THEME 13 – ARYANS IN IRAN
Selected extracts from Return of the Aryans by Bhagwan S. Gidwani, published by Penguin Books, India, ISBN 0-14- 024053 – 5
In the distortion of time and memory, some poets have been tempted to go to extraordinary lengths to depict the Aryans as warlike, vigorous, courageous, enterprising souls, overflowing with all the lusty emotions and desires of life, and fired with the passion to explore and discover the world. With superb rhythm, imagery and narrative force, the poets recited not only some of the exploits of the Aryans, but they even speak of a well-coordinated organizational plan – and they ask what seems to them an unanswerable question : how else would they travel from so many points, on different routes, to reach so many destinations?
Aim? There was no aim to discover the world; nor to go out for adventure. The Aryan bands left simply in search of elusive purity. The assassination of Sindhu Putra had left a scar, but not all of them were influenced only by that. The feeling went far beyond and affected even those not emotionally involved with Sindhu Putra.
They saw the decay around themselves and the failure of the land of their birth to protect them. They feared that the evil against them would grow; and somewhere else, they felt, a moral order existed and that was where they must dwell.
A coordinated organizational plan? True, the Aryan bands moved out from many points. But it had to be so. Obviously, it was impossible to cover the vast distances from one end of Bharat Varsha to another in order to congregate at a single departure point. The routes they took were also many – some over land, others over water. It was not really a free choice. The point of departure itself, often determined the route. So where was the question of a well-coordinated plan! They did not choose the path they had to tread. It was simply the fantasy of faith that led them on towards ‘the unreachable goal of finding a land that is pure and free from evil.’
The migration and movement of Aryans from Bharat Varsha continued. They were unaware of shipwrecks, disasters and the sudden deaths that overtook their compatriots in foreign lands.
Many who had reached Sumer and Hari Haran Aryan would stay back, ‘their feet weary and their hearts heavy, for their fountain of hope to find the land of the pure had dried up.’ But many more still fired with faith, went on, in different directions, on different routes, finding themselves in faraway lands. Perhaps a hundred volumes are needed to describe the routes they took, the vast number of places they went to, and what all they did to protect themselves and their compatriots and, more so, to salvage the lives of the unfortunates living in those areas. At best, here, a synoptic review is all that is possible.
To begin with much of the land through which Purus and his bands of Aryans passed from Avagana (Afghanistan), was unoccupied. Their first contact was with a settlement of people, working under warlords and bandits, with the power of life and death over whoever was around them.
Possibly, bandit-chiefs could easily have wiped out the largely unarmed Aryan bands, when they were first seen. But their sheer numbers were frightening; and local bandits could never imagine that such a large ‘army’ came on a peaceful errand. Maybe, the initial approach by the first Aryan band would have convinced them of the peaceful intent of the new-comers. But the local warlord did not wait for that first approach. He did what he had always done in the past, whenever a large bandit army came into view. The drum-beat sounded, gongs were struck and inhabitants of the village were driven out to the hills, before the Aryans could reach the settlement.
Three young men, three naked women, twelve dogs and cats were left, tied and bound, in the village. This was the usual ‘peace-offering’ that bandit-lords left whenever fleeing from a large bandit-army in the hope that they would not be pursued, nor dealt with severely, if caught. It was simply a tribute to a conquering force – an acceptance of temporary sovereignty.
The six tied men and women were intended for the slavery and lustful enjoyment of the new-comers; the dogs and cats for their eating pleasure.
From a distance, the Aryans saw men, women and children fleeing. It then occurred to them that their walking-staffs – and the arrows and swords with some – had frightened the locals. They shouted reassuring words and even ran to tell them that they came in friendship, but this frightened the bandit-lord and his men even more; and they cracked their whips to drive their ‘human cattle’ faster to the hills.
The Aryans freed the twelve cats and dogs and the six men and women. Perhaps the first frightening thought that ran through the minds of these six released persons was : ‘why are they letting animals go free – are they amongst those bandits that eat only human flesh?’
Their words were foreign. But a common language was not needed to understand their fright and the suffering of many whom the bandit-lords controlled.
Purus was not from slave-stock. His father was a hermit in the forest of Varanasi. His father had been disappointed in his discussions with Sindhu Putra who offered no enlightenment on the mystery and identity of the universal spirit.
