The Aryan Trail (3500 - 1500 BC)

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The Aryan Trail, the actual path by which the Aryans came to India, is a very controversial topic. For that matter the original homeland of the Indo Europeans, the predecessors of all the later Indo European peoples like the Greeks, Persians, Germans, Slavs and the Aryans (Indo Aryans), is also a very controversial thing. For centuries people have misinterpreted history and come up with various theories of Urheimat, original homeland. There's no doubt that the original Indo European peoples, or the Proto Indo Europeans as the historians and linguists say, were the progenitor of some of the best races and cultures of the world. So many people across ages have tried to claim themselves as the original Indo Europeans and establish their supremacy over other races. One extreme instance of such an attempt was the Nazism that claimed the supremacy of an Aryan race. Even many Indian historians believe that the Aryans originated from India and eventually moved to the west creating the Iranians, Greek, Latin, German and Slavic cultures and languages.

The proto Indo European peoples are often wrongly designated as Aryans. Truly speaking the Aryans along with the Iranians belong to the eastern branch of the Indo Europeans. This group, the common ancestors of both the Aryans and the Iranians, is referred to as the Indo Iranians or the proto Indo Iranians. They are also designated as proto Aryans at times because of the close similarities between the Aryan and Iranian cultures. We'll stick to the following designations
  1. Proto Indo European (PIE) - the original Indo European peoples, the progenitor of all the Indo European peoples
  2. Proto Indo Iranians (PII) - the eastern branch of the Indo Europeans (IE), and the progenitor of the Indo Aryans and Iranians. The prefix proto in both the above cases may be missed at many places.
  3. Aryans or Indo Aryans - the Rig Vedic Aryans who entered India
  4. Iranians - the Persians, Avestans, Scythians, Parthians and all other peoples of Iranian descent.

As we've mentioned, coming up with an Aryan Trail is not simple. We'd like to stick to one school of thought that believes that the Indo European Urheimat is somewhere in the Eurasian Steppe, north of Azov Sea. We find reasons to believe that the researches done by people like Witzel, Asko Parpola, J P Mallory and their likes are more credible than that of others who espouse to other theories. For a detailed list of related references please refer to this site.

The Various Phases of the Aryan Trail

  1. Pit Grave Culture or Kurgan Culture (3500 - 2800 BC): The Pit Grave Culture extends over the entire Pontic Steppe. This is the late PIE (Proto Indo European) phase of Indo European unity where the PIE peoples stayed together prior to their disintegration and movement towards various destinations.
  2. Catacomb, Hut Grave Culture (2800 - 2000 BC): This is the Proto Indo Iranian (PII) Bronze Age culture that existed in the Ukrainian Steppes. Relics of the culture are widespread in the region along the Dnieper River, the coastal region the Sea of Azov, Crimea and along the Don River. 
  3. Timber Grave Culture (2000 - 800 BC): Around Samara on the Volga Basin, this is the Proto Iranian Culture. The Proto Indo Iranian peoples arrived here from Azov Sea. The Iranians stayed back and the Indo Aryans proceeded further east to Arkaim-Sintashta.
  4. Andronovo Culture, Arkaim-Sintashta (1800 - 900 BC): South of the Ural Mountains this is an Indo Aryan Culture. The Indo-Aryans, the eastern branch of the Indo-Iranians eventually reached Northern Iran, Afghanistan and Indian subcontinent in the next few centuries. 
  5. Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex, BMAC Culture (2200 - 1700 BC): This is an Indo Aryan Culture in Central Asia. It's contemporary to the northern Andronovo Culture (1800 - 900 BC). From here the Indo-Aryans moved to northern Iran, Afghanistan and India.
  6. Vakhsh - Biskent Culture: Contemporary to BMAC & Andronovo, it's an Indo Aryan Culture. The last segment of the Aryan trail to India may be through through Vakhsh, via Vakshu or Oxus/Vakhsh, Kabul, Swat rivers. 
  7. Kalash Culture (1600 BC till date): A very unique group of Indo-Aryans in Hindukush have preserved many of the Rig Vedic and early Indo-Aryan features including language and culture. Kalash is the last place in the Aryan trail before entering into the final destination of Punjab.
  8. Gandhara Grave Culture (1700 - 1400 BC): Rig Vedic Culture in Punjab in Pakistan & India

