Speculations about the Druhyus-Part 2

Part 2: Druhyu, Dasyu and Trasadasyu

Continued from Part 1


In the previous post about Druhyu culture, we had concluded with a brief note about Trasadasyu of the Iksvakava, the grandson of the renowned Mandhatr. Now, although we do not have any account of this Trasadasyu’s exploits, (He is mentioned as the son of Purukutsa and as the father of Sambhuta, and skipped over in most of the Puranic accounts) it is only natural to infer that he must have been more than a mere geneaological filler for the Iksvakava, given that his given name is very charged and has violent connotations. ‘Trasadasyu’ literally means, “Terror to the Dasyu”. It suggests that he was brought up for a militant calling; to subjugate and utterly destroy the Dasyu. In the previous post, we saw that the chief antagonist in Mandhatr’s battles were the Druhyus and in the case of his son Purukutsa, it was the Druhyus again, led by Gandhara (Mythologized as Gandharvas). It is possible that the once powerful Druhyu, although rendered weak after two generations of continuous assault by the Iksvakava, might have attempted to revive its lost glory and make a comeback. It is likely that Trasadasyu might have had a fierce encounter with the Druhyus.


This makes greater sense in the context of the statement that Mandhatr became an Angirasa. That is, he and his descendants, who were born as Iksvakava Kshatriyas, had become Brahmanas of the Angirasa clan. The Angirasa absorbed several prominent Kshatriya clans into their folds and spawned new gotrams. Even those of pure Brahmana descent among them were often involved in the war enterprise, such as Drona, Ashvatthama or the group of Bharadvajins (Bharadvaja Barhaspatya, Payu Bharadvaja & Samyu Bharadvaja) who were the seers of the sixth mandala of the Rig Veda. For those who have a taste for the history of the great priestly clans, they would know the warring spirit of the Angirasas. Their being Brahmanas hardly stopped them from being a fearsome and formiddable enemy to anyone; a searing reminder of our heroic roots-of both the Brahma and the Kshatra. In the Rig Veda, Sarama the bitch threatens the miserly Panis by warning them about the “terrible” (Ghoran) Angirases. Brihaspati, one of the founding fathers of the redoubtable Angirasa clan, was himself attributed this ability to inspire terror among his foes, and this aspect of his is immortalized in the memory of the composers of the Rig Veda, who point out the awfulness of this Angirasa doyen in his encounter with the Panis; a far cry from the weak “auspicious planet” status he has been relegated to in the temples of today.


Coming back, Trasadasyu must have been groomed for greatness with Angirasa influence, in order to prepare him for an assault against the Druhyus. However, it remains pertinent to determine the identity of the ‘Dasyu’ referred to in the name of our Iksvaku prince. If, chronologically speaking, this is the first ever use of a personal name that refers to the “Dasyus” in a hostile sense, we could hypothesize that the Dasyus most probably stood for the Druhyus and that it was probably a perjorative rendition of ‘Druhyu’ in a Vedic dialect that we no longer have access to.  Unfortunately, little work has been done to derive the etymology of the word, ‘Dasyu’. Attempts have been made to make it a cognate with Avestan ‘Dahyu’, meaning province or land and then derive a Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root –das. However, this approach is a mere distraction from arriving at any proper understanding, as the Rig Veda, for the most part, predates the Avesta. Zarathustra’s reforms of the old religion, his conception of evil daevas and etc, can only be understood as a response to the more ancient Vedic tradition. Furthermore, if we take the pauranika tradition as seriously as it ought to be, the usage of the word, “Dasyu” predates even the composition of the oldest hymns of the Rig Veda, book 6. (Here, Divodasa, the near ancestor of Sudas, is spoken of in a contemporaneous sense, and Trasadasyu of the Iksvaku is long antecendent to Divodasa of the North Pancala dynasty) Hence, it would not be too wise to figure out the meaning of Dasyu in this way.


