Identity of the Dasa and Dasyu – Part II
July 14, 2012 4 Comments
This is the second part of an article that attempts to establish the identify of the Dasa and Dasyu. You may wish to read Part I if you have not done so already.
The curious case of sleep and slumber…
When I first read verse RV 6.020.13 I interpreted sending someone to sleep and slumber as a hyperbole to mean putting someone to death. This is repeated in RV 6.026.06 and RV 7.019.04.
This Indra, was thy work in war: thou sentest Dhuni and Cumuri to sleep and slumber.
Dabhiti lit the flame for thee, and worshipped with fuel, hymns, poured Soma, dressed oblations.
Made glad with Soma-draughts and faith, thou sentest Cumuri to his sleep, to please Dabhiti.
Thou, kindly giving Raji to Pithinas, slewest with might, at once, the sixty thousand.
At the Gods’ banquet, hero-souled! with Heroes, Lord of Bay Steeds, thou slewest many foemen.
Thou sentest in swift death to sleep the Dasyu, both Cumuri and Dhuni, for Dabhiti.
Question is, why not simply say they were put to death or Indra “slew” them, the term used so very often in all other instances related to Dasas. Dhuni and/or Cumuri are always put to sleep or slumber, never slayed or killed in one or more grotesque ways that other Dasas are put to their death. So, could it possibly, just possibly be, the poets way of describing an act that they were not familiar with – the act of burial?
This line of thinking was reinforced by RV 8.086.03 where the riteless, godless man – meaning the Dasyu – is said to “sleep”. The only logical inference I could draw here is the term sleep could have meant the practice of burial that the Dasyu may have followed.
The riteless, godless man who sleeps, O Indra, his unbroken steep,-
May he by following his own devices die. Hide from him wealth that nourishes.
Should there be the faintest merit in this argument, then we have a direct identification of who the Dasyu are – the ancients who were known to bury their dead, as proven by archealogical evidence, were the Harappans.
…and the high and haughty
The other curious case is the use of the terms “high and haughty” and “presumptuous high-born”.
Give up the people who are high and haughty to these men and to me, O Thunder-wielder!
Therefore upon the earth do we invoke thee, where heroes win, for sons and kine and waters.
To him, Adhvaryu! yea, to him give offerings of the juice expressed.
Will he not keep us safely from the spiteful curse of each presumptuous high-born foe?
Indra is asked to create conditions that the “high and haughty” may yield to the Arya. That Indra protect the Arya from the spiteful curse of the “presumptuous high-born” foe.
So who where these people that the Arya undoubtedly had so much envy for? We have already seen in Part I, the use of terms such as bold, untamed and daring while referring to the Dasyu.
Taken, together, a consistent bigger picture begins to emerge. The Dasyu were clearly a group of people that held religious beliefs different from the Arya. The Dasyu clearly considered themselves superior than the Arya. The behaviour or the way of life of the Dasyu compelled the Arya to concede that the former were better (hence the use of “people who are high and haughty”).
The jig-saw pieces can now be put into place. The Dasa were a tribe very distinct from the five tribes. They lived in settlements that had distinctive features that can at best be referred to as “pura”. (What pura meant, needs further investigation). But we know nothing of their religious beliefs. On the other hand, we have the Dasyu, clearly a “superior” class of people, and based on the descriptions we have from Mandala VI, they were either heads of their society or religious authorities of some sort, or both. Merge the two together and the jigsaw becomes complete.
Dasa was the generic name of the people and Dasyu were the ruling/religious figure heads of these people. That explains why the terms are used interchangeably especially when referring to the likes of Dhuni, Cumuri and Sambara.
I do believe we now have a reasonable case, basis the evidence in Mandala VI alone, that the Dasa/Dasyu were completely distinct from the Arya and the five tribes of Nahusa.
In the next set of articles, I will examine theories that suggest that the Dasa/Dasyu were indeed one amongst the five tribes of Nahusa and see if my conclusions hold good or not.