The Sintashta shamans

By Razib Khan 49 Comments

Recently I’ve been reading about the Kalash religion. For readers who are not aware, the Kalash area group of Indo-Aryan speaking pagans who reside in the fastness of Chitral, Pakistan. Genetically about ~30% of their ancestry can be modeled as “Sintashta”, the pastoralist Indo-Europeans who were dominant in Bronze Age Turan, and likely gave rise to the Indo-Aryans. The remaining ~70% of their ancestry is similar to that of the Indus Valley people.

Despite their predominant non-Aryan ancestry, I do wonder if the Kalash could give us insights about the beliefs of the original Indo-Aryans, before they were exceedingly transmuted by India. One thing that is clear to me is that their “mountain shamanism” seems to be similar to the “steppe shamanism” outlined in Empires of the Silk Road. The insight from this work is that ecology and lifestyle matters. Turks, Iranians, Mongols, and Tungusic peoples all transformed in similar ways when exposed to and habituated toward steppe pastoralism. The shift toward more “organized” and structured religion happens with sedentarism and mixed-agriculture.

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49 Replies to “The Sintashta shamans”

  1. “Genetically about ~30% of their ancestry can be modeled as “Sintashta”, the pastoralist Indo-Europeans who were dominant in Bronze Age Turan, and likely gave rise to the Indo-Aryans. The remaining ~70% of their ancestry is similar to that of the Indus Valley people.”

    So much has been said on this topic about the so called “aryan” gene and the supposed arrival of “Indo-Aryan” migrants based on genetic studies that it is not worth repeating the same arguments here again.

    However, these steppe theorists posit an equally devastating and sudden “Aryan Invasion” of Europe also. All this started with that famous (or infamous?) study by Haak et al. 2015.

    Needless to say European archaeologist have strongly resisted their arguments, Martin Furholt being the chief among them. These studies hypothesize “massive migrations” based on a handful of samples spread over centuries, sometimes over more than a thousand years.

    Here are a couple of papesr by Martin Furholt excerpted:

    https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/6F6223448D130FECBDB899F660EA9873/S0079497X19000045a.pdf/reintegrating_archaeology_a_contribution_to_adna_studies_and_the_migration_discourse_on_the_3rd_millennium_bc_in_europe.pdf

    “The narrative of Yamnaya males migrating westwards severely undervalues the complexity of processes indicated by this single burial mound.”

    “This polythetic view of the 3rd millennium indicates that the narrative of Steppe-derived migration creating ‘Corded Ware Culture’ and later ‘Bell Beaker Societies’ is misleading.”

    “Thus, the suggestion of mixing between those labelled as ‘natives’ and ‘locals’ should not be seen as especially remarkable, or exceptional. Rather, it should remind us that what we often casually refer to as ‘migration’ is likely a summary term for a multiplicity of individual local and regional histories of movement, mixture, and secession, probably over many generations.”

    https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/B225B14D82066373B2C11295AA1D1462/S1461957117000432a.pdf/div-class-title-massive-migrations-the-impact-of-recent-adna-studies-on-our-view-of-third-millennium-europe-div.pdf

    “This argument has, however, some flaws. The time between the latest individual of the Middle Neolithic without the eastern European genetic component (dating to between 3300 and 3100 cal BC) and the earliest Corded Ware individual sampled in Haak et al. (2015; dating to around 2560 cal BC to 2470 cal BC) is about 700 years.”

    “A sudden turnover of the whole population, as suggested by Haak et al. (2015), would be a truly dramatic, even genocidal, event, which is a possibility. But it is also a quite extreme scenario, for which one would like to have some additional arguments.”

    ” By integrating such residues of Kossinna-like ethno-essentialism and biologism, whether intentional or not, into models of population history that are combined with cutting-edge scientific methods, we run into the danger of providing supposedly scientific support for political forces who build their demagogies on exactly those assumptions about the nature of societies, ethnic identities, and biologic relatedness”

    “A fundamental step consists of rejecting the level of whole and bounded groups on a European scale, abandoning the narrative of unified groups of people jointly migrating from one area to another.”

    Particularly stunning is Furholt’s indictment of Haak et. al’s. approach here

    “”A sudden turnover of the whole population, as suggested by Haak et al. (2015), would be a truly dramatic, even genocidal, event, ..”

