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Friday, 29 January 2016

Harappan Interments at Rakhigarhi, Haryana

This is a nice study on Rakhigarhi, it has also given some intriguing parallels of funeral customs which are found  in the Vedic texts.

Harappan Interments at Rakhigarhi, Haryana

Abstract :

The excavations at Rakhigarhi ( 29° 17' 30" N ; 76° 06' 50'' E ) have reported skeletal series of the Harappans both from cemetery and habitation area. Interment archaeology is quite unique as it unfolds a distinct funerary mechanism for highlighting gender, besides other mortuary features commonly recorded at Kalibangan and Farmana.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Neither Aryans migrated into north-west India, nor did Tamils migrate into South India: Michel Danino

Its not that i'm in 100 % agreement with him, but what he says mostly is correct IMO .

Neither Aryans migrated into north-west India, nor did Tamils migrate into South India: Michel Danino

By Nithin Sridhar
 The Aryan Question: Part 5
The Aryan question continues to remain highly controversial and multidimensional in nature. In order to unravel the nitty-gritty of the issue, NewsGram interviewed various scholars who have researched various aspects of the issue in depth.

In this ‘fifth installment’ of ‘The Aryan Question’, NewsGram brings an exclusive interview of Michel Danino, independent scholar, educationist, and guest professor at IIT Gandhinagar, who has authored books and papers on the issue, including The Lost River: On The Trail of the Sarasvati (Penguin India, 2010). He is also a member of the Indian Council of Historical Research.

Interview with Michel Danino

Nithin Sridhar: You have been researching the origins of River Sarasvati for many years. Can you share with us why River Sarasvati is so important for understanding ancient Indian history? What is its relevance in the debate on the Aryan issue?

Michel Danino: The Sarasvati River is important at two levels. One, as a river, since it is praised as such in the Rig-Veda, India’s oldest text; it is clear that a number of the Rig-Vedic hymns were composed in the region where the river flowed. It was part of the Vedic landscape, just like Sindhu (the Indus) or its tributaries; together they formed the Saptasidhava (the “seven rivers”). However, the Sarasvati is the only one of those rivers that disappeared, hence the search not only for the river’s location but for the causes of its disappearance. Secondly, the river was so revered that it was turned into a goddess with the additional symbolic meaning of inspiration, then speech, therefore, knowledge, therefore, education, the arts, etc. Sarasvati is thus an important symbol in Indian culture.
 If the river’s identification has become controversial, it is only since the 1980s, when it became clear from the archaeological evidence that the river dried up in its central basin around 1900 BCE. In that case, how could Aryans supposedly arriving about 400 years later describe the river as of “mighty waters”, flowing “unbroken” “from the mountain to the sea”? There is a chronological impossibility. The Rig-Veda was composed while the river was in full flow, and on the basis of current archaeological evidence, this would take us before 2600 BCE (when the river first broke up near what is today the international border in western Rajasthan). Of course, proponents of the Aryan invasion/migration theory will not accept this.

NS: You have identified the River Sarasvati mentioned in the Vedas with the dried bed of the Ghaggar-Hakra River. Can you briefly explain the evidence that has helped you to arrive at this identity? What bearing does this identification have on the whole debate surrounding Aryan migration?

M Danino: The Sarasvati’s identification with the dry bed of the Ghaggar-Hakra of Haryana, Punjab, northern Rajasthan and the Cholistan is not mine at all. It was first made by the French geographer Louis Vivien de Saint-Martin way back in 1855! It was soon endorsed by almost all European Indologists (such as HH Wilson, F Max Müller, Marc Aurel Stein, Louis Renou), geographers and geologists (such as RD Oldham), and later archaeologists (Stuart Piggott, Mortimer Wheeler, and Aurel Stein again, not to speak of recent ones like RAllchin or GL Possehl and numerous Indian archaeologists). Today’s critics of this identification conceal this longstanding consensus as they dishonestly want to create an impression that the identification is a recent “Hindutva” theory. It is no such thing.

