A video seminar at Jain University, Bangalore on Vedic Irina and the Rann of Kutch
P . Desikan
The gloom of the first Lock-down sitting solid on my brows on 27th April nearly two weeks ago was lifted and cleared effectively when I received an invitation to attend, (sitting at home, inevitably) a video talk by my good friend Prof.(Dr) RN Iyengar, Director for the Center for Ancient History and Culture (CAHC) at the Jain University, Bangalore on 28th, 29th and 30th for one hour each day, between 8-30pm and 9-30pm. This invite was from his associate, Dr H S Sudarshan, who followed up on the invitation by taking meticulous care that the nearly hundred invitees plus others who had volunteered, could listen to the lectures and also participate effectively in the Q&A sessions that followed them.
The topic taken up was the step-wise, precise location of the place Irina mentioned in the Vedas and also briefly talked about in the itihasas and some other old literature of India. At the time about 16, 17 years ago, when Dr Iyengar had begun his investigations on this piece of land on a Raja Ramanna fellowship programme, earlier researchers had almost zeroed in on the Rann of Kutch itself as the place called Irina by our ancient Rishis. This was closely examined by Dr RNI. He had been publishing articles on his findings, and these were discussed in the three video talks
In Rigveda Irina appears as a locale frequented by an animal called Gaura. With the passage of time, in the Yajurveda, orthodox people were asked not to live in Iriṇa. In the ritualistic context, Iriṇa got associated with disaster and misfortune. The geographical features associated with Iriṇa, as described in the Vedic texts, were discussed in these talks, to identify its location as being contiguous or very near or overlapping with the present day Raṇn-of-Kutch, which is a land formed by receding of the sea, probably due to neotectonic activity. Vedic Brāhmaṇa texts explain the animal Gaura as a demented horse (as against the meanings given in the RV-Bhāshya and modern dictionaries) which Dr Iyengar concluded was most likely the whitish wild ass locally called Gaur-kur, still surviving in the Raṇn region. The Mahābhārata knows Iriṇa as the place where innumerable ground openings existed and the sea receded making the River Sarasvati to shift westwards. This broad region must have been central to not only the Vedic but also to the Harappan people. In RV (1.51.6), Indra is said to have trod the mighty Arbuda under his foot. This hymn is in a sequence of lauds praising Indra for his heroic acts. In the past, scholars have interpreted Indra and his acts in a variety of ways ranging from the mystical to the trivial. But the conspicuous and symbolic significance of the act of Indra hitting the mountain Arbuda cannot be overlooked. RV (8.32.3) extolls Indra as having brought down the height of the lofty Arbuda. The geographical constraints as dictated by modern scientific investigations about the River Sarasvatī, match with the Ṛgvedic description of the decrease in height of Arbuda as a real topographical change explained by Valdiya in 2002. This seems to have happened at an unknown period during 4th-5th millennium BCE. This was also the period of River proto-Yamuna, initially flowing south-westerly, taking an eastern course. This is attributed to the subsidence or down sagging of the northern limbs of the Aravalli Mountains and consequent flattening of the region. The subsequent period up to 1000 BCE saw the slow disappearance of rivers Sarasvatī and Dṛṣadvatī. Dr Iyengar considered the identity of Arbuda to the Aravalli mountain range to be straightforward. The consecutive hymns (8.3) and (8.4) citing Arbuda, Iriṇa and Gaura are by the same seer Medhātithi Kāṇva. The Professor found it logical to infer that the original Vedic Iriṇa should have been close to Aravallis on the north-eastern coast of Raṇn-of- Kutch, when it was still a navigable sea. The Professor found it appropriate to go through the Vedic texts in the original, and find support also from the Nirukta, Brhaddevatā, Skāndapurāṇa, commentaries and some translations to see what broad geographical picture emerged and to infer how such a picture correlates with present day understanding in Earth Sciences. He made very good use of the navigation data provided in Periplus of the Erythrian Sea, a Greek text of 1st century B C.
He narrated the difficulties he faced in sifting through the mass of the long-winding and often mutually inconsistent information presented by the Skanda Purana, and how he even had to accept in consequence a revision in his mind of the location of where Lord Krishna is believed to have spent his last moments on earth in Prabhasa kshetra. This discussion was of special interest to me.
The talks evinced considerable interest in the audience , who consisted of experts in several disciplines, all of whom were alike in their keenness in getting closer to truth in Indian historic (and ancient geographic) perspectives.
On behalf of our journal, I would like to thank Dr Sudarshan and Dr Iyengar for a memorable experience.
More posts by this author:
- Prabhasa Tirtha
- Of Fusion of Faith and History
- Dr RN Iyengar
- Dr. Brahmachari reporting on the historicity of Mahabharata
- Parashurama Kshetra Part 3
After R & D and technical management experience of over three decades in petroleum and organic chemical industry, have been devoting the past fifteen years to the study of Tamil and Sanskrit classics, including dharmic works and doing some serious translation work. Have been a significant contributor to the medha journal almost since its inception upto 2013 and expect to continue my association with it.