Monday, 18 May 2020

The Ikṣvākus in the Rigveda

The Ikṣvākus in the Rigveda

Shrikant G. Talageri

According to India's traditional Indian history, in the most ancient period the whole of India was divided among the ten sons of the mythical First King Manu Vaivasvata: this translates into Ten Great (conglomerates of) Tribes, who are believed to have been the occupants of different parts of India.  However, very little is known about eight of these, and whatever little is given about them is so meagre, garbled, and mixed with all kinds of contradictory data, that it becomes clear that the Puranic editors in northern India were well acquainted with the history of only two main divisions mythically treated as descendants of two of the "sons", Iḷa/Sudyumna and Ikṣvāku: the Lunar Race (Aiḷas) and the Solar Race (Ikṣvākus) respectively.

The Rigveda is the Book of the Pūru, and in fact, in the earlier period of the Rigveda, in the Family Books (2-7), it is specifically the Book of the Bharata Pūru.
The Anu and Druhyu to their west and northwest are mostly their rivals and enemies, especially in the earlier periods, though there is more friendly co-existence in the period of the New Books, (5,1,8,9,10), the Mature Harappan period.
The Yadu and Turvaśa (Turvasu) to their south are farther off, almost always referred to as a pair, described as coming from afar after crossing many rivers, on specific occasions where they are sometimes friends and sometimes enemies. These are the Five Tribes known to tradition as the Lunar tribes.
But what is the role of the Ikṣvāku, or the Solar, tribes in Rigvedic history? It would appear that they were too far to the east to have played any important role in Rigvedic history. Nevertheless, one section of the Ikṣvāku  did play an important role in the Rigveda. We will examine here the exact nature of this role:

I. The Ikṣvākus in the Rigveda.
II. The Northwestern Connection.

I. The Ikṣvākus in the Rigveda

The word Ikṣvāku is found only once in the whole of the Rigveda, in X.60.4. It simply means "the Sun".

However, the Ikṣvāku are referred to in the Rigveda by another name: as the Tṛkṣi: this word is found twice in the Rigveda: VI.46.8; VIII.22.7.

a) In the second reference, VIII.22.7, the word is used as an epithet of a king called Trāsadasyava, "the son of Trasadasyu". The actual name of this king, "the son of Trasadasyu", is not given in the hymn, but most Indologists assume his name to be Tṛkṣi, on account of the phrase "Tṛkṣim Trāsadasyavam" (mis)translated as "Trikṣi, the son of Trasadasyu". However, it should actually be translated as "the Trikṣi, the son of Trasadasyu", meaning "the son of Trasadasyu, of the Trikṣi (tribe)". The other earlier reference makes it clear that the word is not the name of a person but of a tribe:

b) The first reference, VI.46.8, is one of those directional references which names tribes as references of direction. The two verses VI.46.7-8 are as follows:
"All the manly powers of the Nahuṣa Tribes, all the Glory of the Five Tribes, bring it together, O Indra!
All the Strength with Trikṣi, with Druhyu, and with Pūru, bestow it all on us, O Indra, that we may conquer all our enemies in battle".

Very clearly, tribes are being referred to, not individuals. The translators clearly translate as "the Druhyu folk/tribes/people" and "the Pūru folk/tribes/people" in two of the three cases, but simply "Trikṣi" in the third, and assume it to be the name of a person! Obviously, it is the name of a tribe!
The two verses are clear: the first verse refers to "Nahuṣa Tribes" and "Five Tribes" in the sense of "All the Tribes". The second specifically names together the easternmost tribes, the Trikṣi in the far east, the westernmost tribes, the Druhyu in the far northwest, and the central tribes, the  Pūru, in the home areas, to again indicate "All the Tribes". And they ask Indra to give all the strength and power of all these tribes to Us, the Bharatas.
Therefore also, the word in VIII.22.7 means the Trikṣi, and not Trikṣi.

The Tṛkṣi (Ikṣvāku) kings are referred to as follows:

1. Mandhātā: I.112.13; VIII.39.8; 40.12.

2. Purukutsa: I.63.7; 112.7; 174.2; VI.20.10.

3. Trasadasyu: I.112.14; IV.38.1; 42.8,9; V.27.3; 33.8; VII.19.3; VIII.8.21; 19.32,36; 36.7; 37.7; 49.10; X.33.4; 150.5.
Paurukutsa: IV.42.9; V.33.8; VII.19.3; VIII.19.36.

4. Trivṛṣan: V.27.1.

5. Tryaruṇa: V.27.1-3.
Trasadasyu: V.27.3.

6. Trāsadasyava: VIII.22.7.

7. Kuruṣravaṇa: X.32.9; 33.4.
Trāsadasyava: X.33.4.

The first of these, Mandhāta is clearly a distant ancestral king in this line, since he is not referred to in any contemporary sense: in the first reference, I.112.13, he is included in a long list of beneficiaries of the grace of the Aśvins. In the next two (both by one composer), he is clearly an old ancestral figure: VIII.40.12 specifically refers to him as an ancestor (pitṛ). The composer is Nābhāka Kāṇva: incidentally, in the Ikṣvāku dynastic lists in both the Puranas and Epics, Nābhāga is the name of one of the far descendants of Mandhātā.

