The India outside India – I
A note on Sanskrit pronunciation: please glance through this image before proceeding. My reproduction of Sanskrit is somewhat restricted due to my keyboard, but I tried my best to follow these conventions.
The Vedas and the vedic knowledge were born in India. As time has flown by, many natural calamities and socio-political upheavals have modified the picture of this landmass to a large extent. But, in spite of this external transformation, there continues to flow in the heart of this land a thin yet strong current of rich collective heritage. One particular distributary of that current is the ancient Iranian (Zoroastrian) text Zend Avesta. The religion propagated by Zarathustra in ancient Iran was a branch of Vedic knowledge. Only the language differs: Iranian (sometimes called Avestan or Old Iranian) instead of Sanskrit. A search into the religious foundations of ancient Iran will lead us to believe that their ancestors were the very same people who propagated Vedic knowledge. In other words, ancient Iranians were from ancient India.
Due to lack of productive work, they travelled to what we now called Iran. The very word Iran is only a spacio-temporal distortion of the word Aryan. As proof of this statement, I would like to present the following sloka from ManuSamhita:
shanakaistu kriyaalopaadimaah kshatriyajaatayoh
vrishalatvam gataaloke braahmanaadarshanena ca
poundrkaashcodradaavidaah kambojaah yanaashokaah
paaradaa pahlavaarshceenaah kiraataah daradaakhashaah
(Translation: The ancient name of Persia (Paarasya in Sanskrit) was Paarada. On breaking down of the family and other social structures, a section of kshatriyas came to be called as shoodra at first and yavana later. The inhabitants of Persia belong to that group.)
Max Müller, too, in his Lectures on the Sanskrit Language infers, albeit without any proof, “The Zoroastrians were a colony from Northern India.”
A few more accounts of the Avestan language (called Zend-bhaashaa by many contemporary Sanskrit scholars), and the reader shall be able to independently deduce that this language was born from Sanskrit.
Iran, as we all know, is yet another ancient name for Persia. The Iranians sometimes pronounce it as “Airan”. Airan is also how Iran is mentioned in Ferdowsi’s Shahname. Now let us study the warriors of ancient India for further understanding of the matter at hand. The kshatriyas were broadly divided into two classes: candravamsheeya (of the lineage of candra) and suryavamsheeya (of the lineage of surya). Several puraanas, including Markandeya Puraana and Vaayupuraana mention a candravamsheeya King Pururavaa and his Queen Ira. In Sanskrit, Airan means “from Ira” (just like Aindra means “from Indra”). The same puraanas also describe a battle waged among the kshatriyas with the two aforementioned dynasties pitted against each other. It was as a result of this war that part of the cadravamsheeya kshatriyas had to immigrate to the modern Iran. Among linguists, a certain view holds that Sur and Suran are mere phonetic variations of Tur and Turan, and that the Puraanic war between candra and surya kshatriyas are the same as the legendary wars between Iran and Turan (these wars are described in Ferdowsi’s Shahname too).
On a comparative analysis of the rituals, names of Gods and Goddesses, names of warrior kings and religious advices, extremely surprising revelations in the form of similarities begin to appear. At places, the Avestan language is similar to the extent of being a mere dialect of Sanskrit. Even the notoriously anti-Indian historian and numismatist Col. James Tod, while writing about the ancient Median empire, talks of King Aja Medha of Brahmaavarta-varsha (the name of India before it came to be called Bhaarata-varsha) and his five sons. Two of those sons left India and travelled towards the north-west and in memory of their clan, name their north-western kingdom Medha-desha. This Medha-desha gradually got converted to Medes. Col. Tod concludes, “The country from which Persians are said to have come, can be no other than the North-West part of Ancient India.”
In Zend Avesta, it is written in details that a group from ancient India had reached Persia through Afghanistan and Baluchistan. In the section of Zend Avesta titled Vendidad, Ahura Mazda tells Zarathustra of the sixteen perfect lands, and the penultimate in that list is hapta-hindu, or sapta-sindhu. The first of the perfect lands has been incorrectly translated as “Eastern Iran” in available English editions. The actual phrase is “east of here”, which should be better translated as “east of Iran”. It is also mentioned that under the leadership of Jamshed, the people of that eastern land came down from higher mountains to a plain devoid of animals and human beings. Keep the map of our earth in your mind, and put together the inferences of aforementioned historians, the sloka penned down from ManuSamhita, follow the descriptions in Zend Avesta … and the reader shall stumble upon India.
