Ch 2 (contd)
Aditi, an Enigma
In hymn 10-72-4, Brhaspati introduces the enigma: Daksha was born of Aditi and Aditi was born of Daksha. He says that Aditi had eight sons of who Martanda stood apart. Martanda was a Surya and an Aditya and was not easily approachable.
The concept of eight yonis (wombs or offspring), is noticed in Atharvaveda (Bk.8). Kashyapa meant that all the eight social sectors including the Asuras and the Yakshas should be considered as approved sections and not the Devas only.
The popular imagery classified all human beings as Adityas, Daityas and Danavas, as born to Kashyapa respectively by Aditi, Diti and Danu. The society was classified as conformists, rebels and non-conformists, orthodox, heretic and heterodox, deist, atheist and agnostic. These were in fact, aristocrats, feudal warlords and plutocrats.
All the three, Aditi, Diti and Danu, were described to be daughters of Daksha and wives of Kashyapa. But Kashyapa himself discouraged such imageries and claimed that all the eight sectors of the larger society were favourites of Viraj whom he presented as a cow in the Atharvan allegory. (Vide Ch.3.The Concept of VirajEvolution of Social Polity of Ancient India)
Jatayu claimed that Kashyapa married eight daughters of Daksha. He included even birds and animals in his concept of society. These myths and legends are not to be summarily dismissed.
During the Rgvedic period the concept of Aditi, Diti and Danu was in vogue. It was not a later Puranic convention. But the Adityas were not visualized as sons of Kashyapa. They were considered as sons of Aditi and Daksha was one of them. Aditi, the mother of Adityas including Daksha, occupies a distinct and revered place in the Vedic polity. This concept was pre-Svayambhuva in origin.
But it is not rational to interpret that they were born to Aditi by' Dhio. The reference in hymn 10-77 only means that the house of nobles, divam (dhio), placed these eight officials under her supervision. There was no super-god called Dhios.
The western Indologists trained in Greek mythology misread ancient Indian society and its polity and Indian scholars have hesitated to condemn this misinterpretation and worse, have accepted their versions without scrutiny.
The nobles, devas, nominated the administrators, Adityas from among their own ranks. Daksha was one of them. Aditi, the mother figure, ensured that they exercised their authority judiciously. Aditi, the daughter of Daksha, was a benevolent mother figure. Brhaspati approved also the concept that only Aditi was the wife of Kashyapa.
Brhaspati did not encourage the concept that would divide the society into three sectors, the conformists, the rebels and the rest. But among the elite there were such divisions.
The core society that was dependent on agro-pastoral economy did not everywhere get the benefit of governance by a benevolent enlightened aristocracy. It was required to often and in many areas suffer harassment at the hands of the cruel powerful feudal lords.
This core society kept away from and was kept away by the dynamic and technologically more advanced frontier society, which had only trade relations with the former.
But there were cultural contacts between the two societies through the sages who were allowed to stay in their forest abodes and mountain caves. These sages were aided and protected in their pursuits by the rich industrial captains, Yakshas, who were later given the status of Devatas and accepted as almost equal to the Devas, the aristocrats of the core society.
If Indra and Agni who headed the Sabha and the Samiti, the nobles and the commoners of the core society, the third social world, antariksham, the frontier society was represented by Soma, an intellectual. [It is unsound to describe the Devas and Devatas as gods and demigods and Soma as but an intoxicating drink.]
Aditi and Soma
In a hymn eulogizing the purifier, Soma Pavamana, Aditi is said to be like a cow. Here Viraj is said to be the third form of Soma, a concept that needs to be probed into. Soma is said to have saved Manu from a debilitating illness.
Soma is treated as the brother of Aditi. In the Vedic imageries, Soma represented the northern regions, Aditya or Indra, the eastern, Varuna, the western and Vaisravana or Kubera, the southern.
Kanva in hymn 1-43 prays: May Aditi grant the grace of Rudra to our folk. Rudra and Soma were later identified with Siva and Mahadeva.
They were members of the school of thought that the Rudras, one of the four traditional groups of nobles promoted. Samkara, a great political thinker belonged to this school. Rudra may be pleased only through Aditi. [Rudra has later been presented as a ferocious god whose dance frightened the entire universe. He was difficult to be pleased.]
Atri who belonged to this school objected to the intrusion of the members of the core society into the affairs of the frontier society. The legends pertaining to the last decades of the Vedic era have traced two distinct socio-political developments. One of these is attributed to Marici, a Marut leader and his successor, Kashyapa, and the other to Atri.
[Aditi was visualised as the wife of Kashyapa. The groups approved by Manu Vaivasvata were said to have descended of this alliance.]
Marici was placed in charge of the affairs of the patriciate (devas) in the scheme of social reorganization envisaged by the first Manu, Svayambhuva.
He was the head of the council of seven sages during the tenure of the first Manu who also nominated him as chairman of the Board of Ten Prajapatis who were asked to draft the Manava Dharmasastra and reorganize the society on that basis. This Manu assigned Atri the task of looking after the interests of the frontier society, antariksham.
Soma was visualized as an offspring of Atri. The wayward intelligentsia is seen to have received encouragement from Soma. (Vide Hindu Social Dynamics, Vol. 2 and 3 for a thorough discussion on the implications of these two streams.)