    Something similar has happened in South Asia as people who have followed Niraj Rai’s work know very well.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U__2851gcR4&t=1047s

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0Lg1b_8N54&t=2311s

    To summarize, these steppe theorist have not even convinced people that “massive migrations” have altered the linguistic and demographic landscape of even Germany and Switzerland let alone far away South Asia. Here is another paper that levels similar criticisms

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-15560-x

    1. your comments are an argument against widespread literacy. you’re so fucking idiotic you don’t even know what you are reading, though you can puzzle out the phonemes and general meanings.

      you are as stupid as kabir. smart enough to read and write. but not smart enough to able to engage in conceptual analysis.

      anymore prolix quote comments from you will induce redaction.

      (also this moron OF COURSE posts youtube links)

  2. They are kind of Pagan with distinctness from modern day Hindu Practices which vary from Region to Region. I watched a documentary on them about their language (which has a Sanskritic or archaic base) , culture seems very indo-aryan like steppe based and things like no involvement of women during menstruation etc . And bright colors , singing , dancing in groups etc is to say the northernmost pagans/ancient Hindus/kaffirs in the Indian subcontinent. Their culture kind of reminded of isolated tribes like several Rajasthani desert tribes and their culture. They could be mix of Sinthastha and Burusho people i m not a genticist but looking at the culture it’s just a guess.

  3. Razib, there’s still a strong element of this in the rest of India as well. There’s a distinct mountain shaman praxis that’s aluded to various Shaivite cults in India. While we are inclined to see Sadhus as monks, many of these followers of “The Lord of Ghosts” are closer to shamans than sramanas.

  4. WIKI(about Kalash): “European descent

    Some of the Kalash people claim to be descendants of Alexander the Great’s soldiers.[56]

    …Subclades can be found in most present-day European populations, with peaks in some Northern European and South East European countries.”

    The study (MT – Toomas Kivisild) came to the conclusion that the Kalash population estimate by Qamar et al (“of 20%–40% Greek admixture in the Kalash”) – “is unrealistic and is likely also driven by the low marker resolution that pooled southern and western Asian-specific Y-chromosome Haplogroup H together with European-specific Haplogroup I, into an uninformative polyphyletic cluster 2.[58]” >>>>>>>>>(**** SEE bellow)

    Discover magazine genetics blogger RAZIB KHAN has repeatedly cited information indicating that the Kalash are part of the South Asian genetic continuum with no Macedonian (MT – ??) ethnic admixture albeit shifted towards the Iranian people.[59][60][61]

    A study by Firasat et al. (2006) concluded that the Kalash lack typical Greek Haplogroups such as Haplogroup 21 (E-M35).[62]”

    (****) WIKI: “This haplogroup (MT – “I”) reaches its maximum frequency in the Western Balkans (with the highest concentration in present-day Herzegovina). It may be associated with unusually tall males, since those in the Dinaric Alps have been reported to be the tallest in the world, with an average male height of the range 180 cm (5 ft 11 in)-182 cm (6 ft 0 in) in the cantons of Bosnia, 184 cm (6 ft 0 in) in Sarajevo, 182 cm (6 ft 0 in)-186 cm (6 ft 1 in) in the cantons of Herzegovina.[1]”

    <<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    IamMT >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Well, we can see in the last paragraph pretty good (RK’s?) description of Serbia and Serbians. Only, now we need to find out who was Alexander the Great. Why he married 10.000 Serbian soldiers to 10.000 Persian girls in one day only in a common wedding ceremony in Babylon? From the previous, we can see that NOT any Greek genes were brought by Alexander to South Asia. Poor guy (Qamar), he probably read the official world history, started with wrong premises and got adequate results.

    Stay tuned on these waves for the real, uncut and unplugged, story about the great Alex.

      1. @ Harsh

        I guess you are a latecomer here. That’s ok, I leave you to make up your mind by yourself. The fact that 200 million Indians/Pakistanis have Serbian genes can help. Check this figure with uncle Razib.

  5. I am left wondering about how a population that is 70% genetically derived from IVC and retaining IVC iconography into the modern times are giving us insights about “pastoralist Aryans”.

    Can Walloons teach us “German customs”?

    If indeed the supposition is correct, then perhaps its a turntable moment?

    1. Interesting point !
      Harshavardhan calls them northernmost ancient Hindus/ Pagans /Kafirs based on the cultural similarities.
      Question is how many of those cultural traits could be associated with pastoralist aryans and how many to IVC?

