Vikīrṇā viṣayāḥ: India and the Rus

\S \star Our sleep was disturbed by a dream with a circulating motif whose exact story line, if any, was lost upon awakening. It started with a tall elderly man of West African ancestry playing cricket (batting) with the swagger of a young star at the peak of his career. Striking the ball along the ground or smashing it high into the stands he scored on with ease reminding one of the great black emperors of yore from the Caribbean. Then the dream entered the motif phase with the same man, rather paradoxically, in a classroom repeatedly explaining a single-peaked statistical distribution he claimed to have discovered — we tried hard to capture the equation of that distribution but failed at every repetition of the motif. This kind of REM sleep can be rather troubling, and we tossed and turned around before settling into another scene that seemed to have no connection to the above (unless of course, we forgot that snatch upon awakening). In this scene was an elderly Russian Jewish woman — we would estimate her age as being around 85-90 years — who sat on a chair with a table in front of it. Soon another bearded man appeared beside her — he seemed to be in his 60s but in great health. He exuded a profound ambivalence that strongly impressed upon us — while a part of him presented features consistent with a good character, the rest of him was filled with rapacity, cunning and a taskara spirit. He told the old woman in an unusual accent that seemed either German or Russian that we spoke German. The woman responded in a feeble voice: “Die beiden Grenadiere.” We then saw ourselves in the dream reading out the famous poem of Heinrich Heine:

Nach Frankreich zogen zwei Grenadier’,
Die waren in Russland gefangen.
Und als sie kamen ins deutsche Quartier,
Sie liessen die Köpfe hangen.

Two grenadiers were marching back to France
They had been held captive in Russia,
And when they reached German lands
They hung their heads in shame.

Da hörten sie beide die traurige Mär:
Dass Frankreich verloren gegangen,
Besiegt und geschlagen das tapfere Heer—
Und der Kaiser, der Kaiser gefangen.

For here they learnt the sorry tale
That France had been conquered in war,
Her valiant army beaten and shattered,
And the Emperor, the Emperor captured.

“Dann reitet mein Kaiser wohl über mein Grab,
Viel Schwerter klirren und blitzen;
Dann steig ich gewaffnet hervor aus dem Grab—
Den Kaiser, den Kaiser zu schützen!”

“That will be my Emperor riding by my grave;
Swords will be clashing and flashing;
And armed, I’ll rise up from the grave
To defend the Emperor, my Emperor!”

The old woman said: “Sollen wir mit Russland oder Frankreich sein, das war die Frage…” We either did not catch or forgot the rest of her words except for the very last: “Russen und die heidnischen Indianer”. We awoke soon thereafter and the memories of the rest of the dream were lost. It was the 100th day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

\S \star There are two things have are remained fairly stable in the politics of our times: the mleccha-marūnmattābhisaṃdhi and Galtonism. Much else of what concerns the Hindu nation develops around these two. The concluding words that we remembered from our dream brought to mind a clear parallel that has long existed but recently raised its head again in the H world. In our previous note, from shortly after the start of the current European war, we traced the path of the rise of the new mleccha religion, navyonmāda, and its role in the overthrow of the Nārīṅgapuruṣa and beyond. Indeed, any sane, politically aware heathen living in mahāmleccha-land will get of sense of how it might have been for the last heathens of the classical world as the frenzied followers of the śūlaprotapreta were starting to gain the upper hand in enforcing their cult. We observed that when it comes to the Rus, the navyonmatta backers of Vṛddhapiṇḍaka and their internal opponents among the mleccha-s, i.e., the more protapreta-aligned folks or some of the more secularized uparimarakata-s are quite aligned in their rhetoric. As we have noted several times on these pages, the mleccha-marūnmatta-yāśu overrides even the yauna-sambandha between the paśchima-mleccha alliance and the Rus. Briefly, the inclusion of the Turuṣka in the rotten soybean soup has its deep roots in the Crimean war against the Rus. This continued to the recent times in the form of the first Afghan war, the “soft underbelly strategy”, the Chechnyan war, and the support for the marūnmattātaṅka in Rus cities. Similarly, when it comes to the H both sides of the mleccha political spectrum are quite aligned. In the case of navyonmāda, given its natural attraction for marūnmāda, it usually proceeds via active fostering of the mleccha-marūnmattābhisaṃdhi. In the case of the mleccha “right” and uparimarakata “classical liberals” or “neoconservatives” it proceeds either via support for the kīlitapreta-bhānaka-s or “enlightenment values” (e.g., the anti-H garbage spouted by the scientist Stuart Kauffman in a talk is just one example among the many from that group).

Both among the Rus and H there exist many who are truly in love with the mahāmleccha sphere (i.e., the pañcanetra-s) and identify closely with them. For the Rus the path of assimilation in the mahāmleccha mass is trivial but for the H it is formidable. Yet, the H have tried hard to do so. Among the Rus who managed to immigrate this process is mostly complete, but among those who could not, for one reason or another, different levels of yearning still exist. We could argue that even the pro-Rus elite, including Putin, wanted to be accepted as respectable members of the Occidental sphere; however, their being spurned resulted in a return to antipathy. Among the H who have immigrated and those who hold the hope to do the same, the yearning is more like that of a guy pining for a beautiful girl who does not cast a glance his way. Ironically, both the anti-Rus or anti-H policies of the Occident end up hurting those who are mostly friendly to them. However, the Indian situation is more complex. There is a sizable pro-mleccha class in India that finds work that is metaphorically not very different from that of the sepoys under the English tyrants. The Indian system and its deep penetration by the Occident, has meant that this class will actually aid the Occident in implementing any anti-H moves. It seems this class was largely eliminated or defanged among the Rus by Putin. Those of that class who were mūlavātūla-s have mostly left for their own or to the mahāmleccha lands. In contrast, the Indian equivalents of that class are going nowhere and the government neither has the awareness nor the courage to defang them as of now.

As we have again noted on these pages, the pañcanetra-s are master shadow warriors — their conquest of India and humiliation of the Cīna-s was a masterly exposition of the same. In the case of the Rus, when their marūnmatta allies failed to play the proxy role successfully they had to personally intervene in the form of the Crimean war. But even there, the core of the pañcanetra of the age (the English) lost fewer men while letting France to take the heaviest losses. Since the conclusion of the Crimean war, the (proto)pañcanetra has vigorously sought to obtain useful rentier states in the region that can do their bidding against the Rus. The current Ukrainian state was the fructification of this dream. In the subcontinent, when WW2 forced the English to retreat, following the usual doctrine of the mleccha-marūnmattābhisaṃdhi, they created TSP as the rentier state to the keep the H in check. Though the English retreated, the mantle of pañcanetra power was now in the hands of the mahāmleccha-s, who continued that policy with respect to TSP. The people of the rentier state itself might suffer, but it will be kept afloat as long as it serves the purpose of the pañcanetra-s in the realist goals against the target state. As result, these rentier states are among the most corrupt systems in the world. So far, the mleccha-s seem to have a high tolerance for the blowback that comes from these volatile pets of theirs. The mahāmleccha-s even accepted an assault of the magnitude of 9/11 to keep TSP afloat. The blowback from Ukraine has been much less, but the role it has played in frauds and cybercrimes in mleccha-land going all the way to Vyādha-piṇḍaka is immense. It is possible in the future is brings in more terrorism with all the arms the mleccha-s have pumped into the state.

\S \star Given that the history of the current conflict goes back to at least the Crimean war, we cannot but help get to its essence: the pañcanetra-s and their vassals essentially wanted to fulfill the aims of that war, viz. degrade the Rus to the point that they are no longer a great power. This is essentially the basis for the expansion of the rotten soybeans confederation right into the land of the “Mother of all Russian cities”. A parallel to the H world cannot be missed — aiding TSP, that festering rump of the Mogol empire, to take over much of the pāñcanada, which was the mother of all the Indian cities was not very different. Thus, the Rus were confronted with an existential predicament: were they going to resist this encroachment of the Occident into their natural domain by means of a rentier state or were they going to back down with a whimper. Like the Hādi-śūlapuruṣa in the old days, Putin too desired to be accepted by the pañcanetra-backed West as a part of their world. However, as it became increasingly clear that the Occident had no such intention but the contrary, he decided to take back Crimea first, and try the strategy of a low-key war in the Donbas. That later strategy seemed to have worked poorly. Second, he probably sensed that the duṣṭa-Sora-bandhu in Danu-Apara-deśa might have more aggressive plans (likely backed by Sora himself, especially given that his anuyāyin-s have successfully taken control of the mahāmleccha government). Of course, the more cynical mahāmleccha-s think it might have been triggered by the realization of his impending mortality from a cancer — in a sense, he personally had nothing to lose in some big stakes gamble. However, we believe it is a very rational fork the Rus were confronted with and had to take one of the two paths mentioned above.

The expectations and the commentary on the conflict have been wild. The mleccha-s have been claiming exaggerated victories for duṣṭa-Sora-bandhu and his paradoxical allies from the Hādi-puruṣa-pakṣa On the other hand, many expected the Rus to overrun the Dānu-Apara-deśa within a month. However, that has not happened, and the fourth month of the conflict will soon dawn. This was the limit placed by the Rus nationalist Karlin as the boundary beyond which discontent might arise in Rus against their lord. Hence, many have shifted to the mahāmleccha view of things. However, as we had remarked earlier, neither of these paths should have been expected. Historically, the Rus have not shown overwhelming military dominance from the get-go and have tended to have spotty performance in battle (Crimean war, loss to Japan, Afghanistan). However, over time they have repeatedly shown the capacity to doggedly stick to and achieve their military goals. To reiterate, they initially floundered against both the Napoleonic French (Heine’s poem) and the Germans but they came back strongly on each occasion. Thus, their performance in the current war is consistent with this past. In our assessment, while they initially lost impetus, they have subsequently made steady progress. While you may not hear it in the Occidental media, there are clear indications of this: First, the Hādi-puruṣa-pakṣin-s, whose existence the Occident grudgingly accepted, appear to have faced heavy losses and many have been taken alive. These were some of the most committed fighters in the East of that deśa. Second, if one heard the latest interviews of the sora-bandhu with his backers in the Western press, one could hear between the lines that he is hard-pressed. Third, and importantly, the mahāmleccha-s are growing increasingly silent in their news coverage of the glorious wins of their Hādi-puruṣa-pakṣin allies. The mahāduṣṭa Cumbaka, even paradoxically noted that the Dānuka-s may have to cede territory to the Rus. We still do not know how far the Rus would advance. However, it is clear that the Rus-majority regions have now been or will be soon lost by the Dānuka-s despite the spectacular victories claimed on their behalf by the mahāmleccha-s. Will the Rus be able to hold on once their strongman lord attains Vaivasvata or will the mleccha-backed rump of the Kievans make a new advance to recover their losses? That remains to be seen.

Finally, it should be noted that for whatever inconvenience the sanctions of the mleccha-s have caused to the Rus, the mahā-mleccha economy itself is floundering under its navyonmatta leadership. In the end, any sane person would realize that as of today there is no way to maintain the comforts of a modern society without consuming liquid fossil fuels. Beyond being an energy source, they are also the industrial raw material for a wide range of products that are the quintessence of modern life. Indeed, the rout of Germany in WW2 was due to their limitations in accessing liquid fossil fuels. While they captured the French reserves and managed to obtain some from Romania after their eastward thrust, they simply could not match the Soviet supplies. Nor could they capture the Soviet oil fields. The Japanese initially secured their fuel supply after the conquest of the archipelago. However, the American fightback and defeat of the Japanese in the naval battle of Midway limited their safe transportation of fuel in face of the American assaults. After their rout in WW2 at the hands of the Rus in Manchuria, the Japanese decided to surrender to the mahāmleccha-s to save their sacerdotal monarch. Thus, they learnt the hard way that the key to maintaining a modern economy was to have a reliable and proximal fossil fuel supply. Hence, they decided to restore better relationships with the Rus to access oil via Sakhalin. The mahāmleccha-s are now pressurizing them to get off Rus fuel. However, the Japanese industrial leaders have correctly realized the serious negative impact this would have and called on their government to continue dealing with the Rus. The śūlapuruṣa-s too depend heavily on Rus fuel and could lose their preeminent status as the industrial powerhouse of continental Europe if they decide to go along with the mahāmleccha directives. We even suspect that the aṅglamleccha-uparimarakata alliance might be seeing this as a means to kill two birds with one stone — sink both their old enemies the śūlapuruṣa-s and the Rus. Hungary too, which knows well of the evil of duṣṭa-Sora, seems unwilling to sacrifice its comforts by going all out against the Rus. Thus, we remain skeptical as to whether the maṇḍala-dhvaja-s and śulapuruṣa-s would really decouple from the Rus. Moreover, so far the Rus scheme for ruble payments in return for fuel, grain and fertilizers continues despite the sanctions. Hence, we hold that the Occident has failed to achieve the victory it desired in its proxy war with the Rus. That said, we accept this conflict is far from over.

\S \star In late Hindu antiquity, H thinkers realized that the restoration of the dharma-raṣtra cannot occur without a decisive and complete victory over the ekarākṣasonmāda-s. This was presented metaphorically as the kali being brought to a close only upon the uccāṭana of the unmāda-s by Kalkin. The tāthāgata-s recognized the same even as their centers were being reduced to cinders by the bearded ruffians. The catastrophic first war of independence in 1857 CE was fought on fundamentally unsound foundations on the part of the H. After that they have not really fought for the reestablishment of the dharma state as they continued with the same or worse premises on which the 1857 effort was founded. Moreover, freedom came only because the English had already sucked India dry and for practical purposes, they lost the bigger war elsewhere as they had to cede their preeminence in the pañcanetra system to their mahāmleccha cousins. To add to the H woes, while they had freedom from the English tyrants, they had lost key tracts of their land to their old ekarākṣasa enemies, who had not yet been completely overthrown when the English struck. Thus, the H had merely kicked the can down the road in a world where few could act independently without being policed by the pañcanetra confederation and its vassals. The one power that gained the capacity to act with some independence via a combination of the old Galtonian bond and the mleccha rapacity for cheap manufactures was the Cīna-s, who too had become an enemy of the H. Thus, just like the Rus, the H too were presented with a fork on the road: either die with a whimper like a śvan strangled for a Yulin feast or attempt to regain the dharma state by the overthrow of the ekarākṣasa yoke on their necks. The latter path would mean fighting the combined power of the mleccha-marūnmattābhisaṃdhi with the Hans potentially fishing in the troubled waters. The H leadership decided to simply postpone any confrontation of the question as it was too painful to even contemplate. Neither road was pleasant, and the human cost was going to be huge.

But nations without power do not have the choice of their battlefields. Even as we woke from the strange dream the news reached us that the Indian state had abjectly capitulated to the marūnmatta-s, with the mleccha-s and first responders cheering them on. The details of this need no elaboration as they are rather well known to all. Nevertheless, just for the historical record, we would simply say that, as is usual of them, the marūnmatta-s are baying for the head of a V_1 government official for speaking the truth about the rākṣasa-mata. There is nothing new in that, but the following are notable: 1) The Lāṭeśvara was brought into power with the hope that he would deal firmly with the marūnmatta-s, even as he did so when they burnt the H alive in his province. However, he meekly caved to the pressure from the West Asian marūnmatta hellholes even as his predecessor the nāmamātra-vājapeyin had done when the marūnmatta-s hijacked the Indian plane to occupied Gandhāra. Then the mistake was done of keeping those three ghāzi-s above the ground after their capture when they should have been promptly dispatched to one of Citragupta’s chambers (it seems the security forces have mostly learnt their lesson since). 2) Moreover, the capitulation of the Lāṭeśvara took place against the backdrop of the renewed ghāzi activity in Kaśyapa-deśa. Residual Vaṅga and Cerapada are tottering under regular marūnmatta assaults too. 3) Most galling thing was that the Lāṭeśvara’s government sent a message to the H that they were more concerned about their enemies who seek to annihilate them rather than the H themselves. 4) It is rather telling that the government even abdicated its mandate for law enforcement under the secular constitution to which they cleave – simple cut and dry cases of freedom of expression and incitement of violence – that could put the ruffianly marūnmatta-s in place (thankfully a couple of state leaders are following that in the least). One could go into any number of explanations (and few of them are entirely valid) of why the Lāṭeśvara capitulated but the bottom line is that the Indian government under electoral politics is too weak to confront the foes of the H. While one could raise parallels to the Mūlasthāna Sūrya temple hostage situation with the Pratihāra-s, a modern state aspiring great power status should have the means of countering such blackmail – they are quite obvious though they cannot be mentioned in public. Hence, the Lāṭeśvara and his court should have at least made that honest confession to the H people that they and probably their army are too weak to confront the mleccha-marūnmattābhisaṃdhi; hence, they would need to capitulate.

We believe that, as with the Rus, the H have been taken to the fork in the road. The Lāṭeśvara, the only patriotic leader with a mass appeal, has shown the weakness of his position. This has cast serious doubt on his ability to take the H through the confrontation — rather he has stuck with the old practice of kicking the can down the road. The government’s hope is everything will be hunky-dory after some cycles of Freitag Eruptionen, but, make no mistake, the marūnmatta-s have sensed that the aging Lāṭeśa is no longer the man he was when he held sway in Lāṭa. If the V_1 woman is killed, then it will embolden them even further. They have won this round and will come back for more. Duṣṭa-sora and the navyonmatta-s also want to overthrow the Ānartapa — hence, their natural alliance will swing into action. They have already planted the deśī equivalent of the Dānu-apara’s sora-bandhu along with his band of uśnīśātatāyin-s. Sora and his agents have also succeeded in corrupting the judiciary along the lines of what they have done in mahāmleccha land. Hence, we believe that whether H like it or not they will find themselves on one or the other fork sooner than later and they may not even have a choice. The default endpoint would be that of a camel garroted by a marūnmatta.

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Alkaios’ hymn to the Dioskouroi: Hindu parallels

In this note we shall see how even a short “sūkta” of the yavana Alkaios to the Dioskouroi (individually named Kastor and Polydeukes), the Greek cognates of the Aśvin-s, offers several parallels to the Hindu tradition in the Veda. In the Veda, the Aśvin-s are the sons of Rudra hinting at his overlap with Dyaus (tvam agne rudra asuro mahodivaḥ | or bhuvanasya pitṛ). In the Greek and Roman traditions, they are the son of Zeus or Jupiter maintaining that old connection going back to the Proto-Indo-European tradition and probably beyond to prehistoric times. In Greece, the memory of their Rudrian character is recorded in a 600-500 BCE stele from Sellasia in the Spartan realm where Plestiadas, a pious votary of the deities, inscribed a verse stating that he erected it “out of fear of the fury of the Tyndarid twins (the Dioskouroi)”.

Dioskouroi_Pius(2)
Figure 1. A denarius of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius showing the twin gods Castor and Pollux with the eagle of Jupiter between them. This iconography closely parallels that of their para-Vedic relatives Skanda and Viśākha. The stars above them signify their association with the constellation of Gemini — an ancient association also reflected in the Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa.

deũté moi nãson Pélopos lípontes,
paĩdes íphthimoi Díos ēdè Lḗdas,
eùnóōi thúmōi prophánēte, Kástor
kaì Polúdeukes,
oì kát eùrēan khthóna kaì thálassan
paĩsan èrkhesth’ ṑkupódōn ep’ ìppōn,
rē̃a d’ anthrṓpois thanátō rúesthe
zakruóentos,
eúsdúgōn thrṓiskontes ep’ ákra náōn
pḗlothen lámproi próton’ ontrékhontes
argaléai d’ en núkti pháos phérontes
nãï melaínai;

Come to me all the way from Pelops’ island,
powerful sons of Zeus and Leda,
make your appearance with a kindly soul, Kastor
and Polydeukes!
You ride over the wide earth and the entire sea
on your quick-footed horses;
you rescue men with ease from death
due to freezing,
leaping from afar to the tops of their well-benched ships,
shining brightly as you run up the forestays;
to that in trouble in the night you bring light,
to the ship in darkness.

We shall now consider both linguistic and philological equivalences with Sanskrit usages:
• paĩdes = putra \to son; This occurs in the phrase “paĩdes íphthimoi Díos” \to the powerful sons of Zeus (and Leda). That parallels the phrase: divo napātā vṛṣaṇā: the manly offspring of Dyaus.
• We render thúmōi as soul. The thumos is a cognate of dhūma is Skt (= smoke/steam going back to PIE with same meaning). In Greek, one of its meanings, breath, is related to the original meaning, from which we get soul. The equation of soul and breath is also seen in H tradition: For instance, prāṇa is called the “soul”. The other Skt word ātman is related to an old IE word for breath (e.g., German Atem= breath).
• eùrēan khthóna \approx uruvyachasam pṛthivīm. The first word is an exact cognate of uru = wide. The khthóna= kṣmā (kṣa) \to earth;
• ṑkupódōn ep’ ìppōn parallels the phrase used for the Aśvin-s in RV 1.117.9 and RV 7.71.5: āśum aśvam: swift horse; podon = padam = foot; āśu = ōku \to swift; ippos = aśvaḥ \to horse. A comparable phrase is used by Gṛtsamada Śaunahotra in his spell for the chariot: āśavaḥ padyābhiḥ in RV 2.31.2: with swift steps/feet.
• rúesthe \approx rakṣathaḥ; c.f. rakṣethe dyubhir aktubhir hitam in RV 1.34.8: you protect through day and night. The protection at night is also mentioned in the Greek hymn(below).
• núkti = nakta (0-graded to aktā) = night; pháos = bhAs \to shine/light. phero > phérontes = bhara = to bear; náōn= nāvam \to boat. This protection offered to sailors by the Dioskouroi is mirrored in the marine rescue of Bhujyu stranded at sea that is mentioned in the śruti: yad aśvinā ūhathur bhujyum astaṃ śatāritrāṃ nāvam ātasthivāṃsam | RV1.116.5: when, Aśvin-s, you ferried Bhujyu to the shore after he mounted your ship of a hundred oars.

Dioskouroi(3)
Figure 2. Castor and Pollux on a coin of the Roman republic with the ship on reverse.

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Some notes on the Indo-European aspects of the Anatolian tradition

Prolegomenon
This section is primarily for students of the old religion who approach it from the Indo-Aryan direction and tend to be less aware of the West Asian material. The Anatolian branch of “Indo-European” (in quotes because this appellation becomes inaccurate once Anatolian is brought into the picture; see below) has no living representatives. Modern linguists usually recognize 5 major branches: Hittite, Luwic, Palaic and Lydian, of which the Luwic dialect of Pisidian is the last attested from around 1-200 CE. In 1812 CE, Burckhardt discovered Anatolian monuments with strange hieroglyphic inscriptions in an unknown language. Eventually, this language was deciphered as Luwian. The archaeological excavations conducted by Winckler and Makridi at Boghazköy in 1906 CE led to the discovery of the erstwhile capital of the great Anatolian power, the Hittites. This site yielded a massive library of thousands of clay tablets in the cuneiform script originally developed for the Sumerian language. However, the language of these texts was clearly neither Sumerian nor Akkadian (a Semitic language that adopted the cuneiform script). In 1915 CE, Hrozny made a major breakthrough in the grammatical structure of the language by recognizing that it had vibhakti-s similar to old Indo-European (preserved in an archaic form in Sanskrit). These corresponded to sambodhana (vocative), prathamā (nominative), dvitīyā (accusative), tṛtīyā (instrumental), caturthī+saptamī (a common dative-locative), pañcamī (ablative), and ṣaṣṭhī (genitive). This finding led to the realization that the Hittite language might be an Indo-European one. In the following years, relatively easy texts were deciphered, and over time an increasing diversity of texts, spanning religion, politics and administration, were at least partially understood.

These developments have led to the unequivocal realization that Anatolian is a branch of the Indo-European family. However, its grammatical structures and linguistic features suggest that it was the earliest known branch of the “Indo-European family”; hence, the more correct term for the hypothesis describing the family would be Indo-Hittite. Linguistic phylogenetic analysis strongly suggests that the next branch to diverge from the stem was Tocharian. Archaeogenetic evidence is consistent with the progenitor of this branch corresponding to the Afanasievo Culture, which branched off from the early Indo-European Yamnaya Culture in the Caspian-Pontic region and rapidly moved eastwards by around 3300 BCE. On the western steppe, the remaining early Indo-Europeans interacted and admixed with the European farmers, represented by the Globular Amphora culture, to give rise to the clade that might be termed “core Indo-European”. These had begun rapidly splitting into the stems of the other major Indo-European lineages (e.g., Italo-Celtic, Greco-Armenian, Germanic, Balto-Slavic, and Indo-Iranian) latest by 3000 BCE. Over the next 1000 years, they launched several invasions radiating out of their homeland to cover much of mainland Eurasia. Together, these observations would mean that Hittites were not part of these Indo-European expansions but represent an early movement that happened prior to 3300 BCE.

So far, neither archaeogenetics nor archaeology has given any definitive clues regarding how the Anatolians reached their destination from the steppes. While both routes, via the Balkans and the Caucasus, have been proposed, there is currently sparse evidence in support of either scenario. Given that the above-mentioned branches of Anatolian are restricted to Anatolia and its immediate environs, the divergence likely happened in situ. Given the degree of their divergence, one may conservatively infer that they had arrived in the region sometime between 2800-2300 BCE, if not earlier. However, the actual records of Anatolian are later than that — Hittite words are first seen as loans in the records of Akkadian (an extinct Semitic language) businessmen operating in Anatolia from around 1900-1800 BCE. The Hittite kingdom emerged even later — only around 1700 BCE, with the names of their first great kings, Labarna I and Hattusili I, being recorded a little after that. This first kingdom of the Hittites lasted till around 1500 BCE. Between 1500-1380 BCE, the Hittite lands were dominated by Hurrian rulers, who were probably aided by Indo-Aryan warriors from the Sintashta-Andronovo expansion. In 1380 BCE, the Hittites made a comeback and waged war against the Hurrian state of the Mitanni led by an Indo-Aryan elite (e.g., their king *Sātavāja>Sattivaza), who were likely in an alliance with the Egyptians and had arisen to considerable power between 1600-1500 BCE. The treaty between Suppiluliuma I and Sattivaza is famous for listing the Indo-Aryan gods, Mitra, Varuṇa, Indra and the Nāsatya-s.

The aggressive military action of these new Hittite kings eventually led to the collapse of the Mitanni kingdom to their east; however, their growing power brought them new rivals, such as the Egyptians. The transport of Egyptian prisoners to their capital is suspected of having transmitted a disease. As the Hittites were weakened by the epidemic, which lasted 20 years, an alliance formed against them in western Anatolia led by the Arzawa, who spoke a distinct branch of Anatolian (Luwic or Lydian), several Hittite vassals and the Mycenaean Greeks. While the Hittites were wilting from the disease and the attack, they are believed to have used biological warfare by sending infected rams to the Arzawan alliance. In the aftermath of this event, the Hittites finally turned the tables on these rivals in the final phase of the reign of Mursili II. With this victory and the epidemic drawing to a close, the Hittites reached the climax of their power around 1300 BCE. However, this intensified their conflict with the imperial Egyptians — they fought a great chariot battle at Kadesh, but neither side could gain a decisive victory in the war. Thus, they settled for a marriage treaty in 1270 BCE. New enemies arose in the East in the form of the aggressive Assyrians, who had occupied the former Mitanni lands and waged destructive wars on the Hittites. In 1237 BCE, the Assyrians led by Shalmaneser I and Tukulti-Ninurta I defeated the Hittites in a major showdown at Nihriya, which was perhaps in the vicinity of the upper reaches of the Balih River. The Assyrian emperor Tukulti-Ninurta I then forced the Hittites to stop aiding the Kassites and conquered Babylon. While the Hittites continued to retain control over the Anatolian heartland, their power declined after this rout, and they were destroyed around 1170 BCE by unknown invaders. It is conceivable these invaders had some connection to an Iranic group (perhaps related to the Hakkari stelae) that came down from the steppes to the North.

The Anatolian languages were proximal to several distinct languages. When they arrived in Anatolia, they appear to have conquered a pre-Indo-European people, the Hattians, who spoke the Hattic language. This language might have descended from the ancestral language of the Anatolian farmers. Hattic influenced Hittite and was used alongside it. There are bilingual texts; for example, in one called “When the Storm-God thunders frightfully” following the ritual injunctions in Hittite, the ritualist is called to recite some Hattic incantations. Then there were the Urarto-Hurrian languages of unclear affinities that were spoken by the Hurrians. Several texts were translated from Hurrian into Hittite. The use of the cuneiform script and geographic proximity brought them in contact with the Sumerian language; Sumerian logograms were often used for Hittite words. To the East, the successors of the Sumerians, the Akkadians, who spoke an East Semitic language also influenced the Hittites and they deployed Akkadian logograms in their written language. To their south, their contacts with Egypt brought them into the sphere of Egyptian, a distant cousin of Semitic within the Afro-Asiatic family.

In addition to these local languages that preceded the presence of the Hittites in the region, there were the two core Indo-European languages that appeared in the locale as a result of their later expansions. To the West, the Greeks appear to have closely interacted with the Lydian and Luwian branches as part of the Arzawan alliance (probably the Greek memory of this event relates to the Trojan war that many believe relates to their attack on the Hittite province of Wilusha). To the East, the Hurrian state of the Mitanni had an Indo-Aryan elite, which appeared in the region by at least 1800 BCE (probably the western branch of the same Indo-Aryan group that conquered India). In the Kizzuwatna kingdom (today’s southern Turkey), which was allied with the Mittani before their conquest by the Hittites, we again find some of the kings or elites, such as Pariyawatri (<Paryavatri) and Śūnaśūra of likely had Indo-Aryan ancestry. Similarly, other Indo-Aryan (*Devātithi, *Subandhu, *Sumitra and *Suvardāta) and Iranic chiefs (Vidarṇa) were also operating in the Levant and Syria to the East and the Armenian states of Hayasa and Isuwa through the period of 14-1200 BCE. The direct contact with the Hittites is indicated by the Indo-Aryan loans seen in the famous equestrian manual of Kikkuli from the Hittite lands. Moreover, as suggested by Mayrhofer and Petrosyan, the theonym Akni found in a Hittite source and identified with the Sumerian Nergal/East Semitic Erra (fiery god; literally the scorcher) was most probably the Indo-Aryan Agni. Given the evidence for the Indo-Aryans in the Pontic steppes (Sindoi and Maeotians), it is not clear if they arrived in West Asia in a single invasion or multiply via the Caucasus (given their Armenian presence) from a base in the North.

Thus, in addition to their early divergence (usually linked to their retention of the laryngeals), their long presence in Anatolia with several neighboring cultures resulted in the Anatolian languages acquiring some peculiarities setting them apart from the rest of the Indo-Europeans. One example of this is the ergative formation (like Hindi and other Apabhramśa-s in India) that was probably acquired from Hattic. This influence also probably resulted in the loss of the feminine gender and the development of a new saptamī-like vibhakti, which has been termed the allative (could also be Semitic influence). Other simplifications are also seen in parallel with some of the later IE languages, such as the loss of the dual number and a reduced verb gradation — for instance, Hittite has a verbal distinction comparable to that between parasmaipada and atmanepada but does not have a true passive. Likewise, Hittite has only a single preterite and lacks the complex gradation of the past tense seen in the ancestral core IE. Moreover, most verbs conjugate comparably to Sanskrit asmi. Nevertheless, the Indo-European form is quite recognizable for several words. Below, we tabulate some well-known examples (it is not clear if the Hittite s was pronounced as s or ś; hence we simply render it as s):

Hittite Sanskrit Comment
ĕsmi asmi I am
ĕssi asi you are
eszi asti s/he is
asanzi santi they are
estu astu may he be (Skt loṭ: imperative)
asantu santu may they be (loṭ)
esun āsam was (Hittite preterite; Skt laṅ)
paah-si pāhi protect (loṭ)
dah-hi dhiye take
daskimi dedhīye take repeatedly (yaṅanta:
frequentative)
hartkas ṛkṣas bear (Ursus)
yugan yugam yoke
tāru dāru wood
nĕpis nabhas cloud
hastai asthi bone

The dynamics of the IE conquests were evidently related: 1) the mass of the mobilization in each of the invasions; 2) the density of the local populations and the resources they could command; 3) Potential military alliances with local groups. The core IE conquests in Asia and Europe can be loosely compared to those of the much later Chingizid Mongols — they were rapid and vast in their scale, often overthrowing and dominating deeply entrenched and densely populated agrarian centers. This evidently implies an effective military apparatus, even though we do not fully understand all its dimensions and how it was applied. In the first phase of the conquest of Europe, it is conceivable that a mixed economy combining some farming (probably related to the interaction with the Globular Amphora Culture) and mobile pastoralism provided the backbone for their military strategy. The latter evidently involved a degree of horse- and cattle-drawn transport. The second phase of the expansion, which also provided a new impetus throughout the rest of the IE world, was probably dependent on the invention of the spoked-wheel chariot and the breeding of superior horses by the Aryan branch. Both waves of core IE expansions were associated with either large scale replacement of the pre-IE populations (in places like Scandinavia or Central Asia) or the incorporation of the pre-IE populations (accompanied by admixture) within a new IE framework (e.g., Southern and Central Europe, India and East Asia). In contrast, the Anatolian conquest was apparently more gradual. This might reflect the fact that the Anatolians diverged at a relatively early stage before the more effective versions of the IE “military package” were in place. Moreover, they were potentially a smaller invading force entering a territory with long-established sedentary populations with aggressive military capabilities. Nevertheless, even the Anatolian version of the IE package was sufficient to allow their eventual dominance in the region.

Approaching the Anatolian tradition
Due to the above elements the Anatolian tradition, as it has come down to us, will necessarily be somewhat less recognizably IE in its form. This is also influenced by the workers in the field who are strongly affiliated with the study of West Asian and North African languages and traditions and have a strong Afro-Asiatic bias. While Sanskrit (starting with Hrozny) played an important role in the decipherment and apprehension of the Hittite language, the Hittitologists have paid less attention to Aryan philology in understanding the Anatolian tradition. Instead, there has been a much greater emphasis on interpreting Hittite tradition from an Afro-Asiatic perspective. There has also been a long-standing tendency of connecting the Hittite and the Greek tradition — the latest in this direction are the works of Archi, Bachvarova and Rutherford, who continue on the foundation laid by the earlier scholar Singer. This has also overlapped with the tendency to find West Asian or North African roots for various Greek traditions, even when obvious IE parallels exist — a misapprehension going back to Herodotus. While Bachvarova has correctly emphasized the need to turn to Aryan philology for understanding the later West Asian religious traditions, this aspect is quite under-appreciated in Anatolian studies, despite the repeated finding of a proximal, even if subtle, Indo-Aryan presence, in West Asia during the Hittite period.

A leader in Hittitology, Harry Hoffner, Jr, stated in the introduction to his landmark tome on Hittite mythology:

“The key to understanding any society is its living context. No amount of research into the events that transpired during its history, examination of its material remains, or analysis of its language can substitute for the intuitive understanding which comes from being a part of that era and society. Obviously, it is impossible for us to have this experience for any society of the past.”

We agree that this intuitive understanding is a key — no amount of linguistic palavering can substitute for it. While we do not belong to the Bronze Age steppe, we should emphasize that we are the only surviving practitioners of a reflex of the old IE religion quite close to its ancestral state. Thus, we are indeed in possession of a share of that intuitive understanding, which is key to the understanding of these texts. Hence, even though we are no Hittitologist, we believe that looking at the Anatolian texts with a comparative lens from an Aryan perspective is of considerable value in understanding that tradition and more generally the early IE religion. Before we move on with that, we must acknowledge that our presentation owes a debt to the translations and textual work by scholars such as C Watkins, I Singer, HA Hoffner Jr, B-J Collins, M Bachvarova, I Rutherford, JD Hawkins, J Puhvel, C Karasu and D Schwemer among many other contemporary and earlier ones. When we present their translations, we use the terms adopted them by such as “Sun God” or “Storm God”; however, it should be understood that the literal meaning of these translated terms does not carry the valence of the original deities hiding under those terms. However, we cannot do much in that regard as most of these terms stem from Sumerograms or Akkadograms whose actual Hittite equivalents might be unknown unless there are further attributes in the text.

How IE is the Anatolian tradition? We address this question by taking up many aspects of the religion as it has come down to us.

Thousands of gods
The first thing that strikes one about the Anatolian religion is that the Hittites have a large number of named gods, even by the standards of complete IE pantheons, like those of the Indo-Aryans. Now, there are three theological facets to this:

1) IE tradition acknowledges that there are a large number of gods, several thousands or more, even though only tens of them are actually named and distinctly recognized in ritual. Thus, in the Ṛgveda, Viśvāmitra states that:
trīṇi śatā trī sahasrāṇy agniṃ triṃśac ca devā nava cāsaparyan । RV 3.9.9

Thus, the number of gods is given as 3339 (also given in the Vaiśvadeva-nivid) — a number related to the synchronizing of the eclipse cycle and moon phase cycles. However, elsewhere in the RV, this number is given as 33 (with the corresponding goddesses):
patnīvatas triṃśataṃ trīṃś ca devān anuṣvadham ā vaha mādayasva । RV 3.6.9

This latter number is closer to the count of actually named gods. Hence, one could state that the thousand gods of the Hittites are merely a reflection of this. Indeed, we see a reference to a 1000 gods in a similar sense in a Hittite incantation against an imprecatory deployment (CTH 429.12):

“And you, O Sun-god, O Storm-god, O Patron-god, O [all] go[ds], with bow (and) arrow sho[ot the evil tongue], drive away the ev[il] tongues made [before the gods?]! And to the mar[iyani]-field we will take th[e]m, and bur[y] them there. And [let] them disappear from the sight of the gods: away from the Sun-god, the Storm-god, the Pa[tro]n-god, [a]nd from the Thousand Gods let them disappear.” Translation by Haroutunian.
Here, the 1000 gods appear to be a reference to the large number of unnamed gods — only three gods are explicitly named.

2) From the Indo-Aryan and Greek tradition we know that the same god might manifest as a distinctly named deity (devatā) specific to a particular incantation or a specific ritual. Thus, in the different Vedic rituals belonging to the ādhvaryava tradition of the Yajurveda the one god Indra might manifest as a multiplicity of deities, each specific to the ritual like: Indra Kṣetraṃjaya (for conquest of pastures); Indra Gharmavat (Pravargya); Indra Gharmavat Sūryavat (for prosperity); Indra Dātṛ (for amicability of subjects); Indra Punardātṛ (recovery of lost goods); Indra Prababhra (overthrow of rivals); Indra Vajrin (for abhicāra); Indra Vaimṛdha (victory in battle); Indra Indriyāvat (for attaining Indrian strength/senses); Indra Amhomuc (freedom from distress); Indra Manyumat (for performing a heroic deed in battle or capture of foes); Indra Manasvat (godly intelligence); Indra Prasahvan (when the yajamāna’s ritual cow might be seized by a raiding force or victory in Aśvamedha battles); Indra Vṛtrahan (if the new moon ritual is performed after the new moon time); Indra Marutvat; Mahendra; Indra Ṣoḍhaśin (in multiple rituals); Indra Sutrāman (Rājasūya and Sautrāmaṇi); Indra Arkavat; Indra Aśvamedhavat (if one is facing destruction or loss of power); Indra Svarāj (supremacy among rulers). This does not mean that there are 22 different gods but merely that the same god manifests as 22 devatā-s specific to the respective incantations and rites. Further, incantation-specific deification might be extended to items that are not gods, such as the soma-pounding stones or the ritual grass. A comparable tendency is also recorded in the Hittite tradition. In the above list of Indra devatā-s, those with the ancient Indo-European -vant/-mant suffixes are most common. This usage is also seen for other devatā-s (e.g., for Agni devatā-s we have Agni Anīkavat and Agni Tantumant) in the ādhvaryava tradition. We also observe similar theonyms of Hittite deities that we believe stem from a comparable principle. For instance, we have Inarawant (note parallelism to Vedic Indravant; see below), Assunawant (=endowed with excellence?) and Hasauwant (we believe this is a cognate of Skt asu-vant = endowed with life force; Prajāpati is called a related name Asumant in the Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa).

3) In Indo-Aryan, Iranian and Germanic traditions we have the many names of a god — the 300 names of Rudra in the Śatarudrīya incantation and the names of Vāta-Vāyu in the Vāyavya incantation; the incantation of the 101 names of Dātar Ahura Mazdha in the Zoroastrian tradition; the 54 names of Odinn preserved in the Gylfaginning (totally the North Germanic kennings feature at least 207 names of Odinn). This was greatly expanded in the nāmāvali-s of the later Hindu tradition starting from the epics. Thus, one unacquainted with this ancient tendency and the equivalence of the names might mistake their multiplicity for an actual multiplicity of the gods.

From a historical viewpoint, the early Hittite texts contain fewer named gods than the later ones from close to their high point, where the list keeps growing in size. This can be seen as pantheonic accretion from associated cultures, with the addition of Hattian, Sumerian, Akkadian, Hurrian and even Indo-Aryan deities to the mix. However, this does not mean that the accretion proceeded without any identification or syncretism. One could say that a pathway for identification and syncretism was always latent in IE tradition. For example, far removed in space and time, we hear Odinn explain the multiplicity of his names in the Gylfaginning thus:

“It is truly a vast sum of knowledge to gather together and set forth fittingly. But it is briefest to tell you that most of his names have been given to him by reason of this chance: there being so many branches of tongues in the world, all peoples believed that it was needful for them to turn his name into their own tongue, by which they might the better invoke him and entreat him on their own behalf.”

When we take this into account, the Hittites probably had a relatively circumscribed pantheon of specifically recognized gods. The evidence for this comes from the Yazilikaya temple from 1300-1230 BCE. While the iconography and the name-markers of many of these deities are obviously Hattic, Hurrian or Semitic, their organization is unlike anything else in West Asia, indicating a Hittite organizing principle, which is likely of IE provenance. A total of over 80 reliefs are carved in two main chambers, A and B, of the rock-cut shrine. The more elaborate chamber A seems to have originally contained 64 figures (2 of which are largely lost), all or most of which can be identified as gods of the celestial Hittite pantheon. Chamber B with 12+3 figures and is identified with the nether world. Of these, the 12 gods seem to be identical to the 12 in chamber A and the remaining 3 are deities (apart from the Hittite king) which may also be represented in chamber A. Thus, conservatively, we may see the core Hittite pantheon as featuring 64 deities. In chamber A, the pantheon of gods and goddesses are shown as though in procession a towards the central deities, the Storm God and the Chief Goddess placed in the northern direction, from either side of the chamber. A pyramidal crag rises above these central gods — the site was evidently chosen to represent the mountain of the world axis. Chamber B in contrast represents the netherworld. One of the prominently displayed Chamber B deities is indicated by iconography related to the Sumerian Nergal, who was likely associated with Fire God (=Agni) on one hand the lord of the netherworld on the other (c.f., the Iranian relief from Parthian age Hatra where Nergal is syncretized with an Arabian netherworld deity (Zqyqa) and an Iranic deity and shown holding the tricephalic Kerberos in a manner similar to the Greek Herakles. Like Agni, he holds an axe — a characteristic IE feature).

Fig1_Yazilikaya1
Fig1_Yazilikaya2

Figure 1. The Yazilikaya pantheon from “Celestial Aspects of Hittite Religion: An Investigation of the Rock Sanctuary Yazılıkaya” by Zangger and Gautschy,  JSA 5.1 (2019) 5–38

Keeping with the world axis symbolism, as has been proposed before (e.g., Zangger et al., most recently), we agree that the organizing principle is astronomical, with symbolism likely derived from IE tradition. On the god side, the procession opens with 12 identically depicted gods — these have been identified with the deities of the 12 months of the year — a number also reflected in other IE traditions, like the Greek Dodecad of Olympians and the 12 Āditya-s of the para-Vedic Hindu tradition. RV 10.114.5 also mentions the offering of 12 soma cups, implying that they are for a count of 12 gods. The 28th and 29th figures of this pantheon are identified as the bulls of heaven (Hurris and Seris in Hurrian), who draw the chariot of the Storm God. These hold up a large lunar symbol; thus, they likely represent the point of the full moon and the duration of the lunar month (since both 28 and 29 hold up the moon symbol, it is likely that both the synodic and sidereal months are implied). This mapping of the gods with the lunar cycle is also seen in the Indo-Iranian world; hence, the Yazilikaya frieze is likely a depiction of the Hittite reflex of the same ancestral tradition. The goddess side of the procession opens with 18 or 19 female deities. Zangger et al propose that this corresponds to the 18/19 year eclipse/lunar cycle — this might again present a mapping related to the number of gods in the RV.

The Storm God
The Storm God of the Anatolians went by the name: Tarhunna (Hittite); Tarhuwant>Tarhunz (Luwian). His name is a cognate of the Sanskrit Tūrvant (e.g., applied to Indra: sanīḻebhiḥ śravasyāni tūrvan marutvān no bhavatv indra ūtī  । RV 1.100.5). Some have proposed that, while it has a clear IE etymology, it might have been adopted to mimic Taru the name of a functionally similar Hattian deity. However, we propose (also apparently favored by Schwemer) that it was transferred from IE to Hattic. We suspect that the Anatolian theonym has an etymological equivalence to the Germanic Indra-class deity. As the Indra-class deity of the Anatolian branch he was identified with a wide range of local, functionally similar deities of cities. In terms of the more widely distributed gods, we can see his identification with the Hurrian Teshub and Semitic (H)Adad. The Hittite exemplar in the Yazilikaya temple is not shown with prominent horns. However, elsewhere his Hittite images (e.g., Mursili III’s seal) and the Luwian depictions frequently show the characteristic bovine horns. While we cannot be sure where this iconographic convention originated, it is clear that it was already widespread across bronze age Eurasia, encompassing, the Bactria-Margiana complex in Central Asia, the Harappan civilization in India, and Mesopotamia and the Anatolian-Hurrian world in West Asia. The same iconography is also textually alluded to in the RV for Indra and other deities (Agni, Rudra), e.g., yas tigmaśṛṅgo vṛṣabho na bhīma ekaḥ kṛṣṭīś cyāvayati pra viśvāḥ ।. Hence, we can say that even if the specific features might have been local, the horned iconography for this deity was likely rather naturally adopted by the Anatolians as they might have had a certain “pre-adaptation” for the same from the ancestral IE tradition. He is also often shown standing on a bull, which is aligned with the frequent references to Indra as the bull. Indra was decoupled from this iconography in the later Hindu world; however, it persisted in association with Rudra who also shows that connection even in the śruti.

Figure2_StormGods

Figure 2 Anatolian and Mittani depictions of the Storm God

In terms of weapons, he is depicted as bearing a mace (comparable in form to the classic Indo-Iranian gadā) in the Yazilikaya temple and on the famous seal of the Hittite king Mursili III. A comparable mace is also held by the Hurrian Storm God from a seal from the early Mitanni realm. In this version, he also holds a spear and is shown trampling mountains, suggesting the possible influence of the Indo-Aryan Indra, the terror of the mountains. He also holds a spear while fighting the famous serpent demon in the Luwian site of Malitiya (Arslantepe). The Luwian versions from Malitiya and elsewhere, and the version from the Aleppo temple in Syria show him as holding a trident and sometimes also an axe in the other hand. The axe is reminiscent of one of the types seen on the Yamnaya anthropomorphic stelae suggesting potential IE influence. The trident on the other hand with its wavy prongs is a representation of the famous thunderbolt. We posit that both the mace and the trident are alternative visualizations of the same weapon — the cognate of the Aryan vajra. Some of these iconographic conventions first seen in the Anatolian exemplars persisted till much later in India (the trident-like vajra of Indra, the axe and the triśūla of Rudra) and the Roman empire (Jupiter the thunderer slaying the anguipedian = snake demon and Jupiter Dolichenus; see below). The repeated adoption of this iconographic convention by different IE branches supports an IE inspiration or, in the least a compatibility, following the ancient spread of the convention similar to the horned headgear of the deity. The version from the Aleppo temple also shows him bearing a sword on his belt in addition to the axe and trident. This is reminiscent of the later anthropomorphic stelae from IE sites on the steppes.

Both in Luwian iconography and Hittite mythological texts we have depictions of the Storm God slaying the serpent demon (Hittite: Illuyanka). This myth is found in every branch of IE; thus, it unambiguously belongs to the ancestral stratum of IE mythology. Its Hittite variants mention: 1) baiting of the serpent demon with food: A parallel is found in the Kaṭha Saṃhitā where Indra takes the form of a glob of honey to draw the serpent demon Śuṣṇa to eat it up. 2) At least one Hittite version states that the serpent demon has stolen the heart and the eyes of the Storm God, i.e., something essential for life. He has to then be tricked into giving those back. The Kaṭha Saṃhitā similarly implies Śuṣṇa had stolen the ambrosia (amṛta) of the gods. Indra takes it back by entering his maw in the form of a glob of honey. He then flies out with it in the form of an eagle (a famous IE myth). 3) A preserved Hittite myth mentions an eagle being sent to search for the vanished Storm God. However, a more direct depiction of their connection is seen on the seal of Mursili III, where an eagle is placed in front of the Storm God on his bullock cart (He is also shown holding the eagle on a silver rhyton; see below). Finally, one could also point to the reuse of the West Asian eagle wing symbol with a solar disc in IE contexts, like as the emblem above the Storm God on Luwian stelae.

Finally, the Hittites also preserved a myth of the disappearance of the sun resulting in paralyzing hahhimas (ice; cognate of Skt hima of PIE provenance). While one could imagine a winter frost in Anatolia, the concomitant “disappearance” of the sun is a motif specifically associated with more northern latitudes and is again seen across the IE world. Thus, the appearance of this myth in Anatolia is a clear sign of its IE provenance. In other IE traditions, the Indra-class deity recovers the sun, often doing battle with his vajra-like weapon against the demons, who have hidden the sun. While its details are poorly preserved, the Storm God is repeatedly mentioned in that Hittite text as confronting the freeze with other gods.

The consort and the sister of the Storm God and West Asian syncretism
The Yazilikaya temple pairs the Storm God with his consort who stands on a lion. This chief goddess of the Hittite pantheon is usually identified with the Hurrian deity Hebat and Hattic Wurusemu. We have a remarkable sūkta-like incantation (CTH 384) composed by the ritualist-princess Puduhepa (wife of king Hattusili III), the “rājarṣikā” among the Hittites:

1. O my lady, Sun Goddess of Arinna, lady of the Hatti lands,
2. Queen of the heaven and the earth!
3. Sun Goddess of Arinna, my lady, queen of all the lands!
4. In the Hatti land you take (for yourself) the name of the Sun Goddess of Arinna,
5. but besides (in the land) that you made the Cedar Land (Hurri),
6. you take (for yourself) the name of Hebat.
7. However I, Puduhepa, (am) your maid from the outset…
(translation from Karasu)

Thus, we see that Puduhepa identifies the Hittite Sun Goddess, the queen of heaven and earth (a dvandva like Dyāvāpṛthivī), with Hebat of the Hurrians. On the Hurrian side, we see no evidence for Hebat being the Sun Goddess. On the Semitic side, epithets comparable to those used for the Anatolian Sun Goddess are used in Akkadian for Shamash the solar god rather than for a goddess. However, in the IE world, we see multiple manifestations of the solar goddess (e.g., the whole Indo-Aryan marriage ritual is centered on her). Thus, we posit that the Sun Goddess was inherited from the Anatolian IE tradition, and Puduhepa identified her with Hebat, not due to solar connotations, but because she was the supreme female deity of the Hurrian tradition. Hence, it is probable that the Hittite interpretation of the consort of the Storm God corresponded to their Sun Goddess. In terms of her iconography, she rides the lion — this convention, like that of the horned headdress of the Storm God, has also spread widely across Eurasia encompassing BMAC, Sumeria and its Semitic successors, and Anatolia. A direct parallel can be seen in an Akkadian seal, where the consort of the Semitic Storm God rides in front of his cart on a lion hurling rain or lightning. In textual terms, the large felines (lion, tiger and leopard) are associated with the supreme mother goddess Aditi in the early Vedic layer of the Indo-Aryan tradition.

Figure3_Goddesses

Figure 3. The consort of the Storm God and the mirror-wielding goddesses

The pairing of the bull-riding Storm God and the lion-riding goddess was an iconographic convention that traveled widely over space and time. In the East, it manifested in the iconography of Rudra and his consort Umā (Rudrāṇī) in India. In the West, it formed the basis of images of Jupiter Dolichenus in the Roman empire. Another Anatolian goddess, who rode a lion, was identified with the ancient goddess Kubaba of the Mesopotamian world. Here name is likely also behind the theonym Cybele, a later goddess from the region, who is iconographically comparable. Interestingly, she is associated with the Anatolian Rudra-class archer deity Santa (see below) in certain texts. Her distinctive feature in the Anatolian world is the mirror, which she shares with Rudrāṇī in India, Tapatī (Tabiti) in the steppe Iranic world, and Juno Regina Dolichena, the consort of Jupiter Dolichenus in the Roman empire. In the Far East, the mirror as an attribute of the goddess was also transferred to the Japanese solar goddess probably from a steppe Iranic source. This mirror iconography is primarily seen in the Luwian reflexes of the Anatolian religion (e.g., at Carchemish), where this goddess might have been identified or syncretized with the supreme Hittite goddess. Consistent with this, like her consort, she may be shown with the cow horns in some depictions. Indeed, such a Luwian pairing might have been the ultimate inspiration for the Dolichenian deities. Given that the mirror is not typical of Mesopotamian or North African goddesses, we posit that the mirror was probably acquired from an Aryan source relatively late in the development of the Anatolian religion. Nevertheless, its eventual wide adoption across the IE world suggests that it resonated with a deeply rooted solar aspect of the goddess.

Finally, we come to the third major Eurasian goddess called Innana in the Sumerian realm, Ishtar by their East Semitic successors (= West Semitic Ashtart) and Shaushka/Shaushga by the Hurrians. She was evidently functionally related to a comparable goddess from the BMAC in Central Asia and probably also to the horned pipal tree goddess of the Harappans. Right from her Sumerian manifestation, she is a transfunctional goddess associated with war, love and medicine. This transfunctionality made her easy to syncretize with high goddesses sharing some of these functionalities from across diverse traditions. Her transfunctionality is amply testified in the historical record: Her Hurrian iconography depicts her heavily armed, emphasizing her military nature. The Indo-Aryan Mitanni ruler Tushratta (<Tveṣaratha) sent such an image of hers with a maninnu necklace having the form of a “bed of her plant” to the Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep III perhaps to heal him of his illness — this exemplifies her healing aspect. Finally, the Hittite monarch Hattusili III writes that Shaushga led him to his future wife Puduhepa, the ritual expert, when he was returning from the Egyptian campaign as the commander of the Hittite army under his brother. He specifically mentions that the goddess brought them together in mutual love — exemplifying her sexual facet.

Figure4_Shaushga

Figure 4. Shaushga and Ishtar. The drawing of Shaushga from the Aleppo is an accurate reproduction by Gestoso Singer in “Shaushka, the Traveling Goddess”, TdE 7 (2016)  43–58

In the Hittite realm, she is indicated by the Ishtar Akkadogram; hence, we do not know the actual form of her Anatolian name. However, we posit that the Hurrian Shaushga had already received influences from the Indo-Aryans in the region that might have also fed into her equation with a Hittite goddess. First, we have the maninnu necklace sent by Tushratta to the Pharaoh that may be etymologized on the basis of the IA word maṇi (amulet/bead/gem) potentially related to her healing power (c.f. Atharvavedic healing maṇi-s). Second, in Shaushga’s Syrian images (e.g., at the Aleppo temple; the other temple depicting her at Ain Dara was recently destroyed by the Turkish and their ISIS Khilafat allies) her iconography shows the following elements: 1) Horned head gear comparable to the Mesopotamian Ishtar. 2) two quivers on either shoulder — this has a Mesopotamian parallel in the form of the weapons rising from Ishtar’s shoulder in more than one depiction. We also have an image of an iconographically equivalent goddess which was stolen and possibly damaged by the Americans during their conquest of Iraq, which shows her with a similar quiver; however, we do not know its exact provenance; 3) She wields a mace which is seen in some Mesopotamian images or a vajra-like weapon; 4) Finally, she also bears an axe that is close in shape to the steppe axes from IE zone (also note Indo-Aryan personal name, Svadhiti = axe, recorded in the region from the Hittite period), such as those found on the anthropomorphic stelae and that borne by Tarhunz; hence, we suggest this element of Shaushga’s iconography was probably due to Indo-Aryan influence. Third, in the Hurrian-Mitanni realm, Shaushga was distinctively seen as the sister of gods starting with the Storm God. In the Indo-Aryan world, the important lunar goddess Sinīvālī is praised as the sister of the gods (and likely also her companion lunar goddesses Rākā, etc. They are probably the sisters of Indra mentioned in RV 4.22.7). This deity persists in later Hindu tradition as the mighty goddess Ekānaṃśā. Hence, the sisterly relationship of Shaushga to the gods could again be a configuration that developed either under Indo-Aryan influence or was an old IE feature coming from the Hittites. Even in the Mesopotamian tradition, in addition to Venus, Ishtar appears to be associated with the moon. Her bull-horn headgear might represent the same. This would have allowed for her easy syncretism with IE lunar goddesses.

Innarawant
Whether the Hittite Innara (Inara) is related to the Vedic Indra has been subject to some debate. The daughter of the Storm God named Inara is well known in the Hittite mythic tradition. A text coeval with the Yazilikaya names Inar(a) as the male god from the Hurrian land, suggesting that the knowledge of a male equivalent existed in the Anatolian world. Thus, Innarawant, which has been taken to mean strong/manly/majestic as a masculine theonym might tie the two together — Hittite often maintains homosemy between the base form and the old IE -vant augmentations. Keeping with the meaning of the name, the ritual in which the singular deity Innarawant is invoked is related to restoring the strength or manliness of the patron. This association calls to mind the Vedic term nṛmṇa (manly) used for Indra. It also reminds one of the ādhvaryava ritual invoking Indra Indrīyāvat for special strength. We list below some of the incantations and ritual actions relating to this theonym (CTH 393: “Anniwiyani’s Rituals”, transcribed and translated by B-J Collins in “Hittite Rituals from Arzawa and the Lower Land”; upper case are Sumerograms or Akkadograms):

\S 2 I take blue wool, red wool, barley, karsh-grain, and coriander and they roast them. One pitcher of beer, sixteen small thick breads, one goat, one puppy, fourteen pegs of poplar, two small NUNUZ-stones, fourteen small cups, and twelve small pitchers. They make all of the birds out of clay. Whichever bird the augurs observe, they do not omit any.
\S 3 As soon as night falls, she ties blue wool to the ritual patron—first to his feet, his hands, and his neck, his middle; to his bed (and) the four bedposts the first time. She [the auguress] ties (it) in the same way to his chariot, his bow, and his quiver.
\S 4 Afterwards she ties red wool in the same fashion. Then the roasted seeds, the thick breads, the implements of fired clay, the pegs, and the clay birds and the small pitchers she arranges in a pitcher. She places it under the bed on behalf of the ritual patron and it remains under the bed for him.
\S 5 At dawn they cut the blue and red wool off the ritual patron entirely and she places them in the basket. They bring a consecrated girl into the inner house, and they situate her in the entrance. She holds a bird of dough in her hand. The consecrated girl calls, “Go away Protective Deity Lulimi! Come in Protective Deity Innarawant!”
This is followed by dog and goat sacrifices to Innarawant.

One may note the following: 1. The blue and red threads — a close parallel is seen in the Veda in the form of the nīla-lohita threads — RV 10.85.28: an amulet in the marriage ritual. This practice is elaborated in the Śāṅkhāyana Gṛhyasūtra 1.12.8 which recommends tying an amulet of 3 maṇi-s (= gems) to the bride by her kinsfolk with blue-red wool or silk threads. Similarly, as per the Kauśikasūtra a blue-red thread is used with the mantra AV 8.8.24 in the battle ritual. 2. Āpastamba recommends that: sūtre vartmanor vyavastṛṇāty uttarayā nīlaṃ dakṣiṇasyāṃ lohitam uttarasyām । (To the ends of the [spokes of the] wheels [of the chariot by which the groom takes the bride is taken home] a blue thread is tied to the right wheel and a red thread to the left). The tying of the threads to the chariot again presents a parallel to the Hittite ritual. 3. The use of a chariot in the Hittite ritual for manliness is paralleled by the ritual prescribed by the Mānava Gṛhyasūtra 1.3.7 or the Vārāha Gṛhyasūtra 15.3.1 of the Maitrāyaṇīya-s for manly power: anu māyantu  devatā anu-brahma suvīryam । anu-kṣatraṃ tu yad balam anu mām aitu madyaśaḥ ॥ iti prāṅ abhiprayāya pradakṣiṇam āvartayati  । (VGs has upa in place of the particle anu; Tr: “May the deities come following (drive along with) me; may brahma power; good manliness, royal power and whatever is strong come to/follow me” reciting thus, facing east he drives his chariot in a clockwise circle).

The Hittite texts also show a plural form of the Innarawant — the Innarawantes deities — these accompany the fierce archer deity Santa/Sanda who is the bringer of epidemics. This is recorded in the ritual of Zarpiya, the physician of Kizzuwatna (CTH 757), in Hittite and Luwian that is performed when an epidemic strikes the land (which might be related to the great epidemic that swept through the Hittite empire). In that, the ritualists utter an incantation (translation based on those by Collins and Schwartz): “\S 11 O Santa (indicated by the Marduk Akkadogram) and the Innarawantes deities, do not approach my gate again.” The Luwian part of the text calls upon these gods to evidently eat the sacrificial sheep or cattle and not the men: “\S 17 Do not again approach this door in malice. Eat sheep and cows; do not eat a man, zaganin, tuwiniya.”. The Innarawantes accompanying Santa are rather notably described thus:

\S 8 They bring in one billy-goat and the master of the estate libates it with wine before the table for Santa. Then he holds out the bronze ax and recites: “Come Santa! Let the Innarawantes-deities come with you, (they) who are wearing blood-red (clothes), the mountain-dwellers, who are wrapped in the huprus garments;
\S 9 who are girt (?) with daggers, who hold strung bows and arrows. “Come and eat! We will swear (an oath to you)…”

In addition to an animal sacrifice, the ritual involves the offering of 9 libations of wine and 9 offerings of bread. Then 8 virgin boys are called in and one wears a goatskin cloak (c.f. cloak of the vrātya) and howls like a wolf. The others follow him, and they eat the sacrificial meat like wolves. This suggests that the total number of deities in this part of the ritual is 9 = 1 Santa + 8 Innarawantes.

Thus, the cast of the epidemic-associated archer deity Santa and his fierce Innarawantes companions brings to mind the Indo-Aryan Rudra and the Rudra-s or Marut-s. Some specific points include: 1) The term Innarawantes in the plural brings to mind the epithet of the Marut-s, Indravant:  ā rudrāsa indravantaḥ sajoṣaso hiraṇyarathāḥ suvitāya gantana । RV 5.57.1; 2) The Innarawantes are described as being like mountain-dwellers, an epithet used for the Marut-s in the RV: pra vo mahe matayo yantu viṣṇave marutvate girijā evayāmarut । RV 5.87.1; 3) The special mention of their garments in which they are wrapped reminds one of the RV epithets for the Marut-s focusing on their armor and their ornaments: varmaṇvanto na yodhāḥ śimīvantaḥ pitṝṇāṃ na śaṃsāḥ surātayaḥ । RV10.78.3; naitāvad anye maruto yatheme bhrājante rukmair āyudhais tanūbhiḥ । RV 7.57.3; 4) Their being heavily armed again matches the descriptions of the Marut-s: vāśīmanta ṛṣṭimanto manīṣiṇaḥ sudhanvāna iṣumanto niṣaṅgiṇaḥ । RV5.57.2; 5) More tenuously, the participation of 8 lupine youths in the ritual might be a mimicry of the Innarawantes. This brings to mind the repeated emphasis on the youth of the Marut-s in the Veda and the old count of 8 for the Rudra-s.

