THE ARCTIC HOME IN THE VEDAS
Being Also a New Key to the Interpretation of
Many Vedic Texts and Legends
Lokamanya Bâl Gangâdhar Tilak
The proprietor of the Kesari and the Mahratta newspapers,
The author of the Orion or Researches into the Antiquity of the Vedas,
The Gita Rahasya (a Book on Hindu Philosophy) etc., etc.
Messrs. TILAK BROS
Balawant Gaṅgādhar Ṭiḷak (July 23, 1856 - August 1, 1920), was an Indian nationalist, social reformer and freedom fighter who was the first popular leader of the Indian Independence Movement and is known as "Father of the Indian unrest." Tilak sparked the fire for complete independence in Indian consciousness, and is considered the father of Hindu nationalism as well.
“Self Rule is our birthright, and We shall have it!”
This famous quote of his is very popular and well-remembered in India even today. Reverently addressed as Lokmanya (meaning "Beloved of the people" or "Revered by the world"), Tilak was a scholar of Indian history, Sanskrit, Hinduism, mathematics and astronomy.
He was born on in a village chikhali, near Ratnagiri, Maharashtra, into a middle class Chitpavan Brahmin family. Tilak had a divisive philosphy. He was among India's first generation of youth to receive a modern, college education. After graduation, Tilak began teaching mathematics in a private school in Pune and later became a journalist. He became a strong critic of the Western education system, feeling it demeaning to Indian students and disrespectful to India's heritage. He organized the Deccan Education Society to improve the quality of education for India's youth. He taught Mathematics at Fergusson College in Pune. Tilak founded the Marathi daily Kesari (Lion) which fast became a popular reading for the common people of India. Tilak strongly criticized the government for its brutality in suppression of free expression, especially in face of protests against the division of Bengal in 1905, and for denigrating India's culture, its people and heritage. He demanded the British immediately give the right to self-government to India's people.
Tilak joined the Indian National Congress in the 1890s, but soon fell into opposition of its liberal-moderate attitude towards the fight for self-government.In 1891 Tilak opposed the Age of Consent bill introduced after the death of a child bride from sexual injuries. The act raised the marriageable age of a child bride from 10 to 12 which was already 16 in Britain since 1885. This was one of the first significant reforms introduced by the British since Indian rebellion of 1857. The Congress and other liberals whole-heartedly supported it but Tilak raised a battle-cry terming it as 'Interference in Hindu Religion'. Since then he was seen as a hard-core Hindu nationalist. When in 1897 bubonic plague spread from Bombay to Pune the Government became jittery and Assistant Collector of Pune, Mr. Rand and his associates, employed extremely severe and brutal methods to stop the spread of the disease by destroying even 'clean homes'. Even people who were not infected were carried away and in some cases, the carriers even looted property of the affected people. When the authorities turned a blind eye to all these excesses, furious Tilak took up people's cause by publishing inflammatory articles in his paper Kesari, quoting Hindu Scripture Bhagwat Gita that no blame could be attached to anyone who killed an oppressor without any thought of reward. Following this, on 27 June, Rand and his assistant were killed. Tilak was charged with incitement to murder and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. When he emerged from prison he had become a national hero and adopted a new slogan 'Swaraj(Self-Rule)is my birth right and I will have it'.
Tilak opposed the moderate views of Gopal Krishna Gokhale, and was supported by fellow Indian nationalists Bipin Chandra Pal in Bengal and Lala Lajpat Rai in Punjab. They were referred to as the Lal-Bal-Pal triumvirate. In 1907,the annual session of the Congress Party was held at Surat(Gujrat). Trouble broke out between the moderate and the extremist factions of the party over the selection of the new president of the Congress and the party split into the Garam Dal (Extremists), led by Tilak, Pal and Lajpat Rai, and the Naram Dal (Moderates). Tilak as well as Gopal Krishna Gokhale regarded this as a 'catastrophe' for the national movement and Tilak did his best to avoid it. But it was too late and older moderates were glad get rid of the troublemakers(extremists). H.A.Wadya, one of the closest associate of Sir Pherozshah Mehta, wrote ' The union of these men with the Congress is the union of a diseased limb to a healthy body and the only remedy is surgical severence '.
On 30 April 1908 two Bengali youths, Prafulla Chaki and Kudiram Bose, threw a bomb on a carriage at Muzzafurpur in order to kill a District Judge Douglass Kenford but erroneously killed some women travelling in it. While Chaki committed suicide when caught, Bose was tried and hanged. British papers screamed for vengeance and their shrill cries became even more insistent when Police raided and found a cache of arms at Calcutta. But Tilak in his paper Kesari defended the revolutionaries and called for immediate Swaraj or Self-rule. The Government swiftly arrested him for sedition. He asked a young Muhammad Ali Jinnah to represent him. But the British judge convicted him and he was imprisoned from 1908 to 1914 in Mandalay, Burma.
Upon his release, Tilak re-united with his fellow nationalists and re-joined the Indian National Congress in 1916. He also helped found the All India Home Rule League in 1916-18 with Annie Besant and Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Tilak, who started his political life as a Maratha Protagonist, during his later part of life progressed into a fine nationalist after his close association with Bengal nationalists following the partition of Bengal. When asked in Calcutta whether he envisioned a Maratha type of government for Free India, Tilak replied that the Maratha dominated Governments of 16th and 17th centuries were outmoded in 20th century and he wanted a genuine federal system for Free India where every religion and race were equal partners. Only such a form of Government would be able to safe-guard India's freedom he added
Tilak was a critic of Mahatma Gandhi's strategy of non-violent, civil disobedience. Although once considered an extremist revolutionary, in his later years Tilak had considerably mellowed. He favored political dialogue and discussions as a more effective way to obtain political freedom for India. His writings on Indian culture, history and Hinduism spread a sense of heritage and pride amongst Indians for India's ancient civilization and glory as a nation. Some consider Tilak as the spiritual and political leader of Mahatma Gandhi. But Gandhi himself considered Gopal Krishna Gokhale, a contemporary of Tilak, as his political mentor. When Tilak died in 1920, Gandhi paid his respects at his cremation in Bombay, along with 200,000 people. Gandhi called Tilak "The Maker of Modern India". Tilak is also today considered the father of Hindu Nationalism. He was the idol of Indian revolutionary Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who penned the political doctrine of Hindutva.
Later, in 1903, he wrote the much more speculative Arctic Home in the Vedas. In it he argued that the Vedas could only have been composed in the Arctics, and the Aryan bards brought them south after the onset of the last Ice age.
Other collections of his writings include:
The present volume is a sequel to my Orion or Researches into the Antiquity of the Vedas, published in 1893. The estimate of Vedic antiquity then generally current amongst Vedic scholars was based on the assignment of arbitrary period of time to the different strata into which the Vedic literature is divided; and it was believed that the oldest of these strata could not, at the best, be older than 2400 B.C. In my Orion, however, I tried to show that all such estimates, besides being too modest, were vague and uncertain, and that the astronomical statements found in the Vedic literature supplied us with far more reliable data for correctly ascertaining the ages of the different periods of Vedic literature. These astronomical statements, it was further shown, unmistakably pointed out that the Vernal equinox was in the constellation of Mṛiga or Orion (about 4500 B.C.) during the period of the Vedic hymns, and that it had receded to the constellation ofthe Kṛittikâs, or the Pleiades (about 2500 B.C.) in the days of the Brâhmaṇas. Naturally enough these results were, at first, received by scholars in a skeptical spirit. But my position was strengthened when it was found that Dr. Jacobi, of Bonn, had independently arrived at the same conclusion, and, soon after, scholars like Prof. Bloomfield, M. Barth, the late Dr. Bulher and others, more or less freely, acknowledged the force of my arguments. Dr. Thibaut, the late Dr. Whitney and a few others were, however, of opinion that the evidence adduced by me was not conclusive. But the subsequent discovery, by my friend the late Mr. S. B. Dixit, of a passage in the Shatapatha Brâhmaṇa, plainly stating that the Kṛittikâs never swerved, in those days, from the due east i.e., the Vernal equinox, has served to dispel all lingering doubts regarding the age of the Brâhmaṇas; while another Indian astronomer, Mr. V. B. Ketkar, in a recent number of the Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, has mathematically worked out the statement in the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa (III, 1, 1, 5), that Bṛihaspati, or the planet Jupiter, was first discovered when confronting or nearly occulting the star Tiṣhya, and shown that the observation was possible only at about 4650 B.C., thereby remarkably confirming my estimate of the oldest period of Vedic literature. After this, the high antiquity of the oldest Vedic period may, I think, be now taken as fairly established.
But if the age of the oldest Vedic period was thus carried back to 4500 B.C., one was still tempted to ask whether we had, in that limit, reached the Ultima Thule of the Aryan antiquity. For, as stated by Prof. Bloomfield, while noticing my Orion in his address on the occasion of the eighteenth anniversary of John Hopkin’s University, “the language and literature of the Vedas is, by no means, so primitive as to place with it the real beginnings of Aryan life.” “These in all probability and in all due moderation,” he rightly observed, “reach back several thousands of years more,” and it was, he said, therefore “needless to point out that this curtain, which seems to shut off our vision at 4500 B.C., may prove in the end a veil of thin gauze.” I myself held the same view, and much of my spare time during the last ten years has been devoted to the search of evidence which would lift up this curtain and reveal to us the long vista of primitive Aryan antiquity. How I first worked on the lines followed up in Orion, how in the light of latest researches in geology and. archeology bearing on the primitive history of man, I was gradually led to a different line of search, and finally how the conclusion, that the ancestors of the Vedic Ṛiṣhis lived in an Arctic home in inter-Glacial times, was forced on me by the slowly accumulating mass of Vedic and Avestic evidence, is fully narrated in the book, and need not, therefore, be repeated in this place. I desire, however, to take this opportunity of gratefully acknowledging the generous sympathy shown to me at a critical time by that venerable scholar Prof. F. Max Müller, whose recent death was mourned as a personal loss by his numerous admirers throughout India. This is not the place where we may, with propriety, discuss the merits of the policy adopted by the Bombay Government in 1897 Suffice it to say that in order to put down certain public excitement, caused by its own famine and plague policy, the Government of the day deemed it prudent to prosecute some Vernacular papers in the province, and prominently amongst them the Kesari, edited by me, for writings which were held to be seditious, and I was awarded eighteen months’ rigorous imprisonment. But political offenders in India are not treated better than ordinary convicts, and had it not been for the sympathy and interest taken by Prof. Max Müller, who knew me only as the author of Orion, and other friends, I should have been deprived of the pleasure,— then the only pleasure, — of following up my studies in these days. Prof. Max Müller was kind enough to send me a copy of his second edition of the Ṛig-Veda, and the Government was pleased to allow me the use of these and other books, and also of light to read for a few hours at night. Some of the passages from the Ṛig-Veda, quoted in support, of the Arctic theory in the following pages, were collected during such leisure as I could get in these times. It was mainly through the efforts of Prof. Max Müller, backed by the whole. Indian press, that I was released after twelve months; and in the very first letter I wrote to Prof. Max Müller after my release, I thanked him sincerely for his disinterested kindness, and also gave him a brief summary of my new theory regarding the primitive Aryan home as disclosed by Vedic evidence. It was, of course, not to be expected that a scholar, who had worked all his life on a different line, would accept the new view at once, and that too on reading a bare outline off the evidence in its support. Still it was encouraging to hear from him that though the interpretations of Vedic passages proposed by me were probable, yet my theory appeared to be in conflict with the established geological facts. I wrote in reply that I had already examined the question from that stand-point, and expected soon to place before him the whole evidence in support of my view. But, unfortunately I have been deprived of this pleasure by his deeply mourned death which occurred soon after.
The first manuscript of the book was written at the end of
1898, and since then I have had the advantage of discussing the question with
many scholars in
People are hardly aware of the benefit which every branch of science derives from the free and generous exchange of ideas, particularly in our Universities, where every body may avail himself of the advise and help of his colleagues, whether they warn him against yet impossible theories, or call his attention to a book or an article, where the very point, that interests him, has been fully worked out and settled once for all.” But alas! It is not given to us to move in an atmosphere like this, and small wonder if Indian students are not found to go beyond the stage of passing the examinations. There is not a single institution in India, nor, despite the University Commission, can we hope to have any before long, where one can get all up-to-date information on any desired subject, so easily obtainable at a seat of learning in the West; and in its absence the only course open to a person, investigating a particular subject, is, in the words of the same learned scholar, “to step boldly out of his own domain, and take an independent survey of the preserves of his neighbors, even at the risk of being called “an interloper, an ignoramus, a mere dilettante,” for, “whatever accidents he may meet with himself, the subject itself is sure to be benefited.” Working under such disadvantages, I was, therefore, glad, when, on turning the pages of the first volume of the tenth edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, recently received, I found that Prof. Geikie, in his article on geology, took the same view of Dr. Croll’s calculations, as summarized at the end of the second chapter of this book. After stating that Croll’s doctrine did not make way amongst physicists and astronomers, the eminent geologist says that more recently (1895) it has been critically examined by Mr. E. P. Culverwell, who regards it as “a vague speculation, clothed indeed with delusive semblance of severe numerical accuracy, but having no foundation in physical fact, and built up of parts which do not dovetail one into the other.” If Dr. Croll’s calculations are disposed of in this way, there remains nothing to prevent us from accepting the view of the American geologists that the commencement of the post-Glacial period cannot be placed at a date earlier than 8000 B.C.
It has been already stated that the
beginnings of Aryan civilization must be supposed to date back several thousand
years before the oldest Vedic period; and when the commencement of the
post-Glacial epoch is brought down to 8000 B.C., it is not at all surprising if
the date of primitive Aryan life is found to go back to it from 4500 B.C., the
age of the oldest Vedic period. In fact, it is the main point sought to be
established in the present volume. There are many passages in the Ṛig-Veda, which, though hitherto
looked upon as obscure and unintelligible, do, when interpreted in the light of
recent scientific researches, plainly disclose the Polar attributes of the
Vedic deities, or the traces of an ancient Arctic calendar; while the Avesta
expressly tells us that the happy land of Airyana Vaêjo, or the Aryan Paradise,
was located in a region where the sun shone but once a year, and that it was
destroyed by the invasion of snow and ice, which rendered its climate inclement
and necessitated a migration southward. These are plain and simple statements,
and when we put them side by side with what we know of the Glacial and the
post-Glacial epoch from the latest geological researches, we cannot avoid the
conclusion that the primitive Aryan home was both Arctic and inter-Glacial. I
have often asked myself, why the real bearing of these plain and simple
statements should have so long remained undiscovered; and let me assure the
reader that it was not until I was convinced that the discovery was due solely
to the recent progress in our knowledge regarding the primitive history of the
human race and the planet it inhabits that I ventured to publish the present
volume. Some Zend scholars have narrowly missed the truth, simply because 40 or
50 years ago they were unable to understand how a happy home could be located in the ice-bound regions near the North
Pole. The progress of geological science in the latter half of the last century
has, however, now solved the difficulty by proving that the climate at the Pole
during the inter-Glacial times was mild, and consequently not unsuited for
human habitation. There is, therefore, nothing extraordinary, if it be left to
us to find out the real import of these passages in the Veda and Avesta. It is
true that if the theory of an Arctic and inter-Glacial primitive Aryan home is
proved, many a chapter in Vedic exegetics, comparative mythology, or primitive
Aryan history, will have to be revised or rewritten, and in the last chapter of
this book I have myself discussed a few important points which will be affected
by the new theory. But as remarked by me at the end of the book, considerations
like these, howsoever useful they may be in inducing caution in our
investigations, ought not to deter us from accepting the results of an inquiry
conducted on strictly scientific lines. It is very hard, I know, to give up
theories upon which one has worked all his life. But, as Mr. Andrew Lang has
put it, it should always be borne in mind that “Our little systems have their
day, or their hour: as knowledge advances they pass into the history of the
efforts of pioneers.” Nor is the theory of the
I desire to express my obligations to my friend and old teacher Prof. S. G.
Jinsivâle, M.A., who carefully went through the whole manuscript, except the
last chapter which was subsequently written, verified all references, pointed
out a few inaccuracies, and made some valuable suggestions. I have also to
acknowledge with thanks the ready assistance rendered to me by Dr. Râmkṛishṇa Gopal Bhâṇḍârkar, C.I.E., and Khân Bahâdur Dr.
Dastur Hoshang Jamâspji the High Priest of the Parsis in the
humble remembrance of the same, I conclude in the words of the well-known consecratory formula, —
On the occasion of the birth centenary of Lok. B. G. TILAK, we have the proud privilege to offer to the discriminating readers this 2nd reprint of his famous work “The Arctic Home In The Vedas,” published by the Author in 1903 and reprinted in 1925.
J. S. TILAK
THE ARCTIC HOME IN THE VEDAS
The Historic Period — Preceded by myths and traditions — The Science of Mythology — Fresh impulse given to it by Comparative Philology — Unity of Aryan races and languages — The system of interpreting myths, and the theory of Asiatic Home — Recent discoveries in Geology and Archaeology — Requiring revision of old theories — The Vedas still partially unintelligible — New key to their interpretation supplied by recent discoveries — The Ages of Iron, Bronze and Stone — Represent different stages of civilization in Prehistoric times — The Ages not necessarily synchronous in different countries — Distinction between Neolithic and Paleolithic or new and old Stone Age — The Geological eras and periods — Their correlation with the three Ages of Iron, Bronze and Stone — Paleolithic Age probably inter-glacial — Man in Quaternary and Tertiary eras — Date of the Neolithic Age — 5000 B.C. from lake dwellings — Peat-mosses of Denmark — Ages of Beech, Oak and Fir — Date of the Paleolithic or the commencement of the Post-Glacial period — Different estimates of European and American geologists — Freshness of fossil deposits in Siberia — Favors American estimate of 8000 years — Neolithic races — Dolicho-cephalic and Brachy-cephalic — Modern European races descended from them — Controversy as to which of these represent the Primitive Aryans in Europe — Different views of German and French writers — Social condition of the Neolithic races and the primitive Aryans — Dr. Schrader’s view — Neolithic Aryan race in Europe cannot be regarded as autochthonous — Nor descended from the Paleolithic man — The question of the original Aryan home still unsettled.
If we trace
the history of any nation backwards into the past, we come at last to a period
of myths and traditions which eventually fade away into impenetrable darkness.
In some cases, as in that of
It was perceived that the languages of the principal European nations — ancient and modern — bore a close resemblance to the languages spoken by the Brahmans of India and the followers of Zoroaster; and from this affinity of the Indo-Germanic languages it followed inevitably that all these languages must be the off-shoots or dialects of a single primitive tongue, and the assumption of such a primitive language further implied the existence of a primitive Aryan people. The study of Vedic literature and classical Sanskrit by Western scholars thus gradually effected a revolution in their ideas regarding the history and culture of man in ancient times. Dr. Schrader in his work on the Prehistoric Antiquities of the Aryan Peoples gives an exhaustive summary of the conclusions arrived at by the methods of comparative philology regarding the primitive culture of the Aryan people, and those that desire to have further information on the subject must refer to that interesting book. For our present purpose it is sufficient to state that comparative mythologists and philologists were in the sole possession of this field, until the researches of the latter half of the nineteenth century placed within our reach new materials for study of man not only in prehistoric times but in such remote ages that compared with them the prehistoric period appeared to be quite recent.
mythologists carried on their researches at a time when man was believed to be
post-glacial and when the physical and geographical surroundings of the ancient
man were assumed not to have been
materially different from those of the present day. All ancient myths were,
therefore, interpreted on the assumption that they were formed and developed in
countries, the climatic or other conditions of which varied very little, if at
all from those by which we are now surrounded. Thus every Vedic myth or legend
was explained either on the Storm or the Dawn theory, though in some cases it
was felt that the explanation was not at all satisfactory.
But whilst the conclusions of the philologists and mythologists are thus being revised in the light of new scientific discoveries, an equally important work yet remains to be done. It has been stated above that the discovery of the Vedic literature imparted a fresh impulse to the study of myths and legends. But the Vedas themselves, which admittedly form the oldest records of the Aryan race, are as yet imperfectly understood. They had already grown unintelligible to a certain extent even in the days of the Brâhmaṇas several centuries before Christ, and had it not been for the labors of Indian Etymologists and Grammarians, they would have remained a sealed book up to the present time. The Western Scholars have indeed developed, to a certain extent, these Native methods of interpretation with the aid of facts brought to light by comparative philology and mythology. But no etymological or philological analysis can help us in thoroughly understanding a passage which contains ideas and sentiments foreign or unfamiliar to us. This is one of the principal difficulties of Vedic interpretation. The Storm or the Dawn theory may help us in understanding some of the legends in this ancient book. But there axe passages, which, in spite of their simple diction, are quite unintelligible on any of these theories, and in such cases Native scholars, like Sâyaṇa, are either content with simply paraphrasing the words, or have recourse to distortion of words and phrases in order to make the passages yield a sense intelligible to them; while some of the Western scholars are apt to regard such texts as corrupt or imperfect. In either case, however, it is an undoubted fact that some Vedic texts are yet unintelligible, and, therefore, untranslatable. Prof. Max Müller was fully alive to these difficulties. “A translation of the Ṛig-Veda,” he observes in his introduction to the translation of the Vedic hymns in the Sacred Books of the East series, “is a task for the next century,”* (* See S. B. E. Series, Vol. XXXII, p. xi. )
and the only duty of the present scholars is to” reduce the untranslatable portion to a narrower and narrower limit,” as has been done by Yâska and other Native scholars. But if the scientific discoveries of the last century have thrown a new light on the history and culture of man in primitive times, we may as well expect to find in them a new key to the interpretation of the Vedic myths and passages, which admittedly preserve for us the oldest belief of the Aryan race. If man existed before the last Glacial period and witnessed the gigantic changes which brought on the Ice Age, it is not unnatural to expect that a reference, howsoever concealed and distant, to these events would be found in the oldest traditionary beliefs and memories of mankind; Dr. Warren in his interesting and highly suggestive work the Paradise Found or the Cradle of the Human Race at the North Pole has attempted to interpret ancient myths and legends in the light of modern scientific discoveries, and has come to the conclusion that the original home of the whole human race must be sought for in regions near the North Pole. My object is not so comprehensive. I intend to confine myself only to the Vedic literature and show that if we read some of the passages in the Vedas, which have hitherto been considered incomprehensible, in the light of the new scientific discoveries we are forced to the conclusion that the home of the ancestors of the Vedic people was somewhere near the North Pole before the last Glacial epoch. The task is not an easy one, considering the fact that the Vedic passages, on which I rely, had to be and have been, hitherto either ignored or explained away somehow, or misinterpreted one way or another by Native and European scholars alike. But I hope to show that these interpretations, though they have been provisionally accepted, are not satisfactory and that new discoveries in archaeology, and geology provide us with a better key for the interpretation of these passages. Thus if some of the conclusions of the mythologist and the philologist are overthrown by these discoveries, they have rendered a still greater service by furnishing us with a better key for the interpretation of the most ancient Aryan legends and the results obtained by using the new key cannot, in their turn, fail to throw further light on the primitive history of the Aryan race and thus supplement, or modify the conclusion now arrived at by the archaeologist and the geologist.
But before proceeding to discuss the Vedic texts which point out to a Polar home, it is necessary to briefly state the results of recent discoveries in archaeology, geology and paleontology. My summary must necessarily be very short, for I propose to note down only such facts as will establish the probability of my theory from the geological and paleontological point of view and for this purpose I have freely drawn upon the works of such well-known writers as Lyell, Geikie, Evans, Lubbock, Croll, Taylor and others. I have also utilized the excellent popular summary of the latest results of these researches in Samuel Laing’s Human Origins and other works. The belief, that man is post-glacial and that the Polar regions were never suited for human habitation, still lingers in some quarters and to those who still hold this view any theory regarding the Polar home of the Aryan race may naturally seem to be a priori impossible. It is better, therefore, to begin with a short statement of the latest scientific conclusions on these points.
of earlier times have left ample evidence of their existence on the surface of
this globe; but like the records of the historic period this evidence does not
consist of stately tombs and pyramids, or inscriptions and documents. It is of
a humbler kind and consists of hundreds and thousands of rude or polished
instruments of stone and metal recently dug out from old camps, fortifications,
burial grounds (tumuli), temples, lake-dwellings &c. of early times spread
over the whole of Europe; and in the hands of the archaeologist these have been
found to give the same results as the hieroglyphics in the hands of the
Egyptologist. These early implements of stone and metals were not previously
unknown, but they had not attracted the notice of scientific experts till
recently and the peasants in Asia and Europe, when they found them in their
fields, could hardly make any better use of them than that of worshipping the
implements so found as thunderbolts or fairy arrows shot down from the sky. But
now after a careful study of these remains, archaeologists have come to the
conclusion that these implements, whose human origin is now undoubtedly
established can be classified into those of Stone (including horn, wood or
bone), those of Bronze and those of Iron, representing three different stages
of civilization in the progress of man in prehistoric times. Thus the implements
of stone, wood or bone, such as chisels, scrapers, arrow-heads, hatches,
daggers, etc. were used when the use of metal was yet unknown and they were
gradually supplanted first by the implements of bronze and then of iron, when
the ancient man discovered the use of these metals. It is not to be supposed,
however, that these three different periods of early human civilization were
divided by any hard and fast line of division. They represent only a tough
classification, the passage from one period into another being slow and
gradual. Thus the implements of stone must have continued to be used for a long
time after the use of bronze became known to the ancient man, and the same
thing must have occurred as he passed from the Bronze to the Iron age. The age
of bronze, which is a compound of copper and tin in a definite proportion,
requires an antecedent age of copper; but sufficient evidence is not yet found
to prove the separate existence of copper and tin ages, and hence it is
considered probable that the art of making bronze was not invented in Europe,
but was introduced there from other countries either by commerce or by the
Indo-European race going there from outside.* (*
Another fact which requires to be noted in connection with
these ages is that the Stone or the Bronze age in one country was not
necessarily synchronous with the same age in another country. Thus we find a
high state of civilization in
Of these three different ages the oldest or the Stone age is further divided into the Paleolithic and the Neolithic period, or the old and the new Stone age. The distinction is based upon the fact that the stone implements of the Paleolithic age are found to be very rudely fashioned, being merely chipped into shape and never ground or polished as is the case with the implements of the new Stone age. Another characteristic of the Paleolithic period is that the implements of the period are found in places which plainly show a much greater antiquity than can be assigned to the remains of the Neolithic age, the relics of the two ages being hardly, if ever, found together. The third distinction between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic age is that the remains of the Paleolithic man are found associated with those of many great mammals, such as the cave bear, the mammoth and wooly-haired rhinoceros that became either locally or wholly extinct before the appearance of the Neolithic man on the stage. In short, there is a kind of hiatus or break between the Paleolithic and Neolithic man requiring a separate classification and treatment for each. It may also be noted that the climatic conditions and the distribution of land and water in the Paleolithic period were different from those in the Neolithic period; while from beginning of the Neolithic period the modern conditions, both geographical and climatic, have prevailed almost unaltered up to the present time.
To understand the relation of these three ages within the geological periods into which the history of the earth is divided we must briefly consider the geological classification. The geologist takes up the history of the earth at the point where the archaeologist leaves it, and carries it further back into remote antiquity. His classification is based upon an examination of the whole system of stratified rocks and not on mere relics found in the surface strata. These stratified rocks have been divided into five principal classes according to the character of the fossils found in them, and they represent five different periods in the history of our planet. These geological eras like the three ages of Stone, Bronze and Iron, cannot be separated very sharply from each other. But taken as a whole we can clearly distinguish one era from another by its characteristic fossil remains. Each of these geological ages or eras is again subdivided into a number of different periods. The order of these Eras and Periods, beginning with the newest, is as follows:
Post-Tertiary or Quaternary
Tertiary or Cainozoic
Secondary or Mesozoic
Primary or Paleozoic
Devonian, and Old
Archæan or Eozoic
Thus the oldest of the stratified rocks at present known is the Archæan or Eozoic. Next in chronological order come the Primary or the Paleozoic, the Secondary or the Mesozoic the Tertiary or Cainozoic, and last the Quaternary.
The Quaternary era, with which alone we are here concerned, is sub-divided into the Pleistocene or the Glacial, and the Recent or the Post-Glacial period, the close of the first and the beginning of the second being marked by the last Glacial epoch, or the Ice Age, during which the greater portion of northern Europe and America was covered with an ice-cap several thousand feet in thickness. The Iron age, the Bronze age, and the Neolithic age come under the Recent or the Post-Glacial period, while the Paleolithic age is supposed to fall in the Pleistocene period, though some of the Paleolithic remains are post-glacial, showing that the Paleolithic man must have survived the Ice Age for some time. Latest discoveries and researches enable us to carry the antiquity of man still further by establishing the fact that men existed even in the Tertiary era. But apart from it, there is, now, at any rate, overwhelming evidence to conclusively prove the wide-spread existence of man throughout the Quaternary era, even before the last Glacial period.
estimates have been made regarding the time of the commencement of the
Neolithic age, but the oldest date assigned does not exceed 3000 B.C., a time
when flourishing empires existed in
But when we
pass from the Neolithic too the Paleolithic period the difficulty of
ascertaining the commencement of the latter becomes still greater. In fact we
have here to ascertain the time when the Post-Glacial period commenced. The
Paleolithic man must have occupied parts of
Other American geologists from similar observations at
various other places have arrived at the conclusion that not more than about
8000 years have elapsed since the close of the Glacial period. This estimate
agrees very well with the approximate date of the Neolithic period ascertained
from the amount of silt in some of the lakes in
other reasons which go to support the same view. All the evidence regarding the
existence of the Glacial period comes from the North of Europe and
These and other equally indisputable facts clearly indicate
the existence in
supposed to be removed from the present by several thousands of years. Again in North Africa and Syria we find in dry regions wide-spread fluviatile accumulations which are believed to be indications of rainy seasons, contemporaneous with the Glacial period of Europe.* (* See Geikie’s Fragments of Earth Lore, p. 252.)
If this contemporaneity can be
established, the high estimate of time for the commencement of the Post-Glacial
the races which inhabited
method of determining which of these four races represented the primitive
Aryans in Europe is to compare the grades of civilization attained by the
undivided Aryans, as ascertained from linguistic paleontology, with those
attained by the Neolithic races as disclosed by the remains found in their
dwellings. As for the Paleolithic man his social condition appears to have been
far below that of the undivided Aryans; and Dr. Schrader considers it as
indubitably either non-Indo-European or pre-Indo-European in character. The
Paleolithic man used stone hatchets and bone needles, and had attained some
proficiency in the art of sculpture and drawing, as exhibited by outlines of
various animals carved bones &c.; but he was clearly unacquainted with the
potter’s art and the use of metals. It is only in the Neolithic period that we
meet with pottery in the piled villages of lake-dwellers in
recent discoveries have brought to light these facts about the human races
inhabiting Europe in pre-historic times, and though we may, in accordance with
them, assume that one of the four early Neolithic races represented the
primitive Aryans in Europe, the question whether the latter were autochthonous,
or went there from some other place and then succeeded in Aryanising the
European races by their superior culture and civilization, cannot be regarded
as settled by these discoveries. The date assigned to the Neolithic period as
represented by Swiss lake-dwellers is not later than 5000 B.C., a time when
Asiatic Aryans were probably settled on the Jaxartes, and it is admitted that
the primitive Aryans in
But this is merely a conjecture, and it does not answer the
question how the Indo-Iranians with their civilization are found settled in
THE GLACIAL PERIOD
Geological climate — Uniform and gentle in early ages — Due to different distribution of land and water — Climatic changes in the Quaternary era — The Glacial epoch — Its existence undoubtedly proved — Extent of glaciation — At least two Glacial periods — Accompanied by the elevation and depression of land — Mild and genial Interglacial climate even in the Arctic regions — Various theories regarding the cause of the Ice Age stated — Lyell’s theory of geographical changes — Showing long duration of the Glacial period — Croll’s theory — Effect of the procession of the equinoxes on the duration and intensity of seasons — The cycle of 21,000 years — The effect enhanced by the eccentricity of earth’s orbit — Maximum difference of 33 days between the duration of summer and winter — Sir Robert Ball’s calculations regarding the average heat received by each hemisphere in summer and winter — Short and warm summers and long and cold winters, giving rise to a Glacial epoch — Dr. Croll’s extraordinary estimate regarding the duration of the Glacial epoch — Based on the maximum value of the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit — Questioned by astronomers and geologists — Sir Robert Ball’s and Newcomb’s view — Croll’s estimates inconsistent with geological evidence — Opinions of Prof. Geikie and Mr. Hudleston — Long duration of the Glacial period — Summary of results.
of our globe at the present day is characterized by a succession of seasons,
spring, summer, autumn, and winter, caused by the inclination of the earth’s
axis to the plane of the ecliptic. When the North Pole of the earth is turned
away from the sun in its annual course round that luminary, we have winter in
the northern and summer in the southern hemisphere, and vice versa when the North Pole is turned towards the sun. The cause of the rotation of seasons in the
different hemispheres is thus very simple, and from the permanence of this
cause one-may be led to think that in the distant geological ages the climate
of our planet must have been characterized by similar rotations of hot and cold
seasons. But such a supposition is directly contradicted by geological
evidence. The inclination of the earth’s axis to the plane of ecliptic, or what
is technically called the obliquity of the ecliptic, is not the sole cause of
climatic variations on the surface of the globe. High altitude and the existence
of oceanic and aerial currents, carrying and diffusing the heat of the
equatorial region to the other parts of the globe, have been found to produce
different climates in countries having the same latitude. The
It was in
the Quaternary or the Pleistocene period that the mild climate of these regions
underwent sudden alterations producing what is called the Glacial period. The
limits of this Glacial period may not so exactly coincide with those of the
Pleistocene as to enable us to say that they were mathematically co-extensive,
but, still, in a rough sense we may take these two periods as coinciding with
each other. It is impossible within the limits of a short chapter to give even
a summary of the evidence proving the existence of one or more Glacial epochs
in the Pleistocene period. We may, however, briefly indicate its nature and see
what the geologists and the physicists have to say as regards the causes that
brought about such extensive changes of climate in the Quaternary era. The
existence of the Glacial period is no longer a matter of doubt though
scientific men are not agreed as to the causes which produced it. Ice-sheets
have not totally disappeared from the surface of the earth and we can still
watch the action of ice as glaciers in the valleys of the Alps or in the lands
near the Pole, like Greenland which is still covered with a sheet of ice so
thick as to make it unfit for the growth of plants or the habitation of
animals. Studying the effects of glacial action in these places geologists have
discovered abundant traces of similar action of ice in former times over the
succession of cold and warm climates must have characterized these Glacial and
Inter-Glacial periods which were also accompanied by extensive movements of
depression and elevation of land, the depression taking place after the land
was weighed down with the enormous mass of ice. Thus a period of glaciation was
marked by elevation, extreme cold and the invasion of the ice-caps over regions
of the present
It will thus be seen that in point of climate the
Pleistocene period, or the early Quaternary era, was intermediate between the
early geological ages when uniform genial climate prevailed over the globe, and
the modern period when it is differentiated into zones. It was, so to speak, a
transitional period marked by violent changes in the climate, that was mild and
genial in the Inter-Glacial, and severe and inclement during the Glacial
period. It was at the beginning of the Post-Glacial or the Recent period that
modern climatic conditions were established. Prof. Geikie is, however, of
opinion that even the beginning of the Post-Glacial period was marked, at least
in North-Western Europe, by two alternations of genial and rainy-cold climate
before the present climatic conditions became established. (Prehistoric
the fact of the Ice Age and the existence of a milder climate within the Arctic
regions in the Inter-Glacial time is indubitably proved yet scientific men have
not been as yet able to trace satisfactorily the causes of this great
catastrophe. Such immense mass of ice as covered the whole of Northern Europe
and America during this period could not, like anything else, come out of
nothing., There must be heat enough in certain parts of the globe to create by
evaporation sufficient vapor and aerial currents are required to transfer it to
the colder regions of the globe, there to be precipitated in the form of ice.
