Browncast Episode 104: The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify,  and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. This website isn’t about shaking the cup, but I have noticed that the number of patrons plateaued a long time ago.

We discuss Tibetan Buddhism and the Tibetan Empire in this podcast.Browncast Episode 103: Abhijit Iyer-Mitra on Indian Defense, Economics, and History

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Browncast Episode 103: Abhijit Iyer-Mitra on Indian Defense, Economics, and History

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify,  and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. This website isn’t about shaking the cup, but I have noticed that the number of patrons plateaued a long time ago.

I would though appreciate more positive reviews! Alton Brown’s “Browncast” has 30 reviews on Stitcher alone! Help make us the biggest browncast! At least at some point.

Abhijit Iyer-Mitra (@Iyervval) | Twitter

This episode features Omar, Mukunda, and Akshar talking to Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, a defense and policy analyst, about his evolution of political thought with highlights on his former communist affinity, evolving feelings on Modi, and passion for Indian nationalism. We also get into the continued inefficiencies of India and how it has been so detrimental to its development, plus possible reforms to remedy it. The wide-ranging conversation also includes insights into Abhijit’s time in jail, Kashmir, and “Frugal Indian” cooking tips!

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The Era of the Kushans

I have written a new post on my personal blog about the dating of the Kushan empire. I have shown through a range of facts and arguments that the Kanishka Era should start around 233 CE and not 127 CE as is currently believed.

The Era of the Kushans

Most of you folks are unlikely to go through the entire article. My intention behind it is to get some attention from the scholars and the academia. Hence I have tried to gather as much evidence as I could to strengthen my case.

Let me state here in brief what this article is all about.

It is generally believed now that the era established by Kanishka in his 1st yeat began in 127 CE. A minority of scholars still believe that it begins in 78 CE. At the same time there is a minority view that also believes that the Kanishka Era began in the 3rd century CE – most of them being numismatists.

The main reason why 127 CE and earlier 125 CE is so popular among the scholars as the likely Year 1 of Kanishka is the belief that Chinese historical texts of the Later Han and Wei dynasties, which are chief textual sources on the Kushans, give information about Kushans and India from a report that was given to the Chinese Court in 125 CE. As per the account Kushans had recently conquered North India and were ruling over it but Kanishka is not mentioned leading scholars to infer that he must have come to the throne around or after 125 CE.

Already a few years ago, I had come across an old article by the doyen of Indian historians, R C Majumdar, where he pointed out quite clearly that there was no basis to believe that this information about the Kushan state and India was only from this report of 125 CE since the Chinese texts mention lots of information which is clearly several decades later than 125 CE. And the texts maintain that their record of history closes at the end of Han period i.e. 220 CE and 239 CE respectively. So by default one has to assume that the current state of affairs these texts relate about India and the Kushans, according to which Kushans were in control of North India, dates to around 220 and 239 CE respectively.

Most strikingly I found out, the early Kushan Emperors, before the time of Kanishka were dating their inscriptions using two Eras which were separated from each other by 129-144 years. There are only two historical eras, which incidentally happen to begin around this period, which can fit in as per this criteria and these are the Vikram Era of 57 BC and Saka Era of 78 CE which are separated in time by 135 years. Dating the early Kushan inscriptions using these two Eras pushes the Kushans in the 3rd century CE which we already noted is what the Chinese texts seem to support.

Even more remarkable was the fact that in the homeland of the Kushans in Balkh or Bactria, there was an Era, referred to commonly as the Bactrian Era, which began in the 3rd century CE and was in use atleast until the 9th century CE. It is difficult to argue that this Era is not the same as that of Kanishka the Kushan since the Kushans were native to Bactria and we know of no one else who possibly inaugurated an Era during this period. So the Kanishka Era aka the Bactrian Era began in 233 CE as it fits in well with the dates given in Vikram and Saka Era of the early Kushans.

Modern Kushan scholarship is dominated by numismatic studies. The credit for this goes to Robert Gobl, an Austrian numismatist, who revolutionised the numismatic research on Kushan coins by his indepth study and research on the subject, unlike anything that came earlier. What is worth noting is that Robert Gobl, based on his indepth study of Kushan coinage and that of Sasanian and Roman coinage as well came to the conclusion that the Great Kushans ruled in the 3rd century CE.