The rest of the kings are clearly kings contemporary to the period of the New Books. They are found in all in 14 hymns in the New Books, and in 6 of them they are the patron kings of the hymns (i.e. the king from whom the composer is receiving some kind of gifts): V.27,33; VIII.19,49; X.32,33. In the remaining 8, they appear in regular lists of people aided by the Gods: in 4 by Indra: I.63,174; VIII.36,37; in 3 by the Aśvins: I.112; VIII.8,22; in 1 by Agni: X.50.

But then we come to the 4 references to them in the Old Books: VI.20; VII.19; IV.38,42. How can kings of the period of the New Books be found in references in the Old Books?

As I pointed out in detail in my second book (TALAGERI 2000:66-72), the names of these Tṛkṣi kings in these 4 references are unique and extraordinary in the ethos of the Rigveda, since they are cases where their names were deliberately added into the Old Hymns in the period of the New Books, by composers belonging to the two families most closely associated with the Bharata Pūrus, the Angiras and Vasiṣṭha composers, as a special homage of gratitude for some extraordinary aid given by them to the Bharata Pūrus in particular or the Pūrus in general.

In general, in the Old Books, even the Redacted Hymns are found modified (due to repeated popular recitals in front of new audiences during the Rigvedic period) only in language but not in geographical or historical content. Thus they refer only to the people, events and geographical features of the Old times. Book 6 is associated with Divodāsa, and Books 3 and 7 with Sudās:
a) In Book 6, Divodāsa is found in 6 hymns: 3 Old (26,31,43) and 3 Redacted (16,47,61). There is no reference to the later Sudās in any hymn in Book 6.
b) In Book 3, Sudās is found in 2 hymns: 1 Old (33) and 1 Redacted (53).
c) In Book 7, Sudās is found in 10 hymns: 8 Old (18,19,20,25,53,60,64,83) and 2 Redacted (32,33).
d) Eastern geographical names (rivers up to the Asiknī) are found:
In Book 6 in 11 hymns: 6 Old (1,4,8,17,20,27) and 5 Redacted (45,49,50,52,61). In Book 3 in 10 hymns: 7 Old (4,5,23,45,46,54,58) and 3 Redacted (26,29,53).
In Book 7 in 13 hymns: 10 Old (2,9,18,35,39,40,44,58,69,98) and 3 Redacted (36,95,96).
e) Western geographical names are totally missing in all the three Books (6,3,7) in all the Hymns, Old as well as Redacted.

The logic of inadvertently interpolating new pieces of geographical or historical data into old works must be understood. No one would seriously introduce (except in joke or satire) a reference to England or apples, or to Nehru or Shivaji, or to telephones or the internet, in writing out or retelling the story of the Ramayana or Mahabharata, since a person would normally be aware of the fact that the places or objects or people or technologies represented by these words cannot be part of the geographical and historical ethos of the Epics. But words not known to be representing later phenomenon could be interpolated into the stories. Thus the writers, editors and redactors of the Epics and Puranas, which relate events which took place long before they were set out in writing (in the period after 500 BCE), and which were carried forward for long periods and countless generations of retelling as oral traditions, did unknowingly interpolate countless names of places, people and things which were so common and current in their time that it did not seem to have occurred to them that they were new things. As recently as the 1960s, the film Sampoorna Ramayan showed a scene where, after Sita's abduction, a distraught Rama saw an image of Sita in a sitaphal and Sita (in her place of imprisonment in the Ashokavan) saw an image of Rama in a ramphal. Obviously, the filmmaker was unaware that these two fruits were brought into India from Latin America only a few centuries ago by the Portuguese! This is why the data in the texts cannot be taken unquestioningly or without examination in serious historical discussions.

On the other hand, the Vedic texts, and especially the Rigveda, were carried forward by such a strict, unique and totally unparalleled system of oral recitation (the ghaṇapāṭha) that the Rigveda remained totally unchanged once the text was given its final canonical form sometime around 1500 BCE. I always give the quotations of Witzel in this respect since they are so perfect, and I will repeat them here (the quotation from WITZEL 1999a alone is a new one, and it gives an additional proof):

Right from the beginning, in Ṛgvedic times, elaborate steps were taken to insure the exact reproduction of the words of the ancient poets. As a result, the Ṛgveda still has the exact same wording in such distant regions as Kashmir, Kerala and Orissa, and even the long-extinct musical accents have been preserved. Vedic transmission is thus superior to that of the Hebrew or Greek Bible, or the Greek, Latin and Chinese classics. We can actually regard present-day Ṛgveda recitation as a tape recording of what was composed and recited some 3000 years ago. In addition, unlike the constantly reformulated Epics and Purāṇas, the Vedic texts contain contemporary materials. They can serve as snapshots of the political and cultural situation of the particular period and area in which they were composed. […] as they are contemporary, and faithfully preserved, these texts are equivalent to inscriptions. […] they are immediate and unchanged evidence, a sort of oral history ― and sometimes autobiography ― of the period, frequently fixed and ‘taped’ immediately after the event by poetic formulation. These aspects of the Vedas have never been sufficiently stressed […]” (WITZEL 1995a:91).