Any theory regarding the cause of the Ice Age which fails to take this fact
into account is not only inadequate but worthless. A succession of Glacial
periods, or at any rate, the occurrence of two Glacial periods, must again be
accounted for by the theory that may be proposed to explain these changes; and
if we test the different theories advanced in this way, many of them will be at
once found to be untenable. It was, for instance, once urged that the
Thus out of the various theories advanced to account for the vicissitudes of climate in the Pleistocene period only two have now remained in the field, the first that of Lyell which explains the changes by assuming different distribution of land and water combined with sudden elevation and submergence of large landed areas and the second that of Croll which traces the glaciation to the precession of the equinoxes combined with the high value of the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit. Lyell’s theory has been worked out by Wallace who shows that such geographical changes are by themselves sufficient to produce heat and cold required to bring on the Glacial and Inter-Glacial periods. We have seen that in earlier geological ages a pleasant and equable climate prevailed over the whole surface of the globe owing mainly to different distribution of land and water and the theory advanced by Lyell to account for the Glacial epoch is practically the same. Great elevation and depression of extensive areas can be effected only in thousands of years, and those who support Lyell’s theory are of opinion that the duration of the Glacial epoch must be taken to be about 200,000 years in order to account for all the geographical and geological changes, which according to them, were the principal causes of the Glacial period. But there are other geologists, of the same school, who hold that the Glacial period may not have lasted longer than about 20 to 25 thousand years. The difference between the two estimates is enormous; but in the present state of geological evidence it is difficult to decide in favor of any one of these views. All that we can safely say is that the duration of the Pleistocene period, which included at least two Glacial and one Inter-Glacial epoch, must have been very much longer than the period of time which has elapsed since the commencement of the Post-Glacial period.
According to Sir Robert Ball the whole difficulty of finding out the causes of the Glacial period vanishes when the solution of the problem is sought for in astronomy rather than in geography. Changes which seem to be so gigantic on the globe are, it is said, but daily wrought by cosmical forces with which we are familiar in astronomy, and one of the chief merits of Croll’s theory is supposed to consist in the fact that it satisfactorily accounts for a succession of Glacial and Inter-Glacial epochs during the Pleistocene period. Dr. Croll in his Climate and Time and Climate and Cosmology has tried to explain and establish his theory by elaborate calculations, showing that the changes in the values of the variable elements in the motion of the earth round the sun can adequately account for the climatic changes in the Pleistocene period. We shall first briefly state Dr. Croll’s theory and then give the opinions of experts as regards its probability.
Let PQ'AQ represent the orbit of the earth round the sun. This orbit is an ellipse, and the sun, instead of being in the centre C, is in one of the focii S or s. Let the sun be at S.
Then the distance of the sun from the earth when the latter is at P would be the shortest, while, when the earth is at A it will be the longest. These points P and A are respectively called perihelion and aphelion. The seasons are caused, as stated above, by the axis of the earth being inclined to the plane of its orbit. Thus when the earth is at P and the axis turned away from the sun, it will produce winter in the northern hemisphere; while when the earth is at A, the axis, retaining its direction, will be now turned towards the sun, and there will be summer in the northern hemisphere. If the axis of the earth had no motion of its own, the seasons will always occur at the same points in the orbit of the earth, as, for instance, the winter in the northern hemisphere at P and the summer at A. But this axis describes a small circle round the pole of the ecliptic in a cycle of 25,868 years, giving rise to what is called the precession of the equinoxes, and consequently the indication of the earth’s axis to the plane of its orbit is not always the same at any given point in its orbit during this period. This causes the seasons to occur at different points in the earth’s orbit during this great cycle. Thus if the winter in the northern hemisphere occurred when the earth was at P at one time, some time after it will occur at and the succeeding points in the orbit until the end of the cycle, when it will again occur at P. The same will be the case in regard to summer at the point A and equinoxes at Q and Q'. In the diagram the dotted line qq' and pa represent the new positions which the line QQ' and PA will assume if they revolve in the way stated above. It must also be noted that though the winter in the northern hemisphere may occur when the earth is at p instead of at P, owing to the aforesaid motion of its axis, yet the orbit of the earth and the points of perihelion and aphelion are relatively fixed and unchangeable. Therefore, if the winter is the northern hemisphere occurs at p, the earth’s distance from the sun at the point will be greater than when the earth was at P. Similarly, in the course of the cycle above mentioned, the winter in the northern hemisphere will once occur at A, and the distance of the earth from the sun will then be the longest. Now there is a vast difference between a winter occurring when the earth is at P and a winter occurring when it is at A. In the first case, the point P being nearest to the sun, the severity of the winter will be greatly, modified by the nearness of the sun. But at A the sun is farthest removed from the earth, and the winter, when the earth is at A, will be naturally very severe; and during the cycle the winter must once occur at A. The length of the cycle is 25,868 years, and ordinarily speaking half of this period must elapse before the occurrence of winter is transferred from the earth’s position at P to its position at A. But it is found that the points P and A have a small motion of their own in the direction opposite to that in which the line of equinoxes QQ' or the winter point p moves along the orbit. The above cycle of 25,868 years is, therefore, reduced to 20,984, or, in round number 21,000 years. Thus if the winter in one hemisphere occurs when the earth is at P, the point nearest to the sun in the orbit, it will occur in the same hemisphere at A after a lapse of 10,500 years. It may be here mentioned that in about 1250 A.D., the winter in the northern hemisphere occurred when the earth in its orbit was at P, and that in about 11,750 A.D. the earth will be again at A, that is, at its longest distance from the sun at the winter time, giving rise to a severe winter. Calculating backwards it may be seen that the last severe winter at A must have occurred in the year 9,250 B.C. ( See Herschel’s Outlines of Astronomy, Ed. 1883, Arts. 368, 369.)
It need not be mentioned that the winter in one hemisphere corresponds with the summer in the other, and that what is said about winter in the northern hemisphere applies mutatis mutandis to seasonal changes in the southern hemisphere.
There is another consideration which we must take into account in estimating the severity of winter or the mildness of summer in any hemisphere. If the summer be defined to be the period of time required by the earth to travel from one equinoctial point Q' to another equinoctial point Q, this interval cannot always be constant for we have seen that the winter and summer points (P and A), and with them the equinoctial points (Q and Q') are not stationary, but revolve along the orbit once in 21,000 years. Had the orbit been a circle, the lines qq' and pa will have always divided it in equal parts. But the orbit being an ellipse these two sections are unequal. For instance, suppose that the winter occurs when the earth is at P, then the duration of the summer will be represented by Q'AQ, but when the winter occurs at A the summer time will be represented by QPQ', a segment of the ellipse necessarily smaller than Q'AQ. This inequality is due to the ellipticity of the orbit, and the more elongated or elliptic the orbit is the greater will be the difference between the durations of summer and winter in a hemisphere. Now the ellipticity of the orbit is measured by the difference between the mean and the greatest distance of the earth from the sun, and is called in astronomy the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit. This eccentricity of the earth’s orbit is not a constant quantity but varies, though slowly, in course of time, making the orbit more and more elliptical until it reaches a maximum value, when it again begins to reduce until the original value is reached. The duration of summer and winter in a hemisphere, therefore, varies as the value of the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit at that time; and it has been stated above that the difference between the duration of summer and winter also depends on the position of the equinoctial line or of the points in the earth’s orbit at which the winter and the summer in a hemisphere occur. As the joint result of these two variations, the difference between the durations of summer and winter would be the longest, when the eccentricity of the earth is at its maximum and according as the winter and summer occur at the points of perihelion or aphelion. It has been found that this difference is equal to 33 days at the highest, and that at the present day it is about 7½ days. Thus if the winter in the northern hemisphere occurs when the earth is at P in its orbit and the eccentricity is at its maximum, the winter will be shorter by 33 days than the summer of the time. But this position will be altered after 10,500 years when the winter, occurring at A, will, in its turn, be longer than the corresponding summer by the same length of time, viz. 33 days.
Now, since the earth describes equal areas in equal times in its orbit, Herschel supposed that in spite of the difference between the duration of summer and winter noticed above, the whole earth received equal amount of heat while passing from one equinox to another, the “inequality in the intensities of solar radiation in the two intervals being precisely compensated by the opposite inequality in the duration of the intervals themselves.” Accepting this statement Dr. Croll understated his ease to a certain extent. But Sir Robert Ball, formerly the Astronomer Royal of Ireland, in his recent work On the Cause of an Ice Age has demonstrated, by mathematical calculation, that the above supposition is erroneous, and that the total amount of heat received from the sun by each hemisphere in summer and winter varies as the obliquity of the earth or the inclination of its axis to the ecliptic, but is practically independent of the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit. Taking the total sun-heat received in a year by each hemisphere to be 365 units, or on an average one unit a day, and taking the obliquity to be 23° 27', Sir Robert Ball has calculated that each hemisphere would receive 229 of these heat-units during summer and only 136 during winter, whatever the eccentricity of the earth may be. But though these figures are not affected by the eccentricity of the orbit, yet we have seen that the duration of the summer or winter does vary as the eccentricity.
Supposing, therefore, that we have the longest winter in the northern hemisphere, we shall have to distribute 229 heat-units over 166 days of a short summer, and 136 heat-units over 199 days of a long winter of the same period. In other words, the difference between the daily average heat in summer and winter will, in such a case, be the greatest, producing shorter but warmer summers and longer and colder winters, and ice and snow accumulated in the long winter will not be melted or removed by the heat of the sun in the short summer, giving rise, thereby, to what is known as the Glacial period in the northern hemisphere. From what has been stated above, it may be seen that the southern hemisphere during this period will have long and cool summers and short and warm winters, a condition precisely reverse to that in the northern hemisphere. In short the Glacial and Inter-Glacial periods in the two hemispheres will alternate with each other every 10,500 years, if the eccentricity of the earth be sufficiently great to make a perceptibly large difference between the winters and the summers in each hemisphere.
If Dr. Croll had gone only so far, his position would have been unassailable, for the cause enumerated above, is sufficiently potent to produce the climatic changes attributed to it. At any rate, if this was not the sole cause of a succession of Glacial and Inter-Glacial periods, their could be no doubt that it must have been an important contributory cause in bringing about these changes. But taking the value of the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit from the tables of Leverrier, Dr. Croll calculated that during the last three million years there were three periods of maximum eccentricity, the first of 170,000, the second of 260,000, and the third of 160,000 years; and that 80,000 years have elapsed since the close of the third or the last period. According to Dr. Croll the Glacial epoch in the Pleistocene period must, therefore, have begun 240,000 years ago, and ended, followed by the Post-Glacial period, about 80,000 years ago. During this long period of 160,000 years, there must have been several alternations of mild and severe climates, according as the winter in a hemisphere occurred when the earth was at perihelion or aphelion in its orbit, which happened every 10,500 years during the period. But as the cold epoch can be at its maximum only during the early part of each period, according to Dr. Croll’s theory, the last epoch of maximum glaciation must be placed 200,000 years ago, or about 40,000 years after the commencement of the last period of maximum eccentricity.
The reliability of these elaborate calculations has, however, been questioned by astronomers and geologists alike. Sir Robert Ball, who supports Croll in every other respect, has himself refrained from making any astronomical calculations regarding the maximum value of the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit, or the time when the last Glacial epoch should have occurred, or when the next would take place. “I cannot say,” he observes, “when the last (Glacial epoch) took place, nor when the next may be expected. No one who is competent to deal with mathematical formulae would venture on such predictions in the present state of our knowledge.” Prof. Newcomb of New York, another astronomer of repute, in his review of Dr. Croll’s Climate and Time, has also pointed out how in the present state of astronomical knowledge it is impossible to place any reliance on the values of eccentricity computed for epoches, distant by millions of years, as the value of this eccentricity depends upon elements, many of which are uncertain, and this is especially the case when one has to deal with long geological eras. The only reply made by Dr. Croll to this criticism is that his figures were correctly worked up from the values of the eccentricity according to the latest correction of Mr. Stockwell. (* On the Cause of an Ice Age, p. 152. † Climate and Cosmology, p. 39.)
This, however, is hardly a satisfactory reply, inasmuch as Prof. Newcomb’s objection refers not to the correctness of the mathematical work, but to the impossibility of correctly ascertaining the very data from which the values of the eccentricity were obtained.
It was once supposed that the duration of each of Dr. Croll’s different periods admirably fitted in with the geological evidence, and fully corroborated the estimates of time supposed to be required for the extensive geographical changes which accompanied the Glacial and Inter-Glacial periods. But geologists have now begun to take a more sober view of this extravagant figures and calculations. According to Croll’s calculation there were three periods of maximum eccentricity during the last three million years, and there should, therefore, be three periods of glaciation corresponding to these, each including several Glacial and Inter-Glacial epochs. But there is no geological evidence of the existence of such Glacial epochs in early geological eras, except, perhaps, in the Permian and Carboniferous periods of the Paleozoic or the Primary age. An attempt is made to meet this objection by replying that though the eccentricity was greatest at one period in the early geological eras, yet, as the geographical distribution of land and water was then essentially different from what it was in the Quaternary era the high value of the eccentricity did not then produce the climatic changes it did in the Pleistocene period. This reply practically concedes that the high eccentricity of the earth’s orbit, combined with the occurrence of winter when the earth is at aphelion, is not by itself sufficient to bring about a Glacial period; and it may, therefore, be well urged that a Glacial epoch may occur even when the eccentricity is not at its maximum. Another point in which Dr. Croll’s theory conflicts with the geological evidence is the date of the close of the last Glacial epoch, as ascertained, by the American geologists, from estimates based on the erosion of valleys since the close of the last Glacial period. It is pointed out in the last chapter that these estimates do not carry the beginning of the Post-Glacial period much further than about 10,000 years ago at the best; while Dr. Croll’s calculation would carry it back to 80 or 100 thousand years. This is a serious difference and even Prof. Geikie, who does not entirely accept the American view, is obliged to admit that though Dr. Croll’s theory is the only theory that accounts for the succession of Glacial epochs and therefore, the only correct theory, yet the formula employed by him to calculate the values of the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit may be incorrect and that we may thus account for the wide discrepancy between his inference and the conclusions based upon hard geological facts, which cannot be lightly set aside.( Fragments of Earth Lore, p. 287.)
The judgment recently pronounced by Mr.
Hudleston is still more severe. In his opening address, as President of the
geological section of the meeting of the British Association in 1898, he is
reported to have remarked, “There is probably nothing more extraordinary in the
history of modern investigation than the extent to which geologists of an
earlier date permitted themselves to be led away by the fascinating theories of
Croll. The astronomical explanation of the “Will-o’-the-wisp,” the cause of the
great Ice Age, is at present greatly discredited and we begin to estimate at
their true value those elaborate calculations which were made to account for
events, which, in all probability, never occurred. Extravagance begets
extravagance and the unreasonable speculations of men like Belt and Croll have
caused some of our recent students to suffer from the nightmare.” (See The
This criticism appears to be rather severe; fox though Dr. Croll’s elaborate calculations may be extravagant, yet we must give him the credit for not merely suggesting but working out, the effect of a cosmical cause which under certain circumstances is powerful enough to produce extensive changes in the climate of the globe.
But in spite of these remarks, it cannot be doubted that the duration of the Glacial period, comprising at least two Glacial and one Inter-Glacial epoch, must have been very much longer thin that of the Post-Glacial period. For, independently of the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit, the occurrence of winter at aphelion is by itself sure to contribute to the production of the Ice Age, if other causes and circumstances, either those suggested by Lyell; or others, are favorable and 21,000 years must elapse between two successive occurrences of winter at aphelion. For two Glacial epochs with an intervening Inter-Glacial period, we must, therefore, allow a period longer than 21,000 years, even if the question of the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit be kept aside while, if, with Prof. Geikie, we suppose that there were five Glacial (four in the Pleistocene and one at the close of the Pliocene period) and four Inter-Glacial epochs the duration must be extended to something like 80,000 years.
It is unnecessary to go further into these scientific and geological discussions. I have already stated before that my object is to trace from positive evidence contained in the Vedic literature the home of the Vedic and, therefore, also of the other Aryan races, long before they settled in Europe or on the banks of the Oxus, the Jaxartes, or the Indus; and so far as this purpose is concerned, the results of the latest scientific researches, discussed in this and the previous chapter, may now be summed up as follows: —
(1) In the very beginning of the Neolithic age Europe is found to be inhabited by races,, from whom the present races of Europe speaking Aryan languages are descended.
(2) But though the existence of an Aryan race in Europe in early Neolithic times is thus established, and, therefore, the theory of migrations from an Asiatic home in Post-Glacial times is untenable, it does not prove that the Aryan race was autochthonous in Europe, and the question of its original home cannot, therefore, be regarded as finally settled.
are good reasons for supposing that the metal age was introduced into
different ages of Stone, Bronze and Iron were not synchronous in different
countries, and the high state of civilization in
(5) According to the latest geological evidence, which cannot be lightly set aside, the last Glacial period must have closed and the Post-Glacial commenced at about 10,000 years ago, or 8,000 B.C. at the best, and the freshness of the Siberian fossil-deposits favors this view.
(6) Man is not merely Post-Glacial as he was believed to be some years ago, and there is conclusive geological evidence to prove his wide-spread existence in the Quaternary, if not also in Tertiary, era.
(7) There were at least two Glacial and one Inter-Glacial period, and the geographical distribution of land and water on the earth during the Inter-Glacial period was quite different from what it is at present.
were great vicissitudes of climate in the Pleistocene period, it being cold and
inclement during the Glacial, and mild and temperate in the Inter-Glacial
period, even as far as the
(9) There is enough evidence to show that the Arctic regions, both in Asia and Europe, were characterized in the Inter-Glacial period by cool summers and warm winters — a sort of, what Herschel calls, a perpetual spring; and that places like Spitzbergen, where the sun goes below the horizon from November till March, were once the seat of luxuriant vegetation, that grows, at present, only in the temperate or the tropical climate.
(10) It was the coming on of the Glacial age that destroyed this genial climate, and rendered the regions unsuited for the habitation of tropical plants and animals.
(11) There are various estimates regarding the duration of the Glacial period, but in the present state of our knowledge it is safer to rely on geology than on astronomy in this respect, though as regards the causes of the Ice Age the astronomical explanation appears to be more probable.
(12) According to Prof. Geikie there is evidence to hold that there were, in all, five Glacial and four Inter-Glacial epochs, and that even the beginning of the Post-Glacial
period was marked by two successions of cold and genial climate, at least in the North-West of Europe.
(13) Several eminent scientific men have already advanced the theory that the cradle of the human race must be sought for in the Arctic regions and that the plant and animal life also originated in the same place.
thus be seen that if the Vedic evidence points to an
THE ARCTIC REGIONS
Existence of a Circumpolar continent in early times — Probable also in the Inter-Glacial period — Milder climate at the time — Necessity of examining Vedic Myths — Difference between Polar and Circumpolar characteristics — The precession of the equinoxes used as chronometer in Vedic chronology — Characteristics of the North Pole — The horizontal motion of the celestial hemisphere — Spinning round of the stars without rising or setting — The Sun rising in the South — A day and a night of six months each — Aurora Borealis — Continuous fortnightly moonlight, and long morning and evening twilights — Dawn lasting from 45 to 60 days — The Polar year — The darkness of the Polar night reduced only to two, or two and a half, months — Dr. Warren’s description of the Polar Dawn with its revolving splendors — Characteristics of regions to the South of the North Pole — Stars moving obliquely and a few rising and setting as in the tropical zone — The Southernly direction of the Sun — A long day and a long night, but of less than six months’ duration — Supplemented by the alternations of ordinary days and nights for some time during the year — Long dawn but of shorter duration than at the Pole — Comparison with the features of the year in the tropics — Summary of Polar and Circumpolar characteristics.
seen that in the Pleistocene period there was great elevation and submergence
of land accompanied by violent changes in the climate, over the whole surface
of the globe. Naturally enough the severity of the Glacial period must have
been very intense within the Arctic circle, and we shall be perfectly justified
in supposing that geographical changes like the elevation and depression of
land occurred on a far more extensive scale in regions round about the Pole
than anywhere else. This leads us to infer that the distribution of land and water
about the Pole during the Inter-Glacial period must have been different from
what it is at present. Dr. Warren, in his Paradise
Found, quotes a number of authorities to show that within a comparatively
recent geological period a wide stretch of Arctic land, of which Novaia Zemlia
and Spitzbergen formed a part, had been submerged; and one of the conclusions
he draws from these authorities is that the present islands of the Arctic
Ocean, such as the two mentioned above are simply mountain-tops still remaining
above the surface of the sea which has come in and covered up the primeval
continent to which they belonged. That an extensive circum-polar continent
existed in Miocene times seems to have been conceded by all geologists, and
though we cannot predicate its existence in its entirety during the Pleistocene
period, yet there are good reasons to hold that a different configuration of
land and water prevailed about the North Pole during the Inter-Glacial period,
and that as observed by Prof. Geikie, the Paleolithic man, along with other
Quaternary animals, freely ranged over the whole of the Arctic regions in those
times. Even now there is a considerable tract of land to the north of the
climate, we have seen that during the Inter-Glacial period there were cool
summers and warm winters even within the
inclement climate of the Arctic regions dates from the Post-Glacial period, and we must leave it out of consideration in dealing with earlier ages.
supposing that an Arctic continent, with an equable and pleasant climate,
existed during the Inter-Glacial period, and that the Paleolithic man ranged
freely over it, it does not follow that the ancestors of the Aryan race lived
in the Arctic regions during those days, though it may render such a hypothesis
highly probable. For that purpose, we must either wait until the existence of
the Aryan race, within the Arctic region in Inter-Glacial times, is proved by
new archaeological discoveries, or failing them, try to examine the ancient
traditions and beliefs of the race, incorporated in such admittedly oldest
Aryan books, as the Vedas and the Avesta, and see if they justify us in
predicating the inter-glacial existence of the Aryan people. It is admitted
that many of the present explanations of these traditions and legends are
unsatisfactory, and as our knowledge of the ancient man is increased, or
becomes more definite, by new discoveries in archaeology, geology or
anthropology, these explanations will have to be revised from time to time and
any defects in them, due to our imperfect understanding of the sentiments, the
habits and even the surroundings of the ancient man, corrected. That human
races have preserved their ancient traditions is undoubted, though some or many
of them may have become distorted in course of time, and it is for us to see if
they do or do not accord with what we know of the ancient man from latest
scientific researches. In the case of the Vedic traditions, myths and beliefs,
we have the further advantage that they were collected thousands of years ago,
and handed down unchanged from that remote time. It is, therefore, not unlikely
that we may find traces of the primeval Polar home in these oldest books. If
the Aryan man did live within the
It has been
a fashion to speak of the
The terrestrial Poles are the termini of the axis of the earth, and we have seen that there is no evidence to show that this axis ever changed its position, relatively to the earth, even in the earliest geological eras. The terrestrial poles and the circum-polar regions were, therefore, the same in early cases as they are at present, though the past and present climatic condition of these places may be totally different. But the axis of the earth has a small motion round the pole of the ecliptic, giving rise to what is known as the precession of the equinoxes, and causing a change only in the celestial, and not in the terrestrial, poles. Thus the polar star 7,000 years ago was different from what it is at present but the terristrial pole has always remained the same. This motion of the earth’s axis, producing the precession of the equinoxes, is important from an antiquarian point of view, inasmuch as it causes a change in the times when different seasons of the year begin; and it was mainly by utilizing this chronometer that I showed in my Orion or Researches in the Antiquity of the Vedas that the vernal equinox was in Orion when some of the Rig-Vedic traditions were formed, and that the Vedic literature contained enough clear evidence of the successive changes of the position of the vernal equinox up to the present time. Thus the vernal equinox was in Kṛittikâs in the time of the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ and Brâhmaṇa and the express text stating that “The Kṛittikâs never swerve from the due east; all other Nakṣhatras do” (Shat. Brâ. II. 1, 2, 3), recently published by the late Mr. S. B. Dixit, serves to remove whatever doubts there might be regarding the interpretation of other passages. (See The Indian Antiquary, Vol. XXIV, (August, 1895), p. 245. )
This record of the early position of the Kṛittikâs, or the Pleiades, is as important for the determination of the Vedic chronology as the orientation of pyramids and temples has been shown to be in the case of the Egyptian, by Sir Norman Lockyer in his Dawn of Ancient Astronomy. But the chronometer, which I now mean to employ, is a different one. The North Pole and the Arctic regions possess certain astronomical characteristics which are peculiar to them, and if a reference to these can be discovered in the Vedas, it follows, in the light of modern researches, that the ancestors of the Vedic Ṛiṣhis must have become acquainted with these characteristics, when they lived in those regions, which was possible only in the inter-glacial times. We shall, therefore, now examine these characteristics, dividing them in the two-fold way stated above.
If an observer is stationed at the North Pole, the first thing that will strike him is the motion of the celestial sphere above his head. Living in the temperate and tropical zones we see all heavenly objects rise in the east and set in the west, some passing over our head, other traveling obliquely. But to the man at the Pole, the heavenly dome above will seem to revolve round him, from left to right, somewhat like the motion of a hat or umbrella turned over one’s head. The stars will not rise and set, but will move round and round, in horizontal planes, turning like a potter’s wheel, and starting on a second round when the first is finished, and so on, during the long night of six months. The sun, when he is above the horizon for 6 months, would also appear to revolve in the
same way. The centre of the celestial dome over the head of the observer will be the celestial North Pole, and naturally enough his north will be over-head, while the invisible regions below the horizon would be in the south. As regards the eastern and western points of the compass, the daily rotation of the earth round its axis will make them revolve round the observer from right to left, thereby causing the celestial objects in the east to daily revolve round and. round along the horizon from left to right, and not rise in the east, pass over-head, and set every day in the west, as with us, in the temperate or the tropical zone. In fact, to an observer stationed at the North Pole, the northern celestial hemisphere will alone be visible spinning round and round over his head, and the southern half, with all the stars in it, will always remain invisible, while the celestial equator, dividing the two, will be his celestial horizon. To such a man the sun going into the northern hemisphere in his annual course will appear as coming up from the south, and he will express the idea by saying that “the sun has risen in the south,” howsoever strange the expression may seem to us. After the sun has risen in this way in the south, — and the sun will rise there only once a year, — he will be constantly visible for 6 months, during which time he will attain a height of about 23½° above the horizon, and then begin to lower down until he drops into the south below the horizon. It will be a long and continuous sunshine of 6 months, but, as the celestial dome over the head of the observer will complete one revolution in 24 hours, the sun also will make one horizontal circuit round the observer in every 24 hours and to the observer at the North Pole the completion of one such circuit, whether of the sun or of the stars, will serve as a measure of ordinary days, or periods of 24 hours, during the long sunshine or night of six months. When about 180 such rounds, (the exact number will depend upon the difference in the durations of summer and winter noticed in the last chapter), are completed, the sun will again go down below the horizon, and the stars in the northern hemisphere, which had disappeared inhis light, will become visible all at once, and not rise one after the other as with us. The light of the sun had, so to say, eclipsed them, though they were over the head of the observer; but as soon as this obstruction is removed the whole northern starry hemisphere will again appear to spin round the observer for the remaining period of six months. The horizontal motion of the celestial hemisphere, only one long continuous morning and evening in the year, and one day and one night of six months each, are thus the chief special features of the calendar at the North Pole.
We have stated that to an observer at the North Pole, there will be a night of 6 months, and one is likely to infer therefrom that there will be total darkness at the Pole for one half the portion of the year. Indeed one is likely to contemplate with horror, the perils and difficulties of a long night o. six months, during which not only the light but the warmth of the sun has to be artificially supplied. As a matter of fact, such a supposition is found to be erroneous. First of all, there will be the electric discharges, known as Aurora Borealis, filling the polar night with their charming glories, and relieving its darkness to a great extent. Then we have the moon, which, in her monthly revolution, will be above the polar horizon for a continuous fortnight, displaying her changing phases, without intermission, to the polar observer. But the chief cause, which alleviates the darkness of the polar night, is the twilight before the rising and after the setting of the sun. With us in the tropical or the temperate zone, this twilight, whether of morning or evening, lasts only for an hour or two; but at the Pole this state of things is completely altered, and the twilight of the annual morning and evening is each visible for several days. The exact duration of this morning or evening twilight is, however, still a matter of uncertainty. Some authorities fix the period at 45 days, while others make it last for full two months. In the tropical zone, we see the first beams of the dawn, when the sun is about 16° below the horizon. But it is said that in higher latitudes the light of the sun is discernible when he is from 18° to 20° below the horizon. probably this latter limit may prove to be the correct one for the North Pole, and in that case the dawn there will last continuously for two months. Captain Pim, quoted by Dr. Warren, thus describes the Polar year: —
16th of March the sun rises, preceded by a long dawn of forty-seven days,
namely, from the 29th January, when the first glimmer of light appears. On the
25th of September the sun sets, and after a twilight of forty-eight days,
namely, on the 13th November, darkness reigns supreme, so far as the sun is
concerned, for seventy-six days followed by one long period of light, the sun
remaining above the horizon one hundred and ninety-four days. The year,
therefore, is thus divided at the Pole: — 194 days sun; 76 darkness; 47 days
dawn; 48 twilight.” (See
authorities assign a longer duration to the morning and evening twilight, and
reduce the period of total darkness from 76 to 60 days, or only to two months.
Which, of these calculations is correct can be settled only by actual
observation at the North Pole. It has been ascertained that this duration depends
upon the powers of refraction and reflection of the atmosphere, and these are
found to vary according to the temperature and other circumstances of the
place. The Polar climate is at present extremely cold; but in the Inter-glacial
epoch it was different, and this, by itself, would alter the duration of the
Polar dawn in inter-glacial times. But whatever the cause may be, so much is
beyond doubt that at the Pole the twilight of the yearly morning and evening
lingers on for several days. For even taking the lowest limit of 16°, the sun,
in his course through the ecliptic, would take more than a month to reach the
horizon from this point; and during all this time a perpetual twilight will
prevail at the Pole. Long dawn and long evening twilight are, therefore, the
principal factors in shortening the darkness of the Polar night and if we
deduct these days from the duration of the night, the period of darkness is
reduced from six to two,or at the most, to two-and-half-months. It is,
therefore, erroneous to suppose that the half yearly Polar night is such a
continuous period of darkness as will make the
The dawn in the tropical or the temperate zone is but brief and evanescent, and it recurs after every 24 hours. But still it has formed the subject of poetical descriptions in different countries. If so, how much more the spectacle of a splendid long dawn, after a darkness of two months, would delight the heart of a Polar observer, and how he will yearn for the first appearance of the light on the horizon, can be better imagined than described. I quote the following description of this long Polar dawn from Dr. Warren’s Paradise Found, and invite special attention to it, inasmuch as it forms one of the principal characteristics of the North Pole. Premising that the splendors of the Polar dawn are indescribable, Dr. Warren proceeds: —
all appears low in the horizon of the night-sky a scarcely visible flush of
light. At first it only makes a few stars’ light seem a trifle fainter, but
after a little it is seen to be increasing, and to be moving laterally along
the yet dark horizon. Twenty-four hours later it has made a complete circuit
around the observer, and is causing a larger number of stars to pale. Soon the
widening light glows with the luster of ‘Orient pearl.’ Onward it moves in its
stately rounds, until the pearly whiteness burns into ruddy rose-light, fringed
with purple and gold. Day after day, as we measure days, this splendid panorama
circles on, and, according as atmospheric conditions and, clouds present more
or less favorable conditions of reflection, kindles and fades, kindles and
fades, — fades only to kindle next time yet more brightly as the still hidden
sun comes nearer and nearer his point of emergence. At length, when for two
long months such prophetic displays have been filling the whole heavens with
these increscent and revolving splendors, the sun begins to emerge from his
long retirement, and to display himself once more to human vision. After one or
two circuits, during which his dazzling upper limb grows to a full-orbed disk,
he clears all hill-tops of the distant horizon, and for six full months circles
around and around the world’s great axis in full view, suffering no night to fall
upon his favored home-land at the Pole. Even when at last he sinks again from
view he covers his retreat with a repetition of the deepening and fading
splendors which filled his long dawning, as if in these pulses of more and more
distant light he were signaling back to the forsaken world the promises and
prophecies of an early return.”(See
A phenomenon like this cannot fail to be permanently impressed on the memory of a Polar observer, and it will be found later on that the oldest traditions of the Aryan race have preserved the recollection of a period, when its ancestors witnessed such wonderful phenomenon, — a long and continuous dawn of several days, with its lights laterally revolving on the horizon, in their original home.
Such are the distinguishing characteristics of the North Pole, that is, the point where the axis of the earth terminates in the north. But as a Polar home means practically a home in the regions round about the North Pole, and not merely the Polar point, we must now see what modifications are necessary to be made in the above characteristics owing to the observer being stationed a little to the south of the North Pole. We have seen that at the Pole the northern hemisphere is seen spinning round the observer and all the stars move with it in horizontal planes without rising or setting; while the other celestial hemisphere is always invisible. But when the observer is shifted downwards, his zenith will no longer correspond with the Pole Star, nor his horizon with the celestial equator. For instance let Z, in the annexed figure, be the zenith of the observer and P the celestial North Pole. When the observer was stationed at the terrestrial North Pole, his zenith coincided with P, and his horizon with the celestial equator, with the result that all the stars in the dome Q'PQ revolved round him in horizontal planes. But when the zenith is shifted to Z, this state of things is at once altered, as the heavens will revolve, as before, round the line POP', and not round the zenith line ZOZ'. When the observer was stationed at the North Pole these two lines coincided and hence the circles of revolution described by the stars round the celestial Pole were also described round the zenith-line. But when the zenith Z is different from P, as in the figure, the celestial horizon of the observer will be H'H, and the stars will now appear to move in circles inclined to his horizon, as shown in the figure by the black lines AA', BR' and CC'. Some of the stars, viz., those that are situated in the part of the celestial dome represented by H'PB, will be visible throughout the night, as their circles of revolution will be above the horizon B'C'D'H. But all the stars, whose Polar distance is greater than PB or PH, will in their daily revolution, be partly above and partly below the horizon. For instance, the stars at C and D will describe circles, some portions of which will be below the horizon H'H. In other words, the appearance of the visible celestial hemisphere to a person, whose zenith is at Z, will be different from the appearance presented by the heavens to an observer at the North Pole. The stars will not now revolve in horizontal planes, but obliquely. A great number of them would be circumpolar and visible during the whole night, but the remaining will rise and set as with us in the tropics, moving in oblique circles. When Z is very near P, only a few stars will rise and set in this way and the difference will not be a marked one; but as Z is removed further south, the change will become more and more apparent.
modifications will be introduced in the duration of day and night, when the
observer’s position is shifted to the south of the terrestrial North Pole. This
will be clear by a reference to the figure on the next page. Let P be the celestial North Pole and Q'Q the celestial equator. Then since
the sun moves in the ecliptic E'E,
which is inclined at an angle of about 23½° (23° 28') to the equator, the
circles T'E and E'T will correspond with the terrestrial circles of latitude called
the Tropics and the circle AC with the
We have seen that a long dawn of two months is a special and important characteristic of the North Pole. As we descend southward, the splendor and the duration of the dawn will be witnessed on a less and less magnificent scale. But the dawn, occurring at the end of the long night of two, three or more months, will still be unusually long, often of several day’s duration. As stated above, at first, only a pale flush of light will appear and it will continue visible on the horizon, revolving round and round, if the observer is sufficiently near the Pole, for some days, when at last the orb of the sun will emerge, and start the alternation of day and night described above, to be eventually terminated into a long day. The splendors of the Aurora Borealis would also be less marked and conspicuous in the southern latitudes than at the North Pole.
