Dasa

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Dasa (Sanskrit: दास) or das is a Sanskrit word found in ancient Hindu texts such as the Rigveda and Arthashastra.[1]

It usually means either "enemy" or "servant".[2] The Dāsa are a tribe identified as the enemies of the Aryan tribes in the Rigveda. The word Dāsa, later acquired derogatory connotations, meaning 'servant'. Dasa can also mean "servant of God", "devotee," "votary" or "one who has surrendered to God"; dasa may be a suffix of a given name to indicate a "servant" of a revered person or deity.[3]

The identity of the Dasa has caused much debate, closely tied to arguments over Indo-Aryan migration, the claim that the Indo-Aryan authors of the Rigveda entered India from outside, displacing its earlier inhabitants. During the nineteenth century Western scholars identified the Dasa with dark-skinned Dravidian-speaking peoples, but more recent scholars, notably Asko Parpola, have claimed that they were fellow Indo-Iranians of the BMAC, who initially rejected Aryan religious practices but were later merged with them.

A similar term for enemy people, Dasyu, is also used in the Rig Veda. It is unclear whether the Dasa and Dasyu are identical. In some contexts, dasa is interchangeable with the Sanskrit words dasyu and asura, both of which have been translated into other languages as words equivalent to "demon", "harmful supernatural force", "slave", "servant" or "barbarian", depending on the context in which the word is used.[2][4]

Etymology[edit]

Dasa and related terms have been examined by several scholars.[5] While the terms Dasa and Dasyu have a negative meaning in Sanskrit, their Iranian counterparts Daha and Dahyu have preserved their positive (or neutral) meaning. This is similar to the Sanskrit terms Deva (a "positive" term) and Asura (a "negative" term). The Iranian counterparts of these terms (Daeva and Ahura) have opposite meanings.

Karl Heinrich Tzschucke in 1806, in his translations of the Roman geographer Pomponius Mela, noted etymological and phonological parallels between dasa and the ethonyms of the Dahae – Persian داها; Sanskrit Dasa; Latin Dahae; Greek Δάοι Daoi, Δάαι, Δᾶαι Daai and Δάσαι Dasai – a people who lived on the south-eastern shores of the Caspian Sea in ancient times (and from whom modern Dehestan/Dehistan takes its name).[6] Likewise Max Muller proposed that dasa referred to indigenous peoples living in South Asia before the arrival of the Aryans. However, such theories have long been controversial and are considered by many scholars as inconsistent with the broader usage of dasa in the Vedas.[7][8]

Monier Monier-Williams in 1899, stated that the meaning of dasa varies contextually and means "mysterious forces", "savages", "barbarians" or "demons" in the earliest layer of Vedic literature – in other contexts, is a self-effacing way to refer oneself as "worshipper" or "devotee aiming to honor a deity", or a "servant of god".[9] In later Indian literature, according to Monier-Williams, usage of dasa is used to refer to "a knowing man, or a knower of the universal spirit".[10] In the latter sense, dāsa is masculine, while the feminine equivalent is dāsi.[9] Some early 20th Century translations, such as P. T. Srinivas Iyengar (1912), translate dasa as "slave".[11]

Kangle in 1960,[1] and others[12] suggest that, depending on the context, dasa may be translated as "enemy", "servant" or "religious devotee". More recent scholarly interpretations of the Sanskrit words dasa or dasyu suggest that these words used throughout the Vedas represents "disorder, chaos and dark side of human nature", and the verses that use the word dasa mostly contrast it with the concepts of "order, purity, goodness and light."[2] In some contexts, the word dasa may refer to enemies, in other contexts it may refer to those who had not adopted the Vedic beliefs, and yet other contexts it may refer to mythical enemies in the battle between good and evil.[2]

Michael Witzel in his review of Indo-Iranian texts in 1995, states that dasa in the Vedic literature represented a North Iranian tribe, who were enemies of the Vedic Aryans, and das-yu meant "enemy, foreigner."[13] He notes that these enemies could have apparently become slaves if captured. Witzel compares the etymological root of dasa to words from other Indo-European languages that imply "enemy, foreigner", including the Avestan dahåka and dŋha, Latin dahi and Greek daai.[14]

That the Dasa were Iranic is no doubt as the Rig Veda mentions, that the Dasa, along with the Dasyu and Panis live beyond the Rasa River.[15] That the river was a division between the "Devas" and the "Asuras" is also acknowledged in the Vedas.[16] Scholars such as Tilak [17] have connected "Rasa" to the Avestan "Rangha", which is supposed to have been near the Hapta Hindu.[18]

Asko Parpola in 2015, has proposed that dasa is related to the ancient Iranian and proto-Saka word daha, which means "man".[19] Parpola states that dasa referred only to Central Asian peoples.[20] This is contrasted with arya, the word for "man" used by, and of, Indo-European people from Central Asia. Consequently, a Vedic text that include prayers for the defeat of the dasa as an "enemy people", according to Parpola, possibly refers to people from the so-called Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC), who spoke a different language and opposed Aryan religious practices.[20] Parpola uses archaeological and linguistic arguments to support his theory, but this is controversial.[21]

Dasa in Buddhist texts can mean "servant".[3] In Pali language, it is used as suffix in Buddhist texts, where Amaya-dasa was translated by Davids and Stede in 1925, as a "slave by birth",[22] Kila-dasa translated as a "bought slave",[23] and Amata-dasa as "one who sees Amata (Sanskrit: Amrita, nectar of immortality) or Nibbana".[24]

  • On the next page, however, Witzel does mention the ethnonyms of the enemies of the Vedic Aryans, the Dasas (Iranian Daha, known to Greco-Roman authors as Daai, Dahae), Dasyus (Iranian dahyu, “tribe”, esp. hostile nomadic tribe) and Panis (Greek Parnoi), as unmistakably the names of Iranian tribes. The identification of these tribes as Iranian has been elaborated in the same volume by Asko Parpola, the Finnish author of a Dravidian reading of the Indus script.7 The Iranian identity of Dasas and Dasyus is now well-established, a development which should at least put an end to the talk of the Dasas being “the dark-skinned aboriginals enslaved by the Aryan invaders”. Elst 1999
  • Among the Vedic terms figuring prominently in the AIT reading of the Vedas, the most important one is probably dAsa. DAsa, known to mean “slave, servant” in classical Sanskrit, but in the Rg-Veda the name of an enemy tribe, along with the apparently related word dasyu, is interpreted in AIT parlance as “aboriginal”. More probably these words designate the Vedic people’s white-skinned n cousins, who at one point became their enemies, for both terms exist in Iranian, dahae being one of the Iranian tribes, and dahyu meaning “tribe, nation”. The original meaning of dAsa, long preserved in the Khotanese dialect of Iranian, is “man”; it is used in this sense in the Vedic names DivodAs, “divine man” and SudAs, “good man”.67 In Iranian, it always preserved its neutral or positive meaning, it is only in late-Vedic that it acquired a hostile and ultimately a degrading connotation. Strangely a similar evolution has taken place in Greek, where doulos, “slave”, is an evolute of *doselos, from *dos-, the IE root of dAsa. Elst 1999
  • Yet, nothing in the text supports this idea that the Vedic people came from the west and the Dāsas from the east, or that the Dāsas mentioned lived across the Yamuna, or that the Vedic people were intruders while the Dāsas were the established population, or that the Aryans even outside the context of this battle were on the move from west to east. On the contrary, twice and in two different ways, the source text says it is the Dāsas and Dasyus who came from the west. It says that they have come to the “east” for a fight and that these “godless ones” are turned back “westward” (7:6:3); and it has them come from the westerly Asiknī/Chenab river valley to challenge and fight Sudās on the shores of the easterly Paruṣṇī/Ravi. That doesn’t mean they were intruders into India, though: it is a big country, and it is most unlikely that any of the warring parties identified with India as a whole (as opposed to their own slice of it) as “their” country.

