In Quest of the Dates of the Vedas:

 A comprehensive study of the Vedic and the Indo-European flora, fauna and climate over the last 10,000 years in light of the information emerging from the disciplines of archaeology, archaeo-botany, geology, genetics and linguistics

by Premendra Priyadarshi




There has been a perpetual debate about the dates of the Vedas and the origin of the Indo-European speaking people. “Paradigms, especially old ones, die harder than Bruce Willis.” said James Adovasio.[1] There have been explosively new findings in archaeology and genetics, and also in the field of linguistics, having the capacity to rewrite an entirely different history of mankind. But the history as stated in the books and preserved in the minds of the authors has not changed the least.

There is a lot of information in the Vedas which pose the time limits for each of the four Vedic Samhitas. The Rig-Veda does not have wheat, rice, millets, lentil, date-palm (Phoenix). These appear in the Yajur-Veda. From archaeology, we know that wheat and rice both were well cultivated in the Ghaghar-Hakra culture in the fifth millennium BC (Shinde). Thus Rig-Veda must be before that time. Lentil was domesticated in West Asia, but it arrived in India in the Bronze Age. Its absence from the Rig-Veda and presence in the Yajur-Veda speaks a lot about the dates of the two texts. Date-palm arrived in the region in the mid sixth millennium (Costantini). Its absence from the Rig-Veda fixes the date of this text to before the sixth millennium BC.

The finger millet, which came from Africa to India in the late second millennium BC (Fuller) is absent from all the Vedas, clearly indicating that all the Vedas had been edited finally before this time. Contrasting this, the foxtail millet (priyaṅgu), which arrived in India from China during the early Bronze Age has been mentioned in the Yajur-Veda, and not mentioned in the Rig-Veda. This finding would fix the date of the Rig-Veda before the Bronze Age and that of the Yajur-Veda contemporary with the Bronze Age.

The Yajur-Veda corresponds to the wet and warm mid-Holocene (5,500-2500 BC). And this is the reason why we generally get mention of those animals in the Yajur-Veda which lived only in the wet and warm climates, but cannot live in cold dry climates. Such animals are crocodile, tortoise, beaver, rhinoceros etc which are completely absent from the Rig-Veda. Rhinoceros, beaver and crocodile become absent again in the Atharva-Veda indicating change to the dry climate, and placing the Athava-Veda after 1900 BC. However the domestic animals are present in all the periods indicating early domestication of the cow, buffalo, camel and horse.

The period of the Sama-Veda comes to 6000-5,500 BC, which was the transition period between cold-dry Early Holocene and the wet and warm mid-Holocene. The Rig-Veda gets placed in the cold and dry Early Holocene (8000-6000 BC) when the Sarasvati was connected with the Himalayan glaciers.

The DNA of the humans have revealed that once evolved in East Africa, man used the Arabian southern coast as a land-bridge to reach India and then all further human expansion and dispersal took place from there. This has been proved again and again that this was the sole route out of Africa. That the man came out from Africa through the Sinai land-bridge has been ruled out by an infinite number of DNA studies. Yet most of the authors, including even many of the geneticists refer to the out of Africa route as through Sinai to Middle East, and then trifurcating the way one leading to Europe, other to Central Asia and the third to Iran!

The human DNA studies have not been covered in this book, because I have already dwelt on that topic in my previous book The First Civilization of the World. Nor have I discussed here in this book the DNA studies of most of the domestic animals and plants, as they too have been discussed and analyzed in my earlier book as well as some of my journal articles. The conclusion of these DNA studies is that domestic mouse (Mus musculus), black rat (Rattus rattus), Shrew, cow (Bos indicus), pig, buffalo, sheep and goat were domesticated first in India, and then they migrated to the rest of the world. Some of these have been mentioned in this book.

The most powerful blow to the Aryan Invasion Theory came not from the study of the human DNA but from the studies of the horse DNA. The theory had rested on the hypothesis that the steppe was the home of the wild caballus horse Przewalskii, which was domesticated there and with the help of this domesticated horse the countries to the west (Europe) and to the south (India, Iran) were conquered by the Aryans of the steppe. However the DNA examinations of the horses have contradicted this view. They have revealed that the Przewalskii was not a member of the caballus horse species at all, but it was an independent species with two chromosomes more than the true horse–Equus caballus (or Equus ferus f. caballus). Other studies came out with the conclusion that the DNAs recovered from the archaeological remains of the domestic horse found in Central Asia and western steppe were all of the horses originating in China or anywhere else but not in the steppe itself. Frachetti demonstrated that the domestic horse and riding became features of Central Asian nomads in the Common Era, and not before that. Levine clarified that the horse bones recoverd from the steppe and Central Asia belonged to the hunted horses, not the domestic horses.

