India and the Cradle of Civilization
2. India and the Aryan invasion
3. Indic civilization
4. Vedic or non-Vedic?
5. The Aryans
6. From invasion to migration
7. Indo-European homeland
8. Vedic literature and astronomy
9. Indian influences
10. Drowned lands and sunken continents
11. Central Asia – cradle of the fifth root-race
Most academics believe that the earliest civilization was the Sumerian culture of Mesopotamia, which emerged about 4000 BCE. This was followed by the appearance of the Indus Valley civilization on the Indian subcontinent around 3300 BCE, and the ancient Egyptian civilization around 3100 BCE. Subsequently, the Minoan civilization on Crete arose around 3000 BCE, the Yellow River civilization of China around 2100 BCE, and the Phoenician civilization in the western part of the Fertile Crescent around 2000 BCE. The Norte Chorte (or Caral-Supe) civilization on the Peruvian coast of South America is believed to have appeared around 3200 BCE.
Fig. 1.1. The Fertile Crescent, sometimes extended to include the Nile Valley. (britannica.com)
There is growing evidence that major urban centres existed many thousands of years before 4000-3000 BCE, when writing is thought to have appeared, leading to the first ‘genuine’ civilizations (i.e. societies with an advanced state of social, economic and political development). It is noteworthy that all early historical civilizations had records or legends indicating that they were preceded by earlier cultures or ‘world ages’. Modern academics tend to dismiss such assertions as fantasy.
The Maya, for example, believed that there had been three world ages before the present one, which began in 3114 BCE.1 Pliny, Solinus and Arrian reported the tradition that Indian civilization began around 6777 BCE; during India’s Maurya dynasty (322-185 BCE) the calendar was taken to have commenced in 6676 BCE – i.e. 3600 years before the beginning of the current Saptarshi (‘seven rishis’) era.2 According to Hindu philosophy, human civilization goes back millions of years before the start of the present kali-yuga or dark age in 3102 BCE.3
In the chronology left by the Egyptian priest Manetho, the divine dynasties and kings who preceded the beginning of dynastic Egypt spanned a period of 24,927 years, while the Royal Papyrus of Turin gives a period of 36,620 years.4 In the Timaeus and Critias, Plato reported that Egyptian priests told the Athenian statesman Solon in the 7th century BCE that a great civilization on an island in the Atlantic (Poseidonis) had been overwhelmed by earthquakes and tidal waves some 9000 years previously, and that humanity had undergone numerous other destructions before that. Babylonian astronomers stated that their own observational records went back 470,000 years.5
There are numerous examples of megalithic architecture worldwide that probably predate the emergence of historical civilizations. According to the theosophic tradition, the great pyramids of Egypt, for example, are around 80,000 years old.6 Some of the megalithic structures in South America could be far older.7
This article focuses on the antiquity, history and influence of Indian civilization, and outlines the theosophical teaching that human civilization stretches back not just tens of thousands but millions of years.
1. 2012 and the Mayan calendar: facts and fantasies, http://davidpratt.info.
2. John E. Mitchener, Traditions of the Seven Rsis, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2000, pp. 158-60, books.google.nl; Georg Feuerstein, Subhash Kak and David Frawley, In Search of the Cradle of Civilization, Wheaton, IL: Quest, 2nd ed., 2001, p. 246.
3. Secret cycles, http://davidpratt.info.
4. R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, Sacred Science: The king of pharaonic theocracy, New York: Inner Traditions, 1982 (1961), pp. 86-7.
5. Cicero, De Divinatione, Loeb Classical Library, 1923, 1:267, penelope.uchicago.edu.
6. The Great Pyramid, http://davidpratt.info.
7. Lost civilizations of the Andes, http://davidpratt.info.
2. India and the Aryan invasion
Similarities between the Indo-Aryan, Iranian and European languages began to be noted in the 16th century. In 1786 Sir William Jones highlighted the striking resemblances between Sanskrit, Latin and Greek. In the early 19th century, these and other European languages were assigned to the Indo-European language family. Efforts were made to reconstruct the original Proto-Indo-European language and, based on these linguistic speculations, scholars tried to identify the location where those who spoke it had lived. Some promoted India as the homeland, but most took the view that the homeland was either in Europe or in Western Asia.
According to the ‘Aryan invasion’ theory, as proposed by 19th-century European scholars, Indo-European-speaking ‘Aryan’ tribes invaded India in the mid-2nd millennium BCE, some 500 years after entering Mesopotamia and Greece. The invaders were supposedly nomadic cattle breeders who, with their horse-drawn chariots and iron weapons, defeated the native population of India by force of arms and established the Vedic culture. They entered from the northwest, through the mountain passes of Afghanistan, and drove the aboriginal inhabitants – the Dravidians – towards the south, where they still live. The prominent 19th-century orientalist Max Müller arbitrarily assigned the Rig-Veda – the oldest Vedic scripture – an age of around 1200 BCE, meaning that it was written after the Aryans arrived in India. The Rig-Veda, like other sacred writings, speaks of a conflict between light and darkness, and Western scholars interpreted this as referring to a war between light-skinned conquerors and the dark-skinned aboriginal peoples.
Fig. 2.1. The ‘Aryan invasion’.
In the 1920s the Indus Valley civilization was discovered, pushing the origins of Indian civilization back to the early 3rd millennium BCE. The main sites include the cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro in modern-day Pakistan and the port of Lothal in northwest India. The idea of an ‘advanced’ Aryan people overrunning and civilizing a ‘primitive’ aboriginal population gave way to the idea of a seminomadic, barbarian people invading an advanced urban civilization. The Indo-Aryan invasion was blamed for the Indus Valley civilization’s sharp decline.
3. Indic civilization
The ancient Indic civilization is widely thought to have reached maturity during the Harappan Age, from 2700 to 1900 BCE. Since the discovery of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, hundreds of other sites have been found. Most of the towns and cities were built out of baked mud bricks with standard proportions. The Harappan culture covered an area of around 750,000 square kilometres – far exceeding the area occupied by the Sumerian and Egyptian civilizations combined. Harappa and Mohenjo-daro were roughly 5 km in diameter, arranged in a geometrical grid pattern, and had sophisticated sewage and water systems. These thriving urban centres seem to have been the final flowering of a civilization that began, as far as we know, with the Neolithic town of Mehrgarh in eastern Pakistan (Baluchistan).
Fig. 3.1. Principal sites of the Indus civilization.
Fig. 3.2. Mohenjo-daro, showing the Great Bath (left) and the citadel (right). (nationalgeographic.com)
Fig. 3.3. Priest King statue, Mohenjo-daro. (en.wikipedia.org)
The oldest urban settlements include Jericho in Palestine (9000 BCE), Çatal Hüyük (Çatalhöyük) in Turkey (7500 BCE), and Jarmo in northern Iraq (c. 7000 BCE). Excavations at Mehrgarh also yielded an unexpectedly early date: around 6500 BCE. Georg Feuerstein, Subhash Kak and David Frawley, write:
[T]he date of 6500 B.C. falls into the early Neolithic, which marks the crucial transition from the nomadic or seminomadic life of hunters and gatherers to the sedentary life of agriculturists. ... Mehrgarh is proof that large settlements – which we would call towns – existed already at the opening of the neolithic age. ... The existence of early settlements like Mehrgarh is yet another indication that we must completely revise our opinion about the level of civilization that existed eight or nine thousand years ago.1
Mehrgarh was the largest known town of early antiquity. In the 5th millennium BCE it covered roughly 168 acres – an area five times larger than the contemporaneous site of Çatal Hüyük. Egypt’s population is estimated at about 30,000 people by around 6000 BCE, only slightly more than the population of early Mehrgarh alone. This was more than two millennia before the Sumerians settled in Mesopotamia – the region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers – and quickly created their impressive civilization.
The Indic culture was initially called the Indus Valley civilization as the first sites were found along the Indus river. However, the vast majority of its sites lie east of the Indus, including along the now dry bed of the Sarasvati river, so it would be more accurate to speak of the Indus-Sarasvati civilization. Other sites have been found in Afghanistan, including along the Amu Darya (Oxus) river. At its peak, the Indus-Sarasvati civilization had outposts overseas and an extensive trading network supported by a large merchant navy. Harappan seals have been found in Oman, Mesopotamia and the Maldives.
1. Feuerstein et al., In Search of the Cradle of Civilization, p. 145.
4. Vedic or non-Vedic?
Because the ‘Aryan invaders’ were thought to have founded the Vedic culture, the earlier Indus-Saravati culture was hastily assumed to be pre-Vedic. But both the Vedas and archaeological evidence show that the Vedic Aryans had lived in India long before they are supposed to have arrived, and that they were not simply wandering herders but also city dwellers and enthusiastic seafarers and merchants.