In conclusion, while the term Innarawant refers to both singular and plural deities we believe that the usage is consistent and reflective of an ancient connection inherited from a PIE tradition. We believe that in the singular form it reflects characteristics inherited from the archetypal Indrian deity and in the plural reflects the Rudrian archetype found in the Marut-s who show an intimate connection with the Indra-class.

Other Anatolian manifestations of the Archer deity
Santa is not the only manifestation of the archer deity in the Anatolian world. Collins points to the Hittite ritual text of the female ritualist Āllī (CTH 402) from the Arzawan locus for countering abhicāra that mentions an Archer deity likely associated with the Orion region of the sky. The opening incantation of the rite goes thus (Collins’ translation):

\S 4 “Then the wise woman speaks as follows: “O Sun God of the Hand, here are the sorcerous people! If a man has bewitched (lit. treated) this person, herewith he is carrying it (the sorcery) with (his own) back. May he take them back! He is carrying (var. May he carry) it with (his own) back!
\S 5 If however, a woman has bewitched him, you O Sun God know it, so it should be a headdress for her, and she is to put it on her head. May she take them back for herself! It should be a belt for her, and she is to gird herself; it should be for her a shoe, and she is to put it on!”

These incantations are followed by the invocation of the Hunter:
\S 8 The Sun God of the Hand and the (divine) Huntsman (are) in front. He (the Huntsman) has his bow [and] he has his [arr]ows. For his dogs let it be bread. [For] the [h]orses let it be fodder. And for the ritual patron [let it be] figurines of clay.” The wis[e woman] puts [them] (the ritual figurines) down.

This is followed by the winding of the blue-red wool (see above) around ritual figurines and their burial. The ritual figures are shown carrying “kursa-s”, which are thematically equivalent to valaga-packages in the Indo-Aryan world.

This is followed by the below ritual actions and incantations:
\S 21 She steps a little away from there, and at the side of the pit breaks one flatbread for the Dark Ones. Those who turn before the Huntsman, (for them) she (the wise woman) breaks a flatbread with the miyanit tongue. She breaks one flatbread for the dark earth; she breaks one flatbread for the Sun God and recites: “You must guard this!” She breaks one flatbread for the Sun God and places it on the ground. She libates beer before the gods. And she says: “You must keep this evil witchcraft fastened (in the earth)!”
\S 22 She steps back a little and breaks one flatbread for Ariya and places it to the right of the road. She libates beer and says: “You, seize this evil and do not let it go!” She breaks one flatbread for the crossroad and places it to the left of the road. She libates beer and says: “You, gods of the road — the evil — guard it! Do not let it return!”
\S 23 She steps forward a little and breaks one flatbread to the salawana-demons of the gate. She sets it down, libates beer, and recites: “Upward [ … ] may you always say good things! GALA-priests, [you] lock up the evil (words/things)!” She breaks a pitcher, and they enter the city.
\S 24 She puts kars-grain, passa-breads, a bow, and three arrows in a basket and places them under the bed. It remains under the bed (overnight). She ties a strip of wool to the head and foot of the bed.
\S 25 On the second day, when it becomes light, she takes the basket out from under the bed, waves it back and forth over the person, and speaks: “O Huntsman, you return the sorcery to the sorcerer! Let it be your cure!” She cuts the wool from the bed and places it in the basket.

In general terms, these incantations are notable for the following points: 1) It invokes a solar deity translated as “Sun God of the Hand” — this brings to mind the major Indo-Aryan solar deity Savitṛ whose hands are a prominent feature (c.f. Yajus incantation: devo vaḥ savitā hiraṇyapāṇiḥ pratigṛhṇātu ।; hiraṇyapāṇim ūtaye savitāram upa hvaye । RV 1.22.5 ). 2) Multiple incantations in this ritual have a resemblance to the Atharvan pratyaṇgirā incantations where the kṛtyā is sent back to the sender (e.g., the yāṃ kalpayanti… ṛk). 3) The statements, “you O Sun God know it” and “You must guard this!” are reminiscent of the Atharvan anti-kṛtyā incantation invoking the sun: sūrya iva divam āruhya vi kṛtyā bādhate vaśī । AV-vulgate 8.5.7 (Like the Sun ascended the heaven, blocks sorcery with might.) 4) Here again, we see the use of the blue-red threads; this is similar to the use of the nīla-lohita wool is used in the Indo-Aryan marriage ritual to block the kṛtyā (sorcery): nīlalohitaṃ bhavati kṛtyāsaktir vy ajyate ।AV-vulgate 14.1.26 (Tr: The sorcery becomes the blue-red thread; the sorcery which clings [to the bride] is driven off).

The most notable feature of this ritual is the invocation of the archer deity who goes by the epithet the “Huntsman”. We cautiously follow Collins in accepting Ariya as the likely name of the “Huntsman”, which, in turn, is related to the Greek Orion. The etymology of the Hittite Ariya and Greek Orion remains unclear. However, it is possible that both are related to the PIE root, which is behind forms such as: Hittite arāi (rise up); Tocharian A ar- (bring forth); Avestan ar- (set into motion) \to comparable to Sanskrit iyarti (liṭ form āra or bhāvakarman for arye; go forth); Greek ornūmi (set into motion); Latin orior (to proceed from source), orīgo (origin). Over a century ago, Lokamanya Tilak had boldly proposed that on the Indo-Aryan side the terms Āgrayaṇa or Agrahāyana might represent a cognate of Orion suggesting, just like Collins for Hittite, that “a” in Indo-Aryan can be seen as validly corresponding to the Greek “o”. While one could question the direct etymological homology of Āgrayaṇa and Orion, Tilak’s semantic equivalence might still be valid. The term Āgrayaṇa arose because Orion in the PIE days stood close to the equinoctial colure in the PIE days — it was the leader of the constellations even as Kṛttikā ( \sim Pleiades) was in the later times. Thus, the Orion/Ariya could have derived from the root related to the “origin” or the point from which the sun goes forth on its journey starting with the vernal equinox. Hence, it is even possible that the terms Āgrayaṇa or Agrahāyana were adopted as semantically appropriate homophones of an ancient word that was a cognate of Orion/Ariya. In this regard, we should point out that the constellation of Mṛgaśiras ( \sim Orion; see below) was apparently known by the name Āryikā in Sanskrit lexicographic manuscripts āryikāstu mṛgraśiraḥ śiraḥ sthāḥ pañca-tārakāḥ ।). However, this manuscript has not been published to confirm the reading (it was also recorded by German Indologist Albrecht Weber). If this reading is upheld, then it might represent the survival of a name of the constellation linking it to the Hittite and Greek versions.

The evidence from the Greek, Iranian, and Indo-Aryan sources suggest that the association of the Orion region of the sky with the Rudrian deities goes back to the ancestor of core IE. Even if the Ariya etymological link does not hold up, there are other features of the Hittite ritual which link the Huntsman to the Orion region of the sky and to the core IE archetype of the Rudra-class deity. Greek, Iranian and Indo-Aryan sources concur that this part of the sky was associated with dogs and an archer/hunter — this association is recapitulated in the Hittite incantation. Rudra is both specifically associated with dogs and is the hunter of the god Prajāpati ( \sim constellation of Orion), who may take the form of a deer. In the Greek tradition, Orion’s death is brought about by the Rudrian deities Artemis and/or Apollo. In one well-known narration of the myth, Apollo directs his sister Artemis to shoot Orion with an arrow. On a painted Greek pot, Apollo is shown killing Orion as he tries to assault Artemis. In other versions, Artemis shoots him down on her own or apparently kills him with a cakra; in yet another, either she or Apollo kills him with a scorpion (constellation of Scorpio) or a snake (depicted on Greek pottery).

There are further parallels between the Greek and Indo-Aryan traditions regarding Orion. The first relates to the myth wherein the goddess Eos and Orion were to join in a liaison. The gods objected to this and directed Artemis to shoot down Orion. This again presents a remarkable parallel to the Vedic tradition: The god Prajāpati was to join in an illicit incestuous liaison with the goddess Ushas (cognate of Eos). The enraged gods sent Rudra to slay Prajāpati, whose corpse is represented in the sky by the constellation of Orion. This cognate Greek and Indo-Aryan mytheme evidently preserves an astronomical allegory relating to the sun being in the vicinity of the constellation at the vernal equinox in ancient times. The other Greek-Hindu parallel relates to the myth of the blindness of Orion. Orion is said to have been blinded by Oinopion when he tried to assault a Pleiad. He then walks eastwards hoping to catch the rays of the sun so that it would cure his blindness. The Śāntikalpa of the Atharvan tradition invokes the constellation under the name the blind one (Andhakā):

āvāhayāmi varadām andhakāṃ śaśivallabhām ।
ehi me andhake devī mṛdu-karmasu śobhane ॥
I invoke the boon-granting consort of the Moon, the [goddess of the] Andhakā constellation. May the auspicious goddess of the Andhakā constellation come to me for the gentle rites.

This name for the constellation evidently comes from the “blindness” demon Andhaka who was killed by Rudra. Thus, the constellation of Orion is not identified with the Rudra-class deity himself/herself, but with the target of that deity in both Hindu and Greek traditions. Hence, we cannot automatically assume that the Huntsman of the Hittite ritual is the constellation of Orion, but rather the Rudra-class deity who is linked to that part of the sky. Both the Indian and Iranian branches of the Aryan tradition concur in identifying the Rudra-class deity with the adjacent star \alpha Canis Majoris (the brightest star as seen from the earth) while also identifying the asterism containing that star with a dog.

Beyond, the astronomical connection, even this relatively meager Hittite incantation offers several key connections to the Rudra-class deities in the Anatolian world and beyond: 1) As in the Hittite rite, Rudra-class deities are frequently invoked to repel/hurl back abhicāra in the Atharvan tradition (e.g., in the yāṃ kalpayanti sūkta and the bhavā-śarvīya offerings in the Mṛgāreṣṭi). 2) The horses of the Huntsman are specifically mentioned in addition to his dogs. This is mirrored in the incantation to invite Rudra to the ritual of the Īśāna-bali or Śūlagava, where his horses are specifically mentioned: ā tvā vahantu harayaḥ sucetasaḥ śvetair aśvaiḥ saha ketumadbhiḥ । vātājirair mama havyāya śarvom ॥ 3) In addition to the Huntsman, and the Sun-god of the Hand, the ritual invokes the Dark Ones (marwayanza) and the salawana demons. These two are also associated with another notable manifestation of the Archer God in the Anatolian world going by the name Runta (Dark Ones in CTH 433.2; salawana-demons in CTH 433.3). The epidemic-causing Archer God also receives another name, Iyarri, in Dandanku’s Arzawan plague ritual, where he is again accompanied by the Dark Ones. Finally, the Dark Ones are also mentioned together with Santa in a Hieroglyphic Luwian inscription. This suggests that Santa, Runta and Iyarri are all likely manifestations of the same Rudra-class deity, with the Dark Ones either being cognates of the Innarawantes of Zarpiya’s ritual or a group of beings possibly paralleling the Marut-s or the gaṇa-s or Rudra. In this regard, it might be noted that in some Kṛṣṇa-yajurveda traditions (e.g., Maitrāyaṇīya and Kaṭha) the constellation of Mṛgaśiras is assigned to the Marut-s. The association with the demons is also mirrored in Rudra being called the Asura (tvam agne rudro asuro mahodivaḥ । RV 2.1.6). Likewise, on the Greek side, Apollo is called a Titan in the incantation from the Magical Papyrus for the ritual that was performed at sunrise when the moon is in Gemini.

4) A key connection to the Rudra-class deities is seen in the injunction to make the beer and bread offering to the deity at crossroads. This has a close parallel in the autumnal, disease-curing Vedic Tryambaka-homa:

tānt sārdham pātryāṃ samudvāsya । anvāhārya-pacanād ulmukam ādāyodaṅ paretya juhoty; eṣā hy etasya devasya dik; pathi juhoti; pathā hi sa devaś carati; catuṣpathe juhoty; etad dha vā asya jāṃdhitam prajñātam avasānaṃ yac catuṣpathaṃ tasmāc catuṣpathe juhoti ॥ Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa 2.6.2.7

Having collected all (the cakes from the potsherds) into one dish, and taken a fire-brand from the Anvāhārya-fire, he walks aside towards the north and offers — for that is the direction of the god (Rudra). He offers on a road — for on roads the god roves. He offers on a cross-road — for the cross-road, indeed, is known to be his customary haunt. This is why he offers on a cross-road.

This connection is also seen on the Greek side: The Apollo devatā, Apollo Agyieus (literally Apollo of the road), was worshiped as the manifestation of that deity associated with the road. Like the Hindu Rudra in the classical age, he tended to be worshiped aniconically in the form of liṅga-s. Further, the goddess Hecate, who likely emerged as an ectype of Artemis, is specifically associated with crossroads. 5) The use of a bow and three arrows in the ritual has a specific parallel in the ritual for the Rudra-class deity in the Indo-Aryan soma ritual. After the five-layered altar is piled in the somayāga, a major series of oblations are offered to Rudra with Yajuṣ-es and Sāman-s. In course of this, after the Śatarudrīya oblations are made, another is offered with the famous mantra “yo rudro agnau…” Then the sacrificer or another brāhmaṇa takes up a bow and three arrows and goes around the altar even as the incantation paying homage to Rudra to ransom the sacrificer from the god is recited. The Yajus texts explain it thus:

rudro vā eṣa yad agnis; tasya tisraḥ śaravyāḥ pratīcī tiraścy anūcī । in Taittirīya Saṃhitā 5.5.7
This fire is indeed him, Rudra. His missiles are three — one that comes straight on, one that strikes transversely, and one that follows up.

Indeed, this triplicity of Rudra’s arrow is explicitly connected with the slaying of Prajāpati (Orion) — he was pierced by the trikāṇḍa (tripartite or triple-headed) arrow standing for the 3 stars of Orion’s belt (Skt: Invakā-s) in Aitareya Brāhmaṇa 3.33 and:

atha yasmān nā mṛgaśīrṣa ādadhīta । prajāpater vā etac charīraṃ; yatra vā enaṃ tad āvedhyaṃs tad iṣuṇā trikāṇḍenety āhuḥ sa etac charīram ajahād; vāstu vai śarīram ayajñiyaṃ nirvīryaṃ tasmān na mṛgaśīrṣa ādadhīta ॥ Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa 2.1.2.9
Now, on the other hand (it is argued) why one should not set up his fire under Mṛgaśīrṣa (Orion). This [constellation] is indeed Prajāpati’s body. Now, when they (the gods) on that occasion pierced him with what is called a tripartite arrow he abandoned that body. As that body is a mere husk, unfit for worship and sapless, he should therefore not set up his fires under Mṛgaśīrṣa.

Figure5_Runta

Figure 5. Depictions of the Anatolian deity Runta

This finally brings us to a key association of the Rudra-class deities seen both in the Greek and Hindu worlds — the deer — often their target in their role as huntsmen-archers. This animal figures in the Anatolian world in the context of the archer deity going by the name Runta/(Ku)Runtiya, sometimes identified with Inar. As noted above, the iconographic correspondence and the association with the Dark Ones establishes the equivalence between Runta on one hand and on the other Santa and the Huntsman/Ariya of the above ritual. Runta is indicated by the stag-horn hieroglyph making his connection to that animal explicit. There are several notable depictions of this deity making his connection to the deer explicit:

1) In a scene depicted on an Anatolian silver rhyton, ritualists offer libations and bread to Runta standing on a stag with an aṅkuśa and the Storm God. Both gods hold eagles. The insignia of Runta, namely his quiver, two spears and the slain stag are also shown again separately.
2) In the Aleppo temple, he is shown in a procession of gods and goddesses (including the Shaushga image depicted above) holding a bow and a spear and is labeled prominently with the deer-horn hieroglyph.
3) At Yazilikaya temple Chamber A he is shown with what might be a bow and labeled again with a prominent deer-horn hieroglyph.
4) Altinyayla stele depicts him in the mountains standing on a stag with a bow and holding a stag antler even as a worshiper pours out a libation in front of him.
5) Collins also notes several seals from Nişantepe on which the same deity is similarly depicted.
6) These depictions also suggest that the deity holding a bow and spear behind the storm god on Mursili III’s seal is likely to be the same Archer God.

In conclusion, this web of connections and iconography establishes the deer-associated Archer/Hunter God of the Anatolians as the likely reflex of the Rudra-class deity inherited from the PIE tradition.

Conclusion
While Sanskrit and IE linguistics played a central role in the decipherment of the Anatolian language texts, the prevalent tendency has been to interpret the Anatolian religion quite independently of its IE background based on local West Asian and North African models. This is rather evident in the leading Hittitologist Hoffner’s tome on Hittite myths. While there is no doubt the Hittite religion was imbrued with elements from the West Asian substrata and neighbors, we hold that, with some diligence in the comparative method, one can pick out a clear IE “signal”. However, this signal might be complicated by the interactions with other IE groups such as the Indo-Aryans and Greeks who were also operating in the vicinity during the height of Anatolian power. More recently, workers such as Archi, Bachvarova, Rutherford and Collins admit the Greek connection and explore it further. However, they (to a degree, Bachvarova is an exception) tend to ignore the rest of the IE material, especially Indo-Iranian, when approaching this issue. Here, we present a preliminary redressal of that. We believe that it helps better understand the Anatolian religion and also helps reconstruct the ancestral IE tradition. We propose that while understanding the great diversity of names among Hittite deities we have to be guided by iconographic parallels and the principle of a god presenting as a multiplicity of devatā-s — an important feature of the ādhvaryava tradition within the Vedic layer (subsequently pervasive across traditions) of the Hindu religion. Thus, by the comparative method, we propose that this ādhvaryava tendency had roots in the PIE religion.

It also helps better understand some elements of the Anatolian religion, like the Rudra-class deities. The Hittitologist Archi noted several key features of the Anatolian archer deities and suggested that they inspired the Greek Apollo. Collins hinted at a possible pre-Greek origin for the Ariya/Orion tradition in the Anatolian locus. However, we think these are misapprehensions coming from ignoring the Indo-Iranian parallels. Orion region of the sky is indeed associated with the Rudra-class deity right from the early Indo-Iranian tradition. Once those connections are considered along with their Greek parallels, the Anatolian manifestations are best seen as a PIE inheritance. We are thus led to the conclusion that the association of the Orion region of the sky with the Rudra-class deity was probably a PIE tradition with ancient calendrical associations noted over a century ago by Tilak.

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The death of Miss Lizzie Willink

Late that spring, Somakhya and Lootika were visited by their mleccha friend Irmhild. Letting her sleep off the jet lag, they left for work. Given the good weather, Lootika returned early to check on their friend and go out with her prospecting spiders in the nearby woods for their work on endosymbionts. L: “Hope you had some good sleep and are all set to lead our battle-charge? Let me get you something to eat and we’ll head out when the sun goes down a bit. Somakhya and a student will join us in the woods.” Even as Lootika brought Irmhild some snacks, she said: “Restful, but strange. At least I can confess this to you without any embarrassment — After a while, I had a visitation from Lizzie — I’m sure you have heard of her from Somakhya and your folks. In any case, it may be a good sign given what we intend to do.” L: “Ah! they mentioned her in passing, but my recollection is they were not successful in getting her to say anything.” Ir: “I would not be so negative — I learned her name from that really exciting sitting they arranged.” L: “I’d like to hear it straight from your mouth — ain’t it interesting we never got to talk about that in length?”

Ir: “Sure. Taking the story back to the beginning — it relates to the start of my interest in arthropods — I may have been 12 or 13 then. One night, I had what seemed like a dream in which I felt the presence of a woman. I say felt because she was not visually very apparent though I could feel her touch clearly. She seemed very kind and stroked my hair gently in the manner of a parent — I felt her do that even today. Though I did not have much of a visual impression — just something shadowy — I had the very clear impression of her showing me shiny beetles, colorful spiders, mantids and cowrie shells in that dream. On waking from that dream, I was left with a profound curiosity for these little beasties and was driven to learn more about them. As you know, Lootika, it became my life’s work. From then on, she would occasionally drop in, in the form of a vague presence, mostly when I was wide awake. Sometimes she would just stroke my hair or kiss me; other times she would concretely tell me something — her visits often led me to discover something significant. For example, she came on the day I discovered the novel spider bacterial endosymbiont that I subsequently worked on with Somakhya and Indrasena. When we were working on that, the two came to collect some specimens from me at the museum. I can tell you precisely that it was a week before you joined Somakhya at his old place. That evening, I went with them and your sister Vrishchika for dinner. Given the things we got chatting about, it was for the first time I told anyone of the visitations from this shadowy woman — I used to be really scared to tell anyone about it. But your folks were totally cool with it. While interested, they did not seem alarmed that it was pathological. In fact, I specifically asked Vrishchika about that possibility and she just brushed it aside. Instead, she suggested that we make her manifest, and explained how they could do that.

After dinner, they applied one of those magical techniques you followers of the old religion possess and summoned her. I entered into some kind of a trance and they gave me a pen, hoping I’d take a dictation from her. I did take directions from the phantom lady, but there were hardly any words; instead, I had drawn out a beautiful, detailed image of a Madraspatanum mud dauber wasp. While I have a good hand, it was better than anything I had ever drawn. I had never been to India or seen that wasp before. I know that you and Somakhya had obtained an actinobacterium associated with it, but I know you’ll had not illustrated it in your paper. Hence, I believe it was truly a ghost drawing. Below the sketch, in my trance, I had written out the words: ‘Lizzie is really happy with your progress.’ I really do not have a close friend or family by the name of Lizzie; so I was puzzled. However, just before I came out of the trance, I saw a young woman sitting beside me who despite being a total stranger felt strangely familiar. She was clearly an apparition because she wore clothes from a bygone era — I’d say the 1800s. I would estimate her as being no older than in her early twenties. The white sleeve on one of her arms was soaked in blood and she seemed to bleed from one of her eyes that was clearly stabbed by something. I was utterly shocked by the ghastliness of her injuries that marred her otherwise stately appearance. That sight itself totally snapped me out of the trance. Even as that happened, I distinctly heard her say: ‘Dear child Irmhild, stay well.’ While this was in keeping with her maternal attitude towards me, I was surprised by the mismatch it had with her appearance as a young woman. I must remark her accent was clearly of a different era when the flavors of English had not diverged much. Neither Somakhya nor Indra felt anything, but Vrishchika said that she felt a bit of a presence. She also remarked having a mental impression at that point that she was a benevolent and protective phantom who was afraid of being bound. Hence, she said that they would not try a more active procedure to bind her. But I felt happy to have learnt her name and to have seen her for the first time. But that sight left me feeling a bit depressed as her injuries seemed really bad. I wonder if they were the cause of her untimely death and transition to phantomhood.”

Lootika agreed that it would be unwise to try anything aggressive with such a phantom: “I suspect she doesn’t want to make a visual impression as she does not want to scare you with that injured manifestation of hers.” Ir: “That makes sense. However, for some reason, I’ve been feeling a pressing curiosity to discover more about this mysterious Lizzie.” L: “I could try again to get her to speak.” Accordingly, Lootika performed a bhūtākarṣaṇa and waited to see if her friend might experience an āveśa. Irmhild suddenly stopped talking and after a couple of minutes asked for writing material. She slowly wrote out a few words and drew something. Seeing her remain in that state for some time doing nothing, Lootika sprinkled some water on her from her kamaṇḍalu and brought her out of it. Ir: “It looks as though she did not say much even this time, but this is interesting. I seem to have written just a single line though it felt as though I was writing quite a bit. It says: ‘Tombstone 66, Surat European cemetery.’ Lootika, what do you making of this drawing?” L: “Hmm… well, it looks like the map of the said cemetery. I’m sure she is referring to an old cemetery in a city in India, in a state known as Gujarat. Hence, we can look up the map and locate that grave if it still survives. But did you have any other sensation of her?”

Ir: “I must confess to being a bit shocked by her visual apparition again. She seemed very cheerful, but I could not take my eyes off another dab of blood on her collar. The strange thing was she sat just beside you and pointed to her neck and tried to say something that I could not hear. Lootika, did you experience something — you just did not seem to react?” L: “That is part of performing these procedures safely. While we draw in the ghosts, we shield ourselves from them for you never know what they might spring at you. These apparitions from the days of the English tyranny often have a particular hate for my people not unlike their modern counterparts — we have had more than one encounter with such phantoms that needed us to exert all our defenses. However, I too tend to believe this girl is a good phantom.” Ir: “Now the tales of your encounters only make me more curious about this Lizzie. Let us search for this place called Surat. Ain’t it strange she points to a place in India? Could it merely be a projection of me being with you guys?” L: “I think this is genuine. As for Surat, I can take you there on the map in a moment.” Soon Lootika was able to locate the likely cemetery in the satellite image and using the map Irmhild had drawn out they seemed to locate the stated grave. L: “At least that grave seems to be still there — apparently the cemetery is in the care of the Archaeological Survey. Unfortunately, I don’t have anyone in my immediate circle with associations with that city, else I could have gotten more direct information. Let us see if Somakhya or Vrishchika might give us some leads but now it is time for us to make our foray.”

The next day, Vrishchika and Indrasena came over for a visit and they got yarning about their days in graduate school and like. The topic soon moved to Irmhild’s phantom aide and Lootika told the rest of her latest attempt. As Irmhild’s curiosity remained unquenched, they told her that they could make another attempt with a planchette. Somakhya brought out a Roman letter board and smeared it with a bit of powdered borax: “We have rarely used this one but let us try.” Ir: “Wow! I’m really excited to try that out.” For objectivity, they had Irmhild sit out, while the remaining four operated the pointer. They asked her to silently ask the ghost the questions once she made an appearance. They performed the bhūtākarṣaṇa and waited, but for a while, no one appeared. Somakhya wondered if the ghost might need some comforts and made her an offering of madhuparka. That seemed to work, and she answered in the affirmative regarding her presence. Then Irmhild silently asked the phantom to say more about herself. The pointer moved with some assertiveness right away and she recorded the letters. After that one answer, the board seemed to rattle and Irmhild and Vrishchika said that they sensed her leaving. L: “I guess we should just let her be. She doesn’t seem to want to say much.” When they put the letters together and tried to parse them, they read: “Mr. Blyth’s papers. Zoological Survey. Madraspatanum.” Ir: “Now, what is that even supposed to mean?” In: “I presume she means that we’ll have to consult these papers of a certain Blyth. Who knows if they even survive… Nowadays, her Madraspatanum goes by the name Chennai.” Ir: “Since this is in your country, I guess you guys might be able to find something.” S: “We can try but something so far back in time can be notoriously difficult to track. We can keep inquiries going spanning the breadth of the land from Surat to Chennai, but Irmhild, I fear you won’t have an answer soon.”

All their initial inquires came to naught in the knotty tangle of the Byzantine bureaucracy surrounding the old records from that dark phase of Indian history. Sometime later, Irmhild called Somakhya and Lootika to ask if they could help with a course she was conducting. Before concluding the conversation, she asked if they had any new leads on her phantom visitor. She mentioned that when Indrasena and Vrishchika had visited her a little while back, they had tried the planchette once again and it had issued two words — “Krishnan” and “Charuchitra” — they were taken to be nonsense words, especially given that the second was merely the name of one of Somakhya’s cousins. Nevertheless, she preserved them wondering if it was after all a genuine clue. S: “Dear Spidery, what do you make of those. I have a feeling this is not nonsense.” L: “Why? Charuchitra is a historian. She might be able to find us something about that grave via her connections, But who is this Krishnan?” S: “Indeed. I believe this chap Krishnan is the fellow who maintains the annelid and mollusc collection at the Zoological Survey. Have you forgotten that we had once gone through a torturous series of inquiries to get him to show us their museum collection? Given that we did tarpaṇa to him on that occasion, he might prove helpful in accessing these Chennai archives if they still survive. Let us activate these connections and see if can give Irmhild something when we meet her.”

In the evening after the classes, Somakhya and Lootika were hanging out with Irmhild. L: “We have big news for you. We have unraveled the mystery of your phantom clanswoman!” Ir: “What? I cannot wait to hear what you have gotten! Why do you say clanswoman? I’m not aware of any such ancestor as far as our records go.” Somakhya: “From her story, we can say that she cannot be your direct ancestor, but you may have to search your family records for a collateral line which would feature her.” Lootika handed over a copy of the document found among the papers of Blyth that had an autobiography of the phantom. L:“Irmhild, given the inferred connection to your clan, I must warn you that parts might be difficult to read. Nevertheless, it seems to bring some closure and solace too.” It was preceded by the following prefatory note from Blyth:

I must now turn to a most singular experience while in my camp near Rayghur, a fort of the chieftain of the Morettos, who had fought our men with much distinction during the mutiny. LW, who had been deceased for nearly 2 years then, suddenly appeared before me in her phantom form on the evening of March 13th, 1872. It was the first and only time in my life I have had an auditory or visual hallucination — I certainly have never experienced anything so vivid and prolonged as this. I affirm that I am stout of heart and of a most unimaginative constitution — yet, this apparition felt as real as anything from this world. She commanded me to record the story of her life and inquired if I had fitted her grave at Surat with the most abominable Hindoo grotesques she desired. I felt in no position to disobey her command. Below, I record her words as I noted them before she vanished and have not attempted to insert any parenthetical notes regarding my own appearance in the third person in the narrative. I can vouch that whatever she said with regard to the events concerning me is entirely veridical.

The words of LW’s phantom:
I was born in what was to soon be the colony of Victoria in Australia where my father JW was then the military surgeon. I was the second of four siblings; my elder brother was Robert; my younger siblings were Edward and Minnie. It was a rough place as we started taking in convicts, but I have considerable gratitude for having spent my early youth there. An important consequence was that I became a skilled equestrian early in life. The second consequence came about when I rode out to the cliffs and discovered fossil shells of cowrie snails. I compared these to the cowries we have today and realized that those from the past were notably different. I began wondering — why had they vanished? From where did the ones we have today come? I asked my mother about this. She said that the Lord the God was unhappy with some of his ante-antediluvian creations and destroyed them in their entirety. But that did not answer how the ones we have today came into being — after all, had the Lord not finished his creation within the first seven days of existence? I got some answers when the naturalist Mr. Sowerby came visiting. He became interested in my collection and in return for them gave me some coins and lent me some books by Sir Lyell and Mr. Owen. I labored through them with much interest. Later I learnt that Mr. Sowerby described the fossil cowries I had found under his name. Shortly, thereafter I found a few more new giant cowries but my family left Australia for the Bombay Presidency in our Indian possessions. My parents insisted that I should go to finishing school and sent me back to England. I abhorred the regimental order of the finishing school and was most certainly amongst the worst of their pupils. Thankfully, my father’s friend, Dr. Parkinson, was rather kindly and took interest in my shells and introduced me to the latest intricacies of natural history. He helped me publish my discovery of the Australian fossil cowries as an appendix to his own tome on fossils.

Around that time, I witnessed a most dreadful apparition. It was a wet evening and after a meager supper, I was buried for a few hours in a tome published by Mr. Wallace. All of a sudden, I was roused from my reading by an unexpected knock on the dressing table. I looked up at the mirror and instead of seeing my reflection, I saw my brother Robert walk out of it. He appeared rather unwell and almost translucent. I feared I might be losing myself or having an attack of nerves. However, he spoke in a most assuring voice that calmed me. Then he said something that frightened me: “The promises of the church are mere platitudes. I neither see the angels nor the hear choir of God. But what the dark Hindoos worship is indeed the truth. I find myself in the retinue of the great god Seeva, who is none other than Dionysos. I’m at peace and so will you when your time comes.” It took me some time to process this apparition, and when I did so, I feared that my dear brother had passed away in distant India. My apprehensions were confirmed when the Indian mail finally arrived informing me of the tragedy. Robert had caught an ague whilst supervising the opium fields and perished as result far from his native land. I had completed finishing school but was gripped with melancholy and lost interest in my many suitors. Hence, I traveled to Switzerland to spend some time with my mother’s sister. Her family was to go to Cairo; I took that chance to take to the sea with them and return to my family in India.

As I disembarked the smooth-sailing Fairlie at Bombay, the warm air lifted my spirits. I felt a sudden sense of purpose and eagerly scanned the quay for my parents. I finally joined my father and his koelie Joognoo Raum Pondee who took care of my luggage. As we were returning to his post to the south of Bombay, a frightening riot had broken out among the natives. The tillers known as the Ryots wished to rid themselves of their debts and turned on their native bankers known as the Mawrwarees. The Bombay Army under Sir Rose, who had formerly played a pivotal role in crushing the Mutiny, along with some natives of the Scinde Division were deployed to put down the rowdy Ryots. Unfortunately, our convoy came upon a large band of hideous Ryots who were throatily screaming cries that could blanch the stoutest heart. I froze as they threw the bleeding corpse of a decapitated Mawrwaree on the path ahead of us. Our koelie Pondee suggested that we mount the horses that were conveyed by the Scindes and make our way home swiftly via the hills. However, he worried about my safe conveyance as the Ryots closed in. Everyone in our party heaved a sigh of relief when they learnt that I was a skilled equestrian. Thus, after quite an adventure I reached home with my father. Soon, I found myself pampered by more than one dashing suitor, but my mind-numbing job as the governess to the magistrate’s children abraded any joy I might have felt from the ample attention I was receiving.

Thankfully, Pondee, who also worked as a native assistant to Mr. Blyth, put in a word to him about my abilities as a naturalist. Ere long, I had an interview with Mr. Blyth and provided him a letter of reference from Dr. Parkinson. Thus, I became his assistant, and he suggested to me the most interesting possibility of systematically discovering and recording the mantids, hemipterans and coleopterans from the Western Ghats in the Bombay Presidency. I set out twice every week on my horse with Mr. Blyth or Edward and prospected the ravines and hills where the Alexander of the warlike Morettos had once held sway and fought the armies of the Mahometans. I found considerable success in discovering hexapods new to science. Following his advice, I started classifying the insects and increasingly saw the truth in the theories of Mr. Wallace and Mr. Darwin. I had intended to describe these observations together my mentor Mr. Blyth and had never felt happier before. Unfortunately, my mission met with an unexpected interruption as little Minnie caught a cold and went into decline. I helped my mother in nursing her. One day, when she had to be confined to the bed, I heard the peculiar blare of a strange instrument followed by a strange vocal song. I looked around — neither my mother nor my brother who were in the room with Minnie heard it; nor did Minnie herself. However, our maid, Pondee’s wife, and our native cook, Tauntia, affirmed hearing the same. Pondee’s wife informed me that a great disaster was impending — it was the conch-blare and the dolorous dirge of the Yum-doots — the agents of the Indian Hades who whisk souls away. The next day poor Minnie expired.

It took me a while to recover from my dear sister’s death, but now I returned with an even greater purpose to complete my survey of Insecta. One morning, Pondee informed me that during his prospecting rounds he had found a conglomeration of horned beetles near the Kulwunt eminence; however, he had failed to collect any. I was heading that way; hence, I took the directions from Pondee and set out with Mr. Blyth. On reaching the base of the Kulwunt, we forked onto our respective paths agreeing to meet at 2:00 PM in the afternoon. In my wandering, I came across an old derelict shrine of the Hindoos, which had within it a phallic emblem — a symbol of the god Seeva. In niches on the walls of the shrine were the images of his sons the gods Kaurtic with six heads, the Mars of Hindoos, and the Indian Janus, who bore the head of a pachyderm. Maybe I felt a bit of a swoon from the blazing Indian sun. I decided to drink some water and rest a bit at the platform of the shrine. I began thinking thus: after all, just as the cowries on the Australian cliffs and the terrible lizards of Mr. Owen had gone extinct, even religions had come and gone. Would that not explain why our ancestors had once cleaved to a religion, not unlike that of the natives. I was increasingly drawn to the view, as my brother’s ghost had said, that the religion of the Bible was utterly false and had been foisted on us by the blade of the sword, even as we Europeans have tried to impose it on the black natives. As I got up from my introspection to resume my prospecting, I felt some strange urge to place wildflowers on the images of the gods in the shrine.

Then, as I went to mount my horse, I saw a most dreadful apparition. I now know that it was a mātṛ from the retinue of the great god Rudra. That most frightful divine lady said to me that my allotted term of life was drawing to a close. I asked if I would be joining Minnie and Robert. She responded that due to my act of piety I would join her host and vanished. I brushed it aside as a mere hallucination from the heat and rode on towards the spot where Pondee had spotted the horned beetles going up a narrow path. In retrospect, I should have dismounted but, as the Hindoos say, who can escape what the god Bruhmah has written out for you? For some reason, my seasoned horse bolted and threw me off into the defile bristling with bamboos. I was severally skewered through my arm, neck and eye and could not extricate myself. However, Mr. Blyth heard my cry and was able to locate me after a search. He had to get Pondee along before he could finally get me down from my hellish impalement: by then, I had lost consciousness. Finally, I was taken home and my father started treating my wounds. After the initial treatment, I regained consciousness briefly and spoke once to bid my family, friends, and my suitor Captain Atkinson goodbye for the last time. Instructed them to decorate my tomb with the tridents and drums of the great god Seeva. Only my brother Edward assented but he too expired last year after being hit by a ball while playing cricket. My grieving parents left for England shortly thereafter. My life’s work will not see the light of the day. Hence, as I rejoice in the retinue of the great gods, I will aid a future member of my clan realize more of it than I did.

This was followed by a concluding note from Mr. Blyth:
I had no intention of fulfilling the delirious requests of the dying Ms. LW to place the symbols of the Hindoo Termagants and Baphomets on her tomb. I suspected that she had come under the evil influence of my assistant Pondee’s wife, who clouded her otherwise logical intellect with ghastly superstitions. However, this apparition near Rayghur filled me with such terror that I commissioned a blacksmith to make the needful auxiliaries and decided to fit them on poor Ms. LW’s tomb when I got a chance to visit Surat.

Somakhya: “Irmhild, here is a picture of her tomb. My cousin Charuchitra was able to obtain it via her connections to the Archaeological Survey. Evidently, Blyth never got to furnish it with the symbols of Rudra — he himself passed away a few months later with a fever following a cut to his thumb. The epitaph has not survived in its entirety, but it gives her name as Lizzie Willink — this matches the initials in Blyth’s account. Also note, while they did not furnish it with the tridents and the ḍamaru-s she wanted, they engraved a beautiful copy of one of the fossil cowries she discovered — it bears the unmistakable siphon and whorl peculiar to the Australian exemplar. No doubt she was able to grasp an evolutionary lesson from that. These indicate that the grave pertains to the very same person whose initials are in Blyth’s document.” Ir: “Tragic! The epitaph says that she was only 22 when she died. It now strikes me that the aunt she mentioned in her narrative must be a lineal ancestor of mine.”

[Any resemblance to real incidents or people should be taken as merely convergence in story creation under constraints]

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Indo-European expansions and iconography: revisiting the anthropomorphic stelae

Was there an early Indo-European iconography? The anthropomorphic stelae
There is no linguistic evidence for the presence of iconic or temple worship among the early Indo-Europeans. However, after their migrations, when they settled in the lands of sedentary peoples, they adopted a range of religious icons often stylistically influenced by local traditions. Nevertheless, there are some clear iconographic features of their deities and other divine entities that shine through these local styles (to be discussed in later notes). This suggests that, even if iconic worship was not the central focus of their religion, they had definitive visualizations for their deities that emerged early in IE tradition. Moreover, barring the Iranian counter-religion, most branches of IE people adopted iconic and temple worship in the later phases of their tradition. This observation, together with some of the textual features of the early iconic worship of Hindu deities (e.g., caitya-yāga and gṛhya-pariśiṣṭa-s), suggest that early IEans probably did have iconic worship on the steppes itself; it was just not a major expression of the religiosity of their elite.

The archaeology of the IEans was fraught with much confusion until archaeogenomic studies over the past decade greatly clarified the situation. Hence, we can now say with some confidence that we do have a body of archaeological records for early IEan iconography, even if we do not fully understand it. The earliest evidence for this comes from the Yamnaya horizon on Pontic–Caspian steppe that is associated with early IEans. The striking body of iconic images from this locus and time is comprised of the so-called anthropomorphic stelae (Figure 1). These stelae caught the attention of researchers right from the early work of Gimbutas and were subsequently discussed at length by Telegin and Mallory. While their iconographic content and functions continue to be debated, several authors, starting from Gimbutas, have proposed an IEan interpretation. Further, most of these authors have tended to explicitly or implicitly invoke Indo-Aryan themes (e.g., Vassilkov most recently) to provide the imagery with an IE interpretation.

Anthropomorphs1Figure 1. Examples Anthropomorphic stelae from different parts of Africa and Eurasia (2, 4, 6 from Vierzig).

That said, it should be noted that the basic form of these anthropomorphs is widely distributed across Eurasia starting from the chalcolithic-Bronze Age transition, with a core temporal window of 3500-1800 BCE. A survey by Vierzig indicates that apart from commonly occurring in the Yamnaya horizon, they are also densely present in the Northern Italy-Alpine region, Iberia and Sardinia. Moderate to sparse occurrences of such anthropomorphic stelae are also seen in France, Germany, the Italian and Greek peninsulas, Sicily, Caucasus and Northern Arabia (e.g., Hai’l and Tayma’ in modern Saudi and also probably Jordan — the Israeli exemplar). A miniature terracotta version was also reported by Sarianidi in Bactria (see below for more on this). In the East, they are found in the Dzungarian Basin associated with the Chemurchek Culture (2500–1700 BCE) that succeeded the Afanasievo, the Far Eastern offshoot of the Yamnaya. Another successor of the Afanasievo, to the north of the Chemurchek culture, is the Okunevo culture in the Minusinsk Basin. This culture shows some remarkable menhirs that seem to have been influenced in some features by the classic anthropomorphic stelae. These also share features with the stelae from Shimao (roughly 2300 BCE) and later expressions of this theme such as the deer stones of Mongolia (see below) and even the totemic structures in the North American horizon. Finally, we could also mention the menhirs from Dillo in South Ethiopia that might be seen as sharing some general features with the Eurasian stelae under consideration. However, their iconography is again too distinct to be included in this discussion. The distribution of the anthropomorphic stelae suggests that, like certain other iconographic conventions (e.g., the horned deity), this convention too spread widely, even if some versions might have a convergent origin. Thus, a priori, it cannot be identified with a specific culture, though specific versions of them might show a narrower cultural affinity (see below).

The typical anthropomorphic stele under consideration is a simplistic depiction of a human form — usually only a basic outline of the body. The minority of the stelae are furnished with more elaborate embellishments. Despite their simplicity, they display a certain unity that distinguishes most of them from the more divergent menhirs with human features. Further, across the above-mentioned zone, the better preserved and more elaborate versions display some common features: 1) The male figures (which tend to be the majority) are often shown as ithyphallic. This feature is shared by the Arabian, Yamnaya (and its western successors Corded Ware) and possibly at least some of the Iberian versions. 2) The figures often wear a belt around the waist reminiscent of the Iranic avyaṅga. This feature is definitely shared by exemplars from across the above-stated distribution zone. 3) The arms and legs when shown are always presented in a static manner, even when associated objects, like weapons, are depicted. 4) Across their distribution zone, the stelae are frequently but not always associated with graves (this is also true of the Ethiopian anthropomorphic menhirs of Dillo). Even the most elaborate early versions of these anthropomorphic stelae appear simpler than the coeval religious icons of Egypt, West Asia and possibly also the Harappans. Thus, we believe that the anthropomorphic stelae did not have their primary origin in the Egypt-West Asia-Harappan corridor but in the steppes or among the Early European Farmers or in the Caucasus.

Anthropomorphic stelae IE heartland and their dispersal
The early Arabian and steppe versions show sufficient divergence to suggest memetic diffusion rather than direct transmission via invading groups; however, from the time of the Yamnaya expansion onward there are specific features to suggest the presence of an iconographic convention governing their production that was likely transmitted by expanding IE groups. We will first consider this in the context of the Yamnaya artefacts and the western expansion of the IEans. It can be best understood by comparing some famous stelae namely: 1) the so-called Kernosovskiy and Federovsky (Poltava region) idols from what is today Ukraine. 2) The Natalivka stele, again from Ukraine. 3) Cioburciu stele from what is today Moldavia. 4) The Hamangia stele from what is today Romania. 5) The Floreşti Polus stele from interior Romania. All these stelae depict male figures that are unified by the presence of a common weapon the battle axe. Importantly, in the Kernosovskiy, Federovsky, Cioburciu, Hamangia and Floreşti Polus stelae at least one axe is secured via the waist belt of the anthropomorph. These stelae (barring Floreşti Polus: fragmented? and Natalivka: not clear), as well as several others from the Yamnaya horizon (Novoselovka, Svatovo, Kasperovka, Novocherkassk and Belogrudovka), are also unified by the depiction of the outlines of the feet (Skt: pādukā-s). The Kernosovskiy, Natalivka and Svatovo stelae from Ukraine display a bow as an additional weapon. The profile of the axe common to all these stelae is boat-shaped and corresponds to the battle axe seen in the western successor of the Yamnaya, viz., the Corded Ware culture. Such axes are frequently buried in the Corded Ware graves believed to belong to elite males. One of the ārya words for the axe is paraśu, which has cognates going back to proto-Indo-European. It is quite possible this type of axe was indeed known by that ancestral IE word. On the whole, these features support the IEan provenance and westward movement of this type of anthropomorphic stele into Europe.

Anthropomorphs2Figure 2. Yamnaya-associated stelae.

The Kernosovskiy idol depicts a second kind of axe with a distinct head profile. This may be compared to a recently reported massive metal axe, weighing just shy of a kilo and blade length of about 21 cm from the Abashevo culture (in the middle Volga and adjacent Ural region), which likely represented the Aryans before their southward expansion. The Ṛgveda mentions two distinct types of axes, the paraśu and the vāśī. The word vāśī does not appear to have cognates outside the Indo-Iranian branch among the IE languages. It is possible that the eastern movement of the Corded Ware-like cultures acquired a distinct type/word for axe from other local populations. But the presence of two distinct types of axes on the Kernosovskiy idol from the Yamnaya period suggests that a second type of axe might have been acquired even earlier but only used in certain descendant IE cultures.

Anthropomorphs3Figure 3. Chemurchek stelae. 1 and 2 from Kovalev. 3 from Betts and Jia.

Turning to the eastern transmission, we find that a bow held in a manner similar to the Yamnaya stelae is featured in at least three anthropomorphic stelae at Chemurchek sites (2750-1900 BCE). One of these (published by Kovalev) holds another weapon, which could be either an axe or an aṅkuśa paralleling the Yamnaya stelae. A similar axe or aṅkuśa is held without a bow in the hands of three other stelae from the Chemurchek culture and can be seen on the Belogrudovka stele in the Yamnaya group. One of the Chemurchek anthropomorphs holds something like a mace comparable to what is found on the Kernosovskiy idol. Until recently the affinities of the Chemurchek people were uncertain. However, the archaeogenetic study of Zhang et al provides some clarity in this regard. First, the eastern offshoot of the Yamnaya, the Afanasievo underwent local admixtures with the Tarim early Bronze Age population (the source population of the famous Tarim mummies) and to a smaller degree with the East Asian “Baikal Early Bronze Age” giving rise to the “Dzungarian Early BA1” population. Next, this mixed, again with the Tarim BA, and a Namazga/Anau-I chalcolithic-related population (Geoksyur) to give rise to the Chemurchek people. Thus, the genetic evidence supports an ultimate link between these cultures and the Yamnaya derived populations, suggesting that iconographic similarities in the eastern anthropomorphic stelae are related to the Indo-European movement to the east. In this scenario, a Chemurchek-related population rather than the Tarim mummies population likely gave rise to Tocharian languages. However, a wrinkle remains regarding the Afanasievo situation: while Mallory claims that stelae have been recovered in that horizon, we have found no evidence for such so far in the literature. This may point to greater diversity within the early Eastern extension of Yamnaya than previously appreciated (see below section).

Anthropomorphs4Figure 4. Okunevo and Shimao stelae. 1-4 Okunevo stelae (from Polyakov et al and Leontiev et al). 5 Shimao stelae (from Sun et al).

Before we leave the footprints of the Yamnaya expansion on the eastern anthropomorphic stelae, it would be remiss if we do not touch upon the Okunevo menhirs and the Shimao stelae. Like the Chemurchek culture, the Okunevo culture (2600-1700 BCE) represents a bronze age admixture between the IE and East Asian populations that arose from a comparable, but distinct, admixture of the Afanasievo with Tarim BA and Baikal BA populations, probably driven primarily by males. The Okunevo anthropomorphic stelae/menhirs share the general similarity of the round facial profiles with some of the Chemurchek stelae from the Kayinar Cemetery. However, beyond this they show much diversity and several striking and unique features, such as: 1) a halo of elements emanating from the faces, like rays, waves (often terminating in lunes) and dendritic structures. 2) A frequent motif featuring a central dyad of concentric circles surrounded by four cusps shaped like an astroid. 3) Peculiarly curved mouth on the anthropomorph. 4) Depictions of stylized animals like wolves and elk (both of which acquire mythic significance in the much later Turko-Mongol world). 5) Unlike the Yamnaya stelae they lack a belt. The earliest Okunevo specimens are close in form to the simplest versions of the Chemurchek stelae. Some of these early Okunevo versions also share a bovine motif with the Yamnaya stelae (e.g., Kernosovskiy). They acquire the greatest complexity in the middle Okunevo period with all the above-mentioned distinctive features. The first half of the middle Okunevo period is marked by the unusual tall menhirs (up to 5m tall) often depicting multiple anthropomorphic or theriomorphic faces. The Okunevo stelae/menhirs are distinguished from the Yamnaya and Chemurchek versions in almost entirely lacking weapons — we are aware of only a single exemplar from the middle Okunevo period where the anthropomorph is flanked by two tridents. To our knowledge, tridents are unknown in any of the other early steppe stelae.

We propose that the Afanasievo-like founder populations of Chemurchek and Okunevo were probably either the same or close, but distinct from other sampled Afanasievo groups that seem to have lost the ancestral stelae (contra Mallory?). This population introduced relatively simple stelae to founders of both these populations at the time of the admixture with local groups. The Chemurchek retained these in a largely conservative form, whereas Okunevo innovated upon it probably drawing on the mythemes coming from their Northeast Asian founder population with links to Siberia. This might explain the parallels between the later and the Inuit and American totems. The weaponless Okunevo stelae with exaggerated facial features and expressions are also mirrored in the iconography of the stelae from the early neolithic urban site from Shimao, Shanxi province of China (2250-1950 BCE). As these have no Chinese antecedents, it is quite possible that they were influenced by the contemporary IE-admixtured cultures to their north (a contact possibly also responsible for the dawn of the metal age in China). Currently, the archaeogenetic information from the Shimao is limited but suggests affinities to the Northern East Asian populations related to that contributing to the ethnogenesis of the Okunevo. Thus, it points, in the least, to a role for a similar population as that involved in the emergence of the Okunevo and the potential diffusion of iconographic elements.

Stelae associated with subsequent pulses of steppe expansions
We shall next survey the reflexes of the stele iconography associated with the later pulses of expansions from the steppes. The first of these was the Aryan expansion which is associated with the Sintashta culture and its successor Andronovo culture that spread out over the steppe. Based on the phylogeny of extant horses and the spread of chariotry through the old world, we believe that the Aryan expansion marked the second great IE wave from the steppes after the initial Yamnaya expansions. In cultural terms, this wave might have played a role in reinforcing old IE steppe traditions even among the earlier branches emanating from the first Yamnaya expansion — sort of an Aryanization of the earlier IEans. Archaeogenetics has established that, while the Aryans appeared at the BMAC horizon by around 2100 BCE, they did not carry any of that genetic admixture to India. After 1500 BCE we find both noticeable BMAC and East Asian admixture in the steppe Aryans of the Andronovo expansion. This East Asian admixture was also not carried into India. Further, these results indicate that: 1) The Aryan conquerors of India did not tarry much at the BMAC or only marginally skirted it as they entered the subcontinent. 2) In the subcontinent they underwent admixture with the Harappan people. The subsequent presence of individuals with both Aryan and Harappan ancestries back on the steppe in Central Asia (Narasimhan et al) suggests that the Indo-Aryans initially established a polity that spanned the Indian subcontinent and the steppe. 3) This should have happened between 2000-1500 BCE. After that, the Indo-Aryans remained in India and the connections with the central Asian steppes diminished. In contrast, the Aryans who remained on the steppe interacted and underwent admixture with the BMAC. We can say that this played a major role in the emergence of the Iranic tradition. The key marker for this is the camel — an important domesticate and cultural animal in the BMAC culture. While the camel is known by the cognate word (uṣṭra) in the Ṛgveda, it is neither prominent nor a part of human names (unlike the old IE horse names). In contrast, the camel is a common part of early Iranic names (Zarathuštra, Frašauštra, Vohūštra, Aravauštra) and is more frequently encountered in their early mythosphere as a holy animal (e.g., as an incarnation of the god Verethragna). This indicates that the counter-religion of Zoroastrianism developed in close proximity to the BMAC probably influenced by its substratum religion. Consistent with this, after 1500 BCE, we start observing increasing BMAC admixture among steppe Aryans along with East Asian admixture.

BMAC_anthropomorph_axeFigure 5. BMAC anthropomorph (from Sairanidi).

In terms of anthropomorphic stelae, we find a signal for iconography portrayed on it at the gateway to India. At the BMAC site of Bactria, in the temporal window approximately corresponding to the arrival of the Aryans at this horizon, Sarianidi reported an anthropomorphic terracotta icon in a ritual vessel. This closely resembles the Yamnaya stelae with the trademark belt with an axe of the classical Corded-ware type attached to it. This object along with some other terracottas from ritual vessels are distinct from all other BMAC artefacts suggesting their origin from an extrinsic culture. Asko Parpola has claimed that the axe is related to the adze-axe found by Mackay in a late layer of Mohenjodaro, which he identifies as a marker of Aryan presence. While we tentatively agree with his proposal of it being a signal of the Aryan entry into the Harappan lands, there is no evidence that the axe on the belt of this anthropomorph is the adze-axe. A possible signal of a Sintashta/Andronovo derived pulse reinforcing steppe traditions among the western groups is found in the Iberian Peninsula from around 1700-1000 BCE. These Alentejo-type stelae combine motifs of the older Yamnaya stelae and the later stelae (see below). On the Yamnaya side we see the footprint motif (e.g., Alentejo stele of Gomes Aires), the bow, and the bovine or equine motif and on the later side, motifs shared with the Mongolian deer stone-khirigsuur complex and Śaka-like stelae (see below), such as the use of the sword and its mode of fastening to the belt.

As for the Aryans who remained on the steppe there was definitely some diversity with groups closer to both the Indic and Iranic branches and perhaps a third branch with relics like the Kalasha. One such group followed in the footsteps of the older Afanasievo expansion to invade the Eastern steppes. Their appearance is indicated by Mongolian deer stones found in a circumscribed latitudinal band defined by the Baikal Lake and the steppes of Mongolia and spanning the region starting between the Ili and Irtysh to the western reaches of the Amur. These artefacts are named so for dramatic depictions of the Asian elk (sometimes avicephalous) with prominent antlers — a feature shared with some of the Okunevo stones. On rare occasions, the stone might also depict reindeer or moose. They are often associated and with stone circles that are sites of horse sacrifices and are connected to the coeval emergence of khirigsuurs (Mongolian equivalents of Kurgans) on the open steppe. Thus, this culture has been referred to as the deer-stone-khirigsuur-complex (DSKC). These stones have a much more elongated rectangular form than the Yamnaya versions with the top usually depicting an anthropomorphic face to the east. Below the “face” are the depictions of the deer and below them is the characteristic belt of the anthropomorphs. Often weapons and sometimes other implements are shown attached to the belt. While weapons associated with the belt are a feature shared with the Yamnaya stelae, their mode of attachment in the deer stones, i.e., suspended below the belt, is very uncommon in the former stelae. This mode of attachment, to our knowledge, is seen in a single Yamnaya stele, namely the Kalitche exemplar from Bulgaria (probably marking the early IE movement towards the Balkans). It is also seen on the Olkhovchik stele (probably early Śaka or other steppe Iranian), several later Śaka stelae, and the Śaka-inspired Slavic Zbruch idol, all from a later phase of steppe IE (see below). The weapons include axes, bows, quivers, swords and daggers. The axe is generally of the second type found on the Yamnaya stelae. This overlap in the weapons associated with the belt suggests a connection of the Mongolian DSKC to the IEans from the Western Eurasian steppe. The other implements are fire starters and chariot rein hooks. The latter indicates a connection to a distinct IE culture from the Afanasievo, namely one with chariots. Consistent with this, a large body of C14 dates over the past 2 decades has indicated that the DSKC is from 1350-900 BCE, which is a much later period than Afanasievo or even the Chemurchek and Okunevo cultures. Jeong et al’s archaeogenetic analysis indicates that the DSKC people emerged from an admixture of the Andronovo expansion of the Aryans with the Baikal Early Bronze Age population. A few individuals also show some Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC) component, which as noted above was picked up en route to the East. Thus, the DSKC stelae, like the Okunevo situation, probably represent a synthesis of IE (e.g., the belt-associated weapons) and Northeast Asian motifs (e.g., the elk) coming from the two divergent founder populations.

Anthropomorphs5Figure 6. DSKC, Śaka and Turkic anthropomorphs (From Telegin and Mallory and Fitzhugh).

By 1000-800 BCE certain horse-borne (as opposed to chariot riding) Iranic groups started dominating the steppes. In Indo-Iranian tradition, these groups are referred to as the Śaka (the Achaemenid Iranian inscriptions mention several distinct types of Śaka-s) and the Greek tradition remembers the same or related groups as Cimmerians, Scythians and Sarmatians (likely Iranian Sairima). There were probably other steppe Iranic groups, like Alani, Arimaspa-s, Massagetae, Kuṣāṇa-s, that might have been distinct from the Śaka-s but for this note, we simply refer to Śaka and other steppe Iranics as Śaka for short because they seem to have been the primary authors of the stelae under discussion. Archaeogenetic work by Unterländer and Gnecchi-Ruscone has shown that the Śaka emerged in East Asia and shows a three-component admixture with Aryan, Mongolian Baikal Bronze Age and BMAC ancestry. Given that a similar admixture is seen in the Mongolian DSKC people, a population related to the DSKC was potentially the progenitor of the Śaka-s. These proto-Śaka-s then moved across the steppes, all the way to the western Eurasian Pontic end — this is established by the presence of this Mongolian ancestry even the Sarmatians of the Caspian-Pontic region. Thus, one could say that the proto-Śaka expansion was the first great Mongolian expansion — a pattern of steppe expansions that was to be followed by the Huns, Turks and Khitans, Chingizids and Jurchen over the next 3000 years. However, this one was by a group with a notable Aryan ancestry. This proto-Śaka expansion is dated on archaeogenetic and archaeological grounds to around 1300-900 BCE. This was followed by two secondary pulses of steppe-Iranic expansions between 800-100 BCE in the form of the Sarmatian expansion from North Kazakhstan, just east of the Caspian, and the Eastern Śaka expansion from the Mongolia-Kazakhstan borderlands. The latter one eventually brought the Śaka-s to India, where they established kingdoms before their defeat and absorption by the Andhras and Gupta-s.

Hakkari_Stones (2)Figure 7. Hakkari stelae.

The mysterious Hakkari stelae from what is today Turkey are also perhaps related to the proto-Śaka expansion. These are believed to date from 1000 BCE and correspond to the kingdom known as Hubushkia in the Assyrian sources. The artistic quality of these stelae is much higher than any of their steppe counterparts and they include both male and female figures. The male figures are all well-armed in ways closely paralleling the Yamnaya versions, like the Kernosovskiy idol. The weapons include axes, spears, maces, shields, aṅkuśa-s, bows, and a dagger that is usually fastened via the belt. Like in the case of some Yamnaya ones, many of them feature secondary human figures, and several other animals including the horse, ram, deer, snake and a possible felid. They also show the primary human figure as holding or drinking from a cup. This feature persisted in the later Śaka and Turko-Mongolic stelae and balbals. Given the iconographic correspondences in the Hakkari stelae to the Śaka versions from a younger period and the Yamnaya/other steppe stelae from an earlier period, we believe that they were commissioned by a steppe group that entered west Asia, probably by crossing the Caucasus (see below). If the dating of these Hakkari stelae is correct, then they fill an important gap between the earlier steppe versions and the classic Śaka versions which we shall look at next.

The Olkhovchik stele might represent a proto-Śaka exemplar followed by a profusion of such stelae from across the Eurasian steppe down to the Caucasus. It is believed that by 1000-900 BCE they appeared in the highlands of Armenia and by 700-300 BCE in Georgia, Crimea and the Pontic steppe. The northernmost reaches of the Śaka expansion are indicated by the recently reported anthropomorphic stelae/menhirs from Ust-Taseyevsky in Siberia. While these stelae are relatively simple, their Śaka connections are hinted by the Bactrian mirrors featuring camels and bronze-horse harness ornaments found alongside the stelae. There are two broad types that might be discerned among these which differ in terms of whether the anthropomorph holds a drinking horn (similar to the cup on the Hakkari stelae) or not. They also assume somewhat more concrete human forms than the earlier stelae from across the steppe. In terms of the weapons, while axes and maces still persist, they lose out the sword/dagger as the most common weapon on the stelae. These Śaka stelae are strongly associated with funerary Kurgans and horse sacrifices, again hearkening to the DSKC sites.

From roughly around 200-100 BCE, a new series of Mongolian expansions began on the eastern steppes — the Mongolic and Para-Mongolic expansions — the Hun and the Xianbei Khaganates. While some of the male elites of this expansion might have descended from the old steppe Aryan groups, their dominant ancestry was predominantly a distinct Northeast Asian one. Northeast Asian ancestries continued to dominate through the later Turk, Khitan and Chingizid expansions out of the region (with different degrees of southern admixture from Han-related groups) and was accompanied by a displacement of the IEans of the steppe by Turkic and Mongolic peoples. Remarkably, the Śaka style of stelae persisted among at least a subset of these peoples (Turks and Chingizids) as the well-known balbal stones. The rise of the Turks is in no small measure attributable to the Ashina clan, which also played a major role in the rise of Chinese power — the Tang emperor Taizong descended on one side from this clan and his military successes depended heavily on that alliance. Following Beckwith’s suggestion, it appears that the Ashina clan’s ethnonym was probably derived from the Indo-Āryan name aśvin (also likely behind the Chinese rendering of the ethnonym Wusun). Thus, it is conceivable that the Turks acquired the anthropomorphic stelae via an ancestral connection to the steppe Aryans. Though the stelae continued to be associated with funerary monuments among the Turks, some ideological changes were seen in their use. First, there are cases among Kök Türük (Blue Turks) and On-Oq (the 10-arrows Turkic confederation), where both the Khaghan and his Khatun might be shown on the same stele (e.g., the Kogaly menhir, Kazakhstan and the Apshiyakta menhir in the Altai region — just the faces are shown on this). Second, there are cases where a single Turkic grave might be accompanied by several balbals. We have the following Turkic statements: “khaniem khaghan-kha bashlayu baz khaghaniegh balbal tikmis”, which means: “first I erected Baz Khaghan as a balbal for my father, the Khaghan; “bashlayu khirgiz khaghaniegh balbal tikdim”, which means: “first I erected the Kirghiz Khaghan as a balbal.” This suggests that effigies of enemy leaders slain by or for the deceased leader were also erected as balbals. We do not know if such conventions persisted through the Chingizid period. Finally, it also appears that this tradition crossed the sea to reach Japan. Evidence for this is seen in some of the stelae housed at the Rakan-ji temple. It remains to be seen if this might have something to do with the proposed role of the steppe nomads in transmitting certain traditions to Japans.

zbruch_idol_smallFigure 8. The Zbruch idol.