“[…] the Vedas were composed orally and they always were and still are, to some extent, oral literature. They must be regarded as tape recordings, made during the Vedic period and transmitted orally, and usually without the change of a single word.” (WITZEL 1997b:258).

"At the outset, it must be underlined that the Vedic texts excel among other early texts of other cultures in that they are 'tape recordings' of this archaic period. They were not allowed to be changed: not one word, not a syllable, not even a tonal accent. If this sounds unbelievable, it may be pointed out that they even preserve special cases of main clause and secondary clause intonation, items that have even escaped the sharp ears of early Indian grammarians. These texts are therefore better than any manuscript, and as good―if not better―than any contemporary inscription" (WITZEL 1999a:3).

It must be underlined that just like an ancient inscription, these words have not changed since the composition of these hymns c.1500 BCE, as the RV has been transmitted almost without any change […] The modern oral recitation of the RV is a tape recording of c.1700-1200 BCE.” (WITZEL 2000a:§8).

The language of the RV is an archaic form of Indo-European. Its 1028 hymns are addressed to the gods and most of them are used in ritual. They were orally composed and strictly preserved by exact repetition through by rote learning, until today. It must be underlined that the Vedic texts are ‘tape recordings’ of this archaic period. Not one word, not a syllable, not even a tonal accent were allowed to be changed. The texts are therefore better than any manuscript, and as good as any well preserved contemporary inscription. We can therefore rely on the Vedic texts as contemporary sources for names of persons, places, rivers (WITZEL 1999c)” (WITZEL 2006:64-65).

In these circumstances, the deliberate interpolations into Old Hymns, of references to Tṛkṣi kings of the New Books, during the later Rigvedic period must have been motivated by a truly extraordinary sense of gratitude for the help given by these kings to the Vedic Pūrus. While we cannot discover the details, the basic fact is clear: the 4 references in the Old Books stand out from normal references to kings in the Rigveda: IV.42.8-9 twice refers to Trasadasyu as an ardhadeva or "demi-god", an extraordinarily adulatory phrase found nowhere else in the Vedic texts. It glorifies his birth in a manner reminiscent of the glorification of the birth of later divine heroes not only in India but all over the world, but without parallel in the Rigveda: the Seven Great Sages (sapta ṛṣi) gather together, Purukutsa's wife gives oblations to Indra and Varuṇa, and the two Gods are pleased to reward her with the birth of Trasadasyu "the demi-god, the slayer of the foe-men".

That these 4 references are late interpolations in the hymns is definite. Although it cannot be expected that there should necessarily be discernible clues to the lateness of these references in the Old Books, since that was not the intention of the interpolators (late composers from the Aṅgiras and Vasiṣṭha families), we do find such clues:

1. In the case of IV.42.8-9: the idea of Seven Sages (sapta ṛṣi), is a very late one, common in the Atharvaveda, but otherwise found in the Rigveda only in two verses in the very late Book 10: X.82.2; 109.4―it is also found in the Avesta. Understandably, although the hymn is not a Redacted Hymn, Griffith tells us that "Grassmann banishes stanzas 8, 9 and 10 to the appendix as late additions to the hymn".

2. VI.20.10 is the only verse in the Old Books, singled out by Prof. Hopkins (HOPKINS 1896a:72-73), in the "Final Note" to his path-breaking article "Prāgāthinī - I", as a verse which seems to have "interesting marks of lateness", in spite of the hymn not being a Redacted Hymn. He notes not only that Purukutsa is a king belonging to a much later period, but that the verse contains the phrase purah śāradīh, found elsewhere only in the New Book 1; and, most significantly, the phrase pra stu- which is "a very important word in the liturgical sense; and it is one of the commonest of words in later literature", found very commonly in the Brahmanas, five times in the Atharvaveda, and also very commonly in the Avesta as fra stu-. But, in the Rigveda, outside this single reference in an Old Book, it is found 10 times in the New Books.

3. Verse IV.38.1 is definitely totally out of place in the hymn. Hymns 38-40 are hymns in praise of Dadhikrās, the deified war-horse, and this one verse, out of the 21 verses in the three hymns, is the only verse which stands out from the other 20 verses in deifying Trasadasyu (who is not mentioned at all in the other verses) rather than Dadhikrās.

4. About VII.19, the hymn itself may have been composed long after the period of Sudās, since  Griffith points out that the contemporaneous king referred to in verse 8 is "probably a descendant of Sudās, who must have lived long before the composition of this hymn, as the favor bestowed on him is referred to as old in stanza 6".

These references in the Old Books (and one more in Book 1 by a composer belonging to the same Aṅgiras branch as the composers of Book 4, the Gautamas) are absolutely unanimous in specifically crediting Purukutsa and/or Trasadasyu for help given to the Pūrus:
IV.38.1 thanks Mitra and Varuṇa for the services which Trasadasyu, "the winner of our fields and plough-lands, and the strong smiter who subdued the dasyus", rendered to the Pūrus.
VII.19.3 refers to Indra helping the Pūrus "in winning land and slaying foemen" once by way of Sudās (the hero of Book 7) and once by way of Trasadasyu Paurukutsa (who is otherwise not connected in any way with Sudās, but is elevated to his level with this reference in Book 7).
Likewise, I.63.7 refers to Indra rendering military aid to the Pūrus, once by way of Sudās and once by way of Purukutsa.
VI.20.10 shows the Pūrus lauding Indra for destroying the fortresses of their enemies by way of Purukutsa.

