Monday, October 27, 2008

Indo-Aryan Roots of Buddhism

Map of the Sintashta-Petrovka culture (red), its expansion into the Andronovo culture during the 2nd millennium BC, showing the overlap with the BMAC in the south. The location of the earliest chariots is shown in purple.

The Indo-Iranians are commonly identified with the Andronovo culture, Vedic civilization, Iranian Culture, and their homeland with an area of the Eurasian steppe that borders the Ural River on the west, the Tian Shan on the east (where the Indo-Iranians took over the area occupied by the earlier Afanasevo culture), and Transoxiana and the Hindu Kush on the south.

Historical linguists broadly estimate that a continuum of Indo-Iranian languages probably began to diverge by 2000 BC, if not earlier[1]:38–39 preceding both the Vedic and Iranian cultures.

The earliest recorded forms of these languages, Vedic Sanskrit and Gathic Avestan, are remarkably similar, descended from the common Proto-Indo-Iranian language. The origin and earliest relationship between the Nuristani languages and that of the Iranian and Indic groups is irrecoverably obscure.


Archaeological cultures associated with Indo-Iranian migrations (after EIEC). The Andronovo, BMAC and Yaz cultures have often been associated with Indo-Iranian migrations. The GGC, Cemetery H, Copper Hoard and PGW cultures are candidates for cultures associated with Indo-Aryan movements.

Two-wave models of Indo-Iranian expansion have been proposed by Burrow (1973) and Parpola (1999).

First wave
Main article: Indo-Aryan migration

The Indo-Iranians and their expansion are strongly associated with the chariot. It is assumed that this expansion went into the Caucasus, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia. They also expanded into Mesopotamia and Syria and introduced the horse and chariot culture to this part of the world. Sumerian texts from EDIIIb Ngirsu (2500-2350 BC) already mention the "chariot" (gigir) and Ur III texts (2150-2000 BC) mention the horse (anshe-zi-zi).

They left linguistic remains in a Hittite horse-training manual written by one "Kikkuli the Mitannian". Other evidence is found in references to the names of Mitanni rulers and the gods they swore by in treaties; these remains are found in the archives of the Mitanni's neighbors. The time period for this is about 1500 BC.[2]:257

The standard model for the entry of the Indo-European languages into South Asia is that this first wave went over the Hindu Kush, either into the headwaters of the Indus and later the Ganges. The earliest stratum of Vedic Sanskrit, preserved only in the Rigveda, is assigned to roughly 1500 BC.[3][2]:258 From the Indus, the Indo-Aryan languages spread from c. 1500 BC to c. 500 BC, over the northern and central parts of the subcontinent, sparing the extreme south.
The Indo-Aryans in these areas established several powerful kingdoms and principalities in the region, from eastern Afghanistan to the doorstep of Bengal. The most powerful of these kingdoms were the post-Rigvedic Kuru (in Kurukshetra and the Delhi area) and their allies the Pañcālas further east, as well as Gandhara and later on, about the time of the Buddha, the kingdom of Kosala and the quickly expanding realm of Magadha. The latter lasted until the 4th century BC, when it was conquered by Chandragupta Maurya and formed the center of the Mauryan empire.

In eastern Afghanistan and southwestern Pakistan, whatever Indo-Aryan languages were spoken there were eventually pushed out by the Iranian languages, such as that of the Avesta-like Kamboja. Most Indo-Aryan languages, however, were and still are prominent in the rest of the Indian subcontinent. Today, Indo-Aryan languages are spoken in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. More>>

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