The unearthing of a nearly intact 4000 year old copper-age chariot in Sanauli near Delhi in early 2018 was a landmark event. It is the oldest and best preserved ancient chariot in the world. This find, along with evidence of 5500 year old horse bones elsewhere and 4500 year old chariots in central Indian rock art brings the curtain firmly down on the fake theory that chariots and horses were brought to India thousands of years later.
Indian history prior to 1000 BCE was written for us by European linguists. There is an old joke in which a student prepares an essay on the cow but is asked to write about a coconut tree. The student creatively starts by saying that coconut trees are used to tie cows and proceeds to write about the cow. European philologists, in an act of life imitating fiction, decided that Indo-European languages originated in Eurasia and then wrote about how language was taken to India on horseback, claiming that there were no horses in India back then.
Very early on in the history of study of the so called “Indo-European languages” a quest started for a mother language that was thought to have given rise to most European languages as well as Sanskrit. Few people nowadays comment on the curious fact that it was the “discovery” of Sanskrit that set European linguists on the path to search for a mother language. The question of a single mother language had not arisen before that. Once it was decided that a mother language must be discovered, the dialogue very quickly became a racist quest to find an ancestor language in or near Europe. One of the early steps was to declare that the mother language, wherever it had arisen, must have been taken to India by some means. The possibility that an ancient language found in India may have arisen in India, however remote and unlikely, was discarded almost at the outset. All this miraculous detective work was done with no proof whatsoever and proof was sought for the conclusion after the conclusion had been wrapped up. It became dogma that language went to Iran and India from elsewhere. All that remained was to work out the details as a minor subplot in a grand narrative of the origins of European pre-eminence.
J.P. Mallory an “Indo-Europeanist” (a peculiar name for a vocation) said in 1973,
“The location of the homeland and description of how the Indo-European languages spread is central to any explanation of how Europe became European. In a larger sense it is a search for the origins of western civilization.”
An earlier, 19th century European word for “homeland” of language was urheimat. Clearly, searching for a “homeland” for language by European philologists and “Indo-Europeanists” is a deep scholarly quest. But when Indians search for a homeland for their languages it is a pedestrian quibble by meddling busybodies called “right wing nationalists”. That is what makes the study of languages so interesting.
Having discovered Sanskrit, European linguists really were on the lookout for their own origins and facts ceased to matter if they were inconvenient. The origins of Indians and Indian languages were minor details to be filled in a side story that could not upset the main narrative. Even to this day any alternate version of the origins of Indo-European languages that might threaten western linguists’ narrative is rejected with patronizing disdain. Rebuttals are consistently based on aggressive polemic, informing all dissenters that they must be rabble rousing Hindu right wingers, not serious contenders for the rarified heights of linguistic scholarship.
Nineteenth century linguists struggled with words in European languages and in Sanskrit reading the tea leaves to find a pattern. European languages had words for Beech trees and eels which were absent from Sanskrit – so the origins must be European it was asserted. But there were other words in Sanskrit that were absent in European languages that were an irritant. Then someone hit upon a better idea. “Old languages” like Sanskrit and Greek had references to horses and chariots and it was therefore suggested the speakers of the language had perhaps invented the chariot. After all words for chariot and wheel in many Indo European languages seemed to have a common origin. Perhaps they were the first to domesticate horses? In ancient texts and narratives including the Rig Veda the horse appeared to be a symbol of power.
It was surmised that since horses were common in Europe and Eurasia after 4500 BCE and appeared to be less common in India, horses must have come from the former areas and not the latter. This laugh-worthy logic is like saying that people are most numerous in China and therefore humans must all have come from China. The intellectual giants of European linguistics followed this logic to place the origins of Indo-European languages where horses were most numerous in the past along with evidence of chariots. In one fell swoop, philologists managed to use the single word, “horse” to eliminate vast swathes of territory as possible areas where Indo European languages may have developed. All non-linguistic evidence was dismissed as the power of the linguists’ word trumped the plodding sciences of archaeology and palaeo-geology and palaeo-climatology.
