The Chronology of the Rigveda
The first step in any historical analysis of the Rigveda is the establishment of the internal chronology of the text.
The Rigveda consists of ten MaNDalas or Books. And, excepting likely interpolations, these MaNDalas represent different epochs of history. The arrangement of these MaNDalas in their chronological order is the first step towards an understanding of Rigvedic history. Regarding the chronology of these MaNDalas, only two facts are generally recognised:
1. The six Family MaNDalas II-VII form the oldest core of the Rigveda.
2. The two serially last MaNDalas of the Rigveda, IX and X, are also the chronologically last MaNDalas in that order.
In this chapter, we will establish a more precise chronological arrangement of the MaNDalas based on a detailed analysis of evidence within the text.
However, the precise position of the last two MaNDalas does not require much analysis:
1. MaNDala X is undoubtedly the chronologically last MaNDala of the Rigveda.
As B.K. Ghosh puts it: “On the whole ... the language of the first nine MaNDalas must be regarded as homogeneous, inspite of traces of previous dialectal differences... With the tenth MaNDala it is a different story. The language here has definitely changed.”1
He proceeds to elaborate on this point: “The language of the tenth MaNDala represents a distinctly later stage of the Rigvedic language. Hiatus, which is frequent in the earlier Rigveda, is already in process of elimination here. Stressed i u cannot in sandhi be changed into y w in the earlier parts, but in the tenth MaNDala they can. The ending -Asas in nominative plural is half as frequent as -As in the Rgveda taken as a whole, but its number of occurences is disproportionately small in the tenth MaNDala. Absolutives in -tvAya occur only here. The stem rai- is inflected in one way in the first nine MaNDalas, and in another in the tenth; and in the inflexion of dyau-, too, the distribution of strong and weak forms is much more regular in the earlier MaNDalas. The Prakritic verbal kuru- appears only in the tenth MaNDala for the earlier kRiNu-. Many words appear for the first time in the tenth MaNDala… The old locative form pRitsu, adjectives like girvaNas and vicarSaNi, and the substantive vIti do not occur at all in the tenth MaNDala, though in the earlier MaNDalas they are quite common. The particle sIm which is unknown in the Atharvaveda, occurs fifty times in the first nine MaNDalas, but only once in the tenth. Words like ajya, kAla, lohita, vijaya, etc. occur for the first time in the tenth MaNDala, as also the root labh-.”2
In fact, strikingly different as the language of the tenth MaNDala is from that of the other nine, it would in the natural course of events have been even more so: “The difference in language between the earlier MaNDalas and the tenth would have appeared in its true proportions if the texts concerned had been written down at the time they were composed and handed down to us in that written form. The fact, however, is that the text tradition of the Rigveda was stabilized at a comparatively late date, and fixed in writing at a much later epoch. The result has been not unlike what would have happened if the works of Chaucer and Shakespeare were put in writing and printed for the first time in the twentieth century… (this) to some extent also screens the differences that mark off the languages of the earlier MaNDalas from that of the tenth.”3
So much for the tenth MaNDala.
2. The chronological position of MaNDala IX is equally beyond doubt: it is definitely much earlier than MaNDala X, but equally definitely later than the other eight MaNDalas.
MaNDala IX was meant to be a kind of appendix in which hymns to Soma, ascribed to RSis belonging to all the ten families, were brought together.
An examination of the MaNDala shows that it was compiled at a point, of time when a Rigveda of eight MaNDalas was already in existence as one unit with the eight MaNDalas arranged in their present order: it is significant that the first four RSis of both MaNDala I as well as MaNDala IX are, in the same order, Madhucchandas (with his son JetA in MaNDala I), MedhAtithi, SunahSepa and HiraNyastUpa.
Hence, while we will touch occasionally upon MaNDalas IX and X, our analysis will concentrate mainly on MaNDalas I-VIII.
The main criteria which will help us in establishing the chronological order of the MaNDalas are:
1. The interrelationships
among the composers of the hymns.
Words in the Rigveda.
The interrelationships among the composers of the hymns provide us with a very clear and precise picture.
We will examine the subject
I.A. The Family MaNDalas II-VII.
We get the following direct relationships among the composers of the Family MaNDalas:
Prime facie, we get the following equations:
1. The family MaNDalas can be divided into Early Family MaNDalas (VI, III, VII) and Later Family MaNDalas (IV, II, V)
The Later Family MaNDalas have full hymns composed by direct descendants of RSis from the Early Family MaNDalas.
2. MaNDala VI is the oldest of the Early Family MaNDalas, since descendants of its RSis are composers in two of the Later Family MaNDalas: IV and II.
3. MaNDala V is the latest of the Later Family MaNDalas, since it has hymns by descendants of RSis from two of the Early Family MaNDalas: III and VII.
4. MaNDala VII is the latest of the Early Family MaNDalas since (unlike MaNDalas VI and III which do not have a single hymn composed by any descendant of any RSi from any other MaNDala) there are two joint hymns (VII.101-102) which are jointly composed by VasiSTha and KumAra Agneya (a member of the Agneya group of BharadvAja RSis), a descendant of BharadvAja of MaNDala VI.
5. MaNDala IV is older than
MaNDala II because:
has only two hymns composed by descendants of RSis from MaNDala VI,
while the whole of MaNDala II except for four hymns is composed by
descendants of RSis from MaNDala VI.
b. MaNDala II goes one generation further down than MaNDala IV.
6. MaNDala V, as we saw, has hymns by descendants of RSis from two of the Early Family MaNDalas: III and VII.
In addition, it also has a hymn by descendants of a RSi who (although not himself a composer) is contemporaneous with MaNDala VII: hymn V.24 is composed by the GaupAyanas who are descendants of Agastya, the brother of VasiSTha of MaNDala VII.
Conclusion: We get the following chronological order:
I.B. MaNDala I.
We get the following relationships between the composers of MaNDala I and the Family MaNDalas:
1. MaNDala I has full hymns composed by direct descendants of RSis from the Early Family MaNDalas. 54 of the hymns in MaNDala I fall into this category:
2. In addition, it also has full hymns composed by descendants of RSis who (although not themselves composers) are contemporaneous with the Early Family MaNDalas. 61 of the hymns in MaNDala I fall into this category:
3. MaNDala I does not have a single hymn, full or joint, composed by any ancestor of any RSi from the Early Family MaNDalas.
4. On the other hand, MaNDala I has full hymns composed by ancestors of RSis from the Later Family MaNDalas. 21 of the hymns in MaNDala I fall into this category:
5. The above hymns, it must be noted, include full hymns by contemporaries of RSis from the Later Family MaNDalas, who are also, at the same time, descendants of RSis from the Early Family MaNDalas or from MaNDala I itself:
6. MaNDala I does not have a single hymn, full or joint, composed by any descendant of any RSi from the Later Family MaNDalas.
Conclusion: MaNDala I is later than the Early Family MaNDalas, but both earlier than as well as contemporary to the Later Family MaNDalas: Hence, we get the following chronological order:
I.C. MaNDala VIII
We get the following relationships between the composers of MaNDala VIII and those of the other seven MaNDalas:
1. There are only two direct relationships between the composers of MaNDala VIII, and the composers of the Early Family MaNDalas (VI, III, VII) and the two older of the Later Family MaNDalas (IV, II):
All other relationships, if any, are through composers from MaNDalas I and V.
2. On the other hand, not only are there close relationships between the composers of MaNDala VIII, and the composers from MaNDalas I and V, but there are also many composers in common:
Conclusion: we get the following chronological order:
Note: The BhRgu hymns in MaNDala VIII constitute a SPECIAL CATEGORY of hymns which stand out from the rest. These five hymns (VIII.79,84,100-102) are ascribed to ancient BhRgu RSis of the oldest period. Unlike in the case of MaNDala X, ascriptions in MaNDala VIII have to be taken seriously; and therefore the ascription of the above hymns to ancient BhRgu RSis is to be treated, in general, as valid (in general, in the sense that while hymns ascribed to, say, USanA KAvya, who is already a mythical figure even in the oldest MaNDalas, may not have been composed by him, they must at least have been composed by some ancient BhRgu RSi).
The historical reasons for the non-inclusion of these hymns in the Family MaNDalas, or even in MaNDala I, and for their late introduction into the Rigveda in MaNDala VIII, will be discussed in our chapter on the Indo-Iranian Homeland.
I.D. MaNDala I Detail.