Even Pradhan, otherwise very careful to toe the orthodox line, breaks ranks with his Western mentors by accepting as simply obvious the Iranian identity of the Ten Kings, e.g.: “their Indo-Iranian past gave the Dāsas the institution of sacrifice” (Pradhan 2014:124), “their Aryan antecedents become clear from the Avestā and the Greek historians’ notices of the Dahae and the Parnoi” (Pradhan 2014:132). He silently passes over the improbable implication that this would put the Iranians where he had earlier located the Ten Kings, viz. east of the Yamuna, a rather unorthodox hypothesis. Other Indian authors too have made this Iranian identification. Thus, in an otherwise confused account, Verma & Verma (1994:4) assert nonetheless that the Pakthas are “today’s Pakhtuns” while the Bhalānas “were associated with the Bolan Pass” and the Parśu were “a people of ancient Persia” (1994:9).

Elst 2018 [1]


1. The words dāoŋha (by itself) and daŋhu/daŋhзuš (in suffixes), the Avestan equivalents of dāsa and dasyu, are found in personal names in the Avesta: Dāoŋha, Daŋhu.frādah, Daŋhu.srūta, Ātərədaŋhu, Jarō.daŋhu, Ərəzauuaṇt-daŋhзuš. And both the words have pleasant or neutral meanings.

2. The word daha in certain Iranian languages (e.g. Khotanese), even today, has the meaning “man”. 3. Greek texts refer to an Iranian people known as the Dahae, who were prominent in Iranian history in Central Asia. 4. The word dāsa is used in a friendly sense in only three references in the Rigveda (see TALAGERI 2000:206-208), and as all three of them are dānastutis, or hymns in praise of patron or donor kings, it is clear that the uncharacteristic friendly sense of the word has to do with the identity of the donor kings. In two of these hymns, the names of the patron kings have been identified by many western scholars, (incuding Hoffman, Wilson, Weber, Witzel and Gamkrelidze) as proto-Iranian names: Kaśu Caidya in VIII.5 and Pṛthuśravas Kānīta in VIII.46. And the name of the patron king in the third hymn, Ruśama Pavīru in VIII.51, may well be a proto-Iranian name too: MLBhargava (BHARGAVA:1964) identifies the Ruśamas as a tribe of the extreme northwest from the Soma lands of Suṣomā and Ārjīkīyā. This clearly places them in the territory of the Iranians. [The three hymns, VIII.5,46,51, along with another hymn VIII.6, constitute a group of four unique hymns in the Rigveda, in a separate class from all the other hymns: a) three of them (VIII.5,6,46) donate camels to the rishis rather than cattle. b) three of them (VIII.5,46,51) speak well of the dāsas. c) three of them (VIII.5,6,46) have proto-Iranian names (see above)] [2]

Rig Veda[edit]

Dasa and related words such as Dasyu are found in the Rig Veda. They have been variously translated, depending on the context. These words represent in some context represent "disorder, chaos and dark side of human nature", and the verses that use the word dasa mostly contrast it with the concepts of "order, purity, goodness and light."[2] In other contexts, the word dasa refers to enemies and in other contexts, those who had not adopted the Vedic beliefs.[2][25]

A. A. Macdonell and A. B. Keith in 1912 remarked that, "The great difference between the Dasyus and the Aryans was their religion... It is significant that constant reference is made to difference in religion between Aryans and Dasa and Dasyu."

Dasyu is a term that could also be applied to Vedic kings, if their behaviour changed. In the battle of the Ten Kings (Dasarajna) in the Rig Veda the king Sudas calls his enemies "Dasyu" which included Vedic peoples like the Anus, Druhyus, Turvashas, and even Purus. (RV 7.6, 12-14, 18)

There is also a Dasa Balbutha Taruksa in RV 6.45.31 who is a patron of a seer and who is distinguished by his generosity (RV 8.46.32). There are several hymns in the Rigveda that refer to Dasa and Aryan enemies [26] and to related (jami) and unrelated (ajami) enemies (e.g. 1.111.3, 4.4.5); still, in the battle of the ten kings, there are Dasas and Aryas on both sides of the battlefield and in some Rigvedic verses, the Aryas and Dasas stood united against their enemies.[27].

Talageri: The word DAsa is found in 54 hymns (63 verses) and in an overwhelming majority of these references, it refers either to human enemies of the Vedic Aryans, or to atmospheric demons killed by Indra: in most of the cases, it is difficult to know which of the two is being referred to, and in some of them perhaps both are being simultaneously referred to. In any case, since these references are usually non-specific, it makes no material difference to our historical analysis. ... Given the nature (and, as we shall see later, the period) of MaNDala VIII, and the fact that all these three hymns are dAnastutis (hymns in praise of donors), it is clear that the friendly references have to do with the identity of the patrons in these hymns. A special feature of these dAnastutis is that, while everywhere else in the Rigveda we find patrons gifting cattle, horses and buffaloes, these particular patrons gift camels (uSTra): at least, the first two do so (VIII.5.37; 46.22, 31), and it is very likely that the third one does so too (this dAnastuti does not mention the specific gifts received, and merely calls upon Indra to shower wealth on the patron). In any case, there is a fourth patron in another dAnastuti in the same MaNDala (VIII.6.48) who also gifts camels. Outside of these three hymns, the camel is referred to only once in the Rigveda, in a late upa-maNDala of MaNDala I (I.138.2), where it is mentioned in a simile. ...In two of these cases, as we can see, the identity is self-evident: one patron is called a ParSava (Persian) and another has PRthu (Parthian) in his name. In sum, the Iranians are fully identifiable with the Anus, the particular DAsas (non-PUrus) of the Rigveda.

The first difference is that the term DAsa clearly refers to other tribes (ie. non-PUru tribes) while the term Dasyu refers to their priestly classes (ie. non-Vedic priestly classes). According to IV. 28.4, the Dasyus are a section among the DAsas. The Dasyus are referred to in terms which clearly show that the causes of hostility are religious (adeva, abrahma, etc). The family-wise pattern of references to them also shows that the Dasyus are priestly rivals while the DAsas are secular rivals. The Dasyus are referred to by all the nine priestly families of RSis, but not by the one non-priestly family of RSis (the Bharatas). The DAsas are referred to by the Bharatas (X.69.6; 102.3) also; but not by the most purely ritualistic family of RSis, the KaSyapas, nor in the most purely ritualistic of MaNDalas, MaNDala IX. The Dasyus, being priestly entities, do not figure as powerful persons or persons to be feared, but the DAsas, being secular entities (tribes, tribal warriors, kings, etc.) do figure as powerful persons or persons to be feared. While both DAsas and Dasyus are referred to as enemies of the Aryas, it is only the DAsas, and never the Dasyus, who are sometimes bracketed together with the Aryas. The second difference is in the degree of hostility towards the two. The Dasyus are clearly regarded with uncompromising hostility, while the hostility towards the DAsas is relatively mild and tempered. (Talageri)

The word Dasyu has a purely hostile connotation even when it occurs in the name or title of heroes:

   Trasadasyu = “tormentor of the Dasyus”.
   DasyavevRka = “a wolf towards the Dasyus”.

On the other hand, the word DAsa has an etymological meaning beyond the identity of the DAsas. When it occurs in the name or title of a hero, it has a benevolent connotation:

   DivodAsa = “light of Heaven” or “slave of Heaven”.