Now let us start studying the linguistic, socio-cultural and religious similarities of the ancient Iranians and the ancient Indians. First of all, the names and divisions of religious texts. The oldest religious texts of India: Veda. Veda comes from vid, which means “to know”. Zend Avesta is “Zend + Avesta”. Different languages differ slightly in its pronunciation. In Bengali, for instance, it is called “Jend Abhesta”. Many call it “Jendaabhesta” or “Zendaavesta”. In English it has been translated and spelled as Zend Avesta. Zend or jend comes from the Iranian jan, which, too, means “to know”. Also notice the similarity between Iranian jan and Sanskrit jna. jna and vid are synonymous in Sanskrit.
Another school of linguists infer that jend could be a distortion of chanda [please do not read this as the Hindi name Chandaa], meaning “rhythm” in Sanskrit. We find such distortions in Sanskrit plays. For example, in Kaalidasa’s Abhignaana Shakuntalam, the pure Sanskrit word “shakuntale” becomes “sha-undale” when the female protagonist is called by her friends. A similar colloquial distortion can result in “jend” from “chanda”, especially in light of Panini’s reference to vedic Sanskrit as “chanda”. Panini’s description is quite apt due to the divine nature of the sriptures. The Sanskrit word for God, devataa, explained as yaha dyotanam karoti saha devataa, means that which vibrates or oscillates. The second word avesta or abhesta is an obvious cousin of Sanskrit avastha, which comes from “ava sthiti” or “residing in that” (here, as in all Vedic desciptions, that should be interpreted as “the universe” or “parambrahma“). Thus, Zend Avesta, meaning “study of the avesta”, takes the meaning “residing orstaying in universal divinity” in Sanskrit. A detailed study of the Zend Avesta will assure the reader that this meaning is very much in the spirit of the monism in this book.
Now let us inspect the divisions of the religious texts. Zend Avesta is divided into three parts: (a) yashna, (b) vendidad and (c) yashta. Yashna is a colloquial distortion of yagna. The rituals involving fires and invocations of Gods in the Zend Avesta bear uncanny resemblance to the vedic yagna. Moreover, yashna is also called gatha, and the exact same word is used in Sanskrit for the vedic prayers.
Vendidad, again, is a (possibly diachronic) modification of the Sanskrit word vanditaata, meaning “(I) worship (you) O Supreme Father”. What will a reader call the portrait of Ahura Mazda in Zend Avesta if not the Supreme Father? The book is full of worships and offerings to Him. The last and the third part, yashta, deals with social and cultural rules and regulations, much like the last and least ancient of the vedas, the atharva veda. The division of Zend Avesta into three parts, too, reflects the division of vedas. Before the time of Vyaasa, the author of Mahabharata and a great many other books, atharva veda did not exist as a seperate veda. Thus, in many places one still finds the vedas being referred to as trayi or “three”.
Moreover: in India, even today a religious Hindu believes that all rites and rituals must be performed in Sanskrit. One does not find a Hindu cremating a loved one while reciting poems in Hindi, Bhojpuri, Bengali, Gujarati or Marathi. Every Hindu believes that the vedic chants hold some special power. Even the Zoroastrians share this faith. One will never find a ceremony where Ahura Mazda is being worshipped in a language other than the one in Zend Avesta. Just like the Indian Hindus, they too believe in a special divine power of that language. Is this not a heredity complex mirroring the vedic belief system?
Lastly, let us analyze the grammar of the two languages. The Sanskrit words asmai, kasmai and yasyaam mean “to them”, “to whom” and “in which” respectively. The Zend words amhai, kamhai and yesyaam carry the exact same meanings as their Sanskrit counterparts.
From Atharva Veda: kasmai devaaya vidhema.
From Zend Avesta: kamhai devaaya vidhema.
Both mean “to which God should I sacrifice?”