It may be noted that in all the other references to these Tṛkṣi kings Purukutsa and Trasadasyu, in the New Books, not one refers even once to the Pūrus in connection with them, and the only praise for these kings is in the dānastutis (V.33; VIII.19) for gifts given to the composers of those hymns. It is clear therefore that the 4 interpolated references in the Old Books are special memorial references to the two Tṛkṣi kings of the period of the New Books, who saved the Bharata Pūrus or the Pūrus in general from total defeat and destruction in some unspecified wars. They were inserted into the Old Books by late composers of the respective families since the Old Books represented the special period of the Bharata Pūrus.

The presence of these Ikṣvāku kings in the Rigveda has always been a pain for the Indologists, firstly because they are not specifically called Ikṣvākus (and the Indologists do not realize that the tribal term for them in the Rigveda is Tṛkṣi, which they assume to be the name of an individual king) and secondly because they actually misinterpret the 5 special memorial references (4 in the Old Books and 1 by the Gautama Āṅgirasa composer in Book 1) to the great help given to the Pūrus by these two kings to mean that the two kings themselves were Pūrus!

They are aware that this misinterpretation has no support anywhere in the Rigveda outside their own misinterpretations of these 5 references, and certainly nowhere in any other Vedic, Puranic or Classical Sanskrit text. It is not only the Puranas and Epics which unanimously classify these kings as Ikṣvāku: other Vedic texts also do so: the Panchavimsha Brahmana xiii.3.12 calls Tryaruṇa an Aikṣvāka, and the Shatapatha Brahmana xiii.5,4,5 calls Purukutsa an Aikṣvāka. Nowhere are they called Pūrus.
But instead of realizing the mistake, some Indologists try to explain this (most others simply ignore or stonewall it) by suggesting that "the Ikṣvāku line was originally a line of the princes of the Pūrus" (MACDONELL-KEITH 1912a:75).

Not only is their misinterpretation of the 5 references totally unsupported anywhere, but it leads them into contradictions and confusion. Instead of realizing that the word Pūru in these verses in fact refers to the Bharatas, they somehow conclude that Bharatas and Pūrus were the main rivals in the Rigveda, and treat Purukutsa and Trasadasyu as the leaders of these rival or enemy Pūrus. But then those very 5 references on which their entire misinterpretation is based become incomprehensible to them, since in 3 of them, I.63.7; VI.20.10; and VII.19.3, Indra is described as helping both Sudās and Purukutsa/Trasadasyu to victory!
This confusion and contradiction is reflected in their interpretations:

Witzel, in his 1995 papers, recognizes that it is “the Pūru, to whom (and to […] the Bharata) the Ṛgveda really belongs” (WITZEL 1995b:313), and that the Rigveda was “composed primarily by the Pūrus and Bharatas” (WITZEL 1995b:328), and even that the Bharatas were “a subtribe” (WITZEL 1995b:339) of the Pūrus. But he convinces himself that, while Divodāsa and Sudās were Bharatas, Purukutsa and Trasadasyu were Pūrus; and hence he confuses every reference to Pūrus (i.e. to the Bharatas) as a reference to those non-Pūru Tṛkṣi kings, whom, moreover, he somehow identifies as the enemies of Sudās and the Bharatas in the Battle of the Ten Kings. Altogether, therefore, he ends up with a thoroughly chaotic and confused picture of  Rigvedic history, for which he blames “conflicting glimpses” and “inconsistencies” in the hymns themselves (!):
Although book 7 is strongly pro-Bharata, it provides several, conflicting, glimpses of the Pūru […in] 7.5.3, Vasiṣṭha himself praises Agni for vanquishing the ‘black’ enemies of the Pūrus ― this really ought to have been composed for the Bharatas. Inconsistencies also appear in hymn 7.19.3, which looks back on the ten kings’ battle but mentions Indra’s help for both Sudās and Trasadasyu, the son of Purukutsa, and also refers to the Pūrus’ winning of land […]” (WITZEL 1995b:331)!

In her comment on VII.19.3, Jamison tells us: "The first half of this hymn (vss. 1-5) celebrates various victories of Indra, giving aid both to men of the mythic past (e.g., Kutsa, vs. 2) and those of the present, especially King Sudās (vs. 3, also 6), the leader also in the battle of the Ten Kings treated in the preceding well-known hymn (VII.18). The allegiances and enmities of that hymn are strikingly different here: for example, Indra helps the Pūru king in this hymn (vs. 3), whereas in VII.18, the Pūrus are the enemy". She does not comment on the other verses (I.63.7, and VI.20.10) where both Purukutsa/Trasadasyu and Sudās are led to victory by Indra!

In fact, as per Macdonell, the early Indologist Ludwig, in order to push his view that Purukutsa and Sudās were mutual enemies, went so far as to decide that a word in I.63.7 was wrong, and to actually alter that word sudāsam to sudāse (MACDONELL-KEITH 1912b:327,fn7)!