      1. Idk to be honest. Their culture looks like proper pagan and not evolved that much because of probably isolation. More akin to i would say to the Aryans ( aryans themselves could’ve been influenced by other groups).

        What about their oral history/stories ?
        Did they talk about meeting non aryan/dravidian tribes ?
        This could solves the question of IVC VS steppe nomads story aka tha AIT ?

  6. RH: “I do wonder if the Kalash could give us insights about the beliefs of the original Indo-Aryans, before they were exceedingly transmuted by India.”

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    In this case it would be better to go straight to the horse’s mouth. So far, genetics, linguistics and toponyms are pretty much covered, the next step would be to discuss above mentioned beliefs and mythology. Haven’t read yet the Empires of Silk Road but some preliminary questions can be asked. If Romans never met a Chinese man, who did the trading? Maybe good starting point would be the etymology of the word – silk. Latin and Greek versions are – sericum and serikos. There was a trading knot in India – Sera Metroplis. Enough to start research…

    A turntable moment? Interesting!

  7. “Recently I’ve been reading about the Kalash religion.”

    Any readings you could recommend for the uninitiated Dr.Razib? Thank you.

  8. Just like Kalash folks can tell about original Indo Aryans, which people can tell us more about original Dravidians and IVC practices. Do we have pockets similar to Kalash folks in India where they reside.

    I guess Mundas and North East have the least amount of intermingling with others, so there rituals and all are least (lack of better word) contaminated

    1. Dravidian as a category suffers from a conflation of language, race and geography. Kodavas/Coorgs have a barely sanskritized language, and there’s no reason not to play with the conjecture of it as archetypically dravidian. Their customs of ancestor worship and animism have strong cognates with the broader population of the mountain belt of Kerala and Karnataka, but without having submitted to brahmin sacerdotal authority.

        1. Da Thang, Kodavas follow a clan system, named after the founder. Like other dravidians they favour burial as a funerary rite, and have an ancestor shrine near their home. More so than others in my observation, the invoking of ancestors is part of many daily rituals. Other communities from Karnataka and TN might do it a few times a year, but they seem to do it practically daily among the remaining traditionalists. There are food offerings and consultations through rituals and so forth. There’s also a basic consensus that most of the mainstream Hindu gods have only been recently adopted by them, and like others in adjacent regions, they worship dryads and water nymphs and such. Another curiosity among Kodavas is that although they are regarded as being very modern and anglicised as a group, they insist on very unsanskritic first names for their children, like “belliappa” or “thimmayya” for boys, but will have a mainstream indian nickname like “vijay” or “gautam” to interact with the broader metropolitan crowd. Even amongst rural lower castes, that commitment to tradition is rare.

          1. The ancestral worship part sounds a little bit like Jathera. Maybe islands of the pre-Aryan traditions survive in the north as well.

  9. the munda have really weird and alien motifs. some of them are clearly austro-asiatic!

    i guess ‘dravidian’ ancestry peaks in sindh?

  10. “Just like Kalash folks can tell about original Indo Aryans, which people can tell us more about original Dravidians and IVC practices. Do we have pockets similar to Kalash folks in India where they reside.
    I guess Mundas and North East have the least amount of intermingling with others, so there rituals and all are least (lack of better word) contaminated”

    There isn’t really a counterpart.

    Mundas were intrusive to the subcontinent, as were (even later) Tibeto-Burman language family speakers. They would tell you about deep Austroasiatic pagan beliefs, and about deep Tibeto-Burman pagan beliefs (basically Chinese folk religion prior to Confucius and Buddhism came along). But, they wouldn’t tell you much about pre-Indo-Aryan Dravidian beliefs and culture.

    There are no “pure blooded” Dravidian populations left in India without Indo-Aryan admixture (although lower levels of of Indo-Aryan, Southeast Asian and East Asian admixture would be a good place to start identifying subpopulations whose cultural practices deserve a closer look).

    The Andamanese are often used as a proxy for the autochthonous hunter-gathers of South Asia, but if you view the ethnogenesis of the Dravidian people as something associated with the South Asian Neolithic Revolution that led to language homogenization and cultural change as people in what is now Dravidian India adopted agriculture (probably about 23,000 years or so after the Andamanese moved to their islands and ceased to be culturally connected to mainland Asia), the Andamanese aren’t a very good cultural proxy for pre-Indo-Aryan Dravidian culture. The Andamanese also genetically exhibit Founder effects and culturally would have been distinctive because they moved away from their homeland rather than staying for some probable cultural reason.

