The wink of the Gorgon and the twang of the Lyre

The discovery of the archetypal eclipsing binary Algol
The likes of Geminiano Montanari are hardly seen today. This remarkable Italian polymath aristocrat from the 1600s penetrated many realms of knowledge spanning law, medicine, astronomy, physics, biology and military technology. Having fled to Austria after a fight over a woman, he took doctoral degrees in law and medicine. As a result, he obtained a number of aristocratic patronages in return for services as a legal adviser, econometrician and military engineer. In course of these duties, he invented a megaphone to amplify sounds, worked on desilting of lagoons for the state of Venice, prepared a manual for artillery deployment, and composed a tract on fortifications. Like his junior contemporary Newton, he spent a while working as the officer of the mint. These duties also brought him in contact with astronomy and mathematics while interacting with aristocrats at Modena and as a result, he became absorbed in their study, eventually turning into a Galilean. However, he kept quiet about his thoughts on this matter in the initial period owing to the muzzle placed by the church on “things that were obvious” and the “claws of the padres.” This period also led him to go against the church doctrines by becoming an “eclectic corpuscularian”, i.e., atomist and he used the “atomistic” principles to explain physical phenomena, such as his observations on capillarity and the paradoxical strength and explosiveness of the peculiar glass structures known as Prince Rupert’s tears.

By the time Montanari was thirty, he was already an accomplished astronomer and eventually, went on to succeed the famous astronomer and mathematician Cassini of oval fame as the professor of astronomy at Bologna. He was remarkably productive in his thirties and started off by observing two comets in 1664 and 1665. It was through these observations that he presented clear empirical evidence for the first time in the west that these comets were farther from the earth than the moon and were part of the Galilean solar system (contra Aristotelian physics which saw them as atmospheric phenomena). His accurate observations of meteors led him to calculate their speed for the first time also. He also used that to estimate the thickness of the Earth’s atmosphere. As a skilled optician, he also invented a telescope eyepiece with a micrometer grid to construct the first accurate map of the Moon. Montanari was also a friend of the noted biologist Marcello Malpighi and conducted pioneering work on blood transfusion in dogs, noting that in some animals it had a positive impact on their health, whereas it was not so in others. Like a lot of his work, this was largely forgotten and the proper understanding of this phenomenon lay in the distant future. In another foray into biology, he studied the role of temperature in the artificial incubation of chicken eggs.

In our opinion, one of Montanari’s most remarkable discoveries came in 1667 CE when he observed that the star \beta-Persei (Algol) had changed its brightness. In his own words:

“And if you look at the scary head of Medusa, you will see (and now without the danger of being petrified, unless the wonder makes you immobile) that the brightest star that shines there, surprised by frequent mutations, possesses the greatest luminosity only sometimes. I had already observed it for many years as of third magnitude. At the end of 1667, it declined to the fourth magnitude, in 1669 it recovered the original rays of the second magnitude, and in 1670 it passed a little over the fourth.”

We could say that this was the first clearly defined report on the variability of Algol. A couple of years earlier his fellow Italian, Pietro Cavina had noted that:

“The Head of Medusa was second [magnitude], agreeing with the ancient catalogs [evidently that of Ptolemaios] and globes and Aratus of Colonia, although Tycho, and other Moderns have placed it at the third [magnitude].”

It is not clear if this was somehow known to Montanari, but in any case, as far as we can tell, there was no evidence that Cavina recognized the variability as Montanari clearly did. He communicated his observations on stellar variability, which included a list of stars for which he had observed differences in magnitude with respect to Galileo’s observations and older catalogs, to the Royal Society in England. In this, he speculated that the different reports of the numbers of the bright Pleiades (6 or 7) might stem from their variability. While most of the differences he reported for the other stars were probably due to inaccurate magnitude determinations in the older catalogs, his observation of Algol was definitely a clear demonstration of stellar variability adding to the earlier discovery of Mira (o) Ceti by Fabricius in Germany. While Montanari got much praise for his observations on stellar variability at the Royal Society and his prolific observations of comets eventually led to a citation in The Principia of Newton, he seems to have been largely forgotten and the renewed study of the variability of Algol had to wait for more than a 100 years.

The rediscovery of Algol’s variability was due to another remarkable man, the farmer Johann Palitzsch, from Dresden (today’s Germany). Early on, he acquired a deep interest in botany, agricultural economics, astronomy and mathematics. As an autodidact, he amassed a vast collection of literature on these topics by writing down whole books by hand. As a farmer he was the first to introduce the New World crop, the potato, to his regions, and conducted regular meteorological observations, leading him to devise a lightning rod that came to be used in Dresden. Palitzsch reported his weather observations to the local mathematical and physical center at Dresden. This allowed him to access the latest literature on astronomy and inspired his own study. As a result, he beat the veteran Messier in recovering the Halley’s comet in 1758 CE (while observing Mira Ceti’s variability) and confirmed the eponymous English astronomer’s prediction regarding its orbital period. In 1761, he studied the solar transit of Venus and discovered that the planet had an atmosphere. Starting September 12th, 1783, Palitzsch carried a remarkable series of observations on Algol and showed that it varied from the 3rd to the 4th magnitude with a periodicity of 2 days 20 hours and 51-53 minutes (today’s period: 2 days 20 hrs and 48.9 minutes). These observations were communicated to the Royal Society in London by Count Hans Moritz von Brühl and were published as: “Observations on the Obscuration of the Star Algol, by Palitch, a Farmer. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 74, p. 4 (1784).” It is said that Palitzsch correctly inferred that this variability was likely due to an eclipse by a dark companion that was revolving around the star. We see this as a momentous event in modern astronomy – a rather remarkable accuracy of observation for a naked eye autodidact. We may conclude this account of Palitzsch’s great discovery by citing a translation of a copper engraving made in the Latin in his honor:

“Johann Georg Palitzsch, farmer in Prolitz near Dresden, the most diligent cultivator of his paternal farms, a preeminent astronomer, naturalist, botanist, almost in no science a stranger, a man who was his own teacher, pious, sincere, a sage in his whole life. Born on 11th of June 1723.”

However, the story of the rediscovery of Algol’s variability did not end there. As if an Über-mind was in action, coevally with Palitzsch, over in England, the young astronomer Edward Pigott decided to systematically observe stars that might vary in brightness. For this, he roped in his relative, the 18-year-old deaf John Goodricke, to whom he suggested Algol as a target. Goodricke noted that Algol was variable in brightness by observing the star from his window but had initial doubts that it might be a problem with his eyes or due to poor atmospheric conditions. However, using the conveniently located stars around Algol, Goodricke confirmed that it was indeed the star that was variable. He initially thought it might have a period of 17 days but after prolonged observations arrived at a period of 2 days, 20 hours and 45 minutes — close to what Palitzsch had independently reported. Both their observations were reported in back-to-back communications in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Goodricke, reasoned that unlike the previously favored star-spot hypothesis of Frenchman Bullialdus and his compatriot Newton for Mira Ceti, the variability of Algol was due to an eclipse by a planet:

“The opinion I suggest was, that the alteration of Algol’s brightness was maybe occasioned, by a Planet, of about half its size, revolving around him, and therefore does sometimes eclipse him partially.”

We do not exactly know what prompted Pigott to ask Goodricke to study Algol; however, it seems that after its variability was confirmed, he checked the older literature and realized that Montanari had described its variability though not its period. It is possible he was already aware of Montanari’s work in the first place and that prompted him to pay attention to the star. In any case, this story ended tragically — Goodricke was awarded the Copley medal for his momentous finding and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, but he died shortly thereafter due to pneumonia aggravated by the cold from exposure from his observation sessions. Before his death, at the age of 21, he had discovered the variability of Algol, \beta Lyrae and \delta Cephei. The former two will take the center-stage in this note, while the latter was covered in an earlier note. While Baronet Goodricke’s triumph and tragedy earned him his place in history, the farmer Palitzsch, despite recognition from his coethnics Wilhelm and John Herschel faded away into obscurity. His home and observatory were destroyed by Napoleon’s assault.

In 1787, an year after Goodricke’s death and an year before that of Palitzsch, the 19 year old Daniel Huber (in Basel) of the Bernoullian tradition generated the first light curve of Algol. Using this, he definitively demolished the star-spot theory for Algol and presented evidence that it had to vary due to an eclipsing mechanism with predictions regarding the form of the two components. However, this work of Huber, even like his work on least squares (preceding Gauss) was almost entirely forgotten. Thus, it took until 1889, when the German astronomer Hermann Vogel using the spectroscope and his discovery of spectral line shifts from the Doppler effect showed that Algol was a system of two stars that eclipsed each other. Together, with the light curve, he constructed the first physical model of this binary star system with his landmark publication “Spectroscopic observations on Algol.”

We began our observations on Algol starting in the 13th year of our life as Perseus appeared rather conveniently from our balcony and the air was still tolerably unpolluted. Its dramatic variability, like the wink of the Gorgon, has a profound impression on us. We wondered, given its repeated rediscovery, if its variability might have been known to the ancients. Indeed, some have suggested that the number of Gorgons — three — with two being immortal and one (Medusa) being mortal (slain by Perseus) might reflect the \approx 3 day period of Algol with the mortal Medusa representing the dimming of the star. The myth also has a reflection in that of the sisters of the Gorgon, the Graeae, who are described as three hags, who shared a single eye which they passed from one to another before it was seized by Perseus who desired to know the secret of the Hesperides from them. The seizure of that single eye has again been suggested to be an allusion to the three-day period and dimming of Algol in the language of myth. Some others have proposed that this knowledge might have been known to the Egyptians and that the Greeks probably inherited the myth from them. However, the Egyptian case seems even less direct and we remain entirely unconvinced.

After the Vedic age, the Hindus showed a singular character defect in the form of their negligence of the sky beyond the ecliptic (other than an occasional nod to Ursa Major). However, from the Vedic age, we have the sūkta of Skambha (world axis) from Atharvaveda (AV-vulgate 10.8), which pays some attention to the Northern sky. The ṛk 10.8.7 describes the rotation of the sky around the polar axis. In ṛk 10.8.8 we see the following:

pañcavāhī vahaty agram eṣāṃ praṣṭayo yuktā anusaṃvahanti ।
ayātam asya dadṛśe na yātaṃ paraṃ nedīyo .avaraṃ davīyaḥ ॥ AV-vul 10.8.8

This cryptic ṛk talks of the 5-horsed car, which is said to move in the front of the celestial wheel, with two flanking horses yoked to the remaining ones. The second hemistich might be interpreted as its circumpolar nature, as no path is seen untraveled. Hence, we interpret it as the constellation of Cassiopeia with its 5 main stars. In support of such an interpretation, it is juxtaposed in ṛk-9 with a clear mention of Ursa Major (also mentioned in ṛk 5 where the 7 stars of Ursa Major are juxtaposed with the 6 of the Pleiades; derived from Dirghatamas’ giant riddle sūkta in the Ṛgveda) described as an upward facing ladle:

tiryagbilaś camasa ūrdhvabudhnas tasmin yaśo nihitaṃ viśvarūpam ।
tad āsata ṛṣayaḥ sapta sākaṃ ye asya gopā mahato babhūvuḥ ॥  AV-vul 10.8.9

We believe that ṛk 11 again talks about another near polar constellation, which it curiously describes as shakes, flies and stands (3 verbs), breathing or non-breathing, and importantly which while manifesting, shuts its eye:

yad ejati patati yac ca tiṣṭhati prāṇad aprāṇan nimiṣac ca yad bhuvat ।
tad dādhāra pṛthivīṃ viśvarūpaṃ tat saṃbhūya bhavaty ekam eva ॥ AV-vul 10.8.11

Given the remaining near-polar constellations and other stellar allusions in the sūkta, this could be interpreted as the sole ancient Hindu allusion to Algol. However, we should state that we find this or the Greek allusion in the language of myth to be relatively weak evidence for the variability of Algol being known prior to the discovery of Montanari. While we have some direct ancient Greco-Roman allusions to new stars, e.g., the one supposedly seen by Hipparchus (remembered by Pliny the Elder) and one seen in the 130s during Hadrian’s reign, which was taken to be the ascent of his homoerotic companion Antinuous to the heavens, we do not have the same kind of direct testimony for Algol. Hence, while it is conceivable that there was some ancient knowledge of its variability with a roughly three-day period preserved in the language of myth, we believe that there was no direct testimony for that in any tradition.

A look at eclipsing binaries using modern data
Interestingly, two of the variables reported/discovered by Goodricke, Algol and \beta Lyrae, became the founding members of two major classes (respectively EA and EB) of eclipsing binaries in the traditional classification system. The third class EW, typified by W Ursae Majoris, was discovered much later. These traditionally defined classes were primarily based on the shape of the light curve and the period of variability. The most recognizable of these are the EA type binaries. We provide below (Figure 1) the mean light curve of Algol, the founder member of the EA class from the photometric data collected by NASA’s TESS mission as a phase diagram.

ecl.bin_AlgolFigure 1. Light curve of Algol as a phase diagram from TESS photometric data

The characteristic of EAs is the relatively sharp transitions from the eclipses. In the case of Algol, the secondary eclipse is relatively shallow. This indicates that one of the two stars in the binary system is bright while the other one is dim relative to it. Thus, when the dim star eclipses the bright star, there is the deep primary eclipse, whereas when the bright star eclipses its dim companion, there is the shallow secondary eclipse. In the case of Algol, the brighter star is of spectral type B8V of 3.7 M_\odot (solar masses) and 2.90 R_\odot (solar radii); the dimmer star is of spectral type K2IV of 0.81 M_\odot and 3.5 R_\odot. An approximate depiction of an Algol-like system is shown in Figure 2.

algolFigure 2. An Algol-like binary system

Figure 3 shows the TESS light curve of \beta Lyrae the founder member of the EB type. As this data has a bit of a break, we also present the TESS light curve for another well-known EB binary \delta Pictoris a \approx 4.72 magnitude star near Canopus.

ecl.bin_beta_Lyrecl.bin_Delta_PicFigure 3. Light curves of \beta Lyrae and \delta Pictoris as phase diagrams from TESS photometric data. The magnitudes automatically inferred from the fluxes are inaccurate in this case.

It is immediately apparent that the transitions between the eclipses are much smoother in the EB class. A closer look shows that \delta Pictoris (with a bit of sharpness) is in between the EAs and a full-fledged EB like \beta Lyrae with a smooth light curve. These curves provide a view into the geometry of this system, i.e., the distortion of the two components of the EBs by the massive tidal force they exert on each other. The sides of the stars which face each other are pulled towards the center of mass of the system by the gravitational force. However, the gravitational force declines as the inverse square law. Hence the opposite sides experience a correspondingly lower force and due to inertia move less towards the center of mass — the principle of tides. As a result, the binary stars get elongated into ellipsoids (Figure 4) and that geometry influences the luminous surface area presented by the system, resulting in smoother light curves.

beta_LyraeFigure 4. An \beta Lyrae-like binary system

Finally, we have the EW systems, the TESS photometric light curve of whose founder member W Ursae Majoris is provided below in Figure 5.

ecl.bin_W_UMaFigure 5. Light curve of W Ursae Majoris as a phase diagram from TESS photometric data.

Like the EB systems, the EW systems have smooth light curves with one eclipse almost immediately leading to the next. This indicates that the stars in this system too are likely geometrically distorted. However, they differ in having very short periods — e.g., W UMa has a period of just 0.3336 days (nearly exactly 8 hrs) and low amplitudes for the eclipses. This implies that the stars are really close together — so close that they are fused together (Figure 6).

WUrsaMajorisFigure 6. A W Ursae Majoris-like binary system

With these traditional types in place, we can take a brief look at some light curves of eclipsing binaries discovered by the high-quality photometry of the Kepler Telescope (Figure 7), whose original mission was to discover exoplanet transits (see below). We had participated in the crowd-sourced phase of the project and kept the light curves of stars we found interesting. However, the curves here are plotted from the official post-publication data release by Kirk et al.

ecl.bin.01_Kepler_EB_L.curvesFigure 7. The blue and red are the deconvolved and reconvolved fitted normalized fluxes.

The first 5 can be classified as being of Algoloid or EA type. Algol itself would be comparable to KIC 09366988 or KIC 12071006 (4 and 5 in the above plot), whereas the shape of KIC 09833618 (6 in above) is in between another EA star \lambda Tauri and the EB \delta Pictoris. In KIC 04365461, KIC 03542573 and KIC 05288543 (1, 2 and 3 in the above) the two eclipses are nearly the same or the secondary eclipse is in the least rather deep. This implies that both stars are comparable in luminosity. Stars 7..12 in Figure 7 show more EB- and EW-like smooth curves and/or short periods. Thus, the traditional classification is something of a spectrum. However, that there is some valid signal in this classification suggested by the period-amplitude diagram, where the amplitude is defined with respect to the deepest eclipse. We first drew this diagram for the 532,990 eclipsing binaries from the VSX catalog of variable stars in which the traditional classification is available for a large fraction (Figure 8). The EWs are clearly distinguished from the rest by the narrow band to the left that they occupy — mostly low in amplitude and short in period. The EAs are pretty much seen across amplitude and period range but are under-represented in the left band where the EWs dominate. They are also less frequent in the right zone with less than 1 mag amplitude but a long period (10-100 days). The EBs overlap with the central zone of the EAs but have a tighter amplitude distribution. They are also more common in the mid-amplitude-long period right zone where the EAs are somewhat under-represented. In fact, the EBs appear to form 3-4 overlapping populations.

ecl.bin_VSX_per.ampFigure 8. The period amplitude diagrams for the traditional types of eclipsing binaries in the VSX catalog.

We next plotted the same diagram for the 425,193 eclipsing binaries from the galactic bulge at the center of the Milky Way photometrically recorded by the Polish OGLE project (Figure 9). We see that the general shape of the period-amplitude plot is the same for both datasets indicating that this pattern is an intrinsic feature of eclipsing binaries that can be used for their classification. The OGLE stars were classified by Bodi and Hajdu on the basis of the shape of their light curves using locally linear embedding, an unsupervised dimensionality reducing classification method (first developed in the Kepler Project), which projects all the stars in the data as a one-dimensional curve. This allowed their classification by a single number the morphology parameter. As can be seen in Figure 7 (M is the morphology parameter for each of the depicted Kepler stars), when this parameter is less than \approx 0.62 then the stars are typically EAs. A morphology parameter greater than \approx 0.62 includes EBs and EWs, with those close to 1 being mostly EWs. The stars in the period-amplitude diagram in Figure 9 are colored according to their morphology parameter (Figure 9). One can see that it approximately recapitulates a separation between the EAs and the EWs+EBs. However, the EBs and EWs can only be separated to a degree based on the period axis.

ecl.bin_gbulge_per.ampFigure 9. The period amplitude diagram for the Milky Way galactic bulge colored by the morphology parameter (categories: 0 \le x \le 0.25 etc). The contours being 2D distribution densities

One of the major correlates of the morphology parameter is the period of the binary. When we plot a period-morphology diagram for the 2877 eclipsing binaries detected by the Kepler mission (Figure 10) we find that the period declines with the increasing morphology parameter and the majority of stars fall in a fairly narrow band. Only for morphology \ge 0.75, we start seeing the emergence of two populations belonging to distinct period bands.

ecl.bin_Kepler_per.morphFigure 10. Period-morphology plot for the Kepler eclipsing binaries (colored as above).