MaNDala I consists of fifteen upa-maNDalas. On the basis of the interrelationships between the composers, we can classify these upa-maNDalas into four groups:
1. Early upa-maNDalas:
The upa-maNDalas which can be definitely designated as early upa-maNDalas are those which are ascribed to direct descendants of composers from the Early Family MaNDalas:
2. Middle upa-maNDalas:
The upa-maNDalas which can be designated as middle upa-maNDalas are those ascribed to ancestors or contemporaries of composers from the earliest of the Later Family MaNDalas:
3. Late upa-maNDalas:
The upa-maNDalas which can be designated as late upa-maNDalas are those ascribed to ancestors or contemporaries of composers from MaNDala VIII:
4. General upa-maNDalas:
Those upa-maNDalas which cannot be definitely designated as either early or late upa-maNDalas on the basis of inter-relationships must be designated as general upa-maNDalas. These include:
a. Those ascribed to independent RSis not directly connected with specific groups of composers in other MaNDalas:
b. Those ascribed to descendants of persons (kings or RSis) contemporaneous with the composers of the Early Family MaNDalas, but not themselves composers of hymns either in the Early Family MaNDalas or in MaNDala I:
The Kutsa and Agastya upa-maNDalas are ascribed to the eponymous RSis Kutsa and Agastya themselves, but they are obviously late upa-maNDalas composed by their remote descendants. Among other things, the only references to these eponymous RSis within the hymns prove this:
The composers in the Kutsa upa-maNDala refer to the RSi Kutsa as a mythical figure from the past: I.106.6;112.9.
The composers in the Agastya upa-maNDala repeatedly describe themselves as descendants of MAna (Agastya): I. 165.14,15; 166.15; 167.11; 169.10; 169.8; 177.5; 182.8; 184.4, 5; 189.8.
I.E. MaNDala IX
As we saw, the chronological position of MaNDala IX after the eight earlier MaNDalas is beyond doubt.
But MaNDala IX ascribes many hymns to RSis from the earlier MaNDalas. According to some scholars, this indicates that while MaNDala IX came into existence as a separate MaNDala after the first eight MaNDalas, many of the individual hymns to Soma were already in existence, and were originally included in the other MaNDalas. Later they were “combed out of the other MaNDalas”4 and compiled into a separate MaNDala dedicated solely to Soma hymns.
This would appear to imply that the period of MaNDala IX (like that of MaNDala I) should be stretched out alongside the Periods of all the other MaNDalas.
However, the contention that the hymns in MaNDala IX could be “combed out of” the other MaNDalas is not quite correct. Any “combing out” would be relevant only in the case of the five older MaNDalas (VI, III, VII, IV, II); since the other three MaNDalas (I, V and VIII) were finalised just before MaNDala IX, and Soma hymns which should have been included in these MaNDalas could just as well have been left out of the MaNDalas even before their finalisation, as the idea of a separate Soma MaNDala may already have fructified by then.
And an examination of MaNDala IX shows that it is a late MaNDala. MaNDala IX has 114 hymns. If we exclude the fourteen BhRgu hymns, which we will refer to again in our chapter on the Geography of the Rigveda, the following is the chronological distribution of the hymns:
1. Forty-nine of the hymns are ascribed to RSis belonging to the period of MaNDala IX (i.e. new RSis not found in earlier MaNDalas) or the period of MaNDala X (i.e. R is with strange names and of unknown family identity):
MaNDala IX: IX.5-26, 39-40, 44-46, 61, 63, 68,
2. Forty hymns are ascribed to RSis belonging to the last layer of MaNDalas to be finalised before MaNDala IX (i.e. MaNDalas V, VIII and I):
MaNDala V: IX.32, 35-36, 53-60.
3. Only eleven hymns can even be alleged to have been composed by RSis belonging to the five earlier Family MaNDalas (VI, III, VII, IV and II), if one takes the ascriptions at face value.
But, in the case of at least nine of these hymns, it is clear, on the basis of evidence within the AnukramaNIs themselves, that these ascriptions are fictitious, and that the hymns are not composed by the early RSis belonging to these five Family MaNDalas, but by late RSis belonging to the period of MaNDalas IX and X.
These nine hymns are: IX. 67, 84, 86, 96-98, 101, 107-108.
An examination of the ascriptions in these nine hymns establishes their lateness:
In short, these nine hymns are clearly composed by RSis belonging to the late period of MaNDalas I-V-VIII-IX-X, and not the period of the five earlier Family MaNDalas.
4. Ultimately, the only two hymns which can be ascribed to RSis belonging to the five earlier Family MaNDalas, and only for want of clear contrary evidence, are:
IX.71 (ascribed to RSabha
VaiSvAmitra of MaNDala III)
IX.90 (ascribed to VasiSTha MaitrAvaruNI of MaNDala VII)
It is therefore clear that MaNDala IX is a late MaNDala, and that there was not much of “combing out” of hymns to Soma from earlier MaNDalas in the process of its compilation.
The chronological position of MaNDala IX after the eight earlier MaNDalas is therefore certain.
I.F. MaNDala X
MaNDala X, as we saw, was composed after the other nine MaNDalas, and compiled so long after them that its language alone, in spite of attempts at standardisation, is sufficient to establish its late position.
The ascription of hymns in this MaNDala is so chaotic that in most of the hymns the names, or the patronymics/epithets, or both, of the composers, are fictitious; to the extent that, in 44 hymns out of 191, and in parts of one more, the family identity of the composers is a total mystery.
In many other hymns, the family identity, but not the actual identity of the composers, is clear or can be deduced: the hymns are ascribed to remote ancestors, or even to mythical ancestors not known to have composed any hymns in earlier MaNDalas.
Chronologically, the hymns in MaNDala X fall in three categories:
a. Hymns composed in the final period of the Rigveda, long after the period of the other nine MaNDalas.
b. Hymns composed in the period of MaNDala IX, after the eight earlier MaNDalas were finalised, by composers whose Soma hymns find a place in MaNDala IX.
c. Hymns composed in the late period of MaNDala VIII, which somehow missed inclusion in that MaNDala.
The hymns of the second and third category were kept aside, and later included, in changed linguistic form, in MaNDala X.
To round off our examination of the interrelationships among the composers, we may note the following instances of composers in MaNDala X who are descendants of RSis from the latest MaNDala VIII and IX:
In conclusion, we can classify the periods of the MaNDalas into the following major periods:
1. The Early Period: The period of MaNDalas VI, III, VII and the early upa-maNDalas of MaNDala 1.
2. The Middle Period: The period of MaNDalas IV and II and the middle upa-maNDalas of MaNDala I; as also the earlier part of the general upa-maNDalas of MaNDala I.
3. The Late Period:
4. The Final Period:
The period of MaNDala X.
The MaNDalas of the Rigveda, as we have seen, can be arranged in a definite chronological order on the basis of the interrelationships among the composers of the hymns. This chronological order is confirmed by a consideration of
A. The Family Structure of
II. A. The Family Structure of the MaNDalas
If the MaNDalas of the Rigveda are arranged in order of gradation in family structure (i.e. from the purest family structure to the least pure one), the arrangement tallies perfectly with our chronological order:
Firstly, the Family MaNDalas:
1. The BharadvAja MaNDala (VI) has BharadvAjas as composers in every single hymn and verse. Non-BharadvAjas are totally absent in this MaNDala.
2. The ViSvAmitra MaNDala (III) has ViSvAmitras as composers in every single hymn; but non-ViSvAmitras are present as junior partners with the ViSvAmitras in two hymns (1 out of 11 verses in hymn 36; and 3 out of 18 verses in hymn 62).
3. The VasiSTha MaNDala (VII) has VasiSThas as composers in every single hymn; but non-VasiSThas are present as equal partners with the VasiSThas in two hymns (101-102)
4. The VAmadeva MaNDala (IV) has non-VAmadevas as sole composers in two hymns (43-44).
These non-VAmadevas, however, belong to the same ANgiras family as the VAmadevas, and share the same AprI-sUkta.
5. The GRtsamada MaNDala (II) has non-GRtsamadas as sole composers in four hymns (4-7).
These non-GRtsamadas belong to a family related to the GRtsamadas (being BhRgus while the GRtsamadas are Kevala-BhRgus) but having different AprI-sUktas.
6. The Atri MaNDala (V) has non-Atris as sole composers in seven hymns (15, 24, 29, 33-36).
These non-Atris belong to four different families not related to the Atris, and having different AprI-sUktas.
Then, the non-family MaNDalas:
1. MaNDala I is a collection of small family upa-maNDalas.
2. MaNDala VIII is not a Family MaNDala; but one family, the KaNvas, still dominate the MaNDala by a slight edge, with 55 hymns out of 103.
There is, for the first time, a hymn (47) by a RSi of unknown family identity.
3. MaNDala IX is definitely not a family MaNDala, having hymns or verses composed by every single one of the ten families. The dominant family, the KaSyapas, are the composers of only 36 hymns out of 114.
There are now eight full hymns (33-34, 66, 102-103, 106, 109-110) and parts of two others (86.1-40; 101.4-12) by RSis of unknown family identity.
4. MaNDala X, the latest MaNDala by any standard, is not associated with any particular family.
There are 44 hymns by RSis of unknown family identity.
Clearly, the older the MaNDala, the purer its family structure.
II.B The System of Ascriptions
There are basically two systems of ascription of compositions of the hymns, followed in the ten MaNDalas of the Rigveda:
1. In the older system, the hymns composed by an eponymous RSi as well as those composed by his descendants, are ascribed solely to the eponymous RSi himself
It is only when a particular descendant is important enough, or independent enough, that hymns composed by him (and, consequently, by his descendants) are ascribed to him.
This system is followed in the first five Family MaNDalas (VI, III, VII, IV, II) and also in MaNDala I.