The centre of Vedic civilization is widely believed to be the Punjab, which literally means ‘five rivers’. However, in Vedic literature the area of northwestern India that formed the heartland of early Indic civilization was known as the Land of the Seven Rivers, the mightiest of which was the Sarasvati river. As satellite images show, this river (an extension of the present-day Ghaggar or Hakra river) formerly traversed the vast Thar or Great Indian Desert, which was once a fertile region.
The Vedic land was therefore not confined to the Punjab, and its central river was the Sarasvati, not the Indus. The Sarasvati dried up around 1900 BCE – about the time the Indus Valley culture ended. The Drishadvati river, also referred to in Vedic literature, dried up around 2600 BCE. Some Vedic texts describe the Sarasvati as flowing to the ocean, and this probably ceased to be the case at least 8000 years ago and perhaps over 12,000 years ago.1
There is a striking cultural continuity between the Indus-Sarasvati civilization and subsequent Hindu society and culture. This can be seen in the religious ideas, arts, crafts, architecture, writing style, and the system of weights and measures. Many Harappan sites have yielded fire altars constructed in the same manner as those of the Vedic people, along with sacrificial implements corresponding to those used in the soma sacrifice, central to the Vedic religion. Yoga was already being practised 4700 years ago. Even at Mehrgarh there is evidence for the use of copper, barley and cattle at a very early time – all characteristics of the Vedic culture; at one time cattle were thought to have been introduced into India by the invading Aryans.
There is also a striking racial continuity. Excavations at Harappa have uncovered skeletons belonging to members of various racial groups, which are all still present in India today. Vedic texts show that cities were an integral part of the Vedic culture. The cities were apparently cosmopolitan centres in which different ethnic groups lived together relatively peacefully or came together for commerce.2
The Indus script, found on numerous seals, was already fully developed when it first appeared around 3500 BCE. It shows strong links with the later Brahmi script, which gave rise to the Devanagari script in which Sanskrit is written today. (There are also similarities between the Indus script and some of the signs used in Easter Island’s Rongorongo script.3) The Indus script has not yet been convincingly deciphered because none of the inscriptions are long enough. There are indications that it could be an Indo-Aryan language, and if this were to be confirmed it would subvert two centuries of speculation about Indo-European languages.4
Fig. 4.1. Typical Harappan seals. (arthistoryworlds.org)
One of the reasons the Indus-Sarasvati culture was labelled non-Vedic was the absence of horses and chariots, which are prominently mentioned in the Vedas. However, evidence for the presence of horses has now been found at a number of Harappan and pre-Harappan sites, along with wheeled toys suggesting the use of carts and chariots. In the Rig-Veda, the enemies of the Vedic peoples are also said to have horses. Moreover, chariots are not the vehicles of nomadic people, and it is hard to imagine anyone using chariots to cross the rocky passes of Afghanistan.5
Many scholars translate the Vedic term ayas as ‘iron’, and since iron was not initially found at Indus Valley sites, it was inferred that the Vedic Aryans introduced the use of iron into India. Other scholars argue that ayas means bronze or copper. In any event, since the Dasyus, the enemies of the Aryans, are described in the Vedas as also having ayas and using it to make their cities, this does not support the idea of a battle between iron-using Vedic people and non-iron-using Indus Valley people.6 Evidence for the use of iron in India is being pushed further and further back; the earliest date so far is 1800 BCE.7
The finding of a couple of dozen skeletons at Mohenjo-daro was hailed as evidence of a massacre by Aryan conquerors, but they all came from the lower town and none from the citadel (the seat of government), and the individuals had died at widely differing times. Archaeologist B.B. Lal writes: ‘No site of Harappan civilization has yielded any evidence whatsoever of any violent destruction, much less of an invasion.’8 The wars mentioned in the Rig-Veda seem to be mainly intertribal conflicts among different Vedic peoples and kingdoms, involving a clash between more spiritually minded and more worldly minded people. As Feuerstein et al. write: ‘The enemies were either fallen Aryans (groups deviating, perhaps only temporarily, from Vedic values) or non-Aryans (tribes perhaps not speaking an Indo-European language or sharing the moral values of the Vedic peoples).’9
Instead of the Harappan cities being destroyed by invading Aryans, it seems that they were abandoned mainly because of major geological and climatic changes. Around 1900 BCE a series of tectonic upheavals caused several rivers to change their courses, leading to devastating floods and the drying up of the Sarasvati. As a result, Indic civilization was temporarily eclipsed, and its centre shifted eastward to the Ganges and Yamuna valleys. This is shown by the archaeological record, and is also reflected in later Vedic literature such as the Brahmanas and Puranas.
Fig. 4.2. Shift of Indic civilization from the Indus and Sarasvati rivers to the Ganges after 1900 BCE.10
The Vedic people were certainly not a primitive nomadic culture. Vedic astronomy and mathematics were well-developed sciences, and the Rig-Veda shows an advanced level of cultural and philosophical sophistication, attesting to an advanced civilization. As will be shown in section 8, astronomical references in Vedic literature suggest that Vedic astronomers were observing the heavens over 20,000 years ago.
1. Feuerstein et al., In Search of the Cradle of Civilization, p. 158; Graham Hancock: Underworld: The mysterious origins of civilization, New York: Three Rivers Press, 2002, p. 165.
2. In Search of the Cradle of Civilization, pp. 157-8.
3. Easter Island: land of mystery, section 7, http://davidpratt.info.
4. In Search of the Cradle of Civilization, pp. 135-9; Edwin F. Bryant and Laurie L. Patton (eds.), The Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and inference in Indian history, New York: Routledge, 2005, p. 492.
5. In Search of the Cradle of Civilization, p. 157; David Frawley, Gods, Sages and Kings: Vedic secrets of ancient civilization, Salt Lake City, UT: Passage Press, 1991, p. 252; The Indo-Aryan Controversy, pp. 69-71.
6. Gods, Sages and Kings, pp. 252-3.
7. Rakesh Tewari, ‘The origins of iron-working in India: new evidence from the Central Ganga Plain and the Eastern Vindhyas’, Archaeology Online, 2003, archaeologyonline.net.
8. The Indo-Aryan Controversy, pp. 52-3.
9. In Search of the Cradle of Civilization, p. 110.
10. Ibid., p. 97.
5. The Aryans
In the mid-19th century the theory emerged of an ‘Aryan race’ who spoke an archaic Indo-European language and settled in prehistoric times in ancient Iran and the northern Indian subcontinent. This idea remained prevalent until the mid-20th century, but a growing number of Western scholars have since rejected the Aryan invasion hypothesis and the use of the term Aryan as a racial designation. They no longer refer to Indo-European or Indo-Iranian languages as ‘Aryan’, but they do use the term ‘Indo-Aryan’ to refer to north Indian languages and their speakers.1
In the 19th century some writers held that the original homeland of the ‘Aryans’, or Indo-European speakers, was northern Europe. It was also argued that the Nordic or Germanic peoples, with their blond hair and blue eyes, were the purest members of the white, ‘Aryan’ race, and were superior to ‘Semites’, ‘yellows’ and ‘blacks’. In the early 20th century the Nazis embraced this theory, arguing that the Aryans were the ‘master race’, destined to gain world supremacy over ‘inferior races’. This culminated in the horrors of the Holocaust.
The Nazis’ racist ideology represents a complete perversion of the original meaning of ‘Aryan’. The word is the anglicized version of the Sanskrit word arya, meaning ‘noble’ or ‘cultured’. As Feuerstein et al. point out:
This is how the people who transmitted the sacred heritage of the Vedas described themselves. Thus originally the Sanskrit word arya did not refer to a particular race or language but to a moral quality or mental disposition – that of nobility ... Manu, the mythical progenitor of humankind in the present world cycle, is said in the Vedic texts to have given the area between the Himalayas and the Vindhya Mountains the name arya-varta, meaning ‘abode of the noble folk’.2
The Aryans were therefore those of noble mind and heart who honoured the timeless sacred tradition of their ancestors. This sense of the word is retained in Buddhism. The Buddha called his teaching ‘arya dharma’, or ‘way of the Aryan’. His name is Gautama, a descendant of Gotama, one of the seven Vedic seers. The Jains, too, call themselves Aryans, as did the ancient Persians.
N.S. Rajaram says that ‘the idea of the Aryans as foreigners who invaded India and destroyed the existing Harappan Civilization is a modern European invention’ and ‘receives no support whatsoever from Indian records – literary or archaeological’. The word arya ‘denoted certain spiritual and humanistic values that defined her civilization’.3
Fig. 5.1. Left: A swastika drawn on the shaved head of a Brahmin boy before the sacred thread ceremony. Right: Buddha statue with a swastika on the chest, known as the ‘seal of the heart’.