However, the selection of the Kepler stars was biased towards shorter periods. Hence, a similar plot for the much larger OGLE Milky Way bulge set shows a truer version of the period-morphology diagram (Figure 11). It largely recapitulates the Kepler plot for morphology \le 0.66. However, for values \ge 0.66 it shows an interesting trifurcation with 3 distinct bands corresponding to those with a period of 1 day or lesser; with a period of 10s of days; with a period in the 100 days range. Given that the morphology parameter captures the shape of the light curve, this trifurcation evidently reflects the separation between the EWs and the different populations of EBs in the traditional classification.

ecl.bin_bulge_per.morphFigure 11. Period-morphology plot for the OGLE galactic bulge eclipsing binaries (colored as above)

The histogram of the eclipsing binary systems from the OGLE data by the morphology parameter also presents some interesting features. First, the number of stars appears to non-linearly increase with morphology. This is potentially not entirely surprising, given that from the earthly viewpoint, the probability of eclipses occurring increases in very close or contact binary systems that are characterized by morphologies closer to 1. Second, remarkably, the histogram shows 6 distinct peaks, which indicate that there are apparently certain preferred types of geometry among these systems (Figure 12).

ecl.bin_bulge_morphdistFigure 12. Histogram of stars by morphology for the OGLE galactic bulge eclipsing binaries

The 6 peaks approximately occur at morphology values of 0.047, 0.43, 0.52, 0.74, 0.76, and 0.86. The first three of these would be squarely in Algoloid territory. The first and lowest peak would correspond to EAs with sharp, narrow and similarly deep minima. This would imply that one relatively rare but preferred type of geometry is of well-separated, similarly luminous small stars. The next two peaks would correspond to more conventional EAs with broader minima and a clearer distinction between the primary and secondary minimum. These would correspond to stars with clear distinct luminosities belong to different spectral classes as seen in the Algol system. The final sharp peak at around 0.86 is likely dominated by EWs with the two stars in contact. The closely spaced peaks at 0.74 and 0.76 are likely dominated by EBs with the lower peak potentially closer to \delta Pictoris like EBs and the higher one closer to \beta Lyrae itself.

These peaks in the distribution of morphologies suggest that there are some preferred evolutionary pathways among eclipsing binaries (or binaries more generally). To probe this more we looked at the spectral class/temperature data for eclipsing binaries. Unfortunately, this is not readily available for both the stars in the binary for bigger datasets. The only dataset that we found to be amenable for such an analysis was the Russian eclipsing binary catalog, which has 409 systems with spectral types for both components (Figure 13). This is a relatively measly set and skewed towards EAs: 56.6\% EAs; 13.1\% EBs; 15.7\% EWs (In the large VSX database roughly 75\% of the eclipsing binaries are EW).

ecl.bin_Rus_SpectypeFigure 13. Distribution of eclipsing binary systems by the spectral types of the two stars. The Wx category is a composite bin holding both Wolf-Rayet stars and hot white dwarfs.

In this dataset, the spectral type B-B pairs are the most common. Whereas only 10.5\% of the EAs in this set are B-B pairs, 28.2\% of the EBs are B-B pairs, suggesting that there is a greater propensity for \beta Lyrae type systems to be hot B-B pairs (Figure 4). That this is a genuine difference specific to the B spectral type is suggested by the observation that the spectral type A-A pairs are in similar proportions among both the EAs and EBs, respectively 8.3\% and 7.1\%. In contrast, the spectral type A-G/A-K pairs, which are another over-represented group are almost entirely EAs and constitute about 22\% of the EAs in the above plot. While the EWs are underrepresented in this set, we still find that 36\% of the EWs are spectral type G-G pairs and constitute a little over 58\% of such pairs in this set. Thus, it establishes that just as B-B pairs are a specialty of the \beta Lyrae, the G-G pairs are typical of W Ursae Majoris stars, whereas the Algols tend to be enriched in hot-cool pairs.

While the spectral classification of the individual stars is not available for the OGLE galactic bulge data, an intrinsic color (V-I) is available. Here, it seems that the V-I color was determined using filters equivalent to the Johnson 11-color system. Thus, one could plot period versus color to see if there might be any features of note (Figure 14).

ecl.bin_bulge_col.perFigure 14. Period versus color diagram for the galactic bulge eclipsing binaries. The stars in the ranges corresponding to the 6 peaks in the morphology distribution are colored distinctly.

One can see that the systems from the first morphology peak (i.e., those with sharp, narrow and similar eclipses) tend to have long periods and are concentrated in a V-I range that would approximately correspond to the G-K spectral types. We also see that the mid-morphology peaks (2, 3 in Figure 12), which are enriched in more typical EAs, tend to have a broader spread with much greater representation in the higher V-I range corresponding to the M spectral type. In the case of the subsequent two peaks (3, 4 in Figure 12), we see that they show an extension in the lower V-I range (\le 0.5), which indicates the inclusion of hotter stars. This seems consistent with this morphology range being enriched in EBs. The last morphology peak as a color profile similar to the first but at a lower period range. This would be consistent with it being primarily composed of EW stars, which in the Russian eclipsing binary dataset was enriched in G-G pairs.

Though Kepler used its own distinct broad bandpass filter, the effective temperature was calculated for the catalog of Kepler stars. We can use this temperature to study how the Kepler stars are distributed in a period versus temperature diagram — effectively a variant of the period-color diagram (Figure 15).

ecl.bin_Kepler_Per.TempFigure 15. Period versus effective temperature diagram for the Kepler eclipsing binaries. Stars in 3 distinct morphology bands which are over-represented in the Kepler data are colored distinctly.

Here, we notice that the low morphology parameter stars are again in the longer period range and occur in a relatively narrow temperature band (1st-3rd quartile range: 5937K-5219K) corresponding to G to early K spectral types. The stars over-represented in the middle of the morphology band, i.e., mainly conventional EAs, have a broader 1st-3rd quartile range of 6422K-5197K — from F to early K. Finally, those with a high morphology parameter have a 1st-3rd quartile range of 6590K-5426K, which is the F-G spectral range. This last group, which is enriched in the EW eclipsing binaries (periods less than a day), is notable in showing a fairly tight period-temperature relationship (Figure 15) that is most clearly visible in the temperatures corresponding to the F-K range. Evidently, this corresponds to the period-luminosity-color relationship that was uncovered for the EW stars in the 1990s by Rucinski. Thus EWs, which are rather numerous, can be used as a tool for statistical distance estimation.

Finally, we take a brief look at what the eclipsing binaries offer for our understanding of stellar evolution. For example, some obvious questions that emerge from the above observations are: 1) When we look at systems like Algol we have more massive and hotter stars which are in an earlier evolutionary state than their dimmer, cooler companions which are in a later stage of evolution. Why is this paradoxical situation observed, given that one would expect the more massive star to have evolved faster according to the usual stellar evolutionary trajectory? 2) Why do EW systems show a period-color/temperature relationship similar to pulsating variables like Cepheids?

To address the above, we need to take a closer look at the gravitational geometry of binary systems, i.e., the basics of the Euler-Lagrange gravitational potential curves (Figure 16). Let us consider a binary system with stellar masses m_1, m_2; \; m_1 \ge m_2 in the x-y plane with the origin in rectangular coordinates, (0,0), at the center of the more massive of the two stars. We then take the distance of the center of the less massive star from the more massive one a to be a unit distance. This yields its dimensionless coordinates as (1,0). Then the magnitude of the position vectors to a point on this x-y plane from the two stellar centers will be:



We define the stellar mass ratio: q=\dfrac{m_2}{m_1}

Then, the distance of the center of mass C of the two stars from the origin will be:

\dfrac{m_2}{m_1+m_2} =\dfrac{q}{1+q}

Thus, the coordinates of C would be (\dfrac{q}{1+q}, 0)

The gravitation potential \phi at a point on the x-y plane is specified thus:

\phi= -G\left (\dfrac{m_1}{s_1(x,y)} + \dfrac{m_2}{s_2(x,y)} + \dfrac{(m_1+m_2)r(x,y)^2}{2a^3} \right)

Here, G is the gravitational constant and the first two terms are the gravitational potentials from the two stars respectively. The third term is the centrifugal force, which needs to be accounted for as the two stars are revolving around their common center of mass C: here r(x,y) is the magnitude of the position vector from C and a is the distance between the centers of the two stars. Since we have already set a=1, i.e., taken it as the distance unit, and computed the coordinates of C, we write the equation of \phi after factoring out \dfrac{m_1+m_2}{2} in a dimensionless form in -G\dfrac{m_1+m_2}{2} units on the x-y plane as:


With this equation, we can plot the Lagrangian equipotential curves for k a given potential value (Figure 16):


Euler_LagrangeFigure 16. The Lagrangian equipotential curves for an Algol-like system with the five Lagrangian points.

The (x,y) for which the equipotential curve first takes on a real value, i.e., it appears as just two points, define the two Lagrangian points L_4, L_5. These can also be found using the equilateral triangle with the two stellar centers. From these two points, the equipotential curves expand as two disjoint lobes lying on either side of the X-axis. Finally, the two lobes intersect at a point on the X-axis to the left of the star with the larger mass. This point of intersection defines the point L_3 (Figure 16). The equipotential curves then become closed curves with two inflection points that advance towards each other. They finally meet on the X-axis to the right of the lower mass star. This point of intersection is the point L_2. After this, the curve becomes two loops, with an inner loop with two inflections and an outer loop that tends towards a circle (Figure 15). The inflections in the inner loop then intersect at a point on the X-axis between the two stars. This point is L_1. After this intersection, the curve becomes 3-looped, with two oval loops around the two stars and the outer loop surrounding both of them. At these points, L_1-.L_5, the gravitational forces exerted by the two stars cancel each other. Based on the potential equation one can derive an equation whose solution gives the x values for which the gravitational forces cancel each other yielding L_1, L_2, L_3 (Figure 16):


The inner loop of the equipotential curve defining L_1 has two lobes, one around each star, which are known as the Roche lobes. If the stars are far enough, such that each is within the Roche lobe then we have a detached binary. However, if they get close enough such that one of the stars occupies its Roche lobe then it becomes a semi-detached binary. In this case, gas from that star flows out via L_1 and falls on the more massive star. The residual escaped gas forms a disk around the more massive star of the system. This kind of mass transfer is seen in the case of Algol from the dimmer, distended K star, which fills its Roche lobe, to the B star. The differential evolution of the stars in such systems, contrary to what is expected from their mass, is believed to occur due to this mass transfer.

As the stars get closer together both stars might occupy their respective Roche lobes. This happens in the case of the EW systems which are believed to have evolved from detached/semi-detached eclipsing binaries with periods less than 2.24 days winding closer and closer together. Thus, these systems are known as contact systems, with the outflow from both stars forming a common envelope whose shape is defined by the infected inner loop of the equipotential curves (Figure 16). This contact will result in the formation of a single body with temperature equilibration. Thus, the radiating surface area (hence luminosity) of the EW stars will scale with their period given Kepler’s third law. As EWs are mostly in the main sequence on the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram their period will also be related to their temperature/color. From the Kepler data (Figure 15) it appears possible that a loose version of such a relationship emerges first in the semi-detached systems with periods in the 2.25 days to just under a day range, which becomes tight in the contact systems represented by the EWs. Thus, remarkably, a subset of the eclipsing binaries has joined the pulsating stars as potential candles for measuring cosmological distances.

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Some poems

Below are some poems in English by our brother. He sends us his compositions in a much more transient medium making them hard to preserve or share. Hence, we decided to anthologize those we could recover and present them here as a record on the internet. Sometimes, they are accompanied by a bit of a “bhāṣya”, which we provide in the cases we were able to salvage it. We also provide some comments of our own.

The Beetle and the Milky Way
From thy curls flows the heavenly stream,
beacon to all creatures big and small;
A scarab scurries under that milky gleam,
homeward bound, rolling her ball.

Danger lurks in the inky dark shadows,
So, the straight path o’er the veldt is best,
But all cardinal points the night swallows;
Who now will guide Titibhā to her nest?

Mounting her ball, as little Titibhā dances,
Her dorsal eye catches the cosmic light —
From a million miles what are the chances
that she could glimpse so distant a sight?

Yet, before long emerge her larvae,
Under the haze of the Milky Way.

The poets “bhāṣya”: Gaṅgā emerges from Hara’s matted locks. In the first quatrain, I have imagined Akaśa-gaṅgā, the Milky Way, emerging from the cosmic body of Rudra. Now, scientists have found that some beetles called scarabs to navigate using the light of the Milky Way. In the dark, they roll their balls of dung away from the source. Second quatrain: This beetle lives in the veldt of southern Africa. After the beetle has collected its forage it must quickly travel in a straight line. If it does not, it risks going in circles and being eaten or its pile stolen by other beetles, or simply going back to the original pile where the competition from other beetles is intense. So, it is imperative that it must take the straight path. But at night, the darkness swallows all the cardinal points; there is no way for it to know where it is going. Third quatrain: Now the beetle does something very interesting. It mounts its ball of forage and does a little dance. As it does that, its eyes catch the Milky Way. Using that as a cue and the small differences in light, it holds a straight-line course. She then buries her eggs in the dung pile. This poem tries to express the awe of how even small creatures are capable of navigating using cosmic cues.
Comment: We had earlier talked about this and other vignettes concerning beetles in this note.

The goddess Ambikā
Mother, these ogres ne’er seem to learn;
Flushed with pride,
every new enterprise seems
to raise their hopes
Only to end in humiliation.

Poet’s Vision: “I see Ambika now seated upon her lion on the brow of a hillock, boisterously laughing, her lips reddened with wine, her roving eyes mocking them.”

When their chief tried to capture thee,
They hurl their best missiles at thee
And not one came within a yard of thee!
By your side glance,
what this really means,
I have truly known!

O Ambikā I see you now
seated upon your lion
on the brow of a hillock, boisterously laughing,
Your lips reddened with mead
and your reckless eyes mocking them.

Mater familias of three-eyed One,
Scimitar drawn, garlanded by heads,
swarthy as the nimbus on June’s first day,
Mother of the storm troop!

Comment: The last two quarters indicate her manifestation as Pṛṣṇi, the wife of Rudra, and the mother of the Marut-s.

The gods Saṃkarṣaṇa and the Vāsudeva manifest as the Nandakumāra-s
I saw two boys playing in the mead,
frolicking yearlings followed them everywhere,
drawn by their laughter,
with happy lowing to rapturous notes filling the bright glade.

One lad was fair as marble and wore bright blue,
marking the ground for boisterous play,
with his tiny plow;
The other boy, dark as marble, decked in yellow;

The whole world seemed
to be splashed with joy
They were themselves joy all pure —
like word and meaning tied forever.

Reading with the child
The best books were books with pictures:
lilac castles ‘n golden mornings,
pretty princesses with dainty glass shoes,
pining princes or ones in frogs;
brave seamen ‘n stormy seas,
for many a rainy evening.

Who’d need Andersen’s flying trunk
or Uderzo’s magic carpet
to travel to the farthest lands
fed by the undying well springs
of childhood’s imagination?

The best books were books with words:
Over proud citadels in verdant meads,
fluttered pennons proud ‘n royal hearts;
while dashing seamen braving wind-kissed surfs
‘n brazen buccaneers
leapt out of the pages,
ruffled by untamed gales,
beating upon windows frail.

Who’d need a flying trunk
or a magic carpet
when words could weave
Tabrizian tapestries with the silken threads
of youthful imagination?

O unputdownable novella,
your heart-pounding climax
had drowned the cock’s crow at dawn
but I can scarce recall your title now,
let alone the pretty pictures of castles
like the dreams of my youth, long faded now.

The best books were the books that whispered ‘n spoke:
Faintly at first:
like the tentative chirping of starlings
on spring’s first morn;
And then like the cuckoo’s full-throated ‘n raucous
at midsummer’s high noon.

As I closed my eyes to listen,
the years seemed to fall away!
Proud banners flew o’er the citadel again,
And to the beating of kettle drums marched my tin soldiers,
five and twenty in all,
and astride a dappled mare
tossing her rufous mane,
rode the spirit of story herself,
and even the swaggering buccaneers
with cutlasses drawn,
all came rushing into the mind’s glade
to watch their queen as she cantered.

I smiled.
Through childhood, boyhood, youth
and even in the somber twilight
my soul hadn’t changed;
Ever watching all go by and pass beyond the bend,
reliving the ages now with my own little reader,
who poked at the words
with her chubby dainty finger —
a little wand that turned them into pictures.

A quatrain to the god Kāma
O Madana!
The slender maids of the Kuntala country sweet n fair,
adorned with night flowering florets,
betwixt shy kanakāmbara blossoms trellised o’er their hair,
seem to sing thy triumph from upright turrets.

The visions of the god Viṣṇu
He has a slender waist,
And he’s blue all over;
All riches dwell in his chest —
Our world-strider ‘n soul-saver!

Who could imagine thee —
in the wee fry scooped up
in Satyavrata’s arghya;
Or, bearing mighty Mandara
or, in womanhood’s highest excellence,
ever keeping the greatest secrets
out of demonic reach;
Or, hiding within that pillar,
but the Mantrarāja’s knowers
have seen thee waiting to spring;
Or, crossing the wide ocean,
armed with mighty bow
hastening to the Aśoka grove —
“Aśoka” — coz there’s hope.

I know you were there in all those times.
How can I repay?
O Muses will ye carry these words of praise to Him.

Comment: the verses reflect the poet’s meditative visions of the god.

Blank verse benediction invoking Kumāra
Victory to the reed-born son of Gauri,
whose lance point cleft a hole in the looming darkness of Krauñca,
where birds of light and insight
now chirp and dart in joy;

Impelled by his grace,
may the spear of your intellect too
give us a window to peer
into the secrets of the cell and its denizens.

Who is the thief of life?
Night after night I lay awake,
beset by worry and fear
that your retinue should be near.
In every ache, malaise, and niggle
I heard your herald’s menacing bugle.

Small mercy – you didn’t come!
Yet, I felt my life was stolen
ere the fun had even begun.
So, I’ve come myself to your great hall
to settle the matter once and for all.

I took my courage from the little boy,
who’d waited three days at your gates
in the quest for the fount of eternal joy
unswerved by your treasure crates.
He now shines bright like the flame
you named after his own name [1].

All resplendent you seem
like the thunder cloud.
No offense do I mean,
but are you a thief?
On my way here I saw many a sight
that turned the blood cold in my veins —
Ten thousand pyres all alight
after unending pointless pains.