1. Kurgan Culture: 3500 - 2800 BC

This is the beginning of the Aryan Trail. This can be treated as one of the original homelands, Urheimat, of the Indo European peoples. The Anatolian and the Tocharian branches of the Indo European peoples had already separated by this time. This culture is characterized by kurgan or burial mounds near rivers. Burial mounds may not be a unique thing but burial near rivers is something that perhaps has reference only in the Vedic texts. Though burial is not common among the Hindus but in early Rig Vedic days burial was a common thing. In one Rig Vedic hymn there's a reference to going to the house of clay, mrinmayam griham

In the kurgans the corpses were covered with red ocher and laid either in supine position or on their sides with flexed legs. The excavated grave goods provide important information about the socio-economic structures of the culture. Their major economic occupation was animal husbandry. Agriculture, hunting and fishing were of secondary importance. They usually lived in surface dwellings, often on high hills, in fortified settlements. Oval houses were secured with walls and moats. Fortification may imply conflicts. The houses were constructed with clay and reeds. Extensive copper items were found in the settlements. Excavations at kurgans revealed primitive carts pulled by oxen. Incidentally the area north of Azov Sea in Ukraine is the site where horse was first domesticated during the Srendy Stog Culture between 4500 and 3500 BC. As horses are the trademarks of the Aryans and the Indo Europeans many scholars espouse to the Kurgan Theory of identifying the Kurgan Culture with the proto Indo Europeans.

An interesting linguistic observation is that all Indo European languages have cognates for various parts of a solid wheel like the wheel itself, the axle and the nave, center of the wheel. But there's no cognate for chariot and spoked wheel. This may imply that when all the Indo European peoples stayed together a chariot and a spoked wheel was unknown. All they knew was the ancient cart with solid wheel and accordingly they had words only for that. 

The Latin colus, Greek kuklos, Persian charkh, Sanskrit chakra all come from the Indo European keklo, meaning wheel. The cognate of the Sanskrit ratha, meaning chariot, is Latin rota, which comes from the Indo European roto meaning wheel and not chariot. The cognates for axle are aksha in Sanskrit, axis in Latin, akson in Greek, all coming from Indo European aks. Similarly nave, the center of the wheel, comes from Indo European nebh and has Sanskrit nabhi, Avestan naba, Persian naf, Latin umbilicus, Greek omphalos and German nabel as cognates.

But on the other hand the Sanskrit ratha for chariot doesn't have any cognate in any other IE languages with the same meaning. Interesting is also the word ara in Sanskrit, meaning spoke. It comes from the IE root ero, meaning to move. Incidentally the Sanskrit root ri comes from the same root and has the same meaning, to move. It's very likely that both ratha and ara for chariot and spoke are later creations of the Aryans after the chariot and spoked wheels were discovered later. Interestingly the first remains of chariot and spoked wheel appear much later around 2000 BC near Arkaim-Sintashta, mentioned below.

Storozhova Mohyla, a place in Dnepropetrovsk, is one of the sites for kurgan or burial mounds. It dates back to 3000 BC. 

2. Catacomb Culture: 2800 - 2000 BC

It was a continuation of the Pit Grave Culture. It's the first place where the Iranian branch of the Indo European peoples were separated from the PIE peoples. Eventually these proto Indo Iranian peoples moved further east and finally entered into Iran and India. The Indo Iranian branch is at times referred to as the Aryan branch by many scholars.

