THEME 12 – Travel Routes of Aryans of Bharat Varsha to Foreign countries – 5,000 BCE
Selected extracts from Return of the Aryans by Bhagwan S. Gidwani, published by Penguin Books, India, ISBN 0-14- 024053 – 5
(Main Reference: Page 709 to 721 from Return of the Aryans)
‘Poets are descended form cats,’ said poet Dharmabila.
He was explaining why there were not many poets among the Aryan bands that left Bharat Varsha. Poets, like cats, he said, were never adventurous; they ‘do not like to venture out into uncertain territory; and be it a time of pleasure or pain, the cat will purr and likewise the poet will sing, remaining always at home, clean and well-groomed, with no desire to stray into the dust and debris of the outside world; the cat and the poet carry a tongue to preen themselves, though others can feel its rasp like, coarse quality. Yet both are capable of subtle affection and grace, if you feed them well.’
As a final dig at poets, Dharmabila said that his conclusions were inspired by Sage Bharadwaj. Actually, he was misquoting the Sage. But then he often misquoted the Sage and the Sage did not mind.
Sage Bharadwaj believed that man, though infinitely removed from the perfection of the Creator, was close to the perfection of the animal. According to him, trees were the earliest ancestor of man; from trees, man evolved through slow, successive stages of worms and insects, fowl and fish, birds and beasts, vraon (half-ape, half-man) and vrbila (half-cat, half-man), ‘though I cannot say that each of the 108 humans that first evolved, spent the same time in each link of this living chain.’ The Sage also added that even the powerful mammoth species that tormented the earth and its creatures in the past became extinct. Thus he emphasized that the earth was eternal and so was man, if he lived in harmony with nature. But otherwise ‘only mankind shall die but not the eternal ground on which mankind walks’, and thereafter another species will emerge.
Out of fun, poet Dharmabila perverted Sage Bharadwaj’s observation on the uncertainty of time that each of the first 108 humans passed in various species towards their final evolution as man. Dharmabila said that the craftiest and trickiest among those 108 passed more time with the fox; the wisest and most reflective with the owl; the fickle, with the butterfly; the strongest, with the lion. And after all these examples, Dharmabila finally declared that the first poet undoubtedly remained longest with the cat.
Incidentally, Dharmabila, though not a poet of fame, was a lover of cats. His observation was ‘I love my six cats, more than the wife I don’t have’ and from this, one may conclude that he was a bachelor.
Dharmabila’s observation, on why poets of renown did not join the Aryan movement out of Bharat Varsha, has very little merit. Largely, these were expeditions of the dispossessed and disinherited. Most of those who joined were from the stock of ex-slaves, fearful of their future in their own land. They wanted to flee from their grim reality and chase a dream.
True, there were several others that joined the Aryan movement, moved solely by faith and fellow-feeling. But maybe, there were not enough poets among them to satisfy Dharambila and meet his complaint that the presence of more poets would have added to the knowledge about routes taken by the Aryans and their trials and triumphs on the way. The fact is that even from groups which had poets, the information was sketchy related often to what some isolated individuals or teams faced on the way. Also, laments a poet himself, such uncoordinated information when it came, ‘was brief and abrupt. . . . often rambling and blurred . . . vague and unadorned . . . easy to ignore and easier to forget. . . . lacking the inspirational genius of a poet who could weave together in a gracious harmony, the many strange events and isolated incidents.’
And so, though the claim that the poets could have shed more light is valid, some poets actually confused more than they enlightened.
The routes on which the Aryans went were initially no more than twelve. The Aryans converged from hundreds of points to form larger bands, so as to leave on specific routes from their respective regions. There were large and small bands, following each other some after short, others after long intervals, often joining together or even parting from each other to go on their own.
Certainly there is much to be said in favour of what Nandan’s eighth great-grandson reports on the initial routes selected by the Aryans for their move out of Bharat Varsha.
