Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Sample case of nature of debates in ancient India - Ashtavakra vs Vandin.

King Janaka of Mithila had hosted the best brains of the day whose words of wisdom have been immortalised in Upanishads and Epics. One among them was Ashtavakra who as a 12 year old lad won over a seasoned debater called Vandin in Janaka’s court. Vandin was notorious for having got the losers in the debate killed by drowning. Ashtavakra’s father, Kahoda was one such loser who was drowned to death. It happened just before Ashtavakra was born. Ashtavakra grew up without knowing what happened to his father. But when he came to know, he could not remain quiet. He was just 12 years then but decided to avenge the death of his father, in the same way that Vandin did. So he reached Janaka’s court accompanied with his uncle, another famous sage, Swetaketu, who was of his same age then.

(19th-century painting of Aṣṭāvakra 
who was born with physical handicap and 
grows up into a celebrated sage of Vedic culture) 

The first argument was with the gate keeper who stopped them for the reason that lads were not old enough to debate with Vandin. This argument is around who is old or what makes one old.

Gate keeper: Only old people are eligible to enter the court (and into argument with Vandin)

Ashtavakra: Who is old? What makes one old?
Old are those who
·       observe sacred vows,
·       are in possession of energy proceeding from the Vedic lore,
·       served the superiors,
·       subdued their passions, and
·       have also won proficiency in knowledge. 
(Ashtavakra fulfilled all these criteria, so old enough)

It is said that even boys are not to be slighted, for a fire, small though it be, burns on being touched.

Gate keeper: Well, I still consider you as a boy. If you are old enough, you must be able to recite the verse demonstrating the existence of the Supreme Being, and adored by the divine sages, and which, although composed of one letter, is yet multifarious.

Ashtavakra: ‘True growth cannot be inferred from the mere development of the body, as the growth of the knots of the Salmali tree cannot signify its age. That tree is called full-grown which although slender and short, beareth fruits. But that which doth not bear fruits, is not considered as grown'

Gate keeper: Boys receive instruction from the old and they also in time grow old. Knowledge certainly is not attainable in a short time. (indirectly hinting that his knowledge was not in-depth but only a case of repeating what he had heard)

Ashtavakra:  ‘One is not old because his head is gray. But the gods regard him as old who, although a child in years, is yet possessed of knowledge’. One’s merit does not depend on his age or gray hair or wealth or friends.


After this Ashtavakra was allowed to meet King Janaka to whom he expressed his wish to trounce Vandin in an argument. Looking at his age, King Janaka wanted to test his knowledge. Some of what they spoke is difficult to understand, and I have given my interpretation along with, in blue colour fonts and in brackets.

Janaka: ‘He alone is a truly learned man who understandeth the significance of the thing that hath thirty divisions, twelve parts twenty four joints, and three hundred and sixty spokes'

(Seems to refer to the scale of Time at macro level, i.e., for a year when the earth completes one revolution. A month of 30 days, 12 months and 24 pakshas (phases of moon) and 360 days in a year. Similar ideas are found in Rig Veda 1.164)

Ashtavakra: ‘May that ever-moving wheel that hath twenty four joints, six naves, twelve peripheries, and sixty spokes protect thee'

(Seems to refer to the scale of Time at micro level, i.e., for a day. The wheel of Time (earth’s rotation) completes one round in a day wherein 24 minutes make one ghati / Nazhigai, 6 ghati make 1 Jaamam, the wheel passes through 12 lagnas and 60 ghatis)

Janaka: ‘Who amongst the gods beareth those two which go together like two mares yoked to a car, and sweep like a hawk, and to what also do they give birth' 

Ashtavakra:  ‘May God, O king, forfend the presence of these two in thy house; aye, even in the house of thine enemies. He who appeareth, having for his charioteer the wind begetteth them, and they also produce him'

(The answer is ‘Wind’ (vayu). The two mares must be Indra (rain) and Agni (fire), as is known from an answer later in the debate with Vandin. The wind bears the two mares, rain and fire, sweeps like a hawk and is a life giver.)

Janaka: ‘What is that doth not close its eyes even while sleeping; what is it that doth not move, even when born; what is it that hath no heart; and what doth increase even in its own speed'

Ashtavakra: ‘It is a fish that doth not close its eye-lids, while sleeping; and it is an a egg that doth not move when produced; it is stone that hath no heart; and it is a river that increase in its own speed'
The king was pleased with these answers and permitted him to debate with Vandin.