The area of Catacomb culture is very adjacent to the original homeland of the Indo Europeans. It's believed that the while Indo Iranian peoples stayed back at their original homeland the other branches of the Indo European peoples left them. An immediate linguistic impact of this separation was the Centum-Satem split in the Indo European languages around 2500 BC. This refers to the two types of evolution of the original proto Indo European word kemtom, meaning hundred, in the various Indo European languages. The evolution of kemtom to centum in Latin represents a type of phonetic change that's seen in almost all the western branches of Indo European like German, Greek and Latin. In Greek it evolves to hekaton. On the other hand the evolution of kemtom to satem in Avesta represents the change that's seen in almost all the eastern Indo European branches like Persian, Sanskrit and Russian. In the eastern branch the original consonant ke changes to ca and we have catam as the proto Indo Iranian word for hundred. Eventually catam evolves to shatam in Sanskrit, satem in Avestan and sad in Persian. 

Many of these reconstructions of ancient events can be done using linguistic palaeontology. In this case the Indo European loan words in the Finno Ugric languages spoken in north eastern Europe. Finnish is one of the Finno Ugric languages.  Indo European loan words in Finno Ugric languages mean that the ancient Finno Urgic peoples stayed close to the Indo Europeans. It's beyond any contention that the ancient Finno Ugric peoples always stayed in north eastern Europe. If they had to stay adjacent to the Indo Europeans then the sites of Kurgan and Catacomb Cultures in Steppe do seem logical to be the homelands of the latter. 

A very important Indo European loan word is the Finnish orja, that's akin to Sanskrit Arya, which along with its cognates like the German Ehre, the Irish Erin, the Persian Ariya are the self designation of Indo Europeans in many languagesThe names of the countries Ireland and Iran bear traces of these cognates. Iran comes from Ariyanam, meaning of the Aryas. The English word Aryan also comes from Ariyanam. The corresponding proto Indo European root is ar. The Finnish word orja is no doubt a loan from the Indo Iranian arya and not from any of its other cognates. Similarly Finnish sata for hundred is again a loan from the Indo Iranian cata/sata. But on the other hand the Finnish kehra, meaning spindle, seems to have come from the proto Indo European kettro and not from the Aryan branch where it's cattra in Sanskrit. This means that the Finno Ugric peoples stayed adjacent to the proto Indo Europeans, from whom they took the loan kehra, and they also stayed adjacent to the Aryan branch, from whom they took the loan orja and sata. This is possible if we believe that the eastern Aryan branch (who had satem, arya) stayed back in the original Indo European homeland north of Azov Sea and the western branch (who had centum, kettra) separated from them along with the centum-satem split.

Another interesting reconstruction is possible from the Finnish word orja which means slave, unlike the Indo European meaning of master or lord. This can only mean that the Finno Ugric people defeated the Aryas and hence arya became synonymous to subjugation or slave. 

It's very intriguing that Don, Donets, Dnieper, Dniester and Danube – the names of the main rivers here have all come from the Indo-European danus, which means river, stream or fluid. It’s danu in Persian and Sanskrit and danus and damos in Latin and Greek. The etymology of Dnieper and Dniester is interesting. Coming from west and travelling towards east first you get Dniester and then Dnieper – so Dniester is the anterior and Dnieper the posterior river. The older name of Dniester is actually Danastius which comes from Iranian Danu nazdya meaning anterior river. Similarly the older name of Dnieper is Danapris which comes from Iranian Danu apara meaning posterior river. 

The people of the Catacomb Culture practiced herding and primitive subsistence farming and produced metal objects. During its existence the patriarchal system replaced the matriarchal order. The dead were usually buried in a crouched position in catacomb niches of burial pits and sprinkled with red ocher dye. Excavations of the graves goods reveal three social groups similar to the later Aryan Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaishya - the priests, the warriors and the traders. Major excavations took place in the 1950s at the Kut burial site, which is now inundated by the Kakhivka Reservoir on the Dnieper River. The tribes of the culture are known to have had cultural and trade relations with the peoples of northern Caucasia. Later stages are marked with conflicts for lands, cattle and water.