But if the
characteristics of the Arctic regions are different “There is a peculiarity at
the place, where the latitude is greater than 66° N. Whenever the northern
declination of the sun exceeds the complement of the latitude, there will be
perpetual day, for such time is that excess continues. Similarly when the
southern (declination exceeds), there will be perpetual night. On Meru,
therefore there is equal half-yearly perpetual day and night.” Thus if the
latitude of a place be 70°, its complement will be 90 – 70 = 20°; and as the
sun’s heights above the celestial equator (that is, his declination) is never
greater than 23° 28' there will be a continuous day at the place, so long as
the declination is greater than 20° and less 23° 28', and there will be a
similar continuous night when the sun is in the Southern hemisphere. Paul Du
Chaillu mentions that at Nordkyn or North Cape (N. lat. 71° 6'50'') the
northernmost place on the continent of Europe, the long night commences on 18th
November, and ends on 24th January, lasting in all, for 67 days of twenty-four
hours each from those of the North Pole, they are no less different from the
features of the year with which we are familiar in the temperate or the
tropical zone. With us the sun is above the horizon, at least for some time
every day, during all the twelve months of the year; but to persons within the
Arctic circle, he is below the horizon and therefore, continuously invisible
for a number of days. If this period of continuous night be excluded from our
reckoning, we might say that within the Arctic regions the year, or the period
marked by sunshine, only lasts from six to eleven months. Again the dawn in the
temperate and the tropical zone is necessarily short-lived, for a day and a
night together do not exceed twenty-four hours and the dawn which comes between
them can last only for a few hours; but the annual dawn at the Pole and the
dawn at the end of the long night in the Arctic regions will each be a dawn of
several days’ duration. As for the seasons, we have our winters and summers;
but the winter in the Arctic regions will be marked by the long continuous
night, while the summer will make the night longer than the day, but within the
limit of twenty four hours, until the day is developed into a long, continuous
sunshine of several days. The climate of the
It will be seen from the foregoing discussion that we have two distinct sets of characteristics, or differentiæ; one for an observer stationed exactly at the terrestrial North Pole and the other for an observer located in the Circum-Polar regions or tracts of land between the North Pole and the Arctic circle. For brevity’s sake, we shall designate these two sets of differentiæ, as Polar and Circum-Polar and sum them up as follows:
I. The Polar Characteristics
(1) The sun rises in the south.
(2) The stars do not rise and set; but revolve, or spin round and round, in horizontal planes, completing one round in 24 hours. The northern celestial hemisphere is alone overhead and visible during the whole year and the southern or the lower celestial world is always invisible.
(3) The year consists only of one long day and one long night of six months each.
(4) There is only one morning and one evening, or the sun rises and sets only once a year. But the twilight, whether of the morning or of the evening, lasts continuously for about two months, or 60 periods of 24 hours each. The ruddy light of the morn, or the evening twilight, is not again confined to a particular part of the horizon (eastern or western) as with us; but moves, like the stars at the place, round and round along the horizon, like a potter’s wheel, completing one round in every 24 hours. These rounds of the morning light continue to take place, until the orb of the sun comes above the horizon; and then the sun follows the same course for six months, that is, moves, without setting, round and round the observer, completing one round every 24 hours.
II. Circum-Polar Characteristic
(1) The sun will always be to the south of the zenith of the observer; but as this happens even in the case of an observer stationed in the temperate zone, it cannot be regarded as a special characteristic.
(2) A large number of stars are circum-polar, that, is, they are above the horizon during the entire period of their
revolution and hence always visible. The remaining stars rise and set, as in the temperate zone, but revolve in more oblique circles.
(3) The year is made up of three parts: — (i) one long continuous night, occurring at the time of the winter solstice, and lasting for a period, greater than 24 hours and less than six months, according to the latitude of the place; (ii) one long continuous day to match, occurring at the time of the summer solstice; and (iii) a succession of ordinary days and nights during the rest of the year, a nycthemeron, or a day and a night together, never exceeding a period of 24 hours. The day, after the long continuous night, is at first shorter than the night, but, it goes on increasing until it develops into the long continuous day. At the end of the long day, the night is, at first, shorter than the day, but, in its turn, it begins to gain over the day, until the commencement of the long continuous night, with which the year ends.
(4) The dawn, at the close of the long continuous night, lasts for several days, but its duration and magnificence is proportionally less than at the North Pole, according to the latitude of the place. For places, within a few degrees of the North Pole, the phenomenon of revolving morning lights will still be observable during the greater part of the duration of the dawn. The other dawns, viz. those between ordinary days and nights, will, like the dawns in the temperate zone, only last for a few hours. The sun, when he is above the horizon during the continuous day, will be seen revolving, without setting, round the observer, as at the Pole, but in oblique and not horizontal circles, and during the long night he will be entirely below the horizon; while during the rest of the year he will rise and set, remaining above the horizon for a part of 24 hours, varying according to the position of the sun in the ecliptic.
Here we have two distinct sets of diferentiæ, or special characteristics, of the Polar and Circum-Polar regions, — characteristics which are not found anywhere else on the surface of the globe. Again as the Poles of the earth are the same today as they were millions of years ago, the above astronomical characteristics will hold good for, all times, though the Polar climate may have undergone violent changes in the Pleistocene period. In short, we can take these differentiæ as our unerring guides in the examination of the Vedic evidence bearing on the point at issue. If a Vedic description or tradition discloses any of the characteristics mentioned above, we may safely infer that the tradition is Polar or Circum-Polar in origin, and the phenomenon, if not actually witnessed by the poet, was at least known to him by tradition faithfully handed down from generation to generation. Fortunately there are many such passages or references in the Vedic literature, and, for convenience, these may be divided into two parts; the first comprising those passages which directly describe or refer to the long night, or the long dawn; and the second consisting of myths and legends which corroborate and indirectly support the first. The evidence in the first part being direct, is, of course, more convincing; and we shall, therefore, begin with it in the next chapter, reserving the consideration of the Vedic myths and legends to the latter part of the book.
THE NIGHT OF THE GODS
Vedic sacrifices, regulated by the luni-solar calendar — A year of six seasons and twelve months, with an intercalary month in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ — The same in the Ṛig-Veda — Present results of the Vedic mythology — All presuppose a home in the temperate or the tropical zone — But further research still necessary — The special character of the Ṛig-Veda explained — Polar tests found in the Ṛig-Veda — Indra supporting the heavens with a pole, and moving them like a wheel — A day and a night of six months, in the form of the half yearly day and night of the Gods — Found in the Sûrya Siddhânta and older astronomical Saṁhitâs — Bhâskarâchârya’s error explained — Gods’ day and night mentioned by Manu and referred to by Yâska — The description of Meru or the North Pole in the Mahâbhârata — In the Taittirîya Araṇyaka — The passage in the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa about the year long day of the Gods — Improbability of explaining it except as founded on the observation of nature — Parallel passage in the Vendidad — Its Polar character clearly established by the context — The Vara of Yima in the Airyana Vaêjo — The sun rising and setting there only once a year — The Devayâna and the Pitṛiyâna in the Ṛig-Veda — Probably represent the oldest division of the year, like the day and the night of the Gods — The path of Mazda in the Parsi scriptures — Death during Pitṛiyâna regarded inauspicious — Bâdarâyana’s view — Probable explanation suggested — Death during winter or Pitṛiyâna in the Parsi scriptures — Probably indicates a period of total darkness — Similar Greek traditions — Norse Twilight of the Gods — The idea of half-yearly day and night of the Gods thus proved to be not only Indo-Iranian, but Indo-Germanic — A sure indication of an original Polar home.
At the threshold of the Vedic literature, we meet with an elaborately organized sacrificial system so well regulated by the luni-solar calendar as to show that the Vedic bards had, by that time, attained considerable proficiency in practical astronomy. There were daily, fortnightly, monthly, quarterly, half-yearly and yearly sacrifices, which, as I have elsewhere shown, also served as chronometers in those days. (See The Orion or the Antiquity of the Vedas, Chap. II. )
The Taittirîya Saṁhitâ and the Brâhmaṇas distinctly mention a lunar month of thirty days and a year of twelve such months, to which an intercalary month was now and then added, to make the lunar and the solar year correspond with each other. The ecliptic, or the belt of the zodiac, was divided into 27 of 28 divisions, called the Nakṣhatras, which, were used as mile-stones to mark the annual passage of the sun, or the monthly revolution of the moon round the earth. The two solstitial and the two equinoctial points, as well as the passage of the sun into the northern and the southern hemisphere, were clearly distinguished, and the year was divided into six seasons, the festivals in each month or the year being accurately fixed and ascertained. The stars rising and setting with the sun were also systematically observed and the eastern and western points of the compass determined as accurately as the astronomical observations of the day could permit. In my Orion or the Antiquity of the Vedas, I have shown how the changes in the position of the equinoxes were also marked in these days, and how they enable us to classify the periods of Vedic antiquity. According to this classification the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ comes under the Kṛittikâ period (2500 B.C.), and some may, therefore, think that the details of the Vedic calendar given above are peculiar only to the later Vedic literature. A cursory study of the Ṛig-Veda will, however, show that such is not the case. A year of 360 days, with an intercalary month occasionally added, or a year of twelve lunar months, with twelve intercalary days inserted at the end of each year was familiar to the poets of the Ṛig-Veda and is often mentioned in the hymns.
The northern and the
southern passage of the sun from equinox to equinox, the Devayâna and the Pitṛiyâna,
together with the yearly sattras,
have also been referred to in several places, clearly showing that the
Rig-Vedic calendar differed, if at all, very little from the one in use at the
time of the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ or the Brâhmaṇas.
A calendar of twelve months and six seasons is peculiar only to the temperate
or the tropical zone, and if we were to judge only from the facts stated above,
it follows that the people who used such a calendar, must have lived in places
where the sun was above the horizon during all the days of the year. The
science of Vedic mythology, so far as it is developed at present, also supports
the same view. Vṛitra is said to be a demon
of drought or darkness and several myths are explained. on the theory that they
represent a daily struggle between the powers of light and the powers of
darkness, or of eventual triumph of summer over winter, or of day over night,
or of Indra over watertight clouds. Mr. Nârâyaṇa Aiyangâr of
Such are the results of the latest researches in Vedic philology, mythology or calendar, regarding the ancient home of the Vedic people and the origin and the antiquity of their mythology. But to a man who is working in the same field, the question whether we have reached the utmost limit of our researches naturally occurs. It is a mistake to suppose that all the traditions and myths, and even the deities, mentioned in the Ṛig-Veda were the creation of one period. To adopt a geological phrase, the Ṛig-Veda, or we might even say the whole Vedic literature, is not arranged into different strata according to their chronological order, so that we can go on from once stratum to another and examine each separately. The Ṛig-Veda is a book in which old things of different periods are so mixed up that we have to work long and patiently before we are able to separate and classify its contents in chronological order. I have stated before how owing to our imperfect knowledge of the ancient man and his surroundings this task is rendered difficult, or even impossible in some cases. But, as observed by Prof. Max Müller, it is the duty of each generation of Vedic scholars to reduce as much as possible the unintelligible portion of the Ṛig-Veda, so that with the advance of scientific knowledge each succeeding generation may, in this matter, naturally be in a better position than its predecessors. The Vedic calendar, so far as we know or the Vedic mythology may not have, as yet, disclosed any indication of an Arctic home, but underneath the materials that have been examined, or even by their side, we may still find facts, which, though hitherto neglected, may, in the new light of scientific discoveries, lead to important conclusions. The mention of the luni-solar calendar in the Ṛig-Veda ought not, therefore, to detain us from further pursuing our investigation by examining the texts and legends which have not yet been satisfactorily explained, and ascertaining how far such texts and legends indicate the existence of a Polar or Circum-Polar home in early times. The distinguishing characteristics of these regions have been already discussed and stated in the previous chapter, and all that we have now to do is to apply these tests, and decide if they are satisfied or fulfilled by the texts and legends under consideration.
The spinning round of the heavenly dome over the head is one of the special characteristics of the North Pole, and the phenomenon is so peculiar that one may expect to find traces of it in the early traditions of a people, if they, or their ancestors ever lived near the North Pole. Applying this test to the Vedic literature, we do find passages which compare the motion of the heavens to that of wheel, and state that the celestial vault is supported as if on an axis. Thus in Ṛig. X, 89, 4, Indra is said “to separately uphold up by his power heaven and earth as the two wheels of a chariot are held by the axle.”*
Prof. Ludwig thinks that this refers to the axis of the earth, and the explanation is very probable. The same idea occurs in other places, and some times the sky is described as being supported even without a pole, testifying thereby to the great power or might of Indra (II, 15, 2; IV, 56, 3).†
In X, 80, 2, Indra is identified with Sûrya and he is described as “turning the widest expanse like the wheels of a chariot.”‡
The word for “expanse” is varâṁsi, which Sâyaṇa understands to mean “lights,” or “stars.” But whichever meaning we adopt, it is clear that the verse in question refers to the revolution of the sky, and compares to the motion of a chariot wheel. Now the heavens in the temperate and the tropical regions may be described as moving like a wheel, from east to west and then back again to the east, though the latter half of this circuit is not visible to the observer. But we cannot certainly speak of the tropical sky as being supported on a pole, for the simple reason that the North Pole, which must be the point of support in, such a case, will not be sufficiently near the zenith in the tropical or the temperate zone. If we, therefore, combine the two statements, that the heavens are supported as on a pole and that they move like a wheel, we may safely infer that the motion referred to is such a motion of the celestial hemisphere as can be witnessed only by an observer at the North Pole. In the Ṛig-Veda§ I, 24, 10 the constellation of Ursa Major (Ṛikṣhaḥ) is described as being placed “high” (uchhâh), and, as this can refer only to the altitude of the constellation, it follows that it must then have been over the head of the observer, which is possible only in the Circum-Polar regions.
Unfortunately there are few other passages in the Ṛig-Veda which describe the motion of the celestial hemisphere or of the stars therein, and we must, therefore, take up another characteristic of the Polar regions, namely, “a day and a night of six months each,” and see if the Vedic literature contains any references to this singular feature of the Polar regions.
The idea that the day and the night of the Gods are each
of six months’ duration is so widespread in the Indian literature, that we
examine it here at some length, and, for that purpose, commence with the
Post-Vedic literature and trace it back to the most ancient books. It is found
not only in the Purâṇas, but also in astronomical works, and as
the latter state it in a more definite form we shall begin with the later
But, as shown by me elsewhere, Bhâskarâchârya has here fallen into an error by attributing to the word Uttarâyaṇa, a sense which it did not bear in old times, or at least in the passages embodying this tradition. The old meaning of Uttarâyaṇa, literally, the northern passage of the sun, was the period of time required by the sun to travel from the vernal to the autumnal equinox, or the portion of the ecliptic in the northern hemisphere; and if we understand the word in this sense, the statement that the Uttarâyaṇa is a day of the Devas is at once plain and intelligible. Bhâskarâchârya’s reference to oldest astronomical Saṁhitâs clearly shows that the tradition was handed down from the oldest times. It is suggested that in these passages Gods may mean the apotheosized ancestors of the human race. But I do not think that we need any such explanation. If the ancestors of the human race ever lived at the North Pole, so must have their Gods; and I shall show in a subsequent chapter that the Vedic deities are, as a matter of fact clothed with attributes, which are distinctly Polar in origin. It makes, therefore, no difference for our purpose, if a striking feature of the primitive home is traditionally preserved and remembered as a characteristic of the Gods, or of the apotheosized ancestors of the race. We are concerned with the tradition itself, and our object is pained if its existence is clearly established.
The next authority for the statement is Manu, I, 67. While describing the divisions of time it says, “A year (human) is a day and a night of the Gods; thus are the two divided, the northern passage of the sun is the day and the southern the night.” ( Manu, I, 67.)
The day and the night of the Gods are then taken as a unit for measuring longer periods of time as the Kalpas and so on, and Yâska’s Nirukta, XIV, 4, probably contains the same reference. Muir, in the first Volume of his Original Sanskrit Texts, gives some of these passages so far as they bear on the yuga-system found in the Purâṇas. But we are not concerned with the later development of the idea that the day and the night of the Gods each lasted for six months. What is important, from our point of view, is the persistent prevalence of this tradition in the Vedic and the Post-Vedic literature, which can only be explained on the hypothesis that originally it must have been the result of actual observation. We shall, therefore, next quote the Mahâbhârata, which gives such a clear description of Mount Meru, the lord of the mountains, as to leave no doubt its being the North Pole, or possessing the Polar characteristics. In chapters 163 and 164 of the Vanaparvan, Arjuna’s visit to the Mount is described in detail and we are therein told, “at Meru the sun and the moon go round from left to right (Pradakṣhiṇam) every day and so do all the stars.” Later on the writer informs us: — “The mountain, by its lustre, so overcomes the darkness of night, that the night can hardly be distinguished from the day.” A few verses further, and we find, “The day and the night are together equal to a year to the residents of the place.”*
These quotations are quite sufficient to convince any one that at the time when the great epic was composed Indian writers had a tolerably accurate knowledge of the meteorological and astronomical characteristics of the North Pole, and this knowledge cannot be supposed to have been acquired by mere mathematical calculations. The reference to the lustre of the mountain is specially interesting, inasmuch as, in all probability, it is a description of the splendors of the Aurora Borealis visible at the North Pole. So far as the Post-Vedic literature is concerned, we have, therefore, not only the tradition of the half-year-long
Passing on, therefore, to the Vedic literature, we find Mount Meru described as the seat of seven Âdityas in the Taittirîya Âraṇyaka I, 7, 1, while the eighth Âditya, called Kashyapa is said never to leave the great Meru or Mahâmeru. Kashyapa is further described as communicating light to the seven Âdityas, and himself perpetually illumining the great mountain. It is, however, in the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa (III, 9, 22, 1), that we meet with a passage which clearly says, “That which is a year is but a single day of the Gods.” The statement is so clear that there can be no doubt whatever about its meaning. A year of the mortals is said to be but a day of the Gods; but, at one time, I considered it extremely hazardous* to base any theory even upon such a clear statement, inasmuch as it then appeared p me to be but solitary in the Vedic literature. (Taitt. Br. III, 9, 22, 1. See Orion, p. 30 note. (Ed. 1955). )
I could not then find anything to match it in the Saṁhitâs and especially in the Ṛig-Veda and I was inclined to hold that Uttarâyaṇa and Dakṣhiṇâyana were, in all probability, described in this way as “day” and “night” with a qualifying word to mark their special nature. Later researches have however forced on me the conclusion that the tradition, represented by this passage, indicates the existence of a Polar home in old days, and I have set forth in the sequel the evidence on which I have come to the above conclusion. There are several theories on which the above statement in the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa can be explained. We may regard it as the outcome of pure imagination, or of a metaphor expressing in figurative language a fact quite different from the one denoted by the words used, or it may be the result of actual observation by the writer himself or by persons from whom he traditionally derived his information. It may also be considered as based on astronomical calculations made in later days, what was originally an astronomical inference being subsequently converted into a real observed fact. The last of these suppositions would have appeared probable, if the tradition had been confined only to the Post-Vedic literature, or merely to the astronomical works. But we cannot suppose that during the times of the Brâhmaṇas the astronomical knowledge was so far advanced as to make it possible to fabricate a fact by mathematical calculation, even supposing that the Vedic poets were capable of making such a fabrication. Even in the days of Herodotus the statement that “there existed a people who slept for six months” was regarded “incredible” (IV, 24); and we must, therefore, give up the idea, that several centuries before Herodotus, a statement regarding the day or the night of the Gods could have been fabricated in the way stated above. But all doubts on the point are set at rest by the occurrence of an almost identical statement in the sacred books of the Parsis. In the Vendidad, Fargard II, para 40, (or, according to Spiegel, para 133), we find the sentence, Tae cha ayara mainyaente yat yare, meaning “They regard, as a day, what is a year.” This is but a paraphrase of the statement, in the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa, and the context in the Parsi scriptures removes all possible doubts regarding the Polar character of the statement. The latter part of the second Fargard, wherein this passage occurs, contains a discourse between Ahura Mazda and Yima.* Ahura Mazda warns Yima, the first king of men, of the approach of a dire winter, which is to destroy every living creature by covering the land with a thick sheet of ice, and advises Yima to build a Vara, or an enclosure, to preserve the seeds of every kind of animals and plants. ( See Sacred Books of the East Series, Vol. IV, pp. 15-31. )
The meeting is said to have taken
place in the Airyana Vaêjo,or the paradise of the Iranians. The Vara, or the
enclosure, advised by Ahura Mazda, is accordingly prepared, and Yima asked
Ahura Mazda, “O Maker of the material world, thou Holy One! What lights are
there to give light in the Vara which Yima made?” Ahura Mazda answered, “There
are uncreated lights and created lights. There the stars, the moon and the sun
are only once (a year) seen to rise and set,
and a year seems only as a day.” I
have taken Darmesteter’s rendering but Spiegel’s is substantially the same.
This passage is important from various standpoints. First of all it tells us,
that the Airyana Vaêjo, or the original home of the Iranians, was a place which
was rendered uninhabitable by glaciation; and secondly that in this original
home the sun rose and set only once in
the year, and that the year was like
a day to the inhabitants of the place. The bearing of the passage in regard
to glaciation will be discussed latter on. For the present, it is enough to
point out how completely it corroborates and elucidates the statement in the
Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa stated and discussed above. The yearly rising and setting
of the sun is possible only at the North Pole and the mention of this
characteristic leaves no room for doubting that the Vara and the Airyana Vaêjo
were both located in the
It is true, that the statement, or anything similar to it, is not found in the Ṛig-Veda; but it will be shown later on that there are many other passages in the Ṛig-Veda which go to corroborate this statement in a remarkable way by referring to other Polar characteristics. I may, however, mention here the fact that the oldest Vedic year appears to have been divided only into two portions, the Devayâna and the Pitṛiyâna, which originally corresponded with the Uttârayaṇa and the Dâkṣhiṇayana, or the day and the night of the Gods. The word Devayâna occurs several times in the Ṛig-Veda Saṁhitâ, and denotes “the path of the Gods.” Thus in the Ṛig-Veda, I, 72, 7, Agni is said to be cognizant of the Devayâna road, and in Ṛig. I, 183, 6, and 184, 6, the poet says, “We have, O Ashvins! reached the end of darkness; now come to us by the Devayâna road.” In VII, 76, 2, we again read, “The Devayâna path has become visible to me... The banner of the Dawn has appeared in the east.” Passages like these clearly indicate that the road of the Devayâna commenced at the rise of the Dawn, or after the end of darkness; and that it was the road by which Agni, Ashvins, Uṣhas, Sûrya and other matutinal deities traveled during their heavenly course. The path of the Pitṛis, or the Pitṛiyâna, is, on the other hand, described in X, 18, 1, as the “reverse of Devayâna, or the path of Death.” In, the Ṛig-Veda, X, 88, 15, the poet says that he has, “heard” only of “two roads, one of the Devas and the other of the Pitṛis.” If the Devayâna, therefore, commenced with the Dawn, we must suppose that the Pitṛiyâna, commenced with the advent of darkness. Sâyaṇa is, therefore, correct in interpreting V, 77, 2, as stating that “the evening is not for the Gods (devayâḥ).” Now if the Devayâna and the Pitṛiyâna were only synonymous with ordinary ‘day and night, there was obviously no propriety in stating that these were the only two paths or roads known to the ancient Ṛiṣhis, and they could not have been described as consisting of three seasons each, beginning with the spring, (Shat. Brâ. II, 1, 3, 1-3).*
It seems, therefore, very probable that the Devayâna and the Pitṛiyâna originally represented a two-fold division of the year, one of continuous light and the other of continuous darkness as at the North Pole; and that though it was not suited to the later home of the Vedic people it was retained, because it was an established and recognized fact in the language, like the seven suns, or the seven horses of a single sun. The evidence in support of this view will be stated in subsequent chapters. It is sufficient to observe in this place, that if we interpret the twofold division of the Devayâna and the Pitṛiyâna in this way, it fully corroborates the statement in the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa that a year was but a day of the Gods. We may also note in this connection that the expression “path of the Gods” occurs even in the Parsi scriptures. Thus in the Farvardîn Yasht, paras 56, 57, the Fravashis, which correspond with the Pitṛis in the Vedic literature, are said to have shown to the sun and the moon “the path made by Mazda, the way made by the Gods,” along which the Fravashis themselves are described as growing. The sun and the moon are, again, said to have “stood for a long time in the same place, without moving forwards through the oppression of the Dævas (Vedic Asuras, or the demons of darkness),” before the Fravashis showed “the path of Mazda,” to these two luminaries.(See Sacred Books of the East Series, Vol. XXIII, pp. 193-194. )
This shows that “the path of Mazda” commenced, like the Devayâna road, when the sun was set free from the clutches of the demons of darkness. In other words, it represented the period of the year when the sun was above the horizon at the place where the ancestors of the Indo-Iranian lived in ancient days. We have seen that the Devayâna, or the path of the Gods, is the way along which Sûrya, Agni and other matutinal deities are said to travel in the Ṛig-Veda; and the Parsi scriptures supplement this information by telling us that the sun stood still before the Fravashis showed to him “the path of Mazda,” evidently meaning that the Devayâna, or “the path of Mazda,” was the portion of the year when the sun was above the horizon after being confined for some time by the powers of darkness.
But the correspondence between the Indian and the Parsi scriptures does not stop here. There is a strong prejudice, connected with the Pitṛiyâna, found in the later Indian literature, and even this has its parallel in the Parsi scriptures. The Hindus consider it inauspicious for a man to die during the Pitṛiyâna, and the great Mahâbhârata warrior, Bhiṣhma, is said to have waited on his death-bed until the sun passed through the winter solstice, as the Dâkṣhiṇayana, which is synonymous with the Pitṛiyâna, was then understood to mean the time required by the sun to travel from the summer to the winter solstice.” A number of passages scattered over the whole Upanishad literature support the same view, by describing the course of the soul of a man according as he dies during the Devayâna or the Pitṛiyâna, and exhibiting a marked preference for the fate of the soul of a man dying during the path of the Gods, or the Devayâna. All these passages will be found collected in Shankarâchârya’s Bhâṣhya on Brahma-Sûtras, IV, 2, 18-21, wherein Bâdarâyaṇa,† anxious to reconcile all these passages with the practical difficulty sure to be experienced if death during the night of the Gods were held to be absolutely unmeritorious from a religious point of view, has recorded his opinion that we must not interpret these texts as predicating an uncomfortable future life for every man dying during the Dâkṣhiṇayana or the night of the Gods. ( For the text and discussion thereon, see Orion, p. 38. (Ed. 1955) See also Orion, pp. 24-26. (Ed. 1955) )
As an alternative Bâdarâyaṇa, therefore, adds that these passages may be taken to refer to the Yogins who desire to attain to a particular kind of heaven after death. Whatever we may think of this view, we can, in this attempt of Bâdarâyaṇa, clearly see a distinct consciousness of the existence of a tradition, which, if it did not put an absolute ban on death during the night of the Gods, did, at any rate, clearly disapprove of such occurrences from a religious point of view. If the Pitṛiyâna originally represented, as stated above, a period of continuous darkness the tradition can be easily and rationally explained; for as the Pitṛiyâna then meant an uninterrupted night, the funeral ceremonies of any one dying during the period were deferred till the break of the dawn at the end of the Pitṛiyâna, or the commencement of the Devayâna. Even now death during night is considered inauspicious, and the funeral generally takes place after daybreak.
The Parsi scriptures are still more explicit. In the Vendidad, Fargards V, 10, and VIII, 4, a question is raised how the worshipper of Mazda should act, when a death takes place in a house when the summer has passed and the winter has come; and Ahura Mazda answers, “In such cases a Kata (ditch) should be made in every house and there the lifeless body should be allowed to lie for two nights, or for three nights, or for a month long, until the birds begin to fly, the plants to grow, the floods to flow, and the wind to dry up the water from off the earth.” Considering the fact that the dead body of a worshipper of Mazda is required to be ex posed to the sun before it is consigned to birds, the only reason for keeping the dead body in the house for one month seems to be that it was a month of darkness. The description of birds beginning to fly, and the floods to flow, &c., reminds one of the description of the dawn in the Ṛig-Veda, and it is quite probable that the expressions here denote the same phenomenon as in the Ṛig-Veda, In fact they indicate a winter of total darkness during which the corpse is directed to be kept in the house, to be exposed to the sun on the first breaking of the dawn after the long night. (See infra Chapter IX. )
It will, however, be more convenient to discuss these
passages, after examining the whole of the Vedic evidence in favor of the
traditions are also found in the literature of other branches of the Aryan
race, besides the Hindus and the Parsis. For instance, Dr. Warren quotes Greek
traditions similar to those we have discussed above. Regarding the primitive
revolution of the sky, Anaximenes, we are told, likened the motions of the
heaven in early days to “the rotating of a man’s hat on his head.” (See
Another Greek writer is quoted to show that “at first the Pole-star always appeared in the zenith.” It is also stated, on the authority of Anton, Krichenbauer, that in the Iliad and Odyssey two kinds of days are continually referred to one of a year’s duration, especially when describing the life and exploits of the Gods, and the other twenty-four hours. The night of the Gods has its parallel also in the Norse mythology, which mentions “the Twilight of the Gods,” denoting by that phrase the time when the reign of Odin and the Æsir, or Gods, would come to an end, not forever, but to be again revived; for we are told that “from the dead sun springs a daughter more beautiful than her sire, and mankind starts afresh from the life-raiser and his bride-life.” (See Cox’s Mythology of the Aryan Nations, p. 41, quoting Brown’s Religion and Mythology of the Aryans of the North of Europe, Arts, 15-1. )
If these traditions and statements are correct, they show that the idea of half-yearly night and day of the Gods is not only Indo-Iranian, but Indo-Germanic, and that it must therefore, have originated in. the original home of the Aryans.
Comparative mythology, it will be
shown in a subsequent chapter, fully supports the view of an original Arctic
home of the Aryan races, and there is nothing surprising if the traditions
about a day and a night of six months are found not only in the Vedic and the
Iranian, but also in the Greek and the Norse literature. It seems to have been
an idea traditionally inherited by all the branches of the Aryan race, and, as
it is distinctly Polar in character, it is alone enough to establish the existence
THE VEDIC DAWNS
Dawn-hymns the most beautiful in the Ṛig-Veda — The Deity fully described, unobscured by personification — First hints about the long duration of dawn — Recitation of a thousand verses, or even the whole Ṛig-Veda, while the dawn lasts — Three or five-fold division of the dawn — Both imply a long dawn — The same inferred from the two words Uṣhas and Vyuṣhṭî — Three Ṛig-Vedic passages about long dawns, hitherto misunderstood, discussed — Long interval of several days between the first appearance of light and sunrise — Expressly mentioned in the Ṛig-Veda, VII, 76, 3 — Sâyaṇa’s explanation artificial and unsatisfactory — Existence of many dawns before sunrise — Reason why dawn is addressed in the plural in the Ṛig-Veda — The plural address not honorific — Nor denotes dawns of consecutive days — Proves a team of continuous dawns — The last view confirmed by the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, IV, 3, 11 — Dawns as 30 sisters — Direct authority from the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa for holding that they were continuous or unseparated — Sâyaṇa’s explanation of 30 dawns examined — Thirty dawns described as thirty steps of a single dawn — Rotatory motion of the dawn, like a wheel, directly mentioned in the Ṛig-Veda — Their reaching the same appointed place day by day — All indicate a team of thirty closely-gathered dawns — Results summed up — Establish the Polar character of the Vedic dawns — Possible variation in the duration of the Vedic dawn— The legend of Indra shattering the Dawn’s car explained — Direct passages showing that the dawns so described were the events of a former age — The Vedic Dawns Polar in character.
The Ṛig-Veda, we have seen, does not contain distinct references to a day and a night of six months’ duration though the deficiency is more than made up by parallel passages from the Iranian scriptures. But in the case of the dawn, the long continuous dawn with its revolving splendors, which is the special characteristic of the North Pole, there is fortunately no such difficulty. Uṣhas, or the Goddess of Dawn, is an important and favorite Vedic deity and is celebrated in about twenty hymns of the Ṛig-Veda and mentioned more than three hundred times, sometimes in the singular and sometimes in the plural. These hymns, according to Muir, are amongst the most beautiful, — if not the most beautiful, — in the entire collection; and the deity, to which they are addressed, is considered by Macdonell to be the most graceful creation of Vedic poetry, there being no more charming figure in the descriptive religious lyrics of any other literature. (See Muir’s Original Sanskrit Texts, Vol. V. p. 181; and Macdonell’s Vedic Mythology, p. 46. )
short, Uṣhas, or the Goddess of Dawn, is described in the Ṛig-Veda hymns with more than usual
fullness and what is still more important for our purpose is that the physical
character of the deity is not, in the least, obscured by the description or the
personification in the hymns. Here, therefore, we have a fine opportunity of
proving the validity of our theory, by showing, if possible, that the oldest
description of the dawn is really Polar in character. A priori it does
not look probable that the Vedic poets could have gone into such raptures over
the short-lived dawn of the tropical or the temperate zone, or that so much
anxiety about the coming dawn should have been evinced, simply because the
Vedic bards had no electric light or candles to use during the short night of
less than 24 hours. But the dawn-hymns have not, as yet, been examined from
this stand-point. It seems to have been tacitly assumed by all interpreters of
the Vedas, Eastern and Western, that the Uṣhas of the Ṛig-Veda can be no other than the
dawn with which we are familiar in the tropical or the temperate zone. That
Yâska and Sâyaṇa thought so is natural enough, but even the Western
scholars have taken the same view, probably under the influence of the theory
that the plateau of Central
The first hint, regarding the long duration of the Vedic dawn, is obtained from the Aitareya Brâhmaṇa, IV, 7. Before commencing the Gavâm-ayana sacrifice, there is a long recitation of not less than a thousand verses, to be recited by the Hotṛi priest. This Ashvina-shastra, as it is called, is addressed to Agni, Uṣhas and Ashvins, which deities rule at the end of the night and the commencement of the day. It is the longest recitation to be recited by the Hotṛi and the time for reciting it is after , when “the darkness of the night is about to be relieved by the light of the dawn” (Nir. XII, I; Ashv. Shr. Sutra, VI, 5, 8).(Nir. XII, 1.)