The Viraj allegory in Atharvaveda shows that Kashyapa had great respect for Soma and the council of seven sages led by him during the tenure of the sixth Manu, Chakshusha. Kashyapa himself headed the seventh council during the tenure of the seventh Manu, Vaivasvata.
Rudra and Soma were concepts and schools connected with the frontier society. Rudra represented the virulent defence of its privileges and identity and intolerance while Soma represented its wise, sober and introspecting sages.
In hymn 2-40 addressed to Soma and Pushan, we find the Grtsamadas seeking the permission of Aditi, the perfect 'Devi, to speak aloud with the heroes in the assembly. These heroes must have been the new cadre of Viras, who had been along with Haris included as members of the nobility during the tenure of the fourth Manu, Tamasa. Soma and Pusan who were close to the Rudras represented the frontier society and the agriculturists.
They were expected to take up the cause of the pious and the poor with the class of warriors who belonged to the ruling elite and who could protect them. Aditi who was a member of the sober nobility commanded the respect of Soma.
Here, Soma is associated with both prthvi and antariksham, with the commonalty as well as the frontier society. We may visualize an assembly of Viras, brave nobles to which Pushan escorted the sages. The highest authority in this assembly was Aditi. Her permission was needed to address it. The Vedic society was undergoing a rapid social change during the epoch of the early Manus. This epoch was coeval with the extant Rgveda and Atharvaveda.
There were several shifts in the powers of Indra as I have pointed out. At no stage was he recognized as a God. He was the leading functionary. The King, Rajan, who excelled in aggressiveness, rajas, was basically a warrior and was involved in power struggle rather than in administration. The commoners looked up to the functionaries like Aditi, Indra, Agni, Soma, Varuna and Pusan for succour rather than to the Rajan.
The ideal king was a Rajarshi, a saintly and sagacious ruler. He was selected by competent authorities and was not one who inherited the post or came to it through force.
The Rajan and the Kshatriyas stood apart from the rich leisure class of nobles, devas, who each contributed his mite to the national exchequer (rajyalakshmi) and had his own private following including troops (svadanda).
The system of taxation had not yet been envisaged. The contractual state (contract between the raja and the praja) came into position only by the end of the Vedic era. The functionaries, the Adityas, were drawn from the class of nobles.
The Three Ruling Cadres
There were three recognized cadres, Devas, Rajanyas and Kshatriyas who could dominate the commonalty. The Devas formed the rich cultural aristocracy and had a good rapport with the commonalty through the sages, Rshis.
The Rajanyas were aggressive and had their own collegium, which claimed sovereignty over the territory and its residents. But they could not exercise coercive power over the nobles despite their prowess.
The Kshatriyas who were basically commoners were members of the administrative bodies and were also soldiers. If the three came together, the State would become powerful.
The Rajanyas were not recognized as nobles, Devas. They were however more influential than the commoners and the intelligentsia. As the two societies, core and frontier, came closer, neo-Kshatriyas who were not full-fledged members of the Kshatriya class posed a threat to the latter.
Similarly the Tvashta intellectuals who were essentially technocrats competed with the Brahmans for status and authority. (Vide Hindu Social Dynamics)
The upper crust of the commonalty claimed a status equal to that of the nobles. The sages tried to establish a modicum of order but they themselves were not agreed on several issues. Social change even during the times of the early Manus involved several factors that have been discussed in my work, Hindu Social Dynamics.
The simplistic approaches based on the four-varnas scheme and the dvijati-ekajati (twice born versus others) cleavages need to be abandoned.
The challenge to a particular class or cadre from the new aspirants was of greater relevance than the presumed Brahman-Kshatriya conflict where the two cadres were not comparable on the same criterion but stood distinct from each other. These conflicts were intimately connected with the process of interactions between the core society and the frontier society.
Indra, Agni and Soma represented respectively the nobles, the commoners and the frontier society (devas, prthvi and antariksham). While Indra was an aristocrat and dominated the traditional economy and polity, Agni and Soma were essentially intellectuals.
The Rgvedic poets desired to resuscitate the pre-Svayambhuva polity even while honouring his Manava scheme and hence their hymns reflect the spirit of renascence rather than mere rituals. Diversity in approach is a sign of renascence rather than heterodoxy or heresy.
Bharadvaja's Recommendation on Aditi, Indra and Agni
In hymn 6-59 Bharadvaja discusses the roles of Indra and Agni. The earlier incumbents (pitaras) to these two posts behaved like feudal lords (asuras) and were authoritarian, and had been smitten down by the nobles, devas. He implies that the two Adityas should not antagonize the cultural elite.
This hymn, a prayer for success in battles, recommends that the two officials be engaged in working together as directed by Aditi. The earlier incumbents must have been removed because of bickering between the two. The present alliance is expected to succeed as both are born of the same father and mother.
Their mother, Aditi, is regent in every place and oversees all affairs. In other words, during the interregnum and during the period of acclimatization Aditi (an elderly sober mother) directly looked after the duties that were normally assigned to these two officials. She headed both the Sabha and the Samiti, it may be inferred.
The exact context that required her taking over this arduous task of running the affairs of the nobility as well as those of the commonalty needs to be identified.
The father is divam, the house of nobles, from whom they derived their authority to represent the nobles and the commonalty respectively.