3. Timber Grave: 2000 - 800 BC

From the coastal area of Sea of Azov the Indo Iranians might have moved along the Don and Volga rivers till they reached the Big Crescent, the Samara Bend near Samara. Eventually the Indo Aryans separated from the Iranians and moved eastward to Arkaim and Sintashta in search of more minerals. Timber Grave Culture may be initially Indo Iranian and then Iranian. An important site is Potapovka near Samara on the Sok river. 

Excavations conducted from 1985-1988 in Potapovka exposed four burial mounds, or kurgans, dated between 2200-2000 BC. Beneath kurgan 3 the central grave pit had remains of a man buried with at least two horse heads and the head of a sheep, in addition to pottery vessels and weapons. After the grave pit was filled, a human male was decapitated, his head was replaced with the head of a horse, and he was laid down over the filled grave shaft. This unique ritual provides a convincing antecedent for the Rig Vedic myth of Dadhyac Atharvan who knows the secret of making Soma juice, the nectar of immortality. The Asvins insists that Dadhyac tell them the secret. He refuses. They cut off his head and replaces it with the head of a horse, through which he becomes an oracle and tells them the secret. 

4. Andronovo Culture, Arkaim Sintashta: 1800 - 900 BC

East of Potapovka near the Ural Mountains is the Arkaim-Sintashta where the earliest known chariot was discovered at Krivoye Lake (a small lake in the Chelyabinsk Oblast of Russia, southeast of Magnitogorsk, near the Kazakhstan border) and dates to around 2000 BC. This settlement is a part of the large Andronovo Culture that spreads across a wide area of Russia and Kazakhstan. 

Funeral rites of Andronovo include kurgan graves in wooden lining or stone box. Grave items may be horse, ox, ram, hand made and potter wheel based pottery items, good metallurgical works and even chariots. They invented the light weight chariots with spoked wheels. It's evident that horse and chariots are very special to this culture. This is a very strong connection to the Rig Vedic Aryans who have horse, spoked wheel and chariot. There are horse hymns in Rig Veda. Spokes, wheels, chariots appear in multiple places in Rig Veda as metaphors. For example, in the verse 1.32.15 (15th verse of 32nd hymn of the 1st book or Rig Veda) it's said that Indra protects the world like a wheel encircling the spokes. Each and every part of a spoked wheel of a chariot - the rim nemi; spoke ara; axle aksha; center of the wheel, nabha; even the peg of the axle, dhura - appear in hymns. 

As discussed earlier, the chariots and spoked wheels being much later creation than the age of Indo European unity there is no cognate for either chariot and spoke across various IE languages.

Social structure here is again stratified. Very much like an Aryan society they have elites and commoners, as evident from grave goods.

Sintashta settlements are square, oval or round layouts fortified with two concentric walls built from clay, sometimes with stone base. It's further fortified by a wooden fence or wall or a moat. In the center is a common square. Small trapezoidal or rectangular lodgings are enclosed between the walls and the central square. Copper is smelted in the center. Each house can also have provision for smelting. Metallurgy is a very important aspect of this culture. The settlements are not far from sources of copper and tin or fertile plots.  Fortified settlements imply conflicts.

The settlement at Arkaim is very well preserved. It resembles the Vedic tripura, the three fold fort. It also resembles a spoked wheel.

Layout of settlement at Arkaim

There's an Indar Lake in this region on the South Ural river. The Rig Vedic God Indra might have been already known to these people. The ancient Greek name of Volga is Rha, a cognate of Indo Iranian rasa or raha and Latin ros meaning moisture. There's a mythical river Rasa in RV. 
The name Volga comes from the Slavic words vlaga and vologa meaning wetness and humidity. Even now the small group of people who speak the Mordvinic languages in the Volga basin refer to Volga as Rav, surely a cognate of rasa.

