civilization are compolitan mixtures of influences of all three, Indo-European, Munda and Dravidian. Common myths and common mythical figures, such as the Indian Mnu and the Germanic Mannus, or the Indian yama and the Iranian Yima, or the Iranian (Asura) TvaSta and the Germanic Tuisto, are used as representatives of the common ancient past of the different indo European branches.
The mythical Sons of the sun (SuryavaMshas-the dynasty of IksvAku that produces in much later times, the hero Rama of the RAmAyaNa) and the mythical Sons of the Moon (ChandravaMshas-the rulers, Nahusa, Yayati, PUru etc., that produce inmuch later times all the heros of the MahAbhArata) and even certain Vedic Sages such as VasiSTha are assumed to have possible non-Indo European ‘rascial’ roots by the cause of the retroflex pronunciations in their names.
The Indus Valley civilization is assumed to be a place of great cultural mixing while some of its elements, in parallel to its own existence, but inoblivion, lay the foundations of the vedic age that is to come in the Gangetic basin.
As far as the interpretations of myths in concerned, an example or two will suffice to show how it is done.
Deities like the Praj Apati and Indra are assumed to be offices of popular leaders and Chiefs of Tribes in addition to being divine gods.
The Sages that are, in myths, described to have lived for thousand of years are interpreted as title-bearing leaders of communes and societies, influential preachers and philosophers that pass on their titles to their successors.
An example: Consider a Vedic figure of speech ‘Sa Sahasrasya Santanasya pita’. It is informally translated as, ’He , father of a thousand children.’ Now,’ Santan’ meaning colloquially, children or offspring, also men ‘the one who spreads, extends or expands’. Santan, when taken to mean children implies that it is they who must extend and expand the noble works of their fathers and carry forward their legacy. However, those that carry forward the legacy of a person need not necessarily be his sons proper, but could even be his followers, or others that derive inspiration from him. The expression can then be interpreted as ‘He. Who had a thousand followers’ or ‘He, whose ideas were impressed upon a thousand that carried forward his work’, implying that the person referred to, could actually be a ‘popular leader’ rather than an abstract mythological being with a thousand sons.
It was thought before, that the title of the book should be ‘Early Histories of the Aryans’ / ‘Early Histories of the Vedic Aryans, but that would have been a misleading name. A speculative history of the Vedic Age is grand task in itself, but since this book speculates on events before the Vedic period, for the preparation of that period of the future, it was thought that ‘Hindu Histories-The Beginnings’ would be a more suitable title.
There are several inspiration that are listed at the end of the book for this work, but two names deserve special mention for it is they who have inspired this work the most-The Rev. P.S. Athavale, winner of the Templeton and Magsaysay awards. The ‘Elder brother’ of the Swadhayay community and the ever-young Swami Vivekananda, chief disciple of the Christ-like Sage Ramakrishna Paramhansa. While many of the myths are inter-prated using their style, there are many others, which are almost a direct translation of the works of the inspirers of this book.
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