Living Pre-Rigvedic and Early Rigvedic Traditions of Himalayas (An Old and Rare Book)
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Living Pre-Rigvedic and Early Rigvedic Traditions of Himalayas (An Old and Rare Book)

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Item Code: NAP905
Author: P. C. Kashyap
Publisher: Pratibha Prakashan
Language: English
Edition: 2000
ISBN: 8177020048
Pages: 235
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.5 inch X 7.5 inch
Weight 620 gm
About the Book

History of a people is the story of their culture. Traditions are as relevant to it as any inscribed or excavated testimony. India's ancient past is seen, exclusively in relation to Indo-Gangetic plains and Himalaya is dismissed as an inconsequential borderland. Dr. Kashyap's study shows that it is precisely this great mountain that has been the cradle and the most creative workshop of Indian culture. Preserved in its hoary fairs and rituals are pre-Rigvedic and early-Rigvedic traditions which open up an entirely new vista for a reappraisal of ancient India. In them we find history unfold itself and culture evolve over countless years into a great urban civilisation. They bring us face to face with living proof of continuity of Indian culture, help outline .its chronology and sort out Vedic-Harappan tangle. The author leads us to an amazing panorama. We see Indra and Vrtra in mortal conflict over possession of fire and control over water and also the birth of a multi-dimensional universal myth. We meet people called Sisnadevah and the ones deified as Maruts. We witness Purusamedha performed in settlements of Harappan immigrants. We come across gods responding to polite invitations and urgent summons of their devotees; join them in Sura Soma drinking sessions and sumptuous feasts. We enjoy their company on hazardous journeys along banks of the Saptsindhus to reach (Arabian) sea and across high ridges and passes to shake hands with neighbours in Iran and Central Asia.

"Living Pre-Rigvedic and Early Rigvedic Traditions in Himalayas" with its wealth of fascinating documentation will be of interest to every reader with a sense of Indian antiquity and some curiosity about its identity.

About the Author

Dr .. P.C. Kashyap, noted ethnoarchaeologist, folklorist, journalist is' a student of ancient India. He specialises in life and culture of the Himalaya.

He discovered a cluster of living Harappan settlements along the Satluj banks upstream Ropar. His work "Surviving Harappan Civilisation" was described as "a sensational book (which) opens up a hitherto neglected line of ethno-archaeological investigations."

Dr. Kashyap pioneered scientific studies of Himalayan culture and folklore. His Ph.D thesis "Kulvi Lok Sahitya" was adjudged "a brilliant piece of research". He has also authored "Himalaya - Aitihasik Aur Pauranik Kaihain"; "Himachal Pradesh - Aitihasik Aur Sanskritik Adhyayan"; and "Himachali Sanskriti Ka Itihas".

He has been a member of Indian Information Service and of National Academy of Letters (Sahitya Akademy).


After the tragic partition of India in 1947, due to which 5000 years old sites of' Harappa and Mohenjodaro of the Harappan or the Indus-Saraswati Civilization remained in Pakistan, Indian archaeologists started looking for other similarly old sites within the new boundaries of India. Their search led to not only the discoveries of such monumental sites as Lothal, Kalibangan, Dholavira, etc. but also reopened some old polemics of ancient Indian history, the foremost being the birth and continuity of the Vedic Aryan tradition and relationship of the Vedic Aryan tradition with the Harappan tradition.

Many issues concerning the Vedic Aryan and Harappan association and dichotomy have been discussed by Indian and foreign scholars and it is now generally agreed that there has never been any substance in the theory of Aryan Invasion of Harappan towns. In fact, it now stands completely rejected. However, the problem of Vedic-Harappan dichotomy still looms large in the minds of many scholars mainly because of the Max Muller's interpretation of the Vedas, the Vedic hymns and the Vedic people and John Marshall's picture of the Harappan Civilization - the former was projected as semi-nomadic and war-like while the latter as urban and peaceful. Normally in the evolutionary model of the development of civilization the 'nomadic pastoral' stage should precede the 'urban' stage but in that case the 'Aryan Invasion of the Harappan towns' theory of Mortimer Wheeler had to face a rough weather. Thus, the Evolutionary Model was not used by the Westerners to understand the first phase of the Indian Civilization. It was easy to do that because although Max Muller felt that it was impossible to date the Vedas, whether to 5000 B.C. or 3000 B.C. or 2000 B.c. yet at least once he talked about 1200-1000 B.C. as the date of the Rigveda. Wheeler, on the other hand, had put 1500 B.C. as the end date of the Harappan or Indus-Saraswati Civilization which left a clear-cut 300 years of gap in which Wheeler easily pushed in the Aryan Invasion.

