Pleistocene times — Rgvedic times
Geographical evidence via Toponymy
The Present Marwar region
I’ve already written on Haryana’s Drishadvati and Ikshvaku realms. Today I’m attempting to comprehend the habitation zones of Ikshvakus’ earliest siblings, namely the Nimi lineage.
The presence of Maru, Son of Haryashva, an early Videha ruler in Rajasthan may be easily traced using the names of the state divisions. Examine the map above. Maru is the name given to the Marwar region, which is dominated by the Thar desert.
तस्माद् बृहद्रथस्तस्य महावीर्य: सुधृत्पिता ।
सुधृतेर्धृष्टकेतुर्वै हर्यश्वोऽथ मरुस्तत: ॥ १५ ॥ — Bhāgavata-purāṇa IX. 13. 15; Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 64. 10; Vāyu-purāṇa 89. 10; Viṣṇu-purāṇa IV. 5. 27.
The Nimi lineage does not seem to be as vast and informative as the Ikshvakus. King BRRihadratha (approximately 34,500 BCE) uses a few names, and we can trace them back to the Middle and Upper Paleolithic periods of the Late Pleistocene due to his utterances in Maitrayani Upanishad. There is a monarch named Maru who attracts attention because today this name is associated with “desert” or “arroyo.”
Haryashva and his son Maru are difficult to put in the wide timeline of Kings and Dynasties. However, the name suggests that the first Ikshvakus’ siblings lived close together, and their lengthy association may also be seen in the Ramayana. Major part of Saraswati river flowed from todays desert area (ref Saraswati flowing from Bikaner — Blinkhorn et al).
It apparently appears to me that since Ikshvakus lived by the River Saraswati — i.e., Ikshumati and Drishadvati during Rg vedic times thus it appears that the lineage of Nimi also lived by the rivers nearby in the vicinity and probably in the present day Thar region itself which was experiencing Savanna and conditions congenial till 40,000 BP.
Maru is a name which comes from the root mṛ( mRi), meaning either to die or cause to die. Such names are very common in dynastic names either based on real persona or given epithets due to some event. Something like Trasadasyu, which means the one who gave tough times to Dasyus. The place names in Rajasthan-Haryana bear many king names like after Kuru king Ajamidha we get Ajmer, Kurukshetra after king Kuru or after king Rohita we get Rohtak, note that these are names remebered due to kings probably prevaling from middle and upper paleolithic times(>40,000 years BP). This continued till 17th- 18th cent. Like after Sawai Jaisingh we have Jaipur. Coming back to King Maru. Maru gave away the name to Desert, deserted area, arroyos. What would have happened to King Maru that the name is remebered for Desert. It appears that this Videha king had to leave the desert area and probably had shifted to east and posterior to Janaka shifted to as far as Kathmandu, Nepal. When could this have had happened?
The Story of Maru is told and connected through new sciences. Before 40,000 years ago, the land of Maru was a vibrant land. I mentioned in a previous piece that the Rg Vedin do not eat fish and does not offer it to gods, even when there are many rivers nearby. The early Rg vedic people appeared to be living on the higher plains at one point, but they eventually moved to the lower plains with the arrival of high glaciation between 40,000 and 35,000 BP. It was necessary for them to do so since, in comparison to the Last Glacial Maximum, the glaciation of the Himalayas began a long time ago. This shows that the aridity also increased in the Thar region.
Maru migration to Videha
Maru (Nepali: मारू /देवनागरी : मरू) is a historic neighborhood in central Kathmandu, Nepal and one of the most important cultural spots in the city consisting of palaces, ancient temples etc. It is linked with the origin of the name Kathmandu. Therefore Kathmandu (which comes from Kashthamandapa) and Maru are connected from its origin times. Read here.
The river names like Sarju (Saryu), Gomati, Saraswati ( a tributary to Alaknanada) or name of historic pond Ikha ( in Nepal ) from Ikshumati instantly give us an imagery of ancient Nimi lineage and its association with Ikshvakus of central region. These are all central river system, few of whose names went to the east till Nepal-Uttarakhand and west till Helmand province.
But when did the word Maru start getting applied to Desert Thar. Lets understand the Desert Thar.
There are no perennial rivers in the north-west of the Aravalli range, in the Thar desert and the arid or semi-desert zone along its south-eastern margin. The only river system is that of the Luni (meaning salty), and this flows only briefly, following rare heavy rains. Through- out the region there are ‘dead’ drainage systems which can be observed both from the air and the ground…..No occupied caves or rock shelters and no skeletal remains of Stone Age man so far have been found in the Thar region.
Middle Palaeolithic culture at its peak in Thar, But Upper Paleolithic completely absent
Good number of OSL dates on aeolian sands in the Thar in general and at 16 R Dune and Katoati in particular indicate the presence of Middle Palaeolithic culture in wide area of the Thar, including the Luni basin between 130 ka and 40 ka B.P. with a peak between 80 ka and 40 ka B.P. (Singhvi et al., 2010; Blinkhorn et al., 2015)
The site of Katoati is important from the point of view understanding biological environment during the early Late Pleistocene. Stable Isotope data on pedogenic carbonates, (RAJAGURU et al). fossil shell fragments of ostrich (Struthico sp.) and braided ephemeral channels indicate wet semi-arid climate and dominance of C3 plants. Based on well-prepared vegetation maps for wet as well dry climatic phases of early Late Pleistocene Blinkhorn et al. (2013) proposed Sahel like Savanna type vegetation between 70 ka and 40 ka B.P.