2. In the newer system, the ascription of hymns is more individualistic, and hymns are generally ascribed to the names of individual composers, except in cases where the composer himself chooses to have hymns composed by him ascribed to an ancestor.
This system is followed in MaNDalas V, VIII, IX and X.
The dichotomy between the two systems will be clear from the following table:
What is significant is that MaNDala V alone, among the Family MaNDalas, falls in the same class as the non-family MaNDalas, thereby confirming that it is a late MaNDala and the last of the Family MaNDalas.
Likewise, MaNDala I falls
in the same class as the other (than MaNDala V) Family MaNDalas, thereby
confirming that it is, for the most part, earlier than MaNDala V.
On the basis of one fundamental criterion (the inter-relationships among the composers) we have obtained a very clear and unambiguous picture of the chronological order of the MaNDalas.
Now we will examine this chronological order of the MaNDalas on the basis of a second fundamental criterion: the references to composers within the hymns.
The logic is simple: if a hymn in MaNDala B refers to a composer from MaNDala A as a figure from the past, this indicates that MaNDala A is older than MaNDala B.
This naturally does not include the following references, which are of zero-value for this purpose:
1. References to a RSi by his descendants.
2. References to ancient ANgiras and BhRgu RSis (eg. BRhaspati, Atharvana, USanA) who are mythical figures in the whole of the Rigveda, but to whom hymns are ascribed in MaNDalas X or IX, or even VIII.
3. References to Kings from the ancient period (eg. Pratardana, SudAs) to whom hymns are ascribed in MaNDala X or IX.
We will examine the references as follows:
A. The Early MaNDalas and
III. A. The Early MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas
The following is the situation in the MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas which we have classified as belonging to the Early Period:
1. The two oldest MaNDalas VI and III do not refer to a single composer from any other MaNDala.
2. The third oldest MaNDala VII refers to one composer from the older MaNDala III: Jamadagni (VII.96.3)
MaNDala VII is also unique in its reference to three contemporary RSis to whom upa-maNDalas are ascribed in MaNDala I:
However, all these references make it very clear that these RSis are contemporaries of VasiSTha and not figures from the past:
a. Agastya is VasiSTha’s
The upa-maNDalas ascribed to Agastya and Kutsa, as we have already seen, consist of hymns composed by their descendants, while ParASara is himself a descendant of VasiSTha.
Therefore, the references to these RSis in MaNDala VII not only do not show that MaNDala I is older that MaNDala VII, they in fact confirm that MaNDala VII is older than MaNDala I.
3. The early upa-maNDalas of MaNDala I (i.e. the Madhucchandas, SunahSepa and ParASara upa-maNDalas) do not refer to any composer from any other MaNDala.
Thus the three oldest MaNDalas and the three early upa-maNDalas are completely devoid of references to composers from the periods of any of the other MaNDalas, thereby firmly establishing their early position and their chronological isolation from the other MaNDalas.
III. B. The Middle MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas
The Middle MaNDalas, and upa-maNDalas, as per our chronology, follow the Early MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas, and are contemporaneous with the early parts of the general upa-maNDalas of MaNDala I.
The following is the situation in these MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas belonging to the Middle Period:
1.MaNDala IV refers to one composer from the older MaNDala VI: RjiSvan (IV.16.13).
It also refers to two composers from the early part of the general upa-maNDalas of MaNDala I:
MAmateya (DIrghatamas) (IV.4.13)
This is matched by a cross-reference in the DIrghatamas upa-maNDala by way of a reference to a composer from MaNDala IV: PurumILha (I.151.2)
There is no reference in MaNDala IV to any composer from any MaNDala which follows it as per our chronology.
2.MaNDala II does not refer to any composer from any other MaNDala, earlier or later. And, for that matter, no other composer from any other MaNDala refers to the GRtsamadas of MaNDala II.
3.The middle upa-maNDalas of MaNDala I (i.e. the Gotama and NodhAs upa-maNDalas) refer to one composer from the older MaNDala VI: BharadvAja (I.59.7).
There is no reference in any of these MaNDalas or upa-maNDalas to any composer from the Late MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas.
III. C. The Late MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas
In sharp contrast to the meagre references in earlier MaNDalas to composers from other MaNDalas, we find an abundance of such references in the Late MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas (i.e. MaNDalas V and VIII, and the general and the late upa-maNDalas of MaNDala I):
1. These MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas refer to the following composers from earlier MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas:
from MaNDala VI.
2. MaNDala V refers to one composer from the late upa-maNDalas: KaNva (V. 41. 4).
This is matched by cross-references in the general and late upa-maNDalas to a composer from MaNDala V: Atri (I.45.3; 51.3; 139.9; 183.5).
3. MaNDala VIII refers to the following composers from MaNDala V:
4. MaNDala VIII refers to the following composers from the general upa-maNDalas:
This is matched by a number of cross-references in MaNDala I to composers from MaNDala VIII:
5. The general and late upa-maNDalas refer to composers from other upa-maNDalas:
a. The Savya
upa-maNDala refers to KakSIvAn
6. Finally, the late MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas even refer to the following composers from MaNDala X:
It appears incredible, on the face of it, that composers from the very Late MaNDala X should be named in earlier MaNDalas. However, it fits in with our chronology: as we have seen, the hymns in MaNDala X include hymns composed in the Late Period of MaNDala VIII which somehow missed inclusion in that MaNDala. They could not be include in the next MaNDala IX since that MaNDala contained only hymns to Soma. These hymns were therefore kept aside, and, not being canonised by inclusion in the text, they suffered linguistic changes, and were subsequently included in MaNDala X in a language common to that MaNDala.
However, these RSis, belonging as they did to the period of MaNDala VIII, happened to be named in incidental references in late hymns in the Late MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas.
Incidentally, BRhaduktha, named in V.19.5, has the patronymic VAmadevya, indicating that he is a descendant of VAmadeva of MaNDala IV, thus again confirming our chronology.
III. D. MaNDala IX
MaNDala IX is a ritual MaNDala devoted to Soma hymns, and references to RSis, strictly speaking, have no place in it.
Nevertheless, we do find references to the following composers:
(IX.97.51) from the period of the Early
These references clearly
prove the late provenance of MaNDala IX.
The final picture that emerges from our analysis of the references to composers is exactly the same as the chronological picture obtained from our analysis of the interrelationships among the composers.
In respect of MaNDala I, it is now clear that the early upa-maNDalas are definitely very early; and the late parts of the general and late upa-maNDalas coincide with the closing period of MaNDala VIII:
It is not only composers who are referred to within the hymns: there are also references to Kings and RSis (other than composers); and an examination of these references can help in throwing more light on the chronology of the MaNDalas.
We will examine these references as follows:
A. The Bharata Dynasty.
IV.A. The Bharata Dynasty
The Bharata Dynasty is the predominant dynasty in the Rigveda. Eleven Kings of this dynasty are referred to in the Rigveda:
1. Bharata: VI.16.4;
The names of these Kings are given above in order of their relative positions in the dynastic list (not necessarily in succeeding generations, since it is possible that there are many intervening generations of Kings who are not named in the Rigveda).
Their relative positions are based on information within the hymns:
1. Bharata is the eponymous ancestor of this dynasty.
2. DevavAta is referred to as an ancestor of SRnjaya (IV. 15.4; VI.27.7), DevaSravas (III.23.2, 3) and SudAs (VII.18.22).
3. SRnjaya is referred to as a descendant of DevavAta (IV. 15.4; VI.27.7), and ancestor of DivodAsa (VI.47.25).
4. VadhryaSva is referred to as the father of DivodAsa (VI.61.1).
5. DivodAsa is referred to as a descendant of SRnjaya (VI.47.25), a son of VadhryaSva (VI.61.1) and an ancestor of SudAs (VII.18.25).
6. Pratardana is referred to as a descendant of DivodAsa (AnukramaNIs of IX.96), the father of an unnamed King (VI.26.8), and ancestor of SudAs (VII.33.14).
7. Pijavana is referred to as an ancestor of SudAs (VII.18.22, 23, 25).
8 a. DevaSravas is referred
to as a descendant of
9. Sahadeva is referred to as the father of Somaka (IV.15.7-10).
10. Somaka is referred to as the son of Sahadeva (IV.15.7-10). (SRnjaya and DevavAta are referred to in verse 4 of the hymn.)
As we can see, the relative positions of all these Kings are clear from the references. It is only in the case of DevaSravas (about whom the only information we have is that he is a descendant of DevavAta) that a word of clarification becomes necessary:
Hymn 23 refers to two Kings, DevavAta and DevaSravas; and (as in the case of IV.42; V.27; VI.15) these Kings, who are referred to in the hymn are named as the composers of the hymn in the AnukramaNIs. Most scholars, ancient and modem, assume from this that while DevavAta and DevaSravas may or may not be composers of the hymn, they are at least contemporaries and possibly brothers.
It is, however, very clear from the hymn that they are neither composers nor contemporaries: the composer is ViSvAmitra, while DevaSravas is the King who is being addressed by the composer, and DevavAta is a King from the remote past, an ancestor of DevaSravas, who is being invoked and whom DevaSravas is being asked to remember and emulate.
