Anthropology in Ṛg-veda
I’ve started studying the anthropological issues with the Ṛg-Veda. Though they were listed out in various researches and books yet they were not previously examined or covered by any author. Apart from the laudation culture, the inquisitiveness about the Cosmos and Ṛta customs along with the sacrifices made to the deities, these studies are thus highly original. I had made an attempt to understand the use of swadhiti and asi in this regard. I chose the topics of Archeozoology like “the absence of tigers” and “elephants still being a shy beast,” i.e., elephants without a proper noun in Ṛg-Veda to undersatnd the antiquity veiled upon them.
According to previous information, Tiger was not present in India prior to 22000 BCE. Similar to why the tiger is never referenced in the Ṛg-Veda, while the Lion’s imagery, its profundity, and metaphorical representations are instantly felt throughout the Ṛg-Veda, it can only relate to their conspicuous absence.
Additionally, I’ve already started to comprehend the fan pan geography of Saraswati w.r.t the word Indavaḥ in this blog here. This is just a beginning to understand core of Ṛg-Veda. All of these will remain conjectures until other signature evidence, which is currently there in my thinking, but has yet to be written, helps these ideas find a firm foundation.
In additon to ‘the absence of tigers’ and ‘the elephants still being a shy beast’, and ‘fan pan of Saraswati w.r.t the word Indavaḥ’, we go ahead with yet another curious case, i.e., of absence of Godhuma in Ṛg-Veda.
Archeobotany study in Ṛg-veda
Trees of the (RV Saṃhitā):
· Ashvatta Pipal (Ficus religiosa) – RV. VI. 24, RV, I, 611. RV I.135.8
Pippala Pipal (Ficus religiosa) – RV. I. 164, 20
· Bhanga Indian hemp (Cannabis sativa) – RV. IX. 61, 13
(Bhanga in the Rig Veda is an epithet of Soma)
· Karanja Indian beech (Pongamia pinnata) – RV. I. 53, 8; X. 48, 8
· Karkandhu Jackal Jujube (Ziziphus oenoplia) – RV. I. 112, 6
· Khadira Cutch Tree (Acacia catechu) – RV, III. 53, 19
· Kimshuka Flame of the Forest (Butea monosperma) – RV. X. 85, 20
Palasha, Parna Flame of the Forest (Butea monosperma) – RV. X. 97, 5
· Nyagrodha Banyan (Ficus benghalensis) – RV. I. 24, 7
· Shalmali Silk cotton tree (Bombax ceiba) – RV. VII. 50, 3
· Shimbala Flower of the Salmeli (Silk cotton tree) – RV. III. 53, 22
· Shimshapa Sissu, Indian rose wood (Dalbergia sissoo) – RV. III. 53, 19
· Soma RV, Ninth mandala
· Urvaruka Cucumber (Cucumis sativus) – RV. VII. 59, 12
· Vibhaidaka Bastard myrobalan (Terminalia bellirica) – RV. 8, 86, 6; X.34,1 (source–read here)
Grains in Ṛg-Veda Saṃhitā
Rg-Veda has reference to rice as dhana (4.24.7), dhanaa (1.16.2), and dhanya (5.53.13), Rg-Veda (1.16.2) uses the word taṇḍula etc. Suśruta, a sage of the ancient era and whose work is described later, recognizes only rice as dhanya (this is also supported by Monier Williams, 1872). (Read here for more understanding through the lens of Sayana).
Cereals are absent in Ṛg-Veda Saṃhitā.
I don’t say that Rg-Vedic people didn’t know about the cereals, its only that they were not yet named. Evidence of wild grains in Chamakam is found.
Evidence of Wild Forest Grain Nivara in Chamakam
In his paper presentation Mr Anil recited the part of Chamakam 4 where all these Yajurvedic grains (as given below) are indicated. But everyone would connect the Araṇyānī sukta of Ṛg-veda from the phrase “the abundance of wild forest grains” which were still present during the times of induction of Chamakam. Probably these were the “kṣetra-area” demarcated in Araṇya which were producing wild grains, inspiring humans to create more such kṣetras as the demand grew. We saw in the earlier blog that the experiment had begun with early ploughing and the sense of Shuna’s head in the naming of a plough suggest the primitiveness and deep antiquity so much so that ‘dogs and plough’ have now become only synonyms instead of inspiration to the latter’s induction as a separate word.