In the Rig Veda, two groups are singled out as enemies of the Aryas: The Dasas and Dasyus. Some scholars, such as Talageri (unfortunately his overall work lacks scientific and objective claims, and his argument for OIT is  far removed from a proper appreciation of linguistics) have shown the crucial difference between these terms. Due credit must be given to Talageri for showing in The Historical Analysis of the Rig Veda that the hostilities against the Dasyu have primarily religious undertones, as indicated by the following adjectives and appelations used against the Dasyus:



nyakratūn ghrathino mṛdhravācaḥ paṇīnraśraddhānavṛdhānayajñān |
pra-pra tān dasyūnraghnirvivāya pūrvaścakārāparānayajyūn     VII.6.3


vadhīrhi dasyuṃ dhaninaṃ ghanenanekaścarannupaśākebhirindra |
dhanoradhi viṣuṇak te vyāyannayajvanaḥ sanakāḥ pretimīyuḥ     I.33.4

anyavratam amānuṣam ayajvānam adevayum |
ava svaḥ sakhā dudhuvīta parvataḥ sughnāya dasyum parvataḥ     VIII.70.11


vi jānīhyāryān ye ca dasyavo barhiṣmate randhayā śāsadavratān |
śākī bhava yajamānasya coditā viśvet tā te sadhamādeṣu cākana     I.51.8

tvaṃ hi śūraḥ sanitā codayo manuṣo ratham |
sahāvān dasyumavratamoṣaḥ pātraṃ na śociṣā     I.175.3

nānā hyaghne.avase spardhante rāyo aryaḥ |
tūrvanto dasyumāyavo vrataiḥ sīkṣanto avratam     VI.14.3

suvitasya manāmahe.ati setuṃ durāvyam |
sāhvāṃso dasyumavratam     IX.41.2


akarmā dasyurabhi no amanturanyavrato amānuṣaḥ |
tvantasyāmitrahan vadhardāsasya dambhaya     X.22.8


anyavratam amānuṣam ayajvānam adevayum |
ava svaḥ sakhā dudhuvīta parvataḥ sughnāya dasyum parvataḥ     VIII.70.11


nyakratūn ghrathino mṛdhravācaḥ paṇīnraśraddhānavṛdhānayajñān |
pra-pra tān dasyūnraghnirvivāya pūrvaścakārāparānayajyūn     VII.6.3


pari yadindra rodasī ubhe abubhojīrmahinā viśvataḥ sīm |
amanyamānānabhi manyamānairnirbrahmabhiradhamo dasyumindra     I.33.9

yaḥ śaśvato mahyeno dadhānānamanyamānāñcharvā jaghāna |
yaḥ śardhate nānudadāti śṛdhyāṃ yo dasyorhantā  sa janāsa indraḥ     II.12.10


anyavratam amānuṣam ayajvānam adevayum |
ava svaḥ sakhā dudhuvīta parvataḥ sughnāya dasyum parvataḥ     VIII.70.11

akarmā dasyurabhi no amanturanyavrato amānuṣaḥ |
tvantasyāmitrahan vadhardāsasya dambhaya     X.22.8


achā kaviṃ nṛmaṇo ghā abhiṣṭau svarṣātā maghavan nādhamānam |
ūtibhis tam iṣaṇo dyumnahūtau ni māyāvān abrahmā dasyur arta     IV.16.9


Apart from these adjectives, the Rig Veda also makes a statement that might point out the reason behind these hostilities.

māyābhirutsisṛpsata indra dyāmārurukṣataḥ |
ava dasyūnradhūnuthāḥ     VIII.14.14

“You have hurled down, Indra, the Dasyus who glide upwards by tricks (Maya) and (try to) ascend to heaven.”

As Wash Edward Hale explains after citing these verses in his insightful, although slightly biased, ‘Ásura- in Early Vedic Religion’ (Pg. 146): “Perhaps this means that the Aryans accused the Dasyus of attempting to usurp their religion. The prohibitions found in the later Dharmasastra texts against Sudras participating in practices that belong to the twice born make it quite likely that such usurpation would have been frowned on at an earlier time, too.”

