The Joy of Discovering Synchronisms-Part 2
In the previous post, we had discussed the full context of the Dasarajanya battle described in the Rig Veda and examined the complex web of relationships between Sudasa, Vasiṣṭha, Visvamitra, Jamadagni and Samvarana. We framed the whole event in light of both the RV as well as the Mbh narratives (The latter telling the tale of Samvarana’s exile to the Sindhu and subsequent success that brought back to power the Hastinapura dynasty) and had ended off with a promise to analyse a relevant passage from another Vedic text.
In the Jaiminiya Brahmana, 3.238-239, an interesting account of the Bharatas is provided:
tad v evAcakSate vaiSvAmitram iti bharatA ha vai sindhor aparatAra Asur ikSvAkubhir udbADhAH teSu ha viSvAmitrajamadagnI USatuH sa hendro bhayadam AsamAtyaM harI yayAca tau hAsmai na dadau tayor hAdattayor juhAvendra kroSa iti ammakas tasmiMs tiSThan — viSvAmitrajamadagnI, imA ikSvAkUNAM gA vindadhvam iti tad dhemAv aparatAre santau SuSruvatuH tau hocatur bharatAn — indro vai nAv ayaM hvayatImA ikSvAkUNAM gA vindadhvam iti eta, gA vindAmahA iti tau vai na imaM gAdhaM kurutam iti te vai yuNdhvam iti te ha yuyujire te hAbhyaveyuH tau hocatur — yA vaH palpUlanyas tA apAsyateti tA hApAsuH atha ha rAjanyabandhur yasmai palpUlany Asa, tAM hAdho ‘kSaM babandha tAv akAmayetAM — gAdho nAv ayaM syAd iti sa etad viSvAmitras sAmApaSyat tenAstuta………………………………..tato vai te tAn paSUn avindanta tad etat paSavyaM sAma ava paSUn runddhe bahupaSur bhavati ya evaM veda yad u viSvAmitro ‘paSyat tasmAd vaiSvAmitram ity AkhyAyate
A brief translation of this passage, based on that given by W. Caland is:
‘The Bharatas once upon a time were on one bank of the Sindhu hard pressed by the Iksvakus. With them (i.e. the Bharatas) stayed Visvamitra and Jamadagni. Now Indra asked of Bhayada, son of King Asamati, the two bay steeds which the gods had given him as gift. He did not give them to him.
These not having been given, he (Indra) called at Indrakrosa and said “Visvamitra and Jamadagni, acquire ye these cows of the Iksvakus.” These two being on the opposite bank heard this.
They said to the Bharatas, ‘ Indra calls unto us, acquire ye these cows of the Iksvakus, come along let us acquire them.’
They answered, ‘then, make you two this Sindhu fordable for us. ‘Then yoke ye your horses.” They yoked and descended into the river.
Then these two said, ‘Throw away all your palpulanis.’
They threw them away. Now a rajanyabandhu, who possessed a palpulanl bound it beneath the axle of his chariot.
Visvamitra and Jamadagni wished, “May this (Sindhu) be fordable for us.”
Visvamitra saw this saman and landed with it. They came into the river addressing these verses (RV 1 1 1.4-6) and respectfully approached the water. The stream became fordable and they crossed. .These two having passed behind the cows of the Iksvakus hemmed them in front and acquired the cattle. Since Visvamitra saw (the Saman), it is called Vaisvamitra Saman.
Interesting points to be drawn from the above Brahmana passage:
- In the Mahabharata account we had cited in the previous post, Samvarana, after his defeat by the Pancala (i.e. Sudasa of North Pancala), fled with his troops and resided on the banks of the Sindhu for a long time (The Mbh narrative mythologized it as a ‘thousand years’). The JB (Jaiminiya Brahmana) account speaks of the Bharatas staying on one side of the Sindhu, oppressed by the Iksvakus from the other side. If our hypothesis be right, these are the exiled Hastinapura Bharatas headed by Samvarana. At first sight, the additional term, ‘Iksvakus’ seems to suggest that the JB passage is dealing with an unrelated scenario rather than a confrontation between the Hastinapura Bharatas and North Pancala. This doubt seems to be accentuated by the fact that the Iksvakus do not play any known significant role in the RV as a whole, let alone the Dasarajanya battle. We will soon get to a deeper analysis of this issue and examine the strength of the hypothesis.
- Visvamitra and Jamadagni are residing with the Bharatas. This should have rung a bell to the indologists. But unfortunately, constant efforts to retro-fit the Vedic texts to accommodate a far earlier event of Aryan migration have diminished their intellectual prowess. In the earlier post, we saw how an alliance between these two Rishi families had developed. It is, then, hardly a surprise if these two Rishis had migrated to find favour with their nemesis’s (Sudasa’s) enemy. It would have been in their interests to render assistance to these Bharatas while they were in exile.
So, the above two reasons lend strength to Pargiter’s proposal that it was indeed Samvarana and his Bharatas (soldiers) Sudasa had defeated in the Dasarajanya. Now, we have to discuss the issue of the Iksvakus. Why does the text not mention anything about Sudasa or refer in any way to North Pancala but instead states that the Bharatas were oppressed by the Iksvakus?