Finally, we shall touch upon the Slavic stelae and idols which remain poorly understood. Those which are believed to be clearly Slavic show elements of steppe-Iranian influence, as indicated by the presence of the drinking vessel on more than one of them. However, at least some of them also seem to be from purely deific rather than funerary monuments suggesting that they were functionally distinct from the Iranic ones. Two of the well-known ones are the Zbruch idol and the Ivankovka group. The Zbruch idol, now housed in Poland, is most remarkable — a tall menhir featuring three tiers of images. The top-most level features a tetracephalic, 8 handed being with a hat. The four heads face in the four directions like those of the god Brahman-Prajāpati of the Indo-Āryan tradition. On one side, the tetracephalic being holds a drinking horn, just like the Śaka stelae. Another side holds a small cup or bowl. the third side shows a sword hanging from the belt again just as in the Śaka stelae and a horse below it (a feature shared by multiple steppe stelae). The next tier depicts four human figures, one on each side, likely a pair of males and a pair of females. Finally, the third tier has, on three of the sides, figures similar to the naras-like yakṣa-s who hold up Rudra, Kubera and yakṣiṇi-s in Indian sculptures (e.g., those from Barhut or Gudimallam). The Ivankovka exemplar is a comparable four-headed idol which is believed to have been housed in a shrine with two other images — one a tall menhir with a face on the top and another a smaller figure similar to the Śaka stelae. The Stavchany shrine is similar believed to have housed two idols in the least, one of which has a figure with a drinking horn on one side and a horse on the other. The Zbruch and the Ivankovka idols do give the vibe of being a four-headed Slavic deity housed in shrines that were demolished by the Orthodox Church. Apart from sharing the multi-tier imagery with some of the middle Okunevo stelae, it should also be pointed out that the Slavic idols have some likeness to the wooden idols made by the Mansy, a Uralic people related to the group contributing to the ancestry of the conquering Magyars. These in turn are related to the Shigir idol recovered from a bog near Kirovograd on the eastern slope of the Middle Urals. This one shares the tall menhir-like form (reconstructed as being original 5.3 m in height) and the multi-tiered structure with the Slavic and Uralic idols. Several of the tiers show anthropomorphic heads placed along the vertical axis of the idol. If it was not dated, it could have passed off as a Slavic one. However, recent C14 dating suggests that wood was up to 11-12K years old making a pre-neolithic object. If it was indeed made that far back, then it would be one of the oldest human iconic artefacts and suggests the persistence of some iconographic conventions coming down from the Eastern Hunter-Gatherer populations.

Anthropomorphs6Figure 8. The Shigir and Mansy idols (from Bobrov).

Back to philology
In conclusion, we see both conservation and innovation of elements among the Eurasian anthropomorphic stelae spanning several millennia from the latest neolithic (with related forms like the Shigir idol going back to pre-neolithic times) down to the last millennium. A notable point with regards to their evolution is seen in weaponry and other military accessories. The earliest exemplars from the steppe feature the axe and the bow prominently — the former shows continuity with the stone versions of the neolithic. In the later versions, whereas the bow persists to a degree, the axe declines and is replaced by the sword which is almost never seen in the early versions. This is paralleled by Indo-European textual evidence — the Ṛgveda hardly ever mentions the sword; however, it abundantly references the bow and, to a degree, two versions of the axe. Even in the later Vedic texts, the sword is not that prominent. Only in the Mahābhārata do we encounter the stuti of the sword. Likewise, the chariot rein hooks vanish by the time of the core Śaka phase where cavalry had all but replaced chariotry. The iconography was also influenced by the cultures with whom the IEans interacted and mixed in course of the wide-ranging migrations. We saw this influence in the form of East Asian motifs like the elk and the Okunevo reconfiguration. While the iconic and temple worship of many IE branches, such as the Ārya-s, Iranians, Greeks, Romans, and the Celts was strongly influenced by the wide-ranging iconographic conventions of the North African, West Asian and BMAC cultures, we suspect that some elements of the steppe stele iconography lingered in these new images spanning a wide swath of time. First, we agree with Vassilkov’s hypothesis (some of his other infelicities aside) that the vīrakal/pāliya (Gujarāti) tradition inheres its essence from the steppe stelae via the Indian megalithic expansion. We also suspect that the Hittite/Luwian stelae with the Indra-class deity and the Jupiter Dolichenus stelae retained some iconographic inheritance from the older steppe versions.

This leads us to the final point — the ancient IE provenance of the stelae and its widespread distribution are at odds with the absence of an early IE linguistic signal for the same. Nevertheless, we argue that the early Hindu tradition records Aryan customs that might be related to the stelae. Before we delve into this, we have to briefly ask what were the functions of these stelae? The archaeological evidence consistently points to the presence of a funerary context across time. However, the Slavic idols and the above-mentioned possible connection to stelae with gods on them suggest that at least some of these had a specific link to the worship of the gods. We will argue based on Hindu sources that the two functions are not mutually exclusive and might have a link to early iconic worship. Coming to the old Hindu funerary rituals we see evidence for both burials and cremations. Allusions and ritual incantations pertaining to both are found in the RV. The “earthen house” alluded to by Vasiṣṭha (mṛṇmayaṃ gṛham) does point to potential burial like those seen in the Yamnaya pit graves. However, the classic pitṛmedha texts of the different Vedic schools indicate a combination of the two, often in the context of a Kurgan burial (a comparable version is also seen in Greek tradition, e.g., the funeral of Achilles). Broadly, it specifies the following: 1) The cremation of the deceased with the three or the single ritual fire(s), sometimes along with his weapon (bow) and/or ritual implements. This is usually accompanied by the sacrifice of a goat or a cow and the animal’s remains are placed on the corpse and burnt along with the deceased. 2) An odd number of days after the fire dies down the ashes are gathered and fashioned into an anthropomorphic effigy and bones are collected and placed in an urn. While not the most prevalent practice, one subsequent ritual ground up the bones and re-incinerated the powder mixed with ghee in a ritual offering with the appropriate incantations. 3) The more prevalent ritual was the burial of the urn or the bones (arranged anatomically) beneath a funerary monument known as the śmaśānavedī or the loṣṭaciti, i.e., a kurgan.

Given that the pitṛmedha texts describe a funerary ritual consistent with the piling of a kurgan (also mirrored by the Iliad), one would expect that there might be some reference to the stelae that have been found in funerary contexts. A closer examination of these texts reveals multiple candidates that might help understand the archaeological exemplars. The first is a conserved feature prescribed by multiple schools that is likely to have been present in the ancestral pitṛmedha of the early Indo-Āryans. A person who has only performed the rites up to the havis sacrifice gets a re-cremation of his powdered bones or as per Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa/Kātyāyana, a kurgan piled with stones. A person who has performed the soma rite gets a full-fledged kurgan. After the cremation, a pacificatory rite is done between the cemetery and the settlement. Here, the adhvaryu and the survivors of the deceased one set up a fire altar and place a bull-hide rug to its west. The survivors stand on that hide; the adhvaryu touches each one of them and makes the pacificatory oblations in the fire. Then touching a live bull, they walk eastwards towards the settlement. The last person to walk back wipes off their footprints with a śamī twig broom. Then a memorial stone is erected at the midpoint between this ritual fire altar and the cemetery. The Mānava pitṛmedha states that this stone is installed by digging a ditch for it and by uttering the name and gotra of the deceased. Thereafter, a mixture of milk and water is offered at that spot. After this is done, if the dead man is survived by his wives, they smear themselves with fresh cosmetic ointment and put collyrium on their eyes. Then a dish of barley and mutton is prepared and served. We posit that this stone which is placed between the spot of the pacificatory fire, and the cemetery is equivalent to the stele. It is conceivable that ordinary ritualists just got a simple stone whereas the more elite ones got a prominent memorial stone.

There are some other rituals that might have influenced or played a role in the anthropomorphic iconography of stelae seen in the archaeological record. For example, Vaikhānasa’s pitṛmedha suggests that the funerary ritualist should make a clay piṇḍa, and having invoked Rudra in it take it to the site of the pyre and place it there with a piece of gold after having made the oblation to Yama Dahanādhipati. The corpse is then cremated beside it. Hence, it is conceivable that this clay lump evolved into or evolved from a stone marker in which divinities like Rudra and/or Yama were worshipped. As noted above, the ashes after the cremation are made into an anthropomorphic effigy (e.g., detailed in Bhāradvāja-pitṛmedha). The Gautama-pitṛmedha specifies that this effigy should be covered with moss, decorated with herbs and flowers, and offered cooked rice with an incantation to Yama Pretarāṭ. It is possible that this anthropomorphic effigy served as an inspiration for stone versions of the same. The Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa/Kātyāyana specifies that if a śmaśāna-citi is piled over the bones then a stone piton should be placed at its southern corner that has an image of the dānava Vṛtra on it. This again hints at a potential demonic image also being erected at the site of the funerary monument.

In light of these Vedic parallels, we can revisit the best-preserved Yamnaya stele, the Kernosovskiy idol, to analyze some of the motifs found on it: 1) there appears to be a flayed skin on the Kernosovskiy idol (probably also on some of the Iberian stelae). Parallel to this, the funerary ritual mentions the placement of the ritual animal hide on the corpse of the ritualist at his cremation. 2) The square on the front side, and likewise, the square and circle with what appear like trees inside them on the rear are respectively reminiscent of the shapes of the āhavanīya and gārhapatya altars of the ārya-s. The ritualist is cremated with the fires from these altars — thus this imagery might signify the same funerary motif. 3) The backside depicts (below the belt) what looks like the darvi ladle and the praṇītā-pātra of the ārya ritual. These ritual implements are placed on the corpse of the ritualist and burnt along with it. Thus, again this might be symbolized on the stele. 4) The bovine and equine images: a cow might be sacrificed in the antyeṣṭi, dissected and the organs placed on the corpse. Horse sacrifices are known from some of the steppe funerary sites. In some pitṛmedha texts, a horse is brought to the site for ritual purposes but not sacrificed. 5) The ithyphallic male figure with axes, a spear, a mace and a bow suggests a deity of the Rudra-class. This is again reminiscent of the worship of Rudra in a funerary clay piṇḍa in at least certain traditions.

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Geopolitical summary: March 2022

The autumn dawn
As the 40th day of the autumn of 2016 CE dawned, the mahāmleccha left-liberals were sunning themselves in the last rays of the setting Ardhakṛṣṇa. He was the hero of the age for them, a veritable yuganātha, who had reified all they had stood for. The left-liberal biologists (the majority of them are such) celebrated his manifold vibhava-s by naming no less than 14 newly discovered organisms, from a fungus to a dinosaur-age lizard, after him. His pakṣa rested in the content surety that he would be succeeded by yet another of their chosen ones, the old Ṣiḍgapatnī, who had caused their hated antagonist, al-Qadhdhāfī of barbara-prathamonmatta extraction, to be meet his end by being skewered through his arse by their ghāzī allies on the North African sands. His reign had also seen the execution of at least 10 varṇa-kopa-s, following up on the Neocon-backed efforts of his predecessors, the mahāduṣṭa-s Guccaka and Vakrās, and the Ṣiḍga before him. It was hoped that the Ṣiḍgapatnī who had overseen many of those operations would continue the tradition without any break with financial backing from duṣṭa Sora and others. After all, they had propped up Vijaya-nāma-vyāparin as a strawman to demolish and overthrow the hastipakṣa.

The left-liberal gardabha-s had not yet turned full navyonmāda at that point. However, as we have been stating on these pages, the navyonmatta-s were waiting in the wings to take the center stage under a gardabha mleccharāṭ. They were being churned out by the thousands in the liṇga-śāstra, tunda-śāstra and varṇa-śāstra departments of the mleccha academe. These young graduates were flocking to the centers of cala-citra-s, government, science, and technology, armed with their unmāda, which they claimed to be an overarching śāstra. Thus, backed by Sora-nāma-mahāduṣṭa and the like they were penetrating every center of power and education in the mleccha world. At that point, their action was mainly seen on the fringes, overthrowing opponents in cala-citra production, small universities and at academic conferences. Not many realized then that the future belonged to them — they were to play a decisive role not just in the politics of the post-Ardhakṛṣṇa Mahāmleccha land, but in geopolitics itself, unfurling their Indrāyudha-dhvaja-s wherever they went. But they were not able to break out right away because the majority of the American people were not yet in on their program.

However, as November 9th dawned, the gardabhin-s were utterly shocked to see that Vijaya had indeed become Vijaya, wiping out Ṣiḍgapatnī at the saṃvara-krīḍa the mahāmleccha-s had participated in. This sent alarm bells ringing at the highest amplitude across the trans-continental mleccha-mūlavātūla elite. The nāriṅgapuruṣa was everything they were opposed to: he was a man of the people; he communicated directly with them in short sentences funneled via duṣṭa-jāka’s medium; he did not want to waste the mleccha exchequer on useless wars in foreign lands (a favorite project of Ṣiḍgapatnī and the Neocons; even Ardhakṛṣṇa was brought on to that program against his own wishes); he wanted the mahāmleccha to look inwards at their own growing issues. Importantly, after the failed attempt at a varṇa-kopa in the midst of the Cīna-s in 2011 CE, the mahāmleccha-s reverted to going “full Galton”. The nāriṅgapuruṣa wished to break this key Galtonian edge, irking the elite even more. Finally, he wanted to restore good relationships with the reign of the Khagan of the Rus, who had repeatedly offered the olive branch to the aṅglamleccha-led confederation. This again ran completely counter to the intentions of the praṇidhi-s of the Deep State — after all the mahāmleccha antaryāmin-s and Ṣiḍgapatnī’s pakṣa, from the Chechnyan war to the Snow Revolution of 2013 CE, had plotted to bring down the Rus.

Emperor Vijaya and his overthrow
Thus, the mahāmleccha antaryāmin-s tried their best to overthrow him by whatever means they had at their disposal. As soon as he took the āsandi, they unleashed the navyonmatta bhañjaka-s to cause mayhem and take the sheen of his rājyābhiṣeka. Then they tried to accuse him of being an agent of the Rus, even as they shielded their Galtonian lovers and those honey-trapped by agents of the Prācya-s. When that did not dislodge him, they tried to pin all kinds of sexual scandals on him — after all he had been a veśyā-pradarśaka in the past. Still, not making progress, they had to finally turn to the time-tested technique in their book — the varṇa-kopa — this time it had to be deployed within the US itself. By then, the Galtonian embrace of the mleccha-s had brought the Wuhan corruption to the shores of the Krauñca continent and it was raging through the cities causing much fear and death. With the people frustrated by the lockdowns, their livelihoods upended and with no respite from the rogāṇu in sight, they had become an absolute tinder-keg waiting for the proverbial spark. And, as the spring of 2020 CE drew to a close that spark did come due to well-known arrogance and celebration of the “police culture”, among the śveta-tvaṅ-mahāmleccha-s.

This was the moment the antaryāmin-s were waiting for. To their advantage, the brewing storm perfectly aligned with the interests of duṣṭa Sorādi and the allied navyonmatta-s. They realized that they could not overthrow Vijaya without aid from the navyonmatta-s, both their “intellectual” wing in the academe and now in Big Tech, and their street wing in the form of the kālāmukha-s. The two coordinated their program with the antaryāmin-s to paralyze the nāriṅgapuruṣa and place Vṛddha-piṇḍaka and Aṭṭahāsakī on the āsandī. There were three key procedures they deployed in this process: (1) The coordination between the mainstream media and Big Tech to tilt the playing field entirely in favor of Piṇḍaka. This included total suppression of the devastating (for Piṇḍaka) news regarding Vyādha-piṇḍaka. Instead, they gave a positive spin highlighting the (possibly oṣadhi-addled) citra-kalā of Vyādha-piṇḍaka. (2) Rioting on the ground with the kālāmukha troops of the navyonmatta-s to take the sheen off the achievements of Vijaya (especially in West Asia) and to sow doubt in the minds of the fence-sitters in the crucial months leading to the saṃvara-krīḍa. (3) Manipulation of public health initiatives at many points: rioting for navyonmatta causes was encouraged, whereas assembling for the nāriṅgapuruṣa’s rallies was discouraged. It also seems games were played to delay the vaccine announcement until the slanted saṃvara-krīḍa ensured Piṇḍaka’s victory.

The new master puppeteers
Enraged by how Vṛddha-piṇḍaka was taken to victory by his backers, the nāriṅgapuruṣa’s anuyāyin-s swarmed into the rājyapīṭha of the mahāmleccha (probably goaded and abetted by the antaryāmin-s) on the historic day of Jan 6th, 2021. As this was catching the attention of much of the naive world, a much bigger event played out in Mlecchavarṣa — the nāriṅgapuruṣa’s uccāṭana was completed. Throughout his reign, he had used vikūjana as his primary tool to reach the masses. The antaryamin-s realized that as long as he could do so, he might be able to rally a resistance around him. It had to be smashed. Thus, with Big Tech they effected an absolute mūkī-karaṇam of Vijaya. With that, they showed who was really in power. Piṇḍaka was merely a puttala and they were the sūtradhārin-s who ran him along with their agents in Big Tech. This point was missed by most — the saṃvara-krīḍa was merely a facade and the true bosses were Deep State and their arborizations in Big Tech. Their religion was navyonmāda, the latest of the eka-rākṣasa-mata-s — a secular mutation of older ones. This should have sent the highest decibel fire sirens ringing through the capitals of the non-āṅglamleccha world, like say Bhārata, but we are not sure the leadership even registered it (especially given the awards they conferred on Bhikṣāsundarī and the Dvārānuyāyin). The emperor and the legalistic mandarins of the Cīna-s had already understood this and had banned the evildoers, Guggulu, Mukhagiri-Reṇugirī, Vi and also Sora on their soil, even as they completely took control of their own people. Thus, they were suddenly in a position of power as they had immunity against this. Moreover, emboldened by this and the Galtonian caressing from the mleccha-s they moved swiftly to put down resistance from their ever-restive marūnmatta-s. Now, with the fall of the nāriṅgapuruṣa social credit was implemented in the mleccha lands with navyonmatta driving the ever-changing norms.

Reading the Russia-collusion hysteria
One thing that struck us as the operation against the nāriṅgapuruṣa was ongoing was somewhat anachronistic “Russia-collusion hysteria”. After all, the mahāmleccha had comprehensively beaten the Soviet Rus empire in the Cold War-1 — so, why did they have to bring up Rus operations in second decade of the 2000s, long after that war was won? Serious students of the mahāmleccha antaryāmin power structure would know that the Cold Warriors never went away. They merely regrouped to form the core of a bipartisan Neocon elite that advised both Ṣiḍga and Guccaka. After all, Vakrās was their plant to guide Guccaka who was seen as dull by many. Control of state policy by this elite meant that, Ṣiḍga and Guccaka, while overtly belonging to different pakṣa-s, were merely shadow puppets played by the same operators. This became apparent in aftermath of the historic day of Jan 6th, 2021, when Ṣiḍga, Guccaka and Ardhakṛṣṇa came together to denounce their former friend, the nāriṅgapuruṣa, and celebrate the recapture of the āsandī by the old elite. This elite, many of whom occupy positions in the DoS and associated advisory bodies, has always had a deep grudge against the Rus. While the āṅglika-s had beaten Rus in the Crimean war and forced them to sell their foothold in America (Alaska) to the mahāmleccha, they had repeatedly failed to bring them down in their entirety.

The defeat of the Rus in Cold War-1 brought up such an opportunity for their successors. Their vindictive mindset made them deploy the “Treaty of Versailles doctrine”, which had been enacted by the older leader of the Pañcanetra confederation, the āṅglika-s. Briefly, the śūlapuruṣa-s, while taking heavy losses in WW-1, were hardly defeated. They could have effectively resisted the āṅgla-phiraṅga-mleccha alliance for a while and could have even reached something more like a draw (though with very heavy losses to them). However, their āṅglika cousins tricked them into an armistice, even as they did not lift the naval siege, finally forcing them into the humiliating and totally degrading Treaty of Versailles. Thus, they ended up not only having to endure the blow of WW-1 but also the continued assault after agreeing to a truce without a corresponding infliction of damage on their evil-minded enemy, dismemberment, ethnic cleansing by other Europeans, and the crushing economic collapse that followed. Essentially, the anti-Rus warriors of the DoS have been wanting something equivalent for the Rus. They nearly got there in the Yeltsin years, but the current Khagan of the Rus proved to be a roadblock to its complete enactment. Nevertheless, exploiting the weakness of the Rus, that he admitted, the mleccha DoS elite successfully carried a varṇa-kopa in Ukraine during Ardhakṛṣṇa’s reign. This action had also been enormously lucrative for Vyadha-piṇḍaka and his retinue with their Kievan money-laundering operation. Hence, we had some premonition that the Russia-collusion hysteria meant that when the gardabhin-s seize power they would move for a subversion operation against the Rus.

The new state religion is unveiled
Whereas the older version of the antaryāmin-s had been left-liberals operating under a dvayonmatta covering (one might remember the repeated ejaculations of the dvayonmatta phrase heard during the Guccaka era), as we saw above, they adopted navyonmāda in the current era. A good example is Nimeṣaka who seamlessly moved from prathamonmāda to flying Indracāpaketu-s on his dūtya-s. That Piṇḍaka’s court is essentially run by and for navyonmatta is seen from the never-ending, daily attempts to push navyonmatta on all their subjects across the board in Big Tech, government offices, sports/entertainment, and scientific and educational institutions. It might soon become embodied in the law of the land via the nyāyādhīśa-s that Piṇḍaka gets to appoint during his tenure. For a normal heathen, it indeed feels like how it might have been for one in the closing days of heathen Rome. Navyonmāda is a two-edged sword — while it is an extremely virulent and infectious disease of the mind, it has drastic fitness-reducing tendencies by encouraging tundatvam, ṣaṇḍatvam, and abalīkaraṇam. Thus, it has more of a straiṇa-saṃgrāma-kalā rather than a pumryuddha-nīti — the former, irrespective of sex, is also suited for the characteristic (often video-game playing type) who finds him/her-self in modern Big Tech. The former is rather ineffective against some ideologies that show resistance to navyonmāda, namely tṛtīyonmāda. This was plainly seen in the ignominious retreat of the Mahāmleccha-s and their pūtimāṣa allies from marūnmatta-occupied Gandhāra and Bāhlika.

Cīna-s and others react to the new religion
This set the stage for what may prove to be one of the biggest turnings of the geopolitical wheel in our age. Pandemics go together with the coming of war and the falling of empires. This occasion was no exception. The mahāmleccha adoption of navyonmāda and the subsequent defeat in Bāhlika triggered reactions across the world. A serious fraction of the Bhārata elite adopted navyonmāda with elan. Even the Lāṭeśa’s government has been dangerously pushing navyonmatta policies in places like the army. The Cīna, the Rus, the Ugrians and the Poles saw it as either an outright danger or in the least something deserving suspicion. Even the French, who had played a key role in incubating a strand of it in the early days, saw it correctly as an American disease. The Cīna-s saw an opportunity. Navyonmāda has been extremely resonant with Galtonism. This meant that the Cīna-s would get the much-needed reprieve from the strictures of the nāriṅgapuruṣa. Indeed, it is likely that there was actually a Cīna-mahāmleccha-antaryāmin collusion to put Piṇḍaka on the throne — not for nothing, Vijaya had called him Bījapura-piṇdaka. This now has allowed them to resume penetration operations at a deep level in Mlecchavarṣa. The resurgence of the Needhamistic strain of Galtonism has allowed the stealing of mleccha technology. At the same time, they were also relieved that the abalīkaraṇam caused by navyonmāda could offset their own plummeting fertility in terms of the balance of real military power vis-a-vis the mahāmleccha.

This has to be placed against the background of the recent geopolitical situation of the Cīna-s. At home, they had achieved considerable success by suppressing their marūnmatta rebels and attempted varṇa-kopa-s and acquiring legalistic mastery over their citizens. While they unleashed the pandemic on the world, they initially supposedly had some control over it even as the rest of the world was reeling from its effects. This gave them a chance to act on their ambitions. Since the Opium Wars, where the Indians were used as cannon fodder by the English to achieve their objectives, the Cīna-s have seen the H as sepoys whom the mleccha-s can use to do their dirty work. Thus, they correctly read the mahāmleccha intention of using India as a balancer against the Cīna ambitions of Asian hegemony. At the same time, they also suspect that mahāmleccha might try to separate the Anglicized pretonmatta-s in the Indian Northeast to create a foothold for them to reach Cīnadeśa. Thus, they thought that if they downsized India in a punitive expedition, then they would send a strong message to the mleccha-s that they are already the Asian hegemons and that any mleccha action against them would be dead on arrival. They saw this as preparation for potentially moving against Taiwan. On the other side, they also shored up the Goryeo strongman Kim and helped build his missile capacity to threaten the mahamleccha in the Far East and their protectorate, the Uṣāputra-s. Thus, they put this plan into action along the border with India. One major skirmish occurred at Galwan involving Song dynasty polearms on the Cīna side and perhaps even bare hands on the Indian side. Despite losses of men on both sides, one could say the Indian forces prevailed and the maximalist aims of the Cīna-s were thwarted. While the conflict continues to simmer, the Cīna-s are currently tied up with the return of the Wuhan corruption to East Asia. In conclusion, the Cīna-s have realized that they cannot attain their ambitions right away; hence, they are trying to use the leash handed to them by navyonmāda to the maximum even as they build their capacity for a new thrust. However, their biggest limitation cannot be addressed anytime time soon.

The Rus play their card
The other major player watching the navyomatta turn of the mahāmleccha were the Rus. There were occasions when the great Chingiz Khan, disregarding his council’s advice to wait till spring to fatten the horses, chose to attack his foes right away in winter. He had the intelligence and the correct military intuition regarding the paramountcy of timing and the fact that his enemies would be in no better state with respect to the nourishment of their cavalry. Very few military leaders have that kind of eye for the right decision. We cannot say that the Khagan of the Rus has anywhere near that kind of eye. This was seen in his handling of Ukraine. After the varṇa-kopa in Ukraine and their new regime’s intention to join the pūtimāṣa, the Khagan of the Rus correctly divined that he needed to act there quickly. Consequently, he took back Crimea. He also laid the ground for the Donbas war that met with mixed success. However, for reasons which are unclear, he did not proceed right away with a more full-fledged operation, even though the situation was more favorable than now. Of course, Ukraine is not Georgia, which he had earlier quickly brought to its heels when it attempted to join the pūtimāṣa incited by the mleccha agents lodged in the country. One possibility is that he knew that his army was not ready for such an operation — there is some evidence for this based on the way the Donbas conflict played out. He might have wanted to wait till he could add the hypersonic missiles to his panoply. However, we suspect that the most important reason was the vulnerability of the Rus economy to the Occidental mleccha economic warfare. Thus, over the years he took several economic measures that insulated the Rus to a degree from such shocks. During that period, other than in Donbas, he carried out some operations to test his troops on the battlefield by shoring up the Alawi protectorate in Syria against the mahāmleccha-al Qaeda alliance (a tempestuous long term on-off relationship going back to its bearded Arabian founder). Thus, with the pūtimāṣa’s retreat from his underbelly in Gandhāra and Bāhlika, he felt it was time to act. Perhaps, his actions were precipitated by some intelligence he had received regarding a new round of mleccha-backed varṇa-kopa-s. His suspicions were probably confirmed by the Kazakhstan uprising in Jan 2022 that had all the hallmarks of a mahāmleccha subversion operation. It was quickly crushed by Rus-backed troops.

Thus, as Feb 2022 CE drew to a close, the Rus recognized the Donbas oblasts as independent and launched a full-fledged invasion of Ukraine from the Russian and Belarusian territories. The war has gone on for over a full month now. A subset of Russian nationalists and Occidental commentators felt that the Rus would conquer Ukraine in about a month. That has not turned out to be the case. It has exposed some of the suspected weaknesses of Rus infantry and the shortcoming in their ability to protect and advance their tank columns despite smashing the Ukrainian air force early in the conflict. In terms of historical precedence, this weakness is not a new thing — even in the heydays of their empire, Karl-12 of Sweden defeated a much large Russian force in the first battle of Narva. Then there was the Japanese victory over the imperial Rus in 1904-1905 CE. Here most of the Occident (even the English backers of the J) was quite stunned by the rout of the Rus. Finally, even the comprehensive Rus victory against the Nazi advance came at huge human cost. The Occidental backers of the Ukrainians are spreading the uplifting news (for their audience) that the Rus are on the brink of defeat and have lost tens of thousands of men. As the war grinds on, the mahāmleccha continue to back their prathamonmatta protege and his neo-Nazi allies with anti-armor and other weaponry and satellite intelligence on the Rus movement to preempt their operations (parallels to the English role in the Russo-Japanese war cannot be missed). Thus, even if Bandera was bumped off by the KGB in the Śūladeśa, his dream lives on to date. True to his spirit, over the past month, they have displayed their legendary brutality that even surprised the Hādi śūlapuruṣa’s men.

Our own assessment (admittedly based on incomplete information) is that the Rus have not advanced to the degree of the optimistic estimates and have certainly suffered more losses/prisoners of war than they would have wished. However, it is clear that as of now the mleccha-s are overstating the weakness of their position. We suspect the mleccha-s know this heart of heart but are hoping that their wishes come true in the coming days. A lot of commentators seem to assume that Rus have maximalist aims (articulated clearly by the Russian nationalist named Karlin on the internet) of seizing the whole of Ukraine. It is not clear if that was/is their intention. One can unambiguously game (from great power geopolitics) that they would take the necessary steps to prevent the mahāmleccha-alliance from encroaching into their sphere of influence. They were too weak to prevent it in the Baltic states and their peripheral Slavic cousins, but they seem to have a clear red line in the Caucasus, Central Asia, and obviously the Kievan lands (after all it was the mother of the Rus cities as they say). Hence, one can expect their ultimate strategic objective to make the Kievan lands unusable for the mahāmleccha and their vassals. Hence, in the least, the Rus might declare victory with the Donbas territory in their control. Given that the mahāmleccha-alliance would try their best to stiffen the rest of Ukraine, they might opt to thoroughly demolish it so that its ability to threaten the territories gained in the conflict would be severely limited. Though we understand the advantage of the maximalist position from a Rus perspective, we really do not know if they have the wherewithal to achieve it, given the above-noted shortcomings. The fact that they have repeatedly attempted “peace talks” (if true) suggests that they are either not trying a complete conquest, or want to take it relatively intact, or are admitting the relative weakness of their position (how the mleccha see it). It cannot be denied that it is a total tragedy for the Ukrainians. However, as the American political thinker Mearsheimer indicated, that is exactly how great power politics plays out. Nevertheless, in our admittedly poorly informed opinion, the military course of the conflict still remains wide open, and the Rus are far from defeated as the West would like to claim. There might even be further complications in the coming days if Azerbaijan moves against Armenia and Iran joins the mix. If the supposed deployment of the Kinzhal missiles and thermobaric bombs is true then the Rus are sending a clear signal to the Occident that, even if their ground troops might not be doing great as the West thinks, they have devastating fire-power to pose a real threat to the Occident. Despite his blabberings from jaraṇa, to his credit, Piṇḍaka has not escalated to the degree the “hawks” in his retinue want him to. However, the probability of a larger and deadlier conflict remains high (~15%) in our estimate.

Navyonmāda’s first war: what is in it for the H?
While the uncertainty on the prospects of the Rus remains, what we would like to draw attention to is the nature of this war between the mahāmleccha-led confederation and the Rus. It is seen by many as Cold War-2. We divide things a bit differently. The period from the start of the perimeter-creep strategy of the pūtimāṣa following the collapse of the Soviet empire to the Russia-collusion hysteria should be seen as the actual Cold War-2. However, starting from the Rus invasion of Ukraine it should be seen as a real war between the navyonmatta Occident and the Rus (could be called a hybrid strategy as much of the heavy fighting is done by the neo-Nazi-allied groups backed by mahāmleccha advisers). While it draws on the old conflicts between the Western churches and the Orthodox church, its mode of operation is primarily that of navyonmāda — the first great war that navyonmāda is engaging in (even their Kievan puppet is pulling all the right strings to appease this disease). Thus, they fight this war by employing the same methods adopted by navyonmāda in its other campaigns, like that against Vijaya — the idea is to essentially “cancel” the Russians, keeping with their favorite mode of action. That is exactly how all the navyonmatta duṣṭa-s who rule the Occident have acted. Overnight they canonized the rogues and the hādi-ghātaka-s are now being feted as heroes much like their own kālāmukha-s. This is a warning for all other free nations — it will be the mechanism by which navyonmāda launches against them. The hate, which navyonmāda is so good at channeling, dovetails with the old vindictiveness characteristic of the āṅgla-mleccha-s: the same cartoons as those they made of the German, Japanese and Hindus and actions mirroring the killing of Dachshunds and shepherd dogs. Keeping with navyonmāda being essentially a philosophy of suffering and misery they are inflicting misery on themselves and even more so on the rest of the world from the commodities shortages that are resulting from the Occidental mleccha imposing sanctions and causing the war to prolong.

From an H perspective matters are complicated. Hopefully, it has delivered yet another lesson that any kind of alliance or entanglement with the Occident is likely to prove fatal. Ukraine is only the latest casualty of the quest of unchosen nations to become a part of the West when they do not really belong to it. Many H feel a deep resonance with the West and yearn for communion with it. This will only bring ruin to their posterity and nation. The H depend heavily on the Rus for their armaments; hence, a defeat of the Rus at the end of this conflict is a victory for the enemies of the H. It also has the danger of compromising the H defenses. The mleccha-s would use the opportunity to harm the H (especially via their navyonmatta assets within the country) — something they already want to do, given that India has not condemned the Rus. Ideally, the H should read this situation as a war between navyonmāda and the Rus. The defeat of navyonmāda is good, perhaps even an existential matter for the H. Some are surprised when we say this — they tell us navyonmāda will only ruin the senā of the mleccha-s not that of the H. Our reasoning is simple: the Indian state and H society have developed some serious structural problems as a result of their marked decline from the prolonged struggle against marūnmada and the subsequent encounter with Occidental modernity. This has primed some of the masses and a major part of the elite towards navyonmāda. The adoption of navyonmāda will exacerbate these structural problems like the cracks in a building during an earthquake. It is already undermining the scaffold of H civilization by incapacitating its physical and memetic defenses. Notably, it could cause the masses to cannibalize the elite who hold human capital. Right now, navyonmāda is the state religion of the Piṇḍaka regime and its satellites. Hence, it also has the backing of the Occidental might in India. A Rus defeat could accelerate the same. Unfortunately, the vote-bank politics of India means one of two things, neither of which look good. On one hand, India is one election away from being seriously undermined if the pakṣa changes for they are merely the Indian equivalents of the Kievan agents of the mahāmleccha. On the other hand, the H-friendly political alliance has shown all the signs of being vulnerable to navyonmāda themselves enacting certain policies that are detrimental to the H bearing critical human capital. Thus, a secular decline can set in from their policies. The situation can be salvaged only if the H leadership seriously faces up to this issue and actively suppresses navyonmāda across Indian institutions. The discerning can read and complete the rest of the story.

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Human retroviruses, sociology of science, and biographical ruminations

We learnt via a recent obituary that the French researcher Luc Montagnier died a month or so ago after living for nearly 90 years. He along with his compatriot and erstwhile colleagues, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Jean-Claude Chermann discovered HIV-1. Subsequently, his lab also discovered HIV-2, the second virus that causes AIDS. It was around the time of the discovery of HIV-2 and the naming of the original AIDS virus as HIV-1 that we made our own first foray into studying evolution and biochemistry in the language of the genes. Soon thereafter, we realized that the study of the biochemistry of the endless war between viruses and their hosts offered some of the deepest insights into the evolutionary process after Darwin’s work. Thus, the path for our primary investigations in the coming years “crystallized” out of these early meditations. Not being an entirely autistic type of scientific enthusiast, we also started observing the sociology of science, if anything for the selfish reason of understanding better the social systems that we would become a part of due to our chosen course. We cannot say that we saw or understood things clearly in those early days, but the germs of the realization that the heroic hagiographies of science are far from the truth dawned on us then. One early introduction to this was the drawn-out conflict between the Frenchman Montagnier and his American rival Robert Gallo.

In the late 1960s, it was becoming clear due to the work of Miller that the lymphocytes originating from the thymus (an organ, which, until a little before then, had remained shrouded in mystery) played a central role in acquired immunity. A little over a decade later these lymphocytes (T cells) took the center stage in a mysterious disease that was just beginning to be recognized. Even as the discovery of the T lymphocytes was being announced and met with skepticism among the immunologists, cases of AIDS were beginning to turn up outside Africa. In 1968, a Norwegian sailor who had engaged in sexual activity in Western Africa presented a mysterious disease with immunodeficiency symptoms comparable to AIDS. He and some members of his family died in the 1970s without a clear diagnosis. Again in 1968 an American teenager of African ancestry, who may have engaged in sexual promiscuity, was diagnosed with a mysterious syndrome that included Kaposi’s sarcoma. He died shortly thereafter. However, it took a full decade for this mystery disease to be recognized as a distinct entity. In late 1979, physicians in New York, USA, and the vicinity started noticing a cluster of cases of aggressive Kaposi’s sarcoma that was afflicting young homosexual male patients. Until then it had only been observed as a rare, slowly progressing, tumor in older patients of Jewish or other Mediterranean ancestries. Around the same, in California homosexual males were showing up with a strange syndrome of immunodeficiency. Finally, in the summer of 1981, these unusual findings were tied together, and it was recognized that indeed a new disease characterized by lymphadenopathy and strong immunosuppression was making its rounds. Over the next several months, further surveillance of this disease led to the finding that it was marked by a dramatic reduction in a specific type of T cells, which were known as the helper cells that were defined by a marker molecule on their surfaces, the CD4, a protein with domains of the immunoglobulin superfamily.

There was one man who was well-poised to exploit this finding — Gallo. By then he was already a veteran of T cell research, having discovered Interleukin-2 in the 1970s. This had allowed him to cultivate T cell cultures in the lab. Work in his lab had also shown that the Gibbon Ape Leukemia Virus transmitted from a pet gibbon to a new world Woolly monkey spawned the simian sarcoma virus. This led him on the quest for human retroviruses that culminated in the discovery of HTLV-1 in 1979 as the causative agent of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Subsequently, he and others were able to show that it was also the causative agent of T-cell leukemias found endemically among some Caribbean islanders of African descent and some South Japanese. In 1981, his lab discovered a second leukemia virus HTLV-2 from what was described as a “hairy cell T cell leukemia”. An interesting feature of the HTLVs was the tropism towards CD4+ T cells and transmission via sex, blood transfusion, needle-sharing, or mother to child during breastfeeding. Thus, when AIDS was described as a new disease in 1981, Gallo was already in possession of key priors and technologies that led him to suspect that this virus might also be related to his HTLVs. Not surprisingly, in 1983 he published two papers proposing a role for his HTLVs in AIDS.

However, Gallo was beaten to the real virus by a French lab, led by Montagnier. He had an interest in virology since the characterization of the tobacco mosaic virus and had a background in studying interferon inhibition to trigger retrovirus activation. He was inspired by Gallo’s earlier HTLV work to look for a retrovirus as the agent of AIDS, a disease that was brought to his attention by a colleague. The French team soon isolated the virus, now termed HIV-1, from the lymph node biopsy of a French homosexual man who was showing early AIDS lymphadenopathy. Montagnier and his colleagues published their work in the spring of 1983 reporting a new retrovirus, they named LAV, which might be a possible candidate agent of AIDS. This paper was published back-to-back with the above-mentioned two papers from the Gallo lab claiming a link between AIDS and the HTLVs. Gallo might have been a good scientist but was not a good man. Montagnier, a naturally born scientist, was a reserved personality in stark contrast to the aggressive Gallo, who had a publicity blitz going on in America. Thus, at the time of the publication of the French paper, the editorial in the American tabloid, Science, spoke extensively of Gallo’s work linking the disease to the HTLVs, while making only a passing reference to the former. Gallo soon realized that Montagnier had an edge over him, and the virus the French had in hand was the likely agent of AIDS rather than the HTLVs. Thus, when Montagnier presented his findings at a meeting shortly after the discovery of the virus by his lab, Gallo crudely attacked him and tried to put him down. Thus, Gallo wanted to downplay the French team’s work, even as he could prepare his own claim for its discovery. Under the standard procedure of sharing published reagents, Montagnier’s lab sent Gallo two samples of their virus a few months after publishing their report. Gallo soon claimed that he had identified the real causative virus of AIDS and called it HTLV-III. He was backed by the muscle of the US Department of Health and Human Services, whose secretary claimed that they would soon have a diagnostic test and vaccine as a result of Gallo’s discovery of the AIDS virus. The former turned out to be true but not the latter. Finally, in May of 1984 Gallo published four papers comprehensively presenting his side of the story and making the case that his HTLV-III was indeed the causative agent of AIDS. The following month Montagnier and Gallo made a joint announcement that their virus was likely the same. In the summer of the same year a group led by Jay Levy from UCSF also independently published the identification of the same virus, which they called ARV, from AIDS patients in California.

The subsequent years saw a major battle between Gallo and Montagnier for priority and patents on AIDS diagnosis. Over the years the credit and patent battles reached the highest level and were taken up by the heads of state of France and the USA. They eventually settled for joint credit. Gallo and scientists in this lab were initially accused of scientific misconduct in their 1984 papers by a US government investigation. The accusations mentioned him “intentionally misleading colleagues to gain credit for himself and diminish credit due to his French competitors” and “impeding potential AIDS research progress by leading scientists away from working with the French researchers.” However, he was later absolved of it under the new definitions of misconduct by the US government while being accused of being non-collegial. When their sequences were determined it turned out that Gallo’s HTLV-III was more or less identical to Montagnier’s LAV. This was unusual given the high variability of the HIV-1. Investigations eventually established that Gallo’s virus was indeed derived from the French lab. Does this mean that Gallo stole the French virus? The neutral investigations suggest that the French samples had a rapidly growing version of the virus isolated from a French AIDS patient then diagnosed as having Kaposi’s sarcoma. This strain dominated the strain from another patient in the sample Montagnier sent Gallo in 1983 after the publication of his original LAV paper. It subsequently contaminated the cultures and overran the strains in Gallo’s lab once he received it. Thus, both the French and the American labs ended up with the same strain. However, these investigations also showed that Gallo’s lab had genuinely isolated other strains by themselves at that time but what they published was the same as the French one. Thus, it argued against them having deliberately stolen the French virus.

Our take on this story is that the French had the priority. However, Gallo’s earlier contribution to human retrovirology and T cell biology is undeniable. He was correct in his hunch that AIDS was caused by a retrovirus, like his HTLVs. Where he was wrong was in assigning agency to them for AIDS. However, he quickly realized that the French had the right virus and tried to claim it for himself — this matches his personality. It is not surprising that he felt bad to be headed off in a discovery that he felt rightfully belonged to him, given his role in the discovery of human T cell retroviruses. Thus, he used all the advantages he had in the field along with his scientific network to bolster his claim. In the process, his lab might have been less than honest or in the least willfully negligent while rushing to stake their claim. Some like Levy who reached the right conclusions around the same but a little later were largely forgotten in the race.

We had the chance to speak to two individuals, one who was close to Gallo’s rush for glory, and another who had been involved in the AIDS gold rush that followed. The first told us with some disquiet a tale that contained paradoxical narratives. Firstly, he felt that Gallo and members of his team were subjects of a “witch-hunt” due to unnamed enemies in the American academe and national labs. Secondly, he also confessed that Gallo’s lab was a high-pressure environment like many industrial-style Euro-American scientific groups. The demand for rapid results in face of the competition from France, coupled with the hierarchy, favoritism, and immigration status intimidation of foreign researchers pushed them to cut corners and do things in a less than honest way. He vacillated for a while regarding whether he himself might have engaged in dishonest activities. He then went on to add that those who failed to understand the ways of the “big man’s” lab were quickly turned into sacrificial goats even if they got the results that brought the big man glory — there was no intention of rewarding those in the trenches equitably. The second individual mentioned how it was “hot” to be an AIDS researcher and how she enjoyed the well-paying fellowships/stipends relative to other researchers laboring on less hot science. However, that came at a cost. She soon realized that she was not getting the attention despite the first authorships in the manuscripts — perhaps due to her demure ways. Rather it was all going to her boss who flew from continent to continent giving talks even as she labored to provide him the pictures on the slides. Thus, she soon crashed and burned out. These events and conversations informed me that despite the glamour that is portrayed in the popular hagiographies, behind the facade science was still very much like any other activity undertaken by a troop of apes with its characteristic dominance hierarchies. It also informed us that not all that you see in the journals, including the tabloids, might be produced in an entirely honest way.

Nevertheless, as we entered our teens these events surrounding the discovery of HIVs and the HTLVs made us interested in both the broad and the narrow ways of the retroviruses. Walking on the broad path, from the 13th to the 15th years of our life we studied the reverse transcriptase with great intensity and pushed ahead to studying its relationship to the RNA polymerases of positive-strand RNA viruses and double-stranded RNA viruses, and cellular and viral DNA polymerases. This early experience we gained in detecting and analyzing their evolutionary relationships was to hold us in good stead in life and led us to many great discoveries in the future. At the same time, we also studied the RNase H and integrase enzymes of the HIVs and related retroviruses, and that opened yet another world to us, whose significance we continue to understand in gradual steps to this date. With the rising excitement in HIV-1, the interest in HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 took the back seat. However, on the narrow path, we became intrigued by the pathology of the HTLVs. First, HTLV-1 causes severe disease only in somewhere between 2-8% of the infected individuals. The rest remain asymptomatic, though one study suggests these might show mild cognitive decline. Second, even in the cases when it proceeds to a severe disease there is a prolonged asymptomatic phase post-infection that can last several years to decades. Third, the severe, as well as milder but chronic manifestations of the disease, are rather pleomorphic. The most severe version is of course T-cell leukemia/lymphoma. The next most severe manifestation is tropical spastic paraparesis, where the HTLV-1 infected T cells cross the blood-CNS barrier to enter the spinal cord and stimulate the astrocytes to produce cytokines to draw more T cells into the CNS. The resulting inflammation causes spinal cord damage and progressive weakness of the legs and loss of urinary bladder control. Beyond these, the virus also causes pediatric infectious dermatitis, conjunctivitis, uveitis, joint inflammation, and other forms of muscular weakness (polymyositis) in places where it is endemic. Coming to HTLV-2, it is even less pathogenic than HTLV-1 — other than rare T-cell leukemia, it also causes a neuro-inflammatory disease similar to tropical spastic paraparesis. Their more recently discovered relatives, HTLV-3 and HTLV-4 are as yet known only from asymptomatic cases. These peculiarities of the disease have puzzled us over the years.

As noted above, HTLVs and HIVs share similar transmission modes; however, HTLV-1 shows remarkable differences in heterosexual transmission between the sexes — 60% of the transmission is from infected males to females and only 0.4% from infected females to males! However, the prevalence increases in females after age 50, though the chance of it developing into leukemia is higher in males than in females. The pleomorphism, the dominance of asymptomatic cases, and epidemiological peculiarities go along with unusual patterns of geographic endemism in these viruses (barring HIV which has become more cosmopolitan). Studies on their origins take us back to Africa where the majority of events of transfer of retroviruses to humans have seemed to have occurred. The table below summarizes this situation.

\begin{tabular}{|l|p{0.4\textwidth}|l|} \hline Virus & Original host & \# of human crossovers \\ \hline HIV-1 & Chimpanzee, Gorilla & 1 \\ \hline HIV-2 & Sooty Mangabey & 1 \\ \hline SIV & Rhesus Macaque & more than 2? \\ \hline HTLV-1 & Chimpanzee, Gorilla, Orangutan(?), Mandrills, Crested Mona Monkeys, Chimpanzee, Red Colobus Monkey & more than 7? \\ \hline HTLV-2 & Chimpanzee & 1\\ \hline HTLV-3 & Chimpanzee or Red-capped mangabey & 1 \\ \hline HTLV-4 & Gorilla & more than 1? \\ \hline SFV & Baboon, Chimpanzee, Mandrill & more than 5? \\ \hline \end{tabular}

Of the above, at least 16 transmission events from non-human primates (both apes and monkeys) to humans have occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa. Field studies have indicated a particular prevalence of such infections among African monkey and ape hunters/butchers. We cite from the field studies by Richard et al to illustrate some cases of this. A 65-year-old hunter/butcher from the Ogooué-Ivindo region in Central Africa was reported as being simultaneously infected by 3 retroviruses — SFV, HTLV-1, and HTLV-4. He was severely bitten in the arm by a gorilla. A 58-year-old primate hunter/butcher from the Ngounié region of Central Africa was severely bitten on the left thigh by an adult male silverback gorilla. He seems to have developed HTLV-4 infection as a consequence. The frequent crossover of retroviruses to humans in Africa appears to result from blood/saliva contacts during primate hunting/butchering activities. A parallel transmission between monkeys and apes appears to take place in Africa, which in part might be mediated by hunting — e.g., chimpanzee predation on monkeys or gorilla-chimpanzee conflicts. The current phylogenies suggest that the chimpanzees received their SIV (HIV-1 cognate) from monkeys on at least two occasions; the chimps in turn transmitted it to the gorilla. Humans appear to have received HIV-1 twice, once from a chimpanzee and once from a gorilla. The natural human infections from other primates are paralleled by similar infections of primate-laboratory workers. To date, all known SFV (Simian Foamy Virus) cases are apparently asymptomatic and have not been sexually transmitted to the partners of the infected individuals. A notable case is of SIV (the simian strain of the virus related to HIV-2) being transmitted to a primate-researcher in the lab, probably while handling the blood of experimentally infected macaques. He seems to have developed a sudden severe but temporary dermatitis, which might have been due to the virus, and has a low-level chronic infection. However, beyond that, there was no other evidence of persistent illness or transmission to the sexual partner.

Thus, to date, the majority of the transmissions — SFV, SIV, HTLV-3 and HTLV-4 — have been mild, asymptomatic, or even dead-end infections. Taken as a whole, HTLV-2 is again not very severe. Of course, HIV-1 has been severe and HIV-2 to a lesser degree than the former. That leaves us with HTLV-1 which appears to occupy a peculiar intermediate niche. On the zoonotic side, it appears to repeatedly transmit from non-human primates to humans. Within humans, its relatively low level of severe disease coupled with remarkably slow progression has allowed it to become endemic in populations across the world. While most of its diversity is related to the multiple African transmissions from non-human primates, the slave trade of Sub-Saharan Africans appears to have dispersed it to several regions of the world. However, there is a trans-continental clade of HTLV-1 that apparently has a more ancient origin. A part of its transmission might be via the Mohammedan slave trade of Africans. Consistent with a potential transmission via this older slave trade, the Indian strains are related to the West Asian strains. Interestingly, despite the extensive monkey-human contacts, there is no evidence for HTLV-1 or other retroviral crossovers to humans in India. One possible reason could be the rare or absent consumption of monkeys/apes in India. However, there is the mysterious HTLV-1c clade that is found among natives of Australia and Melanesia. This clade is the most divergent of the HTLV-1 clades and is very unlikely to be a transmission from Africa. Moreover, no non-human primates are found in Australo-Melanesia. This suggests that the infection was likely acquired by humans in Asia and then transmitted to this region. The current phylogenetic analysis favors a model wherein it was transmitted from macaques to humans, perhaps in prehistoric India, and then borne eastwards. Given that the orangutans also appear to have acquired their strain from the macaques, it is not possible to rule out that they were an alternative source for the HTLV-1c clade.

As this story developed, we remained intrigued by the overall biology of retroviral infections in primates. There was clearly a long history of primate retroviral infections spanning several viral clades and exchanges that occurred time and again between primate species, followed by dissemination within a species via promiscuous sex and feeding of infants by lactating females. Thus, theory would predict that a generally high degree of natural resistance would evolve against retroviruses in primates. It seemed to us that the prediction was generally borne out in the case of most primate retroviruses given the dead-end and mild/asymptomatic infections. Thus, it struck us that the general resistance to retroviruses was worthy of a more detailed investigation. With this lens, it seemed that HIV-1 was an exceptional snapshot of bad luck for the human species. We realized early on that the HIV-1 tragedy was an unexpected consequence of globalization. This meant that a part of the resistance emerged from social strategies that limited sexual contacts between distant tribes and perhaps taboos on eating other primates. Therefore, the more virulent transmissions, like HIV-1, might have been relatively contained in the past and self-limited themselves by burning through smaller tribal populations with limited contact with others. Nevertheless, we also realized that such defenses alone were facile and there had to be stronger molecular ones. Thus, we became particularly interested in Apobec3 and CIITA families of proteins. Both these lines of investigation proved rather fruitful for us. The first led us to discover the origins of the anti-retroviral deaminases and this has, in turn, spawned some recent biotechnology of note. It also helped us develop a proper theory for lymphotropism and the origin of vertebrate adaptive immune systems. The latter contributed to our understanding of the roots of innate immunity. Thus, decades after we first started, we finally acquired a fairly clear understanding of some of the mysteries of retroelements and their ongoing collaboration and battles with their hosts.

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Transcripts of conversations: the addiction principle:

A friend recorded some of our verbalizations and made transcripts of them. He sent them to us to and we decide to edit them and post them as and when we get the chance — not out of a narcissistic impulse but simply to record some of these thoughts.


Q: You keep mentioning the “addiction principle” as yet another feature shared by biological conflicts at the microscopic level and human geopolitical conflicts. Could you explain that?
Aham: In geopolitics, the use of addiction in a very literal sense was seen in the opium wars that were fought around the mid-1800s between the British-led Occidental drug-trafficking regimes (other than the Brits, there were French and some Americans) and the Manchu Ching empire in China. The Brits cultivated opium in their Indian conquests and sold it for huge profits in China by encouraging its recreational rather than pharmaceutical use. Due to the alarming rates of addiction, Ching banned its use and blocked the Occidental drug traffickers from selling it. The latter retaliated with two wars at the end of which they had crushed the Ching empire, imposed humiliating strictures, and extracted territorial concessions from them. The key point to note here is the two-fold strategy – the introduction of an addicting substance and retaliation when the addiction was cast aside.

In biology, this was observed at multiple levels. One of the most famous is the phenomenon of plasmid addiction in bacteria. The plasmids in question are DNA elements that reside in bacterial cells outside their primary chromosomes. They might be totally parasitic elements, or they may give something in return by conferring benefits to the cell, like resistance against viruses or antibiotics. Now, many of them carry a further selfish element integrated into them known as a toxin-antitoxin system. These systems are usually made up of two genes, one coding for a toxic protein (the toxin) and the other codes for its antidote. One common principle involves a labile antidote that is easily degraded and a toxin that is stable. Thus, only if the two-gene selfish element is intact, the cell survives as both the toxin and antitoxin are made, and the former is suppressed. Now, if the cell gets rid of the parasitic plasmid, the labile antitoxin degrades rapidly and is no longer made afresh. However, the stable toxin persists, and once the antitoxin is degraded, it is unleashed and kills the cell by one of many mechanisms. Thus, the cell cannot get rid of the plasmid and is “addicted” to it.

There are many variants of this in biology. For example, there are the Medea elements that have evolved from transposons in the flour beetle Tribolium. The restriction endonuclease superfamily enzyme of the transposase encoded by this element elicits its toxic action by cutting DNA, and its ATPase domain acts as the antidote. Here, the toxin kills all progeny that lacks at least one Medea locus inherited from their parents. Thus, it ensures that the lineage is ever-addicted to the Medea element. A similar addictive phenomenon is observed with Rickettsia-like bacteria such as Wolbachia that are inherited via the female germline (they enter the eggs). These bacteria encode toxins that evince many effects such as parthenogenesis, feminization, cytoplasmic incompatibility, and killing of male progeny, all of which ensure that only infected females will transmit the bacterium to the next generation are produced.

In all these biological examples, we see the enforcement of addiction as a critical feature shared with geopolitical conflicts. There are some variations on this theme in biology that are again apposite to geopolitics. These are the immunity elements of prokaryotes such as Restriction-Modification and CRISPR systems. These confer a clear advantage to their host in the form of providing immunity against invasive genetic elements. However, they also have a sinister side to them. The same weapon they use against the invader or an alternative toxin embedded within them can turn against the cell to kill it, operating under the same principle as the toxin-antitoxin systems — i.e., the persistence of the toxic component after the loss of the antidote. Thus, they can first induce adoption by providing a selective advantage in the form of an immune mechanism. However, once the invader threat is gone, the cell cannot eliminate this costly defensive apparatus because the addiction is enforced via a toxic attack on the host cell.

Q: Ah! One can see multiple parallels here to the current geopolitical situation. What in your opinion are important points in this regard?
Aham: There are several. An overt drug like opium is no longer widely used. However, the Cīna-s might be playing a comparable hand in the USA (e.g., fentanyl?) with a more indirect enforcement mechanism exploiting the Galtonian edge, which we just talked about. We do not know for sure if the Sackler family was the agent for some other nation or group. The most obvious substance in a modern geopolitical sense is, of course, petroleum. Addiction to it has clearly limited the options for a republic like India and also puts the Hindu nation in danger from the marūnmatta-s. Here India/ the Hindus have opted to play prokaryotes and pay the costs for CRISPR systems rather than go eukaryote and get rid of them. As I have told you before, perhaps conflicts like this stabilized the eukaryotes and allowed their radiation. Then again, like Restriction-Modification, CRISPR, and other such systems, we have defense addiction. Nations that depend on other nations for their weaponry have or will learn it the hard way. Finally, we have that most important form of modern addiction, the penetration of whole nations by addictive in silico financial and service systems run by the navyonmatta technocrats like Guggulu, Mukhagiri-Reṇugirī, Bejha and Jāka-now-talcum-powder. The response of the Occidental regimes backed by these by these most evil forces to the Russian attempt to reconquer Ukraine illustrates the classic enforcement strategy in the addiction process. The Hindu addiction to these is deep, and it is not clear if their leadership even realizes that.

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Phantom impressions-1

Lootika had gotten her kids engaged with the beauty of the connections between multiplication tables, division and geometry. Leaving them to their labors, she went over to Somakhya’s desk to bring him to join her for the afternoon tea. Lootika looked at the cardioid that had formed on the surface of her beverage from the declining sun glancing off her cup with an amused smile. Pointing to that, she remarked: “This is it, dear. An interesting byproduct of teaching our kids some mathematics was that I cracked that mysterious divine riddle of yours:

tanutaḥ svasārau ubhe । kṛṣṇā ca śvetā ca । viṃśatyuttara-sapta-śatam agner mayūkhāḥ । ayam bhājakaḥ । aśvamedhe .aśvasya pārśvāḥ । ayam eva guṇakaḥ । paryeti trayastriṃśatam arān nemiḥ । sarve devās tiṣṭhanti teṣu । āvirbhavati madhye navaḥ ṣaḍguṇo devaḥ kumāraḥ । trayāginā parivṛtaḥ । idaṃ rahasyaṃ devānāṃ jāla-cakram ॥

modulo_epic_34_720

As you stated, it was indeed a profound religious experience to see it manifest — a mysterious emergence at the center of the spider’s web. At once it brought together the realm of numbers with the ribs of the sacrificed aśvamedha horse, the days and nights of the saṃvatsara, and the count of the gods as stated in the operation of the numerical sequence in the Taittirīya śruti, the three-fold Agni, and our family divinity in, the new god, in the center of the web. I was struck by how it tied together the Taittirīya chant of the sequence with its opening ṛk: tvam agne rudro asuro mahodivaḥ । tvaṃ śardho mārutam pṛkṣa īśiṣe …
S: “Spidery, I was sure you would have that experience once you cracked it — as though you were coming to rest in the midst of your own cobweb experiencing a revelation.” Lootika smiled and handed over her phone to Somakhya: “What do you make of this?”

S: “Why? This is a long message from your friend Bhagyada. I’m sure you have given her the memo that, like me, you would rather that people not send you long messages via the written medium with the expectation of a similar-sized response.”
L: “I have, but, in this case, it is a good thing she has recorded it. I think she could not reach me because I was busy with the kids. Read it and say what you think?”

Somakhya read out Bhagyada’s message aloud: You may recall the old traumatic events that I faced beginning with our visit to the dolmens at Siddhakoṭa. I have always tried to keep them out of my head, but my husband was asking me about those events due to some turn in the conversation relating to our impending visit to Kalakausha’s place tomorrow. I had some of those events flashback in my mind in a rather vivid and present manner. Then a strange thing happened — I moved on with my cooking for the day when I saw the image of a Paleolithic-looking chap on the white porcelain tiles of the kitchen wall. His face was obvious and quite clear, but the rest of his brownish body was hazy. I’m pretty sure he was the guy interred under the dolmen at Siddhakoṭa where I was afflicted. My mind immediately flew over to you, Lootika — after all, I would not have made it out of that dolmen had it not been for you and Somakhya.

As you know well, being a good coethnic of yours, I neither drink alcohol nor use hallucinogenic preparations. I’m certainly in decent health these days and taking no psychoactive medication. Hence, the manifestation of that fellow was rather distressing, but it was very real. I was intensely wishing you were around to dispel or bind that grayish-brown chap who was appearing on the wall. Then something even stranger happened. As I kept thinking of you, I saw you briefly in a room busy with your kids! But that vision went blank right away, and I saw an image of myself bouncing off the kitchen walls as though I was out of my own body. The dark chap went after those images of mine. Frightened by this, I switched off the stove and went to the bedroom and pulled out that inlaid stone disc you had given me. I again very briefly felt that I was with you, and I saw the dolmen guy being flung into the sky. Suddenly a calm came over me, and the everyday mundane world returned.

L: “So what do you think, Bhārgava?” S: “Your defenses are good and nearly impenetrable, susmeratā. You would certainly recall how I had performed a parakāyapraveśa to enter you during those tumultuous days when we had gone our solitary ways. I have done it a few times with others, but you were the hardest to seize both due to your svabhāva and mantra-s. I was rebuffed several times bounced off, and indeed I saw myself bouncing off the walls of my room and yours like a projected image. Finally, though captivated and lost in the splendid charms of your beauty as you lay on your mattress, I hardened myself to perform a stambhana, paralyzing your defenses, like Vīrabhadra the gods. After that, I took control of you. I believe your friend underwent one of those mysterious translocations and was subconsciously impressing on you, but your strong defenses bounced her off and then the dolmen-dweller as he followed her to you!”