The reasons for the identification are very simple: 1) In its tenth and final mandala, the Rig-Veda has a hymn “in praise of rivers” (the famous Nadistuti Sukta) which lists Sarasvati between the Yamuna and the Sutlej; 2) later literature, from the Brahmanas to the Mahabharata not only confirms the river’s location but records its gradual retreat; 3) there is in Haryana a small “Sarsuti”, a tributary to the Ghaggar, and also an old tradition that the Sarasvati’s source is nearby in the Shivalik Hills. These are precisely the points that the nineteenth-century scholars used to reach their conclusion.

NS: Some Aryan migration proponents argue that the Rigveda refers to two different Sarasvati rivers. They identify the one referred to as “Naditama” in older portions of Rigveda with Helmand in Afghanistan, and the Sarasvati mentioned in Nadisukta and other later portions of Rigveda with the Ghaggar. Another argument forwarded to support Helmand hypothesis is that ‘Samudra’ refers to ‘lake’ and not ‘ocean’. What is your view on this?

M Danino: The linguistic argument that the Helmand had an ancient Avestan name, “Harahvaiti”, which is cognate with “Sarasvati”, proves nothing, since we might just as well turn it around and propose that this is evidence of a migration out of India. Or, if we get a little less obsessed with migrations, we could see it as a sign of cultural interaction. In any case, there is nothing to show that the Rig-Veda refers to one river in its older hymns and to another in the Nadistuti Sukta — this is an artificial device imposed on the text to get away from the chronological implications I referred to above. The absurdity becomes clear if you consider that the Ghaggar had long dried up by the time (1500 to 1200 BCE) the Aryans are supposed to have reached it: why should they transfer the name “Sarasvati”, a river they extolled, to what had by then become a puny seasonal stream?

As regards “Samudra”, the word can indeed be used in principle for any sizeable water body, but in many passages, it clearly refers to the ocean. Thus the legend of Bhujyu, rescued from a storm in the “billowy Samudra” by the Ashvins. There are many mentions of seven rivers meeting the Samudra, of waves, ships, storms, etc. In fact, HH Wilson plainly stated in 1866 that the Rig-Veda’s hymns were “familiar with the ocean and its phenomena”; Max Müller agreed, writing in 1882 that “the word Samudra shows in by far the larger number of passages the clear meaning of ocean.” It is silly to deny this simply to portray Aryans as freshly arrived from landlocked Afghanistan!
Ghaggar river flowing in Haryana. Photo:
Ghaggar river flowing in Haryana.

NS: Can you briefly explain the salient features of the Indus-Sarasvati civilization? Also, share about the time period, urbanization, and the eventual decline of it.

M Danino: It was the first urban civilization of the Indian subcontinent. After a few millennia of slow and gradual developments, by 2600 BCE cities came up over much of the Northwest. They did not boast pyramids, imposing temples or colossal statues, but displayed planning to an unprecedented degree in the Bronze Age; Mohenjo-daro also had a remarkable drainage system. Harappans were primarily manufacturers, craftsmen and traders (of course agriculturists too). The cities appear wealthy enough, though not ostentatiously so. It is now clear that by 1900 BCE (a little earlier or later depending on the region) the whole civilization disintegrated and cities were either abandoned or reverted to semi-rural settlements. The current consensus is that climatic and environmental changes (including the drying up of the Sarasvati at about the same time) played a major role in this.

NS: Contrary to the assertions of AMT proponents that Indus civilization was a non-Vedic, non-Aryan civilization, you have argued that there is continuity between Indus civilization and the later Vedic civilization in the Gangetic plains. Can you shed more light on this? What similarities can be observed between the two civilizations?

M Danino: I never speak of “Vedic civilization”, only of “Vedic culture”, and there is no proof that it is “later” — that is no more than an opinion, albeit the dominant one. What I have done is to add my bit to the body of evidence of numerous bridges and commonalities between Harappan and Vedic cultures, many of which have been pointed out for decades, and to the enormous Harappan legacy to the Gangetic civilization of the first millennium BCE. For instance, fire altars are unmistakable at sites like Kalibangan, Lothal and Banawali; Harappan figurines point to some practice of yoga and meditation; Harappan units of weight and length, as well as auspicious proportions, survive, as do several important symbols, concepts of iconography and craft techniques. And much more. The so-called break between the two cultures is, again, an artificial device imposed by the Aryan scenario.