While this makes it clear that DevaSravas is a descendant of DevavAta, his exact position in the dynastic list is not immediately clear. However, the fact that MaNDala III is contemporaneous with the period of SudAs gives us the following options:
a. DevaSravas is a contemporary
The two main heroes of the dynasty are DivodAsa and SudAs:
DivodAsa is referred to as a contemporary only in MaNDala VI (VI.16.5; 31.4; 47.22, 23). In all other references to him, he is a figure from the past.
SudAs is referred to as a contemporary only in MaNDalas III and VII (III.53.9, 11; VII. 18.22, 23; 25.3; 53.3; 60.8, 9; 64.3). In all other references to him, he is a figure from the past.
Between them, DivodAsa and SudAs are referred to in every single MaNDala of the Rigveda except in MaNDala X.
From this, we get a clear chronological picture:
(MaNDala III is placed before MaNDala VII because the hymns make it clear, and almost every single authority, ancient and modem, is unanimous, that ViSvAmitra was the earlier priest of SudAs and VasiSTha the later one.)
Further: Sahadeva, a descendant of SudAs (as per all traditional information) is referred to as a contemporary in hymn I.100; while his son Somaka is referred to as a contemporary in IV.15.
Hymn I.100 is ascribed to RjrASva and the VArSAgiras; but the hymn is clearly composed by a Kutsa RSi, as it is included in the Kutsa upa-maNDalas. In general, the hymns in this upa-maNDalas are late ones, and include, in its ASvin-hymns, some of the latest hymns in MaNDala I. But this particular hymn, I.100, appears to be the oldest hymn in this upa-maNDala, and perhaps constituted the nucleus around which Kutsas of a later period formed their upa-maNDalas.
The chronological picture we get for the Bharatas, consequently, is as follows:
The above order tallies exactly with the order of the earliest MaNDalas in our chronology. Incidentally, the earliest historically relevant King of this dynasty in the Rigveda, DevavAta, is referred to only in the four MaNDalas (VI, III, VII, IV), which clearly represent the heyday of the Bharata dynasty.
IV.B. Minor Kings and RSis
A great number of minor Kings and RSis are named in references throughout the Rigveda.
However, most of them are irrelevant to our chronological analysis, since they do not provide any information which could be useful in arranging the MaNDalas in their chronological order.
a. Those who are mythical or ancestral figures in all the MaNDalas which refer to them.
b. Those who are not referred to in more than one MaNDala- (unless they can be logically and chronologically connected with other Kings or RSis in other MaNDalas).
c. Those who are referred to only in two MaNDalas, and one of these two is MaNDala X.
References which are relevant to our analysis are references to Kings and RSis who are contemporary in one or more MaNDalas, and figures from the past in others.
Unfortunately, unlike the Bharata Kings, none of the minor Kings and RSis fulfil this criterion.
Hence, rather than using these references to clarify our already established chronological picture, we can, in effect, use our already established chronological picture to clarify the chronological position of these Kings and RSis. Thus:
a. In one case, we can conclude
that, of the two
However, the references to some minor Kings do help to confirm our chronological order in respect of our classification of certain MaNDalas (V, VIII and the general and late upa-maNDalas of MaNDala I) as late ones:
a. These Kings are referred
to as contemporaries
These Kings are:
(The composer of IX.58 is
AvatsAra KASyapa, who is also the composer of V.44.1-9, 14-15.)
IV. C. The TRkSi Dynasty
Three Kings of the TRkSi dynasty (apparently corresponding to the IkSvAku dynasty of the PurANas) are referred to in the Rigveda.
We are taking up the references to these Kings last of all because these references alone among all the references to Kings and RSis in the Rigveda, appear to fail to fit into our chronology of the Rigveda.
These Kings are:
Trasadasyu is clearly the most important of these Kings, and he and Purukutsa belong to the same period (since the reference in IV.42.8-9 makes it clear that Purukutsa is the actual father, and not some remote ancestor, of Trasadasyu).
And equally clearly, this period is the late period:
a. Trasadasyu’s name occurs the greatest number of times in MaNDala VIII (as DivodAsa’s name does in MaNDala VI, and SudAs’ in MaNDala VII).
b. Trasadasyu’s son (referred to only as TrAsadasyava) also clearly belongs to the period of MaNDala VIII.
c. Trasadasyu is referred to as a patron, and therefore a contemporary, only in MaNDalas V and VIII (V.27.3; 33.8; VIII.19.32, 36).
And yet, we find four references to Purukutsa and Trasadasyu in the older MaNDalas (VI.20.10; VII.19.3; IV.38.1; 42.8-9), and one in the middle upa-maNDalas (I.63.7).
This raises a piquant question: is there something wrong with our chronology of the Rigveda, or is there something incongruous about these five references in the older MaNDalas?
There is clearly nothing wrong with our chronology of the Rigveda:
1. Our chronology is based on detailed analyses of totally independent factors, each of which gives us exactly the same clear and integrated picture of the chronological order of the MaNDalas. This picture cannot be invalidated or questioned on the basis of five references to one pair of kings.
2. And, in fact, an examination of the contemporary references to Trasadasyu confirms rather than contradicts our chronology:
Trasadasyu is referred to
as a patron and contemporary by only three RSis:
Using ViSvAmitra and MaNDala III as a base, we get the following chronological equations:
a. SudAs is many generations prior to Trasadasyu, since SudAs is contemporaneous with ViSvAmitra, while Trasadasyu is contemporaneous with ViSvAmitra’s remote descendent SamvaraNa.
b. SudAs is many generations prior to Trasadasyu, since SudAs is contemporaneous with ViSvAmitra, whose junior associate is Ghora ANgiras, while Trasadasyu is contemporaneous with Ghora’s remote descendant Sobhari.
c. MaNDala III is much older than MaNDala V, since ViSvAmitra is the RSi of MaNDala III, while his remote descendant SamvaraNa is a RSi in MaNDala V.
d. MaNDala III is much older than MaNDala VIII, since Ghora is a junior associate of ViSvAmitra (the RSi of MaNDala III), while his remote descendants are RSis in MaNDala VIII.
e. MaNDala VII, which is also contemporaneous with SudAs, is also therefore much older than MaNDalas V and VIII.
Thus, the very fact that SamvaraNa PrAjApatya is one of the RSis contemporaneous with Trasadasyu is proof of the validity of our chronology.
But this brings us to the second part of the question: is there something incongruous about the five references to Purukutsa and Trasadasyu in the older MaNDalas?
And the only answer can be: these five references must be, have to be, interpolations or late additions into the older MaNDalas.
If so, this is a unique and special circumstance in the Rigveda. There are other actual or alleged cases of interpolations in the Rigveda (all interpolations made during different stages of compilation of the Rigveda before the ten-MaNDala Rigveda was finalized), but all of them are incidental ones pertaining to ritual hymns or verses. But these, if they are interpolations, are deliberate interpolations of a political nature, since only one father-and-son pair of Kings forms the subject of the interpolated references. And only some unique circumstance could have been responsible for this.
The nature of this unique circumstance can only be elucidated by an examination of the nature of the references themselves.
And, on examination, we get the following picture: the five references in the older MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas are laudatory and even adulatory references to Purukutsa and Trasadasyu. Purukutsa and Trasadasyu, although they were not even Vedic Aryans (as we shall see in our chapter on the identity of the Vedic Aryans) are accorded the highest praise in the Rigveda; and this high praise is on account of the fact that they were responsible for the victory, perhaps the very survival as a nation, of the PUrus (who were the Vedic Aryans) in a vital struggle between the PUrus. and their enemies which must have taken place during the period of the Late MaNDalas.
As a result, the extremely grateful RSis belonging to the families intimately connected with the Bharatas (namely, the ANgirases of both the BharadvAja and Gotama groups, and the VasiSThas) recorded their tribute to Purukutsa and Trasadasyu in the form of verses.
The case of Purukutsa and Trasadasyu was clearly such a special one in the eyes of these RSis that in their case, and only in their case in the whole of the Rigveda, they made a point of breaking with orthodox tradition and interpolating these verses in their praise into the older MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas connected with their families.
The praise is equally special: in IV.42.8-9, Trasadasyu is twice referred to as a “demi-god”, ardhadeva, a phrase which is not found again in the Rigveda; and. even the circumstance of his birth is glorified. The seven RSis are described as performing sacrifices, and Purukutsa’s wife as giving oblations to Indra and VaruNa, before the Gods are pleased to reward them with the birth of Trasadasyu, “the demi-god, the slayer of the foeman”.
IV.38.1, likewise, thanks Mitra and VaruNa for the services which Trasadasyu, “the winner of our fields and plough-lands, and the strong smiter who subdued the Dasyus”, rendered to the PUrus.
VI.20.10 refers to the PUrus lauding Indra for the help rendered by him to Purukutsa (read: the help rendered by Purukutsa to the PUrus) in a war against the DAsa tribes.
1.63.7 refers to Indra rendering military aid to the PUrus, by way of Purukutsa and by way of SudAs.