L: “Ah! So, we indeed converge in our interpretation of this curiosity. If you recall, when we were young, we needed some especially susceptible people for phantoms to manifest when we plied the planchette — Bhagya and Vidrum were among the best. When it was just our inner circle, the success would be much less barring some special bhūta-s and vetāla-s that would seek us out. I was always struck by the ease with which Bhagya would perceive bhūta-s. Once, when my sisters and I were plying the planchette along with Bhagya, a bhūta manifested that tried to speak to Varoli. Neither Varoli nor the remaining three of us sisters noticed it, but Bhagya did. At first, we thought she was uncharacteristically pulling a fast one on us. However, conversing with it via her we were convinced of its reality after the bhūta answered some secret questions whose answers only my sisters and I could have ever known.”

S: “It is interesting you mention this because I believe it goes along with another phenomenon that I would term the capacity for easy “delocalization”. As you know, Bhagya used to live near my house in our youth and her mother knows mine well. In the days before you joined our school, her mother used to bring her over for help with schoolwork once in a while. One day her mother had brought her over for help with some problems in chemistry. I was not at home, having gone with Sharvamanyu to explore a deep fissure on the side of the Vānaraparvata. When I returned, she asked me if I had seen a snake in a hole beside one of the walls of the fissure. I was shocked as to how she knew of this. I was pretty sure she was not shadowing us as we were wandering around in the hills. What she said surprised me. She was bored sitting at my place waiting for me to come home and wondered where I might be. At that point, she apparently caught a few fragments of my conversation with Sharvamanyu on our way back home that contained the mention of the snake. You would recall that the path where Sharvamanyu’s way would diverge from mine was about a kilometer from my house – remarkably, we did speak about the snake just before we parted. There is no way she could have heard that directly from within my house — it seemed more of a delocalized impression.”

L: “That’s fairly notable — I believe in the current incident, we can see elements of both her facility for delocalization and proclivity for phantasmagorical impressions. I think the intense focus on the traumatic experiences following her encounter with the dolmen-dweller delocalized her to his orbit, and he followed her. Then she seems to have delocalized twice to my vicinity as she intensely thought of me, though I never perceived any presence at all. This caused the dolmen-man to follow her image, and he was bounced off by my defenses. We learned early that while we have a capacity from our mantra-s and svabhāva to bring down or bind the bhūta-s, we have to develop strong defenses to survive their impact. Hence, most of the time it comes at the cost of our ability to interact with them directly. It is in a sense the converse with Bhagya and Vidrum who tend to have that svābhāvika capacity to sense them but little by way of defense.”

S: “There seems to be a spectrum in that svābhāvika capacity, which may have some genetic foundations. This genetic component has long been observed among students of ghostly lore throughout the world across very different cultures. However, it has been mostly forgotten with modernism despite the advances in our understanding of genetics. Indeed, that may be true even of you and your sisters who have a certain controlled capacity for delocalized perception when deploying the mantra-s of the Vāmasrotas for which you have a siddhi of the svāyambhuva type. I’m particularly intrigued by your sister Vrishchika’s investigations that one determinants might be certain polymorphisms in some of the variable cadherin domain modules of the PCDHA1 cluster of proteins. But phantasms can manifest even among those not normally prone to being impressed by them. We know the case of Vidrum’s aunt Vaidoorya, who had only one impression, even as Vidrum routinely saw them as part of his daily reality. You would also recall the unfortunate example experienced by my cousin Saumanasa of most prosaic temperament [Appendix]. Before that experience, had she heard of our many adventures, like Vidrum’s aunt, she would have happily paid to have us examined by a modern “evidence-based” psychiatrist. As far as we know, her experience is so far a solitary one. At the other end of the spectrum, we have guys like a Polish man named Ossowiecki who had some svābhāvika magical capacity, which he honed after meeting with a Russian Jewish man who had lived in India for a while and acquired his capacity from some unknown Hindu magicians. In 1925 CE, he was said to have been given a lump of mud scooped up from the basement of the pretālaya of Praxeda. The Pole was apparently told nothing about the mud, but on taking it in his hands and focusing, he described a vision he had of a shrine where men and women had gathered to sing as part of some ceremony. He described it as a single-story white building that was then suddenly destroyed. He also apparently stated that the mud he was given was from that shrine and seemed to be from deep down in the cellars. It so happened that the shrine was a Roman temple of Mithra that had been demolished by the preta-sādhaka-s, and the said pretālaya was built atop its ruins. This and several other incidents suggested that he was able to delocalize both in space and time and on occasion others might experience his delocalized manifestations.”

L: “I would also link this to the variation observed in the hypnogogic, hypnopompic and dream experiences of people. Those who tend to see dream solutions for problems seem to have a greater propensity for the direct phantasmagorical experience — this is consistent with us not solving problems in the dream. People who tend to see geometric or previously known images in their hypnagogia or hypnopompia tend to be less prone to experiencing phantasms. On the other hand, those who tend to see persistent photo-realistic faces or whole bodies of unknown people tend to be more prone to direct phantasmic experience. One could even say that natural selection seems to have generally acted in the direction of suppressing this capacity, even as it does to excessive mathematical genius or synesthesia. Indeed, more generally, it seems selection shapes the senses not necessarily towards what is veridical but what enhances fitness. There are other indications that this biological or genetic component might also manifest in more tangible ways. For example, Vrishchika has told me of the dangers of unmanaged empathy for a medical practitioner. She said there is a tendency to slide towards two extremes. The student physician might acquire a certain type of involved or affective empathy wherein they have a participatory sense in the patient’s suffering. This ends up deeply affecting them such that they usually evolve along either of two pathways. In the first, they suffer some type of post-traumatic stress disorder that pushes them to crash out. In the other, they gain a shell that cuts off all concern for the patient. It may drive them towards psychopathy or a sense of omnipotence that only damages the patient. Due to this, it is not uncommon for a patient to complain that the physician with a fancy education is no good compared to a lesser-educated one who has some other magic ingredient. After an initial struggle, Vrishchika told me that it suddenly clicked that the best spot to be in was no different from the well-defended but completely aware position we have cultivated regarding the bhūta-s and vetāla-s. With that in place, she was able to develop a state of detached empathy, where she can feel committed to alleviating the torture and death without those impressing on her like a bhūta. It was in the course of trying to decipher that she initiated that Protocadherin locus study.”

At that point, they were done with their afternoon break and returned to their respective duties.

Appendix: Saumanasa’s tale
Saumanasa once frantically contacted her cousin Somakhya and his wife Lootika to tell them about a strange experience. Her narration ran thus: Dear Somakhya, I hope you would not consider me as having lost sanity or hallucinating. I would have said that to anyone who told me something like what I experienced. However, our cousin Charuchitra told me that, if anyone, I must speak to you and your wife. I was editing a manuscript in my office in morning of the 12th of Bhādra (Kīlaka) and was to meet with my student in about 20 minutes. I suddenly heard a loud noise as though something heavy had crashed into my office. It repeated thrice. I was alarmed and came out into my lab to see if something heavy was smashing into the walls. To my surprise, I saw no one showing the slightest reaction, and my students were quietly proceeding with their work as though nothing had happened. I asked if they had heard something. All of them said no and looked at me a bit surprised. Just then, one of them remarked loudly “Wow, what’s that?” pointing to something behind me. I, too, felt as if someone had just passed behind me. But my student quickly withdrew her statement, saying: “It must have been a power fluctuation — maybe it just made your office lights flash brightly.” I went back into my office feeling something was amiss. As I sat in my chair, I vividly saw the image of my student who was to meet with me as if printed out of silvery gossamer. But there was something strange — the top of her head was indistinct and smudged out. I clearly heard her voice saying: “I’m sorry I cannot give you the sequences.” It repeated itself a few times after the vision died out, and the whole place went quiet. I thought it must be because I did not have my fix of coffee as the machine was broken. The time for the appointment came, and my student did not come. Annoyed, I sent her an email and then a message that she should come right away. Later that afternoon, I heard she had died just before our meeting. As she was coming into the campus, she was confronted by another woman over their competing interest in a male. That woman then repeatedly shot her in the head from close quarters. She was to have come with some ancient DNA sequences to discuss the same with me.

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A note on Śrī, Viṣṇu and śṛṅgāra

yaḥ pūrvyāya vedhase navīyase
sumaj-jānaye viṣṇave dadāśati ।
yo jātam asya mahato mahi bravat
sed u śravobhir yujyaṃ cid abhy asat ॥ RV 1.156.2
Whoever repeatedly performs rituals to the wise one
to the ancient and the new one, Viṣṇu, along with his consort,
whoever speaks of the great birth of the great [god],
he alone will surpass his peer in glory.

While the aspect of the Viṣṇu as a manly warrior of great might (like as the suppressor of the malignant wolf) is well-expressed in his cognates from more than one branch of the Indo-European tradition (going by extant material), his fertility and erotic aspects are less-known. By the latter, we are not referring to the prominent reflexes of these seen in the Kārṣṇi cult of the Sāttvata branch of the religion but to those pertaining to the form of the deity in the mainstream of the Indo-Aryan religion. These aspects are already alluded to in the Ṛgveda itself. For example, with regard to his role in fertility, we have:

saptārdhagarbhā bhuvanasya reto viṣṇos tiṣṭhanti pradiśā vidharmaṇi । RV1.164.36ab
The seven embryos of the world-hemispheres, the semen of the universe,
stand in the expanding space by the institutes of Viṣṇu.

viṣṇur yoniṃ kalpayatu । RV 10.184.1a
Viṣṇu prepares the womb. (An incantation that is used in the main Hindu fertility ritual of garbhādhāna)

The above mantra-s present the function of Viṣṇu in preparing the womb for the embryos both in the cosmic (in relation to Dyaus and Pṛthivī or the world hemispheres) and the human realms. The god’s famous name Śipiviṣṭa that is used by Vasiṣṭha in RV 7.99 and 7.100 ties together his erotic and fertility aspects. The fertility aspect of Viṣṇu under this name is remembered down to Bhāgavata from the late Paurāṇika stratum, wherein we hear of the brāhmaṇa-s performing a rite for the king of Aṅga to bear a son:

iti vyavasitā viprās tasya rājñaḥ prajātaye ।
puroḍāśaṁ niravapan śipiviṣṭāya viṣṇave ॥ Bh 4.13.35
Having decided thus, the vipra-s offered a cake to Viṣṇu Śipiviṣṭa for the sake of progeny for that king.

Finally, we may also note Viṣṇu’s association with a retinue of consort goddesses in the RV:

viṣṇuṃ stomāsaḥ purudasmam arkā
bhagasyeva kāriṇo yāmani gman ।
urukramaḥ kakuho yasya pūrvīr
na mardhanti yuvatayo janitrīḥ ॥
To Viṣṇu of many marvels the songs and chants
have gone, like singers on the road of Bhaga.
The wide-striding bull whose followers are many [goddesses];
The youthful mother goddesses never forsake him.

In the tāntrika tradition straddling the border of Pāñcarātra and Śaiva sects, the Śipiviṣṭa aspect of Viṣṇu is made explicit in the iconography of his erotic form Māyāvāmana. The erotic aspect of Viṣṇu and Śrī is also inherited by the smārta Śrikula tradition (recorded in the Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa), where a lay devotee couple might recite an incantation to Viṣṇu and his consort Śrī so that their coitus might become an act of kaula offering. The existence of a now extinct vaiṣṇava tāntrika tradition with erotic rituals paralleling those of the śaiva yāmala tantra-s and bauddha-s of the vajrayāna stream is indicated by the bauddha commentator Ānandagarbha, who in his commentary on the Guhyasamāja-tantra tries to explain why the Buddha expounded this tantra while in coitus with the Buddha-yoṣit-s. He remarkably states that this was done to draw away the worshipers of Viṣṇu to the bauddha-mata. He goes on to state those vaiṣṇava-s worshiped Viṣṇu (the etymologies he provides makes it clear that he is not referring to a Kārṣṇi cult) via erotic pleasure-giving rituals. Thus it appears that the bauddha-s were themselves mimicking a tāntrika vaiṣṇava tradition and trying to justify their own rituals within a “conversion” framework.

Reflexes of the ancient erotic aspect of Viṣṇu also find considerable expression in classical kāvya. In the rest of this note, we provide some examples culled from various anthologies where Śrī or Viṣṇu are invoked in the context of their erotic sports.

kiñjalka-rājir iva nīla-saroja-lagnā
lekheva kāñcana-mayī nikaṣopala-sthā 
saudāminī jalada-maṇḍala-gāminīva ।
pāyād uraḥ sthala-gatā kamalā murāreḥ ॥ (Vasantatilakā)
Like an array of pistils clinging to a blue waterlily,
like the streaks of gold marking a touchstone,
like lightning flashing against a mass of rain clouds,
May Kamalā lying on the chest of Murāri protect us.

kiṃ yuktaṃ bata mām ananya-manasaṃ vakṣaḥ-sthala-sthāyinīṃ
bhaktām apy avadhūya kartum adhunā kāntā-sahasraṃ tava ।
ity uktvā phaṇa-bhṛt-phaṇā-maṇi-gatāṃ svām eva matvā tanuṃ
nidrāc chedakaraṃ harer avatu vo lakṣmyā vilakṣa-smitam ॥ (Śārdūlavikrīḍita; attributed to Bhāsa)
“Why, alas, is it appropriate that, abandoning me who single-mindedly lies on your chest
full of attachment, you now take a thousand others as your wives?”
She said so, taking the [reflections] of her own body in the gems borne on the serpent’s hoods.
May that embarrassed smile of Lakṣmī that broke the sleep of Hari protect you!

This verse potentially plays on the multiplicity of consorts, already alluded to in the RV, being reflections of the singular Śrī.

keli-calāṅguli-lambhita-lakṣmī-nābhir-mura-dviṣaś caraṇaḥ ।
sa jayati yena kṛtā śrīr anurūpā padmanābhasya ॥ (Āryā)
The toe of the foot of Mura’s foe playfully tickled the navel of Lakṣmī;
victorious is that which makes Śrī a suitable wife of lotus-naveled one.

Here a pun is played on Viṣṇu being Padmanābha — lotus-naveled — and also having lotus feet. By tickling Śrī on her navel with his toe, he has also made her “Padmanābhā” and thereby a suitable female counterpart of his.

kaca-kuca-cubukāgre pāṇiṣu vyāpṛteṣu
prathama-jaladhi-putrī-saṃgame .anaṅga-dhāmni ।
grathita-nibiḍa-nīvī-bandha-nirmocanārtha
caturādhika-karāśaḥ pātu vaś cakra-pāṇiḥ ॥ (Mālinī)
With her hair, breasts and chin-tip engaged in his hands,
in the first erotic congress with the ocean’s daughter,
may the wheel-bearer wishing for more arms than four,
for untying the tightly fastened knot of her skirt, protect you!

uttiṣṭhantyā ratānte bharam uraga-patau pāṇinaikena kṛtvā
dhṛtvā cānyena vāso vigalita-kabarī-bhāram aṃśaṃ vahantyāḥ ।
bhūyas tat-kāla-kānti-dviguṇita-surata-prītinā śauriṇā vaḥ
śayyām ālambya nītaṃ vapur alasa-lasad-bāhu lakṣmyāḥ punātu ॥
(Sragdharā; attributed to Vararuci)
Raising herself at the end of coition by holding on to the serpent-lord with one hand,
bearing her garment in the other, with her mass of heavy disheveled tresses on her shoulder
But again, with the beauty of her form doubling his desire for love, Śaurin pulls her back
to the couch. May the body of Lakṣmī with her indolently embracing arms purify you.

lakṣmyāḥ keśa-prasava-rajasāṃ bindubhiḥ sāndra-pātair
udvarṇa-śrīr ghana-nidhuvana-klānti-nidrāntareṣu ।
dor-daṇḍo ‘sau jayati jayinaḥ śārṅgiṇo mandarādri-
grāva-śreṇi-nikaṣam asṛṇa-kṣuṇṇa-keyūra-patraḥ ॥ (Mandākrāntā, attributed to certain śrī Bhagīratha)
With the droplets of pollen falling thickly from the flowers in Lakṣmī’s hair,
brightly decorating it as he wearily sleeps in between intense erotic sports [with her],
may that cudgel-like arm of the conquering wielder of the Śārṅga bow, be victorious,
for whose irresistible polished armband the rocky array of mount Mandara was the touchstone.

The above is an allusion to the incarnation of Viṣṇu as the gigantic turtle bearing the axial Mandara mountain during the churning of the ocean.

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Are civilizational cycles the norm?

Nearly two and half decades back, we used to have several conversations with a late śūlapuruṣīya professor, mostly on topics with a biological angle. While not a mathematician, he had a passing interest in dynamical systems, for he felt that they held the clues to great secrets of biology. We, too, were interested in dynamical systems for the lessons they offered at a certain abstract level that went beyond biology — as far as biology was concerned, we are of the firm opinion that there is no substitute to understanding its actual molecular details and no amount of mathematics can fill in for insight from that domain. Once, while chatting more generally, the śūlapuruṣīya professor was piqued by our interest in the ideas of his compatriot Oswald Spengler. He confessed that though they were no longer popular in academic circles, he too had a deep interest in Spengler’s ideas. Our śūlapuruṣīya professor had a friend who had (then) recently died, a mahāmleccha professor of upari-śūlapuruṣīya extraction, who in life was a deep student of macroevolution although little known outside his circles — precisely the kind of personality who would be buried in the current mleccha Zeitgeist. That dead professor, in turn, was close to a remarkable Russian of several talents — an evolutionist, an adventurer, an author of fiction and a prognosticator. Our late śūlapuruṣīya professor was in possession of a discussion on Oswald Spengler and related matters between the upari-śūlapuruṣa and the Rus, with the former taking the view that ultimately Spengler was right in his broad account on the life-history of civilizations. The Rus, in contrast, had a peculiar view that our śūlapuruṣa was puzzled by but knew little about. He correctly realized we might be the best to take a look at that.

In the exchange with the upari-śūlapuruṣa the Rus had said that inspired by his readings of Hindu lore, he believed that all civilizations would go through cycles, large and small, rising and falling with some quasi-periodicity. We were amused to see that he had explicitly stated we were verily in the Kaliyuga whose terminal days would see a decline and collapse of civilizations across the globe. Our śūlapuruṣīya professor remarked that people could have felt like that in every age; thus, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy with little reality to it. Nevertheless, he stated that the Spenglerian termination would by no means be pleasant either, and the question remains of what comes after that? He wished us to present our views on this topic. He had a vague sense that perhaps unbroken civilizations, such as those we came from, might have different memories than those of the Occident. We mentioned to him that indeed many civilizations of the old world had the concept of the end of times, which had been borrowed by the Abrahamists and incorporated into their own framework. However, our tradition had a concept of many cycles of existence, yuga-s and kalpa-s, with things going up and down, which is unique in terms of its time scale and detail. In our teens, we wondered about this peculiarity of our tradition and felt it might represent an inductive projection from a long-lasting tradition that had memories of cycles of booms and busts.

The average human life is long enough to see change in course of it but is too short relative to the existence of a species to place this change in the context of historical time. Thus, it is not surprising if the lifetime experience tilts one towards a unidirectional view of change. This not only affects an individual but a whole civilization if it has a short tradition. Indeed, the ascendant Occident might be viewed as a civilization with such an abbreviated tradition. Hence, there is a stronger tendency to view civilizational dynamics as a simplex and an insistence that growth is forever in some quarters. Even if someone were to see through this, it sometimes benefits them to maintain the lie because, in the least, it deflects the frustration of the masses away from them if the yuga was indeed on an avasarpiṇi course. In contrast, a civilization with a long tradition might see the risings and fallings of civilization to be a natural process — something which is unavoidable even if one were to swim against the tide desperately. One could say that Hindus have existed in such a state for a while. The notable feature of the Hindu model is its scale — going hand in hand with the much-maligned Hindu love for big numbers, the cycles are said to span huge temporal registers. This is closely intertwined with the Hindu mathematical approach to astronomy (going back to the śruti), wherein cycle synchronizations using solutions to indeterminate equations play an important role. Thus, it admits the space for the perception gained over a human lifespan being a misreading of the real trend of the slowly plodding yuga.

However, we kept wondering if such cyclicity should really be the norm of civilizational existence, especially when so many so-called intellectuals from the modern Occident kept assuring us that a great future of eternal progress was what we should look forward to. We were well conversant with the logistic growth curve; hence, we knew that such a dream was ultimately delusional. However, the scale was not clear — were we in the early stage where growth can be close to exponential, or were we nearing the inflection towards the eternal plateau. We did realize that certain resources, like energy, which were fueling our growing frenzy, were finite; hence, once they were exhausted, we would have to simplify. Finally, works like that of Tainter, which we have discussed before, indicated that civilizational collapse was the norm. Hence, the same could befall us. The most profound impact in this regard came in the 16th year of our life from our learning of the 2D cellular automaton of Ulam, the original investigator of cellular automata (CA). We had explored several CA before and after this period, which yielded deep insights germane to the topic under discussion. However, here we shall limit ourselves the classical Ulamian automaton, which offers useful insights, despite its extreme simplicity. After that study, we have been rather convinced that chaotic civilizational cycling, albeit with some predictable features, is unavoidable. We gave a demonstration and an account of the same to our śūlapuruṣīya professor, and it seemed to excite him greatly. We must reiterate that this is only a demonstration of an analogy, not a proof of anything. However, such dynamics with the simplest of rules lead us to conjecture that is also true of the more complex systems of everyday life, although with different parameters.

The Ulamian CA is played on a 2D grid with each cell in it capable of assuming 2 states, either 0 or 1 (shown below as red and blue). The system can be represented by a square matrix M whose elements are either 0 or 1. The state of each cell in the subsequent step is dependent on the states in a neighborhood of 5, i.e., the cell itself M[j,k] and its 4 neighbors as shown below (M[j-1,k], M[j+1,k], M[j,k-1], M[j, k+1]). The rule for assigning the state of a given cell in step n+1 is: if the sum of a cell’s neighborhood is even (0, 2, 4), the cell is 0; if the sum of the neighborhood of a cell is odd (1, 3, 5) is it 1.

Ulam_neighborhood

The neighborhood for the Ulamian CA; the value of the neighborhood is 2 in this case

Thus, the simple system is balanced — there is an equal number of neighborhood states that can lead to it being 0 or 1. It allows for “autocatalytic” conversion, i.e., single 1 cell to convert its neighbors in an outward growth at the same time it has inbuilt inhibition of crowding by setting the even neighborhoods to 0. Hence, it may be seen as capturing some of the basics of processes seen in life or structure like a civilization that grows by the expansion of its units.

2Dauto_129_animation

Figure 1. The Ulamian CA on an infinite planar grid

2Dauto_129_1Figure 2. The first 65 steps of the Ulamian CA on an infinite grid

The CA can be played on an infinite planar grid or a finite torus. We first consider the former case by initializing it with a single 1 cell at n=1 and playing it till n=65. This is shown as an animation in Figure 1 and statically in Figure 2. Above the CA, we show 2 numbers; the one to the left is the step n; the one to the right is the total number of cells in state 1 at that step. The latter gives rise to the below sequence (graphically depicted in the top panel of Figure 3):

1, 5, 5, 17, 5, 25, 17, 61, 5, 25, 25, 85, 17, 85, 61, 217, 5, 25, 25, 85, 25, 125, 85, 305, 17, 85, 85, 289, 61, 305, 217, 773, 5, 25, 25, 85, 25, 125, 85, 305, 25, 125, 125, 425, 85, 425, 305, 1085, 17, 85, 85, 289, 85, 425, 289, 1037, 61, 305, 305, 1037, 217, 1085, 773, 2753, 5 …

2Dauto_129_entropy_evolutionFigure 3. Number of 1 cells and entropy in the evolution of the Ulamian CA on an infinite grid

One observes that new “big” maxima (Figure 3) are attained at steps equal to powers of 2: 1, 5, 17, 61, 217, 773, 2753, 9805, 34921, 124373, 442961, 1577629… that are followed by minima of value 5. The value at the step just before the 2^k maxima is the same as the value at the 2^{k-1} step. The value at step 2 before the 2^k step is 5\times the value at 2^{k-2} step. We had discovered that the ratios of successive pairs of these values are convergents of the positive root of the polynomial x^2-3x-2; x= \tfrac{3+\sqrt{17}}{2}. Thus, the values at the 2^{k} steps define a Nārāyaṇa type Meru sequence that can be generated by the following recurrence formula: f[n] = 3f[n-1] + 2f[n-2], where f[1]=1; f[2]=5.

Further, from the above relationships we obtained a closed form for the above sequence of the total number of cells with value 1 in the Ulamian CA:
$f[1]=1; f[2k-1]=f[k]; f[4k-2]=5f[k]; f[4k]=3f[4k-1]+2f[4k-3]$

2Dauto_513_evolutionFigure 4. The number of 1 cells in the evolution of the Ulamian CA to 513 steps

Thus, we can compute the number of 1 cells of the CA on an infinite grid at any step without actually having to run it (Figure 4). This shows us that this sequence has a fractal structure with cycles of length 2^{k+1}-2^k and more detail being added at each successive interval (2^k, 2^{k+1}). As we noted above, the values attained in each cycle are intimately linked to the constant \tfrac{3+\sqrt{17}}{2}. In the middle of each cycle, we have a local peak located a 3 \times 2^{k-1}. The ratio of the 2^{k+1} peak to this mid-cycle peak at step 3 \times 2^{k-1} is \tfrac{(3+\sqrt{17})^2}{20}= \tfrac{13 + 3 \sqrt{17}}{10}. The balance between the conditions producing 0 and 1 states results in a predictable but intrinsic boom and bust cycle with booms at 2^k, 3 \times 2^{k-1} and the busts at the step immediately after the boom. This shows that even though infinite space for growth is available, the balance between growth and death from local crowding can lead to cycling in a population modeled by such an Ulamian CA. We can use Shannon’s entropy to measure the complexity of the structure of the pattern formed by the CA. Given that the CA is initiated from a central cell, it is symmetric in the 4 quadrants; hence, we only need to look at one quadrant. There we look at all possible 5 letter words (32 possible words) formed by the 2-letter alphabet (i.e., 1, 0) that are formed as the CA evolves and measure the Shannon entropy in terms of these 5 letter words (bottom panel of Figure 3). We find that the complexity of the CA at a given step as measured by entropy tracks its growth — when it attains maximal occupancy (in terms of 1 cells) it also has the highest complexity and vice versa.

2Dauto_37_animationFigure 5. First 300 steps in the evolution of the Ulamian CA on a torus of circumferences of 37

2Dauto_37_12Dauto_37_22Dauto_37_3Figure 6. First 300 steps in the evolution of the Ulamian CA on a torus of circumferences of 37

A more interesting situation arises when we play the automaton on a finite torus (Figure 5 shows an animation on a torus flattened out as a 37 \times 37 square; Figure 6 shows statics of the same). Here we notice that by step 19 the circumferences of the torus are spanned, and the CA starts “folding” on itself. As a result, the CA’s dynamics are chaotic beyond this point. There are no longer predictable great booms at step 2^k (the step 2^k is always a high value, though not the highest). However, the bust at step 2^k+1 predictably continues to be the greatest. There are several other busts of different magnitude. However, there is a significant tendency for one to occur at 32k+1. If we let the CA to evolve to 1100 steps (Figure 7, top panel), we can see that there are also certain significant “golden ages” where relatively high occupancy (1 cells) is maintained over a large number of steps. For the CA on the torus, its complexity at a given step defined by Shannon entropy in 5-letter words becomes a good measure (Figure 7, bottom panel). While generally recapitulating occupancy, it tends to be more stable to the fluctuation in the number of 1 cells. Tracking entropy, we see that after the deep bust of step 897 (the 28th 32k+1 event), there is a “lean patch” and some volatility that lasts till step 905. After this, a great golden age is seen with high complexity and occupancy till the predictable wipe out of step 2^{10}+1=1025. In the interim there are only 3 minor dips and a remarkable passage through 993=32\times 31+1 with hardly a dip. There are likewise “dark ages”. For example, from the great bust of step 1025 to step 1059, low complexity states dominate the landscape with quick reversals of high complexity states by busts in the next step.

2Dauto_37_entropy_evolutionFigure 7. Number of 1 cells and entropy in the evolution of the Ulamian CA on a torus for 1100 steps

Thus, the Ulamian CA played on a torus captures key features of real-world populations in a very simple way: The rules of the CA establish the need for preexisting founders for growth as well as a local effect of death from over-crowding. The torus mimics the finiteness of resources or space for growth. Thus, after reaching the maximal circumference, the populations have to fold onto themselves, which on one hand can allow more complexity by fostering a greater diversity of local configurations and, on the other, cause overcrowding leading to a bust. Thus, when we first watched the Ulamian CA play out on our computer screen, we realized that civilizational cycles are likely to be inevitable — both in terms of population density and complexity of organization. It also told us that, in qualitative terms, the cycles would be chaotic; however, there would be certain statistically predictable elements. This brings to mind a popular adage: “History may not repeat itself. But it rhymes (pseudo-Mark Twain).” It also offered us three key insights regarding the complexity of civilizations. First, high densities can only be sustained via structural complexification — an approximation of fractal organization. Second, there is usually close to maximal complexity before a great bust — the end is usually sudden. Third, the maintenance of a protracted golden age goes with constant reconfigurations of high complexity states, i.e., there is no stable high complexity convergence. So the golden ages are not marked by a single stable state but a constant churn that results in a certain quasi-fractal complexity being maintained without tipping over to collapse from overcrowding and loss of that fractality. This again reminds one of the ideas of authors like Tainter, who have closely studied civilizational collapse — there is increasing complexification followed by a collapse.

Real population and civilizations are way more complex in their specifics than a 2D automaton operating under simple rules. Yet, our intuition is that if a system with the simplest of assumptions to capture growth and local resource competition can produce great complexity of behavior, then the same should be expected of a more parameterized system. Among other things, the various specifics can be seen as vectors acting in different directions and canceling out each other. Thus, it leaves us with the relatively simple inescapables — just as population dynamics and life-history can be modeled by simple equations like the logistic curve even though the actual elements contributing to the r, K parameters are of immense biological complexity. Moreover, while these vectors might cancel each other, their multiplicity means that the evolution of the system is likely sensitive to initial conditions leading to chaotic dynamics. Hence, while the simple Ulamian automaton is unlikely to be a specific model of civilizational cycles, it is likely to be a realistic picture of its general patterns. Thus, we were left with an appreciation of the inevitability of civilizational cycling and skepticism for the ideas of eternal growth and utopianism which are prevalent in the Occidental academe.

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On the rise of the mātṛkā-s and the goddess Cāmuṇḍā

The roots of the mātṛkā-s in the śruti and the Kaumāra tradition
The standard list of 7/8 goddesses known as the mātṛkā-s is a hallmark feature of the classical religion: Brāhmī, Māheśvarī, Kaumārī, Vaiṣṇavī, Vārāhī, Indrāṇī, Cāmuṇḍā, sometimes with the central Caṇḍikā (Mahālakṣmī), to make a list of 8. Most of them are the female counterparts of the prominent gods of the classical pantheon. These goddesses have a relatively constant iconography throughout the Indosphere, starting from the Gupta age. Despite this relatively late arrival on the iconographic landscape, they have deep roots going back to the ancestral Indo-European religion and its earliest Indo-Aryan manifestation. Right in the Ṛgveda, we have the incantations for the Patnī-saṃyāja or the worship of the goddesses at the Gārhapatya altar (e.g., RV 2.32.4-8; RV 5.46.7-8), along with Agni Gṛhapati. Similar ṛk-s are also seen in the Atharvavedic tradition. Three types of goddesses can be discerned in these incantations: 1) The great trans-functional goddess of proto-Indo-European provenance, Sarasvatī; 2) The deva-patnī-s or the wives/female counterparts of the gods; 3) The “lunar goddesses”, Kuhū (Guṅgū), Sinīvālī, Rākā, Anumatī. Below we provide an Atharvavedic version of these incantations (the subset which is found in RV is effectively the equivalently).

yā rākā yā sinīvālī yā guṅgūr yā sarasvatī ।
indrāṇīm ahva ūtaye varuṇānīṃ svastaye ॥
I call she who is, Sinīvālī, who is Guṅgū, who is Rākā, who is Sarasvatī, for my aid I call Indrāṇī, and Varuṇāṇī for my well-being.

sinīvālīm anumatīṃ rākāṃ guṅgūṃ sarasvatīm ।
devānāṃ patnīr yā devī indrāṇīm avase huve ॥
I invoke for protection Sinīvālī, Anumatī, Rākā, Guṅgū, and Sarasvatī, the wives of the gods, and she who is the goddess Indrāṇī.

senāsi pṛthivī dhanaṃjayā aditir viśvarūpā sūryatvak ।
indrāṇī prāṣāṭ saṃjayantī tasyai ta enā haviṣā vidhema ॥
You are Senā (the goddess of the divine army), the Earth, the conqueress of wealth, Aditi, multiformed, and sun-skinned. O Indrāṇī, [for you] the prāṣāṭ call, O all-conquering one; we pay homage to her with this offering.

uta gnā vyantu devapatnīr indrāṇya1 gnāyy aśvinī rāṭ ।
ā rodasī varuṇānī śṛṇotu vyantu devīr ya ṛtur janīnām ॥
May the goddesses, the wives of the gods, come, Indrāṇī, Aśvinī, Agnāyi, and the Queen. May Rodasī [wife of the Marut-s] and Varuṇāṇī hear us, and the goddesses come to the ritual of the mothers.

yā viśpatnīndram asi pratīcī sahasra-stukābhiyantī devī ।
viṣṇoḥ patni tubhyaṃ rātā havīṃṣi patiṃ devi rādhase codayasva ॥
The Queen of the folks, you are Indra’s equal, the goddess with a thousand tresses, coming to us. O wife of Viṣṇu, to you, these offerings [are] made. O goddess, urge your husband to be liberal [towards us].

indrANI_Nepalian

A five-headed Indrāṇī from a Nepalian mātṛkā-pūjā manuscript

Of these goddesses, Indrāṇī and Viṣṇupatnī (Vaiṣṇavī) are featured in most classic mātṛkā lists of the later religion. Another goddess from the classical mātṛkā list, Rudrāṇī, is seen in yajuṣ incantations of the Taittirīya and Kaṭha schools of the Kṛṣṇa-yajurveda. The goddess Senā is associated with the divine army. In the Kṛṣṇa-Yajurvedic Kaṭha and Maitrāyaṇi schools, Senā identified with Indrāṇī: indrāṇyai caruṃ nirvapet senāyām uttiṣṭhantyām । sénā vā indrāṇī । This association continues in the late Yajurvedic incantation known as the Āyuṣya-sūkta (Bodhāyana-mantra-praśna), where the same goddess is explicitly termed Indrasenā. In later tradition, she is seen as the wife of Skanda (Devasenā), who is also mentioned in the Āyuṣya-sūkta by her other name Ṣaṣṭhī.

A persistent pattern in these Vedic rituals is the presence of a single male god accompanying a cluster of goddesses. As noted above, Agni Gṛhapati is the single male deity who accompanies the goddesses receiving offerings in the Patnī-saṃyāja. The RV also repeatedly states that the wives of the gods arrive at the ritual accompanied by the god Tvaṣṭṛ (RV 1.22.9; 1.161.4; 2.31.4; 2.36.3; 6.50.13; 7.34.20; 7.34.22; 7.35.6; 10.18.6; 10.64.10; 10.66.3) Additionally, in the Taittirīya school we have two versions of the Devikā oblations. In the first of them, the god Tvaṣṭṛ accompanies the goddesses Sarasvatī and Sinīvālī. In the second, the god Dhātṛ (a later ectype of Tvaṣṭṛ [Footnote 1]) is invoked together with the goddesses Aditi, Anumatī, Rākā, Sinīvālī and Guṅgū. This pattern may be seen as analogous to the usual situation, wherein several male gods associated with different functions are spanned by a single transfunctional goddess — Sarasvatī [Footnote 2]. Here, a single male generative deity is associated with a multi-functional cluster of goddesses who actualize the dormant generative capacity of the former. While the Patnī-saṃyāja associated with the Śulagava ritual of the Śukla-yajurveda invokes the goddesses with Agni Gṛhapati as usual, it presents a unique set of them (Pāraskara-Gṛhya-Sūtra 3.8):

śūlagavaḥ ।
The impaled bull [sacrifice]

svargyaḥ paśavyaḥ putryo dhanyo yaśasya āyuṣyaḥ ।
It procures heaven, cattle, sons, riches, renown, long life.

aupāsanam araṇyaṃ hṛtvā vitānaṃ sādhayitvā raudraṃ paśum ālabheta ।
Having taken the aupāsana fire to the forest, and having performed the spreading [of grass], he should obtain the animal for Rudra.

sāṇḍam ।
With testicles (i.e., not castrated)

gaur vā śabdāt ।
Or a cow as the name [of the ritual specifies]

vapāṃ śrapayitvā sthālīpākam avadānāni ca rudrāya vapām antarikṣāya vasāṃ sthālīpāka-miśrānyavadānāni juhoty agnaye rudrāya śarvāya paśupataye ugrāyāśanaye bhavāya mahādevāyeśānāyeti ca ।
Having cooked the omentum, a plate of rice, and the cuts from [the victim], he offers the omentum to Rudra, the fat to the atmosphere, and the cuts of meat with the rice to Agni, Rudra, Śarva, Paśupati, Ugra, Aśani, Bhava, Mahādeva and Īśāna.

vanaspatiḥ ।
The Vanaspati (offering to the sacrificial post is made).

sviṣṭakṛd ante ।
At the end [offerings are made to Agni] Sviṣṭakṛt.

dig vyāghāraṇam ।
Then the sprinkling to the directions [is performed].

vyāghāraṇānte patnīḥ saṃyājayantīndrāṇyai rudrāṇyai śarvāṇyai bhavānyā agniṃ gṛhapatim iti ।
At the end of the sprinkling the offer the Patnī-saṃyāja oblations to Indrāṇī, Rudrāṇī, Śarvāṇi, Bhavānī, and Agni Gṛhapati.

lohitaṃ pālāśeṣu kūrceṣu rudrāya senābhyo baliṃ harati yās te rudra purastāt senās tābhya eṣa balis tābhyas te namo yās te rudra dakṣiṇataḥ senās tābhya eṣa balis tābhyas te namo yāste rudra paścāt senās tābhya eṣa balis tābhyas te namo yās te rudrottarataḥ senās tābhya eṣa balis tābhyas te namo yās te rudropariṣṭāt senās tābhya eṣa balis tābhyas te namo yās te rudrādhastāt senās tābhya eṣa balis tābhyas te nama iti ।
He [then] offers the blood [of the sacrificed bull] as bali with a bunch of Butea frondosa leaves to Rudra and his troops with [the incantations]: “O Rudra, those armies, which you have to the East (to the South; to the West; to the North; upwards; downwards), to them is this bali. Obeisance be to them and to you.”

ūvadhyaṃ lohita-liptam agnau prāsyaty adho vā nikhanati ।
He casts the gut and the blood-smeared remains into the fire or buries them beneath.

anuvātaṃ paśum avasthāpya rudrair upatiṣṭhate prathamottamābhyāṃ vā .anuvākābhyām ।
Having [placed the remains of] the animal such that the wind blows from himself to it, he goes towards it by [reciting] the Rudra incantations, or the first and last anuvāka [i.e., Śatarudrīya].

naitasya paśor grāmaṃ haranti ।
They do not take anything of the animal to the village.

etenaiva goyajño vyākhyātaḥ ।
By this the cow-sacrifice is also expounded.

pāyasenānartha-luptaḥ ।
It is done with an offering of milk, and the [rituals] not meant for it are omitted.

tasya tulyavayā gaur dakṣiṇā ।
A cow of the same age (as the sacrificed animal) is the ritual fee.}

Thus, the Patnī-saṃyāja of the Śulagava departs from the classical one in combining Indrāṇī with the three raudra goddesses, Rudrāṇī, Śarvāṇi and Bhavānī. Hence, we are already seeing a hint of the tendencies in the mātṛkā system of the classical religion, wherein the māṭṛkā-s typically have an explicitly raudra connection. Indeed, this triad of raudra goddess might indicate a connection to the old name of Rudra, Tryambaka, which implies his association with three mothers. Other than the above-mentioned male deities coming with a cluster of goddesses, in the late Taittirīya tradition of the Bodhāyana-mantrapraśna, we see Skanda appearing with a cluster of 12 māṭṛkā-s:

aghorāya mahāghorāya nejameṣāya namo namaḥ ॥
āveśinī hy aśrumukhī kutuhalī hastinī jṛṃbhiṇī stambhinī mohinī ca ।
kṛṣṇā viśākhā vimalā brahmarātrī bhrātṛvyasaṃgheṣu-patanty amoghās tābhyo vai mātṛbhyo namo namaḥ ॥

Similarly, another late Taittirīya tradition, the Vaikhānasa-mantrapraśna, provides an incantation for a set of goddesses who are said to be born of Guha (i.e., Skanda) and said to bear the gaṇa of Rudra:

jvālā mālā gumbhinī guha-jātā raudraṃ gaṇaṃ yā bibhṛyāt surūpī svāhā ॥ VP 6.36.5

A second incantation describes a set of goddesses, including the one who bears Skanda:

mohī vimohī vimukhī guha-dhāriṇī ca nidrā ca devī virajās tu bhūtyai svāhā ॥ VP 6.37.9

Starting from its late Vedic roots, the association of Skanda with the mātṛ-s was remembered over a prolonged period in Indian historical tradition. For instance, it figures in the famous maṅgalācaraṇa of the Cālukya monarchs where they describe themselves thus: …mātṛ-gaṇa-paripālitānāṃ svāmi-mahāsena-pādānu-dhyātānām… Protected by the troop of mātṛ-s and meditating on the feet of lord Mahāsena. This association of a cluster of goddesses with Skanda is further developed in the Mahābhārata:

tataḥ saṃkalpya putratve skaṃdaṃ mātṛgaṇo .agamat ।
kākī ca halimā caiva rudrātha bṛhalī tathā ।
āryā palālā vai mitrā saptaitāḥ śiśumātaraḥ ॥ Mbh 3.217.9 (“critical”)
Having established the sonship of Skanda, the band of mātṛ-s went away: Kākī, Halimā, Rudrā, Bṛhalī, Āryā, Palālā and Mitrā, these are the seven mothers of Śiśu.

A similar list is given in the “mega”-Skandapurāṇa:

kākī ca hilimā caiva rudrā ca vṛṣabhā tathā ।
āryā palālā mitrā ca saptaitāḥ śiśumātaraḥ ॥ SP-M 1.2.29.175-76

Notably, in this cluster of goddesses, we see, for the first time, an explicit list of 7 mātṛ-s — a number that became characteristic of the classical group of mātṛkā-s. In subsequent narrations of the Kaumāra cycle in the medical and paurāṇika traditions, the number of mātṛ-s who accompany Skanda is numerous and varied. Nevertheless, one of the archaic versions from the Mbh we encounter for the first time the description of these mātṛ-s as having the form of female versions of the gods:

yāmyo raudryas tathā saumyāḥ kauberyo .atha mahābalāḥ ।
vāruṇyo .atha ca māhendryas tathāgneyyaḥ paraṃtapa ॥
vāyavyaś cātha kaumāryo brāhmyaś ca bharatarṣabha ।
vaiṣṇavyaś ca tathā sauryo vārāhyaś ca mahābalāḥ । [missing in some recensions]
vaiṣṇavyo .atibhayāś cānyāḥ krūrarūpā bhayaṃkarāḥ । [Alternative for above]
rūpeṇāpsarasāṃ tulyā jave vāyusamās tathā ॥ Mbh 9.45.35-36
O scorcher of foes, possessed of great might [these goddesses took the forms] of Yama, Rudra, Soma, Kubera, Varuṇa, the great Indra and Agni. O bull among the Bharata-s, yet others of great might took the form of Vāyu, Kumāra, Brahman, /Viṣṇu, Sūrya, Vārāhī/Viṣṇu and other terrifying and fierce forms evoking great terror./ Endowed with the beauty of Apsaras-es, they were possessed of the speed of wind.

Thus, within this Kaumāra context, we see the first expression of a matṛ list converging on the classical system. Kaumāra-mātṛ-s appear first in iconography in the company of Skanda in Kuṣaṇa and pre-Kuṣaṇa sites like the holy city of Mathura. Even the earliest iconographic exemplars of the 7 classical mātṛ-s are connected to Skanda (Gupta age; see also the Patna inscription which speaks of Kumāragupta’s brother-in-law installing a shrine for Skanda at the head of the matṛ-s). However, in the post-Gupta age, the connection of Kumāra and the classical mātṛ-s gradually faded away. However, the old Vedic template of a multiplicity of goddesses in the company of a single god continued to be expressed. Among the gods of taking the place of Skanda in the mātṛkā panels were Kubera, Rudra, both in his classic form and as Tumburu, Vīrabhadra and Gaṇeśa. Of these, as we have noted before, the association with Rudra is archaic, having Vedic roots. It is reiterated in the Mbh:

vanaspatīnāṃ pataye narāṇāṃ pataye namaḥ ।
mātṝṇāṃ pataye caiva gaṇānāṃ pataye namaḥ ।
apāṃ ca pataye nityaṃ yajñānāṃ pataye namaḥ ॥ Mbh 7.173.38
Salutations to the lord of the trees, men, the mātṛ-s, the gaṇa-s, the waters, and ever the lord the rituals.

Indeed, a large host of 190 ferocious therocephalic and avicephalic mātṛkā-s, comparable to those accompanying Skanda, is described as being generated by Rudra to drink up the blood of Andhaka in the Matsyapurāṇa. In the same narrative, Nṛsiṃha also generates 32 mātṛkā-s to pacify the former. These latter goddesses are the arṇa-devī-s of the famed 32-syllabled mantra of Nṛsiṃha. A band of piśācī-s, who eat up the corpse of the daitya Hālāhala killed by the gaṇa-s of Nīlalohita-rudra, when he comes to take the skull of Brahman, are also known as Kapālamātṛ-s and associated with Rudra as per the proto-Skandapurāṇa (7.15-23). The association between Rudra and the mātṛkā-s is also emphasized in the historical record by the famous Gupta age inscription from Bagh, Madhya Pradesh, which mentions the Pāsupata teacher, Lokodadhi, installing a temple that is the station of the mātṛ-s in the village of Piñcchikānaka:  … bhagaval lokodadhi pāsupatācārya-pratiṣṭhāpitaka-piñcchikānaka-grāma-mātṛ-sthāna-devakulasya … In conclusion, the conceptualization of the mātṛkā-s in the classical religion can be traced back to the Vedic layer of the religion, with an organic evolution in the Mahābhārata and the early medical literature, and close associations to the Kaumāra and Śaiva sects.

Cāmuṇḍā, her distinctness, and preeminence

chAmuNDA_mantra_handbook_Nepal

Cāmuṇḍā from a prayoga manual from Nepal

However, there is one mysterious mātṛkā in the classical list who does not fit the general deva-patnī prototype inherited from the śruti. She goes by the common name Cāmuṇḍā or is alternatively known as Bahumāṃsā in some early paurāṇika texts. She is often distinguished by a corpse-, an owl- (e.g., Paraśurāmeśvara temple in Kaliṅga) or a vulture (the Mayamata pratiṣṭhātantra of saiddhāntika tradition) ensign. While she is explicitly linked to Rudra, she is often distinguished from his typical female counterpart Rudrāṇī. Cāmuṇḍā does not occur in any Vedic text (except in masculine form in a late addendum to the Vaikhānasa-mantra-praśna); nor does she occur in the epics.

In contrast, she appears profusely in paurāṇika texts. However, even here, in one of her early occurrences, directly pertaining to one of her holiest shrines, Koṭivarṣa, she is presented under a different name, Bahumāmsā, which appears to be a euphemistic double entendre. An apparently archaic version of the Koṭivarṣa-māhātmya, the famous pīṭha in Vaṅga, also known as Devīkoṭa (see below), was incorporated into the “proto”-Skandapuraṇa. Briefly, the frame story goes thus: Brahman once performed saṁdhyā at the Bay of Bengal for a crore years. Then he founded a beautiful city that eventually came to be known as Koṭivarṣa, where people lived a youthful existence. Once the god left the city, it was invaded by daitya-s, who committed many atrocities and slew thousands of brāhmaṇa-s and desecrated rituals. To remedy this, the gods went to Brahman and with him they went to Rudra. There Gaurī was performing tapasya in a grove and turned all the gods into females. Rudra then told them that they could slay the daitya-s only in their female forms. Thus:

tato devo .asṛjad devīṃ rudrāṇīṃ mātaraṃ subham ।
vikṛtaṃ rūpam āsthāya dvitīyām api mātaram ।
nāmnā tu bahumāṃsāṃ tāṃ jagat-saṃhāra-rūpiṇīm ॥
niyogād devadevasya tato viṣṇur api prabhuḥ ।
mātarāv asṛjad dve tu vārāhīṃ vaiṣṇavīm api ॥
abhūt pitāmahād brāhmī śarvāṇī saṃkarād api ।
kaumārī ṣaḍmukhāc cāpi viṣṇor api ca vaiṣṇavī ।
vārāhī mādhavād devī māhendrī ca puraṃdarāt ॥
sarvatejomayī devī mātṝṇāṃ pravarā subhā ।
bahumāṃsā mahāvidyā babhūva vṛṣabhadhvajāt ॥
sarveṣāṃ devatānāṃ ca dehebhyo mātaraḥ subhāḥ ।
svarūpabaladhāriṇyo nirjagmur daitya-nāsanāḥ ॥
vāyavyā vāruṇī yāmyā kauberī ca mahābalā ।
mahākālī tathāgneyī anyās caiva sahasrasaḥ ॥
tā gatvā tat puraṃ ramyaṃ daityān bhīmaparākramān ।
jaghnur bahuvidhaṃ devyo ghoranādair vibhīṣaṇaiḥ ।
daityahīnaṃ ca tac cakruḥ purāgryaṃ hemabhūṣitam ॥ “proto”-KM17-23
Then the god (Rudra) generated the goddess, mother Rudrāṇī. Taking an auspicious yet grotesque form, he also generated a second mother going by the name Bahumāṃsā, she of world-destroying form. At the mandate of the god of the gods, the mighty Viṣṇu also generated two mothers, Vārāhī and Vaiṣṇavī. From the Grandfather came Brāhmī and from Śaṃkara [came] Śarvāṇī. Kaumārī from Skanda (note irregular saṃdhi: ṣaḍmukhāt similar to that found in the Kaulajñānanirṇaya of Matsyendra. This supports the archaic nature of this narrative). Vārāhī from Mādhava and goddess Māhendrī from the smasher of forts (Indra). All these foremost of mothers were full of luster and auspicious. Bahumāṃsā, the great wisdom goddess, came into being from the bull-bannered one (Rudra). From the bodies of all these deities emerged auspicious mothers, each bearing their respective form and might, and set forth for the destruction of the demons: Vāyavyā, Vāruṇī, Yāmyā, Kauberī, Mahākālī, then Āgneyī of great strength, and thousands of others. The manifold goddesses slew [the demons], uttering terrifyingly ferocious yells. They made that foremost city decorated with gold free of the demons.

On one hand, the mātṛkā-s of narrative are reminiscent of the older Kaumāra cycle, and the Vedic Patnīsaṃyāja in naming a more inclusive set of goddesses including those generated by Vāyu, Varuṇa, Agni, etc. On the other hand, the core set of goddesses, who are named first, has crystallized to the classical 7-mātṛkā list. The only difference is that Bahumāṃsā replaces Cāmuṇḍā. However, their equivalence is clear from the account as Rudra specifically assumes a grotesque to generate her. As the narrative continues, Bahumāṃsā’s preeminent place in Koṭivarṣa is made amply clear:

hetukeśvara-nāmāhaṃ sthāsyāmy atra varapradaḥ ।
yuṣmābhiḥ saha vāsyāmi nāyakatve vyavasthitaḥ ॥
yas tu yuṣmān mayā sārdhaṃ vidhivat pūjayiṣyati ।
sarva-pāpavimuktātmā sa parāṃ gatim āpsyati ॥
dānavā nihatā yasmāc chūlena bahumāṃsayā ।
śūlakuṇḍam idaṃ nāmnā khyātaṃ tīrthaṃ bhaviṣyati ॥
iha sūlodakaṃ pītvā bahumāṃsām praṇamya ca ।
avadhyaḥ sarva-hiṃsrāṇām bhaviṣyati narottamaḥ ॥  “proto”-KM29-32
Under the name of Hetukeśvara, I (Rudra) will station myself here as the boon-giver. I will stay with you all, taking the position of leadership. Whoever worships you all together with me as per the ritual injunctions shall become free of sins and attain the highest state. From the trident with which Bahumāṃsā slew the demons, this holy pond will be known by the name of Śūlakuṇḍa. He who drinks the Śūla-water here and worships Bahumāṃsā will become unassailable to all harm-doers and will become the foremost of men.

Keeping with the preeminence of Bahumāṃsā in the early Koṭivarṣa cycle, in a subset of her early paurāṇika occurrences, Cāmuṇḍā appears independently of the classical mātṛkā lists. For example, Cāmuṇḍā is described in the Varāhapurāṇa as the slayer of the danava Ruru independently of the classical mātṛkā-s. This episode with the specific etymology furnished therein for the name Cāmuṇḍā (see below) is also told in the Devīpurāṇa in an expanded form (DP 83-88). However, in the DP version, Cāmuṇḍā is presented as one of the 7 classical mātṛkā-s. The slaying of Ruru is also retold in the Mātṛsadbhāva, an auxiliary text of the Brahmayāmala tradition. While other mātṛ-s are mentioned therein as being in the company of Rudra as Hetuka Bhairava (Hetukeśvara in the KM narrative), the main protagonist is Cāmuṇḍā in the form of Karṇamoṭī (Karṇamoṭinī), who pursues Ruru into pātāla and slays him after a battle lasting a crore years. This is used as an alternative etymology for Koṭivarṣa. The same text also mentions that Rudra emanated the goddess Ekavīrī from his forehead (third eye; note the Athena motif shared with the Greeks) to slay the daitya Dāruka. In the Cera country, the cult of Rurujit is widespread and closely associated with that of Bhadrakālī, who is described as the slayer of Dāruka. Indeed, the Brahmayāmala tradition preserved in south India tends to equate Bhadrakālī, the killer of Dāruka, with Cāmuṇḍā:  bhadrakāli tu cāmuṇḍā sadā vijaya-vardhinī ॥ Interestingly, while the Mātṛsadbhāva’s focus is Koṭivarṣa, its extant manuscripts are found in the Cera country, suggesting that the cult was carried south from Vaṅga after the destruction of Devīkoṭa by the Meccan demons. Below we provide the account of the slaying of Ruru from the Varāhapurāṇa 96:

tasyā hasantyā vaktrāt u bahvayo devyo viniryayuḥ ।
yābhir viśvam idaṃ vyāptaṃ vikṛtābhir anekaśaḥ ॥
pāśāṅkuśadharāḥ sarvāḥ sarvāḥ pīnapayodharāḥ ।
sarvāḥ śūladharā bhīmāḥ sarvāś cāpadharāḥ śubhāḥ ॥
tāḥ sarvāḥ koṭiśo devyas tāṃ devīṃ veṣṭya saṃsthitāḥ ।
yuyudhur dānavaiḥ sārdhaṃ baddhatūṇā mahābalāḥ ॥
kṣaṇena dānava-balaṃ tat sarvaṃ nihatantu taiḥ ।
devāś ca sarve sampannā yuyudhur dānavaṃ balam ॥
kālarātryā balañ caiva yac ca devabalaṃ mahat ।
tat sarvaṃ dānava-balam anayad yama-sādanam ॥
eka eva mahādaityo rurus tasthau mahāmṛdhe ।
svāñ ca māyāṃ mahāraudrīṃ rauravīṃ visasarja ha ॥
sā māyā vavṛdhe bhīmā sarva-deva-pramohinī ।
tayā vimohitā devāḥ sadyo nidrāntu bhejire ॥
devī ca triśikhenājau taṃ daityaṃ samatāḍayat ॥
tayā tu tāḍitasyāsya daityasya śubhalocane ।
carma-muṇḍe ubhe samyak pṛthagbhūte babhūvatuḥ ॥
rurostu dānavendrasya carma-muṇḍe kṣaṇādyataḥ ।
apahṛtyāharad devī cāmuṇḍā tena sā ‘bhavat ॥
sarvabhūta-mahāraudro yā devī parameśvarī ।
saṃhāriṇī tu yā caiva kālarātriḥ prakīrtitā ॥

As she [Rudrāṇī] laughed, from her mouth arose numerous goddesses with many strange forms, by whom this universe was enveloped. These terrifying and auspicious goddesses all held lassos, goads, tridents, and bows, and all had full breasts. All those crores of mighty goddesses stood surrounding the [primary] goddess, bearing quivers, together fought with the dānava-s. The whole dānava force was rapidly assaulted by those [goddesses], and together with them, the gods fought the dānava force. The great deva-force, together with the army of Kālarātri, sent the entire dānava force to Yama’s abode. The great daitya Ruru stood alone in the great battle. He then released his terrible rauravī magic. That terrible all-god-deceiving magic grew, and, overcome by it, the gods immediately fell asleep. Then the goddess struck the daitya on the battlefield with her trident. Thus, struck by the beautiful-eyed goddess, the skin and the head of the daitya were cleanly separated. As the goddess instantly seized and took away the skin and the head of the lord of the dānava-s, she came to be known as Cāmuṇḍā. From the terrifying form of the supreme goddess that destroys all beings, she came to be known as Kālarātrī.

The text then provides the below praise of Raudrī, where she is clearly identified as Cāmuṇḍā:

jayasva devi cāmuṇḍe jaya bhūtāpahāriṇi ।
jaya sarvagate devi kālarātre namo’stu te ॥
viśvamūrte śubhe śuddhe virūpākṣi trilocane ।
bhīmarūpe śive vedye mahāmāye mahodaye ॥
manojave jaye jambhe bhīmākṣi kṣubhitakṣaye ।
mahāmāri vicitrāṅge jaya nṛtyapriye śubhe ॥
vikarāli mahākāli kālike pāpahāriṇī ।
pāśahaste daṇḍahaste bhīmarūpe bhayānake ॥
cāmuṇḍe jvālamānāsye tīkṣṇadaṃṣṭre mahābale ।
śata-yāna-sthite devi pretāsanagate śive ॥
bhīmākṣī bhīṣaṇe devi sarvabhūtabhayaṅkari ।
karāle vikarāle ca mahākāle karālini ।
kālī karālī vikrāntā kālarātri namos’tu te॥

In the above cycles, Cāmuṇḍā is identified with Rudrāṇī and also as the primary dānava-slaying goddess, a role otherwise performed by Durgā. A folk memory of this was probably prevalent throughout the Indosphere and is today mainly seen in South India (e.g., the Cera country or Mysuru in the Karṇāṭa country). Additionally, Cāmuṇḍā is also presented as a distinct goddess, who is part of Rudra’s retinue, independently of the other mātṛka-s. This being a popular position is established by multiple such references in post-Gupta kāvya. In one such, she is paired in her skeletal form with the equally skeletal gaṇa Bhṛṅgiriṭi in a beautiful Śārdūlavikrīḍita verse of Yogeśvara regarding the celebration in Rudra’s retinue of the birth of Skanda:

devī sūnum asūta nṛtyata gaṇāḥ kiṃ tiṣṭhatety udbhuje
harṣād bhṛṅgariṭāvayācita-girā cāmuṇḍayāliṅgite ।
avyād vo hata-dundubhi-svana-ghana-dhvānātiriktas tayor
anyonya-pracalāsthi-pañjara-raṇat-kaṅkāla-janmā ravaḥ ॥ Subhāṣita-ratna-kośa 5.1
The goddess [Rudrāṇī] has birthed a son. O gaṇa-s rise up and dance!
Why? From joy, Bhṛṅgiriṭi raising his arms sings unasked embraced by Cāmuṇḍā.
On top of the loud din from the beating of the resounding drums
is the rattling born of the bones from the skeletal cages of those two — may it protect you!

She is also praised as the goddess slaying Niśumbha by Bhavabhūti in another masterly Śārdūlavikrīḍita with an allusion to the famous axial motif:

sāvaṣṭambha-niśumbha-saṃbhramanamad-bhūgola-niṣpīḍana-
nyañcat-karpara-kūrma-kampa-vicaṭad-brahmāṇḍa-khaṇḍa-sthiti ।
pātāla-pratimalla-galla-vivara-prakṣipta-saptārṇavaṃ
vande nandita-nīlakaṇṭha-pariṣad-vyakta-rddhi vaḥ krīḍitam ॥ Subhāṣita-ratna-kośa 5.3
From your whirling of Niśumbha, the earth-globe, with the axis, is pressed,
down on the turtle’s shell shaking it, shattering the support of the universe’s hemisphere.
The seven oceans trying to flood the netherworld instead fall into your cavernous cheeks.
I praise your perfectly performed dance that delights the retinue of the blue-necked one.
*Also could be a double entendre for the pressed down foot.

While she is not explicitly named here, the cavernous cheeks indicate that the goddess being referred to is none other than Cāmuṇḍā (see below). The two notable points in this verse are: first, Rudra’s retinue is the audience for her dance, again suggesting that she is an integral part of it. Second, as we noted above, she is shown as assuming the role normally assigned to the goddess Durgā/Caṇḍikā, i.e., killing Niśumbha, again reinforcing the idea of a folk memory of Cāmuṇḍā as the primary demon-slayer. This overlap with Caṇḍikā will be further explored below.

Cāmuṇḍā also occurs independently of the classical mātṛkā list but as part of other clusters of goddesses in certain paurāṇika and tāntrika traditions, e.g., the Dakṣa-yajña episode at the beginning of the Mega-Skandapurāṇa (1.1.3.49-53; Māheśvara-khaṇḍa, Kedāra-khaṇḍa):

vīrabhadro mahābāhū rudreṇaiva pracoditaḥ ।
kālī kātyāyanīśānā cāmuṇḍā muṇḍamardinī ॥
bhadrakālī tathā bhadrā tvaritā vaiṣṇavī tathā ।
nava-durgādi-sahito bhūtānāṃ ca gaṇo mahān ॥
śakinī ḍākinī caiva bhūta-pramatha-guhyakāḥ ।
tathaiva yoginī-cakraṃ catuḥṣaṣṭyā samanvitam ॥
nirjagmuḥ sahasā tatra yajñavāṭaṃ mahāprabham ।
vīrabhadra-sametā ye gaṇāḥ śatasahasraśaḥ ॥
pārṣadāḥ śaṃkarasyaite sarve rudra-svarūpiṇaḥ ।
pañcavaktrā nīlakaṇṭhāḥ sarve te śastrapāṇayaḥ ॥
Impelled by Rudra himself, the mighty-armed Vīrabhadra marched forth right away to the grove of the yajña with Kālī, Kātyāyanī, Īśānā, Cāmuṇḍā, Muṇḍamardinī, Bhadrakālī, Bhadrā, Tvaritā and Vaiṣṇavī, the nine Durgā-s and the rest: the great bhūta-gaṇa-s, Śakinī, Ḍākinī, the ghosts, pramatha-s and Kubera-s agents (guhyaka-s). The circle of 64 yoginī-s also accompanied him. Hundreds of thousands of gaṇa-s accompanied Vīrabhadra. These troops of Śaṃkara all had the form of Rudra, with five heads, blue-throats, and weapons in their hands.