Based on the mention of horses, the Rig Veda was declared to represent a horse culture. This was a necessary prop to create the story of the spread of Indo-European languages from the Eurasian steppe to India. Dubbing the Vedas as the product of a horse culture conveniently allowed the Vedas to be linked with hundreds of graves with skeletons of horses in Eurasian steppes. The mention of horses in the Vedas and physical presence horse remains in Eurasian graves 2500 KM away were sufficient to dub Vedic culture as being the same as the Kurgan horse burial culture. Simple. Elegant. And contrived. A person familiar with the Vedas and Vedic culture would understand the ludicrousness of such a comparison – but any Indian who really knows Vedic culture can also be conveniently dubbed a Hindu right-wing fanatic whose views must be excluded. The scientific temper displayed in this saga never ceases to amaze.
The Vedas refer to a culture in a fertile land full of life giving rivers where there is an abundance of cows and cow’s milk. There is no mention of horse milk (mare’s milk). Such a culture had no need to eat horses or drink mare’s milk. Traditional cow’s milk products such as ghee (clarified butter) and yogurt play a large role in Vedic rites and tradition. In fact cattle are referred to more frequently in the Veda than horses. In stark contrast to this, the Eurasian steppe area has ancient graves in which horses or parts of horses have been buried along with humans. The graves show evidence of bones of people whose remains suggest that a full 40% of their diet was horse meat. At some funeral remains in the steppe, there is evidence of slaughter of enough horses to feed hundreds of people. In other archaeological finds remains of pots have shown evidence of having held mare’s milk.
It is claimed that burials of this type are described in the Vedas. This is patently false. Not a single verse in the Vedas describes how to dig or construct a grave. No Vedic verse describes the burial of a king. Yet one single word in one hymn of the Rig Veda (10.18.13) is widely quoted by archaeologists, linguists and historians as linking the Rig Veda with “kurgan” type burials in the Eurasian steppe. David Anthony, an anthropologist and author of the book “Horse, Wheel and Language” has said:
“One hymn (Rigveda 10.18) describes a covered burial chamber with posts holding up the roof, walls shored up, and the chamber sealed with clay—a precise description of Sintashta and Andronovo grave pits.”
The words “chamber”, “walls” and “roof” are not there in any translation of that sukta of the Rig Veda. Those words have been added by Anthony to concoct proof of a connection of steppe graves with the Rig Veda. But concocting history seems to be par for the course for the entire sorry saga of construction of an “Invasion/migration of people carrying language to India”
Sacrifice of a horse (a single horse, and not multiple horses) is described in the Vedas with reference to a ritual called the Ashwamedha yagna. This was a ritual known to have been performed by kings who were alive and successful, and done once in a lifetime, at the most twice. The king was hardly buried along with the sacrificed horse in a ritual designed to further the life and status of the king, not to mark his demise.
There is no similarity between the culture described in the Vedas and the culture of eating and burying horses and chariots as found in steppe graves. In fact Sanskrit even lacks a word for “steppe”. Yet, it has been claimed that the culture of the Vedas and the steppe was one and the same, and that even the language was the same, except that the language of the steppe was an earlier, archaic, Proto-Indo-European (PIE) which became Sanskrit in the centuries after the steppe people moved to India taking their horses, chariots and language with them to a part of the world that did not have any of these. This completely unsupportable claim becomes even more incredible when one considers that the Eurasian steppe has not thrown up a single text, inscription, carving, painting, statuette, toy, potsherd, book, coin, seal or living memory of what language was spoken by the steppe people who sacrificed and buried horses and chariots with people, ate horses at funerals and drank mare’s milk. Not a shred of evidence exists about the language, and yet it has been declared that the language was PIE, a language conjured up by 20th century linguists.
According to the history written for us by European linguists and duly copied into textbooks by leftist historians, people of the steppe domesticated horses in 4000 BCE. Apparently the same people developed chariots with horses over the next 2000 years. From then on the people of the steppes started spreading west to Europe, conquering as they went, imposing their language. Similarly they spread south and east towards Iran, and later India, conquering and subjugating and imposing their language on the latter areas. These people apparently settled in India to compose the Vedas. It was claimed that there were no horses in India until they were brought by the conquering, horse-drawn chariot riding people from the steppes who were given the name “Aryans” by linguists.