So, I realised that there was strong inscriptional, textual and numismatic data that supports the date of Kushans in the 3rd century CE yet no one has tried to bring all of this data together in one place and make a strong case for the Kanishka Era beginning in 3rd century. This lockdown gave me the time and opportunity to do that and I bit the bullet, as it were.


One quite interesting fact about the history of the Kushans is that they appear to have had a long standing rivalry with the Sasanians on their west. As I have argued in my article, the Kushans seem to have lost their homeland Bactria to the Sasanians during the reign of Kanishka I’s son Huvishka who nevertheless appears to have regained it within a handful of years. However, during Kanishka II’s reign in the 330s CE, as per our dating, Bactria was again lost to the Sasanians under Shapur II, and this time for several decades. The Sasanians even managed to conquer Gandhara south of the Hindu Kush.

By the end of Shapur II’s life in the 370s, a new force rises and they are conventionally referred to as the Kidarites by the scholarship. These Kidarites however claimed that they were descendents of the Kushans and the Chinese texts also endorse this. But ofcourse, there is very little evidence to confirm or deny this claim. Nevertheless, these Kidarites get hold of all existing Kushan territory and also reclaim Gandhara and Bactria from the Sasanians. Later on, the Kidarites also manage to conquer the kingdom of Sogdia (Sughd) north of Bactria. What is also quite revealing is the evidence that the Sasanians were apparently forced by these Kidarites to pay tribute to them.

In the latter half of the 5th century CE, the Sasanians refuse to pay tribute and this leads to a conflict which perhaps brought the downfall of the Kidarites around 460-470 CE. Bactria again went to the Sasanians. But by 484 CE, another obscure group, who are known as Hephthalites in modern convention defeated the Sasanians and even killed their emperor Peroz I. The Sasanians were again forced to pay tribute, this time by this new group and Bactria was lost by the Sasanians once again.

Another interesting thing during this period is that Hinduism’s influence in Central Asia kept on spreading during the Kidarite and Hephthalite rule. During the Kidarite era, it even spread to Sogdia. The Indian cultural influence across Bactria, Sogdia and all across the kingdoms of Tarim Basin lasted for several centuries until they were Islamised.

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Brownpundits Browncast episode 100: Creating a New Medina, Venkat Dhulipala

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify,  and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up with the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

Due to the costs of both recording software and storage space, I would appreciate if you could also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. It also compensates Razib for his editing.  If we get more patrons we have reached out to have someone professional edit…but really we don’t have the funds now.

If you can’t give (in these times many cannot!), I would appreciate more positive reviews!

Coming up with an idea of PakistanIn this episode we talk to eminent historian Venkat Dhulipala. Venkat is the author of “Creating a New Medina, state power, Islam and the Quest for Pakistan in Late Colonial India” and we talk about the book and the ideology of Pakistan as well as his current interests and projects. We also manage a shoutout to Keerthik Sashidhran, who everyone should read.

This remains a controversial topic and I hope people add value in the comments.

 

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Causes of the Revolt of 1857

This is a longish piece written by Major Amin. As readers of brownpundits are well aware, major Amin is a military historian (and a very good one) who also has strong (and mostly “not academic”) opinions about history in general. These are his thoughts on the Indian Mutiny (aka “War of independence”). Even those who disagree with particular opinions may find some insights worth reading.. in any case, it will generate interesting comments 🙂

What follows is from Major Amin, unedited and unexpurgated. Continue reading “Causes of the Revolt of 1857”

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The War Over Myth

When the ancient Cro-Magnon crossed paths with the Neanderthal in prehistoric Europe, a conflict was born. Slowly but surely, the invading Cro-Magnons subdued and supplanted the native Neanderthals into oblivion. The only Neanderthal traces left were fossils and tiny genetic snippets in the Sapiens code. But why did these Cro-Magnons so rapidly succeed the Neanderthals?

Yuval Noah Harari proposes the power of myth.

Origins

In his book Sapiens, Harari posits that it was the ability of ancient humans to create myths that led to triumph over their Neanderthal cousins. Whether it was concepts of religion, trade, country, etc…, the Cro-Magnon coalitions weren’t just strengthened by shared genetic codes but shared mythic creeds. Innovation and legends built from this cognitive revolution gave early humans the tools to not only conquer other species but also each other.