The first series of routes, which Nandan’s great-grandson correctly mentions, began from Avagana (Afghanistan). According to him, ‘The route to Avagana was traditional and fraught with no danger… . For it was here that Sadhu Gandhara first established an ashram; and the city Qandhara (then known as Gandhara) was named after him. . . and from there the Sadhu had moved to bring all Avagana up to and beyond Hari Rath under his protection… and when he died, the land was left in trust with the headman from Sapta Sindhu, until his son Kush came of age… and then began the glorious reign of Lord Kush who married the daughter of Dhrupatta’s wife’s sister’s daughter from Sapta Sindhu, with the blessings of my great-grandfather Karkarta Nandan… and always Nandanji, the most illustrious of Karkartas, regularly sent caravans of goods, artisans and assistance to Kush and his land, which always shall be a part of Bharat Varsha. . . . So where was the danger to these wandering Arya bands to go through Avagana, when Kush, magnificent and vigorous himself, despite his venerable age, was there to guide them! .. . . and the request of Karkarta Sauvira to Kush was clear. . . . he had asked that these wanderers be not permitted to remain in Avagana; and must be led out to lands beyond. . . . but should they try to tarry in Avagana, they must be sent back forthwith… Pity though it is, that Kush misunderstood this request and allowed some Aryans to stay back, choosing those that were valuable to his land, and others too sick and old to travel… But, honourable as always, Kush sent a message to Karkarta Sauvira, though by mischance perhaps, the messenger failed to arrive. . . .’
At Hari Rath in Afghanistan several Aryan bands congregated. Many parted here, too, to branch out on different routes.
Purus who lived by the side of Saraswati river, led his Arya bands towards Lake Namaskar (Namaksar).
‘We know not if we shall meet again on this earth,’ said Purus while parting from the other Aryan bands. ‘But surely we shall reassemble at the feet of the Master in the world beyond’ . He was referring to Sindhu Putra.
‘Yes,’ said the leader of another band, ‘we that saw him live, know that he lives, and so shall we.’
Such a cry of faith came, no doubt, from the heart; and these self-assurances and chants were many, if only to keep their hopes and dreams that somewhere there was a better land, where their lost god awaited them with outstretched arms, alive and welcoming.
But consistency belongs only to the gods. With human beings, each cry of faith is overtaken often by another cry of despair; and even grief dies only to be replaced by another greater grief. Six scouts of Aryan bands, which Purus led, were killed outright. They were going ahead of the others and were suddenly overtaken by a group of roving bandits. But as the large columns of Aryan bands, escorted by Kush’s men, came into view, the bandits fled. The gruesome sight of these four murdered men and two women brought an overflow of the feeling of dread that lay in the heart of every Aryan who marched.
Purus and his bands reached the area around Lake Namaskar. Already, several hermits of Sanatan Dharma (root of Hinduism) had settled down there originally from Sapta Sindhu, Ganga, Dravidham, and elsewhere from Bharat Varsha.
Kush had ordered his men, who were escorting the Aryans, not to let anyone stay back. Karkarta Sauvira’s request was clear to send out all of them to the lands beyond; already Kush had deviated from it, somewhat, by allowing many to remain behind in Avagana.
A hermit around the lake, however, adopted nine children of those who were killed by bandits on the way. At first, Kush’s men insisted that these nine children could not remain. But the hermit glared, ready to shout. The leader of Kush’s escort advised his men, ‘Look the other way; hermits carry a powerful curse; beware!’ They looked the other way; and it seems, some adult Aryans too stayed back with the hermits.
Purus, the Arya leader, did not object to anyone remaining behind and said, ‘Your feelings must be your guide. . . . You must follow the faith that calls loudest to you. . . . who knows where the Master needs you!. . . . Who knows where and when, we too may retrace our steps!. . . .’