Heap upon heap of broken dreams,
Families left with no means,
Mangled bodies and minds,
hollowed out long before the end
Ghastly tragedies of all kinds
And wounds that none can mend.

Then I grew numb to it all
‘Tis all absurd as Sisyphus’ curse —
No matter what that downhill fall
in a meaningless universe
Tell me, what are you hoarding here sir?
I ask you squarely “are you a thief?”

Then spoke the resplendent Death,
resting his mace upon his shoulder
“I am no thief.”
It’s true I come when it’s my time.
Yet I did not commit this crime.

Long before were you robbed
by anxious thoughts all your own,
of future miseries — real only in your head
The present moment quietly slipped
like a rug beneath your feet tugged,

I was nowhere in the scene.
Yet you hardly lived these years passed
Why blame me sir?
Granted, sir, you’re not a thief.
Still, I have been robbed every night.
Who will return my precious days,
lost to worry and despair?
I do not have another life to spare.

Resplendent Death thought a bit
And then said: “I think there is One”
But He’s a thief too. [2]

“What? You’ll send me to another thief?”
Then he pointed to his chest mighty
You see this three-pronged scar of old?
I was once young and haughty
And paid dearly when hurled my stranglehold [3].

Perhaps only He can recover what you’ve lost
Hasten, sir. There’s no time.
He lives in the mountains.
Take the winding path.
up the snowy slopes.
The road goes beyond the great river’s womb.

Ignore the goblins and ghouls –
He keeps strange company.
On that path you must trudge,
You will then see his two boys playing [4].

And their mother knitting a shawl [5].
She is the great queen of all,
Yet she won him by austerity —
No greater love story for posterity.
“How will I know him?”

“You cannot mistake Him”
who wears the moon in his tiara.

1. An allusion to the journey of Naciketas the Gautama to the realm of Mṛtyu that is prominently mentioned in the literature of the Kaṭha-s. The final line in this verse alludes to the iṣṭi that is named after him.
2. Rudra is said to manifest as various criminals (e.g., taskara= thief) in the Śatarudrīya from Yajurveda-saṃhitā-s.
3. The conquest of Mṛtyu/Yama by Rudra — the liṅgasthāpanā-mantra “OM nidhanapatāntikāya namaḥ |” alludes to this.
4. Skanda and Vināyaka.
5. The motif of the goddess weaving time.

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The Kaumāra cycle in the Skandapurāṇa’s Śaṃkara-saṃhitā

Many khaṇḍa-s, māhātmya-s and saṃhitā-s attach themselves to the sprawling “Mega-Skandapurāṇa”. We use this term to distinguish it from the “Ur-Skandapurāṇa”, which was first published by Bhaṭṭārāi in the late 1980s and is now known to survive as three related recensions, one of which is represented by rather early manuscripts from Nepal. Of the texts associated with the “Mega-Skandapurāṇa”, the Śaṃkara-saṃhitā, remains relatively poorly known. It is unclear if there was a pan-Indian understanding of its constituent texts and if a complete version was ever extant in any part of the Indosphere. As far as we can tell, one of its khaṇda-s known as the Śivarahasya is preserved only in South India and is likely of South Indian origin. It was most likely composed in the Drāviḍa country; though one cannot entirely rule out the Southern Andhra country or parts of Southern Karṇāṭa as its original source. It was edited by a maternal śrauta-ritualist- and paurāṇika-clansman of ours in the 1950s-1960s. Upon completing its editing, he offered it to the shrine of Skanda housing the kuladevatā of our clan. The text as available still has some corruptions, several of which might have been introduced while typesetting. The Śivarahasya presents its relationship to the Mega-Skandapurāṇa thus:

teṣv api+idam muni-śreṣṭhāḥ skāndaṃ sukhadam uttamam ।
sarva-vedānta-sārasvaṃ pañcāśat khaṇḍamaṇḍitam ॥
ādyā sanatkumārīyā dvitīyā sūta-saṃhitā ।
brāhmī tu saṃhitā paścāt turīyā vaiṣṇavī matā ॥
pañcamī śāṃkarī-jñeyā saurī ṣaṣṭhī tu saṃhitā ।
ādyā tu pañca-pañcāśat sahasraiḥ ślokakair yutā ॥
dvitīyā saṃhitā viprāḥ ṣaṭsahasrair alaṃkṛtā ।
trisāhasrair yutā brāhmī pañcabhir vaiṣṇavī-yutā ॥
triṃśatbhiḥ śāṃkarīyuktā khaṇḍair dvādaśabhis tathā ।
ṣaṣṭhī tu saurī saṃyuktā sahasreṇaika kenasā ॥
grantha-lakṣair yutaṃ skāndaṃ pañcāśat khaṇḍa-maṇḍitam ।
tad adya sampravakṣyāmi yuṣmabhyaṃ vipra-puṃgavāḥ ॥
tat trayā saṃhitā proktā śāṃkarī veda-sammatā ।
triṃśat sahasrair granthānāṃ vistareṇa suvistṛtā ॥
ādau śiva-rahasyākhyaṃ khaṇḍam adya vadāmi vaḥ ।
tat trayodaśa-sāhasraiḥ saptakāṇḍair alaṃkṛtam ॥

The Mega-Skandapurāṇa is divided into 6 saṃhitā-s that have a total of 50 khaṇḍa-s among them. These are listed as follows with their corresponding verse counts: 1. Sanatkumāra: 55,000; 2. Sūta: 6000; 3. Brāhmī: 3000; 4. Vaiṣṇavī: 5000; 5. Śāṃkarī: 30,000; Saurī: 1000. Thus, the entire text is said to be of 100,000 verses. Within it, the Śaṃkara-saṃhitā (Śāṃkarī) is said to have 12 khaṇda-s of which the Śivarahasya of 13,000 verses is one. The Śivarahasya itself is divided into 7 kāṇḍa-s, which are: 1. Sambhava; 2. Āsura; 3. Māhendra; 4. Yuddha; 5. Deva; 6. Dakṣa; 7. Upadeśa.

The published Mega-Skandapurāṇa does not align precisely with this tradition and has 7 khaṇḍa-s: 1. Māheśvara; 2. Vaiṣṇava; 3. Brahma; 4. Kāśī; 5. Avanti; 6. Nāgara; 7. Prabhāsa. The Māheśvara-khaṇḍa in this compendium is not the same as the Śāṃkarī Samhitā under consideration in this discussion. However, they share many common themes that include the central thread gathered around the destruction of Dakṣa’s sacrifice, the marriage of Pārvatī and Rudra, the birth of Kumāra and the killing of Tāraka by him, the birth of Gaṇeśa, the Śivarātri ritual and the worship of Rudra at Aruṇācala. The tale of Skanda and the Tāraka war is repeated twice in the Māheśvara-khaṇḍa of the Mega-Skandapurāṇa.

The first 5 kāṇḍa-s and parts of 6 and 7 of the Śivarahasya in the Śāṃkarī Samhitā comprise a narration of the Kaumāra cycle partly modeled after the Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki. Much of the kāṇḍa-s 6 and 7 are primarily śaiva material relating to the observation of vrata-s and Śiva-dharma — these thematically overlap with the material in the Māheśvara-khaṇḍa of the Mega-Skandapurāṇa. The Kaumāra portions of the Śivarahasya were rendered in Tamil by the saiddhāntika guru Kāśyapaśiva in the medieval period as the Tamil Skandapurāṇa. His version has some differences from the extant Sanskrit text of the Śivarahasya — it is unclear if these differences are due to his reformulation of the narrative or because he was using a distinct recension of the text. A Telugu rendering of the text also exists but we do not have much familiarity with it. While the ancient versions of the Kaumāra cycle have the killing of the dānava/daitya Mahiṣa or Tāraka by the god Skanda as their centerpiece (Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata), this text presents an unusual version of it: after the initial section culminating in Tāraka’s killing, there are two extended sections dealing with the elder brothers of Tāraka. These culminate in the great battle in which Skanda slays these demons, Siṃhamukha and Śūrapadma, along with their vast horde of Asura-s. So far, we have not seen any record of these demons outside of South India. Long before Kāśyapaśiva’s Tamil rendering, Śūrapadma appears in the South Indian tradition as represented by the earliest surviving Tamil texts, such as the Puṟanānūṟu (Puṟanānūṟu 23, a poem probably roughly contemporaneous with the Kuṣāṇa age in the North given that it describes the early Pāṇḍya king Neṭuñceḻiyaṉ), and a subsequent Tamil poetic anthology, the Paripāṭal. This suggests that the South Indian tradition had a deep history of certain unique elements of Kaumāra mythology.

As far as archaeology goes, we know that there was an active Kaumāra tradition in the Andhra country starting from the Andhra empire down to their smaller successor states, such as the Ikṣvāku-s and Viṣṇukuṇḍin-s among others, which had Nāgārjunakoṇḍa, as one of its foci. In the Tamil country, clear-cut archaeological evidence for strong Kaumāra traditions can be seen from the Pallava period onward. We believe this temporal period stretching from the Andhra empire down to the rise of the Pallava-s overlaps with the period during which the Puṟanānūṟu and the later Paripāṭal were composed in the Tamil country. The Paripāṭal displays a distinctive combination of the worship of Viṣṇu with his Pāñcarātrika vyūha-s and Kumāra — this pattern is seen in the Northwest, i.e., Panjab/Gandhara, and in Mathura during the Śaka-Kuṣāṇa age. This was mirrored in the South Indian Maturai (approximately the same longitude as its Northern namesake Mathura), the cultic locus of the Paripāṭal. Thus, one could argue that the core Kaumāra tradition in the Tamil country was a transmission of this Mathuran tradition.

Apart from the references to Śūrapadma, the themes in the Paripāṭal, while clearly linked to the ancient Kaumāra narratives, such as those seen in the Mahābhārata, show certain unique archaisms which have not survived in the Sanskrit tradition. For example, in Paripāṭal-5 by Kaḍuvan Iḷaveyinanār we encounter an incorporation of the Paurāṇika Marut mytheme into the tale of the birth of Kumāra. Here, after a prolonged dalliance with Rudra, mirroring the Sanskrit sources, Pārvatī becomes pregnant with Kumāra. Then Indra, who had acquired a boon from Rudra, cut the developing embryo into pieces with his Vajra (the number seven is implied by the repeated mention of seven in this verse) — the Paurāṇika Marut-motif. Then the pieces were placed in the three ritual fires by the seven ṛṣi-s (allegorically identified in the text with the seven brightest stars of Ursa Major), who realized that they would form the future commander of the deva-s. The pieces were purified by Agni and placed in the wombs of six of the wives (Kṛttikā-s=Pleiades), barring Arundhatī, of the seven ṛṣi-s (c.f. archaic Mahābhārata version). Thus, this South Indian tradition preserves a memory of the connection between the Vedic Marut-s, who are the sons of Rudra, and Skanda that was largely forgotten elsewhere (except for the reference to Kumāra as leader of the seven Marut troops in the oldest version of the cycle in the Mahābhārata).

When we take the whole Kaumāra corpus, we have reason to suspect that the ancient version of the tradition was much richer and more polymorphic than what is seen in the later Sanskrit tradition. As a parallel, we could point to the Aindra mythology. The Veda alludes to many mythemes that were clearly common knowledge when the Ṛgveda was originally composed. Further, the epics point to a degree of para-Vedic polymorphism in the Aindra tradition. However, what survived of that tradition in the extant Paurāṇika corpus is relatively limited. Likewise, with the Kaumāra tradition, we see that the Mahābhārata preserves a rich mythology, which included the triumphs of the god over Mahiṣa, Tāraka, and hints at an even richer body of myth by mentioning in passing the overthrow of several other demons (e.g., Tripāda and Hradodhara) by Skanda. By the time of the composition of the extant Paurāṇika corpus, the Kaumāra myth of Mahiṣa was mostly forgotten, surviving only in the Vāmana-purāṇa. The Mahiṣa myth was instead transferred to Kumārī (Vindhyavāsinī section of Ur-Skandapurāṇa). She originally started off as the virgin goddess, a female counterpart of Kumāra, and was subsequently subsumed under the great transfunctional goddess, the Śakti of Rudra. Thereafter, Kumāra was only left with the Tāraka myth across much of the Sanskrit tradition. Hence, posit that at the zenith of the Kaumāra tradition there was a considerably larger and more polymorphic body of Kaumāra material. The vitality of this old Kaumāra tradition is seen in Mathura — based on the remains of images, we infer the existence of at least 33 Kaumāra shrines in Mathura during the Kuṣāṇa age. Thus, we propose that some of this original polymorphism in the tradition was preserved in the transmission to South India, even as the tradition in the Tamil country remained relatively isolated from the later transmissions from the North (e.g., the transmission of the Eastern Kaumāra Lodge from Vaṅga to Bellary in Karṇāṭa). Hence, we posit that the special emphasis on Śūrapadma was a remnant of this old transmission that did not make it into other Pauraṇika transmissions.

Some of those mythic elements strongly persisted in the Tamil country and found their way into the Śivarahasya narrative, which the evidence presented below indicates is a later text:
1) In the Śivarahasya, the gaṇeśvara Nandin is prominent. Our textual analysis (to be presented later) has revealed that this is a strong marker of a text influenced by the Saiddhāntika Śaiva tradition. There are several other allusions throughout the text that point to its affiliation with the Saiddhāntika rather than any other Śaiva school of the mantramārga or the atimārga. This would also explain why the saiddhāntika Kāśyapaśiva chose to render it Tamil. Whereas in North India (outside of Nepal) and Vañga, the rise of the Siddhānta resulted in considerable erosion of the Kaumāra tradition from the 700s of CE, in the Drāviḍa country, the strong Kaumāra tradition was co-opted and incorporated within a Saiddhāntika framework. For example, this is seen in the works of the great polymath Aghoraśiva-deśika, who in addition to his numerous Saiddhāntika treatises also composed a work on the sthāpanā of Kaumāra shrines. This places the Śivarahasya in a distinct stratum from the Paripāṭal era (and even perhaps the Tirumurukārruppaṭai period) when Siddhānta was dominant in the Tamil country.
2) Its narration of the birth of Kumāra omits the coitus of Rudra and Pārvatī, which indicates a “sanitization” of the sexual elements of that narrative, which, for example, are an important aspect of its presentation in the Rāmāyaṇa, Mahābhārata, Śivapurāṇa and Kālidāsa’s Kumārasaṃbhava. This change in attitude again points to a relatively late date for Śivarahasya.
3) None of the early narrations of the Kaumāra cycle in the Iitihāsa-s or the Purāṇa-s attempt to model themselves after the Rāmāyaṇa. In fact, the Kumārākhyāna was seen as one of those old, independent mythic motifs of Hindu tradition that formed the basis of numerous retellings by different narrators, even as it was with the Rāmāyaṇa. Thus, the modeling of parts of the Śivarahasya, namely those concerning the war with Śurapadma and his clan (and possibly the arrangement in seven kāṇḍa-s), after the Rāmāyaṇa betrays a late “reconstruction” following the loss of continuity with the old Kaumāra Paurāṇika tradition.
4) The text acknowledges an already large Skandapurāṇa of the size of 100,000 verses. This implies that it comes from a period when the accretion of texts to form a mega-Skandapurāṇa was common knowledge.

While these elements point to a relatively late date for the Śivarahasya, we should point out that like all Paurāṇika corpora it does preserve several notable elements that have ancient roots going back to the Indo-European past. While the kāṇḍa-s 6 and 7 are dominated by the Śaiva material, its core is primarily a Kaumāra text intent on the aggrandizement of Skanda. Beyond the distinctive form of the Kaumāra cycle, there are multiple elements that indicate a southern locus for its immediate origin:
1) It presents a prominent role for the god Śāstṛ or Ārya as Hariharaputra. This transmogrified southern ectype of Revanta (commonly seen as Hariharaputra) was prominently worshiped at least since the time of the composition of the famous Tamil epic Śilpādhikāra.
2) It presents Vināyaka as elder to Skanda. While this is the position adopted by the text, its core Kaumāra narrative of the conquest of the demons still clearly indicates a tradition where Gaṇeśa was not yet born/in place.
3) The text describes two marriages of Skanda — one to Devasenā, seen across the Indosphere, and the other to Valli (related to the Dravidian term for tubers such as the tapioca and the sweet potato), that emerged in the Southern folk traditions and spread through the Southern zone of influence in the Indosphere.
4) The presence of the Kāverī-Agastya myth, which specifically points to the Drāviḍa country.
5) The staging ground of Kumāra in course of his campaign is called Śentīpura, which in the Tamil version of Kāśyapaśiva is identified as Tiruceñdūru, a major Kaumāra center, in the Drāviḍa country. It is already mentioned as a shrine of Skanda by the sea with a beautiful beach in Puṟanānūṟu 55.
6) The shrine of Aruṇācala in the Drāviḍa country is praised as an important Śaiva-kṣetra. Several other shrines in the Drāviḍa country as mentioned throughout the text, e.g., the Tyāgarāja and the Madhyārjuna shrines.

With this background, we shall briefly examine the contents of the Śivarahasya and a few of its notable points:
1) The Sambhava kāṇḍa
This section opens with a maṅgalācaraṇa seeking succor from Rudra, Umā, and their sons:
maṅgalaṃ diśatu me vināyako maṅgalaṃ diśatu me ṣaḍānanaḥ ।
maṅgalaṃ diśatu me maheśvarī maṅgalaṃ diśatu me maheśvaraḥ ॥

This is followed by short stotra-s with invocations of Gaṇeśa and Skanda by a set of 16 names each.
omkāra-nilayaṃ devaṃ gajavaktraṃ caturbhujam ।
picaṇḍilam ahaṃ vande sarvavighnopaśāntaye ॥
sumukhaś caikadantaś ca kapilo gajakaraṇakaḥ ।
lambodaraś ca vikaṭo vighnarājo vināyakaḥ ॥
dhūmaketur gaṇādhyakṣaḥ phālacandro gajānanaḥ ।
vakratuṇḍaḥ śūrpakarṇo herambaḥ skandapūrvajaḥ ॥

subrahmaṇyam praṇamyāhaṃ sarvajñaṃ sarvagaṃ sadā ॥
abhīpsitārtha siddhy arthaṃ pravakṣye nāma ṣoḍaśa ।
prathamo jñānaśaktyātmā dvitīyaḥ skanda eva ca ॥
agnibhūś ca tṛtīyaḥ syāt bāhuleyaś caturthakaḥ ।
gāṅgeyaḥ pañcamo vidyāt ṣaṣṭhaḥ śaravanodbhavaḥ ॥
saptamaḥ kārttikeyaḥ syāt kumāraḥ syād athāṣṭakaḥ ।
navamaḥ ṣaṇmukhaś caiva daśamaḥ kukkuṭa-dhvajaḥ ॥
ekādaśaḥ śaktidharo guho dvādaśa eva ca ।
trayodaśo brahmacārī ṣāṇmāturś caturdaśaḥ ॥
krauñcabhit pañcadaśakaḥ ṣoḍaśaḥ śikhivāhanaḥ ।
etat ṣoḍaśa nāmāni japet saṃyak sadādaram ॥

These stotra-s are popular in South India in Gaṇeśa- and Skanda-pūjā-s. However, it is notable that the names of Skanda do not mention Śūrapadma or Siṃhamukha; instead, they only utilize the pan-Indospheric Kaumāra material.