The same period of time is referred to also in the Ṛig-Veda, VII, 67, 2 and 3. The shastra is so long, that the Hotṛi, who has to recite it, is directed to refresh himself by drinking beforehand melted butter after sacrificing thrice a little of it (Ait. Br. IV, 7; Ashv. Shr. Sûtra; VI, 5, 3). “He ought to eat ghee,” observes the Aitareya Brâhmaṇa, “before he commences repeating. Just as in this world a cart or a carriage goes well if smeared (with oil),† thus his repeating proceeds well if he be smeared with ghee (by eating it).” (See Haug’s Translation off Ait. Br., p. 270. )
It is evident that if such a recitation has to be finished before the rising of the sun, either the Hotṛi must commence his task soon after midnight when it is dark, or the duration of the dawn must then have been sufficiently long to enable the priest to finish the recitation in time after commencing to recite it on the first appearance of light on the horizon as directed. The first supposition is out of the question, as it is expressly laid down that the shastra, is not to be recited until the darkness of the night is relieved by light. So between the first appearance of light and the rise of the sun, there must have been, in those days, time enough to recite the long laudatory song of not lees than a thousand verses. Nay, in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ (II, 1, 10, 3) we are told that sometimes the recitation of the shastra though commenced at the proper time, ended long before sunrise, and in that case, the Saṁhitâ requires that a certain animal sacrifice should be performed. Ashvalâyana directs that in such a case the recitation should be continued up to sunrise by reciting other hymns (Ashv. S.S. VI, 5, 8); while Âpastamba (S.S. XIV, 1 and 2), after mentioning the sacrifice referred to in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, adds that all the ten Maṇḍalas of the Ṛig-Veda may be recited, if necessary, in such a case. (Ashv. S. S. VI, 5, 8. Âpastamba XIV, I & 2. The first of these two Sûtras is the reproduction of T. S. II, 1, 10, 3. )
It is evident from this that the actual rising of the sun above the horizon was a phenomenon often delayed beyond expectation, in those days and in several places in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, (II, 1, 2, 4 Cf. also T. S. II, 1, 4, 1)† we are told that the Devas had to perform a prâyaschitta because the sun did not shine as expected.
Another indication of the long duration of the dawn is furnished by the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, VIII 2. 20.
Seven oblations are here mentioned, one to Uṣhas one to Vyuṣhṭi one to Udeṣhyat, one to Udyat, one to Uditâ one to Suvarga and one to Loka. Five of these are evidently intended for the dawn in its five forms. The Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa (III, 8, 16, 4) explains the first two, viz., to Uṣhas and Vyuṣhṭi, as referring to dawn and sunrise, or rather to night and day, for according to the Brâhmaṇa “Uṣhas is night, and Vyuṣhṭi is day.” Tait. Br. III, 8, 16, 4.
But even though we may accept this as correct and we take Uṣhas and Vyuṣhṭi to be the representatives of night and day because the former signalizes the end of the night and the latter the beginning of the day, still we have to account for three oblations, viz. one to the dawn about to rise (Udeṣhyat,) one to the rising dawn (Udyat), and one to the dawn that has risen (Uditâ) the first two of which are according to the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa, to be offered before the rising of the sun. Now the dawn in the tropical zone is so short that the three-fold distinction between the dawn that is about to rise, the dawn that is rising, and one that has risen or that is full-blown (vi-uṣhṭi) is a distinction without a difference. We must, therefore, hold that the dawn which admitted such manifold division for the practical purpose of sacrifice, was a long dawn.
The three-fold division of the dawn does not seem to be unknown to the poets of the Ṛig-Veda. For, in VIII, 41, 3, Varuṇa’s “dear ones are said to have prospered the three dawns for him,”* and by the phrase tisraḥ dânuchitrâḥ in I, 174, 7, “three dew-lighted” dawns appear to be referred to. There are other passages in the Ṛig-Veda† where the dawn is asked not to delay, or tarry long, lest it might be scorched liked a thief by the sun (V, 79, 9); and in II, 15, 6, the steeds of the dawn are said to be (slow) (ajavasaḥ), showing that the people were sometimes tired to see the dawn lingering long on the horizon. But a still more remarkable statement is found in I, 113, 13, where the poet distinctly asserts,‡ “the Goddess Uṣhas dawned continually or perpetually (shasvat) in former days (purâ);” and the adjective shashvat-tamâ (the most lasting) is applied to the dawn in I, 118, 11.
Again the very existence and use of two such words as uṣhas and vi-uṣhṭi is, by itself, a proof of the long duration of the dawn; for, if the dawn was brief, there was no practical necessity of speaking of the full-blown state (vi+uṣhṭi) of the dawn as has been done several times in the Ṛig-Veda. The expression, uṣhasah vi-uṣhṭau, occurs very often in the Ṛig-Veda and it has been translated by the phrase, on the flashing forth of the dawn.” But no one seems to have raised the question why two separate words, one of which is derived from the other simply by prefixing the preposition vi, should be used in this connection. Words are made to denote ideas and if uṣhas and vi-uṣhṭi were not required to denote two distinct phenomena, no one, especially in those early days, would have cared to use a phrase, which, for all ordinary purposes, was superfluously cumbrous. But these facts, howsoever suggestive, may not be regarded as conclusive and we shall, therefore, now turn to the more explicit passages in the hymns regarding the duration of the Vedic dawn.
The first verse I would quote in this connection is Ṛig-Veda I, 113, 10: — *
Kiyâti â yât samayâ bhavâti
yâ vyûṣhuryâshcha nunam vyuchhân
Anu pûrvâḥ kṛipate vâvashâna
pradidhyânâ joṣham anyâbhir eti
first quarter of the verse is rather difficult. The words are kiyâti ā yat samayâ bhavâti, and Sâyaṇa, whom
This has given rise to three different translations of the verse: —
MUIR, (following Aufrecht): — How great is the interval that lies between the Dawns which have arisen and those which are yet to rise? Uṣhas yearns longingly after the former Dawns, and gladly goes on shining with the others (that are to come).
But in spite of those different renderings, the meaning of the verse, so far as the question before us is concerned, can be easily gathered. There are two sets of dawns, one of, those that have past, and the other of those that are yet to shine. If we adopt Wilson’s and Griffith’s translations, the meaning is that these two classes of dawns, taken together, occupy such a long period of time as to raise the question, — How long they will be together? In other words, the two classes of dawns, taken together, were of such a long duration that men began to question as to when they would terminate, or pass away. If, on the other hand, we adopt Aufrecht’s translation, a, long period appears to have intervened between the past and the coming dawns; or, in other words, there was a long break or hiatus in the regular sequence of these dawns. In the first case, the description is only possible if we suppose that the duration of the dawns was very long, much longer than what we see in the temperate or the tropical zone; while in the second, a long interval between the past and the present dawns must be taken to refer to a long pause, or night, occurring immediately before the second set of dawns commenced their new course, — a phenomenon which is possible only in the Arctic regions. Thus whichever interpretation we adopt — a long dawn, or a long night between the two sets of dawns, — the description is intelligible, only if we take it to refer to the Polar conditions previously mentioned. The Vedic passages, discussed hereafter, seem, however, to support Sâyaṇa’s or Max Müller’s view. A number of dawns is spoken of, some past and some yet to come: and the two groups are said to occupy a very long interval. That seems to be the real meaning of the verse. But without laying much stress on any particular meaning for the present, it is enough for our purpose to show that, even adopting Aufrecht’s rendering, we cannot escape from the necessity of making the description refer to the Polar conditions. The verse in question is the tenth in the hymn, and it may be noticed that in the 13th verse of the same hymn we are told that “in former days, perpetually ‘shashvat’ did the Goddess Uṣhas shine,” clearly indicating that the Dawn, in early days, lasted for a long time.
The following verse is, however, still more explicit, and decisive on the point. The seventh Maṇḍala of the Ṛig-Veda contains a number of dawn-hymns. In one of these (VII, 76), the poet, after stating in the first two verses that the Dawns have raised their banner on the horizon with their usual splendor, expressly tells us, (verse 3), that a period of several days elapsed between the first appearance of the dawn on the horizon and the actual rising of the sun that followed it. As the verse* is very important for our purpose, I give below the Pada text with an interlineal word for word translation: —
whichaforetimeon the uprisingof the sun
from whichaftertowards a loverlike, moving on
O Dawnwast seennotagain forsaking(woman), like
I have followed Sâyaṇa in splitting jâra-iva of Saṁhitâ text into jâre+iva, and not jâraḥ+iva as Shâkala has done in the Pada
text; for jâre+iva makes the simile more appropriate than if we were to
with jârah. Literally rendered the verse, therefore, means, “Verily,
many were those days which were aforetime at the uprising of the sun,
and about which, O Dawn! thou wast seen moving on, as towards a lover, and not
like one (woman) who forsakes.” I take pari with yataḥ, meaning that the dawn goes after
the days. Yataḥ pari, thus construed, means “after which,” or “about which.” Sâyaṇa takes pari with dadṛikṣhe and
To the commentators the verse is a perfect puzzle. Thus Sâyaṇa does not understand how the word “days” (ahâni) can be applied to a period of time anterior to sunrise; for, says he, “The word day (ahaḥ) is used only to denote such a period of time as is invested with light of the Dawn.” Then, again he is obviously at a loss to understand how a number of days can be said to have elapsed between the first beams of the dawn and sunrise. These were serious difficulties for Sâyaṇa and the only way to get over them was to force an unnatural sense upon the words, and make them yield some intelligible meaning. This was no difficult task for Sâyaṇa. The word ahâni, which means “days,” was the only stumbling block in his way, and instead of taking it in the sense in which it is ordinarily used, without exception, everywhere in the Ṛig-Veda, he went back to its root-meaning, and interpreted it as equivalent to “light” or “splendor.” Ahan is derived from the root ah (or philologically dah), “to burn,” or “shine,” and Ahanâ meaning “dawn” is derived from the same root. Etymologically ahâni may, therefore, mean splendors; but the question is whether it is so used anywhere, and why we should here give up the ordinary meaning of the word. Sâyaṇa’s answer is given above. It is because the word “day” (ahan) can, according to him, be applied only to a period after sunrise and before sunset. But this reasoning is not sound, because in the Ṛig-Veda VI, 9, 1, ahaḥ is applied to the dark as well as to the bright period of time, for the verse says, “there is a dark day (ahaḥ) and a bright day (ahaḥ).” This shows that the Vedic poets were in the habit of using the word ahaḥ (day) to denote a period of time devoid of the light of the sun.*
Sâyaṇa knew this, and in his commentary on I, 185, 4, he expressly says that the word ahaḥ may include night. His real difficulty was different, viz., the impossibility of supposing that a period of several days could have elapsed between the first appearance of light and sunrise, and this difficulty seems to have been experienced even by Western scholars. Thus Prof. Ludwig materially adopts Sâyaṇa’s view and interprets the verse to mean that the splendors of the dawn were numerous, and that they appear either before sunrise, or, if prâchînam be differently interpreted “in the east” at the rising of the sun. Roth and Grassman seem to interpret prâchînam in the same way. Griffith translates ahâni by “mornings” and prâchînam by “aforetime.” His rendering of the verse runs thus: — “Great is, in truth, the number of the mornings, which were aforetime at the sun’s uprising; since thou, O Dawn, hast been beheld repairing as to thy love, as one no more to leave him.” But Griffith does not explain what he understands by the expression, “a number of mornings which were aforetime at the sun’s uprising.”
The case is, therefore, reduced to
this. The word ahan, of which ahâni (days) is a plural form, can
be ordinarily interpreted to mean (1) a period of time between sunrise and sunset;
(2) a nycthemeron, as when we speak of 360 days of the year; or (3) a measure
of time to mark a period of 24 hours, irrespective of the fact whether the sun
is above or below the horizon, as when we speak of the long Arctic night of 30
days. Are we then to abandon all these meanings, and understand ahâni to
mean “splendors” in the verse under consideration? The only difficulty is to
account for the interval of many days between the appearance of the banner of
the Dawn on the horizon and the emergence of the sun’s orb over it; and this
difficulty vanishes if the description be taken to refer to the dawn in the
Polar or Circum-Polar regions. That is the real key to the meaning of this and
similar other passages which will be noted hereafter; and in its absence a
number of artificial devices have been made use of to make these passages
somehow intelligible to us. But now nothing of the kind is necessary. As
regards the word “days” it has been observed that we often speak “a night of
several days,” or a “night of several months” when describing the Polar
phenomena. In expressions like these the word “day” or “month” simply denotes a
measure of time equivalent to “twenty-four hours,” or “thirty days;” and there
is nothing unusual in the exclamation of the Rig-Vedic poet that “many were the
days between the first beams of the dawn and actual sunrise.” We have also seen
that, at the Pole, it is quite possible to mark the periods of twenty-four
hours by the rotations of the celestial sphere or the circum-polar stars, and
these could be or rather must have been termed “days” by the inhabitants of the
place. In the first chapter of the Old Testament we were told that God created
the heaven and the earth and also light “on the first day,” while the sun was
created on the fourth “to divide the day from the night and to rule ‘the day.”
Here the word “day” is used to denote a period of time even before the sun was
created; and a fortiori, there can be no impropriety in using it to
denote a period of time before sunrise. We need not, therefore, affect a
hypercritical spirit in examining the Vedic expression in question. If Sâyaṇa did it, it was because he did not
know as much about the
It is therefore clear that the verse in question (VII, 76, 3) expressly describes a dawn continuously lasting for many days, which is possible only in the Arctic regions. I have discussed the passage at so much length because the history of its interpretation clearly shows how certain passages in the Ṛig-Veda, which are unintelligible to us in spite of their simple diction, have been treated by commentators, who know not what to make of them if read in a natural way. But to proceed with the subject in hand, we have seen that the Polar dawn could be divided into periods of 24 hours owing to the circuits it makes round the horizon. In such a case we can very well speak of these divisions as so many day-long dawns of 24 hours each and state that so many of them are past and so many are yet to come, as has been done in the verse (I, 113, 10) discussed above. We may also say that so many day-long dawns have passed and yet the sun has not risen, as in II, 28, 9, a verse addressed to Varuṇa wherein the poet asks for the following boon from the deity: —
mâ aham râjan anya-kṛitena bhojam |
Avyuṣhṭâ in nu bhûyasîr uṣhâsa
â no jîvân Varuṇa tâsu shâdhi ||
Literally translated this means “Remove far the debts (sins) incurred by me. May I not, O King! be affected by others’ doings. Verily, many dawns (have) not fully (vi) flashed forth. O Varuṇa! direct that we may be alive during them.”*
The first part of this verse contains a prayer usually addressed to Gods, and we have nothing to say with respect to it, so far as the subject in hand is concerned. The only expression necessary to be discussed is bhûyasîḥ uṣhâsaḥ avyuṣhṭâḥ in third quarter of the verse. The first two words present no difficulty. They mean “many dawns.” Now avyuṣhṭa is a negative participle from vyuṣhṭa, which again is derived from uṣhta with vi prefixed. I have referred to the distinction between uṣhas and vyuṣhṭi suggested by the threefold or the five-fold division of the dawn. Vyuṣhṭi, according to the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa, means “day,” or rather “the flashing forth of the dawn into sunrise” and the word a+vi+uṣhṭa, therefore, means “not-fully-flashed-forth into sunrise.” But Sâyaṇa and others do not seem to have kept in view this distinction between the meanings of uṣhas and vyuṣhṭi; or if they did, they did not know or had not in their mind the phenomenon of the long continuous dawn in the Arctic regions, a dawn, that lasted for several day-long periods of time before the sun’s orb appeared on the horizon. The expression, bhûyasîḥ uṣhâsaḥ avyuṣhṭâḥ, which literally means “many dawns have not dawned, or fully flashed forth,” was therefore a riddle to these commentators. Every dawn, they saw, was followed by sunrise; and they could not, therefore, understand how “many dawns” could be described as “not-fully-flashed-forth.” An explanation was thus felt to be a necessity and this was obtained by converting, in sense, the past passive participle avyuṣhṭa into a future participle; and the expression in question was translated as meaning, “during the dawns (or days) that have not yet dawned “ or, in other words, “in days to come.” But the interpretation is on the face of it strained and artificial. If future days were intended, the idea could have been more easily and briefly expressed. The poet is evidently speaking of things present, and, taking vi-ushṭa to denote what it literally signifies, we can easily and naturally interpret the expression to mean that though many dawns, meaning many day-long portions of time during which the dawn lasted, have passed, yet it is not vyuṣhṭa, that is the sun’s orb has not yet emerged from below the horizon and that Varuṇa should protect the worshipper under the circumstances.
There are many other expressions in the Ṛig-Veda which further strengthen the same view. Thus corresponding to bhûyasîḥ in the above passage, we have the adjective pûrvîḥ (many) used in IV, 19, 8 and VI, 28, 1, to denote the number of dawns, evidently showing that numerically more than one dawn is intended. The dawns are again not un-frequently addressed in the plural number in the Ṛig-Veda, and the fact is well-known to all Vedic scholars. Thus in I, 92, which is a dawn-hymn, the bard opens his song with the characteristically emphatic exclamation “these (etâḥ) are those (tyâḥ) dawns (uṣhasaḥ), which have made their appearance on the horizon,” and the same expression again occurs in VII, 78, 3. Yâska explains the plural number uṣhasaḥ by considering it to be used only honorifically (Nirukta XII, 7); while Sâyaṇa interprets it as referring to the number of divinities that preside over the morn. The Western scholars have not made any improvement on these explanations and Prof. Max Müller is simply content with observing that the Vedic bards, when speaking of the dawn, did sometimes use the plural just as we would use the singular number! But a little reflection will show that neither of these explanations is satisfactory. If the plural is honorific why is it changed into singular only a few lines after in the same hymn? Surely the poet does not mean to address the Dawn respectfully only at the outset and then change his manner of address and assume a familiar tone. This is not however, the only objection to Yâska’s explanation. Various similes are used by the Vedic poets to describe the appearance of the dawns on the horizon and an examination of these similes will convince any one that the plural number, used in reference to the Dawn, cannot be merely honorific. Thus in the second line of I, 92, 1, the Dawns are compared to a number of “warriors” (dhṛiṣhṇavâḥ) and in the third verse of the same hymn they are likened to “women (nârîḥ) active in their occupations.” They are said to appear on the horizon like “waves of waters” (apâm na urmayaḥ) in VI, 64, 1, or like “pillars planted at a sacrifice” (adhvareṣhu svaravaḥ) in IV, 51, 2. We are again told that they work like “men arrayed” (visho na yuktaḥ), or advance like “troops of cattle” (gavam na sargâḥ) in VII, 79, 2, and IV, 51, 8, respectively. They are described as all “alike” (sadṛishiḥ) and are said to be of “one mind” (sañjânante), or “acting harmoniously” IV, 51, 6, and VII, 76, 5. In the last verse the poet again informs us that they “do not strive against each other” (mithaḥ na yatante), though they live jointly in the “same enclosure” (samâne urve). Finally in X, 88, 18, the poet distinctly asks the question, “How many fires, how many suns and how many dawns (uṣhâsaḥ) are there?” If the Dawn were addressed in plural simply out of respect for the deity, where was the necessity of informing us that they do not quarrel though collected in the same place? The expressions “waves of waters,” or “men arrayed” &c., are again too definite to be explained away as honorific. Sâyaṇa seems to have perceived this difficulty and has, probably for the same reason, proposed an explanation slightly different from that of Yâska. But, unfortunately, Sâyaṇa’s explanation does not solve the difficulty, as the question still remains why the deities presiding over the dawn should be more than one in number. The only other explanation put forward, so far as I know, is that the plural number refers to the dawns on successive days during the year, as we perceive them in the temperate or the tropical zone. On this theory there would be 360 dawns in a year, each followed by the rising of the sun every day. This explanation may appear plausible at the first sight. But on a closer examination t will be found that the expressions used in the hymns cannot be made to reconcile with this theory. For, if 360 dawns, all separated by intervals of 24 hours, were intended by the plural number used in the Vedic verses, no poet, with any propriety, would speak of them as he does in I, 92, 1, by using the double pronoun etâḥ and tyâḥ as if he was pointing out to a physical phenomenon before him; nor can we understand how 360 dawns, spread over the whole year, can be described as advancing like “men arrayed” for battle. It is again absurd to describe the 360 dawns of the year as being collected in the “same enclosure” and “not striving against or quarrelling with each other.” We are thus forced to the conclusion that the Ṛig-Veda speaks of a team or a group of dawns, unbroken or uninterrupted by sunlight, so that if we be so minded, we can regard them as constituting a single long continuous dawn. This is in perfect accord with the statement discussed above, viz., that many days passed between the first appearance of light on the horizon and the uprising of the sun (VII, 76, 3). We cannot, therefore, accept the explanation of consecutive dawns, nor that of Yâska, nor of Sâyaṇa regarding the use of the plural number in this case. The fact is that the Vedic dawn represents one long physical phenomenon which can be spoken of in plural by supposing it to be split up into smaller day-long portions. It is thus that we find Uṣhas addressed sometimes in the plural and sometimes in the singular number. There is no other explanation on which we can account for and explain the various descriptions of the dawn found in the different hymns.
But to clinch the matter, the
Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, IV, 3, 11, expressly states that the dawns are thirty
sisters, or, in other words, they are thirty in number and that they go round
and round in five groups, reaching the same appointed place and having the same
banner for all. The whole of this Anuvâka may be said to be practically
a dawn-hymn of 15 verses, which are used as Mantras for the laying down of
certain emblematical bricks called the “dawn-bricks” on the sacrificial altar.
There are sixteen such bricks to be placed on the altar, and the Anuvâka
in question gives 15 Mantras, or verses, to be used on the occasion, the 16th
being recorded elsewhere. These 15 verses, together with their Brâhmaṇa (T.S.V, 3, 4, 7), are so important
for our purpose, that I have appended to this chapter the original passages,
with their translation, comparing the version in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ with that of the Atharva-Veda,
in the case of those verses which are found in the latter. The first verse of
the section or the Anuvâka, is used for laying down the first dawn-brick
and it speaks only of a single dawn first appearing on the horizon. In the
second verse we have, however, a couple of dawns mentioned as “dwelling in the
same abode.” A third dawn is, spoken in the third verse, followed by the fourth
and the fifth dawn. The five dawns are then said to have five sisters each,
exclusive of themselves, thus raising the total number of dawns to thirty.
These “thirty sisters” (triṁhshat svasâraḥ) are then described as “going
round” (pari yanti) in groups of six each, keeping up to the same goal (niṣhkṛitam). Two verses later on, the
worshipper asks that he and his follower should be blessed with the same
concord as is observed amongst these dawns. We are then told that one of these
five principal dawns is the child of Rita, the second upholds the greatness of
Waters the third moves in the region of Sûrya, the fourth in that of Fire or
Gharma, and the fifth is ruled by Savitṛi, evidently showing that the dawns
are not the dawns of consecutive days. The last verse of the Anuvâka
sums up the description by stating that the dawn, though it shines forth in
various forms, is but one in reality. Throughout the whole Anuvâka
there is no mention of the rising of the sun or the appearance of sunlight, and
makes the point clear by stating, “There was a time, when all this was neither
day nor night, being in an undistinguishable state. It was then that the
Gods perceived these dawns and laid them down, then there was light;
therefore, it brightens to him and destroys his darkness for whom these
(dawn-bricks) are placed.” The object of this passage is to explain how and why
the dawn-bricks came to be laid down with these Mantras, and it gives the
ancient story of thirty dawns being perceived by the Gods, not on consecutive
days, but during the period of time when it was neither night nor day. This,
joined with the express statement at the end of the Anuvâka that in
reality it is but one dawn, is sufficient to prove that the thirty dawns
mentioned in the Anuvâka were continuous and not consecutive. But, if a
still more explicit authority be needed it will be found in the Taittirîya
Brâhmaṇa, II, 5, 6, 5. This is an old Mantra, and not a portion of
the explanatory Brâhmaṇa, and is, therefore, as good an authority as, any of
the verses quoted above. It is addressed to the dawns and means, “These very
Dawns are those that first shone forth, the Goddesses make five forms; eternal
(shashvatîḥ), (they) are not separated (na avapṛijyanti), nor do (they) terminate (na gamanti
antam).”* The “five forms” here referred to correspond with the division of
30 dawns into 5 groups of 6 each, made in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, after the manner of
sacrificial ṣhaḷ-ahas, or groups of six days; and we are
expressly told that the dawns, which make these 5 forms, are continuous,
unseparated, or uninterrupted. In the Ṛig-Veda I, 152, 4, the garment of
the lover of the dawns (lit. the maidens, kanînâm jâram) is
described as “inseparable” and “wide” (an-avapṛigṇa and vitata), and reading this in the light of
the aforesaid Mantra from the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa we are led to conclude that in the
itself the dawny garment of the sun, or the garment, which the dawns, as
mothers, weave for him (cf. V, 47, 6 ), is considered as “wide” and “continuous.”
Translated into common language this means that the dawn described in the Ṛig-Veda was a long and continuous
phenomenon. In the Atharva-Veda (VII, 22, 2) the dawns are described as sachetasaḥ and samîchîḥ, which means that they are
“harmonious” and “walk together” and not separately. The first expression is
found in the Ṛig-Veda, but not the second, though it could be easily
inferred, from the fact that the dawns are there described as “collected in the
all the adjectives of the dawns clearly indicate a group of undivided dawns
acting harmoniously; and yet strange to say
and as with the aid of the telescope this eye now commands a wider range than previously, it will be our own fault if we fail to utilize the knowledge so gained to elucidate those portions of our sacred books which are still unintelligible.
But to proceed with the subject, it may be urged that it is only the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ that gives us the number of the dawns, and that it would not be proper to mix up these statements with the statements contained in the hymns of the Ṛig-Veda, and draw a conclusion from both taken together. The Taittirîya Saṁhitâ treats of sacrificial rites and the Mantras relating to the dawn-bricks may not be regarded as being originally connected. The fact that only some-of these are found in the Atharva-Veda Saṁhitâ, might lend some support to this view. But a critical study of the Anuvâka, will remove all these doubts. The “thirty sisters” are not mentioned one by one, leaving it to the hearer, or the reader, to make up the total, and ascertain the final number for himself. The sixth verse in the Anuvâka expressly mentions “the thirty sisters” and is, by itself, sufficient to prove that in ancient days the number of dawns was considered to be thirty. But if an authority from the Ṛig-Veda be still needed, we have it in VI, 59, 6, where Dawn is described as having traversed “thirty steps” (triṁshat padâni akramît).†
This statement has, as yet, remained unexplained. “A single dawn traversing thirty steps” is but a paraphrase of the statement that “dawns are thirty sisters, keeping to the same goal in their circuits.” Another verse which has not yet been satisfactorily explained is the Ṛig-Veda I, 123, 8. It says “The dawns, alike today and alike tomorrow, dwell long in the abode of Varuṇa. Blameless, they forthwith go round (pari yanti) thirty yojanas; each its destined course (kratum).”*
The first half of the verse presents no difficulty.
In the second we are told that the dawns go round thirty yojanas, each following its own “plan,” which is the meaning of kratu, according to the Petersberg
Lexicon. But the phrase “thirty yojanas”
has not been as yet satisfactorily explained.
In V, 54, 5, the Maruts are said “to have extended their greatness as far as the sun extends his daily course,” and the word in the original for “daily course” is yojanum. Accepting this meaning, we can interpret the expression “the dawns forth with go round (pari yanti) thirty yojanas” to mean that the dawns complete thirty daily rounds as at the North Pole. That circular motion is here intended is further evident from 111, 61, 3, which says, in distinct terms, “Wending towards the same goal (samânam artham), O Newly-born (Dawn)! turn on like a wheel (ckakramiva â vavṛitsva).”*
Although the word navyasi (newly-born) is here in the vocative case, yet the meaning is that the dawn, ever anew or becoming new every day, revolves like a wheel. Now a wheel may either move in a perpendicular plane, like the wheel of a chariot, or in a horizontal plane like the potter’s wheel. But the first of these two motions cannot be predicated of the dawn anywhere on the surface of the earth. The light of the morning is, everywhere, confined to the horizon, as described in the Ṛig-Veda, VII, 80, 1, which speaks of the dawns as “unrolling the two rajasî, which border on each other (samante), and revealing all things.”†
No dawn, whether in the rigid, the temperate, or the
tropical zone can, therefore, be seen traveling, like the sun, from east to
west, over the head of the observer in a perpendicular plane. The only possible
wheel-like motion is, therefore, along the horizon and this can be witnessed
only in regions near the Pole. A dawn in the temperate or the tropical zone is visible
only for a short time on the eastern horizon and is swallowed up, in the same
place by the rays of the rising sun. It is only in the
There are a
number of other passages where the dawn is spoken of in the plural, especially
in the case of matutinal deities, who are said to follow or come after not a
single dawn but dawns in the plural (I, 6, 3; I, 180, 1; V, 76, 1; VII, 9, 1;
VII, 63, 3). These passages have been hitherto understood as describing the appearance
of the deities after the consecutive dawns of the year. But now a new light is
thrown upon them by the conclusion established above from the examination of
the different passages about the dawn in the Ṛig-Veda, the Taittirîya and the
Atharva Veda Saṁhitâ. It may, however, be mentioned that I do not mean to
say that in the whole of the Ṛig-Veda not a single reference can
be found to the dawn of the tropical or the temperate zone. The Veda which
mentions a year of 360 days is sure to mention the evanescent dawn which
accompanies these days in regions to the south of the
It will be seen from foregoing discussion that if the dawn-hymns in the Ṛig-Veda be read and studied in the light of modern scientific discoveries and with the aid of passages in the Atharva Veda and the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ and Brâhmaṇa they clearly establish the following results:
(1) The Rig-Vedic dawn was so long that several days elapsed between the first appearance of light on the horizon and the sunrise which followed it, (VII, 76, 3); or, as described in 11, 28, 9, many dawns appeared one after another before they ripened into sunrise.
(2) The Dawn was addressed in the plural number not honorifically, nor as representing the consecutive dawns of the Year, but because it was made up of thirty parts (I; 123, 8; VI, 59, 6; T.S., IV, 3, 11, 6).
(3) Many dawns lived in the same place, acted harmoniously and never quarreled with each other, IV, 51, 7-9; VII, 76, 5; A.V. VII, 22, 2).
(4) The thirty parts of the dawn were continuous and inseparable, forming “a closely gathered band,” or “a group of dawns,” (I, 152, 4; T. Br. II, 5, 6, 5; A.V. VII, 22, 2).
(5) These thirty dawns, or thirty parts of one dawn revolved round and round like a wheel, reaching the same goal every day, each dawn or part following its own destined course, (I, 123, 8, 9; III, 61, 3; T.S. IV, 3, 11, 6).
These characteristics it is needless to say are possessed only by the dawn at or near the Pole. The last or the fifth especially is to be found only in lands very near the North Pole and not everywhere in the Arctic regions. We may, therefore, safely conclude that the Vedic Goddess of Dawn is Polar in origin. But it may be urged that while the Polar-dawn lasts from 45 to 60 days, the Vedic dawn is described only as made up of thirty day-long parts, and that the discrepancy must be accounted for before we accept the conclusion that the Vedic dawn is Polar in character. The discrepancy is not, however, a serious one. We have seen that the duration of the dawn depends upon the powers of refraction and reflection of the atmosphere; and that these again vary according to the temperature of the place, or other meteorological conditions. It is, therefore, not unlikely that the duration of the dawn at the Pole, when the climate there was mild and genial, might be somewhat shorter than what we may expect it to be at present when the climate is severely cold. It is more probable, however, that the dawn described in the Ṛig-Veda is not exactly such a dawn as may be seen by an observer stationed precisely at the North Pole. As observed previously, the North Pole is a point, and if men lived near the Pole in early days, they must have lived somewhat to the south of this point. Within this tract it is quite possible to have 30 day-long dawns revolving, like a wheel, after the long Arctic night of four or five months; and, so far as astronomy is concerned, there is, therefore, nothing improbable in the description of the Dawn found in the Vedic literature. We must also bear in mind that the Vedic Dawn often tarried longer on the horizon, and the worshippers asked her not to delay lest the sun might search her like an enemy (V, 79, 9). This shows that though 30 days was the usual duration of the Dawn it was sometimes exceeded, and people grew impatient to see the light of the sun. It was in cases likes these, that Indra, the God who created the dawns and was their friend, was obliged to break the car of the dawn and bring the sun above the horizon (II, 15, 6; X, 73, 6).*
There are other places in which the same legend is referred to (IV, 30, 8), and the obscuration of the Dawn by a thunderstorm is, at present, supposed to be the basis of this myth. But the explanation, like others of its kind, is on the face of it unsatisfactory. That a thunderstorm should occur just at the time of the dawn would be a mere accident, and it is improbable that it could have been made the basis of a legend. Again, it is not the obscuration, but the delaying of the Dawn, or its tarrying longer on the horizon than usual, that is referred to in the legend, and we can better account for it on the Polar theory, because the duration of dawn, though usually of 30 days, might have varied at different places according to latitude and climatic conditions, and Indra’s bolt was thus needed to check these freaks of the Dawn and make way for the rising sun. There are other legends connected with the Dawn and the matutinal deities on which the Polar theory throws quite a new light; but these will be taken up in the chapter on Vedic myths, after the whole direct evidence in support of the theory is examined.
But if the Vedic dawn is Polar in origin, the ancestors of the Vedic bards must have witnessed it, not in. the Post-Glacial, but in the Pre-Glacial era; and it may be finally asked why a reference to this early age is not found in the hymns before us? Fortunately the hymns do preserve a few indications of the time when these long dawns appeared. Thus, in I, 113, 13, we are told that the Goddess Dawn shone perpetually in former days (purâ) and here the word purâ does not mean the foregone days of this kalpa, but rather refers to a by-gone age, or purâ kalpa as in the passage from the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ (I, 5, 7, 5 ), quoted and discussed in the next chapter. The word prathamâ, in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, IV, 3, 11, 1 and the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa, II, 5, 6, 5, does not again mean simply “first in order,” but refers to “ancient times,” as when Indra’s “first” or “oldest” exploits are mentioned in 1, 32, 1, or when certain practices are said to be “first” or “old” in X, 90, 16. It is probable that it was this import of the word prathamâ that led Sâyaṇa to propose that the first dawn, mentioned in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ IV, 3, 11, represented the dawn at the beginning of the creation. The Vedic poets could not but have been conscious that the Mantras they used to lay down the dawn-bricks were inapplicable to the dawn as they saw it, and the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ (V, 3, 4, 7), which explains the Mantras, clearly states that this story or the description of the dawns is a tradition of old times when the Gods perceived the thirty dawns. It is not, therefore, correct to say that there are no references in the Vedic hymns to the time when these long dawns were visible. We shall revert to the point later on, when further evidence on the subject will be noticed and discussed. The object of the present chapter was to examine the duration of the Vedic dawn, the Goddess of the morning, the subject of so many beautiful hymns in the Ṛig-Veda, and to show that the deity is invested with Polar characteristics. The evidence in support of this view has been fully discussed; and we shall, therefore, now take up the other Polar and Circum-Polar tests previously mentioned, anti see whether we can find out further evidence from the Ṛig-Veda to strengthen our conclusions.