Some view this as a lack of faith, as if Purus feared that after all his wanderings, the object of his quest may elude him. But a poet adds, ‘I know of no man of faith, nor a god, who is untouched by anguish and self doubt.’ Of the nine children adopted by the hermit, the eldest a twelve-year-old ran to rejoin the Arya bands, a few hours later. At his reunion, it is said that Purus had tears in his eyes.
Yet one aspect is clear. The Arya bands did not go out into new lands with any feeling of triumph or banners flying. The reassuring chants of ‘sanctified terrain… far… somewhere… elsewhere . . .’ may have been in the depths of their hearts, but their move beyond, to lands unknown, was not without mournful doubts.
Quietly, they heard the blessing of the hermits at Lake Namaskar and did not even smile when the oldest hermit possibly made a mistake about the name of Purus and said :
‘Go then, Purusa, take your Aryas; but as you flee from evil, carry not evil with yourself; and even if you are sacrificed in many parts, let your deed be noble in the reckoning of God and man; not by one or the other; but in the judgment of both; so that till the end of time, the Arya shall be known as noble.’
Purusa! That is what the hermit had called Purus. Some said a peculiar mistake indeed, by an enlightened hermit! Others said, it was not a mistake at all!
Purusa had an enticing array of meanings. It meant ideal man; but it also meant ‘world spirit’ to those sages who conceived the entire universe as an organic whole and various aspects of creation as parts of the macrocosmic unity. There were other sages who synthesized entire human society into one being the Prurusa. Often also Purusa meant the primeval man, who sacrificed himself to bring justice and freedom to others.
Centuries later, an echo of this would be found in the Rig Veda as well, which describes Purusa as possessed of ‘Myriad heads, myriad eyes, myriad feet, pervading terrestrial regions… and extending beyond the universe by a space of ten fingers.’
Ironically and perversely though, the Rig Veda hymns on Purusa would subsequently be distorted and misquoted as sanctioning or condoning different levels of humanity or the caste system which would come to cast its shadow on post-Vedic society long after the return of the Aryans to Bharat Varsha. In point of fact, the pre-ancient songs are clear that primeval man made this sacrifice so that the sacred laws of freedom, justice and equality be honoured and man may protect nature and creation and, if need be, even sacrifice himself in that cause.
The lands beyond Namaskar lake, into which the Arya Bands moved, had no special name. The hermits referred to them as the lands of Hari Haran. Long after the Arya bands moved in, it began to be called Hari Haran Aryan or simply the land of Aryan, and from this later emerged its name Iran.
It was in the isolation of Hari Haran Aryan (Iran) that the Arya bands rested. Several other bands traveling from Avagana joined them. Purus injured his leg and remained in Iran (Persia) with some Arya groups. Many groups moved on in various directions in the west to modern Turkey and Iraq; in the south to the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman; and to the north into the erstwhile Soviet Union.
The influx into what was the Soviet Union had begun not only from Iran. Many Aryan bands from Avagana itself moved there, on the routes which Sadhu Gandhara had earlier taken.
Sadly, nine out of every ten that traveled on Sadhu Gandhara’s routes, died. Those that went to Iran and beyond did not fare so poorly but, even so, less than half survived.
Purus recovered a little from his leg injury. He himself was impatient to move forward. But during his enforced stay in Iran, he had become the central figure and focal point for protecting Aryan groups and assisting and equipping them to move out in various directions.
And move out they did, all across the west. It was also the sea-route from the mouth of Sindhu river that attracted the Aryans.
From all over in upper Sindhu and elsewhere, the Aryas came to congregate in lower Sindhu. Karkarta Sauvira himself set up comfortable camps for them in lower Sindhu to oversee and encourage their move to lands beyond the sea to the Persian Gulf and Sumer (modern Iraq).
To avoid hurting the sensitivities of lower Sindhu, Karkarta Sauvira would always refer to these Aryas as ‘Arya pilgrims’ to emphasize that they were ‘of no land, but God’s pilgrims to all lands, everywhere, with a purpose that is sacred and intent that is noble.’
