Irano-Scythian Origins of the Pallavas

In an example of art imitating life; I was in Mahabalipuram last week reading up on the Persian origins of the Pallavas and then somehow there was a thread about it here on BP.

The article I was actually reading (note it’s hideously jingoistic and downright offensive at times):

Our South Indian podcast sort of fell through after the lead guest flaked out at the last minute (rather annoying in light that he insisted that we have a Dravidian focus).

We’ll probably now do a more general linguistics-genetics podcast and take it from there.

Ever since I got back from Chennai I’ve been ruminating on the “deep Hinduism”‘of the south. I have a few thoughts on it but it’s difficult to express them succinctly..

33 thoughts on “Irano-Scythian Origins of the Pallavas”

  1. FYI this pallava – pahalâvæn connection is bunk. You should interview Khodadad Rezakhani (@khodadadkavad) on this, and on Iranic history generally for the podcast 🙂

    1. I have been told that some Iranian pahalâvæn believe that their ancestry comes through Janamajeya/Paraksheet/Abhimanyu&Uttara/Arjuna&Subhadra. I didn’t know there were actual extant Indians claiming to be Pallava as well. If so their DNA might have split thousands of years before Christ. They wouldn’t share a lot of DNA haploid gene admixture with Iranian pahalâvæn.

      I would be deeply interested in a podcast with Khodadad Rezakhani. I suspect but don’t know that there is more shared Iranic/SAARC heritage than is generally known.

      It is too bad that most Iranian historical records were destroyed by Umar, Uthman, Muawiyah, Yazid, Marwan, Malik, Walid and Hisham.

      Zach you are right about the deep Hinduism of the south and Madras. It is the living breathing heart of Sanathana Dharma. Perhaps more so than any other large Indian city (although I might be wrong). Tamil Nadu in general is extremely spiritual/religious.

    2. Random Q Slapstik, I am re-reading the Rig Veda in light of the new DNA history of India. I have an inkling that there are many layers to the Rig Veda, and that the earliest layers are among the most antagonistic to the Dasa (who I identify with the native Indus people).

      The more recent layers are free of this enmity and may have been composed by the recently mixed ‘Aryanised’ natives themselves who accepted the Arya religion and language.

      Example of this include the Agastya hymns which betray influence of yogic philosophy which is foreign to the earlier Arya religion (attested in the earliest Rig Veda layers and in the Avesta).

      Is there any difference in the language used throughout the Rig Veda? Is there a more archaic form of the Arya language in the anti-Dasa hymns for example, compared to say Agastya’s?

      1. “The issue is that the earliest Rig Veda’s hymns are lost (going back all the way to the split of Proto-Indo-Iranian, hence the similarity with Mitanni). What we have today is a rough recreation of the original hymns compiled by the Indo-Aryans at about the same time as the other Vedas i.e. after they had entered the subcontinent. The language of this “copy” has Dravidian features even as the original hymns did not (and could not, since it was composed before the Indo-Aryans reached the subcontinent).”

        “The presence of retroflexion in Dravidian led to the “redistribution” of pre-Indo-Aryan allophones as retroflex phonemes. Kuiper identified these allo- phones as Indo-Iranian *s’and *z, elements generally recognized as the “triggers” for Indo-Aryan retroflexion, as in the above formulation.”

        Not sure how accurate the above is.

        1. Karan, how old do you think the Samkhya karika (oldest remaining text of Samkhya of which Yoga is an offshoot or branch) is?

          How old do you think Kapila was? Kapila might not have been a homo sapien. In which case it might not be possible to date him.

          The Vedas are generally believed to have been far larger in the ancient past, with almost all of them having been lost. The Vedas included many, many different paths, perspectives and insights. Far more, I believe than the traditional 10 Darshanas. Although among the ancient Darshanas, only 10 now have good records. (Unless someone considers Bon, Donyi-Polo
          , Adivasi, Sarnaism, Sanamahism as their own Darshanas.

          For this reason, I think we need to be open to the possibility that Samkhya/Yoga existed in some of the oldest Samhitas.

          The Rig Veda Samhitas generally does not refer to human beings. It refers to other types of beings with many coded references to mystical experiences. These parts cannot be understood except through meditation. This is true of most of the Vedas.

          In terms of the traditional time line many events referred to Rig Veda come from earlier Chatur Yugas, earlier Manvantaras . . . some even allege earlier days of Bramha.

          Are you open to the hypothesis that the AASI sung the Rig Veda (which would imply dates between 12 thousand to 60 thousand years ago)?