After the creation of this incredible theory, it became necessary to back up the theory by claiming that horses did not exist in places far away from the steppe until they were introduced into those places by conquering Aryans. This theory has gradually been changed by removing the name Aryan and claiming that they were migrants and not conquerors. But these cosmetic changes have not changed the basic fairy tale of horses, chariots and language being brought in by migrants whose names were changed from “Aryan” to whatever was politically correct for the era. The date of arrival of these migrants also had to be within a very narrow range – and so the date of the Rig Veda was fixed by Western linguists for us based on the dates that were necessary to support the language migration theory. For example, if the date was older than 1600 BCE it would become older than the Mitanni texts and even the Mycenaean Greek tablets. If Sanskrit was made a little older then it would pre-date Hittite, which is another important cog in linguists’ dates. On the other end – Vedic Sanskrit could not be made younger than about 800-1000 BCE because that would get too close to the period of recorded history as accepted in the lofty portals of European linguistics. So the earliest dates for horses, chariots and the Rig Veda have been “fixed” around 1500 to 1200 BCE. If horses and chariots in India are older than these dates it becomes very unfortunate indeed for the language migration theory. So it was formally decided by linguists in western centers of high learning that there were no horses, no chariots, and no spoked wheels, and no Sanskrit and no Vedas in India before those dates. This fabricated story has now been comprehensively demolished by physical evidence of horses of the “true horse” (Equus caballus species) and chariots with spoked wheels in India more than a thousand years before the imaginary Aryan race are claimed to have arrived.
In 1922 remains of the Indus Valley and Harappan civilization were discovered in India. A network of well-planned cities with well laid out streets, drainage and sewage systems, seals bearing signs from an unknown language were found. These remains turned out to be older than the dates that had already been given to the Vedas by linguists. This threatened to shake the foundations of existing theories about language spread. Scholars were quick off the mark in declaring that the Indus Valley civilization represented a people who were defeated by invading Aryans who came on chariots with horses and their Aryan language.
Somewhere along the way, someone realised that the seals found in Indus valley and Harappan archaeological sites had pictures of many animals including the mythical unicorn, but not of the horse. In a blatant example confirmation bias, scholars enthusiastically embraced the spurious principle that absence of evidence equals evidence of absence. It was declared that the Harappan people did not know of horses and this proved the theory that Aryans came with horses later.
So much has now been written about this now discredited idea that it is difficult to uncover exactly who had the original brainwave that was presented as proof of this “no horses in India” theory. The fact that linguists were involved is very clear because of wrangling over the words “dasyu”, “anas” and “pur” from the Rig Veda which were said to mean black people with no noses who were driven away from their towns. In India it appears that historians were already pumped up with the theory that Aryans brought horses and chariots to India, and that the Harappan civilization lacked horses. Historian Romila Thapar, writing about another historian called D.D. Kosambi says,
“Kosambi accepted the then current theory that Aryan speakers invaded India after the decline of the Harappan cities.”
Elsewhere she notes,
“Kosambi had suggested that plough agriculture, iron technology, the use of the horse for mobility and a dependence on cattle for food, were among the crucial factors that gave the Aryan speakers an edge over other societies.”
It appears that BB Kosambi believed that Aryans did invade India some centuries after the Harappan civilization and brought horses and language with them. He also believed that the Aryans colonized northern India because of military victories on fast horse chariots they brought along with the plough. He believed that these Aryan invasions occurred in the late second millennium BC, that is just before 1000 BC. Kosambi died in 1966, eight years before the first proven horse bones were found Harappan remains in Surkotada in Gujarat by AK Sharma. The identity of the horse bones was confirmed by Sandor Bokonyi, a zoologist and world renowned expert on horse bones. The bones were carbon dated to 2000 BC, falsifying the theory that horses were unknown in India before a 1200 BC “Aryan invasion”. Since then evidence of horses and horse bones have been found in several sites in India dating as far back as 3500 BCE in Bagor in Rajasthan
But none of this cuts any ice with those who want to stick doggedly to the idea that mythical “Aryans” brought the horse and a language to India after 1200 BC. As recently as 2004, Romila Thapar wrote, “The claim that horse bones occur at Surkotada, and at a few other sites at earlier levels, has met with doubt”.