5. BMAC Culture: 2200 - 1700 BC

This is a very crucial phase of the Aryan Trail. It's quite close to India and also quite young compared to the other cultures. But still it's equally mysterious to historians due to the lack of proper linguistic and archaeological evidences. We'll present a very interesting scenario proposed by Asko Parpola and J P Mallory. 

In Rig Veda (RV) it's mentioned that the Panis steal the cows and imprison them in a cave. The cows are freed by the Angirasa seers. The Panis are said to be miser, niggards and envious demons watching over wealth. They are shown as enemies. Another group of people inimical to the Aryans are the Dasas. Indra kills many Dasa Kings, one of whom is Pipru. The Gods of the Dasas are called asuras, generally considered demons by the Aryans whose Gods are called devas. The Dasas have forts with concentric, often multiple concentric walls. Moreover the Dasa forts are not regularly inhabited cities but were temporary shelters, especially for the protection of the cattle. Indra is often called the slayer of asuras. A very confusing thing in RV is that though the Dasas are held as enemies and their Gods asuras demon, there are also instances where asuras and devas are both treated as Gods. The Monier Williams Sanskrit dictionary states one of the meanings of asura as the supreme spirit, said of Varuna and Varun is indeed the highest God of the Dasas, like Indra is of the Rig Vedic Aryans. In one instance it's mentioned in RV that a Dasa King Balbutha Taruksha starts worshiping Indra. Similarly Varuna is elevated to the ranks of one of the RV Gods.

The names Dasa and Pipru seem to be Indo European - dasa coming from the Sanskrit root das and Pipru from pri. Also asura and Varuna are Indo European words. Asura comes from the Sanskrit root as meaning to become, to dwell and is akin to Latin est and English is. Etymologically asura can't be associated with demon. Asura also has an Iranian cognate, Ahura (Ahura Mazda), the highest God of east Iranian Zoroastrians. Varuna is one of the oldest Indo European Gods akin to the Greek Uranos. So it's evident that none of the words dasa and asura means enemies or demons.

Interestingly Ptolemy's Geography written in 2nd century AD talks about a North Iranian tribe called Daha (Daai in Greek texts and Dahi in Latin) who lived in the lower course of Margos (Murghab River). The 1st century Greek historian Strabo mentions Parnoi (Iranian Parna) as one of the Daha tribes. Daha is a cognate of Dasa and Pani can be a derivative of Prini, a low grade variant of Parnoi. Prini like Pipru should come from the root pri.  

The Wakhi language of Iranian origin spoken in the Pamirs has a word dai that means a man, a male person. A related but now extinct Khotanese language of the ancient Khotan Kingdom in the nearby Xinjiang province of China had the noun daha that also meant man. Many people call themselves by their native word for man or human beings. A very common example is the word arya that means a noble man and which along with its cognates have been self designations of many IE peoples. This means that Daha or Dasa, which also means man, might have been the self designation of the tribe known by that name. This also means that the Wakhi language has preserved the original meaning of dasa, that has nothing to do with enemies or demons. Wakhi and the Rig Vedic Sanskrit descend from the same Indo Iranian branch of IE. This implies that the meaning of dasa got changed in the branch that's perpetuated through the Rig Vedic Aryans. So now the question comes - why did it happen.

That's where scholars have reconstructed a scenario that clarifies all the confusions. It's possible that the Indo Aryans from Sintashta and Arkaim came to Central Asia where already a civilization of fortified towns, something similar to and contemporaneous to the last phase of Indus Valley Civilization, had flourished since long. 

This civilization that stretched between the ancient Bactria (modern Balkh in northern Afghanistan) and Margiana (around modern Mary in Turkmenistan) is called Bactria Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC). The remnants of BMAC have been excavated recently at Gonur and Togolok near Mary and Dashly near Balk. At all these places fortified temple forts with protected by three walls have been excavated. The most striking among these is the complex with circular walls which resemble closely with the definition of tripura, forts protected by three walls.

