Thursday, April 30, 2015

Kunal Singh: Kula Devata/How to determine if you have ancient roots

Mr. Gurupdesh Singh has questioned whether the agrarians of Bihar can prove that they have ancient roots in Bharat, suspecting that we may just be descendants of the Indo-Scythians.  Certainly, proving a descent prior to the arrival of the Indo-Scythians would be quite easy if one accepted the lineages as described in the Puranas.  But being from the northwest, Mr. Gurupdesh Singh has no faith in things like the Ramayana, Mahabharata or the Puranas having any authenticity whatsoever.  According to him all these are figments of Brahmins'imaginations. :-)
So given the above constraint, I have given some thought to how I could determine if I, a Kurmi from Bihar, was descended from some Indo-Scythian (Jats, Huns, Gurjaras) or other people who came later to Bharata (Greeks etc.).  I guess Kurmis from the South would not have
this dilemma. ;-)

I think the term "vratya" denotes anyone not divided into caste-based societies.  The whole caste division thing seems to have started in the northern/central UP area and then continued to the northern regions of Bihar.  It becomes imperative to separate the notion of lineage from "arya" or "vratya."  Apparently the Magadha region was already inhabited by people before the whole "aryanization" process. It was inhabited by people who worshipped their ancestors and those
who worshipped cobras.  During ancient times the Magadhans and the Gandhars were BOTH considered non-arya.  Some even question when the Licchavis began to be considered "arya."
So the term "vratya" is not synonymous with "foreigners" in the strict sense.  It signifies that a people were beyond the "arya" society's folds, which denoted a society divided along caste lines
Avoiding all constructs which could possibly be related to Brahmins such as gotra, caste etc., I think I can manage to do it without any of these.

The first place to start, ignoring my caste, would be the tradition of keeping a kul devta.  Both my maternal and my paternal parents had a kul devta and the kul devta consisted of a piece of earth and was named after several deities.  Among the deities named as the kul devtaof my family are Lakshmi, and Hanuman among many others.  Now somepeople would object that a kul devta is a Brahmin construct, but such people would be wrong.  Kul devtas were kept in families, quite well
guarded by the women in the family, who offered homage to it in terms of ritualistic worship practically everyday.  In some rituals, the kul devtas participated, particularly marriage etc., and the Brahmin would  have to ask who your kul devta was.  And any new woman who came into
the family would likewise have to offer worship to the kul devta.  I have not met any Jats or even Punjabis who had kul devtas yet, though quite a few were agrarians, not unlike Kurmis.
The second place to start would be rites and rituals related to the place where you live.  It is quite easy to distinguish between traditional people of Patna and the newcomers to Patna.  For example,
my wife's family is traditionally from Patna.  Before marriage they are required to pay homage to Devi Ma (a deity of Shakti represented by five stones).  After marriage they are required to pay homage to the deity Patali Devi, the deity associated with the city of Patna whose inhabitants viewed her as their mother, thus the name Pataliputra (sons of Patali).  Needless to say not all people who get married in Patna pay homage to the Patali deity.  But the traditional castes of Patna see it as a ritual that needs to be completed, though they can't explain why.  Even non-believing newer generations in these castes generally end up taking a rather long trip to the temple which is located in the area of "old Patna" or the actual Pataliputra which is rather far away from modern or new Patna.  And once you get to the temple, you can't see a single modern person from the northwest anywhere near the place.  You will only see traditional people of various castes.

 You want an easily identifiable clear-cut sign of Hun/Saka association?  Take the marriage ritual.  In all Vedic communities, the groomnever rides a horse but rides a chariot!  Any horse-riding tradition
is likely associated with the Huns or Sakas.  And the Rajputs in UPand Bihar can't seem to do the bhangra very well!
The third place to start would be an analysis of the diet and lifestyle.  The traditional diet of Bihari agrarians, as I've pointed out before, has a greater commonality with the south than the north-west.  Rice and lentils and their respective flours comprise the largest part of the diet.  "Pitthas" and "Littis" of Bihar are similar to "Idlis" of the South.  Various "sattus" are also consumed, particularly by the elderly.  And "besan" and "gud" seem to be a popular combination in Bihar.
 The Vedic society was largely a onions,meat-consuming, liquor-drinking society and that includes both light and dark-skinned people.  You can consult even the Shushruta Samhita on this.
 All three have been taboo since Brahminism has taken over.Some scholars suspect that this appened after the Ashokan period which may have done much to support vegetarianism.
 I had never imagined from reading these ridiculous new books on Ayurveda that its foundations actually recommended meat in its prescriptions!
In addition, an analysis of the martial arts of the Kurmis of the region would also point to a Vedic heritage.  I have seen Jat swordmanship and the swordmanship of Keralites.  And from the
descriptions of the practices of the various Kurmi swordsmen of the region, I would say that there is greater similarity with the south. Swordmanship in the north-west relies on a standing stance and is
generally geared towards fighting a single opponent.  Though the swordsman spins the sword, the planes of rotation are rather limited. The Vedic martial arts tradition relies on the swordsman not just
spinning the sword, but varying the plane of rotation quite quickly, and also himself rapidly rotating and even taking into the air to strike from above -- a capability for which one of my ancestors is
still remembered today in my father's village.  The most important difference is that the latter tradition requires greater flexibility of muscles and joints -- when you leap above, to have an effective
reach/strike your legs have to be in a split in the air for your arm to strike downwards with any force.
So, given all of the above factors, I am still quite sure that the lineage of the Kurmis of Bihar belongs to the Vedic tradition, and am not at all convinced that I am in any way descended from
Indo-Scythians. :-)


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  3. From 11th to 13th centuries, Mithila (North Bihar) was ruled by a dynasty which had Kannada origin. And there are references to Andhras having seized Magadha around the time of Jesus Christ.