It is often argued by supporters of the Aryan Migration Theory, including academics, that the data obtained from the discipline of linguistics makes it impossible to posit the Indian subcontinent as a potential Indo-European homeland.
Long before the IE proto-language was an issue, Friedrich Schlegel recognized the antiquity of Sanskrit and its parallels to related languages like Greek and Avestan. In his work Über die Sprache und Weisheit der Indier (published in 1808) he praised the Old Indic language for its pureness and clarity and he implied that India alone must have been the origin of the later IE “colonies”. Today India can be ruled out as a homeland candidate with the utmost probability.
I am often bemused and at times annoyed by such absolutist statements. What exactly is that incontrovertible evidence that makes it most impossible for India (and the Indian subcontinent) to be even considered a potential PIE homeland ? Most often, these scholars never bother to explain how they are so sure. I doubt that they would be able to defend their statement if pressed further.
But rather than expect them to change and become more objective, it is better that we look for ourselves to see if their statements have any merit at all. And that is what I intend to do so in this piece.
We shall tackle this subject in two sections:-
1) Analyse the linguistic data from the subcontinent, Indo-European and non-Indo-European, and find out if there is sufficient evidence there to prove that Indo-Aryan languages are not native to the subcontinent.
2) Look at the nature of the linguistic evidence obtained from the Indo-Aryan and Indo-Iranian languages in the subcontinent vis-a-vis the rest of the Indo-European languages and find out if that evidence argues against or for an Indian origin of the Indo-European languages.
The short answer is that he was Chandragupta. But it gets complicated when you try to find out which of the many Chandraguptas was he from ancient Indian history ?
Gold coin of Chandragupta I with his wife Kumaradevi
Sandrocottus of the Greek accounts was an self-made emperor who rose to power in the late 4th century BCE Ancient India. He was a contemporary of Seleucus Nicator, one of the generals of Alexander’s army who came to inherit the largest portion of his disintegrated empire, stretching from the Hindu Kush in the east to the eastern Mediterranean coast in the west.
The identity of this Sandrocottus had been the primary focus of early colonial Indology and his identification with Chandragupta Maurya eventually became the sheet anchor of ancient Indian history around which everything else has been dated.
So the identity of this Sandrocottus is of vital importance in ancient Indian history. What I wish to argue here is that there are no solid grounds to suggest that the Sandrocottus of the Greek records was Chandragupta Maurya. In fact, there is much greater evidence to suggest that this Sandrocottus was none other than Chandragupta I, founder of the Gupta Empire.
Proto-Indo-Europeans were farmers and not pastoralists
It is interesting to note that while a couple of decades ago and perhaps more, agriculture was not considered a part of Proto-Indo-European culture, it is now no longer the case. It was mistakenly believed that the Indo-Iranians must not have practiced agriculture because apparently the Indo-Iranians did not share an agricultural vocabulary with the rest of the Indo-Europeans (i.e. the European IE). However, more recent research has clearly shown this to be an error and it is now well accepted that the Indo-Iranians shared quite a significant amount of agricultural vocabulary with the other Indo-Europeans, sufficient enough to posit agriculture at the Proto-Indo-European stage.
The overall pattern of agricultural terms has been a persistent topic in IE studies, much of which has been stimulated by the observation that while stockbreeding terms appear to be widespread across the entire range of IE stocks, agricultural terms tend to be confined more closely among the European stocks and are, from a traditional point of view at least, scarce in the Indo-Iranian languages…
…there is no case whatsoever for assuming that the ancestors of all the Indo-European stocks did not know cereal agriculture. While there may have been speculation in the past as to whether some terms might have applied originally to the gathering and processing of wild plants, terms for the plow, cultivated field, and techniques appropriate to the processing of domesticated cereals whose home range lay outside of most of Europe, suggest that all the earliest Indo-Europeans knew agriculture before their dispersals. (Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. Mallory & Adams, 1997).
The term that is cited as the major culprit for this error denotes a cultivated field in European languages while in Sanskrit it simply means a plain.
The second term (*haegˆros) has caused much discussion as the European cognates indicate a cultivated field (e.g. Lat ager, OE æcer [> NE acre], Grk agro´s, Arm art, all ‘field’) while the Skt a´jra- means simply ‘plain’ with no indication of agriculture. This divergence of meaning led to the proposal that the Indo-Iranians separated from the Europeans before they had gained agriculture so that we might posit a pastoral Indo-Iranian world and an agricultural European. Such a distinction is not borne out by the abundant evidence that Indo-Iranians also shared in an agricultural vocabulary… (The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World. Mallory & Adams, 2006).
…the Proto-Indo-Europeans possessed an economy based on domesticated livestock and domestic cereals. Earlier models such as those developed in detail by Wilhelm Brandenstein (1936) that suggested a marked dichotomy between arable Europeans and pastoral Indo-Iranians (or Tokharians) cannot really be sustained (Mallory 1997b) and despite a considerable number of differences there is still a substantial amount of shared agricultural vocabulary between European and Asian languages (Table 1 and 2). While the lists of cognates can certainly be criticized in certain specifics and they may well be an over-optimistic summary, I fear that there would still be a sufficient assemblage of words to indicate that both Europeans and Asiatic Indo-Europeans shared inherited words for both livestock and arable agriculture… (Twenty-first century clouds over Indo-European Homelands. Mallory 2012).
An argument has been made that there was no Hindu Afghanistan. This is unfortunately wide off the mark. Afghanistan was not just Buddhist but Hindu and Buddhist and Hinduism was the other major religion of the region besides Buddhism.
The evidence of Hinduism in Afghanistan is quite overwhelming and it begins to appear already during the Indo-Greek period, and continues during the Kushan period, the Kidara, the Hephthalite and the Kabul Shahi period.
The earliest evidence of Hinduism in Afghanistan among the Indo-Greeks is as old as 180 BCE and it comes north of the Hindu Kush for good measure.
The first known bilingual coins of the Indo-Greeks were issued by Agathocles around 180 BCE. These coins were found in Ai-Khanoum, the great Greco-Bactrian city in northeastern Afghanistan, but introduce for the first time an Indian script (the Brahmi script which had been in use under the Mauryan empire). The coinage depict various Indian iconography: Krishna–Vasudeva, with his large wheel with six spokes (chakra) and conch (shanka), and his brother Sankarshan–Balarama, with his plough (hala) and pestle (masala), both early avatars of Vishnu. The square coins, instead of the usual Greek round coins, also followed the Indian standard for coinage. The dancing girls on some of the coins of Agathocles and Pantaleon are also sometimes considered as representations of Subhadra, Krishna’s sister.
Hinduism is also evident in Afghanistan during the Kushan period. The first great Kushan king or emperor was Kujula Kadphises and he never ruled any territory east of the Indus. Yet he is already shown on his coins as a devotee of Shiva.