    You’d want to focus on trying to separate out those things Indo-Aryan from the larger Dravidian Hindu culture, on the folk practices and beliefs and stories and oral histories of middle to lower caste Dravidian language speakers not subject to or derived from Brahmins, on the earliest written ethnographic accounts, and on what can be gleaned from the object and relics left behind from the pre-literate Dravidian era. Some cultural similarities (including metaphysical beliefs, games, and architectural styles) have been drawn also to those of the Sahel agriculturalists of Africa where some of the key crops in the South Indian Neolithic agricultural package were first domesticated.

    The Kalash culture could help distinguish between what is and isn’t part of the steppe source material more accurately, in the resulting synthesis everywhere else.

  11. The Toda people are the only predominantly West Eurasian population in India who are lacking in detectable Steppe_MLBA admixture. And anthropologists have long fostered an interest in their distinctive culture (many elements integral to the socio-cultural structure of the Toda are unknown amongst neighbors).

    Sidenote: in terms of physical anthropology, it’s been noted for more than a century than many Toda look far more similar to Baloch or Sikhs than south Indian “adivasi”.

    ^ Personally, I think they are a key population in understanding a thing or two about the ancient West Eurasian Dravidians.

    On the Kalasha, I feel there’s a strong interest in them due to their lack of resemblance with Pakistani lowlanders. I mean I’ve seen the Kalasha people IRL, and it’s true that on average they don’t look like Pakistani Punjabis, and that the vast majority of them cannot pass as South Asians. On the other hand, the vast majority of them can pass as either West Asians or Caucasus Highlanders of some sort (as individuals, not as a group; in other words, almost every individual Kalasha can at least pass in West Asia, but in totality there is something distinctly “Kalasha” about the whole population), with a non-neglible minority of individuals who look rather Eastern European (especially the women and children).

    But genetically, they are not shockingly Steppe_MLBA-shifted. They do have an extra ANE affinity, which is rather interesting. It’s been mediated by a population very similar to Sarazm_Eneolithic. This signal is widespread among the Dards of eastern Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan, and certainly deserves further investigation (in the light of possible archaeological relations, with respect to ancient antecedents).

    They also have a small level of BMAC-related admixture. The 70% Indus_perhiphery estimate is just a product of not included Sarazm_EN and BMAC in the modeling.

    By way of contrast, a population with shockingly high Steppe_MLBA admixture are the Jaats and Ror of Haryana (not of Punjab though; Sikh Punjabi Jatts are 30% Steppe_MLBA). They are 40% Steppe_MLBA + 5% Botai/Dali_EBA-related steppe, 55% Indus_perhiphery.

    ^ I think that these people could provide some insight into the Indo-Aryans. They might turn out to be 80%-90% Vedic Aryan.

    But their rather moderate R1a1 percentages, and the strange genetic picture emerging from ancient Swat… it all indicates that the Aryan migration was much more complex than the 19th century vision of a “Indra stands accused of Harappa’s destruction”-type scenario. The Aryans were obviously exogenous, and obviously ultimately rooted in Eastern Europe (through a long chain stretching across time and space)… but it wasn’t as simple as we thought.

    * And no, it doesn’t seem like Haryana Jaats are Scythians. They clearly gravitate towards Steppe_MLBA, with a bit of WSHG-related steppe. The Scythians survive today among the Pamiri valleys, and in the Pashtun highlands.

    If anyone’s interested in models, I’d be happy to post.

  12. I haven’t much knowledge of these fascinating and exotic folk apart from the odd pictures in travel magazines, my hunch is that their physical distinctiveness owes more to isolation than anything else. There probably have existed many distinctive communities in the subcontinent before getting absorbed and their belief systems incorporated, and they just may be the last ones to do so.

    Their traditions seem proper localised, miles away from Hinduism proper if you ask me, unless one uses the term Hindu to refer to any ‘pagan’ belief system in the subcontinent, in which case that word ceases to be meaningful whatsoever. Question to those who know more – Do they have a rigid priestly class, belief in reincarnation, fire-worship, mother goddesses, etc? That would be the starting place to look for any meaningful linkage to Indian belief systems

    1. They don’t look exotic to me TBH. Probably the colourful dresses etc, but then one can find such oddities in almost all tribal populations all over India.