Tripura at Dashly

This structure no doubts reminds us of the structure at Arkaim. More interestingly traces of ephedra, a candidate for the Rig Vedic Soma plant, have been found at many of these temples. All these connect them both to Arkaim and also the Rig Veda where the Soma is a very important aspect.

There was a sudden surge of wealth in BMAC around 1900 BC. This could have been due to the arrival of the sophisticated Indo Aryans from the northern Arkaim-Sintashta settlements. It's seen that the structured society of Arkaim with very good leadership from the elites helped them to exploit the abundant natural resources and create a prosperous culture. A similar leadership and direction lead to a very effective use of the natural resources and made the people of BMAC prosperous. They happily accepted the leadership of the Indo Aryan elites, who could have been the Dasas or the Panis (or Prini or Greek Parnoi or Iranian Parna). Pipru could have been one of the Dasa or Pani Kings. Eventually the BMAC natives adopted the language and culture of the Dasas whole heartedly. Interestingly there are quite a few Central Asian loan words in Sanskrit and Iranian languages. There are no corresponding IE cognates in any other IE languages for these words. Some of these words are Sanskrit ishtaka and Persian hist meaning bricks, Sanskrit kadru and Persian qahd meaning brown, Skt. ushtra and Per. ushtur meaning camel, khar meaning donkey in both Skt. and Per., Skt. bhang and Per. bang meaning marijuana, Skt. kapota and Per. kabutar meaning pigeon, Skt. kashyap and Per. kashaf meaning tortoise (later kashyap became kacchap in Skt.), etc. As there were no corresponding words for these things in vocabulary of the Indo Aryans the BMAC people retained their native words.

After a hundred years or so (around 1700 BC) a second lot of Indo Aryans from the north would have again arrived in BMAC. This lot of Indo Aryans, who eventually composed the Rig Veda, can be called Rig Vedic Aryans and the older Indo Aryans Dasas. It's very likely that the RV Aryans fought with the Dasas and also the other BMAC natives. That was when the defeated Dasas came to be known as slaves and their Gods demons to the RV Aryans who had to fight against the rich Dasa kings staying in tripura like forts. The Panis surely tried to protect their wealth and hence came to be known as envious demons watching over their wealth. But eventually the RV Aryans would have figured out continuous warfares were not good for prosperity and made a compromise. That was when the asura became a RV God and Varuna promoted to the same rank as Indra's. 

Central Asia is extensively mentioned in the Avesta, the Zoroastrian texts written in a language that's surreptitiously similar to the Rig Vedic Sanskrit. Complete verses in Avesta can be converted to Rig Vedic Sanskrit by virtually transliterating each word. 

The Zoroastrians were among the Indo Aryans who stayed back in Central Asia and Afghanistan. Eventually they separated from the Vedic Aryan peoples and moved to Iran. Thereafter they stayed close to the Iranian peoples immigrating from middle Volga areas (Timber Grave Culture). During the time frame of BMAC Culture the predecessors of Zarathrustra, whose followers were later known as Zoroastrians, and those of the Rig Vedic Aryans were the same lot. The separation of the Zoroastrians and the Vedic Aryans (few hundred years later than RV, sometimg around 1000 BC during the time frame of Atharva Veda) might have been due to intellectual conflict between them. There are enough indications (both in the Vedas and the Zoroastrian texts) to believe that Zarathrustra might have risen against the Vedic cult of worshiping Deva Indra, something that's referred to in Zoroastrian texts as Deva Yasna, yasna being an Avestan cognate of Skt. yajna, the Vedic sacrificial ritual, and Persian yashn meaning celebration. Zarathrustra propagated the cult of worshiping Ahur Varun or Ahur Mazda, something that's referred to as Ahur Yasna. It lay importance on moral character and righteousness and stuck to monotheism, where as Deva Yasna supposedly paid less importance to morality in religion. More details of the early Zoroastrians and the Avestan language can be found in the discussion on Atharva Veda.