The swastika – derived from the Sanskrit svasti (well-being) – is an ancient sacred symbol found all over the world. It was used, for example, among the Harappans, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Persians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Celts, Nordic peoples, indigenous peoples of the Americas, European pagans and early Christians, and is still commonly used by Hindus, Jains and Buddhists. The oldest known use of the swastika is on an ivory figurine uncovered in Mezine, Ukraine, and thought to be 12,000 years old.4
H.P. Blavatsky says that the swastika was ‘born in the mystical conceptions of the early Aryans’. The vertical and horizontal lines represent spirit and matter respectively, while the bent arms indicate motion. Among other things, the symbol represents the dynamic forces of cosmic evolution, the ceaseless turning of the wheel of life.5 While it still stands for life and good fortune in the East, it is widely seen as a symbol of death and race hate in the West, because of its use by the Nazis and modern white supremacists. Plans in the 2000s to ban all public use of the symbol in the European Union were dropped in the face of vigorous opposition by Hindus and other religious groups.6
The Dravidians, who were supposedly driven south by the invading Aryans, actually believe that their culture originated from Vedic Aryans who migrated from northern India; they trace their culture back to the great Rig-Vedic sage Agastya. The Dravidians became a strong maritime nation and spread Aryan culture to Southeast Asia and perhaps further east and to the west. The Aryans and Dravidians belong to the same Mediterranean branch of the Caucasian race, with the Dravidians’ darker skin probably being an adaptation to the hotter climate in which they live.7 It is certainly possible, however, that the Dravidians entered India at the time of a much earlier migration.
Dravidian languages, such as Telugu and Tamil, dominate the southern tip of the Indian subcontinent, while Indo-European languages prevail in the northern part. The various Dravidian languages are agglutinative: unchanging words and particles are joined together to form phrases with increasingly complex meanings. Indo-European languages, by contrast, are inflectional: different endings are added to root words to express grammatical functions such as tense, person, number, gender and case. Agglutinative languages ‘have much in common with a number of [non-Indo-European] North Asian and European languages, including Finnish, Hungarian, old Bulgarian, Turkish, and perhaps even Japanese, which all belong to the Finno-Ugric and Ural-Altaic branch of languages’.8 Dravidian history attributes the creation of Tamil, the oldest Dravidian tongue, to Agastya. Some linguists speculate that Indo-European, Dravidian and Semitic languages may belong to a greater Nostratic family of languages.
2. Feuerstein et al., In Search of the Cradle of Civilization, p. 46.
3. N.S. Rajaram, ‘Aryan invasion – history or politics?’, archaeologyonline.net/artifacts/aryan-invasion-history.html.
5. See H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Pasadena, CA: Theosophical University Press (TUP), 1977 (1888), 2:99-101, 586-7.
7. In Search of the Cradle of Civilization, p. 140.
6. From invasion to migration
Archaeologist George Erdosy states that there is no evidence of South Asia being invaded by a barbaric race enjoying technological and military superiority, but the archaeological record does provide some support for small-scale migrations from Central to South Asia in the late 3rd or early 2nd millennia BCE.1 The idea of a massive invasion and conquest of India has now largely been abandoned. The modern Hindus have no memory of having invaded India, and the Dravidian people have no memory of having been conquered and displaced.
Mark Kenoyer says: ‘There is no archaeological or biological evidence for invasions or mass migrations into the Indus Valley between the end of the Harappan phase, about 1900 B.C. and the beginning of the Early Historic period around 600 B.C.’ Other studies show that there is no break in the biological record between 4500 BCE and 800 BCE.2
Archaeologists Jim Schaffer and Diane Lichtenstein, too, argue that there is no archaeological evidence for an Aryan immigration into northwestern India during or after the decline of the Harappan city culture.
The available archaeological record does not support the explanatory paradigm of a culturally superior, intrusive/invasive Indo-Aryan people as being responsible for the cultural accomplishments documented archaeologically for prehistoric South Asia. ...
The modern archaeological record for South Asia indicates a history of significant cultural continuity ... Outside cultural influences did affect south Asian cultural development in later, especially historic, periods, but an identifiable cultural tradition has continued, an Indo-Gangetic Cultural Tradition linking social entities over a time period from the development of food production in the seventh millennium BC to the present.3
They add that, beginning in the late 3rd millennium BCE and continuing throughout the 2nd millennium BCE, many, but not all, Indus Valley settlements, including urban centres, were abandoned, but this was a response to geological and environmental changes.
Some scholars propose that Indo-European migrants entered India in the 2nd millennium BCE in relatively small numbers – a process sometimes described as ‘trickle-in infiltration’. They claim that these migrants proceeded to change the language and religion of the subcontinent, but without noticeably disrupting the development of the indigenous culture and without having any effect on the racial types of the people. They continue to maintain that the Rig-Veda was written towards the end of the 2nd millennium BCE – but this is completely untenable.
Since the 1990s, there have been numerous genetic studies of Indian populations, often reaching divergent conclusions. Michel Danino argues that recent genetic studies lend no support to the mass invasion/migration scenario: they contradict the idea that a ‘Caucasoid’ or Central Asian gene pool arrived in India in 1500 BCE, and account for India’s considerable genetic diversity by using a timescale of 40,000 to 50,000 years, rather than a few millennia. Stephen Oppenheimer argues that the M17 mtDNA lineage may have originated in India or Pakistan up to 51,000 years ago, and then found its way through Kashmir, Central Asia and Russia, before arriving in Europe.4
Some archaeologists therefore believe Indo-Aryans were present in India before 2000 BCE. The big question is: How much earlier and in what numbers? As Feuerstein et al. remark:
Small migrations of Indo-European-speaking groups as well as other peoples may well have occurred in Harappan times, as they have throughout India’s history, but when they arrived in India they encountered a society that had a prominent, if not dominant, Indo-European contingent – the Sanskrit-speaking Vedic peoples.5
Feuerstein et al. believe that the Vedic people might have been the originators of the Indus-Sarasvati culture, i.e. that the Harappans and Vedic people were one and the same. However, this is far from proven and is hotly contested. But researchers who dismiss this notion, or even deny that the Vedic people may have lived peaceably alongside the Harappans, ‘have often remarked on the astonishing parallels between Indus artifacts and Vedic scriptural testimony’.6
1. George Erdosy (ed.), The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia: Language, material culture and ethnicity, Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1995, p. 23, books.google.nl.
2. Bryant and Patton, The Indo-Aryan Controversy, p. 328.
3. Ibid., pp. 83, 93.
4. Michel Danino, ‘Genetics and the Aryan debate’, archaeologyonline.net/artifacts/genetics-aryan-debate. For the problems in interpreting genetic data, see: Human origins: the ape-ancestry myth, section 2, http://davidpratt.info.
5. In Search of the Cradle of Civilization, p. 102.
6. Ibid., p. 121.
7. Indo-European homeland
Most contemporary scholars believe that the original Indo-European speakers – or Proto-Indo-European speakers – lived somewhere in the steppes to the north and east of the Caspian Sea, before migrating to Europe, the Middle East (notably Iran), and India. Others have placed the Indo-European (‘Aryan’) homeland in other parts of Central Asia or in Central or Eastern Europe, Scandinavia or Anatolia (modern Turkey).
Recognizing that languages develop more slowly than previously thought, linguists have pushed back the date of the Indo-European family of languages. They first maintained that Proto-Indo-European split into different languages around 1500 BCE, but many now accept that this happened up to 4500 years earlier. By around 3000 BCE, Indo-European was spoken throughout Europe, with pockets of non-Indo-European speakers (e.g. Basque, Etruscan and Iberian).1
Fig. 7.1. The approximate present-day distribution of Indo-European language branches in Europe and Asia. Dotted/striped areas indicate where multilingualism is common. (en.wikipedia.org)
Some researchers believe that the original Indo-European speakers were indigenous to India. For instance, Satya Swarup Misra, an Out-of-India proponent, argues that ‘about 5000 BC or earlier, ... the Indo-Aryans (or Aryans, i.e. the Indo-Europeans) migrated from India via the north-west, first to Iran and then to other parts of Asia and Europe’.2 But most researchers believe that the original Indo-European homeland lay outside India. Linguistics is often claimed to provide clinching evidence for the Aryan invasion/immigration theory and for a non-Indian homeland of the Indo-European language family, but Koenraad Elst argues that linguistic data are ‘a fairly soft type of evidence’ and are compatible with a variety of scenarios, even the Out-of-India theory.3
Colin Renfrew proposes that Proto-Indo-European speakers lived in Anatolia as long ago as 7500 BCE, at the very dawn of the Neolithic era. He argues that the Indus Valley culture was a product of pre-Vedic Indo-Aryans, and that the Vedic people arrived much later and only then wrote the Rig-Veda.4 Shaffer and Lichtenstein, however, maintain that the archaeological data do not support Renfrew’s position or any version of the migration/invasion hypothesis involving western population movement into South Asia.5 Nor is Renfrew’s hypothesis supported by the genetic record.6
Thus even some conservative scholars now assign the earliest Indo-European speakers a date of at least 4000 BCE. This means that the ‘Aryans’ could have been native to India for several millennia before the alleged invasion/migration in the 2nd millennium BCE, deriving their Sanskrit language from earlier Indo-European dialects.7
1. Feuerstein et al., In Search of the Cradle of Civilization, p. 57.
2. Bryant and Patton, The Indo-Aryan Controversy, p. 205.
3. Koenraad Elst, ‘Linguistic aspects of the Aryan non-invasion theory’, The Indo-Aryan Controversy, pp. 234-81; koenraadelst.bharatvani.org.