All this had been dealt with in my books, but now we must discuss a new dimension of this Ikṣvāku or Tṛkṣi history in the Rigveda.

II. The Northwestern Connection

There is one more point about the Ikṣvāku presence in the Rigveda which should cause puzzlement: the prominent presence in the northwest of these kings―who are located in the Puranas and Epics in the far east (northeastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar).

This does not cause puzzlement to the Indologists, of course, because according to their theory, all the ancestors of all the Puranic tribes and dynasties were located in the northwest in the Rigvedic period as constituents among the newly arrived Vedic Indo-Aryans, and it was only later that these tribes migrated eastwards and spread out all over northern India. Scholars like P.L. Bhargava, who try to fit the Puranic data into the geographical constraints of this Rigvedic-origin paradigm, also locate the Ikṣvākus in the northwest. Then we have crank writers like Rajesh Kochhar trying to push even the geography of the Ramayana into the northwest. Unfortunately, the views of orthodox Hindus opposed to the AIT, who support the Vedic-origin-of-Indian-culture-and-history paradigm, indirectly falls in the same category.

But as we have seen elsewhere (see my books and articles), the data in both the Rigveda and the Puranas prove that the Vedic Indo-Aryans were in fact the Pūrus alone (and, in the earlier period, specifically the Bharata Pūrus). And they alone occupied the home territory within the Rigvedic horizon. The Ikṣvākus were indeed to their far east from very early pre-Rigvedic times: the location-based reference to the Tṛkṣi tribe in the early VI.46 clearly places them to the far east in contrast to the Druhyu in the far west and the Pūru in the central home area.
But the 14 hymns in the New Books which treat these kings as contemporary (in dānastutis) or merely enumerate them (in lists of persons favored by the Gods) seem to be located in the northwest. At least, not one of these hymns has an eastern geographical name, but northwestern rivers Rasā (I.112.12) and Suvāstu (VIII.19.37) are named in two of them, in the second as the actual river on whose banks Trasadasyu gave gifts to the composer. A later reference in the Shatyayana Brahmana records that Trasadasyu's wife was a Piśācī  (i.e. a person belonging to the Piśāca or Nooristani Anu people who occupied exactly the same area).
So what accounts for the presence of these Ikṣvāku kings in the northwest?

The explanation is in the Puranic accounts:
There were non-Bharata Pūrus living to the east and slightly south of the central area of the Rigvedic Bharata Pūrus, in western UP and parts of northern Madhya Pradesh. We have the Pūru Matsyas, who lived to the south of the Yamunā and fought against Sudās and the Bharata Pūrus in the battle on the Yamunā in alliance with the Yadus and Turvasus of the area (VII.18). We have the Kīkaṭa, whom later tradition actually associates with the Magadha area in the east, but, even without going that far, even Witzel identifies it as an interior location to the south-east of Haryana "in eastern Rajasthan or western Madhya Pradesh" (WITZEL 1995b:333 fn)!
So the Bharata Pūrus of the Rigveda were certainly generally acquainted with the people to their east and immediate south from pre-Rigvedic times. They were acquainted so well enough with the far eastern location of the Tṛkṣi, even in the period of the oldest Book 6, as to be able to use the name as a location-based reference to the far east (in VI.27). Doubtless, the relations between the more eastern (non-Bharata) Pūrus and the Ikṣvākus to the far east must have been even closer.

In any case, the Puranas tell us that the ancient Ikṣvāku king Mandhātā of the east was related to the Pūrus through his mother, who was the daughter of a Pūru king Matīnāra. It is at least clear from this that Mandhātā (half a Pūru himself) had reason to be friendly with the Pūrus, who were his maternal relations.
The Puranic accounts of the Ikṣvāku dynasty associate all the early kings with the east, but in the case of Mandhātā, they relate his movement westwards in support of his Pūru kinsmen who were under assault from the Druhyus to their west in a pre-Rigvedic period. The Druhyus had attacked all the people to their east and all the eastern people combined against them to drive them out. Mandhātā  moved out as far as the Punjab and drove the Druhyus out from the Punjab into the northwest. Pargiter describes it as follows: "The Druhyus occupied the Punjab, and Mandhātṛ of Ayodhya had a long war with the Druhyu king Aruddha or Aṅgāra and killed him" (PARGITER 1962:167). Later, more in detail, he tells us that Mandhātā  pushed past "the prostrate Paurava realm, and pushing beyond them westwards, he had a long contest with and conquered the Druhyu king who appears to have been then on the confines of the Panjab, so that the next Druhyu king Gandhāra retired to the northwest and gave his name to the Gandhāra country" (PARGITER 1962:262).

Later, Mandhātā returned to his own kingdom in the east, and there is little record in traditional history of the activities of his successor kings in the east having much to do with the northwest (until the much later period of the Epics). However, it is clear that some of his descendants remained in the northwest and originated a new northwestern branch of Tṛkṣi or Ikṣvāku kings distinct from the eastern ones. Undoubtedly Purukutsa, Trasadasyu and their descendants in the Rigveda were late descendants, in the period of the New Books of the Rigveda, belonging to this northwestern branch.