All the 80 verses which refer to Dasyus are uncompromisingly hostile. Of the 80 verses which refer to Dasyus, 76 verses talk of direct, violent, physical action against them, ie. they talk of killing, subduing or driving away the Dasyus. On the other hand, of the 63 verses which refer to DAsas, only 38 talk of such direct physical action against them. (Talageri)

The dasyus are referred to in terms of hostility which have to do with religious differences: ayajvan (I.33.4), anyavrata (VIII.70.11; X.22.8), adevayu (VIII.70.11), akarman (X.22.8), abrahman (IV.16.9), avrata (I.51.8; 175.3; VI.14.3; IX.41.2), amanyamāna (I.33.9; II.12.10), grathin (VII.6.3), ayajña (VII.6.3), av ṛ dha (VII.6.3), aśraddha (VII.6.3), akratu (VII.6.3), māyāvat (IV.16.9). (Talageri 2008)

The dāsas (being tribes and kings) frequently figure as powerful entities to be feared, whether the word is used for human enemies or symbolically for atmospheric demons: in seven hymns (I.104.2; 158.5; VIII.24.27; X.22.8; 54.1; 69.6; 102.3), the composers ask for protection from dāsas, or are rescued from them by the Gods. In three others (I.32.11; V.30.5; VIII.96.18), the dāsas are powerful demons who hold the celestial waters in their thrall. (Talageri 2008)

Incidentally, the reference in X.49.3, where the composer expresses his refusal to call a dasyu by the name ―ārya‖ makes sense only in the above contexts. If ārya and dasyu were ethnic-linguistic terms, the question of calling a ―non-Aryan‖ dasyu an ārya would never arise at all, and the verse makes no sense. But ārya means a Pūru, and the dasyu referred to in this particular verse may be a Pūru (an ārya by community) who has joined a rival priestly class of the non-Pūrus, just as a branch of the Bhṛgus after Jamadagni, who were Anus, joined the priestly classes of the Pūrus (Talageri 2008)

Significantly, of the three hymns which have nice things to say about Dāsas, VIII.5, 46 and 51, the first two are hymns which have camel-gifting kings with proto- Iranian names.]. (Talageri 2008)

A range of western Indologists (including Hoffman, Wilson, Weber, Witzel and Gamkrelidze) have identified Kaśu (VIII.5), Tirindira Parśava (VIII.6), and Pṛthuśravas Kānīta (VIII.46) as proto-Iranian names. Ruśama Pavīru, the patron of VIII.51, is not specifically named as Iranian by the scholars. However, the Ruśama-s are identified by M.L.Bhargava (BHARGAVA:1964) as a tribe of the extreme northwest from the Soma lands of Suṣomā and Ārjīkīyā. This clearly places them in the territory of the Iranians.[3]

Now the word dāsa, though used for non-Pūru-s and mostly in a hostile sense in the Rigveda (and meaning "slave" in later Sanskrit), is clearly a word with an originally benevolent connotation. It is derived from the root √daṁś- "to shine" (obviously with a positive connotation), is found in the name of Divo-dāsa in a positive sense, and is used to describe the patrons of the hymns in the above references. Clearly, it was a tribal name among the Anu-s (the Iranians: note that the word "daha" means "man" in Khotanese), first used by the Bharata Pūru-s for the Anu-s in general and later extended to all non-Pūru-s. [4]

Another classic scriptural reference concerns everything relating to the enemies of the Vedic Aryans, such as the “aboriginal” Dasas. Very aptly, Sergent identifies the Dasas and the Panis as Iranians, and the Pakthas (one of the tribes confronting the Vedic king Sudas in the Battle of the Ten Kings) as the Iranian Pathans.77 Yet he doesn’t identify these tribes with the Bronze Age Bactrians, arguing that in Alexander’s time, Greek authors locate the Parnoi and Dahai just south of the Aral Lake. But that was almost two thousand years after the heyday of the Bactrian Bronze Age culture and arguably even longer after the Rg-Veda. The only mystery is that these ethnonyms managed to survive that long, not that during those long centuries, they could migrate a few hundred miles to the northwest - centuries during which we know for fact that the Iranians expanded westward from their Bactrian heartland across rivers and mountains to settle as far west as Mesopotamia. Moreover, the Vedas locate the confrontations in the prolonged hostility between Indo-Aryans and Iranians not on the Saraswati (which could in theory be identified as the homonymous Harahvaiti/Helmand in Afghanistan)78, but on the riverside of the Parushni/Ravi and other Panjab rivers, unambiguously in India. This is only logical if the Vedic Aryans were based in the Saraswati basin and their Iranian enemies were based in an area to their west (western Panjab, Khyber pass): they confronted halfway in eastern Panjab. So not only did these Iranian tribes move from Bactria to the Aral Lake area in 2000-300 BC, but they had started moving northwestward centuries earlier, in the Rg-Vedic period, in Panjab.

    • Elst 1999

Dasa with the meaning of savage, barbarians[edit]

Rig Veda 10.22.8 describes Dasyus as "savages" who have no laws, different observances, a-karman (who do not perform rites) and who act against a person without knowing the person.[4]

<poem> अकर्मा दस्युरभि नो अमन्तुरन्यव्रतो अमानुषः । त्वं तस्यामित्रहन्वधर्दासस्य दम्भय ॥८॥[28]

Around us is the Dasyu, riteless, void of sense, inhuman, keeping alien laws. Baffle, thou Slayer of the foe, the weapon which this Dasa wields. – Translated by Ralph Griffith[29]

The Dasyu practising no religious rites, not knowing us thoroughly, following other observances, obeying no human laws, Baffle, destroyer of enemies [Indra], the weapon of that Dasa. – Translated by H. H. Wilson[30] </poem>

— Rigveda 10.22.8

Dasa with the meaning of demon[edit]

Within the Vedic texts, Dasa is the word used to describe supernatural demonic creatures with many eyes and many heads. This has led scholars to interpret that the word Dasa in Vedic times meant evil, supernatural, destructive forces. For example, Rigveda in hymn 10.99.6 states,[31]

<poem> स इद्दासं तुवीरवं पतिर्दन्षळक्षं त्रिशीर्षाणं दमन्यत् । अस्य त्रितो न्वोजसा वृधानो विपा वराहमयोअग्रया हन् ॥६॥

The sovereign Indra attacking him overcame the loud shouting, six eyed, three headed Dasa, Trita invigorated by his strength, smote the cloud with his iron-tipped finger. </poem>

— Rigveda 10.99.6, translated by H. H. Wilson[32]

Dasa with the meaning of servant or slave[edit]

Dasa is also used in Vedic literature, in some contexts, to refer to "servants", a few translate this as "slaves", but the verses do not describe how the Vedic society treats or mistreats the servants. R. S. Sharma, in his 1958 book, states that the only word which could possibly mean slave in Rigveda is dāsa, and this sense of use is traceable to four verses out of 10,600 verses in Rigveda, namely 1.92.8, 1.158.5, 10.62.10 and 8.56.3.[33] The translation of word dasa to servant or slave varies by scholars.[2] HH Wilson, for example, translates Dasa in Rigvedic instances identified by Sharma, as servant rather than slave,[34] as in verse 10.62.10:[35]

<poem> उत दासा परिविषे स्मद्दिष्टी गोपरीणसा । यदुस्तुर्वश्च मामहे ॥१०॥[36]

Yadu and Indra speaking auspiciously, and possessed of numerous cattle, gave them like servants, for the enjoyment. </poem>

— Rigveda 10.62.10, Translated by HH Wilson[34]
  • This word is used in the Rigveda to refer to all non-Pūru people, but specifically to the Anu or proto-Iranians. This is proved by the fact that while the word is used in an inimical or hostile sense throughout the Rigveda, it is used in a good sense in three hymns: in VIII.5.31 (where the Aśvins are depicted as accepting the offerings of the dāsas), VIII.46.32 (where the patrons are directly called dāsas) and VIII.51.9 (where Indra is described as belonging to both āryas and dāsas). These three hymns belong to a special group of four hymns in the Rigveda, where (in three of them) the patrons gift camels to the composers of the hymn, and (in three of them) western Indologists (including Witzel) have identified the patrons as being kings with Iranian names. Also, daha means "man" in the Iranian Khotanese language Further, the Avesta has names with both dāsa and the related dasyu: Dāoŋha, Daŋhu.frādah, Daŋhu.srūta, Ātərədaŋhu, Jarō.daŋhu, Ərəzauuaṇt-daŋhзuš. But, as in many such cases, dāsa could also be the name of a particular Iranian tribe (perhaps in fact, the ancestors of the Khotanese, known as the eastern Sakas). In any case, we find a trail of this tribal name also spreading westwards: the Dahi in Afghanistan in the Avesta, and later the Dahae in W. Turkmenistan. And also the Thraco-Phrygian Dacians in southern parts of eastern Europe. [5]

Later Vedic texts[edit]