4. Frawley, Gods, Sages and Kings, pp. 256-7.
5. The Indo-Aryan Controversy, p. 97.
6. Danino, ‘Genetics and the Aryan debate’.
7. In Search of the Cradle of Civilization, p. 155.
8. Vedic literature and astronomy
In Hinduism, the Vedas (veda means ‘knowledge’) are classed as shruti – revealed knowledge, meaning that the teachings were received by great seers or rishis in a heightened state of awareness. Four Vedas exist today: the Rig-Veda, Yajur-Veda, Sama-Veda and Atharva-Veda. They served as the foundation for later revealed literature, comprising the Brahmanas (commentaries on the Vedas, detailing the proper performance of rituals), the Aranyakas (ritual and meditational texts for forest-dwelling ascetics), and the Upanishads (which expound the secret, philosophical meaning of the Vedic hymns). There are also numerous works belonging to remembered or traditional knowledge – smriti. They include Sutras (dealing with ritual, law and morality), two great epics (the Mahabharata and the Ramayana), and dozens of Puranas (encyclopaedic collections of myth, legend and genealogy).
H.P. Blavatsky calls the Vedas ‘the most ancient as well as the most sacred of the Sanskrit works’, saying that they were taught orally for thousands of years before being compiled on the shores of Lake Manasarovar in Tibet.1 The Rig-Veda, the first and most important of the Vedas, was delivered by great sages at Lake Manasarovar ‘dozens of thousands of years ago’; the Brahmins later crossed the Himalayas into the hot plains of the Seven Rivers.2 As compiled in their final form by Veda-Vyasa, the Brahmins assign the Vedas a date of 3100 BCE. Blavatsky stresses that the Vedas are not a single work; each Veda and almost every hymn is the production of various authors, written at various periods in the evolution of the Indo-Aryan race.3 Most modern scholars believe they were written around 1500-1200 BCE. It is quite possible that in their present form they are no older than that, but this does not affect the great antiquity of the Vedic tradition.
The Hindus divided the region of the heavens through which the moon passes into 27 (or sometimes 28) lunar mansions (nakshatras), each containing a prominent asterism (group of stars). The moon took about one day to pass through each of the 27 mansions, and therefore one lunar month to pass through them all. Since each mansion spans an average of 13⅓ degrees, the vernal equinoctial point takes about 960 years to pass through each one, based on an average rate of precession of 1° in 72 years.4
Later Hindu lists of the lunar mansions begin with Ashvini (principal star: Beta Arietis); the vernal equinox was located on the border between Ashvini and Revati at the end of the 6th century CE. Earlier lists of the lunar mansions – in parts of the Yajur- and Atharva-Vedas, the Brahmanas and the Upanishads – begin with Krittika (star group: the Pleiades, in Taurus);5 Alcyone, the principal star, would have coincided with the vernal equinox around 2300 BCE. Parts of the Brahmanas and later Vedas refer to the vernal equinox being in Mrigashira (principal star: Lambda Orionis/Meissa) – corresponding to a date of around 4000 BCE. And the Rig-Veda contains a reference to the vernal equinox in Punarvasu (principal star: Pollux, in Gemini) – corresponding to a date of around 6000 BCE.6
In a series of articles published in The Theosophist in 1881-82, Hindu scholar Krishna Shastri Godbole7 similarly referred to a series of astronomical observations in Hindu sacred books that indicate different past positions of the vernal equinoctial point in relation to the lunar mansions, and calculated when those observations could have been made, assuming an average rate of precession of 50 arcseconds per year:
1. vernal equinox at the beginning of Krittika: 1421 BCE8
2. vernal equinox at the beginning of Ardra: 4301 BCE9
3. vernal equinox at the beginning of Mula: 16,335 BCE10
4. vernal equinox at the beginning of Abhijit: 19,112 BCE11
Godbole concludes that the Aryas were well acquainted with the motions of the sun and moon through the ‘fixed’ stars, the measurements of the lengths of lunar and solar months and years, and also the precession of the equinoxes at least 20,000 BCE. He concludes: ‘If ... the post-[Vedic] works alone, the Upanishads, the Brahmanas, &c., &c., down to the Puranas, when examined critically, carry us back to 20,000 B.C., then the time of the composition of the Vedas themselves cannot be less than 30,000 years B.C. in round numbers ...’12
1. H.P. Blavatsky, The Theosophical Glossary (TG), Los Angeles, CA: Theosophy Company, 1973 (1892), p. 362. Blavatsky says that the Vedas were conceived many tens of thousands of years earlier than Hesiod’s Theogony (c. 700 BCE) and the Puranas (The Secret Doctrine (SD), 2:450; 2:527). Elsewhere, she says that the Rig-Veda was written at Lake Manasarovar at the beginning of the treta-yuga (H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings (BCW), Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1950-91, 14:94), i.e. about 2,165,100 years ago. She also says that the Rig-Veda was written by the earliest initiates of the fifth root-race (SD 2:606), and that the initiates of the fifth race appeared towards the very end of the treta-yuga (BCW 13:356), i.e. about 869,100 years ago.
She further states: ‘[W]hen we remember that the Vedas came ... from the Manasarowara Lake in Tibet, and the Brahmins themselves from the far North, we are justified in looking on the esoteric doctrines of every people who once had or still have [the trans-Himalayan esoteric doctrine] ... as having proceeded from one and the same source; and to thus call it the “Aryan-Chaldeo-Tibetan” doctrine, or Universal WISDOM-Religion’ (BCW 3:419).
2. TG 277; BCW 6:99.
3. TG 362.
4. See Poleshifts, part 1, http://davidpratt.info.
5. Bryant and Patton, The Indo-Aryan Controversy, p. 315.
6. Frawley, Gods, Sages and Kings, pp. 342-4; The Indo-Aryan Controversy, pp. 324-5.
7. Krishna Shastri Godbole, ‘Antiquity of the Vedas’, The Theosophist; part 1: Aug. 1881, pp. 238-40; part 2: Sep. 1881, pp. 262-4; part 3: Oct. 1881, pp. 22-4; part 4: Nov. 1881, pp. 34-5; part 5: Dec. 1881, pp. 72-4; part 6: Feb. 1882, pp. 125-7. Errata: Feb. 1882, p. 127. Blavatsky quotes extracts from these articles in her (unfinished) article ‘Secret cycles’ (BCW 14:358-68), but does not incorporate Godbole’s own corrections.
8. ‘Antiquity of the Vedas’, part 2. Godbole points out that the date would be 1516 BCE, if we use a rate of precession of 48.57" per year, determined by Hindu astronomers in 945 BCE. In all his calculations, he assumes that all the 27 (or 28) lunar asterisms are of equal width, as some ancient texts specify. On the other hand, the Surya-Siddhanta, a key astronomical text, refers to 28 lunar asterisms very unevenly distributed along the ecliptic (see E. Burgess’s edition of the Surya-Siddhanta, reprint: San Diego, CA: Wizards Bookshelf, 1978).
Using the data given by Burgess on p. 355 for the true ecliptic longitude of the principal or ‘junction’ stars of the 28 asterisms in 560 BCE, and the data on p. 321 (‘position in its portion’) for the distance of each principal star from the start of its lunar mansion (as given in the Surya-Siddhanta itself), and assuming an average rate of precession of either 50"/year or 48.57"/year, the vernal equinox would have been at the start of Krittika in 1539 BCE or 1600 BCE respectively.
Godbole gives the dates when the vernal equinox was located at the beginning of the lunar mansions in question, i.e. the point where the moon enters that mansion in its apparent eastward monthly movement through the constellations as viewed from earth. Since the precession of the equinoxes causes the vernal equinox to move through the zodiacal constellations in the opposite direction, i.e. from east to west, the beginning of a lunar mansion is the point where the equinox leaves that mansion, after taking around a thousand years to pass through it.
9. ‘Antiquity of the Vedas’, part 3. Godbole’s date is 4480 BCE for a rate of precession of 48.57"/year. Using the data from the Surya-Siddhanta, the dates are: 4341 BCE and 4484 BCE respectively.
10. ‘Antiquity of the Vedas’, part 3. Using Surya-Siddhanta data: 16,977 BCE.
11. ‘Antiquity of the Vedas’, part 3. Using Surya-Siddhanta data: 18,539 BCE.
12. ‘Antiquity of the Vedas’, part 6, p. 127.
9. Indian influences
Ancient Mesopotamia is generally regarded as the cradle of civilization by Western scholars. From the establishment of powerful city-states there around 4000 BCE to the conquest by Alexander the Great in 330 BCE, power changed hands many times, passing from the Sumerians to the Akkadians to the Babylonians to the Assyrians back to the Babylonians back to the Assyrians and finally to the Persians.