The evidence for this is that, in spite of both the Puranas as well as later Vedic texts regularly classifying these kings as Ikṣvākus, and in spite of the fact that they are the main or only Ikṣvākus in the New Books of the Rigveda, the eastern Ikṣvāku traditions are completely blank about these important kings. Purukutsa and Trasadasyu, though the descendants of Mandhātā, are not known to the Ramayana traditions as being ancestors of Rama. The Ramayana (II.110)  records all the important ancestors of Rama and kings of Ayodhya known to the Puranic traditions, including (other than Mandhātā) Ikṣvāku, Triśaṅku, Dhundhumāra, Ajita, Sagara, Aṁśuman, Dilīpa, Bhagīratha, Raghu, Kalmāṣapāda and Ambarīṣa, none of whom (again other than Mandhātā) are known to the Rigveda. But it does not seem to know the very important Purukutsa, Trasadasyu and the other Ikṣvāku kings known to the Rigveda (but also to the Puranas).

Bhargava notes this fact: he points out that "Eleven Purāṇas and the Harivaṁśa give the list of the kings of this dynasty more or less completely", as also two Upa-Puranas and the Mahabharata, and also the Ramayana (twice), but "all the lists are in general agreement except the two Ramayana lists, which differ from all others. Thus the Ramayana genealogy omits many kings, such as Purukutsa, Trasadasyu, Hariśchandra and Rohita, who are well-known in Vedic literature as Aikshvāku kings" (BHARGAVA 1956:56).
The reason is clear. Obviously Purukutsa and Trasadasyu were not known to the eastern traditions as ancestors of Rama, because they were not ancestors of Rama: they were kings of the northwestern branch of the Ikṣvākus.

[Incidentally, Bhargava himself provides the logic for different versions in different Puranas or groups of Puranas. He gives a case where "between Mitrasaha and Dilīpa Khaṭvāṅga two lines of kings are given in two sets of Purāṇas for six generations", which he explains as follows: "It is clear that one line is the main line and the other a branch line, and while some Purāṇas have dropped the main line, the others have dropped the branch" (BHARGAVA 1956:59). This is the explanation for the differences in the Ikṣvāku lineages: always keeping in mind that the Puranic lists in different texts are in any case often jumbled, confused and partial (and sometimes even fictitious) except where confirmed by more definite evidence, the fact is that the Puranas retain lists of all the Ikṣvāku kings, while the Vedic texts name only kings from the northwestern branch line, and the eastern traditions (though also in the manner of the Puranic records) name only kings from the main eastern line].

Three other interesting points emerge out of all this:

1. The fact that the kings of the northwestern branch of Tṛkṣi or Ikṣvāku kings were close allies of the Pūrus in the post-Sudās period of the Rigveda may throw light on the identity of the Ambarīṣa of I.100.17, one of the five Vārṣāgiras in the battle beyond the Sarayu in the period of Sahadeva and Somaka. He was not a Bharata Pūru, but an Ikṣvāku―but then there is no reason to believe that the five Vārṣāgiras were brothers or clansmen. Ambarīṣa seems to have been a common family name among Ikṣvākus:  we have kings of Ayodhya named Ambarīṣa, and apparently that was also the name of one of Purukutsa's brothers (PARGITER 1962:93).

2. As inhabitants of the northwest, the northwestern Ikṣvākus must have been experts at horsemanship and may have introduced the war-horse of the northwest to their Pūru allies. There are two clear indications of this in the Rigveda:
a) The verse referring to Trasadasyu in IV.38, is inserted at the beginning of a group of three hymns (IV.38-40, with a total of 21 verses) addressed to a divine war-horse Dadhikrās. The verse (IV.38.1) describes the war-hero Trasadasyu and the war-horse Dadhikrās as the two great gifts given by Varuṇa and Mitra to the Pūrus which enabled them to win back their plough-lands and fields.
b) Another divine war horse, named in two late verses, I.89.6 and X.33.4, is named Tārkṣya, which is literally derived from the name Tṛkṣi: i.e. "of the Tṛkṣi".

3. This early expansion of a group of Ikṣvākus from eastern India to the northwest explains the westward transfer of the names of the two eastern rivers Gomatī and Sarayu.


BHARGAVA 1956: India in the Vedic Age: A History of Aryan Expansion in India. Upper India Publishing House Pvt. Ltd. Lucknow, 1956.

GRIFFITH 1889: The Hymns of the Rigveda. (tr) Griffith, Ralph T.H. Munshiram Manoharlal, rep 1987, Varanasi.

JAMISON-BRERETON 2014: The Rigveda―The Earliest Religious Poetry of India. Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 2014.

HOPKINS 1896a: Prāgāthikāni. Hopkins, Edward W. pp. 23-92 in JAOS (Journal of the American Oriental Society), Vol. 17.

MACDONELL-KEITH 1912a: Vedic Index of Names and Subjects. Vol 1. Macdonell A.A. and Keith A.B. John Murray, London, 1912.

MACDONELL-KEITH 1912b: Vedic Index of Names and Subjects. Vol 2. Macdonell A.A. and Keith A.B. John Murray, London, 1912.