There is enough evidence generated in literature about origin of the light race horses from the Indian Sivalensis (q.v.). Nearly all of such evidence had been generated by the benevolent generation of the English and other Western scholarship which lived before the Second World War. Current generation of scholars, whether Indian or Western, is more interested in popularity and important positions, and concern for the truth has become uncommon. Thus, whenever DNAs of the domestic horses (or even sheep, goat and camel) of the world have been compared, the Indian samples have been left out.

As such, there is no sound evidence of the origin of the domestic horse from the steppe. Thompson found that either the European wild horse Tarpan or the Mongolian wild horse Przewalskii was the ancestor of the heavier built daft type horse of Europe, and that the lighter race horses of the south like the Arabian horse originated from the Sivalensis. By this time it has become clear that the Tarpan was the ancestor of the European daft horse, not the Przewalskii.

The DNA studies of the living as well as the archaeological horses found that there were centres of local horse domestication in Europe older than the supposed presence of the domestic horse in the steppe. Another development was the collapse of David Anthony’s Dereivka horse of 4200 BC. The claim was retracted by the author himself after the radiocarbon dating of the Dereivka horse’s skull proved him wrong.

The reason why there was a sharp decline in the number of horses after 6000 BC in India is climatic. The mid-Holocene wet climate converted the Indus-Sarasvati region from grassland to a dense forest region making it inhospitable to the wild horse and camel, as well as the ostrich and giraffe. Hence the Indian wild horse Sivalensis became extinct from the wild existence soon after 6000 BC. The regional wild horses either died or migrated to the Thar region in India and also to Iran and South Central Asia (Turkmenistan, Tajikistan). Some of the light Indian horses which had adapted to the high altitudes of the Himalayas too survived this period. But over the time their mares were captured and assimilated into the domestic stock, and they too became extinct from the wild.

During 6000 BC to 2000 BC, and even after that, the Indus-Sarasvati region had only domestic horses, which dwindled greatly in number because of the Vedic ritualistic slaughter of the horse. This is the why we get so less horse bones in the Indus Valley Civilization. But Kazanas pointed out in his lecture delivered in the Patna University in April 2013 that the horse bones do not increase in Indian archaeology even up to 800 BC; and there is no archaeological evidence of any increase in the number of the horse bones in Indian archaeology at about 1500 BC or any time in the second millennium BC. The animal got strongly associated with the burial-ritual and its graphic depiction probably became a taboo. This could be one of the reasons for its not having been depicted in the Indus seals.

When the DNA studies ruled out any human migration from Europe, Central Asia or West Asia to have arrived into India between 8,000 BC and 1000 BC, it was expected that the Aryan Invasion hypothesis would be retracted. However, it did not happen. The argument was changed from “invasion” to “language-conversion”. The languages of North India and Iran were changed under the powerful rule of a handful of invading Aryans who have not left any mark of their genes on India, yet were able to convert the whole of North India into Indo-European speaking within a couple of centuries, at a time when there was no mass media, a very low literacy rate and very restrictive travelling conditions. This is a very far-fetched imagination. This type of language change did not happen in north India during the 600 years of rule by the Persian speaking elite Muslims in India. Nor did it happen in Europe during the period of the Roman Empire or in Spain during the long Arab rule in the country.

Often self-contradictory stands have been taken by people when it comes to the history of India. Thus, Peter Bellwood wrote that the elite-dominance leading to language change cannot operate over a very large population. However when the issue related with India, he supported the hypothesis that the Aryans from Turkey arrived into India with farming, and changed the language of the northern part of India under their dominating farming skills.

There was the need to produce a robust multi-disciplinary work to clarify the confusions, false beliefs and wrong impressions prevailing in the field of Indo-European history. For the purpose, I persuaded and talked with a large number of learned people in India. Failing in my effort, I decided to do the team work alone. By this I mean, I had to myself study the basics of all the disciplines involved and make in-depth examination of the available facts, arguments and possibilities.

The whole philology of the animal and plants having bearing on the homeland issue has been re-examined in this book. It has been established in this book on the basis of philological examination that lion, tiger, mongoose, camel, crab, oyster, conch-snails, carp (fish), snakes (including even the python), frog, tortoise, chameleon and lizard lived in the original home of the Indo-Europeans. These animals are characteristically Indian or southern in distribution and presence of the Indo-European name for these animals proves that the Indo-Europeans lived at a place where these animals were found.

The Lachs Theory of Thieme (1951) has been examined here and it has been found that words lachs etc for “salmon” are actually words from the substrate language of Europe and Central Asia and the cognates are distributed up to Japanese and even North Amerindian languages. Hence, these words are certainly not Indo-European, and the Lachs Theory should not have been launched in the first place. Thus the Lachs Theory can be discarded now onwards in the Indo-European studies.