      I think the Western fascination is with the word “Aryan” (thank the German indologists and then the Fuhrer for that!) and them being pagan stuck in an Islamic state. Anyway, they won’t survive modernity for much longer. It is probably best for them to smell the coffee and convert to Islam.

  13. These people (and darada-s) generally had a reputation of being wine-drinking interlopers in Kashmir, and the Rajatarangini characterises them as such. So they were at the margins of Hinduism even a millennium ago.

    I find some of their terms similar to Kashmiri (eg tsomos etc) but in general they seem like a leftover/regressed population of Indo-Aryans, where Brahmins either never existed or went vrātya.

  14. Here is an idea- the Kalash culture which we might see as being far from Hinduism might be an early representative while later Hinduism absorbed the local post-Indus remnants of what used to be IVC culture.

    1. It is a good idea. Except Brahmin families have very long memories. So not having people self-identify as Brahmins among the Kalash is a strong sign of them being beyond the Hindu pale. I don’t know of a single “Hindu” linguistic community without a local Brahmin group.

      1. So that would mean that Hinduism formed almost exclusively after the Indo Aryans were in India.

        Is the Kalash language similar to Sanskrit/Pali?

        1. @Saurav

          Kalash language is NW Indo-Aryan. Did not go through the MIA phase that other Indo-Aryan languages did (likely brought about during the Gupta Empire).

          And as I was responding to @Commentator their religion cannot be seen as some primitive/unadulterated form of Vedic practice because what we know of Vedic practice itself is from Brahminical sources.

          Kalash religion isn’t a fossil but an evolved product of the situation of its people and has accultured depending on whom they have had cultural intercourse with. Their ancestors likely began their journey as an OIA population (evidenced in their language today) but have morphed into something different.

      2. Well, what if Brahmins were a new (post 1500 BC) class formed from the synthesis of some post-IVC groups with Aryans during the Vedic period after the migration reached deeper into south Asia. Basically I am saying that Hinduism as we understand it- starting with Brahmanism originated after the steppe Vedic religion accumulated input from local post-IVC traditions. Maybe steppe Aryans didn’t have a distinct Brahmin class.

        1. Or maybe the caste system existed in the IVC society (its also more likely in an urban scenario to emerge rather than mountainous or steppe tribal groups).

  15. I’m no expert on Kalasha religion, nor can I claim any substantive knowledge of the vast richness and diversity of Hindu religiosity. (Although I do enjoy a level of intimacy with ancient Indian philosophy…. but even there, only ancient Buddhist Indian thought. I’d like to remedy that, in the near future)

    With this being duly noted…. within the confines of my totally non-expert perspective, my impression is that the Kalasha are simply Central Asian “pagans”.

    They seem like Aryan Hindus without any “indigenous” South Asian accretions only because we no longer have access to any other living folk religions in Central Asia. The ascendance of Buddhism and Zoroastrianism (and the impossibility of knowing virtually anything concerning how non-elite Central Asians practiced their own religiosity prior to the Islamic period), followed by the Islamification of Central Asia, have significantly hampered our understanding in this case.

    Their Vedic cultural affinity is an illusion of sorts, since we have no proper point of comparison to them amongst the living. My view (again, I’m no expert on this. Just my general impressions here) is that the Kalasha are the last living remnants of a now vanished form of Central Asian folk religion.

    Honestly though, even when one takes our lack of knowledge into consideration, I still don’t see the Vedic angle.

    ^ The Vedic Aryans were bellicose, truculent, rough and patriarchal (or at least that’s the impression one gets from parts of the Vedas). The Kalasha don’t fit that bill at all.

    Again though, certain aspects of Kalasha religion are to be found among the Pamiri Tajiks, the Kho Chitralis, and the people of Hunza. More evidence, in my opinion, of an ancient Pamiri + Hindu Kush tradition of “paganism”.