PARGITER 1962: Ancient Indian Historical Tradition. Pargiter F.E. Motilal Banarsidas, Delhi-Varanasi-Patna, 1962.

TALAGERI 2000: The Rigveda: A Historical Analysis. Talageri, Shrikant G. Aditya Prakashan (New Delhi), 2000.

WITZEL 1995a: Early Indian History: Linguistic and Textual Parameters. Witzel. Michael.  pp. 85-125 in “The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia”, ed. by George Erdosy. Walter de Gruyter. Berlin, 1995.

WITZEL 1995b: Rgvedic History: Poets, Chieftains and Politics. Witzel, Michael. pp. 307-352 in “The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia”, ed. by George Erdosy. Walter de Gruyter. Berlin.

WITZEL 1997b: The Development of the Vedic Canon and Its Schools: The Social and Political Milieu. Witzel, Michael. in “Inside the Texts, Beyond the Texts”, ed. by M.Witzel, Cambridge 1997 (being the proceedings of the International Vedic Workshop, Harvard univ., June 1989).

WITZEL 1999a: Early Sources for South Asian Substrate Languages. Witzel, Michael. in MOTHER TONGUE, Special Issue, 1999.

WITZEL 2000a: The Languages of Harappa. Witzel, Michael. Feb. 17, 2000.

WITZEL 2006: Central Asian Roots and Acculturation in South Asia: Linguistic and Archaelogical Evidence from Western Central Asia, the Hindukush and Northwestern South Asia for Early Indo-Aryan Language and Religion. in “Indus Civilization: Text and Context”, edited by Toshiki Osada, Manohar Publications, New Delhi, 2006   



  1. Talageri ji, in the last paragraph you justify the occurrence of eastern rivers names Gomatī and Sarayu in the west. Is there also some similar case for SarasVati and Harahvaiti?

    Also I have query regarding “Ganga” from your previous articles. Western Indologist said that the Word “Gāngya” in RV 6.45.31 is in a a tṛca section can you please explain what is this tṛca?

    Now the Western Indologist will always change their claim just to satisfy their AIT/AMT that’s why they sometimes calls this hymns unsuspicious and sometimes suspicious. But the question is does occurring in this tṛca section really creates any problem for "Ganga"?

    1. These questions about the Sarasvati-Harahvaiti have already been answered fully in the article on "The Logic of Rigvedic Geography".

      In this very article, I have shown how the geographical and historical references in the Old Books are identical for both the Old and Redacted Hymns, and it is only the language which may get accommodatingly modified (before the final freezing of the text) if the hymn is a popular one which was regularly recited before audiences as in a keertan. So why should a reference being in a trca (which is simply a strophe consisting of three verses) be of any importance in deciding the age of the reference? In fact, this trca section is the danastuti section which in fact shows that the three verses are the most contemporary verses in the whole hymn where the actual living patron of the composer is being praised.

      In the article on the logic of Rigvedic geography, I have shown how Witzel in his earlier articles argues hard to show that the Ganga is a very old reference. When he realized the danger to the AIT after my books, he tried to backtrack and give any excuse to now show that it is not old. If he had not found anything else he would have said "this is in a gayatri verse". Then should we have seriously sat down to discuss whether it being in a gayatri verse makes it a late reference?

      In an unrelated article (Hinduism vs. Hindutva) above, I gave the example of the wolf in Aesop's fable who is determined to find some excuse to attack and kill the lamb. Here (after my books) Witzel became desperate to find some excuse to show that the reference is a late one. It only shows motive and desperation.

  2. Thanks for the clarification.

  3. It seems like now Professor Witzel is working on "Out of Africa" theory as the description of this book of his "The Origins of the World's Mythologies" stated. According to the description of this book on Amazon he tries to show the mythology and spirituality of all the world's religion have there origin in Africa.

  4. Talageri ji is there really no connection between middle east and Indian subcontinent before 2000 BCE.Because again I came across a name of a middle eastern king name"Amar-Sin", where the word Amar means "Immortal", exactly the meaning it's similar sounding Sanskrit word "Amar" has.

  5. ‘When elephants battle, the grass suffers.’ Power, ivory and the Syrian elephant

    There is clear evidence of Asian elephants as far away as Syria. They went extinct by 800 BCE.

    "Evidence for the Syrian elephant ceased to exist during the 1st millennium BC as textual, pictorial and physical evidence for these animals stops during the second quarter of the 1st millennium BC (Barnett 1982: 74, n. 35; Collon 1977; Miller 1986; Moorey 1994: 119). "

  6. Talageri ji what is the source of PARGITER's information regarding Mandhata?

    Also why did Ramayana mentioned Sarasvati and Sindhu as an eastern river along with Sarayu, Ganga and Yamuna?
    For people like rajesh kochhar Ramayana occurred in Afghanistan so according to him this makes perfect sense.

  7. Even today we have the "underground Sarasvati" in Allahabad and the Sindh river going north from Madhya Pradesh to join the Yamuna in Jalaun district.
    Now could you please tell me the source for Rajesh Kochhar's Ganga and Yamuna in Afghanistan?

  8. So you are saying that Sindhu mentioned in here is not Indus but actually river Sindh.

    He didn't mention any reference or source for this identification.