The mention of the nine Durgā-s, after the list of nine goddesses, implies that these nine, including Cāmuṇḍā, are those Durgā-s. The remaining mātṛkā-s (barring Vaiṣṇavī, who is also counted among the nine Durgā-s) are not featured in this list. Similarly, in the iconographic section of the Agnipurāṇa (a similar account is also found in the iconographic manual, the Pratiṣṭhā-lakṣaṇa-sāra-samuccaya), we encounter a tradition, where multiple Cāmuṇḍā-s are presented as part of a group of 8 cremation-ground mothers, the Ambāṣṭaka, again almost entirely distinct from the classical mātṛkā-s (AP 50.30-37):

kapāla-kartarī-śūla-pāśa-bhṛd yāmya-saumyayoḥ ॥
gaja-carma-bhṛd ūrdhvāsya pādā syāt rudracarcikā ।
Rudracarcikā [is depicted] holding a skull, battle scissors, trident, lasso to the right and left. She holds an elephant hide, and her leg is raised up.

saiva cāṣṭabhujā devī śiro-ḍamarukānvitā ।
tena sā rudracāmuṇḍā nāṭeśvary atha nṛtyatī ॥
Rudracāmuṇḍā is verily the eight-handed goddess holding a severed head and a ḍamaru. She is shown dancing as the goddess of the dance (c.f. the above verse of Bhavabhūti).

iyam eva mahālakṣmī-rupaviṣṭā caturmukhī ।
nṛ-vāji-mahiṣebhāṃś ca khādantī ca kare sthitān ॥
The goddess Mahālakṣmī is indeed shown in a four-faced form. She [is depicted] eating a man, horse, buffalo, and elephant held in her hands.

daśa-bāhus trinetrā ca śastrāsi-ḍamaru-trikaṃ ।
bibhratī dakṣiṇe haste vāme ghaṇṭāṃ ca kheṭakaṃ ॥
khaṭvāṅgaṃ ca triśūlañ ca siddha-cāmuṇḍakāhvayā ।
Siddha-cāmuṇḍakā is depicted, with ten arms and three eyes, bearing a weapon, a sword, a ḍamaru, a trident, in her right arms; a bell, a shield, a skull-topped brand and a trident in her left arms.

siddhayogeśvarī devī sarva-siddhapradāyikā ॥
etad rūpā bhaved anyā pāśāṅkuśayutāruṇā ।
The goddess Siddhayogeśvarī (the goddess of the kaula Pūrvāmnāya = Trika), who bestows all accomplishments, is shown with another form, crimson in color, holding a lasso and a hook.

bhairavī rūpa-vidyā tu bhujair dvādaśabhir-yutā ॥
Bhairavī, the beautiful wisdom goddess, is shown with 12 arms.

etāḥ śmaśānajā raudrā ambāṣṭakam idaṃ smṛtaṃ ।
These raudra [goddesses] of the cremation ground are known as the cluster of eight-mothers.

kṣamā śivāvṛtā vṛddhā dvibhujā vivṛtānanā ॥
Kṣamā is shown surrounded by jackals as an old female with two arms and a gaping mouth.

danturā kṣemakarī syād bhūmau jānukarā sthitā ।
The fanged Kṣemakarī is shown [seated] on the ground with her hands on her knees.

These Ambāṣṭaka goddesses, Rudracarcikā, Rudracāmuṇḍā, Mahālakṣmī, Siddha-cāmuṇḍā, Siddhayogeśvarī, Bhairavī, Kṣamā and Kṣemakarī are likely associated with the 8 mahāsmaśāna-s of the tāntrika tradition. This is supported by the presence of Mahālakṣmī in the list, who is associated with the mahāsmaśāna of Kollagiri or Lakṣmīvana (modern Kolhapur). In the list, we find two explicitly named Cāmuṇḍā-s, which hearkens back to the mega-Skandapurāṇa Navadurgā-s, where Cāmuṇḍā is followed by Muṇḍamardhinī, who on etymological grounds could be seen as the second Cāmuṇḍā. A third goddess of the Ambāṣṭaka, Kṣamā, is depicted as an old female with jackals — again, iconographically similar to Cāmuṇḍā. The ogdoad also features Rudracarcikā, another ectype of Cāmuṇḍā (see below). Thus, we have at least four goddesses in the Ambāṣṭaka group, who can be described as conforming to the Cāmuṇḍā type. This multiplicity hints at Cāmuṇḍā being worshiped as the primary goddess at several of the mahāsmaśāna-s.

chAmuNDA_bhIShaNa_bhairava

Cāmuṇḍā with her husband Bhiṣaṇa-bhairava: the deities of Ekāmra (a Nepalian depiction)

At least one of these mahāsmaśāna-s featuring Cāmuṇḍā was perhaps located at Ekāmra (modern Bhubaneswar) in the Kaliṅga country. The association of Cāmuṇḍā with this site, along with her Bhairava consort and Kubera or his female counterpart Kauberī, is abundantly attested in the kaula tradition: tantra-s (e.g., Kubjikāmata) and prayoga manuals of the Paścimāmnāya (e.g., Siddhi-lakṣmī-kramārcanā-vidhi-s), the Uttarāmnāya traditions like Niśi-saṃcara, and Ḍāmara texts like the Tridaśa-ḍāmāra-pratyaṅgirā. For example, we have the below mantra-s from the Paścimāmnāya (or its combination with the Uttarāmnāya in the case of the last mantra) tradition:

aiṁ OṂ ekāmraka-mahākṣetra-bhīṣaṇa-mahā-bhairavāya yaṁ cāmuṇḍā-śakti-sahitāya ekapāda-kṣetrapālāya dhanādhipataye namaḥ ॥
OṂ aiṁ yaṁ raṁ laṁ vaṁ śaṁ ekāmrake ohāyī kālarātrī chippinī cāmuṇḍā kauberī । au-kṣaḥ (o-kṣaḥ) bhīṣaṇa-bhairava śrīpādukabhyāṃ namaḥ ॥
OṂ aiṁ yaṁ bhīṣaṇa-bhairavāya cāmuṇḍā-sahitāya ekāmraka-kṣetrādhipataye namaḥ ॥
OṂ ekāmrake kṣetre yaṃ bhīṣaṇabhairava yāṃ cāmuṇḍā ambāpāda khphreṁ ॥

Coming to Carcikā, her equivalence with Cāmuṇḍā is established by multiple sources. For example, Amarasiṃha in his lexicon says: karmamoṭī tu cāmuṇḍā carmamuṇḍā tu carcikā । (AK 1.1.92). The great Bhāskararāya Makhīndra reiterates this in his gloss on the Lalitā-sahasranāma. Consistent with this, we also have the Śārdūlavikrīḍita verse of Tuṅga, which mentions Carcikā in Rudra’s retinue, separately from Rudrāṇī, in a manner similar to Cāmuṇḍā, as noted above.

carcāyāḥ katham eṣa rakṣati sadā sadyo nṛ-muṇḍa-srajaṃ
caṇḍī-keśariṇo vṛṣaṃ ca bhujagān sūnor mayūrād api ।
ity antaḥ paribhāvayan bhagavato dīrghaṃ dhiyaḥ kauśalaṃ
kūṣmāṇḍo dhṛti-saṃbhṛtām anudinaṃ puṣṇāti tunda-śriyam ॥
How does he ever protect his garland of fresh human heads from Carcā?
Also his bull from Caṇḍī’s lion and his snakes from his son’s peacock?
Thus, wondering to himself about the lord’s deep mental skill
Kūṣmāṇḍa daily nourishes the growing satisfaction of his belly’s corpulence.

The presence of Carcikā in Rudra’s retinue, independently of the classical mātṛkā-s, is also seen in some paurāṇika traditions, such as the Vāmana-purāṇa (70 in vulgate; 45 in short edition). Here, in the final battle with Andhaka, Rudra then took all the gods and his gaṇa-s into his body (c.f. Greek Kronos motif). When Andhaka struck him with his mace and caused him to bleed, from his own blood, Rudra generated the 8 Bhairava-s. Then from his fertilizing sweat, Rudra generated the virgin goddess Carcikā from his forehead (c.f. Greek Zeus-Athena motif) and then Kuja (the planetary archon of Mars) from his sweat that dropped on the ground. Together, Carcikā and Kuja drank up the blood of Andhaka. This myth, with Carcikā drinking up the blood of Andhaka, is widely depicted in images throughout India.

Finally, Carcikā replaces Cāmuṇḍā in some classical 7/8 mātrikā lists in tāntrika mantra-prayoga-s, like those in the Hāhārava or the Picumata of the Brahmayāmala tradition. Below are the famed Aṃbāpāda mantra-s of the Hāhārava belonging to the Atharvaṇa-guhyakālī tradition (Uttarāmnāya), where the 8 classical mātṛkā-s are associated with the eight Bhairava-s and manifest as Kālī-s, each surrounded by a retinue of 64 yoginī-s:

OṂ hrīṃ huṃ chrīṃ phreṃ [bhairava] +āsanāya aṣṭāṣṭaka-yoginī-sahitāya [devī] kāli 2 aṃbāpāda huṃ phreṃ namaḥ ।
Asitāṅga-bhairava : Brahmavatī
Ruru-bhairava : Rudravatī
Caṇḍa-bhairava : Kumāravatī
Krodha-bhairava : Viṣṇumatī
Unmattabhairava : Ghoraṇavatī/Varahāvatī
Kapāla-bhairava : Mahendravatī
Bhīṣaṇa-bhairava : Carcikāvatī
Saṃhāra-bhairava : Mahālakṣmīvatī
OṂ hrīṃ hūṃ chrīṃ phreṃ muṇḍinyai [devī] 2 aṃbāpada chreṃ hūṃ namaḥ ॥
devī= Kālī, Mudgalā, Daṃṣṭrinī, Śṛṅgārā, Śūlinī, Vajriṇī Pāśinī, Aṃkuśinī

Carcikā is associated with two great shrines at the Western and Eastern extremities of India, respectively Hiṅgulā (Vamanapurāṇa vulgate 70.47) and Koṭivarṣa. Of these, Koṭivarṣa in the Vaṅga country is explicitly known as a mahāsmaśāna. Hence, we may identify Rudracarcikā, who heads the Ambāṣṭaka list, as the goddess associated with this site. In support of this proposal, we have the famous Vaṅgīya inscriptions found in the vicinity that specifically mention the shrines of Carcikā (e.g., the Siyān and Bangarh inscriptions). The Parbatiya inscription of the Vanamālavarman, the king of Assam in the 800s of CE, also mentions the renovation of the temple of Hetukeśvara, the Rudra associated with Koṭivarṣa. King Nayapāla (r. 1043–1058 CE) says that he built a temple for the image of Carcikā his ancestor, emperor Mahendrapāla (r. 845–860 CE), had installed:

… mahe[ndra]pāla-carcāyā mahendra-sadṛśodayaḥ । yaḥ śailīm vaḍabhīm śaile sopānena sahākarot …
He who presented like Mahendra built for Mahendrapāla’s Carcā a stone vaḍabhī temple on the hill with steps [leading to it] (Siyan inscription, unfortunately, damaged by the Meccan demons).

The saiddhāntika-śaiva-deśika, Mūrtiśiva, a preceptor of the Pāla monarchs, mentions that he installed a similar temple for Carcikā and worships her in two verses, in anuṣṭubh and śārdūlavikrīḍita, thus:
OṂ namaś carcikāyai ।
surāsuraśiraḥ-śreṇi-paṭa-vāsa-samā jagat ।
pāntu viśvakṛtābhyarcāś carcā-caraṇa-reṇavaḥ ॥
daṃṣṭrā-saṃdhi-nilīnam eka-kavalam viśvaṃ tad aśnāmi kiṃ?
saptāmbhodhi-jalāni hasta-suṣire guptāni kim pīyate ?
ity āhāra-daridratākulatayā śuṣyat tanum bibhratī
kalpānte nṛ-kapāla-maṇḍana-vidhiḥ pāyāj jagac carcikā ॥ (Bangarh inscription)
Obeisance to Carcikā.
Like perfumed powder for the turbans of the array of gods and demons,
worshiped by the world-maker (Viśvakarman), may the dust from Carcā’s feet protect the world.

“The universe is a single morsel that will lodge in space between my teeth. Then what shall I eat?
The waters of the seven oceans will be hidden in the hollow of my palm. Then what may be drunk?”
Thus, anxious from the poverty of her meal, with her body becoming desiccated, observing,
at the end of the age, the rite wearing a garland of human heads, may Carcikā protect the world.

In the above verse, one may note the parallel to the drinking of the oceans seen in Bhavabhūti’s verse cited above. In addition, Koṭivarṣa, the same region of Vaṅga (Varendrī) also had another famous Cāmuṇḍā shrine, Puṇḍravardhana, which is mentioned along with Ekāmra by the great Kashmirian mantravādin Abhinavagupta in his Tantrāloka. The Uttarāmnāya has the below incantation remembering this now lost site:
OṂ hrīṃ śrīm śrī-puṇḍravardhana-mahopakṣetre cāmuṇḍā ambāpāda khpreṃ namaḥ ।

charchikA_pAla

Pāla Carcikā 

The recovery of at least 24 images of the ekavīrā type, i.e., Carcikā or Cāmuṇḍā independently of other mātṛkā-s, from the Pāla age sites ruined by the Mohammedans, in the vicinity of Koṭivarṣa and Puṇḍravardhana, attests to the importance of her cult in the Varendrī region. One of these images is remarkable in depicting Carcikā, flanked by Gaṇeśa and the Bhairava or Mahākāla, surrounded by 20 Carcikā-s (totally with the central figure 21 goddesses; c.f. the 21 Tārā-s of the bauddha tradition). This multiplicity of Carcikā-s brings to mind the array of 20 Carcikā-s mentioned the Siddhāṅga-pañcaka-mantra-s of the Śaktisūtra:

ghasmarā carcikā vicceśvarī śrīviccāvvā- pāduke pūjayāmi aiṃ ॥
svarūpavāhinī nava-sthānagā śrīnandinī- viccāvvā pāduke pūjayāmi aiṃ ॥
padmā śobhā vikāśinī viccāvvā- pāduke pūjayāmi aiṃ ॥
mahāśāntā vikasvarā vikāśinī viccāvvā- pāduke pūjayāmi aiṃ ॥
nāda-carcikā śabdādyā śrīṣaṭkā viccāvvā- pāduke pūjayāmi aiṃ ॥

If we count the last goddess, Viccāvvā, who is the same in each of the five, then we get a list of 16 comparable to the 16 Cāmūṇḍā-s mentioned in the southern Brahmayāmala with roots in the Vaṅga country.

The scorpion-goddess

vRiShchikodarI_prayaga

Vṛścikā from Prayāga

We next consider a goddess who is iconographically similar to Cāmūṇḍā but distinguished by a scorpion ornament on her belly. Images of this goddess are widely distributed across India, but a scorpion is never mentioned as an ornament in any of the numerous iconographic accounts of Cāmūṇḍā. Moreover, this scorpion goddess is only found in ekavīrā form, never with the other mātṛkā-s. To decipher who she is, we have to turn to the mega-Skandapurāṇa, which mentions scorpions as the medallion of Caṇḍī, a member of the entourage of Rudrasadāśiva:

tathodyato yoginī-cakra-yukto gaṇo gaṇānāṃ patir eka-varcasām ।
śivaṃ puraskṛtya tadānubhāvās tathaiva sarve gaṇanāyakāś ca ॥
tad yoginī-cakram ati-pracaṇḍaṃ ṭaṃkāra-bherī-rava-svanena ।
caṇḍī puraskṛtya bhayānakāṃ tadā mahāvibhūtyā sam-alaṃkṛtāṃ tadā ॥
kaṇṭhe karkoṭakaṃ nāgaṃ hāra-bhūtaṃ cakāra sā ।
padakaṃ vṛścikānāṃ ca dandaśūkāṃś ca bibhratī ॥
karṇā-vataṃsān sā dadhre pāṇi-pāda-mayāṃs tathā ।
raṇe hatānāṃ vīrāṇāṃ śirāṃsy urasi cāparān ॥
dvipi-carma-parīdhānā yoginī-cakra-saṃyutā ।
kṣetrapālāvṛtā tadvad bhairavaiḥ parivāritā ॥
tathā pretaiś ca bhūtaiś ca kapaṭaiḥ parivāritā ।
vīrabhadrādayaś caiva gaṇāḥ parama-dāruṇāḥ ।
ye dakṣa-yajña-nāśārthe śivenājñāpitās tadā ॥
tathā kālī bhairavī ca māyā caiva bhayāvahā ।
tripurā ca jayā caiva tathā kṣemakarī śubhā ॥
anyāś caiva tathā sarvāḥ puraskṛtya sadāśivam ।
gantu-kāmāś cogratarā bhūtaiḥ pretaiḥ samāvṛtāḥ ॥
Then the accompanied by the circle of yoginī-s, the gaṇa, the lord of the gaṇa-s (Nandin) of singular splendor and all the leaders of the gaṇa-s followed, keeping Śiva at their head. The circle of yoginī-s was most-terrifying and resounding with their yells, like the beating of kettledrums. They kept at their forefront the terrible Caṇḍī adorned with great magnificence. She had made the Karkoṭaka snake in the form of a necklace on her neck. She had a medallion of scorpions and bore snakes. Her earrings were made of severed hands and legs. She wore the severed heads of warriors slain in battle on her chest. She wore a skirt of elephant-hide and was accompanied by the circle of yoginī-s. She was surrounded by Kṣetrapāla-s and likewise by Bhairava-s. Similarly, she was accompanied by zombies, ghosts and deceiver ghosts. With Vīrabhadrā at their head, were the most-terrifying gaṇa-s, who had been ordered by Śiva to destroy Dakṣa’s sacrifice (the Raumya-s). Likewise, there were Kālī, Bhairavī, the frightful Māyā, Tripurā, Jayā and the auspicious Kṣemakarī. These and all others, of great ferocity, keeping Sadāśiva at their head, surrounded by ghosts and zombies, desired to march forth.

This is an account of the bridal procession of Rudra’s retinue on the occasion of his marriage to Pārvatī. Though he was displaying this sport of marrying his wife again following Sati’s reincarnation as Pārvatī, his Śakti-s never really left him. The chief among them is Caṇḍī, wearing a badge or medallion of scorpions. Thus, it appears that this ever-present Śakti of Rudra is depicted as the ekavīrā vṛścikodarī goddess. It is possible that the scorpion was identified with the eponymous constellation. Thus, its placement on the belly of the destroying goddess might have had an astronomical symbolism related to the constellation’s position at the southern point of the ecliptic (associated with her seasons: autumn/winter: right in the Yajurveda) and its connection to the Vedic goddess of the netherworld and doom, Nirṛti. In another account of the destruction of Dakṣa’s sacrifice from the Kāyāvarohaṇa-māhātmya (5.82), Rudrāṇī herself generates a goddess by rubbing her nose, who is described by the epithet śahasracaraṇodarī. This might be interpreted either as she with a 1000 feet and bellies or with a millipede on her belly, giving a possible parallel for this iconography.

Despite her widespread presence in Śaiva temples, the presence of this goddess in the mantra-śāstra is limited. The goddess Kubjikā is described as having scorpion ornaments like her husband Aghora in the prayoga-texts of the Kaula tradition (e.g., Ṣaḍāmnāyapūjāvidhi):

agni-jvālā-prabhābhair jvalana-śikhi-piccha-vṛścikair hāramālā ।
muṇḍasraṅ-muṇḍa-bhāgābhaya-durita-harā kubjikeśī namas te ॥
Obeisance to you. Goddess Kubjikā, who takes away misfortune has the glow of blazing flames, is garlanded by a wreath of shining peacock feathers and scorpions, and a garland of severed heads, holds a severed head, and shows the gestures of protection and boon-giving.

The scorpion-goddess Vṛścikā also figures in the Śrikula practice of the meditation on the six cakra-s along the path of the suṣuṃṇa. In the Anāhata-cakra, she is worshiped in the circle of the goddess Rākinī presiding over blood along with her Rudra. Here, she is worshiped along with several other goddesses, including Cāmuṇḍā, on the 12 spokes of the cakra. The Vaṅgīya mantravādin Pūrṇānanda explains it thus in his Tattvacintāmaṇi:

anāhate nyaset paścāt paritaḥ ka-ṭha-varṇakaiḥ ।
kālarātriḥ khātitā ca gāyatrī ghaṇṭikā tataḥ ॥
ṅā vṛścikā ca cāmuṇḍā chāyā jayā tathaiva ca ।
jhaṅkāriṇī tathā jñānā ṭaṅkahastā ca vinyaset ॥
ṭhaṅkārī ca kramādetā dhyātvā vīraśca pūrvavat ।
The equivalence between the goddesses and the bīja-s formed from the arṇa-s is thus: kaṃ: Kālarātriḥ; khaṃ: Khātitā; gaṃ: Gāyatrī; ghaṃ: Ghaṇṭikā; ṅaṃ: Vṛścikā; caṃ: Cāmuṇḍā; chaṃ: Chāyā; jaṃ: Jayā; jhaṃ: Jhaṅkāriṇī; ñaṃ: Jñānā; ṭaṃ: Ṭaṅkahastā;
ṭhaṃ: Ṭhaṅkārī.

This meandering discussion establishes that, while Cāmuṇḍā was seen as part of the 7/8 mātṛkā-s, she also had a separate existence either as a preeminent figure among the mātṛkā-s or as an independent goddess. In the latter capacity, she both iconographically and mythologically, overlapped with the domains of two independent goddesses Bhadrakālī and Caṇḍī/Caṇḍikā. An example of this overlap in folk tradition is the poem of Bhuṣaṇa Tripāṭhī on Śivājī, where he says that Caṇḍī is growing fat from eating the Mohammedans offered to her by the Marāṭhā advance — thus, he equates Caṇḍī to the emaciated Cāmuṇḍā.

Cāmuṇḍā’s place in the mantra-śāstra
We now turn to the mantraśāstra to examine some aspects of her worship. The KM already signals that the worship of the goddesses at Koṭivarṣa was according to the tantra-s known as the Yāmala-tantra-s:

ahaṃ brahmā ca viṣṇus ca ṛṣayas ca tapodhanāḥ ।
mātṛtantrāṇi divyāni mātṛ-yajñavidhiṃ param ।
puṇyāni prakariṣyāma yajanaṃ yair avāpsyatha ॥
brāhmaṃ svāyambhuvaṃ caiva kaumāraṃ yāmalaṃ tathā ।
sārasvataṃ sagāndhāram aiśānaṃ nandiyāmalam ॥
tantrāṇy etāni yuṣmākaṃ tathānyāni sahasrasaḥ ।
bhaviṣyanti narā yais tu yuṣmān yakṣyanti bhaktitaḥ ॥
narāṇāṃ yajamānānāṃ varān yūyaṃ pradāsyatha ।
divyasiddhipradā devyo divyayogā bhaviṣyatha ॥
yās ca nāryaḥ sadā yuṣmān yakṣyante sarahasyataḥ ।
yogesvaryo bhaviṣyanti rāmā divyaparākramāḥ ॥ KM 34-38
I [Rudra], Brahman, Viṣṇu and the sages with a wealth of tapas will compose the pure and divine Mātṛ-tantra-s [expounding] the foremost procedures for the rituals to the Mātṛ-s, by which you all would be worshiped. Brāhma, Svāyambhuva, Kaumāra-yāmala, Sārasvata with Gāndhāra, Aiśāna, Nandi-yāmala — these tantra-s of yours and thousands of others will come into being, and men will piously worship you all with them. You, O goddesses, endowed with divine yoga, will grant boons to the men who worship you and confer magical powers on them. Those women who will continuously worship you with the secret rituals will become the mistresses of yoga, beautiful and possessed of magical prowess.

Consistent with the above, the root tantra of the Brahmayāmala tradition, the Picumata, has a major section devoted to the yoginī-kula-s associated with each of the mātṛkā-s. Given the preeminence of Cāmuṇḍā at Koṭivarṣa, one would expect a special place for her among the mātṛkā-s in the mantra-śāstra. We believe that imprints of this are seen throughout the Śaiva- and Śākta- mantraśāstra and their arborizations. For example, the pratiṣṭhā-tantra, Mayamata, after giving the iconographic specifications for the 7 mātṛkā-s flanked by Vīrabhadra and Vināyaka, provides a second section only for Cāmuṇḍā. There it describes the installation of her images with 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, or 16 arms made from wood, clay, or stucco. It states they should show her dancing (see above) the twilight dance either by herself or place her beside Rudra, shown performing the same dance. It further mentions that the images with 4 or 6 arms are helpful for pacificatory purposes. It is again specified that the worship/festivals should be officiated as per the Yāmala-tantra-s (e.g., Southern Brahmayāmala).

The dominance of Cāmuṇḍā in the Śaiva systems is also apparent in the archaic mantra-śāstra recorded in the Ḍāmara-tantras. There, Cāmuṇḍā is invoked in a “fever-missile” incantation deployed to strike adversaries with a wasting fever thus:
OṂ bakāmukhā cāmuṇḍā kṣīra-māṃsa-śoṇita-bhojinī [amukaṃ] khaḥ khaḥ jvareṇa gṛhṇa gṛhṇa gṛhṇāpaya gṛhṇāpaya huṃ phaṭ svāhā ॥
Remarkably, the goddess is described as being heron-faced. While this is not encountered in any of her later extant iconographies, on one end, it connects her to the archaic avicephalous goddesses associated with Skanda in the early Kaumāra cycles and the avicephalous goddesses of the Kumārī (Kauśikī Vindhyavāsinī) cycle of the proto-Skandapurāṇa. On the other end, it connects her to the terminal Śaiva-śākta Mahāvidyā tradition, which features the attacking goddess Bagalāmukhī, whose name likewise means heron- or stork- headed. Bagalāmukhī too is not commonly shown with an avian head, but we have multiple prominent exemplars of such iconography in her case. First, we have such a painting from Kangra, Himachal. There is also the avicephalous Bagalāmukhī with 16 hands at the Saṇkaṭa Ghāṭa temple in Vārāṇasi. In a painting from the Bagalāmukhī temple at Bankhandi, Himachal, she is shown riding a crane, which also attacks the daitya whom she slays. Notably, at the Bagalāmukhī temple at Nīlācala, Assam, she is depicted with an owl ensign, another feature shared with Cāmuṇḍā. This suggests that grotesqueness of Cāmuṇḍā’s form included within it a long, iconographically unexpressed memory of the ancient avicephalous goddesses, which was subsequently passed on Bagalāmukhī. She is also identified with another of the Mahāvidyā-s, Chinnamastā, in the opening verse of her famous stotra, though their iconography is rather distinct:

OṂ chinnamastā mahāvidyā mahābhīmā mahodarī ।
caṇḍeśvarī caṇḍa-mātā caṇḍa-muṇḍa-prabhañjinī ॥

Her presence is also felt across the Śakti-para Śaiva systems. Kubjikā, the supreme goddess of the Paścimāmnāya, is seen as having several deities (Rudra and Dūtī-s) associated with her respective nyāsa aṅga-s:
Hṛdaya: Kālī
Śiras: Siddhayogeśvarī or Juṣṭācāṇḍālī
Śikhā: Svacchanda-bhairava (the deity of the Bahurūpī ṛk)
Kavaca: Śivā
Netra-traya: Raktacāmuṇḍā (Parā in some traditions)
Astra: Pratyaṅgirā or Guhyakālī
As one can see, the deity of the eyes of Kubjikā is none other Raktacāmuṇḍā. Her mantra is given as:

OṂ rakte mahārakte chāmuṇḍeśvarī svāhā ॥
aiṃ rakte mahārakte chāmuṇḍeśvarī khphreṃ svāhā ॥
The first is the root form and the second version is the kaula deployment.

Raktacāmuṇḍā’s deep presence is indicated by her presence in other Śaiva mantra traditions. For example, the Ḍāmara tradition deploys her mantra for the successful procurement of medicinal herbs:
OṂ hrīṃ raktacāmuṇḍe hūṃ phaṭ svāhā ॥

The Ḍāmara tradition also worships her in the company of Rudra as Nṛsiṃha, a feature shared with the Guhyakālī tradition:
OṂ hrīṃ śrīṃ klīṃ draṃ caṇḍogre trinetre cāmuṇḍe ariṣṭe hūṁ phaṭ svāhā । hrīṃ namāmy ahaṃ mahādevaṃ nṛsiṃhaṃ bhīmarūpiṇaṃ OṂ namas tasmai ॥

At the root of the Śākta tradition are the famed mantra-s of Cāmuṇḍā, the most fundamental of which is the Navārṇa-mantra. Tradition hails it as the best of the best of the Śākti-mantra-s: vicce navārṇa-mantro .ayaṃ śakti-mantrottamottamaḥ ।. It goes thus:
(OṂ) aiṃ hrīṃ klīṃ cāmuṇḍāyai vicce ॥
It might be expanded to include Cāmuṇḍā at the end of the mātṛkā-list as the Sarva-mātṝ-maya-mantra:
(OṂ) hrīṃ brahmāṇī-māheśvarī-kaumārī-vaiṣṇavī-vārāhī-aindrī-cāmuṇḍāyai vicce svāhā ।
We then have the Padamālā-mantra found in several texts like the Devīpurāṇa and the Yuddhajayārṇava-tantra (which in turn is included in Agnipurāṇa; AP 135). This long mantra, while including all the mātṛkā-s as the above, has as its primary deity the 28-handed Cāmuṇḍā. It ends with the mantra-pada:
OṂ cāmuṇḍe kili kili OṂ vicce huṃ phaṭ svāhā ॥
These mantra-s indicate the intimate connection between Cāmuṇḍā and the mysterious mantra utterance “vicce”. Indeed, Abhinavagupta even calls her Viccikā in his Tantrāloka, making one wonder if there is some connection to Vṛścikā via a Prākṛta form. In any case, the ending of the Padamālā-mantra is remarkably similar of the root mantra of the Paścimāṃnāya, the Samayāvidyā, which is the female counterpart of the Bahurūpī ṛk (the Aghora-brahma-mantra [Footnote 3]). Every syllable of the Samayāvidyā corresponds to one of the 32 syllables of the metrical Bahurūpī. The standard Paścimāṃnāya Samayāvidyā:
OṂ bhagavati ghore hskhphreṃ śrīkubjike hrāṃ hrīṃ hrauṃ ṅa-ña-ṇa-na-me aghoramukhi chrāṃ chrīṃ kiṇi kiṇi vicce ॥
The Paścimāṃnāya Samayāvidyā as per the Vaṅgīya tradition:
OṂ namo bhagavati hskhphreṃ hauṃ kubjike aiṃ hrīṃ srīṃ aghore ghore aghoramukhi klīṃ klīṃ kili kili vicce ॥
This suggests that the Cāmuṇḍā mantra influenced the construction of the Samayāvidyā.

Moreover, the Aṣṭa-mātṛkā-mantra-s of the Paścimāmnāya also parallel the Sarva-mātṝ-maya-mantra:

aiṁ aghore amoghe varade vimale [bīja] [devī] vicce ॥
śrīṃ: brahmāṇī; caṃ: kaumārī; ṭaṃ: vaiṣṇavī; thaṃ: vārāhī; paṃ: indrāṇī; yaṃ: cāmuṇḍādevī; śaṃ: mahālakṣmī

As noted above, we have the Śakti-sūtra of the Paścimāmnāya, which as has the Siddhāṅga-pañcaka-mantra-s to the array of Carcikā-s. Finally, a similar kind of influence of the Cāmuṇḍā mantra, likely via the Paścimāmnāya, is also seen on the construction of the long mantra of the erotic goddess Bhagamālinī of the Dakṣiṇāmnāya (note pada bhaga-vicche):

OṂ āṃ aiṂ bhagabhage bhagini bhagodari bhagāṅge bhagamāle bhagāvahe bhagaguhye bhagayoni bhaganipātini sarvabhage bhagavaśaṅkari bhagarūpe nityaklinne bhagasvarūpe sarvabhagāni me hyānaya varade rete surete bhagaklinne klinnadrave kledaya drāvaya amoghe bhaga-vicche kṣubha kṣobhaya sarvasattvān bhageśvari aiṃ blūṃ jaṃ blūṃ bheṃ moṃ blūṃ heṃ blūṃ ai/ blūṃ klinne sarvāṇi bhagāni me vaśamānaya strīṃ blūṃ hrīṃ bhagamālinī-nityā-kalāyai namaḥ ॥ (As per the Jñānārṇava–tantra 15)

The etymology of Cāmuṇḍā
Finally, we come to the peculiar issue of the etymology of Cāmuṇḍā. The Purāṇa-s offer multiple alternative “folk etymologies,” e.g., from carma+muṇḍa (Devī- and Varāha- purāṇa-s) or from Caṇḍa and Muṇḍa; however, none of these are by any means grammatical Sanskrit derivations. Moreover, the multiplicity also suggests that its actual roots were forgotten by the time the name was in common use. Yet, it seemed deserving of an explanation to the Sanskrit speaker as it did not seem “natural”, unlike the names of the other mātṛkā-s with deep Indo-Aryan roots. This goes with the fact that she is not a straightforward female counterpart of the gods, unlike most other mātṛkā-s.

Interestingly, some of her earliest mentions in the Koṭivarṣa-māhātmya and the Vindhyavāsinī section of the proto-Skanda-purāṇa, furnish her with a bivalent, but proper Sanskrit name, Bahumāṃsā. However, this name did not persist. Indeed, the other names of Cāmuṇḍā, Carcikā and Karṇamoṭī, or the peculiar mantra-pada vicce are also not attested in the earliest Sanskrit texts and lack a transparent Sanskrit etymology. This suggests that the names of this goddess adopted from a non-Aryan language eventually acquired wide currency within Sanskrit. This was hinted at even by Bhaskararāya. Moreover, as we noted above, Cāmuṇḍā overlaps with the domain of the related goddess known as Caṇḍī/Caṇḍikā, who is traditionally an ectype of Durgā. It does seem like Caṇḍī and Carcikā too might have originated from different attempts at Sanskritization of the same non-Aryan word that also gave rise to Cāmuṇḍā.

Its absence in the Vedic and epic layers of the language suggests that the word was unlikely to have been borrowed from a language the ārya-s encountered en route to India (Uralic or Bactria-Margiana) or upon first entering India (the Harappan language). We cannot etymologize it as Dravidian or Austro-Asiatic either. Hence, we have to tentatively admit that it might be from a now-extinct tribal language. Adopting such a name when an early Sanskrit name Bahumāṃsā was already in use suggests that simple syncretism with tribal goddesses was not at play. Instead, foreign words might be adopted to indicate special powers in incantations (e.g., the jharbhari-turphari sūkta to the Aśvins right in the RV itself). Thus, in the tāntrika tradition, the adoption of words from or which sound like from other languages is part of the same process. We posit that this was the mechanism by which the Navārṇa-mantra was constructed and, in turn, this made Cāmuṇḍā a more popular name displacing Bahumāṃsā. This also goes hand in hand with a widespread tendency to show the universality of the deity. In the case of the great Rudrian goddesses, this was also associated with a tendency to emphasize her links to the Rudrian domain of the exterior, which includes the tribal groups (already seen in the Yajurveda). This is also signaled by indicating the worship of the goddess in distant or non-Aryan lands. For instance, in the proto-Skandapurāṇa, the virgin goddess Kauśikī born of the black slough of Pārvatī emanated numerous avicephalous and therocephalous goddesses to aid her in the killing of Śumbha and Niśumbha. Thereafter, these goddesses were installed for worship in various countries, like the owl-headed Upakā in Pārasīka (Iran); the raven-headed Vāyasī in Yavana (Greek lands); the lion-headed Pracaṇḍā in Tukhara (Tocharia); Vānarī among the Śabara tribesmen; several others in the provinces of Lankā. This is reflected in the mantra-śāstra by the names of the goddesses like Gāndhārī or Dramiḍi.


Footnote 1: First appears as theonym of Tvaṣṭṛ in his aspect as Viśvakarman in RV 10.82.02. There Viśvakarman is explicitly described as Dhātṛ. The equivalence of Dhātṛ, Viśvakarman and Tvaṣṭṛ is established in the late Yajurvedic version of the Puruṣa-sūkta with the appendix termed the Uttaranārāyaṇa.

Footnote 2: This pattern is reproduced in the national epic on the earthly plane in the unusual polyandry of the five Pāṇḍava-s to Draupadī.

Footnote 3: The Kashmirian Kaṭḥa tradition preserves a form of the Bahurūpī that combines both the Rudra-s and the Rudrāṇī-s; recorded by the mantravādin Svāmin Lakṣmaṇa Jū

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Huns, Uralics, and empires of the steppe

Eurasia

A map by Savelyev et al. for the geographic orientation of the reader of the below article.

The Huns of Europe
The lord of the Huns, King Attila, born of his father Mundzuk, lord of the bravest tribes, who with unprecedented power alone possessed the kingdoms of Scythia and Germania, and having captured their cities terrorized both Roman empires and, that they might save their remnants from plunder, was appeased by their prayers and took an annual tribute. And when he had by good fortune accomplished all this, he fell neither by an enemy’s blow nor by treachery, but safe among his own people, happy, rejoicing, without any pain. Who therefore can think of this as death, seeing that no-one thinks it calls for vengeance?

This is a prose translation of a poem on the death of Atilla based on the rendering from the Latin furnished by E.A. Thompson. It is believed to have been narrated by a German to Priscus of Panium, a Greek who had lived among the Huns. In turn, it was transmitted in Latin by Cassiodorus and from him to Jordanes, from whom it has come down to us. This describes the death of Attila, the lord of the Huns of Europe, who had died after heavy drinking celebrating his marriage to his latest wife, a Germanic woman Hildegund (rendered as Ildiko). He seems to have had a hemorrhage in his respiratory tract leading to bleeding into his lungs and probably unable to raise himself in the drunken stupor “drowned” in his own blood.

This marked the climax of the great wave of Hun invasions in the West in early 453 CE. Who were these Huns who terrorized the Roman and German worlds, which were steeping into a “dark age” under the terrible West Asian mental disease, the second Abrahamism, following the death of the great Julian in 363 CE? Shortly after Julian’s death, the Huns appear to have invaded from the distant East and beaten the Iranic tribe (hereinafter, we use Iranic for the people and Iranian specifically for the Sassanian empire) of the Tanaitae sometime between 370-380 CE. Priscus tells us: “The Huns killed and plundered the Tanaitae and joined the survivors to themselves in a treaty of alliance. Then in company with them, they made more boldly a sudden inroad into the extensive and rich cantons of Ermenrichus (Hermannaric, the Gothic German)” — translation by Otto Maenchen-Helfen. Who were these Tanaitae? From their name, we can say that they were people living on the Don (the Dānu of the Indo-Iranians). The heathen Roman general Ammianus Marcellinus tells us: “The Huns overran the territories of those Alani [bordering on the Greuthungi (=the Eastern Gothic Germans, or Ostrogoths)] to whom usage has given the surname Tanaitae (the people of Dānu).” Thus, these can be identified with the steppe Iranics, who still retained the old ethnonym (airya>Alan).

The German ruler Hermannaric was said to be like a second Alexander of Macedon, who had subjugated various Iranic, Uralic (i.e., Mari), Baltic and Slavic tribes, in addition to unifying various German groups under him. Hermannaric had a woman named Sunilda, likely from a (married to) subjugated Iranic tribe, torn to shreds and her brothers attacked the Germans to avenge this. While they failed to kill Hermannaric, they stabbed him on the side in the skirmish, and the injury greatly weakened him. Seeing this, the king of the Huns, who is named as Balamber, launched a strike on the Germans. While the details of the Eastern German-Hun conflict in this period remain murky, there are reports that suggest that in 378 CE, the western Gothic branch of the Germans and the Huns formed an alliance against the Romans. As a result, the Hun cavalry came to the aid of the Germans at Adrianople in 378 CE and helped them massacre the Roman legions. There are further reports of a German-Hun-Iranic alliance raiding Roman provinces around this time and other German-Hun alliances attacking the Romans a little later in the early 380s of CE. In 384 CE, the Huns completed the conquest of much of what is today Hungary, and their cavalry was raiding as far as Gaul.

Then, we hear that in 395 CE, a great Hun horde broke through the Caucasus and invaded the Iranian empire as well as Roman provinces to the south of Armenia. The force invading the Iranian empire is said to have been led by two Hun commanders named Basich and Kursich, who marching along the Tigris and Euphrates, eventually struck Ctesiphon and, evading the Iranian army, passed through Azerbaijan back into the steppes. Another branch of this horde launched a blitzkrieg on Syria and then Anatolia. There is also a report of a Hunnic assault on the city of Edessa during this invasion. There was soon talk of a Hun-Sassanian alliance against the Christian Roman empire, but the Roman embassy reached a peace agreement staving this invasion.

In 400 CE, we hear of a certain Uldin becoming the lord of the Huns. He attacked the Germans led by a commander named Gainas, killed him, and sent his head over to the Romans at Constantinople. In 404-405 CE, taking advantage of the winter, Uldin invaded the Balkans and devastated Thracia. In 408 CE, the Romans faced a crushing defeat at their hands with heavy losses of men in Thracia. After that, the historical accounts become murky again. However, in the 420s of CE, during the intra-Roman wars, there appears to have been some kind of alliance between some Roman factions and the Huns. Some Huns were operating as far as North Africa as part of this alliance. Some time in the second half of the 430s of CE, the Hun situation heats up again with the rise of two brothers, Bleda first, and then Attila, the sons of Mundzuk, lord of the Huns. Bleda seems to have first been the king of the Huns and, together with Attila, led the invasion of Illyria around 441 CE. In 442 CE, the Romans met defeat after defeat at the hands of the Huns in the Balkans, and the Romans were forced to pay tribute to them. Around this time, an intra-Hun conflict broke out, and Bleda was overthrown and possibly killed in the early 440s by his brother Attila. Taking advantage of this, the Romans stopped paying the tribute.

On taking over the Hun leadership, Attila first decided to set the tribute situation right. He calculated the arrears to be 6000 pounds (?) of gold and demanded that it be paid as a single lump sum. Not surprisingly, this demand sparked the Roman-Hun war of 447 CE that went badly for the Romans. Marcellinus Comes, the Illyrian states: “In a tremendous war, greater than the first one (the earlier Hun-Roman war of the early 440s), Attila ground almost the whole Europe into the dust … Attila came as far as Thermopylae. Arnegisclus (the Roman general from Marcianople), after fighting bravely and killing many enemies, fell in a battle against Attila near the river Utus in Dacia Ripensis.” The Christian Nestorius in course of trying to give a spin to the events as a consequence of the lack of Abrahamistic dogma states: “The barbarians (Huns) were masters and the Romans slaves. Thus, the supremacy had changed over to the barbarians.” Callinicus adds: “The barbarian people of the Huns, the ones in Thracia, became so strong that they captured more than a hundred cities and almost brought Constantinople into danger, and most men fled from it … There was so much killing and blood-letting that no one could number the dead. They pillaged the churches and monasteries and slew the monks and nuns. And they devastated the blessed [church] of Alexander [a Christian “martyr”]”.

This was the pinnacle of Hunnic power in Europe. While it is hard to estimate the full extent of Attila’s empire or understand its relationship to the Asian power center (he might have just been a “viceroy” of the Khan — sort of like Batu or Hulegu to Mongke or Qubilay), Priscus tells us that he was seen as the “king, commander and supreme judge of his people” after the great victory of 447 CE. However, unlike with the Chingizid Mongols, the end came nearly as precipitously as his rise. In 451 CE, Attila attacked the Germans in Gaul and unexpectedly suffered heavy losses to his cavalry from the resolute German counterattack. He then tried to make up for this by invading Italy. During this phase, he met with some renewed success by taking the fortified city of Aquileia, then Milan and Pavia. However, with an epidemic raging in the ranks of the Huns and their German allies, they had to retreat soon, allowing the Roman forces to consolidate their defenses. With Attila’s death early in 453 CE, major internal conflicts broke out among the Huns and their Germanic subjects. In 467 CE, Dengizich, Attila’s son, fought desperately with the Germans on the Danube but faced a major defeat. Two years later, the European Hunnic power came to an end as Dengizich was beheaded by the German Anagast, fighting on the Roman side. However, remnants of Hun power appear to have persisted in the Caucasus, where we hear of Hun leaders Glones and Styrax leading them against the Sabirs, who may have been a Turkic group. Further east, the Kutrigurs and Utigurs may have also been surviving Hunnic groups situated on the north shore of the Black Sea.

The affinities of the Huns of Europe
As we can see from the sources cited above, the Hunnic horde was a multiethnic assemblage from the beginning of their record in Europe. Priscus says: “His (Attila’s) Scythian subjects were swept together from many nations… Besides their own barbarian tongues, either Hunnish or Gothic, they spoke Latin as many have dealings with the Western Romans, but not one of them easily speaks Greek, except captives from the Thracian or Illyrian frontier regions.” One of the groups of this assemblage is still prominent as the Germanic people in the regions the Huns conquered in Europe. Attila’s last wife, Hildegund, was clearly a German woman. Her tale is remembered (in a somewhat garbled form) in surviving Germanic legends like Atlakviða of the Nordic Poetic Edda, where she goes by the name Gudrun. Some Hunnic leaders seem to have taken up Germanic names. Attila’s brother Bleda’s name seems to have been derived from the Germanic name Blatbert. One of Attila’s generals killed in the great showdown with the Germans was named Laudareiks — clearly Germanic — probably a Germanic ally of the Huns. Another Hun leader is named Ragnaris, again Germanic. Thus, there are multiple lines of evidence that the Germanic folks were incorporated into the Hun horde of Europe.

The Iranics no longer exist in Europe, but their long presence in the region and the Roman empire is well-attested (e.g., the origin of Roman Mithraism). Thus, their figuring in the Hunnic assemblage is also not a matter of much surprise. Right from when the Huns were first noticed, this association is stated, i.e., their conquest and absorption of the Alani. Again, their presence in the Hunnic assembly is hinted by Priscus’ usage of “Scythian subjects”. After the death of Attila in the 460s, the Huns were led by a certain Hormidac in a devastating assault on Dacia. This is clearly a rendering of the Iranic name, Hormizdak, one also found among the Sassanian royalty. Iranic names are also seen among the Kutrigur, like the Hun leader Zabergan who defended his land against the Eastern Christian Roman attack in the 550s of CE. Likewise, Glones might have also had a name of Iranic provenance.

This leaves us with the “original Hunnish” language — it was clearly distinct from Iranic or Germanic and seemed to come from East Asia. It is here that the greatest confusion exists, as nothing other than personal names and a few terms have come down from that language, that too mostly via Latin or Greek sources. The early experts tended to favor a Turkic etymology for them. However, there was always a lingering doubt among some researchers that it might belong to the larger Mongolic clade after all. First, irrespective of whether Altaic languages are a monophyletic group (there are many different formulations of this; for the latest iteration, one can consult the work of Robbeets, who supports the hypothesis under the name“Transeurasian”) or not, there is little doubt that Turkic and Mongolic have closely interacted over a prolonged period resulting in a substantial shared vocabulary. Hence, single words that are given a Turkic etymology could be from a Mongolic source, after all. But distinguishing these from Turkic is not trivial. For instance, Attila’s father, Mundzuk reminds one of the second part of the name of the Chingizid Mongol general Qizil Monchuk; however, the said general could have been of Turkic ancestry. Second, there are some tantalizing hints of clearly Mongolic etymologies.

Unraveling this is complicated because while we have the runic Turkic inscriptions of the Gök (Blue) Turks, early Mongolic from the corresponding period is poorly attested. Substantial Mongolic texts are only available from the Chingizid period onward. But the extant Mongolic is only the crown group of a larger extinct language family — the greater Mongolic clade. That family included the language of the Khitan who founded the Liao (in North China) and Qara Khitai empires. Though many Khitan words are now known from bilingual texts with Chinese equivalents, the Khitan language remains partly undeciphered (despite the efforts of the Mongolic scholars led by Qīnggéěrtài in studying old and newly discovered Khitan texts), posing yet another challenge for understanding the early development of the greater Mongolic clade. The greater diversity of these para-Mongolic languages from the greater Mongolic clade is also hinted at by the original language of the Tangut royal family, the Tuoba clan, who descended from the leaders of the Xianbei confederation. Long before the formation of the Tangut kingdom, the para-Mongolic Tuoba clan, as the Khans of the Xianbei confederation, held sway approximately between the late 300s-500s of CE. This brings us exactly to the time of the Hun activity in the West. In turn, this suggests that there were already powers of the greater Mongolic clade active in the East, making it possible that the Asian core of the Huns, after all, had their origins among these greater Mongolic groups.

Recently, Vovin’s study of the Khüis Tolgoi (Brāhmī; \approx 604-620 CE) and Bugut (Brāhmī and Sogdian; \approx 584-587 CE) inscriptions in Mongolia, established that the Ruan-Ruan Khanate, who displaced the Xianbei to establish as second “Hun” Khaganate contained an elite who spoke a Mongolic language even closer to the Chingizid Mongolian than the Khitan or Tuoba languages. They were eventually displaced by the Blue Turks and moved westwards following the trail of the earlier Huns all the way to Hungary as the Avar Khanate. Given the evidence for a relationship between the Huns and the Avars (see below), Vovin’s decipherment, if true, strengthens the idea that the Asian core of the Huns and the Avars who came later were likely Mongolic.

The Huns of India and Iran
This brings us to the elephant in the room — the relationship of the European Huns to the other groups that go under the same name. Beginning around the first half of the 450s of CE, a Huṇa force invaded India, probably towards the very end of mahārāja Kumāragupta’s reign. We hear from the inscriptions of his son, emperor Skandagupta, that he defeated the Hūṇa-s in a fierce battle to restore the fortunes of the Gupta empire (the Bhitari inscription). This first wave of Hūṇa-s is usually identified with the horde established by the lord known as Kidara and is known after him as the Kidarites. The Hūṇa incursions into India did not stop with that. As the Gupta empire declined in the 490s as a second wave of Huns, usually termed the Alchon Huns (Hara-hūṇa or the Red Huns), invaded. These Huns had been raised to power in Central Asia in the 430s by their lord Khingila. A successor of his, the Hūṇa king Toramāṇa, broke through to briefly conquer large swaths of northern India. The Gupta resistance against them continued from the East for another 20-30 years with the main star of this fightback being mahārāja Nṛsiṃhagupta Bālāditya. Toramāṇa was succeeded by his son Mihirakula who lasted until around 530 CE.

In the meantime, a second nationalist resistance began in central India under Prakāśadharman and his son Yaśodharman, the rising Aulikara kings. By 528 CE Yaśodharman had defeated the Hūṇa-s and subjugated them — he even mentions capturing the women of Mihirakula’s harem. However, new Hūṇa invasions, now under a third horde, the Śveta-hūṇa (Hephthalites), generally believed to be related to the Alchon Huns, continued until around 606 CE. The Puṣyabhūti princes, Rājyavardhana and Harṣavardhana, defeated them comprehensively and reduced the survivors to the vassal province of the Hūṇamaṇḍala. While the Hūṇa-s who invaded India bear unambiguously Iranic names, evidence from Sanskrit sources hints that they had an East Asian genetic component and used the characteristic horse ornaments of the eastern Central Asian groups. Apart from the Hūṇamaṇḍala province, we hear of a very late mention of the Huṇa-s in India during the reign of the Kalacuri king, Lakṣmī-karṇa, in the 1050s of CE — his wife was the Hūṇa princess Avalla-devī — it remains unclear if she was from the same Hūṇamaṇḍala or elsewhere (like a śāhīya Hūṇa from Gandhāra, survivors of the old Alchons, fleeing the Mohammedan horrors to inner India).

In parallel, the Sassanian empire had similar invasions by related Hūṇa groups. The Kidarite Huns (the Iranians seem to have called them the Red Huns) and the Iranians had a complex relationship. Having founded a Central Asian state, probably centered at a mighty fort near Samarkand, in the early phase of their career (350s of CE), the Kidarite Huns invaded the eastern part of the Sassanian empire even as the great Iranian shahanshah Shāpur-II was in the midst of the war with the Romans. Shāpur-II had to turn to his rear and wage a nearly 5-year war on these Huns before forcing them to sue peace. As a part of the deal, they allied with the Iranians to fight the Romans. Thus, their lord (probably named Krum-pat; c.f. the name of the later Bulgar Khan) aided Shapur-II in major victories against the Romans. This association and their occupation of the former Kuṣaṇa lands in Central Asia explains the extensive Iranicization of these Hun groups. Based on the names of the leaders, we can also see a degree of Hinduization of the later Kidarites (e.g., Salanavīra and Vinayāditya). Down the line, the relationship between the Iranians and these Huns soured again, and between 400-460 CE, the Iranians suffered multiple defeats against these Huns. Thus, they were forced to pay tribute to the Kidarites along the lines of what Attila levied on the Romans. In a parallel situation, when the Iranians stopped the tribute, a major war broke out. In an expedient move, the Sassanian shahanshah Phiroz formed an alliance with the rival Hun horde, the Śveta-hūṇa-s, and, in the 460s of CE, overthrew the Kidarites who were by then already greatly weakened by the Gupta assault.

What goes around comes around. Thus, in the 470s, the Śveta-hūṇa-s aggressively turned against their erstwhile Iranian allies, forcing Phiroz to war against them. In an engagement southeast of the Caspian, in the old lands of the Dāsa-s (Hyrcania), the Iranians were smashed by the Huns, and Phiroz was taken prisoner. He had to pay a heavy ransom and prostrate himself before the Śveta-hūṇa lord Akhśunwar. He agreed to do so, facing east in the morning, and claimed that he had actually only bowed to the god Mithra. Stinging from this defeat, 4-5 years later, Phiroz tried to reclaim the lost ground in a second campaign against the Huns. The Iranian force was demolished again, Phiroz’s son was taken hostage by the Huns, and he had to pay a hefty tribute. Now Akhśunwar declared himself the shahanshah of the Sassanian empire and added the Iranian crown on his head in his coins. To add insult to injury, Phiroz had to pay a huge amount to get his son released. At the same time, taking advantage of his routs, Judaistic and Christian subversionists were causing unrest in parts of the Iranian empire. Smarting from his prior defeats, Phiroz thirsted for revenge, but his forces were reluctant to fight the Huns again. Yet, Phiroz pressed ahead for a war with the Huns in 484 CE with the cream of the Iranian army south of the Caspian. Akhśunwar lured them into a hidden trap in the form of a concealed ditch while feigning retreat and claiming not wanting to initiate hostilities. Phiroz fell into the ditch in wild pursuit of the Huns and was killed by their archers. Many of his brothers, sons, and several of the Iranian elite were also slain as they attempted to aid him. Phiroz’s surviving brother then successfully rallied with their chief generals to defend the Iranian core from the Huns. However, the Huns helped overthrow him and placed Phiroz’s son, who was earlier their hostage, as a more pliant ruler on the throne. It took the Sassanians about 80 years to recover their losses and eventually overthrow Śveta-hūṇa-s under shahanshah Kushrau-I in an alliance with the Blue Turks.

The Huns of the East
Some historians have long recognized that there must be a common basis for these groups with a shared ethnonym operating across the breadth of Eurasia in the same general period. Moreover, their mode of action with respect to the settled empires of India, Iran and Rome shows striking parallels. Notably, there are other indications of the connections between these groups. For example, Kidarite coins have been found in Eastern Europe and Hungary, where the Attilan Huns operated. Further, Priscus tells us that the Kidarites were the Chionites, an alternative term for the Huns with deep roots to the East (see below). To understand this, we have to look further East and farther back in time to around 250 BCE. Simultaneously with the ascent of the nationalist Cīna empire of the Chin, the peoples of the Mongolian steppe appear to have started consolidating. Part of this might have been driven by technologies they acquired from their Indo-Iranian neighbors. Another factor seems to have been the Chinese unification, which started threatening their existence with wall-building activities of Chin Shi Huang and aggressive military action the Chin took against the peoples of Mongolia in 215 CE. The first organization appears to have occurred under a leader named Touman. His son Modun (probably Bagatur in the original Mongolic language) Shanyu appears to have unified them and began a series of expansive campaigns to build the first great Mongolian empire of the steppes in history. The memory of this old empire lasted to the times of Chingiz Khan, who referred to the ancient times of the Shanyu. These first Mongolic conquerors were known to the Chinese as Xiongnu, a word likely pronounced as something similar to Hūṇa and perhaps something like (C)hunu in a Mongolic language. This, in turn, is close to the name Chuni occasionally used for the European Huns and Chionite, who Priscus says were the Kidarites. This suggests that the Xiongnu were indeed the “original” Huns and strengthens the linkage between these ancient groups across Eurasia.

After a long struggle with the Hans, the Mongolian core of this first empire of the Xiongnu appears to have fallen to the para-Mongolic Xianbei group sometime between 150-200 CE, and the survivors fled West into the Saka and Kuṣāṇa lands. This suggests that the demise of the old Xiongnu empire resulted in the westward movement of its people and their mixing with various steppe Iranic groups while carrying the Hun ethnonym. The Kidarite takeover of the Kuṣaṇa lands in Central Asia is attested both in coinage and Cīna historical records. Over time, the Iranic components might have become dominant in some of these Hunnic hordes. It is even possible that the very title Khagan is derived from the Iranic hva-kama (=“self-ruler”) and was transmitted back eastwards to Mongolia. As they moved further West, they started absorbing Germanic, possibly Slavic, and also other tribes (see below). The connections of some of the more Western groups, like the Śveta-hūṇa-s, to the Eastern ones, continued via the Central Asian borderlands: as noted above, the Xianbei confederation was displaced by Ruan-Ruan Khanate, who were probably derived from underling Xiongnu, who persisted under the former. In the 490s, the Hephthalites and the Ruan-Ruan Khanate formed an alliance (probably based on their old familial connections according to Golden) and conquered the Turkic horde of the Teleuts (T’ieh-le). Then, the Hephthalites again allied with the Ruan-Ruan Khanate to strike their arch-enemies, the Xianbei kingdom of the Northern Wei. Around 520 CE, the Ruan-Ruan Khan turned against his powerful uncle, a brāhmaṇa minister whose sister was married to the former Khan. This brāhmaṇa’s other sisters were married to the king of the Hephthalites. In a change of alliances, the Hephthalites then aided this brāhmaṇa in Kokonor in the drawn-out struggle against the Ruan-Ruan and the Xianbei.

The Hungarians
While Attila is remembered mostly negatively both in the Christian Occident and the Germanic historical lore, he is a national hero for the Hungarians even after their conversion to the cult of Jesus. This seems to be a rather deep memory given the time that has elapsed since the Hunnic conquest of Hungary. However, we should note that this memory was likely reinforced by the Avar Khanate that arose from the overthrow of the Ruan-Ruan by the Blue Turks and the Hephthalites by the Sassanian-Blue Turk alliance. A horde of these neo-Hunnic peoples moved West under the Khans Kandik and Bayan, just as the classical European Huns before them, and erupted into Eastern Europe and Hungary starting around the 550s of CE. Over the next 60 years, they rose in power, forming shifting alliances with Germans, such as the Langobardi, and also the Slavs, to subjugate a vast territory from the steppes of the Black Sea-Caspian regions to nearly the gates of Vienna. This brought them into prolonged conflict with the Eastern Roman empire, in course of which they allied themselves with the Iranians and launched a striking attack on Constantinople in 617 CE. Over the next 100 years, their power declined, and they were eventually defeated by the Frankish crusade and the Slavs. The survivors were converted to the second Abrahamism thereafter.

Despite the memories of these Hunnic connections, the extant Hungarians speak an Uralic language. There is no evidence for this being the language of the Huns or the Avars who followed them. This is also in stark contrast with much of the surrounding regions, which speak Indo-European languages — predominantly of the Germanic, Slavic and Albanian branches. So how did the Hungarians come to speak an Uralic language? While this is not the place to get into the debates of the cladogenesis of the Uralic languages, it can be confidently said that the Hungarian language is not closest to the other Uralic languages of Northern Europe, like Estonian, Finnish, Karelian, or Saami. Nor is it specifically related to the Eastern European Uralic tongues like those of the Mari, the Udmurts and the Mordovians. Instead, it is closer to the Siberian languages Mansi and Khanty that are spoken to the East of the Urals. This linguistic observation by itself points out that the language of the Hungarians has come from some other group that invaded Europe from the East.

Historical records vindicate this conclusion. After the destruction of the Avar Khanate in Hungary, there was a further invasion from the East by a group known as the “conquering Hungarians” led by the Magyars. The first mentions of them on the eastern fringes of Europe are seen through the 800s of CE. Around 862 CE for of Magyars launched a raid on Central Europe. They returned 20 years later, sacking Germanic lands as far as Vienna. Close to 890 CE, the Hungarians launched a major westward thrust, probably triggered by the conflicts between the Turkic khanates of the Khazars and the Pechenegs. Shortly thereafter, they crushed the Slavs in what is today the Hungary region and established themselves there. In the first decade of the 900s, they advanced rapidly, smashing a Frankish German army in Slovakia and cleared the path for more extensive conquests. Over the next 50 years, the Germans suffered defeat after defeat at the hands of the Magyars, who led spectacular raids covering what are today Spain, France, Germany, Poland, the Balkans and the Eastern Roman territories of Europe. Finally, in 955 CE, the Hungarians were annihilated by a fierce German counterattack near what is today Augsburg, Germany, and the Magyar leaders were captured and executed. The survivors held on to Hungary and were eventually converted to Christianity and “accepted as Europeans”. This still leaves us with the conundrum of why the Hungarians, who have acquired their language from a distinct eastern conquering group, which invaded long after the classical Huns, still recall the Hunnic connection.

Genomics of the Huns, Avars and Hungarians
Historical hypotheses and reconstructions are often hard to corroborate due to the incompleteness of the records. However, over the past two decades, genomics is providing us with a serious independent mechanism for testing various historical hypotheses. Its spectacular success was seen in resolving many aspects of the first great expansions from the steppes, i.e., of the Indo-Europeans. It is also providing deep insights into the situation of the next set of expansions from the steppes, namely that of the Hunnic, Turkic and later Mongolic peoples. The Hungarian conundrum is another place where genomics can be brought to bear. The initial genetic studies on the extant Uralic peoples (e.g., by Tambets et al.) only deepened this mystery. They showed that the “pure” Uralic ancestry is largely restricted to the easternmost Siberian groups like the Nganasans. That, too, is mainly restricted to the Y-chromosome. However, the mitochondrial genome shows some European admixture. In contrast, as one moves West, there is increasing European admixture in all Uralic groups, and it is clearly more in terms of the mitochondrial genomes, suggesting that the Uralic movements to the West were likely mediated by males who took local females. Strikingly, even though the majority of the Y-chromosomes of the Khanty and the Mansi (Siberian sister groups of the Hungarians) are of Uralic affinity is only a very small minority in the Hungarians. The Uralic signal is nearly invisible in the Hungarians in terms of the mitochondrial genome. While the same is seen in the mitochondrial genomes of the Estonians and the Finns, their male lines respectively show a large or a majority Uralic fraction. This means that though the Hungarians acquired the language of their conquering national founders, their extant genome is of mostly Germanic ancestry. Thus, the Magyar conquerors hardly left a genetic impact. This means that the extant Hungarian genomic sequences are not sufficient to answer questions of the ethnogenesis of the founders of the nation or their connection to the Huns.