This is followed by the following topics:
-An account of the origin of the Purāṇa as narrated by the sūta, the student of Vyāsa, to the brāhmaṇa-s at Naimiśāraṇya and the nature of the Skandapurāṇa.
-An account of Kailāsa the abode of Rudra. This is followed the by usual Śaiva cycle of Pārvatī and her marriage that includes the below events.
-Kāma approaches Rudra who is in meditation.
-The incineration of Kāma by the fire from Rudra’s third eye.
-The lament of Rati.
-Rudra tests Pārvatī by appearing to her as an old man.
-Rudra reveals his true form to Pārvatī.
-Rudra sends the seven ṛṣi-s/stars of Ursa Major as his emissaries to seek the hand of Pārvatī in marriage.
-The construction of the marriage hall.
-The makeup and jewelry of Pārvatī.
-The gaṇeśvara Nandin leads the gods to the marriage of Rudra and Pārvatī.
-The names of the Rudra-s and an account of their vast hordes in the marriage procession. This is followed by an account of the retinue of Rudra. Below is a notable section of this text:
sahasrāṇāṃ sahasrāṇi ye rudrāḥ pṛthivīṣadaḥ ।
sahasra-yojane lakṣya-bhedinaḥ saśarāsanāḥ ॥
te rudrās tridaśa-śreṣṭhās trinetraṃ saṃsiṣevire ।
asmin mahati sindhau ye ye ‘ntarikṣe divi-sthitāḥ ॥
nīlagrīvās trinetrās te ‘saṃkhyātāś cāpurīśvaram ।
aghaḥ kṣamācarāś cānye sarve te nīlakandharāḥ ॥
girīśayo ‘stu kalyāṇaṃ siṣeviṣava āpire ।
vṛkṣeṣu piñjarā rudrāḥ nīlakaṇṭhā vilohitāḥ ॥
bhūtānāṃ cādhipatayo vikeśāś ca jaṭadharāḥ ।
sahasrair apy asaṃkhyātāḥ sāyudhāḥ prāpurīśvaram ॥
anneṣu ye vividhyanti janān pātreṣu bhuñjataḥ ।
ye pathāṃ pathi rakṣanti tīrthāni pracaranti ca ॥
ye rudrā dikṣu bhūyāṃsas tiṣṭhanti satataṃ ca te ।
gaurī-kalyāna-sevāyai giriśaṃ samupāśrayan ॥

Here the account of the hordes of Rudra is adapted from that of the great multitude of Rudra-s provided in the final anuvāka (11) of the Yajurvedic Śatarudrīya. Apart from these, a great retinue of goddesses and natural phenomena is said to accompany Rudra on his marriage procession. The bluish violet Viṣṇu is said to have joined them with his four forms, i.e., Pāñcarātrika vyūha-s, and was introduced by Nandin.

-Rudra enters the marriage hall and the marriage is concluded.
-Brahman and the other gods send Vāyu as their messenger to urge Rudra to produce a son with Pārvatī. However, Nandin turned him back asking him not the break the marital privacy of the deities.
-All the gods went to Kailāsa themselves and beseeched Rudra, whose half was occupied by Ambikā, to produce the promised son who would relieve them from the Asura-s.
-Rudra assumed a six-headed form blazing like a crore suns and enveloped the realms of the universe terrifying all beings. Then, from the third eye of each of his six heads, the upward seminal flow (ūrdhvaretas) exploded as six flashes of intense light that vaporized the directions (dudravaḥ sarvato diśaḥ). Terrified by this manifestation, all sought refuge in Rudra, praising him with hymns.
-He gathered back those six blazes and they came together as six pacified minute sparks. He then instructed Vāyu and Agni to take them to the arrow-reed forest on the banks of the Gaṅgā and vanished along with Ambikā. Thereafter, Vāyu and Agni, each getting tired after a while, with much effort bore the sparks to the Gaṅgā and deposited them there. The other gods eager to see what would happen also arrived there.
-The Marut-s with their joyful selves filled the quarters with a pleasant breeze (diśaḥ prasedur maruto vavuś ca sukhamātmanāṃ). Then, in the midst of a lotus in the arrow-reed forest, a six-headed, twelve-armed, two-footed divine boy took shape (note recurrence of the ancient motif of the birth of Agni in the lotus: Ṛgveda 6.16.13).
-Viṣṇu called upon the six Kṛttikā-s to nurse him. Instantaneously, becoming six separate kids he drank from their breasts.
-Even as the six flashes from Rudra were vaporizing the directions, Pārvatī too was startled and jumped away. As a consequence, the anklet fell from her feet and broke spilling the gems within it. Ambikā was reflected on those nine gems and appeared tenfold — herself and the 9 reflections. These became the Kālikā goddesses, who were fertilized by the rays emanating from Rudra and became pregnant.
-The droplets of the sweat of the startled goddess were also fertilized by Rudra. From them were born a 100,000 fierce gaṇa-s (who became the retinue of Skanda).
-Ambikā was displeased by seeing these goddesses pregnant and cursed them that they would have an unending and painful pregnancy. They went to Rudra seeking his aid and upon his counseling Ambikā released them from her curse and each gave birth to a mighty son of the complexion of their respective mothers.
-Goddesses and the corresponding sons were: Raktā (ruby) — Vīrabāhu; Taralā (pearl) — Vīrakesarin; Pauṣī (topaz) — Vīramahendra; Gomedā (garnet) — Vīramaheśvara; Vaiḍūryā (beryl) — Vīrapuraṃdara; Vajramaṇi (diamond) — Vīrarākṣasa; Marakatā (emerald) — Vīramārtāṇḍa; Pravālā (coral) — Vīrāntaka; Indranīlā (sapphire) — Vīradhīra. These nine Vīra-s became the companions of Skanda and were known as his brothers.
-Then Rudra told Ambikā that they have actually generated a mighty son and asked her to come along on his bull vehicle to see him.
-They set out with thousands upon thousands of Rudrakanyā-s, Mātṛ-s, gaṇa-s and the Marut-s.
-Then Umā hugged the six separate kids who became a single Ṣaṇmukha and fed him with her milk.

The narrative of the birth of Kumāra up to this point presents several interesting points:
1. There is a prominent role for Vāyu along with the usual Agni in the birth of Skanda. We believe that this is the survival of an ancient motif that is already seen in the Veda, where on rare occasions, apart from the usual Rudra, Vāyu is presented as the father of the Marut-s. This is not a mere slip, because in the Indo-Iranian world we see an overlap in the Rudra- and Vāyu class deities. On the Indian side that goes back to the worship of Rudra in the context of the rites of the Proto-Śaiva-s, the vrātya-s, and in the Eastern Iranian world in the character of the deity Vāyu Uparikairya, who is iconographically identical to the Hindu Rudra.
2. We see the subliminal presence of the Marut-s, even in this late reflex of the Kaumāra origin myth suggesting a long survival of this memory in the circles conversant with the Veda.
3. A variant of the “fertilizing sweat motif” attested in this myth presents the origin of the 100,000 Skanda-gaṇa-s from the sweat of Gaurī.
4. The Nava-vīra-s are a unique feature of the South India Kaumāra cycle. However, the number nine is also mentioned as the total of the Kaumāra-vīra-s even in one of the most ancient surviving variants of the Kaumāra cycle, which is seen in the Mahābhārata:
kākī ca halimā caiva rudrātha bṛhalī tathā ।
āryā palālā vai mitrā saptaitāḥ śiśumātaraḥ ॥
etāsāṃ vīrya-saṃpannaḥ śiśur nāmātidāruṇaḥ ।
skandaprasādajaḥ putro lohitākṣo bhayaṃkaraḥ ॥
eṣa vīrāṣṭakaḥ proktaḥ skandamātṛgaṇodbhavaḥ ।
chāga-vaktreṇa sahito navakaḥ parikīrtyate ॥
This account in the Mbh states that by the grace of Skanda, the 7 goddesses (Skandammātṛ-s), i.e., Kākī, etc., gave birth to the terrifying red-eyed deity Śiśu, who was called the eighth vīra. However, when Nejameṣa = Bhadraśākha with the head of a ram, generated by Agni is taken into account, Śiśu is said to be the ninth vīra. Then the question arises as to who were the remaining seven? From the preceding account in the Mbh we can infer that these were Viśākha and other Kumāraka-s who were emanated by Skanda when struck by Indra’s vajra. We believe that these vīra-s were ectypes of the Marut-s filtering down through later mythic overlays. It also appears likely that in the Śivarahasya, the most prominent of the nine vīra-s, Vīrabāhu, is essentially an ectype of Viśākha as the younger brother of Skanda. This connection to one of the oldest surviving versions of the Kaumāra cycle suggests that this aspect of the Southern tradition was a memory coming down from its ancient layer originally brought from the North.

-Thereafter Skanda displayed his childhood līlā-s, some of which bring out his roguish (dhūrta) aspects that are known from the oldest layers of the Kaumāra tradition. One notable set of such cosmic sports is expressed in beautiful Mandākrāntā verses:
jyotiś cakraṃ dhruva-kara-gataṃ vāta-raśmi-praṇaddhaṃ
chitvā bālaḥ prathita-mahimā svānugānāṃ karāgraiḥ ।
dikṣv aṣṭāsu svayam api dadhan dhārayan vyoma-gaṅgā
nakrān badhvā vyasṛjad abhisaṃbhāvya-pāthaḥ punastān ॥
The boy putting forth his greatness, having taken in his hands the self-moving ones (planets) split the reins of propellant force (wind ropes) which bind them to the polar rays around which the celestial wheel revolves. Giving to himself the eight quarters, he then took on the Celestial Gaṅgā (Milky Way); binding the crocodiles (the constellation of Scorpius) he released them again into the Sun.
paścād ūrdhvam mahar api janas tat tapaḥ satya-lokaṃ
gatvā gatvā tad adhi vasatīn viśva-sādhyāmarendrān ।
līlā-lolo nava ca kalayan vedhaso bhīmabhūtān
lokālokaṃ girim api mudā prāpa cikrīḍa bālaḥ ॥
Thereafter, he ascended upwards to the Mahar, Jana, Tapa and Satya realms [of the universe], and kept going on to the excellent dwellings of the Viśvedeva-s, Sādhya-s, the immortals and Indra. Making anew celestial fierce beings, joyfully attaining the boundaries of the universe (lokāloka mountain), the playfully sporting boy sported.

This displacement of the celestial bodies by Skanda already has a germ in the Mbh account: pracyutāḥ sahasā bhānti citrās tārāgaṇā iva ।. The celestial army of Indra attacked by Skanda is said to have been like the clusters of stars thrown off their orbit. Another notable point is a subtle astronomical allegory in the first verse. The constellation of Scorpius is called the nakra in Hindu tradition. Hence, we take the account of Skanda seizing the nakra-s and releasing them into the solar blaze as an allusion to the Kārttika month (when Skanda was born) when the Sun is opposite to the Kṛttikā-s in Scorpius.

-Alarmed by Skanda’s sports the gods fought him.
-Skanda defeated the gods and shows them his viśvarūpa (macranthropic) form.
The viśvarūpa of Skanda, while comparable to other viśvarūpa-s in the Itihāsa-purāṇa tradition, has some interesting cosmic verses:
tasmin tejasi te devā vaiśvarūpe jagat-trayam ।
koṭi-brahmāṇḍa-piṇḍānām mahā-vapuṣi romasu ॥
yūkāṇḍānīva koṭīni caikaikasmin sahasraśaḥ ।
tat-tad āvaraṇaiḥ sārdhaṃ tatratyair bhuvanair janaiḥ ॥
bhūtair bhavyair bhaviṣyadbhir brahma-viṣṇavādibhiḥ suraiḥ ।
jānu-pradeśa-mātre ‘sya dṛṣṭvā vismayam āgatāḥ ॥
In his radiance, were the gods of all forms and the triple world. In the hairs of his great body were the crores of spheres of galactic realms (brahmāṇḍa-piṇḍā-s). They were like the eggs of lice [of the hairs], in each one of the crores there were thousands of world-systems, each with its own set of orbits and local inhabitants of those worlds. Seeing the past, the present and the future, the Brahman, Viṣṇu and like of gods all coming only to the height of his knees, they reached bewilderment.

-Realizing who he was, the gods crowned Skanda as the commander of their army.
-The incident of the runaway sacrificial ram of Nārada. Skanda dispatched Vīrabāhu to capture it and bring it back. Skanda then took it as one of his vehicles. A homologous episode is found in the Ajopākhyāna of the Śivapurāṇa; there, instead of a ram, it is a goat. It may be noted that the Tamil allusion to this myth in the poem by the Saṅgam poet Maturai Nakkīranār (Tirumurukārruppaṭai 200-210) also records a caprine animal that might be interpreted as either a goat or a ram.

-Skanda chastised and imprisoned Brahman for his lack of gnosis of the praṇava.
-He then stationed himself at Kumāraparvata. At Rudra’s behest, Nandin tried to get him released, but Skanda warned Nandin that he might have him join Brahman and asked him to leave right away. Then Rudra and Umā finally made their son release Brahman and he taught Brahman the secrets of the praṇava, associating it with the Yajurvedic/Sāmavedic incantation  subrahmaṇyom । (the mantra used in the Soma ritual to invite Indra for the libation).
-Kumāra initiated the campaign against the Asura-s by marching against the fortress of Tāraka.
-Skanda sent Vīrabāhu to launch an attack on Tāraka and Krauñca (an asura who had assumed a mountainous form due to a curse of Agastya).
-Being informed by his spies of the assault, Tāraka sallied forth to meet the gaṇa-s led by the nine vīra-s. Fierce encounters took place between Vīrakesarin, Vīrabāhu and Tāraka. Vīrabāhu repelled Tāraka’s māyā with the Vīrabhadrāstra. Tāraka drew Vīrabāhu into a feigned retreat and traps him in the mountainous cavern of Krauñca, putting him to sleep. He then routed the gaṇa-s showering missiles on them. Tāraka is described as having an elephantine head.
-Skanda entered the field to rally his gaṇa-s with Vāyu as his charioteer. Skanda routed the Asura-s. Taraka said that while he is a foe of Indra and Viṣṇu, he had no enmity with Rudra. But Skanda pointed to his sins and crimes against the deva-s and attacked him. After a fierce fight, Skanda cut off his trunk and tusks and pierced his head. He fell unconscious but on getting up he hurled the Pāśupata missile at Skanda. Skanda caught it with his hand and took it for himself. Tāraka then asked Krauñca to aid him with his māyā. After repulsing their magic, Skanda finally killed both Tāraka and Krauñca with his śakti.
-Skanda took his station at Devagiri and gifted the Pāśupata missile he had caught to Vīrabāhu.
-Rājanīti section where the court suggested to Śūrapadma, who was enraged by the death of Tāraka, that they should avoid a confrontation with Rudra’s party.
-Skanda goes on a mostly Śaiva (apart from Kañci and Veṅkaṭācala, where Skanda is said to have run away when Umā did not give him the mango) pilgrimage.
-Skanda releases the Pārāśara-s from a curse they had gotten from their father due to their cruelty towards fishes in their youth.
-Skanda goes to Śentīpura.

The Sambhava-kāṇḍa ends here. We believe that the core of this kāṇḍa derives from an older Kaumāra tradition that was of pan-Indospheric distribution. The structure of the narrative is such that Śūrapadma and Siṃhamukha, who are unique to the Southern tradition, only have a minor role in it. The break in the narrative between the killing of Tāraka and Krauñca on one side of the remaining Asura-s on the other side supports that part as being an accretion to this archaic core.

2) The Asura-kāṇda. From here on the narrative starts paralleling the Rāmāyaṇa in several ways.
-Asurendra, the lord of the Asura-s and his wife Maṅgalakeśī birthed a daughter named Surasā. She became a student of Uśanas Kāvya and acquired the moniker Māyā due to her proficiency in Māyā. When she reached adulthood, Kāvya lamented the condition of the Asura-s due to their crushing defeats at the hands of Indra and Viṣṇu. He asked her to have sons of great might through Kaśyapa and have them learn the praxis of ritual from him.
-Seduced by the beauty of Surasā, Kaśyapa abandoned his austerities and cohabitated with her. From their coitus when they assumed celestial forms Śūrapadma was born. When they engaged in coitus as lions, Siṃhamukha with a leonine head was born. From their coitus as elephants Tāraka was born with an elephantine head. When they mated in the form of goats they birthed the demoness Ajāmukhī. Taking many other animal forms they birthed several other fierce Asura-s. From their sweat, during each intercourse, numerous other demons arose.
-Kaśyapa then taught his sons the Śaiva lore.
-Then abandoning Kaśyapa, Surasā took her sons away and instructed them to perform a great sacrifice to Rudra to gain boons from him.
-Having pleased Rudra with his mighty ritual, where Śūrapadma offered himself as the oblation, he obtained the boons of the overlordship of a 1008 galactic realms (aṣṭottara-sahasrāṇām aṇḍānāṃ sarvabhaumatām ।), overlordship over the gods with enormous equipment and wealth, an adamantine body, invulnerability and the Pāśupata missile. Rudra granted him and his brothers such boons with the condition that no force except that originating from Rudra himself could destroy them.
-Armed with these boons and blessed by Kāvya, the Asura-s attacked Kubera and conquered his realm, taking him prisoner.
-They then conquered the realms of the gods and subjugated them.
-Viṣṇu fought Tāraka for long but realizing his invulnerability from Rudra’s boons retreated after congratulating him.
-Śūrapadma then had Tvaṣṭṛ build great forts for himself and his brothers.