Contrary to earlier assumptions, which regarded Kujula Kadphises as Buddhist on the basis of the epithet of the ‘satyadharmasthita’ epithet, it is now clear from the wording of a Mathura inscription, in which Huvishka bears the same epithet satyadharmasthita , that the kingdom was conferred upon him by Sarva (Shiva) and Scamdavira (Candavlra), that is, he was a devotee of the Hindu God Siva. It is striking to see that Kujula Kadphises has already adopted the worship of Siva and the use of Kharosthï script at such an early date.
A coin of Vima Kadphises with Shiva standing before a Nandi on the reverse.
Hinduism was either practiced or patronised by all later Kushan emperors but then they were also rulers of much of North India in addition to Afghanistan and parts of Central Asia. The last of the Great Kushans was named Vasudeva. This is as Hindu as it can get.
The Kushans were succeeded by the Kidarites, after a brief interlude when Sassanians captured Kushan homeland Balkh, who claimed descent from the Great Kushans. The Kidarite or the Lesser Kushans, had little political control beyond Indus or Punjab. But they are credited with spread of Hinduism in Sogdiana no less. Have a look at this –
Although largely faded, the once–bright blue colors used to depict the body of the Hindu deity Shiva still dominate this image. Framed by a decorated arch supported by two half-columns, this complex representation of Shiva depicts the deity with a halo, poised in what some scholars believe is either a dancing or an alidhasana stance, with one leg bent at the knee and the other stretched forcefully to the side.
This is a Ganesha statue from Afghanistan which was installed by a king known as Khingila, whose identity is a matter of debate. Scholars speculate that he may have been from the Turki Shahi dynasty but the dating is uncertain and therefore the statue or Murti is dated anywhere between 6th to 8th century CE.
Hinduism lasted in Afghanistan as a major religion right upto the conquests of Mahmud of Ghazni.
The Zunbil and Kabul Shahis were connected with the Indian subcontinent through common Buddhism and Zun religions. The Zunbil kings worshipped a sun god by the name of Zunfrom which they derived their name. André Wink writes that “the cult of Zun was primarily Hindu, not Buddhist or Zoroastrian”, nonetheless he still mentions them having parallels with Tibetan Buddhism and Zoroastrianism in their rituals.
“During the 8th and 9th centuries AD the eastern terroritries of modern Afghanistan were still in the hands of non-Muslim rulers. The Muslims tended to regard them as Indians (Hindus), although many of the local rulers and people were apparently of Hunnic or Turkic descent. Yet, the Muslims were right in so far as the non-Muslim population of eastern Afghanistan was, culturally linked to the Indian sub-continent. Most of them were either Hindus or Buddhists.”
I think this brief information should be sufficient for understanding that Hinduism was a major religion in Afghanistan for at least a 1000 years before the coming of Islam. It is only natural to expect this as Afghanistan south and east of Hindu Kush was always a part of the Indian subcontinent geographically, culturally, politically and genetically.
This interview with an American journalist, Lara Logan, who has been reporting on Afghanistan for nearly 2 decades now and has been on the ground, is worth watching.
It is nearly an hour long but I would request people to take some timeout and watch it in full. It is indispensable if you want to get a sense of what has happened in Afghanistan.
There are a few important takeaways from this, as I see it.
First and the most important, the US was actively working towards the creation of the outcome that we see today. That it wanted to leave Afghanistan was already made known by the US a few years back. But the interesting and befuddling aspect is that the US was negotiating its exit plan with the Taliban while keeping the Afghan Govt. out of it. India was also kept out of it while China, Russia and Pakistan were part of it.
It looks pretty certain therefore that the US establishment had already decided that once it leaves, it will hand over the power in Afghanistan to Taliban and leave the Ashraf Ghani Govt. in the cold. So things have likely gone as per the script.
The second important takeaway is how much compromised the US Govt. policy, especially its foreign policy is. I have no idea if Trump was a compromised leader but he was certainly confrontational and ruffled quite a few feathers including that of China. On the other hand, Biden has been much more accommodating towards China. Biden, as stated in the interview, is just an expendable figurehead and a fall guy who gets to take all the blame and shame. It was also evident by the way Biden was selected as the Presidential candidate and then how he won the Presidential election, despite his old age and clearly evident lack of competence for the job, that there were powerful forces working behind the scenes who were deeply interested in Biden getting the top job.
One thing that had me scratching my head while watching an otherwise brilliant interview was when Lara described how influential the Pakistani lobby is in Washington and the Pentagon and how it was mainly responsible in making the US do the things it did in Afghanistan. I find it a little hard to believe for two reasons.
1. Pakistan’s main problem in Afghanistan was India and not the US. Clearly, if Pak was so influential with the US, why did it not lobby and get India out of Afghanistan or atleast diminish its influence. One might say, getting the US out of Afghanistan was the only way to get India out as well but it looks a very long winded way to get your thing.
2. Is it really possible that the Pakistani lobby is so powerful that it could dictate US foreign policy in Afghanistan ? Wouldn’t that be extraordinary ? Why not look for what is more obvious ?
What about the elephant in the room, China ? As Lara agrees, China would be the single most happy country with exit of the US. The rise of China has come about through a strong backing by the US and the interests of the US corporates and the CCP are likely to be aligned together since decades. Nothing can beat the US corporate lobby in Washington. Can it ? Pakistan is a Chinese lackey. It would do so as directed by China. Therefore, while Pakistan may have played its role in handling the Taliban, its role is unlikely to be more than that of a facilitator. The real player pulling the strings could be China and maybe Russia.
China has now a free hand in Central Asia and Afghanistan. It has unrivalled amount of money to through around and buy allegiances everywhere for its BRI project. Besides Pakistan, China had a 400 billion $ deal with Iran recently. And now the Taliban also seems very welcoming towards China.
The question for us Indians is – what has India been doing in all of this ? And did India have a plan all along or does it have any right now ? The US has certainly shown itself to be a very unreliable ally. That is an important lesson I hope New Delhi does not forget.
Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, two major linguists hailing from the former Soviet Union, came out with a major book in the 1980s in Russian, where they proposed the Armenian homeland theory for the origins of Indo-Europeans. They made several arguments to support their theory. Many of these arguments incidentally better support an Indian homeland for Proto-Indo-European. One such argument was their proposal that the Proto-Indo-Europeans were aware of the monkey before they dispersed i.e. they knew of the monkey in their homeland.
So we have the cognate word for monkey in Sanskrit, Greek, Germanic, Celtic and Slavic languages of Indo-European.
Gamkrelidze & Ivanov, though arguing that the word for monkey was already known to the Indo-Europeans in their homeland, insist that this word has come into Indo-European languages through their contact with Southwest Asian or Near Eastern languages. They cite Akkadian ukupu, Hebrew kop, Aramaic kopa and Egyptian gjf – monkey, ape as the early examples.