The debate with Vandin is interesting as it involves numbers in increasing order. Each of them must compose a verse having relevant ones for a number. When one begins with a number, the other must continue with the succeeding number. It seems that a minimum of 4 ideas have to be given by each debater in a verse- form to continue the debate. It also appears that the debater challenging Vandin would not have any clue on how the debate would be like. Vandin decides how to test the challenger and begins the debate with a verse on number 1.

This particular debate with Ashtavakra, though looks simple at the outset, cannot be continued unless one is widely read. In the end Vandin himself falls into the trap he laid for Ashtavakra as he could not produce 4 ideas relevant to number 13. Ashtavakra completes the verse with ease and wins the debate.

Vandin: One – only one fire blazeth forth in various shapes; only one sun illumineth this whole world; only one hero, Indra, the lord of celestials, destroyeth enemies; and only one Yama is the sole lord of the Pitris

Ashtavakra: Two -  The two friends, Indra and Agni, ever move together; the two celestial sages are Narada and Parvata; twins are the Aswinikumaras; two is the number of the wheels of a car; and it is as a couple that husband and wife live together, as ordained by the deity.

Vandin: Three - Three kinds of born beings are produced by acts; the three Vedas together perform the sacrifice, Vajapeya; at three different times, the Adhwaryus commence sacrificial rites; three is the number of words: and three also are the divine lights.

Ashtavakra: Four - Four are the Asramas of the Brahmanas; the four orders perform sacrifices; four are the cardinal points; four is the number of letters; and four also, as is ever known, are the legs of a cow.

Vandin: Five - Five is the number of fires; five are the feet of the metre called Punki; five are the sacrifices; five locks, it is said in the Vedas, are on the heads of the Apsaras; and five sacred rivers are known in the world 

Ashtavakra: Six -  Six cows, it is asserted by some, and paid as a gratuity on the occasion of establishing the sacred fire; six are the seasons belonging to the wheel of time; six is the number of the senses; six stars constitute the constellation Kirtika; and six, it is found in all the Vedas, is the number of the Sadyaska sacrifice 

Vandin: Seven -  Seven is the number of the domesticated animals; seven are the wild animals; seven metres are used in completing a sacrifice; seven are the Rishis, seven forms of paying homage are extant in the world; and seven, it is known, are the strings of the Vina 

Ashtavakra: Eight -  Eight are the bags containing a hundred fold; eight is the number of the legs of the Sarabha, which preyeth upon lions; eight Vasus, as we hear, are amongst the celestials; and eight are the angles of yupa stake, in all sacrificial rites

Vandin: Nine -  Nine is the number of the mantras used in kindling the fire in sacrifices to the Pitris; nine are the appointed functions in the processes of creation; nine letters compose the foot of the metre, Vrihati; and nine also is ever the number of the figures in calculation

Ashtavakra: Ten - Ten is said to be the number of cardinal points, entering into the cognition of men in this world; ten times hundred make up a thousand; ten is the number of months, during which women bear; and ten are the teachers of true knowledge, and ten, the haters thereof, and ten again are those capable of learning it.

Vandin: Eleven -  Eleven are the objects enjoyable by beings; eleven is the number of the yupas; eleven are the changes of the natural state pertaining to those having life; and eleven are the Rudras among the gods in heaven.

Ashtavakra: Twelve - Twelve months compose the year; twelve letters go to the composition of a foot of the metre called Jagati; twelve are the minor sacrifices; and twelve, according to the learned, is the number of the Adityas.

Vandin: Thirteen - The thirteenth lunar day is considered the most auspicious; thirteen islands exist on earth....... (pause)

Ashtavakra: (continues)  Thirteen sacrifices are presided over by Kesi; and thirteen are devoured by Atichhandas, the longer metres of the Veda. 

{Source:  Mahabharata -3: 132-133}

Saturday, November 18, 2017

From Sibi to Siberia!

This article brings to the fore some features outside India associated with the word / name Sibi.  The article can be better understood after reading the previous two,

King Śibi, a descendant of Yayati’s son Anu left an indelible mark in later Indian history – in Buddhism and in the Indus valley that was predominantly occupied by his off-springs. The influence of his authority spread to north of Afghanistan too, by two of his sons, Kaikaya and Madra who occupied the territories in the northern regions that encompass what is today known as BMAC. Though much of it is yet to researched, one can notice an amazing connection to a farther northern region, i.e., Siberia!