The ephemeral stream at Lordia, which is today blocked by dune sand was flowing during prehistoric times and provided congenial geomorphic environment due to climate amelioration as observed at Didwana and Katoati.
Katoati ( 96–77, 77, 60 ka) is the place near Bikaner and we know that Saraswati flowed in her grandeur with many of her tributaries from Luni till Tanot from 172,000 years BP.
Read more here
Archeologists have found a large number of Stone Age settlements between Bijolia and Bundi like Haati T ..Three distinct stages of Stone Age culture -late Acheulian Transition (older than 60,000 years from 200,000 years), middle Palaeolithic (60,000 to 40,000 years) and Mesolithic (10,000 to 4,000 years) -were identified in the survey. (upper paleolithic is conspicuously absent)
Read more here
Middle paleolithic tools
Middle Palaeolithic tools were mostly fashioned from flakes and blades. There are numerous varieties of side scrapers, end scrapers, denticulates, notches, points, and borers among them. The edges of flakes and blades were precisely trimmed to create them. Many of these scraper shapes are thought to have been utilised in the production of wooden implements and weaponry, as well as the processing of animal hide. It’s likely that some of the points were hafted in wooden shafts and used as spears. Smaller, thinner, and lighter tools were developed. Read here.
Acheulian culture in Rg veda
We come across the word svadhiti — Svadhiti (स्वधिति). — mf. (-tiḥ-tī) An axe. E. sva self, dhā to hold, ktic aff.; with ṅīp added, svadhitī; also read śvadhiti.; indeed is Hand axe and a precursor to hafted axe or knife. A self-held article, which can only be Hand Axe. In one of my blogs (read here), I went over a handful of the stone implements in considerable depth. The names dominated, starting with Hand Axe and progressing through hafting.
The presence for hafting of stone implements in the central Thar is supported by similar evidence identiﬁed in the eastern margin of the desert at the excavated and dated site of Katoati, where analogous retouched artefacts are also found spanning MIS 5–4/3 ( about MIS read here).
Habitants had begun with Hafting — Handle of Knife/Axe.
Sudden Disruption of Paleolithic Culture in Thar
- There is an absence of the Upper Palaeolithic during the Terminal Pleistocene (~40 ka to 10 ka B.P.) in Thar. The south-west monsoon was almost weak, fluvial and even aeolian processes were dormant between 22 ka and 13–14 ka B.P. As a result of these conditions the climate became arid with dwindling water sources.
- These unsuitable climatic conditions must have compelled the stone age hunter-gatherers to migrate from this region to eastern or south-eastern parts of the Thar. (Nimi lineage went east and then far North east posterior to some Janaka towards present day Nepal, when Nepal became habitable)
- The hunter-gatherers re-appeared in the Thar during the Early Holocene (~7 ka B.P.) due to strengthening of summer monsoon (Deotare et al., 2004).
- Blinkhorn et al. (2013) proposed Sahel like Savanna type vegetation between 70 ka and 40 ka B.P (Ikshvakus, Videhas and Ailas and Five early tribes)
- The dune accumulation of 19 ka period was followed by long period (20 to 40 ka) ( reference to name Dhanu and Utkara to be discussed later)
Do we have any memory of Ikshvakus shifting towards east ?
The upper and middle Paleolithic conditions found in the Rg Veda have been briefly examined. Ikshvaku’s focus switches to the Gangetic region, bringing the central Sarayu name to one of the Ganges’ rivers. Let us look at a description of Ikshvakus’ recollection in the Ramayana, who lived at Saraswati’s side.
Passing through the village of Abikala, they crossed the river Ikshumati issuing from the mountain Bodhibhavana, a territory formerly belonging to the House of Ikshvaku. — Chapter 68 — Messengers are sent to Prince Bharata [Book 2 — Ayodhya-kanda]
What would Videhas do?
The Videhas vanished with the Ikshvakus to the east, and the name Maru was left behind 40,000 years ago. Rgvedins are unfamiliar with Maru as a desert. It appears in Taittiriya Aranyaka as Maru approaches Kurukshetra. (The book “Tale of Three Cities, Kurukshetra-Avanti and Lanka” will address this setting.) Maru’s historic link with Kathmandu’s royal district paints a vivid picture of their early journey to the east from the central Thar region. The history of their ancestor is preserved in their ethnographic memory, despite the loss of its deep antiquity.
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MIDDLE PALAEOLITHIC CULTURE1; Bridget Allchin
Pleistocene Geoarchaeology of Thar Desert; Rajguru et al
Stone age tools dating back 2,00,000 years found in Rajasthan; Times of India
Middle Palaeolithic occupation in the Thar Desert during the Upper Pleistocene: the signature of a modern human exit out of Africa? ; James Blinkhorn, Hema Achyuthan, Michael D. Petraglia, Peter Ditchfield
Late Middle Palaeolithic surface sites occurring on dated sediment formations in the Thar Desert; James Blinkhorn
The first dated evidence for Middle -Late Pleistocene fluvial activity in the Thar Desert; James Blinkhorn, Hema Achyuthan, Manoj Jaiswal, Atul Kumar Singh