Old myths were now carving new realities.

THE COGNITIVE REVOLUTION MAY HAVE ESCAPED THE NEANDERTHAL WHO WAS NO MATCH FOR THE MYTH MAKING CRO-MAGNON.

This blood of fratricide would continue across the ages to the tip of Spartan spears clashing against Athenian shields. In this land of early contacts, people who shared even greater similarities than the Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals were still locked in an eternal war over the myths of alliances and city states. Another incarnation would appear in the same land as Greeks and Anatolian “Turks” (who may have shared more DNA with an Athenian than a Central Asian) would come to gunpowder blows with a backdrop of whether Jesus or Muhammed was the supreme prophet.

Of course, one could say these conflicts were all over resources; but myths provided the fuel to the fire. The fictions of community, ideology, and religion were integral to these conflicts; and the legends of their conflicts were peppered with these myths, not over who controlled a salt mine.

The Deviant

History is filled with centralized powers and rulers having a vice grip over their societies’ myths. Nonetheless, massive calamities or upheavals would cause realities to shatter mythologies (much like the coronavirus today). The spread of the internet and social media have upended traditional formulas, and now myths are increasingly divided and divisive.

I came across an extremely interesting yet at times very hypocritical podcast – the Rabbit Hole. It is produced by the New York Times and delves into the story of a young man named Caleb and his radicalization by way of…YouTube. On the way it pairs a fairly centrist Joe Rogan with famous racists such as Stephan Molyneaux and Milo Yiannopolous, designates deviation from mainstream thought as a mental disturbance, and labels dissent against mainstream media as surefire pathway to bigotry.

THE RABBIT HOLE PODCAST FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES.

It is slickly produced, gorgeous in audio, and loudly ironic – as it sounds like a parody of propaganda itself.

Let’s not forget the highlight reel of the New York Times’ myths this year includes lamenting that not enough Indians have died due to coronaviruslabeling the Chinese travel ban as racist, and canceling #MeToo because Joe Biden.

These are the myths that an esteemed and storied American institution propagates. It doesn’t take a mythologist or scientist to tell you that something is off.

Media, academia, corporations, and governments themselves are seeing their stories thrown into bonfires like an Evangelical reaction to Harry Potter books. The sacred myths of the past such as the accessibility of the American Dream, the “natural fit” of the European Union, the hyper-competence of the CCP, India’s minority favoritism in guise of “secularism,” and so many more myths of the elites are being capsized. Populist surges have been inflamed by mismatching of reality and myth, and alternative voices have been given suffrage by the internet.

The Rabbit Hole feels like a reaction. A major institution trying to silence alternative thought (much of which I strongly disagree with myself) as it feels threatened, using every aesthetic and influential trick in its repertoire. It’s a very entertaining yet at times jarring piece of content. It’s so fascinating seeing a media giant so brazenly and fearfully enforce its myth.

Māyā, the Illusion

The Hindu concept of Māyā is multifaceted; but for our purpose today, let’s pin it down to the idea that our world is an elaborate illusion, fueled by attachment, arrogance, and deception. The illusion is tailored. For one, it may be their emotional faults; for another, it’s their addiction; for someone else, it’s their position of power, etc…

Each person has their own māyā. Their own reality. Their own myth.

Institutions have for too long utilized prestige to create precedent. They have gotten used to their word being a given, rather than something that is taken. Now with the coronavirus baring the top-down māyā of the elites and institutions, a bottom-up backlash ensues.

A whole array of new myths and challenges to the status quo are arising. Many of my group chat debates with friends end up being us posting different articles that say wildly opposite conclusions with Herculean confidence – a testament to how we now have a myriad of myths to choose from yet increasing difficulty in discerning our reality. News is no longer news. News is narrative.

Truth is more subjective than ever.

Think Different

The Vedas have described reality as “neti neti” – not this, not that. This comfort with ambiguity is something that is sorely missed in today’s world. The sages who composed the Vedas found ease in ambiguity and accepted the limits of truth. From their verses, flowed the founding myths of the Indian subcontinent; and subsequent philosophers and truth-seekers created their own spin on those myths. Debate, diversity, and a mutual respect became integral to the Indic ethos, something you would never assume today watching the screaming cobblestone screens of Indian news.