At this point the narrative takes detour into Agastya cycle.
-Ajāmukhī forced Durvāsas to engage in congress with her. As a result, she birthed two sons Ilvala and Vātāpi. They went to Durvāsas and asked him to transfer his tapas power to them. He refused but offered them an alternative boon. They remained adamant and got into an altercation with him. He escaped from the place with his magic after cursing them that someday Agastya will slay them.
-They obtained their peculiar boon of resurrection from Brahman.
-They slew many brāhmaṇa-s through their well-known goat trick.
-They were finally slain by Agastya, who digested Vātāpi and hurled the Pāśupata that he had obtained from Rudra at Ilvala slaying him.
-Śūrapadma tried to abduct Indrāṇī. The Asura-s caused a drought; as a consequence they dried up Indra’s gardens.
-With the aid of Vināyaka, Indra caused the Kāverī river to flow out of Agastya’s pot and water the gardens.
-After the churning of the ocean, Rudra wanted to engage in coitus with Mohinī, the alluring female form of Viṣṇu. Viṣṇu indicated that it was impossible. Rudra pointed out that Viṣṇu was actually one of his śakti-s and thus a valid female. They copulated beneath a Sāla tree in Northern Jambudvīpa. The sweat from their passionate intercourse gave rise to the Gaṇḍakī river. In it, the mollusks known as vajradanta-s gave rise to the Sālagrāman-s used in the worship of Viṣṇu.
-From their conjugation, the god Śāstṛ was born.
-Rudra placed Śāstṛ in charge of protecting Indrāṇī from abduction.
-Śāstṛ in turn brought in Mahākāla as the bodyguard for Indrāṇī.
-Ajāmukhī and her friend Durmukhī tried to abduct Indrāṇī for Śūrapadma. However, Mahākāla swung into action and chopped off their hands.
-Ajāmukhī complained to Śūrapadma of her dismemberment.
-Śūrapadma forced Brahman to heal her and Durmukhī.
-Śūrapadma’s son Bhānukopa seeking revenge attacked the realm of Indra.
-He fought a fierce battle with Jayanta, the son of Indra, and eventually took him prisoner.
-Unable to find Indra or Indrāṇī, Bhānukopa destroyed the realm of Indra.

3) The Vīramāhendra-kāṇḍa.
-Before attacking the fortress of Vīramāhendra, Skanda sent Vīrabāhu as a messenger to Śūrapadma to ask him to peacefully surrender, release the deva-s he had incarcerated and return their realms that he had occupied.
-Vīrabāhu went to the Gandhamādana mountain and prepared to fly to Vīramāhendra. He mounted the massif assuming a gigantic and fierce form and laughed terrifyingly (aṭṭahāsa). He felt like extending his arms so that he could crush the Asura-s fortifications and cities with his hands like an oil-press crushing sesame seeds.
-As he pressed on the mountain the surviving warriors of Tāraka who were hiding in the caves came forth and were crushed by Vīrabāhu.
-Thinking of his guru, Skanda, Vīrabāhu flew into the sky causing the world to quake as he sped through the welkin.
-As he arrived at Lankā, which was the capital of Śūrapadma’s general Vyālimukha (who was visiting his lord), he was challenged by his deputy Vīrasiṃha and his troops. After a quick fight, Vīrabāhu chopped off Vīrasiṃha’s arms and head with his sword.
-Vīrabāhu leapt on Lankā and pushed it under the ocean.
-Vīrabāhu was then attacked by Vyālimukha’s son Ativīra and his troops who emerged out of the water. Vīrabāhu cut down the daitya troops and took on Ativīra who fought with a cleaver obtained from Brahman. However, Skanda’s Vīra cut his head off.
-Flying a thousand yojana-s he reached Vīramāhendra. As he was wondering which might be the best gate to make an entrance he arrived at the southern gate. There, he was challenged by Gajāsya, a monstrous demon with a thousand trunks and two thousand arms. After a closen fight, Vīrabāhu chopped off his trunks and hands and slew him with a kick.
-Realizing that this fight would bring more Asuras into the fray, he used his magic to become minute and entered via the eastern gate.
-There he saw the enslaved gods and the dwellings of mighty demons.
-Kumāra appeared in the dreams of Jayanta and the gods who were being subject to indignities by the Asura-s. Skanda told them that he had already killed Tāraka and Krauñca and that he had sent Vīrabāhu as his emissary who would wreak havoc among the Asuras. He assured them that thereafter he himself would attack the Dānava stronghold and slaughter them.
-Vīrabāhu met Jayanta and the other imprisoned gods and told them that their sufferings were due to their siding with Dakṣa during his ritual. He assuaged them by stating that the spear-wielding god would destroy the Asura-s and relieve them shortly.
-Vīrabāhu audaciously appeared before Śūrapadma and intimated him of the conditions for his surrender placed to him by Skanda.
-Śūrapadma rejected the terms and sent his general Śatamukha to capture Vīrabāhu. A fierce battle broke out between them during which Vīrabāhu demolished 20,000 Asura fortifications. In the end, he slew Śatamukha by thrashing him.
-Taking a giant form he crushed many other Asura warriors.
-Uprooting a mountain he smashed the Asura city.
-After another fierce fight, Vīrabāhu slew Śūrapadma’s ten-headed son Vajrabāhu by chopping off his heads with his sword.
-As Vīrabāhu was flying away, the polycephalous Vyālimukha challenged him. Another fierce fight ensued and Vīrabāhu finally killed him by chopping off his heads.
-Returning to Śentīpura, Vīrabāhu bowed thrice to Skanda.
-The Asura-s rebuilt their capital demolished by Vīrabāhu and prepared to fight Skanda.
-Skanda built the fort of Hemakūṭa as the base for this attack on Vīramāhendra.
-Śūrapadma’s spies informed him that Kumāra was gearing for an attack on Vīramāhendrapura.
-He called his son Bhānukopa and asked him to attack Skanda and his troops right away as they had approached the Asura city and fortified themselves at Hemakūṭa.

4) The Yuddha-kāṇḍa.

ṣaṇmukhaṃ dvādaśa-bhujaṃ triṣaṇṇayana-paṅkajam । kumāraṃ sukumārāṅgaṃ kekī-vāhanam āśraye ॥

-Bhānukopa donned his armor and mounting his car sallied forth with numerous Asura heroes.
-Skanda sent heavily armed, ruby-colored Vīrabāhu at the head of the bhūtagaṇa-s to intercept him. Wielding a bow like the pināka of Rudra he sallied forth. The two armies met amidst a shower of arrows from warriors on both sides.
-The fight was evenly poised but eventually, the gaṇa-s of Skanda started gaining an upper hand as the bhūta commanders slew their Asura counterparts.
-Seeing his forces retreating from the assault of the bhūtagaṇa-s of Skanda, Bhānukopa rallied them back. Bending his bow to a circle he released an unending stream of arrows on them striking down many and causing the gaṇa-s to fall back. Seeing this, the gaṇa Ugra got close to Bhānukopa and attacked him with a rod. Bhānukopa destroyed that rod with his arrows and struck down the gaṇa with the Brahma-spear. Then the gaṇa Daṇḍin attacked Bhānukopa with a mountain and struck his chariot and driver. Bhānukopa furious felled Daṇḍin with a shower of arrows. Next, he fought the gaṇa Pinākin who had rushed at him and struck him down with a shower of thousand arrows. Thereafter, several other gaṇa-s mounted a massed attack on Bhānukopa who routed them with his unending shower of arrows.
-He then fought the navavīra-s of Skanda. Vīrasiṃha was struck down by the Nārāyaṇa weapon of Bhānukopa.
-Then Vīramārtāṇḍa attacked the Asura. He got close to Bhānukopa and broke his bow; however, Bhānukopa struck him down with his cleaver.
-Vīrarākṣasa next attacked him from close quarters and both fell to the ground. Bhānukopa recovered consciousness and mounting a fresh car resumed the battle. Five of the remaining Vīra-s surrounded him and fought a great bow-battle for a while. Striking some of them down and brushing aside the rest he rallied the Asura troops and marched straight at Vīrabāhu.
-They fought a terrific battle in which both lost their bows but taking up new bows resumed the assault. Vīrabāhu smashed Bhānukopa’s helmet but he donned a new one and continued. Finally, tiring from the fight, Bhānukopa swooned.
-Immediately, the Asura forces surrounded their hero to protect him even as the gaṇa-s recovering from his assault surged forward. By then Bhānukopa stood up and continued the battle with Vīrabāhu.
-Despite all his attempts he could not dispel Vīrabāhu’s showers of arrows. Hence, he deployed the Mohāstra, a missile that caused the gaṇa-s to be paralyzed and fall to the ground. Even Vīrabāhu was paralyzed in his car. Taking advantage of this Bhānukopa shot numerous arrows at Skanda’s forces drenching them in blood.
-Skanda seeing his gaṇa-s in dire danger fired the Amoha missle from Hemakūṭa. This destroyed the Mohāstra and revived all the gaṇa-s.
-Seeing the nullification of all his tactics, Bhānukopa retreated for the day deciding to resume the battle later.
-Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Śūrapadma himself decided to join the battle. He sallied forth along with Atiśūra, the son of Siṃhamukha and Asurendra, the son of Tāraka.
-Indra saw them and informed Skanda of the impending attack. Having saluted Indra, Skanda decided to lead his forces personally in the battle. Indra asked Vāyu to be Skanda’s charioteer.
-A great battle broke out between the gaṇa Ugra and Atiśūra. Atiśūra discharged numerous divine missiles at his adversary but they failed because Skanda provided immunity against those missiles to his follower. Finally, Atiśūra discharged the Pāśupata, but it did not harm its own party and returned to Mahādeva. Frustrated thus, he leapt out of his car and struck Ugra with a rod. However, Ugra survived that blow and snatched the weapon from the demon and pummeled him to death with it.
-Tāraka’s son Asurendra rushed to shore up the ranks after his cousin’s death. He faced the gaṇa-s Kanaka, Unmatta, Siṃha, Daṇḍaka, and Vijaya in fierce encounters, defeating each of them.
-Then Vīrabāhu flew in on his car and started showering arrows on the demon. After a prolonged encounter, Vīrabāhu smashed his enemy’s chariot. The two engaged in a great battle flying in the skies, with Asurendra wielding a rod and Vīrabāhu, a sword. The latter finally beheaded Asurendra.
-Seeing his nephews slain, Śūrapadma launched a fierce attack on the bhūtagaṇa-s. He was attached by the nine Skanda-vīra-s. Fierce fights took place between him and Vīrarākṣasa, Vīramahendra, Vīradhīra, and Vīramāheśvara in that order and he overcame all of them. Vīrabāhu then entered the fray to shore up his half-brothers. He deployed the Aindra and Vāruṇa, Brahma, Vaiṣṇava missiles on the demon and Śūrapadma countered those with his Māyāsurāstra. Then both deployed the Pāśupata missile but it returned back to the respective users. Then they both deployed śakti-s that neutralized each other. Finally, Śūrapadma struck Vīrabāhu on his chest with a daṇḍa.
-Seeing his champion’s discomfiture, Kārttikeya attacked Śūrapadma and a great fight ensued. Bending his bow Skanda fired a profusion of arrows at the Asura lord. They cut each other’s shafts in mid-flight. Śūrapadma hurled his śakti at Skanda, who cut it off with 14 arrows. Then Śūrapadma uttering a loud roar hurled a trident at Skanda who cut it off with four and the seven arrows thereafter. Then with another missile, Skanda smashed the helmet of Śūrapadma and destroyed his armor with further shafts.
-Thereafter, the six-headed son of Ambikā hurled a cakra and cut down the Asura hordes that accompanied Śūrapadma and the piśāca-s feasted on their corpses.
-Śūrapadma replenished his gear and returned to the fight. He tried deploying many divine missiles but they were all nullified by Kumāra with his śakti missile. Thus, on the brink of defeat, Śūrapadma vanished and flew back to his fortified city thinking he would return later to fight Kumāra.
-Skanda ordered his bhūtagaṇa-s to storm the fortifications of the Asura stronghold.
-The gaṇa-s launched a massive assault on the fortifications of Vīramāhendrapura. In course of this assault, they killed the demon Atighora.
-Bhānukopa sallied forth again to fight Vīrabāhu, this time armed with his grandmother Māyā’s Sammohana missile.
-After prolonged use of various missiles both tried to get better of the other with the Pāśupata. Both Pāśupata missiles neutralized each other.
-At this point, Bhānukopa deployed his grandmother’s Sammohana missile, which not only made Vīrabāhu but also the rest of the Skandapārṣada-s unconscious and hurled them into the ocean.
-Bhānukopa returned to this father to tell him of his great victory and promised him that he would head out the next day to slay Skanda.
-On receiving intelligence that his army had been drowned by Bhānukopa, the six-headed son of Rudra launched his śakti, which sped to the ocean, and, destroying the Sammohana weapon, led his forces out back to the Asura capital.
-The Skandapārṣada-s now launched a ferocious assault on the defenses of the city. The Asura Vyāghrāsya advanced to defend the fortifications. He was slain after a trident fight by the Skandagaṇa named Siṃha.
-As the Skandapārṣada-s demolished the defenses of Vīramāhendrapura, Vīrabāhu hurled the Āgneya and Vāyava missiles and set the city on fire.
-Śūrapadma’s men informed him of the reversal and the impending destruction of his city by the fires. He brought in the mahāpralaya clouds to douse the fires. As they were putting off the fires, Vīrabāhu struck back with the Vāḍava missile to vaporize the clouds. Seeing the havoc in his city, Śūrapadma wanted to head out himself to fight Skanda and his forces.
-Just then Śūrapadma’s son Hiraṇya came to him and told him that it might be prudent to surrender to the six-headed son of Rudra, reminding him that there was no one who could counter him and his dreadful gaṇa-s.
-Śūrapadma warned his son that he would kill him if continued speaking thus. Hiraṇya calmed him down and decided to enter the battlefield himself.
-Hirāṇya baffled the Skandapārṣada-s for a while with his display of māyā. Finally, his māyā was overcome by the Cetana missile shot by Vīrabāhu. Hirāṇya fought Vīrabāhu for a while but the latter cut his bow and smashed his car with his astra-s. Hirāṇya knew that he would be killed shortly. He also realized that nobody would be left to perform the funeral rites for his family once Skanda’s troops stormed the city. Hence, he took the form of a fish and vanished into the ocean.
-Śūrapadma’s son Agnimukha next took the command of the Asura forces and led them against the Skandagaṇa-s with a vast force of Asura-s. In the battle that followed, Vīrapuraṃdara slew the Asura-s Somakaṇṭaka and Megha with his arrows. After a pitched battle, Agnimukha slew seven of the Vīra-s, barring Vīrapuraṃdara and Vīrabāhu with the Pāśupata. Agnimukha the advanced on Vīrabāhu. After an even astra-fight, Agnimukha got Bhadrakālī to fight on his behalf. Vīrabāhu defeated her and she left saying no one could stop the Skandapārṣada-s. Then Agnimukha returned to the fight showering thousands of arrows. Vīrabāhu hurled the Vīrabhadrāstra which burst Agnimukha’s head.
-As Vīrapuraṃdara and Vīrabāhu were lamenting the fall of their brothers, the latter flared up and shot an arrow into Yamaloka engraved with the message that, he the younger brother of Kārttikeya, wanted Yama to release his seven half-brothers. Duly Yama released their ātman-s and they reanimated their bodies.
-A great battle next took place between three thousand Asura-s born of Śūrapadma and a thousand of the chief Skandapārṣada-s. The battle was evenly poised for a while, but the Asura-s started gaining the upper hand as their severed limbs were restored by a special gift they had obtained from Brahma. Hence, the gaṇa-s turned to Skanda, who appeared in their midst, and gave one of their leaders, Vijaya, the Bhairava missile. As he deployed it, one of three thousand Asura-s named Matta deployed the Māyāstra. However, the Bhairavāstra destroyed it and cut off the heads of all three thousand Asura-s.
-Next, Dharmakopa, another son of Śūrapadma advanced with his troops against the Vīra-s. His troops were destroyed by the Vīras-s even as Dharmakopa closed in on Vīrabāhu. After an exchange of missiles, Dharmakopa struck down Vīrabāhu’s charioteer. Then they engaged in a closen fight where Dharmakopa tried to strike Vīrabāhu with a rod and then a thunderbolt. Evading both, Vīrabāhu killed him with a kick.

-Bhānukopa received the news that while he thought he had won, the forces of Skanda had returned and wreaked enormous destruction on the Asura-s. He told his father perhaps it was a futile attempt, and they should surrender to Skanda. His father refused; hence, Bhānukopa set forth again to fight the Skandapārṣada-s. After a great fight Bhānukopa overthrew the bhūtagaṇa-s attacking him and rushed forward with a shower of arrows. Vīrabāhu bent his bow and destroyed the missiles hurled by Bhānukopa. Thereupon, Vīrabāhu hurled a śakti and struck Bhānukopa. However, recovering from the blow he resumed the fight. For a while, neither could get better of the other in their exchange of astra-s. Bhānukopa then baffled Vīrabāhu with his māyā powers. Vīrabāhu destroyed the māyā display with his own magic. As their fight raged on, Bhānukopa smashed Vīrabāhu’s chariot. But Vīrabāhu retaliated by breaking the Asura’s chariot and cutting his bow with his shafts. Finally, they closed in for a sword fight. Vīrabāhu chopped off the right hand of Bhānukopa but he took the sword in his left and continued. Vīrabāhu cutoff that hand too. Handless, he tried to deploy the Māyā missile but Vīrabāhu swept his head away with a blow from his sword.
-Śūrapadma on hearing of the death of his son fainted. He lamented much when he received his son’s mutilated body parts. He called his brother Siṃhamukha to come from his city of Āsurapura to join the fight. Shocked by the news of the defeat of the Asura-s, and the death of his sons and nephews, Siṃhamukha flew over from his city to aid his brother.
-Donning his armor, he set forth for battle with his great troop of Asura-s. Skanda called Vāyu to get his chariot ready. Vīrabāhu with his half-brothers wanted to lead the 100,000 Skandapārṣada-s to the encounter first. Skanda let him do so and a fierce fight ensued. Showering balls, arrows, axes, and plows on the gaṇa, the great lord of the Asura-s advanced. His demons fought several gaṇa-s in melee as they exploded each other’s weapon discharges to smithereens. Vīramārtāṇḍa used the Jñānāstra to counter the māyā being deployed by the demons. Siṃhamukha cut through the gaṇa ranks like a great mountain on the move. He put to flight the 100,000 Skandapārṣada-s with showers of missiles. He then proceeded to crush them as though one would crush mosquitoes. Seeing this, Vīrabāhu counter-attached showering thousands of arrows with his bow. The hundred sons of Siṃhamukha surrounded him and returned the showers of arrows. With his missiles, Vīrabāhu smashed their chariots and broke their bows. Then they rushed at him with their swords but Vīrabāhu slew all hundred with an arrow and his sword.