He was even more disappointed with his son Purus, who did not believe in God, but only in goodness. Later, Purus had taken to wandering, but not like a sadhu or a muni. He enjoyed a dice game and an occasional soma drink. He was proficient in yoga – yet he practiced it, not for spiritual release but for physical relaxation.
In his wandering Purus had visited the Rocks where Sindhu Putra resided, more out of curiosity than faith. He came away from there as he went in and despite what many said, he could not believe that Sindhu Putra was a god. To him, Sindhu Putra appeared simply as a lonely individual, surrounded by many in faith, and by some who were scoundrels; but somehow he failed to see in Sindhu Putra the glow of inner peace which a god, or even a man of god, must have in himself. It was as if Sindhu Putra had lost control over events and wondered if what others did in his name was the right course of action.
Purus, then, had taken up residence by the side of the many-splendoured Saraswati river. He acquired barges to transport Soma wine for sale. His slogan of ‘sacred wine on sacred river’ was appealing. Meanwhile, in the midst of his lucrative business, he thought no more of Sindhu Putra.
But the sudden news of Sindhu Putra’s assassination struck him like a shattering blow. That night he drank Soma wine and when that did no comfort him he followed it up with cheaper but stronger Sura liquor..
Since then, Purus identified himself with the cause of the Aryans and led the first Aryan contingent to Iran through Avagana. To many, it would remain a mystery why and how this pleasure-loving man, with no affiliation to Sindhu Putra, joined the cause after his assassination.
Later, a poet said, ‘Perhaps it occurred to him anew, that gods are many, and men who proclaim God’s name, many more; but men of goodness are few – and the assassination of a man of goodness diminishes us all.’
Maybe, it is the association of men like Purus with the Aryans, that caused some to say that the Aryans went out for conquest and discovery. Certainly, they said, he was not searching for a god, nor the land of pure. As it is, on that arduous journey, he often questioned himself.
The defining moment for Purus came in Iran when he saw the sight of the six unfortunates left as slaves by the bandit-lord. He realized, with even greater force, that it was futile to search here or anywhere, for gods or for the land of pure. ‘They are all hidden by heavenly smoke, he said. ‘But it is necessary that as far as man can, he should strive for goodness to make the land pure, fit for the gods to enter.’
Purus advanced his idea, though few understood him and, he said, ‘Gods wait; goodness comes first to the land by man’s effort and then only do gods enter. And gods come not to do man’s work, but to bless him; and they depart in sorrow if man ceases his work.’
If his thinking was obscure, his orders at least were clear, as he saw the anguish of these six ‘slaves.’ He said, ‘Wherever we go, we shall drive out the bandit-lords and set their slaves free.’
Most of their men could look into their own past and easily relate to this order. But some had question – ‘Surely this was not our mission!’ Purus was silent; yet others answered for him – ‘If our goal is to reach a god, and god asks what we did on the way, shall we say that we paused not to do god’s work!’ Purus had merely nodded and a poet sadly adds , ‘The truth is that he was no godly himself.’ And this poet goes on to relate the story of how Purus had made his Aryan bands carry eight barrels from Bharat Varsha, saying that they contained water from Ganga, Saraswati, Sindhu and five other sacred rivers, and how his men guarded the barrels with their life through steep ascents and treacherous gorges on the route; but the truth was that the barrels contained soma liquor, and when the truth was finally revealed Purus himself cried out, ‘It is god’s work – to turn water into wine!’ The poet adds also, ‘I laugh not at those that believe him and I honour them for their faith but the ways of this Purus were truly wayward.’
Wayward, Purus may have been in his belief in the gods, but he was single-minded in his aim to free the slaves. The six ‘slaves’ left by the bandit-chief now insisted on joining the Aryans.
Guided by the six released ‘slaves’, Purus and his bands saw to the release of many, all along the way. Later, Purus realized that the task he had undertaken was not to be treated lightheartedly. The bandit-chiefs often fought back or later counter-attacked in force.
Purus had the advantage of numbers with him, but his people lacked the spirit of violence and the skill of warfare. Often then, he engaged in battle-exercises to teach his men to fight and a poet says, ‘Aryans made arrows, swords, slingshots and poles with sharp ends; and learnt to wield them all with skill, with the instincts of a killer; and jumped up and down trees, or moved in silence to take the oppressor unawares.’