Even the rather secular charges against the Dasyus that they were not gift-giving (apṛṇato), when seen in the light of the overall religious focus of the rhetoric against them, seem to imply that the frustrations of the rishis, who composed these hyms, stemmed from a deep-seated sense of economic insecurity. The Dasyus, of non-Brahmanical lineage and with no hereditary kinship with any Rishi clan, executed the sacrifices by themselves without the involvement of the traditional priests, thus depriving them of a source of income and also initiate a trend that could be imitated by other warrior clans.

It is possible that the Angirases, as one of the main founders of a pyro-centric cult along with the Bhargavas, felt that their interests were being threatened by a Kshatriya encroachment into a ritual territory that rightfully belonged to them. Thus, it might have been in their interests to rally for the Ikshvakava cause against the Drauhyava, who might have been pioneers of a Kshatriyas-led ritual system. In the course of time, after the Druhyu had been cast away into the obscure pages of history by the Ikshvakava assault, the term, “Dasyu” might have lost its original connection with “Druhyu” and become open to new meanings. However, it might have preserved a memory of this religious conflict in being possibly used as a hostile term in the Rig Veda for followers of a rival religion.

Although the Sudras almost uniformly experienced the disenfranchisement of their rights to Vedic rites, (With the notable exceptions of the Rathakara and Nishadha, who enjoyed a certain degree of presence in the ritual arena), a significant portion of them may have been descendants of conquered and consequently degraded Kshatriyas, who once enjoyed these rights. The Manava Dharma Shastra seems to imply a connection between Dasyus and Kshatriyas who had opposed the Brahmanical religion:

shanakaistu kriyAlopAdimAH kShatriyajAtayaH

vRiShalatvaM gatA loke brAhmaNAtikrameNa cha

puNDrakAshchoDadraviDAH  kAmbojA yavanAH shakAH

pAradApahlavAshchInAH kirAtA daradAH khashAH

mukhabAhUrupadjAnAM yA loke jAtayo bahiH

mlechChavAchashchAryavAchaH sarve te dasyavaH smRitAH

“In consequence of the omission of the sacred rites, and of their not consulting Brahmanas, the following tribes of Kshatriyas have gradually sunk in this world to the condition of Vrishalas;

The paundraka, the chodA, the dravidas, the kambojas, the yavanas, the shakAH, the pAradA, the pahlavA, the chinAH, the kirAtA, the daradAH and the Khasas.

All those tribes in this world, which are excluded from (the community of) those born from the mouth, the arms, the thighs, and the feet (of Brahman), are called Dasyus, whether they speak the language of the Mlecchas (barbarians) or that of the Aryans” MDS X.43-45

This verse from the MDS also discredits the opinion that the Dasyus were the “aboriginal, indigenous” people of India. Rather, they were a heterogenous group of great ethno-linguistic diversity, whose constituent tribes spoke either Arya Bhasha (Indic languages) or Mleccha Bhasha (Other languages). Thus, the demarcation between Dasyus and Non-Dasyus lies in their approach towards Brahmanas and whether they subscribed to the religious practices established by the Aryan people.

There is yet another piece of evidence from the Jaiminiya Brahmana (3.423) that clinches the case for the Kshatriya connection of the Dasyus. It comes in the form of a peculiar advice for an awfully specific situation:


“If one is wandering in the forest with a kshatriya and meets a Dasyu, he should be friendly.”

It is unclear in what context such an advice would have proven to be useful. However, there definitely seems to be an implication that the Dasyus are ethnically related to the Kshatriyas and that it is in a person’s interests  if he is amicable to a Dasyu in the presence of a Kshatriya in a secluded location, where the Kshatriya, having more freedom to act as he wills, might choose to act more favourable towards his Dasyu brethren. However, given the overwhelming lack of evidence, one can only speculate about the Drauhyava and their culture. There is still more to be discussed about the Bhargava connection of the Druhyus and the Kavasa clan, which produced two very distinguished individuals in Vedic history. But these are posts for a different time; but not too far ahead.

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