In recent years scholars in India started looking at the Vedic hymns afresh making statistical data on the occurrence of cow, horse, chariot etc. and also the various contexts in which they occur. Bhagwan Singh questioned many of the meanings attributed by Max Muller to the hymns. He has been the one person after Max Muller who studied for more than a decade each and every hymn of the Rigveda and other Vedic hymns, including Brahmanas in the 'economic' model, because Max Muller's studies were also made in this model when he declared to an unsuspecting Indian scholarship that Vedic India was the India of semi-nomadic pastoral people occasionally with limited or marginal agriculture, and semi-permanent settlements of mud houses award with Thatch Bhagwan Singh studies have shown just the opposite, that the Vedic hymns throw a flood of light on metals and metallurgy, minerals and semi-precious stones, trade and commerce, industry and merchant, boats and navigation, islands and bases' in islands, houses of around a dozen varieties, including double storeyed brick houses. This work has, therefore, finally shattered the Max Mullerian semi-nomadic pastoral picture of the Vedic economy and replaced it by an early urban economy in which trade and commerce played as much an important role as agriculture and pastoralism. Max Muller stands guilty. He knowingly and purposefully with a sinister design, as his personal letters also show, misled not one but several generations of human beings on this earth.

Once that is settled, we find that the Vedic society is represented archaeologically by the 3rd millennium B.C. scenario of north-western India of the Indus-Saraswati Divide when the Early and Mature phases of the Harappan or the Indus-Saraswati Civilization prevailed. It, therefore, removes the dichotomy between the Harappan and the Vedic civilizations and present them as the two sides of the same culture-complex - cities and villages existed side by side. It is common knowledge that pre-industrial cities de- pended largely on the produce and the labour support of the villages. There has always been many times more villages than cities at a given point of time, in present-day India as well.

The learned author of this monograph, Dr. P.c. Kashyap, adopts this model of early Indian history and then not only poses a very vital question but also throws absolutely new light by way of its answer. His approach is framed within Oral History and Cultural anthropology, sometimes called 'ethno-Archaeology'.

It is common knowledge that the Vedas employ highly sophisticated language, extremely standardised with a very complex system of grammar, phonetics and lexicon, in Padapathas, Niruktas and Nighantu. Hence it presents a picture of considerably developed society. It, therefore, pre-supposes the existence of pre-Vedic folk stratum of culture which through the process of change-and-continuity got fully integrated into the Vedic system of beliefs and practices. Still, the author very well argues, on the basis of anthropological studies, that in back-water areas the pre-Vedic and Vedic folk stratum may still be found existing. He identifies this back-water area in the central and western Shivalik hills of the lower Himalayas, watered by seven rivers of Punjab, Haryaria and Himachal Pradesh. This is the region in which he has lived for decades and studied minutely many local fairs and rituals held and practiced. He then went through the Vedic literature to locate if he could find similar beliefs, rituals and mythologies. It paid him . dividends. He has successfully located and convincingly proved that the valleys of the Himalaya Shivalik hills have indeed preserved the Pre-Vedic and Early Vedic rituals and mythologies. One such mythology is the Indra- Vrtra legend in which Indra, who owns fire, in a successful warfare kills Vrtra and releases water for his people'which was held by Vrtra. The whole legend is enacted by the local people yearly in a play called Buddhi-Diyaudi. This is not only fascinating, it is extremely enlightening. His description and Vedic parallelism in Chapter-I is eye-opener. No one earlier to Dr. Kashyap . had drawn the attention of the scholarly world to the continuation of a major Rigvedic mythology in the present day folk festivals; it is still alive in the remote villages of Himachal Pradesh in India where like Ram Lila it is enacted and celebrated with popular participation.