The Aryan bands swelled. More and more were reaching from Avagana. Slaves freed by the Aryans in Iran were joining them, afraid to remain in their old settlements for fear of bandits returning to wreak vengeance.
But it is not as if throughout Iran it was a scene of degradation. Society, though divided largely between a vast number of slaves and a few bandit-chiefs, had men of learning too – mostly ascetics.
The bandit-chiefs, were afraid to hurt the ascetics and their disciples. Everyone knew of the curse – that those who harm ascetics will burn in hell and their descendants too will suffer slavery; and as if that was not enough, the curse also fell on those who associated with such persons; with blessings for all who opposed the accursed. Thus, it was a self-fulfilling curse, as anyone harming an ascetic was treated as an outcast by his associates, lest the curse affect them too; and thus isolated, even once-powerful bandit-chiefs were killed or enslaved, as it was the sacred duty of all to oppose them.
Purus began to woo the ascetics. Many were willing. Around these ascetics, villages were formed, with residents declared as disciples, to discourage attacks from bandit-chiefs. Locals were trained to defend themselves and were also called Aryans, so that the bandit-chiefs would know that the Aryan bands would seek revenge, if they were harmed.
Purus set up Aryan camps in coastal regions outside the mountain ring. In these settlements, Iran (Hari Haran Aryan, as it then ame to be known) witnessed, for the first time, the development of settled village agricultural life. Domestication of animals and plants started, along with a definite shift to tool-making and later to sophisticated farming at a number of places including the sites now known as Asiab, Ali Kosh, Ganj-e-Dareh, Guran, Tepe Sabz, Sialk, Yahya, Godin and Hajji Firuz.
Villages in new settlements followed a simple rectangular pattern devised by the Aryan groups. High walls with towers at corners formed the outer face of houses which had flat roofs of mud and straw supported by wood rafters. Cattle and fowl were herded inside the walls.
It was a far cry from the aesthetic villages of Bharat Varsha, but even there in centuries past, the beginnings had been equally modest.
In the centre of the walled village would be the best hut, often unoccupied. That was supposed to house the ascetic, though generally he would be in the forest under a tree or on a rock. Yet an attack on the settlement was regarded as an attack against him, personally.
Purus regularly sent teams to visit all the Aryan settlements, so that the bandit-chiefs guilty of violating them were punished. Also, he organized teams along the routes to look after new groups arriving from Avagana and those moving from Iran to Sumer and the Persian Gulf.
Purus married a ‘wild girl of the forest’. She was supposed be the daughter of an ascetic. When she was three years old, she was abducted along with her father, mother and several other families, by a team of bandits to a faraway land. Normally bandits have no use for children, but this bandit-chief was merciful and allowed the mother to keep the child, leaving it to the mother’s buyer to decide the child’s fate. The abducted group was being driven faraway for sale. Days later, another bandit-army attacked the abductors.
The mother saw her chance and ran with the girl to a clump of trees. An arrow struck the mother. She still kept running, carrying the child. She fell not too faraway and died. Three days later, a wandering ascetic saw the little girl in the forest. She could tell him little about her people or the town. All that the ascetic could say was that her people came somewhere from the vast plains of ‘Oxus and Jaxartes’. The ascetic took the girl along, hoping to leave her with some family on the way. But who wants a three-year-old girl! They went on for days and months. At last, a family took the girl in.
The next morning, the ascetic went on his way, happy to be relieved of his burden. On entering the forest, somehow the darkness around him brought gloom to his heart. Always a wanderer, never before had he faced a feeling of loneliness. Now it came to him like a great stirring from within. He sat under a tree wondering over this strange, despairing emotion. He opened his eyes a long time later, on hearing sounds nearby. The forest, he knew had no large beasts, only deer, gazelles, foxes, wolves and lynx, and their proximity did not bother him. Nor was he afraid of bandits, who never harmed an ascetic. But actually, what he saw, were people from the settlement searching for the little girl he had left with them. The girl, it seemed, had fled to follow the ascetic into the forest.