NS: The absence of horses and chariots in Harappan sites has been pointed out as being definite evidence of the Indus civilization being Non-Aryan, Non-Vedic civilization. You have extensively written refuting it. Can you summarize your observations?

M Danino: This is a poorly constructed argument as it misrepresents the evidence at every step. Very briefly, it is incorrect to state that the horse was unknown to Harappans: horse bones or teeth have been identified at over a dozen sites (even at a couple of pre-Harappan sites) by the best archaeozoologists so that even conservative archaeologists like Piggott or Wheeler accepted the animal’s presence. The argument also incorrectly implies that with the supposed coming of the Aryans, evidence of the horse should become widespread — quite the contrary, relics of the animal remain few and far between. The horse is also rarely depicted in art until the Mauryan Empire. Finally, 25 years ago, the respected British anthropologist Edmund Leach protested at the misreading of the Rig-Veda that would have a Vedic society full of horses; he pointed out that the animal was, on the contrary, used as a “prestige animal” that would rather point to its rarity. In fact, a century ago, Sri Aurobindo had warned that just as ‘go’ in the Rig-Veda means both a cow and light, ‘ashva’ refers both to the horse and to speed or energy, and many passages were misread by taking the word at its literal meaning. Of course, our Aryan proponents have no use for such nuanced points and continue to bludgeon their “no horse” argument.

NS: The presence of speakers of Brahui (which belongs to Dravidian family of languages) in Balochistan has been used to point out that Dravidian speakers were in North-West India and after the influx of Aryan speakers, they migrated into South India. What is your view on this?

M Danino: One more methodologically flawed argument. Way back in the 1920s, the French linguist Jules Bloch demonstrated that Brahui reached Baluchistan recently, perhaps at the time of the Islamic invasions and probably from central India. This thesis was more recently endorsed by the noted linguist Murray Emeneau, and still more recently by H.H. Hock. Finally, the linguist and mathematician Josef Elfenbein confirmed it using a different approach. It is completely illegitimate to see the language as a “relic” from the Harappan times; the argument, still misused today to establish that the authors of the Indus Valley civilization were “Dravidians,” has no linguistic validity.

NS: Do we find any archaeological pieces of evidence in South India or any literary pieces of evidence in old Tamil Sangam literature that speak about a migration of Dravidians into South India or the interaction between Aryan and Dravidian speakers?

M Danino: There are no references to a northern origin of Tamil speakers in the Sangam literature and no animosity against northern Indians. On the other hand, its earliest layers are already quite familiar with the Vedas and important themes of Hindu mythology, for example, Ganga or the Himalayas are objects of reverence. As regards the archaeological record, just as it has failed in the North to document the supposed arrival of the so-called Aryans, it is completely silent in the South about a migration from the north. Archaeology has no need and no use for the invisible Aryans, which is why most archaeologists have quietly shown them the door.
NS: The invasion/migration theory was first hypothesized to explain the commonalities between Sanskrit and certain European languages. In the case of non-invasion, non-migration scenario, how would these commonalities be explained?

M Danino: There are quite a few alternative scenarios, which surprisingly have received very little attention. “Surprisingly” because the failure to trace Aryans — let us now call them Indo-European speakers, a better term anyway — in north India is repeated in central Asia and also Europe; bioanthropology (the study of skeletal remains) and most recent genetic studies have also failed to discern the arrival of a new people in the 2nd millennium BCE.

Alternative linguistic models include (1) models of language propagation that do not require population movement but only contact (such models have been in place since the 19th century); (2) models of a “broad homeland” for Indo-European languages, in which they evolved by convergence rather than divergence from a proto-language (which, in this case, need not have existed at all); (3) models that do accept such a proto-language but put it at a much more remote period, 7000 BCE or beyond, which allows time for more complex interactions; (4) Out-of-India models, in which the proto-language originated from the subcontinent. Let us also note that a few professional linguists go further: “The very idea of an ‘Indo-European’ language family on which Indology is based is scientifically indefensible. IE linguists ignore vast amounts of data that do not fit with their classification. Sanskrit shares some features with Greek and Latin but it also shares equally important features with Afro-Asiatic. Indology as a discipline can be useful if it frees itself from the yoke of IEL [Indo-European linguistics]” (A. & R. McMahon, 2005). Clearly we are far from a linguistic consensus.