FOREVER RADICAL – STEVE JOBS’ PENCHANT FOR REBELLIOUS THOUGHT CHANGED A WHOLE INDUSTRY AND EVENTUALLY THE WORLD

Now is a time to embrace ambiguity. Absolute truths are being overturned by the coronavirus and the cascading economic downturn. From the Federal Reserve’s infinite monetary sprint careening past notions of debt to the WHO’s blatant capitulation to the Dragon, old conventions are imploding to open a path for new strategies, new myths.

This piece is more of a collection of thoughts than a focused message. A quiver of arrows rather than a spear. I want you to leave with questions.

Why should I listen to the media and institutions that have been so consistently wrong? That have a permanent sneer towards me? That seek to sear any speck of debate into ashes?

The war over myths is the story of human progress. Our myths chart the trail of our future. Belief has proven self-fulfilling on an individual as well as societal level. We must make sure that our beliefs are not defined by consistently wrong and Puritanical elites and institutions.

Our myths should come from experience and inquiry. It’s time for conversion. It’s time for reincarnation. It’s time to choose our own mythology.

This is a repost from The EmissaryPlease visit the blog for more content and thanks to Brown Pundits!

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People of Indian ancestry need to learn things outside of India or they will sound stupid

At my other blog, The Decline Of Genocide And The Rise Of Rents. One of the comments is from someone with an Indian name:

The problem with the whitewashing of the islamic invasions of India is that first, nobody does that with the christian invasions of sub saharan Africa and even more so, central and South America and secondly, the genocides did not stop in the past.

I wonder how much of what the author wrote applied to the European conquests of central and south america where the aim was clearly to slaughter and convert.

Since the commenter is parochial, they don’t know about the Spanish Black Legend, which was an Anglo-Protestant propaganda effort to argue that the Catholic Spaniards were particularly cruel and evil. The reality is that the aim was to convert, but, it was also to turn the indigenous peasantry into sources of rents for the Spaniards, who were keen on living like aristocrats in the New World. The demographic collapse of the indigenous population prevented some of that and necessitated the importation of African slaves.

Why was there a demographic collapse? It wasn’t really the Spaniards killing the native people in large numbers (in fact, the conquest of America occurred with the large-scale cooperation of indigenous allies). Rather, it was disease, as outlined in Charles C. Mann’s 1491.  If you look at the comment about, you will notice a peculiar contradiction in the idea that one would want to “slaughter and convert.” Winning souls usually entails keeping them alive!

Henry Kamen’s Empire: How Spain Became a World Power, 1492-1763, the author outlines the contrasting case of what has become the Phillippines. Here Spaniards and mestizos were a tiny minority, and the indigenous peoples were the overwhelming majority, with a large number of Chinese engaging in trade. Why the difference? Because the Spaniards did not bring disease that were particularly impactful on the people of the Phillippines, and on the contrary, tropical climates in Asia were not healthful for Europeans. The mortality rate for the Dutch East India Company in Batavia was incredibly high, as Southeast Asia served as a great mortality maw for young men from the Netherlands and Germany for generations.

The contrast with Africa is the most extreme. Fatal disease meant that the European presence in Sub-Saharan Africa was constrained to isolated fortifications and trading center on the coast for centuries. The reason Africa was “dark” was that even after all this time much of it was unexplored into the 19th century. If you look at biographies of the “Arab slave traders” from this period you will observe that many were of predominant black African ancestry. The primary, but not exclusive, reason for this difficulty of conquest and domination was malaria. The introduction of quinine opened up the continent to Europeans and resulted in the scramble for Africa.

Though some European missionaries did come to continent with colonialism, in most places mass Christianization occurred after the end of European rule. It was driven by native Christians and often spread fastest among groups that were located adjacent to Muslims. Christianity was seen as a bulwark of the native culture against Islam,* which Vodun and other indigenous beliefs exhibited little resistance (it is a peculiar fact that “public paganism” persists in West Africa, but not in East Africa, where tribal religions are much more rural and marginal phenomenon).