Yet the problem with this theory, as we shall come to it again, is that monkeys are not native to any place in the Near East. The standard theory so far has been that it is through contact with the Egyptians that the Near Eastern civilizations of Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Levant and the Aegean came to know of the monkeys. Therefore, it is from the Egyptian word that the word for monkey in Indo-European and other Near Eastern languages should derive. Yet as can be seen, the Egyptian word is ouite different and looks unlikely to have been the source word for the other languages. Moreover, it now appears that even in Egypt, the monkey may have gone long extinct and was likely imported via the Horn of Africa, southeast of Egypt.
This leaves us with only the Harappan or Sarasvati Sindhu Civilization which is the only Bronze Age civilization whose geography indeed overlapped with the natural habitat of monkeys. So provisionally, it maybe argued that the word for monkey could have come into the Indo-European and the Near Eastern languages from the Harappan language or languages, whatever they may have been.
Digging into the linguistic aspect of this, we find that as per the Practical Sanskrit English Dictionary, the word kapi, usually referring to ‘monkey’ can also mean an ‘elephant’, the ‘sun’, ‘impure benzoin’, ‘incense’, a ‘species of the karanja tree’ etc. kapiloham means ‘brass’, kapishak means ‘cabbage’, kapila/kapisa means ‘tawny, brownish or reddish’ colour, kapana is a ‘worm’ or ‘caterpilar’, kapota is a ‘pigeon’ and so on. As per the Sanskrit Etymological Dictionary, the word kapi is said to derive from the root word *kamp which means ‘to tremble’ or ‘shake’. A derivative word kampra means ‘trembling’ or ‘shaken’ but also ‘movable’, ‘agile’ & ‘ouick’. A likely derivative of *kamp is kap which means ‘to move’. Therefore kapi, in the context of a monkey, may plausibly mean ‘one who moves ouickly’, an apt description.
Looking for the Proto-Indo-European root, we come across a root *kap or *kehp, meaning to ‘seize or grasp or hold’. Possible derivatives of this root include Greek kapane – ‘wagon’, kope – ‘grip,handle’, kapos – ‘garden,orchard’, latin captus – ‘captured, seized, taken’.
It is also said to be the root for the English words ‘hawk’ and ‘captive’ among many others. While the Proto-Indo-European root and its meaning fail to adeouately explain all the myriad different ways in which the derived words are used in various IE languages, for our purpose it is ouite adeouate. kapi may thus be derived from PIE root *kap – ‘to seize, hold’ to mean as one who grasps or can grasp. Monkeys, ouite uniouely among animals, have the ability to grasp things or objects with their forelimbs and this would not have gone unnoticed to the ancient people. This may also explain the name of kapi for elephant since it can also grasp with its trunk, as also the hawk in English since the hawk has a habit to grasp its prey in its sharp talons.
It may therefore be argued that the Proto-Indo-European word for monkey, as argued by Gamkrelidze and Ivanov, is not a loan word but derives from a sound PIE root. We already noted earlier that the word for monkey in the Near East may have been a loanword from the Sarasvati Sindhu Civilization and now we can see that this word is of likely Indo-European origin.
Does this mean, that Indo-European languages were spoken in the Sarasvati Sindhu Civilization ?
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Turning to the archaeological evidence, monkeys were depicted on frescoes and seals and objects, accessories were often fashioned in the shape of monkeys. The inspiration for this in Near Eastern art is usually considered to have come from ancient Egypt.
But, it has now become increasingly clear, as this recent study shows, that monkeys or baboons were not native to Egypt either and the ancient Egyptians themselves imported their monkeys from much further south and east, mostly from the fabled land of punt, which is the eastern African coast, and from where incidentally, objects of Harappan origin also reached Egypt.
Viktor Sarianidi, was an archaeologist credited with the discovery of the Bronze Age civilization of BMAC, also known today as the Oxus civilization. He was an ardent supporter of Gamkrelidze and Ivanov’s theory and argued for an archaeological evidence of Syro-Anatolian influence on the Oxus civilization. He believed the Oxus civilization to be Indo-Iranian speaking and therefore interpreted the perceived Syro-Anatolian influence on Oxus in terms of Indo-Iranian migrations from that region, which during that period had various Indo-European groups such as the Mitanni, Hittites and Mycenaeans dominating the landscape.
He also interpreted the depiction of monkeys on Oxus seals as yet another evidence of Near Eastern Indo-Europeans.As per Sarianidi,
Sarianidi admits that none of these parallels in the Near East could be dated to earlier than the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC. Sarianidi believed in a lower chronology of the Oxus civilization and therefore found nothing out of place in this. Nevertheless, we now know that the Oxus civilization began as early as 2400 BCE i.e. hundreds of years before the Indo-Europeans begin showing up in the Near East.
Yet if we were to hold onto the parallels Sarianidi draws between the culture of the Oxus and the 2nd millenium BC IE groups in Syria, Anatolia and the Aegean, we have to wonder – is this evidence of Oxus influence on the IE groups of the Near East ? And if so, was Oxus an Indo-European civilization ?
In this context, the monkey iconography also assumes significance. The Near Eastern monkey iconography is unlikely to have influenced the parallel iconography in Oxus since the Oxus dates from an earlier period but also because, the Oxus was culturally close to the Sarasvati Sindhu Civilization where monkeys were found in their natural habitat.
Rather, it is more likely that the monkey iconography of the Oxus influenced the Indo-European groups of the 2nd millennium BCE Near East. Also important to note in this respect is that the monkeys were depicted in religious and sacred imagery both in the Oxus and in the Indo-European Near East which demonstrates the importance that monkeys held for them.
More recently, archaeologists of the Aegean Bronze Age, managed to conduct a multi-disciplinary study of the Minoan frescoes and were pleasantly surprised to find that the uptailed blue colored monkeys were Hanuman langurs of Indian origin. Not only that, these Indian monkeys were found playing an important role in an iconic Minoan frescoes fundamental in the understanding of Minoan religious beliefs and practices. In that fresco, a female attendant in shown giving a flower to the Hanuman langur who in turn in shown giving to a seated goddess.
Pareja et al also show that Indian monkeys are also depicted in some other objects found among the Minoans such as a seal made from carnelian, a stone of Harappan origin and also an ivory stamp seal with a typical Harappan cross and chevron motif. The depiction of monkeys on Minoan frescoes is so realistic that Pareja et al argue that the Minoan artist must have seen a real Hanuman langur.
Here we may note that monkeys have been found buried at the site of Shahr-i-Sokhta in Iran, far away from its Indian homeland. Shahr-i-Sokhta is the site from which the majority of Harappan ‘migrant’ samples were published by Narasimhan et al. Thus, Harappan monkeys could well be travelling long distances with their human masters.
We can see that monkeys from Sarasvati Sindhu Civilization went on to become important players in sacred and religious iconography of the Oxus civilization and likely in Eastern Iran and subseouently in the Syrian, Anatolian and Aegean world of the 2nd millennium BCE, in a period when that region was dominated by several Indo-European groups.