APPENDIX TO CHAPTER V
THE THIRTY DAWNS
The following are the passages from the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ referred to on page 90: —
TAITTIRÎYA SAṂHITÂ, KÂNDA IV, PRAPÂTHAKA 3,
VERSE 1, — This verse, with slight modifications, occurs twice in the Atharva-Veda Saṁhitâ (III, 10, 4; VIII, 9, 11). It runs thus: —
VERSES 2, 3 and 4, — The Atharva-Veda reading (VIII, 9, 112-14) is slightly different: —
VERSE 8, — This verse is also found in the Atharva-Veda (III, 10 12); but the reading of the second half is as follows: —
VERSE 11, — Compare A.V. VIII, 9, 15. For समानमू :
A. V. reads ता एकमू :। The rest is the same in both.
VERSE 13, — Compare A.V. III, 10, 1. For या थमा यौछत् A.V. reads थमा ह युवास । And for घुव A.V. has दुहाम् । Compare also Ṛig. IV, 57, 7, where the second line is found as in A.V.
TAITTIRÎYA SAṂHITÂ KÂNDA V, PRAPÂTHAKA 3,
ANUVÂKA 4, SECTION 7
TRANSLATION AND NOTES
Taitt. Saṁhitâ IV. 3, 11
1. This verily, is She that dawned first; (she) moves entered into her (i.e. above the horizon). The bride, the new-come mother, is born. The three great ones follow her.
She that dawned first: evidently meaning the first of a series of thirty dawns, mentioned in the following verses. In verse 13 we are told that it is the dawn which commences the year. The thirty dawns are, therefore, the dawns at the beginning of the year, and the first of them is mentioned in the first verse. Sâyaṇa, however, says that the dawn at the beginning of the creation is here intended. But the explanation does not suit the context, and Sâyaṇa has himself given different explanations afterwards.
Entered into her: according to Sâyaṇa asyâm (into her) means “into the earth;” compare Ṛig. III, 61, 7, where the sun, the speeder of the dawns, is said to have “entered into the mighty earth and heaven.” According to A.V. reading the meaning, would be “entered into the other (dawns),” showing that the first dawn is a member of a larger group.
The three great ones: Sûrya, Vâyu and Agni according to Sâyaṇa. The three typical deities or Devatâs mentioned by Yâska (VII, 5) are Agni, Vâyu or Indra, and Sûrya. In Rig VII, 33, 7, the three Gharmas (fires) are said to attend the dawn, (trayo Gharmâsa ushasam sachante); and in VII, 7, 8, 3, the dawns are said to have created Sûrya, Yajña (Sacrifice) and Agni. Also compare A. V. IX, 1, 8, and Bloomfield’s note thereon in S. B. E. Series, Vol. XLII, p. 590. Though the three may be variously named, the reference is evidently to the rise of the sun and the commencement of sacrifices or the kindling of sacrificial fires after the first dawn (Cf. Ṛig. I, 113, 9).
2. Possessed of song, decorating (themselves), and moving together in a common abode, the Two Dawns, the (two wives of the sun, unwasting, rich in seed, move about displaying their banner and knowing well (their way).
Possessed of songs: Sâyaṇa thus interprets chchandas-vatî; but the Pet. Lex. translates the word by “lovely.” I have followed Sâyaṇa because the A.V. reading chchandas-pakṣhe, “having chchandas for the two wings,” supports Sâyaṇa’s meaning. That the morning atmosphere resounded with the recitation of hymns and songs may be seen, amongst others, from Ṛig. III, 61, 1 and 6. The phrase madye-chchandasaḥ in verse 6 below, denotes the same idea. But the word chchandas may perhaps be understood to mean “shine” in all these places; Cf. Ṛig. VIII, 7, 36, where the phrase, chchando na sûro archiṣhâ is translated by Max Müller to mean “like the shine by the splendor of the sun,” (See S. B. E. Series, Vol. XXXII, pp. 393, 399)
Decorating, moving together-in the same place, gives of the sun, un-wasting etc.: These and others are the usual epithets of the Dawn found in the Ṛig-Veda, Cf. Ṛig. I, 92, 4; VII, 76, 5; IV, 5, 13; I, 113, 13.
The Two Dawns: Uṣhasâ does not here mean Uṣhâsâ-naktâ or “Day and Night,” as supposed by Mr. Griffith, but denotes two dawns as such, the third, the fourth &c. being mentioned in the following verses. Sâyaṇa says that the first dawn is the dawn which appeared at the beginning of the creation and the second the diurnal one, as we see it. But Sâyaṇa had to abandon this explanation later on. The couple of Dawns obviously includes the first Dawn mentioned in the first verse, which, with its successor, now forms a couple. Since groups of two, three, five or thirty dawns are mentioned as moving together, they cannot be the dawns of consecutive days, that is, separated by sunlight, as with us in the tropical or the temperate zone.
3. The Three Maidens have come along the path of Rita; the three fires (Gharmas) with light, have followed. One (of these maidens) protects the progeny, one the vigor, and one the ordinance of the pious.
The Three Maidens: the number of Dawns is now increased to three; but Sâyaṇa gives no explanation of the number.
4. The Fourth: Sâyaṇa now says that the single Deity of Dawn appears as many different dawns through yogic powers!
4. That, which (was) the Fourth, acting as Ṛiṣhis, the two wings of the sacrifice, has become the four-fold Stoma (Chatu-ṣhṭoma). Using Gâyatri, Triṣhṭup, Jagatî, Anuṣhṭup the great song, they brought this light
Acting as Ṛiṣhis ... four fold stoma: The group of four Dawns appears to be here compared to the Chatu-ṣhṭoma or the four-fold song. (For a description of the four-fold Stoma see Ait. Br. III, 42, Haug’s Trans. p. 237). Gâyatrî &c are the metres used. The light brought on by the Dawns is the reward of this stoma. Sâyaṇa interprets suvas to mean “heaven” but compare Ṛig. III, 61, 4, where the adjective, svear jananâ, “creating light,” is applied to the Dawn.
Did it with the Five: after the number of Dawns was increased to five, the creation proceeded by fives; compare verse 11 below.
Their five courses: I construe tâsâm pañcha kratavaḥ prayaveṅa yanti. Sâyaṇa understands kratavaḥ to mean sacrificial rites performed on the appearance of the dawn; but compare Ṛig. I, 123, 8 which says “The blameless Dawns (plu.) go round thirty yojanas each her own kratu (destined course),” (supra p. 103) kratavaḥ in the present verse must be similarly interpreted.
In combination: We have thirty Dawns divided into five groups of six each; compare Taitt. Br. II, 5, 6, 5 quoted above (p. 100), which says tâ devyaḥ kurvate paṇcha rûpâ “the Goddesses (Dawns) make five forms.” Five groups of thirty Dawns, each group having its own destined course are here described; but as each group is made of six Dawns, the five courses are again said to assume different forms, meaning that the members of each group have again their own courses Within the larger course chalked out for the groups.
5. The creator did it with the Five, that he created five-and-five sisters to them (each). Their five courses (kratavaḥ), assuming various forms, move on in combination (prayavena)
6. The Thirty Sisters, bearing the same banner, move on to the appointed place (niṣh-kṛitam). They, the wise, create the seasons. Refulgent, knowing (their way), they go round (pari yanti) amidst-songs (madhye-chchandasaḥ).
Thirty Sisters: Sâyaṇa in his commentary on the preceding verse says that the thirty Dawns mentioned are the thirty dawns of a month. But Sâyaṇa does not explain why one month out of twelve, or only 30 out of 360 dawns should be thus selected. The explanation is again unsuited to the context, (See supra p. 101 and T.S.V. 3, 4, 7, quoted below.) The Dawns are called sisters also in the Ṛig-Veda, (Cf. I, 124, 8 and 9).
Appointed place: niṣh kṛitam (Nir. XII, 7), used in reference to the course of the Dawns also in Ṛig. I, 123, 9. It is appropriate only if the Dawns returned to the same point in their daily rounds, (See supra p. 106).
Go round amidst-songs: pari yanti, “go round” is also the phrase used in Ṛig. I, 123, 8 Madhye chchandasaḥ is interpreted by Sâyaṇa to mean “about the sun, which is always surrounded by songs.” But we need not go so far, for Madhye chchandasaḥ may be more simply taken to mean “amidst-songs” that are usually sung at the dawn (Ṛig. VII, 80, 1).
7. Through the sky, the illumined Goddess of Night accepts the ordinances of the sun. The cattle, of various forms, (begin to) look up as they rise on the lap of the mother.
Through the sky: I take nabhas as an accusative of space. Sâyaṇa appears to take it as an adjective equivalent to nabhasthasya and qualifying sûryasya. In either case the meaning is the same, viz. that the night was gradually changing into day-light.
The cattle: morning rays or splendors usually spoken of as cows. In Ṛig. I, 92, 12, the Dawn is described as spreading cattle (pashûn) before her; and in I, 124, 5, we are told that she fills the lap of both parents heaven and earth. I construe, with Sâyaṇa, nânâ-rûpa pashavaḥ vi pashyanti, taking vi pashyanti intransitively, and nânâ-rûpa as an adjective. The same phrase is found used in reference to a woman’s children in the Atharva Veda, XIV, 2, 25. For the intransitative use of vi pushyanti, See Ṛig. X, 725, 4.
8. The Ekâṣhṭakâ, glowing with holy fervor (tapas), gave birth to a child, the great Indra. Through him the Gods have subdued their enemies; by his powers (he) has become the slayer of the Asuras.
The Ekâṣhṭaka: The birth of Indra is evidently the birth of the sun after the expiry of thirty dawns. Sâyaṇa, quoting Âpasthamba Gṛihya Sutra (VIII, 21, 10), interprets Ekâṣhṭakâ to mean the 8th day of the dark half of the month of Mâgha (January-February); and in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, VII, 4, 8, quoted and explained by me in Chapter III of Orion, it seems to have same meaning, (See Orion p. 45), Ekâṣhṭakâ was the first day, or the consort, of the Year, when the sun turned towards the north from the winter solstice; and the commencement of all annual sattras is therefore, directed to be made on the Ekâṣhṭakâ day. This meaning was, however, settled when the vernal equinox had receded from the asterism of Mṛiga (Orion) to that of the Kṛittikâs (Pleiades). But in earlier days Ekâṣhṭakâ seems to have meant the last of the dawns which preceded the rise of the sun after the long darkness, andthus commenced the year, which began with the period of sunshine; the word eka in Ekâṣhṭakâ perhaps denotes the first month, the last dawn probably falling on the 8th day of the first lunar month of the year.
9. You have made a companion (lit. the after-born) for me, who was (before) without a companion. Truth-teller (as thou art), I desire this, that I may have his good will, just as you do not transgress each the other.
A companion for me: that is, Indra or the sun, whose birth is mentioned in the previous verse; and the poet now prays that his new friend, the after-born follower or companion, should be favorable to him. It should be noted that the birth of the sun is described after the lapse of thirty dawns, during which the poet had no companion.
Truth-teller: Sâyaṇa seems to take satyam vadantî as a vocative plural; but it is not in strict accordance with grammar. In the pada text, it is evidently a feminine form of nom. sing., and I have translated accordingly, though not without some difficulty. In Ṛig. III, 61, 2, the dawn is called sûnṛitâ îrayantî which expresses the same idea.
Just as you do not transgress each the other: compare the Ṛig-Veda VII, 76, 5, where we are told that the Dawns, though collected in the same place, do not strive against or quarrel with each other.
10. The All-knowing has my good will, has got a hold (on it), has secured a place (therein). May I have his good will just as you do not transgress each the other.
The All-knowing: Sâyaṇa takes Vishva-Vedâḥ to mean the Dawn; but it obviously refers to the companion (anujâm) mentioned in the preceding verse. The worshipper asks for a reciprocity of good will. The All-knowing (Indra) has his good will; let him, he prays, have now the All-knowing’s good will. The adjective vishva vedâḥ is applied in the Ṛig-Veda to Indra or Agni several times, Cf. Ṛig. VI, 47, 12; I, 147, 3.
11. Five milkings answer to the five dawns; the five seasons to the five-named cow. The five sky-regions, made by the fifteen, have a common head, directed to one world.
Five milkings: Sâyaṇa refers to Taitt. Brâh. II, 2, 9, 6-9, where darkness, light, the two twilights, and day are said to be the five milkings (dohâḥ) of Prajâpati. The idea seems to be that all the five-fold groups in the creation proceeded from the five-fold dawn-groups.
Five-caned Cow: the earth, according to Sâyaṇa, who says that the earth has five different names in the five seasons, e. g. pushpa-vati (blossomy) in Vasanta (spring), tâpa-vatî (heated) in Grîṣhma (Summer), vṛiṣhṭi-vatî (showery) in Varṣhâ (Rains), jala-prasâda-vatî (clear-watered) in Sharad (Autumn), and shaitya-vatî (cold) in Hemanta-Shishira (Winter). The seasons are taken as five by combining Hemanta and Shishira into one.
The fifteen: The fifteen-fold Stoma, called pañcha-dasha, (See Haug’s Trans. Ait. Br. p. 238
12. The first dawn (is) the child Rita, one upholds the greatness of Waters, one moves in the regions of Sûrya, one (in those) of Gharma (fire), and Savitṛi rules one.
13. That, which dawned first, has become a cow in Yama’s realm. Rich in milk, may she milk for us each succeeding year.
Each succeeding year: This shows that the dawn here described is the first dawn of the year. In Ṛig. I, 33, 10, light (cows) is said to be milked from darkness
14. The chief of the bright, the omniform, the brindled, the fire-bannered has come, with light, in the sky. Working well towards a common goal, bearing (signs of) old age, (yet) O unwasting! O Dawn! thou hast come.
Working-well towards a common goal: compare Ṛig. III, 61, 3, where, the Dawn “wending to one and the same goal” is asked to “turn on like a wheel.”
Bearing (signs of) old age: I construe jarâm bibhratî and yet ajare. Sâyaṇa takes svapasya-rnânâ (working well) as an independent adjective; and connects bibhratî with artham, and jarâm with âgâḥ. The meaning would then be “Working well, having a common end, O unwasting Dawn! thou least reached old age.” But it does not make any appreciable change in the general sense of the verse.
15. The wife of the seasons, this first has come, the leader of days, the mother of children. Though one, O Dawn! thou shinest manifoldly; though unwasting, thou causest all the rest to grow old (decay).
Though one ... shinest manyfoldly: shows that only one continuous dawn, though made up of many parts, is described in this hymn.
Leader of days, mother of children — the epithets ahnâm netrî and gavâm mâtâ are also found used in the Ṛig-Veda, VII, 77, 2.
Taitt. Saṁhitâ V, 3, 4, 7.
It was un-distinguished,* neither day nor night. The Gods perceived these dawn-bricks (for the laying of which the 15 verses given above are to be used). They laid them. Then it shone forth.† Therefore for whom these are laid, it shines forth to him, destroys (his) darkness.
It has been previously mentioned that the fifteen verses, quoted above, are used or recited as Mantras at the time of laying down certain emblematical bricks, called Vyuṣhtî-iṣhṭakâs or dawn-bricks, on the sacrificial altar. But as the Mantras, or verses, used for sacrificial purposes are often taken from different Vedic hymns, these verses are likely to be regarded as unconnected with each other. The account of the thirty dawns, contained therein, however, shows that these verses must have originally formed an entire or one homogeneous hymn. Again if the Mantras had been selected from different hymns, one for each dawn-brick, there would naturally be 16 verses in all, as 16 dawn-bricks are to be laid on the altar. The very fact, that the Anuvâka contains only 15 verses (leaving the sacrificer to select the 16th from elsewhere), therefore, further supports the same view. It is true that some of these verses are found in the Atharva-Veda, either detached or in connection with other subjects. But that does not prevent us from treating the passage in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, as containing a connected account of thirty dawns divided into five groups of six each. The question is not, however, very material, inasmuch as verses 5 and 6, whether they formed part of an entire hymn or not, are by themselves sufficient to prove the point at issue, viz., that the Vedic Goddess of Dawn constituted a group of thirty sisters. The Ṛig-Veda speaks of “thirty steps” traversed by the Dawn, (VI, 59, 6), or of Dawns going round “thirty yojanas” (I, 123, 8); but both these statements have, as yet, remained totally unexplained, or have been but imperfectly explained by Indian and Western scholars alike. But now that we know that the Vedic Dawns were thirty in number, both the aforesaid statements become at once easily comprehensible. The only other point necessary to be decided, so far as the subject in hand is concerned, is whether these thirty dawns were the dawns of thirty consecutive days, or whether they formed a “closely-gathered band” of thirty continuous dawns; and on reading the two aforesaid passages from the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, the one from the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa, II, 5, 6, 5, and other authorities cited in the foregoing chapter, I do not think, there can be any doubt that the Goddess of Dawn, worshipped by the Vedic bards, was originally a group of thirty continuous dawns. It is not contended that the ancestors of the Vedic bards were unacquainted with ordinary dawns, for, even in the circumpolar regions there are, during certain parts of the year, successions of ordinary days and nights and with them of ordinary dawns. But so far as the Vedic Goddess of morning is concerned, there is enough evidence to show that it was no other than the continuous and revolving Dawn at the end of the long night in those regions, the Dawn that lasted for thirty periods of 24 hours each, which is possible only within a few degrees round about the North Pole
LONG DAY AND LONG NIGHT
Independent evidence about the long night — Vṛitra living in long darkness — Expressions denoting long darkness or long night — Anxiety to reach the end of darkness — Prayers to reach safely the other end of night — A night, the other boundary of which was not known according to the Atharva Veda — The Taittirîya Saṁhitâ explains that these prayers were due to fears entertained by the ancient priests that the night would not dawn — Not caused by long winter nights as supposed by Sâyaṇa — Description of days and nights in the Ṛig-Veda — Divided into two typical pairs — One described as bright, dark and virûpe — Virûpe means “of varying lengths” and not “of various colors” — Second pair, Ahanî, different from the first — Durations of days and nights on the globe examined — Ahanî can only be a couple of the long Arctic day and night — Described as forming the right and left, or opposite, sides of the Year in the Taittirîya Âraṇyaka — The sun is described in the Ṛig-Veda as unyoking his car in the midst of the sky — And thereby retaliating Dâsa’s mischief — Represents the long day and the long night — Summary of evidence regarding long day and long night — Uṣhas and Sûrya as Dakshinâ and Dakṣhinâ’s son — Probably imply the southerly course of both.
When a long continuous dawn of thirty days, or a closely-gathered band of thirty dawns, is shown to have been expressly referred to in the Vedic literature, the long night preceding such a dawn follows as a matter of course; and where a long night prevails, it must have a long day to match it during the year. The remaining portion of the year, after deducting the period of the long night, the long day and the long morning and evening twilights, would also be characterized by a succession of ordinary days and nights, a day and night together never exceeding twenty-four hours, though, within the limit, the day may gradually gain over the night at one time and the night over the day at another, producing a variety of ordinary days and nights of different lengths. All these phenomena are so connected astronomically that if one of them is established, the others follow as a matter of scientific inference. Therefore, if the long duration of the Vedic dawn is once demonstrated, it is, astronomically speaking, unnecessary to search for further evidence regarding the existence of long days and nights in the Ṛig-Veda. But as we are dealing with a state of things which existed several thousand years ago, and with evidence, which, though traditionally handed down, has not yet been interpreted in the way we have done, it is safer to treat, in practice, the aforesaid astronomical phenomena as disconnected facts, and separately collect evidence bearing on each, keeping the astronomical connection in reserve till we come to consider the cumulative effect of the whole evidence in support of the several facts mentioned above. I do not mean to imply that there is any uncertainty in the relation of sequence between the above astronomical facts. On the contrary, nothing can be more certain than such a sequence. But in collecting and examining the evidence bearing on facts like those under consideration, it is always advisable in practice to collect as much evidence and from as many different points of view as possible. In this and the following two chapters, we, therefore, propose to examine separately the evidence that can be found in the Vedic literature about the long day, the long night, the number of months of sunshine and of darkness, and the character of the year, and see if it discloses characteristics found only at, or around, the North Pole.
And first regarding the long night, — a night of several days’ duration, such as makes the northern latitudes too cold or uncomfortable for human habitation at present, but which, in inter-glacial times, appeared to have caused no further inconvenience than what might result from darkness, long and continuous darkness for a number of days, though, by itself, it was not a desirable state of things, and the end of which must have been eagerly looked for by men who had to undergo such experience. There are many passages in the Ṛig-Veda that speak of long and ghastly darkness, in one form or another, which sheltered the enemies of Indra, and to destroy which Indra had to fight with the demons or the Dâsas, whose strongholds are all said to be concealed in this darkness. Thus in I, 32, 10, Vṛitra, the traditional enemy of Indra, is said to be engulfed in long darkness (dîrgham tamaḥ âshayad Indrashatruḥ), and in V, 32, 5, Indra is described as having placed Shuṣhṇa who was anxious to fight, in “the darkness, of the pit” (tamasi harmye), while the next verse speaks of asûrye tamasi (lit. sunless darkness), which Max Müller renders by “ghastly darkness.” ( See S. B. E. series, Vol. XXXII, p. 218) In spite of these passages the fight between Vṛitra and Indra is considered to be a daily and not a yearly struggle, a theory the validity of which will be examined when we come to the discussion of Vedic myths. For the present it is sufficient to note that the above expressions lose all their propriety, if the darkness, in which the various enemies of Indra are said to have flourished, be taken to be the ordinary darkness of twelve, or, at best, of twenty-four hours’ duration. It was, in reality, a long and a ghastly or sunless, darkness, which taxed all the powers of Indra and his associate Gods to overcome.
But apart from this legendary struggle, there are other verses in the Ṛig-Veda which plainly indicate the existence of a night longer than the longest cis-Arctic night. In the first place the Vedic bards are seen frequently invoking their deities to release them from darkness. Thus in II, 27, 14, the poet says, “Aditi, Mitra and also Varuṇa forgive if we have committed any sin against you! May I obtain the wide fearless light, O Indra! May not the long darkness comeover us.” The expression in the original for “long darkness” is dîrghâḥ tamisrâḥ, and means rather an “uninterrupted succession of dark nights (tamisrâḥ)” than simply “long darkness.” But even adopting Max Müller’s rendering given above (Hibbert Lectures, p. 231) the anxiety here manifested for the disappearance of the long darkness is unmeaning, if the darkness never lasted for more than twenty-four hours. In I, 46, 6, the Ashvins are asked “to vouchsafe such strength to the worshipper as may carry him through darkness”; and in VII, 67 a the poet exclaims: “The fire has commenced to burn, the ends of darkness have been seen, and the banner of the Dawn has appeared in the cast!”*
The expression “ends of darkness” (tamasaḥ antâḥ) is very peculiar, and it would be a violation of idiom to take this and other expressions indicating “long darkness” to mean nothing more than long winter nights, as we have them in the temperate or the tropical zone. As stated previously the longest winter night in these zones must be, at best, a little short of twenty-four hours, and even then these long nights prevail only for a fortnight or so. It is, therefore, very unlikely that Vedic bards perpetuated the memory of these long nights by making it a grievance of such importance as to require the aid of their deities to relieve them from it. There are other passages where the same longing for the end of darkness or for the appearance of light is expressed, and these cannot be accounted for on the theory that to the, old Vedic bards night was as death, since they had no means which a civilized person in the twentieth century possesses, of dispelling the darkness of night by artificial illumination. Even the modern savages are not reported to be in the habit of exhibiting such impatience for the morning light as we find in the utterances of the Vedic bards; and yet the latter were so much advanced in civilization as to know the use of metals and carriages. Again not only men, but Gods, are said to have lived in long darkness. Thus, in X, 124, I, Agni is told that he has stayed “too long in the long darkness,” the phrase used being jyog eva dîrgham tama âshayiṣhṭâh. This double phrase jyog (long) dîrgham is still more inappropriate, if the duration of darkness never exceeded that of the longest winter-night. In II, 2, 2, the same deity, Agni, is said to shine during “continuous nights,” which, according to Max Müller, is the meaning of the word kṣhapaḥ in the original.*( * See S. B. E. Series, Vol. XLVI, p. 195.) The translation is no doubt correct, but Prof. Max Müller does not explain to us what he means by the phrase “continuous nights.” Does it signify a succession of nights uninterrupted by sun-light? or, is it only an elegant rendering, meaning nothing more than a number of nights? The learned translator seems to have narrowly missed the true import of the phrase employed by him.
But we need not depend on stray passages like the above to prove that the long night was known in early days. In the tenth Maṇḍala of the Ṛig-Veda we have a hymn (127) addressed to the Goddess of night and in the 6th verse of this hymn Night is invoked to “become easily fordable” to the worshipper (nah sutarâ bhava). In the Parishiṣhṭa, which follows this hymn in the Ṛig-Veda and which is known as Râtri-sûkta or Durgâ-stava, the worshipper asks the Night to be favorable to him, exclaiming “May we reach the other side in safety! May we reach the: other side in safety!”( The 4th verse in the Râtri-Sûkta. The Atharva-Veda, XIX, 47, 2. Ibid, XIX, 50, 3.) In the Atharva-Veda, XIX, 47, which is a reproduction, with some variations, of the above Parishiṣhṭa, the second verse runs thus. “Each moving thing finds rest in her (Night), whose yonder boundary is not seen, nor that which keeps her separate. O spacious, darksome night! May we, uninjured, reach the end of thee, reach, O thou blessed one, thine end!” And in the third verse of the 50th hymn of the same book the worshippers ask that they may pass uninjured in their body, “through each succeeding night, (râtrim râtrim).” Now a question is naturally raised why should every one be so anxious about safely reaching the other end of the night? And why should the poet exclaim that “its yonder boundary is nor seen, nor what keeps it separate?” Was it because it was an ordinary winter night, or, was it because it was the long Arctic night? Fortunately, the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ preserves for us the oldest traditional reply to these questions and we need not, therefore, depend upon the speculations of modern commentators. In the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ I, 5, 5, 4,* (Taitt Sam. I, 5, 5, 4; Taitt, Sam. I, 5, 7, 5)we have a similar Mantra or prayer addressed to Night in these words: — “O Chitrâvasu! let me safely reach thy end.. A little further (I, 5, 7, 5), the Saṁhitâ itself explains this Mantra, or prayer thus: — “Chitrâvasu is (means) the night; in old times (purâ), the Brâhmaṇs (priests) were afraid that it (night) would not dawn.” Here we have an express Vedic statement, that in old times, the priests or the people, felt apprehensions regarding the time when the night would end. What does it signify? If the night was not unusually long, where was the necessity for entertaining any misgivings about the coming dawn? Sâyaṇa, in commenting on the above passage, has again put forward his usual explanation, that nights in the winter were long and they made the priest apprehensive in regard to the coming dawn. But here we can quote Sâyaṇa against himself, and show that he has dealt with this important passage in an off hand manner. It is well-known that the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ often explains the Mantras, and this portion of the Saṁhitâ is called Brâmaṇa, the whole of the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ being made up in this way of Mantras and the Brâhmaṇa, or prayers and their explanations or commentary mixed up together. The statement regarding the apprehensions of the priests about the coming dawn, therefore, falls under the Brâhmaṇa portion of the Saṁhitâ. Now the contents of the Brâhmaṇas are usually classified by Indian divines under the ten following heads — (1) Hetu or reason; (2) Nirvachana, or etymological explanation; (3) Nindâ, or censure; (4) Prashaṁsâ, or praise; (5) Saṁshaya, or doubt; (6) Vidhi, or the rule; (7) Parakriyâ, or others’ doings; (8) Purâ-kalpa, or ancient rite or tradition; (9) Vyavadhârana-kalpanâ or determining the limitations; (10) Upamâna, an apt comparison or simile. Sâyaṇa in his introduction to the commentary on the Ṛig-Veda mentions the first nine of these, and as an illustration of the eighth, Purâ-kalpa, quotes the explanatory passage from the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, I, 5, 7, 5, referred to above. According to Sâyaṇa the statement, “In former times the priests were afraid that it would not dawn,” therefore, comes under Purâ-kalpa, or ancient traditional history found in the Brâmaṇas. It is no Arthavâda, that is, speculation or explanation put forth by the Brâhmaṇa itself. This is evident from the word purâ which occurs in the Saṁhitâ text, and which shows that some piece of ancient traditional information is here recorded. Now if this view is correct; a question naturally arises why should ordinary long winter nights have caused such apprehensions in the minds of the priests only “in former times,” and why should the long darkness cease to inspire the same fears in the minds of the present generation. The long winter nights in the tropical and the temperate zone are as long to-day as they were thousands of years ago, and yet none of us, not even the most ignorant, feels any misgiving about the dawn which puts an end to the darkness of these long nights. It may, perhaps, be urged that in ancient times the bards had not acquired the knowledge necessary to predict the certain appearance of the dawn after a lapse of some hours in such cases. But the lameness of this excuse becomes at once evident when we see that the Vedic calendar was, at this time, so much advanced that even the question of the equation of the solar and the lunar year was solved with sufficient accuracy Sâyaṇa’s explanation of winter nights causing misgivings about the coming dawn must, therefore, be rejected as unsatisfactory. It was not the long winter-night that the Vedic bards were afraid of in former ages. It was something else, something very long, so long that, though you knew it would not last permanently, yet, by its very length, it tired your patience and made you long for, eagerly long for, the coming dawn. In short, it was the long night of the Arctic region, and the word purâ shows that it was a story of former ages, which the Vedic bards knew by tradition, I have shown elsewhere that the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ must be assigned to the Kṛittikâ period. We may, therefore, safely conclude that at about 2500 B.C., there was a tradition current amongst the Vedic people to the effect that in former times, or rather in the former age, the priests grew so impatient of the length of the night, the yonder boundary of which was not known, that they fervently prayed to their deities to guide them safely to the other end of that tiresome darkness. This description of the night is inappropriate unless we take it to refer to the long and continuous Arctic night.
Let us now see if the Ṛig-Veda contains any direct reference to the long day, the long night, or to the Circumpolar calendar, besides the expressions about long darkness or the difficulty of reaching the other boundary of the endless night noticed above. We have seen before that the Rig-Vedic calendar is a calendar of 360 days, with an intercalary month, which can neither be Polar nor Circumpolar. But side by side with it the Ṛig-Veda preserves the descriptions of days and nights, which are not applicable to the cis-Arctic days, unless we put an artificial construction upon the passages containing these descriptions. Day and night is spoken of as a couple in the Vedic literature, and is denoted by a compound word in the dual number. Thus we have Uṣhâsa-naktâ (I, 122, 2), Dawn and Night; Naktoṣhâsâ (I, 142, 7), Night and Dawn; or simply Uṣhâsau (I, 188, 6) the two Dawns; all meaning a couple of Day and Night. The word Aho-ratre also means Day and Night; but it does not occur in the Ṛig-Veda, though Aitareya Brâhmaṇa (II, 4) treats it as synonymous with Uṣhâsâ-naktâ. Sometimes this pair of Day and Night is spoken of as two sisters or twins; but whatever the form in which they are addressed, the reference is usually unambiguous. Now one of the verses which describes this couple of Day and Night is III, 55, 11.*
The deity of the verse is Aho-ratre, and it is admitted on all hands that it contains a description of Day and Night. It runs thus: —
Nânâ chakrâte yamyâ vapûṁṣhi
tayor anyad rochate kṛiṣhṇam anyat |
Shyâvî cha yad aruṣhî cha swasârau
mahad devânâm asuratvam ekam ||
The first three quarters or feet of this verse
contain the principal statements, while the fourth is the refrain of the song
or the hymn. Literally translated it means: — “The twin pair (females) make many
forms; of the two one shines, the other (is) dark; two sisters (are) they, the
dark (shyâvî), and the bright (aruṣhi). The great divinity of the Gods is one (unique).” The verse looks simple
enough at the first sight, and simple it is, so far as the words are concerned.