NS: Can you briefly summarize the protohistory of India, in the light of currently available archaeological, literary, linguistic, and genetic evidence?

M Danino: We should honestly acknowledge that current data remains insufficient for a complete picture; for instance, only about 10% of the Mature (or urban) Harappan settlements have been excavated. However, there is no reason to assume a discontinuity between the Harappan or Indus civilization and the later Gangetic civilization, as the Aryan model demands: cultural and biological continuities between the two are now numerous and well-documented. The archaeological continuity goes back to 7000 BCE or so at Mehrgarh (Baluchistan) and possibly Bhirrana in Haryana (though much more work needs to be done there).

The literary evidence is more difficult. Since the Rig-Veda does not mention rice, cotton, bricks, cities or ruins, and refers to the Sarasvati as flowing “from the mountain to the sea”, some scholars have been tempted to place its most ancient hymns at a period prior to the Mature Harappan phase (2600-1900 BCE), that is, about 3000 BCE or earlier. That is also what scholars like Tilak and Jacobi had suggested (going back to 4000 BCE, in fact) on astronomical grounds, and we have more such astronomical arguments by now. Of course, the mainstream view remains that the Rig-Veda cannot be older than 1500 BCE, but it has no convincing replies to the many paradoxes that this late date raises.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Kilvalai rock paintings face threat of fading away


The rocks and paintings at Kilvalai near Villupuram district. —Photos: S.S. Kumar
 The rocks and paintings at Kilvalai near Villupuram district. —Photos: S.S. Kumar

The paintings, dating back to 3,000 B.C., are being vandalised by miscreants and anti-socials  

 Prehistoric rock paintings discovered in Kilvalai, a nondescript village near Villupuram is facing severe threat due to rampant illegal mining and vandalism. The paintings in red ochre are found in clusters on three rocks at Kilvalai.

Though the site is maintained by the State Department of Archaeology it has now become highly vulnerable with the paintings damaged by miscreants and anti-socials due to unrestricted entry and faces the threat of fading away.

The paintings dating back to 3,000 B.C.* throw light on the culture and history of people in prehistoric time in this region. A majority of etchings by pre-historic human beings on rocks had been covered with red ochre and lost their details due to discoloration.

“The rock art sites are a treasure trove of the country’s remarkable heritage, culture and history and must be protected in all aspects. Similar such rock art paintings are found in large numbers in cave shelters in India and are the main sources to unlock the mystery of human life. The symbols in the paintings are similar to those found in the Indus Valley civilisation,” archaeo-symbolist T.L. Subash Chandira Bose told The Hindu .

One painting depicts three persons with a man mounted on a horse, another pulling that horse with a rope fastened to the animal while the third man is depicted with stretched hands welcoming others, he said.

Mr. Bose claimed that rock arts are the first form of scripts of writing system of “Maraieil eeru” or Upanishad which get manifested in a sacred soil, which is said to be the soil of satyaputra.

Despite the extensive recorded presence of rock art paintings in Kilvalai and Siruvalai villages illegal mining and vandalism has annihilated these paintings that nature had preserved for nearly 3,000 years.

Miscreants had disfigured some of the paintings without recognising their value and only a minute examination could reveal the original drawings. Similar such rock paintings have also been found at Siruvalai another pre-historic site in Villupuram district, C. Veeraraghavan, an epigraphist said.

Though the site is under the control of the State Department of Archaeology no staff are deployed to either protect the paintings or guide the visitors.

The site has also yielded Neolithic tools and pottery ware and is in urgent need of protection, Mr. Veeraraghavan added.

The 19th Congress of Rock Art Society of India organised by the Archaeological Survey of India and Department of History at Pondicherry University in 2014 had discussed various dimensions of rock art, its documentation, preservation and conservation techniques adopted in various parts of the country and the world.