We have seen that the Indo-Europeans knew of the monkey in their homeland and had a word for it directly derived from a proto-Indo-European root and not borrowed from another language group. This would mean that the Proto-Indo-European homeland had direct contacts with the monkeys and not secondary via a non-Indo-European group. This would imply the presence of monkeys in Proto-Indo-European homeland. The only Bronze Age civilization whose geography overlaps with the natural habitat of monkeys was the Sarasvati Sindhu Civilization.
Similarly, we can also see that it is the monkeys from the Sarasvati Sindhu Civilization that likely inspired and played an important role in the religious and cultic beliefs of the Oxus civilization and the Near Eastern civilizations, several of which were Indo-Europeans such as the Mitanni, Hittites and the Mycenaeans.
Therefore, there is strong evidence that it is from the Sarasvati Sindhu Civilization that the monkeys and the word of it became known in the Bronze Age Near East. The sacred role of monkeys is also worthy of note and may have also derived from the Harappans since in Hinduism, a religion majorly derived from the Bronze age civilization of Harappans, monkeys continue to hold a sacred significance.
Since this word for monkey is clearly of Indo-European origin, how does one explain it if the Sarasvati Sindhu Civilization was not an Indo-European civilization ?
I haven’t written a post on the blog since July 2020. This has partly been due to a slightly more busy schedule and partly due to the fact that I have become a little ambitious and am trying to write more comprehensive and voluminous articles which take time to prepare. After having written about the dating of the Kushans on my blog, I delved into the linguistics aspect of Indo-European origin. Having been only partly through the subject, I came across a recent paper on the Podolian cattle of southern and eastern Europe, which are distinguished by their significant levels of Indicine admixture.
I decided to write a more lengthy and detailed article on the migration of Indicine cattle westwards from India but as I went about gathering the data, it dawned on me that there was a great amount of archaeological research, most of which has come up in the last few years, that can be marshalled to make a comprehensive case for OIT. So while keeping the focus on the Zebu migration, I am now making a case of how nicely it ties with an OIT scenario. As things stand, the preliminary draft of my article/paper is already quite big with more than 25k words but then I have managed to stumble on some more important data from Bronze Age Europe which I could not neglect. Adding this to the existing draft will likely enlarge the text by a few thousand more words. Once I am able to complete a legible final draft I am planning to get it published somewhere, God willing, on an online platform. Lets see how it goes.
To just give an idea, let us note that cow was a very important animal for Indo-European people. This Anglo-Saxon guy gives you some good understanding on the topic,
You can see that in a large number of native southern and eastern European cattle, there is significant levels of Indicine Zebu admixture. These regions are Indo-European speaking and includes speakers of Slavic, Italian, Greek and Albanian languages. Now if cow was a very important animal for Indo-Europeans, it is likely that they must have taken it along with them in their migrations. Is it not therefore quite noteworthy, that it is the genetic ancestry of the Indian origin Zebu that unites the cattle of all these Indo-European people ? Is it just co-incidence ?
Moving on, recently, Razib came up with the assertion that a relatively fair-skinned group of people with their origins on the steppe, somewhere around Sintashta, are likely the people who spread the Indo-European culture and language in the Indian subcontinent. He also implied that these ‘fair-skinned’ steppe migrants must have perceived the native people of the Saraswati-Sindhu Civilization as dark-skinned. So essentially, the racist colonial trope of fair-skinned Aryans vanquishing the dark-skinned native Dravidians may be true. This is a very fanciful flight of imagination and it is necessary to show just how groundless it is.
The most popular theory for the origins of Indo-Europeans, is the Pontic-Caspian steppe homeland theory. However, being popular has little to do with being true. David Anthony and James Mallory, both American archaeologists, are today the two most prominent proponents of this theory. Here is what James Mallory says, in a book he co-authored with the linguist D Q Adams,
All too often surveys of the Indo-Europeans eventually conclude with something on the order of ‘scholars have concluded that the most likely area of the homeland is . . .X’ with a brief defence of one particular solution (this type of scholarship has been going on since the late nineteenth century). In fact, we not only lack total consensus but where we seem to find something of a major school it is often formed by deference rather than conviction, i.e. linguists or archaeologists indicate agreement with a particular theory that they have not themselves investigated in any depth. This situation means that a small number of advocates—at times, very vigorous advocates—provide an assortment of homeland theories for the rest of their colleagues to comply with passively. The homeland is an interesting question but it is so difficult to resolve (we have over two centuries of dispute to prove that) and requires the application of so many less than robust means of argument that most archaeologists and historical linguists do not find it a worthwhile enterprise, at least for themselves. The last word is, therefore, far from written…
So, one of the major proponents of the Steppe hypothesis is himself admitting that most academics acquiesce passively with the IE origin theory without having come to the conclusion by any significant research on the topic themselves. There are infact weighty reasons to question the steppe origin hypothesis as we shall see.
Lack of Indisputable proof of Indo-European languages on the steppe before 1000 BCE.
The earliest evidence of an Indo-European language or of Indo-European speakers on the steppe comes from around the 9th century BCE when the Cimmerians (likely Iranian speakers), inhabited the steppe region north of the Caucasus and the Black Sea. This too, is based on the record of Herodotus. There is no inscriptional or literary evidence in their own language that directly attests it. The Balto-Slavic branch of Indo-European languages are today the only IE languages found in and around the proposed Pontic-Caspian homeland of Indo-Europeans. Yet the earliest attestation of a Slavic language on the steppe or anywhere is not earlier than the 6th century CE while the earliest attestation of a Baltic language comes from the 14th century CE. THESE ARE FACTS.
With such a state of affairs, how can you argue that, in a region like the steppe, which is in constant flux, and which has seen language turnovers many times, that Indo-European languages originated around 4000 BCE, when there is no hard evidence of any IE language speaker there before 1000 BCE ? How can we assume that for more than 3000 years from 4000 BCE to 1000 BCE, people on the Pontic-Caspian steppe and its surrounds were speaking Indo-European languages, when there is zero attestation of an IE language during this long period on the steppe ?
It is still understandable if one were to argue that IE groups existed from around 15th century BCE on the steppe, since it is temporally much closer to the first attestation of the Cimmerians a few centuries later. But to suggest that the IE languages were continuously spoken on the Pontic-Caspian steppe from around 4000 BCE right down to Cimmerians more than 3000 years later, without a shred of evidence in terms of attestation of an IE language there is quite incredible. I find it hard that people are so happy and eager to lap up and propogate this shoddy theory.
Earlier attestation of Indo-Iranian languages in South Asia and Near East than on the steppe
As we saw, the earliest evidence of an IE group on the steppe comes around 9th century BCE. This is infact, several centuries later than the arbitrary dating of the Rigveda around 1200 BCE and the presence of Indo-Aryan words among the Mitanni in the 14th century BCE. And mind you, the Mitanni Indo-Aryan elites, land up in Syria with Indian elephants and Indian humped cattle.