The ascetic was now frantic with grief and panic. All his life’s indifference to human companionship was washed away in a single tidal wave. Passionately, desperately, he wanted to find the child and keep her with him. For two days, the child could not be found. The people from the settlement went back. The ascetic searched. The agony was not only in his heart. He could even feel the physical pain in his chest.
It was on the third night that he found the sleeping child. And the poet says that the child opened her eyes, unsurprised, as if she was expecting him to come and asked, ‘Did you miss me?’ Silently, the ascetic gathered her in his arms and went towards the settlement but she pointed in the opposite direction. He understood and promised, ‘Never shall I leave you again.’ She had fever and he wanted her to rest. Later, after the child was rested and well, they both left through the same forest.
But the ascetic’s passion for wandering ended. It was more from habit that he kept moving. At last he settled down in a forest with his ‘daughter’, in the land that would come to be called Hari Haran Aryan after the Aryan bands under Purus entered.
The girl was about fifteen years old when the Aryan bands moved in. About her, people said, she ‘never walks the earth’ and is always swinging from one tree to another, ‘afraid of no man or beast.’
It was two years after Purus came to Iran that he saw her or as a poet says, ‘She it was who saw him first.’ Purus, along with six companions, had been ambushed by a large bandit-group intent on revenge. An arrow had cut deep into his leg. Other arrows struck his horse. In a frenzy of pain the horse bolted, carrying him headlong into the forest, unstoppable until he got caught in a maze of thorny, prickly shrubs which formed the forest ground-cover. Without warning, the horse suddenly stopped, his forelegs high in the air. Purus fell on the ground, striking his head against a tree.
It was the girl who saw him, unconscious. Swinging from tree to tree, she picked up some fruit, to sprinkle fruit-water over Purus. From the broad-leafed evergreens, she selected leaves to press on his bleeding head. With thread-like tree vines, she tied up his leg at various points and carefully took out the arrow. She stopped the blood by finger-pressure and bandaged the wound. Apparently, she had experience, drawn from tending to wounded animals in the forest. Yet she rushed to her father and both came armed with remedies made from trees and plants which they had found useful in treating animals.
They carried Purus to their shelter. Soon they found the horse too. The horse recovered before Purus did.
Later, some Aryans said that the hurt to Purus’s head must have been more severe, for he asked the ascetic for the hand of the girl without asking the marriage-customs of her family. They knew that marriage-customs varied wildly, even widely, with sometimes a wife married to more that one husband. For instance, five or six brothers, or even friends, would pool together to get a single wife to serve them all. Nor was there a bar to someone buying a wife or husband.
But Purus asked no questions. He was determined to marry her. All he asked was her name. ‘She has no name.’ the ascetic said. ‘I have always called her “my princess” and she will be your queen for life.’
The wild girl was now shy, fully dressed, her face scrubbed, her hair groomed, no longer wishing to swing from trees.
They were married with the ascetic’s simple words, ‘You are now husband to my daughter – unborn to me, but my child always – and she is now your wife and queen for ever.’
Even so, the Aryans lit a sacred fire and Purus and his ‘queen’ went round it, with offerings of grain and flowers. The poet tells us that many animals watched from a distance and would have come nearer but for the sacred fire that was burning too brightly.
The Aryans came to love this once-wild girl. For the older women, she brought, from the forest, wild fruits and flowers which many had not seen – like roses from which she made an enticing perfume. For the young, she made a delicate, subtle perfume from a combination of many flowers, mixed largely with berberis (a prickly-stemmed shrub with yellow flowers). Women, young and old, clustered round her. It did not take her too long to learn the language of Bhart Varsha.
Men were impressed with her ability to ride and throw javelins with perfect aim – but rarely did she show off. Her prowess she reserved for moments of peril. And when those moments passed, she spoke of the bravery of others. For her, it was enough that her husband loved her. She sought no more.
Yet praise her they did and so she said to Purus, ‘They love you so much that they praise even your wife!’ He laughed, and said, ‘I love them too but I don’t go about praising their wives.’ And with mock-jealousy she retorted, ‘Don’t you ever dare praise their wives!’
She was even more popular with Aryan Vaids (physicians). From the forest, she found for them almost all the herbal remedies they were seeking and many more they knew nothing about.