Bharadvaja rejects the dichotomy by which Indra was selected from among the nobles and Agni from among the commonalty. He would opt for both the officials being appointed from among the nobility. Both were Devas. In other words the interests of the commoners would be safe in the hands of an enlightened aristocrat rather than in those of a commoner.
The context should have been the dilemma faced by him when he had to appoint two nobles, Devavata and Devasravas, one as Indra of Divi and the other as Indra of Kshama, on the retirement of Bharata.
[Bharata had to retire as he was sonless, with his unworthy sons having been got secretly killed, perhaps at the instance of Bharadvaja himself.]
He recommends that Aditi be treated as the guardian and good-wisher of the entire society, which would however be dominated by the cultural aristocracy.
Aditi, Varuna, Mitra, Aryaman
Aditi and Absolution
The Grtsamadas (2-11) eulogize Agni for functioning like Indra, Vishnu, Varuna, Mitra, Aryaman, Tvashta, Rudra, Savita, Bhaga, Rbhus, Ila, Sarasvati and Aditi.
They do not envisage Agni only as a priest or as an envoy. Agni represents all that is noble and venerable. He met all the needs of the commoners and the sages. The Bharatas revered him.
But Aditi was no less important. As one prays to Savita at dawn, noon and dusk, one invokes also Indra, divam and prthvi, Aditi and Adityas (4-54-65).
The three prayers were addressed to Aditi, Varuna and Mitra, all officials connected with ensuring that the commoners observed the social and moral laws (5-69).
The hymn 5-82 indicates that these prayers were routed through Savita to become sinless in the eyes of Aditi. (The interpretation that Savita meant the Savitri chant indicates the failure to grasp the salient features of the socio-political codes of the Vedic times.) Savita was the Indra during the tenure of one of the early Manus. His recommendation would absolve one of all sins.
But only Aditi would give the absolution. She was the moral authority pronouncing the final verdict on issues pertaining to personal ethics. There were ten rules, of self-control laid down by Aditi (9-71). Soma had tempered these harsh rules. (9-96)
[Manusmrti retained the ten rules for the monks, sanyasis, who were on their path to moksha, salvation, and prescribed only six simpler but socially significant rules for those in the other three stages of life.]
This situation must have prevailed since the tenure of Manu Chakshusha when Vivasvan identified with the sun (Savita) and Soma identified with the moon covered the entire society, the core society of nobles and commoners and the frontier society, as representatives of Marici and Atri.
Greatness of Aditi
In hymn 6-75, Aditi is appealed to, along with Brahmanaspati for weapons of war. She must have endorsed the arrangement by which all weapons of war were to be deposited with Brhaspati or Brahmanaspati during times of peace.
Hymn 10-64 indicates the desire of Gaya (the ruler in whose territory Manu Sraddhadeva or Vaivasvata had his seat) to reestablish his relations with the Maruts, in the presence of Aditi. [Gaya, according to some legends, was one of the sons of Vaivasvata.]
There might have been some reservations about the Maruts who had supported the Bharatas. They were storm-troops and had stood by the order of Manu. The Maruts who were connected with the moors in the Sarasvati basin were also acquainted with medicinal herbs. Kashyapa was a Marut.
Gautama bestows an all-round greatness on Aditi (1-89). She is identified with divam as well as antariksham, mother, father and son, Visvedevas, the five peoples, panchajanas (Druhyus, Anus, Purus, Turvasus and Yadus), all that have been born and all that will be born. (Vide Vol.3. of Hindu Social Dynamics for a note on these five peoples of the times of the enigmatic ruler, Yayati.)
Aditi represents the entire human race, its past, present and future. However Aditi is not conceived as the Goddess Supreme. She exercised her authority along with Soma, as Agastya holds. (1-191)
What was Sindhu? This term could not have referred to the river by that name or to river in general. Sindhudvipa, the Sindhu delta occupied a significant place in ancient Indian polity. Its ruler had given asylum to princes and scholars who had fled their countries.
He must have been the overlord of Saptasindhu, the area covered by the seven rivers, Sindhu, Sarasvati and Drshadvati, Ganga and Yamuna, Narmada and Svarduni (the eastern Sarasvati). The rulers of Kosala took care that the ruler of Sindhudvipa was on their side in important political issues.
Aryas and Dasas and Exploits of Sakra, Satakratu
Savya, among others, gives an elaborate account of the exploits of Sakra Indra. When all other nobles, devas, had deserted him, the Rbhus, the three powerful grandsons of Manu Svayambhuva encouraged Sakra.
The feudal lords like Sambara had overwhelmed the nobles and the latter hesitated to follow Sakra in his mission. Sakra had helped the Angirasas, Vimada, Kutsa, Kaksivan, Atri, Rjisvas and Divodasa. He killed the Vrtra who controlled the mountains and blocked the rivers (1-51). He killed Susna, a brigand, while rescuing Kutsa. (Some scholars have tried to read a note of abstinence from sex in this statement.)
Sakra Indra shattered the forts of Sambara and even trampled on Arbuda. The latter was a chieftain of the workers of the forest, Sarpas. Indra, Angirasa and Arbuda had entered into the triple agreement, Trisamdhi, on behalf of the three social worlds, lokas, to fight against the feudal warlords, asuras, especially against the recalcitrant asuras, the Vrtras.