Fig. 9.1. Mesopotamia.
G. de Purucker states that the Sumerians and Akkadians were ‘the beginnings of the immigrants from India, who became the Chaldeans and Babylonians and later the Assyrians’.1 H.P. Blavatsky says that the Akkadians were ‘a tribe of the Hindu-Brahmans, now called Aryans’.2 She adds: ‘They were simply emigrants on their way to Asia Minor from India, the cradle of humanity, and their sacerdotal adepts tarried to civilize and initiate a barbarian people.’ The Babylonian civilization, too, she says, ‘was imported from India, and the importers were Brahmanical Hindus’;3 Babylon was, from its origin, ‘the seat of Sanskrit and Brahman learning’.4 It was the Akkadians who taught the Babylonians the Mysteries, the sacerdotal language and their religion.5
Elam, a country in southwestern Iran, to the east of Sumeria, was a powerful and enduring culture and dominated the trade routes from Central Asia and India. It was prominent from the time of the Sumerians, and was sometimes their ally and sometimes their enemy. The ancient Elamite language appears to be related to Dravidian. Its capital city was Susa; the Matsya-Purana mentions a beautiful city called Susha belonging to the ocean god Varuna. David Frawley suggests that Elam was an ancient Vedic colony through which the Vedic culture seeded or at least strongly influenced the Middle East.6
The Akkadian empire ruled over Mesopotamia, the Levant and parts of Iran from the 24th to the 22nd century BCE. The Assyrians, who lived in northwest Mesopotamia in the late 2nd and early 1st millennia BCE, regarded the Akkadians as their ancestors. The Assyrians pursued at times a religious cult of empire. They had violent conflicts with many other nations, including the Vedic Aryans, and Brahmanical texts speak of them in a negative light, referring to them as asuras (demons).7
Chaldea was a southern Babylonian nation that emerged in the early 9th century BCE. The Chaldean dynasty continued until the Persian invasion in 539 BCE, and its prestige was such that ‘Chaldean’ became synonymous with ‘Babylonian’. Blavatsky says that Chaldea, too, owed its civilization to the Hindus, for the Akkadians were ‘the progenitors and Aryan instructors’ of the Chaldeans.8 Some ancient writers also used the term ‘Chaldean’ to refer to a priestly caste initiated in the sciences of astrology and magic.9
The Sumerian language was neither Semitic nor Indo-European but an agglutinative language, possibly related to Dravidian. The Semitic Akkadian language was widely spoken in multilingual Mesopotamia from the 3rd to the 1st millennium BCE. Indo-European linguistic groups were also present in Mesopotamia, such as the ancient Hittites, Mitanni and Kassites. In the mid-2nd millennium BCE they lived in the mountain regions of the Middle East and ruled Mesopotamia. The Hittite script, art and physical features resemble those of the Sumerians, while the Mitanni and Kassites worshipped Vedic gods.
The ancient Persians considered themselves to be Aryan; their religion, language and culture are so close to those of the Vedic people that they must have had a common origin. As the Persians moved into Iran and the Middle East, they encountered and displaced earlier Indo-Aryan peoples, such as the Mitanni of Syria, who spoke a language and worshipped gods closer to the Vedic. The Zoroastrian religion apparently arose in Afghanistan and spread west, displacing Vedic Aryans in Iran. Modern scholars usually date Zoroaster to around 600 BCE, but the ancient Greeks dated him to 6000 BCE.10
Frawley concludes that the Persians and Hindus ‘came from a common Vedic religious and cultural matrix’, and says that they both ‘reformed the Vedic religion in different ways as the original ancient teaching of the Rig Veda degenerated through time’. He also says that when they fled to India following the Muslim conquest of Persia in the mid-7th century, ‘the Zoroastrians may have been returning to their original homeland’.11 Blavatsky agrees that the Zoroastrians had been settled in India before they immigrated into Persia, and then returned there ages later. But this was not their original homeland. She suggests that they entered India at the same time as the first Brahmins, who came from the far north. She adds:
Between Zoroaster, the primeval institutor of ‘Sun’ worship, and Zarathushtra, the primeval expounder of the occult properties and transcendental powers of the divine (Promothean) Fire, there lies the abyss of ages. The latter was one of the earliest hierophants, one of the first Athravans (priests, or teachers of ‘fire’), while the Zoroaster of ‘Gushtasp’ [an Iranian king] was living some 4,000 years BC.12
One of the main names of the Divine in the Rig-Veda is asura, second only to deva. Asura derives from the root as, meaning to sit, be, exist, have power. Later it acquired another meaning, a-sura, i.e. ‘not divine’, ‘demonic’; this appears to have reflected a growing clash between the priestly (Brahmin) and warrior (Kshatriya) classes, along with the general corruption of society. Asura is reflected in the name of the Zoroastrian supreme god, Ahura Mazda, while ‘daeva’ meant ‘undivine’ or ‘demonic’. Ahura Mazda corresponds to the Vedic Varuna, the greatest of the asuras, and is associated with the god Mithra, as is Varuna with Mitra.13 The ancient Assyrians, too, worshipped Asura. They derived the name of their capital city and their whole culture from their main god, Ashur, a sun god and a militaristic god.14 The Egyptians worshipped the divine as Asar, the Egyptian name of Osiris; asar meant to sit, be, have power, just like the Sanskrit as. The Persians, Assyrians, Hittites and Egyptians used the winged disc as a symbol of their sun god.15
The most important Mesopotamian name for the Divine is Il. It is used by the Elamites, Phoenicians, Syrians, Hebrews and Arabs, and may be the most common name for the Divine among the Semitic peoples, though it is not limited to them. The Allopanishad, a very late and short Upanishad probably dating from the time of the Mogul emperor Akbar (16th century), equates the Semitic Il with the Ila of the Rig-Veda and with the worship of Varuna-Mitra. Frawley suggests that Il (masculine) was originally a name of Varuna, with Ila (feminine) being his consort.16 He writes: ‘Varuna-il, as both a solar and an ocean God, would therefore be the main God of the ancient Persians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Elamites, Israelites, and Arabs, as well as the Aryans.’17 The Hebrew el or elohim (a plural word translated as ‘God’ in the first verse of Genesis) might be another form of the Vedic Il-Varuna.18
The further back we go in time, the more European languages resemble Sanskrit, and the greater the resemblances between ancient European cultures and solar religions and those of the Vedic people. The ancient European names for the divine – such as deus and theos – are related to the Sanskrit term deva. The usual scholarly view today is that Proto-Indo-European-speaking Kurgan horsemen, from the steppes to the north of the Black and Caspian Seas, entered Europe from 6000 to 5000 years ago. The alternative Anatolian hypothesis proposes that Indo-European languages spread with the expansion of agriculture from Anatolia between 7500 and 6000 years ago. Frawley objects that this theory ‘does not go far enough east in its Aryan origins’.19 Some recent linguistic analyses suggest that the dispersal of Indo-European languages began around 8400 years ago.20
Blavatsky says that ‘the earliest form of Egyptian religious worship and government, theocratic and sacerdotal, and her habits and customs all bespeak an Indian origin’.21 In the 19th century it was commonly claimed that the Greeks had had a major influence on Egyptian and Indian culture. However, the flow of ideas seems to have been predominantly from India to Egypt and Greece, and from Egypt to Greece. Learned men and ascetics from India are known to have visited Greece, and there was an Indic colony in Memphis by 500 BCE. There was vigorous trade between Greece and India, and Indic merchants and thinkers also travelled to Alexandria. Thales, Solon and Pythagoras studied with Egyptian philosophers. Pythagoras spent 22 years in Egypt, travelling from temple to temple, and a further 12 years in Babylonia. There are many parallels between Egyptian and Indic mythology and symbolism. Indian thought influenced the Greek mystery cults of Dionysos and Orpheus, the Manichean and Neoplatonist traditions, the Therapeutae of Alexandria and the Essenes of Palestine.22
1. G. de Purucker, Studies in Occult Philosophy, TUP, 1973, p. 537.
2. H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, TUP, 1972 (1877), 2:46. Blavatsky also writes: ‘The ancestors of the mysterious Akkadians – the Chandra or Indu-vansas, the Lunar Kings whom tradition shows reigning at Prayag (Allahabad) ages before our era – had come from India, and brought with them the worship of their forefathers, of Soma, and his son Budha, which afterwards became that of the Chaldeans’ (The Secret Doctrine (SD), 1:392).