The etymology of the name Siberia is still debated, but there is unanimity in the opinion that it was originally connected with a nameSibir’ or ‘Śibir’. There are written records since the 13th century by travellers of Chinese and Arab origin referring to a location called Sibir. This name was ancient but without a convincing etymology. Those who can say something about it – i.e., the indigenous people of Sibir – are very less in number today, as most of them have been eliminated centuries ago. From what little is known, they were pagan worshipers and shamanistsIt is from Sibir, the entire region came to be called as Siberia. Sibir certainly raises our curiosity for its phonetic similarity with Sibi, the king of ancient India, who lived before Rama.

When we start looking for clues for possible links with Indian Sibi, the foremost one is found in its very location.  Sibir is the region located at the confluence of two rivers – a sangama - that is sacred in Vedic culture.  The two rivers are River Irtysh and its tributary Tobol.

In Vedic culture, numbers 3, 5, and 7 are important – like 3 gunas, 5 elements and 7 sages. Sacred rivers are identified by these numbers. They either have 3 sources or flow through 3 worlds. The three worlds are heaven referring to origin in a higher location; say a mountain, earth referring to the flow on the ground and Nether world referring to ocean whose bottom is low. Number 5 and 7 are the number of streams that join the river. Such rivers are sacred in Vedic culture.

 In the above picture one can see River Tobol joined with 5 and 7 tributaries, qualifying her as 5-sistered or 7-sistered  - Sapta Tobol! If some Vedic people were around, they would have chosen this region as a divine one. Sibir is located where Tobol joins River Irtysh. River Irtysh too exhibits unique feature as one flowing through 3 worlds. Starting from Altai Mountain, Irtysh falls into the lower terrain and enters Lake Zaysan. This qualifies it to be a river of three courses. It re-emerges from the lake and flows further North West where it is joined by River Tobol.

There is one more confluence down the course of River Irtysh, where it joins River Ob. But that confluence does not exhibit the kind of features found in the confluence of Irtysh and Tobol. Therefore the choice of the confluence for founding a place by name Sibir (or originally Sibi) shows the hand of the Vedic people in locating the sacredness of a place.  

The names of tributaries of rivers Tobol and Irtysh also sound like Sanskrit words. Rivers Om and Tara are straight away from Sanskrit. Some of the tributaries of Tobol have phonetic similarity with Sanskrit. Toura (Tura?), Pychma (paschima meaning west?), Astana and Kostanay (some sthana) resemble Sanskrit words. The main river Irtysh that comes down from Altai Mountain (right hand corner in the above picture) is known as Kara Irtysh in its upper reaches, where Kara is black in the local language. This is similar to Kala in Sanskrit. After it crosses Lake Zayson it is known as White Irtysh. Such naming is common in Vedic culture.

Supporters of Aryan Invasion / Migration Theory might be tempted to use these hints to justify the origin of Vedic people from these regions. But the basic issue is why the name Sibir came here at the first place. The root of the name Sibi can only be associated with ancient India. His lineage starting from Anu, assigned to occupy the regions in the Northern direction of ancient India, it is only but logical to assume that the descendants of Sibi gradually moved towards further North and one among them found the confluence of Irtysh and Tobol to be a conducive place to lead a Vedic life they were already following.

Within the times of Sibi, two of his sons established kingdoms at Madra (Balkh) and Kekaya (north of it, perhaps north of Oxus River). Further north, Arkaim is found to house a structure with Vedic symbols. Dated variously between 4th and 2nd millennium BCE, this structure was formed in the later period compared to Sibi’s times which can be dated at the 6th millennium BCE, centuries before Rama. Arkaim offers a link of a migratory path from Kekaya to further north – to Sibir.

One can notice the same Sangama concept (Confluence of rivers) in the location of Arkaim. It is located at the confluence of two rivers called Karakanga and Utya-kanga. The name ‘Kanga’ sounds like Ganga! The name Ganga originated in India only. Only from India this name could have travelled to other places. It is because Ganga was one of the two daughters of Himavan, the other being Uma. (Valmiki Ramayana 1-35). The Himalayan connection is there for Ganga right from her origination.

Ganga’s earlier name was Jahnavi, after she passed through Sage Jahnu’s hermitage. This name is found as Jahnaavi in Rig Veda. (Sage Jahnu was not a migrant-Aryan, as he was the ancestor of Visvamitra). After she (Ganga) inundated the ashes of the sons of Sagara, she was given the name Bhagirathi, after Bhagiratha (Valmiki Ramayana 1-44). But the name even before she came down from the Himalayas was Ganga.  Looking at the etymology, the root word is ‘gam’ for going. She who keeps going or moving is Ganga! She kept moving around the coils of Siva’s hair – a reference to the coil-like passage through which she descends from the mountain. After reaching plains she kept moving behind Bhagiratha. And she keeps moving relentlessly in her course through the three worlds! So she is Ganga.