The three words Dasa, Dasyu and Asura(danav) are used interchangeably in almost identical verses that are repeated in different Vedic texts, such as the Rig veda, the Saunaka recension of Atharva veda, the Paippalada Samhita of the Atharva veda and the Brahmanas text in various Vedas. Such comparative study has led scholars to interpret Dasa and Dasyu may have been a synonym of Asura (demons or evil forces, sometimes simply lords with special knowledge and magical powers) of later Vedic texts.[37][need quotation to verify]

Sharma states that the word dasa occurs in Aitareya and Gopatha Brahmanas, but not in the sense of a slave.[38]

Arthashastra[edit]

Kautilya's Arthashastra dedicates the thirteenth chapter on dasas, in his third book on law. This Sanskrit document from the Maurya Empire period (4th century BCE), has been translated by several authors. Shamasastry's translation in 1915,[39] Kangle's translation in 1960s[40] and Rangarajan's translation in 1987[41] all map dasa as slave. However, Kangle suggests that the context and rights granted to dasa by Kautilya, such as the right to the same wage as a free labourer and the right to freedom on payment of an amount, distinguish this form of slavery from that of contemporary Greece.[42] Edmund Leach points out that the Dasa was the antithesis of the concept of Arya. As the latter term evolved through successive meanings, so did Dasa: from "indigenous inhabitant" to "serf," "tied servant," and finally "chattel slave." He suggests the term "unfreedom" to cover all these meanings.[43]

According to Arthashastra, anyone who had been found guilty of nishpatitah (Sanskrit: निष्पातित, ruined, bankrupt, a minor crime)[44] may mortgage oneself to become dasa for someone willing to pay his or her bail and employ the dasa for money and privileges.[39][42]

According to Arthashastra, it was illegal to force a dasa (slave) to do certain types of work, to hurt or abuse him, or to force sex on a female dasa.[39]

Employing a slave (dasa) to carry the dead or to sweep ordure, urine or the leavings of food; keeping a slave naked; hurting or abusing him; or violating the chastity of a female slave shall cause the forfeiture of the value paid for him or her. Violation of the chastity shall at once earn their liberty for them.

— Arthashastra, Translated by Shamasastry[39]

When a master has connection (sex) with a pledged female slave (dasa) against her will, he shall be punished. When a man commits or helps another to commit rape with a female slave pledged to him, he shall not only forfeit the purchase value, but also pay a certain amount of money to her and a fine of twice the amount to the government.

— Arthashastra, Translated by Shamasastry[39]

A slave (dasa) shall be entitled to enjoy not only whatever he has earned without prejudice to his master's work, but also the inheritance he has received from his father.

— Arthashastra, Translated by Shamasastry[39]

Buddhist texts[edit]

Words related to dasa are found in early Buddhist texts, such as dāso na pabbājetabbo, which Davids and Stede translate as "the slave cannot become a Bhikkhu".[45] This restriction on who could become a Buddhist monk is found in Vinaya Pitakam i.93, Digha Nikaya, Majjhima Nikāya, Tibetan Bhiksukarmavakya and Upasampadajnapti.[45][46]

Other uses[edit]

Use of religious "devotees"[edit]

In Tamil tontai, dasa, servant, commonly used to refer to devotees of Lord Vishnu or Sri Krishna.[47]

In Gaudiya Vaishnava theology Smriti statement dāsa-bhūto harer eva nānyasvaiva kadācana, living entities (bhuto) are eternally in the service (dasa) of the Supreme Lord (Hari).[48] Thus designation for Vaishnava followers of svayam bhagavan Krishna was the status title dasa as part of their names as in Hari Dasa.[49]

As a surname or byname[edit]

Dasa or Das is also a surname found among Sikhs and Hindus, typically north, eastern and western India, where it literally means "votary, devotee, servant of God."[50] For example, Mohandas Gandhi's first name, Mohandas, means servant of Mohan or Krishna. Also, the name Surdas means servant of Sur or Deva. In the past, many sants of bhakti movement tradition added it in their names signifying their total devotion or surrender to God.[49] Another example is Kalidasa, servant of Kali.

The present day usage of Dasa in Hinduism has respectful connotation and not derogatory. It always means 'slave of god'. In the past, many saints from all castes added it in their names signifying their total devotion to god. An example is Mohandas Gandhi. Another example if Surdas, the blind Brahmin poet. 'Das' is one of the common surnames of Brahmins, especially in East India. It looks like there was a complete break from Rig Vedic people and Hindu India when it comes to the word 'Dasa'. As any other proper word to translate the word "slave" is absent in Sanskritized Hindi, the word Dāsa is used for the same. Further more in the bhakti yoga a person can be in a relationship with God in any of the 5 ways and one of the relationships is Dasyu-bhakta, meaning being a "slave of God" as said before.

Comparative linguistics[edit]

Dasa and related terms have been examined by several scholars.[51] While the terms Dasa and Dasyu have a negative meaning in Sanskrit, their Iranian counterparts Daha and Dahyu have preserved their positive (or neutral) meaning. This is similar to the Sanskrit terms Deva (a "positive" term) and Asura (a "negative" term). The Iranian counterparts of these terms (Daeva and Ahura) have opposite meanings.

Asko Parpola states the original Dasa is related to the Old Persian word Daha which also means "man", but refers specifically to a regional ethnic minority of Persia.[52] Parpola contrasts Daha with Arya, stating that the latter also referred to "man" but specifically to the incoming Indo-Iranians from Central Asia. The Vedic text that include prayers to help defeat the "Dasa as enemy people", states Parpola, may refer to the wars of the Indo-Iranians against the bearers of the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC) culture. The latter spoke a different language and opposed Indo-Iranian religious practices.[52] Parpola uses archaeological and linguistic arguments to support his theory, but his theory is controversial.[21]

Rāmachandra, or Rama (rāma in IAST, राम in Devanāgarī or Śrī Rāma (श्रीराम in Devanagari), was a king of ancient India whose grand story is portrayed in the epic Ramayana, one of the two great epics of India, the other being Mahabharata. In Hinduism, he is also considered to be the Seventh Avatara of Vishnu and one of the most important manifestations of God. Rāmá in the Rigveda and the Atharvaveda is an adjective meaning "dark, black", or a noun meaning "darkness", e.g. RV 10.3.3 (trans. Griffith). Rama is referred to as such because of his complexion. Again in Hinduism, Krishna or Krsna is the Supreme God and is considered as the eigth avatar of Vishnu. He is also the the main character and the Supreme person in Bhagavad Gita (Song of the Divine One), an ancient Sanskrit text comprising of 700 verses of the Mahabharata. He is referred to as Krsna or the dark one, exclusively because of his skin color.

Dasa[edit]

See also Dahae

The meaning of the word dāsa, which has been long preserved in the Khotanese dialect, is "man". Two words that contain "dasa" are the Vedic names Divodās (meaning "divine man") and Sudās (meaning "good man"). Dasa is also in Iranian "Daha", known to Graeco-Roman authors as the Dahae (Daai), designating probably Iranian tribes. The term Daha occurs in a Persepolis inscription of Xerxes (h 26).[53]

Daha also referred to a dasyu tribe in Margiana. Dahistan (east of the Caspian Sea/Gorgan) derives its name from this tribe [54]. The Greek historians Q. Curtius Rufus (8,3) and Ptolemy (Geography: 6,10,2) located the region of the Dahas on the river Margos (modern Murghab) or in Margiana (Parpola 1988). The Dahas are also mentioned by Pomponius Mela (3,42)[55] and Tacitus (Ann. 11,10)[56].

Strabo wrote about the Dahae the following:

"Most of the Scythians, beginning from the Caspian Sea, are called Dahae Scythae, and those situated more towards the east Massagetae and Sacae."
(Strabo, 11-8-1)

Strabo's description places Dahae nomads in the area around modern Turkmenistan.

Dasyu[edit]

Dasyus is in Iranian "dahyu" and means tribe, province and district. "Dah-" means "male, man" in Iranian. The "dahyu-pati" (also dahyunam) was the head of the tribe. (The Greek "des-potes and the English "despot" correspond to this term. (Windfuhr 1999)) A "dahyu-sasti" (command of dahyus) is a confederation of two or more dahyus. [57]

Related terms[edit]

See also Panis

Other hostile tribes, besides the Dasas and Dasyus, that are mentioned in the Vedic texts are the Panis, Pakthas (Pathans?), Parshus (Iranian tribes?), Prthus (Parthians?) and Bhalanas (Baluchis?).