But it has been misunderstood in two important points. We shall take the first
half of the verse first. It says “the twin pair make many forms; of the two one
shines and the other is dark.” The twin pair are Day and Night, and one of them
is bright and the other dark. So far, therefore, there is no difficulty. But
the phrase “make many forms” does not seem to have been properly examined or
interpreted. The words used in the original verse are nânâ chakrâte vapûṁṣhi, and they
literally mean “make many bodies or forms.” We have thus a two-fold description
of the couple; it is called the shining and the dark and also described as
possessed of many forms. In I, 123, 7, the couple of Day and Night is said to
be viṣhurûpe; while in other places the
adjective: virûpe is used in the same
sense. It is evident, therefore, that the “bodies” or “forms” intended to be
denoted by these words must be different from the two-fold character of the
couple as shining and dark and if so, the phrases viṣhurûpe virûpe
or nânâ vapûṁṣhi used in
connection with the couple of Day and Night must be taken to mean something
different from “bright and dark,” if these expressions are not to be considered
as superfluous or tautological. Sâyaṇa interprets these phrases as
referring to different colors (rûpa),
like black, white, &c., and some
of the Western scholars seem to have adopted this interpretation. But I cannot
see the propriety of assigning different colors to Day and Night. Are we to
suppose that we may have sometimes green- violet, yellow or blue days and
nights? Again though the word rûpa
lends itself to this construction, yet vapûṁṣhi cannot
ordinarily be so understood. The question does not, however, seem to have
attracted the serious attention of the commentators; so that even
But though the first half may be thus interpreted, another difficulty arises, as soon as we take up the third quarter of the verse. It says, “Two sisters are they, the dark (shyâvî) and the bright (arûṣhî).” Now the question is whether the two sisters (svasârau) here mentioned are the same as,, or different from, the twin pair (yamyâ) mentioned in the first half of the verse. If we take them as identical, the third pâda or quarter of the verse becomes at once superfluous. If we take them as different, we must explain how and where the two pairs differ. The commentators have not been able to solve the difficulty, and they have, therefore, adopted the course of regarding the twins (yamyâ) and the sisters (svasârau) as identical, even at the risk of tautology. It will surely be admitted that this is not a satisfactory course, and that we ought to find a better explanation, if we can. This is not again the only place where two distinct couples of Day and Night are mentioned. There is another word in the Ṛig-Veda which denotes a pair of Day and Night. It is Ahanî, which does not mean “two days” but Day and Night, for, in VI, 9, 1, we are expressly told that “there is a dark ahaḥ (day) and a bright ahaḥ (day).” Ahanî, therefore, means a couple of Day and Night, and we have seen that Usḥâsâ-naktâ also means a couple of Day and Night. Are the two couples same or different? If Ahanî be regarded as synonymous with Uṣhâsâ-naktâ or Aho-râtre, then the two couples would be identical; otherwise different. Fortunately, Ṛig. IV, 55, 3, furnishes us with the means of solving this difficulty. There Usḥâsâ-naktâ and Ahanî are separately invoked to grant protection to the worshipper and the separate invocation clearly proves that the two couples are two separate dual deities, though each of them represents a couple of Day and Night.*
Prof. Max Müller has noticed this difference between Usḥâsâ-naktâ and Ahanî or the two Ahans but he does not seem to have pushed it to its logical conclusion. If all the 360 days and nights of the year were of the same class as with us, there was no necessity of dividing them into two representative couples as Usḥâsâ-naktâ and Ahanî. The general description “dark, bright and of various lengths,” would have been quite sufficient to denote all the days and nights of the year. Therefore, if the distinction between Usḥâsâ-naktâ and Ahanî, made in IV, 55, 3, is not to be ignored, we must find out an explanation of this distinction; and looking to the character of days and nights at different places on the surface of the earth from the Pole to the Equator the only possible explanation that can be suggested is that the year spoken of in these passages was a circum-Polar year, made up of one long day and one long night, forming one pair, and a number of ordinary days and nights of various lengths, which, taking a single day and night as the type can be described as the second couple, “bright, dark and. of varying lengths.” There is no other place on the surface of the earth where the description holds good. At the Equator, we have only equal days and nights throughout the year and they can be represented by a single couple “dark and bright, but always of the same length.” In fact, instead of virûpe the pair would be sarûpe. Between the Equator and the Arctic Circle, a day and night together never exceed twenty-four hours, though there may be a day of 23 hours and a night of one hour and vice versa, as we approach the Arctic Circle. In this case, the days of the year will have to be represented by a typical couple, “dark and night, but of various lengths, virûpe.” But as soon as we cross the Arctic Circle and go into “The Land of the Long Night,” the above description requires to be amended by adding to the first couple, another couple of the long day and the long night, the lengths of which would vary according to latitude. This second couple of the long day and the long night, which match each other, will have also to be designated as virûpe, with this difference, however, that while the length of days and nights in the temperate zone would vary at the same place, the length of the long night and the long day would not vary at one and the same place but only at different latitudes. Taking a couple of Day and Night, as representing the days and nights of the year, we shall have, therefore, to divide the different kinds of diurnal changes over the globe into three classes: —
(i) At the Equator, — A single couple; dark and bright but always of the same form, or length (sarûpe).
Between the Equator and the
At the Pole, there is only one day and one night of six months each. Now if we have an express passage in the Ṛig-Veda (IV, 55, 3) indicating two different couples of Day and. Night Ushâsâ-naktâ and Ahanî, it is evident that the ahorâtre represented by them are the days and nights of the Circum-Polar regions, and of those alone. In the light of IV, 55, 3, we must, therefore, interpret III, 55, 11, quoted above, as describing two couples, one of the twin pair and the other of two sisters. The verse must, therefore, be translated: —
“The twin pair (the first couple) make many forms (lengths); of the two one shines and the other is dark. Two sisters are they the shyâvî or the, dark and aruṣhî or the bright (the second couple).” No part of the verse is thus rendered superfluous, and the whole becomes far more comprehensible than otherwise.
seen that days and nights are represented by two distinct typical couples in
the Ṛig-Veda Uṣhasâ-naktâ
and Ahanî; and that if the
distinction is not unmeaning we must take this to be the description of the
days and nights within the
Lastly, we have express passage in the Ṛig-Veda where a long day is described. In V, 54, 5, an extended daily course (dirgham yojanam) of the sun is mentioned and the Maruts are said to have extended their strength and greatness in a similar way.†
But the most explicit statement about the long day is found in X, 138, 3. This hymn celebrates the exploits of Indra, all of which are performed in aerial or heavenly regions. In the first verse the killing of Vṛitra and the releasing of the dawns and the waters are mentioned; and in the second the sun is said to have been made to shine by the same process. The third verse* is as follows: —
Vi sûryo madhye amuchad ratham divo
vidad dâsâya pratimânam âryaḥ |
Dṛiḍhâni Pipror asurasya mâyinaḥ
Indro vyâsyach chakṛivâṁ Ṛijishvanâ ||
fifth and the sixth verses all refer to the destruction of Vṛitra’s forts, the chastisement of Uṣhas and placing of the moons in the
heaven. But the third verse quoted above is alone important for our purpose.
The words are simple and easy and the verse may be thus translated “The sun
unyoked his car in the midst of heaven; the Ârya found a counter-measure (pratimânam) for the Dâsa. Indra, acting
with Ṛijishvan, overthrew the solid forts of Pipru, the conjuring
Asura. “It is the first half of the verse that is relevant to our purpose. The
sun is said to have unyoked his car, not at sunset, or on the horizon, but in
the midst of heaven, there to rest for some time. There is no uncertainty about
it, for the words are so clear; and the commentators have found it difficult to
explain this extraordinary conduct of the sun in the midway of the heavens. Mr.
Griffith says that it is, perhaps an allusion to an eclipse, or to the
detention of the sun to enable the Aryans to complete the overthrow of their
enemies. Both of these suggestions are, however, not satisfactory. During a
solar eclipse the sun being temporarily hidden by the moon is invisible wholly
or partially and is not besides stationary. The description that the sun
unyoked his car in the mid-heaven cannot, therefore, apply to the eclipsed sun.
As regards the other suggestion, viz.,
that the sun remained stationary for a while to allow his favorite race, the
Aryans, to overthrow their enemies, it seems to have had its origin in the
Biblical passage (Joshua, X, 12, 13), where the sun is said to have stood
still, at the word of Joshua, until the people had avenged themselves upon
their enemies. But there is no authority for importing this Biblical idea into
the Ṛig-Veda. Indra’s exploits are described in a number of hymns
in the Ṛig-Veda, but in no other hymn he is said to have made the
sun stand still for the Aryans. We must, therefore, reject both the
explanations suggested by
We thus-see that the Ṛig-Veda speaks of two different couples of Day and Night, one alone of which represents the ordinary days and nights in the year and the second, the Ahanî, is a distinct couple by itself, forming, according to the Taittirîya Âraṇyaka, the right and the left hand side of the Year, indicating the long Arctic day and night. The Taittirîya Saṁhitâ again gives us in clear terms a tradition that in the former age the night was so long that men were afraid it would not dawn. We have also a number of expressions in the Ṛig-Veda denoting “long nights” or “long and ghastly darkness” and also the “long journey” of the sun. Prayers are also offered to Vedic deities to enable the worshipper to reach safely the end of the night, the “other boundary of which is not known.” Finally we have an express text declaring that the sun halted in the midst of the sky and thereby retaliated the mischief brought on by Dâsa’s causing the long night. Thus we have not only the long day and the long night mentioned in the Ṛig-Veda, but the idea that the two match, each other is also found therein, while the Taittirîya Âraṇyaka tells us that they form the opposite sides of Year-God. Besides the passages proving the long duration of the dawn, we have, therefore, sufficient independent evidence to hold that the long night in the Arctic regions and its counterpart the long day were both known to the poets of the Ṛig-Veda and the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ distinctly informs us that it was a phenomenon of the former (purâ) age.
close this chapter with a short discussion of another Circum-Polar
characteristic, I mean the southern course of the sun. It is previously stated,
that the sun can never appear overhead at any station in the temperate or the
frigid zone and that an observer stationed within these zones in the northern
hemisphere will see the sun to his right hand or towards the south, while at
the North Pole the sun will seem to rise from the south. Now the word dakṣhiṇâ in Vedic Sanskrit denotes both the “right hand” and
the “south” as it does in other Aryan languages; for, as observed by Prof.
Sayce, these people had to face the rising sun with their right hands to the
south, in addressing their gods and hence Sanskrit dakṣhiṇâ, Welsh dehau and Old Irish des all mean at once “right hand” and “south.”* (See Sayce’s
Introduction to the Science of Language, Vol. II, p. 130.)With this explanation
before us, we can now understand how in a number of passages in the Ṛig-Veda Western scholars translate dakṣhiṇâ by “right side,” where Indian scholars take the word
to mean “the southern direction.” There is a third meaning of dakṣhiṇa, viz.,
“largess” or “guerdon,” and in some places the claims of rich largesses seem to
have been pushed too far. Thus when the suns are said to be only for dakṣhiṇâvats in I, 125, 6, it looks very
probable that originally the expression had some reference to the southern
direction rather than to the gifts given at sacrifices. In III, 58, I, Sûrya is
called the son of Dakṣhiṇâ and even
if Dakṣhiṇâ be here taken to mean the Dawn, yet the question why
the Dawn was called Dakṣhiṇâ remains,
and the only explanation at present suggested is that Dakṣhiṇâ means
“skilful” or “expert.” A better way to explain these phrases is to make them
refer to the southerly direction; and after what has been said above such an
explanation will seem to be highly probable. It is, of course, necessary to be
critical in the interpretation of the Vedic hymns, but I think that we shall be
carrying our critical spirit too far, if we say that in no passage in the Ṛig-Veda dakṣhiṇâ or its
derivatives are used to denote the southerly direction (I, 95, 6; II, 42, 3).
Herodotus informs us (IV, 42) that certain Phoenician mariners were commanded
by Pharaoh Neco, king of
MONTHS AND SEASONS
Evidence of rejected calendar generally preserved in sacrificial rites by conservative priests — Varying number of the months of sunshine in the Arctic region — Its effect on sacrificial sessions considered — Sevenfold character of the sun in the Vedas — The legend of Aditi — She presents her seven sons to the gods and casts away the eighth — Various explanations of the legend in Brâhmaṇas and the Taittirîya Âraṇyaka — Twelve suns understood to be the twelve month-gods in later literature — By analogy seven suns must have once indicated seven months of sunshine — Different suns were believed to be necessary to produce different seasons — Aditi’s legend belongs to the former age, or pûrvyam-yugam — Evidence from sacrificial literature — The families of sacrificers in primeval times — Called “our ancient fathers” in the Ṛig-Veda — Atharvan and Aṅgiras traced to Indo-European period — Navagvas and Dashagvas, the principal species of the Aṅgirases — Helped Indra in his fight with Vala — They finished their sacrificial session in ten months — The sun dwelling in darkness — Ten months’ sacrifices indicate the only ten months of sunshine, followed by the long night — Etymology of Navagvas and Dashagvas — According to Sâyaṇa the words denote persons sacrificing for nine or ten months — Prof. Lignana’s explanation improbable — The adjectives Virûpas applied to the Aṅgirases — Indicates other varieties of these sacrificers — Saptagu, or seven Hotṛis or Vipras — Legend of Dîrghatamas — As narrated in the Mahâbhârata — A protégé of Ashvins in the Ṛig-Veda — Growing old in the tenth yuga — Meaning of yuga discussed — Mânuṣhâ yugâ means “human ages,” and not always “human tribes” in the Ṛig-Veda — Two passages in proof thereof — Interpretations of Western scholars examined and rejected — Mânuṣhâ yuga denoted months after the long dawn and before the long night — Dîrghatamas represents the sun setting in the tenth month — Mânuṣhâ yuga and continuous nights — The five seasons in ancient times — A Ṛig-Veda passage bearing on it discussed — The year of five seasons described as residing in waters — Indicates darkness of the long night — Not made up by combining any two consecutive seasons out of six — The explanation in the Brâhmaṇas improbable — Summary.
with the tradition about the half yearly night of the Gods found everywhere in
Sanskrit literature, and also in the Avesta, we have found direct references in
to a long continuous dawn of thirty days, the long day and the long night, when
the sun remained above the horizon or went below it for a number of 24 hours;
and we have also seen that the Ṛig-Vedic texts describe these things
as events of a bye-gone age. The next question, therefore, is — Do we meet in
the Vedas with similar traces of the Arctic condition of seasons months or
years? It is stated previously that the calendar current at the time of the
Vedic Saṁhitâs was different from the Arctic calendar. But if the
ancestors of the Vedic people ever lived near the North Pole, “we may,” as
observed by Sir Norman Lockyer with reference to the older Egyptian calendar,
“always reckon upon the conservatism of the priests of the temples retaining
the tradition of the old rejected year in every case.” Sir Norman Lockyer first
points out how the ancient Egyptian year of 360 days was afterwards replaced by
a year of 365 days; and then gives two instances of the traditional practice by
which the memory of the old year was preserved. “Thus even at Philæ in later
times,” says he “in the
In the Saṁhitâs and Brâhmaṇas, the annual sattras, or yearly sacrificial sessions, are said to extend over
twelve months. But this was impossible within the Arctic region where the sun
goes below the horizon for a number of days or months during the year, thereby
producing the long night. The oldest duration of the annual sattras, if such sattras were ever performed within the
A dawn of thirty days, as we measure days, implies a position so near the North Pole, that the period of sunshine at the place could not have been longer than about seven months, comprising, of course, a long day of four or five months, and a succession of regular days and nights during the remaining period; and we find that the Ṛig-Veda does preserve for us the memory of such months of sunshine. We refer first to the legend of Aditi, or the seven Âdityas (suns), which is obviously based on some natural phenomenon. This legend expressly tells us that the oldest number of Âdityas or suns was seven, and the same idea is independently found in many other places in the Ṛig-Veda. Thus in IX, 114, 3, seven Âdityas and seven priests are mentioned together, though the
names of the different suns are not given therein. In II, 27 1, Mitra, Aryaman, Bhaga, Varuṇa, Dakṣha and Aṁsha are mentioned by name as so many different Âdityas but the seventh is not named. This omission does not, however, mean much, as the septenary character of the sun is quite patent from the fact that he is called saptâshva (seven-horsed, in V, 45, 9, and his “seven-wheeled” chariot is said to be drawn by “seven bay steeds” (I, 50, 8 ), or by a single horse “with seven names” in I, 164, 2. The Atharva Veda also speaks of “the seven bright rays of the sun” (VII, 107, 1); and the epithet Âditya, as applied to the sun in the Ṛig-Veda, is rendered more clearly by Aditeḥ putrah (Aditi’s son) in A.V. XIII, 2, 9. Sâyaṇa, following Yâska, derives this sevenfold character of the sun from his seven rays, but why solar rays were taken to be seven still remain unexplained, unless we hold that the Vedic bards had anticipated the discovery of seven prismatic rays or colors, which were unknown even to Yâska or Sâyaṇa. Again though the existence of seven suns may be explained on this hypothesis, yet it fails to account for the death of the eighth sun, for the legend of Aditi (Ṛig. X, 72, 8-9) tells us, “Of the eight sons of Aditi, who were born from her body, she approached the gods with seven and cast out Mârtâṇḍa. With seven sons Aditi approached (the gods) in the former age (pûrvyam yugam); she brought thither Mârtâṇḍa again for birth and death.”*
The story is discussed in various places in the Vedic
literature and many other attempts, unfortunately all unsatisfactory, have been
made to explain it in a rational and intelligent way. Thus in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, VI, 5, 61 ƒ. the story of
Aditi cooking a Brahmaudana oblation
for the gods, the Sâdhyas, is narrated. The remnant of the oblation was given
to her by the gods, and four Âdityas were born to her from it. She then cooked
a second oblation and ate it herself first; but the Âditya born from it was an
imperfect egg. She cooked a third time and the Âditya Vivasvat, the progenitor
of man, was born. But the Saṁhitâ does not give the number and
names of the eight Âdityas and this omission is supplied, by the Taittirîya
Brâhmaṇa (I, 1, 9, 1ƒ). The Brâhmaṇa tells us that Aditi cooked the
oblation four times and each time the gods gave her the remnant of the
oblation. Four pairs of sons were thus born to her; the first pair was Dhâtṛi and Aryaman, the second Mitra and
Varuṇa, the third Aṁsha and Bhag and the fourth Indra
and Vivasvat. But the Brâhmaṇa does not explain why the eighth
son was called Mârtâṇḍa and cast away. The Taittirîya Araṇyaka, I, 13, 2-3, (cited by Sâyaṇa in his gloss on Ṛig. II, 27, 1, and X, 72, 8) first
quotes the two verses from the Ṛig-Veda (X, 72, 8 and 9 which give
the legend of Aditi but with a slightly different reading for the second line
of the second verse. Thus instead, of tvat
punaḥ Mârtâṇḍam â abharat
(she brought again Mârtâṇḍa thither for birth and death), the
reads tat parâ Mârtâṇḍam â abharat
(she set aside Mârtâṇḍa for birth and death). The Araṇyaka then proceeds to give the names
of the eight sons, as Mitra, Varuṇa, Dhâtṛi, Aryaman, Aṁsha, Bhaga, Indra and Vivasvat. But
no further explanation is added, nor are we told which of these eight sons
represented Mârtâṇḍa. There is, however, another passage in the Âraṇaka (I, 7, 1-6) which throws some
light on the nature of these Âdityas.* (See Taittirîya Araṇyaka, I, 7. ) The names of the suns
here given are different. They are: — Aroga, Bhrâja, Patara, Patanga, Svarṇara, Jyotiṣhîmat, Vibhâsa and Kashyapa; the
last of which is said to remain, constantly at the great
We have here referred to, or quoted, the texts and passages bearing on Aditi’s legend. or the number of Âdityas at some length, in order to show how we are apt to run into wild speculations about the meaning of a simple legend when the key to it is lost: That the twelve Âdityas are understood to represent the twelve month-gods in later Vedic literature is evident from the passage in the Shatapatha Brâhmaṇa (XI, 6, 3, 8 = Bṛih. Ârṇ. Up. III, 9, 5) which says, “There are twelve months of the year; these are the Âdityas.” With this explanation before us, and the belief that different seasonal changes could be explained only by assuming the existence of different suns, it required no very great stretch of imagination to infer that if twelve Âdityas now represent the twelve months of the year, the seven Âdityas must have once (pûrvyam yugam) represented the seven months of the year. But this explanation, reasonable though it was, did not commend itself, or we might even say, occur to Vedic scholars, who believed that the home of the Aryans lay somewhere in Central Asia. It is, therefore, satisfactory to find that the idea of different suns producing different months is recognized so expressly in the Taittirîya Araṇyaka, which quotes a Vedic text, not now available, in support thereof and finally pronounces in favor of the theory, which regards the seven suns as presiding over seven different heavenly regions and thereby producing different seasons, in spite of the objection that it would lead to the assumption of thousands of suns — an objection, which the Araṇyaka disposes of summarily by observing that eight is a settled number and that we have no right to change it. That this explanation is the most probable of all is further evident from Ṛig. IX, 114, 3, which says “There are seven sky-regions (sapta dishaḥ), with their different suns (nânâ sûryâḥ), there are seven Hotṛis as priests, those who are the seven gods, the Âdityas, — with them. O Soma! protect us.” Here nânâ sûryâḥ is an adjective which qualifies dishaḥ (sapta), and the correlation between seven regions and seven suns is thus expressly recognized. Therefore, the simplest explanation of Aditi’s legend is that she presented to the gods, that is, brought forth into heavens, her seven sons, the Âdityas, to form the seven months of sunshine in the place. She had an eighth son, but he was born in an undeveloped state, or, was, what we may call, stillborn; evidently meaning that the eighth month was not a month of sunshine, or that the period of darkness at the place commenced with the eighth month. All this occurred not in this age, but in the previous age and the words pûrvyam yugam in X, 72, 9, are very important from this point of view. The word yuga is evidently used to denote a period of time in the first and second verses of the hymn, which refer to the former age of the gods (devânâm pûrvye yuge) and also of later age (uttare yuge). Western scholars are accustomed to interpret yuga to mean “a generation of men” almost in every place where the phrase is met with; and we shall have to consider the correctness of this interpretation later on. For the purpose of this legend it is enough to state that the phrase pûrvyam yugam occurs twice in the hymn and that where it first occurs (in verse 2), it clearly denotes “an early age” or “some division of time.” Naturally enough we must, therefore, interpret it in the same way where it occurs again in the same hymn, viz. in the verse describing the legend of Aditi’s seven sons. The sun having seven rays, or seven horses, also implies the same idea differently expressed. The seven months of sunshine, with their different temperatures, are represented by seven suns producing these different results by being differently located, or as having different kinds of rays, or as having different chariots, or horses, or different wheels to the same chariot. It is one and the same idea in different forms, or as the Ṛig-Veda puts it, “one horse with seven names” (I, 164, 2). A long dawn of thirty days indicates a period of sunshine for seven months, and we now see that the legend of Aditi is intelligible only if we interpret it as a relic of a time when there were seven flourishing month-gods, and the eighth was either still-born, or cast away. Mârtâṇḍa is etymologically derived from mârta meaning “dead or undeveloped,” (being connected with mṛita, the past participle of mṛi to die) and âṇḍa, an egg or a bird; and it denotes a dead sun, or a sun that has sunk below the horizon, for in Ṛig. X, 55, 5, we find the word mamâra (died) used to denote the setting of the daily sun. The sun is also represented as a bird in many places in the Ṛig-Veda (V, 47, 3; X, 55, 6; X, 177, 1; X, 189, 3). A cast away bird (Mârtâṇḍa) is, therefore, the sun that has set or sunk below the horizon, and whole legend is obviously a reminiscence of the place where the sun shone above the horizon for seven months and went below it in the beginning of the eighth. If this nature of the sun-god is once impressed on the memory, it cannot be easily forgotten by any people simply by their being obliged to change their residence; and thus the sevenfold character of the sun-god must have been handed down as an old tradition, though the Vedic people lived later on in places presided over by the twelve Âdityas. That is how ancient traditions are preserved everywhere, as, for instance, those relating to the older year in the Egyptian literature, previously referred to.
seen above that the peculiar characteristic of the Arctic region is the varying number of the months of sunshine
in that place. It is not, therefore, enough to say that traces of a period of
seven months’ sunshine are alone found in the Ṛig-Veda. If our theory is correct,
we ought to find references to periods of eight, nine or ten months’ sunshine
along with that of seven months either in the shape of traditions, or in some
other form; and fortunately there are such references in the Ṛig-Veda, only if we know where to
look for them. We have seen that the sun’s chariot is said to be drawn by seven
horses, and that this seven-fold character of the sun has reference to the
seven suns conceived as seven different month-gods. There are many other
legends based on this seven-fold division, but as they do not refer to the
subject under discussion, we must reserve their consideration for another
occasion. The only fact necessary to be mentioned in this place is that the
number of the sun’s horses is said to be not only seven (I, 50, 8), but also ten in IX, 63, 9; and if the first be
taken to represent seven months, the other must be understood to stand for ten
months as well. We need not, however, depend upon such extension of the legend
of seven Âdityas to prove that the existence of nine or ten months of sunshine
was known to the poets of the Ṛig-Veda. The evidence, which I am
now going to cite, comes from another source, I mean, the sacrificial
literature, which is quite independent of the legend of the seven Âdityas. The Ṛig-Veda mentions a number of ancient
sacrificers styled “our fathers” (II, 33, 13; VI, 22, 2), who instituted the
sacrifice in ancient times and laid down, for the guidance of man, the path
which he should, in future, follow. Thus the sacrifice offered by Manu, is
taken as the type and other sacrifices are compared with it in I, 76, 5. But
Manu was not alone to offer this ancient sacrifice to the gods. In X, 63, 7, he
is said to have made the first offerings to the gods along with the seven Hotṛis; while Aṅgiras and Yayâti are mentioned with
him as ancient sacrificers in I, 31, 17, Bhṛigu and Aṅgiras in VIII, 43, 13, Atharvan and
Dadhyañch in I, 80, 16 and Dadhyañch, Aṅgiras, Atri and Kaṇva in I, 139, 9. Atharvan by his
sacrifices is elsewhere described, as having first extended the paths,
whereupon the sun was born (I, 83, 5), and the Atharvans, in the plural, are
styled “our fathers” (naḥ pitaraḥ) along with Aṅgirases, Navagvas and Bhṛgus in X, 14, 6. In II, 34, 12,
Dashagvas are said to have been the first to offer a sacrifice; while in X, 92,
10 Atharvan is spoken of, as having established order by sacrifices, when the
showed themselves as gods by their skill. Philologically the name of Atharvan
appears as Athravan, meaning a fire-priest, in the Avesta, and the word Aṅgiras is said to be etymologically
connected with the Greek Aggilos, a
“messenger” and the Persian
Now so far as my researches go, I have not been able to find any Vedic evidence regarding the duration of the sacrifices performed by Manu, Atharvan, Bhṛigu, or any other ancient sacrificers, except he Aṅgirases. There is an annual sattra described in the Shrauta Sûtras, which is called the Aṅgirasâm-ayanam, and is said to be a modification of the Gavâm ayanam, the type of all yearly sattras. But we do not find therein any mention of the duration of the sattra of the Aṅgirases. The duration of the Gavâm ayanam is, however, given in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, and will be discussed in the next chapter. For the present, we confine ourselves to sattra of the Aṅgirases, and have to see if we can find out other means for determining its duration. Such a means is, fortunately, furnished by the Ṛig-Veda itself. There are two chief species of the Aṅgirases (Aṅgiras-tama), called the Navagvas and the Dashagvas, mentioned in the Ṛig-Veda (X, 62, 5 and 6). These two classes of ancient sacrificers are generally mentioned together, and the facts attributed to the Aṅgirases are also attributed to them. Thus, the Navagvas are spoken of as “our ancient fathers,” in VI. 22, 2, and as “our fathers” along with Aṅgirases and Bhṛigu in X, 14, 6. Like the Aṅgirases, the Navagvas are also connected with the myth of Indra overthrowing Vala, and of Sarmâ and Paṇis (I, 62, 3 and 4; V, 29, 12; V, 45, 7; X, 108, 8). In one of these Indra if described as having taken their assistance when he rent the rock and Vala (I, 62, 4); and in V, 29, 12, the Navagvas are said to have praised Indra with songs and broken open the firmly closed stall of the cows. But there are only two verses in which the duration of their sacrificial session is mentioned. Thus V, 45, 7 says, “Here, urged by hands, hath loudly rung the press-stone, with which the Navagvas sang (sacrificed) for ten months”; and in the eleventh verse of the same hymn the poet says, “I place upon (offer to) the waters your light-winning prayers wherewith the Navagvas completed their ten months.”* In II, 34, 12, we again read, “They, the Dashagvas brought out (offered) sacrifice first of all. May they favor us at the flashing forth of the dawn”: while in IV, 51, 4,† the Dawns are said “to have dawned richly on the Navagva Aṅgira, and on the seven-mouthed Dashagva,” evidently showing that their sacrifice was connected with the break of the Dawn and lasted only for ten months.
What the Navagvas or the Dashagvas accomplished by means of their sacrifices is further described in V, 29, 12, which says, “The Navagvas and the Dashagvas, who, had offered libations of Soma, praised Indra with songs; laboring (at it) the men laid open the stall of kine though firmly closed;” while in III, 39, 5, we read “Where the friend (Indra), with the friendly energetic Navagvas, followed up the cows on his knees, there verily with ten Dashagvas did Indra find the sun dwelling in darkness (tamasi kṣhiyantam).”*
In X, 62, 2 and 3, the Aṅgirases, of whom the Dashagvas and Navagvas were the principle species (Aṅgiras-tama, X, 62, 6), are however, said to have themselves performed the feat of vanquishing Vala, rescuing the cows and bringing out the sun, at the end of the year (pari vatsare Valam abhindan); but it obviously means that they helped Indra in achieving it at the end of the year. Combining all these statements we can easily deduce (1) that the Navagvas and the Dashavgas completed their sacrifices in ten months, (2) that these sacrifices were connected with the early flush of the Dawn; (3) that the sacrificers helped Indra in the rescue of the cows from Vala at the end of the year; and (4) that at the place where Indra wept in search for the cows, he discovered the sun “dwelling in darkness.”
Now we must examine a little more closely the meaning of these four important statements regarding the Navagvas and the Dashagvas. The first question that arises in this connection is — What is meant by their sacrifices being completed in ten months, and why did they not continue sacrificing for the whole year of twelve months? The expression for ‘ten months’ in the original is dasha mâsâḥ, and the wards are so plain that there can be no doubt about their import. We have seen that the Navagvas used to help Indra in releasing the cows from the grasp of Vala, and in X, 62, 2 and 3, the Aṅgirases are said to have defeated Vala at the end of the year, and raised the sun to heaven. This exploit of Indra, the Aṅgirases, the Navagvas and the Dashagvas, therefore, clearly refers to the yearly rescue of the sun, or the cows of the morning, from the dark prison into which they are thrown by Vala; and the expression “Indra found the sun, dwelling in darkness,” mentioned above further supports this view. In I, 117, 5, the Ashvins are said to have rescued Vandana, like some bright buried gold, “like one asleep in the lap of Nir-ṛiti (death), like the sun dwelling in darkness (tamasi kṣhiyantam).” This shows that the expression “dwelling in darkness,” as applied to the sun, means that the sun was hidden or concealed below the horizon so as not to be seen by man. We must, therefore, hold that Indra killed or defeated Vala at the end of the year, in a place of darkness, and that the Dashagvas helped Indra by their songs at the time. This might lead any one to suppose that the Soma libations offered by the Navagvas and the Dashagvas for ten months, were offered during the time when war with Vala was waging. But the Vedic idea is entirely different. For instance the morning prayers are recited before the rise of the sun, and so the sacrifices to help Indra against Vala had to be performed before the war. Darkness or a dark period, of ten months is again astronomically impossible anywhere on the globe, and as there cannot be ten months of darkness the only other alternative admissible is that the Dashagvas and the Navagvas carried on their ten months’ sacrifice during the period of sunshine. Now if this period of sunshine had extended to twelve months, there was no reason for the Dashagvas to curtail their sacrifices and complete them in ten months. Consequently the only inference we can draw from the story of the Navagvas and the Dashagvas is that they carried on their sacrifices during ten months of sunshine and after that period the sun went to dwell in darkness or sank below the horizon, and Indra, invigorated by the Soma libations of the Dashagvas, then entered into the cave of Vala, rent it open, released the cows of the morning and brought out the sun at the end of the old and the beginning of the new year, when the Dashagvas again commenced their sacrifices after the long dawn or dawns. In short, the Dashagvas and the Navagvas, and with them all the ancient sacrificers of the race, live in a region where the sun was above the horizon for ten months, and then went down producing a long yearly night of two months’ duration. These ten months, therefore, formed the annual sacrificial session, or the calendar year, of the oldest sacrificers of the Aryan race and we shall see in the next chapter that independently of the legend of the Dashagvas this view is fully supported by direct references to such a session in the Vedic sacrificial literature.
etymology of the words Navagva and Dashagva leads us to the same conclusion.
The words are formed by prefixing nava
and dasha to gva. So far there is no difference of opinion. But Yâska (XI, 19)
takes nava in navagva to mean either “new” or “charming,” interpreting the word
to mean “those who have charming or new career (gva, from gam to go).”
This explanation of Yâska is, however, unsatisfactory, inasmuch as the Navagvas
and the Dashagvas are usually mentioned together in the Ṛig-Veda, and this close and frequent
association of their names makes it necessary for us to find out such an
etymological explanation of the words as would make Navagva bear the same
relation to nava as Dashagva may have
to dasha. But dasha or rather dashan,
is a numeral signifying “ten” and cannot be taken in any other sense therefore,
as observed by Prof. Lignana,* nava
or rather navan must be taken to mean
“nine.” (* See his Essay on “The Navagvas and the Dashagvas of the Ṛig-Veda” in the Proceedings of the
7th International Congress of Orientalists, 1886, pp. 59-68. The essay is in
Italian and I am indebted to the kindness of Mr. Shrinivâs Iyengar B.A., B.L.,
High Court Pleader,
The meaning of gva (gu+a) is, however, yet to be ascertained. Some derive it from go, a cow, and others from gam, to go. In the first case the meaning would be “of nine cows” or “of ten cows”; while in the second case the words would signify “going in nine” or “going in ten,” and the fact that the Dashagvas, are said to be ten in III, 39, 5, lends support to the latter view. But the use of the words Navagva and Dashagva, sometimes even in the singular number as an adjective qualifying a singular noun, shows that a group or a company of nine or ten men, is not, at any rate, always intended. Thus in VI, 6, 3, the rays of Agni are said to be navagvas, while Adhrigu is said to be dashagva in VIII, 12, 2, and Dadhyañch navagva in IX, 108, 4. We must, therefore, assign to these epithets some other meaning, and the only other possible explanation of the numerals “nine” and “ten” is that given by Sâyaṇa, who says (Comm. on Ṛig. I, 62, 4), “The Aṅgirases are of two kinds, the Navagvas or those who rose after completing sattra in nine months, and the Dashagvas or those who rose after finishing the sattra in ten months.”We have seen that in the Ṛig-Veda V, 45, 7 and 11, the Navagvas are said to have completed their sacrifices in ten months. Sâyaṇa’s explanation is therefore, fully warranted by these texts, and very probably it is based on some traditional information about the Dashagvas. Prof. Lignana of Rome,*( * See his Essay in the Proceedings of the 7th international Congress of the Orientalists, pp. 59-68.) suggests that the numerals navan and dashan in these names should be taken as referring to the period of gestation, as the words nava-mâhya and dasha-mâhya occur in the Vendidad, V, 45, (136), in the same sense. Thus interpreted Navagva would mean “born of nine months,” and Dashagva “born of ten months.” But this explanation is highly improbable, inasmuch as we cannot first suppose that a number of persons were born prematurely in early times, and secondly that it was specially such persons that attained almost divine honors. The usual period of gestation is 280 days or ten lunar months (V, 78, 9), and those that were born a month earlier cannot be ordinarily expected to live long or to perform feats which would secure them divine honors. The reference to the Vendidad proves nothing, for there the case of a still-born child after a gestation of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 months is under consideration, and Ahura Mazda enjoins that the house where such as a still-born child is brought forth should be cleaned and sanctified in a special way. Prof. Lignana’s explanation again conflicts with the Vedic texts which say that the Dashagvas were ten in number (III, 39, 5), or that the Navagvas sacrificed only for ten months (V, 47, 5) Sâyaṇa’s explanation is, therefore, the only one entitled to our acceptance. I may here mention that the Ṛig-Veda (V, 47, 7 and 11) speaks of ten months’ sacrifice only in connection with the Navagvas, and does not mention any sacrifice of nine months. But the etymology of the names now helps us in assigning the ten months’ sacrifice to the Dashagvas and the nine month’s to the Navagvas. For navan in Navagva is only a numerical variation for dashan in Dashagva, and it follows, therefore, that what the Dashagvas did by tens, the Navagvas did by nines.