3. Isis Unveiled, 1:576; SD 2:203.
4. SD 1:xxxi.
5. Isis Unveiled, 2:457.
6. Frawley, Gods, Sages and Kings, p. 274.
7. Ibid., pp. 268-70.
8. SD 2:202, 226.
9. Blavatsky, Theosophical Glossary, p. 75; Blavatsky Collected Writings (BCW), 13:328.
10. Gods, Sages and Kings, pp. 264-8.
11. Ibid., p. 268.
12. BCW 4:529.
13. Gods, Sages and Kings, pp. 165, 266.
14. Ibid., p. 268.
15. Ibid., pp. 270-1.
16. Ibid., pp. 276-7.
17. Ibid., p. 278.
18. Ibid., p. 280.
19. Ibid., pp. 287-93.
20. R.J. Ryder and G.K. Nicholls, ‘Missing data in a stochastic Dollo model for binary trait data, and its application to the dating of Proto-Indo-European’, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series C (Applied Statistics), v. 60, 2011, pp. 71-92, onlinelibrary.wiley.com; R.D. Gray and Q.D. Atkinson, ‘Language-tree divergence times support the Anatolian theory of Indo-European origin’, Nature, v. 426, 2003, pp. 435-9, nature.com; R.D. Gray, Q.D. Atkinson and S.J. Greenhill, ‘Language evolution and human history: what a difference a date makes’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, v. 366, 2011, pp. 1090-1100, rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org.
21. Isis Unveiled, 2:436-7; see also 1:589, 2:431, 435.
22. Feuerstein et al., In Search of the Cradle of Civilization, pp. 23, 250-1.
10. Drowned lands and sunken continents
During the last glacial maximum, some 20,000 years ago, sea level was about 140 metres lower than today, and a large area of the continental shelves around the present continents was above water. Nearly 5% of the earth’s surface – an area of around 25 million km² – has been swallowed by the rising sea since the final stages of the last ice age. This was not simply a gradual process; three sudden ice-melts and the collapse of glacial lakes resulted in three episodes of rapid flooding, as tens of thousands of cubic kilometres of water rushed off the polar ice caps generating earthquakes and superwaves. The three floods began about 14,000, 11,500 and 7500-8000 years ago, and destroyed many coastal settlements. According to one estimate, the latest of these floods raised sea level by 25 m, to 5 m higher than it is today, at the rate of 8-15 cm per year.1
Sundaland is the name given to the Sunda shelf – part of the Southeast Asian continental shelf – when it was above water during the ice age; it also includes the Malay Peninsula, and the islands of Sumatra, Borneo and Java. Rising sea levels submerged Sundaland in several rapid stages, drowning a land area the size of India. Stephen Oppenheimer speculates that Sundaland may have been the cradle of civilization, and that before and during its inundation, its inhabitants migrated by land and sea to the Asian mainland, including China, India and Mesopotamia, and to the islands from Madagascar to the Philippines and New Guinea, from where they later colonized Polynesia as far as New Zealand, Hawaii and Easter Island.
Fig. 10.1. Sundaland. (http://lloni.wordpress.com)
Oppenheimer points out that the first known appearance of pottery was in southern Japan around 12,500 years ago, not long after the first flood. Pots were being made in China and Indochina some 1500 years later. This was 2500 to 3500 years earlier than the appearance of pottery in Mesopotamia, India or the Mediterranean region. He argues that Sundaland was also the first region to invent agriculture. Stones for grinding wild cereal grains are found in the Solomon Islands of the Southwest Pacific as early as 26,000 years ago, whereas they are not known to have been used in Upper Egypt and Nubia until about 14,000 years ago, and in Palestine until some 12,000 years ago.2 He also suggests that the Austronesian languages originated in Sundaland. Hypotheses based on present data may of course be invalidated by future discoveries.
Graham Hancock speculates that the Indus-Sarasvati civilization was founded by the survivors of a lost civilization located on the continental shelf around India, which was flooded by rising sea levels between 15,000 and 7000 years ago.3 It is true that sunken cities and megalithic structures have been discovered off the coast of India, just as they have on the continental shelf off Egypt, Malta, Taiwan and the Bahamas, for example. However, it is premature to assume that civilizations originated there.
Fig. 10.2. The coast of India and Sri Lanka showing the extent of the shoreline at the last glacial maximum.4
According to the Mahabharata, the ancient golden city of Dvaraka (Dwaraka) was submerged at the end of the dvapara-yuga and beginning of the present kali-yuga (3102 BCE). Krishna is said to have built Dvaraka on the site of an even earlier city called Kususthali. Dvaraka was long regarded as fiction, but archaeological investigations since the 1980s have found underwater ruins at depths of 3 to 10 m up to 1 km from the modern town of Dwarka (Dwaraka) on the Gujarat coast. S.R. Rao, the founder of the Marine Archaeology Centre at India’s National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), assigned the ruins to the late period of the Indus-Sarasvati civilization, around 1700 to 1500 BCE, but other NIO archaeologists believe they are only 600 to 1200 years old. No Indus-Sarasvati artefacts have actually been found there. The ruins consist of huge stone walls built of large well-dressed blocks of sandstone, often interlocked by means of L-shaped dovetails.5
In 2001, a side-scan sonar survey by India’s National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) in the Gulf of Khambhat (Cambay) showed what some scientists consider to be extensive geometrical objects at depths of 25 to 40 m, up to 40 km from the modern shoreline. The urban complex is said to cover a rectangular area roughly 9 km long and 2 km wide, and a second ‘city’ of similar size has been found a little further to the south. Recovered artefacts – some of which are disputed – include stone tools, pottery sherds, wattle and daub remains, hearth materials, and a piece of wood (carbon-dated at 9500 years old). The Indus civilization port of Lothal is located at the head of the Gulf of Khambhat, which was completely flooded by rising sea levels between 7700 and 6900 years ago.6 The Gulf is very tectonically active today, with periodic earthquakes.
Marine archaeological explorations by the NIO in the Bay of Bengal have found submerged archaeological remains at various locations in the coastal waters of the state of Tamil Nadu, including off Mahabalipuram and Poompuhar (also known as Kaveripumpattinam), thereby confirming Tamil traditions. Remains of terracotta ring wells, brick structures, and storage jars have been found in the intertidal zone off Poompuhar at depths of up to 8 m, and have been dated to between 300 BCE and 300 CE. In 1991 a U-shaped structure was found 5 km from the shore at a depth of 23 m, flanked by a semicircular structure and an oval-shaped mound. The periphery of the U-structure measures 85 m and its walls are about 1 m thick and 2 m high; opinions differ on whether it is man-made. In 1993, mounds were found in 27 m of water, 500-600 m from the U-shaped structure. Barring land subsidence, a structure at 23 m depth would have been submerged by rising sea levels around 11,000 years ago.7
Extensive ruins have also been found a kilometre or two off Mahabalipuram, at depths of up to 13 m, including scattered dressed stone blocks up to 2 m long, long walls with several courses, and steps leading to a platform; the huge stone blocks are mostly made of granite. Many of the stone structures are partly exposed at low tide. The NIO thinks that they may be the remains of temples at least 1200 to 1500 years old (the same age as those on land) that were submerged by severe coastal erosion. Another option is that they are far older than those on land. Fishermen speak of other, unexplored ruins further from shore and in much deeper water.8
Fig. 10.3. Huge stone block found off Mahabalipuram, with a projection for connecting to other blocks.9
The Mahabharata tells of a bridge constructed by the monkey army of Lord Rama to enable them to reach Sri Lanka from the coast of southeast India and rescue his consort who had been kidnapped. Rama’s bridge may have been a natural formation, built of reef and/or beachrock, which was above water across Palk Strait sometime before 4500 BP (fig. 10.4.).
Fig. 10.4. Satellite image of part of southeast India and Sri Lanka.
Ancient and medieval Sanskrit and Tamil texts speak of a large landmass being engulfed by the ocean to the south of Kanyakumari (Cape Comorin), a town located at the southernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent, in Tamil Nadu. The land is sometimes associated with the ancient, semi-legendary dynasty of the Pandyans. It later became known as Kumari Kandam (‘virgin continent’) or Kumari Nadu (‘virgin land’).10 More recent Tamil writers put the size of the sunken landmass at anything from thousands of square kilometres to a few hundred square kilometres or less, and estimates for the date of its submergence range from 30,000 BCE to the 3rd century BCE.
Over a period of just under 10,000 years the Pandyans are said to have established three sangams or academies to foster love of knowledge. The first two were located in Kumari Kandam. The first was founded around 9600 BCE in a city named Tenmadurai (southern Madurai). After it was swallowed by the sea, a second sangam was founded further north, in the city of Kavatapuram. The third sangam was established in modern Madurai. Some Tamil traditions say there were seven sangams, and speak of three floods: in 16,000 BCE, 14,000 BCE and 9600 to 9500 BCE, with more and more of Kumari Kandam being submerged each time. Other traditions speak of four additional, more recent floods.11
Fig. 10.5. Kumari Kandam. (en.wikipedia.org)
There has certainly been no continent in the Indian Ocean within the past few tens of thousands of years. But some Tamil writers have equated Kumari Kandam with Lemuria, a former continent in the Indian Ocean proposed by certain 19th-century geologists to explain geological and other similarities between Africa, India and Madagascar; it is said to have sunk in the Cretaceous period. Theosophists later adopted the name Lemuria for the global continental system that existed at the time of the third, Lemurian root-race, which included landmasses in the present Indian and Pacific Oceans.12
With the rise of the dogma plate tectonics in the late 1960s, the idea of sunken continents was abandoned by mainstream geologists. The present oceans are all supposed to have been formed within the past 180 million years (i.e. since the early Jurassic) by tectonic ‘plates’ rifting apart and the formation of new oceanic crust. But very ancient continental rocks, up to billions of years old, have been found in the world’s oceans and there is mounting evidence for the existence of large sunken landmasses.13 Many alternative writers, including Hancock, still put their faith in plate tectonics, though they accept that seismic activity can cause relatively small areas of land to subside or rise by a limited amount.