Dr. Kashyap has studied yet another popularly enacted Rigvedic mythology in the villages of mid and western Shivalik hills; it is Sisnadevai: l or the phallus form of Creation Myth. Creation is basic to all kinds of life. In mammalians creation is achieved through copulation. Ours is the Maithuni sansar as the Puranas mention. Thus, both the male and female generative organs have been the objects of veneration and propitiation in one form or the other in very many ancient societies of the world. Pre-Christian England, Argentina, etc. have hundreds of tall stone phalli planted in villages for veneration; several of them have been turned into crosses at a later date by the Christians. Nude female figures in stone and terracotta have been found not only in India but also Neolithic and Bronze Age West Asia and Central Asia. Thus, the ancients expressed their gratitude to the male and female principles of creation. They required more hands to till the land. They, therefore, desired more children. And children are born through the union of male and female organs. There is nothing obscene about it. In all pagan religions all forces of nature which create, and also sustain, life are called devas, i.e. one which gives. No one knows for certain whether Christ or Vishnu can sustain his or her life but one experiences everyday the benefits rivers, trees, sun, moon etc. bestow on him or her. Hence there is intimate relationship between human beings, animals and flora and other forces and items of nature. Thus, ancients all over the world had very healthy attitude towards the generative organs and copulation. In Christianity, however, the birth of a human being is out of sin but it has never been so in India; the birth of a child is due to the merits the parents earned in their life because of their good deeds. Unfortunately, with colonialism, the Christian sense of morality pervaded the intellectual atmosphere of India and towards the most natural and basic phenomenon of ~e we have developed the attitude of Original Sin of the Adam and Eve which is fundamentally opposed to Hindu view of life.

Once we understand Indian view of sex organs and copulation, which is absolutely opposite to the Christian view in these matters, there is absolutely no difficulty in understanding the underpinnings of fairs and festivals woven round generative organs.

Jhiru is one of such plays which accepts this reality. Dr. Kashyap in Chapter II has given a graphic account of this festivity. He has rightly observed that it was in all probability a pre-Vedic popular enactment which continues in the hilly tracts of mid Himalaya.

Naramedh or human sacrifice is mentioned in the Vedas as one of the four medhi yajnas or sacrifices. In the Bhunda enactment one can easily locate the Naramedh tradition. However, the animals killed on such occasions appeared to be barbaric to the Britishers who practically stopped it in the 20th century, though there has never been a total ban on it and at different points of time rituals connected with this sacrifice have been performed in this century.

Maruts are repeatedly mentioned in' the early Vedic literature. They seem to represent the Khasas who are located in whole region. They hold Bishu festival, which is primarily secular but reflects the Vedic Maruts in very many ways in archery and other martial and non-martial competitions. At the end, I have absolutely no hesitation in recording my deep sense of gratitude to Dr. Kashyap for bringing to our notice the solid evidence of the continuation of several pre-Vedic and Vedic beliefs, belief systems still living in the rituals, fairs and festivals of the sub-Himalayan region watered by Saptasindhus or Seven Rivers. It is a classic example of Higher Tradition being preserved in the so-called Lower Tradition.


Started as a pastime to escape the ennui of a retired life, at Dr. H.D.Sankalia's suggestion in a newspaper review of my book "Surviving Harappan Civilisation", this study turned out to be a time-consuming, taxing and occasionally heart-breaking venture. It has been a stimulating, exciting, yet, at the same time, frustrating exercise. I was mentally not prepared for the physical ordeal of travelling, mostly on foot, in adverse weather, in difficult terrain and sometimes at great heights for field studies and collection of data. Occasionally I would be assailed by doubts whether the labour had any socio-historical value at all in this fast changing age. Deeper reflection how- ever, convinced me that this in fact is precisely the time for such participant observation - based field studies and their analysis. Post-modern scholarly studies being done in sociology, anthropology, archaeology and the history of science, ideas and cultures are now providing a markedly different perspective on the vexed question of the remotest past. In Indian context, old notions are yielding place to new .Insights.