As Arbuda broke this triple agreement Sakra adopted a tough policy that alienated the workers, Sarpas, of the frontier society. Brhaspati restored the relations with them by insisting on recognizing Arbudas sons as Isvara and Isana, charismatic chieftains of the frontier society.
Sakra counselled by Savya
Savya records the shortcomings in Sakras approach even while lauding him for his exploits. Savya asks him to distinguish between Aryas and Dasas and punish only those who violated the pledge, vrata This pledge must have been taken by all the commoners to abide by the provisions of Indra-Brhaspati agreement (Indra-samdhi).
This alliance as I have brought out in my analysis of the features of the Atharvan polity was a corollary to the Triple Entente (Trisamdhi) that bound the three social worlds to raise a combined army to battle against the Vrtras.
The Aryas, free landlords, should not be required to directly take part in war as they had taken the pledge to abide by truth and non-violence. This too had to be honoured. This resulted in the commonalty providing recruits to the Kshatriya army from the Dasas (later known as Shudras).
Sakra was exhorted not to treat the Aryas, the free citizens, as equal to his serfs, Dasas, who could not but obey his orders. He was advised to hand over the guilty to the sage who had spread the grass for worship.
The Pledge and the Authority to Pardon
Only the sages who constituted the moral authority of the society could decide who among the guilty should be punished. They had the right to pardon the penitent. They were intellectuals and not chiefs of religious or political institutions.
When the order of sages withered away by the end of the Vedic era, this right passed into the hands of the King making him the sovereign who held absolute power over the lives of his subjects. The king (Rajan) of the Atharvan Polity and even Indra, the head of the aristocracy did not have such power.
Agni earlier and Brhaspati later could exercise checks on the kings and on the nobles on behalf of the commoners, the Vis. Most of the commoners were designated as Aryas or Vaisyas and were free citizens with inviolable right to life and property.
In the typical Vedic social polity headed by the Viraj, the overlord, and assisted by the Prajapati, the chief of the people, and Aditi, the benevolent mother figure and guide of the executive, the Adityas, Aditi could pardon and thus ranked higher than Indra, Agni, Varuna and Mitra.
When this scheme for which Bharadvaja reveals nostalgia failed, the Angirasas, followers of Brhaspati, claimed this authority as Brahmavadis, upholders of the Atharvan socio-political constitution.
This must have been the situation when Brhaspati walked out forcing Indra to approach Dadhichi for weapons to fight against Chitraketu, the Vrta Asura.
Sakra Indra appears to have argued that the oath taken by the free citizens, Aryas, to speak the truth even if that led to self-indictment and to refrain from taking recourse to violence even in self-defence demanded their total allegiance to the political authority that offered them protection.
This argument did not differ from that of Usanas who placed all authority, political, economic and moral, in the hands of the ruler and converted the state into a leviathan.
Savya advises Sakra against implementing the principle of equality before law without recognizing the existing social factors.
Sakra might use coercive power against those who had not taken the pledge and not against those who had taken that pledge. Only the civil administration could proceed against the free citizens, Aryas. The Aryas, the free middle class landlords and traders, could not be treated on par with the serfs and the workers who had no property. The violators of the pledge could be punished only if they did not repent.
The jurisdiction of the temporal authority, the State, begins where that of the moral authority, the sages, ends.
Kautilya recognized this. (Vide Ch.13Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India) He was for a powerful state but not for a weak society. The Indra school to which he was close insisted on a strong state to combat the feudal lords and the vandals.
Savya who belonged to the school of Angirasa Brhaspati asserted the rights of the Aryas (who were landlords and traders) and claimed for them immunity from state control.
Sakras aggressive approach against violation of law and order, whether by nobles or feudal lords, by free landlords or by serfs or by mercenaries, needed moderation. For, his military, Kshatriya, state was becoming ruthless in punishing the guilty.
Savya wants the sages, the pious intellectuals, to have a greater say in social control but not the power to punish which was the prerogative and duty of the state. In this he departed from the earlier schools, which subordinated the state to the sages, giving the impression that the informal church was superior to the toothless state.
The son of Bahudanti (a lady with many teeth) promoted the Indra school of thought known as Bahudantakam.
The pledge, vrata, was not a purely ethical one. Not only the Dasas who had to obey the orders of their masters but also the Vratyas who rejected the very concept of social control and were for rigorous self-restraint and self-denial had not taken this pledge. They, if found guilty, could be punished by the state and so too the impenitent. The sages exercised the right to pardon the penitent. The power of the state could not nullify such pardon.
The issue of Brahmadanda, the power of the upholders of the Atharvan constitution, Brahma, to indict even the guilty head of the state, has to be viewed in this background as further restricting the power of the state.
The Vrtras were the most virulent among the antisocial elements and had to be exterminated. But they too could be exempted from physical extermination and sent to the penitentiary as Vala was sent to Gomti.
[This might have a reference to the abode of Pulaha on the banks of this river in the Ganga basin. Pulaha, a disciple of Brahmarshi and one of the ten great sages appointed by Manu Svayambhuva to draft the Manava Dharmasastra was an outcast but taught the significance of the famous Gayatri hymn composed by Visvamitra to Jatamuni Bharata.]