The Yajurveda records twelve types of food-grains in the following mantra: while Ṛg-Veda doesn’t have them.
vrīhayaśca me, yayāśca me, māṣśc ame, tilāśca/ Me, mudgāśca me, khalvāśca me, priyaṅgavaśca/ Me, aṇavaśca me, śyāmākāśca me, nīvārāśca me,/ Godhūnāśca me, yajñena kalpantām.
Absence of Vrīhi in Ṛg-Veda Saṃhitā
The rice, with the noun Dhāna is present in Ṛg-veda, and we noted in one of the earlier section, but Ṛg-Veda has not yet found the synonymical name Vrīhi which also means Field of Rice, but also means varhati upacayaṃ gacchati, which comes from vṛh (vṛddhau) root, which would mean, ‘which increases (and) goes (adds) to a grainery/elevation (of-status)/ Prosperity’, here upacaya = prosperity, which seems to come from it’s “Grain-pile” meaning. Ṛg-veda has not yet started seeing the word agara but it uses huge Varma to save the grains from being theft.
Curious case of absence of Godhuma in Ṛg-Veda Saṃhitā
In additon to ‘the absence of tigers’ and ‘the elephants still being a shy beast’, and ‘fan pan of Saraswati w.r.t the word Indavaḥ’, we go ahead with yet another curious case, i.e., of ‘absence of Godhuma in Ṛg-Veda’. Many absence leads to evidence of ‘why they are absent, and that too at the same time’.
Evidence of domestication of Rice via new sciences, and what does these studies suggests
Godhuma-Wheat is absent in Ṛg-Veda saṃhitā and studies pertaining to this subject had been pending ever since I listened to Shri Anil Suri’s paper presented in IHAR-IGNCA 2019 (see here) where I was to present Antiquity of History with the help of Agastya evidence of crossing Vindhya (19000 BCE) just following him in the same section. The gist of the paper can be read in Indiafacts.org. The evidence of full-fledged agriculture in Lahuradev went back to 9,000 BCE+.
Fuller et al. gives rice present from 3,60,000 years ago in South Asia. They branched out into different hierarchy. The latest studies Coalescence-based modeling of demographic parameters estimate that the first domesticated rice population to split off from O. rufipogon was O. sativa ssp. japonica, occurring at ∼13.1-24.1 ka, which is an order of magnitude older then the earliest archeological date of domestication.
If this is so then the entire Vedic hymns on agriculture, i.e., Ṛg-veda IV.57 and Atharvaveda III.17 suddenly makes sense as in the previous blog I discussed that this sukta IV.57 should be the redacted, i.e., newly added one. The Ṛg-veda (X.34.13) advises for land-farming as the best means of gaining wealth ‘kṛṣimit kṛṣasva vitte remasva bahumanyamānaḥ‘ suggests clearly that farming had already begun and we just read above that domestication of O. sativa ssp occurring at 24,100 years ago. Now it gives a fare idea of why there is ‘Absence of Vrīhi in Ṛg-Veda Saṃhitā‘. At the advent of Agriculture the word has not yet taken a shape during Saṃhitā times.
Suddenly presence of Agastya in 10th mandala, importance of visibility/helical rising of Agatsya and these antiquities of Agriculture starts making sense of continuous civilization to me. Pleistocene environment was changing and with the increase of population the demand for food was also increasing which is clearly found in Ṛg-Veda w.r.t the increasing frequencies of wars. North was highly colder due to near reaching of Last Glacial Maximus, and thus it was necessary to move towards little south and east. Anthropolocially culture was traversing into microliths for the harvest etc. Therefore, from the culture of swadhiti (hand axe) we were moving towards microlith Asi (knife). Ganges proved to be a haven for rice, and probably therfore the river name Asi holds the ancient Ṛg-Vedic people shifting towards Gangetic plains making the ganges a base till the Kautilya times.