VII.19.3 refers to Indra helping the PUrus “in winning land and slaying foemen”, once by way of Trasadasyu Paurukutsa and once by way of SudAs.
These five interpolated references in the older MaNDalas stand out sharply from the other references in eleven hymns in the later MaNDalas: those references do not even once refer to the PUrus in connection with Purukutsa and Trasadasyu; and the only praise of these kings is found in the dAnastutis (V.33; VIII.19).
That the five references to Purukutsa and Trasadasyu in the older MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas are interpolations is, therefore, proved by:
1. Their violation of our chronology; and even of their own implied chronology.
2. Their special nature which makes them stand out sharply from the other references to these kings in later MaNDalas.
3. The fact that in the case of at least two of these five references, even the Western scholars have noted that they are interpolations or late additions (which is a very high ratio, considering that such interpolations are not necessarily detectable):
In respect of IV.42.8-9, Griffith tells us that “Grassmann banishes stanzas 8, 9 and 10 to the appendix as late additions to the hymn”.
In respect of VII.19, the entire hymn appears to be a late addition into MaNDala VII. This Man ala is contemporaneous with the period of SudAs; and in his footnote to VII. 19.8, Griffith notes that the King referred to in the verse is “probably a descendant of SudAs, who must have lived long before the composition of this hymn, as the favour bestowed on him is referred to as old in stanza 6”.
So much for these references, which, alone in the whole of the Rigveda, appear to stand out against our chronology of the MaNDalas.
But, before concluding this section, we must also take note of the references to MandhAtA: the only references to him in the Rigveda are in late MaNDalas.
On the face of it, this would appear to fit in with the general picture: Purukutsa, Trasadasyu and TrAsadasyava belong to the period of the late MaNDalas, and their ancestor MandhAtA also belongs to the same period.
However, this runs in the face of the traditional picture of MandhAtA: all tradition outside the Rigveda is unanimous in identifying him as a very early historical king.
Of course, when information outside the Rigveda is in contradiction to information in the Rigveda, the former is to be rejected. But is it really in contradiction in this case?
An examination shows that although the three references in the Rigveda occur in late MaNDalas, they are unanimous (with each other and with traditional information outside the Rigveda) in identifying MandhAtA as a King from the remote past:
a. Not one of the three references treats MandhAtA as a contemporary person.
b. In fact, VIII.39.8 refers to him as one of the earliest performers of the sacrifice, yajñeSu pUrvyam.
Likewise, VIII.40.12 refers to MandhAtA together with the ancient ANgirases as “our ancestors”.
c. The general period of MandhAtA also appears to be indicated in two of the references:
VIII.40.12, as we saw, classifies MandhAtA with the ancient ANgirases.
I.112.13 is more specific: it names MandhAtA in the same verse as BharadvAja. (The other reference to BharadvAja in this particular set of ASvin hymns, in I.116.18, likewise refers to BharadvAja and DivodAsa in the same verse.)
The inference is clear: MandhAtA belongs to the earliest period of MaNDala VI and beyond.
The whole situation reeks of irony: the TRkSi Kings Purukutsa and Trasadasyu belong to the period of the late MaNDalas, but references (albeit interpolations) to them are found in the oldest MaNDalas; whereas their ancestor MandhAtA, who belongs to the oldest period, even preceding MaNDala VI, is referred to only in the latest MaNDalas.
As there is logic behind the first circumstance, there is logic behind the second one as well:
1. MandhAtA is not referred to in the oldest MaNDalas because his period preceded the period of these MaNDalas; and he was a non-PUru King while these MaNDalas are specifically Bharata (PUru) MaNDalas.
2. He is referred to in the later MaNDalas because:
a. The composer who refers to him in VIII.39.8 and VIII.40.12 is NAbhAka KANva. According to tradition, NAbhAka is a King from the IkSvAku (TRkSi) dynasty who joined the KaNva family of RSis. He is, therefore, a descendant of MandhAtA, whom, indeed, he refers to as his ancestor.
b. Hymn I.112 (like I.116) is a historiographical hymn, which refers to many historical characters. These historiographical hymns, incidentally and inadvertently, provide us with many historical clues. The reference to MandhAtA is an example of this.
In conclusion, the references
to Kings and RSis in the Rigveda fully confirm and corroborate our chronology.
and formation of the Rigveda can be summarised from various angles:
V.A. The Order of the MaNDalas
The chronological order of the MaNDalas, as we saw, is: VI, III, VII, IV, II, V, VIII, IX, X, with the chronological period of MaNDala I spread out over the periods of at least four other MaNDalas (IV, II, V, VIII).
Needless to say, the chronological order of the ten MaNDalas appears to bear no relationship to the serial order in which the MaNDalas are arranged.
But the matter becomes clearer when we examine the case of the Family MaNDalas separately from the case of the non-family MaNDalas.
There is a general consensus among the scholars that the six Family MaNDalas, II-VII, formed the original core of the Rigveda, and the four non-family MaNDalas, I and VIII-X, were added to the corpus later.
The serial order of the non-family MaNDalas tallies with their chronological order. The only two problems are:
1. Why is MaNDala I placed before, rather than after, the corpus of the Family MaNDalas?
2. The Family MaNDalas are not arranged in chronological order; so what is the criterion adopted in their arrangement?
These questions have remained unanswered. But actually the answers are clear from the evidence:
1. MaNDala I, unlike the other non-family MaNDalas, is not unambiguously later than the Family MaNDalas in terms of composition and compilation: many upa-maNDalas s in this MaNDala are contemporaneous with the Later Family MaNDalas, and some even precede them.
It is in recognition of this fact that the compilers of the Rigveda placed it before the Family MaNDalas.
2. The Family MaNDalas were formulated into a text before the addition of the non-family MaNDalas, and the criterion for their arrangement was not chronology, but size: MaNDala II is the smallest of the Family MaNDalas with 429 verses, while MaNDala VII is the biggest with 841 verses.
The number of verses in the six Family MaNDalas is, respectively: 429, 617, 589, 727, 765, 841.
Clearly, there is a lacuna here: MaNDala III (617 verses) has more verses than MaNDala IV (589 verses).
The only logical explanation for this is that MaNDala III originally, at the time of fixing of the arrangement of the Family MaNDalas, had fewer verses than MaNDala IV; but many verses were added to it at a later point of time, which upset the equation.
Surprisingly, this is not just a matter of logic: the fact is directly confirmed in the Aitareya BrAhmaNa the BrAhmaNa text which is connected with the Rigveda.
According to the Aitareya BrAhmaNa (VI.18), six hymns (III.21, 30, 34, 36, 38-39) were “seen” (i.e. composed) by ViSvAmitra at a later point of time to compensate certain other hymns which were “seen” by ViSvAmitra but were misappropriated by VAmadeva.
That is: after the text of the Family MaNDalas was fixed, a dispute arose with the ViSvAmitras claiming that some of the hymns included in the VAmadeva MaNDala were actually composed by ViSvAmitras. The dispute was resolved by including some new hymns into MaNDala III, by way of compensation, in lieu of the disputed hymns.
If these six hymns (III.21, 30, 34, 36, 38-39), which have a total of 68 verses, are excluded from the verse count of MaNDala III, we get, more or less, the original verse count of the six Family MaNDalas: 429, 549, 589, 737, 765, 841.
V.B The Formation of the Rigveda
The process of formation of the Rigveda took place in four stages.
1. The Six-MaNDala Rigveda: The Family MaNDalas.
Eight-MaNDala Rigveda: MaNDalas I-VIII.
b. Minor interpolations: References to TRkSi Kings in older MaNDalas.
c. Introductions: Old BhRgu hymns included in the Rigveda in MaNDala VIII.
Nine-MaNDala Rigveda: MaNDalas I-IX.
Major interpolations: The VAlakhilya hymns VIII. 49-59.
4. The Ten MaNDala Rigveda:
b. Minor adjustments: Splitting and combining of hymns to produce symmetrical numbers (191 hymns each in MaNDalas I and X) or astronomically or ritually significant numbers and sequences (see papers by Subhash C. Kak, Prof. of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, U.S.A.).
The completion of the fourth stage saw the full canonization of the Rigveda, and the text was frozen into a form which it has maintained to this day.
V.C. The Chronology of the RSis
The chronological positions of some major RSis are summarized in the following chart. Asterisks indicate the first RSi from whom the family originated (chart on next page).
The chart is self-explanatory. However, the following points must be clarified, particularly in respect of the eponymous RSis of the general upa-maNDalas s, whose period stretches across the periods of four MaNDalas (IV, II, V, VIII):
a. Agastya and Kutsa are contemporaries of VasiSTha, but the upa-maNDalas which bear their names were composed by their descendants, and therefore figure as general upa-maNDalas which come later in time.
b. KaSyapa is later than VAmadeva, but he is also earlier than Atri (his descendant AvatsAra KASyapa being a senior RSi in V.44), and he must therefore be placed in the period of MaNDala I between the middle and late upa-maNDalas.
c. Parucchepa’s upa-maNDala has been classified as a general upa-maNDalas on the ground that there is no direct relationship between Parucchepa and the actual composers of either the Early, Middle or Late MaNDalas. However, it is clear that the beginnings of the Parucchepa upa-maNDala lie in the late rather than the middle period: unlike in the case of other MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas, the Parucchepa upa-maNDala appears to be composed by a single composer rather than by a group of composers comprising many generations (the uniformity of style and content of the hymns certainly gives this impression), and this composer already names Atri, KaNva, and Priyamedha as senior RSis (I.139.9).