Anasa[edit]

In RV 5.29.10, the word anasa is in connection with the Dasyus. Some scholars have translated anasa as "noseless". Although there is only one instance in the Rig Veda where this word occurs, this has led to belief that the Dasyus were "flat-nosed" people. But the classical commentator Sayana translated anasa as "without mouth or face" (anas = an "negative" + as "mouth"). Sayana's translation is supported by the occurrence of the word mrdhravacah in the same verse. Sayana explains the word mrdhravacah as "having defective organs of speech" (Rg Veda 1854-57:3.276 n.).

The religion of the Dasas/Dasyus[edit]

The main difference between the Aryas and the Dasas in the Rig Veda is a difference of religion.[58] Already A.A. Macdonell and A.B. Keith (1912) remarked that: "The great difference between the Dasyus and the Aryans was their religion... It is significant that constant reference is made to difference in religion between Aryans and Dasa and Dasyu." The Dasas and Dasyus are also described as brahma-dvisah in the Rig Veda [59], which Ralph T.H. Griffith translates as "those who hate devotion" or "prayer haters". Thus Dasa has also been interpreted as meaning the people that don't follow the same religion as the Aryans. Rig Veda 10.22.8 describes the Dasa-Dasyus as a-karman (non-performers of Aryan sacrifices), anya-vrata (observers of other rites) and in Rig Veda 10.105.8 they are described as anrc (non-singer of laudatory hymns). In RV 8.70.11 they are described as a-deva-yu (not regarding the Aryan gods).[60]

Devas versus Asuras[edit]

See also Zoroastrianism and Hinduism

This divide goes back to the composition of the Rig Veda. Both the religions believe in the holiness of the Veda except that the Zarathustrians believe in certain sections of the Rig Veda. When the Rig Veda was being written, there occurred a divide among the Brahmanas writing it. The Brahmanas of the Pauravas (Indians) or Parthas believed that Aditi was the good mother of the gods while the Irani or Dasa Brahmanas believed that Diti was. The Pauravas' chief god was Shri Indra and said that He has overtaken Shri Varuna as the leader of the gods. The Irani believed that Shri Varuna was still the chief of the gods. In the Irani pantheon, Shri Indra was given the status of a demon while they worshipped an Indra-like character who accepts the law of Varuna known as Indar. From this originated the Dasarajna war in which the ten kingdoms of the Irani, represented by the Brahmana Vishwamitra fought against the Indian King Sudas. From then on, the Indians referred to the asuras as the demons while Devas were the gods and the Irani, viceversa. When Zarathustrianism was established, Shri Varuna who Zarathustra referred to as the Ahura Mazda (Rigvedic Assur Mehda or Assur Mahadeo) was God Almighty while all other spirits were given the status of angels.

Symbolical and spiritual interpretations[edit]

Authors like Sri Aurobindo believe that words like Dasa are used in the Rig Veda symbolically and should be interpreted spiritually, and that Dasa does not refer to human beings, but rather to demons who hinder the spiritual attainment of the mystic. Many Dasas are purely mythical and can only refer to demons. There is for example a Dasa called Urana with 99 arms (RV II.14.4), and a Dasa with six eyes and three heads in the Rig Veda.[61]

Aurobindo[62] commented that in the RV III.34 hymn, where the word Arya varna occurs, Indra is described as the increaser of the thoughts of his followers: "the shining hue of these thoughts, sukram varnam asam, is evidently the same as that sukra or sveta Aryan hue which is mentioned in verse 9. Indra carries forward or increases the "colour" of these thoughts beyond the opposition of the Panis, pra varnam atiracchukram; in doing so he slays the Dasyus and protects or fosters and increases the Aryan "colour", hatvi dasyun pra aryam varnam avat."[63]

According to Aurobindo (The Secret of the Veda), RV 5.14.4 is a key for understanding the character of the Dasyus:

Agni born shone out slaying the Dasyus, the darkness by the light, he found the Cows, the Waters, Swar. (transl. Aurobindo)[64][65]

Aurobindo explains that in this verse the struggle between light and darkness, truth and falsehood, divine and undivine is described.[64] It is through the shining light created by Agni, god of fire, that the Dasyus, who are identified with the darkness, are slain. The Dasyus are also described in the Rig Veda as intercepting and withholding the Cows, the Waters and Swar ("heavenly world"; RV 5.34.9; 8.68.9). It is not difficult, of course, to find very similar metaphors, equating political or military opponents with evil and darkness, even in contemporary propaganda.

K.D. Sethna (1992) writes: "According to Aurobindo,(...) there are passages in which the spiritual interpretation of the Dasas, Dasyus and Panis is the sole one possible and all others are completely excluded. There are no passages in which we lack a choice either between this interpretation and a nature-poetry or between this interpretation and the reading of human enemies." And according to Koenraad Elst: "When it is said that Agni, the fire, “puts the dark demons to flight”, one should keep in mind that the darkness was thought to be filled with ghosts or ghouls, so that making light frees the atmosphere of their presence. And when Usha, the dawn, is said to chase the "dark skin" or "the black monster" away, it obviously refers to the cover of nightly darkness over the surface of the earth." [66]

The Dasas/Dasyus and krsna or asikni[edit]

In the Rig Veda, Dasa, Dasyu and similar terms (e.g. Pani) occur sometimes in conjunction with the terms krsna ("black") or asikni ("black"). This was often the basis for a "racial" interpretation of the Vedic texts. But Sanskrit is a language that uses many metaphors. The word cow for example can mean Mother Earth, sunshine, wealth, language, Aum etc. Words like "black" have similarly many different meanings in Sanskrit, as it is in fact the case in most languages. Thus "black" has many symbolical, mythological, psychological and other uses that are simply unrelated to human appearance.

Also Iyengar (1914) commented on such interpretations: "The only other trace of racial reference in the Vedic hymns is the occurrence of two words, one krishna in seven passages and the other asikini in two passages. In all the passages, the words have been interpreted as referring to black clouds, a demon whose name was Krishna, or the powers of darkness." (6-7, Iyengar, Srinivas. 1914.)

Sri Aurobindo [67] commented that in the RV III.34 hymn, where the word Arya varna occurs, Indra is described as the increaser of the thoughts of his followers: "the shining hue of these thoughts, sukram varnam asam, is evidently the same as that sukra or sveta Aryan hue which is mentioned in verse 9. Indra carries forward or increases the "colour" of these thoughts beyond the opposition of the Panis, pra varnam atiracchukram; in doing so he slays the Dasyus and protects or fosters and increases the Aryan "colour", hatvi dasyun pra aryam varnam avat."[68] Thus, Aurobindo sees the Arya varna or lustre of the thoughts that Indra increases as psychological.

The term krsnavonih in RV 2.20.7 has been interpreted by Asko Parpola as meaning "which in their wombs hid the black people". Sethna (1992) writes, referring to a comment by Richard Hartz, that "there is no need to follow Parpola in assuming a further unexpressed word meaning "people" in the middle of the compound krsnayonih", and the better known translation by Griffith, i.e. "who dwelt in darkness" can be considered as essentially correct.[69] Another scholar, Hans Hock (1999), finds Geldner's translation of krsnayonih (RV 2.20.7) as "Blacks in their wombs" and of krsnagarbha (RV 1.101.1) as "pregnant with the Blacks" "quite recherché" and thinks that it could refer to the "dark world" of the Dasas.

In RV 4.16.13, Geldner has assumed that "krsna" refers to "sahasra" (thousands). But this would be grammatically incorrect. If krsna would refer to "sahasra", it should be written as krsnan (acc. pl. masc.). Hans Hock (1999) suggests that "krsna" refers to "puro" (forts) in this verse.