Here is where a recent preprint published by Maróti et al. becomes crucial in clarifying Hungarian ethnogenesis and the complex relationships between the various steppe groups. They obtained human genomic sequences from 271 ancient samples from Great Hungarian Plain and 73 direct C14 dates. Thus, they have a collection spanning the Hunnic, Avar and Magyar periods, which can help probe the above issues. They found that the majority of the samples had European ancestry, suggesting that the invaders did not greatly alter the local ancestry, unlike the Indo-European invasions, which left much deep genetic imprints in both Europe and Asia.

However, they strikingly found a subset of both the Hun and Avar age samples forming a cline in the principal component analysis that went from the Germanic-type European ancestry on one end to the Turko–Mongolic East Asian ancestry on the other. Notably, on the East Asian end of the cline, two of their Hungarian Huns group tightly with the Kalmyks and the Mongols, among extant populations, and the close to two historical Hun samples, namely a Hun from Kurayly, Kazakhstan from 380 CE and a Tian Shan Hun. Modeling this ancestry suggested a major late Xiongnu component marked by Han admixture. They could model one further sample as having Xiongnu and Germanic or Sarmatian (a steppe Iranic group close to the Alani) ancestry, pointing to the admixtures indicated by the historical records. In an independent study, Veeramah et al. looked at the genetic affinities of individuals from Sarmatian and other graves across western Eurasia. Interestingly, one early Sarmatian individual from the Orenburg region of Russia (~400-200 BCE) and a Crimean individual (200-400 CE) with a deformed skull in the style of the Alchon Huns show specific evidence for Indian admixture with SNPs potential private to greater India. This suggests that, as in the earlier Aryan invasion of India, there were individuals from the subcontinent who were also entering the steppe hordes. This provides independent genetic support for historical records such as the brāhmaṇa, who was allied with the Hephthalites and the Ruan-Ruan Khanate. Thus, the Hunnic movement through Asia into Europe, while having its ultimate origins in Mongolia, swept in a wide range of ancestries on their path. The Avar age samples formed an Europe-East Asia cline entirely overlapping with the Hunnic samples. Several Early Avar and a few Middle Avar age samples group with the Huns, Xiongnu, Xianbei, some early Turkic, and Chingizid Mongol samples at the East Asian end of the cline. These Avars at the East Asian end of the cline show a specific Ancient North-East Asian admixture that was also noted among the early Xiongnu, Ulaanzuukh, and Slab Grave samples from Mongolia. This establishes the Mongolian origins of the Avars and supports their deep shared ancestry with the Xiongnu.

In terms of Y chromosomes (also see earlier work of Keyser et al.), both the Hunnic and Avar male samples from this Hungarian study show a presence of the Q haplogroup, which was also found in East Asian Xiongnu samples, such as those from the spectacular Middle Xiongnu Tamir Ulaan Khoshuu cemetery at the confluence of the Tamir and the Orkhon Rivers in Central Mongolia. Additionally, both these Hungarian samples also show the same R1a Y haplogroup that was widely dispersed across Asia by the Indo-Iranians. The presence of this haplogroup in the above Middle Xiongnu cemetery males in Mongolia suggests that a major fraction of these were not derived from later absorption of Indo-Iranians on the western steppes. Rather, this male line likely descended from the Middle-Late Bronze age Indo-Iranian Andronovo horizon that had expanded into the Mongolian steppe. Consistent with this, we find mentions of some of these steppe Indo-Iranians in the Xianbei successor states down to the Chingizid period as the Aran or Asud (<arya). It also indicates that the male line of these old Indo-Iranians persisted through the “Mongolization” of the East, especially among the Hunnic elites (e.g., the 2000-year-old Xiongnu elite cemetery at Duurlig Nars in Northeast Mongolia studied by Kim et al.). The recovery of these Y-chromosomes in the Hungarian Huns suggests that the male lines of these elites were likely still in action centuries later in the West. These observations further strengthen the connection between these groups from the two ends of the Eurasian landmass.

Finally, coming to the conquering Hungarian elite samples, Maróti et al. found that they show a more spread out distribution on their PCA plot. Few of them squarely fall in the above-described Hun and Avar clines shifted towards Western Eurasian groups with respect to the easternmost members of these clines. This suggests that a minority subset of the Magyars were indeed derived without any further admixture from a Hunnic group that had already mixed with steppe Iranic groups to their West. However, the major clusters of the Magyars show a further shift towards the Siberian groups, namely the Mansi, the Selkup and the Yukagir (the former two are unambiguous Uralic speakers). Remarkably, these ancient Magyar samples also show close genetic affinities to the peoples of Bashkortostan in what is today Uralic Russia. Medieval Hungarian records from the 1200s mention this land as the ancestral domain of the Magyars of Hungary. The authors found that the Magyar elite with Uralic ancestry could be modeled as a mixture of Mansi up to 50%, with the rest being made of late Xiongnu and Iranic Sarmatian ancestry. Based on these admixtures, they posit that there was an initial admixture between the ancient Sarmatians and an Uralic group close to the Mansi around 643-431 BCE and later with the Huns around 217-315 CE, even as the remnants of the Xiongnu empire were moving West.

This fits well the inferences from linguistic data. The Hungarian language is a sister of the Mansi language, which suggests that an Uralic group was central to the ethnogenesis of the original Magyars. This has now been independently supported by the archaeo-genomic evidence, filling lacuna from the paucity of such ancestry in extant Hungarians. The Hungarian language shows clear Iranic loans relative to Mansi and Khanty, indicating that they had contact with the Iranics. The genetic evidence suggests that this happened around 500 BCE when a steppe Iranic group related to the Sarmatians (Avestan: Sairima) probably moved into the Uralic zone and were absorbed by a Mansi-like group. This contact left both a genetic and linguistic impact on this Uralic group. It also probably introduced elements of a steppe nomad lifestyle and warfare to these proto-Magyars (since there is no evidence of their sister groups engaging in similar military nomadism). This priming was probably reinforced as a Hunnic group originating from the fragments of the Xiongnu empire, which had also mixed with steppe Iranic elements, was absorbed into the proto-Magyars in steppe-Siberian borderlands. It is likely that this proto-Magyar group had participated as an auxiliary of the European Hun and Avar invasions because few of the Magyar elite were plainly Hunnic without much Uralic admixture. This is consistent with the accounts of the Magyar military tactics, which are frequently compared to those of the Huns and Avars. Thus, we probably had a situation where the proto-Magyars retained the Uralic language of their demographically dominant Mansi-like core but also inherited legends of the old heroes, like Attila, from the Hunnic peoples embedded their midst. This might explain the importance of Attila and his successors in their national consciousness (c.f. Geser Khan epics in the East).


Further reading:
Maróti et al. https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.01.19.476915
Tambets et al. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13059-018-1522-1
Veeramah et al. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1719880115
Amorim et al. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-06024-4
Fóthi et al. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-019-00996-0
Savelyev et al. https://doi.org/10.1017/ehs.2020.18
Jeong et al. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.10.015
Kim et al. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.21242
Keyser et al. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00439-020-02209-4
Robbeets et al. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-04108-8
P. Golden, An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples: Ethnogenesis and State-Formation in Medieval and Early Modern Eurasia and the Middle East (1992)
A. Kurbanov, Hephthalites: Archaeological and historical analysis (2010)

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Some observations on the Lekkerkerker-Zeckendorf decomposition of integers

In our youth, we learned of a nice arithmetic theorem of Lekkerkerker (more popularly known after Zeckendorf; hereinafter L-Z) that relates to the famous Mātrā-meru sequence M: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8… defined by the recurrence relationship f[n+2]=f[n+1]+f[n]. The theorem states that all positive integers can be uniquely expressed as a sum of one or more distinct non-consecutive terms of M. A proof for this theorem can be visualized through a simple geometric construction (Figure 1).

Zeckendorf_decompositionThe graphical L-Z decomposition of integers from 1..12

Pile rectangles whose sides are two successive terms of M so as to make a n \times n half-square (Figure 1). One can see that every integer can be reached by a horizontal path of such rectangles. This also specifies the algorithm for the L-Z decomposition of an integer n. Find the largest term m of M such that m \le n. If m < n then continue the same procedure on the difference n-m till n-m=0. This gives us the decompositions shown in Figure 1.

One can define sequence f that counts the length of the L-Z decomposition of each integer n. For example, we see that 12=8+3+1, i.e., it is decomposed into 3 terms. Thus, f[12]=3; similarly f[11]=2= f[10]= f[9]=2. f goes as: 1, 1, 1, 2, 1, 2, 2, 1, 2, 2, 2, 3, 1, 2, 2, 2, 3, 2, 3, 3, 1, 2, 2, 2, 3, 2, 3, 3, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 1, 2, \cdots

One see that the value jumps by 1 for the first time at certain values of n (Figure 2): f[1]=1, f[4]=2, f[12]=3, f[33]=4. Using these n we define a new sequence f_m: 1, 4, 12, 33 \cdots We can then ask what is its convergent? We found that,

\displaystyle n \to \infty, \; \dfrac{f_m[n+1]}{f_m[n]}=\phi^2=\phi+1,

where \phi is the Golden ratio \tfrac{1+\sqrt{5}}{2}.

We can then ask if there is a closed expression for f_m. We derived this to be:

\displaystyle f_m[n] = \left\lfloor 2\sum_{k=0}^{\infty} -1^k \phi^{2n-3k-1} \right\rfloor

LZ_Fig2Figure 2

Another class of sequences we explored was f_k, the lengths of the L-Z decompositions of k^n, where k=2, 3, 4, 5 and n=0, 1, 2 \cdots, i.e., the powers of integers. For example, f_2 goes thus: 1, 1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 6 \cdots. Plots of f_k against n show a good fit for a linear growth in the range in which we computed these values (Figure 3; it is computationally intensive), albeit with increasing dispersion as n increases. If we take their growth to be linear, we then can ask the question: what would be the slope of these lines? Interestingly, we empirically found the slopes of the lines approximating the L-Z decomposition lengths of 2^n, 3^n, 4^n, 5^n to be respectively 2^{-4/3}, 2^{-2/3}, 2^{-1/3}, 2^{-1/9}. Can this be proven or is there an alternative description of the growth of these sequences?

LZ_Fig3Figure 3

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Subjective and objective insight

The black American scientist Sylvester Gates mentioned a curious personal anecdote in a talk. To paraphrase him, when he was in college, he had to take a calculus course. He mentioned how he could cut through differentiation as it was a largely mechanical process. Then came integration, where he said he was stuck with the problems involving multiple substitutions to arrive at the final integral. The inability to crack difficult problems of that genre gave him a headache, and he fell asleep. Something happened to him in his sleep that when he awoke, he suddenly emerged with a new understanding to solve those problems, and they no longer seemed difficult. We can completely identify with that experience of his. However, it was not a night’s sleep that flipped the switch in our case. We had to wait for that testosterone burst, that elixir of masculinity, which allows males to perform great acts. We clearly remember how, a few months before it, we struggled to derive the equations of certain loci for which we had figured out mechanical constructions. But, upon the passage to manhood, suddenly we found ourselves possessed of svāyambhuva insights that allowed us to penetrate such problems with ease — it was as if the doors to a deeper realm of understanding had been opened. Other people have told us of similar experiences — we recently heard from a friend how he had a phase transition at some point in his life (overlapping with puberty), which made him suddenly grasp a mathematical entity that had previously defied him and led him to pursuing a degree in physics.

Our life-history-associated flips may be relatively easily explained in neurological terms — the gonadal hormones are known to trigger extensive neurogenesis, and these new neurons and the reorganization of neuronal connections, which they case seem to provide the firepower for apprehending mathematical and conceptual ideas that were previously difficult to process. However, the experience narrated by Gates is of a different kind. He definitely did not grow a bunch of neurons over his nap, but it seems his “subconscious” kept working and churned up the solution back to his conscious mind on awakening. Such experiences are not isolated. In fact, they might have played a big role in the history of science in the form of dream revelations. We first learnt of this from the famous story of how August von Kekulé solved the structure of benzene in a dream. Subsequently, we learnt of several other examples: 1) Ramanujan obtained formulae concerning several elliptic integrals from the goddess Śri in a dream. 2) Niels Bohr had a dream of electrons revolving like planets around the nucleus in fixed orbits. 4) Dmitri Mendeleev had a dream of the periodic table of elements. 4) AR Wallace had a dream while suffering from a tropical fever in the Far East that left him with the evolutionary theory. We have never made any of our major scientific discoveries in a dream. However, we have had a couple of mathematical problems, and the path to their solution appear in dreams — these were very rare events — we had exactly two so far in life!

While the pubertal and the dream switches might seem like different things, we hold that they have a commonality. Both are marked with the acquisition of a new insight after which the world might not appear to be the same. Before the switch, there was no way of solving the problem with a purely workmanly approach. That switch happens at a “subconscious” level, but it impinges into conscious action with a fundamentally changed framework that allows you to see a new order or a system where none seemed to exist before — everything makes sense in this framework but not outside it.

This has implications for the process of science. It has become popular to tell students that science is generated via the “scientific method”, whose realization is seen as a major development for science itself. Ideas related to the formalism of the scientific method are widespread. As we have discussed before, we encounter them in the nyāya (+vaiśeṣika) theory of knowledge production wherein from a kalpanā (tentative hypothesis) we proceed to a nirṇītā if it passes the test (vinigamaka) as opposed to the alternative hypothesis. The established hypothesis becomes the theory or siddhānta. A similar formulation emerged the Occident starting with the pioneering work of the French savant Rene Descartes (apparently, he got this framework in a dream) and culminating in the Jewish thinker Karl Popper who presented a clear “flow-chart” encompassing hypothesis generation, prediction, testing and falsification. That such a formalism sprung up convergently across cultures implies that there might be something deep to them. In general, we agree it is a good way to understand how science works. However, we should stress that this is not how it actually happens.

The actual process of scientific discovery depends heavily on the welling up of those perspective-changing insights from the subconscious to the conscious that we mentioned above (for why we term it perspective-changing, see below). However, it should not be held that the profound perspective-shift that bubbles up to you is necessarily scientifically correct even if it were mathematically beautiful, technically sound, or seemingly robust as a device. It has to be tested against actual data. Here is where the Popperian idea of making a prediction based on it and testing it comes in. We have several famous examples of how the perspective-changing explanation might be beautiful but scientifically wrong. We could mention the great German astrologer Johannes Kepler‘s original planetary model, where he fitted each of the five Platonic solids between the orbits of the six then known planets. He felt he had stumbled upon a profound insight: “The intense pleasure I have received from this discovery can never be told in words…” However, the predictions of this model did not fit the mass of astronomical observations, the great legacy of Tycho Brahe. Where Kepler emerged as a scientist was in his ultimate rejection of this hypothesis despite its beauty (he drew a diagram of it rivaling the hand of Leonard da Vinci himself) and personal appeal. Thus, the role of the Popperian process was relatively limited in this example of how science actually happened. The Popperian hypothesis rejection did not result in an automatic path ahead for Kepler. Indeed, he might have been consigned the heap of many a forgotten scientist had he stopped there. Kepler’s effort in constructing his original model and testing it provided him with many insights into the problem at hand. He also had key observations that did not fit his initial hypothesis in his head. These provided the grist for his renewed attack on the problem. Here again the subconscious churning through the paths taken by the great yavanācārya-s, Archimedes and Apollonius, going back to the Delian oracle of Apollo resulted in Kepler arriving at the correct hypothesis that was striking in its generality, even if more abstruse than the earlier one for the pre-Newtonian layman.

From a neurological perspective, this subconscious production of science is not surprising. It is well known that most of our neural processes, which might be termed thinking, are unconscious. Even in a conscious experience, like vision, there is an enormous amount of neural calculation and information processing that we are entirely unaware of. In fact, it might even be dangerous for a regular individual to be exposed to this data, its processing, and its presentation. This is strikingly illustrated by the case of the black English artist savant, Stephen Wiltshire, whose very existence might be denied by people who have not seen him in action. However, his extraordinary capture of visual detail comes at the cost of strong autistic traits that are potentially fitness-nullifying. Indeed, on very rare occasions, such capacities might get unmasked by brain injury, as in the case of Jason Padgett, suggesting that natural selection is likely working to keep them masked rather than expressed. Hence, the subconscious, which is screened from the conscious, is the most likely seat where the perspective-shifting insight arises. We hold that there is a pure Platonic realm of mathematics and “linguistic content” that contains the foundation of “all knowledge” of existence. The conscious surfing of this realm is likely not possible for most people. Many of those who are able to access it often have a cost, such as being on the autistic spectrum. Thus, this realm is in part surfed only subconsciously by most.

Anyone who has solved a difficult (to the person in doing the job) scientific or mathematical problem knows the sensation Kepler talks about — that first-person experience. The perspective-changing insight usually comes first, but it is in a sense “raw”, i.e., the details are not precise at all, but there is something in the subconscious that tells you that you have the right solution. It feels as if the “surfing” process apprehends it in the Platonic realm, but its clarity is smudged when it is dredged up to the conscious realm. After that, there is a workmanly phase wherein one implements the solution in concrete terms. In this phase, one’s intelligence and breadth of knowledge are vital determinants of how well one converts the insight into the finished product of a scientific discovery or a mathematical theorem. What emerges usually has a formalism that allows it to be communicated mechanically to the recipient. However, this communication, as well as its reception by peers, might not be easy. A common adage goes that once you announce a new insight, your peers first ridicule it — this is usually because they are not in possession of the new framework you have, and even to apply it mechanically, they need at least a limited perspective-shift. Eventually, the peers learn to apply it mechanically and see that it gives correct results. This causes them to shift towards the new framework even if they do not fully grasp it. Finally, the flip occurs in the minds of the peers and a subset of them might declare the discovery as trivial or claim that they knew it all along — this in part stems from a total conversion that makes them lose their prior framework (some of this is capture in the paradigm shift model of the Jewish thinker Thomas Kuhn).

In the end, all this still lies in the domain of what might be termed the objective because once the insight is gained, it can be formally transferred to others by a mechanical procedure. For example, most Indian “crackers” in our days who exuberantly integrated all manner of complicated functions often did not have any insight into calculus — they had merely mastered its protocol. On the other end, there might be mathematicians turgid with formalism who think all common presentations of calculus are fundamental flawed. In between are the reasonable practitioners who know that there is a certain insight, which becomes very natural at a certain point in one’s study of the field. Once one knows this, it no longer seems like a black box but as natural a procedure as 2+2=4 (unless you are possessed by the Neo-American disease). Thus, for many who have “mastered” calculus, the original perspective shifts that its discoverers might have had are no longer very important. Because of this one might also see a devolution of the field if the continuity with the original insight is lost. We believe that a good example of this is the loss of the great astronomical insights of Āryabhaṭa in Hindu astronomy until it was in a sense rediscovered by the Nambūtiri school or their (as yet unknown) predecessors. This might also be a major factor in the loss of technological insights, such as the Antikythera mechanism of the Archimedean tradition or the yantra-s of Āryabhaṭa or king Bhoja. This might even happen in our age.

In any case, the bottom line is that these perspective shifts, once realized, can be transferred to others. Hence, we see this as being in the domain of “science” or objective knowing. However, over the years, we have come to realize that there is an equivalent of this switch that intrudes into the subjective domain that might not be entirely transferable, at least by the same way we transfer the objective insights. There are several versions of this straddling domain between the purely subjective and the objective. To explore this, we start with the existence of hard biological barriers that stand in the way of the first-person experience of one group from being replicated in the other. An easily understood case of this comes from the innate differences between men and women (notwithstanding the neo-American simulacrum of West Asian diseases of the mind, which tells you that they do not exist). One domain where this is very apparent is vision — men and women literally see things differently. Women tend to see a greater richness of color than men, especially in the middle wavelengths of the visual range, and men see finer detail (especially changing light intensity) and subtler movements than women. While we do not entirely understand the biology behind this, it may proximally stem partly from the X-chromosomal linkage of opsin genes, which encode visual sensors, and partly from the massive role of testosterone in modeling the visual cortex during development. There may be good teleologies for this going back to our evolutionary past, especially given that primates are very visual animals, which recognize color on faces (among other things for mate choice), and the behavioral differences between males and females in several primate lineages. Thus, males and females have distinct subjective experiences of color and detail conditioned by their biological differences — this is analogous to the pubertal neural transformations that lead to new insights. However, in this case, the first-person experience of one group cannot be replicated by the other due to the fundamental biological distinction between them.

This leads us to the question as to whether, in some cases, this barrier to the subjective experience can be turned off by a switch such that you see things in a wholly new way — something analogous to man being able to suddenly see all the gradation of colors a woman was talking about that he never understood. For this, let us consider the effects of N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Those who have not had a DMT experience (that includes us, to be clear), can get some picture of the self-reported objective part. For example, a survey of 561 DMT users [Footnote 1] showed significant coherence in the prominent features experienced by them. They reported an encounter with a “being, guide, spirit, alien or helper” that appeared “conscious, intelligent, and benevolent” and “continued to exist after the encounter”. The majority also stated that they received “a message or a prediction of the future”. We cannot make complete sense of what they experienced, but we can agree that the compound made them see something unusual. However, the users also show a significant trend of saying that the experience results in a profound change of world view, and they did not see things the same way after it. For example, more than half of those who identified as “atheists” no longer did so after the experience. Thus, no amount of explaining or description of the experience in an objective sense can flip the perspective switch for those who have not gone through it. Therefore, this tells us that there is a perspective switch in the subjective realm, similar to what we see in the objective sphere in the scientific process; however, that cannot be simply transmitted through a formal framework to others. Instead, one may have to subject oneself to the compound to see if such a shift might be experienced in the first person. Indeed, the commonality and distinction between these subjective and objective perspective changes is illustrated by the lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) experiences that are said to produce both objective scientific perspective shifts, which can be formally communicated, and subjective ones which result in a “changed perspective on existence,” which seem untransmittable.

The limiting case of the subjective perspective-shift is something that educated Hindus can understand; however, others might find it incredibly difficult to grasp. At a general level, it might be something that overlaps with the flipping of the switch, which occurs with psychedelic compounds, but, typically, the Hindu praxis related to it does not go via such compounds. This may be termed, for the lack of a better word, “brahmānanda.” While the use of the term brahmānanda might indicate that we are privileging Advaita vedānta, we should clarify that it is not the case. The percipient, either due to a yogasādhanā or vicāra has a switch flip within him, which shines the light of a profound subjective experience, that might be liked to awakening from a dream. In the regular dream world, one is conscious and doing things with a unified first-person experience despite the absence of much sensory input. In that state, one takes that experience to be reality. But when one awakens, one realizes that it was not reality but some “illusion”. Similarly, in the brahmānanda experience, the percipient is said to awaken from the everyday world into that new brahmānanda state, at which point he sees the everyday world just like a dream. Some such condition and transformation into it is widely accepted in H tradition (including the vedabāhya schools). What they differ in is the ontological status they accord it and the theological framework into which they incorporate it. We will not labor on this point because educated H will get right away, and others probably will make no sense of what we are talking about.

There are more “secular” examples in the same general domain that again a subset of people can find difficult or impossible to apprehend. Below we give a couple of such anecdotes. To understand the “reality” of subjective experience, one has to be able to appreciate what is called, in modern Occidental philosophical terminology, the “hard-problem” of consciousness. It goes hand-in-hand with the “first-person-experience” available for mental reflection; it is given the technical term quale (plural: qualia). Simply put, the hard problem is then the question of how we can get to the qualia from an understanding of all the biochemistry and biophysics (the “easy problem”). This is a philosophically difficult chasm to bridge between the objective realm of science and the subjective realm of consciousness. A physicist with a prodigious head once asked us if we felt that the “human brain” and “consciousness” were the last great frontier of biology, which would draw the biggest brains in the field. We responded that it might suck in the big brains but that there were more fundamental problems in biology. This led us to talk about consciousness, and soon we realized that he thought consciousness was the same as the biochemistry and biophysics of the brain. Hard as we tried, he could neither apprehend the very existence of qualia nor the concept of the philosophical zombie — it almost seemed like he was one. We put this aside as simply an issue with our attempt at explaining the concept to him. More recently, we had a similar conversation with a set of friends. Of the two of them, one, who was formerly a physicist, again simply failed to apprehend the concept of qualia or that the hard problem could even exist. The other one, a biologist with a reasonable general knowledge of neurobiology, had considerable difficulty grasping the existence of qualia. He fumbled along, insisting, like many before him, that they must be just “illusions” not unlike optical illusions. However, midway into the conversation, a switch suddenly flipped within him. He exclaimed something like: “I get what you are saying! This is profound, a hard problem indeed! Now I see why this might be a big issue.” In this case, we could not transfer an algorithm to him for making the switch — something within him flipped while he was trying to process our words and imagery objectively.

We finally come to the specific case where there seems to be an interaction between the subjective and objective domains of knowing. We illustrate it with an example that would make the typical modern occidentally conditioned scientists (usually one with left-liberal beliefs) very uncomfortable (though the protagonists in the narrative are Occidental scientists). The narrator somehow felt we would “get it” even if we do not believe him. A senior colleague told an elderly biochemist of European ancestry of his observations on the apparent “ghostly” transmission of information from deceased individuals to those born after them in West Africa. The senior colleague had systematically gathered this information and presented what may be termed objective data with statistics to support his contention that this unbelievable thing (in the modern paradigm) happens. Unlike some who would have normally laughed it off, our biochemist heard out his colleague attentively and studied his data. He found nothing wrong in the report but could not believe that what his colleague told him could really happen. He felt there could be other mundane explanations. The said biochemist, himself a man of travel and adventure, was interested in the anthropology and genetics of certain human diseases prevalent in West Africa. Hence, he had the chance to travel there and check things out with the tribesmen himself. What he saw in “pratyakṣa” — the subjective first-person experience he had in West Africa — caused a dramatic perspective shift. After this first-hand encounter, he began believing what his senior colleague had presented to be true, even if he did not have an explanation for it. He did not publish it because he knew others would have the same disbelief as him unless perhaps they reproduced his experience for themselves — something not easily achieved when it needs serious fieldwork among the tribes of West Africa.

This is not restricted to the domain of such unusual things, though it might be enriched there. We have had at least one personal example of the same in ordinary science in our youth. A researcher had published an unusual scientific discovery whose full implication he did not grasp. When we read it, we realized how unusual it was and the major implications of it being true. However, we simply could not get ourselves to believe it, for it was not easy to reproduce it by any means at our disposal in our youth. We also found that other respected researchers in the field could not reproduce it and disregarded it. However, a few years later, we were able to reproduce it for ourselves and see it plainly with our own eyes. At that point, we managed to develop a formalism to present it quite plainly to the rest of the community. Seeing our presentation, several saw its reality and started claiming it as their profound discovery! Because it was in the realm of the objective, once the formalism was presented, people could make the flip by following it. However, to develop that, we had to have a first-person experience of it — enter a state of being a believer — before proselytizing it. However, not all such flips necessarily result in correct insights. Some of those could be false, both in the domain of science and religion.

Finally, why do we call it a “perspective shift”? Early on, we read of a mathematical construct that led us to an analogy of how these insights work. It is the famous construct of a 2D world — the flatland. For the flatlander, objects accessing and using the third dimension for motion will mysteriously appear and vanish. Moreover, a flatlander moved into the third dimension will suddenly acquire X-ray vision into other flatlanders. Thus, the insights we have discussed in this note have the feel of such a vision of a flatlander suddenly gaining access to 3D space; hence, we term them perspective shifts. Might such a thing also apply to our 3D space? Some rare people, like Henri Poincare and Alicia Stott, the daughter of the well-known mathematician Boole, had the capacity to “see” 4D space. Thus, Stott was able to construct shadows and cross-sections of 4D and higher dimensional objects in 3D space and make discoveries in this regard. This led to the great mathematician Coxeter using her extraordinary ability to assist his geometrical research even though she had never formally attended college. This was a genetic siddhi, elements of which she got from her parents and passed on to her son. For the typical individual, there might even be an inhibition against such special insights, for it could come at a fitness cost, as noted above. In this regard, we note the case of a fellow graduate student who was a virtuoso programmer. One day he had a mental quake, after which he remarked to us how he was apprehending 4D space naturally and seeing hyper-Platonic solids. Sadly, a few months later, he lapsed into dysfunctionality with a severe mental condition.


[Footnote 1] Davis et al; https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881120916143

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On the passing of E.O. Wilson

E.O. Wilson, one of the great biologists of the age, has fallen to the noose of the king, the black son of Vivasvān. He lived a long, productive, and eventful life, just 8 years shy of a century. He was a major influence on our scientific development. We learnt of kin and group selection and r- and K-selection from reading his classic tome, “Sociobiology: The New Synthesis” in our youth. The introduction to these concepts of the evolutionary theory kept brewing in our minds, and we kept thinking about the molecular consequences of the same. In the 13th summer of our life, we studied the immunoglobulin domain and the generation of antibody diversity in jawed vertebrates. It was then that first connections clicked into place. We realized that must be general evolutionary parallels between the immunological molecular machinery for self-non-self discrimination and the apparatus relating to kin-nonkin discrimination in social contexts. A few years later, we read John Maynard-Smith’s “Evolutionary Genetics”, which we were lucky to borrow shortly after its publication. By then, we were armed with some agility in calculus; thus, the mathematical framework provided by Maynard Smith allowed us to apprehend some key ideas of the selective process relating to the logistic growth curve and related issues. These also came together with the ideas of Pāṇini/Patañjali on linguistic systems and those of Shannon regarding the relationship between entropy in statistical mechanics and linguistic strings. Finally, one fine evening it all came together, and we realized the foundations of understanding the imprints of the selective processes we first learnt of from Wilson’s book on the information in biological macromolecules. Exploring this story has kept us occupied to this date.

We found our journey to be somewhat ironic when we learnt much later of the famous clash between J.D. Watson and Wilson when they were both at Harvard University. Old Jimmy felt that molecular biology had made Wilson’s type of biology (“stamp collector” science) unimportant. Watson is famously reputed to have said: “Smart people didn’t go into ecology … It’s not intellectually demanding.” While we also feel a degree of intellectual kinship with Watson, there is a palpable aspect of Wilson’s statement regarding Watson — “the most unpleasant human being I have ever met” — in molecular biology. Indeed, molecular biology has quite a share of the “most unpleasant” people you can meet outside of a street in some rough city of the world. We believe that some of this culture stems from the founder of that science Watson himself. While we admit this is a subjective and anecdotal impression (we do not have controls to say if scientists are more or as nasty in experimental physics or organic chemistry), it cannot be denied that the cultural defects of modern molecular biology are reflected in the mounds of fake results and credit stealing (best termed plagiarism) corrupting scientific publications from the constricted highways of the magazines and to the toxic byways of preprint servers. Even more troubling for the foundations of the science is the triumph of the Watsonian metaphor over the Wilsonian call for consilience — something that deeply resonates with the Hindu tradition of knowledge. Wilsonian consilience was put to practice by his late friend, the great entomologist, T Eisner, who brilliantly brought together the study of biological conflicts with an exploration of the chemical virtuosity of insects. Thus, we have numerous practitioners of the modern branches of biology, championed by old Jimmy, who lack an understanding of the foundational ideas of their science — imagine physicists practicing their science with only a smidgen of knowledge of the Lagrangian or the Hamiltonian. It would indeed do the science good if the practitioners were to pay more sincere attention to the Wilsonian philosophical outlook. However, this may not come to be for other reasons that intersected with Wilson’s journey through life (see below).

Kin selection was discovered by J.B.S. Haldane and elaborated in a proper theoretical framework by W. Hamilton. Wilson’s seminal contributions to hymenopteran biology were critical in establishing kin selection on a firm footing. However, ironically, Wilson tended to have a soft corner for group selection, which eventually became a full-blown attack on kin selection as the explanation for eusociality in his last years. He sought to provide this idea with a mathematical foundation with the help of Nowak and Tarnita. We feel that much of that complicated mathematics is probably more a smokescreen than real fire and does not displace kin selection, at least in the contexts that were close to him — eusociality as reported in arthropods or the mole rats. Nevertheless, unlike many other biologists, we do think Wilson had a point regarding the place of group selection in social systems. To a degree, this might have been critical in human sociality, much like the hypersocial ants that Wilson had studied. The lineage as a whole provides a way to understand this. Men unrelated to great leaders like Chingiz Khān or Shivājī sacrificed their lives for them. In return, these leaders ensured the survival of their offspring. Say they had not sacrificed themselves for the new group identity forged by the Khān, they might have been wiped out in entirety like the many bands on the steppe before them. Thus, while the Khān got to propagate his genes to leave an oversized genetic imprint that stands out even today, these men might have raised the probability of the survival of their lineage from 0 to something small but non-zero. Our investigations suggest that group selection might have a role in the stability of bacterial biofilms too.

This brings us to an important point elaborated by Wilson: the superorganism. The same genome is differentially expressed to generate a diversity of castes that dramatically diverge in appearance, size, and behavior. This provides a striking illustration of a molecular principle, namely the use of epigenetic regulatory processes to add information over and beyond that encoded in the four bases of DNA. Thus, different parts of the same code are unveiled in different individuals making them look almost as if they were different species. This led to the formulation of the evolutionary hypothesis of how epigenetic regulation in eukaryotes might provide the initial “capacitance” for changes that might then be hardwired into the genome. At the social level, it showed the remarkable success and stability of the caste system as an evolutionary strategy. It has repeatedly emerged in multiple hymenopterans and the cockroach-like clade. Thus, it should not be a surprise to see it emerge in humans though we can only be considered nearly eusocial. Nevertheless, the basic principle of a superorganism with castes can be seen as applying to our societies. That is how our ancient social theorists saw the varṇa system — the 4 varṇa-s (mirroring the numbers of castes seen in arthropods) are seen as aṅga-s of the metaphorical puruṣa who is the society. The stability of these castes for over 90 million years in hymenopterans should serve as food for thought to the left-liberals who strive to have it abolished. This should be placed against the backdrop of the many evolutionary successes of the hymenopterans and isopterans, which anticipated some of those that we pride ourselves on, like the discovery of farming or antibiotics.

This finally brings us to what brought Wilson and Watson back together. Wilson was one of the first to face the assault of the navyonmatta-s — the left-liberals with deep connections to the H-haters of American school led them — Lewontin, Gould, Kamin, and Rose, among others. They orchestrated a band of thugs, the predecessors of the kālāmukha rioters of the American gardabha-pakṣa, to attack Wilson. Watson was a member of the old mleccha guard and, like his collaborator, F. Crick, saw the reality of genetic differences between ethnicities. This made him an enemy of navyonmāda, driving him close to his old foe, Wilson. In the end, the first wave of navyonmāda orchestrated by the uparimaragata left-liberals failed to storm the scientific branches of academia completely. Instead, due to the lack of Wilsonian consilience in the Occidental academe, it festered on in the non- and less- scientific domains of the same. In the end, it has to be kept in mind that both Wilson and Watson belonged to the mleccha elite. Their fortress is still pretty strong despite being sapped by navyonmāda. Wilson was a quiet personality. He generally maintained a dignified public profile, kept writing his books, and moved to other areas of interest. Thus, the navyonmatta-s lost interest in him. In contrast, Watson has an abrasive personality who liked to focus on the most uncomfortable of human genetic differences in a public and, sometimes, crude way. This resulted in his fall from grace as an American hero. In the end, Wilson’s personality offers a better model to emulate than Watson. He was productive until late into his long life. He explored a range of ideas brought many of them to the public with elegant writing. However, this would have only been possible in the height of the mleccha academic ecosystem. Even if one had the genetic wherewithal to emulate a Wilson, it would be tough to achieve the same in the absence of that type of ecosystem, which is now under threat from navyonmāda.

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Some words on mleccha cartels

An embedded anthropological study of social substructures is vital to grasp some of their features that seem baffling to the outsider or the “uninitiated” insider. Much of what we will be talking about here has been said in some form on these pages before, and some of it will necessarily be vague for the mleccha and his agents are still in control of the world. Yet, we felt it is worth recording this as there is no guarantee that the whole story can be said in plain language. If the time does come when it can be told in such a way, then the tendency will be to focus on the distracting specifics rather than the general significance, and the focus will be through the lens of inter-personal feelings rather than objectivity. Another point to note is that in the past decade navyonmāda, whose long fuse was smoldering for decades, finally exploded on the world scene along the lines its founders wanted. This means that the old lenses used to view the mleccha are no longer a perfect fit — cognizance should be taken of the deep divergences within the mleccha world. Nevertheless, as we have often remarked before, there is an alignment of the preta, garden variety liberal and nayonmatta positions when it comes to the H. Indeed, this is a continuation of the deep anti-H sentiment in the mleccha world, especially among the āṅgla-gaṇa, which goes back to over a century and a half. For example, the popular mahāmleccha mouthpiece, the Washington Times, was as anti-H a century ago as today. Hence, despite the deep schisms within the mleccha worlds, like those between the overt Abrahamisms, there is a common pith (much like the marūnmatta scientist, Al Bīrūni, had remarked regarding the Hindu-s and the Yavana-s).

Over the past few years, two H (they not educated about H traditions but do not tilt against them either. Their knowledge of Indian politics is next to non-existent), whom we know well, brought us in contact with three influential mleccha organizations. The power of two of them, while extensive, is in no way directly related to national- or geo- politics, and their influences are relatively domain-specific. The third has a more local character but exerts considerable influence on one of the two bigger organizations. We will hereinafter refer to them as “cartels,” but it should be emphasized that they do not trade in recreational substances or weapons or the usual things the word cartel is commonly used for. However, we learnt that they operate very similar to cartels. To be clear, we are not a member of any of the three though our H contacts are. They entered those cartels through either prolonged pro bono service or playing middleman in key access networks for powerful mleccha insiders. In the process, they learnt how to play in those circles via mlecchānusāra. In short, it involves an elaborate process of delegation while claiming credit for oneself. The lower-ranked individuals actually doing the dirty work are paid primarily with “biscuits” like those tossed to the faithful dog Tom for fetching a stick. The mlecchānusāra has a subtlety to it, despite seeming simple to the naive onlooker. Indeed, a couple of such naive V3s thought they could play the boss-mleccha but ended up much like the nāpita mimicking Maṇibhadra.

While our H contacts are insiders, they still felt that there were deeper secrets that only the mleccha and mūlavātūla players could access. However, they got one key perk — immunity to random attacks from the thugs (see below). A prathamonmatta insider brought to the attention of one of our contacts the case of a non-H deśīya who entered the cartel by presenting himself as a “traditionally oppressed and excluded minority.” However, after some study, we realized that it was only half the story. He had a long track-record of serving the mleccha by playing middleman in important networks like our other H contact. There is a particular knack to the whole thing that these two individuals have mastered. It is probably how arms dealers operate. A śūlapuruṣa and a kṛśapuruṣa, who are high-level players in one of these cartels, and with deep moles in the other two, revealed to us some of their deeper dealings. The śūlapuruṣa knew well that we are an outsider with no means of harming the cartels. He had also gotten a big favor from us (to be open, a calculated action on our part that benefited us) and thought a return favor might be to reveal some secrets of his power. The kṛśapuruṣa had also benefited from us (at no particular cost or gain to us); however, he also felt some kind of “ethical discomfort” about the cartel of which he is a deep insider. Thus, they ended up revealing some of the actions that went on within.

One key feature of these cartels is the multi-leveled defensive layering like the prākāra-s of maṇḍala bristling with deities capable of deploying all manner of weapons. The outer facade is carefully painted to present a picture of being “free and fair”. However, in reality, it is anything but that. But how is that facade maintained? The main element of this is the first layer of the system — a large body of “peripherals”, who are not members of the cartel and know nothing of its inner workings. However, they are dependent for their survival on the exclusive products of the cartel and have fear and admiration for the cartel leaders, much like a low-ranked individual might have for the \alpha player. These peripherals are the ones who buy and use the cartel products and are occasionally given some small rewards for doing so. Whenever survival is hard, it is possible to easily earn the gratitude of those in the struggle by giving them a few tidbits that seem like encouragement or moral support. The second element of this involves the cartel members choosing a few individuals from among the peripherals for two kinds of things: (i) those who would do advertisements of the virtues of the “free and fair” system operated by the cartel and show how their products are chosen entirely due to merit in a competitive Turkish bazaar. (ii) The second set of individuals are chosen for doing the hard and dirty work of running the cartel’s production systems — sapping and utterly boring job if one were to have an avenue to lead a free and self-respecting life. The cartel members pay these chosen peripherals for these jobs a little more in terms of the “biscuits” they toss to them. The first mechanism is closely related to the “toolkit” approach in geopolitics that is used widely in social and legacy media and national destabilization activities of the navyonmatta-s (often backed by duṣṭa-sora and the like). Thus, at the whistle of the managers from Sora’s organization, the peripherals will start yelling “dog-whistle” and claim that the imaginary H canine is shredding them.

The next layer is that of the “thugs” who are again not cartel members but offer their services for the cartel. These thugs themselves are individuals of lower intelligence than the cartel members or the peripherals. Thus, they do not pose a significant danger to the cartel members by themselves as they cannot easily organize a rebellion against the cartel. Moreover, being good-for-nothings, they strongly depend on the cartel for their very survival. Coming from the lower rung of the social ladder, they are full of resentment and get great satisfaction from acts of vandalism and violence (even of the metaphorical kind). This feeds into their fantasies of being maverick vigilantes doing their part for the “noble cause”. Often these types are high on navyonmāda and have time on their hands to offer themselves for “policing” on behalf of the cartels. They perform two operations: (i) intimidation of the peripherals who may start discovering the cartel’s ways, fall out of line, or show independence. (ii) they attack those producers who lead lives independently of the cartels so that they cannot sell their products in the open market. These attacks are orchestrated such that they appear rather random, and the independent producers are left wondering what hit them and who is behind the attacks. The result is to force the independents into being subservient peripherals or be entirely driven out of the business. These tactics have a mirror in political navyonmāda, such as the kālāmukha thugs of the gardabha-pakṣa among the mahāmleccha. It also resembles the tactics of marūnmāda, where the kaffrs (=independents) are offered the option of either losing their foreskin or their head.

The next notable layer is made up of cartel insiders, who form the cartel’s public face. Among the mahāmleccha and their satellites, the keyword is “diversity”. Usually, the individuals in this layer are chosen so as to hide any signs of ethnic enrichment in the cartel. The members are there to create the illusion that anyone can “make it” and that the cartel does not really have any exclusive principles beyond pure merit. The cartels we are talking about includes a large number of true believers of navyonmāda, but most members would hardly give up their yachts or sprawling villas for the kṛṣṇa on the street for whom they proclaim unreserved love. Hence, they pay great attention to camouflaging this with effusive public declarations of the creed of navyonmāda. This layer also features the appointed spokespeople who direct the advertisement activities of the peripherals — e.g., updating the toolkit and setting agendas for them. A related layer is one of “managers” who interface with the thugs and peripheral workers and set goals for them.

An essential aspect of the system is an elaborate chain of scapegoating. If something bad happens and the cartel comes under fire (e.g., their egregious mistakes during the Middle Kingdom corruption or the uncovering of major sexual misconduct by a member), this chain ensures that the fuse does not burn all the way to the cartel members. Thugs and peripherals might be immolated with little remorse as sacrificial victims as long as the cartel’s interests and inner circle are preserved. Thus, it is hard to pin the blame on the cartel — it will get pinned on to someone lower down in the elaborate chain of scapegoats, and that little tentacle will be amputated like that of a Hydra leaving the rest of the animal intact to regrow it. If due to a major mishap, the blow-back happens to breach the inner rungs of the cartel, then scapegoating action follows along ethnic lines. Those ethnicities with strong internal bonds quickly close their ranks to protect and secrete away their tainted members leaving the loosely bonded ethnicities to take the blow. The H fall in that latter category as most H members of these cartels have a poor sense of religious solidarity and have a tendency to splinter along the lines of their deśa-bhāṣā. Indeed, an H player from one of the said cartels, who had achieved extraordinary power, thought himself to be immune to attack. However, his rivals trapped him using the perennial device of seduction by women. Thus exposed, he had no ethnic network to shore him up for when in power he thought he was one of the mleccha-s and shunned the H. Thus, without an ally, the mleccha-s and others closed in to finish him off. In contrast, when a mūlarogin was exposed for a major scandal affecting the core principles of the cartel, he was quickly encapsulated by his ethnic network and after a while rehabilitated with an advertisement campaign with high production values. So much so that a peripheral who spoke to us of his case was surprised that he could even have engaged in wrongdoing. A small cīna peripheral and an H thug were chosen and duly offered up as the bali-s that wiped away the enas of our mūlarogin.

Once one gets acquainted with these systems and is freed from self-censorious fear of being called a “conspiracy theorist”, one realizes that the same model is duplicated in the mleccha world across organizations diverse in size and domain of action. To our knowledge, the H have not been able to read these well and have mostly been overrun by them — the H commoner tends to believe the stated objectives of the respective cartels (we have seen H repeatedly do so with utter sincerity). The Cīna-s have realized their existence and, with their growing power, tried to penetrate them to a degree by bribery and seduction. They have definitely had a degree of success for their efforts, especially given that they have more or less captured certain other critical domains of mleccha production.

An author who experienced and described the collapse of the Soviet Rus empire said that it is not entirely bad to live a life in the margins. The basic argument is that a gale might uproot the oak at the center of the plot but do little to the pinkweed growing on its margins. Having led such a life ourselves, we agree with such an assessment for the most part. On the plus side, the margin-dweller is less-affected by catastrophic collapses and upheavals that the cartels might engineer. On the downside, this option is not easy for most as they have to make bigger gambles to sustain their families. However, we have observed that above-average but not supersmart individuals can sustain good family lives as long as they have small but reasonably talented marginal leaders. However, herein lies a potential danger. The cartels realize that such nucleations have the power to trigger marginal revolutions that can eat into their pie. Thus, the cartels try their best to quash these even threatening life in the margins. We suspect that the following factors will only make it easier for them to put down marginal revolutions: (i) the cartels gaining exclusive control of the world of the internet (e.g., culminating in the overthrow of the Nāriṅgapuruṣa among the mahāmleccha). (ii) The rise of an internet-only generation with short attention spans and a tendency to acquire knowledge from secondary sources. (iii) the belief that unreal gratifications can be achieved. (iv) the rise of “meta-software” that accesses the lives of people, which they have wholly surrendered to the cartels (the details of that might be a story for another day). The only thing that remains unclear is the timeline for this action to play out.

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Relationships between incircles of the “equilateral triangles in a square” system

This note relates to geometric relationships that may be likened to the Japanese temple-tablet problems. The inspiration for discovering and exploring it came from an origami construction presented by the pioneer in that field, Sundara Rao of Kumbhaghoṇa, in the late 1800s. Given a square piece of paper, how does one fold it into an equilateral triangle? The construction which Rao gave was that of an equilateral triangle with sides equal to that of the starting square and sharing one side with it (Figure 1). Based on Figure 1, it is easy to see how that might be achieved. When we first folded this in our youth, we realized that it is not the largest equilateral triangle that can be placed inside a square. However, examining the origami construction for the above, we realized that it also gave us an easy origami construction for the largest equilateral triangle that can be inscribed in a square (the blue triangle in Figure 1). That construction should be self-evident once the first equilateral triangle sharing a side with the square is in place). These two equilateral triangles and the square result in a configuration of 7 other triangles (Figure 1).

The below study concerns the relationship between the incircles of these 7 triangles (c_1, c_2, \cdots, c_7) and two additional incircles, namely that of the starting square c_s and the Raoian triangle constructed from it c_t. Their radii, which the relationships connect, will be respectively, r_1, r_2, \cdots, r_7 and r_s, r_t. We outline the proof rather than present all the tedious trigonometry and radical algebra. If you like to do that with paper and pencil and are good at that, you can try the same. However, we cut through the tedium of the at times complicated algebra using a combination of recognizing key patterns and the open-source computer algebra system from GeoGebra that seamlessly interfaces with its geometric constructions. Nevertheless, we will show a few obvious ones to lay the background.

equilateral_in_square

Figure 1.

• First, with is straightforward trigonometry to show that

\dfrac{r_s}{r_t}=\sqrt{3}

• The proportion of the radii of the incircles is equal to the proportion of the equivalent sides of their triangles.

• Let the side of the largest inscribed equilateral triangle (blue) be t_1 and the smaller one (sharing the side with the square) be t_2. We can use the half-angle formula to show that \cos\left(15^\circ\right) = \tfrac{\sqrt{2}(1+\sqrt{3})}{4}. In turn, that means \tfrac{t_1}{t_2}= \tfrac{1}{\cos\left(15^\circ\right)} = \sqrt{2}\left(\sqrt{3}-1\right)

• We can see that triangles with incircles c_2, c_4, c_5 and c_6 are similar 45^\circ-60^\circ-75^\circ triangles. Using the Sine Law we can show that the sides of such a triangle are in the ratio 1: \sqrt{\tfrac{3}{2}}: \tfrac{1+\sqrt{3}}{2}. With this and the above we can get the proportionality of these triangles. For example, we can show that the sides of the triangles with c_2 and c_4 are in the proportion: \tfrac{\sqrt{2}\left(1+\sqrt{3}\right)}{2}. :

\dfrac{r_2}{r_4}=\dfrac{\sqrt{2}\left(1+\sqrt{3}\right)}{2}

\dfrac{r_6}{r_2}= \sqrt{2}\left(\sqrt{3}-1\right)

\dfrac{r_6}{r_4}=2

\dfrac{r_6}{r_5}=\sqrt{2}

\dfrac{r_5}{r_4}=\sqrt{2}

\dfrac{r_5}{r_2}=\sqrt{3}-1

• Next, we use Brahmagupta’s formula for the incircle of a triangle, r=\tfrac{A(\triangle)}{s}, where s is the semiperimeter (half the perimeter) of the triangle. From the proportions of the triangle sides, we can show that the ratio of the areas and the perimeters of the triangles whose incircles are c_3 and c_4 are both 1+\tfrac{2\sqrt{3}}{3}

\therefore r_3=r_4

• Thus, from above we have: r_6=2r_4 and r_5^2 = r_4 r_6 = r_3 r_6, i.e., a geometric mean relationship.

• Similarly, we use Brahmagupta’s formula to obtain the incircle radii of c_1 and c_7. With that, we get the following relationships:

\dfrac{r_1}{r_2}=1+\sqrt{2}-\sqrt{3}

\dfrac{r_1}{r_4}= \dfrac{r_1}{r_3} = 1-\sqrt{2}+\sqrt{3}

\therefore r_1 = \dfrac{2 r_2 r_3}{r_2+r_3} = \dfrac{2 r_2 r_4}{r_2+r_4}, i.e., a harmonic mean relationship.

\dfrac{r_6}{r_7}=2-\dfrac{\sqrt{2}(\sqrt{3}-1)}{2}

\dfrac{r_6}{r_2}= \sqrt{2}\left(\sqrt{3}-1\right)

\therefore r_6 = \dfrac{4 r_2 r_7}{2 r_2+r_7}, i.e., r_6 is the harmonic mean of (2 r_2, r_7).

• One can also get relationships connecting the radii of all the 7 incircles c_1 \cdots c_7 and also all 9 incircles in the configuration (Figure 1):

r_2 r_5 r_6 - r_3 r_5 r_7= 2 r_1 r_4 r_7

\dfrac{r_2}{r_3} \dfrac{r_6}{r_7}-2 \dfrac{r_1}{r_5}=\dfrac{r_s}{r_t}-\dfrac{r_5}{r_2}

Thus, one can see the “2-ness” of the square in the form of \sqrt{2} and the “3-ness” of the equilateral triangle in the form of \sqrt{3} pervades the system.

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The Rāmāyaṇa in numbers: meters, sarga- and kāṇḍa- structure

In the extant Indo-European textual corpus, only in the Hindu collection do we find two complete early epics to complement the śruti. The Iranian epics come from a much later age than the core Avestan corpus, and in the Greek and Celtic cases, the śruti-equivalents have been mostly or entirely lost. As they have come down to us, the Hindu epics postdate much of the Vedic corpus but are still in a distinct language register that largely predates the classical Sanskrit. Thus, the numerical study of the epics gives us essential information regarding the evolution of the Old Indo-Aryan language and compositional technique, with general implications for earlier branching events within Indo-European. Contrary to the deeply flawed mainstream white indological opinion (and its imitators), and in line with Hindu tradition, we hold that the original Rāmāyaṇa was composed prior to the Mahābhārata. However, it is also clear that both epics were at some point “held” by the same expositors and redactors, resulting in some convergences. We had earlier presented some key details about the structure of Rāmāyaṇa and the earliest para-Rāmāyaṇa (the Rāmopākhyāna) via numerical analysis and pointed out how the kāṇḍa-s show both a certain unity and divergence relating to the compositional history of the epic. Here, we extend that analysis further and draw some inferences regarding the above-stated issues.

The so-called Baroda “critical edition” is available in an electronic format and forms the basis of the below analysis. We have corrected several errors in that text; however, we cannot rule out that some errors remain, affecting some of the below numbers. Nevertheless, these will not affect any of the basic inferences presented below. The Rāmāyaṇa is mostly a metrical text with 17810 verses having 2 hemistiches each. There are 79 verses with 1 hemistich, i.e., standalone \tfrac{1}{2} verses; 576 verses with 3 hemistiches: 1\tfrac{1}{2} verses; 5 with 4 hemistiches which are essentially agglomerations of 2 complete verses. It is unclear if some of the 1 and 3 hemistich verses were originally complete verses that lost one hemistich. However, many of these odd-hemistich verses are genuine “capping” verses that occur at the ends of sarga-s. The 17810 “properly formed verses” fall into the below metrical classes (Table 1)

Table 1

Syllables Frequency Meter
32 16949 Anuṣṭubh (Śloka)
44 476 Triṣṭubh (Upendravajrā)
48 285 Jagati (Vaṃśastha)
50 26 Puṣpitāgrā
45 22
47 20
46 16 Aparavaktrā etc.
33 8
52 7 Rucirā

The primary meters are given in the third column with major, specific subtypes in brackets. It should be noted that the type in the bracket is just a widespread version and not the sole version found in the epic. For example, we have triṣṭubh-s of other types like jāyā, buddhi, kīrti, etc. in addition to the common upendravajra. Likewise, with the jagati-s we have versions like kumārī in addition to the prevalent Vaṃśastha. The dominant meter is, of course, the śloka anuṣṭubh. Now, some verses do not match any meter. Since we did not individually check all of them, some may be errors in the preparation of the electronic text — indeed, we corrected several of these. However, some of the 33s are genuine hypermetrical anuṣṭubh-s, like the famous ancient statement in the second hemistich that is hypermetrical:

idaṃ bhuṅkṣva mahārāja prīto yad aśanā vayam ।
yad annaḥ puruṣo bhavati tad annās tasya devatāḥ ॥
O great king, be pleased and partake this, such food as we [eat],
for the gods are offered the [same] as what food the man takes.

The 45 syllabled verses seem to be hypermetrical triṣṭubh-s, and the 47 syllabled ones seem to be primarily hypometrical jagati-s. Thus, there appears to be a total of about 50 hypo/hyper-metrical verses among the “properly formed” verses \approx .28\%. The 46 syllabled verse is a bit of a mystery. Many of these can be shown to be aparavaktrā-s; however, several do not match the aparavaktrā properly. It is not clear if these were variant aparavaktrā-s that are no longer in vogue or an error of transcription or something else.

This pattern of strong metricality is in contrast to the Veda. Looking at the most metrical of the Vedic texts, the Ṛgveda, we find below distribution (Figure 1).

RV_Syl1Figure 1. Frequency of verses of a given syllable count in the Ṛgveda.

The RV widely uses the Gāyatrī meter (2nd most common) that fell out of vogue in the later Sanskrit tradition. However, the other widely used meters Anuṣṭubh (4th most common), Triṣṭubh (most common) and Jagati (3rd most common), are shared with the epic tradition. We also have internal evidence from the śruti that their syllable count was precisely as in the later dialect, like in the epic. Hence, it is striking to note that, unlike in the epic, the meter is far more loosely maintained in the RV, with a dominance of hypometrical verses. This suggests that whereas the Rāmāyaṇa was composed more or less in the same dialect as it has come down to us, the RV was likely originally composed in an older dialect closer to the PI-Ir state, with a distinct system of saṃdhi-s than in later Sanskrit. The language in which it has come down to us has shifted in register closer to later Sanskrit, with the new saṃdhi-s resulting in losses of syllables from the old language. In a smaller number of cases, this shift in register has also resulted in the likely resolution of old saṃdhi-s and consequent hypermetricality. This shall be separately discussed in the future in the context of the Veda.

We shall next look at the distribution of the different meters in each kāṇḍa per 1000 proper verses in Table 2.

Table 2

ram_Table2

Based on this distribution we can compute the Euclidean distance between kāṇḍa-s and construct an unrooted single linkage tree (Figure 2).

rAm_kANDa_treeFigure 2. Relationship between kāṇḍa-s based on distribution of meters.

To better understand the above groupings, we next go down to the sarga level and compute two metrics for each sarga in a kāṇḍa: (1) metrical heterogeneity, i.e., the mean syllable count per sarga and (2) length of a sarga in number of verses (as previously discussed). The metrical heterogeneity measures how “pure” a sarga is in terms of the meter. For example, a sarga composed entirely of Anuṣṭubh-s will have metrical heterogeneity of 32. We show the plots of these metrics in Figure 3.

rAmAyaNa_sarga
Figure 3. Sarga heterogeneity metrics by kāṇḍa.

Here, we can see that the kāṇḍa-s 1 and 7 are dominated by sarga-s with pure Anuṣṭubh-s of similar mean length, explaining their grouping in the tree. The kāṇḍa-s 2, 3, and 4 are somewhat more heterogeneous in terms of their metrical structure and have similar mean lengths consistent with their grouping. Finally, kāṇḍa-s 5 and 6 are metrically the most heterogeneous with on an average significantly longer sarga-s. This structure and grouping throw some light on the history of the text. Kāṇḍa 1 (Bāla) states that Vālmīki composed the epic in 6 kāṇḍa-s along with an “uttara” or addendum: tathā sarga-śatān pañca ṣaṭ kāṇḍāni tathottaram ॥ (From Vulgate; absent in “Critical”). This hints that there was a memory of the uttara-kāṇḍa (7) as an addendum to the core 6. This is apparent from the nature of several parts of kāṇḍa-7, which fill in the narrative gaps in the core kāṇḍa-s or provide explanatory commentary. The same feature is evident in kāṇḍa 1 (including the above statement). Their grouping, together with an anuṣṭubh-rich structural uniformity reminiscent of the purāṇika verses, suggests that they are likely entirely (7) or partly (1) the product of a later redactional effort to fill in parts of the epic that were either lost or needed further explanation/augmentation. Even the supposed names of the sons of Rāma, Kuśa and Lava, appear to be derived from an old term for a minstrel, the kuśīlava (the twins are mentioned as such in the beginning of 1 and end of 7), suggesting the emergence of these parts within the oral tradition of such minstrels, which used the relatively-easy-to-compose anuṣṭubh-s uniformly. Kāṇḍa 1 also hints that the original epic had two subsections to it:

kāvyaṃ rāmāyaṇaṃ kṛtsnaṃ sītāyāś caritaṃ mahat ।
paulastya vadham ity evaṃ cakāra caritavrataḥ ॥
He (Vālmīki) composed the great poem, the Rāmāyaṇa, the story of Sītā.
Even so, he of firm vows composed that known as the slaying of the Paulastya.

We could interpret this as implying two larger sections of the narrative centered on the tale of Sītā (i.e., her birth and marriage to Rāma, etc.) and the killing of Rāvaṇa. Thus, we suspect the two structurally unified parts the kāṇḍa-s 2-4 (probably with parts of the ancestral 1) formed the first of these sections, and kāṇḍa-s 5-6, which are again structurally similar, and organically related to the killing of Rāvaṇa, formed the second. Kāṇḍa 5 (Sundara), which shows maximal metrical and length heterogeneity, was likely composed thus on purpose (as we noted before). This kāṇḍa foreshadows the tendency in later classical kāvya, where the kavi-s set aside specific sections of their work, to showcase their virtuosity in terms of composing in a diverse array of meters or displaying various alaṃkāra-s, including citrakāvya. We do not see the much longer and complex metrical expressions of classical kāvya nor the constraint-based composition using techniques of citrakāvya in the Sundarakāṇḍa. Yet, it is clear that Kāṇḍa 5 elegantly intersperses diverse meters on top of the basic anuṣṭubh background to bring about pleasing changes of cadence. Like later kāvya-s, it also has entire sarga-s in long meter-s.

Next, we study the structure of the sarga-s by themselves and see if we can discern: (1) specific structural classes of sarga-s; (2) whether the sarga class has a relationship to the kāṇḍa it comes from. To do this, we first construct a matrix where every row corresponds to a sarga. The first 9 columns correspond to the fractions of the sarga in verses of a particular number of syllables (32, 33, 44 etc.). Column 10 corresponds to the length of the sarga in number of verses normalized by the longest sarga (5.1). We then use this matrix for unsupervised classification of the sarga-s using the random forest predictor as implemented by Breiman and Cutler. Briefly, this is a machine-learning method that uses an ensemble of individual classification tree predictors (i.e., decision trees to classify the given data). The decision process specified by an individual tree uses each observation to vote for one “class” and the forest of such trees is used to choose the class with the plurality of votes. For the classification process, the number of randomly selected variables that are searched for deciding the best split at each node in the tree is taken to be \left\lfloor\sqrt{n}\right\rfloor, where n is the total number of variables. The unsupervised mode works by making the RF predictor discriminate the observed (i.e., the above sarga matrix in our case) from synthetically produced data. The synthetic data is made by randomly sampling from the product of marginal distributions of the variables from our input matrix. As a result, one can obtain a proximity matrix between the input observations (i.e., sarga-s in our case). This proximity matrix can be converted to a distance matrix and used as the input for multidimensional scaling (MDS), representing the observations as points in an Euclidean space of n dimensions, with the Euclidean space distances between these points approximately equal to the distances in the distance matrix. By choosing the first two dimensions in this Euclidean space and plotting them, we can reduce dimensionality and obtain visual clusters or classes of the observations. Figure 4 shows the first two dimensions of the MDS plot for our data following unsupervised random forest classification (655 trees and minimal terminal node size of 90).

rama_sarga_class_inFigure 4

We see 4 broadly delineated clusters, although their “smearing” indicates a degree of a continuum. Examining each cluster individually, we see that they provide a meaningful classification of the sarga-s: (1) The first class (ellipse to the left) is composed of sarga-s that are pure anuṣṭubh-s. (2) The second class (top right ellipse) comprises of sarga-s that have anuṣṭubh-s combined with triṣṭubh-s. The core of this class is defined by a very characteristic form of the sarga that contains a triṣṭubh as the capping (final) verse. (3) The third class (bottom right ellipse) consists of sarga-s combining anuṣṭubh-s with jagati-s. The core of this class uses a jagati, usually of the vaṃśastha type, as the capping verse. (4) Finally, the central ellipse contains a group of sarga-s typified by interspersing of different meters on an anuṣṭubh background or those with irregular (hypo/hyper-metrical) verses.

rAmAyaNa_rf_clsFigure 5

One can see from the color-coding of the sarga-s by kāṇḍa in Figure 4 that there might be distinct patterns — e.g., class 1 appears enriched in kāṇḍa-s 1 and 7, which are rare in the other classes. Hence, we next examined if each of the above classes differ significantly in terms of the kāṇḍa-s from which their sarga-s are drawn (Figure 5). This confirms that the kāṇḍa-s 1 and 7 dominate class 1 (\chi^2, p=2.87 \times 10^{-16}). The pattern is inverted for class 2 with triṣṭubh capping verses. This is in keeping with the above proposal of kāṇḍa-s 1 and 7 having a distinct compositional pattern and history. Another notable feature that emerges is the enrichment of kāṇḍa 2 in the class with jagati capping verses (\chi^2, p=5.62 \times 10^{-15}). In conclusion, this suggests that the older aitihāsika kāvya tradition had a style of capping a long run of anuṣṭubh-s with a triṣṭubh or a jagati to mark the end of a section. This practice appears to have given way to the purely anuṣṭubh composition, probably among the kuśīlava-s who subsequently preserved the itihasa-s and the emerging purāṇa-s as an oral tradition.