      2. “(who I identify with the native Indus people).”

        No. Just the other way round. Dasas were the Iranians being kicked OUT toward Iran.

        The Iranians have referred to themselves as Dahae. First Refer to your WHITE MAN approved source

        And then the “Hindutva Nazi” sources.


        p. 11o onwards:

        “All in all, we can see that the words ‘Dasa/Dasyus’ must have been used to refer to the Iranians and not to the tribes of India (especially considering the fact that there are no Dasyu/Dasa tribes in India while the Iranians used the terms to refer to themselves).
        In some cases dasas were mythical beings with demonic characteristics ”

        Sometimes the dasa were mythical beings mouthless, noseless etc. apada, anasa etc. Thinking own your is hard is it not?

    3. Thanks for this Slapstik! At least one less proposal to worry about now, broadly speaking, irrespective of the possible Iranian origins of the Pallavan stuffs other than their name.

  2. lol. Now the pallavas have Iranian origin. What’s next ? The ahoms are Gujratis probably

  3. ‘Pallava’ and ‘Pahlava’ sound similar. Ergo Iranians came to India.
    It is odd how symmetric evidence immediately leads to asymmetric conclusions without the need for any additional arguments. 🙂

  4. From the first link:
    The Pahlava hypothesis has it that there was a Parthian migration to North India, from where the migrants were pushed southwards by invading hordes from the north.

    I don’t understand what this means, nor can I relate it to anything else I know about the Indian history of that period. Headgear aside, this thesis doesn’t seem very well thought out.

    1. I get it. These are the Iranian farmers who everyone talks about who migrated and formed the ASI before the “Aryans” came and pushed them into South. I know my dates are a bit off by a thousand years or so, but you get the gist. I mean what were Pahlavas if not some lowly Iranian peasant dynasty.

    2. Hello Numinous,

      If we read up on some Asko Parpola’s proposals, we’ll be driven crazy, with respect to this Iranic-speaking peoples’ migrations idea. (It may even begin to appear that India got mostly Iranic history instead of Indo-Aryan history when we read these ideas lol.) I don’t know if he continues to hold them but one major idea of his is that the Pandavas of Mahabharata were originally Iranic-speaking guys who were Indo-Aryanised, as opposed to Indo-Aryan-speaking from the get-go! He also makes the entire megaliths of south India come from Iran in the Iron Age with Iranic speakers and he also makes the Toda language result from the adoption of a South Dravidian-I language by a large number of Iranic speakers, injecting their Iranic substrate features into it apparently (I know nothing about this specific Toda substrata issue). The Pandya dynasty of southern Tamil Nadu is of Iranic or Indo-Aryanised Iranic origins in this scheme and the Tamil city Maturai is considered to be named after the northern apparently-under-Scythian-or-some-other-Iranic-influence-at-the-time city Mathura. Except for the possible and quite probable Mathura-Maturai linguistic and cultural connection, I personally don’t tend to believe any of the above ideas. They seem extraordinarily far-fetched though they are very intriguing.

  5. @Zack

    Zack, conventional wisdom so far suggests that modern Indians are a mix of 3 ancestral populations ( Steppe, Iran_N and AASI). I would like to know if given a standard DNA sequence data from regular services like 23andme or familtytreedna, can we neatly decompose an Indian’s DNA data into its 3 ancestral components? And if yes, can you write up a brief tutorial about how to do it with the freely available tools like admixture etc.

          1. Sorry. I thought you were a geneticist too.
            Anyway, I am playing with tools like admixture and plink myself these days. Looks fairly straightforward. Thanks anyway.

  6. Aren’t lions pretty much a universal motif across all Old World civilizations [rendering them unreliable as a source of evidence for connection between them? ] . Even within India itself, there are the lions of Ashoka/Mauryans (e.g @Sarnath) which have no particular Iranian connection.

      1. Yes yes the Mauryan-Iranic association is held dear by our beloved Michael Witzel garu if I’m not wrong. So much Irano-Aryan influence in India according to all these theories lol.

        1. Iranian-Turanian influence was extremely prominent in the Islamic period; why wouldn’t it have been the same in the Pre-Islamic period.

          Arguable in the Pre-Islamic period the cultural (religious) similarities between Iran, Turan and India would have been even greater.

          The northwestern passage of India has always been one of invasion and trade because it was connected to the Silk Road and other Ancient centres.

          India has the sea, the Himalayas and the NorthEast. Even the Ahom (who were an echo of the Tai influx from Southern China) sort couldn’t spread all that much (I could be wrong).