What can this tell us about India? As I have posted at length, it testifies to the power and strength of native Indian religious ideas and systems. Though Hindus say they are “pagan”, they are not pagan like African pagans. Or pagans like the people of highland Southeast Asia, or the New World. Or Classical Antiquity. Muslim rulers dominated the region around Delhi from 1200 to 1770, but 80-90% of the people in the region remained non-Muslim at the end of this period!

And yet 30% of subcontinental people are now Muslim. They are concentrated on the margins, in the far west and far east. What does this tell us?

A standard model presented is that slaughter and mass-killings resulted in the shift of religion at the point of the sword. Were Muslims particularly brutal in the west and the east? More brutal in eastern Bengal than western Bengal? More brutal in southeast East Bengal than northern East Bengal?

The idea of an exceptionally violent and brutal occupation is promoted and encouraged by many factors. First, many Muslims in the past and even actually like the idea that the Turks and Mughals were particularly vicious and zealous. The Turks themselves had an interest in portraying themselves as such ghazis converting pagans at the point of the sword. For Hindus, the conversion of marginal, liminal, and low caste communities to Islam of their own free will is not something one would want to address, because it points to “push” factors within Hindu society. Defection says something about the group from which you defect.

Finally, there is the reality that the Muslims did engage in forms of cultural genocide. The destruction of temples, the selective targeting of the religious, the imposition of an alien Persian high culture, are all true things that occurred in a Hindu India.

Note: I may just delete a lot of comments on this post if they don’t meet my standard. Just warning.

* The attraction of highland Southeast Asians to Christianity has the same tendency: they see it as a bulwark against absorption into lowland Buddhist culture.

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The Persian captivity

I have long suggested to readers of this weblog to inform themselves of the histories of peoples outside of the Indian subcontinent to understand better broader human dynamics and get out of the box of parochialism. But, the comments of this weblog don’t suggest that many are taking me up that advice.

Let’s start with the depredations of nomadic Central Asian peoples that the Indian subcontinent has been subject to, starting with the Indo-Aryans, down to the Afghan invasions of the 19th century. There is an attitude that this is sui generis in some fashion. But it’s not. Most of Eurasia has been subject to the predations of the pastoralist peoples. In Strange Parallels: Volume 2, Mainland Mirrors: Europe, Japan, China, South Asia, and the Islands: Southeast Asia in Global Context, c.800–1830, the author argues that Southeast Asia, Japan, and Western Europe were protected from these incursions due to their geography, and so were allowed a cultural continuity which was ideal for the formation of nation-states.

This is in sharp contrast with the Islamic world. Though I am skeptical of the idea that the first Arabs conquerors of the Near East were nomads (I think they were residents of the cities of the Levantine liminal fringe), the Turks definitely were. Arriving as slave soldiers in the 9th century, after 1000 AD Turkic dynasties were dominant through the Muslim world for nearly 1,000 years. Reza Shah Pahlavi’s ascension in the 20th century broke the long history of the rule of Iran by men who were not Iranians of Iran.

And yet the spread of rule by Turkic dynasties was associated with the spread of Persian high culture, not its diminishment. As outlined in The Persianate World: The Frontiers of a Eurasian Lingua Franca, the three early modern Muslim polities of the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals, were ethnically Turkic in their self-conception but patronized and facilitated Farsi as a language of administration and culture.

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They came, they conquered, & they were swallowed

A reader sent me a post they wrote, The Aryans were Invasive to India:

The Aryan Migration into India was invasive; characterized by violent conquest, rape, racism, and religious supremacy. This was not a unique phenomenon in the premodern era, but a relatively standard episode that would ensue when two different tribes had to struggle over the same resources.

The Sanskrit-Vedic culture spread over India by Aryan conquest was likely not significantly influenced by native Indian traditions. That being said, Indian traditions certainly did work their way into later expressions of Hinduism, particularly after the rise of Buddhism, and the resulting reformations the latter faith affected in the former.

They asked for my opinion. I agree with many of the aspects of the piece. There is something of an attempt, in my opinion, to downplay the coercion and violence that were part of the expansion of many Y chromosomal lineages, groups of males, ~4,000 years ago. In fact, the author of the above piece probably overestimates the fraction of Aryan mtDNA in India; most West Eurasian lineages in South Asia are probably from West Asian, not the Sintashta.