That the plants mulberry, opium, Calotropis, lotus, Acacia and rose-apple (Indian plum) grew in the homeland has been made evident by the philological survey done in this book. These are typically Indian plants. However there are some European plants which have been claimed by Witzel and the other authors to have been part of the philologically deciphered Indo-European flora. The examination of such claims reveals that there was gross manipulation of facts for achieving such conclusions. The sections on beech and oak demonstrate how scholars have concocted and lied. However attempt has been made in this book to identify the Vedic names of those plants and animals which existed in India in the Early Holocene dry and cold climate but became extinct once the region became wetter and warmer, and are not found in India toady except some of them in the Himalayas.

I have tried not to repeat the arguments of the earlier authors like Nicholas Kazanas, B.B. Lal, S.P. Gupta and Koenraad Elst. However if anything in the argument needed to be explored further that has been done. The fundamental bases of some of the arguments of Parpola, Witzel, Thieme etc have been examined and found to be wrong. Copper toy-chariots have been found from the Indus Valley Civilization (Mackay, Vats), although denied by these authors. There is enormous genetic and cultural evidence of dispersal of Indians in all direction during the Bronze Age, which cannot be accounted for by the hypotheses of the AIT authors.

Although the language used in the Veads is nearly the same, the content covers information of periods separated by thousands of years. Obviously it will have to be accepted that the same contents were given new language as the time changed. Thus the texts were regularly edited for the language change taking place with time within the northwest India’s Indo-European linguistic stock. However it is possible that no further editing has been done after 1300 BC, the date of the last of all the Vedas (Atharva-Veda).

It is easier and better to accept that the language of the texts were changed with time, rather than to say that the two thirds of such a large and populous sub-continent as India changed its language at 1500-1300 BC. Both are assumptions, but which one could have happened more easily is the deciding point—language change of the entire population or the gradual language editing of the sacred texts as time passed. After all it was an oral tradition in which the language changes take place even without being discernible to the speakers.

In this entire book the word “Veda” has been used to imply the respective samhita portions of the four Vedas only. The flora, fauna and climate of the four Vedas are all entirely different from each other as if they describe or pertain to four entirely different periods of time. Such information needed to be correlated with that available from the recent studies in archaeo-biology and geology.

Geology has recently clarified that the Sarasvati River lost her connection with the Himalayan glaciers at about 8900 BP or about 6950 BC. This problem can be only resolved if we date the Rig-Veda to about 6000 to 8000 BC. That was the time when no tiger lived in that region although the lion lived because it was a grassland ecosystem. Consistent with this information we find that there is no mention of the tiger in the Rig-Veda. Historians have ignored the Vedic texts completely while writing about the history of the Vedic period. The Rig-Veda depicts all three modes of life, hunter-gatherer, pastoral and farming. This pertains to the dawn of the Neolithic period.

The reports of the presence or absence of the pollens of the various trees have come out in the last ten years in many scientific journals. They have been thoroughly exhausted here to provide a picture of the different trees or types of ecosystems present during the various eras of the Holocene in India, Iran, Central Asia, the steppe and North and South Europe. This picture explains why some names of certain plants and animals survived in either North Europe or South Europe but not in both.

The survival of the names of the plants and animals depended on the presences of such animals or plants throughout the route of migration as well as at the source and the destination. Such climatic conditions were present in which millennium has been determined in this book on the basis of the recent palynological reports. That gives us the precise date of migration to any particular country or region. This method has been utilized for the first time in this book.

Attempt has been made to identify the some of the animals and plants mentioned in the Rig-Veda or in the later Vedas but which no more exist in India. Or if at all they exist, they exist in the high reaches of the Himalayas and have slipped out of the popular memory. Such plants include the soma, suparṇā, kadru, kuṣṭha, devadāru etc. Such identifications will help the medical field as many of such plants have been mentioned in the Vedas as the cure of some serious diseases like tuberculosis.

Although I believe that the word Aryan has been abused too much, and the phrase ‘original Indo-European speakers’ should be used instead, yet I have used it often because of its brevity and handyness. I do suppose that that was an original language for all mankind, and its relic evidence is printed on all the languages of the world (Bengston and Ruhlen). Thus the family tree of the languages will also emerge parallel to the DNA family trees. Matrilineal trees (mtDNA) would reflect more exactly the language tree. There was a language which was ancestral to all the Indo-European languages, although it was not the same as the suggested PIE forms, but in many ways similar. It cannot be the same because of the limitations of the human minds to visualize the truth. But this language did not come in isolation from the heaven, and it resembled the other languages in its neighbourhood, like the Proto-Munda, Proto-Dravidian etc. In this book, the word Veda has been used to denote the respective Samhita portions only.


[1] My friend Stephen Oppenheimer had once cited  this, and I owe this quote to him.