Such a name in Arkaim – though sounds corrupted now as Kanga could have been coined by someone connected with ancient India! But scholars who have their mind steeped into Aryan Invasion Theory keep talking about Arkaim as a place of Indo Aryan origins from where they spread to India. If true, why didn’t the invading or migrant Aryans start calling the rivers they crossed first, Sindhu and Sarasvati as Ganga, in memory of the two Kangas at Arkaim? But by the time the Aryans were supposed to have entered, Ganga was very old. The sedimentary analysis of Ganga would reveal how old she was, but she was older than Sibi’s times.

The memory of Ganga from East and that of Sibi from the west of India had been carried by the later generations of Sibi who gradually moved towards Northern parts of Europe. Arkaim and Sibir are reminders of such a movement.

PS: Musings on Sibi not yet over! There is one more article on Sibi, tracing a migration from Altai Mountain to South East Asia. Will follow next.  


"Notes on the origin of the name 'Siberia'"

'A History of the Peoples of Siberia: Russia's North Asian Colony 1581-1990' by James Forsyth. (pages 25-26) 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

What is common between Ukrainians and Cholas of South India?

This article can be best understood after reading the previous one here: Swat in Afghanisthan - the region of Rama's ancestors

Two salient features of that article relevant for the current one are

(1) King Sibi, the ancestor of Emperor Rama of Ayodhya was associated with the region of the upper reaches of River Swat in Pakistan. That region was home to wise people of those times who were engaged in Vedic rites.

(2) Among the descendants of King Sibi, the lesser known or unknown branch is that of Cholas. Taking up the name of Sibi as Sembiyan for his lineage, the first Chola who happened to be one of the sons of King Bharata (son of Dushyanta) established a dynasty after his name as Chola that came to be regarded as one of the three powerful dynasties of ancient Tamil lands.

The current article discusses a feature associated with Cholas that might help in solving the conundrum of migration or invasion from central Asia to India or vice versa.

That feature is very simple but not deciphered till now – it is the etymology of the word ‘Chola’.
‘Chola’- is not the way it is pronounced in Tamil. It comes with unique ‘zha’ of Tamil language, the retroflex phoneme. It is Choɻa. Yet another unique feature of this word is that there is no meaning attached to this word in any dictionary of Tamil. Chola refers to the king Chola, or of Chola dynasty. There is no etymology for Chola in Tamil.

Tracing the meaning of Chola.

There are two types of names as per Tamil grammar, Idukuri peyar and Kaarana peyar. The first one refers to the name that is in existence from antiquity without any particular reason behind it. The second one refers to the name that was formed with some reasoning or in other words a name that can be explained. At the outset one is tempted to identify the name ‘Chola’ as the former one (Idukuri peyar). But knowing the background of the first Chola coming from the house of Emperor Bharata, we have an option of looking at the roots of this name from Sanskrit. And it turns out this name Chola is a Kaarana peyar - having a meaning.

Outwardly the word Chola does not seem to have a meaning in Sanskrit, but the variations of this word like Choda, Chaula etc., do convey a meaning having relevance to Cholavarman.
Taking up the word Choda, its root word in Sanskrit is ‘chud’ which means ‘impel’. It makes sense when we look at the background of Cholavarman. Cholavarman was the son of Bharata according to the genealogy of Cholas found in Tiruvalangadu copper plates. But according to Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata Purana and Mahabharata it was Bhumanya who inherited the throne from Bharata, by-passing nine other sons.

Bharata originally had 9 sons from three wives, but the texts say that none of them bore resemblance to Bharata. This made their mothers worried that the king would suspect their fidelity and therefore they killed their own sons! This sounds appalling on first reading, but on further thinking this looks absurd and impossible too. For, a similar situation existed in the life of Bharata, as his birth and existence were not at all known to his father Dushyanta. However Dushyanta accepted Bharata as his son. If Bharata himself had such an odd background in which his father accepted his mother’s word about his birth, it is strange that he faced similar circumstances not once but 9 times with reference to all the 9 sons. Stranger still is to believe that the mothers themselves killed their sons. Strangest of all is the fact that our country was named after this king as Bharat!*

So there is something in this story that we are missing out. What is implied could be that none of the 9 sons were equal to or surpassing their father Bharata. More than Bharata himself, this had troubled his wives (the mothers) who could have censured their sons. Not finding any of them worthy to succeed him to the throne, Bharata did a yajna and got a worthy son (Bhumanya).