V.D. The Chronology of the MaNDalas
We are concerned, in this chapter and this book, with the internal chronology of the Rigveda rather than with its absolute chronology: that is, we are concerned with the chronological sequence of the different parts of the Rigveda, and not with the exact century BC to which a particular part belongs.
However, the absolute chronology of the text is ultimately bound to be a vital factor in our understanding of Vedic history; and, while we leave the subject for the present to other scholars, it will be pertinent to note here that our analysis of the internal chronology of the Rigveda does shed some light on an aspect which is important to any study of absolute chronology: namely, the duration of the period of composition of the Rigveda.
It is clear that the Rigveda was not composed in one sitting, or in a series of sittings, by a conference of RSis: the text is clearly the result of many centuries of composition. The question is: just how many centuries?
The Western scholars measure the periods of the various MaNDalas in terms of decades, while some Indian scholars go to the other extreme and measure them in terms of millenniums and decamillenniums.
Amore rational, but still conservative, estimate would be as follows:
1. There should be, at a very conservative estimate, a minimum of at least six centuries between the completion of the first nine MaNDalas of the Rigveda and the completion of the tenth.
2. The period of the Late MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas (V, VIII, IX, and the corresponding parts of MaNDala I) should together comprise a minimum of three to four centuries.
3. The period of the Middle MaNDalas and upa-maNDalas (IV, II, and the corresponding parts of MaNDala I) and the gap which must have separated them from the period of the Late MaNDalas, should likewise comprise a minimum of another three to four centuries.
4. The period of MaNDalas III and VII and the early upa-maNDalas of MaNDala I, beginning around the period of SudAs, should comprise at least two centuries.
5. The period of MaNDala VI, from its beginnings in the remote past and covering its period of composition right upto the time of SudAs, must again cover a menimum of at least six centuries.
Thus, by a conservative estimate, the total period of composition of the Rigveda must have covered a period of at least two millenniums.
Incidentally, on all the charts shown by us so far, we have depicted all the MaNDalas on a uniform scale. A more realistic depiction would be as follows:
There are some words in the Rigveda which have been misinterpreted as names of Kings or RSis (often because some of these words were also the names or epithets of RSis in later parts of the text), thereby causing confusion in Rigvedic interpretation.
The exact nature of these words has, therefore, to be clarified. These words are:
Appendix A. Atri
Atri is the name of a RSi, the eponymous founder of the Atri family of MaNDala V. His name is referred to in the following hymns (not counting references, to him, or to themselves, by the Atris):
I.45.3; 51.3; 139.9; 183.5;
However, the word Atri existed before the period of this RSi, as a name or epithet of the Sun, which was the original meaning of this word. The RSi of this name came later.
We will be concerned here only with the references to this mythical Atri, the Sun. These references are found in 15 hymns:
I. 112.7, 16; 116.8; 117.3; 118.7; 119.6; 180.4;
The word in the above references is confused by scholars with the name of the RSi Atri. However, it is clear that there is a mythical Atri in the Rigveda distinct from the historical Atri, and, for that matter, a mythical Kutsa distinct from the historical Kutsa: Macdonell, in his Vedic Mythology, classifies Atri and Kutsa alongwith “Mythical Priests and Heroes”5 like Manu, BhRgu, AtharvaNa, Dadhyanc, ANgiras, Navagvas, DaSagvas and USanA, whom he distinguishes from “several other ancient seers of a historical or semi-historical character... such (as) Gotama, ViSvAmitra, VAmadeva, BharadvAja and VasiSTha”.6
That this mythical Atri is distinct from the historical Atri, and the myth existed long before the birth of this historical RSis confirmed by an examination of the references: we find that these references undergo a complete transformation in MaNDala V, affected by RSis of the Atri family in a deliberate attempt to try and appropriate the myth for themselves by identifying the mythical Atri with the eponymous Atri, their ancestor.
This, on the one hand, shows up an interesting aspect of the family psychology of the RSis, and, on the other, confirms our chronological order of the MaNDalas.
The references fall into three categories:
1. References in older MaNDalas (VI, VII, II) where Atri is a name of the Sun.
2. References in MaNDala V where Atri the Sun is deliberately transformed into Atri the RSi, as part of two new myths.
3. References in later MaNDalas (I, X) where the RSi Atri is fully identified with the mythical Atri in a transformed myth.
1. VI.50.10 and VII.71.5 refer to the ASvins rescuing Atri from “great darkness”. As Griffith points out in his footnote to VII.71.5: “The reappearance, heralded by the ASvins or Gods of Twilight, of the departed Sun, appears to be symbolised in all these legends.”
VII.68.5 also refers to the same natural phenomenon, the gradual appearance of the Sun at dawn, in a different way: it credits the ASvins with making Atri (the Sun) increasingly bright and glorious with food and nourishment from their rich store.
II.8.5 does not refer to the ASvins. It uses the word Atri as an epithet for Agni (who is literally the earthly representative of the Sun). The epithet is clearly a repetition of a simile in the previous verse, II.8.4, where also Agni is likened to the Sun (BhAnu).
2. Two references by the Atris bifurcate the original myth into two distinct myths, both connected up with their eponymous ancestor.
In the original myth, the ASvins rescue Atri, the Sun, from “great darkness”.
In the two transformed myths:
ASvins rescue Atri, the RSi, from a pit or cavern:
the RSi, rescues the Sun from “great darkness”:
In V.78.4, Atri, lying in a deep pit or cavern, calls out to the ASvins for help, and is rescued by them from his distress.
In V.40.6-9, the Sun has been pierced “through and through with darkness” by a demon called SvarbhAnu (literally “sky-sun”), and all creatures stand bewildered and frightened by the sight. Atri, however, by his Brahmanic powers, “discovered SUrya concealed in gloom”, and, with the same powers, “established the eye of SUrya in the heavens”. The hymn smugly concludes: “The Atris found the Sun again... This none besides had power to do.”
3. All the eleven references (in nine hymns) in the later MaNDalas (i.e. in late upa-maNDalas of MaNDala I, and in MaNDala X) reflect one of the two transformed versions of the myth:
They refer to the RSi Atri being rescued (X.143.1, 3) from a fiery, burning pit (I.112.7, 16; 116.8; 11 8.7; 119.6; 180.4; X.39.9; 80.3), or simply a pit (I.117.3), by the ASvins.
The “fiery, burning pit” of the transformed myth is clearly incompatible with the “great darkness” of the original nature-myth.
Appendix B. Kutsa
Kutsa is the name of a RSi, the eponymous ancestor of the Kutsa RSis of MaNDala I. His name is referred to in the following hymns:
However, the word Kutsa existed before the period of this RSi, as a name or epithet of Vajra, the thunderbolt, which was the original meaning of this word. The RSi of this name came later.
We will, again, be concerned here only with the references to this mythical Kutsa, the thunderbolt. These references are found in 24 hymns:
I. 33.14; 51.6; 63.3; 106.6; 112.9, 23; 121.9;
The word in the above references is confused by the scholars with the name of the RSi Kutsa.
It is true that, in this case, there is more of an excuse for this confusion: while the mythical Atri is not a very personalized or anthropomorphised figure in the early references (before the Atris play their sleight of hand), the mythical Kutsa is a highly anthropomorphised form of the thunderbolt from the very beginning.
However, the confusion has been only in the minds of the interpreters of the hymns. The composers were under no delusions about the identity of this mythical Kutsa, and the evidence identifying this Kutsa with the thunderbolt is overwhelming:
1. The NaighaNTuka (2.20) gives Kutsa as one of the synonyms of Vajra (the thunderbolt).
2. Kutsa is given the epithet Arjuneya in four of the above hymns (I.112.23; IV.26.1; VII. 19.2; VIII.1.11). This is wrongly interpreted as a patronymic of the RSi Kutsa. Actually, this is an epithet signifying the white flash of the thunderbolt.
In another verse, III.44.5 (which does not refer to Kutsa), arjunam, “the Bright”, is given as a synonym of vajram.
3. All the references to the mythical Kutsa (except the two by the Kutsas themselves: I.106.6; 112.9, 23) refer directly or indirectly to a celestial battle between Indra, the thunder-god, and SuSNa, the demon of drought whose other epithet is kuyava, “bad grain”. (Two of the verses, IV.26.1 and X.40.6, only mention Kutsa, and do not refer to this battle, but other factors show that it is the mythical Kutsa who is being referred to.)
