Jijith Nadumuri Ravi has taken forward the research on ancient India with his maiden book Rivers of Rgveda. It is said to be a geographical exploration of the age of Rgveda, but that is an understatement. In his 480-page book, the author has explored the rivers mentioned in the text, the chronology of the migration pattern of the ancient Indians, the rulers and their successors as well as the authors of those verses. Yet this book, according to the author, is incomplete. He has promised to delve deeper into the subsequent narratives contained in the Ramayana as also the Mahabharata — what many felt were mere poetic imaginations — linking them with archaeological findings and other scholastic research.
For someone brought up on the staple diet of the Aryan invasion-revised-to-migration theory of historiography, Rivers of Rgveda will remain unpalatable. Ignorance is always a bliss. More so if the same comes from the West, the supposed storehouse of knowledge. What Ravi has undertaken is a verse-by-verse analysis of the entire text of Rgveda, taking into account the versions prevailing in scholastic circles as also taking the times of Rgveda ahead to the times of the Mahabharata. In the course, he has given a bird’s eye view on the towns which flourished including that of Ayodhya.
While discussing the course of River Sarayu, the author says, “The geographical data in the Ramayana has many enigmas and anomalies. A lot of re-rendering of the older geography with newer geography has occurred in the Ramayana.” He has promised to write a separate book on the same. In this book, he has given a certain outline of the river and the town that is central to the Ramayana. Take the example of the course of the Sarayu. The Iksvakus used to live on the banks of River Sarasvati but migrated towards the Ganga when the Sarasvati started drying up. This happened during the rule of Iksvaku king Sagara. A grandson of Sagara, Asuman, migrated to the banks of the Yamuna and renamed it Asumati. Jijith found reference to the river Asumati in the 8th mandala and concluded that the Iksvakus moved eastwards during that period. A grandson of Asuman, Bhagiratha, moved further east and settled on the Ganga. Raghu, a son of Bhagiratha, perhaps set up the new capital of Ayodhya on the bank of the Sarayu, the northern tributary of the Ganga. Rama, the eldest son of Dasaratha, was the 10th descendant from Raghu. Serious readers will have to wait for the next book of the author on the Ramayana.
The current volume has details of the Rgveda, the oldest repository of information “regarding the civilization that thrived on the river banks of Sarasvati, Sindhu and their tributaries”. Rgveda is arranged into 10 books with 1,028 hymns and 10,552 verses. Ravi attempted to decipher all and follow the chronology and geography hidden in it to come to an authentic narrative of the ancient Bharata clan whose patron goddess Bharati is today’s Bharat Mata. The mandalas, the author has shown, are not numbered chronologically, judging by the names of the rivers, places, kings and sages who composed those. His in-depth research reveals that Mandalas 6, 3 and 7 are the oldest and pertains to 3400 to 2600 BCE; 4 and 2 belong to 2600 to 2200 BCE and the rest four 5, 8, 9 and 10 covered 2200 and 1400 BCE. The last mandala, that is number 10, mentions Santanu, father of Bhisma of the Mahabharata.
Santanu had moved eastward and set up Hastinapur as his capital. He moved to the Ganga bank later than Bhagiratha did. Jijith found the mention of King Rama in the 10th mandala of the Rgveda. In his view, Rama was certainly before the Kuru king Santanu. “The Ramayana authors blended many pre-existing geographical and chronological information into Ramayana”, wrote Ravi. But for details, we need to wait for his book on the Ramayana.
While researching thoroughly, Ravi found that important river references were lost in translations. “Jahnavi is translated as in the family of Jahnu (translator Wilson), the house of Jahnu (Griffith) the wife of Jahnu ((Jamison).” In the Mahabharata, Jahnavi is mentioned as an alternative name for the Ganga. The same could be traced in the 3rd mandala of the Rgveda, one of the three ancient texts. The point is that the early translators did not compare different texts as available in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata nor did they have the benefit of comparing the chronology and geography as available in recent research. Clearly, the Aryan theory has clouded the views of early researchers who find it difficult to accept recent researchers like Ravi.
In the youngest mandala, Mandala 10, Ravi observed that the rivers were all explored and known to the people as could be seen from the Nadi Sukta of the River Hymn : “Oh, Ganga, Yamuna, Sarasvati, attend this praise of mine, oh, Sutudri, Parusai. With the Asikni, oh, Marudvrdha, with the Vitasta, oh, Arijikiya, listen with the Susoma.” The rivers mentioned are from the east to west direction starting with the Ganga. Evidently, the Ganga was the eastern-most river known to the Rgvedic people.
Rivers of Rgveda, based on the most ancient available text, provides some food for thought. The most important question it raises is whether the ancient inhabitants of the geography through which these rivers had flown did come from outside or moved westwards from the banks of the Sarasvati and the Yamuna. For that, one may take note of the battle of the 10 kings fought on the banks of the Paruni (modern-day Ravi — called Iravati in the Mahabharata). In the battle, Dasarajna battle, Sudas the vedic king defeated the enemies. The western scholars concluded that Sudas came from Iran and defeated the aborigins from the East while it is clear in the Rgvedic text that the western boundary of kingdom of Sudas was the river Ravi (Paruni) and that Sudas was very much from within ancient Bharat. The fault in the Aryan invasion argument was exposed by Shrikant Talageri in year 2000 still in the most recent English translation of the Rgveda – in 2014 – Talageri’s thesis was ignored. Ravi has taken up the point with detailed analysis of every Sukta, placing those against archaeological findings as well as later texts as contained in the Mahabharata or the Ramayana.
“The task before us now is to draw the establishment’s attention to Ravi’s research findings and make them see that a Vedic geography is no longer an object of wild speculation,” wrote historian Koenraad Elst, the famous Flemish author and Indologist in the foreword of the book. The task is tough, given the overpowering lobby winking at historical evidence to establish their kind of fiction. They have two big advantages. First, Jijith N Ravi is a former space scientist, not a trained historian, therefore may be ignored. Second and no less important is that those who run the establishment have no time to carefully read the pieces of evidence furnished by the author. Rivers of Rgveda demands very careful reading. Those who have sufficient patience and enough curiosity to know our past must read this book so as to separate history from fiction and draw everyone’s attention as Dr Elst hopes to.