She still had no name. The simply called her Purus’s queen – or sometimes, even ‘Queen,’ as Purus himself called her.
Centuries later, this title of ‘Queen,’ given to her out of love, would lead to a mystery that still remains to be resolved.
Purus died, tragically, twelve years after his marriage.
After his death, she took on many of the duties of Purus to lead the Aryans in Iran and even supervised their movements to other lands.
She remained in Iran, after most Aryans returned to Bharat Varsha. She did not remarry. Her one son and two daughters from Purus also remained with her in Iran, though many locals joined the Aryans to go to Bharat Varsha – tied by bonds of marriage, love or friendship.
Centuries later, someone supposed to be either the forty-eighth or eighty-fourth descendant of this ‘Queen’ and Purus, is quoted to having said :
‘My ancestress was the first Queen of Persia, whose cradle-land was the plain of Oxus and Jaxartes; and a sage who could foretell her great and glorious destiny travelled far, to pick her up from there when she was barely three years old; and the sage brought her to Persia, where he trained her in all the arts; and when the sage was old, and could teach no more, he got her married to a valiant commander of the Aryan armies from the east, who was fated to live for twelve years; later, she herself trained armies of her own, permitting the eastern armies to go back home; but many of them remained to witness the glory of the first and foremost Queen of Persia, whose reign was glorious and great, even though I , a descendant of this illustrious Queen, command no more than thirty-four goats and sheep in this miserable settlement of Rhages from which she ruled the land in righteousness and splendour . . . . . And her glory and greatness is ever revealed in the traditional memory of the people and in the Sacred Leaves (books).’
No one knows how reliable this quotation of this real or mythical descendant of the little girl who came from the vast plains of Oxus and Jaxartes, is. The mere fact that many cite it is no reason for believing it. Particularly curious is this statement that ‘. . . . . her glory and greatness is in . . . . the Sacred Leaves (books).’ As it is, there is no such record in any sacred book of Bharat Varsha. Nor could the reference be to Avesta, the pre-Islamic, Zoroastrian holy book of Iran (and of Parsis in India). The fact is that the Avesta was composed long centuries after the ‘Queen of Persia’ is supposed to have come into being, and even this particular descendant may not have been around at the time of its composition. In any case, there is no reference in the Avesta to this ‘Queen of Persia.’
The fact however remains that only the fourth part of the original Avesta was saved after the Arab conquest of Iran in the seventh century AD, and the rest of it was looted and burnt. But it may not be correct to presume that this ‘traditional memory’ is documented in the lost tracts of the Avesta or in its Gathas – the hymns of Zoroaster.
NOTE: Zoroaster (Zarathushtra or Zartosht) was a poet, prophet, philosopher and reformer who led the wave for establishment of the great religion of Zoroastrianism of Ahura Mazda around 580 BC, a little before the conversion of King Vishtaspa of Chorasmia in 588 BC. Neither in those early Gathas which were written or inspired by Prophet Zoroaster himself, nor in later material, composed long after his time (after 550 BC), is there any clue of the traditional memory of the pre-ancient ‘Queen of Persia.’ Incidentally, Zoroastrianism now exists only in isolated areas of Iran. The religion however flourishes in India among Parsis whose ancestors found sanctuary in India from the eighth century AD onwards, after the Muslim conquest of Iran. But even in the Parsi hymns inspired in these later centuries, there is not reference to any traditionally memory about the ‘Queen of Persia’ in or around 5000 B.C. The fact however is that Prophet Zoroaster’s teachings were concerned with man’s lofty pilgrimage to vanquish evil, to accept ‘life’, to reject ‘not life,’ in the ‘desirable’ kingdom yet to come, when evil is destroyed and the ‘followers of the lie’ are silenced. Thus the Avesta and its associated Gathas would hardly be concerned with mere details of prehistory or the ‘Queen of Persia,’ even assuming that the lost tracts of the Avesta are rediscovered. Therefore all that can possibly be said in favour of the quotation of the said descendant of the ‘Queen of Persia’ is that he was referring to some other ‘Sacred Leaves’ or books which cannot be found.
Purus had become man of caution in the years after his marriage. Gone were the days when he willingly courted danger. He concerned himself more and more with protecting Aryan bands, rather that rushing headlong into the attack to free slave from the bandits.