Avesta talk about an Airyanem Vaejo, the Aryan expanse, surrounded by fifteen Aryan countries, all of which are in Central Asia. The names of the fifteen Aryan countries seem to be enumerated in an anti clock-wise manner. The commonly identified places from the list are as follows:

  • Sughdha - modern Sughd Province in Tajikistan and ancient Sogdiana
  • Bakhdi - modern Balkh in Afghanistan and ancient Bactria, Skt. Vahlika
  • Mouru - ancient Margiana, areas around modern day Mary/Merv in Turkmenistan. Mouru may be a cognate of Skt. maru meaning desert and also mountain.
  • Vehrkana - modern day Gorgan in Iran, Skt. Vrika
  • Haroyu - modern day area around Herat in Afghanistan, Skt. Sarayu, Persian Harirud River.
  • Haraxvaiti - cognate of Vedic Saraswati, modern Arghandab, Greek Arachosia, a tributary of Helmand.
  • Haetumant - modern Helmand River in Afghanistan. Though Arghandab matches etymologically with Saraswati, but Helmand basin is generally identified with Saraswati.
  • Varena - modern Bannu, Skt. Varnu
  • Hapta Hindu - Skt. Sapta Sindhu or the land of the Seven Rivers, that's the Punjab.
Central Asia as depicted in Zoroastrian text Avesta

6. Vakhsh Biskent Culture (~ 1700 BC)

This is often considered a part of Andronovo Culture that extended across a wide area of Russia and Kazakhstan. Areas around modern day Vakhsh in Tajikistan (ancient Skt. Vakshu) are the sites where cremation rites came into existence for the first time. The cemeteries here are of Kurgan type, as found in Arkaim-Sintashta and other places of Andronovo Culture, but the pottery, grave goods, are of contemporary Bactria. It's believed that the Indo Aryans of BMAC passed through Vakhsh before entering India.

Apart from the various Avestan places or Aryan countries of Central Asia there seems to be another important country during the BMAC or even earlier time frame - that's the country of the Kom tribes. The kam in Kamboj is of obscure origin, may be a substrate of an older Central Asian language that existed before the arrival of the Indo Iranian languages – this ancient language can very well be the proto Burushaski language, lingua franca of the big stretch of Central Asia from Caspian to Pamir. Kamboj is a later formation, but four thousand years ago, the time period of BMAC, it could have been known as just the country of Kam or Kom. Ptolemy mentions a tribe variously called  as Komaroi, Komedai, Khomaroi, Komoi and Tambyzoi that was wide spread in the Highlands of Bactriana and Sogdiana. Spread across Central Asia the names like Karakum and Kyzylkum may carry the same kam till date. The Kam people should have been very powerful because the name Kamboj has spread quite far. Many Persian kings had the name Cambyses, a cognate of Kamboj. Between Central Asia and Caucasus many places and rivers bore the name Cambyses across ages. A probable epicenter of the Kom people may be north of Pamir, a probable location of Parama Kamboja, one of the distant countries mentioned in Indian epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. The Kom people might not have been Indo Europeans originally (unlike the Dasas and Parnas) but adapted an Iranian language later.

7 & 8. Rig Vedic Culture, Kalash & India: 1700 BC onwards

Kalash is a very interesting place that has preserved till date vestiges of some ancient Rig Vedic traditions that have disappeared from any where else. Kalash people presently stay only in the three valleys of Bumboret, Rumbur and Birir in  Hindukush in the Chitral district of Pakistan. For details of the Kalash religion and the Rig Vedic connections please refer to this paper by Witzel. 