Flood myths are universal and tend to have several layers of meaning; they can refer to physical and spiritual, terrestrial and cosmic, phenomena.14 Myths can also compress different historical events into one. The legend of Kumari Kandam could refer both to the submergence of land by rising sea levels and minor land subsidence in the past 15,000 years, and to the sinking of much more ancient landmasses in the Indian Ocean. According to the theosophic tradition, most of the last major landmass (Daitya) in the Indian Ocean sank some 270,000 years ago.15
Fig. 10.6. Former land areas (black) in the world oceans. Only those areas for which substantial evidence already exists are shown. Their exact outlines and full extent are as yet unknown.16
1. Stephen Oppenheimer, Eden in the East: The drowned continent of southeast Asia, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1998, pp. 18, 29-38, 232.
2. Ibid., pp. 18-9.
3. Hancock: Underworld: The mysterious origins of civilization, pp. 157, 205.
4. Patrick D. Nunn, ‘Geohazards and myths: ancient memories of rapid coastal change in the Asia-Pacific region and their value to future adaptation’, Geoscience Letters, 1:3, 2014, geoscienceletters.com.
5. Underworld , pp. 107-9, 128, 210-2, 217-20; grahamhancock.com.
6. Underworld, pp. 305-6, 675-7; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_archeology_in_the_Gulf_of_Khambhat.
7. Underworld, pp. 3-4, 150-1, 220-2, 253, 297-302, 683-4; A.S. Gaur and Sundaresh, ‘Underwater exploration off Poompuhar and possible causes of its submergence’, Puratattva, no. 28, 1997-98, pp. 84-90, hdrs.nio.org; S.R. Rao, ‘Marine archaeological explorations of Tranquebar-Poompuhar region on Tamil Nadu coast’, Journal of Marine Archaeology, v. 2, 1991, pp. 5-20, drs.nio.org; Sundaresh and A.S. Gaur, ‘Marine archaeological investigations on Tamil Nadu coast, India: an overview’, The MUA Collection, 2011, themua.org.
8. ‘Marine archaeological investigations on Tamil Nadu coast, India: an overview’; Underworld, pp. 678-84.
9. ‘Marine archaeological investigations on Tamil Nadu coast, India: an overview’.
10. S. Ramaswamy, ‘History at Land’s End: Lemuria in Tamil spatial fables’, Journal of Asian Studies, v. 59, no. 3, 2000, pp. 575-602; en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumari_Kandam.
11. Underworld, pp. 250, 254; Jijith Nadumuri, ‘Kumari Kandam’, 2012, ancientvoice.wikidot.com.
12. Theosophy and the seven continents, http://davidpratt.info.
13. Sunken continents versus continental drift, http://davidpratt.info.
14. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, 2:138-48.
15. Ibid., 1:650-1; De Purucker, Studies in Occult Philosophy, pp. 19, 24.
16. Vadim Gordienko, ‘On plate tectonics’, New Concepts in Global Tectonics Journal, v. 2, no. 4, 2014, pp. 20-49, ncgt.org.
11. Central Asia – cradle of the fifth root-race
Theosophy divides the evolution of the earth and its inhabitants into seven vast periods known as rounds, of which we are now in the fourth.1 Each round is divided into seven evolutionary stages, known as root-races or humanities, each lasting many millions of years; the same souls incarnate in each root-race in turn. We are currently in the fifth root-race, known as the Aryan root-race, which in its broadest sense includes all the world’s inhabitants.2
According to theosophy, civilization did not begin a few thousand years ago, but around 18 million years ago, in late Mesozoic times, after the third, Lemurian root-race had begun to develop selfconscious minds. (The Mesozoic ended 66 million years ago according to the flawed radiometric dating methods used by science, and about 8 million years ago according to theosophical chronology; see Geological timescale.) The last two Lemurian subraces are said to have sown far and wide the first seeds of civilization:3 ‘under the guidance of their divine Rulers, [they] built large cities, cultivated arts and sciences, and knew astronomy, architecture and mathematics to perfection’. They built cities out of stone and lava, one of which was situated some 30 miles west of Easter Island, the remnant of a sunken continent. The first large cities appeared on that region of the Lemurian continent that is now the island of Madagascar.4 There were civilized and primitive people in those days as there have been ever since. The later Lemurians overlapped with the earliest Atlanteans, whose civilizations came and went throughout the Cenozoic. Records of these lost civilizations are said to be in the hands of the Brotherhood of Adepts.5
The Atlantean race reached its midpoint some 4.5 million years ago in the Oligocene; this contradicts the ape-ancestry theory, which claims that the earliest species of our genus Homo appeared in the early Pleistocene.6 4.5 million years ago, the Atlanteans were in their kali-yuga, and had reached the apex of their materialistic development. Our fifth root-race was then emerging; indeed, its earliest forerunners began to appear 7 to 8 million years ago. As more and more of the Atlantean continent sank beneath the waves, new lands emerged, including parts of the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Europe (west of the Russian Urals).7 Many migrations took place, and the forerunners of the fifth root-race moved to the then rising lands of Central Asia, to what is now the Gobi (or Shamo) Desert, a high, barren plateau, where there was then a beautiful inland sea. The fifth root-race became a distinct race of its own type around 1 million years old.8
Fig. 11.1. Central Asia.
The Central Asian cradleland of the fifth root-race encompassed an enormous tract of land, including Iran, Baluchistan (westernmost province of Pakistan), Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, northwestern China, and Tibet. It included the Gobi Desert, the Caspian Sea and the Aral Sea, and mountain ranges such as the Pamirs, Hindu Kush, Tien Shan and Altyn Tagh.9 Though now largely a desert waste, this region was once fertile, had an equable climate, and was home to a succession of highly developed civilizations. These civilizations began to appear at the start of the krita-yuga, some 3,893,000 years ago.10
Fig. 11.2 The Gobi Desert consists mostly of exposed bare rock rather than sand dunes.
Much of this vast region of Central Asia is now a lofty plateau, but was then comparatively low-lying. An immense inland sea to the north of it emptied into the Arctic. All that remains of it is the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov, the Caspian Sea and the Aral Sea. There was also a hidden sea in what is now Mongolia, which evaporated as the land slowly rose. Europe was still largely under water, and the Alps were rising, with only the peaks and some of the foothills being as yet above the sea. Vast stretches of what is now Russia rose above the waters, along with southern Germany, coastal France, and later the British Isles.11
In Central Asia, as land rose and seas receded, the climate became less hospitable and deserts began to encroach on the cultivable land. Its various peoples began to migrate in all directions, including westward, to the nearly risen lands of Europe. They sometimes encountered remnants of the Atlanteans – e.g. the ancestors of the Chinese, Mongolians, Tibetans, Thais, Japanese, Javanese, Finns, Hungarians and Eskimos – with whom they fought but also intermixed. A series of civilizations emerged and flourished, then declined and disappeared in turn. The successive migrations continued for an immense span of time, eventually giving rise to the peoples known to history – such as Hindus, Assyrians, Medes, Persians, Babylonians, and the peoples of Europe, such as the Celts, Germanic and Scandinavian tribes, Greeks and Romans, etc.12 The ‘separation of the nations’ (or at least its latest phase) began nearly 700,000 years ago (following the final submergence of Ruta, a large Pacific landmass), and since then several waves of migrants have radiated out from the Central Asian homeland. During that period, the post-Atlantean giants have branched off into ‘the most heterogeneous and diversified types’.13
G. de Purucker says that what is now India was first colonized from the north, but almost simultaneously from the south, from what remained of the ancient Atlantean landmass called Lanka (or Daitya), of which only the northernmost headland – Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) – survives today. The inhabitants of Lanka were called Rakshasas by the Hindus, and ‘eastern Aethiopians’ by the Greeks, because of their dark skin colour. Before Lanka reached the heyday of its prosperity, there existed in what is now the Atlantic Ocean an extensive, highly civilized range of land – the continental backbone of Atlantis. This continent broke up and disappeared, leaving a number of large and small islands, as also happened with the original Asiatic Lanka. Later, emigrants from the remaining islands in the Atlantic travelled eastward and settled on new land which had been rising out of the ocean; these new islands later consolidated into what are now the Abyssinian (Ethiopian) highlands and lands to the north of them.14
As time passed, these Atlantean emigrants followed the continual northward rising of new land, and this was the earliest Atlantean root-stock of what in later ages became the archaic Egyptians. The Egypt of history is the ‘gift of the Nile’, the Delta having been formed through enormous accumulations of sediment and sand carried from the interior of Africa, from Abyssinia, Nubia and other countries.15 The first settlers arrived in Egypt around 400,000 years ago.16
Later still, the original Delta was settled again by mixed Atlantean colonists from Poseidonis, some 80 to 100 thousand years ago. These settlers built the great pyramids. They had already become more or less mixed with the Aryans – the new race that for several ages had been coming down from the plateau of Asia, where they had taken refuge during the death throes of Atlantis.17
Around 8 to 9 or more thousand years ago, Egypt was invaded and settled by emigrants from southern India and Lanka.18 They followed two routes: over the Indian Ocean to Abyssinia and surrounding countries and then down the River Nile; and over what is now the Isthmus of Suez. Egyptian records refer to these immigrants as the ‘sons of Horus’ (the sun god), coming from the East. These ‘eastern Aethiopians’ – a mixed people of an early Aryan stock but with a still stronger infusion of the ancient Atlantean inhabitants of Lanka – intermixed with the Atlantean Egyptians, giving rise to the composite racial stock that produced the dynasties of Egypt.19 Blavatsky says that the ‘Ethiopians of the East’, who came from Lanka or Ceylon, were ‘a colony of very dark-skinned Aryans, the Dravidians of Southern India, who took an already existing civilization with them to Egypt’, prior to the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt by Menes.20
The latest migration of ‘Aryans’ or Indo-Europeans into India and elsewhere is one of many that have taken place over the past million or more years. As Blavatsky remarks: ‘Sub-races guided by karmic law or destiny repeat unconsciously the first steps of their respective mother-races.’21 It was from the northern parts of Central Asia, further north than Lake Manasarovar, that the ‘Aryans’ or Brahmans later descended into the Indian peninsula and founded Hindustan.22 The Vedas, though compiled in the Land of the Seven Rivers, ‘existed ages before in the north’.23 Blavatsky mentions that around 10 or 11 thousand years ago the stream of knowledge had been slowly running down from the tablelands of Central Asia into India and towards Europe and northern Africa24 – which may indicate when the latest major ‘Aryan’ migration began.
