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I present my findings and interpretations of the lives and times of the Rig Vedic people, based on my ongoing analysis of the Rig Veda. The content is organized by five main themes – Composers of the Rig Veda, Tribes, Dynasties and Kings, Battles, Wars and Legends, Society and Lifestyle and finally the Gods and Myths of the people of that time.

I would recommend, you visit each of the pages listed on the menu at the top, starting with  – The Rig Veda – A historical perspective. Reading the content of each of these pages would provide you a context and better insight into the breadth and depth of articles that are and will appear within each of the themes that the pages represent.

It is exciting and fun analyzing the Rig Veda – I get a Sherlock Holmes kind of high, trying to piece the puzzle together. I try to be as objective as possible and not bring the bias of my religion by birth (Hinduism) into my analysis and interpretation. I report it as I find it – good, bad, ugly.

I am neither a historian, an expert on religion or Sanskrit, so that is the BIG disclaimer for all readers. I am just an enthusiastic explorer desperate to uncover my past…

I hope you would want to share this journey and enjoy what you find along with way.

Contents

  1. The Rig Veda – A historical perspective
  2. Books & Composers of the Rig Veda
    1. Mandala IV – The Vamadeva family book
      1. The Vamadeva Danastutis
    2. Mandala V – The Atri family book
      1. The Atri Danastutis
      2. Indra – According to the Atris
    3. Mandala VI – The Bharadvaja family book
      1. Bharadvajas
      2. The Bharadvaja Danastutis
      3. Dundubhi Hymn – Origins of the War drum?
      4. Rjisvan shows us the power of homage
      5. Go Sukta (The Cow Hymn)
  3. Tribes, Dynasties and Kings
    1. Identity of the Dasa and Dasyu – Part I
    2. Identity of the Dasa and Dasyu – Part II
    3. Identity of the Pani
    4. Bharata – In search of an emperor
  4. Battles, Wars and Legends
    1. The Early Conflicts
    2. Foes and Enemies of the Puru tribe
    3. Conflicts between Arya tribes and amongst Puru tribes (based on Indra hymns, Mandala VI)
  5. Society and Lifestyle
    1. Science and Technology
      1. Account of a solar eclipse (How Rishi Atri rescued Surya from the demon Svarbhanu)
    2. Worship of tools and weapons
    3. The Dawn of Mankind – according to Rishi Vamadeva
  6. Gods and Myths
    1. The Vala and Vrtra Myths
    2. The birth of Indra – end of the last ice age?
    3. Echoes of the Stonehenge (in the Vala Myth)?
    4. The Vrtra Myth – A political interpretation – Creation of a Hero?
    5. Indra – A Samyu Bharadvaja profiling
    6. Agni – The Messenger God
    7. Pusan
    8. The Maruts

Evidence for the flooding of Vedic rivers at the end of the last ice age

This article examines and interprets verses, relevant to the Vrtra myth, from Mandala VI – the Bharadvaja family book. It then examines scientific evidence I have found thus far, compares that against the interpretations of the verses and then presents conclusions.

Examination of relevant verses from Mandala VI

The verses are grouped in the four major sequential themes of the myth itself – the events leading to and the actual birth of Indra, the events immediately after his birth, the manner of his slaying Vrtra and the outcome of the slaying.

 