To aggravate my worries, there was an unforeseen mishap. The manuscript I had given for typing was almost lost. When retrieved key portions were missing. The gentleman to whom the job had been entrusted just disappeared. The missing material had to be reconstructed, which proved more difficult than to write the entire text afresh. The situation was compounded by the fact that there was none to whom one could turn for informed advice and assistance, for the Himalayans in general did not realise the historical value of their fairs and festivals. The urban intellectuals and historians, a majority of them, scoffed at folk traditions being treated as a source material for reconstruction of ancient history and the traditionalist Vedic scholars laughed the attempt away as that of an ignorant upstart.

I am no professional historian or archaeologist, but had been only a Governmental journalist. I am fully conscious of my limitations. It has been a lonely journey, the only companion being Tagore's famous line: jadi tor dak shune keu na ase tabe ekla chalo reo I have walked alone and toiled alone, sustained by the conviction that the task had to be completed, for the tremendous sweep of the electronic media and the unrelenting pace of postmodernism might sweep away the traditions of the region much sooner than expected and the priceless historical data be lost for ever. I hope this cultural archaeology of the Himalayas detailing the living pre-Rigvedic and early Rigvedic history will be seen in this perspective. It is neither a discovery of fossils nor the result of excavations. It is an eye-witness report on survivors of an age which is yet to be scientifically determined. I owe thanks to the gentle souls who, irrespective of their ideological leanings, soothed my frayed nerves and prodded me on to persist in my endeavours. I acknowledge with deep gratitude all the authors whose scholarly works I have consulted and when needed cited. My special thanks to Dr. Bhagwan Singh whose monumental works have been a source of references to me. I am grateful to the sthit-pragya intellectual H.Y Sharda Prasad who went through parts of the manuscript, to the fellow Himalayan Dr. P.C. Joshi to S.Prasad and P.K. Tandon who read the manuscript from cover to cover, to Dr. Bansi Ram Sharma, C.R.B. Lalit and Acharya Diwakar Dutt for their generosity in supplying me photographs and reference books. Thanks to R.K. Jain, a friendly counselor and a source of encouragement.

I am deeply grateful to the historian-archaeologist scholar Dr. S.P.Gupta, who has been a constant inspiration to me and has promptly acceded to my request to write a foreword to the book. But for him, the work might not have been completed.

I pay my respectful homage to Dr. Sankalia. I wish the findings were presented to him when he was alive.

I owe special thanks to my wife, Sudarshana, for critically examining the formulations; and to my daughter-in-law, Dr. Urmila Kashyap who has been untiring in nursing me back to health; to my younger daughter-in-law Dr. Purnirna Kashyap and sons Avinash and Prabhas for their unwavering support which enabled me to keep up my spirits.


The history of a people is the story of their culture. This story records not only their political fortunes but also social, economic and religious contours in time and space. It is not dependent on dates and dynasties. Inscribed, minted, drawn, moulded, sculptured, written or excavated testimony is, of course, very important, but equally indispensable, particularly in India, is folklore. Folk tradition is the repository of the people's past, their ancient memories. The oral or folk tradition is as basic as the written text for the entire ancient literature the world over was once only oral, srut. It became the Veda, the Avesta, the Jataka or the Bible only after the oral tradition was sifted and compiled for memorising or writing. It was this srut which fired the imagination of the Vedic poets to compose their hymns, a fact vouchsafed in Rigveda (x. 88 .15) itself where the poets speak of having heard two traditions, one relating to deities and the other relating to men - dve sruti asrnavam pitranamaham devanam uta martyanam. It means that the themes had come to the poets through the word of mouth or tradition. These themes and traditions were ancient to the Rigvedic poets also. But then how ancient is the ancient in the context of a people as ancient as the Indians?.