The place of Kutsa in these references can be understood only on the basis of his identity as the personified form of Indra’s thunderbolt:
a. In three references, Indra kills the demon with Kutsa (kutsena) as with a weapon: IV.16.11; V.29.9; VI.31.3.
b. In most of the references, however, Indra is represented as doing the deed of killing the demon for Kutsa, or in aid of Kutsa. There is, however, a coherent mythological explanation for the conversion of Kutsa from the instrument of the deed to its beneficiary:
Six of the above references refer to the chariot-wheel of the Sun: I.174.5; 175.4; IV.16.12; 30.4; V.29.9; VI.31.3. In his footnote to I.175.4, Griffith explains that “Indra is said to have taken the wheel of the chariot of the Sun, and to have cast it like a quoit against the demon of drought”. This was done, as per IV.30.4, “for... Kutsa, as he battled” (against the demon of drought).
In another hymn (which does not refer to Kutsa), there is again a reference to this use of the chariot-wheel of the Sun. Here, in his footnote to I.130.9, Griffith provides the myth in greater detail, albeit in a later evolved form: “He tore the Sun’s wheel off: according to SAyaNa, BrahmA had promised the Asuras or fiends that Indra’s thunderbolt should never destroy them. Indra, accordingly cast at them the wheel of the Sun’s chariot and slew them therewith.” In short: as the thunderbolt (Kutsa) was proving to be ineffectual as it battled against the demon of drought, Indra despatched the chariot-wheel of the Sun to its aid.
c. In two of the references, Kutsa is even referred to as the charioteer of Indra: II.19.6; VI.20.5.
The connotation of Indra’s “chariot” is clear in the Rigveda: Indra’s chariot is the thunderbolt on which he streaks across the sky. The BhRgus are credited in the Rigveda with the manufacture of Indra’s thunderbolt: in IV. 16.20, they are described as the manufacturers of Indra’s chariot.
The sense of Kutsa being Indra’s charioteer is therefore clear: the thunderbolt is Indra’s chariot, and the anthropomorphised form of the thunderbolt is Indra’s charioteer.
4. The identity between the mythical Kutsa and Indra’s thunderbolt should have been clear to the scholars:
Griffith, for example, describes Kutsa in his various footnotes as “the particular friend of Indra” (I.33.14); “a favourite of Indra” (I.112.23); “favourite of Indra” (II.19.6); “the favoured friend of Indra” (IV.16.10); “the special friend of Indra” (VI.31.3); “Indra’s favourite companion” (X.29.2).
But, wherever there is a reference to Indra’s “friend” within the hymns themselves, and no names are mentioned, Griffith, in his footnotes, has no doubt as to the identity of this friend: “Thy friend: probably the vajra or thunderbolt, which is Indra’s inseparable associate and ally” (1.10.9); “With thy friend: the thunderbolt” (1.53.7); “His friend: his constant companion, the thunderbolt” (X.50.2).
Griffith’s conclusion is based on a direct statement in VI.21.7: “With thy own ancient friend and companion, the thunderbolt...”
In the circumstance, it is strange that no scholar has seen fit to think twice before deciding that the Kutsa, who is Indra’s favourite friend and companion, could be a human RSi.
5. The only other name in the Rigveda identified by Griffith in his footnotes as that of a friend of Indra, in a similar manner, is that of USanA KAvya: “the especial friend of Indra” (I.51.10; IV.16.2); “Indra’s special friend” (V.29.9); “a favoured friend and companion of Indra” (X.22.6); “Indra’s friend” (X.49.3).
What is significant is that USanA is referred to five times in the same verse as Kutsa (VI.26.1; V.29.9; 31.8; X.49.3; 99.9) and five times in the same hymn (Kutsa: I.51.6; 121.9; IV. 16. 10-12; VI.20.5; X.40.6; USanA: I.51.10-11; 121.12; IV.16.2; VI.20.11; X.40.7).
When we consider that there are 1028 hymns and 10552 verses in the Rigveda, and that the mythical Kutsa and USanA are referred to in only 29 verses and 19 verses respectively, the number of hymns and verses they share in common is too significant to be coincidental. Clearly, Kutsa and USanA share a close and special relationship.
And what is this close and special relationship? The Rigveda is very clear at least about the nature of the close and special relationship between Indra and USanA: USanA KAvya is mythically credited with being the (BhRgu) person who manufactured the Vajra or thunderbolt, and gave it to Indra for his weapon (I.51.10; 121.12; V.34.2).
The nature of the close and special relationship between USanA, Indra and Kutsa is therefore clear: they are, respectively, the manufacturer, wielder, and personification of the thunderbolt.
6. Curiously, in a clear case of imitation of the Atris, we find here also a blatant attempt by the Kutsas to transform the myth so as to connect it up with their eponymous ancestor.
But while the transformation by the Atris is effected by bifurcating the original Atri myth into two different myths, the transformation by the Kutsas is effected by taking the original Kutsa myth, and the more successful of the two transformed Atri myths, grafting them together, and then bifurcating them into two different myths:
In the original Kutsa myth, Indra aids the mythical Kutsa in a celestial battle.
In the transformed Atri myth, the ASvins rescue the RSi Atri from a pit.
In the two transformed Kutsa myths:
a. Indra rescues the RSi Kutsa from a pit: I.106.6 (which is also the only hymn which emphatically calls Kutsa a “RSi”).
b. The ASvins aid the RSi Kutsa (in a battle? But this is not specified. Note: this is the only hymn in which Indra is replaced by the ASvins): I.112.9, 23.
This transformation of the original myth by the Kutsas is too clumsy, and too late in the day, to influence other references in the Rigveda, unlike the transformation of the Atri myth by the Atris, where the transformed myth becomes the basis for all subsequent references.
And the objective behind this transformation is far more modest than the objective of the Atris: while the Atris seek to glorify their eponymous ancestor by usurping the original deed of the ASvins and crediting their ancestor with supernatural powers, the Kutsas seem content merely with identifying their eponymous ancestor with the mythical Kutsa of earlier references.
But the transformation serves to underline the fact that the original mythical Kutsa originally had nothing to do with the RSi Kutsa.
Besides the RSi Kutsa and the mythical Kutsa, there is a third Kutsa in the Rigveda who is referred to in four hymns: I.53.10; II.14.7; VI.18.13; X.83.5.
We will examine these references in the course of our examination of the word Atithigva.
Appendix C. AuSija
AuSija is an epithet of the RSi KakSIvAn, who is called KakSIvAn AuSija Dairghatamas in the AnukramaNIs, and whose descendants are considered as forming a third major branch of the ANgiras family (after the BharadvAjas and Gotamas), the AuSijas.
In the Rigveda, however, this is neither the exclusive nor the original meaning of the word. In its original meaning, AuSija is a name of the Sun.
The word is referred to in
the following hymns:
The references may be examined in three groups:
1. The Family MaNDalas:
a. VI.4.6: Agni is compared with the Sun. Agni spreads over both the worlds with splendour “like SUrya with his fulgent rays”, and dispels the darkness “like AuSija with clear flame swiftly flying”.
b. IV.21.6-8 (the word AuSija is not repeated in verse 8): Indra unbars the spaces of the mountains (i.e. the rain-clouds) and lets loose “his floods, the water-torrents” which are lying hidden in “AuSija’s abode” (analogous to “VivasvAn’s dwelling” in I.53.1; III.34.7; 51.3; X.75.1; aspecially X.75.1 which also refers to the Waters.)
c. V.41.5: Atri is the priest of AuSija.
The meaning of AuSija is very clear from the above references. In the case of VI.4.6, SAyaNa recognizes AuSija as a name of the Sun. However, Griffith disagrees and feels instead that AuSija in VI.4.6 is “some contemporary priest who is regarded as bringing back the daylight by prayer and sacrifice”. In the case of V.41.5, all scholars, from SAyaNa to Griffith, are in agreement that Atri is “the ministrant priest of KakSIvAn, the son of USij”. According to these scholars, then, AuSija is a RSi (KakSIvAn) who dispels darkness with a clear flame flying in the sky, whose abode is the place (i.e. the sky) where rain-clouds store their water-torrents, and who has another RSi, Atri, as his priest! The absurdity of the above ideas is self-evident. Clearly, it is the Sun being referred to in all the above references: V.40, as we have already seen, makes it very clear that the Atris consider themselves to be special priests of the Sun.
2. MaNDala I
All the references to AuSija in MaNDala I are in the general and late upa-maNDalas. Here, it is clear, the word is an epithet of KakSIvAn: it is used in that sense in I.18.1; 119.9; 122.4, 5.
In I.112.11, it is used as an epithet of DIrghaSravas, who is referred to as a merchant. However, KakSIvAn is also referred to in the same verse, and it is natural to assume that the epithet applies to both of them.
3. MaNDala X
On the basis of the references in MaNDala 1, the scholars erroneously assume that AuSija is a patronymic of KakSIvAn, rather than an epithet. Hence they presume the existence of an ancestor named USij.
The single occurence of this word in MaNDala X disproves this presumption: in X.99.11, AuSija is an epithet of RjiSvan, who belongs to the BharadvAja branch of the ANgiras family.
Even Griffith realizes that the explanation of AuSija as a patronymic does not fit the case here: “AuSija: son of USij. But as this patronymic does not properly belong to RjiSvan, the word here may perhaps mean ‘vehement’ ‘eagerly desirous’.”