Theme Relevant verses Remarks and Inference
Events and/or conditions prior to the birth of Indra 6.017.08
Yea, Indra, all the Deities installed thee their one strong Champion in the van for battle.What time the godless was the Gods’ assailant, Indra they chose to win the light of heaven.6.020.02
Even as the power of Dyaus, to thee, O Indra, all Asura sway was by the Gods entrusted,When thou, Impetuous! leagued with Visnu, slewest Vrtra the Dragon who enclosed the waters.
The vedic deities were helpless against the power and control of Vrtra and installed their only hope, their strong champion – Indra, to do battle with Vrtra.Vrtra is a dragon that has enclosed the waters and not a Dasa or Dasyu. The indications are that Vrtra is a personification of a natural phenomenon, not a human adversary.Indra was not alone in the slaying of Vrtra, but had the help and support of Visnu.
Events and/or conditions at the time of Indra’s birth 6.040.02
Drink thou of this whereof at birth, O Indra, thou drankest, Mighty One for power and rapture.The men, the pressing-stones, the cows, the waters have made this Soma ready for thy drinking.6.047.02
This sweet juice here had mightiest power to gladden: it boldened Indra when he siaughtered Vrtra,When he defeated Sambara’s many onslaughts, and battered down his nineand ninety ramparts.
In this single verse, the Bharadvajas also hold the view that Indra, immediately upon his birth, drank Soma for power and rapture.
Battle between Indra and Vrtra 6.017.09
Yea, e’en that heaven itself of old bent backward before thy bolt, in terror of its anger,When Indra, life of every living creature, smote down within his lair the assailing Dragon.6.017.10
Yea, Strong One! Tvastar turned for thee, the Mighty, the bolt with thousand spikes and hundred edges,Eager and prompt at will, wherewith thou crushedst the boasting Dragon, O impetuous Hero.6.017.11
He dressed a hundred buffaloes, O Indra, for thee whom all accordant Maruts strengthen.He, Pusan Visnu, poured forth three great vessels to him, the juice that cheers, that slaughters Vrtra.6.020.02
Even as the power of Dyaus, to thee, O Indra, all Asura sway was by the Gods entrusted,When thou, Impetuous! leagued with Visnu, slewest Vrtra the Dragon who enclosed the waters.
The weapon used by Indra to slay Vrta is a bolt fashioned by Tvastar. The bolt we are told has a thousand spikes and a hundred edges. What might such a weapon be a personification of?Again, we have an indication that in the battle with Vrtra, Indra was not alone. We was aided by the Maruts, Pusan and Visnu.
Events and/or condition after the battle 6.017.12
Thou settest free the rushing wave of waters, the floods’ great swell encompassed andAlong steep slopes their course thou tumedst, Indra, directed downward, speeding to the ocean.6.030.03
E’en now endures thine exploit of the Rivers, when, Indra, for their floods thou clavest passage.Like men who sit at meat the mountains settled: by thee, Most Wise! the regions were made6.030.04
This is the truth, none else is like thee, Indra, no God superior to thee, no mortal.Thou slewest Ahi who besieged the waters, and lettest loose the streams to hurry seaward.6.072.03
Ye slew the flood -obstructing serpent Vrtra, Indra and Soma: Heaven approved your exploit.Ye urged to speed the currents of the rivers, and many seas have ye filled full with waters.
The unmistakable inference from these verses is the flooding of rivers rushing down steep slopes, onwards to the meet the ocean. Indra had to cleave the mountain to make passage for the rivers. In as many as four verses, we are told the rivers flow to meet the ocean/sea.Elsewhere in Mandala VI, the rivers flowing down the mountains and meeting the sea are identified as the seven tributaries of the Indus.By correlation then, the rivers that were flooded with waters after the slaying of Vrtra/Ahi must refer to the sapta sindhu (seven tributaries of the Indus).

Examination of scientific evidence

Next let us examine some of the scientific evidence we have been able to find on Himalayan glacial systems at the time of the last ice age.

Below is an extract based on the research by University of Washington geologist David Montgomery, a professor of Earth and space sciences, and his team.

Geological evidence points to the existence of at least three lakes, and probably four, at various times in history when glacial ice from the Himalayas blocked the flow of the Tsangpo River in Tibet, said University of Washington geologist David Montgomery, a professor of Earth and space sciences.

Carbon dating shows the most recent lake, about 780 feet deep, burst through the ice dam between 1,100 and 1,400 years ago, rapidly draining some 50 cubic miles of water. The second lake, more than 2,200 feet deep, dates from about 10,000 years ago, and likely held more than 500 cubic miles of water. When that ice dam broke, it caused one of the greatest floods on Earth since the last ice age. The Tsangpo is the world’s highest river, with an average elevation of 13,000 feet, about 500 feet higher than South America’s Lake Titicaca, the highest lake. The Tsangpo flows to the eastern edge of Tibet before it turns south and plunges through a deep gorge into India, where it eventually becomes the Brahmaputra River and flows into the Bay of Bengal.

Conclusions

Admittedly, the study relates to the flooding of the Tsangpo  / Brahmaputra river system, far to the east of the likely geography of the Bharadvajas, but the conditions and the overall environment is not that far removed. Thus far in my search, this is the best evidence I have that indeed the “undamming” of glacial lakes in the Himalayas did cause the flooding of its rivers. I do need to find evidence closer the the Bharadvaja home, yet for now, given that the glacial system for all the rivers is the same, I will most certainly accept this as strong proof that the Bharadvaja verses in the section above do refer to melting of glaciers at the end of the last ice age in the Himalayan system.

