Mythos 64 – Aryan Migrations

 

According to the Avesta the Aryans spread across 15 lands: Gava, Mōuru, Bakhdhi (Bāxδī), Nisāya, Haroyu (Harōiva), Vaekereta (Vaēkərəta), Urvā, Khnenta (Xnənta), Harahvaiti (Harax’aitī), Haētumant, Ragha (Raγa), Chakhra (Čaxra), Varena (Varəna), Seven Rivers (Hapta Həndu), and Rangha (Raŋhā). Some of these lands are described in the Avesta, however their location continues to be disputed. Many Iranian cities and provinces bare Avestan names, however archaeology and genetics have established that the Iranians/Aryans were recent colonists in the region, conquering it in the early historic era around 2,800 years ago. Similar place names are sometimes found in India, however older Dravidian and Munda names are also generally recorded for the same regions, and again, the Aryans only migrated into the region starting approximately 4,200 years ago.(1)P. Moorjani et al. (2013) “Genetic evidence for recent population mixture in India,” The American Journal of Human Genetics, Volume 93, Number 3, Pages 422-438 When the Aryans emerged from the Vara the Airyana Vaeja was described as:

There are ten winter months there, two summer months; and those are cold for the waters, cold for the earth, cold for the trees. Winter falls there, the worst of all plagues.- Avesta (2)Avesta, Fargard 1.3, Translated by James Darmesteter 1898

The second land listed, and the first encountered after the Airyana Vaeja was Gava, or the plain:

The second of the good lands and countries which I, Ahura Mazda, created, was (Gava) the plain which the Sughdhas inhabit.

Thereupon came Angra Mainyu, who is all death, and he counter-created the locust, which brings death unto cattle and plants.- Avesta (3)Avesta, Fargard 1.4, Translated by James Darmesteter 1898

Leaving Fennoscandia during the last glaciation, the first non-glaciated area encountered would be the European Plain in the region of modern southern Russia or Ukraine. The reference to it’s inhabitants being Sughdhas is a reference to the ancient Sogdians, an East-Persian tribe that inhabited the mountains of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in the Persian and Hellenic Era, after 2,500 years ago. This has led many scholars to assume that Gava (the plain) was in the mountains of Central Asia, however the Sogdians were a Sakan tribe, who migrated into the mountains of Central Asia from Russia and Siberia in earlier times. If they migrated from a plain, then it was likely the European Plain,(4)Denis Sinor (1990) The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, Volume 1 or Ukok Plateau,(5)Paul G. Bahn (2000) The Atlas of World Geology. Page 128 both of which have Scythian (Sakan) ruins and remains dating to earlier than 2,500 years ago. The next three lands encountered were Mōuru, Bāxδī, and Nisāya; their locations are also unclear.

The third of the good lands and countries which I, Ahura Mazda, created, was the strong, holy Mouru. Thereupon came Angra Mainyu, who is all death, and he counter-created plunder and sin.

The fourth of the good lands and countries which I, Ahura Mazda, created, was the beautiful Bakhdhi with high-lifted banner. Thereupon came Angra Mainyu, who is all death, and he counter-created the ants and the ant-hills.

The fifth of the good lands and countries which I, Ahura Mazda, created, was Nisaya, that lies between the Mouru and Bakhdhi. Thereupon came Angra Mainyu, who is all death, and he counter-created the sin of unbelief.- Avesta (6)Avesta, Fargard 1.5-7, Translated by James Darmesteter 1898

The verses create an internal reference, in that Nisāya was between Mōuru and Bakhdhi, however the location of the three lands remains somewhat mysterious due to the migrations of the past few thousand years. If Gava was the European Plain, then the Mōuru were likely the ancestors of the modern Mari people of the East European Plain in Russia. The Mari people are a Finno-Uralic people that traditionally lived in the Volga River region and the Southern Ural Mountains. The Mari are believed to have encountered the ancient Aryans at a very early date, as their name for themselves is believed to be based on a Proto-Indo-European term: *maryá- meaning ‘man.’ Other Finno-Uralic peoples are believed to have been in contact with Indo-Europeans from a very early date as well, such as the Mordvinians who still know the Volga as the Rav (Рав), derived from its ancient Aryan name Rhā (Ῥᾶ). In both Finnish and Estonian, two Finno-Uralic languages, the word for ‘slave’ is ‘orja,’ which is believed to be derived from the word Arya; indicating that the Aryans must have been in a very lowly position when they first encountered the Finno-Uralic tribes.