Recent excavations in Chitral are unearthing innumerable Aryan graves. These graves are little older or contemporaneous to the Gandhara Grave Culture (since 1500 BC) which is considered the entry of the Aryans in India. On their way to Punjab from BMAC and Vakhsh some Indo Aryans would have stayed back in the Hindukush and preserved some aspects of the pre Rig Vedic culture. The present Kalash people may be direct descendants of either the first lot (Dasa peoples of BMAC) or the second lot (Rig Vedic peoples) of immigrating Indo Aryans.

The two different lots of Indo Aryans (Dasa and the Rig Vedic peoples) of BMAC would have logically entered India in two separate waves. The first lot (Dasa peoples) would have left BMAC around 1700 BC with the arrival of the second lot. The former would have reached India around the same time. Few centuries later when the Rig Vedic Aryans entered India they came across the ancient Aryans from the first lot. 

In the Battle of Ten Kings Kavasha is referred to as famed and ancient - śrutaṃ, vṛddham. He may be a Druhyu King and one of the leaders of the enemies. The reference to famed and ancient Kavasha may hint at the reputation of the Druhyus as a powerful and strong race of ancient times. Together, with the reference to the Druhyus also as distant people, it may be implied that they might have been a group of powerful and famous people much older than the composers of Rig Veda. None of the ten Kings, who are fighting against Sudas, is referred to as non-Aryan. Druhyu is in fact one of the 'five peoples' or Panajana or Pancakrishti (Yadu, Turvasha, Anu, Druhyu & Puru) of the Aryans. But still some of these tribes or peoples are considered to be older and distant compared to the others. This may imply that the Aryans migrated to India in waves - some came late and some early.

Around 1500 BC the Dravidian peoples arrived in Punjab and started interacting with the Indo Aryans. That was when many Dravidian words started appearing in the middle Rig Vedic books (3, 7, 8 & 9). It's not unlikely that the Rig Vedic Aryans of the second wave would be little averse to the newer Dravidian peoples and the older Aryans of the first wave. Eventually they pushed both of them to the periphery of their settlement. In Atharva Veda, composed around 1000 BC, the people of Magadha Gandhara, Anga and Mujavat are referred to as despised. Magadha and Anga are peripheral areas around Vanga. Gandhara is another peripheral area around Punjab.

The following diagram depicts a probable scenario in India around 1000 BC where the Rig Vedic Aryans are settled in the Gangetic plains and the older Aryans along with the Dravidian peoples pushed to Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, Maratha, Dravida, Utkal (Orissa) and Vanga (Bengal).  Doesn't this diagram look like the sixteen Aryan countries mentioned in Avesta? Here also the central core area of Aryan settlement is surrounded by peripheral countries.

Language Map in 1000 BC

There are good linguistic evidences in favor of the scenario depicted in the above diagram. The peripheral IA languages (Punjabi, Sindhi, Gujarati, Marathi, Oriya and Bengali) are the ones that have more Dravidian influence than Hindi. Incidentally Hindi is spoken precisely in the area shown in the diagram as the locus of the Rig Vedic Aryans.

It's quite interesting that among all the Indo Aryan languages Bengali perhaps is influenced the most by Dravidian language. This means that there was a considerable Dravidian population in Bengal where Bengali developed. This might be really the case if we believe that the oldest lot of Aryans, along with a considerable number of Dravidian peoples, left (or were driven out of) Punjab soon after the arrival of the Rig Vedic Aryans. They eventually moved to the eastern part of India and settled in the ancient Vanga and Magadha regions. Close association with a good number of Dravidian peoples for a very long time induced strong Dravidian aspects into the Magadha Prakrit (the predecessor of Bengali) and the Bengali language.

1000 BC is also the time when the Avestan peoples separated from the Indo Aryans. They settled in the Airyanem Vaejo surrounded by the fifteen Aryan countries in Central Asia. The speakers of Burushaski languages (Mruza) reduced considerably with the decline of BMAC Culture. The Dardic branch (Kashmiri, Khowar, Kalash) of Indo Aryan languages started shaping up in the Himalayas and Hindukush.

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