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Sneha, snowstorms, the sun and the moon in enigmatic ṛk-s

That the Indo-European homeland was a cold place with snow is evidenced by widespread survival of two hon-homologous words for snow. Recently, a discussion on one of these words, sparked by some linguist, landed on my timeline on Twitter. From that, it seemed that people were unaware of the attestation of its cognate in Old Indo-Aryan. This, in turn, reminded me of a discussion we had with our friend in college on the very same issue. Hence, we thought it worthwhile to put down this discussion — this apposite since the winter solstice is approaching, and as we write this note, it is a new moon with a solar eclipse in Antarctica.

The two words for snow that can be traced back to early Indo-European, probably even PIE, are attested in Sanskrit as sneha and himá/hímā. The udātta is represented by the acute sign and differs between the masculine form that is usually used for snow and the feminine for winter.

Sneha is represented by many cognates that include snow itself; Old Iranian has snaēža = to snow; Baltic: (Lithuanian) sniẽgas; Germanic: (Old English): snīwan. There are the 0-graded forms in: Greek: niphás = snowflake; Latin: nivis; Celtic (Welsh): nyf. Thus, it is a solid IE word. Interestingly, it has also been transferred to Sumerian in a form that suggests either early Indo-European or the Satem clade (Balto-Slavo-Aryan) as the possible sources. This might point to a potential trade contact between Sumerians and the Indo-Europeans in their colder lands to the north of the former. Coming to Indo-Aryan, while etymologists recognize the ancestral form as being Sanskrit sneha, they usually only cite Prakritic siṇeha or siṇhā as cognates bypassing Sanskrit as though it is not attested in it. However, as we shall see below, this is not true. In New Indo-Aryan languages that are still familiar with snow we have descendants of the Prakritic forms as the primary word for snow, e.g., Kashmiri shīna (pronounced these days with terminal schwa loss).

The second word hima, was probably paralogously polysemous right from the early stages of PIE, meaning both winter and snow. It is clearly inherited from PIE in the Indo-Hittite sense as we have Hittite gimmanza = winter. We have Baltic (Lithuanian): žiemà = winter; Greek: kheima = snowstorm/cold; khion = snow; Armenian: jiun = snow; Latin: hiems= winter; Celtic (Old Welsh) gaem = winter. In Sanskrit we see all the senses being attested. The usage śata-himā is literally a 100 winters, meaning hundred years. A similar usage is seen in Latin, e.g., bīmus from *bihimos — lasting two years. The form hemanta again denotes a season marking the end of winter. On the other hand, the form himavant means a mountain [covered] with snow. Similarly, in the Ṛgveda hima can be directly used to indicate snow, for example:

himenāgniṃ ghraṃsam avārayethām
pitumatīm ūrjam asmā adhattam ।
ṛbīse atrim aśvināvanītam
un ninyathuḥ sarvagaṇaṃ svasti ॥ RV 1.116.8

With snow, you two averted the scorching fire,
you two bestowed nourishing food for him [Atri],
You two Aśvin-s, led out Atri from the fuming crater,
into which he been led, and all the troop to weal.

This ṛk attributed to Kakṣivant Dairghatamasa [Footnote 2] is an allusion to the famous deed of the Aśvin-s that is repeatedly alluded to in the RV, where they saved Atri from a fuming crater. The simple reading of the verse would imply that Atri was led into it along with his troops. They were cooled with snow and then brought up. The phrase sarvagaṇaṃ svasti occurs only one other time in the RV, in a sūkta of the Atri-s; however, there it refers to the gaṇa-s of the god Bṛhaspati. Nevertheless, one wonders if there is a subtler, undiscovered connection furnished by this cognate phrase from these relatively late sūkta-s of the RV. Finally, one may comment that this tale hints at the possibility of Atri and his men having fallen into one of the geothermal craters in the Caspian-Black Sea region close to the IE homeland.

Returning to sneha-, we tabulate below the occurrence of this word in some old Vedic texts relative to hima- (while we count both senses of hima- we do not count the season hemanta in the below table).

Text sneha hima
Ṛgveda 2 11
Atharvaveda (vulgate) 1 16
Atharvaveda (Paippalāda) 0 35
Taittirīya Saṃhitā 0 10

Thus, it is clear that sneha, while attested in the oldest surviving Indo-Aryan text (the single AV-vulgate instance is identical to the ṛk found in the RV), it is absent in the successor texts though hima- remains as common or is more frequently used. However, we should also add that a related form snīhiti (snowstorm) occurs once in the RV and once in the Taittirīya Āraṇyaka. In the case of sneha, a semantic shift occurred in Sanskrit, where it came to denote a wide range of things, including fluidity, smoothness, oil/fat and love. We will next examine the two occurrences in the RV and suggest that they are semantically aligned with the Middle and New Indo-Aryan forms. Both occur in enigmatic sūkta-s/ṛk-s that need further discussion.

The first occurrence is in a long sūkta of Tiraścī Āṅgirasa on the many glorious acts of Indra, which needs to be described to give some context. The first three ṛk-s (1-3) describe the might of Indra and his vajra and also allude to his act of piercing the 3 \times 7 mountains with his arrow. This motif is reused by Vālmīki in the Rāmāyaṇa when Rāma pierces the seven trees to prove his might (Indra-hood displacing that of the mighty Vālin) to the ape Sugrīva. The following triad (4-6) describes how Indra, in his cosmogonic form as the generator of all beings, slew Ahi with his vajra, even as the mountains shrieked. The Marut-s seeing his valor, approached him for an alliance, like brāhmaṇa-s reciting mantra-s to praise him. The next tṛca (7-9) describes a Marut-centric version of the Vṛtra myth. When Vṛtra violently sallied forth, the other gods, who were the companions of Indra, retreated, leaving him alone in the battle. However, the 360 Marut-s (an unusual count associated with the days in an year) singing the praises of Indra joined him in battle, asking for a share of the ritual offerings. They urged Indra to scatter the anti-deva asura-s with his vajra and cakra, assisted by their battle formation fronted by their sharp spears.

In the next tṛca (10-12), the Āṅgirasa calls on his fellow ritualists to send forth their chants to Indra. In the tṛca (13-15), which includes the ṛk of specific interest to us, the narration moves to the battles fought by Indra against the enemies of the gods in alliance with Bṛhaspati. This triad is soaked in astronomical allegory, with the god Bṛhaspati himself likely being represented in the sky by the planet Jupiter. The main feature of this triad is the mention of a black (shrouding like a cloud) drop, kṛṣṇa drapsa, which is said to wander to the solstitial colure along a sinuous river Aṃsumati. We interpret this river as the lunar ecliptic. The whole myth seems to encode a solar eclipse close to the winter solstice (The old Aryan New Year), in which context the snowstorm is mentioned. The next tṛca (16-18) describes the following acts of Indra: 1. Right when he was born, he became the foe of the seven unrivaled ones (not entirely clear who they are). 2. He discovered Dyaus and Pṛthivi, which were hidden. 3. He set into motion the wide-ranging worlds. 4. He smashed the unrivaled one (Vṛtra) with his vajra. 5. He slew Śuśna. 5. He discovered the hidden cows. 6. He demolished the fortifications. 7. He released the frozen rivers and slew the demoness (an allusion to Dānu) lording over the waters. The final tṛca (19-21) praises Indra as Vṛtrahan and the lord of the Ṛbhu-s, calling on him for the soma offering.

ava drapso aṃśumatīm atiṣṭhad
iyānaḥ kṛṣṇo daśabhiḥ sahasraiḥ
āvat tam indraḥ śacyā dhamantam
apa snehitīr nṛmaṇā adhatta ॥ RV 8.96.13
The drop stood at the Aṃśumatī,
the black [drop] wanders with the ten thousand.
Indra helped it [the drop] blowing along with his skill.
The manly-minded [Indra] repulsed the snowstorm.

drapsam apaśyaṃ viṣuṇe carantam
upahvare nadyo aṃśumatyāḥ ।
nabho na kṛṣṇam avatasthivāṃsam
iṣyāmi vo vṛṣaṇo yudhyatājau ॥ RV 8.96.14
I saw the drop wandering at the solstice,
in the sinuous path of the River Aṃśumatī,
going down like a black cloud,
I impel you, bulls, to fight in the battle.

adha drapso aṃśumatyā upasthe
.adhārayat tanvaṃ titviṣāṇaḥ ।
viśo adevīr abhy ācarantīr
bṛhaspatinā yujendraḥ sasāhe ॥ RV 8.96.14
Then, the drop, in the lap of the Aṃśumatī,
bore the body sparkling with light.
As the deva-less folks moved forth [to attack],
united with Bṛhaspati, Indra conquered [them].

Commentary: The black drop (drapsa, an old IE word) is interpreted as the new Moon. The drop is associated most commonly with soma (with a lunar equivalence in several cases; on rare occasions it is used for Venus). Normally, the soma is silvery — ṛjīśin (like earlier in this sūkta) — reinforcing the lunar connection. However, here the drop is explicitly and atypically described as black, suggesting that the new Moon is alluded to. The first ṛk mentions the drop wandering with a ten thousand: we take this large number to denote the stars. The drop is seen as blowing along: we consider this an early allusion to the primitive Hindu astronomical theory (shared with the Greeks and likely of old IE provenance) of celestial bodies being blown on their paths by cosmic winds. In the second ṛk, the composer states that he sees the black drop which is likened to a cloud — suggesting its shrouding nature — wandering near a colure. He also mentions the sinuous course of the river Aṃśumatī. Given that the word aṃśu is used for soma (or the soma stalks before extraction of the juice) and metaphorically connects the soma plant and the Moon, Aṃśumatī would mean the riverine path with soma/the Moon. Hence, we take this to be an allusion to the lunar path/ecliptic [Footnote 3].

We take the colure (viṣuṇa) to be solstitial. Winter is the season that corresponds to the battle between the gods, led by Indra, and the demons. The verb, ava-sthā = going own, suggests the nether point of the ecliptic path analogized to a river. Hence, we hold that the solstice referred to is specifically the winter solstice. Thus, it is not any new moon but likely the new Moon closest to the winter solstice, corresponding to the old Aryan New Year. This, in turn, supports the idea that the snehiti which Indra averts is indeed a snowstorm. The final ṛk of this triad mentions the black drop in the lap of Aṃśumatī, where it paradoxically takes on a body sparkling with light. We take this to allude to a solar eclipse happening close to the solstice. The at the point of emergence of the sun from the total eclipse or an annular eclipse would indeed give the impression of the black drop (the Moon) taking on a glittering body. Thus, this is a variant of the famous Svarbhānu eclipse myth of the Atri-s but probably referring to a specific eclipse near the solstice. In this context, the attack adevī folks should be taken as a purposeful conflation of the earthly enemies with the asura-s causing the eclipse as in the Svarbhānu myth. Moreover, given the overall celestial setting, the specific involvement of Bṛhaspati, as a companion of Indra, in this conflict suggests the potential presence of Jupiter in the vicinity during this event (Or perhaps in the nakṣatra of Tiṣyā).

We may also point out that the deployment of snow or other “weather weapons” is a feature of the battles of Indra with the dānava-s elsewhere in the RV. For example, Hiraṇyastūpa Āṅgirasa gives an account of the battle between Indra and Ahi, when the latter had frozen the rivers and corralled the cows. Here, Ahi, first tries to pierce Indra with his spear, but Indra evades him by becoming the tail of a horse. Having evaded his strike, Indra conquered the cows and the soma and released the waters. Then he closed in for combat with Ahi:

nāsmai vidyun na tanyatuḥ siṣedha
na yām miham akirad dhrāduniṃ ca ।
indraś ca yad yuyudhāte ahiś ca
utāparībhyo maghavā vi jigye ॥ RV 1.32.13
Neither the lightning nor the thunder scared away [Indra] for him,
neither the snow (/mist) nor the hail that he [Ahi] spread out.
When Indra and Ahi fought each other,
Maghavan triumphed, [then] and also for the time that came.

Here, Ahi deploys various “weather weapons”, reminiscent of the steppe “rain-stone” magic of the Turkic and Mongolic world, but they fail to scare away Indra. The first two, lightning and thunder are unambiguous, and so is the final one, hail (hrāduni). The word miha could mean snow or mist. In either case, it supports the deployment of such weather weapons, consistent with the interpretation of sneha- as snow, i.e., in a snowstorm.

Strikingly, the second occurrence of sneha- is again in the context of the same eclipse myth. This account occurs in the monster sūkta of maṇḍala 9, which agglomerates shorter sūkta-s of various Vasiṣṭha-s and Kutsa Āṅgirasa. We shall consider the whole tṛca with this reference below:

ayā pavā pavasvainā vasūni
māṃścatva indo sarasi pra dhanva ।
bradhnaś cid atra vāto na jūtaḥ
purumedhaś cit takave naraṃ dāt ॥ RV 9.97.52
Bring (addressed to soma), by purifying yourself with this filtering, riches.
At the hiding of the Moon, O drop (moon/soma), run forth into the lake.
The yellowish (sun) is also here as if impelled by the wind.
the wise one (Soma) has indeed given us the man (Indra) for the sally.

uta na enā pavayā pavasva
adhi śrute śravāyyasya tīrthe ।
ṣaṣṭiṃ sahasrā naiguto vasūni
vṛkṣaṃ na pakvaṃ dhūnavad raṇāya ॥ RV 9.97.52
Also with this filtering purify yourself,
at the front of the famous ford of celebration.
Sixty thousand treasures the destroyer of rivals,
like a tree with ripe fruits, will shake down for triumph.

mahīme asya vṛṣanāma śūṣe
māṃścatve vā pṛśane vā vadhatre ।
asvāpayan nigutaḥ snehayac ca
apāmitrāṃ apācito acetaḥ ॥
The bull is his name [Indra], great and fierce, are his two,
deadly weapons, in the hiding of the Moon or in the touching.
He put to sleep the rivals and snowed down on them.
Repulse the enemies, repulse the senseless ones.

Commentary: Composite sūkta-s, like the one in which these ṛk-s of Kutsa Āṅgirasa occur, are typical of the final part of maṇḍala 9. Except for Kutsa, who is the author of the last 4 tṛca-s and the terminal ṛk with the classic Kutsa refrain, all the other authors are Vāsiṣṭha-s. However, throughout the long sūkta (longest in the RV) we find several allusions to the finding of the sun’s path, the holding of the sun, and soma as the Moon. Thus, it is not out of place to furnish an astronomical explanation for these ṛk-s. Key to the interpretation of these ṛk-s is a rare word māṃścatu/māṃścatva whose meaning has puzzled students over the ages. It occurs only thrice in the RV, and its meaning was already obscure to Yāska, who groups it with the words for horses in the Nighaṇṭu. Two of the occurrences are in this tṛca, and one is in RV 7.44.3 by Vasiṣṭha Maitrāvaruṇi. Thus, this word perhaps links the Vāsiṣṭha-s to Kutsa. It can be etymologized as maṃs+catu. Catu can be derived from the root cat- = to hide or vanish. Māṃs (with a pure anunāsika) is taken to mean the Moon, an older variant of mās, closely related to the form in early Indo-European. This form is supported by other Indo-European cognates like: Baltic (Latvian): mēnesis; Latin: mensis. Thus, the word is taken to mean the vanishing of the Moon. To their credit, some white indologists have correctly etymologized this word using comparisons across IE. However, they failed to understand its actual meaning. Notably, on the only occasions it occurs in RV, it is coupled with bradhna — the yellowish or reddish sun. This is also seen in the case of the verse of Vasiṣṭha:

dadhikrāvāṇam bubudhāno agnim
upa bruva uṣasaṃ sūryaṃ gām ।
bradhnam māṃścator varuṇasya babhruṃ
te viśvāsmad duritā yāvayantu ॥
Ever having awakened, to Dadhikrāvan and Agni
I speak; to Uṣas, and the sun, the cow.
The yellowish one from the hiding of the Moon, [becomes] Varuṇa’s brown one,
let them drive away all the bad things from us.

Notably, the first ṛk of Kutsa, explicitly states that the sun (bradhna) is also at at the same place as the hiding of the Moon. The sun is said to be impelled to that place by the wind — again, note an allusion to the old hypothesis of the cosmic winds moving the celestial bodies (c.f. the above ṛk of Tiraścī Āṅgirasa). This conjunction corresponds to amāvāsya or the sun and moon “dwelling together”, resulting in the new Moon (or the hiding/vanishing of the Moon). Hence, māṃścatva should be understood as the “hiding of the moon” at new Moon in all its occurrences. However, there are indications that it is a new moon with a solar eclipse. The final ṛk talks of two events, the māṃścatva and the pṛśana, i.e., the touching. We take this touching as the “contact” of the sun and Moon implying an eclipse. Moreover, the ṛk of Vasiṣṭha, states that the bradhna (usually yellow or red) is Varuṇa’s brown one from the māṃścatu. This suggests that the sun’s darkening, indicating a solar eclipse at the new moon [Footnote 1].

We also encounter the cryptic statements parallel to the ṛk-s of Tiraścī Āṅgirasa, such as the drop (Moon) running into the lake. This is also called the famous ford (tīrtha) — you can cross over to the “other side” there. We take these as allusions to the winter solstitial point on the ecliptic. Thus, we believe both Kutsa and Tiraścī are talking about the same or a similar eclipse close to the winter solstice. However, notably, in this case, it is Indra who showers snow on the enemies, putting them to “sleep” — again reminding us of the use of rain/snow stones in the Altaic warfare. Thus, the two occurrences of sneha+ and the one occurrence of snīh- in the RV indicate the use of this ancient IE word in the sense of snow. The interesting early polymorphism in the form of sneh- and snīh- suggests that the ancestral state of this word, perhaps even its form in the original dialect in which the RV was composed, was close to the ancestral Baltic version (at least the first syllable). Thus, we are probably seeing a fossil of the dialect diversity in early Indo-Aryan or Indo-Iranian itself.

To conclude, we may note, an eclipse at the solstice is a relatively rare event. However, if we give a leeway of about 5 days on either side of the winter solstice, one may get more of such events. Below is a list of such events that have happened or will happen over 3 centuries from 1801-2100 CE anywhere in the world grouped by their \approx 19 year lunar cycle from the catalog of Eclipse Predictions by Fred Espenak (provided by NASA):
21 Dec 1805; 20 Dec 1824; 21 Dec 1843; 21 Dec 1862
22 Dec 1870; 22 Dec 1889; 23 Dec 1908
24 Dec 1916; 24 Dec 1927
25 Dec 1935; 25 Dec 1954; 24 Dec 1973; 24 Dec 1992
25 Dec 2000; 26 Dec 2019; 26 Dec 2038; 26 Dec 2057
27 Dec 2065; 27 Dec 2084
17 Dec 2066

One can see that between 1900-2100 there have been/there are no events on the solstice day. However, in 1870 CE we had a very close pass within 12 hours of the solstice. In general, the 1800s saw several close events, but the following two centuries did not. Due to the 19-year clusters, we cannot be sure that the ones recorded in the RV were the same event. However, their relative rarity and clustering would mean that they might have been dramatic enough to leave a memory in the text.


Footnote 1: This occurs in the context of Dadhikrāvan, who is typically invoked in the dawn ritual. We posit that Dadhikrāvan represents a heliacally rising old Vedic constellation, although its identity still remains uncertain.

Foonote 2: While its style is similar to that of the old Gotama founders like Kakṣivant and his father, the sūkta itself mentions Kakṣivant in the third person and talks of the later Gotama-s. This suggests that it was appended later to the Kakṣivant collection by one of his successors.

Foonote 3: In later Hindu tradition, the lunar and solar paths are often depicted on temple roofs as sinuous snakes.

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The strange case of the Āpastamba sprite

This is the second of the two stories that arose from incidents during the visit of Yaśaśravas, Somakhya’s cousin. With the autumnal vacations, Somakhya was having a good time with his visiting cousin, giving him lectures on the theory and the practice of the study of variable stars. During the day, they spent their time with numerical solutions of differential equations that modeled the pulsations of stars. At night, they observed the stars in good view from Somakhya’s terrace with the smog of the fireworks having lifted. Additionally, as instructed by Somakhya’s father, he was also teaching Yashashravas sections of the hautra mantra-pāṭha. The on the second day of his cousin’s visit, the two of them were doing their evening saṃdhyā rituals together when Somakhya was disturbed by a peculiar behavior evinced by his cousin. In the midst of his prāṇāyāma or arghya, Yashashravas suddenly uttered the word Āpastamba-sūtra almost randomly a few times with a peculiar affectation and cadence. Somakhya was taken aback, but remembering his father’s words of never getting disturbed in his performance, he ignored it and continued to the end. Somakhya: “Yashashravas, what is wrong with you — have you gone crazy? Why were you randomly saying “Āpastamba-sūtra” in the course of your saṃdhyāvandana? I know you are of that school, but it makes no sense to pepper your upāsana with utterances of that word, moreover voiced in that strange manner.” Yashashravas felt as if some weight had lifted off his head and told Somakhya a strange tale. Somakhya was shocked by it, but once he had gathered himself, he said they should wait until his friend Lootika visited before taking any further action.

Somakhya’s mother had wished to invite Lootika’s mother and her daughters for the coming festival of Dattātreya that Somakhya’s family observed; she thought it might also be an opportunity for some socializing, given the visiting relatives. Somakhya was keen that his friend be around to deal with the case of his cousin Yashashravas and hear it from his own mouth. Yashashravas had already heard from their other cousin Babhru of his dramatic encounter with the four sisters; hence, he anticipated it with some excitement. However, Somakhya was a bit concerned that Yashashravas might clam up, feeling put off, if Lootika’s sisters were also around — they were only a little less formidable than his friend in terms of the impression they could produce on introduction, as Babhru had experienced first hand. Shortly after they arrived, Yashashravas quickly felt the edge of the sisters when Varoli, who was younger than him, gave them a little talk about Propynylidyne, Helium hydride, and Argon hydride their formation and energetics in interstellar space. However, as Somakhya had hoped, their mothers drew away the three younger sisters to look at jewelry, clothing and watch some video recording with them in another room. This gave Somakhya, Yashashravas and Lootika the solitude and time they wanted.

S: “Yashashravas, Lootika is our confidante and will be of great help in trying to get to the bottom of your predicament. You can reliably share all you need to with us. Let us lose no time and get started. For Lootika’s benefit, could you tell your story right from the beginning going back to your upanayana?”
Y: As you know, Somakhya, for a variety of reasons, my upanayana was performed about 6 years past the earliest recommended age at Kshayadrajanagara. It was a big affair, and a pity you could not be there due to the exams you had to give. However, our cousins and relatives like Babhru, Saumanasa, Mandara, Charuchitra and Varaha, as also our friend Indrasena and his brother, were all in attendance, and we had great fun. I recall one major untoward incident. The giant coconut tree in our grandfather’s house fell crashing the night after the upanayana and destroyed the maṇḍapa. Hence, we could not perform the Skanda-pūjā the next day, which is customary in our families. For three days after the upanayana, a snātaka from Kāśi, who, like me was an adherent of the Āpastamba school, was sent by the purohita who had performed your Atharvan upanayana. He taught me the correct performance of the saṃdhyopāsana along with some scholiastic material of Khaṇdadeva for several hours. On the afternoon of fourth day after the upanayana, Indrasena and I were seated on the parapet of our grandfather’s house yarning away about something when we saw the said snātaka come. I was a bit surprised because he was supposed to come only for 3 days, and it was not yet the time for the saṃdhyā. I thought he had come by error and wanted to tell him so. So, I jumped down from the parapet and ran out of the gate towards him. He just ignored me and kept walking ahead, all the while repeatedly saying “Āpastamba-sūtra” in the same manner you heard me, most unfortunately, utter it during the saṃdhyā.

To my surprise, he just vanished at the end of the road on which our grandfather’s house stands. It turned to shock when Indrasena said that he suddenly disappeared from his sight too when I reached him. It got worse when Indrasena’s brother, Pinakasena, who was beside the gate making a tail for a kite, said that he thought we were playing some stupid prank when he saw me speaking to the air — i.e., he did not see the snātaka at all. It was all strange and funny for them, but for me, it was just the beginning of a horror story! That evening as we sat for saṃdhyā, I began jabbering “Āpastamba-sūtra” randomly in the course of the ritual. Indrasena admonished me to be serious with the ritual and did not believe it when I said that it was just involuntarily coming to me without any effort on my part. To my horror, the same thing happened when I was doing it with my father, and he blasted me for being frivolous with the ritual. I felt too embarrassed to tell him what was happening as I feared he might think I have gone mad. With great self-effort, I acquired the ability to control it to a degree and skipped sāyam-saṃdhyā if I could, for it came upon me only in the evenings. I also got some relief, albeit incomplete, when, after vedārambha, I started studying the rakṣohā mantra-s to Viṣṇu from the Taittirīya-śruti. It returned with a frenzy on the upākarmā day and completely ruined it. I told this to Babhru, who, as you know, is quite frivolous, and he responded it was a good reason to stop saṃdhyā altogether. But thereafter, he told me the unbelievable tale of when you had visited him with Lootika and her sisters and added: “maybe you should ask them to come over to your place too”. That is why I felt some relief when you mentioned that this is something you would like to handle with Lootika around.”

S: “So, Lootika, what do you think of this?”
L: “Most remarkable and ghastly. It should be quite a problem for a V1 male not to be able to perform his saṃdhyā properly. But I’m puzzled by this utterance of “Āpastamba-sūtra”. Is that something peculiar to the Āpastamba school? As you know, my family follows the Bodhāyana-sūtra, though, as far as I know, the Āpastamba-s are not very divergent, except that they have lost the proper recitation of the Śrīsūkta and the Skandayāga in its entirety.”
Somakhya smiled saying:“I know you Bodhāyana-s are pretty proud of your Śrīsūkta and Skandayāga”, even as Yashashravas intently turned his gaze from one to the other. Suddenly, Lootika excitedly remarked: “Ah! Somakhya, I remember you telling me of this particularly malevolent sprite known as the Āpastamba-graha. My gut tells me that your cousin has been seized by that.”
S: “Yes, Gautamī! This is indeed the first time I am encountering that sprite in person. Never thought we would do so in this life.”
L: “I remember you telling me that he can be particularly nasty if we try to bind him directly. So, how do we proceed against him?”
S: “We should first hear him out. We will get some clue about how to proceed from that.”
L: “Sounds exciting. Can we get him to speak with a Ḍāmara-mantra?”
S: “We can do so, but we have to take extra precautions and prepare Yashashravas for it. I also suggest that you recall the short Vīrabhadrāstra and keep it ready in your mind.”
Somakhya went to the sacristy and brought out a special svayaṃbhu-liṅga that he and Lootika had installed, some flowers, incense, a copper plate, and a long abhicārika nail. He asked Yashashravas to perform a Śivārchana of the liṇga with the following incantations:
oṃ rudrāya namaḥ । oṃ uḍḍīśāya namaḥ । oṃ sudurlabhāya namaḥ । oṃ kapardine namaḥ । oṃ virūpākṣāya namaḥ । oṃ sarva-graha-bhayāpahāya namaḥ ॥
Somakhya: “Lootika, why don’t you go out to the veranda and ready yourself to deploy the Ḍāmara-prayoga; I’ll prep Yashashravas for it in the meantime. Yashashravas, we diagnose you as being seized by a sprite known as the Āpastambagraha. The sprite had its origin in the distant past in the Marahaṭṭa country and has been spreading like a slow virus by capturing Āpastamba V1s throughout the southern half of Bhārata and beyond. Now, recall the great Mṛtyulāṅgala incantation. It is a powerful but also an extremely dangerous incantation. It is important that you periodically keep repeating it, if not daily. The biggest danger from the sprite lies in interfering with the performance and recall of this mantra — this can prove fatal to the victim. While I have never encountered an Āpastambagraha before, I have heard of such a fatality in the case of a V1 from the Andhra country. Now perform its nyāsa:
Mṛtyulāṅgalasya Vasiṣtha ṛṣiḥ । anuṣṭubh chandaḥ । Kālāgnirudro devatā ॥
Having done that do japa of it as per the form deployed by the vipraugha with the bīja-saṃpuṭi-karaṇa that I’ll specify and not the aiśa form heard in the śruti:
ṛtaṃ satyam param-brahma-puruṣaṃ kṛṣṇa-piṅgalam ।
ūrdhvaretaṃ virūpākṣaṃ viśvarūpaṃ namāmy aham ॥
oṃ krāṃ krīṃ huṃ phaṇ namaḥ ॥

Somakhya then drew a circle and asked his cousin to sit inside it and start a japa of the said mantra. He warned him that once Lootika deployed the Ḍāmara-prayoga he could go into a trance and asked him not to resist it. Lootika then came in having fortified herself for the Ḍāmara-prayoga. She was a bit nervous from the fact she was dealing with an Āpastambagraha with a nasty reputation. Somakhya told her to calm down: “Lootika, the Āpastambagraha only possesses men, but as a male graha with affiliations to the brahmarakṣas class, it does have a tendency to grab V1 females without possessing them. I suspect he would not have interest in possessing me as Āpastamba is not my primary school but he could still lash out. That’s why I think you should deploy the Ḍāmara-prayoga solo so that I can perform a shielding prayoga for you. Yet, be warned it might break through; therefore, be ready with the Vīrabhadrāstra if it tries to attack you.” Lootika then placed a neem stave on Yaśaśravas’s head and right away deployed the Grahavādini-mantra:
oṃ namo bhagavate mahākālarudrāya tripuravināśanakāraṇāya virūpākṣāya sarvabhūta-graha-vetālādhipataye rudrasyājñayā vada vada vada vada huṃ phaṭ svāhā ॥

About 3 minutes into the prayoga, they noticed that Yashashravas was slipping into a trance. A minute later, he started prattling like Aitaśa of yore, uttering the single word — “Āpastamba-sūtra” in spurts with a strange cadence. Lootika was taken aback by the first encounter with the graha, but regaining her composure, she continued with the prayoga and sprinkled some bhūti on him. He then signaled for writing material and launched into few minutes of frenzied writing. At the end of it, he just fell flat as though exhausted from heavy exercise. Somakhya sprinkled some water on him from his kamaṇḍalu, and he returned to his senses handing over the sheets of paper to his companions. “I cannot believe I wrote all that stuff down while feeling like being in an almost catatonic state.” S: “It looks like you have covered the first page with many repeats of “Āpastamba-sūtra”. Not surprising. There are parts where you seem to have doodled away in some South Indian script with its typical twisting curves that we cannot read. Yet, there seem to be coherent, understandable blocks. Could you kindly read those parts out?”

Y: “I used to be Gaṇḍalepa and was born in the Marahaṭṭa country. As a kid, I seemed to remember elements of my past janman as a great śāstrin of the Veda and was reciting the Aṣṭādhyāyi with svara-s by the time I was an year old. I started learning the Taittirīya-śruti at age 3, even before my upanayana. By age 12, I had mastered it and moved on to study the kalpasūtra of Āpastamba, the school to which my family adhered. By 15, I had earned the reputation that if paṇḍita Haradatta Miśra were alive, he would be the one studying at my feet. When I turned 18, I realized that my scholarship would not support me, and I had a wife too. I was desperate to get employment that paid better than the paltry stipend I got from the Chatrapati’s fund. By the grace of god Viṣṇu, I found sardār Khaṭāvkar, and he appointed me as his nyāyādhīśa, a job for which I was imminently suited given my authoritative knowledge of the dharmaśāstra-s. I also helped Khaṭāvkar with the commentary he was writing on some Pāñcarātrika texts. Khaṭāvkar, in turn, trained me in arms, and I became a reasonably proficient fighter.

However, Khaṭāvkar had an evil side to him, and it is perhaps partly due to the association with his unprincipled acts that this fate has come upon me. He was a partisan of the late Padishaw Awrangzeb and a good friend of Nawab Sahib Daud Pathan. One day, Nawab Sahib hatched a plan for a raid on Khargaon and asked Khaṭāvkar to help; I joined the raiding band too. During the raid, the Nawab Sahib, to his credit, instructed the men not to attack the temple of Aṣṭhabhairava in the town. However, some Afridis and Bohras in his band disobeyed his command and burnt the temple anyway. After the arson and looting, Khaṭāvkar observed that there were gold and silver utensils of the temple and decided to loot them. He was kind enough to ask me to join him and take a share of the plunder. Losing my sense of propriety, I did so. Soon after that, Khaṭāvkar met his end with the action the new Chatrapati took against him. The gods may take multiple janman-s to punish you. Indeed, Khaṭāvkar has taken at least four and is probably still experiencing the fruits of his deeds piecemeal. I was spared and, under the patronage of the courtiers, had an opportunity to perform śrauta rituals.

I became the adhvaryu for the great yajamāna Lakṣmaṇa Śāstrin and performed several rites for him. However, in the course of that, I committed acts that I should not have done. I kept out the Mādhyaṃdina-s censuring them as false V1s, and I also kept out the Ṛgvedin-s from being elected as Hotṛ-s because my Taittirīyaka associates and I could take up their role with our hautra-pariśiṣṭa-s. An enraged Ṛgvedin put a case in the court against me and my associates. We realized that we were likely to lose it. I had exorcised a graha from an associate of mine and kept it bound by my mantra-s. I decided to dispatch that graha against the Ṛgvedin so that he would stumble in his testimony at court. I did not realize that it was an Āpastambagraha. But the Ṛgvedin, Gore by name, had some mastery of the Atharvan lore or the Kashmirian pariśiṣṭa; thus he deployed a pratīchīna-prayoga. The moment he started reciting “yāṃ kalpayanti…” the Āpastambagraha came hurtling back and seized me. It interfered with my ability to remember the Mṛtyulāṅgala incantation, and I expired six months later. As is typical of these Āpastambagraha-s, they spawn a new one each time they slay a victim, and I soon became one in search of a host.

In the meantime, Nawab Sahib had been murdered by another Nawab and had come back as a liquor-seller. I hung out at his liquor-stall, making occasional conversation with him as a friendly graha. One day, a V1 named Kuṇṭe arrived there and helped himself to a few swigs. I was thus able to seize him right away and make him jabber just like you. However, before I could finish him off, he was taken by his people to the Piśācamocana-kṣetra at Kāśi, and a gaṇa of Rudra forced me to leave him. There I hung out in a tree for centuries before I could seize the snātaka who taught you, while he was at Kāśī. He had intoned the Mṛtyulāṅgala mantra while on a commode, thus, becoming easy prey for me. He died earlier that day when I seized you spawning another Āpastambagraha. Since your family had failed to protect you with the Skanda ritual, I knew I had a new host and duly took hold of you. I have not yet been able to entirely break your defenses either because you have firmly maintained your brahmacarya. But it will not be long before I’m able to bring your chapter to a close. I also intend taking this pretty girl who had the temerity to make me speak along as a slave maid for my ghostly wanderings.”

Terrified, Yashashravas handed the script back to Somakhya: “I seem to have scrawled another page full of Āpastamba-sūtra at the end … but is there a way out of this? I don’t want to go the way of the snātaka.” Just then, Lootika’s mother called her: “Lootika, we need to be going, hurry up!” L: “Mom, we are in the midst of something important; I’ll get back by myself later.” L.M: “Remember, you don’t have your bike with you, so you have to come.” Thankfully for her, Somakhya’s mother intervened: “They seem to be engrossed in their fun — so, let them be. My husband will drop her back in the evening when he takes the offerings to the Rudra-caitya.” After some wrangling, Lootika’s mother let her stay. Just as that was settled, they all felt the ground rattle as if there was an earthquake. Lootika felt her hairband snap and someone pulling her locks: “Ouch, I fear the distraction caused by my mother to my japa has resulted in him getting me.” Suddenly Lootika saw her bag creeping on the floor towards the door: “He’s going for my siddhakāṣṭha.” However, she managed to grab her bag and retrieve her siddhakāṣṭha and deploy the mantra:
huṃ drutam muñca muñca māṃ bhadrakālī-vīrabhadrau ājñapayataḥ phaṭ ॥
With that, she managed to shake off the Āpastamba-graha. S: “That is our chance. Yashashravas return to your japa.” Somakhya got out the nail and, going over to the liṅga performed a kamaṇḍalu prayoga with the mantra:
huṃ namaḥ ṣaṇmukhāya huṃ phaṭ duṣṭaṃ graham astreṇa vitudāmi pāśena kīle badhnāmi ॥

The nail leapt out of his hand and dropped on the plate with a prolonged jingle before coming to a rest. L: “That was a close brush but I believe we have him.” S: “Indeed, did you notice how he tried to dissimulate his name thinking we may use it in place of an amum in the prayoga?” L: “Hmm… I was puzzled by that and unsure if it was written in some strange script, and didn’t know what to make of it. That’s why I made sure not to use it in any prayoga.” They sprinkled some water on Yashashravas and asked him to conclude his japa with an arghya using the Mṛtyulāṅgala mantra. S: “Yashashravas, I believe you should have a smooth saṃdhyā this evening.” L: “The tale of the late snātaka indeed reminds me of the V1 who is mentioned to have been originally seized by a piśāca-graha in the tale of the Piśācamocana-tīrtha.” Later that evening, Somakhya’s father drove them to the caitya, where, after the initial darśana-s, they went to the sub-shrine of the Ātreya to deliver the offerings. Since Lootika and Somakhya had a fear of dogs, they let Yashashravas feed some curs while uttering vedo .asi ।. As he was doing so, Somakhya and Lootika ran up to the giant, ghostly aśvattha tree on the temple grounds and drove the nail into the ground at its base.

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Agni as the divine commander in the Veda and the Purāṇa

With the Sākamedha-parvan with the oblations to Agni Anīkavat having just passed, we present a brief note on Agni as the general of the deva army. Agni is presented as the commander of the deva-s in the brāhmaṇa literature. For example, the Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa of the Śuklayajurvedin-s makes the below statement in regard to the ratnin oblations, which are made in houses of the various functionaries of the old Indo-Aryan state. With regard to the oblation to Agnī Anīkavat we hear:

araṇyor agnī samārohya senānyo gṛhān paretyā + agnaye .anīkavate aṣṭhā-kapālam puroḍāśaṃ nirvapati । agnir vai devatānām anīkaṃ senāyā vai senānīr anīkaṃ tasmād agnaye ‘nīkavate । etad vā asyaikaṃ ratnaṃ yat senānīs tasmā evaitena sūyate । taṃ svam-anapakramiṇaṃ kurute । (in Mādhyaṃdina SB 5.3.1 \approx in Kāṇva SB 7.1.4)
Having taken up the two fires (Gārhapatya and Āhavanīya) on the two kindling-sticks, having gone to the house of the commander of the army, he prepares a cake on eight potsherds for Agni Anīkavat. Agni is indeed the leader (anīka) of the gods, and the commander is the head of the army: hence, for Agni Anīkavat. He, the commander, is verily one of his (the king’s) gems. Therefore, for him [the king], he [the commander] is thus consecrated. He [the king] makes him [the commander] his own follower.

Again, in the Gopatha-brāhmaṇa we have the following statement regarding the offering to Agni Anīkavat in the context of the Sakamedha oblations:

aindro vā eṣa yajña-kratur yat sākamedhāḥ । tad yathā mahārājaḥ purastāt senānīkāni vyuhyābhayaṃ panthānam anviyād evam evaitat purastād devatā yajati । tad yathaivādaḥ somasya mahāvratam evam evaitad iṣṭi-mahāvratam । atha yad agnim anīkavantaṃ prathamaṃ devatānāṃ yajati । agnir vai devānāṃ mukham । mukhata eva tad devān prīṇāti । (in GB 2.1.23)
These Sākamedha-s are verily that of Indra. Just as the emperor placing the commanders in the head of his army-formations advances unchecked on his path, so also, he (the ritualist) sacrifices placing the deities to the front. Just as there is the Mahāvrata of the soma sacrifices, this is the [equivalent of the] Mahāvrata for the iṣṭi-s. Now, in that, he sacrifices to Agni Anīkavat (the commander), the first of the deities. This Agni is indeed the mouth of the gods. Thus, he pleases the gods through their mouth.

As an aside, we may note that the Atharvavedic tradition sees the Sākamedha oblations as the equivalent of the Mahāvrata-s for the iṣṭi cycle. The Mahāvrata is performed at the winter solstice. The Sākamedha on the Kārttika full moon is the last full moon in autumn before the winter solstice. Hence, the two are seen as being equivalent. Now, this role of Agni as the commander of the gods is already hinted at by multiple incantations in the Ṛgveda (reproduced in the Atharvaveda) itself. For example, we have:

agnir iva manyo tviṣitaḥ sahasva senānīr naḥ sahure hūta edhi । RV 10.84.2a
Blazing like Agni, o battle fury, conquer! Our commander, the conqueror when you are invoked at the kindling.

Here Manyu (the battle fury) is implied to lead the forces, like commander Agni. We may also consider one of the Agni Anikavat incantations Atri-s:

uta svānāso divi ṣantv agnes
tigmāyudhā rakṣase hantavā u ।
made cid asya pra rujanti bhāmā
na varante paribādho adevīḥ ॥ RV 5.2.10
Also, in heaven, let there be the roars of Agni
with [his] sharp weapons for the smiting of rakṣas-es.
Indeed, in his exhilaration, his fury smashes forth,
the defense of the ungodly do not contain him.

Finally, we also have the famous Rakṣohā Agni incantations of Vāmadeva Gautama (RV 4.4.1-5), which present the most exalted account of Agni’s war-like nature in the entire śruti [Footnote 1]:

kṛṇuṣva pājaḥ prasitiṃ na pṛthvīṃ
yāhi rājevāmavāṃ ibhena ।
tṛṣvīm anu prasitiṃ drūṇāno .
astāsi vidhya rakṣasas tapiṣṭhaiḥ ॥ 1
Make your charge like a broad front.
Move forth like a mighty king with his troops,
thirsting to charge forth slaying,
You are an archer: pierce the rakṣas-es with the hottest missiles.

tava bhramāsa āśuyā patanty
anu spṛśa dhṛṣatā śośucānaḥ ।
tapūṃṣy agne juhvā pataṅgān
asaṃdito vi sṛja viṣvag ulkāḥ ॥ 2
Your swirling [weapons: cakra-s implied] fly swiftly;
touch down on [the foes] impetuously blazing.
O Agni, with your tongue [hurl] blasts of heat, flying [sparks]
unstopped hurl forth firebrands all around.

prati spaśo vi sṛja tūrṇitamo
bhavā pāyur viśo asyā adabdhaḥ ।
yo no dūre aghaśaṃso yo anty
agne mākiṣ ṭe vyathir ā dadharṣīt ॥ 3
Send out spies against (the foes). He is the fastest.
Become the uncheated protector of these people.
Whoever wishes us evil from a distance, whoever from nearby,
O Agni, may no one (enemy) evade your meandering course.

ud agne tiṣṭha praty ā tanuṣva
ny amitrāṃ oṣatāt tigmahete ।
yo no arātiṃ samidhāna cakre
nīcā taṃ dhakṣy atasaṃ na śuṣkam ॥ 4
O Agni stand up, stretch your bow against [our enemies],
Burn down the foes, o one with a sharp weapon.
Whoever makes hostile moves at us, o kindled one,
burn him down like dry shrubs.

ūrdhvo bhava prati vidhyādhy
asmad āviṣ kṛṇuṣva daivyāny agne ।
ava sthirā tanuhi yātujūnāṃ
jāmim ajāmim pra mṛṇīhi śatrūn ॥ 5
Rising upwards, jabbing against [the foes, pushing them]
away from us; make your divine powers apparent.
Slacken the taut [bows] of those incited by yātu-s,
be they kin or non-kin slay forth the enemies.

In the transition between the Vedic and Epic phases of the Hindu literary activity, the role of Agni as the commander of the gods was transferred to his son Kumāra, effectively also the son of Agni’s dual Rudra. The stage for this is set deep in the śruti itself. As noted before, the Kaumāra mythology is closely tied to the famous sūkta of the Atri-s we mentioned above (RV 5.2). Already in the fragmentary Vedic tradition of the Bhāllavi-s, we see the hint of this connection in the deployment of the ṛk-s from RV 5.2 by Vṛśa Jāna for the Ikṣvāku ruler Tryaruṇa. The Śatapatha-brāhmaṇa, explaining the duality of Agni and Rudra, explains that the 8 forms of Rudra culminating in the supreme Īśāna, the lord of all, are the 8 transformations of Agni, with Kumāra as the 9th, evidently alluding to the very same sūkta of the Atri-s:

tāny etāny aṣṭāv agni-rūpāṇi । kumāro navamaḥ saivāgnis trivṛttā ॥ Mādhyaṃdina SB 6.1.3.18
These then are the eight forms of Agni (Rudra, Śarva, Paśupati, Ugra, Aśani, Bhava, Mahādeva, Īśāna). Kumāra (the boy) is the ninth: that is Agni’s threefold state (i.e., 3 \times 3).

This sets the stage for the final ninth form as the son of Rudra-Agni. In this process, Kumāra also inherited to connection to the old equinoctial connection to the constellation of Agni, i.e., Kṛttikā-s – he is also their son, Kārttikeya. Also contributing to the identity of the para-Vedic Kumāra are the aspects of the Vedic sons of Rudra, the Marut-s, who are also seen as leaders of the deva army. For instance, in the Apratiratha Aindra sūkta we have:

devasenānām abhibhañjatīnāṃ jayantīnām maruto yantv agram ॥ RV 10.103.8c
May the Maruts go at the forefront of the shattering, conquering armies of the gods.

Notably, the Maruts are repeatedly referred to as Agni-s (e.g., agnayo na śuśucānā ṛjīṣiṇo bhṛmiṃ dhamanto apa gā avṛṇvata । RV 2.34.1c; na yeṣām irī sadhastha īṣṭa āṃ agnayo na svavidyutaḥ pra syandrāso dhunīnām । RV 5.87.3c; te rudrāsaḥ sumakhā agnayo yathā tuvidyumnā avantv evayāmarut ।RV 5.87.7a; ye agnayo na śośucann idhānā dvir yat trir maruto vāvṛdhanta । RV 6.66.2a). This completes the circle of the connection between Agni and the sons of Rudra, who are the spear-wielding heroes of the deva army.

However, there are rare instances in the itihāsa-purāṇa corpus that furnish descriptions of the martial Agni mirroring his role as commander of the divine army in the śruti. We provide snippets of such accounts below from the third section of the Harivaṃśa, the Bhaviṣya-parvan (sometimes called Appendix I). The first snippet is from the narration of Agni leading the gods in the battle against the daitya Balin, who was subsequently trampled by Viṣṇu:

lohito lohitagrīvo hartā dātā haviḥ kaviḥ ।
pāvako viśvabhug devaḥ sarva-devānanaḥ prabhuḥ ॥
subrahmātmā suvarcaskaḥ sahasrārcir vibhāvasuḥ ।
kṛṣṇavartmā citrabhānur devāgryaś citra ekarāṭ ॥
lokasākṣī dvijahuto vaṣaṭkāra-priyo ‘rcimān ।
havyabhakṣaḥ śamīgarbhaḥ svayoniḥ sarvakarmakṛt ॥
pāvanaḥ sarvabhūtānāṃ tridaśānāṃ taponidhiḥ ।
śamanaḥ sarvapāpānāṃ lelihānas tapomayaḥ ॥
pradakṣiṇāvarta-śikhaḥ śucilomā makhākṛtiḥ ।
havyabhug bhūtabhavyeśo havyabhāgaharo hariḥ ॥
somapaḥ sumahātejā bhūteśaḥ sarvabhūtahā ।
adhṛṣyaḥ pāvako bhūtir bhūtātmā vai svadhādhipaḥ ॥
svāhāpatiḥ sāmagītaḥ somapūtāśano ‘dridhṛk ।
devadevo mahākrodho rudrātmā brahmasaṃbhavaḥ ॥
lohitāśvaṃ vāyucakraṃ ratham āsthāya bhūtakṛt ।
dhūmaketur dhūmaśikho nīlavāsāḥ surottamaḥ ॥
udyamya divyam āgneyam astraṃ devo raṇe mahat ।
dānavāṇāṃ sahasrāṇi prayutāny arbudāni ca ॥
dadāha bhagavān vahniḥ saṃkruddhaḥ pralaye yathā ।
prāṇo yaḥ sarvabhūtānāṃ hṛdi tiṣṭhati pañcadhā ॥
Red, red-necked, the destroyer, the giver, the oblation, the poet;
The purifier, all-consuming, the god, the mouth of the gods, the lord;
The soul of mantras, brilliant, thousand-rayed, full of light;
With black tracks, with wonderful rays, the leader of the gods, beautiful, the sole ruler;
The witness of the worlds, invoked by twice-born, delighting in the vaṣaṭ call, bright;
The oblation-eater, dwelling in wood, self-reproducing, doer of all acts;
The purifier of all beings, the wealth of the gods’ tapas;
The suppressor of sins, with a flickering tongue, full of heat;
With helical swirling flames, bright haired, of the form of ritual;
The oblation-eater, lord of past and future, the partaker of the ritual share, yellow;
The soma-drinker, of good great luster, the lord of beings, the slayer of all beings;
The unassailable one, the purifier, the power, verily the core of beings, Svadhā’s husband;
Svāhā’s husband, the Saman song, the filtered-soma consumer, holding the [soma]-pounding stone;
The god of gods, of great wrath, of nature of Rudra, born of incantations;
Having mounted the chariot drawn by red horses with wind-wheels, the maker of beings,
the smoke-bannered, the smoke-tufted, blue-clothed one, foremost of the gods,
having raised the divine Āgneya missile in battle, the great god
burnt down thousands, millions and tens of millions of dānava-s,
like in the cosmic dissolution, the enraged lord of fire;
He, who is the metabolism of all organisms, situate five-fold in their hearts.

The second short snippet alludes to Agni’s weapons and the manifestation of the other gods with their weapons. This comes from the narration of the fruits of the tapasya of the deities and presents the appearance of Agni within the frame of the old Vedic ritual of the churning out of the fire in the manner of the Atharvan-s of yore:

atha dīkṣāṃ samāsthāya sarve viṣṇumayā gaṇāḥ ।
puṣkarād agnim uddhatya praṇīya ca yathāvidhi ॥
juhuvur mantravidhinā brāhmaṇā mantracoditāḥ ।
haviṣā mantrapūtena yathā vai vidhir eva ca ॥
sa cāgnir vidhivat tatra vardhate brahmatejasā ।
tejobhir bahulībhūtaḥ prabhuḥ puruṣavigrahaḥ ॥
brahma-daṇḍa iti khyāto vapuṣā nirdahann iva ।
divya-rūpa-praharaṇo hy asi-carma-dhanurdharaḥ ॥
gadī ca lāṅgalī cakrī śarī carmī paraśvadhī ।
śūlī vajrī khaḍgapāṇiḥ śaktimān varakārmukī ॥
viṣṇuś cakradharaḥ khaḍgī musalī lāṅgalāyudhaḥ ।
naro lāṅgalam ālambya musalaṃ ca mahābalaḥ ॥
vajram indras tapoyogāc chataparvāṇam ākṣipat ।
rudraḥ śūlaṃ pinākaṃ ca tapasā-dhārayat prabhuḥ ॥
mṛtyur daṇḍaṃ pāśam āpaḥ skandaḥ śaktim agṛhṇata ।
jagrāha paraśuṃ tvaṣṭā kuberaś ca paraśvadham ॥
Having taken the dīkṣā for ritual all the troops [of V1s] imbued with Viṣṇu, churned out Agni from the [lotus/] pond [Footnote 2] and led him forth as per the injunctions [Footnote 3]. Invoked by the brāhmaṇā-s as per the Vedic instructions, and inspired by mantra incantations, and [fed with] offerings purified with mantra-s verily as per the injunctions, he, Agni, as per tradition, blazed forth there with brahman luster. The lord, having become manifold with rays, became anthropomorphic. He is known as the rod of brahman, appearing as though burning [all] with his body. With weapons of divine form, indeed holding a sword, shield and bow. With a mace, plowshare, discus, arrow, shield, battle-pickax, trident, thunderbolt, he is sword-armed and wields a lance and an excellent bow. Viṣṇu is armed with a discus, sword, pestle and a plowshare. Nara of great might is armed with a plowshare and a pestle [Footnote 4]. United with tapas, Indra strikes with the thunderbolt of a hundred edges. The lord Rudra by tapas has taken up the trident and Pināka [Footnote 5]. Yama took the rod, Varuṇa (literally waters), the lasso and Guha the lance [Footnote 6]. Tvaṣṭṛ took up an ax and Kubera a battle-pickax.

While the paurāṇika tradition presents accounts of several of the ancient battles between the deva-s and the daitya-s, all surviving versions aim to downgrade the pantheon as represented in the old Aryan layer of the religion for magnifying their sectarian deities. Nevertheless, we believe that the paurāṇika tradition preserves relatively unmodified fragments from an older layer of narratives. This is supported by the sharing of phrases with the old tradition (e.g., vajraḥ śataparvaṇaḥ or kṛṣṇavartman) and the fact that above snippets are replete with Vedic allusions and metaphors. Both these snippets present Agni in his old martial form; the first might be seen as mirroring and augmenting the presentation of Agni in the famous kṛṇuṣva pāja iti pañca incantations, while the second mirrors his emergence, upon being churned out, presented in the above-mentioned sūkta of the Atri-s. Thus, even with all the religious turnover, some of the primal imagery from the old Aryan past continued relatively unchanged in the paurāṇika tradition.


Footnote 1: Notice the Vedic device of ring-linking in structuring sūkta-s with old IE roots. The words kṛṇuṣva…vidhya from the first are repeated in reverse order in the fifth of the kṛṇuṣva pāja iti pañca as vidhyādhy…kṛṇuṣva to complete the classic ring. Then an intricate network is formed by other linkages; for example: in the first ṛk, the two hemistiches are linked by prasitim. In the second ṛk, they are linked by the root patan+. Then 1 and 2 are linked by the root tap+; prati links 3, 4, 5; 4 and 5 are linked by the root tan+ and so on. For a complete graph, see Figure 1. Such intricate weaving is especially typical of magical incantations, c.f. the Apratiratha Aindra.

kRiNushva_pAja

Figure 1.

Footnote 2: This is modeled after the action of the primordial Atharvan, which is mentioned to in the śruti:  tvām agne puṣkarād adhy atharvā nir amanthata । RV 6.16.13a. This is a likely allusion to the fire within water found in the regions closer to the homeland of the early Indo-Europeans.

Footnote 3: The Vedic ritual of Agni-praṇayana with the recitation of the Hotṛ and the carrying forth of the wooden sword along with the fire to the mahāvedi.

Footnote 4: The coupling of Nara and Viṣṇu situates this narration with the Nara-Nārāyaṇa tradition of the epic Vaiṣṇava religion where it is often juxtaposed with the more prevalent Sātvata tradition. This verse hints at their “merger” by furnishing Nara with the iconography of the Sātvata Saṃkarṣaṇa.

Footnote 5: The Pināka should be correctly understood as the bow of Rudra.

Footnote 6: This hemistich has many readings. e.g., The Gītā press text reads:  mṛtyur daṇḍaṃ pāśam āpaḥ kālaḥ śaktimagṛhṇata ।; The Pune reading from Parashuram Lakshman Vaidya reads: mṛtyur daṇḍaṃ sapāśaṃ ca kālaḥ śaktim agṛhṇata । We take an uncommon southern reading which more congruent with regard to the weapons and the gods.

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The birth defects of Dhṛtarāṣṭra and Pāṇḍu and related matters

This note has its origin in a conversation with Sharada. We originally intended to incorporate the core of it into one of our usual fantastical stories. However, following a second conversation with her, we decided that it might be best to present it as a note of its own.

Vyāsa Pāraśarya was the author of our national epic, the Bhārata, in more than one way: he first sired the protagonists, and then he recorded their history as it played out. The queen Satyavatī had extracted a promise from her husband Śantanu that her son and not his older son Bhīṣma would take the throne of Hastināpura. However, to her bad luck, both her sons via Śantanu, Citrāṅgada and Vicitravīrya, died shortly after ascending the throne — an eponymous gandharva slew Citrāṅgada at Kurukṣetra and Vicitravīrya contracted tuberculosis and perished before fathering any children. He left behind his widows Ambikā and Ambālikā. Distraught, Satyavatī first asked her stepson Bhīṣma to father children on the widows; however, he refused to break the vow of celibacy he had taken for Śantanu to marry her. Before her marriage to Śantanu, Satyavatī was a boat-woman from a fisher clan who ferried people across the Yamunā. In course of her duties, she once had to ferry the great brāhmaṇa, Parāśara of the Vasiṣṭha clan. He was smitten by her beauty and started wooing her with sweet words during the boat ride. She was caught in the dilemma of her father’s wrath if she went with him and the brāhmaṇa’s curse if she refused. However, the boon he offered convinced Satyavatī to consort with him. He enveloped the region in a mist with his magical powers, and they engaged in coitus. As a result, they had a son, the illustrious Vyāsa Pāraśarya, the editor of the Veda-s and the composer of the Bhārata. Thereafter, Parāśara restored her virginity and gave her the boon by which a pleasant perfume replaced her fishy odor. Vyāsa went with his father, and Satyavatī continued as a boat-woman until her marriage to the king Śantanu. Now in this hour of need, she summoned her first son Vyāsa and asked him to sire children on her widowed daughters-in-law. Vyāsa agreed but stated that the Kausalya princesses should undergo an year of preparatory rites before engaging in coitus with him. However, fearing the dangers of a kingless state, Satyavatī pressed her son to inseminate them immediately.

Evidently, from his being a yogin performing tapas, Vyāsa was in an uncouth state with yellowish-brown dreadlocks, unshaven face and body odor. Thus, when he had intercourse with Ambikā, she closed her eyes not to see his grim visage. As a result of this “impression” of hers, Vyāsa told Satyavatī that Ambikā’s son would be duly born blind despite having the strength of 10000 elephants. Satyavatī beseeched Vyāsa to father another child, as a blind child could not be a king. This time he had intercourse with Ambālikā, who, looking at his dreadful appearance, turned pale. Accordingly, she gave birth to a hypopigmented child. Satyavatī then asked Vyāsa to bed Ambikā again. But remembering his terrifying appearance, she instead sent her slave whom she had decked with her own ornaments. The slave engaged in comfortable coitus with Vyāsa, and he manumitted her and said that she would have a brilliant son who would be the most intelligent of the men of the age. Thus were born the blind Dhṛtarāṣṭra, the blanched Pāṇḍu and the wise Vidura. Pāṇḍu’s troubles did not end with the absence of pigment. After his marriage, while living a sylvan life with his wives, he shot a brāhmaṇa and his wife while they were having intercourse in the form of deer. The brāhmaṇa duly cursed Pāṇḍu that he would too die as soon as he has sex with one of his wives and that wife too will meet her end with him. This is the platform story for the unfolding of the Bhārata, with the birth of Pāṇḍu-s through the intercession of the gods.

One may ask what is hidden behind the mythologem of the birth defects of Dhṛtarāṣṭra and Pāṇḍu? If one were to take a strongly historical position, one could argue that they probably were afflicted by a genetic defect. They could have had something like a variably expressive version of Waardenburg’s syndrome or the Hermansky-Pudlak syndrome, which are associated with both blindness and hypopigmentation. However, the language of myth has many layers. Beyond the historical layer, the Bhārata clearly conceals divine archetypes. These are best seen in the case of the Pāṇḍu-s but as the final parvan mentions, it applies more broadly to the other characters. We suspect that the background of Āditya-s was implied to be present in Dhṛtarāṣṭra and Pāṇḍu, with Vidura representing the joint Mitrāvaruṇā manifesting as dharma. This suggests that the blind Dhṛtarāṣṭra perhaps represents Bhaga (a continuation of the ancient Indo-European blind deity motif also seen in the Germanic Höðr) and the white Pāṇḍu combining the pale solar aspect of Vivasvān and still-born Mārtāṇḍa, which comes forth in greater Germania as the opposite of the blind Höðr, the white Baldr.

Finally, this mythologem also preserves a peculiar “para-medical” motif, namely the “maternal impression”. While not seen as a real thing in modern biology, there is a widespread belief that experiential impressions on the mother during pregnancy might translate into birth defects or birthmarks in her child. At some point, when we were re-reading the Bhārata, we realized that the legend of Dhṛtarāṣṭra and Pāṇḍu was embedding within it this prevalent pre-modern belief in maternal impression. Briefly, this view holds that ghastly sights of amputations or deformities seen by the mother in real life, or in a dream, or bodily transformations of the mother (like Ambikā’s closing of her eyes or Ambālikā’s blanching) from fear or dohada (dauhṛda)-s (satisfied or unsatisfied pregnancy cravings) might on occasion transmit congruent or similar defects/marks to the developing fetus. We did not pay much attention to it, but noted a parallel to the dohada of the mother of the great Chāhamāna hero Hammīradeva reported in the Hammīra-mahākāvya: she had a craving to have a bath in the blood of marūnmatta-s when pregnant with him and that is said to have conferred on him the fury that he manifested when manfully facing the monstrous Army of Islam.

However, beyond that, we mostly set aside these mythic motifs until we had a discussion with a late German professor in graduate school. He brought to our notice a peculiar story reliably narrated by the great Russo-German biologist Karl Ernst von Baer, a pioneer in the evolutionary theory and embryology. Von Baer’s sister saw a fire when looking out while she was about 6-7 months pregnant and thought that her house in the distance was burning. She became obsessed with that fire and kept seeing a vision of it constantly before her eyes until she gave birth to a daughter in due course. Interestingly, her daughter had a red birthmark on her forehead that took the shape of a flame that lasted until she was 7 years of age. I was bemused by this case of “maternal impression” close to our age, that too presented by a pioneer in embryology, whose own work should have suggested that this is unlikely. The late German professor mentioned to us that it is possible that it had some connection to von Baer’s peculiar ideas of a “teleological” force that influenced his version of the evolutionary theory.