Sakra Indra and Usanas
How did Sakra Indra become a charismatic hero? Savya says that he owed his might to Usanas. This political thinker who defended the conduct of Bali against Vamana and argued that the pledge of Satyavrata taken without uttering the pranava, the holy syllable, Aum, was not valid, demanded extraordinary powers for the state. He was however eager to build a society of enlightened free citizens. He was not for tyranny though he facilitated despotism. Kautilya agreed with him to a limited extent.
Hymn 10-88 too indicates that Sakra did not discriminate between Aryas and Dasas among the guilty. Agnivesi, a wealthy merchant who also presided over the civil court as Agni, appeals to Sakras consort to persuade him to favour the Aryas.
Sakra was not inclined to do so. He protected the wealthy against the marauders, Dasyus, but not against their own employees, the Dasas. The state was not a stooge of the bourgeoisie.
In hymn 2-11, the Grtsamadas call upon Indra to align himself with the Surya to conquer the Dasas. Surya was the general of the Kshatriya army.
But Sakra was not prepared to commit the liberal aristocracy to the crushing of the employees who had risen against the civil state. He is lauded for destroying the Vrtra and helping the Arya.
This Vrtra was Aurnava, a Danava, a plutocrat of the frontier society. The Aryas were landlords and traders and they belonged to the agro-pastoral core society. The Arya (that is, the trader whom Sakra must have contacted) secured the services of Visvarupa, a Tvashta, an arms-manufacturer. Visvarupa worked for Indra and secretly for the Asuras too. Tvashtas claimed the status of Brahmans.
Not all Vrtras were Asuras
Strengthened by these weapons secured through Trta (the Arya and third person), Indra subdued Arbuda. But these weapons failed against Vala, a brother of Aurnabhava. This incident must have taken place before Indra killed Chitraketu, the Vrtra Asura.
If Aurnabhava was a Danava or Yaksha before he was declared a Vrtra, Chitraketu was a Gandharva and Vidyadhara before he was pronounced guilty of gross misdeeds and hence liable to be exterminated. Not all Asuras were Vrtras nor all Vrtras were Asuras. Vrtra was not the name of any particular demon.
The Western Indologists of the 19th century and the Indian scholars of the 20th century who followed them did not have a correct grasp of the social dynamics of the Vedic era.
Aryas were not a race. They were the upper crust of the commonalty of the agro-pastoral core society but were not members of the patriciate. They were landlords and traders who dominated its economy and held the reins of the civil administration. They were Vaisyas and not Brahmans or Kshatriyas.
The lands of the Arya chiefs must have been dependent on the rivers access to which had been stopped by Aurnabhava, Vala and Arbuda. Some Dasas too must have revolted against their landlord, the Arya.
Indra claimed authority to settle disputes over river waters. Riparian rights were a major concern of the state.
Indra, like Surya, used the wheel, chakra, to pierce Vala. The immobilized Vala was then sent to Gomti for expiation. (Gomati is a tributary of Ganga and not of Sindhu. Griffith and other western writers were eager to establish that all events described in the Rgveda took place only in the Indus basin.)
The Grtsamadas were contemporaries of Kutsa and Atithigva and had their abodes on the banks of Sarasvati, which must have been at that time drying up and the blame must have been cast on the frontier society. Vala was pardoned by these sages and sent eastward for penance. [Hymn 2-12 suggests that Sakra who chased Sambara to his mountain hideouts was forty years of age.]
Aryajyoti and the Self-reliant Arya
The expression, Aryajyoti, occurs in hymn 10-43 also. The poet, Krshna, enjoyed the favour of the Asvins who were known as Nasatyas, and was respected by Kutsa. He says: For the sake of man, the shine of sva, that is, Aryajyoti is obtained. (Griffith)
Sva (often translated as Heaven) stands for the best of status and possessions that commoners seek. These commoners gain legitimacy, Arya halo, as independent landlords.
A commoner, who seeks to become a noble, sva, can at best become an Arya, a free citizen with the right to own personal property even as a noble has. But he cannot get the immunities that a noble enjoys. [Was this Krshna a student of Gora Angirasa?
This hymn seeks protection from both Indra and Brhaspati for an honourable chieftain who had lost his wealth in gambling. The context needs to be unravelled.]
In the final line, the poet prays: May we allied, as first in rank with kings, gain possessions of our exertion. May we subdue all famine and evil want, with stores of grain and cattle.
The Arya of Krshna's vision belongs to the agro-pastoral economy. He does not belong to the rich leisure class, divam. He works on his own land and produces a little more than his immediate needs and can overcome famine. He belongs to the commonalty but claims a status equal to that of kings. He does not pretend to be an intellectual.
This recalls the Kutsa refrain, May we speak aloud with heroes in the assembly. The sages spoke for a new class of free landlords who were not very rich and who took part in cultivation, though they might have used the labour of their subordinates, Dasas.
It is not sound to hold that the white Aryas were invaders and that the Dasas were dark natives enslaved by them. In the disputes between the Aryas and the Dasas, Sakra preferred to be neutral.
The Arya landlords were self-employed and self-reliant. Instead of being tenants on lands owned by the nobles or by the community, they became owners of the lands earlier held by the nobles as 'svabhumi, personal lands, and were basically small cultivators.
The Dasas were in the main, subordinates of the nobles, Devas or Svas. These Devadasas, serfs of the nobles became independent owners of the lands where they worked and got the status of Aryas or were transferred along with their lands to the new Arya owners and required to serve the latter as Dasas. (Vide Vol.2. Ch.20Sagara to SaudasaHindu Social Dynamics) Even under Sakra, the nobles had not parted with all their lands.