A point that has to be noted is the Vedic texts themselves are mainly the pre-occupations of the priestly clans and when it does refer to the ruling dynasties, it’s focus is limited to a narrow area within Madhyadesa, where the Aila kings (the lunar dynasty kings) are the main royal actors, the Iksvakus, Kosalas, Videha are respectable spectators and the kingdoms in the far east as well as in the Northwest and beyond are condescended upon as barbarians at worst and outsiders at best. The references to the solar dynasties are scant in the earliest parts of Vedic literature, with ‘Iksvaku’ occurring just once in the RV at 10.60. Interestingly, this singular reference occurs in the context of the King Asamati mentioned above as the father of Bhayada. Asamati is addressed as Ratha-Praushta and his descent from Iksvaku is also implied. In the light of these two accounts, it can be suggested that the Vedic texts were not unaware of the Iksvakava but only referred to them when it was in their direct interests (As in the RV hymn composed by the Gaupayanas, the priests of Asamati) or when it was related to the interest of the more renowned characters (The case of the JB narrative which mentions the Iksvakus in connexion with the Bharatas and the famous sages, Visvamitra and Jamadagni).
Asamati is not a character of Pauranika or Itihasika fame. Hence, we propose that he was not a direct descendant in the main lineage of the Iksvakava, whose seat of power was in Ayodhya, but rather a distant offshoot of the clan. This obviously begs the question if we are injecting our own explanations into the narrative. But there are two very interesting statements that seem to corroborate this proposal.
- Firstly, Asamati is addressed as Rathapraustha, a son or descendant of Rathaprostha. It is unclear who this Rathaprostha is and there is no other information available about this Rathaprostha clan. Tradition does record a certain Rathaprota Darbhya, who however belongs to a far later period, as we would see in a future article about the Darbhyas. Nevertheless, ‘Ratha’ seems to be a popular prefix in the names of Darbhyas (Rathaprota, Rathaviti of RV 5.61 who gives away his daughter to Syavasva Atreya in marriage) and thus it would not be surprising if there was indeed an older Rathaprota. Notably, the Yajur Veda, in both the Taittiriya and Vajasaneya recensions (VS 15.17, TS 4.4.3), speak of “Rathaprota and Asamaratha” together as overlords in a ritual context. It is possible that Asamaratha stands for Asamati Rathapraustha. Although, this is not iclinching evidence, the correspondences strongly imply a connection between Asamati and the Darbhyas. The Darbhyas are descendants of the Iksvakava who became Angirasa Brahmanas but continued to be rulers in their own right. We would discuss in a future post the issue of Ksatropeta Brahmanas (Ksatriyas who became Brahmanas).
- When Vasiṣṭha had been on friendly terms with Sudasa and helped him win the war against Samvarana, he could have used Sudasa’s regard for him in favour of the Iksvakava. In order to further the interests of his solar patrons, he could have installed Asamati (A Darbhya offshoot of the Ikśvāku clan) as a ruler of the Bhajeratha region, (The RV 10.60.2 addresses Asamati as “bhajerathasya satpatim”) which is perhaps the region comprising the Bhagirathi river and territories west of it, till the eastern banks of the Sindhu, whereas the Bharatas of Samvarana were taking refuge on the western side.
Now, here is truly the exciting part; at least it was exciting for me when I discovered it. Asamati Rathpraushta had for his priests, the Gaupayanas. The Gaupayanas were sons of the sister of Agastya, according to RV 10.60.6. Their father and other details about the Gaupayanas are unknown to Vedic literature. But their father is likely to be Gopayana given their patronymic ‘Gaupayana’ (Similar to Kosala—Kausalya, Puru—Paurava, Kuru—Kaurava). It is highly probable that Agastya might have managed to secure the priestly offices for his nephews given his friendship with the Vasiṣṭha of Sudasa’s time, which was immortalized in the seventh book of RV as mythology when both Vasiṣṭha and Agastya were said to have been born of the joint deity, Mitra-Varuna (RV 7.33.10).
I was once doing a research on an independent matter-the history of the different Saiva religions and came across a reference from the Vamana Purana (6.86-92) which lists the four important lineages (Saiva, Pasupata, Kalamukha and Kapalika) and the masters who originated them. This reference was cited by David Lorenzen in “The Kāpālikas and Kālāmukhas: Two Lost Śaivite Sects” (Pg. 11) and so I was pretty struck by the coincidence when I realized that the Pauranika reference stated that the Saiva lineage was founded by “Sakti, the son of Vasistha, whose pupil was Gopayana”!!! Lorenzen goes on to state that Gopayana, amongst others in the Purana passage, cannot be identified. But if our conjecture is right…..!
If Sakti is the senior contemporary of Gopayana and the latter lived during the time when the father of Sakti, Vasistha led Sudasa to victory, his sons the Gaupayanas, when they were old enough to serve as priests, must have lived when Samvarana and his Bharatas were still residing on the western side of the Sindhu and ready to advance eastwards to reclaim lost land!
It might seem like a simple matter has been made very complicated. But to me, there is a pure joy in synchronizing all these textual accounts by tying their loose ends. Because it puts a perspective to our history and demonstrates that at their heart, the Vedic texts and Puranas can be taken seriously as a source of historical knowledge. Indeed, after all this laborious explorations of the texts, I am still left with a boundless joy-the joy of discovering synchronisms.