The symbols in the paintings are similar to those found in the Indus Valley civilisation
* It  should be 3000 YBP than 3000 BC. The Horse Mounted Man, can this be a depiction of an Indo-European from the North?.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Tibet's spiritual leader speaks on love, compassion, tolerance, forgiveness



Sunday, 03 January 2016 22:44 Jane Cook, Tibet Post International

His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Tashi Lhunpo in Bylakuppe , Karnataka, India on December 22,2015 .
Photo : TPI/Yeshe Choesang
Bengaluru — In reply to a question about whether it is possible to preserve religious values without religion, the spiritual leader of Tibet suggested that in a world of 7 billion people, where 1 billion express no interest in religion, there has to be a way of exchanging the understanding of love, compassion, tolerance and forgiveness.

His Holiness addressed a meeting of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) Association (Karnataka) in Bengaluru, Karnataka, India on January 2, 2016.. "Brothers and sisters," he greeted them. "I'm very happy to be able to meet with you today. "

"We are all part of humanity, 7 billion of us who are fundamentally the same. Of course, there are differences among us of faith, colour of skin and colour of hair, some of us come from different countries and speak different languages, but these are secondary differences." His Holiness said.

"The primary thing is that we are essentially the same. Many of the problems we face, we make for ourselves, based on our mistaken emphasis on these secondary differences between us," he said, adding: "Seeing each other in terms of 'us' and 'them' and being motivated by a strong sense of self-centredness are the source of violence, killing and corruption in our world."

"Instead we have to make an effort to promote a sense of the oneness of all human beings. We have to think about the welfare of the whole of humanity. If humanity is happy, as individuals we'll all be happy. If humanity is wracked with fear and suspicion, we'll be unhappy."

Comparing ancient Egyptian, Chinese and Indian civilizations, His Holiness suggested that the Indus Valley culture had given rise to by far the greatest number of thinkers and teachers, such as the Buddha. He said that as members of the IAS, his listeners were in a position to help promote and preserve ancient Indian values. He said he didn't mean performing pujas and rituals so much as values like ahimsa and the science of the mind.

"Knowledge of the mind, emotions and their workings is something that can be studied on an academic level. It's on that basis that I have engaged in discussions with modern scientists over the last 30 years. The benefits have been mutual. I've learned, for example, that traditional Buddhist cosmology, depicting a flat earth with Mt Meru at its centre, is mistaken.

"On the other hand, the quantum physics assertion that nothing has objective existence seems to correspond with the Madhyamaka view that, since all things depend on causes and conditions, they only exist as designations."

His Holiness told his audience that having lived the last 56 years, the best part of his life, in this country, thoroughly educated by ancient Indian thought, he feels like a son of India. Wherever he travels in the world he shares the ancient Indian ideas of ahimsa and inter-religious harmony.

"Be honest, transparent and truthful; that way you'll establish trust," His Holiness said when asked for his advice to Indian civil servants.

To a question about whether it is possible to preserve religious values without religion he said this is what he calls secular ethics. He conceded that some friends are wary of the word secular, but he interprets it to mean respect for all religious traditions and even the views of those who have no faith. He suggested that in a world of 7 billion people, where 1 billion express no interest in religion, there has to be a way of exchanging the understanding of love, compassion, tolerance and forgiveness.

That way is to cultivate secular ethics. His Holiness mentioned ongoing projects in North America, Europe and India to formulate a curriculum to incorporate secular ethics into the modern education system. He also noted the effectiveness of nearly a dozen US cities declaring themselves 'cities of kindness'.

A final questioner wanted to what had happened when the Buddha achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree. First His Holiness drew attention to the more than 300 volumes of scripture translated from Sanskrit into Tibetan that can be seen as answering this. Then he mentioned Buddha nature that refers to the fundamental mind, a mind that is naturally pure, that is free from anger, attachment and ignorance. Since these defilements or disturbing emotions are not a part of that mind, they can be eliminated. When that occurs, the Buddha's mind is revealed.