    1. @Commentator
      You have to explain their language, which contains the entirety of Vedic (OIA) phonetic inventory and clearly descended from that dialect cluster. Keeps some features like a-stem aorists etc. Also attested names in epigraphic/literary evidence we have from Chitral / Gilgit-Baltistan etc in the pre-Islamic period are clearly Sanskritic, e.g. vidyādhara, acalamaṅgala etc

      My own hypothesis is that groups like Kalash are leftover populations, who may have likely regressed and lost their priestly class (regression to shamanism). Indologists like Witzel certainly comment that they still maintain some purity rituals etc and their loss of priestly class was more recent in history. A likely result of long isolation and finding themselves amongst other non-Indo-Aryan peoples.

      1. @Slapstik
        Very interesting points.

        But I think that we might be talking about distinct matters in relation to the Kalasha.

        I would certainly not doubt the fact that they speak an Indo-Aryan language.

        But I don’t think that their religion is very Vedic.

        Their socio-cultural practices are totally at home in the Hindu Kush highlands, and there are interesting affinities with a set of myths and rites practised by Eastern Iranians in the highlands of Tajikistan.

        To my mind, we’re seeing the cultural confluence of BMAC, Sintashta, and a submerged local Central Asian element. The Kalasha are relics of a stream of pre-Islamic Central Asian folk religion.

        You most certainly know far more concerning the Vedic Aryans (and I defer to your opinions concerning them), but I think that they weren’t very Central Asian (by Central Asian, I mean BMAC, and associated cultures in Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan).

        On the contrary, instead of evincing any affinity towards urban Bronze Age southern Central Asia, one gets the sense that these people had an ethos which came straight from the steppes, with some absorption of culture they had accrued over a few centuries in Post-Harappan northern India.

        Which is interesting, because the Haryanvi Jaats and Rors don’t have much BMAC-related admixture. They’re almost 50% steppe (40% Sintashta_MLBA + 5% Botai/Dali_EBA/WSHG) and 50% IVC-related (well 55%, but you get the picture)… but rather weak/virtually non-existent BMAC-related signal.

        Most South Asians are like this (not much admixture related to pre-Iranian urban Central Asia).

        Perhaps the lack of BMAC-related admixture, and the Vedic Aryans not showing much cultural affinity towards urban Bronze Age Central Asians (despite entering northern South Asia via southern Central Asia) are facts which entail a sort of connection?

        1. @Commentator

          Sure, I agree with you that their religion isn’t Vedic!

          But that’s not the point I was making. What I was trying to say is that there’s some evidence of acculturation in them, ie their ancestors were in all likelihood the part of the Vedic cosmopolis. But living in relative isolation and surrounded by non-IA cultures (the Iranic ones off of BMAC and then Turks) must have had their impact.

          Bottomline: if there is nobody in your culture that self-identifies as belonging/adhering to Brahmin gotra-s, the chances of your culture being Vedic-Hindu (whatever its origins) are bleak*. This may change in the future as Hinduism becomes a more “confessional” category, but that’s how the shit rolls for now…

          [*] This is why Sikhs/Jains/Buddhists aren’t Hindus.

  16. i didn’t say it in the post, but I’ve said it elsewhere here: it seems what we recognize as Hinduism necessarily has accretions/input from local pre-aryan ivc substrate. the brahmins are more Aryan, with more r1a, but there are a lot of indigenous Indian Y too (prearyan, even AASI in some cases). so it seems local priest groups were integrated into brahmins. and, i think the elaborated role of brahmins only makes sense in a semi-settled society of agro-pastoralists, rather than the more nomadic sintashta who arrived into the margins of southern asia.

    re: priests, the tripartite division of Aryan society does exist elsewhere. i think the Iranians have it, and some other indo-european groups may have it (though that is less assured). but the nativized features in India transformed it i think.

    1. “re: priests, the tripartite division of Aryan society does exist elsewhere. i think the Iranians have it, and some other indo-european groups may have it (though that is less assured). but the nativized features in India transformed it i think.”

      any more info on this? I’ve never heard it before so genuinely curious.

  17. The oldest parts of the Vedas, Mandalas 2-7 (the family books), do not read like Shamanic texts. A sample from Mandala 7, Hymn 83



    6. The men of both the hosts invoked you in the fight, Indra and Varuna, that they might win the wealth,
    What time ye helped Sudas, with all the Trtsu folk, when the Ten Kings had pressed him down in their attack.
    7. Ten Kings who worshipped not, O Indra-Varuna, confederate, in war prevailed not o’er Sudas.
    True was the boast of heroes sitting at the feast: so at their invocations Gods were on their side.
    8. O Indra-Varuna, ye gave Sudas your aid when the Ten Kings in battle compassed him about,
    There where the white-robed Trtsus with their braided hair, skilled in song worshipped you with homage and with hymn.