Author’s Notes:

The extract of the scientific evidence presented in the article is based on the following link: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/12/041220010147.htm

I have yet to corroborate this directly with any papers or material published by Prof. David Montgomery. I am in the process of doing so and will update this article thereafter.

The Vrtra myth – an overview

When I first came across the Vrtra myth in Mandala VI, based on the content, I treated it as a subject by itself. However, as I read more material from other Mandalas, especially Mandala IV – the Vamadeva family book, it is now apparent that the myth surrounding the slaying of the dragon Vrtra by Indra and the myth surrounding the birth of Indra are inextricably interwoven. It is best therefore to deal with the two subjects collectively and under the aegis of the Vrtra myth.

For those not familiar with the Vrtra myth, in its simplest form, Vrtra is a dragon that imprisoned the waters of the world. The major gods such as Varuna, Mitra and other Vedic deities were powerless against this dragon. It was only Indra, with the help of Visnu, who had the courage to confront and slay Vrtra and thereby release the waters for the benefit of humankind.

So why did it get to such a point, or more pertinently, why did Indra allow the dragon to obstruct the waters in the first place? Simply put, Indra did not exist then. The various accounts in the Rig Veda tell us that Indra was born after Vrtra had gained inexorable control over the waters. That immediately after being born, he obtains his weapon – the thunderbolt, drinks copious quantities of soma and with the aid of Vishnu, slays the dragon.

Deconstructing and correctly interpreting this myth has always been a challenge and no one view conclusively explains or is more convincing than any other.

Questions abound and the differing answers proposed are compelling in themselves and collectively.

Key questions that arise are:

Who or what was Vrtra?

Was Indra simply the personification of the powers and phenomena of nature or a person who walked the earth?

Does the myth tell us something about an historical event?

If indeed there was a historical event, when and where did it occur?

Was the event terrestrial or did it occur in the skies?

What do the outcomes of the myth, such as the release of waters, signify?

And finally, what purpose does this myth serve in the psyche of the vedic people?

I have no doubt, in order to find answers to these questions, will require exhaustive research, and the approach both arduous and convoluted. The method I propose to adopt is to study the writings on the subject by each seer family independent of one another. I would look at similarities and differences, indications of evolution and finally emergence of patterns that might help to put together a final and acceptable version.

Also, I propose to break down the subject into 4 key constituents – the events leading to and the actual birth of Indra, the events immediately after his birth, the manner of his slaying Vrtra and the outcome of the slaying.

Evidence for the flooding of Vedic rivers at the end of the last ice age

Interpretations from Mandala IV – end of an ice age?

Political interpretation – creation of a new hero/god?

The birth of Indra – end of an ice age?

Hymn 18 of Mandala IV of the Rig Veda appears to be an allegorical account of the end of the last ice age. It is recounted as a story of the birth of Indra and his slaying the dragon Vrtra immediately upon his birth and echoes of this story are found throughout the Rig Veda. But Hymn 18 in particular, is entirely dedicated to this account.

I present the hymn with the order of verses changed to reflect the sequence of events.

4 What strange act shall he do, he whom his Mother bore for a thousand months and many autumns?
No peer hath he among those born already, nor among those who shall be born hereafter.
5 Deeming him a reproach, his mother hid him, Indra, endowed with all heroic valour.
Then up he sprang himself, assumed his vesture, and filled, as soon as born, the earth and heaven.

The greatest god of the ancient world is about to be born. A god, without peer among those born already or among those who shall be born hereafter. Vrtra, the dragon, had imprisioned all the waters in the world. None of the gods, could free the waters and had given up this task as a lost cause. Only a cataclysmic event could achieve what even the gods could not. It needed the arrival of a god more powerful than any that existed or would come later – it needed the arrival of Indra.

8 I cast thee from me, mine,-thy youthful mother: thee, mine own offspring, Kusava hath swallowed.
To him, mine infant, were the waters gracious. Indra, my Son, rose up in conquering vigour.

The goddess Earth, who bore him for a thousand months and many autumns, hid him, for reasons not known, deeming him a reproach . She passed his embryo, and it was swallowed by Kushava (a river?) in whose womb it developed favorably, since “the waters were gracious to the child”.

1. THIS is the ancient and accepted pathway by which all Gods have come into existence.
Hereby could one be born though waxen mighty. Let him not, otherwise, destroy his Mother.
2 Not this way go I forth: hard is the passage. Forth from the side obliquely will I issue.
Much that is yet undone must I accomplish; one must I combat and the other question.