According to Chakirlar & Ikram,
In Southwest Asia, the earliest representations of elephants appear in art and mythological literature, originating from eastern Lower Mesopotamia, and date to the end of the 3rd millennium BC (Potts 1997: 260–61). The style of depiction, though, seems to derive from that of the Indus Valley (Salonen 1976: 146–47). This strongly suggests a second-hand knowledge of elephants, rather than first-hand, real-life experience. From Greece to Arabia, no single reference to, or depiction of, an elephant or elephant parts, ante-dates these first finds from the end of the 3rd millennium BC… the Holocene elephants of Southwest Asia were not endemic to the region and that the Early Bronze Age peoples of the region knew about them only through their contact with India, or possibly Egypt. The latter is less likely as these animals were no longer indigenous there by that time, although remembered… Secondly, ancient accounts indicate that live elephants roamed and were hunted in the Orontes Valley, the Upper Euphrates Valley and the Middle Euphrates Valley around modern Ana in Iraq, at least between the end of the 16th and 9th centuries BC, possibly into the 8th century BC (Breasted 1906–07; Gardiner 1964: 179, 201; Moorey 1994: 117; Scullard 1974: 28). The core of this region comprises the area of influence of the Mitanni Kingdom, the main local political player in LBA northern Syria… Based on all the evidence reviewed above, and in the absence of fossil evidence, we also support the hypothesis that the Syrian elephant was not endemic, but arrived in Southwest Asia later in the mid-Holocene as an import from Southeast Asia that took hold locally.
Is it also just another co-incidence that the Mitanni also happen to be Indo-Aryan speakers, a language group dominant across much of North India where these Bronze Age Elephants in Mitannian Syria came from ?
The actual date of the Rigveda, on the other hand, is likely to be much earlier to 1200 BCE and probably before 2000 BCE, when the mightly river Sarasvati of the Rigveda had already dried up. The Rigvedic geography extends from Eastern Afghanistan to Western UP.
Even the Avesta, is older than 1000 BCE, and its geography does not extend further north than the Bactrian region of North Afghanistan. So, we have the attested presence of Indo-Iranians in South Asia more than a millenia before their attestation on the steppe.
This is not all. The linguistic diversity of the Indo-Aryan languages from the Middle Indo-Aryan period is such that the linguists admit, that these languages do not directly descend from Rigvedic Sanskrit but from its sister dialects. According to Thomas Oberlies,
The problem of the linguistic affinity of Pali and the other Middle Indo-Aryan (= MIA) languages is well-known and is undisputed: These languages are by no means straightforward continuants of the Old Indo-Aryan (= OIA) of the Vedic corpus, as in all of them words and forms turn up which cannot be the (regular) outcome of any atte- sted OIA ones…There are a number of words where Pali/Prakrit does not continue what we expect as the regular outcome of OIA. applying the MIA. sound laws. These words point either to the pre-Vedic language or (more probably) to (a) Vedic dialect(s) different from the dominant one.
OIA or Old Indo-Aryan refers to the language of early Vedic texts including that of Rigveda which is Vedic Sanskrit.
According to Claus Peter Zoller,
In the textbooks dealing with the history of Indo-Aryan, a linguistic family tree is drawn with OIA on top and ever new ramifications down to the modern languages, even though every specialist can tell that the different MIA languages (e.g. Pali) are not direct descendants of the Vedic corpus…there is no doubt that at the time of the immigration of Old Indo-Aryan into South Asia a whole bunch of Indo-Aryan dialects/variants existed.
Infact, it has been a long standing theory, going back to the 19th century, that the Indo-Aryan languages can be classed into an Inner Indo-Aryan (represented by Sanskrit and its descendents) and an Outer Indo-Aryan, where the peripheral Indo-Aryan languages in the IA language geography of South Asia are said to have several archaic features in common with other IE languages but not preserved in Sanskrit.
To account for the more southern and eastern geographical presence of these Outer Indo-Aryan in South Asia, the linguists have even proposed that these Outer Indo-Aryan speakers must have migrated into South Asia before the Inner Indo-Aryan speakers who composed the Rigveda.
In other words, when the Rigveda was composed, sometime around or before 2000 BCE, before the drying up of Sarasvati, there were already multiple Indo-Aryan languages present in South Asia, as per the admission of these linguists. Yet, on the steppe, you have no evidence of any IE language until the 9th century BCE and the single parent language of the Slavic languages cannot go further in time than the 6th century CE. So there is a gap of more than two millenium between the earliest attestation of Indo-Aryan languages in South Asia and the earliest attestation of Balto-Slavic languages on the steppe.
So on what grounds can you claim that the Sintashta folks, whose language, we have no clue about and who existed more than a millenia before the earliest attestation of any IE language on the steppe, are actually the precursors of Indo-Iranians in the Indian subcontinent ? Isn’t this stretching the bounds of credulity ? Even if, hypothetically, the Sintashta folks admixed with the people of the Indian subcontinent, it cannot in any way prove that it is these Sintashta folks who spread the Indo-Iranian languages in the region. You simply have no solid proof of what language they spoke. Presence of chariots (questionable) and weapons is not enough. Chariots were also used heavily by the Egyptians and the Minoans and even by ancient Chinese. Yet that does not make them Indo-European.
No proof of cultural intrusion from the steppe into South Asia
As I have already shown here before, there is no archaeological evidence of any steppe cultural marker penetrating into South Asia. As per James Mallory,
This is indeed the problem for both the Near Eastern and the Pontic-Caspian models and, following the logic of this analysis, the Bouckaert model appears to be in the same boat. All of these models apparently require the Indo European languages (including their attendant agricultural vocabulary) to be superimposed/adopted by at least several major complex societies of Central Asia and the Indus… In any event, all three models require some form of major language shift despite there being no credible archaeological evidence to demonstrate, through elite dominance or any other mechanism, the type of language shift required to explain, for example, the arrival and dominance of the Indo-Aryans in India… all theories must still explain why relatively advanced agrarian societies in greater Iran and India abandoned their own languages for those of later Neolithic or Bronze Age Indo-Iranian intruders.
According to Kristiansen et al. (Supplement A of Damgard et al),
…contacts between Bronze Age steppe populations and NMG V and BMAC populations appears to have been one in which the dynamic of cultural influence was stronger on the side of the well-established sedentary food producing populations, and this resulted in the partial assimilation of these initial newcomers to the region both culturally and, to a lesser degree, biologically as well. Third, not all of those who emigrated from the north turned to farming but may have continued a semi-nomadic existence in the highlands, which were unsuitable for the kind of intensive farming practiced in the BMAC homelands or in the regions of Khorezm. Fourth, if there was any Central Asian influence on South Asian populations, that influence likely long predated any development of Iranian, let alone Indo-Aryan, languages, and most likely occurred during the late NMG IV to early NMG V period (ca. 2800–2300 BCE) and even earlier during the Eneolithic from Kelteminar culture groups (4000–3500 BCE).
In other words, not only is there no archaeological evidence of cultural intrusion from the steppe in South Asia but the steppe groups actually ended up getting assimilated into the sedentary agriculturalist society of the Oxus civilization. This is a very significant and fatal blow to the theory of steppe origins of Indo-Europeans. How do groups who get assimilated culturally, get to spread their language, culture and religion ?