The sea voyages of Aryans began.
As it is, long-distance sea voyages had begun earlier, even in Karkarta Nandan’s time. Nandan had given every encouragement so that bigger, faster and safer boats are built and even a ship with 108 oars was developed. The seafarers had then touched the Persian Gulf and thence proceeded to the coast of Sumer between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. But the men who went in those boast were sailors, mariners and seamen, interested in exploring the sea and not land. A few stayed back though, to build their huts on the coastline, and even piers and docks for the loading and repair of boats that came infrequently from Sindhu. However, finding no locals nearby, and nothing of real interest to them in the immediate vicinity, their trips inland were few and never too deep.
But the Aryan who crowded into the boats for the Persian Gulf and Sumer were not seafarers. They were frightened, gentle souls, who were stricken with fear certain that the winds would tear their boats apart and the ocean would open its depths to swallow them. And then even the song, ‘Onward, Noble Arya…’ failed to soothe them.
Shipwrecks did take place since boats were being hastily built in order to meet the large demand.
Suddenly, however, all boat-traffic stopped as the Naudhyaksa (superintendent of ships) of lower Sindhu intervened, demanding that no boat leave, until he and his men had inspected it fully.
Karkarta Sauvira himself rushed to the scene. The ‘unfeeling’ retort attributed by a poet to Naudhyaksa was :
‘I care not how many “faithfuls” drown
But how dare they drag my sea-men down!’
Nandan’s great-grandson also refers to this, not so much to show that the Naudhyaksa was unconcerned with the Aryas who drowned and cared only for the safety of his sailors but mainly to show how considerate Karkarta Sauvira was, to bring in hundreds of men to assist in boat-building.
Most Aryas waiting to be transported to the Persian Gulf and Sumer were also put on the job of repairing and building boats. Many ‘unfeeling’ lines have again been attributed to Naudhyaksa.
However, Naudhyaksa was not always caustic. He and his men would often sit with the Aryas to explain the finer points of boat-building to them. He also demanded that each Arya-man, woman and child must learn to be a better swimmer. He concentrated on children, saying, ‘Adults have lived long enough, so it does not matter if they drown, though they too should learn to swim if only to save their children, if the need arises, and then they can drown in peace.’
Naudhyaksa also ‘persuaded’ some Aryas, who became proficient in boat-building, to stay back. He called them ‘sailors with land-legs.’
Forcefully, he was warned by Karkarta Sauvira’s men that their Karkarta was against keeping back the Aryas. He was not bothered and said, ‘Impossible! Don’t forget, he is Karkarta Nandan’s grandson who helped us to build bigger, better ships. He is the son of Karkarta Sharat whose elder brother was an illustrious naudhyaksa and, at his feet, I learnt my art. He is the one who toiled and died to make a ship of 108 oars a reality. And you tell me that Karkarta Sauvira is also forgetful of his ancestry and so unenlightened as to object! Nonsense! You insult your Karkarta! And you insult the memory of his ancestors!’
Karkarta Sauvira heard it all and never objected again. But, by and large, it was the ‘herd instinct’ that prevailed, and the cry came from other Aryas, ‘Why do you desert us cruelly at this moment of parting?’ And most of the Arya boat-builders delayed their departure, but eventually, they too left.
Steadily, one after another, the Aryans reached the coast of Sumer.
They moved inland, deeper, coming across many people and settlements.
Later, some Arya groups would even mix and mingle with their roving bands which had reached Iran and Afghanistan with Purus.
Many routes were taken by the Aryas to the north and east. Not all the routes are known with certainty. For the Arya bands often cris-crossed each other, sometimes joining other bands, sometimes separating. At times, bands and even individuals refused to go on, some staying back, and others returning.