There is another circumstance connected with the Aṅgirases which further strengthens our conclusion, and which must, therefore, be stated in this place. The Aṅgirases are sometimes styled the Virûpas. Thus in III, 53, 7, the Aṅgirases are described as “Virûpas, and sons of heaven”; and the name Virûpa once occurs by itself as that of a single being who sings the praises of Agni, in a stanza (VIII, 75, 6) immediately following one in which Aṅgiras is invoked, showing that Virûpa is here used as a synonym for Aṅgiras. But the most explicit of these references is X, 62, 5 and 6. The first of these verses states that the Aṅgirases are Virûpas, and they are the sons of Agni; while the second describes them along with the Navagva and the Dashagva in the following terms, “And which Virûpas were born from Agni and from the sky; the Navagva or the Dashagva, as the best of the Aṅgirases (Aṅgiras-tama), prospers in the assemblage of the gods.”*
Now Virûpas literally means “of various forms” and in the above verses it seems to have been used as an adjective qualifying Aṅgirases to denote that there are many species of them. We are further told that the Navagvas and the Dashagvas were the most important (Aṅgiras-tamaḥ) of these species. In the last chapter I have discussed the meaning of the adjective Virûpa as applied to a couple of Day and Night and have shown, on the authority of Mâdhava, that the word, as applied to days and Nights, denotes their duration, or the period of time over which they extend. Virûpas in the present instance appears to be used precisely in the same sense. The Navagvas and the Dashagvas were no doubt the most important of the early sacrificers, but these too were not their only species. In other words they were not merely “nine-going,” and “ten-going,” but “various-going” (virûpas), meaning that the duration of their sacrifices was sometimes shorter than nine and sometimes longer than ten months. In fact a Sapta-gu (seven-going) is mentioned in X, 47, 6, along with Bṛihaspati, the son of Aṅgiras, and it seems to be used there as an adjective qualifying Bṛihaspati; for Bṛihaspati is described in another place (IV, 50, 4) as saptâsya (seven-mouthed), while the Atharva-Veda IV, 6, 1, describes the first Brâhmaṇa, Bṛihaspati, as dashâsya or ten-mouthed. We have also seen that in IV, 51, 4, the Dashagva is also called “seven-mouthed.” All these expressions can be satisfactorily explained only by supposing that the Aṅgirases were not merely “nine-going” or “ten-going,” but virûpas or “various going,” and that they completed their sacrifices within the number of months for which the sun was above the horizon at the place where these sacrifices were performed. It follows, therefore, that in, ancient times the sacrificial session lasted from seven to ten months; and the number of sacrificers (Hotṛis) corresponded with the number of the months, each doing his duty by rotation somewhat after the manner of the Egyptian priests previously referred to. These sacrifices were over when the long night commenced, during which Indra fought with Vala and vanquished him by the end of the year (parivatsare, X, 62, 2). The word parivatsare (at the end of the year) is very suggestive and shows that the year closed with the long night.
reference to a period of ten months’ sunshine is found in the legend of Dîrghatamas
whom the Ashvins are said to have saved or rescued from a pit, into which he
was thrown, after being made blind and infirm. I have devoted a separate
chapter later on to the discussion of Vedic legends. But I take up here the
legend of Dîrghatamas because we have therein an express statement as to the
life of Dîrghatamas, which remarkably corroborates the conclusion we have
arrived at from the consideration of the story of the Dashagvas. The story of
Dîrghatamas is narrated in the Mahâbhârata, Âdiparvan, Chap. 104. He is said to
be the son of Mamatâ by Utathya, and born blind through the curse of Bṛihaspati his uncle. He was, however,
married and had several sons by Pradveṣhî. The wife and the sons eventually
became tired of feeding the blind Dîrghatamas (so called because he was born
blind), and the sons abandoned him afloat on a worn-out raft in the
The statement in the myth or legend, which is most important for our purpose, is contained in I, 158, 6. The verse may be literally translated as follows: — “Dîrghatamas, the son of Mamatâ, having grown decrepit in the tenth yuga, becomes a Brahman charioteer of the waters wending to their goal.”*
The only expressions which require elucidation in this verse are “in the tenth yuga,” and “waters wending to their goal.” Otherwise the story is plain enough. Dîrghatamas grows old in the tenth yuga, and riding on waters, as the Mahâbhârat story has it, goes along with them to the place which is the goal of these waters. But scholars are not agreed as to what yuga means. Some take it to mean a cycle of years, presumably five as in the Vedânga-Jyotiṣha, and invest Dîrghatamas with infirmity at the age of fifty. The Petersburg Lexicon would interpret yuga, wherever it occurs in the Ṛig-Veda, to mean not, “a period of time,” but “a generation,” or “the relation of descent from a common stock”; and it is followed by Grassmann in this respect. According to these scholars the phrase “in the tenth yuga” in the above verse would, therefore, signify “in the tenth generation” whatever that may mean. Indeed, there seems to be a kind of prejudice against interpreting yuga as meaning “a period of time” in the Ṛig-Veda, and it is therefore, necessary to examine the point at some length in this place. That the word yuga by itself means “a period of time” or that, at any rate, it is one of its meanings goes without saying. Even the Petersburg Lexicon assigns this meaning to yuga in the Atharva Veda VIII, 2, 21; but so far as the Ṛig-Veda is concerned yuga according to it, must mean “descent,” or “generation,” or something like it, but never “a period of time.” This is especially the case, with the phrase Mânuṣhâ yugâ, or Mânuṣhyâ yugâni, which occurs several times in the Ṛig-Veda. Western scholars would everywhere translate it to mean “generations of men,” while native scholars, like Sâyaṇa and Mahîdhara; take it to refer to “mortal ages” in a majority of places. In some cases (I, 124, 2; I, 144, 4) Sâyaṇa, however, suggests as an alternative, that the phrase may be understood to mean “conjunction” or “couples (yuga) of men”; and this has probably given rise to the interpretation put upon the phrase by Western scholars. Etymologically the word yuga may mean “conjunction” or “a couple” denoting either (1) “a couple of day and night,” or (2) “a couple of months” i.e. “a season,” or (3) “a couple of fortnights” or “the time of the conjunction of the moon and the sun,” i.e. “a month.” Thus at the beginning of the Kali-Yuga the planets and the sun were, it is supposed, in conjunction and hence it is said to be called a yuga. It is also possible that the word may mean “a conjunction, or a couple, or even a generation of men.” Etymology, therefore, does not help us in determining which of these meanings should be assigned to the word yuga or the phrase, Mânuṣhâ yugâ in the Ṛig-Veda, and we must find out some other means for determining it. The prejudice we have referred to above, appears to be mainly due to the disinclination of the Western scholars to import the later Yuga theory into the Ṛig-Veda. But it seems to me that the caution has been carried too far, so far as almost to amount to a sort of prejudice.
Turning to the hymns of the Ṛig-Veda, we find as remarked by Muir, the phrase yuge yuge used at least in half a dozen places (III, 26, 3; VI, 15, 8; X, 94, 12, &c.), and it is interpreted by Sâyaṇa to mean a period of time. In III, 33, 8, and X, 10, we have uttara yugâni “later age,” and in X, 72, 1, we read uttare yuge “in a later age”; whilst in the next two verses we have the phrases Devânâm pûrve yuge and Devânâm prathame yuge clearly referring to the later and earlier ages of the gods. The word Devânâm is in the plural and yuga is in the singular, and it is not therefore possible to take the phrase to mean “generations of gods.” The context again clearly shows that a reference to time is intended, for the hymn speaks of the creation and the birth of the gods in early primeval times. Now if we interpret Devânâm yugam to mean “an age of gods,” why should mânuṣhyâ yugâni or mânuṣhâ yugâ be not interpreted to mean “human ages,” is more than I can understand. There are again express passages in the Ṛig-Veda where mânuṣhâ yugâ cannot be taken to mean “generations of men.” Thus in V, 52, 4, which is a hymn to Maruts, we read Vishve ye mânuṣhâ yugâ pânti martyam riṣhaḥ. Here the verb pânti (protect), the nominative vishve ye (all those), and the object is martyam (the mortal man), while riṣhaḥ (from injury), in the ablative, denotes the object against which the protection is sought. So far the sentence, therefore, means “All those who protect man from injury”; and now the question is, what does mânuṣhâ yugâ mean? If we take it to mean “generations of men” in the objective case it becomes superfluous, for martyam (man) is already the object of pânti (protect). It is, therefore, necessary to assign to mânuṣhâ yugâ the only other meaning we know of, viz., “human ages” and take the phrase as an accusative of time. Thus the interpreted the whole sentence means “All those, who protect man from injury during human ages.” No other construction is more natural or reasonable than this; but still Prof. Max Müller translates the verse to mean “All those who protect the generations of men, who protect the mortal from injury,”* (See S. B. E. Series, Vol. XXXII, p. 312.)in spite of the fact that this is tautological and that there is no conjunctive particle in the texts (like cha) to join what according to him are the two objects of the verb “protect.” Mr. Griffith seems to have perceived this difficulty, and has translated, “Who all, through ages of mankind, guard mortal man from injury.” Another passage which is equally decisive on this point, is X, 140, 6. The verse* is addressed to Agni, and people are said to have put him in front to secure his blessings. It is as follows: —
Ṛitâvânam mahiṣhaṁ vishva-darshatam
agniṁ sumnâya dadhire puro janâḥ |
tvâ girâ daivyam mânuṣhâ yugâ ||
Here ṛitâvânam (righteous), mahiṣhaṁ (strong), vishva-darshatam (visible to all), agniṁ (Agni, fire), shrut-karṇaṁ (attentive eared), saprathas-taman (most widely-reaching), tvâ (thee) and daivyam (divine)
are all in the accusative case governed by dadhire
(placed), and describe the qualities of Agni. Janâḥ (people) is
the nominative and dadhire (placed)
is the only verb in the text. Sumnâya (for
the welfare) denotes the purpose for which the people placed Agni in front (puro) and girâ (by praises) is the means by which the favor of Agni, is to be
secured. If we, therefore, leave out the various adjectives of Agni, the verse
means, “The people have placed Agni (as described) in front for their welfare,
with praises.” The only expression that remains is mânuṣhâ yugâ, and
it can go in with the other words in a natural way only as an accusative of
time. The verse would then mean “The people have placed Agni (as described), in
front for their welfare, with praises, during human ages.” But
But if mânuṣhâ yugâ means “human ages” and not “human generations,” we have still to determine the exact duration of these ages. In the Atharva-Veda, VIII, 2, 21, which says, “We allot to thee, a hundred, ten thousand years, two, three or four yugas,” the word yuga obviously stands for a period of time, not shorter than ten thousand years. But there are grounds to hold that in the early days of the Ṛig-Veda yuga must have denoted a shorter period of time, or, at least, that was one of its meanings in early days. The Ṛig-Veda often speaks of “the first” (prathamâ) dawn, or “the first of the coming” (âyatînâm prathamâ) dawns (Ṛig. I, 113, 8; 123, 2; VII, 76, 6; X, 35, 4); while “the last” (avamâ) dawn is mentioned in VII, 71, 3, and the dawn is said to have the knowledge of the first day in I, 123, 9. Now, independently of what I have said before about the Vedic dawns, the ordinal numeral “first” as applied to the dawn is intelligible only if we suppose it to refer to the first dawn of the year, or the dawn on the first day of the year, somewhat like the phrase “first night” (prathamâ râtriḥ) used in the Brâhmaṇas (see Orion p. 69). The “first” (prathamâ) and the “last” (avamâ) dawn must, therefore, be taken to signify the beginning and the end of the year in those days; and in the light of what has been said about the nature of the Vedic dawns in the fifth chapter, we may safely conclude that the “first” of the dawns was no other than the first of a set or group of dawns that appeared at the close of the long night and commenced the year. Now this “first dawn” is described as “wearing out human ages” (praminatî manuṣhyâ yugâni) in I, 124, 2, and I, 92, 11; while in I, 115, 2, we are told that “the pious or godly men extend the yugas,” on the appearance of the dawn (yatrâ naro devayanto yugâni vitanvate). European scholars interpret yuga in the above passages to mean “generations of men.” But apart from the fact that the phrase mânuṣha yugâ must be understood to mean “human ages” in at least two passages discussed above, the context in I, 124, 2 and I, 92, 11 is obviously in favor of interpreting the word yuga, occurring therein, as equivalent to a period of time. The dawn is here described as commencing a new course of heavenly ordinances, or holy sacrifices (daivyani vratâni), and setting in motion the manuṣhyâ yugâni, obviously implying that with the first dawn came the sacrifices, as well as the cycle of time known as “human ages” or that “the human ages” were reckoned from the first dawn. This association, of mânuṣha yugâ, or “human ages,” with the “first dawn” at once enables us to definitely determine the length or duration of “human ages”; for if these ages (yugas) commenced with the first dawn of the year, they must have ended on the last (avamâ) dawn of the year. In other words mânuṣha yugâ collectively denoted the whole period of time between the first and the last dawn of the year, while a single yuga denoted a shorter division of this period.
Apart from the legend of Dîrghatamas, we have, therefore, sufficient evidence in the Ṛig-Veda to hold that the world, yuga was used to denote a period of time, shorter than one year, and that the phrase mânuṣha yugâ meant “human ages” or “the period of time between the first and the last dawn of year” and not “human generations.” The statement that “Dîrghatamas grew old in the tenth yuga” is now not only easy to understand, but it enables us to determine, still more definitely, the meaning of yuga in the days of the Ṛig-Veda. For, if yuga was a part of mânuṣha yugâ, that is, of the period between the first and the last dawn of the year, and the legend of Dîrghatamas a solar legend, the statement that “Dîrghatamas grew old in the tenth yuga” can only mean that “the sun grew old in the tenth month.” In other words, ten yugas were supposed to intervene between the first and the last dawn, or the two termini, of the year; and as ten days or ten fortnights would be too short, and ten seasons too long a period of time to lie between these limits, the word yuga in the phrase dashame yuge, must be interpreted to mean “a month” and nothing else. In short, Dîrghatamas was the sun that grew old in the tenth month, and riding on the aerial waters was borne by them to their goal, that is, to the ocean (VII, 49, 2) below the horizon. The waters here referred to are, in fact, the same over which the king Varuṇa is said to rule, or which flow by his commands, or for which he is said to have dug out a channel (VII, 49, 1-4; II, 28 4; VII, 87, 1) and so cut out a path for Sûrya, and which being released by Indra from the grass of Vṛitra, bring on the sun (I, 51, 4). Prof. Max Müller, in his Contributions to the Science of Mythology (Vol. II, pp. 583-598), has .shown that most of the achievements of the Ashvins can be rationally explained by taking them as referring to the decaying sun. The legend of Dîrghatamas is thus only a mythical representation of the Arctic sun, who ascends above the “bright ocean” (VII, 60, 4,), becomes visible for mânuṣha yugâ or ten months, and then drops again into the nether waters. What these waters are and how their nature has been long misunderstood will be further explained in a subsequent chapter, when we come to the discussion of Vedic myths. Suffice it to say for the present that the legend of Dîrghatamas, interpreted as above, is in full accord with the legend of the Dashagvas who are described as holding their sacrificial session only for ten months.
discussed here the meaning of yugâ
and mânuṣha yugâ at some length, because the phrases
have been much misunderstood, in spite of clear passages showing that “a period
of time” was intended to be denoted by them. These passages (V, 52, 4; X, 140,
6) establish the fact that mânuṣha yugâ denoted “human ages,” and the
association of these ages with the “first dawn” (I, 124, 2; I, 115, 2) further
shows that the length of a yuga was
regarded to be shorter than a year. The mention of the tenth yuga finally settles the meaning of yuga as “one month.” That is how I have
arrived at the meaning of these phrases, and I am glad to find that I have been
anticipated in my conclusions by Prof. Raṅgâchârya of
many other passages in the Ṛig-Veda which support the same view. But mânuṣha yugâ being everywhere interpreted by
Western scholars to mean “human generations or tribes,” the real meaning of
these passages has become obscure and unintelligible. Thus in VIII, 46, 12, we
have. “All (sacrificers), with ladles lifted, invoke that mighty Indra for mânuṣha yugâ; and the meaning evidently is that
Soma libations were offered to Indra during the period of human ages. But
taking mânuṣha yugâ; to denote “human tribes,”
An independent corroboration of the conclusion we have drawn from the legends of the Dashagvas and Dîrghatamas is furnished by the number of seasons mentioned in certain Vedic texts. A period of sunshine of ten months followed by along night of two months can well be described as five seasons of two months each, followed by the sinking of the sun into the waters below the horizon; and as a matter of fact we find the year so described in I, 164, 12, a verse which occurs also in the Atharva Veda (IX, 9, 12) with a slight variation and in the Prashnopaniṣhad I, 11. It may be literally translated as follows: — “The five-footed (pañcha-pâdam) Father of twelve forms, they say, is full of watery vapors (purṣîhiṇam) in the farther half (pare ardhe) of the heaven. These others again say (that) He the far-seeing (vichakṣhaṇam) is placed on the six-spoked (ṣhaḍ-are) and seven-wheeled (car), in the nearer (upare scil. ardhe) half of the heaven.”*
The adjective “far-seeing” is made to qualify “seven-wheeled” instead of “He” in the Atharva Veda, (vichakṣhaṇe) being in the locative case while Shaṇkarâchârya in his commentary on the Prashnopaniṣhad splits upare into two words u and pare taking u as an expletive. But these readings do not materially alter the meaning of the verse. The context everywhere clearly indicates that the year-god of twelve months (âkṛiti X, 85, 5) is here described. The previous verse in the hymn (Ṛig. I, 164) mentions
“The twelve-spoked wheel, in which 720 sons of Agni are established,” a clear reference to a year of twelve months with Tao days and nights. There is, therefore, no doubt that the passage contains the description of the year and the two halves of the verse, which are introduced by the phrases “they say’” and “others say,” give us two opinions about the nature of the year-god of twelve forms. Let us now see what these opinions are. Some say that the year-god is five-footed (pañcha-pâdam), that is divided into five seasons; and the others say that he has a six-spoked car, or six seasons. It is clear from this that the number of seasons was held to be five by some and six by others in early days. Why should there be this difference of opinion? The Aitareya Brâhmaṇa I, 1, (and the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ I, 6, 2, 3) explains that the two seasons of Hemanta and Shishir together made a joint season, thereby reducing the number of seasons from six to five. But this explanation seems to be an afterthought, for in the Shatapatha Brâhmaṇa, XIII, 6, 1, 10, Varṣhâ and Sharad are compounded for this purpose instead of Hemanta and Shishir. This shows that in the days of the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ and the Brâhmaṇas it was not definitely known or settled which two seasons out of six should be compounded to reduce the number to five; but as five seasons were sometimes mentioned in the Vedas, some explanation was felt to be necessary to account for the smaller number and such explanation was devised by taking together any two consecutive seasons out of six and regarding them as one joint season of four months. But the explanation is too vague to be true; and we cannot believe that the system of compounding airy two seasons according to one’s choice was ever followed in practice. We must, therefore, give up the explanation as unsatisfactory and see if the verse from the Ṛig-Veda, quoted above, enables us to find out a better explanation of the fact that the seasons were once held to be five. Now the first half of this verse describes the five-footed father as full of watery vapors in the farther part of heaven, while the year of six-spoked car is said to be far-seeing. In short, purîṣhiṇam (full of, or dwelling in waters) in the first line appears to be a counterpart of vichakṣhaṇam (far-seeing) in the second line. This is made clear by the verses which follow. Thus the 13th verse in the hymn speaks of “the five-spoked wheel” as remaining entire and unbroken though ancient; and the next or the 14th verse says that “the unwasting wheel with its felly revolves; the ten draw (it) yoked over the expanse. The sun’s eye goes covered with rajas (aerial vapor); all worlds are dependent on him.”*
Comparing this with the 11th verse first quoted, it may be easily seen that purîṣhiṇam (full of watery vapors) and rajasâ âvṛitam (covered with rajas) are almost synonymous phrases and the only inference we can draw from them is that the five-footed year-god or the sun event to dwell in watery vapors i.e., became invisible, or covered with darkness and (rajas), for some time in the farther part of the heaven. The expression that “The ten, yoked, draw his carriage,” (also cf. Ṛig. IX, 63, 9) further shows that the five seasons were not made by combining any two consecutive seasons out of six as explained in the Brâhmaṇas (for in that case the number of horses could not be called ten), but that a real year of five seasons or ten months was here intended. When the number of seasons became increased to six, the year-god ceased to be purîṣhin (full of waters) and became vichakṣhaṇam or far-seeing. We have seen that the sun, as represented by Dîrghatamas, grew old in the tenth month and riding on aerial waters went into the ocean. The same .idea is expressed in the present verse which describes two different views about the nature of the year, one of five and the other of six seasons and contrasts their leading features with each other. Thus pare ardhe is contrasted with upare ardhe in the second line, pañcha-pâdam (compare pacñhâre in the next verse, i.e. Ṛig-Veda I. 164, 13) with ṣhaḍ-are, and purîṣhinam with vichakṣhaṇam. In short, the verse under consideration describes the year either (1) as five-footed, and lying in waters in the farther part of heaven, or (2) as mounted on a six-spoked car and far-seeing in the nearer part of the heaven. These two descriptions cannot evidently apply to seasons in one and the same place, and the artifice of combining two consecutive seasons cannot be accepted as a solution of the question. Five seasons and ten months followed by the watery residence of the sun or dark nights, is what is precisely described in the first half of this passage (I, 164, 12), and, from what has been said hitherto, it will be easily seen that it is the Arctic year of ten months that is here described. The verse, and especially the contrast between purîṣhinam and vichakṣhaṇam, does not appear to have attracted the attention it deserves. Bu in the light of the Arctic theory the description is now as intelligible as any. The Vedic bards have here preserved for us the memory of a year of five seasons or ten months, although their year had long been changed into one of twelve months. The explanation given in the Brâhmaṇas are all so many post-facto devices to account for the mention of five seasons in the Ṛig-Veda, and I do not think we are bound to accept them when the fact of five seasons can be better accounted for. I have remarked before that in searching for evidence of ancient traditions we must expect to find later traditions associated with them, and Ṛig. I, 164, 12, discussed above, is a good illustration of this remark. The first line of the verse, though it speaks of five seasons, describes the year as twelve-formed; while the second line, which deals with a year of six seasons or twelve months, speaks of it as “seven-wheeled,” that is made up of seven months or seven suns, or seven rays of the sun. This may appear rather inconsistent at the first sight; but the history of words in any language will show that old expressions are preserved in the language long after they have ceased to denote the ideas primarily expressed by them. Thus we now use coins for exchange, yet the word “pecuniary” which is derived from pecus = cattle, is still retained in the language; and similarly, we still speak of the rising of the sun, though we now know that it is not the luminary that rises, but the earth, by rotating round its axis, makes the sun visible to us. Very much in the same way and by the same process, expressions like saptâshva (seven horsed) or sapta-chakra (seven-wheeled), as applied to the year or the sun, must have become recognized and established as current phrases in the language before the hymns assumed their present form, and the Vedic bards could not have discarded them even when they knew that they were not applicable to the state of things before them. On the contrary, as we find in the Brâhmaṇas every artifice, that ingenuity could suggest, was tried to make these old phrases harmonize with the state of things then in, vogue, and from the religious or the sacrificial point of view it was quite necessary to do so. But when we have to examine the question from a historical stand-point, it is our duty to separate the relics of the older period from facts or incidents of the later period with which the former are sometimes inevitably mixed up; and if we analyze the verse in question (I, 164, 12) in this way we shall clearly see in it the traces of a year of ten months and five seasons. The same principle is also applicable in other cases, as, for instance, when we find the Navagvas mentioned together with the seven vîpras in VI, 22, 2. The bards, who gave us the present version of the hymns, knew of the older or primeval state of things only by traditions, and it is no wonder if these traditions are occasionally mixed up with later events. On the contrary the preservation of so many traditions of the primeval home is itself a wonder, and it is this fact, which invests the oldest Veda with such peculiar importance from the religious as well as the historical point of view.
To sum up there are clear traditions preserved in the Ṛig-Veda, which show that the year once consisted of seven months or seven suns, as in the legend of Aditi’s sons, or that there were ten months of the year as in the legend of the Dashagvas or Dîrghatamas; and these cannot be accounted for except on the Arctic theory. These ten months formed the sacrificial session of the primeval sacrificers of the Aryan race and the period was denominated as mânuṣha yugâ or human ages, an expression much misunderstood by Western scholars. The sun went below the horizon in the tenth of these yugas and Indra fought with Vala in the period of darkness which followed and at the end of the year, again brought back the sun “dwelling in darkness” during the period. The whole year of twelve months was thus made up of mânuṣha yugâ and continuous nights, and, in spite of the fact that the Vedic bards lived later on in places where the sun was above the horizon for twelve months, the expression “mânuṣha yugâ and kṣhapaḥ (nights)” is still found in the Ṛig-Veda. It is true that the evidence discussed in this chapter is mostly legendary; but that does not lessen its importance in any way, for it will be seen later on that some of these traditions are Indo-European in character. The tradition that the year was regarded by some to have been made up only of five seasons, or that only ten horses were yoked to the chariot of the sun, is again in full accord with the meaning of these legends; and it will be shown in the next chapter that in the Vedic literature there are express statements about a sacrificial session of ten months, which are quite independent of these traditions, and which, therefore, independently prove and strengthen the conclusions deduced from the legends discussed in this chapter.
THE COWS’ WALK
The Pravargya ceremony — Symbolizes the revival of the yearly sacrifice — Milk representing seed heated in Gharma or Mahâvîra — Mantras used on the occasion of pouring milk into it — The two creating the five, and the ten of Vivasvat — Indicate the death of the year after five seasons or ten months — The tradition about the sun falling beyond the sky — Annual Sattras — Their type, the Gavâm-ayanam or the Cows’ walk — Lasted for 10 or 12 months according to the Aitareya Brâhmaṇa — Two passages from the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ describing the Gavâm-ayanam — Mention to months’ duration of the Sattra, but give no reason except that it was an ancient practice — Plainly indicates an ancient sacrificial year of ten months-Comparison with the old Roman year of ten months or 304 days — How the rest of 360 days were disposed of by the Romans not yet known — They represented a long period of darkness according to the legend of the Dashagvas — Thus leading to the Arctic theory — Prof. Max Müller on the threefold nature of cows in the Vedas — Cows as animals, rain and dawns or days in the Ṛig-Veda — Ten months’ Cows’ walk thus means the ten months’ duration of ordinary days and nights — 350 oxen of Helios — Implies a night of ten days — The stealing of Apollon’s oxen by Hermes — Cows stolen by Vṛitra in the Vedas — Represent the stealing of day-cows thereby causing the long night — Further sacrificial evidence from the Vedas — Classification of the Soma-sacrifices — Difference between Ekâha and Ahîna — A hundred nightly sacrifices — Annual Sattras like the Gavâm-ayanam — Model outline or scheme of ceremonies therein — Other modifications of the same — All at present based upon a civil year — But lasted for ten months in ancient times — Night-sacrifices now included amongst day-sacrifices — The reason why the former extend only over 100 nights is yet unexplained — Appropriately accounted for on the Arctic theory — Soma juice extracted at night in the Atirâtra, or the trans nocturnal sacrifice even now — The analogy applied to other night-sacrifices — Râtrî Sattras were the sacrifices of the long night in ancient times — Their object — Soma libations exclusively offered to Indra to help him in his fight against Vala — Shata-râtra represented the maximum duration of the long night — Corroborated by Aditi’s legend of seven months’ sunshine — Explains why India was called Shata-kratu in the Purâṇas — The epithet misunderstood by Western scholars — Similarity between Soma and Ashvamedha sacrifices — The epithet Shata-kratu unlike other epithets, never paraphrased in the Vedas — Implies that it was peculiar or proper to Indra — Dr. Haug’s view that kratu means a sacrifice in the Vedas — Hundred forts or puraḥ (cities) of Vṛitra — Explained as hundred seats of darkness or nights — Legend of Tishtrya’s fight with Apaosha in the Avesta — Only a reproduction of Indra’s fight with Vṛitra — Tishtrya’s fight described as lasting from one to a hundred nights in the Avesta — Forms an independent corroboration of hundred nightly Soma sacrifices — The phrase Sato-karahe found in the Avesta — The meaning of the nature of Ati-râtra discussed — Means a trans-nocturnal Soma sacrifice at either end of the long night — Production of the cycle of day and night therefrom — Hence a fitting introduction to the annual Sattras — Marked the close of the long night and the beginning of the period of sunshine — Sattra Ati-râtra, night sacrifices and Ati-râtra again thus formed the yearly round of sacrifices in ancient times — Clearly indicate the existence of a long darkness of 100 nights in the ancient year — Ancient sacrificial system thus corresponded with the ancient year — Adaptation of both to the new home effected by the Brâhmaṇas, like Numa’s reform in the old Roman Calendar — The importance of the results of sacrificial evidence.
of the Dashagvas, who completed their sacrifices during ten months, is not the
only relic of the ancient year preserved in the sacrificial literature. The
Pravargya ceremony, which is described in the Aitareya Brâhmaṇa (I, 18-12), furnishes us with
another instance, where a reference to the old year seems to be clearly
indicated. Dr. Haug, in his translation of the Aitareya Brâhmaṇa, has fully described this ceremony
in a note to I, 18. It lasts for three days and precedes the animal and the
Soma sacrifice, as no one is allowed to take part in the Soma feast without
having undergone this ceremony. The whole ceremony symbolizes the revival of
the sun or the sacrificial ceremony (yajña),
which, for the time being, is preserved as seed in order that it may grow again
in due time (Ait.
“6. And now that mighty and great chariot of his with horses (as well as) the line of his chariot is seen.”
“7. The seven milk the one, and the two create the five, on the ocean’s loud-sounding bank.”
“8. With the ten of Vivasvat, Indra by his three-fold hammer, caused the heaven’s bucket to drop down.”*
Here, first of all, we are told that his (sun’s) chariot, the great chariot with horses has become visible, evidently meaning that the dawn has made its appearance on the horizon. Then the seven, probably the seven Hotṛis, or seven rivers, are said to milk this dawn and produce the two. This milking is a familiar process in the Ṛig-Veda and in one place the cows of the morning are said to be milked from darkness (I, 33, 10). The two evidently mean day and night and as soon as they are milked, they give rise to the five seasons. The day and the night are said to be the two mothers of Sûrya in III, 55, 6, and here they are the mothers of the five seasons. What becomes after the expiry of the seasons is, described in the eighth verse. It says that with the ten of Vivasvat, or with the lapse of ten months, Indra with his three-fold hammer shook down the heavenly jar. This means that the three storing places of the aerial waters (VII, 101, 4) were all emptied into the ocean at this time and along with it the sun also went to the lower world, for sunlight is described to be three-fold in (VII, 101, 2 and Sâyaṇa there quotes the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ (II, 1, 2, 5), which says that the sun has three lights; the morning light being the Vasanta, the midday the Grîṣhma, and the evening the Sharad. The verse, therefore, obviously refers to the three-fold courses of waters in the heaven and the three-fold light of the sun and all this is. said to come to an end with the ten of Vivasvat The sun and the sacrifice are then preserved as seed to be re-generated some time after, — a process symbolized in the Pravargya ceremony. The idea of the sun dropping from heaven is very common in the sacrificial literature. Thus in the Aitareya Brâhmaṇa (IV, 18) we read, “The gods, being afraid of his (sun’s) falling beyond them being turned upside down, supported him by placing above him the highest worlds”;* Ait. Brâh. VI, 18 and the same idea is met with in the Tâṇḍya Brâhmaṇa (IV, 5, 9, 11). The words “falling beyond” (parâchas atipâtât) are very important, inasmuch as they show that the sun dropped into regions that were en the yonder side. One of the Ashvin’s protégé is also called Chyavâna, which word Prof. Max Müller derives from chyu to drop. The Ashvins are said to have restored him to youth, which, being divested of its legendary form, means the rehabilitation of the sun that had dropped into the nether world. The Pravargya ceremony, which preserves serves the seed of the sacrifice, is, therefore, only one phase of the story of the dropping sun in the sacrificial literature and the verses employed in this ceremony, if interpreted in the spirit of that ceremony, appear, as stated above, to indicate an older year of five seasons and ten months.
But the Mantras used in the Pravargya ceremony are not so explicit as one might expect such kind of evidence to be. Therefore, instead of attempting to give more evidence of the same kind, — and there are many such facts in the Vedic sacrificial literature, — I proceed to give the direct statements about the duration of the annual Sattras from the well-known Vedic works. These statements have nothing of the legendary character about them and are, therefore, absolutely certain and reliable. It has been stated before that institution of sacrifice is an old one, and found amongst both the Asiatic and the European branches of the Aryan race. It was, in fact the main ritual of the religion of these people and naturally enough every detail concerning the sacrifices was closely watched, or accurately determined by the priests, who had the charge of these ceremonies. It is true that in giving reasons for the prevalence of a particular practice, these priests sometimes indulged in speculation; but the details of the sacrifice were facts that were settled in strict accordance with custom, and tradition, whatever explanations might be given in regard to their origin. But sometimes the facts were found to be so stubborn as to, defy any explanation, and the priests had to content themselves with barely recording the practice, and adding that “such is the practice from times immemorial.” It is with such evidence that we have now to deal in investigating the duration of the annual Sattras in ancient times.
There are many annual Sattras like Âdityânâm-ayanam, Aṅgirasâm-ayanam, Gavâm-ayanam, &c. mentioned in the Brâhmaṇas and the Shrauta Sûtras; and, as observed by Dr. Haug, they seem to have been originally established in imitation of the sun’s yearly course. They are the oldest of the Vedic sacrifices and their duration and other details have been all very minutely and carefully noted down in the sacrificial works. All these annual Sattras are not, however, essentially different from each other, being so many different varieties or modifications, according to circumstances, of a common model or type, and the Gavâm-ayanam is said to be this type; (vide, com. on Âshv. S.S. II, 7, 1). Thus in the Aitareya Brâhmaṇa (IV, 17) we are told that “They hold the Gavâm-ayanam, that is, the sacrificial session called the Cows’ walk. The cows are the Âdityas (gods of the months). By holding the session called the Cows’ walk they also hold the Âdityânâm-ayanam (the walk of the Âdityas).”* (See Dr. Haug’s Ait. Brâh. Vol. II, p. 287) If we, (therefore, ascertain the duration of the Gavâm-ayanam, the same rule would apply to all other annual Sattras and we need not examine the latter separately. This Gavâm-ayanam, or the Cows’ walk, is fully described in three places. Once in the Aitareya Brâhmaṇa and twice in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ. We begin with the Aitareya Brâhmaṇa (IV, 17), which describes the origin and duration of the Sattra as follows: —
“The cows, being desirous of obtaining hoofs and horns, held (once) a sacrificial session. In the tenth month (of their sacrifice) they obtained hoofs and horns. They said, ‘We have obtained fulfillment of that wish for which we underwent the initiation into the sacrificial rites. Let us rise (the sacrifice being finished).’ Those that arose, are these, who have horns. Of those, who, however, sat (continued the session) saying, ‘Let us finish the year,’ the horns went off on account of their distrust. It is they, who are hornless (tûparâḥ). They (continuing their sacrificial session) produced vigor (ûrjam). Thence after (having been sacrificing for twelve months and) having secured all the seasons, they rose (again) at the end. For they had produced the vigor (to reproduce horns, hoofs, &c. when decaying). Thus the cows made themselves beloved by all (the whole world), and are beautified (decorated) by all.”* (See Dr. Haug’s Ait. Brâh. Trans. Vol. II, p. 287.)