Indra defied the ancient and accepted way by which all gods have come into existence. “Not this way go I forth, hard is the passage. Forth from the side obliquely will I issue”, he proclaimed, even as he lay in the womb of his mother. His time had come, and ominously he declared, “Much that is yet undone must I accomplish; one must I combat and the other question.” The god was aware of the immediate task be had to accomplish – slaying of the dragon Vrtra and releasing the waters held by him.

9 Thou art mine own, O Maghavan, whom Vyamsa struck to the ground and smote thy jaws in pieces.
But, smitten through, the mastery thou wonnest, and with thy bolt the Dasa’s head thou crushedst.
3 He bent his eye upon the dying Mother: My word I now withdraw. That way I follow.
In Tvastar’s dwelling India drank the Soma, a hundredworth of juice pressed from the mortar.
10 The Heifer hath brought forth the Strong, the Mighty, the unconquerable Bull, the furious Indra.
The Mother left her unlicked Calf to wander, seeking himself, the path that he would follow.
11 Then to her mighty Child the Mother turned her, saying, My son, these Deities forsake thee.
Then Indra said, about to slaughter Vrtra, O my friend Vrtra, stride full boldly forward.

Indra, of his own volition, insisted on being delivered the unusual way, eventually resulting in the death of Kusava. Kusava, so incapacitated, was unable to care for the newborn. Allegorically, Vamadeva the composer of this hymn, says, “The Heifer hath brought forth the Strong, the Mighty, the unconquerable Bull, the furious Indra. The Mother left her unlicked Calf to wander, seeking himself, the path that he would follow.”

7 Are they addressing him with words of welcome? Will the floods take on them the shame of Indra?
With his great thunderbolt my Son hath slaughtered Vrtra, and set these rivers free to wander.
6 With lively motion onward flow these waters, the Holy Ones, shouting, as ’twere, together.
Ask them to. tell thee what the floods are saying, what girdling rock the waters burst asunder.

Worse still, Kusava’s husband, Vyamsa, did everything he could to ensure the newborn was put to death. Vyamsa struck to the ground and smote Indra jaws in pieces. Undeterred, Indra seized a bolt and crushed Vyamsa’s head. After all, even at birth, Indra was endowed with all heroic valour. As soon as he was born, he sprang himself, assumed his vesture, and filled the earth and heaven.

Having widowed Kusava, Indra took one last look at her, even as she lay their dying and hurried towards Tvastar’s dwelling and drank an enormous amount of Soma. What was ordained had to be fulfilled and even a dying mother could not bind the god. The orphanded god, forsaken by the other gods, now turned to his only friend Visnu, “O my friend Visnu, stride full boldly forward”. Thus saying, Indra slew Vrtra, liberating the waters, which burst forth from the mountain stronghold where they had been imprisoned. With great pride, the goddess Earth exults, “With his great thunderbolt my Son hath slaughtered Vrtra, and set these rivers free to wander”. And given the single handed accomplishment of her son, then mocks the other gods, “Are they (the gods) addressing him with words of welcome? Ask them (the gods) to tell thee what the floods are saying, what girdling rock the waters burst asunder”.

This extraordinary account of events must be a record of an ancient epochal milestone in the history of humankind.

The imprisionment of waters in the world, the capture of the sun god, and long lasting nights – a recurring theme in the Rig Veda, related to the Vrtra legend, point to a period in the history of humankind similar to conditions that would have existing during an ice age.

Only a cataclysmic event would have reversered conditions. What we do know is around 13,000 years or so ago, a global meltdown resulted in the birth of several rivers and rise in sea levels the world over. The composers of the Rig Veda, linked an ancient human memory with the birth of their great god Indra. While this particular hymn, gives no clues to what the exact cause of the meltdown might have been, the association is apparent. From this hymn, we may infer that the cause is earth bound – for his mother “bore him for a thousand months and many autumns”. We are told of the gargantuan scale of the event because at its occurence it was “endowed with all heroic valour”. “Then up he sprang himself, assumed his vesture, and filled, as soon as born, the earth and heaven.”

The result of this event is the demise of Vrtra, the demon, that no other gods were able to put an end to and the release of waters the world over.

Evidence to support the notion that one of the accounts of the birth of Indra and the destruction of Indra are allegorical accounts of the end of the last ice age is available in several other hymns and over the next few weeks, I will attempt to present more of these.

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