In Sanskrit, shvan means dog. In Zend, dog is called span. When used in singular as a predicate, the two languages use shvaanam and spaanam respectively. Used as the primary subject in a sentence: shvaa and spaa respectively. The phrase “to the dog” become shune and sune respectively.
Even more proof of Zend Avesta being an offshoot of Atharva Veda: In the former, the word pathan means “path” or “method”. The corresponding word in Sanskrit is pathin. As singular subject in a sentence: panthaa (Sanskrit) and pantaa (Zend). As plurals: panthaanah (Sanskrit) and pantaano (Zend). A detailed comparison of these highly respected books, the Atharva Veda and Zend Avesta, establish that their philosophical, spiritual and religious statements are not just strikingly similar, they are exactly the same. Many indologists have arrived at the lightning quick conclusion that many parts of Atharva Veda have been lost due to wars, etc. To them my only request is that please not declare some random text as the “missing veda” …. the parts that are missing from India are present in an ancient India outside India and they go by the name of Zend Avesta. The Persian Zoroastrians are none other than long lost brothers of Vedic Hindus from India.
It is highly possible that, in spite of the many many linguistic proofs and the frequent parallels drawn at every level of the argument, somebody claims, “Well, great men think alike, and great sages realize alike!” For those readers, I present the following tables of Vedic Sanskrit and Zend. Even if great sages had, indeed, thought alike, it is impossible for them to come up with two different languages where there are thousands of homonyms and many of them have the same modifications for singularity-plurality, same modifications for subject-predicate, same modifications for active and passive voice, etc.
(a) Words where ‘s’ in Sanskrit has changed to ‘h’ in Zend:
asura — ahura
soma — homa
sapta — hapta
maasa — maaha
senaa — henaa
[i am] asmi — ahmi
[they are] santi — hanti
vivaswata — vivahnata
(b) Words where ‘h’ in Sanskrit has changed to ‘j’ or ‘z’ in Zend:
hridaya — jardaya
hasta — janta
varaaha — varaaja
hotaa — jotaa
aahuti — aajuti
him — jim
hve — zve
vaahu — vaaju
ahi — aji
(c) Words where ‘shva’ in Sanskrit got modified to ‘spa’ in Zend:
vishva — vispa
ashva — aspa
shvan — span
krishaashva — krishaaspa
(d) Words where “t” (the soft ‘t’) in Sanskrit got modified to ‘tha’ (soft ‘th’ like in ‘thank’) in Zend:
mitra — mithra
trita — tritha
traitaal mantra — thraitaan mantra
All the listed words carry the same meanings in both the languages. Such astonishing resemblance cannot be called a mere coincidence. This resemblance is possible if and only if there is a common root or a common culture in the background. Cerain geographical and temporal changes in pronunciations are bound to occur. Such changes occur even within a single in modern India. The Bengali language of Darjeeling is not at all like the language in Kolkata which is nothing like the language in Dhaka. Tamil in Chennai is very different from Tamil in Madurai which is again very different from Tamil in Thirunelveli.
The list of common words goes on and on: pitara (father), maatara (mother), duhitara (daughter), pashu (animal), go (cow), makshi, (housefly) sharada, (spring season) vaata, abhra (mica), vaidya (physician), ritwija, namaste, manas (mind) , yama (God of death), varuna (God of clouds and water), aryaman, armati, ratha (chariot), rathastha (placed in or sitting in a chariot), gandharva, prashna (question), atharvana, gatha, indra, deva (God), jana, vajra, aja, jaanu …. so on and so forth. In every case, the meaning is shared by the two languages.
In spite of being away from their ancestral homeland, the ancient Iranians did not forget their heritage for a long long time. Let me present more examples to show the reader that the claim that Zend Avesta is a part of Atharva Veda is not something I have built out of my dreams:
(a) vishva duraksho jinavati [Zend: vispa drakshu janaiti]
(b) vishva duraksho nashyati [Zend: vispa drakshu naashaiti]
(c) yadaa shrinoti etaam vaacaam [Zend: yathaa hanoti aisham vaacam]
Moving on from language and grammar and even common phrases (as above comparisons show), let us analyze some social and cultural resmeblances. All historians agree that division of society along the four casts: brahmin, kshatriya, vaishya and shoodra is a uniquely Hindu creation that is to be found nowhere else. But we find this division in Zend Avesta. From purushasukta in Rig Veda:
braahmanosya mukhamaaseed vaahu raajanya kritaha
oorutadasyayadwaishyaha padbhyaam shoodraohajaayataha
(Translation: Brahmins came from the mouth of the Supreme father, Kshatriyas came from His arms, Vaishyas from his thighs and Shoodras from his feet.)