However, the major routes to the east were through the Land of Brahma (Burma), which had its autonomous chief, under the sovereignty of Gangapati of Ganga. The treks began through modern East Bengal, Assam and Manipur (Munipur); and thence from upper Burma, the Arya groups moved southwards, some to reach Malaya and Sindpur (later know as Singhpur and, now, Singapore). It was from Malaya and Sindpur, that they would reach Bali and Sumatra by boat.
Gangapati had also organized boats for the sea-journey, just as Karkarta Sauvira had done in Sapta Sindhu. Arya bands worked day and night to build more boats at port Tamralipti (near modern Midnapore district; map reference : 22.25n, 87.20e) and at ports on the Orissa coast. Boats proceeded along the coasts of Bengal and Burma and after crossing the Bay of Bengal reached Malaya, Sindpur, Hindu Chhaya (Indo-China) and Indonesia.
At Bali, the Aryas would build the first Hindu temple, later at Sindpur, and possibly, at the same time, in Cambodia.
Among the routes to China was also the overland route across Avagana over the Hindu Kush Passes to Bactria, thereafter through Central Asia to western China. Another route went through Upper Burma to Southwest China. Additionally, there were the sea-routes from the coasts of Indo-China and through the East Indies islands.
The visit of the Aryan team to China was not the first of its kind from Bharat Varsha. Much earlier, long before the Aryan movement began, a team from Bharat Varsha had visited China (known then as the Land of Kosa Karas. Gidwani’s Return of the Aryans relates also the following story.
“The existence of quantities of jade excavated in the pre-Aryan Indus valley civilization surprised many. There was no cause for surprise. The clue for the existence of so much jade in the Sindhu civilization is found in the proverb which was current even before Karkarta Sauvira’s time ‘Look for a worm, and a treasure you may find!’
“The background to this proverb needs to be explained :
“The source of Sindhu river in Tibata had been discovered by the expedition sent out by Karkarta Bharat. Later, Rishi Skanda Dasa established an ashram there. The ashram attracted a number of locals and one of them presented the Rishi with a treasured possession a cloth of soft, sleek silk. The Rishi was told that the silk, brought by a traveler from the north, was made from the cocoons of domesticated worms. The traveler had been delighted to exchange his silk cloth with the finest cotton made in Sapta Sindhu.
“The Rishi sent the silk cloth to Karkarta Bharat; and from then on began a series of consultations between the Guild of Weavers and the Guild of Merchants. The weaver’s guild was content with the excellent cotton fiber and textiles they were producing in Bharat Varsha, but the merchant’s guild went ahead with organizing a team to go north, with the Rishi’s help. The team was composed of fifty-four locals from Tibet and six weavers from Sapta Sindhu.
“The team of Sixty left for the Land of Kosa Karas.
“After eight years, fifteen members of the team returned. With them, they brought a group of over 450 men, women and children fleeing the anarchy of the Land of Kosa Karas. They had harrowing tales to tell of the brutality, massacres and incessant warfare everywhere in that land. Yet they spoke also of the gentleness and compassion of the many ordinary though powerless people.
“The failure of the team was that it did not find areas in China which domesticated silkworms. Its success was the fifteen team members and the group of 450 brought jade. And thus began the proverb ‘Look for a worm and a treasure you may find.’
“Little is known of the forty five missing members of the team sent out to the land of Kosa Karas. Fourteen are definitely known to have died during their wandering there. Ten decided to stay back. Of them, one a weaver from Sindhu took a wife from Kosa Karas and was immediately unpopular with his wife’s family over his failure to appreciate the local custom whereby all childless females sisters, cousins, aunts in the family must be regarded as married to the new husband. He had heard about the custom before marriage, but he thought it was to be a spiritual bond, and not a ‘body-bond’.
“It is not known if he ultimately resisted the temptation or succumbed to it. But one thing is certain. He prayed to his god Skanda the god of fertility day and night – for a child to be born to his wife, so that she may remain totally outside the amorous advance of any new husband who entered into the family fold.