Modern archaeology and modem anthropology and history in general markedly follow the traditional Judaeo-Christian concept of time. They differ from Indian or even Greek concepts to a very great extent. Ancient Indian historical literature, particularly the Puranas, also called Itihasas, place human existence in the context of repeating time cycles called Yuga and Kalpas, lasting hundreds of millions of years. During this entire time, according to the Puranic accounts, humans co-existed with creatures in some ways resembling the earlier tool-making hominids of modern evolutionary accounts.

Rigveda is generally perceived to be eternal, which means that it mentions events, men and their deeds, real or imagined, of a still distant past. And notwithstanding certain dissenting voices, the Veda is accepted as the source material of ancient Indian history. In the Vedic and Puranic texts there are allusions to a primitive stage when people lived in forests and caves, moved naked and free or covered in leaves and barks, with no sex Living Pre-Rigvedic & Early Rigvedic Traditions of Himalayas taboo and no matrimonial bond. The Rigveda also mentions the earliest discord for power or supremacy i.e. for possession of fire and control over water and its ultimate evolution in a grand myth, the Myth of Creation. It delineates different phases the early people passed through to create a culture unparalleled in its time. As such Rigveda preserves a gold-mine of historical data.

Similarly the Himalaya has preserved, as if in deep freeze, the story of Indian people from the very ancient to the modem times. Here we find history living in the present, unfossilised and unburied under the heap of time.

It is rather paradoxical that a region which at one time came to be called the land of kriya hina mlechhas and vrishalas, the outcasts who were devoid of any contact with Vedas and Vedic culture, should preserve fairs, yajnas, ceremonies and rituals which directly relate to Rigvedic events, episodes, allusions practices and personages. For the modernists, however, these living remnants of India's remotest past are no better than 'barbaric vestiges of a savage past, which fail to answer question of history' and as such are 'irrelevant to reconstruction of ancient Indian story.'

Among the noteworthy fairs, festivals, practices and rituals in the Himalayan terrain of the Rigvedic Sapta-sindhus - the Yamuna, Sarasvati, Sutudri (Satluj), Vipasa (Beas), Parusni (Ravi), Asikni (Chenab), Vitasta Jhelum) and Sindhu (Indus) are Baddhi-Diyaudi-Birtasura Meld; jhiru; Bhunda and Bishu which affirn the survival even today of pre-Rigvedic and early Rigvedic society.

Jhiru presents a part view of the primitive pre-Rigvedic life when man lived free without any inhibition, sexual or social. It brings us face to face with people who denied the overlordship of Indra and other Vedic gods and did not believe in performance of yajnas. The Vedic elite called them' sisnadeuah, those who were given to sport with sisna (phallus).

Bishu, on the other hand, clearly indicates that the great Rigvedic Maruts were after all humans and still exist as Khasa-Khasiyas. Though followers of Indra (Imra or the god of lightning, Bijat) they do not abhor sisna play. This is so because both come from the same stock.

Baddhi Diyaudi gives an eye-witness account of man's first-ever recorded struggle for control over fire and water, the two basic elements. It was a long-drawn-out bloody conflict. Of the two rivals, Indra possessed fire and Vrtra controlled water. The tussles were most probably two separate events which with cultural advance assumed the form of hero and dragon conflict i.e. the Myth of Creation. What is of great historical significance is that this Exclusive Creation Drama of Buddhi Diyaudi portrayals in interiorof the Sarasvati-Satluj-Beas valleyshas had its echo in in the Babylonian Epic where it formed part of a New year rituals some 4000 years ago.


Phonetic Symbols Generally used in the Bookxiii
List of Platesxv-xvi
iThe Himalayan Sapt-sindhu Region
iiProbale Origin of Rigvedic River Saraswati
iiiSthanas and theris, The Harappan Settlements in Himalaya
Chapter-1Buddhi Diyaudi: the Indra-Vrta Legend17715
Chapter-2Jhiru: the Sisnadevah Show49-80
Chapter-3Bhunda: the Naramedha116-146
Chapter-4Khasas: The Vedic Maruts147-172
Chapter-5Himalayan Pantheon173-187

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