Met with doubt indeed. In fact even Sandor Bokonyi’s validation of the Surkotada horse bones was doubted and he was questioned about his conclusion. This is in sharp contrast to a similar finding of horse bones in Russia, also similarly certified by Bokonyi. David Anthony writes:
“Bibikova, the chief paleozoologist at the Kiev Institute of Archaeology, declared the stallion a domesticated horse in 1967. The respected Hungarian zoologist and head of the Hungarian Institute of Archaeology, Sandor Bokonyi, agreed, noting the great variability in the leg dimensions of the Dereivka horses.”
In this case Bokonyi’s word is taken as gospel, but in Surkotada it was “met with doubt”. There is a deliberate, motivated desire to cast doubt on all horse findings in India that threaten to upset the theory that horses and language were brought to India by migrating Eurasians called “Aryans”. There is a sad irony in these attempts at obfuscation to protect an untenable language spread theory. A.K Sharma, the man who discovered the 2000 BC horse bones in Surkotada, received a standing ovation at a meeting after his find was validated by Sandor Bokonyi in 1991. Sharma recalls the day with more sadness than triumph:
“This was the saddest day for me as the thought flashed in my mind that my findings had to wait two decades for recognition, until a man from another continent came, examined the material and declared “Sharma was right”. When will we imbibe intellectual courage not to look across borders for approval? The historians are still worse, they feel it is an attempt on the part of the “rightists” to prove that the Aryans did not come to India from outside her boundaries.”
The story of horse bones in Hallur in Karnataka, 2000 km south of the Harappan area and dating back to 1500 BCE is even more bizarre. The bones were excavated and identified by an archaeologist called Alur who was also a veterinary surgeon. The findings were carbon dated to 1500 BCE. This was met with anxiety and consternation. How could horse bones appear where historians and linguists did not want them? Twenty years after the original finds Alur did a re-exploration of the site and found even more horse bones removing all doubt that the so called “true horse” was present in India long before the imagined Aryans are supposed to have brought them.
Perhaps the most devastating critique of the creation of fake history regarding horses in India comes from archaeologist KD Sethna: “As there are no depictions of the cow, in contrast to the pictures of the bull, which are abundant, should we conclude that Harappa and Mohenjodaro had only bulls.” Sethna goes further, he makes the opposite point that the mythical unicorn is found on numerous seals, and asks, ”was the unicorn a common animal of the proto-historic Indus Valley?”
One point to be noted about horse bone findings in Iron Age archaeological sites in India from (post-1800 BCE) is the fact that the findings of horse bones do not show a dramatic increase in the same way that Eurasian and European sites reveal after horse domestication. Many Iron Age sites, even centuries after the alleged time during which horses were “brought” to India have not revealed horse bones, although many others do. In the steppe regions horse bones in some cases total 50 to 90% of all bones found. Historian Upinder Singh, on the other hand, recorded a mature Harappan (2600 to 1900 BC) site as having only 0.14% horse bones out of a total of over 15,000 bone fragments found. Even in later finds in India cattle and other mammal bones account for over 60% of bone findings while horse bones are found in smaller proportions. In some Iron Age sites in India, horse related metal artefacts like bits have been found, but no horse bones. Horses were not absent in India, but they just do not represent a significant part of the archaeological record.
Close to the borders of modern India, in Afghanistan, the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC) is situated along the route that it is alleged that horses and language were brought to India from Eurasia. No horse bones have yet been found in the BMAC. This is no more surprising than the relatively sparse horse bone findings in India from 2500 BC to 300 AD. There are some soil and climate conditions that allow some remains to survive for extended periods while others nearby may disappear. At the site of the historic battle of Little Bighorn of 1876 in the USA, more than 200 men were killed. They were all buried on site. Modern excavations have revealed only 46 partial human skeletons. Most of the remains have disappeared after less than 150 years. While the presence of horse bones in a grave is proof that a horse or horse parts were buried there, the absence of horse bones means nothing. It does not mean that horses did not exist.