In the absence of any solid linguistic attestation of an IE language on the steppe before 1000 BCE, it is merely the presence of the steppe cultural markers attested via archaeology which is taken as evidence of Indo-European presence or spread, as is the case in Europe with the corded ware culture. Now, if this steppe cultural marker did not intrude even in the settled agricultural settlements of Central Asia, what to speak of South Asia, how does the theory of steppe groups spreading Indo-Iranian languages into South and Central Asia, still hold ?
And this is not a minor slip for the PIE on steppe theory. Indo-Iranian languages makes up 311 of the 445 extant Indo-European languages spoken today. In other words, 70 % of all Indo-European languages spoken today are Indo-Iranian. They also constitute 50 % of the population of all IE speakers. Yet, the steppe theory cannot explain how these Indo-Iranians spread from the steppe into these present southern homelands.
Evidence of bidirectional exchange between the steppe and the Oxus
It should also be noted that, not only did steppe groups migrate southwards and got partially assimilated into the settled societies of the Oxus, but the Oxus or BMAC influence also spread further north into the heart of the steppeland. As per David Anthony, the major advocate of the steppe theory,
Stepped pyramids or crenellations appeared on the pottery of Sintashta, Potapovka, and Petrovka. The stepped pyramid was the basic element in the decorative artwork on Namazga, Sarazm, and BMAC pottery, jewelry, metalwork…This motif had not appeared in any earlier pottery in the steppes, neither in the Bronze Age nor the Eneolithic…Stepped pyramids appeared for the first time on northern steppe pottery just when northern steppe pottery first showed up in BMAC sites… later it became a standard design element in Petrovka and Andronovo pottery…A lapis lazuli bead from Afghanistan was found at Sintashta. A Bactrian handled bronze mirror was found in a Sintashta grave at Krasnoe Znamya. Finally, the technique of lost-wax metal casting first appeared in the north during the Sintashta period…Lost-wax casting was familiar to BMAC metalsmiths. Southern decorative motifs (stepped pyramids), raw materials (lead and lapis lazuli), one mirror, and metal-working techniques (lost-wax casting) appeared in the north just when northern pottery, chariot-driving cheekpieces, bit wear, and horse bones appeared in the south.
Besides this material cultural influence from the Oxus on the steppe groups far into the North, there was a gene flow, likely from Oxus into the steppe populations. As per Narasimhan et al.,
In the Central Steppe (present-day Kazakhstan), an individual from one site dated to between 2800 and 2500 BCE, and individuals from three sites dated to between ~1600 and 1500 BCE, show significant admixture from Iranian farmer–related populations that is well-fitted by the main BMAC cluster, demonstrating northward gene flow from Turan into the Steppe at approximately the same time as the southward movement of Central_ Steppe_MLBA-related ancestry through Turan to South Asia.
As per Krzewinska et al,
The Bronze Age Srubnaya-Alakulskaya individuals from Kazburun 1/Muradym 8 presented genetic similarities to the previously published Srubnaya individuals. However, in f4 statistics, they shared more drift with representatives of the Andronovo and Afanasievo populations compared to the published Srubnaya individuals. Those apparently West Eurasian people lacked significant Siberian components (NEA and SEA) in ADMIXTURE analyses but carried traces of the SA component that could represent an earlier connection to ancient Bactria.
Complementing these datasets is the recent Jeong et al paper on ancient samples from Eastern Eurasian steppe, which also documented extensive Iranian farmer related ancestry most likely from BMAC/Oxus from the Bronze Age onward.
Thus, the data clearly indicates a bidirectional cultural and genetic exchange between the steppe groups and people of the Oxus civilization, where those steppe groups coming down south got more influenced by rather than influencing the settled urbanised agriculturalists of the south.
In this milieu, how can one argue that it is the steppe groups that spread their language and culture on the southern populations all the way into India ? On the contrary, since the presence of Indo-Iranian languages is attested much earlier in South Asia than the earliest attestation of any IE language on the steppe, it is more parsimonious to argue that it is these southern agriculturalists who spread their language and culture onto the steppe. Such a proposition, though quite logical, will make people very uncomfortable.
It may well be that it was the dark-skinned southern urbanised agriculturalists that assimilated and acculturated the fair-skinned nomadic steppe groups who then spread the cultural toolkit onto the steppe.
What about the genetic evidence of steppe admixture in South Asia ?
The genetic evidence is also not in favour of a steppe origin of Indo-European people. Whether it is David Reich or Willerslev, both agree that it is likely that the Proto-Indo-Europeans originated within a population with a largely Iranian farmer type ancestry, south of the steppe. Such a population already existed in South & Central Asia since the Neolithic.
So how can we be sure that those early urbanised populations of South & Central Asia were not already Indo-European speaking ? Why should one insist that it is only the steppe ancestry that could have brought the Indo-Aryans into South Asia when we don’t even have any proof of an IE language on the steppe before 1000 BCE ?
The steppe ancestry was clearly absent from Bronze Age Anatolia when we know that Hittite and Luwian groups lived in the region. Nor was R1a found among the Mycenaeans who were clearly Indo-European. Among the Western Europeans, R1a is hardly present and their y-dna profile is dominated by R1b, which is hardly present in South Asia.
When the steppe ancestry is recorded in the ancient Iron Age samples from NW South Asia, we do not find any R1a but find plenty of steppe maternal lineages. This rather supports in favour of the steppe ancestry entering South Asia via the steppe females. It also fits in perfectly with the lack of any steppe cultural marker in South Asian archaeological record. A case can be made that the steppe ancestry spread among South Asians after 1900 BC, when the South Asians took brides from the steppe groups who were also reaching out South. Thus the South Asian people got steppe admixture without any cultural influence of the steppe people by taking the steppe brides.
One final roll of the dice could be that why is it that the steppe ancestry is highly correlated with the high caste individuals in India ? Why do Brahmins have the highest steppe ancestry if steppe ancestry had nothing to do with the spread of Indo-Aryans in South Asia ?
There is also an easy answer for this – the spread of Indo-European or Indo-Aryan languages across much of northern half of South Asia, was followed by what is referred to as the Sanskritization process by the likes of Witzel. It is this Sanskritization which spread the steppe ancestry. A good example of this process spreading the steppe ancestry is the higher steppe ancestry found among Brahmins in South India. There was no language change in South India. There was only heavy Sanskritic cultural influence in South India, yet the Brahmins in this region have a higher steppe component than the rest of the surrounding population. This is what likely happened throughout North India as well,the difference merely being that people across much of North India who got Sanskritized were not Dravidian speakers but speakers of different Indo-Aryan languages that were related to Sanskrit.