  • KRsNayoni (“from a black womb”), kRshNatvac (“black-skinned”), tvacamasiknIm (id.), asiknivishah (“black tribe”) and other composites involving “black”, read in their contexts, usually refer to darkness, to nightly stratagems in war, or metaphorically to evil. Most languages have expressions like “black deeds”, “dark portends”, “the dark age”, associating darkness with evil, ignorance or danger. Vedic Sanskrit is extremely rich in metaphors, in techno-scientific contexts (for lack of a separate technical jargon) as well as in cultural and religious contexts, e.g. the word go, “cow” can refer to Mother Earth, the sunshine, material wealth, language, the Aum sound, etc. It is not far-fetched to perceive a metaphorical intention behind the use of words like “black”, similar to that in other languages. It also has to be inspected case by case whether the reference is at all to human beings (whether skin-colour or figurative characterization), because many Vedic expressions are about gods and heavenly phenomena. When it is said that Agni, the fire, “puts the dark demons to flight”, one should keep in mind that the darkness was thought to be filled with ghosts or ghouls, so that making light frees the atmosphere of their presence. And when Usha, the dawn, is said to chase the “dark skin” or “the black monster” away, it obviously refers to the cover of nightly darkness over the surface of the earth.68 Elst 1999
  • The Rg-Veda refers to the asikni or “black” people. Some uses of colour symbolism are simply applications of the universal tendency to represent negative properties with a black colour, as pointed out by Hock (in another rather sympathizing paper on an aspect highlighted by the Hindu debaters); or they may sometimes innocently refer to natural phenomena, e.g. kṛṣṇatvac, “the black cover”, is the night, not “the black skin (of the aboriginals)”, as read by racially biased translators. Yet, the racial-invasionist reading is very common and still has some academic and wide laymen’s sanction. Elst 1999
  • This word asikni characterizes a military enemy in the Battle of the Ten Kings (RV 7:5:3, apparently repeated in 9:73:5), and is mostly translated or explained as “the black aboriginals” resisting the Aryans invading from the west (eventhough they are repeatedly described as encountering the Vedic people from the west). Moreover, the Vedic priest Vasiṣṭha is described as śvitya, “white-clad” (RV 7:33:1), which some translators render as “white-complexioned”. So, “clearly” it was a confrontation between white Aryans and black Aboriginals. Elst 1999
  • But in fact, the enemies are led into battle by a king with an Iranian name, Kavi, ancestral founder of the later Iranian Kauui dynasty, and a priest with an Iranian name Kavaṣa, and their tribal names and nicknames all have Iranian counterparts or are known from Iranian and Greek sources to refer to Iranian communities. Moreover, their religion is described as having the typical characteristics of Mazdeism: without Indra, without Devas, without fire-sacrifice etc. And one detail removes “black” even farther from a description of the enemies’ skin colour: it turns out that asikni mostly doesn’t even have the general hostile connotation of blackness, but refers to a “black” circumstance only applicable to these specific enemies, the Ten Kings. Asiknī, “the black (river)”, is simply the Sanskrit name of the river whence they come, today the Chenab in West Panjab. Elst 1999
  • As for the Vedas, the only ones whom they describe as “golden-haired” are the resplendent lightning gods Indra and Rudra and the sun-god Savitar; not the Aryans or Brahmins. At the same time, several passages explicitly mention black hair when referring to Brahmins.95 These texts are considerably earlier than the enigmatic passage in Patanjali describing Brahmins as golden- or tawny-haired (piNgala and kapisha).96 Already one of Patanjali’s early commentators dismissed this line as absurd. To the passage from the grammarian Panini which describes Brahmins as “brown-haired”, A.A. Macdonnell notes (apparently against contemporary claims to the contrary): “All we can say is that the above-mentioned expressions do not give evidence of blonde characteristics of the ancient Brahmans.”97 Considering that Patanjali was elaborating upon the work of Panini, could it have anything to do with Panini’s location in the far northwest, where lighter hair must have been fairly common? On the other hand, demons or Rakshasas, so often equated with the “dark-skinned aboriginals”, have on occasion been described as red- or tawny-haired (also piNgala or kapisha, the same as Patanjali’s Brahmins).98
    • 95Atharva-Veda 6:137.2-3 is a charm, for making “strong black hairlocks” grow, apparently on the heads of bald or albino or greyed people. Paramesh Choudhury (The Aryan Hoax, p. 13) also mentions Baudhayana’s Dharma-Sutra 1:2, “Let him kindle the sacrificial fire while his hair is still black”, also cited in Shabara’s Bhasya on Jaimini 1:33, as instances where Brahmins’ hair is off-hand assumed to be black.
    • 96Patanjali: Mahabhashya (comment on Panini) 2:2:6.
    • 97Quoted from his A Practical Sanskrit Dictionary by Paramesh Choudhury: The Aryan Hoax, p. 13.
    • 98E.g. Mahabharata: Adiparva 223, describes a Rakshasa as red-haired, as pointed out by Paramesh Choudhury: The Aryan Hoax, p. 13. He also mentions that Ravana’s sister Surpanakha is described by Valmiki as having pingala eyes, but remember that Ravana’s family is described as a Brahmin family immigrated in Lanka from northern India.
      • Elst 1999
  • Reference to fair hair would certainly qualify, but according to Michael Witzel, there is in Sanskrit literature exactly “one ‘gold-haired’ (hiranyakeshin) person that is not a god, the author of HShS”, i.e. the Hiranyakeshin-Shrauta-Sûtra named after him. (p.390, emphasis in the original) Quite possibly, even the author called Hiranyakeshin or Gold-Haired was not gold-haired at all, but had one of the epithets of the solar deity Vishnu as his given name, just as people called Nîlakanth, “blue-throated” like Shiva after he swallowed poison, are not blue-throated at all. Elst 2007
  • Moreover, in Vasiṣṭha’s case we are probably dealing with a pun, a double-entendre: asikni means “black”, but it is also the name of a river, Asiknī, “the black river”, which happens to be the river whence the Ten Kings come to do battle. This is a normal type of hydronym, e.g. the Thames in England and the Demer in Belgium mean “dark (river)” as well, both names being cognates of Sanskrit tamas, “darkness”; just as rivers may have colour names referring to their lighter aspect, e.g. the Chinese Huanghe, “Yellow River”. So, “dark tribe” here means “tribe from the Dark River”. Elst 2018 [6]

The Rg-Veda refers to the asikni or “black” people. Some uses of colour symbolism are simply applications of the universal tendency to represent negative properties with a black colour: “When there is sufficient context for interpretation, we find that the notions can at least equally well be read as an ‘ideological’ distinction between the ‘dark/black’ world of the dāsas/dasyus and the ‘light/white’ world of the āryas.” (Hock 1995/2:154) Or they may sometimes innocently refer to natural phenomena, e.g. kṛṣṇa tvac, 9:41:1: “the black cover”, is the night. Yet, the racial-invasionist reading is very common and still has academic sanction, e.g.: “Indra subjected the aboriginal tribes of the Dāsas/Dasyus to the Aryans.” (Elizarenkova 1995:36) ...This word asikni characterizes a military enemy in the Battle of the Ten Kings (RV 7:5:3, apparently repeated in 9:73:5), and is mostly translated or explained as “the black aboriginals” (eventhough they encounter the Vedic people from the west). Moreover, the Vedic priest Vasiṣṭha is described as śvitya, “white-clad” (RV 7:33:1), which some translators render as “white-complexioned” (thus Wilson 1997). But in fact, the enemies are led into battle by a king with an Iranian name, Kavaṣa, belonging to the Iranian Kavi dynasty, their tribal names and nicknames all have Iranian counterparts or are known from Iranian and Greek sources to refer to Iranian communities. Moreover, their religion is described as having the typical characteristics of Mazdeism: without Indra, without Devas, without fire-sacrifice etc.. Asiknī, “the black (river)”, is simply the Sanskrit name of the river whence they come, today the Chenab in West Panjab. Very obviously, the enemies of the Vedic people at that time, when Rg-Vedic books 7 and 4 and the contemporaneous parts of books 1 and 9 were composed, were Iranian, not “black aboriginal”. This is attested from so many angles that one tends to wonder how this mistake could have been made at all, and how the true Iranian identity of the Dāsas (Greek Dahai) could have been missed. Elst 2018

Tvac[edit]