Archeological and Textual evidence of Wheat in Indian subcontinent
On the contrary, apart from Rice, Wheat is present in many of the later texts like Yajurveda Saṃhitās1 and Brāhmaṇas,2 but conspicuously not in Ṛg-Veda. Wheat appears in Yajurveda and Rāmāyaṇa.
Archeologically Wheat at Mehrgarh dates back to around 7000 BCE. It thus now gives us a fare idea for why Wheat is not present in Ṛg-veda. Many things can be absent from Ṛg-veda and one can just avoid or debunk the theories in the name of “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. But the staple like Wheat or Rice, edible, cannot be avoided for they were also to be offered to gods. Hence one can safely say that Ṛg-veda didn’t have wheat.
Now the question arise that “Godhuma” is present in Rāmāyaṇa. With the help of two pole stars in Rāmāyaṇa and Agastya’s visibility starting from Mahendragiri gave us timing of Rāmāyaṇa as 12000~13000 BCE (see Historical Rama- Nilesh Oak dating of Rāmāyaṇa). Rice is already domesticated by then. Rama has been shown to eat rice but he observes wheat too. It presents that Wheat is cultivated with Barley etc in the Godavari region near Agastya Ashram in the forest. This verse also shows the fields in the forest and also shows the feel of Pleistocene environment. Probably, either the verse is a later addition or we have not yet archeologically explored the Godavari region. Wheat was archeologically found on Fertile Crescent around 9600 BCE. As Shri Anil Suri has suggested that agriculture could only had gone from India towards Fertile Crescent makes sense post 12000 BCE. The wheat here is a winter crop with barley something like hanfetz; a common cropping system in the highland of Eritrea.
प्रकृत्या शीतल स्पर्शो हिम विद्धाः च सांप्रतम् | प्रवाति पश्चिमो वायुः काले द्वि गुण शीतलः || "The western breeze by itself will be cool to touch, but presently charged with snow it is wafting doubly chilly in the early hours. [3-16-15] बाष्प च्छ्हन्नानि अरण्यानि यव गोधूमवंति च | शोभन्ते अभ्युदिते सूर्ये नदद्भिः क्रौन्च सारसैः || "Covered with the dew the forests that already covered with crop fields of barley and wheat are beaming forth, together with the callings of ....., at the rise of the sun. [3-16-16]
After understanding and knowing all these above we can conclude that Rice is present but Wheat is absent in Ṛg-veda. The presence of wheat in Mehrgarh during 7000 BCE and its textual presence in Rāmāyaṇa suggests that Ṛg-veda didn’t have any addition during or after 12209 BCE at least. But the evolution of the word Kṣetra in Ṛg-Veda and domestication of Rice during 24,000 BP, i.e, 22000 BCE suggests that farming in small areas had begun early, are present as evidence in the last mandala, and in the redacted mantras. It’s very exciting that the Ṛg-Veda contains paleobotanical clues just like paleozoological clues like the absence of tigers
I am at awe for how we have contained certain evolutionary knowledge, ain’t that fantastic.
[Footnote: 1) Maitrāyaṇī Saṃhitā, i. 2, 8; Vāja-
saneyi Saṃhitā, xviii. 12; xix. 22. 89;
xxi. 29, etc.]
[Footnote: 2) Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, xii. 7, 1, 2; 2,
9; Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad, vi. 3, 22
(Mādhyaṃdina = vi. 3, 13 Kāṇva), etc.]
YL Nene, Rigveda has References to Rice? Asian Agri-History Vol. 16, No. 4, 2012 (403–409) 403
Jae Young Choi 1, Adrian E Platts 1, Dorian Q Fuller 2, Yue-Ie Hsing 3, Rod A Wing 4, Michael D Purugganan 1 5The Rice Paradox: Multiple Origins but Single Domestication in Asian Rice; 2017 Apr 1;34(4):969-979. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msx049.
3 thoughts on “Presence of Dhāna and Absence of Godhuma in Ṛg-Veda; The Implication of Archeobotany on Indian History”
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This is wonderful information.
extremely well documented Rupa ji. The chronology of civilizational evolution extracted from the evolution of food grains, agriculture & domestication is paints a neat understanding.