CHAPTER-11 : Identity of Aryan Culture

Ancient History of India
Short Notes or Revision Notes 


Aryan Culture: Texts and Origins

  • Reconstruction Sources:
    • Vedic texts (Rig Veda – 1500-1000 BC)
    • Iranian texts (Zend-Avesta – 1400 BC)
    • Greek epics (Iliad & Odyssey – 900-800 BC)
    • Linguistic comparisons (Indo-European languages)
  • Geographic Scope:Eastern Europe, Central Asia, linked to regions like Iran, Iraq, and Greece.
  • Possible Genetic Link:Marker M17 (Central Asian steppes) found in Indo-Aryan speakers (35% in Delhi).

Aryan Culture: The Horse

  • Importance in Rig Veda:Most mentioned animal (215 times).
  • Linguistic Link:“Asva” (horse) appears in Indo-European languages (Sanskrit, Avestan, Greek, etc.).
  • Domestication and Spread:
    • Earliest evidence (6th millennium BC): Black Sea and south Ural region.
    • 4th millennium BC: Anatolia.
    • 3rd millennium BC: Increased presence in south Siberia.
    • 2nd millennium BC: Widespread use in Eurasia.
    • 1595 BC: Effective use in western Asia by Kassites in Babylonia.

Aryan Culture: The Horse-Drawn Chariot

  • Importance in Texts:Described in Vedic (vājapyeyá sacrifice), Avestan, and Homeric texts.
  • Archaeological Evidence:
    • Horse-drawn chariots used by Mitanni rulers (around 1400 BC).
    • Six-spoked chariot depicted on a seal in Hissar (1800 BC).
    • War chariots with spoked wheels found in Sintashta region (1500 BC) and eastern Europe/western Asia.
    • Horse remains from 2nd millennium BC in Central Asia, Iran, and Afghanistan.
    • Horses and chariots depicted in Central Asia by 1500 BC.

Horse Arrival in South Asia

  • Earliest Evidence:Pirak complex (Baluchistan) around 1700 BC.
  • Spread:
    • Gandhara grave culture burials (Swat valley, Pakistan) – 1400 BC onwards.
    • Overlapping layers of Painted Grey Ware and Harappan cultures (Bhagwanpura, Haryana) – 1600-1000 BC.
    • Surkotada horse (Kutch area).
    • Late/post-urban Harappan sites (Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, Lothal, Ropar).



Aryan Culture: Material Culture

  • Pit Dwellings:
    • Possible origin in cold climates (horse-users of Ukraine, 4500 BC).
    • Spread eastward to Ural-Volga region (4th-3rd millennium BC) and Andronovo culture (Central Asia, 2nd millennium BC).
    • Examples: Swat valley (1500 BC), Burzahom (Kashmir), Haryana.
  • Birch Use:
    • Sanskrit word “bhurja” (birch) has cognates in other Indo-European languages.
    • May be linked to use of underground houses.

Aryan Culture: Rituals and Beliefs

  • Cremation:
    • Practiced in some areas of extended Harappan culture (Gujarat).
  • Fire Cult:
    • Debated origin (possibly Harappan, Rig Veda mentions fire altars).
  • Animal Sacrifice:
    • Important Aryan ritual, especially horse sacrifice.
    • Horse sacrifice transformed in later Vedic texts (asvamedha).
    • Buffalo sacrifice prominent in Shakti worship (buffalo rare in Aryan homeland).
  • Soma Cult:
    • Shared by Iranians and Vedic people (called haoma in Avestan).
    • Soma plant possibly identified as ephedra.
  • Svastika Symbol:
    • Considered Aryan symbol, but predates Aryan culture (Elam, 2000 BC).

Aryan Culture: Language and Dispersal

  • Proto-Indo-European Language:
    • Reconstructed by linguists, originated around 7th-6th millennium BC.
    • Split into eastern and western branches (eastern = proto-Indo-Iranian).
  • Linguistic Evidence:
    • Names on Akkadian tablet (Arisena, Somasena) suggest Indo-Iranian speakers.
    • Hittite inscriptions (Anatolia, 19th-17th BC) and Mycenaean inscriptions (Greece, 14th BC) indicate western branch speakers.
    • Kassite and Mitanni inscriptions (Mesopotamia, 16th-14th BC) represent eastern branch speakers.
  • Dispersal:
    • Linguistic and genetic evidence suggest eastward migration.


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