“God Skanda was apparently impressed with his prayers and his wife gave birth to twins a boy and a girl just two days before another husband entered the family, as a result of the marriage of his wife’s elder sister.
“The new husband could now command a pool of twenty-nine females from the family, in addition to his own wife, but not the wife of the weaver from Sindhu, or the other women who had borne children.
“So much about the weaver from Sindhu is well-known and is substantiated by many. But later, his story came to be wrapped in myths and miracles. He is credited to have sired eighteen children in eight years of marriage. That is not too difficult to believe, as he may have finally adopted the local custom of accepting all childless females in the family as married to him.
“But far greater myths arose about him in later centuries not so much in Bharat Varsha but in the land of Kosa Karas. He came to be known variously as the ‘Lord of Grain’ or the ‘Lord of Millet and Wheat,’ or the ‘Lord of Soil’. These titles of honour came to him not as a lord of the land, but simply as a cultural hero who taught agriculture to the locals, under the inspiration of his god Skanda. In the Kosa Karas myth, he is said to emerge as a lord who sprang from below (south) to tickle the soil of the earth, to bring forth grains and fruit. His inventions are supposed to have included boats and oars common in Bharat Varsha but not then in Kosa Karas. He also taught them breeding of domestic fowls. Finally, he retired to Tien Shan (celestial mountains) where his god Skanda used to come for occasional visits.
“Several portraits and statues of the Sindhu weaver appear in Kosa Karas, depicting him in a heroic mould.
“He was clearly shown as brown-skinned, with eyes and features which distinguished him from the Chinese race and identified him with the kind of statues found in the Indus valley and Saraswati civilization.
“Centuries later, for social and political reasons, the Chinese removed and modified portraits and statues of this Bharat Varsha weaver, to show instead a legendary figure with Chinese features.
“It was in Karkarta Nandan’s time that more teams were sent to the Land of Worms. They were better equipped, armed and ably led. They found more jade and some precious stones and metals, but were unable to reach the region of silkworms. Again, the proverb would be heard ‘Look for a worm and a treasure you may find.’
“Even though a few teams had been sent, it is not as if the route to Kosa Karas or even to Tibet was well-frequented. Only the hardy, intrepid travelers would venture on it.”
Yet the Arya bands moved there and elsewhere too, fired by the spark of faith within, that somehow their god would guide them to the ‘enchanted land where he himself dwells and reigns.’ If a doubt sometimes crept into their minds, they took refuge in their exulting songs there were always singers and poets whose song- stories were inspiring, to the point of rapture; and they pointed to paths that were without danger for those that tread on them in faith.
Obviously, there were other routes, minor and major and Arya groups often deviated to chart a path of their own, in faith, and sometimes even in frustration.
In respective chapters, Gidwani’s Return of the Aryans explains the main routes taken by Aryan teams to reach various regions, such as Iran, Sumeria, Egypt, Russian lands & Scythia, Lithuania, Turkey, Finland, Sweden, Italy, Denmark, Greece and Germany,
Many routes however would remain unknown. For instance, a poet relates the story of a group of Aryas in the middle of the Gobi Desert (in Mongolia, with the erstwhile Soviet Union to their north and China to the south; map reference : 43.00n; 106.00e). Of this group of 120, only two survived. The two survivors found shelter near a mountain which they called Hari Haran Mountain (Presently known as Mount Hayrhan, in Mongolia; map reference: 46.5n; 91.40e).
Even this odd incursion, outside any known route, would go unreported, except that the survivor, apparently a poet, wished to recite the prayer of an Arya who died in the Gobi Desert. The prayer was :
God! Bring me not back, as I was
Let me come as a blade of grass
Or a droplet of dew and rain
So this waterless desert blooms again….
The poet goes on for four hundred more lines to speak of the blessing of the dying man so that the waterless ‘Gobi Desert my bloom again.’