Another curious fact is that Harappan skeletal remains have revealed camel bones at many sites, but those camel bones are of the one-humped Arabian camel and not the two humped Bactrian camel from nearby Afghanistan, the direction from which horses are said to have been brought. This is one more indicator that Harappan society before 2000 BC had links with Arabia. In fact much of the copper used in tools was imported from Oman. It seems likely that there was a coastal trade with Arabia as attested by the finding of Harappan artefacts in Mesopotamia. Horse remains, apparently with evidence of domestication, have been found in Saudi Arabia from 9000 years ago and it is likely that horses and camels may have been imported to India before 2000 BC in coastal trade from Arabia. One hymn in the Rig Veda mentions a horse sacrifice that was part of the “Ashvamedha yagna” ritual conducted by some kings in their lifetime. The number of ribs mentioned in the hymn is thirty four. Arabian horses tend to have thirty-four ribs as opposed to the thirty-six ribs in horses from Europe and Central Asia. Arabia apart, Tibet, with its own breeds was the closest source of horses for north India.
Historian Romila Thapar writes:
“The second millennium also saw activity along the Indo-Iranian borderlands, including the arrival in north-western India of the horse and the chariot with a (sic) spoked wheel, both of which were new to the subcontinent.”
The chariot is cited as a technological advance that led to the spread of people from the steppes. It is claimed that the domestication of horses in the steppes somehow did not lead to the people migrating out. They waited 1500 years until someone had invented a chariot with spoked wheels. The spokes were apparently very important because they made chariot wheels light and maneuverable. At this stage, it is claimed, the steppe people went on to conquer the world. The story of horse and chariot as a world beating combination is fascinating, but reality is more modest. Chariots are no good for war in mountainous terrain or in forested regions. The route to India from Eurasia passes through the Hindu Kush mountains and the treacherous 5000 meter high snow-bound passes are difficult to cross for modern motor vehicles, let alone chariots in 1500 BC. Alexander the great, whose military acumen and generalship are not in doubt, significantly did not choose to bring chariots across the Hindu Kush as his campaign reached the banks of the Indus in 300 BC. Even so, the crossing of mountain passes took such a heavy toll on his men and animals that his campaign to conquer India ended on the banks of the Indus. The idea that Bronze Age chariot riders from the steppes came to India on chariots across the mountain passes are suggestive of a mind that is more familiar with Hollywood than military strategy. Chariot making is more about technology rather than direct imports. A traveler in a faraway land who sees a chariot with spoked wheels would be able to replicate its design, given some skill in carpentry, without actually riding the chariot back home.
Of course there is now physical evidence of chariots in India before 2000 BCE making these tales about Aryan chariots redundant, but one must ask why it has been necessary to deny and stonewall the evidence of horses and chariots in India. The only reason why historians, linguists, anthropologists and archaeologists might want stick to the untenable story of hordes migrating to India with horses from Eurasia despite the weight of evidence to the contrary is because the story fits in with the linguistic imaginings of how language must have spread. Archaeological data that fits in with this story is selectively cherry picked while discarding all facts that fail to fit the theory.
In science, theories are made to explain available facts, but it appears that science has been dispensed with when it comes to theories about how Indo-European languages spread. Non-linguistic evidence points towards the inevitable conclusion that currently touted theories about how Indo-European languages spread, based on linguistic reconstructions, are wrong. Vedic references and post-Veda texts both have references to hydrological and astronomical events that occurred over a span of 10,000 years in India suggesting that Sanskrit was part of the Indian linguistic landscape thousands of years before Eurasian charioteers. History books need to be wiped clean of fake horse and language migration theories that surely rank among the top hoaxes ever played by scholars on any unsuspecting population. Linguists and historians who denied and stonewalled all evidence in favour of their pet theories must be called to account. And their predictable polemic and gaslighting of all critics by accusing them of representing right-wing Hindus needs to be recognized as the defining feature of the lack of evidence for absurd theories that were passed off as historic facts.
An incurable patriot, Dr. Shivsankar Sastry is a surgeon by profession; and a historian, thinker, sociologist and military aviation enthusiast by choice