What happened to those 9 sons? As per Cholan genealogy, one of them came all the way to the southernmost part of the country and established a kingdom of his own. The driving factor was ‘Chud’ – he was ‘impelled’ to prove himself that he was a worthy son of Bharata.

The same word when written as Chuda (चूडा) – it means the crest, the top or the crown of the head or of the lineage. Chuda also means tuft of hair! Another variation, Chaula also refers to tuft of hair. The Chaula ceremony is an important ritual in Vedic culture which is about the first tonsuring ceremony of the boy child when a tuft of hair is left untouched in the head.

One can find a surprising connection between Cholas and the tuft, in the form of an adage in Tamil. It is a popular adage that says “Choliyan kudumi chumma aadaathu” – meaning the ‘Chola (Choliya) does not shake his tuft for no reason”! Thurston and Rangachari in their book on castes and tribes of India had recorded that this adage refers to vindictive nature of Choliya Brahmins. But it is understood among Tamil speakers as referring to motive-based behaviour of Choliya Brahmins. 

Thurston also says that Chanakya of Arthashastra fame was a Choliya Brahmin for he sported a top-knot. But there is no proof to connect him with Chola lands. Probably his front knot gave him that identity. Even today the Brahmins of Tamilnadu sporting a tuft at the top of the head are identified as Choliya Brahmins - the Brahmins belonging to Chola lands. The bottom-line is that Chola is associated with tuft on the head.

Generally the tuft is kept at the back of the head. But Choliya Brahmins have it on top of the head. A popular depiction of a Brahmin of Chola land was that of Azhwarkkadiyaan, a character in the novel “Ponniyin Selvan”, shown with a ‘mun kudumi’ – a front- tuft! This depiction was in tune with the perception of a characteristic feature of Chola Brahmins.

Sporting a tuft is not confined to specific people such as Brahmins. Until a century ago everyone irrespective of the Varna had a tuft and so it can be assumed that the Cholan kings also kept a tuft on their head.

Painting by Ravi Varma of a road-side singer with her kids. The boy in the picture can be seen with a tuft.

The speciality about the Chola tuft is that it was kept at the crest of the head. The tuft at the top of the head seems to convey a message that Cholavarman stood as a jewel on top of the head (Chuda). The top-knot became a symbolism or a reminder of his position – who was once disregarded by his father, Bharata.

Choosing Sibi over Bharata!

It is only from the inscription we come to know that Chola was the son of Bharata. Nowhere in the history of Cholas do we come across any reference to Bharata. This is perhaps due to the unpleasant circumstances that impelled Chola to leave his parents. But the Cholas had always identified themselves as descendants of Sibi, as Sembiyans. The pigeon and hawk story of Sibi is recalled very often in Sangam Tamil poems whenever the Cholan kings are praised for their compassion for all beings. Compassion is what Cholavarman didn’t experience from his parents. It was lack of compassion that drove him out of his house. This obsession with compassion perhaps made the Cholas cling to King Sibi, known for his exemplary compassion, in the genealogical tree.

 Sibi appears in the sibling branch of Yayati’s sons. Yayati had five sons, two from Devayani of Brahmin ancestry and three from Sharmishta of Danava ancestry. Bharata, son of Dushyanta came in the lineage (direct descendants / first son) of Puru, of maternal Danava ancestry. Puru inherited the throne from Yayati. (Mahabharata 1-95)

Sibi appears in the lineage of Anu, another of Yayati’s son, once again from Danava ancestry on the mother’s side. (Vishnu Purana 4-18).  Sibi’s mother also happens to be the daughter of Yayati (the conflict of relationship may be discussed later). From this it is seen that Cholas had taken up their early ancestors from within the family of early siblings with reputed names, namely Puru and Anu. They had taken up Rama’s early ancestors also. All these patrilineal branches have sprung from a single remotest ancestor, that is, Vaivasvata Manu.

Another feature to be mentioned here is that it was Solar dynasty from Manu onwards, but Sibi and Bharata belonged to the Lunar dynasty.  The Chola who claimed himself as the son of Bharata identified himself with Solar dynasty. In modern scientific terms, there is only one branch of science that could shed light on these shifting dynasties accompanied with discrepancies in lineages. And that science is Genetics! The Cholan genealogy found in the inscriptions offers a valuable clue on how the founder Haplogroup gives rise to diversities at different time periods. Before making my musings on that let me find out the route taken by the first Chola to Tamil lands.