As per Witzel, the process of Sanskritization occurred in North India, in the aftermath of the Mahabharata war, when the Kuru state re-organised the Vedic religion and ritual and spread it across the expanse of North India which was already speaking various varieties of Indo-Aryan languages. It is a known fact that the older layer of Indo-Aryan languages across much of North India has been overlaid by a subsequent process of heavy Sanskritic superstratal influence. This was a major political and cultural event according to Witzel who summarizes it thus,
It can be said that the Bh¯arata/Kaurava/P¯ariks.ita dynasty of the Kurus sucessfully carried out and institutionalized a large scale re-organization of the old R°gvedic society. Many aspects of the new ritual, of the learned speech, of the texts and their formation reflect the wish of the royal Kuru lineage and their Brahmins to be more archaic than much of the texts and rites they inherited. In this fashion, the new P¯ariks.ita kings of the Kurus betray themselves as typical newcomers and upstarts who wanted to enhance their position in society through the well-known process of “Sanskritization.” …The new orthopraxy (and its accompanying belief system, “Kuru orthodoxy”) quickly expanded all over Northern India, and subsequently, across the Vindhya, to South India and later to S.E. Asia, up to Bali…the new dynasty was effective in re-shaping society and its structure by stratification into the four classes (varn. a), with an internal opposition between ¯arya and ´s¯udra which effectively camouflaged the really existing social conflict between brahma-ks. atra and the rest, the vai´sya and ´s¯udra; further, the Bh¯arata/P¯ariks.ita dynasty was successful in reorganizing much of the traditional ritual and the texts concerned with it….The small tribal chieftainships of the R°gvedic period with their shifting alliances and their history of constant warfare, though often not more than cattle rustling expeditions, were united in the single “large chiefdom” of the Kuru realm. With some justification, we may now call the great chief (r¯aj¯a) of the Kurus “the Kuru king”…we are, I believe, entitled to call the Kuru realm the first state in India…It must be underlined, again, that the developments which brought about the the Kuru realm were lasting and not transient ones as those under the R°gvedic P¯uru or Bharata. In effect, many of the changes in religion and society then carried out shape Indian society even today.
This Sanskritization, like in South India, is likely the reason for the spread of steppe ancestry across the non-Kuru Indo-Aryan states via the Brahmins from the Kuru realm, who would have been primarily responsible for the spread of the re-organised Vedic religion.
What is most interesting is that the Kuru kingdom was centred in the region of Haryana and Western UP, and it is the Jats of Haryana and Western UP, who have the highest steppe ancestry of any South Asian group, higher than the Jats of Punjab or even the Pashtuns further west. It therefore makes perfect sense, that if Sanskritization was spread from a region with a relatively very high steppe ancestry, its genetic influence on those regions it Sanskritized would also result in the spread of steppe ancestry in those regions. And if that spread was mostly related to the spread of Sanskritized Vedic ritual and religion, the group primarily responsible for such a transmission would be Brahmins from the Haryana and Western UP region, where steppe ancestry was quite high. It is therefore hardly surprising that the Brahmins over a period, all across India, began to show higher levels of steppe ancestry than their surrounding non-Brahmin populations.
The only necessary situation for this is that the Sanskritization process must have taken place after the steppe ancestry had admixed into the NW populations including among the Kurus. In other words, if steppe ancestry spread into North or NW India around 1500 BCE, the spread of Sanskritization from the Kuru realm across much of North India, must have been after 1500 BCE.
There is this belief that is held by many that the high steppe ancestry in Jats is based somehow on some latter steppe migrations into the region. But obviously there is no proof for it. The association of Jats with some Central Asian migrants and more specifically the Indo-Scythians is a myth created in the 19th century and does not have any foundation whatsoever. However some people hold onto this myth and feel a vague sense of pride in it.
Nevertheless, there is a very easy and straightforward explanation for why the Jats have such a high steppe ancestry. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
The Haryanvi and Western UP Jats have apparently the highest ‘steppe’ ancestry among South Asians.
This ‘steppe’ ancestry is associated with the spread of IE langauges in South Asia with Brahmins and Kshatriyas in any region having a higher share of this ancestry than the other groups within that region.
The Vedic homeland was in Haryana and Western UP, the Kuru heartland from where the Vedic cultural influence spread into interior South Asia.
Let me quote Michael Witzel which is an avowed AMT proponent,
Kuruksetra, the sacred land of Manu where even the gods perform their sacrifices, is the area between the two small rivers Sarsuti and Chautang, situated about a hundred miles north-west of Delhi. It is here that the Mahabharata battle took place. Why has Kuruksetra been regarded so highly ever since the early Vedic period?…
…It can be said that the Bharata/Kaurava/Pariks.ita dynasty of the Kurus sucessfully carried out and institutionalized a large scale re-organization of the old Rgvedic society. Many aspects of the new ritual, of the learned speech, of the texts and their formation reflect the wish of the royal Kuru lineage and their Brahmins to be more archaic than much of the texts and rites they inherited. In this fashion, the new Pariks.ita kings of the Kurus betray themselves as typical newcomers and upstarts who wanted to enhance their position in society through the well-known process of “Sanskritization.” In fact, to use this modern term out of its usual context, the establishment of the Kuru realm was accompanied by the First Sanskritization. Incipient state formation can only be aided if it is not combined with the overthrow of all inherited institutions, rituals, customs, and beliefs. The process is much more successful if one rather tries to bend them to one’s goals or tries to introduce smaller or larger modifications resulting in a totally new set-up. The new orthopraxy (and its accompanying belief system, “Kuru orthodoxy”) quickly expanded all over Northern India, and subsequently, across the Vindhya, to South India and later to S.E. Asia, up to Bali.
This procedure is visible in the Bharata/Kaurava dynasty’s large scale collection of older and more recent religious texts: In all aspects of ritual, language and text collection, these texts tend to be more archaic than much of the inherited older texts and rites. On the other hand, the new dynasty was effective in re-shaping society and its structure by stratification into the four classes (varna), with an internal opposition between ¯arya and ´sudra which effectively camouflaged the really existing social conflict between brahma-ksatra and the rest, the vaisya and ´sudra; further, the Bharata/Pariksita dynasty was successful in reorganizing much of the traditional ritual and the texts concerned with it. (It must not be forgotten that public ritual included many of the functions of our modern administration, providing exchanges of goods, forging unity and underlining the power of the elite.)
The small tribal chieftainships of the R°gvedic period with their shifting alliances and their history of constant warfare, though often not more than cattle rustling expeditions, were united in the single “large chiefdom” of the Kuru realm. With some justification, we may now call the great chief (raja) of the Kurus “the Kuru king”. His power no longer depended simply on ritual relationships such as exchange of goods (vidatha) but on the extraction of tribute (bali) from an increasingly suppressed third estate (vi´s) and from dependent subtribes and weak neighbors; this was often camouflaged as ritual tribute, such as in the a´svamedha.
In view of the data presented in this paper, we are, I believe, entitled to call the Kuru realm the first state in India.