  9. "For people like rajesh kochhar Ramayana occurred in Afghanistan so according to him this makes perfect sense."

    This is a classic case of Kochhar wanting to have his cake and eat it too.

    A review of Rajesh Kocchar's book by Koenraad Elst

    Refer to the section "Some far fetched proofs."

    "He really goes overboard when he tries to counter the obvious objection that the whole surroundings of the Vedic Saraswati are unmistakably Indian (e.g. elephants), making its identification with the Afghan river Helmand difficult. Thus, in the famous River Hymn (RV 10:75), the rivers are enumerated from east to west, with the Saraswati coming after the Ganga and Yamuna and before the eastern tributaries of the Indus: here, like in the whole post-Rg-Vedic Sanskrit literature, the term "Saraswati" unmistakably refers to the Ghaggar/Hakra. So, Kochhar decides to move the whole Rg-Vedic setting along with the Saraswati into Afghanistan: Ganga and Yamuna become tributaries of the Helmand (p.131). Well, anything is possible, but this ad hoc solution really is far-fetched.

    Also, he sticks to the Afghan identification EVEN FOR THE POST RG VEDIC PERIOD (emphasis added) which he has otherwise admitted as showing Indian locations (with the settlement of Northwest India taking place during the late Rg-Vedic period): "We have shown that the description of Sarasvati and Sarayu in the Rgveda and even sutra literature, fits the Afghan rivers Helmand and Hari-rud better than any river in India." (p.222, emphasis added) Have we really?"

    So to sustain the Haraivaitti= Sarasvati equation Ramayana and Mahabharata have to happen in Afghanistan as well.

  10. Ok, I was doing a little bit of search of my own. And yes based on the context there are various reason to believe that this river Sindhu is not the Indus but a tributary of Yamuna named Sindh.

    The verses occurs in kishkindha kanda (4-40-20b,21,22,23). It describe rivers like Ganga, Sarayu, Kaushiki, Yamuna, Saraswati, Sindhu, Shona, Mahi, Kaalamahi. All of them are eastern rivers. Regarding Saraswati River which Talageri ji already explained that it is the underground Sarasvati" in Allahabad.

    For Sindhu which is actually river Sindh and not Indus in this case. Those same verses also mention places like Brahmamaala, Videha, Maalva, Kaashi, and Kosala, Maagadha, Pundra and Anga. All of them are eastern kingdoms/places.

    One of this places Maalva (Malwa Plateau) interestingly is the place from where Sindh River actually flows from and joins Yamuna. Also in this verses there is another river mention i.e river Mahi which is also nearer to Malwa Plateau though not nearer to Sindh River, but still all of them are within that same region i.e central-western MP.

    It could also be possible that this tributary was also known as Sindhu in the past. Just like the Sindh province of Pakistan which in ancient times known as Sindhu/Sindhu Kingdom.

    Again there is another river i.e Sarayu. But according to Rajesh kochhar’s this Sarayu is the Harayu/Hari/Heart/Hereyrud of Afghanistan which is in the west. So if these verses are mentioning eastern geography why a western river (Sarayu/Harayu) is mentioned with them. Even if kochhar assumed that Saraswati as Helmand and Sindhu as Indus then also Sarayu/Harayu still remains a western river. The logic is simple; this Sarayu just like other rivers is the Sarayu of present day eastern UP.

    Finally kishkindha kANDa (4-42-15) which describes the western geography again mentioned Sindhu. So one should ask him why Ramayana mentioning Sindhu twice, once in the east and another in the west. Again simple logic eastern Sindhu is river Sindh and western Sindhu is river Indus.

    I hope this analysis is right.

  11. Sir, is TRTSU (mentioned variously as family of Sudas himself or as clansmen of Vasistha) the same as TRKSI?

    Earliest migration from Ayodhya to Central Asia was by Narisyanta, son of Vaivasvata Manu/brother of Ikshvaku. He is mentioned as the ancestor of SHAKA KSHATRIYAS.

    1. The words Trtsu and Trksi are found only in the Rigveda, and they clearly refer to the Bharatas and the Iksvakus respectively.


    "Due to the limitations of the text we can’t describe here all material embodiments of the watery
    humpback cattle pattern in the archaeological record of the Ancient East regions starting from theIndus Valley around 4000 BCE and moving further in time (between 2800

    1000 BCE) and fartherWest through Afghanistan, Bactria

    Margiana and Iran up to the Central Anatolia. It is sufficient tostate that the first ever in the IE studies’ history exact archaeological route of the RVedic (=(Pre)Harappan) IA migration has been reconstructed by us supporting the Out-of-India Theory ofIE dispersal. The readers wishing to learn more are kindly asked to watch our video report on the 5th of December 2019 at the All-
    Russian conference at Voronezh State Art Institution entitled ‘The motif of the humpback water bull in the culture of the Ancient East: art history comes to the aid of history’and the conference’s presentation and an updated map. [2]"

  13. - so theirs collapsed due to sea men. Ours had to be horse men!

  14. Archaeologist/historian Alexandr Semenenko has recently released books in Russian promoting the OIT. Check out his English language videos here

    His main claim is that what they call "chariots" in Eastern Europe are just carts.