What the scholars do not realize is that the explanation of AuSija as a patronymic does not fit the case anywhere: AuSija is the Sun in the Family MaNDalas, and an epithet in later MaNDalas: an epithet of KakSIvAn in MaNDala I and RjiSvan in (the single use of the word in) MaNDala X.
Appendix D. TRkSi
TRkSi is the name of a tribe: the tribe to which Purukutsa and Trasadasyu belong, and hence equivalent to the IkSvAkus of traditional history.
The word occurs only twice in the Rigveda:
This name is wrongly interpreted as the name of a King on the basis of VIII.22.7, which is translated as: “Come to us, Lords of ample wealth, by paths of everlasting Law; Whereby to high dominion ye with mighty strength raised TRkSi, Trasadasyu’s son.”
However, VI.46.8 makes it very clear that TRkSi is the name of a tribe and not a person. The following is a translation of VI.46.7-8: “All strength and valour that is found, Indra, in tribes of NahuSas, and all the splendid fame that the Five tribes enjoy, bring all manly powers, at once. Or, Maghavan, what vigorous strength in TRkSi lay, in Druhyus or in PUru’s folk, fully bestow on us that, in the conquering fray, we may subdue our foes in fight.”
On TRkSi, Griffith comments: “TRkSi: a King so named, says SAyaNa.” However, it is clear that it is only tribes who are being referred to : the idea that the name of one King could be included in a list of tribes is based purely on the interpretation of VIII.22.7.
However, the interpretation of VIII.22.7 is wrong the phrase “TRkSim… TrAsadasyavam” is to be translated, not as “TRkSi, Trasadasyu’s son”, but as “the TrkSi, Trasadasyu’s son”. The name of the son is not specified, and he is referred to only by his patronymic, as in the case of so many other references in the Rigveda: eg. PrAtardanI (V1.26.8, son of Pratardana), SAryAta (I.51.12; III.51.3, son of SaryAta) and so on.
Appendix E. Atithigva
The word Atithigva is found in thirteen hymns in the Rigveda:
I. 51.6; 53.8, 10; 112.14; 130.7;
There is no general misinterpretation as such of this word. However, a clarification of the different meanings of the word will be in order here:
1. Atithigva is an epithet of DivodAsa in five hymns: I.112.14; 130.7; IV.26.3; VI.26.3 (DivodAsa 26.5); 47.22.
This is also likely to be the case in one more hymn: I.51.6, which refers to Sambara (who is associated in numerous other references, including in four of the above ones, with DivodAsa).
2. But in four hymns, Atithigva is an epithet of a descendant of SudAs (while DivodAsa is an ancestor of SudAs: VII.18.25): I.53.8; VII.19.8: VIII.68.16, 17; X.48.8.
Hymn VII.19 is a late hymn interpolated into MaNDala VII, as we have seen in our earlier discussion on the TRkSi interpolations, and it pertains to the late period of MaNDala VIII. This hymn refers to SudAs as an ancient figure from the past, while it refers to the second Atithigva in the eighth verse as a contemporary figure. Griffith notes that this Atithigva is “probably a descendant of SudAs who must have lived long before the composition of this hymn”.
In VIII.68.16, 17, as well, this Atithigva is a near contemporary figure: his son Indrota is the patron of the RSi of this hymn.
I.53.8 and X.48.8 refer to the victory of this Atithigva over Karanja and ParNaya, who are not referred to elsewhere in the Rigveda.
The fact that Atithigva represents three different entities in the Rigveda is accepted by many scholars. Keith and Macdonell, in their Vedic Index of Names and Subjects,7 note that “Roth distinguishes three Atithigvas - the Atithigva DivodAsa, the enemy of ParNaya and Karanja, and the enemy of TUrvayANa”. Keith and Macdonell themselves appear to disagree: “But the various passages can be reconciled.” However, actually, their own interpretation must also show three Atithigvas, since, even within the favourable references to Atithigva, they admit that while the word refers “in nearly all cases to the same king, otherwise called DivodAsa”, nevertheless “a different Atithigva appears to be referred to in a DAnastuti (‘Praise of Gifts’) where his son Indrota is mentioned”.
3. Finally, there is the third Atithigva who is referred to in four hymns: I.53.10; II.14.7; VI.18.13; VIII.53.2.
This Atithigva is clearly not the hero of the references. All the four references relate to the defeat of Kutsa, Ayu and Atithigva at the hands of (according to I.53.10 and VI.18.13) TUrvayANa.
These references, if taken at face value, are absolutely incompatible with all other information in the Rigveda: all the other references to both Atithigva and Kutsa are favourable ones, while these references are clearly hostile ones in their exultation at their defeat. What is more, 1.53.8 exults in Atithigva’s victory over Karanja and ParNaya, while two verses later, I.53.10 exults in Atithigva’s defeat at the hands of TUrvayANa. Clearly, two different Atithigvas are being referred to.
And this second Atithigva is compulsorily to be taken in combination with a Kutsa (obviously a different one from the RSi Kutsa as well as the mythical Kutsa, the thunderbolt) and an Ayu (otherwise the name of an ancestral figure)
These references present an insoluble problem for all scholars engaged in a historical study of the Rigveda. SAyaNa, for example, tries to twist the meaning of the references in order to bring them in line with other references: Griffith notes, in his footnote to VI.18.13, that “SAyaNa represents the exploit as having been achieved for Kutsa, Ayu and Atithigva, but this is not the meaning of the words of the text”.
SAyana’s attempt to twist the meaning of the references is partly based on his knowledge of the identity of TUrvayANa: as Griffith notes, “according to SAyaNa, tUrvayANa, ‘quickly going’, is an epithet of DivodAsa”. But Atithigva is also an epithet of DivodAsa. Hence SAyaNa finds what he probably considers to be an internal contradiction within the references; and the only way he can resolve this contradiction is by assuming, against the actual meaning of the words of the text, that Kutsa, Ayu and Atithigva must be the heroes of the references.
We have the following rational (if speculative) solution to offer towards the elucidation of these seemingly senseless references:
a. Atithigva, as we have seen, is the epithet of an ancestor of SudAs (i.e. DivodAsa), as well as of a descendant. A natural inference is that Atithigva was a common epithet of Kings of the Bharata dynasty.
b. The word Kutsa (apart from its identity as a synonym of the thunderbolt) is found in the Rigveda in the names of two persons: the King Purukutsa and the RSi Kutsa. Purukutsa is a King of the TRkSi (IkSvAku) dynasty; and the RSi Kutsa, as per tradition (outside the Rigveda), was also the son of an IkSvaku king. On the analogy of Atithigva, Kutsa may then have been a common epithet of Kings of the TRkSi dynasty.
c. There are many references in the Rigveda where tribes are named in combinations purely in a figurative sense, often with special reference to their geographical locations, in order to indicate generality or universality.
Thus, VIII. 10.5: “Whether ye Lords of ample wealth (ASvins) now linger in the east or west, with Druhyu, or with Anu, Yadu, TurvaSa, I call you hither, come to me.”
Or I.108.8: “If with the Yadus, TurvaSas ye sojourn, with Druhyus, Anus, PUrus, Indra-Agni! Even from thence, ye mighty Lords, come hither, and drink libations of the flowing Soma.”
However, the reference relevant to us is VI.46.7-8, which we have already seen earlier: “All strength and valour that is found, Indra, in tribes of NahuSas, and all the splendid fame that the Five tribes enjoy, bring all manly powers at once. Or, Maghavan, what vigorous strength in TRkSi lay, in Druhyus or in PUru’s folk, fully bestow on us, that, in the conquering fray, we may subdue our foes in fight.”
The above is Griffith’s translation. The meaning is: “Indra give us the strength and power of the tribes of NahuSas: the five tribes (Yadus, TurvaSas, Druhyus, Anus, PUrus). Give us the strength and power of all the tribes: the TRkSis (in the east), the Druhyus (in the west) and the PUrus (in the centre), that we may be invincible in battle.”
Here, clearly the TRkSis in the east, the Druhyus in the west, and the PUrus in the centre, when named together, signify “all the tribes”.
The same symbolism is probably expressed in the naming together of Kutsa, Ayu and Atithigva. The three names probably represent the common epithets of the Kings of the TRkSis, the Druhyus and the PUrus (i.e. Bharatas); and when taken in combination, they mean “all the tribes”.
Therefore, what the four references mean is: “Indra is the Lord of all peoples and lands”; or, in two of them: “Indra made TUrvayANa (DivodAsa) the sovereign of all the tribes.”.
In conclusion: we have conducted a full examination and analysis of the Rigveda from all the relevant angles, namely:
1. The interrelationships among the composers.
picture that we obtain, jointly and severally, in other words unanimously,
from all these angles is that the chronological order of the MaNDalas is:
VI, III, VII, IV, II, V, VIII, IX, X (The upa-maNDalas of MaNDala I covering
the periods of MaNDalas IV, II, V, VIII).
5VM, pp. 138-147.
7VI, Vol. 1, p. 15.