There three instances in the Rig Veda where the word krsna (or ashikni) tvac occurs, literally translating to "black (or swarthy) skin":

1.130.8de mánave śâsad avratân tvácaṃ kṛṣṇâm arandhayat
— "Plaguing the lawless he [Indra] gave up to Manu's seed the dusky skin" (trans. Griffith)
9.41.1 prá yé gâvo ná bhûrṇayas / tveṣâ ayâso ákramuḥ / ghnántaḥ kṛṣṇâm ápa tvácam[70]
— "active and bright have they come forth, impetuous in speed like bulls, Driving the black skin far away." (trans. Griffith)
9.73.5cd índradviṣṭām ápa dhamanti māyáyā tvácam ásiknīm bhûmano divás pári[71]
— "Blowing away with supernatural might from earth and from the heavens the swarthy skin which Indra hates." (trans. Griffith)

Tvac, however, besides its literal meaning of "skin" or "hide" already in the Rigveda has the generalized meaning of "surface" or "cover", in particular , it refers to the surface of the world in RV 1.79.3, 1.145.5, 10.68.4, and possibly 4.17.14.[72]

For this reason, there can be debate on whether instances of krsna tvac should be taken to refer literally to a "black skinned people". Maria Schetelich (1990) who has analyzed these three instances finds this as symbolic expression for darkness. Similary, Michael Witzel (1995b) writes about terms like krsna tvac that "while it would be easy to assume reference to skin colour, this would go against the spirit of the hymns: for Vedic poets, black always signifies evil, and any other meaning would be secondary in these contexts". The rigvedic commentator Sayana explains the word tvacam krsna (RV 1.130.8) as referring to an asura (demon) called Krsna whose skin was torn apart by Indra.

  • The importance of classical studies lies in the very importance of the subject itself, but also in the continued importance of classical references in modern Indian politics and culture. I was to find this out myself in the panel on “divinization” in which I spoke. I read a paper on Vasistha, the Vedic seer presiding over the unlikely victory against the “Ten Kings”. He was given one of the Vedic hymns, which are normally only devoted to the gods. Here was a classical subject, continuous with a tendency pervading the entire Hindu culture till today, of extolling exceptional men and women and treating them as gods. In passing, Vasistha mentions the “asikni visha”, the “dark people”. All translations known to me explain that these are he “dark aboriginals” against whom the invading white Aryans did battle. Very likely, the expression is a pun (of which Vedic poetry contains numerous examples, no doubt including some unidentified ones), meaning effectively “the people from the Asikni river”. Other verses specify that the Ten Kings came from the Asikni (Chenab) river, attacking eastwards to the Parushni (Ravi) river where the battle took place. “The dark one” is a normal name for a river, e.g. the Thames in London or the Demer in our town of Diest both mean “the dark one”, both names being cognate to Sanskrit tamas. Mind you, the Ten Kings came from the west, while the Vedic Aryans lived deeper inside India, and many details unambiguously identify them as predominantly Iranian. Thus, many names used by them or for them are known from Iranian, not from any Indian “aboriginal” language. The few other Vedic instances of people being called “dark” have satisfactorily been explained by the leading Sanskritist Hans Heinrich Hock as applications of the universal equation “light = good, dark = evil”, even attested in African languages. The systematic mistranslation of “dark people” etc. as “the dark-skinned aboriginals subdued by the white Aryan invaders and their caste Apartheid” for almost two centuries is one of the grossest mistakes in scholarship, and extremely rich in consequences.
    • Koenraad Elst, On Modi Time : Merits And Flaws of Hindu Activism In Its Day Of Incumbency – 2015 Ch 20

See also[edit]

  • The Dasyus, along with the Dasas and the Panis, were in fact Iranian tribes historically (in Alexander's time) based in Bactria, as is now recognized even by invasionist scholars like Asko Parpola.... That they were Indo-Europeans is now a certainty.
    • Elst, K. The Saffron Swastika
  • Even articulate spokesmen of the AIT now accept that the Dasysus were an Iranian community....
    • Elst, K. The Saffron Swastika