Looking from migratory angle, the first Chola was a migrant from North India whose ancestor Sibi was in Swat region in NE India of those times – but in present day Pakistan!

Today a place or region called Sibi exists in Pakistan but not near the origins of Swat River.

This Sibi is also connected with King Sibi as many dynasties sprang from him in later days, taking up his name. During Mahabharata times there were 20 kingdoms in the region of Indus and its tributaries of which that of Jayadratha was powerful. Jayadratha was the son-in law of the Kurus by marriage with the sister of Duryodhana. The entire region of 20 kingdoms was where the Indus Valley civilization (IVC) flourished.

Today one of the important IVC sites is located in a region called “Cholistan” – a name resembling Chola! It is situated to the east of the present day Sibi and to the south of the region where Bharata was supposed to have ruled.

The IVC location is in the dried bed of Sarasvatī in the Cholistan desert. A figurine with what appears to be a front knot of hair is found in Harappa, north of Cholistan. (Pic below). This gives rise to a view that persons with top-knot were present in this part of IVC. If it is assumed that Chuda or Choda or Chola was a special name for a people with top-knot, this figurine can be deemed as a proof of his kin living in this part of India – a case of same genetic pool in two places far away from each other - one in South Tamilnadu and another in the Indus region!

But the time period of Cholavarman was much before the date of IVC. This is ascertained from the information in the inscriptions of Tiruvalangadu copper plates on the birth of River Cauvery. This river was not in existence when Cholavarman founded his empire. It was brought later by his descendant Chitradhanvan, inspired by the Bhadiratha’s feat of bringing down River Ganga.

Cauvery River was in existence for a very long period and existed before the IVC period. The sediment analysis on the bed of River Cauvery is needed to be done to know the time period of its birth which could offer a reference-point for determining the date of Bharata and Cholavarman.
Yet another figure with the top-knot is what is called as “Vasishtha's head”, dated around 3700 BCE!

The original location where this artefact was picked up is not known, but it was got from an Indian source and is presently housed at San Francisco. The hair style looks like a gathering of the hair on top and locking it into a knot. One can see the sides of the head shaved. This gives an appearance of a tuft on top of the head. The figure is certainly not of an ascetic like Vasishtha, but of a Kshatriya. The top-knot is a special identity.

Movement outside India.

There are quite a few references in the Puranas and the Mahabharata on the movement of Yayati’s clan to North and West of India. According to Vishnu Purana (4-10), before retiring to the woods King Yayati divided his land into central, southeast, south, west and north and handed them over to his five sons. Of them Druhyu of Danava- maternal descent went to the west and Anu of the same Danava – maternal descent went to north. Sibi was a descendant of Anu’s lineage.

Vishnu Purana (4-18) says that Sibi had 4 sons, VrishadarbhaSuviraKaikeya, and Madra. Of them the names Kaikeya and Madra are self-revealing. Kaikeya must have founded Kekaya country that was further north of Balkh while Madra could be identified with Balkh region – the regions that AIT promoters identify with invading or migrating Aryans. The fact of the matter is that these territories were first occupied and developed by the sons of King Sibi, belonging to the indigenous Indian breed!

Now the question arises what happened to those who moved to Balkh and Kekaya? Was there any further movement towards north, that is, to central and north Europe? The tradition of keeping top-knot answers this question.

Top-knot as a mark of identity.

If top-knot is an identity of the Cholas, the same is the identity of the Ukrainians! The traditional hair-cut of Ukrainians (known as Cossacks) was to leave out a tuft of hair on top of the head and have the rest of the head shaved. The tuft was treated as a mark of noble dynasty and self-identity. The amazing similarity with the Indian version is that the Ukrainian word for this top-knot is Chub – closely resembling the Sanskrit root ‘Chud’ for Choda or Chuda which means tuft or crest of the head. In the Ukrainian language also, the same meaning exists for Chub - as ‘crest’!

Ukrainian man with Chub (tuft).

The top-knot is also known as khokhol, but used as derogatory word by those ill-disposed towards Ukrainians who kept top-knot. Those having the khokhol are referred to as khokhly. This name seems to resemble kukkuta, a Sanskrit word for hen or rooster. Kukkuta bird has a crest similar to chub, the tuft on top of the head. In fact the crest of the hen or cock is known as Chuda in Sanskrit. Any crest is a Chuda. Perhaps seeing the similarity with hen’s crest, people had ridiculed them, by referring to the ‘chuda’ of the hen. This kind of references are possible only if the early Ukrainians had used the Sanskrit word (Chuda) or its corrupt form (Chub) for the tuft.