-Infuriated and saddened by this, Siṃhamukha rushed at Vīrabāhu. They ground each other’s missiles to dust and had a prolonged astra fight. Vīrabāhu slew his charioteer. Siṃhamukha hurled a gadā at him, but it burst on striking his adamantine form born of Rudra. Vīrabāhu then demolished the Asura’s car. He resumed the battle taking new cars over and over again and deploying thousands of bows. Vīrabāhu kept breaking them repeatedly. Seeing himself unable to get better of Skanda’s warrior, Siṃhamukha deployed the Māyāpāśa. The great lasso weapon immediately bound Vīrabāhu and the gaṇa-s who were on the field and hurled them atop the Udaya mountain in a state of paralysis. Sensing victory, Siṃhamukha roared loudly and thought that Skanda too had fled. However, his spies informed him that Skanda was still very much there with the remaining gaṇa-s at Hemakūṭa. Mātariśvan informed Skanda of the events and Siṃhamukha’s advance towards their fort.
-Mounting his car driven by Vāyu, Skanda led his forces into battle. In the battle that ensued the Asura-s began to retreat. At that point, Siṃhamukha assumed a gigantic form with two thousand arms. Grabbing all the gaṇa-s of Skanda he swallowed them. Śūrapadma’s spies informed him of his brother’s deeds and he ascended an observation turret to see the great form of his brother.
-Skanda then strung his bow and twanged the string causing the whole universe to resound and the Asura vehicles fell to the ground from the sound emanating from the bow twangs of the son of Umā. Siṃhamukha rushed at him to do battle. Kumāra fired a mighty missile that split open the firm belly of the demon and from the fissures through which blood was pouring out, some of the gaṇa-s who had been swallowed emerged forth. Stanching the slits in his belly with his many arms, the demon hurled a dreadful rod at Skanda. He split it up with four missiles, which then proceed the strike the demon on his forehead. Losing his strength, he lifted his hands off his belly and the remaining gaṇa-s too escaped.
-Skanda then fired a missile that proceeded to the Udaya mountain and destroyed the Māyāpāśa. Then turning into an airplane the missile brought Vīra-s and gaṇa-s back to the field and returned to the six-headed god’s quiver.
-To shore up their leader, the Asura-s who had retreated returned to attack Skanda upon hearing his terrifying roar. As they surrounded the god, he hurled thousands of projectiles and also attacked the demons with rods, swords, spears and axes. Vāyu maneuvered the car with great speed even as Skanda dispatched his missiles that lit up the entire universe like the Vaḍava fire. The great god pierced the many galactic realms with his weapons and rent asunder the limbs of the demons and shattered their vehicles. The cluster missiles shot by Skanda branched repeatedly giving rise to crores upon crores of arrows and penetrated all the galactic realms slaying numerous Dānava-s wherever they were. Seeing these weapons being fired by their commander, all the deva-s sang the praises of the son of Rudra.
-The whole field was filled with corpses of the demons. Wielding a thousand bows Siṃhamukha again attacked the commander of the deva-s.
-He then struck Vāyu on the chest with numerous arrows and the god fainted. But Skanda controlling his own car destroyed the Asura’s chariot with a hundred arrows. Then with a thousand arrows, the son of Mahādeva, cut down all the bows of the demon at once. Siṃhamukha hurled a trident at the god, who cut it down with fourteen arrows. Then he rushed at the god with a rod who powdered it with seven shafts. The demon then sent the death-dealing pāśa but Skanda cut it up with a thousand projectiles. Then he cut up the two thousand arms of the Asura. The great demon (termed māhāmada here) uttered a “mahākilikilārāva” and rushed at Skanda. The god sliced off his thousand heads with an equal number of arrows.
-Siṃhamukha regenerated his severed limbs and reentered the fray. Skanda let this happen eight times as part of his battle sport. Then he cut all his hands except for a pair and heads except for one. The demon roared that he would slay the god with just those and uprooted a mountain and rushed at his adversary. Kārttikeya rent asunder that mountain with a single arrow. The Asura now attacked him with a terrifying daṇḍa. Thereupon, Guha hurled his vajra which blazed up like several crores of suns. It destroyed that daṇḍa and striking the Asura on his chest annihilated him.
-Having bathed in the Celestial Gaṅgā Kārttikeya returned to the Hemakūṭa fort with his Vīra-s and gaṇa-s.

-Hearing of the death of his brother from his agents, Śūrapadma fell down from the observation turret he had mounted to witness the battle. Regaining his composure, he decided to himself lead the Asura-s in the war against Guha. He ordered all the surviving Asura-s from the numerous galactic realms that he controlled to come over and join him for the battle.
-Mounting his special battle car armed with all the divine missiles, with a great force of Dānava-s he headed out of his fortified city with their roars filling the whole universe.
-The gods called on their commander Skanda to enter the field against the evil demon. Worshiped by all the gods and his 100,009 Vīra-s, Skanda took up all his weapons and set forth for battle on the car driven by the god Vāyu:
ādāya paraśuṃ vajraṃ śūlaṃ śaktiṃ vibhīṣaṇāṃ ।
khaḍgaṃ kheṭaṃ bṛhac cakraṃ daṇḍaṃ musalam eva ca ॥
dhanuś-śarān mahāghorāṃs tomarāṇi varaṇy api ।
vinirgatya rathaṃ ramyaṃ vāyunā nītam agnibhūḥ ॥
āruroha surais sarvaiḥ pūjitaḥ puṣpa-vṛṣṭibhiḥ ।
nava-saṃkhyādhikair lakṣair vīrair api mahābalaiḥ ॥

-The other gods asked Viṣṇu if Kārttikeya might meet with success in the impending encounter. Viṣṇu assuaged their doubts saying that their troubles would end soon as Skanda would definitely triumph.
-As the battle was joined, Śūrapadma’s demons charged with a great shower of weapons. Skanda twanging his dreadful bow, which resounded like the flood at the end of the Kalpa, entered the field. He launched into an orgy of slaughter with his missiles reaching the limits of the universe. Wherever the demons went, his bolts cruised after them. Breaking through the walls of the galactic realms they entered whichever region the Asura-s flew to and slew them. Floods of blood and mountains of corpses of the Asura warriors started to pile all around.
-Furious, Śūrapadma joined the fray and laid low most of the Skandapārṣada-s with his terrifying missiles. Vīrabāhu rushed forth to engage him and cut his bow with his cleaver. But Śūrapadma punched with his fist and he fainted. Deciding not to kill him for he was just a messenger of Skanda, Śūrapadma seized by his feet and hurled him into the sky.
-He then charged at Skanda and engaged him in a fierce bow battle with the exchange of innumerable arrows. Finally, Śūrapadma struck down the flag of Skanda with a shower of arrows and blew his conch as a mark of victory. Skanda however quickly retaliated cutting and hurling Śūrapadma’s banner into the sea with seven shafts. Then, the thousand-headed gaṇa Bhānukampa blew on a thousand conchs and Viṣṇu too blew on his. Agni turned into the cock banner and went to adorn the car of Guha. The cock crowed loudly. All this created a terrifying din.
-Angered, Śūrapadma now turned to the gods were and attacked them with his weapons. Skanda followed him with Vāyu driving his car at top speed. Skanda protected the gods and attacked the demon with a shower of weapons. As the chariots of the two of them wheeled around in battle the whole universe to vibrated violently and whole mountains were reduced to atoms.
-Śūrapadma attacked his enemy with halāyudha-s, bhindipāla-s, kuliśa-s, tomara-s and paraśu-s. Then Skanda destroyed his vehicle completely with fourteen missiles.
-The demon then mounted the Indralokaratha (the space-station he had captured from the gods) and started tunneling into the various galactic realms he had conquered. However, he found the tunnels into them blocked by the arrows of Mahāsena and found that many of his demons were trapped in each one of them. He broke down the obstructions with his weapons and let out his demons. Those Asura-s came out and mounted a furious attack on Skanda. With his cakra, paraśu, daṇda and musala the son of Umā slaughtered them, and chasing them to each of the realms, he burnt them down with his weapons to a fine ash.
-The Asura then deployed the deadly Sarvasaṃhāraka-cakra, but Mahāsena sportingly captured it for himself. Next, he tried māyā tactics but Skanda easily overcame those with the Jñānāstra.
-Thus, defeated he finally went to his mother and asked if she might have a means of victory. She told him that she did not see a way out against the son of Rudra, but the only thing he could do is to get the Sudhāmandara mountain to revive the dead demons.
-He mounted a lion-vehicle and sent the Indralokaratha to bring the said mountain. The craft brought the Sudhāmandara to the field and the wind blowing from it started reanimating the dead demons. Seeing this, Skanda deployed the Pāśupata missile that started branching and emitting numerous Rudra-s, the Marut-s, Agni-s and vajra-s. These destroyed all the reanimated demons and also the vivifying mountain. Thereupon, the Asura sent the Indralokaratha to scoop up Vīrabahu and the remaining 100,008 troops of Skanda and stupefy them. Guha retaliated with a series of missiles that grounded the craft and brought it back to him. The gaṇa-s got out of it safely and the space-craft became the property of Skanda.
-Then the Asura injured Vāyu with his shafts and briefly Skanda’s chariot was out of control. But regaining control he cut the bow of the demon. Śūrapadma thereafter attacked him with the terrifying missile known as the Sarvasaṃhāraka-śūla. Skanda shot numerous arrows to destroy his lion-vehicle and then hurled the Ghora-kuliśa that neutralized the said śūla and brought it back to Skanda.
-The Asura assumed the form of a gigantic fierce bird and started pecking at Skanda’s car and blowing his gaṇa-s away with the blasts from his wings.
-Skanda then looked at Indra and the latter took the form of a peacock. Mounting the peacock Skanda and Indra fought the demon. Indra pecked him and clawed him in the form of the peacock, even as Skanda pierced him with many arrows. Śūrapadma dived in his bird form and broke Skanda’s bow, but Guha drew out his sword and hacked the bird-formed demon to pieces.
-The demon then took the form of the earth. Skanda taking a new bow drowned that earth-formed demon with the oceanic missile. The demon then took the form of the sea. With a hundred fiery missiles Skanda dried up that form. He successively took various forms, including the gods, but Skanda destroyed all of those with his missiles.
-Finally, to reveal that those forms of the demon were merely fictitious forms, Skanda assumed his macranthropic form with all existence and all the gods comprising his body — the planets and stars his feet; Varuṇa and Nirṛti his ankle joints; Indra and Jayanta his thighs; Yama and time his hips; the nāga-s and the ambrosia his genitals; the gods his ribs; Viṣṇu and Brahman his arms; the goddesses his fingers; Vāyu his nose; Rudra his head; the numerous galactic realms his hair follicles; the omkāra his forehead; the Veda his mouth; the Śaivāgama-s his tongue; the seven crores of mantra-s his lips; all knowledge his yajñopavīta.
-Seeing this macranthropic form of Kumāra, Śūrapadma had the doubt for the first time in his existence if after all this god might be undefeatable — many great Asura-s had fought him and many great missiles, which were previously infallible had been, used yet he triumphed over all of those. However, the demon brushed aside these feelings and assumed a gigantic form with numerous arms, heads and feet, and casting great darkness that enveloped the whole universe he rushed forward to eat Skanda and the other deva-s.
-Skanda immediately hurled his mighty śakti. Blazing like crores of suns it destroyed the overpowering darkness of the Asura and cruised after him. He dived into the sea of the fundament even as the śakti chased him there. The Dānava immediately became the “world-tree” — a giant mango tree stretching across the limits of the universe. Blazing like the trident of Rudra, the śakti split that tree in half. Śūrapadma assumed his own form and drawing his sword rushed at Skanda. The śakti struck him immediately and slew him.
-His remains were transformed into a peacock and a cock that respectively replaced Indra and Agni as the mount and the banner of Skanda, even as the two gods returned to their prior state. Thereafter, the gods praised Mahāsena for his glorious acts.
-Śūrapadma’s primary wife expired on hearing the news of his death and his son Hiraṇya who had hidden as a fish in the ocean performed the last rites of the dead demons with help of Uśanas Kāvya.

The final battle between Skanda and Śūrapadma has some mythic motifs of interest. First, the many transmogrifications of the demon in course of his battle with the god are reminiscent of the shamanic transformations. This motif is encountered in several distant traditions — most vividly in the folk Mongolian account of Chingiz Khan’s final fight with the Tangut emperor composed by his descendant Sagang Sechen (Also note the motif of the nine heroes of the Khan in that account). There, Khasar, the brother of the Khan (one of the nine heroes) plays a role similar to Vīrabāhu in destroying a witch who was guarding the Tangut capital and preventing the entry of Subetei. Khasar killed her with his arrows allowing the Mongols to storm it. Then the Khan and the Tangut lord fought a magical battle with both of them taking on many forms like a snake, Garuḍa, tiger, lion, and the like. Finally, the Khan took the form of Khormusta Khan Tengri (the great Mongol god) himself and put an end to the shape-shifting of the Tangut. Though he struck the Tangut with many arrows and swords he still could not kill him. ṭhe Tangut let slip the secret of his death in the form of a magical wootz steel sword hidden in his boot that the Khan seized and slew him. Thus, we suspect that the shape-shifting of Śūrapadma in the final battle is from an ancient shamanic layer of the Kaumāra tradition that is attested in the Saṅgam Tamil tradition (the muruka-veri, e.g., Tirumurukāṟṟuppaṭai 200-210).

Second, the final dive of Śūrapadma into the ocean and/or his transformation into a mango tree is a motif that has deep roots in Tamil Kaumāra tradition. It is mentioned in multiple Saṅgam texts such as: 1) Pattiṟṟupattu: here the Cēra king Neṭuñcēralātaṉ, who built a fleet to fight a naval battle with the Romans, is said to have destroyed his enemies even as Skanda cut down the tree of the Asura-s. 2) The Paripāṭal 18.1-4 mentions how Skanda pursued the demon into the deep ocean. Paripāṭal 5.1-4 mentions both his pursuit into the ocean and his destruction by the Skandaśakti in the form of a mango tree. 3) Tirumurukāṟṟupaṭai 45-46 mentions his pursuit into the ocean. Tirumurukāṟṟupaṭai 58-61 mentions his destruction in the form of the mango tree and also his centaur transmogrification, which is absent in the Purāṇa. We take these mythemes to be reflexes of the famous precessional myth — i.e., the shattering of the old world axis that is widespread across Hindu tradition and beyond. A variant of this myth is associated with the submerging of the old equinoctial constellation beneath the equator (the world ocean, e.g., the Varāha myth): thus, both of these are combined here in the final fight of Śūrapadma. Notably, both in the Pattiṟṟupattu and the Paripāṭal, Skanda is described as riding an elephant rather than a peacock in the final battle against Śūrapadma. This is probably an archaism as this elephant vehicle is mentioned in the ancient Kaumāra material found in the medical Kāśyapa-saṃhitā (129) as having been generated from Airāvata by Indra for Skanda.

5. The Deva Kāṇḍa.
-The rule of the gods is restored.
-Skanda is engaged to Indra’s daughter Devasenā.
-The marriage of Skanda and Devasenā.
-Skanda seeks the daughter of Viṣṇu born as Vallī in a sweet potato excavation among the pulinda hunter-gatherers.
-He appears as an old man to her. Gaṇeśa frightens her as an elephant, and she comes into the hands of Skanda in the form of the old man seeking help from the elephant.
-Vallī recognizes Skanda and starts a clandestine affair with him.
-When she elopes with Guha, the hunters, including Vallī’s brothers and father chase and attack Skanda, who strikes them down with his arrows.
-Kumāra revives the dead huntsmen and marries Vallī and returns to his abode with his two wives.
-The praise of emperor Mucukunda.
-Mucukunda installs the image of Rudra known as Tyāgarāja.

6. The Dakṣa-kāṇḍa
This section is mostly Śaiva material relating to the cycle of Dakṣa. One notable point is that here Rudra generates Vīrabhadra and Umā generates Bhadrakālī to destroy Dakṣa’s ritual. Notably, this parallels the Ur-Skandapurāṇa wherein Umā generates Bhadrakālī by rubbing her nose. There Rudra generates Haribhadra. This might indicate a connection to that ancient Skandapurāṇa version of the Dakṣa cycle. However, we may note that a similar situation is also seen in the Brahmapuraṇa ((39.51), where Rudra created the lion-formed Vīrabhadra, whereas Umā creates Bhadrakālī to accompany him. Further, interestingly, here as Vīrabhadra destroyed the male partisans of Dakṣa, Bhadrakālī destroyed the females of Dakṣa’s clan. This symmetry appears to be an ancient motif — in the Greek world we have Apollo kill the male Niobids while Artemis killed the female ones. Apart from the Dakṣa cycle, this kāṇḍa contains:
-The ṛṣi-s’ wives at Dārukavana run after Rudra. They attack him with various beings and he destroys them.
-The killing of Gajāsura by Rudra.
-Churning of the ocean and Rudra consumes the Hālāhala.
-The appearance of eleven crore Rudra-s at the Madhyārjuna shrine (Tiruvidaimarudur in the Drāviḍa country).
-The beheading of Brahman by Bhairava.
-Dharma becomes Rudra’s bull.
-Rudra destroys the universe and smears the residue as his ash.
-Rudra slays Jalandhara.
-The birth of Gaṇeśa.
-Jyotirliṅga-s and Aruṇācala.
-Paurāṇika geography.

7. Upadeśa-kāṇḍa
The only Kaumāra-related material in this kāṇḍa are: 1. The praise of Skanda’s peacock and chicken. 2. The “backstories” of the birth of Śurapadma, his mother and his clan. 3. The Skandaṣaṣṭhī festival.

The rest of this kāṇḍa is again largely Śaiva material pertaining to Śivadharma for lay devotees. Indeed, chapters in this section seem to self-identify as a Śiva-purāṇa. It begins with an account of the Rudra-gaṇa in Kailāsa. It contains several accounts of humble animals (including men like cora-s) attaining higher births from acts of Śaiva piety. Similarly, sinners who defile/steal from Śaiva shrines or take even things like lemons or bananas from them attain hell. The observance of key festivals of Rudra and the Bhairava-Vīrabhadra festival are laid out. Further, it gives the 1008 names of Rudra, the practice of Aṣṭāṅga-yoga, the theological principles of Siddhānta and the iconography of the twenty five images of Rudra that are displayed in Śaiva shrines.

It also contains accounts of: 1. Rudra destroying the Tripura-s. 2. Rudra slaying Andhaka. 3. The rise of the most terrible demon Bhaṇḍāsura. Rudra performs a fierce ritual, offering Brahman, Viṣṇu, Indra and other gods as samidh-s in a fire altar where he himself was the fire. From it arose the youthful goddess Tripurā who slew Bhaṇḍāsura. This minimal account lacks the details seen in the Lalitopākhyāna, where this myth takes the center-stage. 4. The killing of Mahiṣa by Durgā through the grace of Rudra as Kedāreśvara. 5. The killing of Raktabīja by Kālī and her dance with Rudra.