Some said that after marriage, Purus had assumed imperial airs, as he traveled in a chariot or was carried on a chair. But this was because he was unable to run or ride until his leg healed completely; and yet he had to be at more than one place at the same time to inspect and organize.
Rarely did Purus make frontal assaults on the bandit-chiefs and their followers. Often he frightened them into fleeing merely by a show of strength.
With the arrival of more Aryan bands and many locals joining Purus, the Aryan settlements outside the mountain ring grew.
The largest Aryan camp was set up at Bhakti Gaon (town of worship) at Daryanchen-je lake. Bhakti Gaon is now named Bakhtegan (map reference 29.20n; 54.05e). Another large camp was established at Hari (south of modern Tehran; the area is now called Rey – map reference : 35.35n; 51.25e).
The largest number of camps were however established in Hara (Lord Shiva) region (map reference : 29n; 51e).
The Hara region went through many successive names. After Purus’s death it was known as Purus region (or as latter Assyrian records show, it was known as Parsumash or Purusmath). Presently it is known as the Parsa or Fars province of Iran. The ruling dynasty of Persians settled here after the overthrow of the Medes in 550 BC.
Purus also insisted on drill, discipline and even showmanship. His Aryan bands would move with banners, as though always on the march, fearing no opposition and assured of victory, should anyone attack. He chose four banners for his people:
For Men of the Mouth – singers, marching ahead with their songs to keep everyone’s spirits up; route-finders; scouts moving far in advance to shout in case of danger – a white flag.
For Men of Arms – fighters and warriors – a green flag.
For the People of the Breast – women not trained for fighting, children, the old and infirm – a red flag.
For People of Hands and Feet – artisans, peasants, workers, artists, food-gatherers, untrained for war but expected to protect the Red Flag people if the need arose – a blue flag.
Banners and flags were,some what, for show, but their movements were also to signal danger and summon help, when the columns were at a distance. Normally though, the white flags would march ahead while the green flags formed an outer ring with the red and blue flags inside the protected ring.
There are those who have tried to see a common link between this four-fold colour (varna) classification of Purus and the caste system which came to distort Hindu society some thousands of years later, in the post-Vedic modern era. There is no connection at all.
Purus’s classification of mouth-people, arms-people, breast-people, and feet-people and his identification of them with different flag-colors was simply for the purpose of attack, defence protection and to ensure that those joining the march, on the way, would know which formation to join and thus avoid a disorderly scramble for a place in the ‘army’ on the march. Besides, the man leading the ‘army’ from one settlement to another, or to chart a new area, had to know at a glance how many fighters he had and how many he had to protect – and this determined his movement and route. But there never was a question of who was lower or higher than the other. In any case, as already explained the caste system never existed in those times and came long after the Rig Veda, so much so that Sanskrit has no word for it. But then, as it is, some misguided commentators have even gone to the extent of distorting a later Rig-Vedic hymn (X.90) to argue that it sanctions or condones the caste system.
Purus was ambushed by bandit-chiefs. He had foolishly rushed off with three others when a local complained that his wife had been molested by an outsider. He was cut down. His three companions were left dead as they were. But to show the mark of personal vengeance, Purus’s body was cut up in several parts – arms, mouth, feet, eyes – and distributed among the attackers to throw on the way, to be eaten by vultures.
There are, then, stories of the vengeance by the wife of Purus- how she moved swiftly with armies of locals to hunt the bandits. To the Aryans form Bharat Varsha she said, ‘This vengeance is ours.’ But some Aryans said, ‘Purus was ours before he was yours and for ever now, yours and ours’ and they too moved against the bandits under her banner.
Purus’s wife caught her husband’s murderers but her thrust went beyond. She hunted even those bandits who posed no threat to the Aryan settlements. Summarily they were hanged, with followers and families, and their bodies thrown to the vultures.
Her ‘ascetic father’, old and emaciated, came to accuse her, ‘This was not your husband’s way! He taught love, mercy and understanding! Vultures devoured his flesh; but you deny him his soul everlasting! And you defile his memory!’ She wept and stopped her tempestuous reprisals.