Many Aryas came into possession of lands that were earlier held by the commonalty as a community or by the feudal lords. Some of the lands were not owned by any one earlier.The charter to own these lands, as individual landlords, must have been given by an overlord.
These were not lands captured by the Aryas nor were the Dasas working under them former owners of these lands. These could have been given to them as spoils of war.
The Aryas were not warriors. They were peaceful citizens who had earlier been obedient servants of the nobles or ordinary workers. Many of them were erstwhile Dasas. Sakra had enabled the Divodasas to become Aryas.
The Kautilyan approach to Aryabhava and Dasabhava confirms this position. The Aryas are not to be described as a tribe or as a community. They were not a race and were not ethnically different from the Dasas working under them.
The conflicts between the Aryas and the Dasas were essentially conflicts between employers and employees. Kautilya launched a politico-economic movement for the liberation of all types of Dasas. He granted the status of Aryas to all the four classes including the Shudras and declared that none could be employed as a personal servant, Dasa, of any individual.
The Aryas were certainly not invaders. They formed a stratum of the commonalty that had been enabled to become a class of self-reliant small owners, petit bourgeoisie, and they became so not by oppressing or exploiting the Dasas. The Aryas were such landlords or merchants like Kaksivan. Those who instituted the sacrifices were generally the latter.
When Manu Svayambhuva encouraged settlement of uncultivated lands the process of emergence of the class of Aryas began. It gained momentum when the right of ownership of lands was given to those who sowed the seed first under the code enjoined by Seshadharma, the rules governing the residuary (Vide Ch.6 The Epoch of the Early ManusEvolution of Social Polity of Ancient India).
It was an age of agrarian entrepreneurship and agricultural cooperatives. It reached an acme by the end of the Vedic era when the Shudras who worked for wages or for half the produce became eligible to be called Aryas and treated on par with the Vaisyas.
Aryas, Asvins, Nasatyas
In hymn 1-106, Kaksivan refers to how the Asvins restored the eyesight of Visvaka, son of Krshna. Hymn 1-107 suggests that they saved Visvakas son too. The Asvins were connected with herbs and medicine. This poet, Krshna must have been senior to Kutsa and Sakra. In 8-74 Krshna invokes the Nasatyas, the Asvins. They had the status of Shudras.
In 8-75, Visvaka who must have had a social status lower than that of a member of the independent commonalty (vis or vaisyas) calls upon the Asvins in the name of Daksha, to save him from his malady.
This poet who belonged to the lower ranks of the commonalty (vis or visva), must have belonged to the period when Prajapati Daksha was yet a power to reckon with.
Nasatyas were those who could not take the vow to speak the truth but could assure that they would not speak untruth. They had abjured perjury.
The Asvins were not permitted to speak the truth about the herbs but they would not utter lies. Later while the members of the three higher varnas became eligible to utter the pranava (aum) and take the pledge, Satyavrata, the Shudras were not initiated in the importance of the pranava. Their averments would not be rejected as unreliable though they were not educated.
Sakra stopped Usha, the proud daughter of Divi and broke the wheel of her chariot. This was an attempt to check her from blocking the flow of a river to the lands of some of her rivals. There seem to have been rivalries among the nobles over the lands controlled by them. (The hymn to Usha, the Dawn, is a great lyric and matches the best in any language.)
In hymn 4-30, Vamadeva says that Sakra used his power against chiefs who did not acknowledge his authority whether they were feudal lords, (asuras) or their mercenaries (dasyus) or free citizens (Aryas) or nobles (devas).
Arya and Narya
Sakra is not to be presented as the champion of all Aryas, as the hero of the Aryan race. He was a historical figure, not a myth. He was not a god. Vyasva had praised him for distributing the spoils of war among his followers (8-24).
Vyasva must have newly come into personal property. Indra was not covetous. But Visvamanas, one whose views represented those of the larger commonalty, complains that Sakra had ignored his earlier appeals. Sakra had by that time retired and engrossed himself in studies and in arts.
Even Kutsa had to suffer harassment by the Arya of Saptasindhu and by the Dasas. This complaint is voiced in the above hymn, which refers to a sacrifice instituted by Narya who had given munificent gifts to Vyasvas sons.
But Narya himself was not there. He had left for Gomti. He had gone there for doing penance after handing over all the wealth he had earned as he felt that he had not earned them justly. A Narya was an Arya who had renounced his wealth and all his rights as a free citizen.
Nahusha, the Artisan
In hymn 5-34 Samvarana says that Usanas gave a powerful weapon to Indra. Sakra was never afraid of revenge by the kinsmen of his victims. He could stop the march of the chakra and allow the Arya to lead away the Dasa at his will.
The chakra here referred to the troops of the confederation of feudal lords led by Sambara. These feudal lords were against the liberation of their bonded labourers, Dasas. Sakra permitted the Aryas to take away the members of their families who had been used as Dasas even without paying the ransom demanded by the feudal lords.
Samvarana must have belonged to the Purus and been chased away to the Sindhu delta in a power struggle. Kuru was the son of this exiled chieftain and the princess of Tapati, a region to the south of the Vindhyas. Usanas was then supporting Bali, the feudal warlord of Janasthana in the Vindhyas.