The violent conquest and rape are probably correct. There are details though that need to be clarified. I suspect the violent conquest was of the shadows and ruins of the Indus Valley societies. The Aryans were barbarians who arrived in a barbarized world. As far as rape goes, modern Americans would define the act of killing a woman’s brothers and fathers and taking her as a bride rape, but it was quite normal in the ancient world. The dramatic arc of Achille’s sulking in the Iliad is triggered by the fact that Agamemnon took his sex slave.

But I think racism and religious supremacy are terms I would avoid. The reason is that there is generic racism, which is pretty typical, and historically contingent, embedded and systematized racism developed in the 19th century in the West. This is what casts a shadow over us today. But racism in the premodern world was different. It is well known that in early Anglo-Saxon England the local British population were second class citizens. We know this because the fine for killing a Briton was less than a fine for killing a Saxon of the same class. But, we also know genetically and culturally that many Britons assimilated into Anglo-Saxon culture and become English. The lineage of Alfred the Great, who “saved” Anglo-Saxon England from the Danes, seems to have been one of Brythonic warlords who were Anglicized. Many of the early members of the House of Wessex had Celtic names.

The second issue is religious supremacy. There is a particular type of religious exclusion, supremacy, and ideology, that is common in the modern world, and dates to the last few thousand years. Let me quote from a 2005 article in The New York Times:

Next door to four houses flattened by the tsunami, three rooms of Poorima Jayaratne’s home still stood intact. She had a ready explanation for that anomaly, and her entire family’s survival: she was a Buddhist, and her neighbors were not.

“Most of the people who lost relatives were Muslim,” said Ms. Jayaratne, 30, adding for good measure that two Christians were also missing. As proof, she pointed to the poster of Lord Buddha that still clung to the standing portion of her house.

This is a way of thinking that makes sense in light of universal meta-ethnic religions which have flourished over the past few thousand years. During the Bronze Age, such religions did not exist. Rather, religion was to a great extent an extension of tribal custom and practice. The destruction of the idols of one’s enemies was part and parcel of violence against the enemy, not a particularly religious act. It is a cliche in anthropology that many primitive tribes refer to their own people as “human”, and other peoples as non-human. But this reflects a reality that premodern humans were quite ethnocentric. But they were not racist or religious supremacists in the fully-fleshed way we would understand that today, so I would be cautious about using these terms.

The final point about Sanskrit-Vedic culture being mostly exogenous, I disagree with this. The essay doesn’t really provide much evidence but makes a general argument. I have read some of the Vedas, and much of it does seem to resemble generic Indo-European barbarism. But there are clear differences and distinctions which indicate non-Indo-European uptake. It is quite like that southern Indo-Iranians learned soma/homa from the Bactria-Margiana culture. Those who know tell me that Vedic Sanskrit already shows strange influences that are probably broadly Indic. The most famous one being the retroflex consanant:

Retroflex consonants are concentrated in the Indian subcontinent, particularly in the Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages, but are found in other languages of the region as well, such as the Munda languages and Burushaski. The Nuristani languages of eastern Afghanistan also have retroflex consonants. Among Eastern Iranian languages, they are common in Pashto, Wakhi, Sanglechi-Ishkashimi, and Munji-Yidgha. They also occur in some other Asian languages such as Mandarin Chinese, Javanese and Vietnamese.

Narasimhan et al. show that the BMAC people didn’t have a genetic impact on the Indo-Aryans who arrived in India, but they were culturally influential. Similarly, it seems quite likely that the various eastern Iranian/northwest Indian populations were also influential and integrated into the Indo-Aryans. As I have pointed out before, the figure of 30% “steppe” refers to Sintashta ancestry. It is quite plausible that the Indo-Aryans who arrived in India had already mixed with various eastern Iranian peoples in Khorasan and modern Afghanistan, before arriving in India.

The idea that Jainism and Buddhism were indigenous reactions to Aryan Brahmanical religion is common and widely asserted. The Shramanic sects are often assumed to be non-Aryan cultural revolts. I no longer believe this. Rather, I think a more philosophical and transnational religion naturally emerges out of complex societies. My argument is closer to a Marxist one than an ethnic one. The Vedic religion was not fundamentally viable in anything more than fossil form once India’s Iron Age polities arose. It maintained some archaisms from the steppe period, and, it was suited for a semi-mobile agro-pastoralist society.

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