Here it is distinctly mentioned that the cows first obtained the fulfillment of their desire in ten months, and a number of them left off sacrificing further. Those, that remained and sacrificed for two months more, are called “distrustful,” and they had to suffer for their distrust by forfeiting the horns they had obtained. It is, therefore, clear, that this yearly Sattra, which in the Saṁhitâs and Brâhmaṇas is a Sattra of twelve months in imitation of the sun’s yearly course, was once completed in ten months. Why should it be so? Why was a Sattra, which is annual in its very nature and which now lasts for twelve months, once completed in ten months? How did the sacrificers obtain all the religious merit of a twelve months’ sacrifice by sacrificing for ten months only? These are very important questions; but the Aitareya Brâhmaṇa neither raises them, nor gives us any clue to their solution. If we, however, go back to the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, the oldest and most authoritative work on the sacrificial ceremonies, we find the questions distinctly raised. The Saṁhitâ expressly states that the Gavâm-ayanam can be completed in ten or twelve months, according to the choice of the sacrificer; but it plainly acknowledges its inability to assign any reason how a Sattra of twelve months could be completed in ten, except the fact that “it is an old practice sanctioned by immemorial usage.” These passages are very important for our purpose, and I give below a close translation of each. The first occurs in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ (VII. 5, 1, 1-2),* and may be rendered as follows: —
“The cows held this sacrificial session, desiring that ‘being hornless let horns grow unto us.’ Their session lasted (for) ten months. Then when the horns grew (up) they rose saying, ‘We have gained.’ But those, whose (horns) were not grown, they rose after completing the year, saying ‘We have gained.’ Those, that had their horns grown, and those that had not, both rose saying ‘We have gained.’ Cow’s session is thus the year (year session). Those, who know this, reach the year and prosper verily. Therefore, the hornless (cow) moves (grazes) pleased during the two rainy months. This is what the Sattra has achieved for her. Therefore, whatever is done in the house of one performing the yearly Sattra is successfully, timely and properly done.
This account slightly differs from that given in the Aitareya Brâhmaṇa. In the Saṁhitâ the cows whose session lasted for twelve months, are said to be still hornless; but instead of getting vigor (ûrjam), they are said to have obtained as a reward for their additional sitting, the pleasure of comfortable grazing in the two rainy months, during which as the commentator observes, the horned cows find their horns an impediment to graze freely in the field, where new grass has grown up. But the statement regarding the duration of the Sattra viz., that it lasted for ten or twelve months, is the same both in the Saṁhitâ and in the Brâhmaṇa. The Saṁhitâ again takes up the question in the next Anuvâka (Taitt. Sam. VII, 5, 2, 1-2), and further describes the cows’ session as follows:
“The cows held this sacrificial session, being hornless (and) desiring to obtain horns. Their session lasted (for) ten months; then when the horns grew (up), they said, ‘We have gained, let us rise, we have obtained the desire for which we sat (commenced the session).’ Half, or as many, of them as said, ‘We shall certainly sit for the two twelfth (two last) months, and rise after completing the year,’ (some of them had horns in the twelfth month by trust, (while) by distrust those that (are seen) hornless (remained so). Both, that is, those who got horns, and those who obtained vigor (ûrjam), thus attained their object. One who knows this, prospers, whether rising (from the sacrifice) in the tenth month or in the twelfth. They indeed go by the path (padena); he going by the path indeed attains (the end). This is that successful ayanam (session). Therefore, it is go-sani (beneficial to the cows).”
This passage, in its first part repeats the story given in the previous anuvâka of the Saṁhitâ and in the Aitareya Brâhmaṇa with slight variations. But the latter part contains two important statements: firstly that whether we complete the sacrifice within ten months or twelve months the religious merit or fruit obtained is the same in either case, for both are said to prosper equally; and secondly this is said, to be the case because it is the “path” or as Sâyaṇa explains “an immemorial custom.” The Saṁhitâ is, in fact, silent as to the reason why an annual sattra which ought to, and as a matter of fact does, now last for twelve months could be completed in ten months;and this reticence is very remarkable, considering how the Saṁhitâ sometimes indulges in speculations about the origin of sacrificial rites. Any how we have two facts clearly established, (1) that at the time of the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ the Gavâm-ayanam the type of all annual Sattras could be completed in ten months; and (2) that no reasons was known at the time, as to why a Sattra of twelve months could be thus finished in ten, except that it was “an immemorial custom.” The Tâṇdya Brâhmaṇa IV, 1, has a similar discussion about Gavâm-ayanam, and clearly recognizes its two-fold characters so far as its duration is concerned. Sâyaṇa and Bhaṭṭ Bhâskara, in their commentaries on the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, cannot therefore, be said to have invented any new theory of their own as regards the double duration of the annual Sattra. We shall discuss later on what is denoted by “cows” in the above passages. At present we are concerned with the duration of the Sattra; and if we compare the above matter-of-fact statements in the Saṁhitâ about the double duration of the annual Sattra with the legend of the Dashagvas sacrificing for ten months, the conclusion, that in ancient times the ancestors of the Vedic Aryas completed their annual sacrificial session in ten months, becomes irresistible. This duration of the Sattra must have been changed and all such Sattras made to last for twelve months when the Vedic people came to live in regions where such an annual session was impossible. But conservatism in such matters is so strong that the old practice must have outlived the change in the calendar, and it had to be recognized as an alternative period of duration for this Sattra in the Saṁhitâs. The Taittirîya Saṁhitâ has thus to record the alternative period, stating that it is an ancient practice, and I think it settles the question, so far as the duration of these Sattras in ancient times is concerned. Whatever reasons we may assign for it, it is beyond all doubt that the oldest annual Sattras lasted only for ten months.
Taittirîya Saṁhitâ is not alone in being thus unable to assign any reason for this
relic of the ancient calendar, or the duration of the annual Sattra. We still designate the twelfth
month of the European solar year as December
which word etymologically denotes the tenth month, (Latin decem, Sans. dashan, ten;
and ber Sans. vâra, time or period), and we all know that Numa added two months
to the ancient Roman year and made it of twelve months. Plutarch, in his life
of Numa records another version of the story, viz., that Numa according to some, did not add the two months but
simply transferred them from the end to the beginning of the year. But the
names of the months clearly show that this could not have been the case, for
the enumeration of the months by words indicating their order as the fifth or Quintilis (old name for July), the sixth
or Sixtilis, (old name for August),
the seventh or September and so on
the rest in their order, cannot, after, it is once begun, be regarded to have
abruptly stopped at December,
allowing only the last two months to be differently named. Plutarch has,
therefore, rightly observed that “we have a proof in the name of the last (month)
that the Roman year contained, at first ten months only and not twelve.”* (See
Plutarch’s Lives, translated into English by the Rev. John and William
Langhorne (Ward, Lock & Co.), p. 54, ƒ.) But if there was any doubt on the
point, it is now removed by the analogy of the Gavâm-ayanam and the legends of the Dashagvas and Dîrghatamas.
Macrobius (Saturnal Lib. I. Chap. 12) confirms the story of
Numa’s adding and not simply transposing, two months to the ancient year of ten
months. What the Avesta has to say on this subject we shall see later on where
traditions about the ancient year amongst the other Aryan races will also be
considered. Suffice it to say for the present that, according to tradition, the
ancient Roman year consisted only of ten months, and like the duration of the Gavâm-ayanam, it was subsequently
changed into a year of twelve months; and yet, so far as I know, no reason has
yet been discovered, why the Roman year in ancient times was considered to be
shorter by two months. On the contrary, the tendency is either to explain away
the tradition some how as inconvenient, or to ignore it altogether as
incredible. But so long as the word December is before us and we know how it is
derived, the tradition cannot be so lightly set side. The Encyclopædia Britannica
(s.v. calendar) records the ancient
tradition that the oldest Roman year of
The Taittirîya Saṁhitâ and the Aitareya Brâhmaṇa speak of the Gavâm-ayanam as being really held by the cows. Was it really a session of these animals? Or was it something else? The Aitareya Brâhmaṇa, we have seen, throws out a suggestion that “the cows are the Âdityas,” that is the month-gods, and the Cows’ session is really the session of the monthly sun-gods.*( See Aitareya Brâh. IV, 17, quoted supra) Comparative mythology now fully bears out the truth of this remarkable suggestion put forward by the Brâhmaṇa. Cows, such as we meet them in the mythological legends, represent days and nights of the year, not only in the Vedic but also in the Greek mythology; any we can, therefore, now give a better account of the origin of this sacrificial session than that it was a session of bovine animals for the purpose of obtaining horns. Speaking of cows in the Aryan mythology, Prof. Max Müller in his Contributions to the Science of Mythology (Vol. II. p. 761) writes as follows: —
“There were thus three kinds of cows, the real cows, the cows in the dark cloud (rain = milk), and the cows stepping forth from the dark stable of the night (the rays of the morning). These three are not always easy to distinguish in the Veda; nay, while we naturally try to distinguish between them, the poets themselves seem to delight in mixing them up. In the passage quoted above (I, 32, 11), we saw how the captive waters were compared to cows that had been stolen by Paṇi (niruddhâḥ âpaḥ Pâṇînâ iva gâvaḥ), but what is once compared in the Veda is soon identified. As to the Dawn, she is not only compared to a cow, she is called the cow straight out. Thus when we read, R.V. I. 92, 1. These dawns have made a light on the eastern half of the sky, they brighten their splendor, the bright cows approach, the mothers, the cows, gâvaḥ, can only be the dawns themselves, the plural of dawn being constantly in the Veda used where we should use the singular. In R.V. 1, 93, 4, we read that ‘Agnîshomau deprived Paṇi of his cows and found light for many.’ Here again the cows are the dawns kept by Paṇi in the dark stable or cave of the night, discovered by Saramâ and delivered every morning by the gods of light.”
“We read in R.V. I, 62, 3, that Bṛihaspati split the rock and found the cows.”
“Of Indra it is said, II, 19, 3, that he produced the sun and found the cows; of Bṛihaspati, II, 24, 3, that he drove out the cows, that he split the cave by his word, that he hid the darkness, and lighted up the sky. What can be clearer? The Maruts also, II, 34, 1, are said to uncover the cows and Agni. V, 14, 4, is praised for killing the friends, for having overcome darkness by light, and having found the cows, water and the sun.”
“In all these passages we find no iva or na, which would indicate that the word cow was used metaphorically. The dawns or days as they proceed from the dark stable, or are rescued from evil spirits, are spoken of directly as the cows. If they, are spoken of in the plural, we find the same in the case of the Dawn (uṣhas) who is often conceived as many, as in II, 28, 2, upâyane uṣhasâm gomatînâm, ‘at the approach of the dawns with their cows.’ From that it required but a small step to speak of the one Dawn as the mother of the cows, IV, 52, 2, mâtâ gavâm.”
“Kuhn thought that these cows should be understood as the red clouds of the morning. But clouds are not always present at sunrise, nor can it well be said that they are carried off and kept in prison during the night by the powers of darkness.”
“But what is important and settles the point is the fact that these cows or oxen of the dawn or of the rising sun occur in other mythologies also and are there clearly meant for days. They are numbered as 12 × 30, that is, the thirty days of the 12 lunar months. If Helios has 350 oxen and 350 sheep, that can only refer to the days and to the nights of the year, and would prove the knowledge of a year of 350 days before the Aryan separation.”
cows in mythology are the days and nights, or dawns, that are imprisoned by Paṇi, and not real living cows with
horns. Adopting this explanation and substituting these metaphorical cows for gâvaḥ in the Gavâm-ayanam, it is
not difficult to see that underneath the strange story of cows holding a
sacrificial session for getting horns, there lies concealed the remarkable
phenomenon, that, released from the clutches of Paṇi, these cows of days and nights
walked on for ten months, the oldest duration of the session known as Cows,
walk. In plain language this means, if it means anything, that the oldest Aryan
year was one of ten months followed by the long night, during which the cows
were again carried away by the powers of darkness. We have seen that the oldest
Roman year was of ten months, and the Avesta, as will be shown later on, also speaks
of ten months’ summer prevailing in the Airyana Vaêjo before the home :was
invaded by the evil spirit, who brought on ice and severe winter in that place.
A year of ten months with a long night of two months may thus be taken to be
known before the Aryan separation, and the references to it in the Vedic
literature are neither isolated nor imaginary. They are the relics of ancient
history, which have been faithfully preserved in the sacrificial literature of
But as stated in the previous chapter, a year in the circum-polar region will always have a varying number of the months or sunshine according to latitude. Although, therefore, there is sufficient evidence to establish the existence of, a year of ten months, we cannot hold that it was the only year known in ancient times. In fact we have seen that the legend of Aditi indicates the existence of the seven months of sunshine; and a band of thirty continuous dawns supports the same conclusion. But it seems that a year of ten months of sunshine was more prevalent, or was selected as the mean of the different varying years. The former view is rendered probable by the fact that of the Aṅgirases of various forms (virûpas) the Navagvas and the Dashagvas are said to be the principal or the most important in the Ṛig-Veda (X, 62, 6), But whichever view we adopt, the existence of a year of seven, eight, nine, ten or eleven months of sunshine follows as a matter of course, if the ancient Aryan home was within the Arctic circle. Prof. Max Müller, in his passage quoted above, points out that the old Greek year probably consisted of 350 days, the 350 oxen of Helios representing the days, and 350 sheep representing the nights. He also notices that in German mythology 700 gold rings of Wieland, the smith, are spoken of, and comparing the number with 720 sons of Agni mentioned in I, 164, 11, he draws from it the conclusion that a year of 350 days is also represented in the German mythology. This year is shorter by ten days than the civil year of 360 days, or falls short of the full solar year by 15 days. It is, therefore, clear that if a year of 350 days existed before the Aryan separation, it must have been followed by a continuous night of ten days; while where the year was of 300 days, the long night extended over 60 days of 24 hours each. We shall thus have different kinds of long nights; and it is necessary to see if we can collect evidence to indicate the longest duration of the night known before the Aryan separation. Speaking of the cows or oxen of Helios, as stated in the passage quoted above, Prof. Max Müller goes on to observe: —
“The cows or oxen of Hêlios thus receive their background from the Veda, but what is told of them by Homer is by no means clear. When it is said that the companions of Odysseus consumed the oxen of Helios, and that they thus forfeited their return home, we can hardly take this in the modern sense of consuming or wasting their days, thought it may be difficult to assign any other definite meaning to it. Equally puzzling is the fable alluded to in the Homeric hymn that Hermes stole the oxen of Apollon and killed two of them. The number of Apollon’s oxen is given as fifty (others give the number as 100 cows, twelve oxen and one bull), Which looks like the number of weeks in the lunar year, but why Hermes should be represented as carrying off the whole herd and then killing to, is difficult to guess, unless we refer it to the two additional months in a cycle of four years.”
In the light of the Arctic theory the puzzle here referred to is solved without any difficulty. The stealing away or the carrying off of the cows need not now he taken to mean simple wasting of the days in the modern sense of the word; nor need we attribute such stories to the “fancy of ancient bards and story tellers.” The legend or the tradition of stealing consuming, or carrying off the cows or oxen is but another form of stating that so many days were lost, being swallowed up in the long night that occurred at the end of the year and lasted, according to latitude, for varying period of time. So long as everything was to be explained on the theory of a daily struggle between light and darkness, these legends were unintelligible. But as soon as we adopt the Arctic theory the whole difficulty vanishes and what was confused and puzzling before becomes at once plain and comprehensible. In the Vedic mythology cows are similarly said to be stolen by Vṛitra or Vala, but their number is nowhere given, unless we regard the story of Ṛijrâshva (the Red-horse) slaughtering 100 or 101 sheep and giving them to a she-wolf to devour (I, 116, 16; 117, 18), as a modification of the story of stealing the cows. The Vedic sacrificial literature does, however, preserve for us an important relic; besides the one above noted, of the older calendar and especially the long night. But in this case the relic is so deeply buried under the weight of later explanations, adaptations and emendations, that we must here examine at some length the history of the Soma sacrifices in order to discover the original meaning of the rites which are included under that general name. That the Some sacrifice is an ancient institution is amply proved by parallel rites in the Parsi scriptures; and whatever doubt we may have regarding the knowledge of Soma in the Indo. European period, as the word is not found in the European languages, the system of sacrifices can be clearly traced back to the primeval age. Of this sacrificial system„ the Soma sacrifice may, at any rate, be safely taken as the oldest
representative, since it forms the main feature of the ritual of the Ṛig-Veda and a whole Maṇḍala of 114 hymns in the Ṛig-Veda is dedicated to the praise of Soma. A careful analysis of the Soma sacrifice may, therefore, be expected to disclose at least partially, the nature of the oldest sacrificial system of the Aryan race; and we, therefore, proceed to examine the same.
characteristic of the Soma sacrifice, as distinguished from other sacrifices,
is, as the name indicates, the extraction of the Soma juice and the offering
thereof to gods before drinking it. There are three libations of Soma in a day,
one in the morning, one in mid-day and the last in the evening, and all these
are accompanied by the chanting of hymns during the sacrifice. These Soma
sacrifices, if classed according to their duration, fall under three heads; (1)
those that are performed in a single day, called Ekâhas, (2) those that are performed in more than one and less than
thirteen days called Ahînas, and (3)
those that take thirteen or more than 13 days and may last even for one
thousand years, called Sattras. Under
the first head we have the Agniṣhṭoma, fully described in the Aitareya
Brâhmaṇa (III, 39-44), as the key or the type of all the sacrifices that fall
under this class. There are six modifications of Agniṣhṭoma, viz., Ati-agniṣhṭoma, Ukthya, Shoḍashî, Vâjapeya, Atirâtra and
Aptoryâma, which together with Agniṣhṭoma, form the seven parts, kinds or
modifications of the Jyotiṣhṭoma, sacrifice, (Ashv. S.S. VI, 11,
1). The modification chiefly consists in the number of hymns to be recited at
the libations, or the manner of recitation, or the number of the Grahvas or Soma-cups used on the
occasion. But with these we are not at present concerned. Of the second class
of Soma sacrifices, the Dvâdashâḥa or twelve
days’ sacrifice is celebrated both as Ahîna
and Sattra and is considered to be
very important. It is made up of three tryahas
(or three days’ performances, called respectively Jyotis, Go, and Ayus), the tenth day and the two
Atirâtras (Ait. Br. IV, 23-4). The nine days’ performance (three tryahas) is called Nava-râtra. Side by side with this, there are, under this head, a
number of Soma sacrifices extending over two nights or three nights, four
nights, up to twelve nights, called dvi-râtra,
tri-râtra and so on (Tait. Saṁ. VII, 1, 4; VII, 3, 2. Ashv. Shr.
Sut. X and XI; Tân. Brâ. 20, 11, 24, 19). In the third class we have the annual
Sattras and of these the Gavâm-ayanam is the type. Some Sattras which come under this class are
described as extending over 1,000 years and a discussion is found in
sacrificial works as to whether the phrase one thousand years signifies 1,000
real years, or whether it stands for 1,000 days. But we may pass it over as
unnecessary for our purpose. The annual Sattras
are the only important Sattras of
this class, and to understand their nature we must see what a ṣhaḷaha means.
The word literally denotes a group of six days (ṣhaṭ + ahan) and is used to denote
six days’ performance in the sacrificial literature. It is employed as a unit
to measure a month in the same way as we now use a week, a month being made up
of five ṣhaḷahas. The ṣhaḷaha, in its
turn, consists of the daily sacrifices called Jyotis, Go, Âyus and the same three taken in the
reverse order as Âyus, Go and Jyotis. Every ṣhaḷaha,
therefore, begins and ends with a Jyotiṣhṭoma (Ait. Br. IV, 15). The ṣhaḷaha is
further distinguished into Abhiplava
and Pṛishṭhya, according to the arrangement of
the stomas or songs sung at the Soma libations. An annual Sattra is in the main, made up of a number of ṣhaḷahas joined
with certain special rites at the beginning, the middle and the close of the Sattra. The central day of the Sattra is called Vihuvân, and stands by itself, dividing the Sattra into two equal halves like the wings of a house (Tait.
The introductory Atirâtra ………………………………………..........
The Chaturviṁsha day, otherwise called the Ârambhaniya (Aît. Br. IV, 12), or the Prâyaṇîya (Tâṇḍ. Br. IV. 2), the real beginning of the Sattra …………………………………………............................
Four Abhiplava, followed by one Pṛiṣhṭhya ṣhaḷaha each month; continued in this way for five months ..............................
Three Abhiplava and one Pṛiṣhṭhya ṣhaḷaha ……………………...
The Abhijit day …………………………………………………............
The Three Svara-Sâman days …………………………………..........
Vishnuvân or the Central day which stands by itself i.e., not counted in the total of the Sattra days
The three Svara-Sâman days …………………………………….......
The Vishvajit day ……………………………………………................
One Pṛiṣhṭhya and three Abhiplava ṣhaḷahas ………………….....
One Pṛiṣhṭhya and four Abhiplava ṣhaḷahas each month continued in this way for four months …………………………......
Three Abhiplava ṣhaḷahas, one Go-ṣhṭoma, one Âyu-ṣhṭoma, and one Dasharâtra (the ten days of Dvâdashâha), making up one month ……………………………………………………….............
The Mahâvrata day, corresponding to the Chaturviṁsha day at the beginning ……………………………………………………...........
The concluding Atirâtra ………………………………………............
It will be seen from the above scheme that there are really a few sacrificial rites which are absolutely fixed and unchangeable in the yearly Sattra. The two Atirâtras, the introductory and the concluding, the Chaturviṁsha and the Mahâvrata day, the Abhijit and the Vishvajit, the three Svara-Sâman days on either side of Viṣhuvân, the Viṣhuvân itself, and the ten days of Dvâdashâha, making up 22 days in all exclusive of Viṣhuvân, are the only parts that have any specialty about them. The rest of the days are all made up by Abhiplava and Pṛiṣhṭhya ṣhaḷahas which therefore constitute what may be called the elastic or the variable part of the yearly Sattra. Thus if we want a Gavâm-ayanam of ten months, we have only to strike off five ṣhaḷahas from the parts marked 3 and 11 in the above scheme. The Adityânâṁ-ayanam is another modification of the above scheme in which amongst other changes, the ṣhaḷahas are all Abhiplava, instead of being a combination of Abhiplava and Priṣhṭhya; while if all the ṣhaḷahas are Priṣhṭhya, along with some other changes, it becomes the Aṅgirasâm-ayanam. All these modifications do not however, touch the total number of 360 days. But there were sacrificers, who adopted the lunar year of 354 days and therefore, omitted 6 days from the above scheme and their Sattra is called the Utsarginâm-ayanam (Tait. Sam. VII, 5, 7, 1, Tâṇḍya Brâh. V, 10). In short, the object was to make the Sattra correspond with the year adopted, civil or lunar, as closely as possible. But these points are not relevant to our purpose. The Brâhmaṇas and the Shrauta Sûtras give further details about the various rites to be performed on the Viṣhuvân, the Abhijit and the Vishvajit or the Svara-Sâman day. The Aitareya Araṇyaka describes the Mahâvrata ceremony; while the Atirâtra and the Chaturviṁsha are described in the fourth book of the Aitareya Brâhmaṇa. The Chaturviṁsha is so called because the stoma to be chanted on that day is twenty-four-fold. It is the real beginning of the Sattra as the Mahâvrata is its end. The Aitareya Brâhmaṇa (IV, 14) says, “The Hotṛi pours forth the seed. Thus he makes the seed (which is poured forth) by means of the Mahâvrata day produce off-spring. For seed if effused every year is productive.” This explanation shows that like the Pravargya ceremony, the Mahâvrata was intended to preserve the seed of the sacrifice in order that it might germinate or grow at the proper time. It was a sort of link between the dying and the coming year and appropriately concluded the annual Sattra. It will be further seen that every annual Sattra had an Ati-râtra at each of its ends and that the Dvâdashâha, or rather the ten days thereof, formed an important concluding part of the Sattra.
The above is only a brief description, a mere outline of the scheme of the annual Sattras mentioned in sacrificial works, but it is sufficient for our purpose. We can see from it that a civil year of 360 days formed their basis, and the position of the Viṣhuvân was of great importance inasmuch as the ceremonies after it were performed in the reverse order. I have shown elsewhere what important inferences can be drawn from the position of the Viṣhuvân regarding the calendar in use at the time when the scheme was settled. But we have now to consider of times which preceded the settlement of this scheme, and for that purpose we must describe another set of Soma sacrifices included under the general class of Sattras. It has been stated above that side by side with the Dvâdashâha, there are Ahîna sacrifices of two nights, three nights, etc. up to twelve nights. But these sacrifices do not stop with the twelve nights’ performance. There are thirteen nights’, fourteen nights’, fifteen nights’, and so on up to one hundred nights’ sacrifice called Trayodasha-râtra, Chaturdasha-râtra and so on up to Shata-râtra. But since the Ahîna has been defined to be a sacrifice extending over not more than twelve or less than thirteen days, all the night-sacrifices extending over a period longer than twelve-nights are included in the third class, viz., the Sattras. If we, however, disregard this artificial division, it will be found that along with the Ekâha, the Dvâdashâha and the annual Sattras, there is a series of, what are termed, the night-sacrifices or sattras extending over a period of time from two to one hundred nights, but not further. These night-sacrifices or Ratri-sattras are mentioned in the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ, the Brâhmaṇas and the Shrauta Sûtras in clear terms and there is no ambiguity about their nature, number, or duration. The Taittirîya Saṁhitâ in describing them often uses the word Râtriḥ (nights) in the plural, stating, that so and so was the first to institute or to perceive so many nights meaning so many nights’ sacrifice, (viṁshatim râtriḥ, VII. 3, 9, 1; dvâtriṁshatam râtriḥ VII, 4, 4, 1). According to the principle of division noted above all night-sacrifices of less than thirteen nights’ duration will be called Ahîna, while those extending over longer time up to one hundred nights will come under Sattras; but this is, as remarked above, evidently an artificial division, and one, who reads carefully the description of these sacrifices, cannot fail to be struck by the fact that we have here a series of night-sacrifices from two to a hundred nights, or if we include the Ati-râtra in this series, we have practically a set of hundred nightly Soma sacrifices, though, according to the principle of division adopted, some may fall under the head of Ahîna and some under that of Sattras.
Now an important question in connection with these Sattras is why they alone should be designated “night-sacrifices” (râtri-kratus), or “night-sessions” (râtri-sattras)? and why their number should be one hundred? or, in other words, why there are no night-sattras of longer duration than one hundred nights? The Mîmâṁsakas answer the first part of the question by asking us to believe that the word “night” (râtriḥ) is really used to denote a day in the denomination of these sacrifices (Shabara on Jaimini VIII, 1, 17). The word dvi-râtra according to this theory means two days’ sacrifice, and shata-râtra a hundred days’ sacrifice. This, explanation appears very good at the first sight, and as a matter of fact it has been accepted by all writers on the sacrificial ceremonies. In support of it, we may also cite the fact that as the moon was the measurer of time in ancient days, the night was then naturally more marked then the day, and instead of saying “so many days” men often spoke of “so many nights,” much in the same way as we now use the word “fort-night.” This is no doubt good so far as it goes; but the question is why should there be no Soma sacrifices of a longer duration than one hundred nights? and, why a gap, a serious gap, is left in the series of Soma sacrifices after one hundred nights Sattra until we come to the annual Sattra of 360 days? Admitting that “night” means “day,” we have Soma sacrifices lasting from to 100 days; and if so where was the harm to complete the series until the yearly Sattra of 360 days was reached? So far as I know, no writer on sacrificial ceremonies has attempted to answer this question satisfactorily. Of course adopting the speculative manner of the Brâhmaṇas we might say that there are no Soma sacrifices of longer than one hundred nights’ duration, because the life of a man cannot extend beyond a hundred years (Tait. Br. III, 8, 16, 2). But such an explanation can never be regarded as satisfactory, and the Mîmâṁsakas, who got over one difficulty by interpreting “night” into “day,” have practically left this latter question untouched, and therefore, unsolved. In short, the case stands thus: — The sacrificial literature mentions a series of 99 or practically one hundred Soma sacrifices, called the “night-sacrifices”; but these do not form a part of any annual Sattra like the Gavâm-ayanam, nor is any reason assigned for their separate existence, nor is their duration which never exceeds a hundred nights, accounted for. Neither the authors of the Brâhmaṇas nor those of the Shrauta Sûtras much less Sâyaṇa and Yâska give us any clue to the solution of this question; and the Mîmâṁsakas, after explaining the word “night” occurring in the names of these sacrifices as equal to “day” have allowed these night-sacrifices to remain as an isolated group in the organized system of Soma sacrifices. Under these circumstances it would no doubt appear presumptuous for any one to suggest an explanation, so many centuries after what may be called the age of the Sattras. But I feel the Arctic theory which, we have seen, is supported by strong independent evidence, not only explains but appropriately accounts for the original existence of this isolated series of a hundred Soma sacrifices; and I, therefore, proceed to give my view on the point.
It seems to me that if the word râtri in Atî-râtra is still understood to mean “night,” and that if the Ati-râtra sacrifice is even now performed during the night, there is no reason why we should not similarly interpret the same word in Dvi-râtra, Tri-râtra &c. up to Shata-râtra. The objection, that the Soma juice is not extracted during the night, is more imaginary than real; for as a matter of fact Soma libations are made in the usual way, during the Ati-râtra sacrifice. The Ati-râtra sacrifice is performed at the beginning and the end of every Sattra; and all the three libations of Soma are always offered during the three turns, or paryâyas, of the night. The Aitareya Brâhmaṇa (IV, 5), in explaining the origin of this sacrifice, tells us that the Asuras had taken shelter with the night and the Devas, who had taken shelter with the day, wanted to expel them from the dark region. But amongst the Devas, Indra alone was found ready and willing to undertake this task; and entering into darkness, he with the assistance of Metres, turned the Asuras out of the first part of the night by the first Soma libation, while by means of the middle turn (paryâya) of passing the Soma-cup, the Asuras were turned out of the middle part and by the third turn out of the third or the last part of the night. The three Soma libations, here spoken of, are all made during the night and the Brâhmaṇa further observes that there is no other deity save Indra and the Metres to whom they are offered (Cf. Apas. Sh. Su. XIV, 3, 12). The next section of the Brâhmaṇa (IV, 6) distinctly raises the question, “How are the Pavamâna Stotras to be chanted for the purification of the Soma juice provided for the night, whereas such Sutras refer only to the day but not to the night?” and answers it by stating that the Stotras are the same for the day and the night. It is clear from this that Soma juice was extracted and purified at night during Ati-râtra sacrifice and Indra was the only deity to whom the libations were offered in order to help him in his fight with the Asuras, who had taken shelter with the darkness of the night. That the Ati-râtra is an ancient sacrifice is further proved by the occurrence of a similar ceremony in the Parsi scriptures. The word Ati-râtra does not occur in the Avesta, but in the Vendibad, XVIII, 18, (43)-22 (48), we are told that there are three parts of the night and that in the first of these parts (trishvai), Fire, the son of Ahura Mazda, calls upon the master of the house to arise and put on his girdle and to fetch clean wood in order that he may burn bright; for, says the Fire, “Here comes Azi (Sans. Ahi) made by the Daêvas (Vedic Asuras), who is about to strive against me and wants to put out my life.” And the asme request is made during the second and the third part of the night. The close resemblance between this and the three paryâyas of the Ati-râtra sacrifice does not seem to have been yet noticed; but whether noticed or not it shows that the Ati-râtra is an ancient rite performed during the night for the purpose of helping Indra, or the deity that fought with the powers of darkness, and that such sacrificial acts as putting on the girdle (kosti) or squeezing the Soma, were performed during this period of darkness.
applies to the sacrifice of a single night may well be extended to cases where
sacrifices had to be performed for two, three or more continuous nights. I have
already shown before that the ancient sacrificers completed their sacrificial
sessions in ten months and a long night followed the completion of these
sacrifices. What did the sacrificers do during this long night? They could not
have slept all the time; and as a matter of fact we know that the people in the
extreme north of
There are other considerations which point out to the same conclusion. In the post-Vedic literature we have a persistent tradition that Indra alone of all gods is the master of a hundred sacrifices (shata-kratu), and that as this attribute formed, so to say, the very essence of Indraship, he always jealously watched all possible encroachments against it. But European scholars relying upon the fact that even Sâyaṇa prefers, except in a few places (III, 51, 2) to interpret shata-kratu, as applied to Indra in the Ṛig-Veda, as meaning, not “the master of a hundred sacrifices,” but “the lord of a hundred mights or powers,” have not only put aside the Purâṇic tradition, but declined to interpret the word kratu in the Ṛig-Veda except in the sense of “power, energy, skill, wisdom, or generally speaking, the power of body or mind.” But if the above explanation of the origin of the night sacrifices is correct, we must retrace our steps and acknowledge that the Purâṇic tradition or legend is, fater all, not built upon a pure misunderstanding of the original meaning of the epithet shata-kratu as applied to Indra in the Vedic-literature. I am aware of the fact that traditions in the post-Vedic literature are often found to have but a slender basis in the Vedas, but in the present case we have something more reliable and tangible to go upon. We have a group, an isolated group of a hundred nightly Soma sacrifices and as long as it stands unexplained in the Vedic sacrificial literature it would be unreasonable to decline to connect it with the Purâṇic tradition of Indra’s sole mastership of hundred sacrifices, especially when in the light of the Arctic theory the two can be so well and intelligibly connected. The hundred sacrifices, which are regarded as constituting the essence of Indraship in the Purâṇas, are there said to be the Ashvamedha sacrifices and it may, at the outset, be urged that the shata-râtra sacrifice mentioned in the sacrificial works is not an Ashvamedha sacrifice. But the distinction is neither important, nor material. The Ashvamedha sacrifice is a Soma sacrifice and is described in the sacrificial works along with the night-sacrifices. In the Taittirîya Saṁhitâ ( VII, 2, 11) a hundred offerings of food to be made in the Ashvamedha sacrifice are mentioned, and the Taittirîya Brâhmaṇa (III, 8, 15, 1) states that Prajâpati obtained these offerings “during the night,” and consequently they are called Râtri-homas. The duration of the Ashvamedha sacrifice is again not fixed, inasmuch as it depends upon the return of the horse and in the Ṛig-Veda (I, 163, 1) the sacrificial horse is identified with the sun moving in waters. The return of the sacrificial horse may, therefore, be taken to symbolize the return of the sun after the long night and a close resemblance between the Ashvamedha and the night-sacrifices, which were performed to enable Indra to fight with Vala and rescue the dawn and the sun from his clutches, may thus be taken as established. At any rate, we need not be surprised if the Shata-râtra Soma sacrifice appears in the form of a hundred Ashvamedha sacrifices in the Purâṇas. The tradition is substantially the same in either case and when it can be so easily and naturally explained on the Arctic theory, it would not be reasonable to set it aside and hold that the writers of the Purâṇas created it by misinterpreting the word Shata-kratu occurring in the Vedas.