    Did shaman religions (like Tengri-ism) have elaborate rituals like “horse sacrifices”? Again doubtless these sacrifices became more elaborate over time until they were crystallized during the epic age but still they seem to be pretty different from “magic” like quality shamanic religions have.

    Also here is a documentary about the “Agni-cayana” sacrifice conducted by Nambudari Brahmins in Kerala during the 1970s.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYvkYk7GvJ0

    Doesn’t seem like Shamanic to me.

    One thing which I cannot get my head around is the creation of the Brahmin caste. What led to a certain section among the Indo-Aryans to become a ‘priestly’ caste rather than the ‘ruling’ caste. I imagine like the Central Asian invaders who came later, the warriors would have loved to rule kingdoms rather than roam around in the forests doing religious stuff. Does anyone here have a possible theory about this?

      1. “priests, the tripartite division of Aryan society does exist elsewhere. i think the Iranians have it, and some other indo-european groups may have it (though that is less assured)”

        “Kalash are part of the South Asian genetic continuum with no Macedonian ethnic admixture albeit shifted towards the Iranian people”
        >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

        Questions:
        Any example of ‘other (less assured) IE groups’ (genetics, language)?
        What is “Macedonian ethnic admixture (genetics, language)”?

      2. From this Razib’s WIKI link:

        “The reconstructed myth involves the coupling of a king with a divine mare which produced the divine twins. A related myth is that of a hero magically twinned with a horse foaled at the time of his birth (for example Cuchulainn, Pryderi), suggested to be fundamentally the same myth as that of the divine twin horsemen by the mytheme of a “mare-suckled” hero from Greek and medieval Serbian evidence, or mythical horses with human traits (Xanthos), suggesting totemic identity of the Indo-European hero or king with the horse.”
        >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

        ‘Hors’ is a Serbian word from ancient Serbian mythology. Mentioning Greeks in the previous paragraph is a joke. They did not have any fertile land, did not have horses, lived in overcrowded cities, they were neither horse riders nor warriors. ‘Xanthos’ was the capital city of Lycia in Asia Minor. Its original name was Sard, i.e. Serb. There is an obelisk from 8.c.BC where Serbian laws were engraved in the stone.

  18. “mongols did it too (MT – horse sacrifices), but perhaps they learned from indo-europeans? western Mongolia was clearly dominated by Iranians until relatively recently (mongols have 10% or so r1a).”

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    From Indo-Europeans? The other Wiki entry (re horse sacrifices) mentioned accounts of Greeks (this is a joke) and Serbs (this is serious). BPundits probably don’t know anything about long-time historical interactions between Mongols, Chinese and Serbs. Just to remind that Serbs lived in Xinjiang and other parts of China before Chinese and Turks. For 1000 years, Serbs had a mixed relationship with Chinese. They had long periods of coexistence but also wars. It is interesting that Chinese villages often paid Serb warriors to protect them from Mongols. This 10% of r1a mongols are from assimilated Serbs. There are also many Chinese assimilated Serbs. The remaining Serbs, when the number of Chinese increased, escaped to Siberia. Some even returned to Europe via Persia and Asia Minor. This return took them for hundreds of years. Some pundits here (interestingly, OIT!) knows for the book of songs which these returnees brought back to the original homeland after 1500-2000 years. When appropriate, more details will be provided…

  19. “What led to a certain section among the Indo-Aryans to become a ‘priestly’ caste rather than the ‘ruling’ caste.”

    Perhaps, it is not so much that the elitest of the elite chose to be priests rather than rulers, but rather that priestly eliteness proved more durable and extendable in the Indian ecology, than political eliteness. The symbols and expressions of priestly eliteness: religion, myths and tirthas thus endured, while those of courtly eliteness: royal lore and records and grand architecture withered.

    This competition, in some ways, persists to this day, Muslim elite of the subcontinent seek to preserve the courtly ‘high culture’ of the lapsed Muslim political rule, the Hindus are more keen to preserve the more transcendental culture of the subcontinent, this includes ostensibly Islamicate shrines. See the contrasting tenor of comments by Hindus and Muslims under youtube videos of Ajmer Sharif for example. Pakistan may be the revenge of the Kshatriya 😛

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