De Purucker says that a few thousand years before Greece built its brilliant civilization during the Periclean Age (mid-5th century BCE), a series of brilliant civilizations which would put ours to shame flourished in what is now Persia and western Afghanistan, and in the lands to the north and east of them – a now barren region.25 In the course of time, traces of some of these civilizations and still earlier civilizations are likely to be uncovered, and the history of human civilization will continue to be extended further and further back in time.
The history of different cultures is determined not only by the political and economic system, level of technology, trade relations and military might, but also by ethical and spiritual values. The essence of civilization is to bring to expression our nobler, altruistic qualities, our higher intellectual and spiritual faculties, whatever the state of technological development. Worldwide myths about ancient nations being founded by gods and sages suggest that seers and adepts have played a key role in guiding the establishment and development of major new cultures.
There is a growing realization that the dismissal of all our distant ancestors as completely inferior to ourselves is unjustified, and that our own much-vaunted ‘progress’ has taken place at the cost of deeper, spiritual values. For as Feuerstein et al. say: ‘By comparison with the sublime values and ideals of the primordial tradition ours is a civilization steeped in ignorance, trapped in misperceptions, clouded in arrogance and prejudice, and greatly in need of reformation, if not spiritual revolution.’26
1. See Evolution in the fourth round, http://davidpratt.info.
2. H.P. Blavatsky says that the fifth root-race is ‘generally, though hardly correctly, called the Aryan race’ (The Secret Doctrine (SD), 2:434). The fifth root-race, ‘though generally called Aryan, was not entirely so, as it was ever largely mixed up with races to which ethnology gives other names’ (SD 2:429). ‘The Aryan races, ... now varying from dark brown, almost black, red-brown-yellow, down to the whitest creamy colour, are yet all of one and the same stock – the fifth root-race ...’ (SD 2:249).
G. de Purucker states that the majority of the world’s inhabitants ‘belong to the fifth race technically, since they are all with us, all living in fifth race times and in fifth race conditions; yet psychically and physically they are not as far advanced along the path as the type-man of the fifth race is’ (The Dialogues of G. de Purucker, TUP, 1948, 2:157). The true Chinese, for example, ‘although the last remnant of the last or seventh sub-race of the Atlantean, is no true Atlantean. He is a mixed Aryan, because he belongs to our Aryan race in time and karma. Mixed, also, are the Japanese and the Javanese, and many others’ (Studies in Occult Philosophy (SOP), p. 19).
Blavatsky says that ‘the occultist can by following the (to him) well distinguishable and defined auric shades and gradations of colour in the inner-man unerringly pronounce to which of the several distinct human families, as also, to what particular respective group, and even small sub-group of the latter belongs such or another people, tribe, or man’ (Blavatsky Collected Writings (BCW), 5:213).
According to theosophy, ‘the Aryans and their Semitic Branch are of the Fifth Race’ (SD 2:266). There is no division between Semites (e.g. Jews and Arabs) and Aryans; the Semites are ‘later Aryans’ (SD 2:200). The Jews are ‘a tribe descended from the Tchandalas [Chandalas] of India, the outcasts, many of them ex-Brahmins, who sought refuge in Chaldea, in Scinde [Sindh] and Aria (Iran), and were truly born from their A-bram (No Brahmin) some 8,000 years B.C.’ The Arabs are ‘the descendants of those Aryans who would not go into India at the time of the dispersion of nations, some of whom remained on the borderlands thereof, in Afghanistan and Kabul, and along the Oxus [Amu Darya], while others penetrated into and invaded Arabia’. It was for teachings such as this, and its promotion of universal brotherhood, that the Theosophical Society was banned in Nazi Germany (Sylvia Cranston and Carey Williams, HPB: The Extraordinary Life & Influence of Helena Blavatsky, Founder of the Modern Theosophical Movement, Santa Barbara, CA: Path Publishing House, 3rd ed., 1994, pp. 607-8).
3. SD 2:198.
4. SD 2:317.
5. SD 1:646, 2:334-5; G. de Purucker, Esoteric Teachings, San Diego, CA: Point Loma Publications, 1987, 2:113-4.
6. Human origins: the ape-ancestry myth, http://davidpratt.info.
7. Dialogues, 2:90-1; SOP 638-40; Theosophy and the seven continents, http://davidpratt.info.
8. SOP, ‘Central Asia, cradleland of our race’, pp. 16-25 (pp. 18, 21), and pp. 638-40; SD 2:147fn, 435.
9. SOP 16, 20, 22. Blavatsky indicates that if India is called the ‘cradle of civilization’, ‘India’ would have to be given a much broader meaning for this to apply to the earliest fifth-race civilizations: ‘The Vedas, Brahmanism, and along with these, Sanskrit, were importations into what we now regard as India. ... There was a time when the ancient nations of the West included under the generic name of India many of the countries of Asia now classified under other names. ... The countries now named Tibet, Mongolia, and Great Tartary [northern and central Asia, from the Caspian Sea and the Ural Mountains to the Pacific Ocean] were considered by [some ancient classics] as forming part of India. When we say, therefore, that India has civilized the world and was the Alma Mater of the civilizations, arts and sciences of all other nations (Babylonia, and perhaps even Egypt, included) we mean archaic, pre-historic India, India of the time when the great Gobi was a sea, and the lost “Atlantis” formed part of an unbroken continent which began at the Himalayas and ran down over Southern India, Ceylon, Java, to faraway Tasmania’ (BCW 3:420).
10. SOP 18.
11. SOP 17.
12. SOP 16-23; SD 2:178, 743-4.
13. SD 2:425.
14. SOP 539-40.
15. SOP 540.
16. SD 2:750.
17. SOP 540-1, 543-4.
18. SOP 541. De Purucker also says that the immigration from southern India and now vanished lands adjoining southern India and Ceylon took place 12 to 20 thousand years ago (Dialogues, 2:89-90).
19. SOP 541-4.
20. BCW 11:263.
21. SD 2:768.
22. SOP 16; BCW 4:526-7fn. Blavatsky writes: ‘As the comparatively fair Brahmins have come – when invading India with its dark-coloured Dravidians – from the North, so the Aryan fifth race must claim its origin from northern regions. ... The Aryan race was born and developed in the far north, though after the sinking of the continent of Atlantis its tribes emigrated further south into Asia’ (SD 2:768). It is highly unlikely that Blavatsky is referring here to a migration into or conquest of India in the 2nd millennium BCE.
23. BCW 4:529. Blavatsky’s reference to ‘the Brahmanic planisphere proper (40° north latitude)’ may indicate how far north (Isis Unveiled, 1:577).
24. BCW 14:269-70.
25. SOP 542-3, 24-5.
26. In Search of the Cradle of Civilization, p. 283.