It is from this description that Hindus started creating heirarchies and divided the society in an indescribably rigid manner. However, these divisions were not decided by birth in the Vedic age. These were occupational divisions. Zend Avesta shares this with Hindu texts as the four divisions in Zoroastrianism. These are: (a) atharva, the priest (b) ratheshtan, the warrior (notice the inclusion of rath here, which means ‘chariot’ in Sanskrit) (c) vastriyoksiya, the agricultural labourer and lastly (d) huits, the labour. Is this division any different from the Hindu division into brahmins (priestly cast), kshatriyas (warriors), vaishyas (bussiness people) and shoodras (labourer)?
The famous translator of Zend Avesta, Prof. James Darmestater had exclaimed, “We find in it a description of the four classes which strikingly remind one of the Brahminical account of the origin of casts and which are certainly borrowed from India.”
In Hinduism, all casts with the exception of shoodra can wear a sacred thread called yagnopaveetam. Same is the case with ancient Persians. With the exception of huits, everyone may wear a sacred thread called kushti in Zend.
Finally, I would like to show the reader that there are entire slokas common between the Vedas and Zend Avesta:
mahaantaa mitraa varunaa samraajaa devaav asuraaha sakhe
sakhaayaam ajaro jarimne agne martyaan amartyas tvam nah
(Translation: O Supreme Being, you are fire, you are the sun, you are water. You have appeared to us as Father, as our ruler, as our friend and as our teacher. O Great Father, you are beyond aging but we are not. You are beyond death but we are not. In spite of that you have given us the great fortune to call you our friend.)
mahaantaa mitraa varunaa devaav ahuraaha sakhe ya fedroi vidaat
patyaye caa vaastrevyo at caa khatratave ashaauno ashavavyo
Gatha 17:4 Yashna 53:4)
(Translation: O Ahura Mazda, you appear as the father, the ruler, the friend, the worker and as knowledge. It is your immense mercy that has given a mortal the fortune to stay at your feet.)
In the 46th yashna Zarathustra worships thus:
rafedhram cagvaatta yatapriyopraaya darhaddeet
Gatha 10:2 Yashna 46:2
(Translation: O Ahura Mazda, give me that joy which given to a loved one by a loved one.)
In the Vedas, one supreme being is worshipped who takes on several forms for the creation and sustainence of this universe: ekam sad vipraaha bahudhaa vadanti
This ideology of monism is present throughout Zend Avesta.
Veda: majadaah sakritva smarishthah [Only that supreme being is worthy of worship.]
Zend: madaatta sakhaare marharinto (Gatha 17:4 Yashna 29) [Only Ahura Mazda is worthy of worship.]
There are several such hymns where the meaning is shared between the Send Avesta and the Vedas with very similar words being used. There are several occasions where we find the same rules being described in both. Vedas, for instance, forbid a person to take up the dharma of a sanyaasi (a hermit). Zend Avesta, too, forbids a person to leave a home behind. Such innumerable examples point to the fact that Zend Avesta is the glorious disclosure of a forgotten part of the Vedas, and thus a part of Hindu and Indian history. This final sloka will manage to silence all those who are still not convinced. Not a single syllable is different:
yadi antareekshe yadi vaate aasa yadi vriksheshu yadi bolapashu
yad ashravan pashava ud-yamaanam tad braahmanam punar asmaan upaitu
Atharva Veda 7:66; Zend Avesta Prishni, Chapteer 8, Gatha 12
Translation: O Lord! Whether you be in the sky or in the wind, in the forest or in the waves. No matter where you are, come to us once. All living beings restlessly await the sound of your footsteps.
Entry filed under: hinduism, history, india, literature, perspective, philosophy, religion, society, spiritualism. Tags: Atharva Veda, indology, Rig Veda, sanskrit, Vedas, Zend Avesta, Zoroastrianism.