The Arya mentioned above was a Satri (priest under training) and son of Agnivesa, a rich Vaisya who held the rank of Agni, head of the Samiti. He was a beneficiary who had instituted a thanksgiving sacrifice.
In hymn 6-18 Bharadvaja says that Indra controlled all men by himself. He singly controlled the Dasyus for the Arya. The term, krshti, used in this connection would indicate agricultural communes. Bharadvaja wonders whether the protection given to these communes was one of Sakras exploits. These communes encouraged by Manu Svayambhuva had fallen on evil days, lacking soldiers to protect them.
Ahi, a night-burglar, was a threat todivi-jana, the self-governing native people on the lands of the nobles. The term, divi-jana or deva-jana, referred to those people who were on the threshold of being granted the status of fully free citizens, Aryas, with the right to own the lands of the janapada. This term evokes the picture of paura-janapada, urban-rural dichotomy. Unlike, the urban rich, the nobles, devas, did not keep away from the locally born people.
The Dasyus referred to above were mercenaries engaged by the feudal lords to harass the people.
In hymn 6-22, Bharadvaja appeals to Indra to strengthen the Aryas, the Dasas and the Nahushas. This Indra belonged to the class of artisans and was officiating as Indra when the incumbent was required to go away for performing penance for having violated the modesty of Gautamas wife. (Both Bharadvaja and Gautama were artisans.)
The Nahushas were a mobile clan of the Sarasvati region as hymn 7-95 by Vasishta indicates. Hymns 1-30 and 5-14 treat Nahusha as a patriarch of a mobile clan who followed Agni and Rta, that is, obeyed the civil court presided over by Agni and the traditional laws of the early and middle Vedic times. Rta permitted every one to pursue a vocation in tune with his natural aptitude, svabhava.
The Five Peoples: Pancha-jana
In hymn 6-46 Bharadvaja distinguishes the Nahushas from the five peoples, pancha-jana. They supported Indra and must have been local communities of artisans and supported Nahusha who officiated as Indra. (Vide Ch.23. Vol.3. Hindu Social Dynamics for an analysis of the role of Nahusha.)
Carpenters, weavers, cobblers, washermen and barbers were five communities who had been by tradition refused permission to stay in the agricultural village. (Vide Ch.6. Hindu Social Dynamics) But they were not treated as 'untouchables' or 'outcasts'.
Was Nahusha, a smith, supported by these communities to the rank of Indra when the Indra who belonged to the nobility was suspended for having violated the modesty of Ahalya, wife of Gautama and daughter of Mudgala, a sage and artisan? Bharadvaja, a colleague of Gautama was closer to carpenters. Mudgala, the founder of the Upanishadic movement was a blacksmith.
Nahusha was described as a Sarpa (serpent, in common parlance). Sarpas were mobile groups of artisans. Artisans were later absorbed in the Shudra varna.
Nahushas had accepted the path shown by Manu Svayambhuva. They retained their affiliation to the social pattern based on Rta and were perhaps the last to be won over to the ways of life that were based on Satya. They might not have been treated as part of the core society.
It is necessary to come out of the concept of core society and dwell on the social mechanisms for absorption of artisan groups who demanded ranks higher than those assigned to the agricultural workers.
Bharadvaja and Vasishta were eager that they should be absorbed in the core society. (Vide Hindu Social Dynamics for an in-depth analysis of this process and problems connected with social integration)
They were mobile because of the nature of their occupations.The theory of samkara-varnas, mixed classes, attempted by Bhrgu and other Prajapatis developed an acceptable ranking system. (Vide Ch. 10. Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India and Ch. 23, 24 Origins of Hindu Social System)
Kautilya suggested that all attendants, artisans and artistes should be given the status of Shudras. By granting all Shudras the status of Aryas he blunted their objections. There could be social discrimination against the Shudras but it was not legal. All classes had equal rights.
These artisans wanted to be treated as equal to Kshatriyas and objected to their being equated with Shudras but the Kshatriyas would not consent.
Kautilya preferred to work within the framework of the four classes, varnas, and to grant all the status and rights of Aryas whether they owned property or not. Bharadvaja seeks the aid of Sakra Indra in creating a new rational society where the sections that had not yet accepted Satya and Vrata were recognized as equal to those of the civic population. The artisans had been suspected of being unreliable. Kautilya did not share this distrust.
Panis, the Musclemen
In hymn 6-33 the poet says that Indra defeated the disobedient Aryas and Dasas and also the Panis and retrieved the cattle. The Panis were not demons or evil preternatural spirits. They were mercenaries engaged by moneylenders for confiscating the cattle of the farmers who had defaulted.
In hymn 6-44 we find that Indu secretly removed his fathers weapons with the help of Indra. While Indu removed them, Indra kept the Panis at bay. Here the Panis appear to have been traders in illicit and stolen goods including weapons.
(Indu was not a thief. The interpretation which some mischievous demagogues give that the term, Indu or Hindu meant a thief has its origin in this misconception.) This incident took place on the banks of the Ganga. The Panis supported Brbu, a carpenter (45).