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 R.P. Kangle (1960), The Kautiliya Arthasastra - a critical edition, Vol. 2 and 3, University of Bombay Studies, ISBN 978-8120800427
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Barbara West (2008), Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania, ISBN 978-0816071098, page 182
  3. 3.0 3.1 Gregory Schopen (2004), Buddhist Monks and Business Matters, University of Hawaii Press, ISBN 978-0824827748, page 201
  4. 4.0 4.1 Wash Edward Hale (1999), Ásura in Early Vedic Religion, Motilal Barnarsidass, ISBN 978-8120800618, pages 159-169
  5. e.g., Asko Parpola (1988), Mayrhofer (1986-1996), Benveniste (1973), Lecoq (1990), Windfuhr (1999)
  6. See, for example: Pomponius Melo (transl. and ed. by Karl Henrich Tzschucke) De sitv orbis libri tres: ad plvrimos codices mostos vel denvo vel primvm consvltos aliorvmqve editiones recensiticvm notis criticis et exegeticis vel integris vel selectis Hermolai Barbari [et al] conlectis praeterea et adpositis doctorvm virorvm animadversionibvs additis svis a Carolo Henrico Tzschvckio, Vol. II, Pt 1 (1806), p. 95 and; Pomponius Mela (transl. and ed. by Karl Henrich Tzschucke) Pomponii Melae de situ orbis: libri tres, ad plurimos codices msstos vel denvo vel primum consultos aliorumque editiones recensiti, Vol. II, Pt 3 (1806), p. 136.
  7. Wash Edward Hale (1999), Ásura- in Early Vedic Religion, Motilal Barnarsidass, ISBN 978-8120800618, pages 162-165
  8. Edwin Bryant (2004), The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture: The Indo-Aryan Migration Debate, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195169478, pages 59-67
  9. 9.0 9.1 Monier Monier-Williams, A Sanskrit-English Dictionary” Etymologically and Philologically Arranged to cognate Indo-European Languages, Motilal Banarsidass, page 475
  10. Monier Monier-Williams, A Sanskrit-English Dictionary” Etymologically and Philologically Arranged to cognate Indo-European Languages, Motilal Banarsidass, page 476
  11. P. T. Srinivas Iyengar (1912), The Myth of the Aryan Invasion of India, Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, Vol. 60, No. 3113 pages 841-846
  12. B. Breloer (1934), Kautiliya Studien, Bd. III, Leipzig, pages 10-16, 30-71
  13. Witzel, Michael (2001). "Autochthonous Aryans?". Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies. 7 (3): 16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Michael Witzel (1995), Early Indian history: Linguistic and textual parameters, in The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia (Editor: G. Erdosy), de Gruyter, pages 85-125
  15. Khuhro, Hamida, P. 66 Sind Through the Centuries, 1981.
  16. P. 3 The Sacred Books of the East By Friedrich Max Müller
  17. Tilak, Bal Gangadhar, P. 364 The Arctic Home in the Vedas
  18. P. 85 Gods, Sages and Kings: Vedic Secrets of Ancient Civilization By Dr. David Frawley
  19. Parpola 2015, pp. 100-106.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Parpola 2015, pp. 82-85, 96-106.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Colin Renfrew (1991), The Coming of the Aryans to Iran and India and the Cultural and Ethnic Identity of the Dāsas by Asko Parpola, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Third Series, Vol. 1, No. 1, pages 106-109
  22. Thomas William Rhys Davids, William Stede (2015), Pali-English Dictionary, 2nd Edition, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120811447, page 104
  23. Thomas William Rhys Davids, William Stede (2015), Pali-English Dictionary, 2nd Edition, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120811447, page 217
  24. Thomas William Rhys Davids, William Stede (2015), Pali-English Dictionary, 2nd Edition, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120811447, page 73
  25. R. C. Majumdar and A. D. Pusalker (editors): The History and Culture of the Indian People. Volume I, The Vedic age. Bombay : Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan 1951, p.253. Keith and Macdonell 1922, ISBN 978-8172764401
  26. (e.g. 6.22.10, 6.33.3, 6.60.6), Ambedkar 1946, Who were the Shudras
  27. RV 6.33.3, 7.83.1, 8.51.9, 10.102.3; Ambedkar, 1946, Who were the Shudras
  28. Rigveda Sanskrit text, Wikisource
  29. Rigveda, Mandala 10, Hymn 22 Ralph T Griffith, Wikisource
  30. Rigveda 10.22.8 H. H. Wilson (Translator), Trubner & Co, pages 57-58
  31. Wash Edward Hale (1999), Ásura- in Early Vedic Religion, Motilal Barnarsidass, ISBN 978-8120800618, page 163
  32. Rigveda 10.99.6 HH Wilson (Translator), Trubner & Co, page 285
  33. Sharma, R. S. (1990) [first published in 1958]. Sudras in Ancient India. Motilal Banarasidass. pp. 24–25, 50–51.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. 34.0 34.1 Rigveda 10.62.10 HH Wilson (Translator), Trubner & Co, page 167
  35. Wash Edward Hale (1999), Ásura- in Early Vedic Religion, Motilal Barnarsidass, ISBN 978-8120800618, page 162
  36. Rigveda 10.62 Sanskrit text, Wikisource
  37. Wash Edward Hale (1999), Ásura- in Early Vedic Religion, Motilal Barnarsidass, ISBN 978-8120800618, pages 157-174
  38. Sharma, R. S. (1990) [first published in 1958]. Sudras in Ancient India. Motilal Banarasidass. pp. 50–51.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 39.3 39.4 39.5 Shamasastry (Translator, 1915), Arthashastra of Chanakya
  40. Kangle, R. P. (1986) [first published 1969], The Kauṭilīya Arthaśāstra (Part II) (Second ed.), Motilal Banarsidass Publ., pp. 237–, ISBN 978-81-208-0042-7<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  41. Rangarajan, L. N. (1992) [first published in 1987], Kautilya — The ARTHASHASTRA, Penguin Books Limited, Chapter VIII.x, ISBN 978-81-8475-011-9<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  42. 42.0 42.1 Kangle, R. P. (1997) [first published 1960], The Kauṭilīya Arthaśāstra (Part III), Motilal Banarsidass Publ., p. 186, ISBN 978-81-208-0041-0<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  44. निष्पातित Sanskrit English dictionary
  45. 45.0 45.1 Thomas William Rhys Davids and William Stede (2015), Pali-English Dictionary, 2nd Edition, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120811447, page 320
  46. Gregory Schopen (2010), On Some Who Are Not Allowed to Become Buddhist Monks or Nuns: An Old List of Types of Slaves or Unfree Laborers, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 130, No. 2, pages 225-234
  47. Steven P. Hopkins (2007). An ornament for jewels: love poems for the Lord of Gods. Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Oxford University Press. p. 160. ISBN 0-19-532639-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  48. Bhaktivedanta Swami, A. C. (1972). The Bhagavad-gita As It Is, second edition. New York City: Macmillan.
  49. 49.0 49.1 Talbot, Cynthia (2001). Precolonial India in practice: society, region, and identity in medieval Andhra. Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Oxford University Press. p. 81. ISBN 0-19-513661-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  50. D Roy (2013), Rural Politics in India: Political Stratification and Governance in West Bengal, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 1107042356, page 67
  51. e.g., Asko Parpola (1988), Mayrhofer (1986-1996), Benveniste (1973), Lecoq (1990), Windfuhr (1999)
  52. 52.0 52.1 Asko Parpola (2015), The Roots of Hinduism: The Early Aryans and the Indus Civilization, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0190226923, pages 100-106
  53. Parpola 1988:220-21
  54. (G.L. Windfuhr in Bronkhorst & Desphande (ed.) 1999)
  55. He places them near the Oxus. Parpola 1988
  56. He places them on the northern border of Areia, at the Sindes (Tejend) River. Parpola 1988
  57. (G.L. Windfuhr in Bronkhorst & Desphande (ed.) 1999)
  58. R. C. Majumdar and A. D. Pusalker (editors): The history and culture of the Indian people. Volume I, The Vedic age. Bombay : Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan 1951, p.253. Keith and Macdonell 1922.
  59. (e.g. RV 5.42.9; 8.45.23; 10.36.9; 10.160.4; 10.182.3)
  60. e.g. Sethna 1992, Elst 1999, Ambedkar 1946 Who were the Shudras
  61. Parpola 1988, Sethna 1992:329
  62. Sethna 1992:114 and 340, Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda, p. 220-21
  63. Sethna 1992:114 and 340
  64. 64.0 64.1 Sethna 1992:114-115 and 348-349
  65. Which is translated by Griffith thus: Agni shone bright when born, with light killing the Dasyus and the dark He found the Kine, the Floods, the Sun. (trans. Griffith)
  66. Elst 1999; Cf. Sir Monier-Williams: A Sanskrit-English Dictionary, entry tvac, Reference is to Rgveda 1:92:5 and 4:51:9.
  67. Sethna 1992:114 and 340, Aurobindo, The Secret of the Veda, p. 220-21
  68. Sethna 1992:114 and 340
  69. Sethna 1992:337-338
  70. note the sāhvâṃso dásyum avratám "vanquishing the rite less Dasyu" in the following verse.
  71. again note the context of saṃdáhantaḥ avratân "burning up riteless men" in pada b.
  72. As pointed out by Hans Hock (1999). Hock also remarked that in RV 1.65.8, a similar metaphor is used. In this verse, "roma prthivyah" refers to the "body-hair of the earth", i.e. to the plants.
Sources
  • Parpola, Asko (2015), The Roots of Hinduism: The Early Aryans and the Indus Civilization, Oxford University Press Incorporated, ISBN 0190226927<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • But even if we take the Vedas to be history, we must apply a chosen criterion consistently and not pick and choose according to our convenience. In a Rg verse (7.6.3) which speaks of the foolish, the faithless, the rudely-speaking, the niggardly, of men without belief, sacrifice and worship (nyakritu, grathina, mRdhra-vâc, paNi, aSraddha, avriddha, ayajña), we are also told that "Far, far away has Agni chased those dasyus, and, in the east, has turned the godless westward", a direction which is just the opposite of what the Orientalists have been telling us - not eastward and southward but westward. Why neglect this testimony?
    • Ram Swarup, On Hinduism.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bryant, Edwin: The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture. 2001. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513777-9
  • J. Bronkhorst and M.M. Deshpande. 1999. Aryan and Non-Aryan in South Asia. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
  • Hock, Hans. 1999b, Through a Glass Darkly: Modern "Racial" Interpretations vs. Textual and General Prehistoric Evidence on Arya and Dasa/Dasyu in Vedic Indo-Aryan Society." in Aryan and Non-Aryan in South Asia.
  • Iyengar, Srinivas. 1914. "Did the Dravidians of India Obtain Their Culture from Aran Immigrant [sic]." Anthropos 1-15.
  • Macdonell, A.A. and Keith, A.B. 1912. The Vedic Index of Names and Subjects.
  • Parpola, Asko: 1988, The Coming of the Aryans to Iran and India and the Cultural and Ethnic Identity of the Dasas; The problem of the Aryans and the Soma.
  • Rg Veda 1854-57. Rig-Veda Samhita. tr. H.H. Wilson. London: H.Allen and Co.
  • Schetelich, Maria. 1990, "The problem of the "Dark Skin" (Krsna Tvac) in the Rgveda." Visva Bharati Annals 3:244-249.
  • Sethna, K.D. 1992. The Problem of Aryan Origins. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • Trautmann, Thomas R. 1997, Aryans and British India. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Witzel, Michael. 1995b, 325, fn, "Rgvedic History" in The Indo-Aryans of South Asia.
  • Ambedkar, B.R. (1946) Who were the Shudras?
  • Aurobindo, Sri. 1971. The Secret of the Veda. Pondicherry: Shri Aurobindo Ashram.
  • Elst, Koenraad Update on the Aryan Invasion Debate. 1999. ISBN 81-86471-77-4 [7], [8]
  • Frawley, David The Myth of the Aryan Invasion of India, 1995. New Delhi: Voice of India; In Search of the Cradle of Civilization, Chapter 6
  • Talageri, Shrikant G. 2000. The Rig Veda - A historical analysis. [9]