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Some notes on the runiform “Altaic” inscriptions and the early Turk Khaghanates: Orkhon and beyond

The early Turkic inscriptions from Mongolia and their discovery
On February 27th, 731 CE (17th day of the Year of the Sheep), Kül Tegin, the great hero of the second Gök Türk (Blue Turks) empire, passed away in his 47th year (literally flew away to the realm of Tengri). He was greatly mourned by his clansman — his elder brother, Bilge Khaghan, the ruler of the Turks, had his elegy inscribed on the now-famous Kül Tegin funerary stele. On the northern face of the stele, we read:
“My younger brother Kül Tegin passed away. I mourned. My bright eyes seemed unable to see and my sharp knowledge seemed unable to know. I mourned. Tengri arranges the lifespan. Humans are born to die. I mourned thus: when tears were running out of my eyes, I restrained them; when lamentation was coming out of my heart, I held it back. I thought [of him] deeply. [I feared] the eyes and eyelashes of the two shad-s (title of generals; derived via contraction from Old Iranic kshāyathiya= warrior via Sogdian xshedh= chief), of my brothers, my sons, my officials and my people were to be ruined [because of tears]. I mourned.” (translation based on Talat Tekin, Hao Chen and Denison Ross]

On November 1 of 731 CE, Bilge Khaghan held a grand funerary ritual for his brother. It is said to have been attended by several dignitaries from East and West. Again, the inscription on the northern face of the monument states:
“General Udar, representing the people of Khitan and Tatabi, came to attend the funeral feast and mourned. From the Chinese Khaghan came the secretary Likeŋ. He brought ten thousand pieces of silk, gold, silver and various things. From the Tibetan Khaghan came Bölün. From Sogdiana, Bercheker (i.e., Persia) and Bukhara in the sunset west came General Enik and Oghul Tarkan. From the On Ok, from my son [-in-law] the Türgish Khaghan, came Makarach and Oghuz Bilge, who were officials holding seals. From the Kirghiz Khaghan came Tardush Inanchu Chor. The shrine-builders, fresco-painters, memorial-builders and the nephew of the Chinese emperor, General Zhang, came.”

The artisans who arrived with General Zhang helped furnish the Kül Tegin marble stone under the direction of Toyghut Elteber and funerary inscriptions were composed by Yollugh Tegin, son of Kül Tegin’s sister. This funerary stele bearing these inscriptions was erected the following year on August 1, 732 CE and the posthumous title Inanchu Apa Yarghan Tarkhan was conferred on him (c.f. the conferment of a comparable posthumous title on prince Tolui, the younger brother of the second Mongol Khan, Ogodei). On the stele, the great acts of Kül Tegin in raising the floundering Turk empire are narrated in the words of his brother Bilge Khaghan in almost epic terms. At this juncture, it is worth mentioning that the Ashina clan of Turks from which the Blue Turks hailed were married into the Tang royal family. Despite denials in some modern Chinese quarters, Taizong himself likely had immediate Turkic and/or Mongolic ancestry. They had played a central role in raising Taizong to the apex — a time when Turkic fashion was the rage in China — Taizong himself took on the title of the Khaghan graced by Tengri and had a funerary monument with imitations of the Turko-Mongolic balbal stones. However, on the other hand, he pursued an aggressive policy to annex the Turkic khaganate to the Tang empire. The events described on the stele follow the destruction of the original Turkic Khaghanate by the Tang. Thus, Bilge Khaghan, while narrating the biography of his brother, first talks of how the divinities aided their father to salvage the Turks when the Tang emperor decided to exterminate them:
“Without thinking of how Turks had fulfilled their allegiance, [the Tang emperor] said: “I shall kill the Türk people! I shall leave them no descendants!” The Turks were perishing. [However], Tengri of the Turks above, along with the goddess Yer (Earth) of the Turks and the water deity held my father Elterish Khaghan and my mother Elbilge Khatun at the top of the sky and raised them up so that the Turks would not perish and would become a nation.”

After describing the numerous campaigns of his father on the steppes, Bilge Khaghan moves on to talk of the achievements of himself and Kül Tegin:
“I did not ascend the throne over a prosperous people. The people over whom I ascended the throne were without food inside and without clothes outside, bad and evil. I discussed this with my younger brother Kül Tegin. So that the name and fame of the people, for whom my father and uncle had striven, should not disappear. I neither slept at night nor sat down in the daytime by reason of the Turk nation. I, together with my younger brother Kül Tegin and the two shad-s, toiled to exhaustion. Having thus toiled, I prevented the united people from being like water and fire. The people who had gone elsewhere when I was ascending the throne came back again, exhausted, on foot and naked. In order to feed these people, I campaigned twelve times with a sizable army northwards against the Oghuz people, eastwards against the Khitan and Tatabi people, and southwards against the Chinese. I battled against them there. Then, as Tengri blessed [me]; because of my good fortune and fate, I revived and fed the dying people. I clothed the naked people, and made the poor people rich. I enlarged the small population and made my people superior to those who had a strong realm and a powerful khaghan.”

Giving the biography of Kül Tegin he says:
“When my father, the khaghan [Elterish], died, my younger brother Kül Tegin was only seven years old. Thanks to the kindness of my mother Khatun, like the goddess Umai, my younger brother Kül Tegin became a grown-up man. When [Kül Tegin] was sixteen years old, my uncle, the khaghan, was working hard for his realm and laws. [When Kül Tegin was seventeen years old,] we went on a campaign against the Sogdians in the Six Prefectures and destroyed them. The Chinese prince commander came with fifty thousand. We fought. Kül Tegin fiercely charged on foot. He caught the prince commander’s brother-in-law with his own armored hands. Still armored, he presented [the captive] to the khaghan. We wiped out that army there.”

After giving a long account of his many battles he concludes with the great act of Kül Tegin during the siege by the Oghuz Turks:
“The enemy Oghuz laid siege to [our] royal camp. On a white Ögsüz (horse caught on the steppe?) [horse], Kül Tegin speared nine men. He did not lose the royal camp. [Otherwise] my mother the Khatun, together with my [step-] mothers, aunts, sisters-in-law, princesses, and the [other] surviving [women] would have become slave-maids, or their corpses would have remained lying in the abandoned campsites and on the road. If it had not been for Kül Tegin, you would all have died!”


An Altai petroglyph showing the Turks on a campaign clad in lamellar armor. Above the deer one can faintly see the ibex, the animal on the tamgha of the Ashina clan.

The Kül Tegin funerary stele is one of the five famous early Turkic stelae that record the history and great deeds of key figures from the second Turkic Khaghanate. Kül Tegin stele and that of his brother Bilge Khaghan were erected in Khoshoo-Tsaidam, Central Mongolia, by the Orkhon River in the 730s of the CE. A third monument describing the deeds of Tonyukuk, the prime minister and commander of the Turkic army, also the father-in-law of Bilge Khaghan, was erected at Bain Tsokto near modern Ulaanbataar, in the Tuul River basin. Given that it mentions the deeds of Tonyukuk as though he were speaking, it is disputed if this was a funerary stele or merely an autobiographical record of the deeds of the prime minister. Tonyukuk was prime minister and commander through the reigns of the Khaghan-s Elterish, Qapaghan, Inal and Bilge, dying at an advanced age in 725-726 CE. A record in Chinese prepared for a remote descendant of Tonyukuk during the Chingizid period mentions that he lived for 120 years (see below). This was almost 6 centuries after his time; hence, it can only be taken to mean that there was a clear memory of this long life rather than an exact record of his lifespan. The deeds recorded on the stele are more or less till 716 CE. This might mean that the stele was erected then or in the year of his death. It is possible he was a semi-retired in his last years during the reign of his son-in-law and thus had no additional deeds to record after 716 CE. The fourth monument, the Ongi monument (now badly damaged), was located at the confluence of the Tarimal River and Ongi Rivers. This was erected by Īshbara Tamghan Tarkhan, a cousin of Bilge Khaghan, for his father Eletmish Yabghu who may have died in an intra-family battle in 716 CE between the supporters of Inal Khaghan and Kül Tegin, who was trying to seize the throne for his brother Bilge Khaghan. This stele was likely erected between 725-732 CE. The fifth is the funerary inscription of Īshbara Bilge Küli Chur, who also appears to have had the title of Chikhan Tonyukuk. He is said to have lived to a full 80 years and “grown old” during the reign of Elterish Khaghan. His stele mentions him killing “nine ferocious men”, probably while still in his teens. He is also recorded as “fighting the Chinese so many times that he gained much fame by virtue of his courage and manly qualities…” As a minister and general of the Turk Khaghan who grew old in the reign of Elterish Khaghan, he might have preceded the famous Tonyukuk as the highest minister. The Küli Chur inscription does not mention Bilge Khaghan or Kül Tegin, suggesting that stele bearing it was likely erected during the late 600s or early 700s of CE.


The Bain Tsokto stele with the Tonyukuk inscription

The discovery of these monuments was among the greatest moments in archaeology as they are the earliest substantial written records of the history and the deeds of the Turkic people in their own words. The German, Philip von Strahlenberg, fighting on behalf of the Swedes, was captured by the Russians in 1709 CE during the battle of Poltava. As a prisoner in Siberia, he carried out an extensive ethnographic and geographic survey of the eastern possessions of the Rus. In course of this exploration, he observed runiform inscriptions on stones in the upper course of the Yenisei River in Southern Siberia (see below) — his account was the first notice of the old Turkic inscriptions in the modern era. However, their script and contents remained mysterious to him and they were mostly ignored thereafter. More than a century later, the Finnish explorers in Siberia rediscovered them in 1887-1888 CE. An year later, the Russian-born Siberian separatist, Yadrintsev, heard from Mongol pastoralists of the presence of inscribed stelae by the Orkhon river — these were what later came to be known as the Kül Tegin and Bilge Khaghan monuments. In the 1890s, the Finnish explorers and the Germanized Russian, Vasily Radloff, along with Yadrintsev conducted further separate explorations of the Mongolian sites. In 1891 CE, some Mongols led Yadrintsev to the Ongi monument and he made a realistic drawing of the same, recording the inscribed stele and the several balbal stones erected beside it — an important record, given the subsequent damage it suffered. These explorations made it clear that the Yenisei, Orkhon and Ongi inscriptions were all in a similar runiform script recording an ancient language.

The key to breaking the mystery of these inscriptions was offered by the Kül Tegin monument, which had a subsidiary inscription in old Chinese. It contained the condolence letter written by the Tang emperor on being informed of Kül Tegin’s death — evidently, he saw him both as a worthy rival and some kind of “colleague” given the links the Tang had with the Turks. The German Sinologist Georg von der Gabelentz was able to immediately recognize based on the work of the Finnish exploration that the inscription on the stele honored a Turkic prince. He published a translation of the Chinese inscription albeit replete with errors. This led to the Danish scholar Vilhelm Thomsen deciphering the runiform inscription based on his knowledge of the Turkish language in late 1893 CE. On the Russian side, in the same year, their ambassador in Peking showed the inscription to the Ching scholar Shen Zengzhi who provided similar suggestions regarding its identity. Subsequently, Radloff made a better translation of the Chinese inscription with the help of the Ching ambassador to Moscow and published the Turkic runiform Orkhon inscriptions. These were followed by editions and translations by Thomson, Radloff, and others. In the following years, Aurel Stein discovered a Turkic book on omenology-based dice prognostication (Irk Bitig) written in the same runiform script along with two Chinese bauddha hymns, evidently based on Sanskrit originals, in the hall of the thousand Buddha-s at Dun Huang. This text, either from the 700s or 800s of the common era, offered a further body of old Turkic material in the same script. Since then, thousands of papers have been written on these old Turkic texts leading to much improved readings of them.

The preservation of this book hints that the script was not just used for inscriptions but also in books. The Irk Bitig is unique in preserving purely Turkic content even if its author was a bauddha Turk — he says he wrote it for his elder brother, the general Itachuk, in a vihāra after having listened to a bauddha guru. The dice omenology of the text relies on using three Indo-Iranian style dice with four faces each. Thus, one gets 4 \times 4 \times 4 =64 combinations and one combination with two corresponding omens giving a total of 65 readings. Such dice have been recovered in the pre-Turk Kuṣāṇa site at Khayrabad Tepe, Uzbekistan. It seems these omens are dreams — that leads to the question as to what function the roll of the dice played? We suspect there was a correspondence between the prognosis of the two — you either got a prognosis by the dice roll or if you had the corresponding dream. Alternatively, there was something coded in the omen that is lost to us. For example, the 6th omen reads thus with the corresponding dice roll:
\circ\circ\;\;\circ\circ\;\;\circ A bear and a boar met on a mountain pass. (In the fight) the bear’s belly was slit open (and) the boar’s tusks were broken, it says. Know thus: (The omen) is bad. (translation by Talat Tekin)
This omen reminds one of the statement regarding the dog and the hog in the Mahābharata; however, there it is good for the śvapāca. Another interesting point is the word üpgük = hoopoe in omen 21. While onomatopoeic, it seems like a cognate of the IE word for the bird suggesting an ancient “Nostratic” origin for it.

Imprints of the Ashina clan and the Blue Turks beyond the Khaghanate
The history of the steppes teaches us that great clans have deep impacts over time and space both at the genetic and the memetic level. This is well-known for the founding fathers of the Ārya-s, Chingiz Khan and the founder of the Tungusid Manchu empire. Was there any comparable impact of the Türk Khaghanate? A comprehensive genetic study by Yunusbayev of the impact of the Turkic expansion indicates that it is hard to assess the early signals of the Turkic expansion relative to the later ones where it was coupled with the expansion of Mongolic populations. Moreover, even though the Altaic monophyly looks increasingly unlikely, the Mongolic and Turkic peoples emerged from the same region and their languages show signs of prolonged interactions. This is also apparent in their genetics. In any case, the above study found the first signals for Turkic admixture outside the core Mongolian domain starting around 600-800 CE — this appears to correspond to the rise of the Blue Turk and Uighur Khaghanates.


A neighbor-joining tree based the single nucleotide polymorphism from ancient Central Asian samples indicting the relationship between Altaic groups speaking Turkic and Mongolic languages

On the philological side, there is strong evidence for the long-term persistence of the clan of Tonyukuk. To understand that, below we briefly recap the history of the fall of the second Blue Turk Khaghanate. On the Mongolian steppe, in 742-743 CE, three Turkic tribes, the Uighurs (originally from the region of the Selenge river), the Qarluks and the Basmyls, sensing the weakness of their Gök Türks overlords began asserting their independence. The Basmyls moved first to capture the Gök Türk capital and slay their Khaghan. The next year, the Uighurs and the Qarluks followed them to overthrow and destroy the Basmyls. The Uighurs then asserted themselves by driving the Qarluks towards Kazakhstan. Thereafter, the Uighurs moved on the remnants of the Blue Turk Khaghanate in a tacit alliance with the Chinese and beheaded their last Khaghan in 745 CE thereby erasing their empire off the eastern steppes. The Uighur lord declared himself the Khaghan under the title Qutlugh Bilge Köl Khaghan. The other branch of the Blue Turks descending from the first Khaghanate, Türgish, the “in-laws” of the second Khaghanate, had valiantly fought the Islamic Jihad and Chinese expansionism in Central Asia under their brilliant Khan Su-lu. When they encountered the Qarluks fleeing from the Uighur onslaught, they were in a weakened state from those struggles. After a prolonged fight lasting around 22 years, the Qarluks overthrew the Türgish, thus ending the line descending from the western branch of the first Turkic Khaghanate. With the old empire now gone, the famous clan of Tonyukuk, shifted their allegiance to the Uighur overlords of the Turkic world. It is notable that in this period the Kashmirian emperor Lalitāditya of the Kārkoṭa-s appointed a Turk (Cankuna) as his minister and general. We speculate that he too could have been a member of the Tonyukuk clan looking for new opportunities (though, one cannot rule out a high-ranked Türgish).

The story of the survival of the Tonyukuk clan goes back to the discovery of the earliest Turkic writings and its more recent re-investigation. In 1909 CE, a fragment of an old runiform manuscript from the period of Uighur ascendancy was procured in Khocho (Idiqutshahri). Radloff published the same the next year but he felt its contents were largely uninteresting. However, more recently, Erdal and Hao noted its parallels to another manuscript fragment from the same place in the Manichaean script that explicitly talks about the same events recorded by Tonyukuk on his stele — i.e., the revival of the Turk Khaghanate after its fall to the Chinese assault by Elterish Khaghan with his wise advice. Based on these parallels Erdal was able to interpret the contents of the first runiform manuscript as talking of the role played by Tonyukuk in the nomination and enthronement of Elterish Khaghan during the revival of the empire. Hao brought to light a work composed during the reign of the Chingizid rulers Temür Khan (son of Qubilai Khan) or his son Külük Khan that records the history of a remote descendant of Tonyukuk, Xie Wenzhi (name as recorded in Chinese), an Uighur official under the Mongols. The text states that:
1) Tonyukuk married his daughter to Bilge Khaghan.
2) After the death of Bilge Khaghan, his wife (i.e., daughter of Tonyukuk) led the Turks for some time.
3) After the conquest of Mongolia by the Uighurs, who were from the Selenge river (i.e., where three rivers join to form it), Tonyukuk’s descendants switched allegiance to them as their ministers.
4) The Uighurs saw the Tonyukukids as being “swift as falcons”.
5) The Uighurs of Khocho had a long tradition of worshiping the 20 deva-rāja-s and used Sanskrit in their liturgy.
6) Tonyukuk and Kül Tegin aided the Tang during the An Lushan convulsion in China. This is clearly an anachronistic and an ahistorical record. However, it suggests that possibly a descendant of Tonyukuk along with the Uighur Khaghan had aided the Tang during the rebellion of An Lushan and this was superimposed onto the founder Tonyukuk and Kül Tegin.
7) A certain Kezhipuer is mentioned as being a prominent minister from the Tonyukuk clan several generations after the An Lushan rebellion.

During the Chingizid Mongol rule of China, Xie Wenzhi, Xie Zhijian and other descendants of Tonyukuk were part of the elite and were prominent as scholars, artists and administrators. At the fall of the Mongol empire in China, some of these fled to Korea where they founded a prominent clan. Other members of the clan persisted under the Ming as ministers and officials in Liyang and Southeast China despite the nationalist backlash against the Mongols and their officials. Thus, the clan of Tonyukuk is a remarkable example of the human capital of a great founder lasting for over 700 years across Central Asia, China and Korea.

Looking backward in time, a major question is the provenance of the influential Ashina clan from which the Blue Turk Khaghanate, the Basmyls and the Qarluks arose. They were characterized by the famous ibex tamgha, which is seen on their inscriptions in runic script, both in Mongolia, along the Yenisei River and the Altai mountains. The clan also gave rise to Turkic elite that had intermarried with the Tang elite and conquered the western territories for the Tang emperor Taizong. It is also likely that the Ashina clan gave rise to other influential Turkic lineages of later Khaghanates like those of the Bulgars and the Khazar Khaghans. Their elite status seems to be repeatedly emphasized in their textual sources as they are distinguished from bodun — the Turkic word for the plebeians. Based on the Chinese sources one may infer that the Ashina clan might have been already present in the early Hun period of the Xiongnu Khaghanate. They were definitely present as vassals of the Rouran Hun Khaghanate and are mentioned in multiple Chinese sources as being their iron smiths. These sources also hint that the conflict between the Uighur branch of the Turks and Ashina clan might have begun in this period itself. In 546 CE, the Oghuz Turkic confederation, at whose head were the Uighurs, rebelled against their Mongolic Rouran Hun overlords. The Ashina clan is said to have aided the Huns in suppressing this revolt. However, it appears to have weakened the Rouran state and six years later, as the land thawed in the spring of 552 CE, the Ashina clan, which had risen in power from their recent exploits, overthrew their Hun overlords and drove them westwards from Mongolia. The leader of the Ashina clan declared himself the new Khaghan. Thus, there was a history of the Turkic peoples under early Mongolic rule that remains poorly understood. However, it may be reasonably inferred that there was already some diversification among them. We already see the Oghuz alliance with which the Uighurs were associated and the On Oq (10 arrows) alliance led by members of the Ashina clan. Indeed, the ethnogonic myths of the clan repeatedly mention the 10 sons of the founder, which is consistent with the On Oq having 10 sub-clans within it.