(This picture is for explanatory purpose. There is no slur intended)

Another striking similarity is with the Tamil word for hen. Hen is known as ‘Koɻi’ in Tamil. Khokhol resembles Koɻi or its corrupt form Koli.

The importance attached to this Chub (tuft) is such that many Ukrainian surnames are derived from this word. The origins of this tradition among Ukranians are not known, nor do they know the concept behind this tradition. At the most they remember it as a mark of identity – much like the Cholia Brahmins, who are identified by their top-knot.  

The concept behind the tuft is well marked in the Vedic culture. In the Vedic tradition, any boy on reaching the 3rd year must undergo the ‘Chaula’ ritual in which the first shaving of the head is done keeping a small lock of hair untouched. And the tuft will remain throughout one’s life. There are many meanings attached to it. One among them is associated with the offer of oblations to departed ancestors – which is done by the water dripping down from the tuft after a bath. At the most sublime level, it stands for the qualities needed to know the Supreme Brahman.

The location of the tuft in the head and the strands had varied between sects, but they are based on some ideology. For the Chola, its location on the crest comes with a symbolism as explained in the beginning of this article. The Ukrainian tuft also seems to imply a symbolism. However, the continuing presence of rituals and the meanings attached to the tuft in the Vedic culture seem to be a precursor to and also antiquated than the Ukrainian tradition.

A likely cause for the presence of this tradition with a similar root-name at two places, one in India / South India and another in Ukraine could have happened with the movement of people of the same stock between these two places. The missing link is provided by Sibi’s descendants who moved further north of India into Central and north Europe.  

From Sibi’s region to Ukraine.

The name Ukrajina for Ukraine sounds like ugra-jina  -both Sanskrit words, where Jina refers to the old or wise that is usually associated with Jaina or Buddha. Sibi was an exalted person – though associated with Buddha later. His region had the mountain called Bodhibhavana – the likely name for Hindukush Mountain. His descendants on their northward migration might have taken up that name and image while being fierce or even noble (ugra has several meanings including these two) in their incursions to newer locations.

 What genetic studies say...

So far we have discussed two issues:

(1) The similarity in top-knot among Ukrainians and Chola or South Indian sects with some presence in the Indus region as well.

(2) The diversification of a people in India from parental clans into sub-sub clans over a long period of time. This can be articulated as follows:

Cholavarman known for a specific identity of sporting a top-knot had his immediate ancestry somewhere in the northern region of Indus-Sarasvatī regions, which can be dated based on a research on the time of origin of River Cauvery in South India. Let us name this ancestry as (a)

There is a possibility of a sub-clan of him (Chola) settled down in the Indus- Sarasvatī region during the Harappan phase. This is (b)

A branch of his (Chola) ancestral sub-clan had existed near Swat valley and further moved to Balkh (Bactria) and Kekaya (BMAC). From there it had spread out to the north – to Central and North Europe. This is (c)

Yet all of them had their paternal origins in Manu that had its presence in North East India in Ayodhya! This is (d)

The relationship between all these (a,b,c,d) can be expressed in the language of genetics. All these pertain to Y-chromosome. All these can be arranged in time scale as follows:

(d) is the founder parent Haplogroup {Manu}

(a) is the first division from (d) from which (a1) deviated  {Chola moved out}.

(c) is a division from (d) that appeared after (a) but before (a1). (c) moved out of India in the northern direction possibly creating further diversifications. {Sibi’s descendants}

(b) could be a sub clan of (d) and / or (a1) with further diversifications. {The location is in  IVC}.

Looking for the available genetic studies, Y-Haplogroup R1a1 is found to be present in India (including Pakistan and Afghanistan) particularly in the Indo-Gangetic plain and in Eastern Europe around Poland and Ukraine! Interestingly it is present in high frequencies among Iyengar Brahmins of (31%) of South India (Sengupta et al 2006). It is present high among Ukrainians (44%) from a total of 6 haplogroups detected there (Kahrkov V N et al 2004). In another research its frequency (R1a1) was found to be 50% among the Ukrainians (Battaglia et al 2009)

A clinching revelation of the ancestral location of this Haplogroup comes from the research of Sharma et al (2009). It says,

“...observation of R1a1* in different tribal population groups, existence of Y-haplogroup R1a* in ancestors and extended phylogenetic analyses of the pooled dataset of 530 Indians, 224 Pakistanis and 276 Central Asians and Eurasians bearing the R1a1* haplogroup supported the autochthonous origin of R1a1 lineage in India and a tribal link to Indian Brahmins.”