Witzel also states elsewhere in the text,
The famous Videgha Mathava legend of ´SB 18.104.22.168 sqq. tells the story of the “civilization process of the East” in terms of its Brahmanical authors, and not, as usally termed, as the tale of “the Aryan move eastwards.For it is not only Videgha Mathava, a king living on the Sarasvatı, but also his priest Gotama Rahugana who move towards the east. Not only is the starting point of this “expedition” the holy land of Kuruksetra; the royal priest, Gotama Rahugana, is a well known poet of R°gvedic poems as well, and thus, completely anachronistic. Further, the story expressively mentions the role of Agni Vai´svanara, the ritual fire, in making the marshy country of the East arable and acceptable for Brahmins. All of this points to Sanskritization or rather, Brahmanization) and Ks.atriyazation rather than to military expansion.
The M¯athavas, about whom nothing is known outside the ´SB, may be identical with the m´athai of Megasthenes (c. 300 B.C.), who places them East of the Paz´alai (Pancala), at the confluence of the Erennesis (Son) with the Ganges. The movement of some clans, with their king Videgha and his Purohita, eastwards from the River Sarasvatı in Kuruksetra towards Bihar thus represents the ‘ritual occupation’ of Kosala(-Videha) by the bearers of orthoprax (and orthodox) Kuru culture, but it does not represent an account of the first settlement of the East by Indo-Aryan speaking tribes which must have taken place much earlier as the (still scanty) materials of archaeology indeed indicate.
…the geographical area of the Rigveda extends from westernmost U.P. and adjoining parts of Uttarakhand in the east to southern and eastern Afghanistan in the west. Strictly speaking, in present-day political-geographical terms, this includes the whole of northern Pakistan, adjoining areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan, but, within present-day India, only the state of Haryana with adjoining peripheral areas of western U.P and Uttarakhand..
…The descriptions in the Puranas about the locations of the Five Aila tribes in northern India clearly place the Purus as the inhabitants of the Central Area (Haryana and adjacent areas of western U.P.), the Anus to their North (Kashmir, etc.), the Druhyus to their West (present-day northern Pakistan), and the Yadus and Turvasus to their South-West (Rajasthan, Gujarat, western M.P.) and South-East (eastern M.P. and Chhattisgarh?) respectively. The Solar race of the Ikshvakus are placed to their East (eastern U.P, northern Bihar). This clearly shows that the Purus were the inhabitants of the core Rigvedic area of the Oldest Books (6, 3, 7): Haryana and adjacent areas, and they, and in particular their sub-tribe the Bharatas, were the “Vedic Aryans”. Their neighboring tribes and people in all directions were also other non-Vedic (i.e. non-Puru) but “Aryan” or Indo-European language speaking tribes. The Puru expansions described in the Puranas explain all the known historical phenomena associated with the “Aryans”: the expansion of Puru kingdoms eastwards explains the phenomenon which Western scholars interpreted as an “Aryan movement from west to east” (the area of the Rigveda extends eastwards to Haryana and westernmost U.P., the area of the Yajurveda covers the whole of U.P., and the area of the Atharvaveda extends eastwards up to Bengal), and their expansion westwards described in the Puranas and the Rigveda explains the migration of Indo-European language speakers from the Anu and Druhyu tribes (whose dialects later developed into the other 11 branches of Indo-European languages) from India..
The evidence is unequivocal. Quite clearly, the Vedic culture spread into the Gangetic plains and later on elsewhere from its central locus of the Kuru realm which was in Haryana and Western UP.
So is it so outrageous that the dominant community living presently in the traditional Vedic heartland from where the Vedic culture, ritual, language and religion is suppossed to have spread across inner South Asia, also has the highest ancestry of the type which is usually today associated with the spread of IE or Indo-Aryan languages and culture in South Asia ?
So why hold onto the unsubstantiated 19th century colonial myths when the evidence is so clear and straightforward ? As Razib has pointed out, a latter steppe admixture into the Jats from groups like Scythians is also difficult to argue because the Jats lack the East Eurasian component which is present in very signficant proportion in steppe groups from Iron Age onwards.
Infact, the close ancestry sharing between the Kalash, Pashtuns, Pamiris and Jats indicates, as I have argued earlier in greater detail, that this shared ancestry with high ‘steppe’ component goes back to the days of Indo-Iranian unity within the northwest of the subcontinent because while Jats are Indo-Aryan and Pashtuns are Iranian speakers, the Kalash are representative of the Nuristani branch which is often taken as the 3rd branch in Indo-Iranian.
One question that is often asked is – why are Jats not at the top of caste heirarchy ?
There is also a good explanation for this. The Indo-Aryan expansion from its Haryana-Western UP heartland is a roughly 4,000 year phenomenon. A lot of water has flown under the bridge since then. Mahapadma Nanda, who established the first major South Asian empire is stated in the Puranas to have destroyed the Kshatriyas, and attained undisputed sovereignty. The Kshatriyas said to have been exterminated by him include Maithalas, Kasheyas, Ikshvakus, Panchalas, Shurasenas, Kurus, Haihayas, Vitihotras, Kalingas, and Ashmakas.
As you can see, the Kshatriyas among the Kurus, along with those of other kingdoms, were already exterminated during the time of Mahapadma Nanda eons ago. So it is no surprise that present day Jats don’t hold any special position in the caste heirarchy.
I end here by taking a detour with the beautiful story of Pururavas, who is the ancestral figure of all Vedic tribes and is most likely an Indo-Iranian ancestor from the remote past. Noticeable aspects of the story include the fact that the place of Kurukshetra, Haryana has a mention in the story as a place of action and that sheep herding appears to have been a feature of this early nascent Indo-Aryan/Indo-Iranian period.
Pururava was a good king who performed many yajnas. He ruled the earth well. Urvashi was a beautiful apsara. Pururava met Urvashi and fell in love with her.
“Please marry me,” he requested.
“I will,” replied Urvashi, “But there is a condition. I love these two sheep and they will always have to stay by bedside. If I ever lose them, I will remain your wife no longer and will return to heaven. Moreover, I shall live only on clarified butter.”
Pururava agreed to these rather strange conditions and the two were married. They lived happily for sixty-four years.
But the gandharvas who were in heaven felt despondent. Heaven seemed to be a dismal place in Urvashi’s absence. They therefore hatched a conspiracy to get her back. On an appropriate occasion, a gandharva named Vishvavasu stole the two sheep. As soon as this happened, Urvashi vanished and returned to heaven.
Pururava pursued Vishvavasu and managed to retrieve the sheep, but by then, Urvashi ahd disappeared. The miserable king searched throughout the world for her. But in vain. Eventually, Pururava came across Urvashi near a pond in Kurukshetra.
“Why have you forsaken me?” asked Pururava. “You are my wife. Come and live with me.”
“I was your wife,” replied Urvashi. “I no longer am, since the condition was violated. However, I agree to spend a day with you.”
When one year had passed, Urvashi returned to Pururava and presented him with the son she had borne him. She spent a day with him and vanished again. This happened several times and, in this fashion, Urvashi bore Pururava six sons. They were named Ayu, Amavasu, Vishvayu, Shatayu, Gatayu and Dridayu.