The fact that Bakhdhi was destroyed by ants building ant-hills does not point to a specific location, however does indicate a high likelihood of a primitive wood-based architecture somewhere in a moist climate, possibly still in the European Plain, or the Kazakh Steppes. Bakhdhi was believed to be Bactria in Zend literature, and Avestan was believed to be the Old-Bactrian language, however this theory was discredited in the 1800s.(7)Ilya Gershevitch (1983) “Bactrian Literature”, in Ehsan Yarshater, editor, Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 3, Number 2, Pages 1250–1258. The subsequent discovery of Indus trading colonies in Central Asia, and the lack of Dravidian elements in Old-Gathic Avestan mean the Gathas must have been written prior to contact with the Dravidians. The Bactrians were a Sakan tribe closely related to the Sodgians, and likely migrated from the same plain the Sogdians originate in. The fact that the Aryans had to leave Mōuru and Nisāya due to the sin of the locals indicates that the Aryans were not a ruling cast at the time, but a religious minority. The next land they came to was Harōiva:

The sixth of the good lands and countries which I, Ahura Mazda, created, was the house-deserting Haroyu. Thereupon came Angra Mainyu, who is all death, and he counter-created tears and wailing.- Avesta (8)Avesta, Fargard 1.8, Translated by James Darmesteter 1898

The reference to house-deserting, is a reference to a people who abandoned their homes when someone died in it, as explained in the Avesta.(9)Avesta, Fargard 5.42, Translated by James Darmesteter 1898 The fact that Angra Mainyu created tears and wailing indicates that a lot of people died, possibly from an unknown pathogen as no obvious cause is referenced. In the following few lands the Aryans seemed to encounter a lot of sinful behavior indicating that they were still a religious minority:

The seventh of the good lands and countries which I, Ahura Mazda, created, was Vaekereta, of the evil shadows. Thereupon came Angra Mainyu, who is all death, and he counter-created the Pairika Knathaiti, who claves unto Keresaspa.

The eighth of the good lands and countries which I, Ahura Mazda, created, was Urva of the rich pastures. Thereupon came Angra Mainyu, who is all death, and he counter-created the sin of pride.

The ninth of the good lands and countries which I, Ahura Mazda, created, was Khnenta which the Vehrkanas inhabit. Thereupon came Angra Mainyu, who is all death, and he counter-created a sin for which there is no atonement, the unnatural sin.

The tenth of the good lands and countries which I, Ahura Mazda, created, was the beautiful Harahvaiti. Thereupon came Angra Mainyu, who is all death, and he counter-created a sin for which there is no atonement, the burying of the dead.

The eleventh of the good lands and countries which I, Ahura Mazda, created, was the bright, glorious Haetumant. Thereupon came Angra Mainyu, who is all death, and he counter-created the evil work of witchcraft. And this is the sign by which it is known, this is that by which it is seen at once: wheresoever they may go and raise a cry of sorcery, there the worst works of witchcraft go forth. From there they come to kill and strike at heart, and they bring locusts as many as they want.

The twelfth of the good lands and countries which I, Ahura Mazda, created, was Ragha of the three races. Thereupon came Angra Mainyu, who is all death, and he counter-created the sin of utter unbelief.

The thirteenth of the good lands and countries which I, Ahura Mazda, created, was the strong, holy Chakhra. Thereupon came Angra Mainyu, who is all death, and he counter-created a sin for which there is no atonement, the cooking of corpses.- Avesta (10)Avesta, Fargard 1.9-16, Translated by James Darmesteter 1898

References   [ + ]

1. P. Moorjani et al. (2013) “Genetic evidence for recent population mixture in India,” The American Journal of Human Genetics, Volume 93, Number 3, Pages 422-438
2. Avesta, Fargard 1.3, Translated by James Darmesteter 1898
3. Avesta, Fargard 1.4, Translated by James Darmesteter 1898
4. Denis Sinor (1990) The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, Volume 1
5. Paul G. Bahn (2000) The Atlas of World Geology. Page 128
6. Avesta, Fargard 1.5-7, Translated by James Darmesteter 1898
7. Ilya Gershevitch (1983) “Bactrian Literature”, in Ehsan Yarshater, editor, Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 3, Number 2, Pages 1250–1258
8. Avesta, Fargard 1.8, Translated by James Darmesteter 1898
9. Avesta, Fargard 5.42, Translated by James Darmesteter 1898
10. Avesta, Fargard 1.9-16, Translated by James Darmesteter 1898