Our conversation with Sharada brought to our attention the presence of contemporary belief in “maternal impression” relating to birth deformities and also reminded us of one of the morbid tales that our late grandmother and her relatives liked talking about, which involved such a motif. The possibility of a cross-cultural and temporal presence of this idea made us explore it a bit more. This led us to the work of the famous Canadian physician Ian Stevenson, who is well known for investigating strange things like ghosts, reincarnation, and the like. He had performed a detailed comparison of the published cases of such “maternal impressions” and uncovered some strange cases himself. One such notable case that he details is from Lankā, where a certain Siṁhala rowdy was killed by his adversaries, who chopped off both his hands. It was said that the rowdy’s mother then invoked Viṣṇu and Skanda to bring such a fate upon the child of his killer and repeatedly cursed the killer’s wife that she would have a deformed child. Subsequently, the assailant’s wife gave birth to a son lacking arms – a birth defect closely paralleling the amputations the rowdy was subject to. The deformed child died within an year or two of birth. Stevenson stressed that the deformities, of which he produced a photograph, were unusual and that there was no history of genetic defects in the family as far as his extensive investigations could tell.

In a detailed study, Stevenson gathered at least 50 cases that he considered reliable (they corresponded to rare defects, and in his estimation, in 46 of the 50 cases the similarly rare maternal impression corresponded very closely to the lesion in the neonate) and analyzed them for general tendencies. In 41/50 cases, he reported the pregnant mother directly seeing or hearing about a lesion (which may be a wound, surgery, or something else) in another person. In 6 cases, she experienced something on herself — these are more comparable to those of the Kausalya princesses of our national epic. Stevenson describes some of the cases in greater detail. One was reported in the British Medical Journal in 1886. Here a woman in the 4th month of her pregnancy dreamt that a rat had bitten off the great toe of her right foot. Consequently, “she awoke screaming, and narrated the cause of her fright to her husband, who corroborated her statement”. When she delivered her child, it lacked the very same great toe she lost in her dream. This case may be compared to the examples of Kausalya princesses, in that the impression was not the sight of a lesion in someone else but in the mother. However, the one distinguishing feature of the epic example is that the premonitory impression happened at conception rather than pregnancy proper.

By considering an additional set of less reliable cases, Stevenson drew up a more extensive list of 113 cases of maternal impressions. In this set, he found 80 cases with the impression in the first trimester, 20 in the second, and 13 in the third, which, as he noted, is a statistically significant difference (\chi^2= 72.018, p = 2.299^{-16}). The significant over-representation in the first trimester is aligned with that period being the most susceptible period in pregnancy for birth defects from biological causes. For example, it is well-known that severe alcohol abuse during the first trimester can disrupt the development of the head, resulting in birth defects. Similarly, studies on the teratogenicity of high (>10000 IU) doses of vitamin A suggest that birth defects were concentrated among the babies born to women who had consumed it before the seventh week of gestation. Importantly, it maps to the period when morning sickness is most prevalent, which itself seems to be an adaptation to protect the fetus in early development from potentially teratogenic compounds in the food. Thus, it also corresponds to the peak period of defects from the ubiquitination-activating drug thalidomide that was wrongly used to treat morning sickness (we shall return to its action below).

From Stevenson’s cases, which are mostly from Occidental cultures and relatively close to our times (1700-1900s), it became clear that the idea of maternal impression is indeed a widespread cross-cultural one with arborizations into other “mystery” phenomena like abhicāra and reincarnation. This made us revisit the old Hindu medical tradition to consider the positions they held in this regard. As a representative, we may consider one of the great authoritative texts of early Hindu medicine: the Śarīra-sthāna of the Suśruta-saṃhitā, which starts of with an ancient theory of being. Following the sāṃkhya tradition, it lays out that from the primordial matter prakṛti, various organs constituting the body arose. While these organs are seen as being made up of matter (bhautika \to adhibhūta), i.e., transformations (vikārāḥ) of prakṛti, they are said to have mapping on the realm of consciousness (adhyātma) and the sphere of the gods (adhidaivata; which cuts across the material and conscious realms in a “Platonic sense”). This mapping to the gods derived from the Yajurveda (with some parallels to the puruṣa-sūkta-s and central to the nyāsa-s of later tradition) is stated thus in Suśruta:

sva svaś caiṣāṃ viṣayo .adhibhūtam | svayam adhyātmam adhidaivtaṃ ca | atha buddhe brahmā | ahaṃkārasyeśvaraḥ | manaś candramā | diśaḥ śrotrasya | tvaco vāyuḥ | sūryaś cakṣoḥ | rasanasya+āpaḥ | pṛthivī ghṛāṇasya | vaco .agniḥ | hastayor indraḥ | pādayor viṣṇuḥ | pāyor mitraḥ | prajāpatir upasthyeti | tatra sarva evācetana eṣa vargaḥ | puruṣaḥ pañcaviṃśatitamaḥ sa ca kārya-kāraṇa-saṃyuktaś cetayitā bhavati ||
The mapping is thus: Brahmā: intellect; Īśvara (Rudra): I-ness (personal identity); Moon: mind; directions: hearing; Vāyu: skin; Sun: eyes; waters: tongue; Earth: nose; Agni: vocal system; Indra: prehensile organs; Viṣṇu: locomotory organs; Mitra: excretory organs; Prajāpati: reproductive organs. The final sentence clarifies that while the evolutes of prakṛti are by themselves unconscious, the 25th tattva, puruṣa, enters the primal cause (prakṛti) and its evolutes and endows them its nature consciousness. We layout this sāṃkhya foundation of Hindu medicine because it is via that intersection of the realm of consciousness and matter that it tries to explain things that would be seen as “supernatural” in a modern sense.

The Hindu medical tradition (like that recorded by Suśruta) has a proto-biological understanding of specific issues generally pointing in the right direction:
(1) Unlike the folk idea prevalent in the Indo-European world of the sperm being a seed sown in the vagina/uterus, it understood that there was a biological contribution from both the parents. In the case of the male, it saw that as coming from the semen. That contribution was not visible in the female, but it postulated an ārtava — a theoretical ovum.
(2) It did recognize that there was some sex-determining principle coming from the semen and the ārtava, though the exact nature of it was imperfectly understood.
(3) It recognized a “proto-genetic” principle wherein the parents’ postulated contributions gave rise to different organs in the embryo.
(4) It presented a primitive theory based on “biochemical expressions” in the developing embryo for various birth defects (including those comparable to Pāṇḍu and Dhṛtarāṣṭra), atypical sexuality and pigmentation differences.

However, superimposed on this essentially biological foundation (sometimes with pioneering insights) is a belief in different forms of extra-biological impressions. The roles of the various processes involved and their effects are voiced by Suśruta thus:

san niveśaḥ śarīrāṇāṃ dantānāṃ patanodbhavau |
taleśv asaṃbhavo yaś ca romṇām etat svabhāvataḥ ||
The development of the organs in their proper locations, the fall of [milk] teeth, and the growth [of permanent teeth], non-growth of hair in palms and feet all are [examples] of development as per the natural law [for that organism].

Thus, Suśruta and other authorities acknowledge that basic human development is as per a natural law — i.e., a purely biological process typical of a given species. However, immediately thereafter, he cites śloka-s that goes on to describe a very different hypothesis regarding mental traits:

bhāvitāḥ pūrvadeheṣu satataṃ śāstra-buddhayaḥ |
bhavanti sattva-bhūyiṣṭhāḥ pūrva-jāti-smarā narāḥ ||
Those constantly conditioned in the former bodies by the study of the śāśtra-s become [even in the current birth] men endowed in sattva remembering the former birth.

karmaṇa codito yena tadāpnoti punarbhave |
abhyastāḥ pūrvadehe ye tāneva bhajate guṇān ||
Impelled by acts which he has performed [in the former birth], a person attains his [state] in the reincarnation. Those activities which were repeatedly practiced in the former body are also shared by the [current one].

Thus, there was a belief that mental traits transmitted via reincarnation from the previous birth, like an inclination toward good learning, and behavioral tendencies acquired by constant practice, were superimposed on the basic biological development (mentioned above). Combined with the reincarnational effect (which parallels beliefs in most human cultures across the world) were various beliefs that may be considered as belonging to the domain of maternal impression. One of these is believed to act at the time of conception or just before that, as was the case with Ambikā and Ambālikā. An old verse cited by Suśruta records such a belief:

pūrvaṃ paśyed ṛtu-snātā yādṛśaṃ naram aṅganā |
tādṛśaṃ janayet putraṃ bhartāraṃ darśayed ataḥ ||
Whoever is the first man the woman may see after her purificatory bath following her menstruation, the child she births resembles him; hence, she must see her husband.

The commentators add that if her husband is not around at the moment, she should see the sun. Thus, the impression of the first man she sees is said to determine the child’s appearance. The old Hindu medical tradition also records a variety of alternative causes for birth defects, some biological and other “impressional”:

garbho vāta-prakopeṇa dauhṛde vāvamānite |
bhavet kubjaḥ kuṇiḥ paṅgur mūko minmina eva vā ||
A fetus suffering insults from the derangement of vāta (one of the three basic bodily processes of old Hindu physiology \approx humors of Greek physiology) or due to the [unfulfilled] maternal cravings (dauhṛda), may indeed become hunchbacked, defective in the arms, defective in the legs, dumb, or nasal-voiced.

mātā-pitro .astu nāstikyād aśubhaiś ca purākṛtaiḥ |
vātādīnāṃ ca kopena garbho vikṛtim āpnuyāt ||
From the mother or father being counter-religious or due to their inauspicious ways or from their misdeeds in a past incarnation or from the derangement of the vāta and the like the fetus acquires birth-defects.

Thus, while a proximal physiological cause (i.e., the derangement of the doṣa-s) is offered, meta- or “supernatural” causes are also suggested in the form of unfulfilled maternal cravings and the “impressions” of the inappropriate ways of the parents in the current and past incarnations. For the maternal cravings, the Hindu proto-scientists presented a purely physiological hypothesis within the context of embryological development:

tatra prathame māsi kalalaṃ jāyate | dvitīye śītoṣmānilair abhiprapacyamānānāṃ mahābhūtānāṃ saṃghāto ghanaḥ saṃjāyate | yadi piṇḍaḥ pumān strī cet peśī napuṃsakaṃ ched arbudam iti | tṛtīye hasta-pāda-śirasāṃ pañca-piṇḍakā nirvartante | aṅga-pratyaṅga-vibhāgaś ca sūkṣmo bhavati | caturthe sarvāṅga-vibhāgaḥ pravyaktaro bhavati | garbha-hṛdaya-pravyakti-bhāvāc cetanā-dhātur abhivyakto bhavati | kasmāt? tat sthānatvāt | tasmād garbhaś caturthe māsy abhiprāyam indriyārtheṣu karoti | dvihṛdayāṃ ca nārīṃ dauhṛdinīṃ ācakṣate | dauhṛda-vimānanāt kubjaṃ kuṇiṃ khañjaṃ jaḍaṃ vāmanaṃ vikṛtākṣam anakṣaṃ vā nārī sutaṃ janayati | tasmāt sā yad icchet tat tasyai dāpayet | labdha-dauhṛdā hi vīryavantaṃ cirāyuṣaṃ ca putraṃ janayati ||
There (in the womb), in the first month, a bag-like structure emerges. In the second, starting with metabolic action of the three (śītoṣmānila) physiological processes, the molecular combinations of the primal elements comprise a condensed structure. The presence of a lump-like structure indicates a male; a bud-like structure a female; a tumorous mass, an intersex. In the third, 5 lump-like forms of the hands, legs and head develop. The incipient divisions of the various organs and their subdivisions come into being. In the fourth, the substructures of all the organs become clearly apparent. From the full development of the fetal heart, the substance of consciousness becomes apparent. How so? From the heart being the receptacle [of consciousness]. Thus, in the fourth month, the fetus displays agency for the organs to apprehend/elicit their stimuli/actions. There are two hearts (one of the fetus and one of the mother), and from that the pregnant woman is known to be two-hearted [thus, the maternal cravings]. Hence, unfulfilled maternal cravings result in the woman giving birth to an offspring that may be hunchbacked, defective in the hands, defective in the legs, mentally defective, dwarfed, with deformed eyes or eyeless. Therefore, one must satisfy her cravings as she wishes. Indeed, the woman with satisfied cravings births a virile and long-lived son.

Thus, the Hindu hypothesis of maternal cravings stems from the old belief that the heart is the seat of consciousness [Footnote 1]. Thus, the full development of the heart causes the organs of the fetus to seek their stimuli (jñānendriya-s) or actions (karmendriya-s). These are expressed via the mother resulting in maternal cravings. The hypothesis further posits that non-fulfillment of these results in defects in the fetus. We still do not fully understand the causes for maternal cravings or their adaptive logic in their entirety. The “spandrel” hypothesis suggests that they might arise from the uterine nervous connections activating the neighboring taste-related regions in the part of the brain known as the insula. However, we find it highly unlikely that the phenomenon is a spandrel. On the other hand, modern experiments suggest that, at least in childhood, there might be a liking for the gustatory stimuli the kids were repeatedly exposed to via their mother’s food during their fetal development. It is possible the Hindu proto-scientists made similar observations and accordingly extrapolated and expanded them to propose the above hypothesis. Indeed, tradition holds that such maternal cravings in themselves have a prognostic character. We cite a few examples of these below:

āśrame saṃyatātmānaṃ dharmaśīlaṃ prasūyate |
devatā-pratimāyāṃ tu prasūte pārṣadopamam ||
darśane vyālajātīnāṃ hiṃsāśīlaṃ prasūyate
The woman with a craving to visit a dwelling of sages births a self-controlled child committed to dharma. Indeed, she who desires to see an image of a god births a child who would grace a council. She who wishes to see a carnivorous animal births a child prone to violence.
godhā-māṃsā .aśane putraṃ suṣupsuṃ dhāraṇātmakam |
gavāṃ māṃse tu balinaṃ sarva-kleṣa-sahaṃ tathā ||
She who wants to eat the meat of a Varanus lizard births a child who will sleep well and cling to material possessions. Similarly, she who craves for beef births a strong child capable of enduring all manner of hardships.
māhiṣe dauhṛdāc chūraṃ raktākṣaṃ loma-saṃyutam |
vārāha-māṃsāt svapnāluṃ śūraṃ saṃjanyet sutam ||
She who craves for buffalo-meat births a brave child with reddish eyes and endowed with hair. She who longs for pork births a sleepy though a brave child.

More generally, the tradition holds that the nature of the child would mirror the nature of the animal whose meat the pregnant woman desires. Finally, tradition also holds that there is a direct mapping between the mother’s body and that of the fetus to account for the classic maternal impressions:

doṣābhighātair garbhiṇyā yo yo bhāgaḥ prapīḍyate |
sa sa bhāgaḥ śiśos tasya garbhasthasya prapīḍyate ||
Whichever part of the pregnant woman’s body is afflicted by physiological derangement or by injury, the corresponding part of the child in the uterus is afflicted.

In conclusion, we can summarize the old Hindu medical tradition’s position on fetal development as involving: 1) natural laws expressed as biological processes with parental “genetic contributions” as the primary drivers of development; 2) impressions of past incarnations of the child; 3) impressions from deeds of parents in current and past incarnations; 4) fulfilled or unfulfilled dauhṛda-s, which are physiologically explained as the influence on the mother by the fetal organs exercising the apprehension of their objects; 5) maternal impressions from the mother’s visual images post-menstruation and the mapping of the insults to the mother’s body onto the fetal body. The widespread presence of the impressionist components of these beliefs across cultures suggests that they go far back in history. Apparently, in some Romance languages, the word for birthmark and craving are the same and reflect a belief that the unfulfilled dauhṛda-s spawn those marks. The yavana physician Galen believed in the classic maternal impressions, and Empedocles held that women who fell in love with certain statues produced offspring who looked like them. Similarly, in Greek literature, the dark Ethiopian is said to have given birth to the fair Chariclea because she kept looking at the image of the white Andromeda while pregnant.

A version of such beliefs played an important role in the history of biology closer to our times. Had the French soldier Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744–1829 CE) been blown to smithereens by the German guns bombarding his position that he held with great valor, we might not have had one of the famous debates in biology that is somewhat artificially presented in textbooks. Having survived his stint in the French army Lamarck went on to propose one of the early modern evolutionary theories. Lamarck’s theoretical framework lay at the transition between archaic and modern scientific thought — one could say the transition between proto-science and science. His chemistry was more primitive than that presented in early sāṃkhya, subscribing to a four-element model of the universe and opposing the leap towards modern chemistry pioneered by his compatriot Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier. Aspects of his biology also remained primitive: on the one hand, he subscribed to spontaneous generation, apparently disregarding the work of the Italian Fransisco Redi that showed it to be a myth. On the other, he subscribed to the existence of a “life force”, which among other things, “tends to increase the volume of all organs”. Nevertheless, he was a keen biologist who, through his investigations, realized that organisms of one form must have evolved from those with another. A part of his explanation for this process involved a hypothesis based on a certain proto-biophysics of fluid flow. He argued that the rapid flow of fluids within the tissues of organisms “will etch canals between delicate tissues” much like a river erodes its bed. He then postulated that the differential flow rates that will ensue would lead to the origin of distinct organs. Simultaneously, he saw these fluids themselves becoming more complex, giving rise to a greater diversity of secretions and organ diversification. He combined this proto-biophysics with two so-called laws to explain the evolutionary process. The first law postulated that different organs of a given organism were either augmented or diminished depending on the degree of their use or disuse in the course of its life. The idea was based on the observation of real somatic adaptation to environmental pressures happening in the course of an organism’s life. The second law posited that these characters acquired during the life of an organism by the first law are passed to their offspring — the inheritance of acquired characters. In proposing this, he was more or less following the broad class of ideas coming down from the ancients that were similar to maternal impression in the general sense.

Charles Darwin’s grandfather Erasmus, who was one of the inspirations for his evolutionary theory, also accepted the inheritance of acquired characters, and Charles himself acknowledged this aspect of Lamarckism and incorporated it as a subsidiary component of his own theory. The shock waves from Darwin’s hypothesis resulted in a sizable body of biologists falling back to pure Lamarckism or some variant thereof as a counter to Darwinism that deeply disturbed them. One such was the goal-seeking evolutionary theory of the German biologist, Theodor Eimer, which incorporated the Lamarckian mechanism. Attempts claiming to demonstrate Lamarckian inheritance of acquired characters went on for a long time, including that of the famous Ivan Pavlov, but none of these studies produced reproducible or reliable results. Despite this, Lamarckism remained popular, especially in France, down to the second half of the 1900s. A variant of it had tragic consequences in the Soviet Empire in the form of Lysenkoism. Starting with the embryological work of Johannes Müller, serious questions were raised about whether embryonic development was affected by somatic characteristics acquired by the parents. After Darwin, August Weismann experimentally showed the isolation of the reproductive germplasm from the somatoplasm of the adult body in mammals casting doubt on any mechanism that allowed the Lamarckian changes acquired by the somatoplasm of an organism to be transmitted to the offspring. The subsequent advances in genetics, biochemistry and developmental biology over the 1900s made Lamarckism look less plausible until it was more or less consigned to the history of science among serious biologists.

However, by the late 1990s, a version of the “inheritance of acquired characters” started making a comeback within the Darwinian framework. Microorganisms, especially prokaryotes, show rampant horizontal gene transfer. The horizontally transferred genetic material integrated into the genome or a plasmid can then be transmitted to the offspring. Its subsequent maintenance would be subject to natural selection. In fact, the selection could act even before the transmission to the progeny; for example, the transfer of a gene confers immunity to a virus or resistance to a toxin (e.g., antibiotic). Thus, one could see it as a process of acquiring an adaptation that is then transferred to the next generation. Indeed, several organisms, like bacteria, have sophisticated mechanisms for acquiring foreign DNA. This could be in the form of the competence system that allows DNA uptake in certain phases of their life cycle or domesticated viruses that can act as transfer agents for DNA. Less understood, but potentially in a similar vein, are the lipid vesicles derived from cells that might also carry nucleic acids. Thus, the acquisition of characters encoded in the transferred DNA from the environment has been institutionalized in many bacteria. Indeed, the commonly cited prokaryotic immune mechanisms, namely the CRISPR and PIWI-based systems and other systems we have discovered, can be seen as variants of this process of controlled acquisition of genetic information (in this case, from invading elements like viruses) that is then inherited by the offspring. However, this is entirely within a Darwinian setting with selection post-acquisition explicitly taking the place of use or disuse as an augmenting or diminishing agent.

In prokaryotes, this transfer of DNA in part plays the role of sex. Eukaryotes have evolved an institutionalized sexual mechanism that is decoupled from ambient DNA transfer. Nevertheless, they too have been extensively acquiring “ready-made” adaptations through horizontal DNA transfer. That said, from relatively early in eukaryotic evolution, there have been repeated adaptations for “setting aside” a germplasm from the somatoplasm. In the unicellular eukaryotic world, we see this in the ciliates, which set aside their germplasm in the micronucleus while running their cells with a somatoplasmic macronucleus. Indeed, the macronucleus loses a good part of the genetic information maintained and transmitted to the next generation in the micronucleus. Of course, this separation of the germplasm and the somatoplasm is the norm in eukaryotes like the animals. Moreover, a similar phenomenon to the ciliate macronuclear DNA loss is seen in several animals like the Ascaris nematode worm or the lamprey, where part of the genome is shed in the somatic cells. In vertebrates, in cells like lymphocytes, the DNA is again lost or mutated as part of the generation of immune antigen receptors. In the neurons of at least some vertebrates, the genome is edited by the jumping of transposons. However, all these “acquired” somatic changes are kept out of the germplasm segregated early on from the somatoplasm. The origin of this separation seems to be due to the genetic “addiction” pressure exerted by genomic selfish elements against their loss by excision, as seen in the macronucleus or the somatic genomes of some animals. This has gone hand in hand with mechanisms that suppress the expression of these genomic selfish elements in the germline. This suppression process is achieved by a class of mechanisms collectively termed “epigenetic” or transmission of information over and beyond that transmitted by the genome. Along with this, pressures to safeguard the genomic integrity of the germline have also resulted in strong blood-germline barriers in various animals.

On one hand, these discoveries have been the strongest strike against impressionist information transmission, including Lamarckian acquired characters — a consequence of the strong shielding of the germplasm in several eukaryotes from the somatoplasm. On the other hand, the epigenetic mechanisms have revived a version of this transmission because they do seem to transfer non-genetic information inter-generationally. There have been claims that such epigenetic mechanisms might be behind the intergenerational transmission of the effects of trauma. However, the evidence for such claims is rather questionable, and at best, they remain uncertain to date. Nevertheless, at least in some animals, like insects, there are other forms of epigenetic information like endo-parasitic bacteria transmitted via the germline (e.g., Wolbachia), which influence the sex ratios by killing a subset of the offspring produced in matings that disfavor their transmission. These bacteria often encode toxins to enforce their “addiction”, several of which attack the genomic DNA of their host, including, as we discovered, by mutating it. Thus, there is a possibility of transmission of acquired effects through epigenetic mechanisms that have developmental consequences in a more limited sense.

One of the major discoveries of modern developmental biology, including ones we have contributed to, is the role of protein ubiquitination in regulating development. A major aspect of ubiquitination is its action on protein stability, i.e., tagging of key developmental regulator proteins for their degradation. Thus, both the disruption and enhancement of various ubiquitination pathways can result in a diverse array of birth defects. As noted above, the mechanism of action of thalidomide is via the enhancement of one of the ubiquitination systems, which in turn results in the degradation of a transcription factor causing birth defects. It is conceivable that other than toxic compounds, like thalidomide, certain other stresses (or, if true, transmitted epigenetic information) impinge on the ubiquitin system to affect the stability of various developmental regulators resulting in birth defects.

Coming a full circle, with an improved understanding of biological processes, beliefs in maternal impressions in the broad sense, which lay within the domain of mainstream medicine from the days of the ancient Ārya-s to the late 1800s, were gradually excluded from it. As Stevenson, perhaps, the last intrepid believer in it in the western academe noted, these reports more or less vanished in the 1900s. We are not sure if it is a useful avenue to revisit. Nevertheless, being cognizant of it being a tenacious feature of the cross-cultural belief landscape, we believe that it is something that can be better investigated with the sharper tools that are currently at our disposal. We have a range of mature technologies that span nucleic acid sequencing, biochemistry, and developmental biology, allowing us to more directly probe birth defects than ever before. These could be brought to bear more systematically on the suspected cases of impressions — in the least, the conclusions might contribute in a more humdrum way to our understanding of developmental processes.

Finally, if one were to see a case where one is inclined to bypass biological explanations for the “supernatural”, then one may ask if the relationship between the impressing stimulus and the impression is really causal or a manifestation of the mysterious “synchronicity”. While those inclined toward the rationality of the age might abhor the very mention of synchronicity, it may be simply something they have not experienced.


Footnote 1: As an aside, we may note that Suśruta records that Śaunaka proposed the head to be the controller of the organs and director of the development of other organs rather than the heart:  pūrvaṃ śiraḥ sambhavati +ity āha śaunakaḥ | śiro mūlatvāt pradhānendriyāṇām | However, this more correct apprehension seems to have been dropped in parts of Hindu biological tradition for the more primitive heart theory proposed by Kṛtavīrya

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The rise of Navyonmāda, the subversion of the Mahāmleccha-s, Cīnānusāra and beyond

The past
The dynamics of the establishment of the counter-religious unmāda-s are of some interest. The pūrvonmāda of pharaoh Akhenaten arose from the moha in his own head and was imposed on the populace due to his imperial power. It was quickly erased by the actions of his successors Tutankhamen, Ay and Horemheb and it never was able to take root. The mūlavātaroga seems to have spread rapidly within a tightly-knit ethnic group and soon evolved into an in-group marker. Hence, there was selection against it breaking out into the rest of the populace because its value to the in-group would then be lost. However, by being a strong in-group marker, it tenaciously persisted by maintaining in-group cohesion during military expeditions and raids against out-groups and became the incubator for the future unmāda-s. An infective variant of it first broke out into the general population in the form of pretonmāda. In the early days, pretonmāda appears to have been comparable to the mūlarug, providing an in-group marker for some “good-for-nothings”. However, it acquired several memes from other natural religions in the environs during this period, making it a stronger competitor. Armed with this expanded memome, it conquered the Romans through a less-appreciated strategy of subterfuge, martyr-creation and elite capture (see below). Once in power, it quickly expressed that anti-outgroup militant tendency inherited from its parent strain on a much larger scale. After a period of expansion via this virulent mode, it oscillated between explosive virulence (e.g., South America, Africa and Goa) and its earlier mode of creeping person-to-person infection (e.g., Andhra).

The same meme-complex was transferred to the marusthala resulting in marūnmāda, which codified “spread by any means” as a duty of every adherent. Indeed, the learned māhāmada Ibn Khaldun clearly explains in his Muqaddimah that it is the obligate duty of a marūnmatta to convert everyone to the unmāda by missionary activity or force. He then goes on to add that whereas this is an explicit duty of the marūnmatta-s, it is only an incidental or localized activity among the pretonmatta-s or ādivātūla-s (M 1.473-474). While he might be correct regarding the latter, the former, in reality, are closer to his own. Nevertheless, the fact that he explicitly mentions this as a feature of marūnmāda distinguishing it from the other unmāda-s suggests that it has always been more “in the face” with them. Ibn Khaldun had also emphasized the need for a strong power, like the ruler, to enforce the sharia once the Adyunmatta dies because it is this enforcement of sharia that keeps the people doing the “right thing” from which their natural tendency is to lapse (M 1.472). Ibn Khaldun himself furnishes the example of a North African woman from the Jewish priestly caste, who, distant from the ekarākṣasa core, reverted to a semi-natural religion and as a magician queen. Uniting various tribes, she valiantly blocked the advance of the rākṣasa-senā until the Ghāzī-s eventually beheaded her and her skull was gifted to the Khalif. Thus, the marūnmāda thinkers clearly understood that unmāda-s are maintained by internal and external enforcement programs, without which they can break down and disappear.

Coming to the present
These aspects of marūnmāda reemerged in the secular rudhironmāda that in turn arose out of the matrix of “enlightenment values”, dear to the deluded secular mleccha-s, which itself was a counter-religion to the older prathamonmāda-pretonmāda matrix. While rudhironmāda inherited its claims for secularity from the “enlightenment values”-roga and turned its back to the ethnoreligious mūlavātula-śūlapuruṣīya roots, in its attempt at universality, it followed marūnmāda and pretonmāda. On the one hand, this allowed it to be easily transmitted and embraced by people as diverse as the prathamonmatta-s, śūlapuruṣa-s, the Rus, the Vāṅga-s, the Cera-s, and as an outer coat by the Cīna-s. On the other, as we shall discuss below, its secular universality proved to be its undoing. At its peak, rudhironmāda was held up by the Soviet Rus in the great conflict with the Anglosphere and its vassals. However, at the end of that struggle, the Soviet empire collapsed, and rudhironmāda failed in its grand geopolitical objectives. While it failed as a geopolitical force, it quietly thrived for more than half a century in the fertile breeding grounds of the Anglospheric academia, especially among the Mahāmleccha. There, it underwent a series of mutations before eventually emerging as navyonmāda.

What rudhironmāda lacked was the religious facade of pretonmāda and rākṣasonmāda, and this was a serious downside. While both rudhironmāda and the overt unmāda-s struggled against natural religions, the latter were at least able to offer themselves as the ultimate alternative, i.e., the “only true religion”. However, rudhironmāda was not able to give anything of that kind. As a parallel, one could consider the case of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk — he took the Turks out of marūnmāda. Had he reintroduced the religion of the Tengri-s, the Turks of Turkey might have been a cured people. However, he failed to offer a different religion in its place after removing marūnmāda, and sometime later, they returned to it with a vengeance. A similar phenomenon happened to varying degrees in the marūnmatta states conquered by the Soviets. While it is not apparent to the casual observer, navyonmāda eventually corrected this critical fault of its rudhironmāda parent — the religious vacuum. Navyonmāda neither set out to do this consciously nor did it converge on it right away or in any conscious way. Instead, these features emerged organically via selection within the movement to fill in the vacuum of religiosity created by the earlier rudhironmāda within the Mahāmleccha academia. Navyonmāda gradually evolved this feature over the period from the 1980s to the 2020s. In many ways, navyonmāda resembled the religiosity of the saṃgha of the sugata with its veda-virodhaka tendencies when it exploded as a potential religion for a section of the anglospheric elite and their arborizations in vassal states of the larger leukosphere.

While the religious facet of navyonmāda helped it replace pure rudhironmāda, this aspect also created the foundations for their seizing power by creating both in-group solidarity and the ever-correcting “purge of deviations or moderation” as in marūnmāda. Coming out of academia and originally filled with lots of socially low-ranked, physically unfit individuals, outright warfare was not an option for it to capture power. Instead, it tread on a path very similar to pretonmāda in its early days of elite capture. When Gucchaka was the emperor, and the marūnmatta-s attacked the Mahāmleccha in their big strike, there was a huge surge of military and nationalist sentiment. The result was an attack on several rudhironmatta academics, as well as moderates, who now organized under the banner of navyonmāda. Gucchaka’s neo-con handlers, headed by his deputy duṣṭa Vakrās, the matta Āṇi, and the prathamonmatta-s, squandered the swelling nationalism of the mleccha-s by engaging in the useless invasion of Iraq. That was followed by throwing away a chance to normalize relations with the marūnmatta-occupied Iran, and more troubles emerged for the mleccha-s. Duṣṭa Gucchaka also set up a police state within state, and to date, unironically rationalizes it to the Mahāmleccha by saying that it is a “reminder” of the comfort they can feel. This police state, along with the financial crisis which followed, strengthened the hands of the rising navyonmatta-s when Ardhakṛṣṇa became emperor of the Mahāmleccha confederation. While in part unhinged or even evil, the cara-s like Himaguha, Harijaṅgala (anti-H), Mānavīya (navyonmatta) and Asaṅga, have revealed the depth and the power of the systems, which Gucchaka and Vakrās put in place for the pañcanetra-mleccha-s to closely monitor and control their own citizens. While not in the face, like that of the Han, it has the comparable capacity and only needed a willing player to exploit it to its fullest.

Against this backdrop, when Ardhakṛṣṇa became the lord of the mleccha-s, under his sympathetic rule, the navyonmatta-s started creeping forward aided by his dala. A key factor was the coming of age of the young students indoctrinated by professors in the universities into the newer strains of navyonmāda with prominent religious (c.f. the marūnmatta students from Gandhara in TSP madrasas — The Students). They were available to work for Ardhakṛṣṇa’s campaign and entered the śāsana upon his victory. In his kalevarā, they found their much-needed bodhisattva. With the first of these navyonmatta-s in the śāsana, they could now play filter and amplifier with their professors in the universities. They got more of their kind, while they punished and purged those who failed to fall in line in an alliance with the vālūkavatūla-s (see below). This creep leading to the control of the mainstream media, the academia, internet-social media-based big tech, and offices of the government (the deep state) was rather deep by the end of the reign of Ardhakṛṣṇa. They thought that they could easily usher in their preferred candidate Jārapatnī and establish their regime with their power. However, Mahāmleccha democracy actually worked, and Vijaya, also known as the Nāriṅgapuruṣa, became the mleccharāṭ. He tried to push back, but he was no Julian and full of his own insufficiencies and inexperience. Alarmed by his victory, the navyonmatta-s now went into high gear and used the Nāriṅgapuruṣa as an excuse for quickly pushing in their excesses. They used all their instruments to constantly hector the Nāriṅgapuruṣa and facilitated his ultimate uccāṭana by Piṇḍaka and his deputy Aṭṭahāsakī, who was an opportunistic adopter of navyonmāda and their front-end person.

Analyzing the rise of navyonmāda
Now, let us take a closer look at some of the aspects of the rise of navyonmāda among the Mahāmleccha. As noted before, when the Mahāmleccha became a superpower after their victory in WW2, the world was never more starkly divided into winners and losers. The natural resources of Krauñcadvīpa, together with the victory in war, paid dividends to them like nothing in recent history. As a result, the Mahāmleccha started building sprawling suburbs and zoomed around their vast frontier lands in their gas-guzzlers. This prosperity made them more and more detached from reality, and the myth of infinite “economic expansion” took root in them, making them blind to how unsustainable this was. This softened their elite, worsened their health, and also precipitated the decline of conventional ekarākṣasa religion in a section of their elite. This left them in need of other avenues for feeling a sense of “virtue” and piety. In our opinion, this psychological complex plowed the soil for navyonmāda to take root eventually.

As this was taking place over half a century, there were parallel developments in academia. The victory in WW2, the triumphs of the nuclear bomb, the shift of the epicenter of frontier physics from Śulapuruṣīya to Krauñcadvīpa, and James Watson’s role in the founding of molecular biology, made the Mahāmleccha academia emerge as a potent accreditation system. But over time, the myth of infinite expansion took root in these systems, turning them into pyramid schemes. One consequence of this was what some mleccha academics have termed “elite production”. Having spent a lot of time with mleccha academics, we can say that there are some very tāthāgatan qualities therein — a mix of a tendency for plagiarism and lack of attention to detail and subtlety. The result is the dominance of mediocre or half-baked models of understanding over more complete and nuanced ones. This is nowhere more starkly illustrated than the fake studies in psychology churned out by the dozen, replete with manufactured statistics. “Cancer biology” comes a close second furnished with photoshop artistry. This was mainly because a part of the expanding Mahāmleccha academia divorced itself from a test against the real world due to the fetish of “peer-review”. Here, research gets acclaimed due to publication in “high-profile” journals reviewed by peers rather than being a realistic description or nature or making predictions that proved to be correct. This was yet another fertilizer for the growth of navyonmāda — a system where one can get away with fancy beliefs without checking if they hold in the real world.

Indeed, this blindness to reality in navyonmāda’s priorities can be seen at many levels beyond the obvious. However, it is a kind of māyāvāda that not just takes the jagat to be mithyā but creates a mithyā-jagat of its own. Most plainly, it is seen in the denial of biological reality in the form of sex and race and its replacement with a celebration of pseudo-biological shape-shifting. However, this permeates more subtle matters too. On the economic front, the classic rudhironmatta-s went on endless harangues about economic unevenness in society and acted on it by killing or banishing the prosperous elite. In contrast, the navyonmatta-s do not rail much about the material; instead, they vent against something immaterial termed “privilege”, and their actions are aimed at eliminating those whom they perceive as privileged. The elite in normal societies either signaled their status or were accorded status due to either distribution of material possessions or their praxis of rituals. However, in navyonmatta society, the elite signal it via their beliefs and claims of purity therein (elite capture). In this aspect, they are remarkably similar to vālūkavatūla-s. A critical flashpoint for the māyāvāda of the navyomatta-s came with computers masquerading as phones and the internet becoming ubiquitous. This allowed commerce and social life to transition to a virtual electronic world, completing that sensation of a decoupling with reality, which the navyonmatta-s desired.

In such a system, the holders of the allowed beliefs rather than producers of work that passes real-life tests are magnified by shallow vanity articles as though they are the next bodhisattva-s on the block. Recently, we saw such an article on a navyonmatta human geneticist, who thoroughly mixes her science with the Nicene creed of navyonmāda, to provide that facade of objectivity to those in that pakṣa. A mix of such boosterism of particular types as role models and the sense of virtue from these beliefs takes the place of a key aspect of religion — the sense of belonging among the pious and a concomitant disdain for the impious. Thus, the new votary of navyonmāda, usually from a deracinated or shallow background, suddenly finds a new purpose in life by professing it. It provides for beliefs that touch the human need to feel justified and virtuous. These are often reinforced by actual mimicry of religious activities, such as rhythmic chanting of slogans against enemies (c.f. marūmatta-s stoning the “devil”), internalization of concepts such as the “power of the word”, great fear of taboo words, sacralized ethnicities and “martyrs”, marches resembling a religious procession, and community-building with opportunities for sexual encounters and “group therapy”.

Thus, the American university system slid from being institutions of accreditation to those of degeneration, furthering the capacity of navyonmāda to take over the systems. It was still not straightforward because there were still many academics who still had to give up common sense to adopt it. It breached this barrier through a series of steps. First, it evolved obfuscation of language, wherein common words were reused such that they meant something specific to the insider, whereas the outsider saw them in their ordinary sense as words of virtue. In old religions, for example, in the yoga tradition, words like gomāṃsa did not mean what the commoner might take them to mean. Here, the intention was to conceal secrets and repel the uninitiated (e.g., he may think a yoga text is recommending that he consume gomāṃsa and keep away from it). However, the intention of the navyonmatta-s was not repulsion but outright deception — it was to purposely obfuscate the uninitiated and unwittingly get them onboard with the navyonmāda project. This is rather comparable to Tathāgata redefining common religious words like trayi or ārṣa or sūkta (=sutta). Thus, the lay votary would not realize that the Buddha is subverting the religion and get sucked into the śaraṇa of the saṃgha. Thus, driven by the need to feel virtuous and pious, the mleccha liberal academics vigorously adopted and supported navyonmāda, even as unsuspecting lay ārya-s adopted the cult of the Buddha — after all who would want to reject something termed the way of the ārya-satya-s or dharma?

As they began winning votaries, they transitioned from a bauddha mode to the marūnmatta/pretonmatta mode of counter-religion. The academics who resisted navyonmāda, even left-liberals who had some commonsense left, were attacked by the mobs of navyonmatta-s, typically recruited from the frenzied student body. Some academics were kicked out of their institutions, others who were too powerful to evict were sidelined in public discourse, yet others converted under this pressure. The campus riots, like those of the American Spring (e.g., in Berkeley, a hothouse of navyonmāda), pushed the growing body of university administrators into submission to the demands of the self-righteous navyonmatta-s. The monoculture in academia allowed the capture of institutions founded on it like scientific and medical journals, which now amplified the message and pushed the credo onto young and impressionable minds. Those who sought accreditation from these bodies (academia and journals) had to now submit to the new religion, and the rest had to go silent like Thabit ibn Qurra.

In the next step, these newly minted young navyonmatta-s gushing out of the big-name universities flooded corporations and the government. Those who took navyonmāda lightly used to jocularly remark that when these indoctrinated students get a real job, they would be jolted out of their unmāda into reality. This might have indeed happened in the past with rudhironmāda, as we saw with our own classmates. However, here the reverse occurred. The navyonmatta-s captured and transformed the institutions they invaded. In the days of old rudhironmāda, they presented themselves in opposition to the “capitalist” corporations and “oppressive” government. However, navyonmatta was more agile and worked with the corporations — if the corporations paid them a jaziya and supported their demands they were more than happy to play along and support the corporations. This was an easy way for corporations to appear virtuous too. Like a king who might have committed sins in war, building a temple to expiate those, the corporations were more than happy to absolve themselves of capitalistic excesses by adopting navyonmāda themselves. The mahāduṣṭa-s like guggulu, Dvāra, Mukhagiri, Jaka and Bejha all adopted navyonmāda to differing degrees as a prāyaścitta while continuing to commit “capitalistic sins”. Thus, came about the marriage of these with navyonmāda, which would have been impossible under the old rudhironmāda, which would have attacked them for their wealth. A very real exhibition of this was the repainting of “the occupy movement” working under the old rudhironmāda premises to its new navyonmāda colors.

More sinister than even these was the māhāduṣṭa Sora, who had always channeled his money into navyonmāda being philosophically in union with it. He saw it as an opportunity to enact his grand political plans both among the Mahāmleccha and abroad, like in Bhārata. Among the Mahāmleccha, he saw navyonmāda as a potential private army to put his pakṣa headed by the vṛddha Piṇḍaka on the āsandi. In this, he was mostly aligned with other mahāduṣṭa-s. They got their golden chance when the pandemic lock-downs followed by some egregious acts of violence by daṇḍaka-s on kṛṣṇa-s caused a janakopa. This janakopa was quickly channelized by kālāmukha militant wing of the navyonmatta-s (c.f. the Mahāmlecchīya gardabha-pakṣa’s earlier militant — the ka-trayam deployed against kṛṣṇa-s). This provoked quick and correct action against them by the then mleccheśa, Nāriṅgapuruṣa. However, his effort was rendered toothless as the navyonmatta-s had subverted the deep-state and the Sorādi māhāduṣṭa-s used their riches to provide legal impunity to their kālāmukha rioters aided by the likes of Aṭṭahāsakī.

“Rus! Rus!” and Cīna-capeṭa
As navyonmāda’s priorities are not aligned with the real world, its adoption by the elite would eventually be hit by the real world. However, this does not mean a correction will be immediate, as illustrated by the Dark Ages in the Occident brought on by pretonmāda. With the sailing being smooth for the Mahāmleccha, the deep-state actors kept themselves busy going blue in the face, shouting, “Russia! Russia!”, even as the storm of the Middle Kingdom Corruption was brewing in the Orient. As the said corruption broke out of China, the Mahāmleccha were oblivious even to their own intelligence agencies; instead, they were busy in an internal conflict, with the deep-state and the gardabha-pakṣa trying to overthrow the Nāriṅgapuruṣa. Finally, when the Middle Kingdom Corruption reached the shores of Krauñcadvīpa, the gardabha-pakṣa was trying hard to prevent the appropriate steps from being taken to counter it. The compromised deep-state could not mobilize a proper supply of masks for the citizens or even guda-pramṛja-s for the mleccha-s to sanitize themselves. The result was a massive death toll, the full extent of which has definitely been under-reported. To top it all up, the mleccha-senānī betrayed his own boss, the Nāriṅgapuruṣa, to the cīna-s. Cīna-s saw an opportunity to hit hard at Mahāmleccha power using navyonmāda. Even as the navyonmatta-s disparaging their own constitution, the Cīna-dūta-s gave the mūlavātūla Nimeṣaka and the Mahāmleccha praṇidhipa as resounding slap right in their own den. However, lost in the world of their own making, they failed to wake up — Nimeṣaka was more concerned about flying navyonmāda’s Indracāpadhvaja-s at mleccha-dūtaśālā-s than managing the proper retreat of the mleccha-s from Gandhāra. As icing on the cake of their delusions, Piṇḍaka and Nimeṣaka declared that they had conducted a great operation to kill dreaded ghazi-s of the Khilafat and avenge the death of their baṭa-s, when in reality they killed a bunch of children of one of their own marūmatta friends.

In contrast, emperor Xi proceeded with strengthening the Cīna-s. He lied his way through the Middle Kingdom Corruption, even as the rest of the world was tied down by it. He delivered a definitive punch to the restive vālūkavatūla-s, whom the Han had earlier subjugated. He was able to move ahead with testing hypersonic missiles supposedly. Notably, he was above to exploit the navyonmatta movements, like the kṛṣṇajīvāndolana, to aid the overthrow of the antagonistic Vijaya-nāma-vyāpārin and bring the pliable Piṇḍaka on the āsandi — it is notable how the Cīna-s colluded with the tech-duṣṭa-s to silence any discussion on Vyādha-piṇḍaka and his yantra. The cīna-s have other assets. First, their penetration of the Occidental academia via Galtonism is incredibly deep. Thus, mleccha academics bat for their interests, provide them with cutting-edge knowledge, and might even obtain funds for their research which might ultimately be to the detriment of the mleccha-s themselves. This also provides them a conduit to slip in their spaś-es as students. Second, they have cultivated assets among the big-tech duṣṭa-s, e.g., Mukhagiri is their jāmātṛ who originally courted them before they broke up with him. Perhaps, even the break was not of his own accord but due to the pressure from the mleccha side. Finally, since the mleccha big-tech depends on delivering cheap opiates to the masses, the cīna-s hold them by their balls by controlling manufacturing. Thus, as big-tech takes control of the Mahāmleccha as the de facto government (something which will accelerate with the strides being taken in machine learning and other areas of computing, which in turn have been made effective by the more than two decades of data the masses have supplied them), the leverage on them that the cīna-s have, coupled with their immunity from them, would allow them to use navyonmāda as a potent weapon.

Onward to Bhārata
All unmāda-s, the old counter-religions, and their new secular mutants see the dharma as their natural enemy — what Viṣṇuśarman would term svabhāvavairam. The one area where this is manifest is the hatred for the brāhmaṇa-s and functional H systems. Those among the mleccha-s and their sipāhi-s who fight for the so-called “enlightenment values” (the older delusion) hate the H as they offer a robust and likely superior alternative to their system. This threatens to undermine their truth-claim that they have found the only true formula that succeeded due to being good rather than being enforced by the smoking end of the nālika. Across the mleccha elite, some of the predictions of the evolutionary theory for Homo sapiens are fundamentally incompatible with their cherished beliefs. Thus, the majority of Occidental scientists (across ideological camps) focusing on its study slip into denialism on one or the other matter. Both the “Western values” types and those who fight for navyonmāda are terrified by the fact that H succeeded because they created a system that instinctively acknowledges the pulls of biology, i.e., human nature, on social structure. Thus, Bhārata is the one frontier where there is an alignment of the enemies. Paradoxically, while navyonmāda fights pretonmāda and “enlightenment values” in the Occident, in Bhārata, these align for the break up the H. In contrast, marūnmāda-navyonmāda alliance will be strong in both India and the West. Hence, we predict that given the intrinsic lack of fecundity in navyonmāda due to celebration of biology-denial it will end up aiding marūnmāda in Bhārata.

Historically, H have had to deal with the preta-maru-rudhira triad — while there have been the classic heathen failures against these, at least they were recognized as such by a large fraction of the elite. In contrast, the capacity to recognize navyonmāda is even lower, as can be seen from the fact that even pro-H government circles so quickly and willingly propagate navyonmāda memes. This has also meant that the H elite have adopted navyonmāda memes to differing degrees. The secular elite constantly bombard the impressionable with navyonmāda packaged within opiates such as spectator sports, product advertisement and cinema, as if they were distributing adulterated heroin. Moreover, navyonmāda is also “safe for use” even for Cīna subversion operations in Bhārata. In particular, government adoption of navyonmāda memes would result in undermining the H army. This is something the Cīna-s badly want because despite all their show of tech, they have a dearth of young men needed to fight wars. On this front, the H still hold an upper hand, but if, like the Mahāmleccha, they decided to adopt navyonmāda, they could easily ruin their senā on top of having a tech gap with respect to the mleccha-s and Cīna-s. We have indeed seen evidence for mass deployment of navyonmāda by both Sorādi-duṣṭa-s and cīna-s — the CAA riots, the various khaṇḍa-jāti riots, the kīnāśa-uśnīśa-riots and Dravidianism — over the past few years. Hence, to cut the chase, we argue that the rise of navyonmāda has not only greatly multiplied the H’s threats in Bhārata and abroad but could be an existential threat.

This essay builds on an earlier one, which overlaps in scope, filing in some historical details.

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Some biographical reflections on visualizing irrationals

In our childhood, our father informed us that, though the school told us that \pi = \tfrac{22}{7}, it was not valid. However, he added that for “small fractions” [Footnote 1] it was a great approximation. Moreover, the numerical problems, which we would encounter in the tests, were designed with radii, etc., as “round” multiples of 7; hence, it was alright for vyavahāra. He also told us that in reality, \pi was irrational and that fractions like \tfrac{22}{7} were only approximations thereof. We asked why \tfrac{22}{7} was the best of the “small fraction” approximations. He asked us to figure that out for ourselves but told us that we could get better approximations with bigger fractions: \tfrac{333}{106} and \tfrac{355}{113}.

Armed with this information, not being mathematically too endowed, we had to think long about it before arriving at an algorithm to understand this. It went thus (written using post facto terminology):
1) Given that we had a lot of sheets of graph- and ruled- paper, we first sought to draw a line with slope equal to \pi, i.e., y=\pi x. This would ideally need the squaring of a circle. However, at that point, we did not know of Ramanujan’s constructions and accurately re-doing the yavana constructions with curves like the spiral and kampyle lay in the future. However, we had those approximations with the “larger fractions” that our father had given us, and with a hand calculator, we could verify that they provided more than the accuracy we needed for testing out \tfrac{22}{7}. Accordingly, we counted out 113 and 355 small squares on the X- and Y-axes respectively on the graph paper and carefully drew the line y=\tfrac{355}{113} x with a pencil that had an expensive, thin graphite refill.
2) By definition, the line passed through (0,0). After that, we tracked every time the line cut the horizontal (red crosses) or vertical (green circles) grid lines of the lattice (Figure 1).
3) We saw that the line first cut the horizontal grid lines at 1, 2, 3 and the vertical grid line for the first time at 1 after cutting the horizontal line 3. The horizontal cut at 3 and the vertical cut at 1 come close to each other (Figure 2). This immediately told us the obvious: \pi \approx 3, a reasonable first-order approximation, seen in several ancient traditions, like the Ṛgveda, where it is embodied by the god Trita. Going along, we saw an even closer approach between the vertical cut at 6 and the horizontal cut at 19 (Figure 1). This yielded \pi \approx 3.1\overline{6}, which again reminds one of the kinds of values seen in old traditions like the construction for squaring the circle of the Maitrāyanīya-s or the popular value of \sqrt{10} seen in some old Indian texts or the value in the Rhind papyrus of the Egyptians. At \tfrac{22}{7}, we saw a near-perfect matching of the vertical cut at 7 and the horizontal cut at 22. Further ahead, we saw another close approach between the horizontal cut at 25 and the vertical cut at 8, but this was worse than the approach at \tfrac{22}{7}. It only got worse from there till the higher fraction \tfrac{333}{106}, though there was a fairly good approach at \tfrac{113}{36} (still worse than \tfrac{22}{7}). Thus, we had seen for ourselves that \tfrac{22}{7} was indeed the best approximation among the “small fractions”. This childhood experiment was to leave us with a lifelong interest in irrationals and their fractional approximations, mirroring the fascination for things like the cakravāla seen in our intellectual tradition.

irrationals_Fig1

Figure 1. The cuts corresponding to \pi

The only problem with using such a method for finding rational approximations for numbers like \pi or e is that you should know their value to a high degree of accuracy a priori or be able to construct them using special curves. For example, if you can construct a line of slope e you can determine e \approx \tfrac{19}{7} — not as good as the approximation for \pi but has a nice symmetry with it telling us that \tfrac{\pi}{e} \approx \tfrac{22}{19}. However, for irrationals amenable to Platonic construction, e.g., \sqrt{2} this method can be used effectively to find small rational approximations, if any. Thus, we can arrive at \tfrac{17}{12} as a rough and ready approximation for \sqrt{2} (Figure 2).

irrationals_Fig2Figure 2. The cuts corresponding to \sqrt{2}

A few years later, these experiments led us (independently of any literature on the topic) to the idea that every irrational number can be represented as an infinite string of 0s and 1. We take a line of the form y=mx, where m is an irrational number. Based on the above approach, we write 1 if the said line cuts a horizontal grid-line and 0 if it cuts the vertical grid-line of the lattice. Since the line y=mx will pass through a lattice point only at (0,0), we start the sequence by writing 01. Thus, by moving along the line, we get an infinite sequence representing m as a string of 1s and 0s. One can see that as the number of elements in this sequence n \to \infty the ratio of 1s to 0s tends to m. Thus, for \sqrt{2}, the first 50 elements of this sequence are:

01101011010110101011010110101011010110101101010110101

We also represented the same as a “string of pearls” diagram (Figure 3). This kind of representation reminds one of the differentiated cells in linear multicellular arrays in biology, for example, the occurrence of heterocysts in a filament of Anabaena. This led us to realize that the irrationals have a deep structure to them that is not apparent in the seemingly random distribution of digits in their decimal representation.

irrationals_Fig3

Figure 3. The “string of pearls” representation of various irrationals.

As we have seen before on these pages, this structure can manifest variously. One place where we found this structure as manifesting was in strange non-chaotic attractors, which were first described by Grebogi et al. in the mid-1980s. These attractors are “strange” because they manifest a fractal structure (see below) but do not exhibit chaos, i.e., the attractor has the same structure irrespective of the values with which the map is initiated. The map which we found is distinct from that of Grebogi et al. but produces similar behavior. It is of the form:

\theta_{n+1}= 2l\sin(\theta_n)\cos(x_n)
x_{n+1}=(x_n+2\pi m) \mod (2\pi)

Here l is a constant for which we can choose some value l \ne 0, but we set it to 1.03 simply for the aesthetics of the “irrational spectrum” (see below) and the manifestation of its fractal structure (Figure 4). The other parameter m is the irrational number under consideration. Irrespective of the initial conditions (as long as both x_0, \theta_0 \ne 0), the attractor takes the same form (Figure 4) that is determined only by the irrational m, as long as l remains the same. We term this the “spectrum” of the irrational. While the attractors appear superficially like curves symmetric about the x-axis with positive and negative limbs, we can show that they are actually fractal. The iterates do not proceed along the curve but jump from lower limb to upper limb and vice versa, and between any two arbitrarily close points on a given limb, one can find a finer structure of points jumping between the limbs, thereby establishing its fractal structure. Indeed, as l increases, the attractor acquires a structure reminiscent of the classic fractal structure seen in maps like the logistic map. The spectrum itself depends on the fractional part of the irrational m (Figure 4). This can be established by comparing the spectra for m=\phi, \tfrac{1}{\phi} (the Golden ratio), which have the same fractional part — they are identical. In contrast, the spectra of \sqrt{2}, \tfrac{1}{\sqrt{2}} are not the same, keeping with the differences in their fractional parts.

irrationals_Fig4Figure 4. The spectra of various irrationals initiated with \theta_0=0.001, x_0=0

While this type of “spectrum” captures the structure hidden in the fractional part, we also designed a second type of “spectrum” that captures the structure relating to the rational approximations we saw in the opening discussion. This is defined as the below summatory sequence:

\displaystyle f= \sum_{j=1}^{n} -1^{\lfloor j \cdot m \rfloor},

Here m is the irrational number under consideration. Figure 5 shows a step plot of f for m=\pi and j=1..300. We observe that it has a modular structure that builds up into a larger “wave”. At the lowest level, we have an up-down step of size 1. Then we see repeats of such steps with a transition between repeats at multiples of 7 (red lines). This continues until the “trough” of that wave is reached at 106 (green line). Then an ascent begins at 113, which is complete after a further 113 steps (violet line). Note that the numbers 7, 106 and 113 are the denominators of the successive best rational approximations of \pi. Thus, these sequences have a fractal structure with larger and larger cycles whose size is determined by the denominators of the successive rational approximations.

irrationals_Fig5

Figure 5. Step plot of the summatory spectrum of \pi till n=300.

Hence, those irrationals with multiple small rational convergents tend to show more “overtones” resulting a more complex structure (e.g., \gamma or \sqrt{2}; Figure 6)

irrationals_Fig6Figure 6. Step plot of the summatory spectrum f of various irrationals till n=300.

From the above plots, it becomes apparent that while f for all irrationals will be fractal, at least small scales some show greater “complexity” than others, e.g., compare the plots for \pi or \zeta(3) with those for \phi or \sqrt{2}. We wondered if there might be a way to define this visual impression quantitatively? We did so by defining sequences f_1, the sum of the terms of f in a sliding window of size l. For each irrational, we considered all f_1 computed for l=1..25. Then for each of these summatory sequences f_1 for a given irrational, we counted the number of times the curve changes direction, i.e., changes from going down to going up and vice versa. We then normalized the direction-change counts with each l for a given irrational by the maximum number of direction changes seen for that irrational. The mean of this normalized value gives a measure of the complexity, i.e., the “wriggliness” of the curve. This is shown as c in Figure 7 along with a plot of f_1 for l=12 and shows that the measure c indeed matches the visual impression from Figure 6.

irrationals_Fig7

Figure 7. Step plot of the sliding window sequence f_1 of various irrationals with l=12


Footnote 1: Fractions with small numerators and denominators

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Turagapadādi

This note stems from a recent conversation with a friend, where he pointed out that the graph representing all possible positions the horse (knight) can take on the chessboard from a given starting square produces interesting graphs. It struck us that this would indeed be an interesting exploration to introduce neophytes into the graph theory and computational exercises relating to it. Hence, we prepared this elementary note for pedagogical purposes and to show some pretty pictures. The origin of this class of problems lies in the Hindu tradition of citrabandha-s and yukti-s, which have been extensively discussed and illustrated by various medieval authors in kāvya and encyclopedic literature (e.g. Mānasollāsa of the Cālukya emperor Someśvara-deva). In his Śiśupāla-vadha, Māgha states:

viṣamaṃ sarvatobhadra-cakra-gomūtrikādibhiḥ ।
ślokair iva mahākāvyaṃ vyūhais tad abhavad balam ॥
That force was difficult to penetrate being equipped with
the sarvatobhadra, cakra and gomūtrikā and like of formations,
even as a mahākāvya furnished with such verses.

Here, he uses a simile to compare the military formations like sarvatobhadra (comparable to the Roman testudo), etc., with the equivalent citrabandha-s or structural constraints used in kāvya. Several of the early medieval examples of such citrabandha-s in kāvya are related to the description of battle scenes: e.g., the Haravijaya of Rājānaka Ratnākara, the Śiśupāla-vadha of Māgha, the Kirātārjunīya of Bhāravi and the Jānakīharaṇa of Kumāradāsa; thus, it seems likely that the authors were trying to embed images of the yuddhavyūha-s of the yuddha-s under description in their kāvya, as suggested by the above verse of Māgha. However, such devices are also used widely in stotra literature, for instance to depict the weapons of the deities instead of the vyūha-s — the Kaśmīrian Sāmavedin, Rudraṭa Śatānanda, uses such in his Durgāṣṭaka. Since we first learned of the use of such structural constraints in kāvya in our youth from the praise of Durgā by the great Kaśmīrian kavi Ānandavardhana, it struck us that just as they have place in illustrating battle-formations, they also represent an early example of using ideas that intersect with graph theory and symmetry with far more general implications. Indeed, even as the “Kavi-prajāpati (to use Kalhaṇa’s term)” selects for such constraints to bring meaning to his kāvya, natural selection picks such constraints in words formed by the alphabet of nucleic acids and proteins to generate biochemical function.

Keeping with the military connections of the citrabandha-s, one such citrabandha, the turagapada, is based on the horse’s movements in that ultimate “war-game” which spread widely in the Gupta age, caturaṅga, i.e., the steps of a horse on the chessboard. While we do not play chess, we found the abstraction to be of interest. On an infinite chessboard, the horse on a given square can reach 8 other squares (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Possible paths of the horse.

However, some of these are unavailable at squares on the boundary or the penultimate circuit on a board of finite length and breadth. For convenience, going forward, we shall only look at square boards. This is stated for an 8 \times 8 board by emperor Someśvara-deva in his Mānasollāsa thus:

koṇa-pārśvasthitasyāsya turagasya pada-trayam ॥
koṇasthasya pada-dvandvaṃ prānte pada-catuṣṭayam ।
dvitīya-valaye koṇe haye pada-catuṣṭayam ॥
dvitīya-valaye’nyatra pada-ṣaṭkaṃ nigadyate ।
madhye ṣoḍaśa[koṣṭheṣu] sthitasya turagasya ca ॥
padāṣṭakaṃ vinirdiṣṭaṃ caturaṅga-viśāradaiḥ ॥

In the cell next to the corners, the horse has 3 moves; in the corner cells, it has 2 moves; interior to these cells, on the border circuit, it has 4 moves; in the corner cell of the second circuit, it has 4 moves; in the interior cells of the second circuit, it has 6 moves; in the 16 interior cells, it has 8 moves each. Thus it has been expounded by the chess experts.

We can consider the cells of an n \times n chessboard, labeled from 1 to n^2 by rows, as the nodes of a graph. An edge connects two nodes in this graph if they can be reached from each other by the move of a horse — the turagapada. The horse can make no moves on boards with n=1, 2. Figure 2 illustrates the graph for n=3. One can easily see that the horse can reach every cell from every other cell except for cell 5. Thus the graph is a simple cycle of 8 nodes with one disjoint node 5.

Figure 2. Moves of a horse on a 3 \times 3 board.

From n=4 board onward (Figure 3), we get single-component graphs with no disjoint nodes. From n=4, all the graphs have 4 nodes with just two connections corresponding to the corners of the board, as mentioned by Someśvara. The nodes are colored as per the number of edges connecting to them. This graph can be rendered as a 3D object, which, in principle, could be the structure of a hydrocarbon. However, it remains unclear to us if such a hydrocarbon exists or can be synthesized in reality.

Figure 3. Moves of a horse on a 4 \times 4 board.

From n=5 onward, we get nodes all the possible connections, namely those with 2, 3, 4, 6, 8. We have a single maximal node at n=5, node 13, with 8 connections. When we render this graph using the Kamada-Kawai force-direct spring algorithm, we get a structure with bilateral symmetry and interesting relationships between symmetrically equivalent neighboring nodes (Figure 4). For example: nodes 1, 19; 7,25, both pairs differ by 18. The nodes 9, 21; 5, 17 differ by 12. The 4 edge nodes 8, 12 and 14, 18 represent another such pair of symmetries.

Figure 4. Moves of a horse on a 5 \times 5 board.

These graphs lead us to the classic turagapada problem of kāvya and its solutions, which simply stated goes as: can you find a path such that the horse visits each cell on the board only once? In terms of the graph, it can be stated as: can you find the path passing through all nodes of the horse graph only once. In modern computational literature, this is called the knight’s tour problem. The above graphs show that no such tour can exist for n=3, 4. For n=3, cell 5 cannot be reached, but the remaining cells can be visited by a closed cyclic tour path (Figure 5). For