Bharadvaja did not hesitate to accept food from the carpenters as Manusmrti notes. The objections raised against granting them a higher varna status were rooted in the suspicion that they were not honest in their dealings. (Vide Ch. 29. Vol.3--The Massacre of the Innocents ---Janamejaya and Sarpayajna Hindu Social Dynamics)
The Rathakaras who were technocrats connected with building activities were not allowed to enter villages or towns to sell their goods. They were suspected to have secret relationships with the Chandalas who had been outcast for sex offences. Their unethical practices and association with musclemen must have led to this avoidance.
Nostalgia for the Peaceful Past
Bharadvaja (6-60) recalls the protection that Indra and Agni had given in the past to the pious and appeals to these two officials of the Vedic polity to come to the aid of the supplicants. The latter were being harassed not only by the Dasyus but also by some Aryas.
The sages pray for the restoration of the old social order. This appeal of Bharadvaja is more than nostalgia for the past. It belongs to a period when the sages had to leave the Sarasvati region. (6-61) This emigration must have taken place soon after a son was born to a Divodasa who belonged to Brahmavarta, the Sarasvati basin.
It had come under a siege, which required the sages to seek safer areas in distant lands. (Though Indra enabled his loyal serf, Divodasa to become an independent landlord, Arya, he might not have been accepted so by other landlords, Aryas, and left without protection against antisocial elements.)
Brsaya is held responsible for poisoning the river to spite the nobles (devas). Entire clans were resettled to escape the threat by Brsaya, after the invading hordes from abroad, Paravatas, had been repulsed.
These invaders were responsible for the fleeing of Samvarana from Sindhudvipa and seeking the help of Vasishta to return to the lands of the Kurus in the Ganga-Yamuna Doab. Sindhudvipa had friendly political relations with distant Kosala where Vasishta had his new abode as the chief counsellor of its rulers and as the confidante of Manu Tamasa.
Brsaya and Paravatas were held responsible for the drying up of Sarasvati and Drshadvati. This took place during the lifetime of Manu Svayambhuva.
This Manu refused to quit this region and also not defended himself as he believed in non-violence, ahimsa. He might have died of drinking the poisoned water of a pool beside those rivers. (Vide Ch.6. Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India)
Vasishta and other sages of Brahmavarta were constrained to move eastwards. The Ganga-Yamuna region thereafter became a point of reference, as Bhrgu says in Manusmrti. It was the land of the Kurus and Panchalas, Matsyas and Surasenakas. This migration was coeval with Sakra's campaigns against feudal chieftains like Sambara. Sakra himself belonged to the Prayag-Kasi tract dominated by the Haihayas whose claims to the status of Kshatriyas were not conceded by many.
Valakhilya Hymns and The Commonalty of Aryas and Dasas
The Valakhilya hymns indicate a period of peace after the nobles (devas) had gained the nectar. At that time, Indra was known as the fourth Aditya, the other (or first) three being Varuna, Mitra and Aryaman.
The constitution and the judiciary (of the western region marked by a diffused state and a free population of self-governing Aryas, whose representative, Aryaman was) were to be given greater respect than the armed nobles whose representative Indra was. The revolt against the nobles (devas) had been crushed (Val.4-7).
The hymn (Val.3-7) refers to Manu Samvarni. In hymn (Val.3-9), the poet says that both the Aryas and the Dasas belong to Indra. The Valakhilya poets followed Kanva and honoured Pushan (the representative of the agricultural workers), Vishnu (the overlord) and Sarasvati.
In Ch.7A of Evolution of Social Polity of Ancient India, I have pointed out that Prthu depended on the Valakhilyas and Sarasvatganas. The latter claimed to be the descendants of the original people of the Sarasvati region who owed loyalty to its Prajapati, Brahma, and his consort, Sarasvati.
The followers of Manu Samvarani and the Valakhilyas were conservatives. They upheld the supremacy of the three Vedas (Trayi). Manu Samvarani mentioned in the Valakhilya hymns might have been Manu Savarni.
If the Valakhilya hymns refer to a stage of peace, some of the hymns in the tenth canto of the Rgveda hint that the sages had to undergo immense sufferings. Hymn 10-83 shows that Manyus aid was sought to overcome both the Arya and the Dasa.
These sages had to face opposition from both landlords and their employees. In hymn 10-69, Sumitra says that Agni quelled the hatred of the Arya and the Dasyu. The sages had to depend on Agni, the representative of the commonalty to become acceptable to these two sections engaged in economic activities.
Like Chyavana, Agni quelled the men who longed for battle. The steps taken by Agni who presided over the civil court was like medicine (given by Chyavana) unpalatable but wholesome.
In hymn 10-38, Lusa appeals to Sakra to help him and the other supplicants so that whether it was a Dasa or an Arya who was without a Deva, they could subdue him if he battled against them. Some landlords, Aryas, and their employees, Dasas, had not accepted the leadership of the nobles, Devas. Instead they adopted a belligerent attitude.
The leadership of the nobility and of the intelligentsia had suffered a setback when Kutsa found it imperative to restrain Sakra. His friend, Lusa, appeals to Sakra to shake off this restraint and come to the rescue of the supplicants. (It was not a war against atheists.)
The emergence of a new class of Arya landlords, strengthened by the support of the Dasas and free from the watchful patronage of the nobility marked also the neglect of the institution of the sages. This made the latter vulnerable to elements inimical to the nobility. It was a stage of recession.
Kutsa's followers had suffered at the hands of the Arya of Saptasindhu. Lusa calls for the return of the days of benevolent patronage extended to the sages by the nobility.