There has been a string of discordant theories regarding the origin of the Ashina clan. However, the majority of the plausible theories posit that the etymology of Ashina was not originally Turkic but Indo-European. Among the Indo-European etymologies, we have:
1) Beckwith proposed a Tocharian origin from Arśilas = noble kings. It is also related to one of the self-designations of the Tocharians for themselves (Ārśi). In further support of such a proposal, Golden noted the Turkic word for ox as öküz (note Kentum state) is likely derived from Tocharian B: oxso or Tocharian A: okās. While their probable homeland in the southern slopes of the Altai mountains would not be inconsistent with some late-surviving Tocharian imprint, there is no other evidence for a connection between the Turks and the Tocharian elite in the region.
2) Atwood proposed a similar root form, but with an Indo-Aryan etymology: ṛṣi > ārṣa > ārṣila. He notes the parallel rendering of ṛṣi as Arsilas in Greek. While an interesting proposal, it is odd that a ruling warrior clan would have such a typically brahminical etymology, unless, like certain Hindu dynasties, they sought to present ancestry from a ṛṣi.
3) Another Indo-Aryan etymology proposed by Klyashtornyj (along with proposals of Golden, Beckwith and Mair) is: Aśvin (one with a horse)>Ashina. A key point in this proposal is the status of the Wusun, who were an Indo-Iranian steppe people recorded in Chinese sources. Therein, the ethnogonic myth of the Wusun mentions that they believed that their ancestor was orphaned in an attack by the Huns (the first Khaghanate of the Huns, i.e., Chinese Xiongnu). This ancestor was then raised on the steppe by a female wolf and ravens. Multiple versions of the ethnogenesis of the Ashina clan of the Blue Turks also mention that their ancestress was a she-wolf and that they were feudatories of the Xiongnu first and the Rouran Huns thereafter (a version of this wolf motif was remembered long after the fall of the Turks to Mohammedanism by Gardīzī, the minister of the monstrous sultan Mahmud of Ghazna. He states that the Turks have sparse facial hair and a dog-like nature due to their ancestor, as per Abrahamistic tradition, Japeth, being fed wolf’s milk and ant eggs as a medicine. His teacher al Bīrūnī also records that ancestor of the Turks of Afghanistan was a long-haired dog-prince. Victor Mair proposes that wolf’s milk might have meant the slime mold Lycogala). The wolf motif is also found in the origin myth of the Uighur lineage of Turks (the Chinese sources mention their origins from the coitus of the ancestor wolf with the daughter of the Hun [Xiongnu] Khan). As per Golden, the Uighur Oghuznāma mentions “Blue Wolf” as being their war cry. The same pattern is again seen in the case of the Chingizid Mongols, where the male ancestor is the wolf. Thus, even though the wolf motif is widespread in the Turko-Mongol and Indo-European world (e.g., the founding of Rome), the Wusun and the Ashina clan share the female nurse/ancestress. Thus, the etymology of Wusun and Ashina is seen as deriving from a common root Aśvin. Beckwith correctly reasons that this group was likely a steppe Indo-Aryan remnant rather than Iranian, given the root form Aśva as opposed to Aspa (e.g., in steppe Iranian Arimaspa).
4) Finally, we have Bailey’s suggestion that it derives from steppe Iranian Śaka word āṣṣeiṇa for blue. This would match the Blue Turk appellation of the clan. However, we suspect that, while there might be something to this etymology, it is more likely an instance of retro-fitted etymologizing based on the Śaka word in one branch of the Ashina clan. There is no evidence that all branches of the clan called themselves Blue Turks.

Thus, we cautiously posit that the most likely origin of the Ashina clan was via the Turkification of an originally Indo-European (likely Indo-Aryan) steppe people that retained its elite status through multiple admixtures with East Asian groups that spoke a Turkic language. We suspect that this Turkification of the Ashina-s probably occurred over a prolonged period ranging from the Xiongnu Khaghanate all the way to the early Rouran period. Yet some imprints of the IE affinities can be gleaned even as they become more prominent on the historical landscape. It is likely that cremation was the primary funerary practice among the Ashina elite as opposed to the traditions of the Hunnic elite, linking them to an old IE tradition. In further support of a specific Indo-Aryan connection, we may point out that the names of the founding brothers of the Blue Turk Khaghanate Bümin and Ishtemi do not have an explicit Turkic etymology. However, Bümin can be transparently derived from Indo-Aryan Bhūmin (note Indic bodhisattva > early Mongolic bodi-satva on Khüis Tolgoi Brāhmī inscription) or Iranic Būmin = “the possessor of the land”. Similarly, the name Īśbara kept by multiple early Turkic Khans can be derived from Indo-Aryan Īśvara. However, the apparent decipherment of the Khüis Tolgoi, Bugut and the short Keregentas (Kazakhstan) Brāhmī inscriptions by Vovin, Maue and team suggest that there was Indic influence on the steppe which might have gone along with the missionary activity of the Bauddha-s (as opposed to remnants of steppe Indo-Aryans like the Wusun). One cannot rule out the role it might have had in transmitting Indic names and terms to the early Turkic and Mongolic groups. In the Khüis Tolgoi Brāhmī inscription we already encounter a Blue Turk Khaghan if Vovin’s reading is correct: Niri Khaghan türüg khaghan: Niri Khaghan, the Khaghan of the Turks. This would point to contact with Indic cultural elements early in their history.

In this regard, we would like to point out one further, more tenuous connection. The Chinese sources, like the Zhoushu mention that the Khaghan of the Turks performs a ritual at the ancestral cave in Ötükän mountain where Ashina was born from/suckled by the female wolf. Suishu further adds that on the eighth day of the 5th month the Turks perform a great sacrifice and send a ritualist into the cave to make offerings to their ancestors. Ethnological investigations have indicated that the Siberian Turks make offerings to the gods and ancestors with the incantation cök usually coupled with a formula. For example, Inan notes the following (in translation):

O my ancestor Kayra Khan, the Protector! cök! Here it is, offering to you Kayra Khan!
Cök! Here it is, offering to you! My mother (like fire) with thirty heads.
My old mother with forty heads; when I recite cök! Have mercy!

The latter two appear to be offerings to polycephalous female deities one of whom is associated with the fire (c.f. the Mongol fire goddess). Similarly, Anohin also recorded several formulae with offerings made with the cök incantation, including to the ancestor Kayra Khan.
Ak-it purul piske polush, cök! = Grey and white dog! help us! Cök!

Interestingly, Aydin found that this incantation found in modern Turkic formulae is already seen in several runiform Yenisei inscriptions from around the time of the Blue Turk Khaghanate and Erdal interpreted it (in our opinion correctly) as something that implies “I offer my sacrifice”. For example, we have: “Tengrim cök! bizke” = To Tengri cök!; [may he favor] us (in the Yenisei inscription cataloged as Tuba II [E 36], 2). In another Yenisei inscription, we encounter a similar formula invoking Tengri in the context of a holy rock and a cliff — perhaps a parallel to the cave offerings of the Blue Turks.

A closer examination of the known exemplars of the Turkic cök incantations reveals a parallel to the mantra incantations that end in svāhā, sometimes with an additional phrase reminiscent of idaṃ [devāya etc.] na mama. Zhang He noted (following the Song dynasty scholar Shen Kuo) that the “sai” incantation, which was usually present at the ends of the formulae deployed by the mysterious Chu kingdom (from 300 BCE or before) was likely originally svāhā or a derivative thereof (Chinese sa-po-he). The Chu kingdom is believed to have originally had a non-Cīna soma- and fire-sacrificing elite, likely of steppe Indo-Iranian origin who might have been absorbed by the Huns. Thus, it is not far-fetched to propose that the Turkic cök formula was also inspired by or derived from svāhā — something that would be compatible with the proposed Indo-Iranian roots of the elite Ashina clan.

The runiform scripts origins and spread beyond the “Orkhon” horizon
Shortly after his decipherment of the Turkic runiform inscriptions, Thomsen proposed that the runiform script was probably derived from Aramaic via Sogdian or additional Iranic intermediaries. This hypothesis came to be widely accepted in a manner parallel to the Aramaic hypothesis for the origin of the Indian Brāhmī script. However, it should be noted that some of the same problems confront the Aramaic hypothesis for both Brāhmī and runiform. Talat Tekin notes that the Orkhon inscriptions contain 38 characters and there are two additional characters that he takes to represent syllables in the Bain Tsokto stele of Tonyukuk. Of these, there are 4 vowel signs — something that Aramaic does not use. Brāhmī has an even more elaborate vowel system based on the Indo-Aryan grammatical tradition that is necessary to encode Indian languages — something which is unparalleled in the Aramaic family. The runiform script does not distinguish some long from short vowels and totally devotes 4 signs for these (/a, ä/; /i, ï/; /o, u/; /ö, ü/). 20 signs represent either a plain consonant or a/ä+consonant; e.g., at/ät. The remaining 16 signs represent various other consonants that are neutral with respect to the vowels, syllables like “ash” and sounds like ich, uk etc. Thus, the organization is quite unlike the Iranic scripts derived from Aramaic or old Aramaic itself. Now, we know that Aramaic was used in southern Central Asia within the Indosphere — e.g., Aśoka Maurya’s inscription in the northwest. There was also Kharoṣṭhī which appears to have represented a genuine Indian adaptation of Iranic administrative Aramaic with vowel diacritics for better encoding of Indo-Iranian languages. Thus, while Aramaic and Aramaic-inspired scripts were in vogue in Central Asia and India, directly deriving Brāhmī and runiform from Aramaic is not well-supported. Instead, both seem to be scripts that were probably inspired by the “presence of writing” rather than being direct adaptations of other scripts. In the Indian situation, the possibility of some memory of the Harappan signs (believed by most to be a script) is another factor, whereas in the Central Asian situation there were multiple local scripts, including possibly Aramaic, that could have provided some indirect influence.

With this background we may examine the actual situation on the ground. In Mongolia, the earliest inscriptions, Khüis Tolgoi and Bugut, which appear to go back to the Rouran Hun Khaghanate, are in Brāhmī. The Keregentas inscriptions indicate Brāhmī was in use over a wide part of the “Altaic” domain. We know that Brāhmī and its derivatives rapidly spread through central Asia concomitantly driving Kharoṣṭhī to extinction. Given its superior representation of vowels, it was evidently adaptable for non-Indo-Aryan languages and was likely seen as the script of choice when the second Hun Khaghanate sought to adopt one. Three of the faces of the Bugut stele have Sogdian inscriptions that appear to go back to the first Blue Turk Khaghanate. This suggests that after the overthrow of the Hun Khaghanate, the Turks decided to break from Brāhmī and adopt the Sogdian script. Apart from these inscriptions, there is the mysterious silver bowl which was discovered in 1969-70 during the excavation of a richly furnished grave at the Issyk Kurgan about 50 Km East of Almaty, Kazakhstan. The date of the grave remains contested but is believed to be at least as early as 150-200 BCE. The bowl contains a two-line inscription comprised of 25 or 26 characters. Many authors thought this was an early version of the Turkic runiform script. Ünal and Xursudjan instead understood it to be a version of the Aramaic script based on comparisons to Aśoka Maurya’s Aramaic inscriptions and the other mysterious Ai Khanum silver ingot inscription. Based on the Aramaic interpretation, it has been read by Ünal as having some clearly Indo-Iranian words. The first word is read as yuvan= youth in Indo-Iranian languages. The second word is read as zyād, which is interpreted as a version of shad, a word seen on the Orkhon inscriptions and again of Iranic provenance (i.e., chief or prince). In contrast, the remaining words are read as an early form of Mongolic, and Ünal links this script to the script-like markings found in some Xiongnu era graves. The proposed lower bound age of 150-200 BCE and location would be consistent with the first Hun Khaghanate of the Xiongnu. Thus, it would seem that the Huns initially adopted Aramaic, at least in the western reaches of their empire, probably via interactions with Iranic groups (supported by the loans in the proposed reading). While Ünal further thinks it provides an intermediate between Aramaic and the Turkic runiform script, there seems to be quite a temporal gap between the two with no evidence for the use of Aramaic (leaving aside Iranic descendants like Sogdian) in the region during the intervening period. Hence, we believe that the evidence for the Aramaic hypothesis for the origin of the runiform script still remains weak.


The Issyk silver bowl inscription

If we set aside the Issyk inscription, we are still left with the question as to when the runiform script started being used? An interesting clue in this regard comes from the recent discovery of bone plates used as a grip for a composite bow that were found in an Avar grave at Szeged-Kiskundorozsma, Hungary. These plates are inscribed with a runiform script that is related to but not identical to that used in the Eastern Turkic texts. The bone plates gave calibrated radiocarbon dates ranging from 660-770 CE, whereas thermoluminescence dating of a pot from the grave site gave a central date of 695 CE. These are in the general age range of the second Turkic Khaghanate’s inscriptions. These join a relatively small set of comparable short runiform inscriptions that have been found in Eastern Europe from the Avar horizon but without the secure dating of the above. All of these remain undeciphered. However, the recent discovery of several runiform inscriptions in the Altai has uncovered signs that are similar to those in these Eastern European exemplars. Further, we know that the Khazar Khaghanate also used a runiform script. At least one clear example of this found at the end of a letter written by a Jew has a short Khazar phrase (interpreted as “I have read”) in runiform (probably by a Turk in response) that can be read largely on the basis of the Eastern Turkic Khaghanate’s runiform script. Beyond this, there are several other short Khazar inscriptions that remain undeciphered — in part because the exact Khazar dialect of Turkic remains poorly understood, the inscriptions are short, and some signs are distinct from those of the Eastern runiform corpus. However, some of these signs overlap in form with those seen in the Eastern European inscriptions attributed to the Avars.


Mammoth bone runiform inscription from Yakutia — the northern reaches of the Turk domain

Recent genetic evidence has strongly established that the Avars are the remnants of the Rouran Hun Khaghanate that was overthrown by their Turk feudatories to establish the first Turk Khaghanate. Thus, it would be reasonable to propose that the script was invented in some form before the destruction of the Rouran Khaganate, most likely among the Turkic tribes. Given that the Rouran Huns themselves appear to have preferred Brāhmī, it is possible that this was a “national” script that Turks devised to specifically distinguish themselves and their language. However, it is likely that the script was also known to at least some of the Rouran Huns or Turkic groups allied to them that carried it west as they fled. Thus, in part, the inability to decipher the Eastern European Avar exemplars might come from the fact that they encode an early branch of the Mongolic language rather than a Turkic language (c.f. the Chingizid use of the Uighur script for Mongolian). In this regard, the case of the mysterious jug inscriptions can also be considered. Before the Bratsk Reservoir in Russia was flooded, six silver jugs were found on the Murujskij island by a fisherman before it went under. The form of these jugs is similar to the silver/gold jugs found at the funerary monuments of Bilge Khaghan and other members of his family. Only two of the Murujskij jugs survive and the bottom of one of them has an interesting inscription in the runiform script that can be completely transcribed on the basis of the Eastern Turkic runiform script like that seen on the Orkhon stelae. However, the transcription cannot be deciphered as Turkic (and so far as anything else). Nevertheless, the inscription is associated with the Ashina clan’s ibex tamgha (also seen on the second jug). This indicates that even though the jugs with the inscription are from the Turkic Khaghanate, the runiform script on them was used to encode a language other than Turkic. Recently, another inscription was found on a mammoth bone amulet far north in Yakutia, indicating the spread of the script and possibly the extent of the Turkic Khaghanate. Such a scenario of expansion and subsequent splintering of the Khaghanate would be consistent with: 1) the runiform script being adopted by languages unrelated to but geographically proximal to Turkic; 2) The divergence in form between different Turkic groups (e.g., those in the West which eventually gave rise to the Khazar version and those in the east which gave rise to the Uighur version); 3) Loss — once the Turks lost their self-identity as a nation and became satellites or vehicles of the Abrahamistic religions.



The mysterious Murujskij silver jug and runifrom inscription

Finally, we can say that as more inscriptions are found in Mongolia, the Yenisei and Altai we might still learn some poorly understood facets of early Turkic history. Recently (in 2017), a further monument with 14 pillars was discovered at Dongoin Shiree in Eastern Mongolia with several inscriptions and tamghas that are yet to be published in detail. The preliminary report by Japanese researchers indicates that it was the monument of the one of the shad-s of Bilge Khaghan, the yabhgu or viceroy of the eastern territories. With respect to the Yenisei inscriptions, Klyashtornyj has recently read evidence for some facets of the history of the Western Ashina Khaghans. For example, he believes that the branch of the Türgish who left the inscriptions found in Minusinsk basin near the lake of Altyn-köl were the predecessors of the Kirghiz Khaghans who eventually conquered the Uighur Khaghanate. One of the inscriptions mentions a certain general Chabysh Ton-tarqan from this clan — the name Chabysh seems to be an early attestation of the root of Chebyshev, the famous Russian mathematician who is supposed to have descended from a Chingizid Mongol chief. Another runiform funerary inscription from the Yenisei (Uibat VI) commemorates a certain hero named Tirig-beg who is said to have fought like a wild boar when the mighty Uighurs were overthrown. These complement the Suja inscription found in the early 1900s by the Finnish expedition in Northern Mongolia, which was commissioned by Boila Qutlugh-yargan who also participated in the great Kirghiz-Uighur clash of 840 CE. It is likely that this event and the subsequent Kirghiz invasion of the Chinese territories was what formed the core of their oral epic of the hero Manas.

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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)”.

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
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.

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

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:
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).


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.


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.


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.


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.

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

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
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.


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.

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 ॥


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 ।
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.


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.


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].


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

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


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:

nyañcat-karpara-kūrma-kampa-vicaṭad-brahmāṇḍa-khaṇḍa-sthiti ।
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 (; 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.


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 ।


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


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


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.
Tambets et al.
Veeramah et al.
Amorim et al.
Fóthi et al.
Savelyev et al.
Jeong et al.
Kim et al.
Keyser et al.
Robbeets et al.
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 Leonardo 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 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 captured 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 fundamentally 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 the 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 it 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. 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;

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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.


Figure 1.

• First, with is straightforward trigonometry to show that


• 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_6}{r_2}= \sqrt{2}\left(\sqrt{3}-1\right)





• 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_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_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


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.

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 R