She would shed more tears later when her ‘asceitc father’ was dying. He had declared his will – ‘Let my dead body be left, unburied, for vultures and animals to devour, as the dead body of Purus was. Let it be my salute to him to go the same way – and be it also a symbol of my offerings to birds and animals, from whom so much mankind takes!’
When he died, the Aryans built a fire for cremation. The locals dug a grave. But his last ‘will’ was carried out. The fire remained burning. The grave-pit was left unfilled. Everyone had to leave. But even after a day, his body was untouched. The ascetic’s old dog kept the vultures away.
The dog was bleeding, half-blinded by its attacks on vultures. It had to be forcibly taken away. Later, the locals buried the remains of the ascetic’s bones.
A poet adds that the dog also died because he refused food. The dog would not be coaxed by the ascetic’s daughter whom he loved and yet kept growling at her. Only in the end, he dragged himself to her, licked her hand and died. Perhaps, at last, the dog understood. Who knows!
Purus’s wife declared that, on her death, her body too must be left to the animals and vultures. It seems that this custom caught on in Iran, on the inspiration of her father, ‘and in memory of Purus’, even before her death, among the locals.
Purus’ wife remained in overall command of the Aryans. Her later history is surrounded by mystery, particularly after most Aryans from Bharat Varsha returned to their land.
Although the Aryans from Bharat Varsha did not remain in Iran for very long, the influence they left behind was considerable. This influence is especially noticeable in the Iranian language. Also, the influence still persists, deeply embedded, in Iranian art, culture and their spiritual and religious ethos.
Yet it is true that the Aryans from Bharat Varsha left behind the influence of only one limited aspect of their spiritual philosophy – the philosophy of salvation by following a saviour who is commanded by God to bring revelation. This was combined with the belief that when the earth was defiled by forces of darkness and evil such a saviour would be incarnated in human shape to assist man’s soul in its ascension back to its original celestial home. Centuries later, long after the Aryans returned, this view would somehow begin to lead to an attitude of monotheism – of the unwavering belief in an inflexible creed, as though acceptance of a particular metaphysic was necessary for salvation, and its non-acceptance, a sin, meriting punishment in hell. This limited view was a far cry from the kind of polytheism that dominated the landscape of Bharat Varsha. The sages of Ganga, Sindhu, and Dravidham clearly held that the scheme of salvation was not limited to those who held a particular view of God’s nature and worship; to them such absolutism would be inconsistent with an all-loving, universal God – ‘There are none that are chosen of God and God is denied to none, for what counts is conduct, not creed.’
How is it then that the Aryans from Bharat Varsha failed to leave the foundation for their belief that God’s gracious purpose included all aspirants – whatever their creed – and included even non-aspirants, without a creed! The fact is that these simple Aryans had no sages, philosophers or even poets among them. They had travelled across great distances, some in fear of persecution and many fired by faith in their personal god, to lead them to the land of the pure. What spiritual legacy could they leave behind! Even Purus, who led the Aryan bands to Iran, was stirred by a sudden bond of sympathy with the Aryans and not by the belief in any god. A poet tells the following story about Purus :
The Aryan groups from Sumer (Iraq) narrated to Purus their sad tales of unfortunate ship-wrecks that killed many on the way. According to them, they prayed ‘day and night to god Indra, but the god did not listen, and the cruel sea swallowed them. . . .’ Someone late asked Purus, ‘Is god Indra so unkind?’ And Purus replied, ‘Gods are capricious; maybe Indra is more capricious than others.’
These light-hearted words became etched in people’s memory. Purus had reached such a commanding position that people spoke of him as they speak of legendary heroes, and every word he uttered was remembered, repeated and retold. No wonder then that though the Iranians honoured many gods of Bharat Varsha, Indra was never highly rated.
The Avesta of the Zoroastrians, for instance, honors god Mitra, but depicts god Indra with some demonic qualities – maybe as the result of the lighthearted words of Purus that remained in the traditional Iranian memory for centuries before the Avesta was composed.
But then Purus was like that. He believed in no gods – not perhaps even in God, except as a symbol of goodness. Besides, the Aryans did not go out to impose their gods on others, nor to leave behind a legacy of their spiritual belief, since their own tradition itself taught them respect for the beliefs and gods of others. The belief of the Aryans of Bharat Varsha simply was that whatever god you choose, he is that God and Dharma (righteousness) is His Will.