The ancestral haplogroups are R, R1 and R1a are scanty, meaning they are mostly gone.
What this means to the dispersal of people like Chola and Sibi that we discussed in the beginning?

Y-Haplogroup R1a1 are sub-sub clans of Manu?

The founder person of Indian masses was Manu whose presence started at the beginning of Holocene. He entered River Sarasvati through a flood in the ocean. This is possible only through Arabian Sea. This at one stroke makes the AIT irrelevant as the Vedic rishis did not come through mountain passes but through waters – Varuna-Mitra and aided by Indra (rains). This puts Manu’s previous abode in the west coast of India or south of it. In other words the pre-Holocene presence of this Haplogroup was very much in South India.

  • The false idea spread by AIT theorists is that the invading Aryans became the Brahmins who dominated others by segregating them into castes lower to them in status. The above genetic study demolishes this theory. The finding that Brahmins were indigenous to India and they were founders of other castes is in tandem with how varnas were recognised and castes developed.

  • The differences in the attitudes and attributes of people were recognised and segregated as varnas. These differences exist in nature and by nature. Even among the own sons of Manu, few were ascetically inclined (Brahmins), one was a Vaisya and others were Kshatriyas. That is, those with the same Haplogroup from the same gene pool can be anyone among Brahmins, Vaisyas and Kshatriyas. If one understands this, there won’t be any difficulty in understanding the genetic finding on Brahmins having links with the other castes (identified by occupation and / or mix-up of varnas).

  • At times the Brahmins (and other varnas too) become a separate caste owing to a reason of going away from the traditional vocation or on becoming a vratya (व्रात्य). A Tamil Sangam poem says that a Brahmin not engaged in doing Yajna, takes up the job of shell-cutting. Castes were identified based on the profession. The Shell-cutting Brahmin would no longer be recognised as a Brahmin but by a caste name. Genetically both the Brahmin ancestor and shell-cutting descendant would be seen coming from a same gene pool.

  • In Mahabharata (3-82), sage Pulastya identifies a place in Kashmir somewhere to the east of Vitasta (Jhelum River) where Brahmins originated for the first time. This place is the sacred lake called Devika, where Lord Maheswara is worshiped. What this could mean is that the stratification and sanctification of varnas was done at this place of Maheswara by the sages of Manu’s times.

  • The founder groups namely R, R1 and R1a were in India only but mostly extinct. This could refer Manu and the early people. There is a wide geographical gap between the later formed R1a1, in Eastern Europe and India. This is reflective of the location of the people (Cholas, Ukrainians etc) identified with a common cultural trait as explained above.  The best brief of this can be read here. Salient features from this is reproduced below:

‘Most published discussions of R1a origins are actually about the origins of the R1a1a (R-M17 or R-M198) sub-clade, which is both numerically dominant, and the most studied part of R1a. Data so far collected indicates that there two widely separated areas of high frequency, one in South Asia, around Indo-Gangetic Plain, and the other in Eastern Europe, around Poland and Ukraine. The historical and prehistoric possible reasons for this are the subject of on-going discussion and attention amongst population geneticists and genetic genealogists, and are considered to be of potential interest to linguists and archaeologists also’.

The sad part of the last sentence of the above quote is that they have failed to recognise the history of India known from the internal sources right from southern tip of India to northern Devika Lake or from an age old tradition of the much ignored tuft at the crest of the head!  


Sengupta et al (2006)

Not to be missed:

*  Bharata: In the narration of Bharata getting accepted by Dushyanta as his son, on the word of Shakuntala, a verse explanatory of his name runs as follows: "The mother is only the receptacle; it is the father by whom a son is begotten. Cherish thy son, Dushyanta; treat not Sakuntala with disrespect. Sons, who are born from the paternal loins, rescue their progenitors from the infernal regions. Thou art the parent of this boy; Sakuntala has spoken truth." From the expression cherish, Bharaswa, the prince was called Bharata (Vishnu Purana 4-19)

On the one side Shakunthala had spoken the truth, on the other Dushyanta accepted it and decided to ‘cherish’ the child. Bharas (भरस्) is the root word meaning ‘cherished’. Therefore the child came to be known as Bharata.

Like how Dushyanta cherished this son, our country is cherished by the Vedic culture. Like father by whom the son is begotten, the Vedic culture has begotten us and is cherishing us.

Therefore this country is known as Bharata.

For Vedic culture to cherish us there is one requirement fulfilled by us -we have to be truthful – to ourselves, to this land and to the cherisher, the Vedic culture!