          The easiest route for dispersion into India was via the GT Road (the Indo-Gangetic plain). If there had been no Islam the Ghaznavids, Mughals and other such dynasties would have simply become Hindu as soon as they entered the Sub-continent (maybe Buddhist at a stretch).

          1. Zach, the Mahabharata and 18 Maha Puranas and Ramayana suggest considerable multi-way influence between Turan, Iran and SAARC. Many holy Tirtas are north of Afghanistan. Many places mentioned in the Vedic Samhitas are in Afghanistan.

            Java is also extensively mentioned. And not as Mechlas, but as Arya peoples (own people). Java/Sumatra is mentioned in the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

  7. There are a couple brief points in regard to the topic (these a part of much longer text):

    In the Asian Media, there was mentioned the name of Serbian warrior rank – Geti. Zacharie Mayani (Les Hyksos et le monde de la Bible, Payot, Paris, 1956) says: “Gatas – the Iranian people, which had a language close to Vedic that one who understood one of them was understanding the other “. At Diodor is the information that Queen Semira logged on with the army on Mount Bagistan, which is modern Behistan. He says that the mountain was called because it was dedicated to the God (Bog – stan = in Serbian: place where God lives). There was also a city named Bagistan, southeast of Ekbatan. Although Ekbatan was the capital of the Media, the most beautiful city was Nisa, which was well known by its horses throughout the whole Asia.

    (There are several towns Nisa in SA; that is the city where first Aryan leader started his journey to SA). The name of the town of Nisa was changed to Raga (the name for old horse in Serbian), then Seleuk I, who was also a Serb, gives this city the name of Europo, according to his birthplace city with the same name near Vardar in today’s Macedonia. This is now modern Tehran. The younger brother of the first king of Macedonia, Perdike I Karanovic, whose name was Europ, ruled about 700. p.n.e. in the middle part of the of the river Vardar valley (=Povardarje). Its principality was called Europe. By this principality, Europe got its name.

    … Media was called by Greeks – Aria and Medians were called Arians. Samuelis Bosharti: “Sarmates (i.e. Serbs), Parthian and Medians are cousins. The most of Media was called Servan i.e Serban (Geographia Sacra: I Pheleg, II Canaan, Cornelium Boutesteyn & Jordanum Luchtmans, Lungdunum, 1707).”
    Median king, who conquered Assyria, was Sarbak. Some Greek writers call him Kiaxares. His fourth descendant was Sarbian. Later, Parthian and Persian tsars had titles ‘Sarbaraza’. This title had in the 7th c.AC tsar Hozroe i.e. “Chosroes Persarum rex Sarbaraza” (Georgious Cedrinus: Compendum Historiarum, Turnolti, Belgium, 1826.I.721)’.

    The Old Testament counts Medians as European people. Persian tsar Darius was a Median (Venerabilis Bedae: Opera Omnia, J.-P. Migne, Paris, 1862). There are cities Sarab and Sabzavar in today’s Iran.

     Note(from the link): Lombards are not Germanic tribe in Italy, they were a Serbian tribe so as Burgunds in France.

  8. Given this whole Iranization argument, we might as well call India = Iran Really Arrived Naturally (or IRAN) and Iran = Screwed-Up By Arabs (or SUBA).

    So Iran really is a SUBA of IRAN, which really is another name of India.

    I propose Indians send their armies to Tehran, marching under the parcham e shiran e sarnath to save the SUBA from the faux-Arab yoke of Muslims.

    Our Ghazis of Jaysh al Islam can then meet them at Qadissiyah again and fulfil the prophecy of bringing the original IRAN fully under Islam. We will then send another detachment to ar Rūm and Inshallah return fatih. Then use the combined Eurasian resources to mount a sea-based invasion of the Satanic states of al Amrika to cut the head of the snake of the Kuffar. Prophet will be pleased in Jannah.


    1. Murshid Sayyed Jagguji, what is the true Islam? Is it Sufi or Sufi Irfan twelver or Sufi Irfan sixer?

      Can you share your perspectives on Garib Nawaz? About Ibrahim ibn Adham . . . hero of Balkh?

      Is Ibrahim ibn Adham the true Islam . . . living breathing heart of the twelve Imams and Hazrat Fatimah (the most perfect person to walk to earth).

      Is Ibrahim ibn Adham the connection between the Buddha and Islam for you? [His story mirror’s the Buddha.]

      Thanks for sharing your wisdom, oh lover of sweetness and Allah. Thank you for visiting us from the highest of the seven levels of Jannah.

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